Exactly one hundred years after Albert Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves, the multinational research and collaboration of more than 1,000 scientists culminated this year in the stunning observation of the phenomenon. Such an inspiring breakthrough did not happen overnight; rather, it was reached through a century of observations, questions, ideas and trials, generated by the thousands of people who dedicated their professional lives to advancing the science along the way.
Inspired by Light: Reflections from the International Year of Light 2015, is a collection of 56 blog posts from researchers, industry professionals, students, NGO representatives, a Nobel laureate, and other authors from 24 countries that were published on the IYL 2015 blog. This book, to be published in January 2016 for distribution at the IYL 2015 Closing Ceremony, was produced by SPIE in concert with the European Physical Society and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) to celebrate the achievements of IYL 2015. Contributions in the book cover, light in culture, education, science, and technology with essays that pay homage to the people throughout history who have advanced light-based technologies, and to the many ways humanity has been influenced and inspired by light.
Under the slogan “Lichtspiele” (Light Shows), the science festival co-organised by the German Physical Society (DPG) and the Federal Ministry of Research in Jena (Germany), attracted more than 53,000 visitors. That made it by far the most successful in the history of the Highlights.
On October 19th, President Obama opened the White House lawn to host an event for thousands of stars. These stars were not celebrities, however, but those actual giant balls of gas and dust found throughout our Milky Way galaxy.
The event, dubbed the White House Astronomy Night, was intended to help promote the president’s commitment to advancing the United States’ position in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (commonly referred to as STEM). Dozens of satellite events were held around the country, each allowing members of the public to connect, for free, with the stars above and the universe beyond.
Those of us who are fortunate to work directly in the photonics or optical technology fields or are members of the wider technical community, already have an innate appreciation of the transformative nature of light-based technologies and the crucial role they place in our daily lives. Light is not something we take for granted; we recognize implicitly how optical technologies have revolutionized medicine, manufacturing communications, and energy. However, while developed countries have benefited tremendously from these advancements, there are many in developing countries that lack basic access to the very technologies that we consider both commonplace and fundamental for existence. For example, more than one-fifth of the world’s 7.3 billion population has no access to electricity, almost 600 million people living in Africa alone. Without electricity families have no clean source of light, having to rely instead on expensive (and dangerous) alternatives like homemade kerosene lamps; families can spend up to 40 percent of their income just on kerosene. With respect to access to communications, less than 20% of the global internet usage comes from Africa. This disparity in technology richness and its detrimental consequences was recently highlighted by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon who noted, “Widespread energy poverty still condemns billions to darkness, ill health and missed opportunities for education and prosperity”.