March 14, 2015

The many hands that make light work want you to see it anew

Physicists around the world are gearing up for the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL), which kicks off later this month at an official opening ceremony at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris. Some 1500 delegates are set to converge on the French capital for the event, which runs from 19 to 20 January, and will include representatives from the UN and UNESCO as well as the Nobel laureates Zhores Alferov, Steven Chu, Serge Haroche and William Phillips.

Honestly, they couldn't have picked a better year. 2015 marks the anniversary of several important milestones in the study of light, including the 1000th anniversary of the publication of Ibn al-Haytham's seven-volume treatise on optics. Alhazen's work transformed the way in which light and vision was understood, earning him the title the "father of modern optics". 200 years ago Fresnel proposed that light behaved like a wave, 150 years ago James Clerk Maxwell published his Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field, a 100 years ago Einstein embedded light in cosmology through general relativity and it's been 50 years since Wilson and Penzias discovered the cosmic microwave background.

"One of the most exciting aspects of this International Year is the way in which it brings together such a wide range of different communities, from astronomy to medicine and photonics to arts and culture," says Beth Taylor, chair of the UK National Committee for the IYL. "It creates a unique opportunity to cross traditional cultural divides and engage new and different audiences with the excitement of light and its applications."

The IYL will consist of a series of co-ordinated events around the world to communicate the importance of light and optical technologies in society – ranging from the Story of Light Festival in Goa, India, to Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. Hundreds of events are planned in countries all around the world.

You can find out about events near you using light2015's event programme;

If you haven not yet seen the amazing BBC4 series Light Fantastic, make this the year you do.

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” -Plato

Some other interesting links;
White light through prism
A History of Light
The electromagnetic radiation spectrum

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