Read the article published on december 2010 on Optics and Photonics Latinamerica’s website

The Universe of Light

Four years ago a group of scientists from the Universidad de Concepción in Chile, started an educational project, to promote science at all ages. Since its development, this surprising initiative has captured the attention of over 120,000 people in twenty-four cities across Chile.

In 2005, a team of scientists from the Center for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (CQOQI), now working at the Center for Optics and Photonics (CEFOP), developed several outreach activities in celebration of the International Year of Physics. The response to activities such as lab demonstrations and school visits was so exceptional, that the team set their sights on reaching more students, with more involved activities.

To begin, they built a small portable laboratory, allowing them to showcase the phenomenon of light through various simple experiments. L. Braga and graduate students then started to travel to small towns through the Bio Bio region, and in less than a year over 5,000 students had attended these events.

Shortly thereafter, a new ambitious project was conceptualized. Funding support quickly came in from organizations such as the Millennium Scientific Initiative (MSI) at MIDEPLAN, the EXPLORA Program of CONICYT (National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research) and other governmental organizations involved in scientific development. After months of hard work and creativity, they designed and developed nineteen experiments, creating a robust, transportable, and interactive exhibition to promote physics and scientific exploration across the country.

In October of 2007 “The Universe of Light” opened in Santiago, as the main attraction of the Natio nal Science Week, welcoming over nine thousand people. Since then, the exhibition has traveled across the country, becoming one of the main science outreach activities in Chile. Thanks to the continuous support of MSI and EXPLORA, the group is able to offer free admission and reach even the most remote villages, such as San Pedro de Atacama in the north and Punta Arenas in the south.

All visits to the “The Universe of Light” are guided by a trained volunteer, typically a science or engineering undergraduate student, who explains and provides background information on each experiment, while answering attendee questions.

Each tour includes a special lecture (this years focused on the invention of the laser, to commemorate the 50th anniversary), a short movie on optics and finally a guided tour into three different sections related to geometrical optics, wavelike behavior of light and new technologies.

In the three years since its inception, the exhibition has opened in 24 cities, reaching more than 120,000 people, many of whom are junior and high school students.

“The Universe of Light” is currently traveling through the south of Chile, with plans to open in other cities around the country and hopefully in the rest of South America.  The group is truly dedicated to sharing the beauty of optics and enriching future generations’ knowledge of light and science.