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How To Understand Light


Light, and it's true nature, has puzzled scientists for a long time. Paradoxically, the more you study light, the more confusing it seems to be, and the more you have to surrender conventional notions.

During history, up to the modern day, scientists have examined more and more everyday and basic phenomena that we take for granted.

Whilst previously many things have been studied through the information light gives us about them, and then interpreted, light itself was studied. This may have been catalysed relatively recently with the invention of artificial dyes and colours in industry which challenged our natural views as to colours and brought colour perception to the fore.

It was understood from antiquity right through Newton and beyond that light was composed of particles and travelled in a beam. It was not like sound, which was known for some time to be a wave.

However, it turns out that light actually is a wave, and this very property is exploited in many modern items, for instance fibre optic cables. Just like two notes on the keyboard will either sound harmonious or disharmonious (as the waves, broadly, add or subtract), so different combinations of red, yellow and blue light will give us all the colours we see.

So, light turned out to be a wave. And also, rather than being a passive carrier of information, it also turned out that light changes and moulds the world around it - bleaching objects, giving energy, which can be used for instance by plants to give us the air we breathe through photosynthesis.

One of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of light came, of course, with Einstein, who challenged and turned the conventional views on their head.

One thing that really had been taken for granted was that light always travels in a straight line. However Einstein proved, through observations during a solar eclipse, that the very void of spacetime curves around massive objects, and that light itself gets bent by these distortions.

Travelling on a light beam would also be very strange, as time appears to stop and distance stretches out.

By: Stephen

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