Activities on light in indigenous communities at the Amazon, a big fair on science and light in Brasilia, with about 100,000 visitors, mostly children and young people, interactive exhibitions in public places in Rio de Janeiro, mobile science activities in the slums of large cities, experiments on light and solar energy in small villages in Minas Gerais or in the inner cities of the Northeast, conferences and debates on light based technologies in universities and schools. Many such activities were held in Brazil, throughout the year, to celebrate the IYL 2015.
The biggest event was the National Week of Science and Technology (SNCT), with the main theme: “Light, Science and Life”, between October 19-25 and lasted until mid-November. Approximately 48,000 activities in 730 cities or small towns were recorded on the SNCT site, involving 2,416 institutions such as universities, schools, research institutions, companies, government agencies and NGOs. About 2,550 activities had specifically the word “light” in the title. There were conferences, workshops, science fairs, open days in research institutions, distribution of software and educational kits on the science of light, scientific expeditions, programs on radio and TV, science in the internet and social networks, etc. Many programs and scientific videos about light videos have been exhibited at the VerCiência – International Festival of Science TV programs and the magazine Science Today for Kids produced a special issue on light. There were many interactive activities for the public on topics like these: the colours and the light; optical illusions; the sun’s influence on the flora and fauna; light and health; sunlight as a sustainable energy alternative; perceptions of light; photosynthesis; bioluminescence, fluorescence and phosphorescence; agriculture and light. For instance, a workshop on indigenous astronomy was held in Curitiba, “The Light of the Tapirapé (Milky Way)”.
There were also many cultural events related to the light, as the presentation of the Experimental Orchestra at the Florestan Fernandes Theatre (Federal University of São Carlos). The orchestra played musical pieces specially arranged for the occasion and ended the National Week of Science and Technology 2015 in São Carlos.
Since 2004, the National Week of Science and Technology (SNCT) in Brazil is celebrated annually, in October, under the coordination of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and with the collaboration of educational and research institutes and scientific societies, such as the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC). The goal of SNCT is to mobilize the population, especially children and young people, around themes and activities of S&T, stimulating creativity, scientific thinking and innovation. It intends to show the importance of S&T in everyday life and for the development of the country, and provide an opportunity for the Brazilian population to know and discuss the results and impacts of scientific and technological research and their applications.
The SNCT has been very successful, counting on a growing and enthusiastic participation of people, institutions and cities. The last national survey of public perceptions of S&T has shown that the participation of the population in any activity of the SNCT increased from 3% (2006) to 8% (2015). The main actors involved in the SNCT are universities and research institutions, public and private schools, institutions for technological education, science centres and museums, scientific and technological entities, research support foundations, environmental parks, botanical gardens, estate and city secretariats of S&T and education, public and private companies, mass media, NGOs and other entities of the civil society.
The second largest IYL 2015 event in Brazil took place in São Carlos (São Paulo): the 67th Annual Meeting of SBPC, July 12-18, which had “Light, Science and Action” as its main theme. The activities on the theme of light in this meeting were: 19 conferences, 7 symposiums, 8 short courses, 4 round tables and 8 interactive exhibitions (Light and Health, Microscopy, Photography in Schools, Glass World, etc.). A special workshop Light: Life and Science coordinated by the Brazilian physicist Vanderlei Bagnato was attended by Alain Aspect, Nobel Prize in physics, and many Brazilian scientist working in photonics, nanotechnology, and technologies for health. Several scientific societies, such as the Brazilian Physical Society, the Brazilian Chemical Society, the Brazilian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Brazilian Astronomical Society and the Brazilian Society of Psychology, organized conferences, debates and symposiums on light according to their specialties. The public participation in the meeting was about 15,000 people, most of them children and students of high schools and universities visiting the SBPC for Young. A new planetarium was opened on June in Sobral (Ceará) located on the square where scientists observed the eclipse of 1919, which confirmed the predictions of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity on the bending of light near the sun.
The Facebook page Ano Internacional da Luz 2015 daily publishes materials and information about events and activities on the IYL 2015 in Brazil and worldwide. It has the second largest share in the world with 3,750 participants (as November 2015). The first one is the official IYL 2015 Facebook page with about 9,200 participants.
The activities of the International Light Year in Rio de Janeiro are being closed now with the “Light for Poets” a series of weekly conferences for a general public. The objective of these conferences is to highlight the main theories designed to understand the nature and the characteristics of light, as well as the researches on light that revolutionized all areas of science and produced many innovations. Moysés Nussenzveig, a well-known Brazilian physicist with important works on quantum physics and optics, will make the Christmas Conference Light and Life closing this event.
Ildeu de Castro Moreira is professor of physics at the Institute of Physics and at the Graduate Program in Epistemology, History of Science and Technology (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro). He works also in science education and public communication of science. He was Head of the Department for the Popularization of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology – Brazil, and national coordinator of the National Week of Science and Technology (2004-2013). He is now vice-president of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science.