Ringing in the New Year with…Light

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by Aadita Chaudhury

Technology & Engineering subject editor

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has declared 2015 the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. As Canadians, we take for granted the role of light and light-based technologies in our lives; however, for many regions worldwide light infrastructure is a key issue when considering steps to sustainable development.

International Year of Light Logo

© Offenburg University / Germany

In considering light and light-based technologies, we don’t simply focus on electricity-based lights, such as incandescent and fluorescent lights, light bulbs and related optical technologies. For most of human history, light has existed in various non-electric forms. Arguably, humans first learned to control and produce light for their own purposes when they discovered – and managed – fire. Since then, light has been a primary tool driving human innovation and development. It has been created using a range of materials, non-electric forms of light that continue to be used alongside electric light, especially in places where electrical infrastructure is not widespread.

Light is also a fundamental aspect of human civic infrastructure, paving the way for the development of proper housing, sanitation, and indoor heating and cooling in many parts of the world. According to the World Bank, in 2010, 83% of the world had some form of access to electricity. However, in Africa, which has the fastest growing population, many people have no access to electricity, including South Sudan (1.5% with access to electricity), Central African Republic (9.5%), Kenya (23%), and Uganda (14.8%). Countries in other parts of the world with limited electricity access include Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. In many of these places, non-electric light sources are more common, often leading to difficulty in sustaining social services and healthcare facilities. Thus electric light becomes a primary requirement for social development.

To that end, engineering professors at the University of Calgary have developed small-scale hydroelectric power to bring light to rural residents in Nepal – just another example of the role of technology and engineering in bringing light around the world.

Further information about the goals and programming of the International Year of Light and Light-based technologies is available here.

Now on to more technology and engineering news around the web.

Researchers at MIT have developed a new technique that enables the real-time monitoring of the nervous system in 3D of a worm, with promising results for future application on humans. Such a technology can not only facilitate greater insight into the inner workings of our brains and neural systems, it can also potentially be used for monitoring treatment and feedback from treatment in real time.

The Economist reflects on why Japan’s network of high-speed trains are so efficient. Includes lessons for transit systems across the world. Pay heed, Toronto Transit Commission!

Engineers and technicians in Dubai put on a pretty good show to welcome the New Year.

Despite what seems to be an unfortunate year for the aviation industry, aviation safety has increased like never before despite the highly anomalous number of aviation fatalities in 2014.

We’re always in the lookout for new Canadian blogs in the category of Technology and Engineering, so if you know of one or write on, please refer them to us, or sign up!

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