15.01.2015 - UNESCOPRESS

Spotlight on the International Year of Light

© Optoelectronics Research Centre, Southampton, UK. Fiber Optics; connecting the world with light.

Paris, 15 January – The opening ceremony of the International Year of Light will take place at UNESCO Headquarters, on 19-20 January 2015. The main objective of the Year, which is led by UNESCO, is to raise global awareness of how light-based technologies can provide solutions to the global challenges of sustainable development.

Over a thousand participants are expected for this 2-day event, gathering decision makers, industry representatives and leading scientists. The programme includes lectures by five Nobel Prize laureates: Ahmed Zewail (“Light and Life”); Steven Chu (“Energy and Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities”); William Phillips (“Einstein, Time and Light”); Serge Haroche (“Light and the Quantum”) and Zhores Alferov (“Efficient Light Conversion and Generation”). The launch of the international Year of Light is also punctuated by thematic sessions on various topics, such as the role of optical technologies in development, the future of light-based technologies and the practical solutions they can provide.

Another highlight is the inauguration of the “1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham” campaign, launched by UNESCO in partnership with the science and cultural heritage organization 1001 Inventions. Ibn Al-Haytham, a 10th century scholar from Basra (Iraq), is considered to be the father of modern optics and of the present-day scientific experimental method. The Year coincides with the 1,000th anniversary of his seminal work, Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics). A series of interactive exhibits, workshops and live shows illustrating the world of this remarkable physicist, philosopher and mathematician will be organized within the framework of the 1001 inventions campaign.

Several side events are included in the programme, in particular a recital by American violinist Joshua Bell and a light installation by Finnish artist Kari Kola. The cultural dimensions of light will also be showcased in a performance of the Maori founding myth Te Ao Mārama – From Darkness to the World of Light, exhibits, and light projections.

The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL2015) has been the initiative of a consortium of scientific bodies together with UNESCO’s International Basic Sciences Programme. The Consortium brings together many different stakeholders including scientific societies and unions, educational institutions, technology platforms, non-profit organizations and private sector partners.

The study of light has had an impact on all areas of science, technology and engineering. From the first attempts to understand the movements of the stars and planets to the study of the role of light in photosynthesis, efforts towards understanding the nature and characteristics of light have revolutionized most scientific disciplines. Light technologies have many applications in fields as diverse as medicine, communications or energy.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL2015) during its 68th session, in December 2013.

Media contact: Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press service,
tel : +33 (0)1 4568 17 64, a.bardon(at)unesco.org

© Tsuneaki_Hiramatu. Flight path Of fireflies outside Okayama city, Japan. When a living organism produces its own light, scientists call it "bioluminescence." Fireflies, also called lightning bugs, are some of the best-known examples of this process.

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