A Troubling End to 2023

Whatever our politics, we must agree that nothing can justify terrorism targeting the innocent.

Michal Lipson

As Optica President, I have had the opportunity to see the best humanity has to offer—scientists and engineers discovering the possible and inventing a better future. Sadly, at the beginning of October, we witnessed humanity at its worst.

On 7 October, as Optica members were gearing up to travel to the society’s Frontiers in Optics meeting—a happy annual ritual—news broke of the savage terrorist attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians. The images, stories and losses of that day, and the days that followed, will haunt some of us for the rest of our lives. As readers of my previous messages this year know, I was born in Israel and later studied there; while I now live and work in the United States, I retain strong individual and family ties in the country of my birth. The tragedy that has unfolded since 7 October has had an intense personal impact.

Yet I believe there are also universal values at stake. Whatever our politics, we must agree that nothing can justify terrorism targeting the innocent. I continue to grieve for all who have been murdered and pray for the healing of the wounded and the safe return of hostages. I also extend my heartfelt support to Optica members and to everyone affected by the international crisis that the barbarism of Hamas has unleashed. As I write this message, at the end of October, that crisis is still rapidly evolving, and it is unclear when and how it may end.

This is the last of these monthly messages I will write as 2023 Optica President. During the past year, as I thought about the ideas I wanted to express in this forum, I had hoped to use this December message to highlight the unbounded promise of our science for building a better world. I must confess that, in light of recent events, I am finding it hard to sound that note of optimism.

What I can say, however, is that those events have underscored the critical role of international communities such as Optica in building networks for mutual support in times of need—and for maintaining the spirit of inquiry, invention and communication that indeed represents humanity at its best. So I close this message with a note of thanks to Optica’s members for entrusting me with the opportunity to lead the society this year. I also thank the society’s volunteers and staff for their support during that journey. And I wish my successor, 2024 Optica President Gerd Leuchs, the best of luck in continuing to move Optica forward.

Michal Lipson,
Optica President

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Publish Date: 01 December 2023

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