Fantastic Light: Symposium in celebration of the presentation of the Lorentz Medal to Sir Michael Berry

23 February 2015 from 15:00 to 17:30 hrs
KNAW, Kloveniersburgwal 29, 1011 JV Amsterdam.
+31 20 551 0987
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The British physicist Michael Berry, emeritus professor at the University of Bristol, will receive the award for the development of the theory of the geometric phase, which plays an important role in both the classical and quantum mechanical theory of waves.

foto barbara kieboom

Carlo Beenakker, Sir Michael Berry and Christine Mummery (Photograph by Barbara Kieboom)


  • Opening by Christine Mummery, Leiden University, board member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Knots of Light by Dirk Bouwmeester, Leiden University and UC Santa Barbara

    Maxwell’s equations and the resulting description of light triggered the development of the theory of relativity and of quantum mechanics. Understanding the properties of light is therefore of fundamental importance. Topologically nontrivial structures of light will be discussed in which all electric and magnetic field lines form closed loops that are linked to each other. Furthermore it will be shown how such linked and knotted structures can be transformed to knotted structures of gravitational waves and plasma. 
  • What Would You See Upon Falling in a Black Hole? by Erik Verlinde, University of Amsterdam

    Light and Gravity. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Maxwell’s theory of light as well as the 100th anniversary of Einstein's theory of general relativity. One of the main predictions of general relativity is that gravity bends light. Near black holes this bending is so strong that light is being captured behind an event horizon. Recently the movie Interstellar appeared in cinema’s, in which one of the main characters decides to fall in to a black hole. In this presentation the science behind the question 'What do you see when you fall into a black hole?' will be explained and illustrated with the help of numerical simulations. Also in other places in our universe light is being influenced by gravity. The occurrence of gravitational lenses in one example. Observations of the bending of light by gravity teaches us a lot about the distribution of matter in our universe. We discuss the most important lessons that can be drawn from these observations. 

  • Enlightening the Opaque World by Ad Lagendijk, Twente University 

    All objects that we observe around us are untransparent. We cannot see transparent objects. Nevertheless up to recently physicists were mainly concerned with the transparent objects. A combination of new insight, new technology, and new multidisciplinary collaboration has led to a situation where we can look inside and see through opaque matter.

  • Laudatio door Carlo Beenakker, Universiteit Leiden, voorzitter van de jury voor de Lorentzmedaille, en uitreiking van de Lorentzmedaille aan Sir Michael Berry
  • Nature's Optics and Our Understanding of Light by Sir Michael Berry, University of Bristol

    Optical phenomena visible to everyone have been central to the development of, and abundantly illustrate, important concepts in science and mathematics. The phenomena considered include rainbows, sparkling reflections on water, mirages, green flashes, earthlight on the moon, glories, daylight, crystals, and the squint moon. The concepts include refraction, caustics (focal singularities of ray optics), wave interference, numerical experiments, mathematical asymptotics, dispersion, complex angular momentum (Regge poles), polarization singularities, Hamilton’s conical intersections of eigenvalues (‘Dirac points’), geometric phases, and visual illusions.


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