By James Dacey
“In the beginning there was light – the Big Bang,” said Steve Chu, talking on Monday at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris during the opening ceremony of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015). Chu – a Nobel-prize winner and former US energy secretary – was among a smorgasbord of speakers at the two-day event, which brought together scientists, artists, politicians and many others with a particular interest in light and its applications.
Being a journalist, I was at the event with my own light-based technology, the humble SLR camera. I was recording a series of interviews with people at the event, including Chu, to get their thoughts on what the year of light means to them. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, the fact that “light” is such an all-encompassing theme can also make it difficult to get a handle on what IYL 2015 is all about. I hope that the resulting video – to be published on physicsworld.com next week – will bring clarity to some of the initiatives and projects in the spotlight this year.
One of the people I caught up with is John Dudley, head of the international steering committee for IYL 2015. I laid down an unenviable challenge for Dudley of explaining what IYL 2015 is all about in 20 seconds or less – see his response in the video clip above.
Other people I caught up with spoke about some of the specific opportunities created by modern light technologies. Chu, for instance, spoke of how solar-power technologies are becoming increasingly competitive with traditional sources of energy based on fossil fuels. “I see the harnessing of light’s energy to be something that would give us clean energy, but also energy in the developing world that can leapfrog past transmission light grids,” he told me.
In fact, the idea that light-based technologies can provide solutions to challenges in the developing world was one of the key themes on the second day of the event. One of the speakers I caught up with is Linda Wamune, Kenya’s country director for an organization called SunnyMoney, which is promoting and distributing LED-based solar lanterns. These devices are particularly useful in rural locations that are not currently connected to electricity grids. At present, many people in the developing world use kerosene lamps, which are expensive and dangerous because of the fumes they produce.
See what Wamune and many others have to say about the role of light in their professional lives in next week’s video. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out our free-to-read digital collection of 10 of the best Physics World features related to the science and technology of light, spanning everything from the physics of rainbows to a new type of glasses that could bring improved vision to millions.