2015 is a magical year for sure, especially for scientists all over the world uniting to celebrate the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. IAPS is proud to be a Silver Associate sponsor of IYL 2015 and had the privilege to participate in the Opening Ceremony that took place on 19-20 January 2015 at the UNESCO headquarters, Paris. IAPS was present with 16 volunteers from different national and local committees, including 6 EC members.
Most of the volunteers arrived in the evening of 16 January and were greeted by dinner made by some of the early arrivers. Actual preparations began next morning. It was still dark when we headed towards the UNESCO headquarters. There we met the organizers and after a short introduction came the hard work. We were split into two working groups: most of the boys were directed outside to help setting up the Light is Here installation created by Finnish artist Kari Kola. Meanwhile the remaining volunteers were preparing the over 1000 conference bags which, as you can imagine, also required quite a lot of time and work. At the end of that really productive day everyone felt exhausted.
In the morning, after a good night’s sleep we were ready to explore Paris, The City of Light. A few of us got together and went on sightseeing. We couldn’t have squeezed more into one day: the Eiffel Tower, a nice walk along the Seine River and then a quick packed lunch in front of the Notre Dame. After the obligatory souvenir shopping and chocolaterie visit we still had a little time left, so Ana, Andreea and I decided to go for a coffee in the famous Café de Flore.
In the evening the present members of the EC were invited to have dinner with the leaders of SPS. It was a really nice evening of good conversation, sharing thoughts and ideas, and preparing possible future collaborations. However, all good things must come to end, and quickly the evening was over. Matthias, Ana, Andreea and I decided to squeeze one more thing out of the experience and headed towards the 60 m tall ferris wheel, the Roue de Paris. We had so much fun! Afterwards it was time to go back to our accommodation, as the next day was the big day: the actual start of the Opening Ceremony.
I wouldn’t say we were fresh and fit in the morning, but surely were we excited! It was the big day for IAPS as well, as Danielle Harper gave a speech on behalf of IAPS and we also presented our video to the public featuring the contributions of some of our committees. The audience could get an overview on the planned activities of IAPS members contributing to the International Year of Light. The video and Danielle’s speech were more than well received in the great lecture hall. Meanwhile we had set up our stand in the exhibition area along with all the other organizations who were present. It was a great feeling that IAPS was treated equally with the leading organizations from all over the world.
During the two days keynote speakers were Noble laureates, the founders of IYL 2015 among them John Dudley, president of EPS, the leaders of UNESCO and also many other leading scientists and representatives from international non-governmental organizations. The event featured several cultural and musical interludes, such as the aforementioned beautiful installation of Kari Kola, a live musical performance by Joshua Bell and the exhibition of the organization of 1001 Inventions, promoting the work of Ibn al-Haytham. In the evening the participants had a chance to make conversation. It was really interesting to see how the mutual celebration of light can bring together more than a thousand people with so different backgrounds. Time was passing so fast and quickly the Opening Ceremony was over. In the morning of 21 January we said farewell to each other as well as to the city: it was time to go home.
It surely was an amazing and inspiring experience. I think that all of us could gain knowledge in either the scientific way of thinking or the cultural aspects of life. Since the beginning of IYL 2015 a huge amount of events took place worldwide, and a lot more is expected to come. I hope that the collaborations and activities will be fruitful and that we, physics students, won’t forget about how much we can do if we unite. So, as a last word I’ll just say: let there be the year of light!