A year to highlight the importance of light and light-based technology to the citizens of the world - for this purpose the United Nations proclaimed on 20th December 2013 the year 2015 as the International Year of Light. Optical technologies become more and more important to our daily life. You may for example think of the internet, where data is often transmitted via optical fibers, which allow much higher data rates than wire cables. But there was also a lot of progress done, when it comes to light emitting technologies. LEDs are widely used nowadays due to lower energy consumption and longer lifetimes compared to incandescent light sources. Another very prominent example for a light emitting technology is the laser, which is not only important for DVDs and Blu-ray discs, but also for the manufacturing industry, medicine and for many other branches. Moreover, the interaction between light and matter has been carefully studied and led to a Nobel prize in 2012 for Serge Haroche and David Wineland. It is very likely, that more future technologies will be developed based on their results. But already nowadays it is clear that the problem-solving potential of light is enormous and thus the 21st century is likely to depend as much on light as the 20th century did on electronics.
To promote these technologies and the importance of light, more than 100 partners from more than 85 countries decided to collaborate, among them different scientific unions as the American Physical Society (APS), the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG), the Institute of Physics (IOP), the European Physical Society (EPS) and further societies as The Optical Society (OSA). The International Association of Physics Students (IAPS) is aware of its responsibility and will as well support the International Year of Light as a partner. This year offers an unique possibility to inform the general public about what we - the physicists - are doing and why this is important for the life of everyone and the society as a whole. Furthermore, it is a fascinating international project, in which all member societies of IAPS can get involved and therefore the International Year of Light also offers the possibility for IAPS to strengthen the exchange and the collaboration between physics students from all over the world.
It was not by accident, that 2015 has been chosen for the International Year of Light. Besides light-technologies being important nowadays, 2015 also marks the 1000th anniversary since the famous books about optics by the Arabic scientist Ibn al-Haytham appeared. Ibn al-Haytham described in his seven volumes the physiology of the eye, the theory of perception and physical optics such as light travelling at different speeds in different media or atmospheric refraction. Furthermore, he studied natural phenomena as rainbows and eclipses and succeeded in explaining the reflection of light from curved mirrors mathematically.
But also other major scientific contributions related to light celebrate their anniversary in 2015:
- 1815 - Fresnel described the wave nature of light
- 1865 - Maxwell studied light as an electromagnetic wave
- 1915 - Einstein investigated how light behaves in space and time
- 1965 - the cosmic microwave background was discovered, which is an important evidence for the Big Bang
- 1965 - Charles Kuen Kao, nobel laureate of 2009, did his fundamental work on optical fibers
The year 2015 offers us the possibility to celebrate these important milestones related to the study of light and optics.
Events and Activities
To raise the awareness of how optical technologies influence our daily life many different events are planned all around the world in 2015 and this is also the chance for you to get involved in the International Year of Light!
You may think of organising local events related to light and light-based technologies. An example are LightTalks!, which could focus on optical illusions, slow light or other interesting features of light. There are also certain resources available which are aimed at primary and secondary school students as videos by Bill Nye the Science Guy, where different optical phenomena are explained easily understandable. Light and Laser Education Kits exist, with which university students can share their knowledge about this topic with secondary school students. A large number of conferences and other major events about light and optical technologies will take place in 2015. Especially, the Opening Ceremony in Paris on the 19th and 20th January 2015 should be mentioned. Furthermore, a project to bring light to developing and third-world countries without access to electricity will be put into effect. In these countries kerosene lamps are widely used and should now be replaced with healthier bright solar-powered LED lanterns to allow people to work and study after sunset and to light up the world. For all these different kinds of projects, volunteers from all over the world are needed, who support the International Year of Light with their ideas, their motivation and their spirit. And we - as physics students - are certainly one of the groups to be aware of the importance of light and therefore should actively get involved in this outstanding global initiative.
Be prepared for a huge amount of fascinating events and activities in the International Year of Light 2015!