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Light Fantastic

Ratings: 8.61/10 from 18 users.


Light FantasticGod is light. In all cultures, there's an intimate association between illumination and divinity, between life and creation. Light is color. Light is energy. It fuels life and it feeds the spirit. It inspires art, religion, and science. Light holds the secrets of the universe. For thousands of years, humanity has tried to unlock the mysteries of light in its' search for the nature of God himself. Light Fantastic explores the phenomenon that surrounds and affects nearly every aspect of our lives but one which we take for granted - light.

1. Let There Be Light. Greek and Arab scholars, and later Europeans such as Descartes and Newton all tried to understand light to gain a better understanding of God. Episode one shows how much of modern science's origins came from the desire to penetrate the divine nature of light.

2. The Light of Reason. The second programme explores the link between the development of practical tools that manipulate light and the emergence of new ideas. For example, Galileo's observation that the sun did not go around the earth, was made with a telescope that had been invented for Venetian soldiers and traders.

3. The Stuff of Light. Episode three charts the discovery of the true nature of light and its impact on the modern world. All of today's technologies - electricity, mobile communications and our ability to illuminate the world 24 hours a day - stem from unravelling the mystery of light.

4. Light, The Universe and Everything. In the final programme Simon Schaffer finds that as more people were able to manipulate light, the more puzzling and tricky it became. This led to investigations into the strange relationship between light, the eye and the mind, and the development of new technology such as photography and cinema.

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54 Comments / User Reviews

  1. kevin

    Ive just finised episode 2 of this documentary, looking forward to watching the next 2.

    As a photographer this documentary is very interesting and full of some information i didnt realise. It also brings up alot of confirmation about the theories around god and the sun that ive seen jump around.


  2. Vlatko

    Not a problem @Kumar Sanghvi. Thanks.

  3. Kumar Sanghvi

    Marvellous documentary.
    Watched all the 4 parts..........never looked at light from this view point.
    Extremely superb !!

    Thanks Vlatko for sharing the extremely nice collection of documentaries.

  4. pamela

    I find that in the area of science there seems to be error in all theory. Schaffer characteristicly is bashing the Catholic Church here unfairly. While the Church made some errors, read more on the subject before you bash. Lets remember fairly that when our in vestigation tools changed, so did our understanding. However, science can still not define how light, gravity, a rainbow, let alone how the universe came about. For sure we have only the ability to observe and make theory.

  5. pamela

    one last thing i note is that if this is written by shaffer he also has a bias towards male physicists in the area of light. Women have studied the problems of such things but have largely been ignored. It seems to be the case, because for example, there have been women who were nuclear physicists in the time of all of the latter studies of the atom, women did look at the genes, women did do chemistry...have you ever looked at how medicines came about?
    Women were sometimes not allowed to enter such fields too. But those who did had to have been highly gifted.

  6. Zygor Guides

    @ Pamela,

    There definitely seems to be a bias, but you mustn't forget that it's only since the Post-Victorian era that women have been recognized wholesale for their contribution to science. It's difficult to come to terms with in our day and age but such was the state of things back then. I did a piece on Florence Nightingale once, and it was extraordinary how she was able to achieve what she did during that time. She and few others were not part of the mainstream, but we all should be glad she worked tirelessly against all the odds.

    We are moving in the right direction now thankfully, so we can admire the contribution of both the sexes.

  7. DC2010

    Does anyone know where I can find this on DVD or BluRay? I think this is one of the coolest documentaries I've ever seen, but I can't find it anywhere to buy.

  8. Cokan

    The subject is great, but the way it is presented is simply - annoying. This guy should never be on tv.

  9. yourboycal

    I love light <3 and the challenges it brings forth =) I tip my hat to all the great men and women of history who were all important in what we know today . Even the ones who didnt get famous but still count . I wish we could all get along and play nice but i guess im asking for something improbable =*(

  10. pertsa


    You characteristicly are bashing science here unfairly.

    And for sure we have only the ability to observe and make theory.
    As did the people who made up god...

  11. Kazan

    When I look at this kind of documentary i can ask my self if science is made just of a 3 nations English, French and Americans....

    Thats a lot of b@##$%&*. For example Michael Faraday was something like Bill Gates now. He really don't invent much but steal a lot and then make money of it and never say who really invent smt. I expected a little more objective documentary... rather than a bunch of lies about a greatness of English. And yes there could be even womens scientist.

  12. Ramus

    Why have nations like England, France, America, Germany been at the forefront of scientific discovery? Because they have had the economic backbone to make those discoveries. Its a sad fact but no money = no technology. England was able to advance science because of its (mainly) secular nature. Muslim countries are struggling to advance technology because of its religious dogma. Your comments are typical of someone that wants to blame other people for their own nations reluctance to accept scientific endeavour because of religious hokum.

  13. Bob

    @Pamela > @Persta

    I agree, the presenter has a great deal of knowledge on the subject and I love the passion he has while presenting but I can't get past the unnecessary skew he places on historical entities that have very little to do with the subject matter.

    We get it you don't like the church, super, great, move on.

    You got your extraneous religious bias in my documentary of the evolution of the science and understanding of light!

    ...not as good as the chocolate and peanut butter thing.

    ...and fix you damn teeth its 2010 for gods sake.

  14. natasha rose

    @ Bob & Pamela

    Not once does the presenter give a personal opinion on any religion, he simply takes the viewer on a journey, quoting different discovery's at different times throughout history.

    The truth of the matter is the church has been hugely repressive to any discovery's that jeopardize their teachings and way of life, and by mentioning that he is adding crucial information in relation to how our knowledge has evolved through the centuries.

  15. natasha rose

    @ Kazan

    I don't believe your argument has any substance seeing as though the only quoted English scientist was Issac Newton.

    Who was undeniably one of the many great thinkers of our time.

    There have been no ¨lies about the greatness¨ of England, im guessing you just have a chip on your shoulder.

  16. Waldo

    @ Kazan

    Did you watch this or just start insulting it? He clearly gave much credit to the muslims for their scientific contribution, giving their work credit for inspiring what we later called the enlightenment. People like you have this huge chip on their shoulder and only see or hear what they expect to see or hear, no matter what is actually presented.

    @ Bob and Pamela

    He also clearly gives the church the credit for funding and beginning what later turned out to be the thing we call science. Simply because he also factually reported the churches reactions when scientists they funded came up with findings they didn't like means only that he was being truthful. Trying to deny the churches pathetic role in the suppression of scientific fact is why science lovers say the religiouse are blinded by religion.

  17. Brian

    lol...I used to think people grew up as the got older, reading posts like this just remind me that with age comes more influence over the persons mind. Of course our perspectives might be euro-centric, but guess what...its because the modern world most recently arrived out of England and is currently why we have a Global Capitalist World Economy. uggh, history and anthropology might be interesting topics for you guys if you can stand the reading and mind opening. Otherwise, stick to the bible for your science...uggh

  18. Matt Kukowski

    I like the merger of science ( hardcore science... feynman/sagan/lovelock ...etc.. ) and religion like Christianity. Sometimes just summing it up as 'god' and not acting SO scientific ( which can be mind numbingly complex as a whole quantum/cosmos level shit and everything between ).

    Sometimes retreating to religion just 'feels' comforting. Just as long as you keep science in mind to remind us to 'flesh out' our feelings. I ask those that are hardcore religious to be more scientific... and I do not ask scientists to adapt religion as that is their OWN choice. But science IS a must.

    peace out doc waters...

  19. david hanson

    light is a fascinating perspective as scientist point of view

  20. Guest

    well the british are uniquely ignorant about their own history. So whjats that tell you about their science?

  21. Guest

    Science and religion hold hands and walk down the path together. Because they have to explain everything in terrestrial terms. So they both lie to save their jobs, prestege, etc.

  22. Guest

    wow and if you look at every convienience of the 20th century, wasn't it Nicola Tesla, who made most of the discoveries? Edison was a fraud and a thief. And Einstein was an idiot. How can the speed of light be constant if you say time is not? velocity=distanceXtime?

  23. Oscar

    Hummm.... Homie12, to me you demonstrate how a small amount of knowledge can mislead people into thinking that they are more expert than they really are.

  24. Guest

    uh dont just cheap shot, explain yourself, thank you.

  25. Guest

    I would like top know what exactly are you talking about?

  26. Guest

    No he didn't, I respect Nicola for his contributions but he propably contributed like.001% of all discoveries in the 20th century... think about it dude... really...?_? and Edison was a shrewd business man who is no longer my hero but not a fraud... Homie, you need to go back to the "hood" and let the big boyz talk intellectually especially if you can diss Einstein. Oscar is right, go get a degree in something before you go acting like some "expert"

  27. Guest

    can you explain what you are talking about please? Since it seems like you think you are some kind of expert, I would like to understand where you are coming from. no harm in that?

  28. Guest

    lol ok big boy where did you get that percentage? If you would look at his patents you would have something to think about. Have you done any research? I am not nor do i think im an expert. Is that what you think about yourself? Have you reviewed the war of the currents? Slander and messenger killing is typical of those who wont review their own paradigms. I post what i say to get objectivity and not to feed an ego. So please explain where im wrong and not just ridicule me. 1 thing that makes us human is we can ask the questions. Im not brilliant but i can ask some fundemental questions. its those questions that are questioning the current paradigm.

  29. Guest

    Hey i can take a good insult. But dont insult yourself by making nonsensical ones. So give it your best shot not a blind cheap 1. thanks for your responses.

  30. Mathew Scannell

    generalizing isn't cool man

  31. clay dawson

    ....and IF that were the case, it wouldn't necessarily tell you anything about their science; for the fundamental fact that science was conceived to be as objective as humanly possible, history cannot be.

    so, in addition to not generalizing, take the time to develop a cohesive thought before you post it.

  32. Guest

    Its funny how we choose to be intuitive and then turn it off selectively Clay. So if you have a coherent request i'd like to see it. And yes, cool isnt what im about. But whered u get thegeneralizing relationship to being cool thingy?

  33. azav

    God is light? Please prove that statement.

  34. Aaylsworth

    "and fix you damn teeth its 2010 for gods sake." LOL

  35. azav

    God is light? Please. No religion in my science.

  36. Tom Denton

    Simon Schaffer was being poetic!

    Is there room for poetry in your science?

    A wonderful four hour documentary about the development of science, our understanding of light and the world around us and you comment and judge the documentary at 0:44...

  37. chi13

    excellent! how true!

  38. wheelnut53

    I love this place so much better than HULU

  39. Justen Bontekoe

    Not religious here, but am loving the doc!

  40. Shalinur

    God is fundamentally a theory right? Isn't science full of theories? Nothing in all honesty is completely accurate in science. The speed of light was supposedly the fastest thing known until recording the speed of neutrinos. Which from what I may have misunderstood has potentially caused issues with science and in effect potentially science has been screwed for decades then.

    Just my opinion but I reckon there is an infinite universe beyond our spectrum of sense or measuring capacity whether your looking at the extreme small or vast big which will prevent humankind from ever truly figuring out an exact science to everything.

  41. Benjamin VanderWerp

    The neutrino findings were flawed. This has been known for over a month now.

  42. Milan Grce

    in the third part (the stuff of light) its all about electricity and not a word about Nikola Tesla!? disgrace..

  43. Todd Collins

    I find darkness to be comforting and peaceful. Darkness allows my innermost thoughts to come out more clearly.

  44. Todd Collins

    No god is a hypothesis. Scientific theories are hypotheses that have been confirmed through testing. The neutrinos thing was proven wrong once a faulty cable was replaced.

  45. Elie Hegbe

    Neutrinos is a proven theory. The SUN DOES produce neutrinos. Thats non debatable.

  46. John Asher

    Absolute zero is the absence of energy. So far it has not been witnessed in nature, nor in a laboratory. This darkness you speak of, or the absence of energy, is non-existent.

  47. GreatMoel

    Very good documentary. Enjoyed all parts. Good editing, music, and the logical historical approach was very interesting.
    Thank you for sharing it.

  48. vlboogie

    The issue is not whether or not neutrinos exist...the issue was that neutrinos were in a recent test measured to have traveled faster than the speed of light. However, it was found that a faulty cable to a sensor/GPS device was to blame for the measurement. Hence, neutrinos are still slower than light.

  49. vlboogie

    2010? One year ago was September 2011. Just saying.

  50. vlboogie

    Todd Collins specifically commented on how he finds darkness to be "comforting and peaceful"...not anything about the absence of energy.

    "This darkness you speak of..." - you portray yourself as having no familiarity with the term or concept of darkness. That's funny! Kind of like how in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Slartibartfast was unfamiliar with the term "cheese" that Arthur speaks of.

  51. LoggerheadShrike

    There's no room for poetry in science ... it's nature is very much prosaic.

    Not to say there's no room for poetry, or that a scientist can't also be a poet, but in science itself, no, there's no room for it.

  52. LoggerheadShrike

    Light is a constant from *any* frame of reference. It doesn't matter if time is variable. Stuff like this is why the physics isn't done in regular language, but in math, because it's the only language that demonstrates it properly.

    But to attempt a quick explanation: regardless of any time distortion the observer is experiencing and regardless of his velocity, light will move at the same speed from his frame of reference. He could try to follow a beam of light at near-light speeds, and it will still be moving away from him at light speed. It's the same with time distortions between different frames of reference.

    It's a constant because it is *not* relative to anything at all. It doesn't care how fast you're going, what speed your clock is ticking relative to other clocks, or any of that. Just about the only thing it cares about is if it is passing through a medium of some sort, like water (it's variable in that sense and only a constant in the sense of its speed in a vacuum).

    Tesla made some great discoveries and he did get screwed by Edison, but nothing he did really had anything to do with the physics of light - he did some experiments involving electrical lighting, but that's nothing to do with the physics of light itself, any more than inventing a new gas lamp would be. His work was mostly around electricity, magnetics, and radio waves.

    It's true that credit doesn't all go to Einstein, he's just one of a number of contributors to the physics of light and not even the most prominent really. Max Planck, Arthur Compton, Gilbert Lewis, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, these are all important names in the history of the science of light. A couple of those names also made the discoveries that Tesla built on (namely Faraday and Maxwell)

  53. Rampage

    An excellent documentary to do with the history of the science of light.

  54. Rafael Oprinsen

    Too many people misuse the word 'theory', A theory can always be disproven, but until they find a better explanation the theory is 'accepted'

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