IYL 2015 Events #8 | Week 23 February – 1 March

Find below the activities listed on the IYL 2015 Event Programme starting between 23 February – 1 March. Click on the links for more information on the different activities.

Please note that some last-minute additions to the event programme may not appear here. For an up-to-date overview of IYL 2015 events please visit the IYL 2015 Event Programme.

Jyväskylä, Finland – The story of how the city is using light and events as a tool for branding

Due to its geographical location light in Finland is distributed more unevenly than in southern Europe or indeed elsewhere across the majority of the globe. Jyväskylä belongs to the LUCI network and as the world’s northernmost member city it has acquired a rather exotic reputation from a lighting point of view. LUCI (Lighting Urban Community International) is the association of cities of light around the world. Via LUCI and other means the City of Jyväskylä has turned light into a strong and positive brand for itself, one which is exploited across a wide spectrum ranging from municipal engineering to tourism, events, sport services and marketing of the city.

The strategic City of Light project has developed Jyväskylä’s urban illumination in accordance with a lighting culture ideology possessing both aesthetic and technical dimensions from 1996 onwards. The spearhead of development is user-oriented planning, in other words the impression given by the cityscape during the hours of darkness in the eyes of different user groups. This means that the end result must be the right amount of light in the right location and, still further, at the right time.

Credits: Juhana Konttinen

Credits: Juhana Konttinen

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Light! What does it mean at the base of the pyramid?

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…”

– R.N. Tagore

Surprisingly beautiful answers one gets when one tries to understand what essentially the above means to the 1.5 billion people with no access to electricity. These people have dreams and they include the world in it. They dream of a better world for their children and for their loved ones. They want to be at harmony and peace with another. And they are not just dreamers, they are doers as well.

So, what does light means to these people? How the absence of light impacts at the base of the pyramid whose output represents one-third of the world’s economy, one may wonder! To give you an idea, majority of the roughly 1.6 billion people who live on $1-3 a day are poorly educated and low skilled with unsteady earnings. The need for improved sanitation, health care, and education gawks at them. And to add to it, they are limited further by poor lighting for their work hours, all economic activities need to be shut down and the children struggle to continue their studies with kerosene lamps, posing them further to health hazards. In pursuit of their dreams, around 1.3 million of them spend half of their income on alternate lighting to light up their homes at night.

Daylight impact. Credits: Shashank Bhosale

Daylight impact. Credits: Shashank Bhosale

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Optics in Ancient China

The Warring States period of China, between 475 and 221 BCE, was a time of academic and scholarly prosperity when many schools of learning were set up. Some are well-known in the world today, such as Confucianism and Taoism, but some are not so well-known. One school that is little known in the west but is particularly important with regard to science and technology is Mohism, founded by Mo Zi, who paid great attention to natural science and engineering. Among his many contributions, it is noteworthy to recall his achievements in optics since we are celebrating the International Year of Light in 2015. His major contributions include: an outline of the basic concepts of linear optics, the straight-line propagation of light, images and shadows, the reflection of light by plane, concave and convex mirrors, the pinhole camera, and the refraction of light. These are recorded in the Book of Mo Zi (1 – 5).

Mo-Zi, 468 - 376 BCE

Mo-Zi, 468 – 376 BCE

In another development, Liu An, (179 – 122 BCE), the King of Huai-Nan in the Western Han Dynasty (202 BCE to 9 CE) and a Taoist master and thinker, also made important contributions to optics. Taoism attaches great importance to natural science. The world famous Chinese bean curd food, tofu, was invented by Liu An as a by-product while making elixirs, or alchemical medicines. These are recorded in the Book of Huai-Nan and the Wan-Bi-Shu (6-7). In these writings the reflection of light by multiple mirrors, used to set up the world’s earliest surveillance periscope, was described (7). Also recounted are the focusing of sunlight to light a fire using a concave mirror or a lens made of ice.

Though these early contributions in ancient China have been noted and studied by certain renowned scholars such as Joseph Needham (4) and some famous popular science writers (5), they are not widely known. For instance, they are not even touched upon in various recent reviews of the history of optics.

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Perceiving Light – the trickiest biological application on Earth

One of the most important abilities developed by living organisms on Earth is adaptation to the light that comes from the nearest star in our galaxy – the Sun. This ability is called light perception. Interestingly, it defines not only the perception of a source of light, but the perception of all surrounding reality! It determines colors, shapes, orientation in space and in time.

Sunrise. Credits: Karol Franks - CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

Sunrise. Credits: Karol Franks – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

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