Capturing Light

The Light Within: an Exhibition by James Turrell at MFAH.

100_3203Looking up to the heavens, a seeing person traps light from various seemingly rhythmic sources in the sky into his/her being, organizing the light in a way that is both innately determined, and actively externally influenced by environment and experience.

The artist playfully experiments with trapping light in dimension, reconstructing sometimes the illusion of solidity and shape by its creative manipulation, at other times clarifying the boundary between dimensions, and the perception of boundary through his work.

100_3219Moving from 2-dimensional projections to 3-dimensional projections, the observer is variously tempted and occasionally invited to break the plane of projection by introducing him/herself into light, forcing the internal dialog between observer and participant, the single individual who cannot simultaneously wholly be present in the same moment that actuates the broken plane and perspective that visualizes the broken plane, except with self projection onto other while using the time delay provided by memory.

100_3218At the end of his talk (click on the Guggenheim link through his name), Turrell likens some of his 3-dimensional works to temples.  It is an interesting analogy in the context of “The Light Within”.  If our own bodies are in a sense temples for a soul, how do we influence the dimensionality of this soul?  Our we, in fact, artists, sculpting the soul by experience and taste?  Can/does the color, shape and dimensionality of our captured light influence others in its manifestation?  Would God, in fact, find our light beautiful?

Both Islamic words for soul “nafs” and روح (rauacha) are very similar to (cognates of) the Jewish words “nephesh” (נֶפֶש) and “ruach” רוּחַ.  The philosophical conception of soul is also seemingly not so different – separating the soul into human and animal/plant parts.  I experience a soul where the distinctions are probably less hierarchical or divided.  I might define it as that entity which recognizes the entirety of one’s physical being, responding to injury in its various places, managing preservation in the context of changing challenge and environment.  Larger than this, and yet, minimally this.  With this definition, even a bacterium would have a soul.


100_3196100_3193_copyAs I write this, the coyotes outside rise to make the most unusual symphony, as if to give voice to their wild yet social soul/spirit.

I spent a little time today deriving one of the fundamental theorems of optics using a little trigonometry.

100_3239I did the proof after listening to the first 3-4 minutes of this optics tutorial where they define the problem.   I thought the first 5 minutes were great, and the last 5 minutes were insightful.  Everything else, pretty much systematization – necessary, but tedious.

Glass is considered to have been developed in 3500 BC Mesopotamia, with apparently some record of it having been used for optical purposes in 500 BC Egypt.  Its manufacture was apparently a closely guarded secret.  The first written records known to describe its use in optics occur after Jesus’ life in the context of Roman emperors using a glass of water to magnify letters.  The great physical insight in setting up the problem above, is not that a point is transferred through a straight line to an inverted point on the other side of the lens, but rather that light is bent (really the right word is refracted), AND that the point of intersection between these lines is where the image appears.  I wonder who first had that insight (maybe in the darkness of pyramids?).

I found another lecture that is a bit slower with a lot of geometry review.  It has lots of neat application questions including some with animals, roofing, driving, football, etc.  It has a superb illustration of virtual and real images with the rotating mirror, and also another illustration with a ping pong ball and a concave mirror.  There are some lectures (particularly those that are medically oriented) that I experience as “science with a shovel”.  The above lecture is more of a leisurely walk (and it gives you some time to think while you walk).

This last demonstration is almost entirely physical, and for that reason very nice.  Make up your own algebra to explain how this works!

Some language work:  Asking for medical help in Hebrew, the anatomy of the eye in German, how it works in Spanish, examining the retina in Arabic, macular edema in French.

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