Light is life. Without light, life on our planet would not exist. In studying light through astrophysics, we delve into some of the deepest mysteries of the Universe. In exploring optics and quantum optics, we plunge into the heart of matter itself.Shamila Nair-Bedouelle
“Can somebody throw some light” one ponders when you do not understand something? Yes, light plays a crucial role in the existence of the Universe. Light has always fascinated humanity. Recall the excitement of focussing the sunlight using a lens on a paper and seeing it get heated up?
“International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies” observation in 2015 by UN and UNSECO raised awareness about the role of the science of light in the wellbeing of humankind. The overwhelming response and success of the vent led to the establishment of “The International Day of Light” in 2017. May 16 was chosen as it was on this day when the laser was successfully operated for the first time in 1960 by physicist and engineer Theodore Maiman. It is a celebration of the role light plays in science, culture and art, education, and sustainable development. Gamma to radio waves, light provides insights about the origin of the Universe to technologies that have shaped our society.
Light has a crucial role in our lives and at the origin of life itself. The food we consume is produced through photosynthesis. Light finds application in fields as diverse as medicine, communications, and energy. The study of light has led to finding alternative energy sources, advances in diagnostics and treatments, optical fibre for the internet and many other discoveries that have revolutionised society and shaped our understanding of the Universe. For centuries, the study of light and its properties have revolutionised every field of science and have involved all the significant figures of science from Ibn Al Haytham (physicist of the Islamic Golden age and considered as the father of modern optics) to Einstein.
Technologies based on light play an important role in improving agriculture and farming. With appropriate lighting, vegetables and fruits can be grown indoors outside of their regular season, opening possibilities for year-round crop cultivation, even in inhospitable regions.
Optical technologies play a crucial role in medicine, from simple diagnostics and monitoring to advanced treatment options and research. Photonics finds applications in a variety of devices. The clip-on pulse oximeters (COVID pandemic enhanced their importance) work on the principle of the use of transmission of light from an LED through a finger to measure oxygen saturation and heart rate. Skin thermometers use infrared light detectors to provide a safe and reliable measurement of body temperature.
Water is essential to human health. Photonics technologies can significantly help improve both water quality assessment and access to clean sources of water. The absence of a reliable source of light forces many people in developing communities to depend on kerosene lamps for light. An estimate puts this resulting in the loss of lives of over a million people every year. Providing clean, efficient forms of lighting to developing communities is essential for health reasons and is also vital for productivity.
Light is an inspiring subject in many disciplines and is the perfect catalyst to promote science education among young people. It acts as a lever to encourage careers in science and engineering, as well as stimulating entrepreneurship. Light has had a significant impact on the visual and performing arts, literature, and human thinking.
Light is present everywhere. You can find it sometimes without any effort. Needs to focus on it realise the crucial role it plays in the lives of human being and survival of the planet.