Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Year of Light

Antique Bunsen spectroscope. Interior.  c. Michelle M. Francl
Halloween is still a few weeks out, but I'm getting in the mood by writing a post for the UN's "Year of Light" blog.  2015 is the UN Year of Light, celebrating the 1000th anniversary of the publication of Ibn al-Haytham's Book of Optics and the 300th anniversary of Newton's Optics.

While much of the excitement around the Year of Light is directed toward the physics of light, chemistry owes a huge debt to light as well (and vice versa as I argued in a recent more scholarly essay).  Bunsen and Kirchhoff's invention of the spectroscope in 1860 would allow chemists to add more than a dozen new elements to the periodic table by looking for their spectral (ghostly) lines in the light from flames.  You can read the whole thing at the UN's blog.

Light is something I think about in many of my hats — as theologian and writer and as quantum mechanic.  What would a Year of Light look like from the religious end of things?  We have a year of Mercy coming up, why not a Year of Light?  All Advent, all the time?  My favorite season!

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