Illuminating Us

April 9, 2017
(was 08.07.2016)

Light has long been a powerful metaphor for holiness and truth, and rightly so. From the stars in the sky to the bulbs in our homes, light touches every facet of human life. This hour, a look at the natural, artificial, and symbolic light that colors our history -- and our future. 

  1. The Heaviness of Light

    Most of us are hungry for light.   We crave sunny days and clear skies, we like big windows and well-lit rooms.  But some people have a more complicated relationship with light. John Merfeld, a physics student at Tufts University, has a genetic condition called albinism that renders his body unable to properly absorb light. It's made him acutely aware of its unique power, beauty, and danger.

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  2. Let There Be Light…On Your Brain

    Ed Boyden, a researcher at MIT, is at the forefront of a new science that aims to map and even heal the brain with light.  It’s called optogenetics, and the journal Science has called it one of the great insights of the 21st century.   It’s in its early days, but the goal is to one day be able to take a disease like depression, PTSD, or epilepsy and, using bursts of light, just turn it off -- the same way you’d fix a software glitch in a computer.

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  3. How the 18th Century Conquered Darkness

    The 18th century was not only the Age of Enlightenment. It was also the age when many cities conquered darkness by installing public lighting. Dartmouth historian Darrin McMahon says it's no accident that cities lit up at the same time as the Enlightenment values of rationality and progress flourished.

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  4. The New Physics of Photons

    Many of history's greatest scientists, from Newton to Maxwell to Einstein, have devoted significant study to the behavior of light, and, as a result, most physicists thought there was little left to say on the subject. But in April 2016, Paul Eastham, a physicist at Trinity College in Dublin, published a new paper proving that a fundamental assumption scientists had made about light was wrong. 

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  5. Nicholas Carr on the Art of Navigation

    Nicholas Carr recommends John Edward Huth's 2013 book, "The Lost Art of Finding Our Way," about how to use the natural world to navigate. 

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  6. Art and Music in Rothko Chapel

    Houston's Rothko Chapel is a shrine to the transformative power of art. Abstract artist Mark Rothko created 14 enormous paintings for this sacred space. Pianist Sarah Rothenberg tells us the history behind the music on her CD "Rothko Chapel," and writer Terry Tempest Williams describes her reverence for the Rothko Chapel.

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