What is Light?

Prepared for the 'Poems about Light ' exhibition in June 2014. 

 Dance  These are the steps that make sunshine. The action travels upwards from the bottom of the page fusing hydrogen together to make helium and light. The green triangles are protons and the orange ones are neutrons. The dotted pink lines are neutrinos, the little blue dots are positrons and the magenta waves are light.  Oil on canvas, 140 x 88 cm

Dance

These are the steps that make sunshine. The action travels upwards from the bottom of the page fusing hydrogen together to make helium and light. The green triangles are protons and the orange ones are neutrons. The dotted pink lines are neutrinos, the little blue dots are positrons and the magenta waves are light.

Oil on canvas, 140 x 88 cm

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.