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UN Proclaims 2015 ‘International Year of Light’

PARIS, Dec. 23, 2013 — 2015 was proclaimed as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015) during the 71st Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly 68th Session on Friday, a move lauded by a number of scientific societies and institutes.

In making the proclamation, the UN recognizes the importance of raising global awareness of how light-based technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health, said the European Physical Society, one of the founding scientific sponsors of IYL 2015. The other founders are the American Physical Society, the IEEE Photonics Society, SPIE, the Lightsources.org international network and the Optical Society (OSA).

“We now have a platform by which to share with the world the importance of light to science, technology, nature and culture,” said OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan, a member of the IYL 2015 committee.

“Light gives us life through photosynthesis, lets us see back in time towards that cosmic big bang, and helps us communicate with the other sentient beings here on earth — and should we find any, perhaps those in outer space as well,” said Nobel Laureate John Mather, a NASA scientist and SPIE Fellow. “Einstein studied light in developing the theory of relativity, believing that the laws of nature that give us light must surely be true no matter how fast we are moving. Now we know that even electrons and protons behave similarly to waves of light, in ways that continue to astonish us. And the optics and photonics technologies developed for space exploration have rendered many valuable spin-off applications in everyday life.”

The IYL 2015 partnership, formed in 2010, is a cross-disciplinary educational and outreach project with more than 100 partners from more than 85 countries, accompanied by the UNESCO International Basic Sciences Program. It will involve scientific societies and unions, educational and research institutions, technology platforms, nonprofit organizations and private sector partners to promote and celebrate the significance of light and its applications during 2015.

“Light matters to all of us,” said Ana María Cetto of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “The IYL will create a forum for scientists, engineers, artists, poets and all others inspired by light to interact both with each other and with the public so as to learn more about the nature of light, its many applications, and to discuss its role in our culture.”

A resolution welcoming and endorsing IYL 2015 was first adopted by the UNESCO Executive Board at its 190th session in October 2012. The IYL 2015 resolution was submitted to the UN Second Committee in November 2013 by Mexico, and delegates from both Mexico and New Zealand spoke in support of the submission. The resolution was adopted with co-sponsorship from 35 countries as part of a more general agenda item on science and technology for development.

“An International Year of Light is a tremendous opportunity to ensure that policymakers are made aware of the problem-solving potential of light technology,” said IYL 2015 Steering Committee chair John Dudley. “Photonics provides cost-effective solutions to challenges in so many different areas: energy, sustainable development, climate change, health, communications and agriculture. For example, innovative lighting solutions reduce energy consumption and environmental impact, while minimizing light pollution so that we can all appreciate the beauty of the universe in a dark sky. IYL2015 is a unique opportunity to raise global awareness of advances in this field.”

A number of major scientific anniversaries will be celebrated in 2015, including: the works on optics by Ibn Al-Haytham in 1015; the notion of light as a wave proposed by Fresnel in 1815; the electromagnetic theory of light propagation proposed by Maxwell in 1865; Einstein’s theory of the photoelectric effect in 1905 and of the embedding of light in cosmology through general relativity in 1915; the discovery of the cosmic microwave background by Penzias and Wilson; and Charles Kao’s achievements in 1965 concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication.

A number of preparatory actions are already planned during 2014, including coordinated outreach by the European Consortium for Outreach in Photonics via the pan-European GoPhoton! project, as well as many other local, regional and international events.

For more information, visit: www.eps.org/light2015


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