Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Looking to the Light

Off the Wall for 7/1/15

Happy New Year!

I recently travelled to the South Island of New Zealand with my family. While we were in awe of the natural beauty of the South, the effect of this part of New Zealand being so far south was evident, and not just in terms of the cold! On New Year ’s Eve, in the Fiordland National Park, the last sunset of 2014 did not occur until 10.30pm! That, I thought, was taking daylight saving to another level.

I also noticed signs for “Dark Skies” referring to places where at night one could gaze up to the heavens and view the celestial bodies beyond our world. Ofcourse being from Fiji we are spoilt by the abundance of star viewing opportunities  - 180 degrees above and 360 degrees around us in some places.

In most large cities of the world, it is no longer possible to appreciate the beauty of the night sky. Inefficient public lighting both wastes energy and causes “light pollution” that hides our universe from us.

"Light Pollution" is a form of environmental degradation in which excessive artificial outdoor lightings, such as street lamps, neon signs, and illuminated sign boards, affect the natural environment and the ecosystem. The wasteful light emitted directly upwards or reflected upwards from poorly-designed artificial light sources can be scattered by clouds, fog, and pollutants like suspended particulates in the atmosphere. The night sky is thus brightened, leading to a reduced number of stars visible in the sky due to a decrease of the light contrast.

As we walk our first steps into 2015, I invite us to join the rest of the world in reflecting on light, and possibly reflecting light itself. This year has be designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Light.

The International Year of Light is a global initiative which will highlight to the citizens of the world the importance of light and optical technologies in their lives, for their futures, and for the development of society. It is an unique opportunity to inspire, educate, and connect on a global scale.

Photonics is the science and technology of generating, controlling, and detecting photons, which are particles of light. Photonics underpins technologies of daily life from smartphones to laptops to the Internet to medical instruments to lighting technology. The 21st century will depend as much on photonics as the 20th century depended on electronics.

The energy from our sun that reaches the Earth can be converted into heat and electricity, and governments and scientists worldwide are working to develop affordable and clean solar energy technologies. Solar energy will provide a practically-inexhaustible resource that will enhance sustainability, reduce pollution and lower the cost of mitigating climate change.

Businesses in the field of photonics and light-based technologies work on solving key societal challenges, such as energy generation and energy efficiency, healthy ageing of the population, climate change, and security. Photonic technologies have major impact on the world economy with a current global market of €300 billion and projected market value of over €600 billion in 2020. Growth in the photonics industry more than doubled that of the worldwide GDP (gross domestic product) between 2005 and 2011.

Lighting represents almost 20% of global electricity consumption (International Energy Agency). The future development of society in both developed countries and emerging economies around the world are intimately tied up with the ability to effectively light our cities, homes, schools and recreation areas.

Social media, low cost telephone calls, video conferencing with family and friends – these are three examples of how the internet allows people around the world to feel connected in a way that has never before been possible in history. And all of this technology is because of light! This page will contain links and resources that will let you understand how it is ultrashort light data pulses propagating in tiny optical fibres the width of a human hair that have created the modern communications infrastructure and the internet that we all use every day.

2015 marks an important milestone in the history of physics: one hundred years ago, in November 1915, Albert Einstein wrote down the famous field equations of General Relativity. General Relativity is the theory that explains all gravitational phenomena we know (falling apples, orbiting planets, escaping galaxies...) and it survived one century of continuous tests of its validity. After 100 years it should be considered by now a classic textbook theory, but General Relativity remains young in spirit: its central idea, the fact that space and time are dynamical and influenced by the presence of matter, is still mind-boggling and difficult to accept as a well-tested fact of life.

For more information on the UN International Year of Light, visit http://www.light2015.org

As we began 2015, our family devotion focused on Genesis 1:4, “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”  May your year be blessed with love , light and peace!

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”.

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