Chronologically, this came right before the flight back. As a consequence, I was only able to attend a few talks in the morning, but they were talks with some good ideas behind them.
The first one was on adaptive optics in microscopy. Instead of using a wave-front sensor to measure aberrations in their beam of light, they were using the signal generated (the brightness of their image) as their metric for correction. This only worked because it was a nonlinear microscope, so their signal gets much stronger when more light is concentrated at the focus, as opposed to a linear microscope, where the signal would be equally strong regardless of where the light was smeared to. It's a neat idea, but I'm not sure that rate of adjustment necessarily justifies the image enhancement in my case. They have to use 2n-1 images to correct for aberrations in n modes; for correction of the first 3 main optics induced errors, this would be 5 images. So while this would probably be okay for a microscope that can do an image in a half-second, it's not particularly applicable to my 30 minute scan times. While ideally I would only have to do this correction once for each optical system, I'm taking down and re-assembling frequently enough that an investment in the required spatial light modulator doesn't justify itself in my mind.
The second was a case of 1 + 2 = cool. Take: 1) What do astronomers want? Larger telescopes of course! 2) What do solar power stations do during the night? Not much of course! But if we put these two together, we could make a giant telescope from a solar concentrator. The design issues are still being worked out, primarily because the solar concentrator they're looking at does not have parabolic (curved) mirrors to concentrate the light. So each plane reflects light onto the generator (now detector), and they have to have an intriguingly redundant array of sensors that needs to not only piece together how an image is supposed to be formed, but also correct for the non-smoothness of the panes (hence why this appeared in the wave-front aberration session). This would be easier if the mirrors were curved, because then they would have a focus, and with that they could form an image at a detector.
Anyway, I understand that this was somewhat brief, but if you ever want more details or clarifications, feel free to leave a note in the comments below.