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Light Years and Time Travel: An Exploration of Mankind's Enduring Fascination With Light

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According to Einstein, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Of all the mind-bending theories in modern physics, that, at least, seemed a rule the universe–let alone mankind–could never break.

But in 1994 Professor Gunter Nimtz sent a recording of Mozart’s 40th Symphony through a physical barrier at four times the speed of light. Once again, light had surprised and confounded those who sought to understand it.

Light Years and Time Travel tells the stories of the cultures and individuals determined to unlock the secrets of this mysterious force.

Neolithic man worshipped light at Stonehenge. The ancient Egyptians believed it was the sight of the great god Ra. The Greeks thought it a fire that pours from the eyes to illuminate all we behold. The revolutionary use of light in art by Brunelleschi, Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer, and, more recently, the Impressionists has only furthered our awe of it.

From the first scientific grapplings with light by the ancient Chinese sage Mo Ti and the Greek philosopher Empedocles through the Renaissance and down to our own time, the revelations of the true nature of light are equally astounding. We have moved from Bacon’s studies of optics–according to legend, he invented the first pair of glasses–and Newton’s dissection of light into the colors of the spectrum to Faraday and Maxwell’s revelation of light’s basis in electricity and magnetism and quantum theory’s study of light’s strangest, most unexpected properties. Light is also the force behind our most state-of-the-art technology, such as lasers and optical computers.

Now, in this new millennium, we are realizing the possibility that light may allow us to send messages backward in time.

Even this is just the beginning of our understanding of light’s true power, but Brian Clegg’s odyssey through the wonder and study of light is no less compelling for it.

About the Author

BRIAN CLEGG holds a degree in physics from Cambridge University and a master’s degree in operational research. A consultant and well-known columnist in the business and technology field, he is the author of a dozen books, including Creativity, Imagination Engineering, and Instant Brainpower.

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