Edinburgh hosts launch of International Year of Light in Scotland

27 February 2015

A harp played by laser beams, a fusion of poetry and science, and an exploration of Maxwell’s equations all helped to launch the International Year of Light (IYOL) in Scotland on 23 February.

International Year of Light in Scotland

The all-ticket launch evening at the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) was sold out, and numerous school groups visited an exhibition during the day that stayed open for an evening reception. This was heralded with a trumpet recital and a welcoming speech by Laurence Howells, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council.

Poet Robert Crawford and photographer Norman McBeath together launched Light Box, a new work on the theme of light commissioned by the University of St Andrews for the international year. Crawford read poems on the theme of light and postgraduate students of creative writing presented three works commissioned for the event at the RSE.

Prof. Malcolm Longair, director of development at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, and a former Astronomer Royal for Scotland, gave a lecture on “Maxwell on Light, Colour and Electromagnetism” that looked at James Clerk Maxwell’s equations, experiments, and the impact of his work.

A number of companies and institutions involved in research and applications related to light exhibited at the event, and the demonstrations included a harp that played a tune when laser beams were fired at light sensors.

The IOP was among a number of supporters of the launch, which was organised by the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance. The IOP’s coordinator of IYOL in the UK, Toby Shannon, said: “It was a fantastic event to launch the International Year of Light in Scotland that celebrated both Edinburgh’s rich heritage in the form of famous son James Clerk Maxwell and the future of light-based technology in Scotland. I’m very excited about the events and activities that will be happening over the year and hope that people will be inspired to join in the celebrations.”