Light is the very source of human sustenance. The rudimentary albeit fascinating process of photosynthesis which is inevitable for mankind’s survival is totally dependent upon light. Right from the evolution of humanity, the concept of light has possessed an allure encompassing within it material degrees of both romanticism and mysticism in equal measure.

In this immensely readable and intensely engaging work, Brian Clegg by shaking away the cobwebs of scientific jargon and dispelling the terrors of fear inducing equations, provides a glowing overview of the anatomy, utility and the meaning of light. Tracing the history of human fascination for the study of light, Clegg commences with the exploits of Empidocles and Aristole before navigating a roller coaster of a path (spanning hundreds of years) that ends at the door step of frightening future possibilities, just one of which represents “Quantum Cloning”. On the way he introduces the eager reader to many an indefatigable personality embodying inexhaustible patience and dedication, whose rigours have ensured that we have a better and grateful understanding of the world that we inhabit.

From the serene meadows of Woolsthorpe where Sir Issac Newton unraveled the mysteries of gravity, to an obscure Patent Office in Bern where the genius of Albert Einstein revealed the stunning and mind numbing facets of general and special relativity, Brian Clegg handholds us through the maze of reflection and refraction, helps us hurdle over the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of particle and wave theories, never deserting us when we arrive at a weird world characterised by the interplay of electromagnetism and the entanglement of Photons.

The most significant value addition of this book lies in its ability to impart esoteric concepts in elementary language. Whether it be describing James Clerk Maxwell and Michael Faraday’s jousts with electromagnetism or the rift between Newton and Christiaan Huygens as to whether light is composed of particles or waves, the author takes great care to ensure that the reader is not ensnared or entangled in a trap of convoluted Physics. The Chapter on Richard Feynman is one of the best in the whole book if not the best.

“Light Years” – Sheds abundant lustre!

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