25 November 2010)
All is quiet here.
As quiet as a windy dusk. The trees undulate and ripple in the gusty wind.
The last of the commuting seagulls head on past, northwards to the coast.
The blackbirds and moorhen squawk and chatter as they settle down in the
dimming. The first observed bat flits about, a pipistrelle I think, a
regular dusky site this lone flier. A few big black birds, crows or rooks
or similar, skirt the edges of the trees, then settle into their browning
In the darkening light of dusk the gingko, quince yellow in the full light
of the subdued November day, has become the tree in Egon Schiele’s
drawing. Black stemmed with an understated tight violence of glowing orange
leaves; embers along the charred skeletal branches. In the wind a few
leaves lightly flutter, around and down. Most are, as yet, still held.
Apparently they all go together; one day attached, the next the gnarly
rigidity of the tree’s structure naked baring into the winter; its
silhouette daily present in the months ahead.
Last week I spent a day in the lab with Dave. He was preparing a sample
for testing. Many minutes of fine tuning multitudinous knobs before ten-second
experiments. Passing laser light along a waveguide, looking for losses.
Microscale silicon and mere seconds of time to determine fundamentals
of the physicality of this light passage.
The waveguide is being tested, designed, created. A scar in the surface
of the disc. It is to pass light from point to point; pass electric current
from point to point; to have both electrical and optical properties.
The light that is being projected along this silicon etching has a wavelength
of 1550nm. It is in a single plane, having been passed through a polarisation
filter and along polarisation-maintaining fibres. (The two possible planes
are transverse electric (TE) and transverse magnetic (TM).) These planar
wavelengths are in phase. This is called single mode, I think. Today it
is the passive optical outputs of microscopic channels for these tightly
constrained waves that are under scrutiny. We are looking for power loss
in Maxender interferometers. No, my phonetic spelling in my notebook is
wrong, I am unconsciously corrected, Mach Zehnder Interferometers, MZIs.
Next to this name in my notebook I rapidly scrawl some words about the
fact that the group are making phase modulations but want to make intensity
modulators. Later, re-reading my notes, I do not understand what these
are, or the differences between them, nor, in fact, what the MZI is for.
In the last weeks I have learned a great deal but as yet it seems that
the MZI remains mysterious.
Time shifts around between here and there, as does knowledge. Information
initially superficially absorbed is broken down, reconsidered and regurgitated,
slightly mutated by the process, partially congealed in a mire of other
images and experiences. The process of gaining understanding is not a
uniform one. Waves of all forms collide, disperse, intermingle. It began
with a guileless and simple question about photomultipliers. The answer
was given, but not comprehended. Still not comprehended; an as yet unreached
destination on a voyage of discovery. This voyage looks set to travel
out into the vast (limitless?) unmapped territories of human intellectual
endeavour. The far reaches disappear into potential and discovery yet
to be made. The unimagined and, as yet, unimaginable. We may believe
that we have seen the earth – physical explorations recorded and
globally shared through, for example, the electromagnetic radiation of
the television – but in our minds and in our futures exist worlds
of possibly infinite variety and creativity. Our needs, understanding,
imaginations and capabilities will combine to create aspects of our ongoing
existences in myriad forms.