December 2015/January 2016

FEATURE

A healthy dose of interferometry

 Although interferometry may once have been dismissed by the medical community because of its inability to see inside the human body, its application within the wider biomedical arena is continuing to grow and evolve; so much so that the technique is now used in the production of prosthetic limbs, research in dentistry and even for cultivating stem cells.

FEATURE

Land Rover packs photonics tech in mobile volcano observatory

Land Rover has turned a Defender 110 into the world’s first mobile volcano observatory, able to reach and measure active volcanoes never studied before. The Land Rover, containing spectrometers and other detection equipment, will attempt to quantify volcanic gas emissions in the South American Andes, with a goal of better understanding volcanic effects on climate.

FEATURE

Mind Maps

With approximately 86 billion neurons, the human brain is an incredibly complex organ and one that is still nowhere near to being fully understood. How light is used to study the brain has changed considerably over the last 10 or 20 years, progressing from straightforward imaging, to monitoring neural functions, and now there is a branch of neuroscience called optogenetics that uses light to excite or promote a function in a neuron.

FEATURE

Attosecond ambition

Is it humanly possible to understand a period of time just 10-18 seconds, or a billion billionth of a second in duration? It’s a true testament to our technology that it can generate such attosecond (as) pulses, which are to a second what a second is to the age of the Universe. On this unimaginably short timescale it’s possible to track closely how electrons surrounding atoms behave – something scientists already do. That knowledge will surely prove beneficial, but will attosecond laser pulses themselves become widely used?