Catching the Light: The Entwined History of Light and Mind

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Bantam Books, 1993 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 388 pages
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What is light? From the glories of heaven to the fires of hell, no question has so fascinated, so mystified, so captivated the human imagination through the centuries as the wondrous powers of light. Now, in this extraordinary and brilliant book, an experimental physicist invites us to take part in a dazzling and unforgettable quest - an inquiry into the fundamental nature of light in our history, our world, and our lives.
A needle dropped on the floor may be in our field of vision but remain unseen. How - in a flash of recognition - do we perceive it? Consider the true story, set down here in compelling detail, of the man, blind from early infancy, whose eyes were surgically repaired and yet still could not see. Or the fact that the ancient Greeks lacked words for green and blue and Homer looked out on a "wine-dark" sea: What is the puzzling phenomenon of Greek color vision? And, even more puzzling, what does light look like if there is no object to reflect it?
In tracing the history of light, Arthur Zajonc presents an intriguing and dramatic look at the evolution of knowledge and the development of the human mind itself. It is a journey that leads from the temples of ancient cultures to the experiences of modern mystics, from the artistic theories of the Renaissance masters to the luminous paintings of Kandinsky, from the scientific perspectives of Newton and Faraday to the revolutionary ideas of thinkers such as Einstein, Planck, and Bohr.
With rare clarity and an unmatched lyricism, Zajonc illuminates the profound implications of rainbow and candle, prism and mirror, as well as the paradoxes of quantum theory. He explores the vital connection between the outer light of nature and the inner light of the human spirit. And he challenges our intellect and our imagination to reach beyond ourselves, to shape new perceptions, and even to comprehend the divine.
From biblical times to the world of modern optics, Catching the Light is a brilliant synthesis of history, science, religion, and art that brings together the multifaceted strands of human experience to light the way to a new understanding of ourselves and our cosmos.

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CATCHING THE LIGHT: The Entwined History of Light and Mind

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Brilliant study of the relationship between two fields usually kept miles apart: the physics of light and the metaphysics of the mind. Zajonc (Physics/Amherst College) begins with the curious problem ... Read full review

Catching the light: the entwined history of light and mind

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Zajonc is an academic physicist who specializes in quantum physics, but his approach to the subject of light is somewhat unconventional from the perspective of many of his colleagues. He provides a ... Read full review


Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Door of the Rainbow
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
A Contemporary View
Chapter 12

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About the author (1993)

Arthur Zajonc is Professor of Physics at Amherst College and a fellow of both the Lindisfarne Association and the Fetzer Institute.

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