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UN proclaims 2015 as ‘International Year of Light’

The year 2015 has been named the International Year of Light (IYL 2015) by the United Nations General Assembly. The initiative will aim to raise global awareness of how light-based technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health. The initiative is the result of work undertaken

by a large consortium of scientific bodies together with UNESCO, and will bring together many different stakeholders to promote and celebrate the significance of light and its applications during 2015. A number of preparatory actions

have already been planned for 2014, including coordinated outreach by the European Centres for Outreach in Photonics via the GoPhoton! project, and many other local, regional and international events to raise awareness of photonics in 2015.

‘ The result of work undertaken by a large consortium of scientific bodies’

The GoPhoton! project will officially launch in 2014 and will include a wide range of activities that will run in eight different European cities. The activities, all revolving around light, will include entertainment events, exhibitions, talks, congresses, and the possibility to visit centres devoted to frontier research in photonics.

The year 2015 will also mark a number of significant anniversaries in photonics, from the first studies of optics 1,000 years ago during the Islamic Golden Age to discoveries in internet optical fibre technology in 1965. John Dudley, chairman of the IYL 2015 steering committee, said: ‘An International Year of Light is a tremendous opportunity to ensure that policymakers are made aware of the problem-solving potential of light technology.’ SPIE president-elect, Philip Stahl, added: ‘SPIE is delighted with the United Nations proclamation and excited about this powerful opportunity to help further greater understanding of photonics. The International Year of Light will help raise awareness of the possibilities inherent in light-based science and engineering.’ Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail of the California Institute of Technology said in a statement: ‘Civilisation would not exist without light; light from our Sun and light from the focused and coherent lasers which now have become an important part of our daily lives – from scanning packages at supermarkets, to eye

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surgery, to IT communications across oceans. The International Year of Light will surely raise awareness of these powerful discoveries and their present wide-ranging, light-based technologies which are significant contributors to the world market.’ Zewail was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1999 for his work using femtosecond spectroscopy.

Laser gravitational wave observatory gets go-ahead The Science Programme Committee of the

European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that one of its next missions will be to probe the ‘Gravitational Universe’ by establishing a gravitational wave observatory in space. The proposed mission, known as the evolved Laser Interferometry Space Antenna (eLISA), is planned to launch in 2034. It will build upon technologies already developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow’s IGR for the ESA’s LISA Pathfinder probe. The LISA Pathfinder, due for launch in 2015, will demonstrate key eLISA technologies in space, including the ultra- sensitive optical measurement system built at the University of Glasgow. Dr Harry Ward, who leads the University of Glasgow LPF and eLISA work, said: ‘For the UK, the decision is great news. The significant UK Space Agency investment in developing the LISA Pathfinder payload will now bear fruit, and with eLISA, we can look forward to a rich scientific output from what promises to be one of the most important astronomical observatories of our time.’ Alongside investigating the origins of the

Universe, observation of gravitational waves will provide powerful insight into the fundamentals of gravity, and into Einstein’s theory that predicted the waves in 1916. By observing how waves from early black holes are stretched out as they move toward us through the expanding Universe, the observatory will even shed light on the mystery of dark energy. Between 2014 and 2020, eLISA technology will be optimised, followed by the final mission selection and commitment of international partners. In 2024, the industrial implementation will begin, with the payload supplied by a European consortium which also provides the flight hardware for LISA Pathfinder.

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