Poems about Light

Poems about Light opened on May 27th 2014 at the Blyth Gallery, Imperial College.  The exhibition is in four parts: it shares what we know about the Sun; writes large the hidden patterns found in light and matter at the tiniest scales; tells the story of the predominant light in the Universe; explores and celebrates the adventure of discovery. 

The catalogue is below.  

The exhibition includes this short text:

What is Light?

The world of light is greater than the eye perceives. After dark we remain immersed in the chatter of radio waves, the screech of cosmic gamma and x-rays and the gentle heat from the person beside us, or the fire. All of these are light. Light is a traveller, yet needs no medium to carry it. In a vacuum it is the fastest moving thing in the universe, travelling an equivalent distance of almost 8 times around earth every second. Light is the messenger of our world. In it we detect the blaze of summer, the mood of a friend, situations in distant nations and our place within the Universe. It brings messages from every corner of the world, revealing how things used to be, so it is also a time machine. The glow of the earliest light brings us images of the universe in its infancy.

We think of light as an oscillation, a continual exchange between electricity and magnetism. Always its origins are in the changing motion of charged matter. We know it arrives in droplets, and that when it is registered by your eye, or some other device, it disappears, returning its energy to matter. Light and matter speak ceaselessly. Each atom and molecule has only certain notes, so light is a musician, ringing bells and sounding pipes. This is what brings colour to the world. On a spring day light’s mastery when playing water, leaves and flowers can fill our hearts with joy.      


The paintings and short film were made possible by the generousity of many people at Imperial College. For scientific guidance, encouragement and inspiration I particularly thank: Jonathan Halliwell; Joanna Haigh; Alan Heavens; Henrik Jenssen; Andrew Jaffe; Subu Mohanty; Terry Rudolph; Mike Tarbutt and Yvonne Unruh. Thank you also to the staff and students of the Physics Department for their support and enthusiasm and to Richard Dickins and the team at the Blyth Centre for hosting our project.