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NZ focus for International Year of Light

NZ focus for International Year of Light

A rolling switch-off of lights around the globe and a focus on art works that celebrate natural light are just two suggested events to mark the International Year of Light in 2015, proclaimed by the UN late last year.

A rolling switch-off of lights around the globe and a focus on art works that celebrate natural light are just two suggested events to mark the International Year of Light in 2015, proclaimed by the UN late last year.

UNESCO’s International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies also marks significant anniversaries of the greatest discoveries in the science of light, including 200 years of wave theory, 150 years of electrodynamics, 100 years of general relativity and 50 years since the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background. Without recent advances in photonics (as this science is now known), there would be no DVDs, bar code scanners, no smart phones or flat screen TVs , and no worldwide web.

“Without light, human beings would not be here, and the world as we know it would not exist - it’s really that simple,” says Professor John Harvey of the University of Auckland. “Light is not only part of our everyday existence, empowering a huge range of technological developments, but the source of most of the power we use. Light and the technologies associated with it will be central to the future of humankind.”

New Zealand played a key role in shepherding the IYOL proposal through the various committees of UNESCO and the original idea came about as a result of collaboration between University of Auckland scientists and Professor John Dudley, a former University of Auckland physics lecturer, now President of the European Physical Society at the University of Franche-Comté, appointed chair of the IYL2015 international steering committee.

"We take light-based technologies for granted but they are essential is so many areas,” Professor Dudley says. “Fibre optic sensing is used in America’s Cup boats and as Sir Peter Jackson has shown, with the right telecommunications infrastructure, New Zealanders can showcase and sell their innovative work worldwide.”

Professor Harvey is coordinating the formation of New Zealand’s IYL2015 national committee and is keen to incorporate another of the key themes of the IYL2015 – a celebration of how light has inspired art, music, literature and philosophy across the ages. In addition, the Royal Society of New Zealand and the New Zealand Institute of Physics are planning public lectures and events to celebrate the Year of Light throughout 2015.

“We very keen to get as many cultural representatives involved as possible and to organise events for schools that lead not only to a deeper understanding of the great scientific discoveries of light but to understand that light will be essential in solving some of the biggest challenges we face in the future.”
Light pollution will also be a key theme of the IYL2015.

“The International Year of Light is a unique opportunity to raise global awareness of advances in this field, for example innovative lighting solutions that minimise light pollution so that we can all appreciate the beauty of the universe in a dark sky,” Professor Dudley says. New Zealand is well positioned to assist in this aim with the recent designation of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association.


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