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What is Light? The answer depends on your perspective

A simple question, but one with a not so simple answer. Or, to be precise, no single answer. To a physicist, light has a very different meaning to, say, a philosopher. Three scientists shine their own light on light.

Understanding the world

For philosopher Ignaas Devisch, light makes him think immediately of the Enlightenment. “The philosophy of trying to understand how the world works, in order to escape the darkess,” he explains. But there is also fire. A source of light and warmth. “Something that scientists need to take care not to lose sight of.”

The origin of all life

Biologist Matthew Shawkey sees light as the origin, the meaning of life. “Plants use light to produce food, which leads to the production of oxygen. Without oxygen there would be no life.” But you also need light to be able to discern colour. “Imagine how life would be if we were unable to see a rainbow…”

A wave of information

“For a physicist, light is an electromagnetic wave,” says Professor Natalie Jachowicz. That is the short version, because light is actually an enormous source of information. Information that can come from very far away. “From the sun, from distant stars, or even from other galaxies.”

Ghent University

This article was produced in collaboration with Ghent University, partner of Lichtfestival Gent. Read more fascinating stories about Ghent University research on