Applied Optics Editor in Chief Joseph N. Mait closes out the 50th Anniversary of Applied Optics with a final commemorative editorial.

© 2012 Optical Society of America

My editorial opening Applied Optics Golden Anniversary year began with a recounting of the state of optics in 1962. I start this editorial, which closes the Golden Anniversary, with a more personal note.

Applied Optics and I are age cohorts. When Applied Optics’ first issue appeared in 1962, I was three years and six weeks old. We are both late baby boomers. In an early draft of my December 2010 editorial “Identity Crisis,” I even referred to the journal as going through a midlife crisis. I know wherefrom I speak. This summer, my wife and I became empty nesters and grandparents so quickly it made our heads spin. In addition, while Applied Optics was turning 50, my oldest son turned 20 and my mother, 80. Can there be any clearer indication of midlife?

However, rather than wallowing in midlife angst and regret, I take a special pride in reflecting on the achievements of my children and knowing that I played a role in their lives. And I am blessedly aware of the influence my parents had on me.

The journal also experienced several events this year that speak to its identity and legacy. The release of the iPhone 5 is a good place to start. The camera and display of all smartphone technology are the most obvious examples of optics. Their placement in hands across the globe has had a profound impact on society. Consider that Matthew Brady’s photos of American Civil War battlefields 150 years ago were the first time the horrors of war were made manifest to a citizenry. These days, cameras are so ubiquitous that 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute (http://royal.pingdom.com/2012/01/17/internet-2011-in-numbers/). Consider how amateurs captured events in the Arab Spring in comparison to Zapruder’s filming of the Kennedy assassination nearly 50 years ago.

Less obvious, but just as important, are the advances in lithography and laser machining that make possible the integrated circuits and packages that provide the capabilities we depend on in such a convenient form. Further, optics is part of the infrastructure that allows the petabytes of data produced by cellphone cameras to be moved and stored globally.

This point is underscored in the report released in August by the National Research Council “Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for Our Nation” (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13491). The report recognizes optics and photonics as a broad-based enabling technology that, if properly recognized and supported, can serve as a catalyst for the economy.

To make this point clear, the report presents grand challenges in several areas, for example, increasing the cost effectiveness of optical networks and promoting integrated photonic and electronic chips into the mainstream. The report also delineates challenges in optical materials, flexible displays, and solar energy and addresses applications in health, medicine, manufacturing, and defense. Its final recommendation is for Congress to establish a National Initiative in Photonics, to which I respond, “What hath God wrought?”

It is an appropriate coincidence that OSA reviewed Applied Optics in 2012. Preliminary results from the Review Committee, led by Jim Burge of the University of Arizona, indicate that the journal is healthier than my Division Editors and I presumed. Authors and readers hold the journal in high regard. The number of articles downloaded and the number of citations in patents confirm its appeal to an applied community. Further, to ensure material is sent for publication to the most appropriate journal, OSA’s Board of Editors is developing a unique definition and scope for all of the Society’s journals.

Finally, to recognize the work of those who have formed and shaped our technical community and the journal, we assembled a collection of commemorative reviews written by some of the journal’s luminaries: authors of the most highly cited papers and the journal’s most prolific authors. (Some authors are in both categories, for example, Johannes Schwider. I am proud to say that I shared an office with Johannes for six months while I was in Erlangen in 1990.)

Authors were given considerable freedom to prepare their reviews, including the freedom to be more self-centric than the journal would normally permit. Further, they were offered the opportunity to be retrospective and reflective, predictive, or to discuss a topic of more recent interest to them. Many provided a technical review, but a few provided personal reflections and predictions.

Their reviews will appear in three issues over the next few weeks. The first concentrates on interference, interferometry, and phase; the second on imaging, optical processing, and telecommunications; and the third on polarization and scattering. I would like to thank the authors, my Division Editors, Eugenio Mendez, Nasser Peyghambarian, and T.-C. Poon, who served as guest editors of the collection of reviews, and, of course, the reviewers for their critical input.

I also wish to acknowledge the contributions of Rob Bennett and Sika Dunyoh to the marketing of Applied Optics this past year and especially the development of the 50th Anniversary website. I thank Kelly Cohen and Elizabeth Nolan of OSA and Mike Duncan, Chair of the Board of Editors, for responding to my request for help and putting Rob and Sika at my disposal.

Thus, at midlife, the state of the journal is good. Despite a few aches and pains that plague most 50 year olds, the journal is healthy. I have learned that the first time one feels those aches and pains their discomfort is amplified. If one ignores them, they can fester into a major problem, but, if addressed in a clearheaded manner, their impact can be minimized. I believe the issues I discussed two years ago in these pages are being addressed appropriately and no longer constitute major problems for the journal.

In my remaining two years as Editor in Chief, I hope to set the journal on a course that will keep it vital and viable into its future. I hope to do the same for myself. If I succeed, we should both be around in 25 years. I hope by then there will be no question about our reputation, contributions, and legacy.

Joseph N. Mait, U.S. Army Research Laboratory

Editor in Chief, Applied Optics



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