Science in a Golden Age – Optics: The True Nature of Light



Light based technologies play a very important role in our daily lives and are in use all around us. The behavior and interaction of light with matter have fascinated scientists for more than a century. About thousand years ago, an Iraqi scientist Ibn al-Haytham wrote a seven-volume treatise book Kitab al-Manazir (The Book of Optics) in which he determined and shaping our understanding of vision, optics and light.

Ibn al-Haytham cross-examined the theories of light of Greeks men like Plato and Elucid, who asserted that we see things because light out from our eyes shines onto them. Instead Ibn al-Haytham correctly asserted that we see objects by the way light entering our eyes from outside either reflecting from objects or directly from luminous bodies like the sun or candle. His investigation methodology, which was comprised of experiments and theory collectively, was also extraordinary for his prominence on proof and evidence.

In this episode of Science in a Golden Age, theoretical physicist Jim Al-khalili looks at high-tech optics applications and traces the science of light back to the medieval Islamic World. Al-khalili remake the well-known Ibn al-Haytham’s “Camera Obscura” experiment with dramatic results and also disclose the work of Ibn Sahl, who correctly described “Snell’s law of refraction” centuries before even the birth of Dutch astronomer Willebrord Snellius. We can also see the work of Ibn Mu’adh who combined geometry and optics for the estimation of the atmosphere’s height.