Editor's Desk: Under a Microscope

01 July 2020
By Gwen Weerts

In January of this year, the world began to contract. The first squeeze was felt in China, as public places and transport closed down, and travel bans restricted the movement of millions of people due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Within a few weeks, the whole globe was affected by what rapidly became a pandemic, and the world that had been so large and accessible became suddenly much smaller. Our spheres of work and leisure shrank from thousands of miles to a very short radius from our homes.

Due to this contraction, everything near at hand is getting our unprecedented attention. People unfamiliar with the contents of their kitchens are learning to bake bread for the first time. Lawns are being torn up and gardens planted. Neglected closets are getting organized. Dust bunnies, let to grow fat in the corner of previously little-used rooms, are newly vanquished. Activities like conferences, which once required us to travel across the globe, are taking place from our living rooms, often with our dogs and children in the same room.

The minutiae of our daily lives, which for many of us gets lost in the rush of work and travel, are suddenly under a microscope. So it seems appropriate that this issue of Photonics Focus should look to the very small with the intense curiosity that we usually leave to quantum engineers. In this issue, we focus on photonics at the nanoscale.

This inquiry into the smallest of smalls will explore innovative new diagnostics and therapies for cancer; it will examine metasurfaces that perform analog computations; it will follow the pursuit of an efficient light source from silicon nanocrystals to power future photonic circuits. The issue also gives homage to nano pioneer Richard Smalley, co-discoverer of buckminsterfullerene, whose name may have portended his future renown in a field of the exquisitely small.

Like many of you, I'm looking forward to the future when my gaze can shift outward again, and my sphere of activity can extend beyond my home, city, and even country. But until then, the small and near occupy my attention, and I find that there is still so much to learn.

By examining the smallest constituent parts, we gain knowledge of the whole world.

Thanks for reading,

Gwen Weerts, Managing Editor, Photonics Focus

Gwen Weerts

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