What is optics?

    According to the late, great Research Professor Emeritus James M. Palmer, optics is "light work" —

    • It's big: The UA Steward Observatory Mirror Lab casts telescope mirrors up to 8.5 meters.
    • It's small: An array of 1,600 microscopic lenses fit easily on a quarter; these lenses are used in an optical test named in part after Professor Emeritus Roland V. Shack.
    • Optics is hot: The National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will deposit 1.8 megajoules in two nanoseconds on a tiny two-millimeter tritium target, heating it to more than 100 million degrees Kelvin.
    • Optics is cool: The laser cooling and trapping performed in optical physics labs at OSC can capture and slow down individual atoms until their effective temperature is one ten-millionth of a degree Kelvin.
    • It's fast: A 9-micron optical fiber can carry data and 10 gigabits per second; using dense wavelength-division multiplexing, that means that two million simultaneous phone conversations can be transmitted through a single fiber.
    • And it's slow: Now it takes only 27 days to grow potassium dihydrogen phosphate crystals big enough for frequency multiplication, where it used to take a whole year.
    • Optics is near: Scanning tunneling microscopy at OSC can get close enough to resolve individual atoms.
    • Optics is far: The UA's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer on the Hubble Space Telescope found a galaxy 12 billion light years away.
    • It's new: LEDs are now available in three primary colors (great for displays!) and in white (for illumination). The violet laswer diode (at 400 nanometers) is a recent introduction that should lead to smaller spot sizes and denser data storage.
    • And it's old: Galileo built a telescope, based on an earlier design, in 1609 and used it to discover four of Jupiter's moons.
    • Optics is night: A Generation III image intensifier can produce a useful image under starlight. With that much power, you can see a six-foot-tall man at 580 yards.
    • Optics is day: A sulfur lamp the size of a golf ball produces nearly 100 times more light than a conventional high-intensity discharge lamp —  and nearly 1,000 times more light than a 40-watt tungsten lamp.
    • It's visible: Did you know that Revo polarized sunglasses were invented by an OSC graduate?
    • It's invisible: Heat associated with neck and back pain is easily viewed with an infrared thermograph.
    • Optics is challenging: You can create new optical devices, design optical instruments, fabricate special components and test complex systems.
    • And it's fun: Every day is a new challenge, your co-workers are great and you can make neat stuff together.
    • Optics is ubiquitous! It's in consumer products, medicine, military and aerospace applications, industry, and telecommunications.
    • Optics is big business: There are about 3,500 optics companies in the U.S., 200 in Arizona and 100 in Tucson — and there are approximately 200 educational institutions in the field.
    • Optics is booming, too: The overall market is estimated at $50 billion, and growing exponentially.
    • It's lucrative: Starting salaries are higher than in most engineering disciplines, and most graduates receive multiple employment offers.
    • And it's the portal to a wide range of employment possibilities. Recent graduates have gone on to Harvard, Yale, the University of Rochester and CREOL: The College of Optics and Photonics at the University of Central Florida; they're at Lawrence Livermore, Sandia and Los Alamos; and they're working at Eastman Kodak, 3M, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Raytheon.
    • Optics is the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences.