Sunday, June 1, 2008


What is light? I wrote a high school physics paper on the topic once. I got an A. But I never understood light. The A was because I could follow the format of writing a paper, pulling the answers to certain questions out of encyclopedias and text books and rewording and organizing them in proper order. But I never understood light. (Sorry Mr. Geske.) It can travel for millions of years through billions of miles of space and still reach our eyes. Yet a wafer thin layer of paint on window glass can stop it totally. They say it is energy that is converted into images within our brains of sensory input from our eyes. They say we can only see a portion of the spectrum, that other creatures can see light we cannot, at both ends of the spectrum. They say it is a wave, yet how can it pass through thick glass? Why can light pass through clear glass but only make a backlit tree leaf glow? How is it that light coming through clear glass is stopped by black glass? We are so dependent on light to form a map of our world that we can scarcely function after dark. I will never understand light. It is a concept my brain just cannot fully grasp. I can speak of the concepts and the mechanics, but I will never really understand it. And that is never more true each year around this time when I see a poppy in bloom in the sunlight, its petals a million tiny brilliant orange jewels and its center a strange shaped assemblage of velvety purple-black. It's poppy season and I am pondering the nature of light.

No comments: