2015 has been designated the International Year of Light by the UN, focusing on the topic of light science and its applications. To celebrate this, Festival of Ideas and Institute of Physics, Bristol, welcome the distinguished physicist Sir Michael Berry for a talk based entirely on pictures. Seas sparkle, sunshine generates rainbows, ships make waves. The explanations of these familiar phenomena are as abstract as elsewhere in physics, but pictures are helpful because in light and water waves we can often see what we are talking about. There are other optical phenomena that are not immediately perceived (associated with polarization or fine-scale interference, for example), but even with these we can generate pictures to help our understanding. Poets and novelists, as well as painters, have sometimes represented optical phenomena in ways that are surprisingly close to those of physicists. Wave phenomena to be illustrated, in addition to sparkles, twinkles and rainbows, include glories, the hidden fingerprint of the blue day sky, quantum carpets, and the awesome image of the sun through a bathroom window.
In proclaiming an International Year focusing on the topic of light science and its applications, the UN has recognised the importance of raising global awareness about how light-based technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health. Light plays a vital role in our daily lives and is an imperative cross-cutting discipline of science in the 21st century. It has revolutionised medicine, opened up international communication via the Internet, and continues to be central to linking cultural, economic and political aspects of the global society. This International Year will bring together many different stakeholders including scientific societies and unions, educational institutions, technology platforms, non-profit organizations and private sector partners.
Refreshments will be available from 19:00.