UNESCO celebrates every year on 16 May the International Day of Light (IDL). It is a global initiative that provides an annual focal point for the continued appreciation of light and the role it plays in science, culture and art, education, and sustainable development, as well as in fields as diverse as medicine, communications, and energy.
The date commemorates the first laser by Theodore Maiman at Bell Labs in 1960. The IDL aims are to promote the importance of the science and applications of light, to address challenges in sustainable development, health, education and to explain the importance of science education.
The International Day of Light in 2020 was characterized by rapid reorganization to online and hybrid events, which yielded remarkable success. There were celebrations in 69 countries reaching an audience of 750,000+. See the .
For the International Day of Light 2021, we can anticipate a strong focus on hybrid and online events in many countries. Although virtual events cannot replace hands-on outreach, they do provide other opportunities to hear from a broad range of international speakers and allow us to reach a much larger audience.
During 2020, we have seen more than ever the importance of science communication. There is a strong need to build public awareness that light science and technology provide not only our understanding of pandemics, but also the preventative measures, treatments and diagnostic tools to counter them. The emphasis of the International Day of Light in 2021 will be on improving means of outreach and interaction between science and society. As well as continuing to explain the many societal applications of light science, we will stress more widely the key messages of how appreciating and supporting science and technology is a necessary and central part of today’s interconnected world as well as a universal benefit to all.
UNESCO encourages every one, every institution, to seize this opportunity, be it by organising a lecture or an open day to visit your lab, your company, your gallery, your school, your museum etc. You could then run your event using the IDL label free of charge and upload a short description to the .
Celebrate the International Day of Light 2020 from home
Although many activities that have been planned for the International Day of Light (IDL) 2020 on May 16 will no longer be able to take place as scheduled, there are two new initiatives to celebrate IDL 2020 from your home. You are invited to share on social media how you celebrate light and to possibly send in a short video.