Sunday, February 8, 2015

“International Year of Light 2015” Building Largest Public-Private Alliance in History

Manuscrit Sainte-Geneviève 22, f. 3. Dieu sépare la lumière des ténèbres. 
“International Year of Light 2015” Building Largest Public-Private Alliance in History
By Genevieve Fraser 

Let there be light” is an English translation from the Hebrew Book of Genesis where it is written that God separated the darkness from the light.  The metaphorical meaning is to dispel ignorance which is what an international consortium of scientists and scientific organizations had in mind when they proposed declaring a 2015 “International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies” to UNESCO, The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture, with headquarters based in Paris.

From a scientific perspective ‘Light’ refers to the breadth of the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes visible light, yet also includes light with wavelengths that we cannot see, such as: radio waves, microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.  According to, one of the sponsors of the year-long event, “Though these different types of light are used in everyday life, the right kind of light and the right equipment can help us see things in much finer detail than the human eye could possibly make out. This capability holds the key to answering some of the fundamental questions about the world around us.”
Professor John Dudley
Led by John Dudley, Professor of Optoelectronics and Photonics at the University of Franche-Comté in France who initiated the project and with the UNESCO resolution in hand, the founding scientific sponsors – the American Physical Society (APS); The American Institute of Physics (AIP); the European Physical Society (EPS); the IEEE Photonics Society (IPS); SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics; the International Network; the Institute of Physics (IOP); and The Optical Society (OSA) –  approached the United Nations with the nation of Mexico formally submitting the proposal. 
The resolution was adopted at the 68th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in Paris with co-sponsorship from 35 countries.  Soon afterwards, ASAP member, Philips Lighting was announced as the first Patron Sponsor of the International Year of Light.  Philips is on the board of the European Physical Society, a founding scientific sponsor. 
Since 1891...
Philips will help with communications and how lighting can reduce energy consumption, a key component of tackling climate change.  Lighting is a one of the key industries –the lighting design industry, the architecture and design of lighting, how the light illuminates in streets and houses. 

Other partners will help with industries such as healthcare.  An example of the use of light in healthcare is the Finger Pulse Oximeter which is a photonic devise - a diode emits light and measures changes.  Light technology is also used in surgery.  Endoscopic fiber optics uses photonics to see, to inspect the stomach.  Lasers are used for pharmaceutical manufacturing.  Lasers also cut circuit boards. 

“There are so many technological uses.  Light not only illuminates, it is a tool without which modern society wouldn’t exist,” the professor explained.  “As an example, the internet is the most pervasive optical technology in history because the signals – even in a phone call – go into a receiver which then is converted into light signals and travels under the sea in optical fiber cables.  Most people do not appreciate how photonics underpins everything.”

“People no longer understand technology because as scientists we insulate ourselves in research and teaching and have not explained the changes, and so investment in basic scientific research is lacking.  Industry, educators and politicians need to be informed,” Dudley said.

Harry Verhaar, head of Global Public and Government Affairs at Philips Lighting, stated in announcing their alliance, “The transformative power of light is immense as we have seen over the last 120 years of Philips’ history – from the launch of the first commercial incandescent bulb through to connected LED lighting solutions. Lighting has now entered a digital era, where sustainable LED technologies are connected to networks, devices and apps and placed to address the world’s challenges like never before.” 

Philips will support a key program of the International Year of Light, “Study after Sunset” which addresses the fact that for over 1.5 billion people around the world, night-time means either darkness or the dim glow of an unhealthy kerosene lamp or candle. 

“Study after Sunset” will promote the use of portable solar-powered high-brightness LED lanterns in regions where there is little or no reliable source of light.

Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of The Optical Society (OSA) explained that as a founding partner of the International Year of Light, OSA is working with other global science/engineering organizations to effectively expand their reach on common goals, just as they did in 2010 when they co-founded LaserFest,a multi-society effort celebrating the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser. “The 100 partner, year-long celebration resulted in raising the general public understanding of the importance of sustained, federally funded research, and exposed the excitement of these type of discoveries to all age groups. The total audience reach for LaserFest was 400 million people,” she stated.  

In outlining the IYL goals, Rogan cited “the need to raise awareness of the ability of light-based technologies to improve the quality of life and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.  It will also promote women’s roles in science and focus on attracting the next generation of scientists into the field.  Success metrics include raising the understanding and application of this incredible technology across the globe.”

Professor John Dudley, chairman of the IYL2015 steering committee explained that even he was shocked by the statistic that 85 percent of the population of the planet live in developing countries.  “Scientists have a social responsibility to help fix that by creating alliances within our own community. Scientists have always had a role to play in developing peaceful technologies.  When new vaccines become available, we make sure it’s available Africa and Asia.  We need to do the same in lighting technologies.  We need to ensure it is politically acceptable and sustainable economically.  That’s why the private sector has to be there – charity helps in an emergency but for long term economic sustainability to work for economies, we need to work in partnership.”

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