Special |

Light Fantastic

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.

Content

Shape it, squeeze it, energize it or tie it into knots. Scientists are taking light to new extremes.

News Feature | | Nature

Using techniques adapted from astronomy, physicists are finding ways to see through opaque materials such as living tissue.

News Feature | | Nature

A year of illumination switches on with a Nature special issue.

Editorial | | Nature

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.

News & Views | | Nature

From the archive

By firing lasers into the sky, Claire Max has transformed the capabilities of current — and future — telescopes.

News Feature | | Nature

More than a billion people lack electricity, but now microgrids are powering up rural areas.

News Feature | | Nature