By Patricia Daukantas
Greetings from San Jose! OSA’s 93rd annual meeting, Frontiers in Optics (FiO), has begun in the capital of California’s Silicon Valley.
You might think, “Wait a minute! I thought the conference began on a Monday.” It’s true that the technical sessions start with the Monday morning plenary and awards presentations. Sunday, however, offered early attendees a slate of OSA short courses on photonics topics, and a number of OSA’s boards and committees held governance meetings.
One of my personal highlights of the day was conducting a far-ranging audio interview with Stanford University physicist Robert L. Byer, our 2009 Ives Medal/Quinn Endowment winner. Our conversation ranged from the green laser pointer to the search for gravitational waves to the isotropy of the universe. Keep watching the OPN home page after FiO for our podcast featuring this dynamic scientist.
Another treat for Sunday’s attendees was the annual “What’s Hot in Optics” session, which alerted the audience to some of the important FiO papers organized by OSA technical division.
Generating the most excitement, though, was the opening round of the first OSA International Student Chapter Solar Car Race. No, the student members -- fresh out of the Student Chapter Leadership Meeting earlier in the day -- weren’t burning rubber on the streets of San Jose. Instead, contestants brought their small plastic cars to the ballroom floor and tried to get them to run from the starting to the finish line without running off the marked track.
(The ballroom, and not outdoors? A bright lamp on a moving tripod provided the “solar power.” Participants were responsible for keeping the light shining on their vehicles. The moderator, OPN contributing editor François Busque, used a ruler to make sure that the light was a uniform 28 cm above each car’s solar cell.)
All cars were built from the same basic kit, but entrants were encouraged to modify the cars to boost efficiency. Some of the little vehicles zipped toward the finish line, while others might need a wheel alignment job. The enthusiastic crowd cheered for every entry.
Ultimately, the judges picked three winners: for originality, Jeremy Dickerson of Georgia Tech’s campus in Lorraine, France; for aesthetics, Jean-Simon Corbeil of Ecole Polytechnique, Canada; and for time, Veronique Zambon of Laval University, Canada. Très bien!
I will post some photos of the event, taken by OPN Managing Editor Christina Folz, in a separate entry.
The final round of the solar car race takes place on Tuesday at noon in the ballroom. Be there or be a square wheel!
Don’t forget to keep up with the conference by following OSA’s bloggers and Twitterers at the FiO online media page. For example, Adam Zysk has written about his journey to San Jose and his first impressions. I encourage everyone to visit these blogs and comment on them.