Shedding Light on Photonics: IYL 2015 Activities in Taiwan

Light has long symbolized human inspiration, imagination, and fantasy. In modern days, it is a key driving force behind information technology and it is literally lighting the way to green energy revolution. The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015) presents a unique opportunity to inspire, educate, and connect on a global scale. The promotion of key ideas and the corresponding outreach activities for IYL 2015 was well received by the many organizations and institutes in Taiwan, which include (but not limited to) the Physical Society (PSROC), the Center of Advancement for Science Education (CASE) of National Taiwan University, the Interdisciplinary Science Education Center of National Tsing-Hwa University, the Taiwan Photonics Society, National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center (NSRRC), Photonics Industry and Technology Development Association (PIDA), Taipei Astronomical Museum, etc. Riding on the wave of IYL 2015, many activities and events are planned in a laissez-faire style with some popular themes commonly found in Taiwan’s night market.

The cover page of PSROC's Physics BiMonthly special issue on IYL, published in April 2015 [1]. Credit: PSROC.

The cover page of PSROC’s Physics BiMonthly special issue on IYL, published in April 2015 [1]. Credit: PSROC.

In Asia, an innovative ancient Chinese philosopher, Mozi (470 BC – 391 BC) [2] provided the first documentation on the working principles of light.  In his work (which was also named “Mozi”, after himself), he gave a detailed description on geometrical optics. Celebration of light through the Lantern Festival [3] in Chinese Society dated back to 200 BC.  The festival is held on the 15th day of the first month in the lunisolar year of the Chinese lunar calendar, and it marks the last day of the Lunar New Year celebration. The latter celebration is usually held in February or March in the Gregorian calendar.

The Lantern Festival has been a festival of great significance as early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25). The festival is symbolized with imaginative colorful lanterns embossed with intriguing lantern puzzles and riddles. Delicious glutinous rice balls named after the festival yuanxiao itself (and also known as tangyuan (湯圓)) are well received by both adults and children. This unique combination of activities in the traditional Lantern Festival provides a very creative, intellectual, and enjoyable atmosphere. In Taiwan, the festival has attracted more than 8 million visitors annually in the last few years.

The pop-science booths for the promotion of IYL 2015 with the DIY kits. Credit: PSROC.

The pop-science booths for the promotion of IYL 2015 with the DIY kits. Credit: PSROC.

Taking advantage of the festival, the PSROC has championed IYL 2015 by promoting popular science through outreach activities at the Lantern Festival, held during 5-15 March 2015 in Wuri, near Taichung High Speed Train Station. The outreach activities were organized by the Interdisciplinary Science Education Center of National Tsing-Hwa University and led by Prof. Ming-Fong Tai, together with many teams from various universities [4]. Many Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kits [5] were presented to elucidate the working principles of optics and physics in general. These kits included: floating image,colored shadow, chromadepth 3D glasses, joule thief, perpetual spinning top, magical polarizer, magic piggy bank, amazing T-rex illusion, Pepper’s ghost and many more. These kits allowed the audience to understand optics and physics through hands-on personal experiences thus making the pop-science activities in the festival a huge overwhelming success. Many participants repeatedly came back with their families and friends to imbibe in the excitement of scientific discovery and understanding. The physics education community was so impressed with the results that they decided to continue this outreach event at future Lantern Festivals. [6]

Many other additional events and activities for IYL 2015 have been organized. A partial list is given below:

  • The Center of Advancement for Science Education (CASE) of National Taiwan University organized “The Journey of Light”, with generous support from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.  Apart from lectures by established scholars, the event focuses on the pop-science presentation contests for K9-K12 students. [7]
  • On the last day of 2014, the newly constructed Taiwan Photon Source (TPS) of National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center (NSRRC) delivered its first synchrotron light at 13:58. The electron beam energy of the TPS circulating in the storage ring reached the designated value of 3 GeV, and the stored beam current  achieved over 1 mA, marking a significant milestone for the Taiwan’s new synchrotron light source. [8]
  • The Photonics Industry and Technology Development Association (PIDA) has been championing photonics technologies for more than 20 years. The Photonics Festival in Taiwan (PFT) this year is organized by PIDA from June 16 to June 18, 2015 and it showcased the best of Taiwan photonics industry with the latest products and technologies, focusing on 3D printing, biophotonics, and plant factory. [9]
  • The Taiwan Photonics Society organized monthly lecture series at the universities to address various photonics researches and also contributed a large lantern for the Lantern Festival. [10]
  • Riding on their success in organizing the Year of Astronomy 2009, the Taipei Astronomical Museum (TAM) organized an event with the theme: “Mystery light, exploring universe and improving life (探索-光的奧秘)”. The event attracted many school children across the whole of Taiwan. [11]

More Information

1 – PSROC’s Physics BiMonthly special issue on IYL
2 – Mozi (470 BC – 391 BC), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozi & http://www.iep.utm.edu/mozi/#H3.
3 – The Taiwan Lantern Festival.
4 – The teams also include Profs. Tsu-Yi Fu & Kwok-Tung Lu of National Taiwan Normal University, Prof. Tzu-Fen Lin of National Taitung University, Prof. Hsiang-Shun Chou of National Ocean University, and Prof. Wei-Chin Hung of ROC Military Academy.
5 – The DIY optical kits for IYL 2015
6 – Media coverage on the pop science outreach, http://history.n.yam.com/taiwanhot/place/20150311/20150311908947.html &
http://www.taiwanhot.net/portal.php?mod=view&aid=56379
7 – The Center of Advancement for Science Education (CASE) of National Taiwan University
8 – National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center (NSRRC). http://www.nsrrc.org.tw/ViewNews/NewsLayout04.aspx?ViewID=N20150106085624363&Lang=English & http://aappsbulletin.org/myboard/read.php?Board=researchnews&id=82
9 – Photonics Industry and Technology Development Association (PIDA); Taiwan Photonics Industry Prospers; Taiwan’s LED industry continues riding on the wave of prosperity
10 – Taiwan Photonics Society
11 – Taipei Astronomical Museum; the IYL2015 special exhibition.


kao Fu-Jen Kao is a Professor of Biophotonics at the National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan. He is currently the President of the Physical Society in Taiwan (PSROC).He received the B.S. degree from the Department of Physics, National Taiwan University in 1983, and the M. S. and Ph. D. degrees from the Department of Physics, Cornell University, in 1988 and 1993, respectively. His research interests are applications and developments of laser scanning microscopy and endoscopy. Dr. Kao is also a fellow of the SPIE, a senior member the Optical Society of America, and a member of the American Physics Society. He is currently an organizing member of the Focus on Microscopy committee.

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2 thoughts on “Shedding Light on Photonics: IYL 2015 Activities in Taiwan

  1. Wonderful recognition for the International Year of Light and Light Based Technologies. Not all are aware that Taiwan’s manufacturers supply users all over the world with photonics products. Without their industrious and efficient capabilities, many would not be able to afford and enjoy the innovation boom in light based technologies

  2. Dear Eugene,
    Thank you for the in-depth account on Taiwan’s photonics industries, which often (and may prefer to) assume the role of elves for the world’s photonics demands, being low-key and efficient.

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