About

These are the writings of Stephen R Wilk. I’m a Scientist and Engineer, with degrees from MIT, the Institute of Optics in Rochester, and the University of Utah. I’ve worked for research labs and high tech companies, mostly around Boston. I’ve been a Visiting Professor at Tufts and a Visiting Scientist at MIT (in two departments). For more than a decade I’ve been a Contributing Editor for the Optical Society of America.

 

My things have been published since 1979, when my article on The Physics of Karate appeared in Scientific American. I’ve always been interested in odd things. Besides the Physics of Karate (which was also my bachelor’s thesis), I’ve worked on Laser Propulsion, High-power lasers, Optical Metrology equipment, injection-molded plastic optics, and other odd things.

I’ve researched and written about very strange science — Edible Lasers, Edible Optics, Why the Sun is Yellow, Why a candle flame is yellow. How could the poetry of Omar Khayyam mention the Magic Lantern, which wasn’t invented until centuries after his death? Why can’t you find cryolite anymore, a mineral that was used in the 19th century to demonstrate how matching the indices of refraction could make things disappear?

I’ve written and published articles  about History and  Pop Culture — Where did the idea of the Giant City-Destroying Monster (like King Kong or Godzilla) come from, and why is it so popular? Why was Dracula’s wife reincarnated as a modern-day lover? Why do vampires dissolve in sunlight, and werewolves succumb to silver bullets — neither is in the original legends of these monsters. In the movie Young Frankenstein, is it the The Worm or the Spaghetti? (Despite what the movie says, it’s really the spaghetti — no joke!)

 

I’m also fascinated by the relationship between Myth and Science — and not in the obvious ways. I find interesting and unexpected relationships between the two disciplines, and have written and published about the ancient symbol of Lightning  — not a Zigzag, like we use today, by a double trident, which was used in the ancient world from the Iberian Peninsula to Japan. I look into the myth and image of Medusa, the Gorgon, and find that, not only are there similar faces around the world, but they’re also used for the same purposes. Gorgon faces adorned the shields of the ancient Greeks, but they also adorned the shields of the Classic Maya, and to this day they are on the shields of the Iatmul who live along the Sepik River in New Guinea. The Greeks had their Divine Twins — not only the Gemini, but also the Theban Dioscuri — but you find eerily similar Divine Sons of the Sun or Sky god all over the world  — the Asvin in India, the Alcin in Germany, the Asvinau in the Baltic, and similar ones among the Navaho, the Hopi, the Zuni, the Seneca, and many other Native American groups. Why?

 

You can find the answers in my published works, and in my (hopefully) soon-to-be-published works. Many are linked to in these pages.

 

 

And, of course, I write fiction. I’ve been writing it since I was seven, and occasionally publishing it in school publications, or having a play produced by a local group. But three years ago I finally started getting into the real publications. I’ve had two stories thus far in Analog, two published in books by Horrifying Press, and others in various magazines or websites. The range from Science Fiction and Fantasy through Horror to Historical Mysteries and Humor. I hope to showcase my fiction especially on this site.

 

— Steve Wilk

 

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9 thoughts on “About

  1. Steve…please contact me…I know of a ship wreck found in Canada that was built in 1815…it has been raised and it has its original 1815 deck lights …..I can pass the information on to you…I also have pictures of them and the wreck.

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  2. Dear Stephen,

    I have been trying to obtain a copy of your article “Lacemaker’s Lamps.” The University of Wisconsin Interlibrary Loan Department made an attempt to get the article for me in spite of the fact that I did not include the required page numbers. I gave them everything I could find on your article being published–as far as I could tell–in Optics & Photomics News.

    Is there a possibility that you could provide me a copy of the article? In particular, I am interested in how the candle and globe of water enhance the light onto the lacemaker’s work. I am co-authoring a book on fungi for the lay person. I have written a short chapter on what led up to the making of lenses and eventually led to the discovery of cells by Robert Hooke. This sounds a long way from fungi. The fact is, Hooke is thought to be the first person to describe, observe, and publish the details of a microfungus.

    I have been unable to find any pictorial image of what a water-globe magnifier from two or more thousand years ago looked like. In my searching, I came across mention of your publication on lacemakers. I thought the lacemaker’s means of increasing light an interesting use of water-filled globes to include in my book.

    Wishing you a Happy New Year.

    Cheers, Susan

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  3. Your book on Lost Wonderland sounds intriguing. I grew up in another era of Revere: mid 50’s through 1970. My family owned a kosher meat market on Shirley Avenue for more than 40 years. Revere changed so much over the decades. Thank you

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  4. Hello Stpehen i really like your article Before Dayglow found on Optics/photonics, but dont have a acount to view this article. I was wondering if you could send me a copy.

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  5. Hi Steve, Our family really enjoyed your virtual presentation on Lost Wonderland last night! Thanks for keeping local history alive! I grew up going to Revere Beach in the 60’s and remember some of the beachfront amusements from that time. The history you shared is fascinating. I thought you might be interested to know that the Kelly’s Roast Beef Restaurants in the area have Revere Beach items as their decor, including carousel horses, architectural items, photos, postcards, and souvenirs, Near the counter in the Saugus store there is a large 3D circular face that looks like the comic fool on the sign for the “ marriage” amusement shown during your talk. The signage at the store attributes it to a fun house at Revere Beach. I thought others that are interested in this history might like to know where to view these things first hand! Thanks again for your efforts! Karin P

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  6. Dear Stephen,
    I am interested in your article “The Magic Lantern of Omar Khayyám”. published in Optics & Photonics News (2012), 1, pp. 16-17m but cannot find it through any library I have tried. I am an artist, scholar and educator and among other things work in contemporary shadow theater. Do you know where it can be found or would you share it with me?
    All the best.

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    1. I have sent you a copy of the article as printed in Optics and Photonics News and my original draft. Note that I turned this article into a chapter of my book How the Ray Gun Got Its Zap! (Oxford Univ. Press 2012)

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