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Volume 23 / No. 1 / 2012
Cornell University
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At Cornell

Visualizing the Invisible

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Robert A. Buhrman

As I review the many exciting advances presented in this issue of Connecting with Cornell on ways of seeing, I am stuck yet again by the extraordinary breadth and depth of Cornell research. Our investigators are inventing and uncovering new tactics for visualizing and seeing the never-before-seen in so many ways. And certainly to see in new ways is often the first step to discovering the new. As Jon Kleinberg states, “science always advances when we can take things that were once invisible and make them visible.” Cornell research is not only at the cutting edge that now enables us see the once invisible, but also in consistently sharpening the clarity of our vision of both the physical universe and the richness of human interactions.

Cornell researchers invent technologies, such as spectrographic imaging scanning tunneling microscopy, enabling them to see the activity of individual electrons in materials, which can lead to new electronic materials; and multiphoton endoscopy that lets physicians directly see cancerous tissue in the body without the delay of biopsies. They create insightful works of art and scholarship that open our eyes to new ways of seeing humanity—who we are. They use computational sciences—pplying them vigorously to diverse disciplines—to answer longstanding questions about human behavior and social interactions, human ancestry and genetic inclinations, and human visual perception.

This Cornell research is opening up new fields, such as computational social science to accelerate the study of social structures and human behavior; and silicon photonics, that is enabling researchers to create all-optical information systems, supercomputers on chips, and will lead to new inventions we have not yet imagined. Cornell research is consistently moving us further into discovery in the realms of the currently invisible and unknown.

Whether members of our outstanding faculty are updating critical facilities such as the Biotechnology Resource Center with its host of high-end biotechnologies to further research in the life sciences, or starting up companies like Appinions (unveiling the influence of opinions on the web), Picoluz (making photonic devices for things like light meters and amplifiers), and Kphotonics (making ultrafast lasers available for research and educational uses), they are revealing the once invisible.

Much of this fantastic research happens because Cornell faculty have no hesitation in reaching across disciplines to bring together areas of research as never before; to invent, create, and discover—generating benefits in unforeseen ways. In this issue of Connecting with Cornell on ways of seeing, we learn how our researchers are bridging physics and biology, medicine and physics, computer science and sociology, engineering and psychology, physics and agriculture, law and computer science, art and science, and more to create advanced ways of seeing. This powerful, boundary-free approach is in our DNA. This trait of collaboration is what enables Cornell researchers to excel, by delivering solutions to life’s toughest challenges and by improving human well-being. This is Cornell research.

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