Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age

Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age

by Bruce Watson

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Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age by Bruce Watson

Light begins at Stonehenge, where crowds cheer a solstice sunrise. After sampling myths explaining First Light, the story moves on to early philosophers' queries, then through the centuries, from Buddhist temples to Biblical scripture, when light was the soul of the divine.
Battling darkness and despair, Gothic architects crafted radiant cathedrals while Dante dreamed a "heaven of pure light." Later, following Leonardo's advice, Renaissance artists learned to capture light on canvas. During the Scientific Revolution, Galileo gathered light in his telescope, Descartes measured the rainbow, and Newton used prisms to solidify the science of optics. But even after Newton, light was an enigma. Particle or wave? Did it flow through an invisible "ether"? Through the age of Edison and into the age of lasers, Light reveals how light sparked new wonders--relativity, quantum electrodynamics, fiber optics, and more.

Although lasers now perform everyday miracles, light retains its eternal allure. "For the rest of my life," Einstein said, "I will reflect on what light is." Light explores and celebrates such curiosity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620405611
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 02/02/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Bruce Watson is a frequent contributor to Smithsonian magazine, writing on topics ranging from eels to pi to profiles of artists and writers. His work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other publications. Watson is the author of four books, including Bread and Roses, Sacco and Vanzetti (nominated for an Edgar Award), and Freedom Summer. He lives in western Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Part 1

1 "This Light Is Come": Myths of Creation and First Light 3

2 "The Thing You Call Light": Early Philosophers from Greece to China 14

3 "The Highest Bliss": The Millennium of Divine Radiance 26

4 "A Glass like a Glittering Star": Islam's Golden Age 38

5 "Bright Is the Noble Edifice": Paradise in the Middle Ages 50

6 Chiaro e Scuro: Light and Dark on Canvas 64

7 "Investigate with Me What Light Is": The Scientific Revolution and the Century of Celestial Light 79

8 "In My Darken'd Chamber": Isaac Newton and Opticks 93

9 "A Wild and Harmonized Tune": The Romantics and the Light Seductive 110

Part 2

10 Undulations: Particle vs. Wave 129

11 Lumiére: France's Dazzling Century 145

12 "Little Globe of Sunshine": Electricity Conquers the Night 160

13 c: Einstein and the Quanta, Particle, and Wave 175

14 "Catching Up with Our Dreams": Lasers and Other Everyday Wonders 193

Epilogue 208

Appendix 223

Acknowledgments 227

Endnotes 229

Bibliography and Works Cited 257

Index 273

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