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Tag: light


Correcting Misconceptions

The Arab polymaths corrected a great deal of Classcial misconceptions, e.g. the Greek idea that light is emitted from the eye. The 10th century physicist al-Haytham (Latinised to Alhazen) correctly stated that light bounces off an object in straight lines before striking the eye. He developed for first camera obscura – which centuries later enabled photography. Alhazen first devised the ‘method of proof’ too, stating that theories had to be verified in practice, a key element from modern science practice, which was missing from the classical world. Abbasid scientists also introduced what we would call peer review and academic citations, unknown before their time.


June 18, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel


I think I must be part reptile inside because nothing affects me so much as dazzling sunlight. I can’t operate without it, can’t hardly move.  In the morning I’m like a zombie, eyes all bleary, face all rumpled, unsteady at the knees. As soon as I push myself out of bed and onto my feet, I nudge the curtain back and look out at the sky. If it’s overcast, grey, miserable, that’s how my day will be. I won’t get hardly any work done, and I’ll be glum and sullen as long as the clouds last.

But on days that it’s sunny, I feel as if I’m walking on air. I float from the bedroom to the bathroom, then downstairs, moonwalking. I have taken to working in the dining room because there’s an endless view down through the house to the white tent at the end of the pool. I like looking up from the computer screen and out to the tent which, on bright days like this, is like a dazzling reflector. It’s mesmerising.
When we lived in London I bought an SAD lamp (for seasonal affective disorder). On short December days I used to huddle over it, staring into the bulb. I felt like a lackluster Swede trapped in Lapland in the winter. 
There was no possession I parted with so joyfully as that lamp. I gave it to a friend and smiled wryly, because in Morocco — although sunshine’s not always guaranteed — there’s a heck of a lot more than in the East End.
Then the other day, a rainy day, while on a train from Hereford to London (I’d been talking at the Hay Festival), I met a man even more obsessed by sunshine than me. He was so taken by it — and so energised by it — that he’d written a book on the subject. And what a very brilliant read it is too (Sunshine: One man’s Search for Happiness’, by Robert Mighall, John Murray Ltd).
As the train rumbled passed the fearful cooling towers at Didcot, Mighall told me that as soon as the sun comes out he feels the urge to drop everything and anything and run out into it with wild abandon. His habit of stripping off his clothes and sunbathing had earned him the nickname ‘Gecko Boy’ from neighbours. I noticed that even  hearing the word ‘sunshine’ was enough to get him going. I watched as his eyes lit up, how colour slipped onto his cheeks as if blushing with embarrassment.
I asked Mighall why he lived in Bethnal Green and not the prairies of Samburuland, if he really was such a worshipper of all things solar. He went very still, stared down at his lap. I coaxed him for an answer. ‘I’m not sure that I could.’ he said.