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International Year of Light Kicks off in Paris

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PARIS, Jan. 21, 2014 — The City of Light was home this week to the opening ceremonies for the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies. High-level speakers, including several Nobel laureates, took the stage at UNESCO headquarters Monday and Tuesday to celebrate the many uses and roles of light in everyone’s life.

Speakers pointed to the significance of light in applications from solar power to global telecommunications, as well as in art and religion.

“Light is the sex act between Earth and the sky,” said Mexican architect Gustavo Aviles.

Ahmed Zewail
Caltech professor Dr. Ahmed E. Zewail speaks Monday in Paris during the International Year of Light opening ceremonies. Zewail was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1999 for his work on ultrafast imaging of molecular processes. Courtesy of SPIE.

Established by a UN resolution, the International Year of Light is a global initiative to raise awareness of how photonics and optics promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.

One panel discussion highlighted light-based technologies making a difference in the developing world.

Illac Diaz described how his project Liter of Light use plastic bottles filled with water and chlorine to create a 55-W solar light bulbs powerful enough to light up homes. Linda Wamune, operations director for the SunnyMoney program, described her organization’s work providing solar-powered lights and chargers in African communities. And OneDollarGlasses President Martin Aufmuth discussed how his program trains people to make their own eyeglasses.

More than a thousand participants were in Paris for the two-day opening ceremonies, where symposia and other events covered areas including basic science, lighting solutions and light pollution, trends in photonics, the history of science and science policy.

The program featured several cultural and musical interludes, and the outside of the UNESCO building was lit by Finnish light artist Kari Kola with a display titled “Light is Here” reminiscent of the Northern lights.

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Jan 2015
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