Leeds Light Night – LightTAG: when science and art collide

If you’re looking for some ‘light’ relief after the first week of lectures then Leeds Light Night is for you. Every year the city centre is illuminated with a mix of theatre, film, dance, music and exhibitions. Leeds plays host to the UK’s largest Light Night, stemming from Nuit Blanche which started in Paris in 2002.

This year’s Light Night offers events such as Cat Choir, Cloud Collectors Apprentices, Juggling Inferno, Python and Weezell’s Pop Up Pet Shop and Pool by Simon Ringe, which sees a life size car swim in and out of an aquatic world.

Image: STEM University of Leeds

Whilst much of what is on offer focuses on the arts, an event called LightTAG looks to combine art with the science of light. Organised by the Ogden Trust with the University of Leeds School of Physics and Astronomy, the event is a relaxed way for all ages to learn about light and have fun whilst doing so.

Firstly step into the LightTAG studio to create some “light painting”. This uses long exposure photography and LED lights in a dark room to create patterns or even a photo combining your face and an LED outfit. Photos will be available to download and will be projected in the LightTAG market next door.

The market consists of eight interactive stalls looking at different aspects of light. Learn what quantum dots are, take a selfie and see how it is displayed in pixels, or compete to win at laser tag and win glow sticks at the end.

Facts to be acquired include how the gin and tonic came to be. Quinine is a naturally occurring fluorescent compound. It was originally added to carbonated water in South Asia and Africa to prevent malaria. As it had a bitter taste, the British population decided to add gin to it, thus creating the gin and tonic. If you ever find yourself under a UV light with some tonic water you can still see the fluorescent effect today.

Image: STEM University of Leeds

This event not only offers a fun way to learn about light, it also carries an important message: arts and science are not mutually exclusive. In a world where we are often defined by whether we are a BSc or a BA this is a refreshing reminder that we don’t have to pick a side. Erin McNeil, the Ogden Science Officer running the event sees this as an important part of the event, commenting “STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) should really become STEAM to incorporate arts with these subjects”.

This can ultimately lead to more creativity in both areas, and this can be seen through some of the most famous people in history. Albert Einstein is most remembered for his breakthroughs in physics but he also had a great love for music. Leonardo Da Vinci is known as being one of the
greatest artists to have lived, but he also filled journals with artwork of scientific observations from
the world around him.

science light night listThere is even evidence that artistic training can lead to more success in the study of science. For example there are links between playing music and the ability to manipulate data and skills in geometry, training in acting can lead to memory improvement, and learning to dance leads to more effective observational learning.

Even though there is still work to do in promoting more integration between arts and science, progress is being made. For example, Superposition is a collaboration of scientists, artists and makers based in Leeds creating incredible pieces of artwork combining all three.

Artwork is also being used as a more accessible way to learn about science. One such project is the graphic novel Dreams of a Low Carbon Future produced by the University’s DTC in Low Carbon Technologies, which communicates ideas about climate change and energy.

Hopefully nights such as these will continue this trend. Leeds Light Night is now in its 10th year and it is a great way to see the city in a different light, both metaphorically and literally. It runs from 5pm to 10pm on Friday October 3rd and LightTAG can be found in the Michael Sadler Building on campus. For more information visit www.lightnightleeds.co.uk

Holly Edwardsscience light night list








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