The International Year of Light – can you remind me what that’s about?
Well, we’ve had international years of physics (2005), astronomy (2009), chemistry (2012) and crystallography (2014). Now it’s the turn of light. The idea for the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015) was originally dreamt up by top brass at the European Physical Society (EPS) and it’s since been endorsed by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with support from more than 100 partners around the world. The year seeks to show not only why light is scientifically interesting, but also how it is so essential to modern life – be it to light up our streets, in medicine, as part of communications technology, or in art and culture.
So what is this site?
This is the official IYL 2015 blog. It’s run by Jorge Rivero González – a science-communications official from the EPS who is serving as the society’s outreach officer. But he’s not the author of the blog. His job is to commission and collate blog posts from anyone with an interesting tale to tell about light, including scientists, artists and educators.
What kind of topics does it cover?
Given that light means so many things to different people, there’s a huge variety of material. Some posts are about specific scientific advances, such as the benefits of photonics technology or the work of the Diamond synchrotron-radiation facility in the UK. But quite a few examine how light and light technology can improve our daily lives. One post, for example, tackles the Liter of Light project, in which people without access to mains electricity can generate eco-friendly light simply by installing a soda bottled filled with chlorinated water on their roof. There’s also an interesting post about how you can join thousands of people in measuring how bright (or dark) the night sky is where you are on 14 March and 12 September. Plus there are weekly updates about the many hundreds of IYL 2015 events going on around the world.
Can I contribute?
Yes, of course you can. As John Dudley, current EPS president and chair of the IYL 2015 steering committee, pointed out at the year’s opening ceremony at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in January, scientists have to grab this one chance to spread the message about light. So simply e-mail Rivero with any ideas you have. After all, once this year’s over, it’s over. (And who remembers the International Year of the Potato? Exactly.)
I’ve heard Physics World has made a guest appearance.
That’s right. Matin Durrani, the editor of Physics World, wrote about the work of University of Oxford physicist Josh Silver, who has developed a set of spectacles with liquid-filled lenses that can be adjusted by the wearer. The glasses are ideal for the millions of people in developing nations without access to professional eye-care. Physics World first covered Silver’s work in 2010 and we selected that article as one of our 10 best-ever features on light, which make up a free-to-read digital edition of the magazine available online or via our app. We’ve also made a podcast about Silver’s work, available online or via iTunes.