Shapero This book was first recommended to me by a Zoroastrian friend, Jamshid Varza, since in the early chapters of the book there are some passages about the Zoroastrian religious world-view and especially the conception of God as Light. The author, Arthur Zajonc, is a professor of physics at Amherst College, but his concerns in this book reach well beyond the scientific into the mythical and religious meaning of Light. He begins with ancient Greek and Persian ideas of what Light might be. Zajonc then takes us through some Western medieval scientific material on optics and sacred geometry. After that he moves into a short history of the development of visual perspective and the mathematical sciences in the Renaissance. From there he traces the science of light up until the emergence of modern physics.

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What he saw was only a varying brightness in front of him. Light and eyes were not enough to grant him sight. How, then, do we see? What is light? From ancient times to the present, from philosophers to quantum physicists, nothing has so perplexed, so fascinated, so captivated the mind as the elusive definition of light.

In Catching the Light, Arthur Zajonc takes us on an epic journey into history, tracing how humans have endeavored to understand the phenomenon of light. Blending mythology, religion, science, literature, and painting, Zajonc reveals in poetic detail the human struggle to identify the vital connection between the outer light of nature and the inner light of the human spirit.

And Zajonc goes on to show how our quest for an understanding of light, as well as the conclusions we draw, reveals as much about the nature of our own psyche as it does about the nature of light itself. For the ancient Egyptians the nature of light was clear--it simply was the gaze of God. In the hands of the ancient Greeks, light had become the luminous inner fire whose ethereal effluence brought sight.

For the physicist Richard Feynman, a quantum particle travels all paths, eventually distilling to one path whose action is least--the most beautiful path of all. Whatever light is, here is where we will find it. With rare clarity and unmatched lyricism, Zajonc illuminates the profound implications of the relationships between the multifaceted strands of human experience and scientific endeavor.

A fascinating search into our deepest scientific mystery, Catching the Light is a brilliant synthesis that will both entertain and inform.


Arthur Zajonc

Zajonc avoids the two extremes of religious mysticism of Light and inert, scientific analysis. Rather he takes two vantage points of view. He begins with simple but fundamental insight light comes into play only when there are objects. Space is dark despite there being many brilliant stars because of its near vacuum. But then there is also an internal light - the one from our minds that helps us interpret objects. To see, one needs more than just light and an apparatus for seeing the eye.



In Stock Overview In , the surgeons Moreau and LePrince wrote about their successful operation on an eight-year-old boy who had been blind since birth because of cataracts. What he saw was only a varying brightness in front of him. Light and eyes were not enough to grant him sight. How, then, do we see?

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