Here we go again: another revolution around the sun, another 4 seasons gone by, and another Easter, Melbourne Cup day and New Year’s Eve fireworks passed. And now we’re in 2015, also known as MMXV, 6765 in the Assyrian calendar, 1015-1016 in the Igbo calendar, and 1420070400-1451606399 in Unix time. Don’t worry: I don’t know what those are either.
A quick recap
From the World Cup and the Winter Olympics, to Philae landing on an asteroid, to an Ebola epidemic. Google has put together a summary of the year that just came to an end with A Year in Search. No matter what you’re interested in, it’s got something for you!
And coming up in 2015…
International Year of Light
The UN is back to raise our awareness of the technology we take from granted. They have announced that this year will be the International Year of Light and Light Based Technologies.
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.
That might sound a little dry and unspecific, but light is pretty integral to modern life. Think optical fibre (like the big image above), solar power, film projection, lasers (and laser tag!), and smartphone LED screens.
And don’t forget telescopes, without which we wouldn’t have any of the incredible images of universe, such as this photograph of the Eagle Nebula.
100 years ago
Not much has happened this year so far… it is only a few days old after all, but we can celebrate the 100th anniversaries of lots of significant events from 1915.
It was an unusually fine year for singers: Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, and Frank Sinatra were all born, and are regarded as some of the greatest performers ever.
Orson Welles was also born in 1915, a man well known for the War of the Worlds radio play by the Mercury Theatre on the Air. In popular myth, mass panic was caused when peopled confused the broadcast for actual breaking news of an alien invasion! However, it appears that the extent of the confusion may be overestimated Jefferson Pooley and Michael J. Socolow discuss what actually happened on the night, and how the myth grew in this article on Slate.
Space and Time
Einstein was already a world renowned scientist in 1915, but in this year he revealed what is arguably his greatest contribution to physics: his General Theory of Relativity. In a nutshell, it describes how light, space, and time are affected by gravity.
A key phenomenon predicted by General Relativity is called gravitational lensing: that light is bent by gravity. You can see this in the image on the right: The four blue stars are actually the same star. It sits behind a galaxy, so the light is bent around on its way to our telescopes, making it look like 4 separate stars.
Another huge (pun incoming!) prediction is the existence of points of infinite density… black holes!
The first ever stop sign was erected in Detroit Michigan in 1915. It was much less iconic than the ones of today, being a simple square with black text on a white background.
Within 10 years or so, they had spread all over the US, and a new improved octagonal design was implemented. This helped identify the signs at night and from behind.
The Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals was a United Nations attempt to standardise signs around the world so that international travellers would have an easier time when driving in a new country, reducing accidents. Unfortunately, few countries outside of Europe have ratified it; neither the US nor Australia have.
There are some highly anticipated movies coming in 2015. We can look forward to new instalments in the Terminator, Jurassic Park, Mad Max, and James Bond series.
But arguably the most anticipated film is Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. If you haven’t seen the trailer, you have probably been living under a rock (either that or you don’t care about Star Wars). But you may not have seen the parody George Lucas’ Special Edition trailer: if, like me, you were at the right age when he re-released episodes IV to VI, then you’ll definitely appreciate it!
Finally in movie news, in 1989, Back to the Future II was released, and it followed Marty McFly into the distant future: 2015. Now that we’ve arrived, Catherine Shoard thought it would be fun to see what they managed to get right.
Long live the Queen
Elizabeth II, currently the Queen of Australia, is already the oldest ever British monarch at an age of over 88. But this year she will also become the longest reigning, overtaking Victoria who reigned for 63 years and 216 days.
And more to come…
The featured image at the top of the post is borrowed and edited, with thanks, from Alexandre Delbos, under a Creative Commons License.
The image of the Eagle Nebula and the Einstein Cross are in the public domain, both from NASA.
The original stop sign has kindly been dedicated to the public domain by Scott Sanchez.