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Optics and photonics

Physicists celebrate inaugural International Day of Light

16 May 2018 Michael Banks
Logo of the International Day of Light
Shine on: The International Day of Light will celebrate the role light plays in our lives

Nobel laureates, business leaders and representatives from the arts, architecture, lighting and design are in Paris today to mark the inaugural International Day of Light (IDL). A ceremony is being held at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that will see several senior scientists – including the 2017 Nobel laureate Kip Thorne and Khaled Toukan, director of the SESAME synchrotron in Jordan – give talks about the science of light and how it is used in culture.

The fact that UNESCO has proclaimed an International Day of Light is even more remarkable than the IYL, because it becomes a permanent annual fixture on the UNESCO calendar of observances

John Dudley

Following the success of the 2015 International Year of Light (IYL), which involved more than 13 000 activities taking place in 147 countries, UNESCO’s general conference gave its backing to the IDL on 7 November. “We saw during 2015 just how much enthusiasm there was in the science community for outreach, and the theme of light gives so much scope for many different activities,” says John Dudley an optical physicist from the University of Franche-Comte in France and chair of the IDL 2018 steering committee. “The fact that UNESCO has proclaimed an International Day of Light is even more remarkable than the IYL, because it becomes a permanent annual fixture on the UNESCO calendar of observances.”

The day aims to provide “an annual focal point for the appreciation of the role that light plays in the lives of the citizens of the world” with Dudley expecting hundreds of other events worldwide. “One thing I am very pleased about is that for the IDL we have established links with the UNESCO Schools Network that consists of 13,000 schools worldwide,” says Dudley. “I am very keen to see what they come up with – usually the best events are those that are unexpected, and the great thing about involving children in activities such as this is that they always surprise you.”

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