International Year of Light 2015 launch events in the United Kingdom

The UK has celebrated the start of the International Year of Light with a UK-wide launch which took place in the historic St James’s Palace in London on 28 January and was followed by events in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland on February.
The UK launch was hosted by His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, The Duke of York, who is patron of IYL 2015 in the UK.
As well as a speech by the UK Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Greg Clark, there were contributions from industry leaders and from Kat Harrison, director of research and impact at the UK-based charity SolarAid, which is helping to catalyse a market for portable and affordable solar-powered lights for people living without electricity. Mrs. Harrison said:

At SolarAid we believe that universal access to energy holds the key to a fairer and more just world. Clean, safe lighting is the first step towards that ambition for rural families in Africa. We know just what an impact lighting has on people’s everyday lives and opportunities.
The event brought together representatives of light-based industries, research, policy and non-governmental organisations. It aimed to raise awareness of the IYL 2015 and the opportunities it offers, as well as to celebrate UK achievements in light-based science and technology, with exhibitions at the venue showcasing advances in research and applications ranging from astronomy to healthcare.

This launch was followed by an event on the 5th of February to kick-off IYL 2015 in Wales at the National Assembly for Wales and was attended by Edwina Hart, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, and by Professor Julie Williams, the Chief Scientific Advisor for Wales. The event brought together representatives from the photonics industry, culture and research and highlighted the quality of research going on in Wales and the strategic importance of light.

The Minister for Economy, Science and Transport and the Chief Scientific Advisor for Wales in conversation with volunteers from the Photonics Academy of Wales.
The IYL 2015 was launched in Northern Ireland as part of the very first Northern Ireland Science Festival which ran for 11 days and included over 100 events that aimed to celebrate the contribution that Northern Ireland makes to science and its rich heritage of science and innovation. The festival included an attempt to break the world record for the world’s largest science lesson and the naming of a Belfast street as “Bell’s Theorem Crescent” after Belfast-born physicist John Bell and his theorem, which revolutionised quantum theory.

On Monday 23rd February, the IYL 2015 was launched in Scotland at the Royal Society of Edinburgh with an evening of science, exhibitions, demonstrations and poetry. Exhibits included the demonstration of the ‘laser harp’ – a playable harp made of lasers and detectors that played musical notes when the beams were broken. Other displays explored topics as varied as optical tweezers, using light to detect explosives and identifying lung disease. There were also lectures during the evening; one of which combined poetry, photography and light-based science and another celebrating the life and work of Edinburgh-born physicist James Clerk Maxwell.

The launch events are, of course, just the beginning of the celebrations for the International Year of Light in the UK – many events are planned to take place throughout the year and span the worlds of science, technology, art and culture.

For more information about upcoming events visit the UK IYL2015 website.

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