Launching the International Year of Light in Scotland

Last week Shine was present at the launch of the International Year of Light in Scotland, at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The building was filled with different exhibitions and demonstrations on all aspects of light, spanning many different science fields. We had a room to ourselves for our ‘Music of the Universe’ exhibit, as we had warned them that we would be making noise.

Our Music of the Universe room at the RSE (credit: Tim Fitzpatrick).

Our Music of the Universe room at the RSE (credit: Tim Fitzpatrick).

We had two demos: one keyboard programmed to produce pulsar sounds, and one radio receiver to pick up (a very small part) of the cosmic microwave background. Many visitors had fun composing their own pulsar symphony and finding out how good a radio receiver they are, while hearing about the astrophysics of pulsars and the Big Bang. We also handed out Shine bookmarks, designed by artist Tim Fitzpatrick, and in the evening we enjoyed a performance by trumpeter Bede Williams of the Big Bang, by Scottish composer Eddie McGuire.

Bede Williams performing 'The Big Bang' on trumpet (Credit: Tim Fitzpatrick).

Bede Williams performing ‘The Big Bang’ on trumpet. (Credit: Tim Fitzpatrick)

There were many other displays combining light, music and art, such as the laser harp from the School of Physics and Astronomy in Glasgow, and a display on aerogels by artist Nedyalka Panova, who works together with the Synthetic Optics group based in the School of Physics and Astronomy in St Andrews.

If you missed our Music of the Universe exhibit, or want to hear more astronomy inspired music by Eddie McGuire, then please join us for our next activity, which is the Open Night at the University Observatory in St Andrews, between 6 and 9 PM. There will be star gazing with the telescopes (weather permitting), but we will also be there with our pulsar keyboard and radio receiver. And the St Andrews Scholarship Brass Quintet will perform ‘Orbit’, ‘Auriga’ and ‘The Big Bang’, followed by public talks on these topics by St Andrews astronomers. See you there!

PS: many thanks to Rita Tojeiro, Alistair Hodson, Duncan Forgan and Tim Hewlett, who were there in Edinburgh to help us with the demos, and to Claudia Cyganowski for making the radio receiver available!



The Shine Team. From left to right: Tim Fitzpatrick, Bede Williams and Anne-Marie Weijmans (Credit: Rita Tojeiro).

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Introducing Shine

Hello everyone! Here is our first blog post, to introduce the Shine Project. This project was born during a rehearsal weekend of the St Andrews Chamber Orchestra, when astronomer and oboist Anne-Marie Weijmans started talking with conductor and trumpeter Bede Williams about the upcoming International Year of Light 2015. Would it not be a great idea to celebrate this with a concert inspired by light? And would it not also be great to have different science experiments around, so that the audience can not only listen to light-inspired music, but also see for themselves how much light and sound have in common? After all, they are both wave phenomena. This idea grew, and grew, we got local artist Tim Fitzpatrick on board, and we are now proud to present Shine: a celebration of the International Year of Light in St Andrews with Science, Art and Music.

We have several activities planned throughout the year for you to get inspired by light in all its forms, and we keep these listed on our Calendar page. You will see more and more events added there, as the International Year of Light is taking shape. For instance, next week, on Monday 23 February, you will find us at the International Year of Light Launch Event at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. We will be in the Scott Room with experiments that will allow you to hear the faint echoing hum of the Big Bang, and to see if you can compose your own music with pulsars. Do drop by, or visit us at any of our other events!

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