To celebrate 2015 being the UNESCO International Year of Light, the Society of Light and Lighting (SLL) undertook an ambitious project to “light-map” the UK and Ireland by illuminating a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for one night only, The Night of Heritage Light (NoHL).
I have worked in many fields of lighting for almost 15 years. The more I learn the more I realise how little I know. It makes me humble and enthusiastic to all the aspects of light.
Last fall I was wondering what will happen in the opening ceremony of the International Year Of Light and asked about it to my friend Pasi Vahimaa (Professor of photonics / IYL 2015 National contact for Finland) . We had a conversation and I proposed that it would be really nice to do something in large scale. Then Pasi introduced my idea to John Dudley (Chair of the IYL 2015 Steering Committee). I proposed to John that I really would like to do something and he said yes. I got very excited and happy even though I needed to get most of the funding for my project and the timetable was really tight for a project of such scale.
Creativity is well-understood to be one of the essential characteristics for artists, but it is equally important for scientists. So that raises the following question: How do you keep the brightest and most creative students interested in pursuing a career in physics as they enter the university, and at the same time impart real conceptual understanding so that they have a proper “canvas” on which to start their work throughout those careers?
That was a question discussed over 10 years ago by representatives of UNESCO, the UNESCO Category I Centre ICTP (International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), at a meeting in Trieste hosted by the late Gallieno Denardo. Noting that light science is an ideal subject to stimulate interest in STEM subjects in a classroom setting, the answer from that meeting was to develop a “training the trainer” program called Active Learning in Optics and Photonics, or ALOP, to especially help teachers in developing countries engage their students more effectively. It wasn’t a fix for the often low salaries of teaching professionals compared to those offered elsewhere, but it was important not to give students added incentives to leave physics.
There has been much talk recently on gender equality. We heard UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova at the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) Opening Ceremony making specific mention to women’s rights. The Director-General has chaired multiple panels and endorsed several initiatives to address what she views as a human rights strategic item in UNESCO’s agenda for the 21st century. Indeed, there is a growing realization that the gender divide is pervasive throughout the ages and the cultures. Today, also in advanced societies, gender inequality knows no limits throughout socio-economic hierarchies; albeit, often with trace dosage, but with self-perpetuating, long-lasting consequences nonetheless.
The International Year of Light became an important topic to the U.S. Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centers and Associations (USFUCA). USFUCA is the national body that oversees the presence of the United Nations cultural arm’s grassroots movement in the United States of America. USFUCA is part of the European and North American Federation of UNESCO Clubs (EFUCA), a non-governmental association which is a regional branch of the World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centers and Associations (WFUCA). All branches pursues their objectives through five major programs: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information. They contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.