APS News

Global Event Celebrates Physics on Anniversary of Einstein's Death

Physicists around the world honored Einstein and celebrated the World Year of Physics with a worldwide optical relay on April 18, the 50th anniversary of Einstein’s death.

An estimated 120,000 people worldwide participated in the event, called "Physics Enlightens the World." About 140 people or groups participated in the United States. The light relay was organized by Max Lippitsch of the University of Graz in Austria.

World Year of PhysicsAs the event was being organized, some astronomers complained that the event encouraged light pollution [see APS News, December 2004].

The event began in Princeton, NJ, where Einstein lived from 1933 until his death in 1955. On the evening of April 18, lights were turned off briefly, as a symbolic way to call attention to the issue of light pollution; then the university stadium and some nearby buildings were lit up, beginning the relay. The signal traveled west as participants lit lights one after another in a huge relay that circled the globe in a single day.

Any kind of light source was allowed, as long as it was legal. In some places, participants sent the signal using phone calls or email, which were allowed because these signals travel as light through fiber-optic cables.

The loop was completed with an email to Claire Gmachl, who organized the start of the relay in Princeton, from Olivier Buridant in France on behalf of the European Physical Society.

"The event was quite a success, both on our end here in Princeton and in Europe," Mira Guo, a student at Princeton University, told the Princeton Packet. "It still amazes me to think of how many people of different nationalities, speaking different languages, and living thousands of miles away from each other came together to participate in this joint effort."

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff