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Meet the Light

Meet the Light is an activity where the main objective of different activities is to raise awareness of how light plays a central role in our lives, mainly among the general public. With these activities we want to present an accurate and engaging perspective on what light is really about and how it has influenced and improved our lives.

The Santiago de Compostela YM Section carried out the following activities within the frame of “Meet the Light” event:

  • Course “Introduction to photography” by Ángel Sánchez García. Place: Aula Magna Carlos Gómez Reino in the Faculty of Optics and Optometry, University of Santiago de Compsotela, Galicia, Spain.
    Date: 4/12/2014
    Place: Sala de Xuntas da Faculty de Física da USC, Santiago de Compostela.
    Date: 11/12/2014
  • Photography workshop, by Ángel Sánchez García. Place: Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain.
    Date: 8/05/2015
  • Workshop in astronomy, “A look into the sky”, by professor Salvador Bará Viñas.
    Place: Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. Date: 25/05/2015


IYL – Cross-Border Night Flea Market

2015_Kons_IYL__09As a special event for the International Year of Light the Konstanz jDPG-YM Section organized an information booth on the yearly cross-border night flea market Konstanz/Kreuzlingen. The goal was to inform a broad public about the fundamental physics on which every day technology like LCD displays or fiber optical communication is based. To help the visitors understand these phenomena we build several hands- on experiments including a simple spectrometer, a RGB-LED color mixer, a water beam as light guide and an LCD-display partly without polarizer. Accompanying every experiment we also prepared an information sheet explaining it in a simple way. Beside these experiments we cooperated with the young chemists forum (JCF) Konstanz and the astronomical community at the University of Konstanz (AIGUK) who also prepared experiments to explain every day phenomena like chemo luminescence or the spectrum of the sun.

Especially at night we gained a large interest by an eye-catching illumination of the experiments itself and the booth. Since the booth was directly aside the main road but not on it, there was a steady flow of interested visitors but also the possibility to have detailed discussions with the guests. The busiest time turned out to be early Saturday evening between 9pm and 1am. Because of bad weather (thunderstorm) most flea market visitors left around 1am and we decided to close the booth for the night. On Sunday, the main attraction of our booth changed from the well illuminated experiments on LCD-displays and optical fibers to a telescope for sun observation from AIGUK. It was placed on the path in front of our booth and guided the visitors to the other experiments.

Overall we got a lot of positive feedback from the visitors, who often had never thought about the basic principles of the technology they use in everyday life before. The total number of visitors we had a conversation with and to whom we explained our experiments lies approximately between 200-300 people.

Light: past, present, and future applications

Messina_IYLLight is life. Light is fundamental for many biological processes. It is involved in a huge quantity of technological applications, which make our daily life simpler. Nevertheless the awareness of the important role played by light lies in shadows for most of the average people. In Physics, the double (wave-particle) nature of light is one of the most fascinating aspects, which engaged the attention of the scientific community for more than a century. In order to celebrate the International Year of Light (IYL2015) the Messina YM Section organized different activities. They can be grouped into two main categories: seminars and outreach. The former was mostly addressed to students from bachelor to Ph.D. level, while the main target of the latter was stimulating interest in Light, and more in general in Physics, among undergraduate students and children.
Light seminars were organized with the help of the “Appunti di Fisica” group in Messina. They ranged from astronomy and basic concepts to the most useful applications involving light. The following is the list of the events proposed to the scientific community:

  • The birth of Light: a brief story on the visible Universe (C. Cecchi-Pestellini – INAF Palermo)
  • The laser calibration system of the muon g-2 experiment at Fermilab (A. Anastasi – YM Messina member)
  • Light in Chemistry (S. Campagna – University of Messina)
  • Sun as renewable energy source (G. Gambadoro – University of Messina)
  • Quantum Light-Matter interactions (S. Savasta, L. Garziano – University of Messina)
  • Light trapping in a 2D-fractal system (B. Fazio – CNR IPCF Messina)
  • The invisible light: An industrial application of infrared microscopy (S. Patanè – University of Messina)
  • One-day workshop on Light (6 speakers – appuntidifisicamessina)

After each seminar a coffee break was offered by our section to the participants, also to stimulate further discussions and promoting YM section activities.
Regarding the Outreach activities our main target was to arise high school students’ interest on the physical nature of light, by diffusing knowledge from the basic principles of electromagnetism to some of the many possible applications. We managed to do it by means of demonstrative experiments in which light was the main character. We met students in high schools or in the university locals. During these events we performed different experiments, such as interference with laser, diffusion of light through prisms and so on. In these activities students had the opportunity to play with hands in the experiments, handling polarizers, lenses and prisms. We think that this approach is the most effective to get involved students with physics.
By collaborating with a local environmental group (“Fare Verde”), we also took part to European Solar Days, a project finalized to raise the awareness of the importance of the solar energy among people and especially children. For this reason we organized a demonstration of devices and toys working with solar energy in the main square of Messina.

Scientifica 15

2015_Zur_Scie15_01Each Year, the ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich organized a large outreach event called Scientifica. In 2015, the topic was “Light”. As representor of the OSA/SPIE and EPS; we had a booth where the main activity was a big laser maze. In a dark room, laser were set up as in a bank/museum security system. Children had then the opportunity to try to go thought the maze without starting the alarm!
For this purpose the EPS money was used to build a proper, reusable laser security system. We have now a set of 8 laser and detector, easily connectable to a central alarm. We planned to reuse this experiment for future similar activities as the interest was really high. We were indeed one of the most visited both! People even had to wait to go through the maze…
In a parallel, we had some smaller game base on lasers (a kind of laser chess from an outreach kit) and some small experiments to demonstrate optics. We had a laser coupled to a fiber through a collimator and some ray optics demonstrations. This experiment were goo for the parents waiting for their children in the laser maze.
I was a large effort from our side to make a proper laser system that can be reused but thanks to the grant, we had the possibility this time to buy the requested quality components. We indeed already had a laser maze in 2013 but the systems was not reusable at all. So thanks!

Optical tournament

Optical TournmentThanks to the IYL Young Minds Grant the GOC YM Section  created an optical tournament where students from a High School enjoyed with the first contact with the light science. Public learned about general concepts of optics such as reflection, transmission, light guides, fluorescence and absorption and they did it in a funny way. More details and pictures can be found in the section webpage.

It was a succesful event that took place on Thursday 17th of Desember at the gym of the Torreblanca High School. We started at 8:30h in the morning and we finished at 15:00h and we performed the different games with more than 100 pupils of the High School.

As planned, the tournament consisted in different separated events where participants had to overcome different tests. The participants were organized in groups. Each group stayed 10 minutes at each stage. After this time, the groups had to rotate between all the different stages until each one has passed one time per stage. There was a minimum and maximum punctuation for each stage. Depending on the group performance they obtained a determinate number of points. At the end of the day, the group of students with a higher score received a christmas price.

Funds were used to buy the materials needed to perform the optical contest. We bought laser sources, mirrors, optical materials to build optical puzzles (polarizers, gratins, sensors), an smoking machine, metallic basis in order to build the optical golf and the laser maze. Also, some of the budget was spent in buying little prizes for the winners of the contest. At last, a little part of the budget was spent in the trip to the high-school in the area near our city in order to perform the contest.

Now that we have all activities prepared and all material we need, we will repeat the contest with the high schools that demand it and also in other context.

How does fundamental research work?

Erlangen_HDFRW__02This year, the Erlangen MPL YM Section organized three school outreach events. On July 27 we had the first school outreach event with 23 students from the Gymnasium Fridericianum in Erlangen. This was followed by a similar event on August 20 with 18 students from different local schools. Finally, on December 8, we hold our school outreach event for 15 winners of the German youth science competition “Jugend forscht” who were visiting our home institute.
Many people are fascinated by and interested in fundamental research. However, only a few have a realistic picture of how science really works. With our school outreach events we want to convey a realistic picture of what it means to do fundamental research and why it is of importance. To do so, we first give an overview of the organization of our home institute, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, and then give an insight of our daily business as researchers. We answer questions like: How do researchers get new ideas? What steps are necessary to conduct an experiment? What problems do usually occur? How do researchers make other aware of their findings? We try to share our real-life experiences from our scientific work in the field of optics. This first part is followed by a demonstration experiment that relates to a current research topic in optics. Currently, we have set up an experiment to make single molecules visible. Another experiments let the audience experience actual quantum fluctuations. The experiment are accompanied by an interesting introduction to the physics involved and an explanation of the observations. In addition, we usually screen a short movie that explains (free-space continuous variable) quantum key distribution, a current research topic at our institute. Members of our chapter answer questions after the movie. When the school outreach event takes place at our home institute, we also offer the participants a tour through our labs.
By talking about a topic beyond the regular curriculum, we try to fascinate the high-school students and infect them with our passion for optics. Moreover, we emphasize the impact of optical technology in the present and future. In addition, we want to motivate young people to study science, in particular optics, and later on become part of the scientific community. Due to the personal experience of the presenters and the different styles of presentation during the events, we usually raise a lot of interest and questions among the audience. We plan to continue this successful series of school outreach events also in 2016.

Light Fair

2015_Nap_light_03In October 2015, the Young Minds Section of Naples organized a two-days activity, the LIGHT FAIR to promote the International Year of Light 2015.

The first day was organized a workshop, where the most important professors of our university gave long lectures (2 hrs each) about relevant topics involving light and its applications. We opened the partecipation to this school to people who study outside of our department and also to people who study related subjects such as mathematics or chemistry.

The second day was performed in the biggest activity “Futuro remoto, fisici senza frontiere”, a festival of science who took place in October in one of the biggest square in Naples. The event is designed both for adults,children and school classes of the city, with an interest in science or simply for people which were passing through the square. One day of the festival was totally dedicated to the IYL. There were organized stands where physics students(bachelor and master student) and researcher showed simple experiments regarding light, for examples how to make a 3-D hologram or explain how does work a waveguide. There was also the possibility for people to try playing with light. We also sold t-shirts, linked to the light phenomena , for auto-financing and advertising of our group. To celebrate the IYL during this festival our group wrote a brochure regarding light which was distribuited completely free, with some gadgets, to the partecipants. All the section’s members, together with all the SPIE and OSA chapter’s member,s and other volunteers students belonged to the University of Federico II of Naples were involved in this activity, for a total of 130 volunteers. The number of people which joined the event is much higher than the expected number, there were about 50 peolple for the seminars and 80000 of people during the day in Plebiscito Square, the bigest monumental square in Naples City.


Scientific documentary

DocumentaryIn order to disseminate the science of optics and photonics within the International Year of Light 2015, we have developed a documentary in collaboration with Vector Productions.
The documentary focuses on the history of optics in Spain from the first treaties in the Arab world to state of the art research today.
The documentary was filmed in Murcia, a Mediterranean city in southeastern Spanish. It explains issues such as reflection, refraction, diffraction, wave-particle duality and some properties of lasers. It speaks, in an accessible form, on where we can find the light based technologies in our daily lives, to bring all public the importance of light in our technological development. The documentary also contains an interview with Dr. Pablo Artal, director and founder of the Research Centre in Optics and Nanophysics at the University of Murcia. He talks about his visual simulator, how they are able to perform measurements that help us better understand the fundamental dynamics of the eye and that will, in the future, improve aspects such as refractive cataract surgery.
The documentary was developed for projection on schools, colleges, universities, conferences… It was recently premiered at Valencia IONS congress, held during the 24th, 25th and 26th September, a conference organized by the University Jaume I Young Minds Section and co-financed by EPS. In December it will be screened in Granada, at “Desgranando Ciencia”, a national event dedicated to the dissemination of science in all fields. In the following months, we will be projecting the documentary in our University, in several schools in Castellón, etc.
From January 2016 the documentary will be free and it will be available online for download so that any teacher can download it and show it to their students at school or university.
Here there is a picture that we took after its projection at Valencia IONS congress.

Light from other worlds

IYL_Valladolid__01Within the framework of “European Researchers Night 2015” organized by the Science Museum of Valladolid, Physics League has organized a big-workshop related to light because of the IYL2015. Taking advantage of many popular films, the basics of the physical principles can be shown in an attractive and stunning way.

Seven workshops were carried out in parallel in a big space in the Science Museum of Valladolid. The success of the activity was recognized by its directress with more than 500 participants during the event.

  • Avatar: Different kinds of luminescence have been explained using the Pandora’s universe: Bioluminescence (natural algae), Chemiluminescence (bracelets) and fluorescence (different paints,minerals).
  • Star wars: The holograms are reproduced by a ‘real’ hologram which can be seen with a laser and an ‘optical illusion’ performed by an acetate pyramid. A ‘fight’ between the Jedi (red laser) and Sith (blue laser) sides is performed with tinted fluorescents and plasma balls. How to lead the light is addressed solving a ‘laser khet’ puzzle with only 3 available mirrors.
  • Entrapment: a portable laser maze has been built with an Arduino, lasers, and photo-detectors. The light-matter interaction was explained in the entrance.
  • Spy kids: some ways to send information are explained. For instance, a spectra sound was built to transmit music using a laser. Polarization of light is shown using 3D-glasses.
  • Up: what happens when solar radiation crosses the top of the atmosphere? The radiative effect of clouds and aerosols is shown by a laser, a glass of water, and sugar. Different kinds of aerosols are introduced and a sandstorm is performed in a big box. The role of aerosols as cloud condensation nuclei is proved by the formation of clouds in a bottle with hairspray and warm water.
  • Inside Out (workshop I): with 5 atomic spectrum lamps we can explain why we can see colours: Sodium
    (‘Joy’, yellow), Zinc (‘Sadness’, blue), Neon (‘Anger’, red), Thalium (‘Disgust’, green), Cesium (‘Fire’, purple). The different aspect of a rainbow inside each box helps to understand the colour absorption/emission. Diffraction is also addressed.
  • Inside Out (workshop II): how do our eyes work? With a laser kit the human eyes are visually explained. Some problems related to the vision are also detailed. White light is formed by Newton’s disc and decomposed using a prism. Different colour fires go in depth to colour absorption/emission.


Sleights of mind

SofM_Valladolid__02Within the framework of the “International Year of the Light” the Valladolid YM Section Physics League organized a talk about visual perception and sleights of mind. We invited to neuroscientist Dra. Susana Martinez- Conde, cofounder of the exciting new discipline of NeuroMagic and also member of the Magic Castle, Magic Circle, International Brotherhood of Magicians, and the Society of American Magicians.

Magic tricks work because humans have a hardwired process of attention and awareness that is hackable. By understanding how magicians hack our brains, we can better understand how the same cognitive tricks are at work in advertising strategy, business negotiations, and all varieties of interpersonal relations. When we understand how magic works in the mind of the spectator we will have unveiled the neural bases of consciousness itself. The idea was approach the neuroscience to students and general public in a fun and accessible way.

This talk appeared on the local news programme. A reporter filmed a small part of the talk and a small interview to a Physics League member.

Before the talk, we carried out some experiments in the hall of the College of Science, some tricks that are easily explained with physical laws, like:

  • Burning hands, a mixture of water, soap and hairspray allows us to burn our hands without damage due to the Leidenfrost effect.
  • Bending spoons: The superpower of bending metal by just touching it is demystified. A gallium spoon looks like a normal kitchen spoon but it melts at 28 ºC being easily bent in our hands.
  • Bed of nails: People felt like ‘fakirs’ over this ‘comfortable’ bed of nails. The attendees were invited to prove this and other experiments.