Light, Science and Life – IYL 2015 Activities in Brazil

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.

Desana indian (Raimundo) in the National Week of S & T. Credit: FAPEAM.

Desana indian (Raimundo) in the National Week of S & T. Credit: FAPEAM.

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All it takes is a SCREAM to lit up the world!

While the magic is still fresh, and the taste of Woman Scream International Poetry and Arts Festival 2015 resounds in our tongues, we dared to take a closer look to what we’ve done during the whole month of march. Being part of the International Year of Light 2015 (IYL 2015) events has given the scream events a whole new meaning, as for light, is not only a subject to be studied scientifically, but also in its purest metaphysical way. As president of Women Poets International Movement and creator of Woman Scream events, I dare to say this is been one of the most amazing and meaningful chain of events we ever had. Finding that light has united us (men and women) to achieve a goal towards better causes is a very valuable experience.

Woman scream 2015 event in La Plata, Argentina. Credit: Woman Scream International Poetry and Arts Festival 2015

Woman scream 2015 event in La Plata, Argentina. Credit: Woman Scream International Poetry and Arts Festival 2015

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Optics in Ancient China

The Warring States period of China, between 475 and 221 BCE, was a time of academic and scholarly prosperity when many schools of learning were set up. Some are well-known in the world today, such as Confucianism and Taoism, but some are not so well-known. One school that is little known in the west but is particularly important with regard to science and technology is Mohism, founded by Mo Zi, who paid great attention to natural science and engineering. Among his many contributions, it is noteworthy to recall his achievements in optics since we are celebrating the International Year of Light in 2015. His major contributions include: an outline of the basic concepts of linear optics, the straight-line propagation of light, images and shadows, the reflection of light by plane, concave and convex mirrors, the pinhole camera, and the refraction of light. These are recorded in the Book of Mo Zi (1 – 5).

Mo-Zi, 468 - 376 BCE

Mo-Zi, 468 – 376 BCE

In another development, Liu An, (179 – 122 BCE), the King of Huai-Nan in the Western Han Dynasty (202 BCE to 9 CE) and a Taoist master and thinker, also made important contributions to optics. Taoism attaches great importance to natural science. The world famous Chinese bean curd food, tofu, was invented by Liu An as a by-product while making elixirs, or alchemical medicines. These are recorded in the Book of Huai-Nan and the Wan-Bi-Shu (6-7). In these writings the reflection of light by multiple mirrors, used to set up the world’s earliest surveillance periscope, was described (7). Also recounted are the focusing of sunlight to light a fire using a concave mirror or a lens made of ice.

Though these early contributions in ancient China have been noted and studied by certain renowned scholars such as Joseph Needham (4) and some famous popular science writers (5), they are not widely known. For instance, they are not even touched upon in various recent reviews of the history of optics.

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Astronomy and the Origin of Cinema

As far back as I remember, I was always fascinated both by astronomy and cinema. As a kid, I was mesmerized by the stars shining both on the sky and on the screen of my neighborhood’s cinema. Memories from movies like the Star Wars trilogy or from observing the Perseid meteor shower left a huge impact on me.

Now that I am older, I don’t go outside to admire the stars so often and my neighborhood’s cinema no longer exists, but my love for astronomy and cinema didn’t fade away. I still feel quite excited when I see the latest outstanding snapshot of the oldest light in the Universe by ESA’s Planck satellite or when I see how Wes Anderson use symmetry on his movies, for name a few examples. It’s no wonder then that at some point in my life I wanted to become either a cinema director or an astrophysicist. I went for the latter.

I understand the astrophysicist profession as a craft aimed to decipher cosmic light, showing the true nature of the observable Universe, and that its final aim should be taking this knowledge to everyone. Cinema can also show us the true nature of life but it is just an illusion. An illusion, at 24 frames per second, which fools our eyes into sensing motion when light is projected onto a big screen.

Today, February 13th, marks an important date for the history of cinema: it’s the 120th anniversary of the patent of the cinematograph by the Lumière brothers, who are considered the founding fathers of cinema for creating this primitive motion projector. But, did you know that many historians consider the invention of a French astronomer, Jules Janssen, crucial for the development of motion pictures?

The cinématographe Lumière at Institut Lumière at Lyon, France. Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The cinématographe Lumière at Institut Lumière at Lyon, France. Credits: Wikimedia Commons

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