Small Wonders:

Seeing the world in entirely new ways

May 22, 2010|By Patrick Caneday

“Although nature commences with reason and ends in experience it is necessary for us to do the opposite, that is to commence with experience and from this to proceed to investigate the reason.”

— Leonardo da Vinci


Faith comes in many forms, I believe. And in my search to find it in places unexpected, I’m learning a lot.

I sat down with Steve Hines at Shaker’s for breakfast one recent morning to further my exploration. Steve’s an inventor, and I asked him what he had faith in. He handed me a photocopied page from Webster’s Dictionary. Of the various definitions listed for the word faith, Steve had underlined the following: “Belief in something for which there is no proof.”


“[Faith is] not a word that I use very much at all,” he told me. “It’s hardly in my vocabulary because it’s not a part of my objective activity in quantifying things. I just don’t think that way.”

Faith and science are strange bedfellows to be sure. And that definition of faith is something that I would agree with.

“I come from a science and engineering background and deal with facts and measurable, quantifiable data,” Steve told me.

But if we’re open to another definition — that faith is a will we exercise rather than a concept we possess; something that points to a thing in which we put our trust and hope — I wondered what I might find.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Steve came west 30 years ago by way of New York and London, bringing with him a vast knowledge of engineering and physics. After stints with Kodak and Disney, he created his own company, HinesLab (, where he creates prototypes for image displays and develops optical and mechanical devices for photographic equipment and flight simulators. He’s currently working on a way to view 3-D TV without wearing glasses, the Holy Grail of 3-D technology today.

“Optical engineering is so appealing because light is beautiful to work with. You can break it up into so many colors and prisms?.?.?.?I love working with it.”

In short, he’s a man who helps us see the world in new and vibrant ways.

When we talk about who inspires him, Steve’s response is quick and obvious: da Vinci. He admires the Renaissance man’s free thinking, his strength and vision in the worlds of science and of art. It’s hard for me to reconcile that one person can be so accomplished in what to my mind would be divergent disciplines, art and science.

But Steve sees no conflict in the two.

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