IT Carlow Sees the Light at 2011 Tyndall Lecture


Over 500 staff, students and secondary school pupils filled a lecture theatre at IT Carlow on Wednesday when Peter Vukusic, lecturer at the School of Physics in the University of Exeter, brought his unique enthusiasm and verve to the subject of the perception of colour and light in this year’s Tyndall Lecture.

Using vivid images and video, as well as infrared cameras and ultraviolet lights, Peter Vukusic explained the spectrum of light beyond the visible and how our perception of light and colour can vary and adapt.  Several volunteers from the audience were sufficiently enthused to step up on stage for Peter to smear patterns with cream on their faces before turning the lights off and the ultraviolet beam on to reveal the luminous shapes he had made.
There was lots of interaction with the audience and the speaker held their attention easily with his fascinating study of the structure of butterfly wings and how that structure can cause multiple colour perception by constructive interference.  Peter Vukusic then described how this process is used in developing bioinspired products like make-up (Peter had collaborated with L’Oreal to simulate the ‘butterfly effect’) and fabrics for both clothing and industry. These connections between serious scientific study and its practical implications were of great interest to his audience.
The annual Tyndall lecture is organised by the Institute of Physics and is in memory of John Tyndall, the renowned physicist from Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow.  He was among the first to explain why the sky is blue – a phenomenon known as the Tyndall Effect. His research presaged what we now call ‘global warming’, so much a feature of today’s concerns.