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The Nature of Light

»Light is Energy and likewise information –
content, form and structure.
It forms the potential for everything.«

David Bohm (1917–1992) USA Quantenphysiker und Philosoph

DARKNESS

The day without yesterday

The more we know about the universe, the more we know how little we know. The last particle, the Higgs boson, has just been discovered, yet we know that we can only describe 4% of the known world with it. The other 96% of the universe remain hidden from us. What is dark matter? What is dark energy? Without them, the equation of the »standard model« of quantum field theory does not work.

Black holes are so massive that not even light can escape their gravities.

Until the modern era, eclipses were regarded as signs of divine powers. According to the  story by Herodotus, Thales of Miletus had predicted a solar eclipse for the time of the war between the Medes and the Lydians. When it actually occurred, the warring parties, both frightened, stopped their fighting and made peace.

There are places on the planet that have never seen a ray of sunlight. But in deep caves and mines, there is also life. In the deep sea are fish that use small lights as bait. What other forms of life does nature create that carry light? Which senses do nocturnal creatures use?

What happened before the Big Bang?  Light plus light can be NO light!

BIG BANG

In the beginning there was light

According to the standard model of cosmo-logy, the big bang was the beginning of our universe. Some 13.82 billion years ago, matter, space, and time were simultaneously created. If only one of these known physical constants would have had a slightly different figure, the universe might have fallen apart again. It was due to the big bang that the laws of nature were formed.

During the first 400,000 years, the newly created plasma was so dense that no light could escape. It was only when it became transparent that photons finally formed. The radiation was separated from the matter and gravitation could take place. This is how matter agglomerated around cores of dark matter. Over time, gaseous matter was formed around these cores. It remained this way until enough gravitation deployed it and where enough matter came together to spark the nuclear fusion creating the first sun.

It was only then that the first elements where created in the center of the stars, which form the basis of our own existence.

The knowledge of light leads to the beginning of the universe, to the borders of being.

 

 

THE SUN

The sun does not send us a bill

The sun is the star at the center of our solar system. Despite an average distance of more than 150 million kilometers, the sun is of fundamental significance to life on earth. Many important processes such as the climate and life itself are enabled by the radiated energy of the sun. 99.98% of the total energy input into Earth’s climate are contributed by the sun.

The impetus of the sun’s energy output are fusion processes in which hydrogen atoms merge into helium, releasing enormous amounts of energy. Within this process, photons are released as well. These take about 100.000 years to travel from the core to the surface of the sun.

Although the sun is a life donor, it is a danger for our sometimes overly engineered world at the same time. Magnetized sun storms can disrupt radio transmission (i.e. radio or mobile networks through satellite outages) as well as influence the needles of compasses. Another effect, though, can be much more threatening. In long electric conductors, such as pipelines and overhead transmission lines, streams of considerable power can be induced by sun storms, causing permanent damage to transformers. This, in turn, can cause long-standing and far-reaching power outages.

To get to know our sun and its fundamental relevance – this is the purpose of LICHTZEIT.

PHOTOSYNTHESYS

Light is life

Photosynthesis is carried out by plants, algae, and some bacteria groups. With the help of light absorbing pigments like chlorophyll, light energy is transformed into chemical energy in this biochemical process. From low-energy anorganic substances like carbon dioxide (C02) and water (H2O), energy-rich organic bonds are produced in the form of carbohydrates. Oxygen is produced as a byproduct in the process.

Billions of years ago, the first oxygen of the earth was produced by algae, using light and water of the oceans. Algae were at the beginning of evolution and still mark the starting point of the food chain today.

Today, algae fulfill a variety of functions. One of these functions is the use in cleaning power plant emissions. CO2 reduction is one of the most pressing issues of the climate debate.

By 1939, Hans Gaffron had already developed methods of hydrogen production (bio hydrogen) using the Chlamydomonas Reinhardtii species of algae. An algae-reactor or photobio-reactor can be used to do this today. Some algae can be used to synthesize biodiesel. Algae biomass can be fermented to bio gas, or be used for thermal energy production in factories. The CO2 necessary to cultivate algae can be provided by the emissions of power plants.

NATURAL PHÄNOMENA

Light-Spectacle

On some nights impressive celestial phenomena can be seen in polar regions. These so-called auroras occur when charged particles of the solar wind collide with the magnetic field of the earth which is pooled around the pols.

The phenomenon of lightning itself can be explained as flashovers generated through discharges of electrical fields within thunderstorm clouds. It still remains mysterious, though, what unleashes them and where they strike. Benjamin Franklin made the observation that lightnings strike high iron poles and invented the lightning rod in 1749. Also gigantic lightning-balls, known as goblins, which form above the clouds and discharge into the ionosphere remain unexplained.

Even on a small scale nature surprises with its illuminations: fermented gas glows like ghost lights over swamps and marshes – a product of bioluminescence in phosphorizing algae and fireflies.

Nature demonstrates a great variety of light phenomena. How do they occur? Would it be possible to make use out of them?

DAYLIGHT

Onwards towards the sun – or better into the shadow?

The sun supports and enhances well-being. At least the people living north of the Alps put on shorts immediately when the first rays of sunshine are to be seen. During their vacations they are drawn south, where they stretch out their towels on top of sun beds and get roasted on the »Teuton grill.« In order to produce vitamin-D, which helps building cells and prevents diseases, human beings need the ultraviolet light of the sun.

But too much sunbathing heightens the risk of skin cancer of light skinned Caucasians. Since the ozone layer is damaged – mainly because of anthropogenic chemicals which were released into the atmosphere – the UV rays of the sun that reach the earth are increasing, particularly in polar regions.

There are a few regions where the sun is perceived as an enemy. In those regions especially women suffer from vitamin-D deficiency syndrome because they do not expose their skin to the sun. Stronger pigmentation of darker skinned people, on the other hand, protects them from damages caused by the sun.

How does sun and colored light effect humans? Which cultural or aesthetic consequences does this have?

SEEING

Reception – Perception

It takes two eyes to navigate within a three-dimensional world. Both human eyes have retinae with 120 million rods to see black and white at night and 6 million red, green and blue receptive cones to see color. Optic nerves supply the visual cortex at the back of the cerebral cortex with stimuli which transform into images. Humans are visual beings. Our visual sense instinctively help us to evaluate situations. Even single-cell organism are equipped with photoreceptors which helps them to align themselves with the light.Insects are able to visually scan their environment four times as fast as humans, even seeing ultraviolet light while spanning a 360° radius. An eagle’s eye has eight times the resolution of our eyes and movement appears to them in a kind of slow-motion, six times slower than our own normal vision of moving objects. Fascinating: Eyes are built for the individual needs of survival.

How do people learn to see? What do newborns see? How do we become visual beings? What’s evolutions repertoire of receptors?

COLOR

Light has no color

Even small children are astonished by the fact that when they are painting, the mixing of two colors will make a different color: like orange is a mix of yellow and red. This subtractive color mix inspired Goethe to his own color theory, which is only true for physical pigment mixtures. Newtons insight that white light contains all the colors of the spectrum, proved true. Helmholtz and Grassmann recognized that every color can be described through three factors.

Retinae and displays function via the additive color mixture of the three-color-principal of red, green and blue. For printing, the four color system of cyan, magenta, yellow and key (that is black) is the standard. Designers use special colors that often prove difficult to blend, such as gold from the Pantone®-key. Designers like to define color in three-dimensional color spaces, in which the shade of color, the saturation, and the light-dark value can be defined.

Why does light itself have no color, although it is made up of wavelengths of colorful light? Why is love red, hope green, and freedom blue, or death black or white?

ILLUSION

We do not see with our eyes only.

Like they are moving. This is, how we perceive circles intertwined with one another. We also perceive the accurately drawn die as a tilting figure, sometimes from below sometimes from above. In another instance, a body might seem smaller or bigger, depending on the size of bodies surrounding it. Pictures from M.C. Escher are full of such illusions.

Optical illusions are not a malfunction of the eye, but an effect of the brain. To explain them, one only needs to know the physiology of the senses, the physiology of cognition, and, in some cases, design theory. Therefore, it seems that when ever we see something, it is not just the thing itself but it includes the meaning we attribute to it or at least the relation to its surroundings. Light turns sight into insight. This is how illusionary paintings create almost perfect impressions of impossible three-dimensional spaces.

The act of seeing happens in the brain.
Light turns into a neuronal stimulus and is simultaneously translated through images we already know. It is a complex process.

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