One more day to submit research “Grand Challenge” ideas to the White House!

Posted April 14, 2010 by aseoptics
Categories: Government Science


posted by: Damon Diehl

Peter Emmel just notified me that the White House has put forth a request for information (RFI) for new “Grand Challenges” for the 21st Century. In essence they are soliciting ideas for a new “Moon Shot.” There are no formal formatting instructions, and anyone can participate. It is essentially a public opinion poll on how research dollars will be spent… So speak up! The main PR site is here, but more detailed information is available from the original press release



“Essential Engineering” on Groks Science

Posted April 5, 2010 by aseoptics
Categories: History of Science, Philosophy of Science

Tags: ,

posted by: Damon Diehl

I just caught an interesting interview with Dr. Henry Petroski over on the Groks Science Radio Show (a quirky show that I loved long before its co-producer, Charles Lee, moved to my undergraduate alma mater). Petroski is a professor of civil engineering over at Duke, and he’s got a new book out entitled Essential Engineering, which deals with why engineering is essential in the modern world, and how engineering is different from basic science. The subtitle of the book is “Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems.” That phrasing may sound critical of basic science, but that certainly isn’t the intent. Rather Petroski is seeking to elevate the importance of engineering in the public eye so that science and engineering are seen as a partnership and not as a hierarchy. In particular he takes issue with the common misconception that engineering is “just applied science.” On the contrary people often engineer a device before the scientific principles underlying it are understood. This is certainly true in optics. For example magnifying lenses have been used for thousands of years (for example Aristophanes mentions a “crystal lens” in his play The Clouds, circa 420 BCE), but the theory of refraction was not described mathematically until around 1000 CE. (As to who first devised the laws of refraction… I’ll let the debate continue to rage on Wikipedia.)

“Ada Lovelace Day” Feature: Hilda Kingslake

Posted March 24, 2010 by aseoptics
Categories: History of Science, Optics Education, Rochester Optics Community

Tags: , , ,

posted by: Damon Diehl

This is just under the wire, but Greg Gbur over at Skulls in the Stars put up a nice article on women in science that alerted me that today is “Ada Lovelace Day.”  In the words of the Ada Lovelace Day organizers:

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.!) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.

Ada Lovelace is widely regarded as the mother of computer programming, as she was the first person to develop a computational algorithm for Charles Babbage’s analytic engine. As it turns out, women have also been a driving force in the field of optics. I would like to take a moment to highlight someone particularly important to Rochester, NY: Hilda Kingslake.

The name “Kingslake” is famous in optics because of Rudolf Kingslake, but, as it turns out, Rudolf actually married into the field. Hilda Conrady, born 1902, was the very first full-time student in the Technical Optics Department of the Royal College of Science, a unit of the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. Furthermore Hilda was already a second-generation optical scientist, as her father was Alexander Eugen Conrady, a professor of optical design. Rather than recount the story of Hilda and Rudolf Kingslake’s amazing 74 year joint career in optics, I will instead point people to a wonderful memorial written by Brian Thompson for the 75th Anniversary of The Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester. The article is chapter 6 in the book A Jewel in the Crown, edited by Carlos Stroud. (Incidentally, for those considering a career in optics, you may be further tempted by chapter 37, by David Aronstein: “Mmm… Doughnuts“, which traces an Institute of Optics weekly tradition that now spans four decades.)

Rochester Optical Technology Provides Assistance in Haiti

Posted March 3, 2010 by aseoptics
Categories: Rochester Optics Community, Science in Action

Tags: ,

We want to take a moment to applaud the University of Rochester’s Center for Emerging & Innovative Sciences (CEIS), the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Laboratory for Imaging Algorithms and Systems (LIAS), and especially our close colleagues at Geospatial Systems, Inc. (GSI), for developing the laser sensors and high-definition imaging technology that were used to quickly map the regions of Haiti devastated by the devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010. Aid workers used these maps to find routes to deliver services to people in greatest need. A bit more information is available in the February 25, 2010 NYSTAR Sci*Tech News Bytes newsletter. You can also read Governor Paterson’s letter of commendation.

“Productive Stupidity” or “Failure Is the Only Way to Win the Nobel Prize”

Posted March 2, 2010 by aseoptics
Categories: Optics Education, Philosophy of Science, Science in Action

Tags: , , ,

I wanted to point people toward a really good article that appeared in the SPIE Professional back in October 2009 entitled “Productive Stupidity” by Martin A. Schwartz. It’s a reprint of his article “The importance of stupidity in scientific research”, which previously appeared in Journal of Cell Science 121, 1771 (2008). The thrust of the article is that “science is supposed to be hard,” and most of the time you’re going to be wrong… at least if you’re doing it right. That fact can be extremely difficult to accept, especially when we have built our entire education system around getting answers “right” on an exam. Even classroom laboratory research is generally focused on reproducing a certain result, rather than self-discovery. The upshot is that most science students leave college still believing that getting the “wrong” result is bad. If you are truly doing new research, then you are testing things that no one has done before, and that means that most of the time what your experiments reveal will not be quite what you expected.  Figuring out the how and the why of unexpected results is what scientific research is really all about. (As Celia recently discovered over at Ph.D.)

And just to drive this point home one more time, I encourage folks to listen to this interview with 2009 Physics Nobel Laureate George E. Smith. Around the 11 minute mark he talks about what it was about the Bell Labs environment that made their discovery of the CCD camera possible. He summarizes it this way:

In the exploratory efforts we had… we thought that if half of the projects you started actually worked, you weren’t being imaginative enough… not taking enough risks.

Hello world!

Posted February 5, 2010 by aseoptics
Categories: Uncategorized

Welcome to the blog for ASE Optics, Inc., a contract engineering firm out of Rochester, NY specializing in “inspired optical engineering.” We create applied engineering solutions for a wide range of applications. Our focus is on innovative, cost-effective designs. We enjoy solving problems with creativity and collaboration.

Our highly skilled PhD, MS, and BS level engineers bring extensive experience and knowledge of both theoretical and applied systems. Drawing on the depth of optical talent in the Rochester, New York region, our team has the expertise to tackle the most complex of challenges.

The Year of Astronomy

Posted December 22, 2009 by aseoptics
Categories: Optics Education

Tags: , ,

2009 is (well at this point it basically was), the International Year of Astronomy. One of the cooler outcomes of this was “The Gallileoscope” Project. For twenty bucks (plus about $15 shipping) they’ll provide you with a decent refracting telescope kit that you can assemble in about twenty minutes. Although this telescope is inexpensive, it’s not cheap. In particular it uses “achromatic lenses,” meaning that the images you see aren’t going to be a smeary mess of colors.

Better yet, the Optical Society of America (OSA) has a donation challenge going on. If you buy your scope through their website, then they will match your purchase with a donation to the charitable OSA Foundation. To sweeten the deal the telescopes are actually cheaper through OSA—$24 including shipping.

You just can’t lose, folks.