Let There be Light….

In the Beginning, in a burst of pure radiant energy, light came into being and in that brief instant of creation the Universe came into existence some fourteen billion years ago. Within the first three minutes of the big bang pure energy condensed into matter. From this matter stars and galaxies came forth and through the process of nuclear fusion, heavy elements were forged in the hearts of distant and massive suns. It is the existence of these elements that make the reality of living things a possibility. We owe are very existence to that very instance when the laws of physics through accident or design (depending on your philosophical and religious proclivities dear reader) declared, eons ago –“Let there be Light”.

The study of the fundamental nature of light has been a central theme throughout the Intellectual History of humanity. Answering the question – “what is light?” has been a major preoccupation of all major areas of human endeavour be it Religion, Philosophy or Art. The quest to understand and decipher the mystery of radiance gave rise to modern science. In fact, the twin pillars of modern science – Relativity and Quantum Mechanics owe their development to solving the mystery of the true nature of light. And, it is through the analysis of starlight that humanity has begun to understand its place in the Cosmos. So my dear readers, in the earnest hope that this New Year and the years to follow, will always be radiant with the promise of hope and good fortune for each and everyone of you I would like to offer you the following documentary for your viewing pleasure: Simon Schaffer’s fantastic four part documentary “Light Fantastic” that was produced for BBC 4. In the episodes that follow science historian Simon Schaffer takes on a voyage of discovery through time to follow humankind’s quest for enlightenment to discover the true nature of light.

1. Let There be Light

Greek and Arab scholars and later Europeans such as Descartes and Newton all tried to understand light to gain a better understanding of God. Episode one shows how much of modern science’s origins came from the desire to penetrate the divine nature of light.

2. The Light of Reason

The second programme explores the link between the development of practical tools that manipulate light and the emergence of new ideas. For example, Galileo’s observation that the sun did not go around the earth, was made with a telescope that had been invented for Venetian soldiers and traders.

3. The Stuff of Light

Episode three charts the discovery of the true nature of light and its impact on the modern world. All of today’s technologies – electricity, mobile communications and our ability to illuminate the world 24 hours a day – stem from unravelling the mystery of light.

4. Light, The Universe and Everything

In the final programme Simon Schaffer finds that as more people were able to manipulate light, the more puzzling and tricky it became. This led to investigations into the strange relationship between light, the eye and the mind, and the development of new technology such as photography and cinema.

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1 Response to “Let There be Light….”


  1. 1 Ralph Buttigieg January 2, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Are recent comments working


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