This week we’re serializing a third episode from the After On podcast here on Ars. The series is built around deep-dive interviews with world-class thinkers, founders, and scientists, and tends to be very tech- and science-heavy. You can access the excerpts on Ars via an embedded audio player, or by reading accompanying transcripts (both of which are below).
This week my guest is a holographer, a one-time academic, a former CTO of Oculus, and a present-day entrepreneur named Mary Lou Jepsen. Mary Lou’s latest startup is called Openwater. It’s doing some incredibly ambitious things in the field of medical technology—and it could one day do even more ambitious things in the realm of telepathy (and yes, you read that correctly). I first posted the full episode to my podcast’s feed on February 20th, and we’ll run it in two installments here on Ars.
We open today’s installment discussing the roots of Mary Lou’s new company. Like so many things, it all started with holography and a brain tumor. The former was Mary Lou’s academic focus in college, and the latter almost killed her (and I’m pretty sure I didn’t get that backward). This gave her a profound and personal appreciation for both the importance, and the overwhelming expense of medical imaging.
We then zip through Mary Lou’s career, which includes founding or co-founding multiple startups, as well as the One Laptop Per Child initiative. She later worked at GoogleX, developing things she can’t specify (although she does hint at them rather strongly), and then went to Facebook to serve as CTO of its Oculus unit.
And then comes the cool part: we start talking about near-infrared light. Mary Lou hopes to use this underappreciated chunk of the spectrum to disrupt the market for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), whose expense and relative inaccessibility almost led to her untimely death. Her goal is to create an optical MRI-like system which is insanely cheap, radically portable, and has an almost impossibly high resolution. The second half of today’s installment is all about the science and the math which could just make this possible.
I hope you enjoy this conversation. If you like my work, you can access my full archive of 31 episodes on my website, or by typing “After On” into your favorite podcasting app.
This special edition of the Ars Technicast podcast can be accessed in the following places:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-ars-technicast/id522504024?mt=2 (Might take several hours after publication to appear.)