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Light Years and Time Travel: An Exploration of Mankind's Enduring Fascination with Light [Hardcover]

Brian Clegg
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 25 2002
PRAISE FOR LIGHT YEARS AND TIME TRAVEL
"This immensely likeable work of pop science traces 'man's enduring fascination with light, ' from Aristotle's plans for a death ray (burning enemy ships with a giant array of mirrors) to a recent experiment that seems to have sent Mozart's 40th Symphony faster than light, and thus back through time. Clegg is very good at explaining the bizarre properties of light."
-The Guardian
"A fascinating book on a fascinating subject. It brings together all aspects of light in an unusual and compelling manner."
-Sir Patrick Moore
"Light's properties often seem mysterious to the point of being unfathomable. Yet in this extraordinary book, Brian Clegg manages to explain them through the lives of those so fixated with light that they have shaped our perception of it. . . . Clegg's accessible writing style manages to encapsulate the lives of light's disciples with humorous and interesting anecdotes . . . quite awesome!"
-New Scientist

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Review

"Extraordinary... Clegg?s accessible writing style manages to encapsulate the lives of light?s disciples with humorous and interesting anecdotes... Clegg also provides real scientific insight into how light behaves. He explains complex theories through lucid metaphors, without resorting to the elaborate diagrams so beloved of some popular science writers." (New Scientist)

"This immensely likeable work of pop science traces "man's enduring fascination with light," from Aristotle's plans for a death ray (burning enemy ships with a giant array of mirrors) through to a recent experiment that seems to have sent Mozart's 40th Symphony faster than light, and thus back through time. Clegg is very good at explaining the bizarre properties of light..." (The Guardian U.K.)

"It is rare to see a review of a non-reference book in these pages, but Brian Clegg's book is a treat to be savoured. We are familiar with names such as Snell, Faraday, Newton and Galileo, but Clegg tells us something of their lives and the paths by which they came to provide the foundations of the optical knowledge which is essential to our livelihood. He relates it with humour and originality. Amongst the collection of gems is an explanation of Fermat's Principle of Least Time. I admit to being less than fascinated when Ivan Wilson went through the proof in a lecture at City College but, at the time, no one had heard of Baywatch, and no one had refered to the concept as the Baywatch Principle, as Clegg does!
The book follows the history of the efforts to comprehend the nature of light, from the Ancient Greeks to modern scientists such as Feynman and Nimtz. The future is considered too: the instant transportation of matter has now been achieved and the invention of 'slow' glass will allow us to display in our homes scenes captured from afar which emerge, over time, from the surface.
The text is well pitched, being not too elementary to bore, yet interesting and thought provoking enough for those who have studied optics to a higher level. I recommend it highly." — Paula Stevens -Dispensing Optician (the magazine of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians)

From the Publisher

"Extraordinary... Clegg's accessible writing style manages to encapsulate the lives of light's disciples with humorous and interesting anecdotes... Clegg also provides real scientific insight into how light behaves. He explains complex theories through lucid metaphors, without resorting to the elaborate diagrams so beloved of some popular science writers." (New Scientist)

"This immensely likeable work of pop science traces "man's enduring fascination with light," from Aristotle's plans for a death ray (burning enemy ships with a giant array of mirrors) through to a recent experiment that seems to have sent Mozart's 40th Symphony faster than light, and thus back through time. Clegg is very good at explaining the bizarre properties of light..." (The Guardian U.K.)

"It is rare to see a review of a non-reference book in these pages, but Brian Clegg's book is a treat to be savoured. We are familiar with names such as Snell, Faraday, Newton and Galileo, but Clegg tells us something of their lives and the paths by which they came to provide the foundations of the optical knowledge which is essential to our livelihood. He relates it with humour and originality. Amongst the collection of gems is an explanation of Fermat's Principle of Least Time. I admit to being less than fascinated when Ivan Wilson went through the proof in a lecture at City College but, at the time, no one had heard of Baywatch, and no one had refered to the concept as the Baywatch Principle, as Clegg does!
The book follows the history of the efforts to comprehend the nature of light, from the Ancient Greeks to modern scientists such as Feynman and Nimtz. The future is considered too: the instant transportation of matter has now been achieved and the invention of 'slow' glass will allow us to display in our homes scenes captured from afar which emerge, over time, from the surface.
The text is well pitched, being not too elementary to bore, yet interesting and thought provoking enough for those who have studied optics to a higher level. I recommend it highly." — Paula Stevens -Dispensing Optician (the magazine of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians)


Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars History of Light for the Layman May 12 2002
Format:Hardcover
Written in an easy, flowing style, Mr.Clegg's book is full of interesting and apposite facts about light and the people who gave us the basis of our current understanding. A master storyteller, he does not pontificate or try to blind the reader with science, rather, he opens our eyes to the possibilities afforded by that science - describing it all in layman's terms, but definitely not patronising or 'dumbing-down'.
The first chapter is a taster of the future potential of experimentation with light, outlining some tremendous possibilities. Then we are treated to an overview of the perception of light by the ancients, whose theories were taken as gospel during the Dark Ages and only began to be questioned in the Middle Ages - but even then heresy loomed large for anyone trying to usurp the accepted 'facts'.
Continuing, potted biographies of the greats of science; Bacon, Davinci, Galileo, Descartes, Newton et al, give us a clearer picture of the problems that the new wave of scientists faced.
Then we get into the meat of the problem - what is light made of? (which is still not fully answered). Fascinating insights into recent and modern theory and fact leaves one's mind boggling, trying to contain the concepts, speeds and distances involved.
Immensely readable, I encourage anyone with even a passing interest in light, science or history to read this book - they will be rewarded by a new persective of the world.
As further reading, I also recommend 'Unweaving the Rainbow' by Richard Dawkins.*****.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb History of Light May 9 2002
Format:Hardcover
Written in an easy, flowing style, Mr.Clegg's book is full of interesting and apposite facts about light and the people who gave us the basis of our current understanding. A master storyteller, he does not pontificate or try to blind the reader with science, rather, he opens our eyes to the possibilities afforded by that science - describing it all in layman's terms, but definitely not patronising or 'dumbing-down'.
The first chapter is a taster of the future potential of experimentation with light, outlining some tremendous possibilities. Then we are treated to an overview of the perception of light by the ancients, whose theories were taken as gospel during the Dark Ages and only began to be questioned in the Middle Ages - but even then heresy loomed large for anyone trying to usurp the accepted 'facts'.
Continuing, potted biographies of the greats of science; Bacon, Davinci, Galileo, Descartes, Newton et al, give us a clearer picture of the problems that the new wave of scientists faced.
Then we get into the meat of the problem - what is light made of? (which is still not fully answered). Fascinating insights into recent and modern theory and fact leaves one's mind boggling, trying to contain the concepts, speeds and distances involved.
Immensely readable, I encourage anyone with even a passing interest in light, science or history to read this book - they will be rewarded by a new persective of the world.
As further reading, I also recommend 'Unweaving the Rainbow' by Richard Dawkins.
Was this review helpful to you?
Format:Hardcover
I read this book on a flight back from the UK and it was fascinating. Well researched and with a compelling pace it takes the reader through the colorful back streets of philosophy and science as it struggles with the questions of light. In doing so the author brings together not only answers to what is light but ties it to time and life itself. A thoroughly enjoyable book for the casual student of history, science or life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating reading! Feb. 1 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I couldn't disagree more with David Hurburgh's review above... I loved this book from the first page... it's a great mix of science (Yes, I now actually have an understand of what light's really about...) and history: a really great, mind-expanding read about a deeply fascinating subject!
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