1000 years of light, 50 years of solitons - the remarkable role of optics in nonlinear physics
The United nations has declared 2015 as the International Year of Light, celebrating a number of major anniversaries in the history of science, as well as the many ways in which photonics technologies can impact on our daily lives. This reminds us both of the continual nature of scientific progress and the sometimes surprising way applications can develop from basic research. As well as representing a number of key milestones in the history of science dating back at least 1000 years, the year 2015 is also 50 years since the first paper on the “soliton” appeared, opening up a new field of study which has had dramatic impact on many areas of optics and photonics.
This talk will discuss some unappreciated aspects of research in nonlinear soliton physics, from its earliest historical development in the 19th century, to work during the Manhattan project, the birth of optical fiber communications, the development of femtosecond lasers, links with optics-related Nobel Prizes in 1999, 2005 and 2009, to the latest research in the field today that is providing new insights into the physics of nonlinear localization and the emergence of extreme waves on the ocean.