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Optics and photonics

Optics and photonics

International Year of Light 2015: our top 10 articles on light now with added videos

15 Oct 2015 Matin Durrani

By Matin Durrani

We’re now in the final quarter of the International Year of Light (IYL 2015), which officially launched in January at the headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris. You may remember that on the very same day Physics World unveiled its own contribution to the IYL in the form of a free-to-read digital edition containing 10 of our very best feature articles on the science and applications of light.

Today we’re pleased to publish a new version of that digital edition, which contains the same 10 top articles but now includes a series of great videos and a podcast on the theme of light that we’ve been busy creating over the last few months. The refreshed digital edition also has interviews with some of the people involved in the IYL, in which they highlight some of the successes of the year so far and examine the legacy the IYL will leave behind. Click here to find out more.


In creating the films, we’ve embraced the spirit of IYL 2015 by asking videographers from around the world to reflect on the key themes of the year. Each film reflects the culture and geography of where it was made, telling captivating personal stories about the role of light in people’s lives.

So in the digital edition, which you can read via your desktop or on your smartphone or tablet using our digital-magazine app, you can:

• discover the role light plays in regulating sleep cycles, profiling a woman in the UK who has no eyes;

• see how light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are helping students in a remote Indian community to study after sunset;

• find out how some New York photographers are defying the digital trend and sticking with analogue techniques;

• relive the grand opening of IYL 2015 in Paris, including interviews with two Nobel-prize-winning physicists: Steven Chu and Bill Phillips.

And through our 10 best-of features, you’ll also be able to find out everything from the physics of rainbows and the science of “smart holograms” to how butterflies, beetles and other living creatures are inspiring photonic technologies that exploit the power of light.

There’s a feature by Shuji Nakamura, who shared the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics, about how he developed efficient blue light-emitting diodes, as well as an intriguing tale about the life of Ibn-al-Haytham – the talented Egyptian scholar who revolutionized our ideas of optics 1000 years ago. Plus, you can relive the best images taken by the most famous optical instrument of all – the Hubble Space Telescope.

And we’ve got a great new podcast with physicist Josh Silver from the University of Oxford, who pioneered a set of simple, low-cost adjustable spectacles that are helping people with sight problems in the developing world. It’s a great example of how science and technology can work hand in hand to tackle global problems.

Read the edition either by downloading the Physics World app onto your tablet or smartphone, which is available for iOS and Android from the App Store and Google Play, or on your desktop. And with the IYL 2015 still going strong, please do share the collection with any friends or colleagues you think might be interested.

PS We also have one final film – scheduled to be published in November – that will be produced in Mexico, looking at how light is used to illuminate historic buildings. Our team of videographers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) will be filming a sequence at the Day of the Dead celebrations at the start of November. We have high expectations that this will be a really fun and colourful film – and our hope is to showcase it at the closing ceremony of the IYL, which takes place in February 2016 in Mexico.

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