Shape it, squeeze it, energize it or tie it into knots. Scientists are taking light to new extremes.
From rainbows to the mechanics of the human eye, light has fascinated scientists for millennia. Today, the latest optical technologies — from lasers to solar cells — harness light to further physics and serve societies’ needs. To focus on these advances the United Nations has designated 2015 the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. It marks anniversaries including one of the first scientific accounts of optics published by the Islamic scholar Ibn al-Haytham in 1015; August Fresnel’s proposal in 1815 that light is a wave; James Clerk Maxwell’s 1865 electromagnetic theory of light; Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity; and in 1965 the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation and the development of optical fibres for communication. Our special issue explores how scientists are pushing the properties of light to new extremes.
Using techniques adapted from astronomy, physicists are finding ways to see through opaque materials such as living tissue.
A year of illumination switches on with a Nature special issue.
To minimize risks, we must learn more about how financial markets operate at ever faster rates, urges Mark Buchanan.
The cosmic microwave background is a faint glow of light left over from the Big Bang. It fills the entire sky and records the Universe's early history. Two independent experts outline what we know about this ancient light, both theoretically and observationally.
Jim Al-Khalili revisits Ibn al-Haytham's hugely influential study on its millennium.
From the archive
By firing lasers into the sky, Claire Max has transformed the capabilities of current — and future — telescopes.
Vienna demonstration shows that the technology can boost data capacity of laser beams over long distances.
Engineered structures with bizarre optical properties are set to migrate out of the laboratory and into the marketplace.
Researchers make headway in turning photons into fuel.
More than a billion people lack electricity, but now microgrids are powering up rural areas.