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How Light Revolutionizes Our World and Living

May 16, 2024

The International Day of Light is celebrated on 16 May and this year marks its 64 years, on the anniversary of the first-ever successful laser operation.

The International Day, set by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Executive Board, celebrates the importance and powerful impact of light on technology.

The significance of light surpasses simply lighting our daily lives, but fuels technological advancements, and has great effects on multiple sectors such as energy, healthcare, telecommunication, and space exploration.

Everywhere all at once 

In the energy sector, the energy of light is turned into electrical energy using photovoltaic (PV) panels or mirrors that focus solar radiation and convert sunlight directly into electricity. This energy can then be utilized to produce electricity that can be stored for access in remote locations or stored and redistributed. Energy can also be used in solar thermal systems to heat water and buildings using radiant floor heating systems. 

Solar energy is renewable and produces no greenhouse gasses, which makes it better for the environment than other energy sources such as oil, gas, or coal. It is also a cheaper source of energy.

“If you want the cheapest electricity you can get, then you build a solar PV field in a sunny location, and that’s the very positive thing with solar,” Jonas Eklind, a business leader in technology-based industrial companies, stated.

Light also plays a huge role in healthcare and the medical field, such as in phototherapy, diagnostic imaging, laser surgeries, and more. Phototherapy uses ultraviolet (UV) light to treat various conditions such as circadian rhythm disorders and sleep disorders and skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and vitiligo. 

Diagnostic imaging uses optical imaging techniques, such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and computed tomography (CT), to take images of a body’s internal organs and provide clinicians with insights about their condition for non-invasive diagnosis.

On the other hand, laser surgeries, using focused energy of light beams, target and help remove tumors or treat tissues, correct and improve vision, treatment of blood vessels, and skin conditions, such as birthmarks, scars, moles, and more.

Extending its reach even further, light is used to connect to the internet. It is used in telecommunication and daily life activities such as operating a TV. The Internet connection utilizes fiber-optic cables, which use light to transmit data over long distances at high speeds. 

These cables contain thin strands of glass or plastic, through which light pulses travel, and it’s faster for data transmission compared to traditional copper wire cables. As for a TV or air conditioner remote, it uses Infrared communication which is a form of light using a low data rate. 

Light is a universal force 

Light is most powerful closer to its home, the sun. To navigate in space, spacecraft, and satellites have sun sensor devices that determine the altitude in relation to the sun and explore. However, space exploration using light started half a century ago, when the first telescope was created in the Netherlands in 1608, using glass lenses to concentrate light and magnify vision.

In 2015, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center partnered with Light Visually Transceiving (LVX) System Corp. to create an electronic communication device that uses visible light communication (VLC) to send wireless communication signals.

“The technology simply provides a wireless network using light instead of radio signals and copper wires to transmit data,” Eirik Holbert, a Research Physicist at NASA, stated.

Curiosity about the nature of our universe and the sun led to innovation and a deeper appreciation for light. 

On this day, UNESCO honors Ibn Al-Haytham, Iraqi Medieval mathematician, physicist, and astronomer of the Islamic Golden Age, for starting fundamental research on the properties of light. 

He earned the title ‘the father of modern optics,’ after publishing his first book, Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics), in 1015, and revolutionizing the world’s understanding of the nature of light, which opened the door for various discoveries that continue to this day.

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