Review: The Facts of Light by Austin Darragh
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This collection, a fascinating exploration into light and its sources, has lessons for all of us, argues Tom Prendeville
God said 'let there be light' and thereafter the world unfolded.
The Facts of Light, by Professor Austin Darragh, is an extraordinary collection of scientific and philosophical essays on the natural phenomenon of sunlight and man's attempt at replicating it via artificial electrical light.
Dr Darragh is a scientist, medical doctor and a specialist in endocrinology. In a stellar career spanning six decades he founded the Cancer Society in 1963 and was the driving force behind the establishment of the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland. He is now head of research in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Science at University of Limerick.
According to the author, light has a profound impact on all aspects of life on this planet, from food production to health, to the many ills of modern society such as road rage and stock market collapses.
Written in layman's language, The Facts of Light begins at the Book of Genesis, when God decreed that there be light.
Dr Darragh calls God the Grand Original Designer and takes the reader on a journey where they discover that everything from sunlight to RTE TV's radio waves, which beam the nightly news into our homes, are forms of electromagnetic energy and that all solid objects, from a coffee table to a bottle of wine, are essentially frozen energy.
Even more intriguing, our entire world has more in common with a hologram, owing to the fact that the atoms that make up everything from a Biro pen to a 5 cent coin are composed almost exclusively of empty space.
The main premise of the work is that sunlight has rules that we ignore at our peril. If we work against it by living a late night lifestyle illuminated by electric light we run the risk of obesity, severely impaired judgment and developing a range of ailments from Type 2 diabetes to heart disease.
Conversely, if we follow the old saying 'early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise', we may indeed acquire all those gifts. And it is all due to the light- sensitive pineal master gland that controls all the other hormones in the body.
"The world is killing itself due to unnaturally high cortisone levels caused by trying to stay up half the night. Thanks to electrical light we are trying to change the way we have lived for thousands of years. As a consequence, executives are becoming a dying breed and we have the irrational behaviour that can cause stock market collapses," explains Dr Darragh.
As the book's opening notes observe: "No matter where we are living on this planet we all share the sun, blessed with its gifts and cursed by its penalties."
Dr Darragh describes the sun as an enormous nuclear power station which can be harnessed for all our energy needs. In one single day the energy from the sunlight hitting Earth is the equivalent of all the fossil fuels that have ever been burned in recorded history.
He observes that it is foolhardy trying to carry out on Earth the splitting of atoms in nuclear power plants, with all the attendant radioactive waste problems, when we can get the same benefits for free from the sun at no cost and no danger.
To develop the idea further, he explains the miracle of photosynthesis and how invisible solar energy is converted by the green chlorophyll in plants into solid organic energy which we can eat and use as a viable fuel: be it alcohol created from sugar or wood bio-mass burnt in a stove.
No stone is left unturned, and the author even discusses how our souls may be an indestructible mass of electrons which carry the code of our entire being onwards for eternity.
The Facts of Light is a ground-breaking, thought-provoking book that will be read in 500 years' time.
Sunday Indo Living