The Story of Light

ISBN: 1402200099
ISBN 13: 9781402200090
By: Ben Bova

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2002 Currently Reading Makes You Think Non Fiction Nonfiction Physics Science Sf To Read Tried And Gave Up

About this book

The story of light affects us every day of our lives... In highly visual, entertaining and easy-to-understand language, famed science writer Ben Bova explains the many ways light affects our minds, bodies and universe.--Why do people kiss with their eyes closed?--What exactly is quantum physics?--Why is it difficult to swat a mosquito?--Is the universe expanding or contracting?--How do lasers work?--What do we "see" when we dream? In this all-encompassing work, one of the most noted science fiction as well as nonfiction writers of our time explores the subject of light and shows how it has shaped every aspect of our existence. From the creation of life to the exploration of the heavens and the stars, from the origins of the earth to the possibility of life on distant planets, Ben Bova unveils the beauty and science behind this phenomenon. Dr. Bova masterfully explains how light affects us every day of our lives, from our religions to our sex drives, as well as how we use light in art, science, industry, entertainment, cosmetics, jewelry and much more. "The enlightenment of discoveries and the brilliance of Ben Bova combine to enable our minds to glimpse the majesty of the infinite worlds of light in the universe."--Buzz Aldrin "Superbly written--a banquet of topics served by a master literary chef!"--Bill Pogue, Skylab astronaut "The Story of Light is a light-hearted, enlightened romp through many facets of human experience, reflected and refracted through Bova's bright, polychromatic mind."--David Grinspoon, Principal Scientist, Southwest Research Institute and author of Venus Revealed

Reader's Thoughts

Dennis Littrell

Bova, Ben. The Story of Light (2001)Entertaining, fact-filled, and far-ranging accountBova is a master at writing readable prose for a general readership. He's been at it for fifty years or more, and is among the best at making science fascinating. One is reminded of the work of the late, great, and sorely missed Isaac Asimov. Like Asimov, Bova is the author of over a hundred books, both fiction and nonfiction, and is especially celebrated for his innovative science fiction. I have only one small criticism. In his touting of the Strategic Defense Initiative from the Reagan administration and how lasers can be used to knock down ballistic missiles, he fails to mention how easily they can be fooled by dummy targets while failing to point out how ineffectual lasers are against "suitcase" nuclear bombs. To his credit Bova admits his bias on page 282, a bias that came about because he was employed as a marketing manager for the Avco Everett Research Laboratory in Massachusetts, a company that was in the business of making high-powered lasers.The chapters on the development of photography from the pinhole camera obscura to lasers, holography and fiber optics are among the most interesting. The fourth part of the book, "Book IV: To Seek," beginning on page 323 is a readable, concise update on how electromagnetic radiation is helping us to explore the universe. In other words, Bova gets to talk about subjects he loves dearly, cosmology, physics and astronomy. This is not a work for scientists; instead there is a clear emphasis on satisfying the needs of the general reader by providing a wealth of information about light and just about anything to do with light, including painting, perception, how the eye works, photography, photosynthesis--indeed, even the origin of life--the search for extraterrestrial life, extrasolar planets, radiation, LASIK surgery, relativity, quantum mechanics, gemstones and their uses, time travel, the ozone layer, nuclear fission and fusion...etc. His enthusiasm for solar power and especially for Solar-Powered Satellites, "huge satellites that can generate gigawatts of solar electricity and send it to Earth through microwave beams" (p. 310) is infectious and welcome.There is a modest bibliography and a short glossary and an index. One is occasionally amused at Bova's asides and quaint cultural references (e.g., Jimmy Durante!). He keeps a light-hearted tone and mixes in bits of toastmaster humor. I'm thinking of the "Hungarian recipe" for an omelette: "First, steal some eggs..." (p. 291) or his description of the active element fluorine in contrast to the relatively inert xenon, as "a used-car salesman who is running for mayor." (p. 271)The Story of Light can be profitably read by teenagers as well as by lay seniors looking to keep up with recent developments set in a clear historical context.


Picked this book up after learning and being confused by Stephen Hawking's book that says that light can be both a particle and a wave. I was confused and hoped this book could help. This book takes many chapters to tell you that light is neither of those but is "electromagnetic energy". Thanks. That's much clearer. I still learned lots, but don't feel like I walked away with a clear answer or explanation of my question.

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