By Patricia Daukantas
Halloween is the season of ghosts, goblins and vampires … so why not add some spooky quantum entanglements to the mix? On a cloudy, damp morning in Rochester (N.Y., U.S.A.), the plenary speakers at OSA’s 94th annual meeting, Frontiers in Optics, took the audience on a tour of Bell inequalities, wild biomolecules and other scientific treats.
This year’s Ives Medalist, OSA 2007 President Joe Eberly, used elementary trigonometric identities (remember those?) to demonstrate a seeming contradiction in a thought experiment about a polarizing interferometer. Eberly, a longtime professor at the University of Rochester, solved the conundrum by showing that the photons were entangled in what is now known as a Bell state.
Measuring degrees of photon entanglement is one of Eberly’s recent interests. He noted that Erwin Schrödinger introduced the notion of entanglement in 1935 -- and, 75 years later, scientists still don’t have a lot of quantitative answers about it. This is “a guarantee of permanent employment for a physicist,” he said, generating a ripple of chuckles among the audience.
One of the two winners of the American Physical Society’s Arthur M. Schawlow Prize, Henry Kapteyn of JILA (University of Colorado, U.S.A.), paid homage to the award’s namesake. “It was clear he liked to point lasers at things and blow them up, and that’s mostly what we do,” he said. Fortunately, most of the high-energy (and soft-X-ray) lasers he talked about haven’t exploded, and he predicted that there are excellent prospects for generating hard X-ray laser beams from tabletop devices in the near future. His wife and co-prize-winner, Margaret Murnane of JILA, will speak at tonight’s APS Laser Science banquet.
Plenary speaker Steven Block, a professor of physics and biology at Stanford University (U.S.A.), took the audience on a tour of “riboswitches,” non-coding messenger RNA strands that control gene expression by changing their structure when they selectively bind to a signal molecule. In evolutionary terms, this is probably the earliest form of molecular control at the cellular level, but it was poorly understood until scientists could start manipulating the molecules with optical tweezers. (Attendees of CLEO/QELS 2010 in May might remember Block’s blues mandolin performance.)
The final plenary speaker, Alain Aspect of the Institut d’Optique (France), gave a history lesson on the Hanbury Brown and Twiss interferometry experiment of the mid-1950s and its relevance to modern-day quantum optics.
Checking the Efficacy of Breast-Cancer Therapy
Can oncologists deduce the efficacy of breast-cancer treatment as early as one day after the start of chemotherapy? According to Albert Cerussi of the Beckman Laser Institute (U.S.A.), this can happen, thanks to a technique called diffuse optical spectroscopic imaging (DOSI).
Traditional “adjuvant therapy” for breast cancer calls for surgery first, followed by a round of chemotherapy. Oncologists are now moving to “neo-adjuvant therapy,” in which the chemo comes first -- making it even more important to monitor the patient’s response to the powerful drugs.
DOSI works in the near-infrared window of 650 to 1,000 nm; those wavelengths penetrate tissue relatively well, although the photons take a “random walk” through the tissue (hence the “diffuse” part of the imaging). Instead of getting the black-and-white patterns of a traditional mammogram, DOSI provides spectral information about tumor biomarkers such as oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin.
Researchers first studied DOSI at the midpoint of chemotherapy, when oncologists usually assess the patient and decide whether to switch therapies. But the researchers from Beckman and the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center (both part of the University of California at Irvine) found that they could detect changes in the biomarkers one week and even one day after the start of chemotherapy.
According to Cerussi, scientists are even studying whether the technique could predict whether chemo will help a particular patient even before the treatment starts, but they are still trying to understand the biological process behind that. In the near future, researchers will look for additional biomarkers, shrink the size of the equipment, and join a clinical trial involving four other cancer centers.
(Note to readers of OPN’s Twitter feed, @OPNmagazine: Cerussi’s talk was the one I chose out of eight simultaneous invited talks at the start of the afternoon sessions. It was a tough call -- the other topics included luminescent solar concentrators, laser refractive surgery for cataracts and long-term monitoring of buried fiber-optic cables.)
Industrial Physics Forum
This event, sponsored by the Corporate Associates of both OSA and the American Institute of Physics, drew large crowds to several talks -- particularly the one by quantum cascade laser pioneer Federico Capasso of Harvard University. On Monday, the forum covered a range of biomedical and environmental applications of lasers.
An Earth-observing lidar satellite called CALIPSO (for “Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations”) has been in orbit since April 2006, and Carl Weimer (Ball Aerospace, U.S.A.) reviewed its ongoing engineering and science results.
As I described in an OPN article last year, CALIPSO is part of an “A-Train” of environmental satellites in the same orbit, with roughly 15 minutes of spacing between them. Its dual-wavelength (532 and 1,064 nm) lasers collect data in a 70-m-wide “curtain” from ground level to about 40 km altitude.
So far, the satellite has collected 6.6 terabytes of data from 2.6 billion laser shots, Weimer said. Its estimated particle sizes within cloud distributions provide important input for scientists’ models of global atmospheric circulation.
The Industrial Physics Forum is concluding this morning with sessions on lasers’ applications in metrology and other “frontiers of physics” areas.
The Day Ahead: Tuesday
This afternoon, brand-new OSA Honorary Member Arthur Ashkin will speak first at a symposium honoring his pioneering work with optical tweezers. The FiO/LS exhibit hall will open, and OSA student chapters will kick off their lesson plan competition. Two other events of particular interest to young professionals are a public-policy forum and the Minorities and Women in OSA (MWOSA) tea. Finally, we’ll all learn who won the OSA officer elections for 2011.
2010-10 October, Applied optics, Biomedical optics, FiO/LS, Lasers