IYL 2015 opens with Ceremonies in Paris


Optical technologies for simple lighting, inexpensive eyeglasses, and solar power were among the many and varied applications of light celebrated during the second day of ceremonies last week at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The IYL2015 Opening Event drew more than 1,000 participants to help launch the United-Nations-declared International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015).

It was one of the first IYL 2015 events in an year-long observance intended to raise awareness of the importance of light-based technologies in providing solutions to worldwide challenges in areas such as energy, education, communications, and health.


IYL2015 Openings by UNESCO

IYL2015 Openings by UNESCO

Light Improve Life Quality

In a well-received and inspiring session on Light Solutions, three presenters described highly successful programs that are making huge improvements in quality of life in several areas of the world. Here are their main topics hightlighted:

Illac Diaz told how A Liter of Light is using very low technology — a plastic bottle filled with water and chlorine — to create a 55-watt solar bulb powerful enough to light up a home while being environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and easy to make.

Martin Aufmuth described how OneDollarGlasses is changing lives by providing locally manufactured glasses at low cost to some of the approximately 150 million people worldwide who need prescription eyeglasses but cannot afford them — and who may be unable to work to earn money without them.

YL2015 Openings UNESCO Paris - Invited governmental, scientif leaders from the optics and photonics field.

YL2015 Openings UNESCO Paris – Invited governmental, scientif leaders from the optics and photonics field.

Linda Wamune explained the SunnyMoney program, which provides solar-powered lights and chargers in African communities to enable more hours in the day for activities such as studying. Wamune said that the program is successful in part because the lights are sold rather than given away. People in Africa can afford such small technology devices, she said, and they place more value on what has been purchased, as the perception is that items that are given away are of lesser quality.

Nobel Laureate William Phillips started the day with a dynamic, crowd-pleasing demonstration using liquid nitrogen. Fellow Nobelists Serge Haroche and Zhores Alferov gave thought-provoking and visionary talks – Haroche on how light reveals the quantum nature of physical reality, and Alferov on how heterostructures enable the creation of new structures with unique and superior electrical, optical, and mechanical properties.

IYL2015 Openings_Light Art - Shaping a better world through light

IYL2015 Openings_Light Art – Shaping a better world through light

Future of Light Panel

Future of Light panelist Sune Svanberg  (Lund University) made the audience laugh with a slide explaining the few “simple” steps to winning a Nobel prize. He joined fellow panelists Alain Aspect (UNESCO Niels Bohr Medal Laureate), SPIE Fellow Bernard Kress (Google [X]), and 2014 SPIE Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award winner Brian Wilson (Ontario Cancer Institute)  in describing future applications of light in healthcare, computing and wearable technologies, and research.

Lighting Science Tool for Sustainable Development

A roundtable discussion on science policy moderated by Jose Mariano Gago, Portugal’s former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, emphasized science as a tool for development. Gago encouraged nations to cooperate and improve the dialog about science policy at an international level. Science, he said, “can be a source of peace or a source of conflict, a source of war or a source of development. It must rely on knowledge and trust.”

IYL2015 Openings UNESCO HQ Illuminated by Finnish Light Artist Kari Kola

IYL2015 Openings UNESCO HQ Illuminated by Finnish Light Artist Kari Kola

Panelist Naledi Pandor, South African Minister of Science and Technology, pointed out a disconnect between Africa and the rest of the world, saying that the continent is often excluded from initiatives that are nominally “global.” The continent needs to raise its profile with well-crafted science policy, building human capital in a wide range of disciplines, and making sure researchers have academic freedom and the infrastructure to work, she said.

Ana María Cetto noted that international cooperation can be a catalyst, but if countries don’t come up with their own solutions, “whatever comes from outside may help, but it does not replace what countries do themselves.”

“Every closing is an opening,” observed Maciej Nalecz, UNESCO Director of the Division of Science Policy and Capacity-Building — the closing of IYL 2015 ceremonies are just the beginning of a year full of activities.

A post with thanks to Amy Nelson – Public Relations Manager at SPIE. Pictures via Flickr, courtesy of UNESCO/P. Chiang-Joo.