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SPIE Professional October 2011

International Year of Light

SPIE and its members are taking an active role in a project to have the United Nations declare 2015 as the International Year of Light.

The proposed International Year of Light project was officially launched during a September workshop in Italy jointly sponsored by the European Physical Society (EPS) and the Italian Physical Society.

A steering committee chaired by Luisa Cifarelli of the University of Bologna and the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) then plans to submit the proposal to the General Assembly of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) in London in November and later to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

SPIE member John Dudley of Université de Franche-Comté in France is serving as secretary of the International Year of Light steering committee. Dudley is chairman of the Quantum Electronics and Optics Division of the EPS.

Focusing on the importance of light and optical technologies, the International Year of Light will consist of coordinated activities to show how light plays a central role in science, education, culture, and development, and particularly on how light can improve the quality of life in the developing world and in emerging economies. The year-long celebration will promote technologies that bring the world clean and energy-efficient lighting, solar power, and practical photonic devices for applications such as environmental monitoring, malaria and cancer diagnosis, and water purification.

"SPIE continually works to raise awareness of photonics technology and is fully in support of the International Year of Light proposal," says Eugene Arthurs, executive director of SPIE, who is serving on the international advisory board for the steering committee along with SPIE 2011 President Katarina Svanberg, 2012 SPIE President Eustace Dereniak, and SPIE Fellow Maria Calvo.  

SPIE Member Angela Guzman of Florida Atlantic University, James Coleman of the University of Illinois, a recipient of the 2011 SPIE Technology Achievement Award; SPIE Fellow Chris Dainty of the National University of Ireland are serving on the IYOL Steering Committee.

Four hundred years of milestones in light

The year 2015 is a natural candidate for the International Year of Light.

  • In 1815, Augustin Jean Fresnel published his first work introducing the theory of light as a wave.
  • In 1865, James Clerk Maxwell rigorously described the electromagnetic theory of light.
  • In 1915, the theory of general relativity developed by David Hilbert and Albert Einstein showed how light was at the center of the very structure of space and time.
  • In 1965, Arno Allan Penzias and Robert W. Wilson discovered the cosmic microwave background, an electromagnetic echo of the very creation of the universe.
  • The year 2015 also represents 400 years since France's Salomon de Caux invented a prototype solar-driven engine in 1615.

Have a question or comment about this article? Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org.



DOI: 10.1117/2.4201107.14

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