A roundup for CLEO 2018

Here I am on Friday afternoon after CLEO 2018 with a mini roundup.

It’s been a great week with some surprises that I especially enjoyed.

So first my favourite talks:

The plenary talks by Nader Engheta on metaphotonics was very good. I loved it also because it is so refreshing to see someone talking about theoretical and simulation related work at the highest level. The idea that we could use metamaterials to solve integral equations tickled my fancy!

There were two delightful plenaries by Dr. Sara Seagar and the Nobel Prize winner of 2006 for his work on the COBE satellite and Cosmic MicroWave Background (CMB) measurement, Dr. John Mather, both that went into my special love: astrophysics. The first one was devoted to searching for exoplanets. Whilst the second gave a sort of tour of important astrophysical discoveries and focused on some major telescopes, including what is coming up with the James Webb telescope. So while I enjoyed both the talks, I also felt they were a little too generalist and not technical enough to satisfy my scientific appetite.

Other notable talks included in my opinion: A post deadline paper on generating combs for astrophotonics (JTh5A.1); another on generating higher THz harmonics in Graphene (JThA5.3).

The surprise for me were the special sessions organised by OSA technical groups. One was the round up of papers from across CLEO on non-linear optics. Papers were summarised and perspective on the work was given to contextualise the papers with what is happening in the rest of the field. The session was also a bit more informal and interactive. I think this was a great way to get a good overview of the field and the conference especially if one cannot attend all the talks!

The second special sessionl also run by an OSA technical group was a tutuorial on Photonic Metamaterials and Metasurface design and simulation. In an hour the basic idea of how to design metasurfaces with some codes being run etc were discussed. Again the informal nature of the session was quite refreshing.

I also enjoyed the Diversity and Inclusion reception- each year I see more people attend and this includes a very diverse attendee profile. I see more and more men attending and realising that diversity events are not just for chicks!

A very special moment was meeting one of my heros- Prof. Hugo Hernandez, whose papers on simulation and methods have been part of my reading for ever so long. His clarity of thought and concepts is amazing. Obviously something like this is unique to each one of us- whom we admire deeply- but is it not lovely to meet that person and have a chance to actually talk!

So all in all very happy with my time at CLEO. Looking forward to the next conference now, but not the long flights or the jetlag!




Biennale, seismic activity and CLEO

So folks to start off the post- here is my latest crib about the intersection of art and science.

Once again at the Biennale in Sydney (this time at the carriageworks- a fantastic venue) I saw an exhibit/installation called Earthworks by Semiconductor. This work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt  and I quote uses “… a scientific technique known as analogue modelling, where pressure and motion are applied to layers of particles to simulate tectonic forces, Earthworks is a five-channel immersive experience. As the name suggests, the computer-generated animation uses seismic data from the formation of landscapes and terrain around the world – glaciers, earthquakes, volcanoes and human-made topographies – which is translated into audio used as soundtrack to the piece and the method of controlling the animation.”

Basically they took seismic data and produced a fascinating animation coupled with sound.

Why am I whingeing about it?

To begin with taking scientific data and presenting some strange shapes/sounds and calling it art seems disingenuous to me. Then the larger problem: they dont explain (through a colour key for example) what the colours in the animation represent: density/pressure/volume and where at what time scale. What is the significance of this data and the film we see? This idea that contemporary art can be just about anything that looks pretty/weird and makes little sense, to me is condescending to the viewer and a waste of public money. The use of scientific data is further mystifying science and making it even more arcane to the public. All in all such exhibits remove both art and science farther away from the average person than bring it closer or make it more comprehensible.

But onto happier things: CLEO!

Yes, the 2018 CLEO is almost upon us and once again I will be teaching my short course on FEM there and attending the conference. I am really looking forward to the talks and events and will hopefully get the time to blog here about the ones  I enjoyed the most.

If you are also attending CLEO and would like to say hello please do so!