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Hiding in the Light

   2014    Science
This episode explores the wave theory of light as studied by mankind, noting that light has played an important role in scientific progress, with such early experiments from over 2000 years ago involving the camera obscura by the Chinese philosopher Mozi. Tyson describes the work of the 11th century Arabic scientist Ibn al-Haytham, considered to be one of the first to postulate on the nature of light and optics leading to the concept of the telescope, as well as one of the first researchers to use the scientific method. Tyson proceeds to discuss the nature of light as discovered by mankind. Work by Isaac Newton using diffraction through prisms demonstrated that light was composed of the visible spectrum, while findings of William Herschel in the 19th century showed that light also consisted of infrared rays. Joseph von Fraunhofer would later come to discover that by magnifying the spectrum of visible light, gaps in the spectrum would be observed. These Fraunhofer lines would later be determined to be caused by the absorption of light by electrons in moving between atomic orbitals when it passed through atoms, with each atom having a characteristic signature due to the quantum nature of these orbitals. This since has led to the core of astronomical spectroscopy, allowing astronomers to make observations about the composition of stars, planets, and other stellar features through the spectral lines, as well as observing the motion and expansion of the universe, and the existence of dark matter.
Series: Cosmos 2014

The Empire of Reason

   2017    History
Al-Khalili travels to northern Syria to discover how, a thousand years ago, the great astronomer and mathematician Al-Biruni estimated the size of the earth to within a few hundred miles of the correct figure. He discovers how medieval Islamic scholars helped turn the magical and occult practice of alchemy into modern chemistry. In Cairo, he tells the story of the extraordinary physicist Ibn al-Haytham, who helped establish the modern science of optics and proved one of the most fundamental principles in physics - that light travels in straight lines. Prof Al-Khalili argues that these scholars are among the first people to insist that all scientific theories are backed up by careful experimental observation, bringing a rigour to science that didn't really exist before.
Series: Science and Islam

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