International Year of Light in Northern Ireland opens at science festival

27 February 2015

The naming of a Belfast street as Bell’s Theorem Crescent on 19 February kicked off the first ever NI Science Festival, which included the launch of the International Year of Light (IYOL) in Northern Ireland as well as more than 130 events, exhibitions, workshops and talks

International Year of Light in Northern Ireland
Credit: Northern Ireland Science Festival

The street was named after Belfast-born physicist John Bell and his theorem, which revolutionised quantum theory. Several members of Bell’s family were at the naming ceremony at Belfast Metropolitan College along with dignitaries and speakers who described the significance of Bell’s work.

Passing by Bell’s Theorem Crescent during the event was a local city bus carrying an IOP in Ireland poster showing the breadth of jobs available to physicists. The IOP in Ireland put together 11 events for the festival, including talks by Alison Hackett on Renaissance Science, and by Prof. Steve Myers, director of accelerators at CERN, as well as photography workshops at the Belfast Exposed Gallery. The IOP in Ireland’s education and outreach adviser, Liz Conlan, served as chair of the festival and took part in STEM in Action “Have a Go” workshops for women and girls.

The IYOL launch was held on 19 February at the Ulster Museum, coinciding with the opening there of The Incredible Power of Light exhibition run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and supported by the IOP in Ireland, which organised the launch jointly with the STFC.

The IOP’s chief executive, Prof. Paul Hardaker spoke at the launch, underlining the importance of investment in science in Northern Ireland and noting that “physics-based business provides £1.5 bn to the local economy and supports nearly 27,000 jobs”. The STFC’s head of communications, Terry O’Connor, said: “Light plays a central role in everyday life. On the most fundamental level, through photosynthesis, light is necessary to the existence of life itself and the many applications of light have revolutionised society through medicine, communications, entertainment and culture.”

Visitors at the event (including Prof. Jonathan Wallace of the University of Ulster, pictured) could see some of the animations, interactive exhibits and hardware focusing on laser technology that will be on display for The Incredible Power of Light until 1 March.