Despite the protracted title, Scott Benjamin Gracie’s LIGHT, DARK, AND THE ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM: A Look at Everything Light, Associated Phenomena, Uses of the Electromagnetic Spectrum and the History and Types of Illumination is a surprisingly focused read. Informed by a lifelong obsession with science, technology, and (most importantly) light, Gracie’s book offers a comprehensive overview of the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, otherwise known as light.
All of which begs the question: how much is there to know about light? As readers without a pre-existing background in the topic will quickly realize, there’s a lot. As Gracie points out in the book’s introduction, light is an integral component of reality. It’s also part of the foundation of the visible universe—the existence of our sun and visible light go hand in hand. Without it, the world as we know it does not exist, and neither do we. Despite its integral nature, light is an incredibly complex and open-ended subject. Fortunately, Gracie approaches LIGHT, DARK, AND THE ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM less like a stodgy old textbook and more like an attention-grabbing PowerPoint. Be it the opening pages dedicated to light’s building blocks or the brief historical overview cataloging man’s understanding of light throughout the ages, the book’s text is continuously accompanied by stunning imagery. From the captivating, full-color photography to the vibrant graphics, the visual layout makes for an enjoyable, informative read from cover to cover.
For his part, Gracie wisely reduces each facet of his overarching text to a succinct, easily-understood explanation. His writing is also incredibly conversational, something that significantly expands the potential audience. Take, for instance, Gracie’s description of chemiluminescence, or chemical light: “Glow-in-the-dark products have been around for many years and have evolved from hard-to-make, expensive items to the inexpensive and [colorful] products we know today.” Gracie expands his point with equally straightforward descriptions of glow sticks, sparklers, and fireworks, dropping in just the right amount of ‘science.’ In addition to the many variations of visible light, readers will also find equally thorough overviews of technology (stage lighting, lamps), photography (cameras), astronomy (telescopes), and even an examination of the way light affects the human condition.
The sheer range of light-related topics Gracie assembles is nothing short of impressive. In fact, it’s this cursory approach that serves as the collection’s one and only real drawback–further detail on any specific topic will, unfortunately, need to be found elsewhere. That said, when viewed as an introductory survey of a massive, open-ended subject, Scott Benjamin Gracie’s LIGHT, DARK, AND THE ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM is an absolute success.
Beautifully packaged and meticulously researched, Scott Benjamin Gracie’s LIGHT, DARK, AND THE ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM: A Look at Everything Light, Associated Phenomena, Uses of the Electromagnetic Spectrum and the History and Types of Illumination makes for a great addition to any professor’s syllabus, curious child’s bookshelf, or even your coffee table.
~James Weiskittel for IndieReader