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Light and Dark: An exploration in science, nature, art and technology

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Encourages us to take a more careful look at many familiar phenomena, such as the variations in the duration of twilight through the year and the ability of human vision to misinterpret patterns of lines under certain conditions. Aims to be entertaining, instructive, diverse and unusual. Softcover.

In December 2001 Martin Creed was awarded the Turner Prize worth £20 000 for a work of contemporary art entitled ‘The Lights Going On and Off’. It consists of an empty room with its most conspicuous feature aptly described by its title. Clearly a book on a similar theme is timely, though unlikely to be so financially rewarding.

This book brings together a wide range of topics that would normally be found in separate texts classified as astronomy, zoology, technology, history, art or physics. The connection is the theme of light and dark, which may alternate either in time or in space. In the time domain, slow variations often determine when animals mate and sleep, patterns defined in seconds provide navigational information for sailors and flashes of almost incomprehensible brevity convey messages and data around the world. Spatial patterns in black and white define the area on which chess players compete and enable the computer at the supermarket checkout to distinguish baked beans from jam tarts.
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