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Shining a light on the usefulness of physics


By Hamish Johnston

Do you find yourself struggling to explain how physics enhances our lives?

Is your enthusiasm met with blank stares from your students, friends or family members?

Well the Institute of Physics may be able to help. The organization has joined forces with the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to publish a brochure called Optics and photonics: Physics enhancing our lives.

The document includes six chapters, each of which explores how fundamental research in physics is delivering practical technologies for everything from optical communications to medical scanning to semiconductor fabrication.

The chapter called “Photonic waterfalls”, for example, explains why the “quantum cascade laser has a bright commercial future”. “The perfect image” chapter outlines how adaptive optics developed by astronomers are being used in a wide range of applications including security scanning and microscopy.

Other topics covered in the report include the use of plasmonics to beat the diffraction limit and how electromagnetically induced transparency could revolutionize optical communications.

The brochure also lists about 40 optics and photonics experts, in case you have any further questions.

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