Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Will you help me out?  I want to know your thoughts on three topics.  Hope, light and darkness.  What they mean to you, any thoughts you have. It is for something I am writing.

A random question: When it snows, and there is snow on the ground it seems much brighter outside. Better visibility.  Why? I know it is because the snow reflects the light, but does that mean the same amount of light is present even when there is not snow? Where does the light go when it is not being reflected? Where does the light come from?


Scott Abbott said...

Hi Joe,
you're asking some interesting and fundamental questions.
Here are a couple of quick thoughts from an honors class I'm teaching this semester.
The first is that a whole set of thinkers in the 18th century, in France and Germany and England and America, called their age the age of enlightenment. Light was their metaphor for scientific progress, for political advances including republican movement away from monarchies, and for leaving superstitions behind. Freemasons (the first lodge was organized in London in 1717 and they were a major force in the Enlightenment) used light in their ritual to symbolize the ongoing education and development of character of their fraternal brothers (blindfolding the initiate and then taking off the blindfold to indicate new light and knowledge, or using a Latin phrase that meant light shines in the darkness but the darkness doesn't comprehend it).

Near the end of the 18th century, after so much light, German Romantic thinkers started wondering about what the metaphor leaves behind or what it masks. The obvious answer is darkness. Novalis wrote a book-length poem called Hymns to the Night, praising the light while also praising darkness. Life AND death. Consciousness AND subconsciousness. The mind AND the body. Happiness AND sadness. And so on.

Is that the kind of thing you're looking for?

Kelsey Jillette said...

hey joe,
tom and i talked about your snowlight question while hiking on saturday. he reminded me that when light is not being reflected, it is being absorbed. the light we perceive is determined by how many light waves are absorbed and how many are reflected by what is around us. the amount of light reaching the earth is more or less constant (depends on distance from the sun), but day to day, our surroundings absorb different parts and amounts of that spectrum, and we only see what is reflected. white reflects all the colors of the spectrum, so when there is snow cover, we see the most light and all the colors we know. leaves and dirt, on the other hand absorb everything but the brown we see. i like trying to keep this in mind while looking around - makes me wonder how many colors are out there that my eyeballs can't perceive. forgive me if this is really obvious stuff to write- i had forgotten how it worked and found it cool to comtemplate.