Lens Development Puts a Focus on Scientific Progress
The surprising pace of technological development
It's self apparent that technology is developing at a rapid pace. And it's almost as much of a given that the pace of production is sprinting forward as well. But people often forget just extreme those factors have become. One of the best examples can be found in lenses and optical system design. It wasn't too long ago that optical design would require intricate work that could take years to properly complete. There's good reason that it took so long to go from basic telescopes to the microscope. Science thrives on the ability to experiment with minor variations. One tests, modifies and then tests again. And this is as true for experimental equipment as it is for the things they're designed to test. But the sheer investment required for lens design meant that this process needed to move far too slowly for significant advancement. And it also ensured that some of the most complex items such as the achromatic lens would just be theoretical for a long time. In fact, figures as notable as Newton himself held that an achromatic lens was a physical impossibility.
Changes in manufacturing have aided scientific progress
But examples such as the Achromatic Lens really highlight one of the marvels of the current age. This marvel of design only came about through slow and incremental progress on lenses and their design. But these days one can actually just sit down at home, grab a computer, and have it manufactured on demand. The site will just ask for a few extra specifications that will ensure it meets one's needs. And after that it will be shipped out to one's location. What's really amazing about the process is how much it's changed optical system design. One can easily test all sorts of new ideas without needing to resort to years of slow construction. A moment of inspiration can be tested within weeks or even days.