Light Fantastic - The Stuff of Light

In the first episode of this magnificent documentary series, Let There Be Light, we saw the study of light begun by Greeks such as Empedocles and Euclid, continued by the Arab Alhacen, and culminated in the intellectual battle between the French and the British, with Rene Descartes and Sir Isaac Newton as their respective representatives.

The second episode, The Light of Reason, showed how the gradual manipulation of light devices for practical purposes has had the unintended consequence of helping us understand the universe and of undermining the authenticity of religious beliefs.

The story has only gotten more interesting since then, as James Clerk Maxwell would later come to understand light as a form of electromagnetic wave, subject to the laws of electromagnetism, as J. J. Thomson discovered electrons through his use of cathode rays, and as Max Planck became the founder of quantum theory by understanding that light has a schizophrenic personality.

In the process, of course, light became industrialized and made publically available thanks to the entrepreneurial genius and vision of people like Thomas Edison, who managed to sell the public not just a commodity but a dream.

Related videos:

Michael Faraday's work on electromagnetism and its influence on Maxwell, and how this eventually laid part of the foundation for Einstein's E=mc2.

The war of the currents between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.
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