Reviewed by Jean Worsley
Retired Biology Teacher
Light by Jim Whiting, in the series Mysteries of the Universe, is a delightful book that explores the nature of light, discoveries, theories, and current and future research. In only 48 pages, the book consists of four chapters, four asides, stunning photos of scientists and inventions, endnotes, web sites, a bibliography, and index. Colorful pages, captions, and titles will appeal to young readers. The title page highlights the symbol for the book which will readily cause readers to focus on the title.
Just think! What would our world be without light? The answer is simple—there would be no life. Light is essential to the survival of life on earth. George Simpson and William Beck stated that “Light enables us to interpret what we see and gives meaning to that information.” Several sources of light are described with emphasis on the fact that the most important source is the sun. For many centuries the sun was a mystery but scientists now know that it is like a giant power plant. There are several areas of interest about light that are discussed. They include the visible spectrum, color of objects, and effects of ultraviolet light. One of the most unimaginable topics of discussion is distances measured in light years.
Beginning with the Egyptians, Mayans, and Greeks who worshipped the sun and made it the most important god, the author provides a historical account. Ancients learned how to make fire, oil lamps, and candles. Many years later, Galileo performed experiments on the speed of light. Eye glasses were made as a result of the discovery of refraction. The invention of optical microscopes and telescopes followed. Today the Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most important tools in providing images of the universe. A concise discussion of the invention of the incandescent light bulb, fluorescent and laser light is provided. Using lasers, scientists have been able to measure celestial bodies more accurately and develop more efficient methods of communication. Again, history is revisited with detailed narratives of contributions by Newton, Roemer, Foucault, Huygens, Maxwell, and Einstein et al. Some of the mysteries of light revealed include an understanding of the composition of light, the duel nature of light, development of radar systems, and building of the first laser.
Research related to the future of light is extremely urgent, however, promising. Because of an increase in population and the global demand for electricity, solar power is thought to be an excellent alternative to fossil fuels. It is suggested that solar energy may power space craft in the future. In medicine, lasers are used in surgery and in phototherapy. Of course the darker side is the use of lasers to create instruments of destruction for the military. Further, light plays a major role in investigating the mystery of black holes.
It is clear that many questions about light remain but the author states it will ultimately allow man to probe the farthest reaches of our universe. Interesting Light Asides describe how photography has changed, lasers in the films Tron and Goldfinger, and developing solid state lighting. This is an excellent resource with which to introduce young readers to the mystery of light.
Review posted on 9/13/2012