Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I SPIE a Hot Guy

By Alaina G. Levine

Lenses, lasers and mirrors. Everyone knows that these everyday items form the basis of one of the most interesting and complicated “scingineering” arenas of modern times: Photonics. Photonics is the science and technology of photons, so pretty much every modern day electronic device has some photonic innovation associated with it.

At Photonics West this week in San Francisco, possibly the largest conference devoted to this subject, I “discovered” that there is much more to photonics than lasers and mirrors. There’s holography. There’s biomedical sensors. And there’s hot guys.

Hot guys? At a physics conference? Heck yeah! Loads of them.

While sashaying through the ginormous exhibit hall, I SPIEd a fascinating series of images on the flat-paneled display perched on the artificial wall of a booth. The exhibit belonged to Xenics Infrared Solutions. This 10-year-old Belgium company was showing off its infrared cameras which, quite obviously when pointed toward a normal human man, makes him look smokin’ hot. For that matter, if you point the camera towards a normal human female, she looks pretty hot too. (Note that noses of nerds and non-nerds are not as hot as their bods, on account of the fact that they since they protrude out from said bods, they therefore don’t maintain as much body heat.)

So as I turned around and saw that I was surrounded by super hot guys, I realized for the first time why physics and optics and photonics are such wicked sweet fields.

But meanwhile, I was also interested in the technology. So, tearing my eyes away from the parade of sizzling scientists, the gent from Belgium told me about how his cameras can be used in fabrication facilities and plants to analyze the heat index of particular products, for example, chips, coming down a line. One could monitor the thermal images manually, or save the images and run them through software programs which contain alarm systems, so if a chip got too hot, it could be pulled from production.

While the physics of infrared cameras has not changed much recently, the engineering has gotten better, according the Xenics rep. New IR cameras are more accurate, and their temperature resolution has improved. For example, the lowest temperatures the cameras can detect are just below 20 milliKelvin. The cameras also have the ability to provide real time data about the temperature readings they are taking.

Given their accuracy and precision, you might consider shelling out $60k for one of these cameras to illuminate all the hot guys and dolls that attend your next conference or scientific event.

An obligatory note about SPIE – for all you enthusiasts out there, the correct way to pronounce this optics society’s name is to spell out the letters S.P.I.E. It’s not “Spee” and it’s not “Spy”, although the guy who answered the phone at the housing bureau for the conference did refer to it as Spy. The question that arises now, is whether that same guy is handling housing for the APS March Meeting. If so, I expect there will a lot of discussion about “apps” at the Double M. Good thing there’s already an app for spying hot guys in photonics.
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