As we look forward to celebrating the fifth edition of the International Day of Light on 16 May 2022, it is appropriate to review the successes of the first four editions and to review the many events that have taken place around the world. The graphic above provides a succinct summary of the global outreach of the four celebrations to date, revealing the unique place of the International Day of Light in cutting across geographical, as well as thematic boundaries. This broad impact is reflected in the messages of support that have been issued by the UNESCO Director-General. The total audience reached through International Day of Light activities since its inauguration in 2018 is estimated by our event organisers to exceed 2 million, including face-to-face activities, social media posts, video messages, and other campaigns carried out nationally and worldwide. For further information and annual reports on International Day of Light activities, please see the more detailed analysis in our news item, our dedicated reports page, as well as our news archives page

The Success of the International Day of Light 2021 in Spain  

In April 2019 the Spanish Committee for the International Day of Light (IDL) accepted the proposal of the School of Optics and Optometry of Terrassa (FOOT) to organize the Spanish flagship IDL event in 2020. However, the pandemic made it challenging to have the celebration as initially planned. Despite all the difficulties, most activities prepared for the previous year finally took place in 2021 and covered over a week from 12-16 May 2021. The organising committee included representatives from the FOOT and its Board of Trustees, the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), the City Council of Terrassa, and the Spanish Society of Optics (SEDOPTICA). 

The Spanish flagship event included more than 35 diverse activities related to light aimed to reach a wider audience highlighting the many entities and institutions of the city and its surroundings connected to light and its technologies. The activities were prepared with great enthusiasm and commitment especially those addressed to educational centres aimed at students at all levels and those in vocational training. Events also included outreach conferences and debates, a scientific cafe for young researchers, music, dance, theatre performances, exhibitions, free eye examinations to raise public awareness, and photo contests. 

The most successful event, the Route of Light, illuminating ten monuments in the city, was prepared in coordination with the Terrassa City Council and the company, Lamp. Each installation had a QR code that gave access to an amazing story about light. It is estimated that more than 1,600 people participated in the activities. All events were adapted to the requirements of the pandemic, acquiring in most cases a hybrid format.

Elisabet Perez-Cabre
Chair of the Organizing Committee 

Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics Symposium 2022

The Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics (FIP) at Duke University regularly organises major international symposia and outreach events in support of the International Day of Light. For 2022, the FIP Symposium will run over 7-8 March 2022 and consist of a virtual meeting. The program will include lectures from distinguished speakers, contributed papers and posters by investigators from Duke University and other academic and industrial institutions.  Special Themes will include: (i) Photonics and Astronomy: A Quest Beyond the Stars; (ii) Photonics for Health: From Medical Diagnostics to Tracking Germs and Viruses in the Pandemic Era; (iii) Next-Generation Photonic Sensing and Imaging. The Symposium will feature a Keynote lecture by Nobel Laureate Andrea Ghez, and Plenary and Invited Lectures by a host of international science leaders.  The full programme can be accessed here and registration is free, open to all and available by simply completing the form at this link.  Don’t miss this opportunity to make an early start with International Day of Light celebrations in 2022 by participating in an excellent high-level scientific event! 

About the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics: The Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics is an interdisciplinary Duke University-wide effort to advance photonics and optical sciences. Founded in 2000, the institute’s mission is to provide an outstanding educational and research environment to train scientists, engineers and graduates with the knowledge and skills to transform and profoundly impact academic and industrial R&D in photonics and optical science. FIP faculty perform cross-disciplinary research in many areas and teach undergraduates, master’s and doctoral students, and foster the skill set that enables our protégés to thrive in their chosen professions. More information here.

The Einstein Nobel Prize Centenary in Switzerland

Albert Einstein fundamentally changed our vision of the universe and is universally considered to be one of the most significant scientists of history. Although most physicists today would likely cite his special and general theories of relativity as his greatest achievements, he actually received the Nobel prize for services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect. That is, it was Einstein’s study of the quantum nature of light that was the only one of his many accomplishments explicitly mentioned in the citation of his Nobel prize.

The announcement that Einstein had won the Nobel Prize was made in November 1922, but he was in fact awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the year 1921; this is because the Nobel Committee for physics had refrained from making an award in 1921 itself as they could not agree on a suitable laureate.

The year 2022 which represents the centenary of Einstein’s award is a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon and to celebrate his prize-winning achievements. To this end, the Albert Einstein Society Bern and the Swiss Physical Society in collaboration with the Swiss Academy of Sciences are organising  a one-day symposium on 9 April 2022 in Bern, Switzerland. This symposium will celebrate Einstein’s achievements and legacy through talks on both the historical background, as well as a survey of modern developments in photonic science from leading scientists. For details, programme, and abstracts, please visit the conference page at the Swiss Physical Society website.

Image Credit: Albert Einstein – Privat und ganz persönlich. Author: Ze’ev Rosenkranz; published 2004 by Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Copyright: Jewish National & University Library, Jerusalem. ISBN: 3-03823-101-0

Celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science

The United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated every year on February 11 to support the increased participation of women and girls in science. At present, less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women and indeed, only around 30 per cent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education.  Many International Day of Light partners have developed year-round actions to address gender imbalance in science, with a particular focus on February 11.  For example, on social media you can use the Institute of Physics hashtag #iamaphysicist to locate inspiring examples of women in all areas of physics, or the more general #womeninscience and #womeninSTEM hashtags to explore posts in all areas of science.  

In addition, International Day of Light Steering Committee members actively support the goals to encourage women in science at all levels.  For example, follow these links to read about the activities of AIPAPS, and the IEEE.  In addition, Optica (formerly OSA) is promoting its new Optica Women Scholars program, where 20 undergraduate and graduate-level women worldwide will receive grants to support their careers. And why not use the International Day as the chance to make a nomination for SPIE’s 2023 Women in Optics Planner? Nominations are open until 26 February 2022. 

IDL Celebrates the Success of James Webb Space Telescope

Scientists and the public worldwide are sharing in the excitement of the launch and deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), its recent orbital insertion to the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2, and the detection of first photons of starlight by the Near Infrared Camera instrument. We are all eagerly looking forward to the first set of images as JWST explores our origins – from the first galaxies, to exoplanets with potential for life, and this is a topic ideal for science outreach to all ages. 

At the heart of the JWST are a host of optics and photonics technologies and instruments, and events and activities linked to the JWST are ideal for inclusion in any events planned for the International Day of Light in 2022.  Light provides a window to our universe and being able to see light from the very early universe for the very first time will represent a milestone in the scientific achievements of humanity. There are many outstanding JWST educational resources online to incorporate in your events, including:  material from NASA’s JWST portal, an interactive brochure from the European Space Agency ESA , and there are also many specific resources explaining the groundbreaking instrumentation onboard.  In fact, the IDL Secretariat operates its Communication node from the Astronomy & Society group at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Leiden astronomers have played a key role in the development of the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) which is essential in allowing us to see and analyse the infrared light that lies beyond visible wavelengths.

Finally, one of the leaders of the JWST is Nobel Laureate John Mather who has been a strong supporter of the International Year of Light and Day of Light initiatives. He has many inspiring videos online, and these can be readily incorporated into outreach activities.

Image Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn