Thursday, January 1, 2009

Let There be Light….

In the Beginning, in a burst of pure radiant energy, light came into being and in that brief instant of creation the Universe came into existence some fourteen billion years ago. Within the first three minutes of the big bang pure energy condensed into matter. From this matter stars and galaxies came forth and through the process of nuclear fusion, heavy elements were forged in the hearts of distant and massive suns. It is the existence of these elements that make the existence of living things a possibility. We owe are very existence to that very instance when the laws of physics through accident or design (depending on your philosophical and religious proclivities dear reader) declared, eons ago –“Let there be Light”.

The study of the fundamental nature of light has been a central theme throughout the Intellectual History of humanity. Answering the question – “what is light?” has been a major preoccupation of all major areas of human endeavour be it Religion, Philosophy or Art. The quest to understand and decipher the mystery of radiance gave rise to modern science. In fact, the twin pillars of modern science – Relativity and Quantum Mechanics owe their development to solving the mystery of the true nature of light. And, it is through the analysis of starlight that humanity has begun to understand its place in the Cosmos. So my dear readers, in the earnest hope that this New Year and the years to follow, will always be radiant with the promise of hope and good fortune for each and everyone of you I would like to offer you the following documentary for your viewing pleasure: Simon Schaffer's fantastic four part documentary "Light Fantastic" that was produced for BBC 4. In the episodes that follow science historian Simon Schaffer takes on a voyage of discovery through time to follow humankind’s quest for enlightenment to discover the true nature of light.

1. Let There be Light

Greek and Arab scholars and later Europeans such as Descartes and Newton all tried to understand light to gain a better understanding of God. Episode one shows how much of modern science's origins came from the desire to penetrate the divine nature of light.

2. The Light of Reason

The second programme explores the link between the development of practical tools that manipulate light and the emergence of new ideas. For example, Galileo's observation that the sun did not go around the earth, was made with a telescope that had been invented for Venetian soldiers and traders.

3. The Stuff of Light

Episode three charts the discovery of the true nature of light and its impact on the modern world. All of today's technologies - electricity, mobile communications and our ability to illuminate the world 24 hours a day - stem from unravelling the mystery of light.

4. Light, The Universe and Everything

In the final programme Simon Schaffer finds that as more people were able to manipulate light, the more puzzling and tricky it became. This led to investigations into the strange relationship between light, the eye and the mind, and the development of new technology such as photography and cinema.

The Year Ahead

The New Year ahead of us promises to be an exciting one for those of us on Discovery Enterprise and the associated blog sites Cosmic Visions and Far Future Calling. This New Year of 2009 AD promises to be one of many New Beginnings in the exciting world of Discovery, Exploration and Science.

Many of our devoted readers know that we at Discovery Enterprise are closely associated with the Atlantica Expeditions - First Undersea Colony Project. At this very moment the Atlantica Expeditions Team is assembling the New Worlds Explorer (NWE) and it will be nearing completion this weekend. The New Worlds Explorer, designed by Dennis Chamberland, is designed as a companion habitat and engineering model to the Leviathan Habitat, scheduled for construction soon. Both habitats will be used to support underwater crews on the longest manned underwater mission in history in 2010. The New Worlds Explorer is scheduled for deployment in 2009. As for other news – it looks like the submarine Dan Scott Taylor II will be delivered in January! It looks like it is going to be a busy and eventful year as the Atlantica Expedition crew embarks on its quest to commence humankind's exploration and settlement of the last great frontier on Earth - the Undersea World of Aquatica.

The year 2009 also marks the celebration of four major anniversaries connected to the History of Science and Exploration. 2009 marks the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth on 12th February, 1809 and the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s publication of “On the Origin of Species” on 24th November, 1859. The year 2009 will also mark the 400th anniversary of the use of the telescope to view the heavens by Galileo Galilei and the publication of Johannes Kepler's Astronomia Nova in which he presented his three laws of planetary motion. In connection with these events the year 2009 has been declared the International Year of Astronomy.

Moreover, it will also commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1st landing by human beings on the moon's surface on July 20th, 1969. This year will also see the launching of the Kepler Mission on March 6th, 2009 an astronomical satellite currently being developed by NASA to search for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. It will observe the brightness of over 100,000 stars over 3.5 years to detect periodical transits of a star by its planets.

And on July 11th, 2009 will see the test launch of the Ares I-X which will be a suborbital test flight in of the Ares I spacecraft. This will be the first major step, in NASA’s ambitious plans to return to the Moon, with the eventual goal of establishing a permanent human presence there. So stay with us dear readers and join us on new voyages of exploration and discovery during the exciting year ahead.