Atlas of Places
Energy Landscapes I
Among the many advances made, none is more astonishing than the progress of light. A few years ago, light was an event only for the eyes. There was either light or no light. It spread through space, encountering matter, which more or less modified it but remained foreign to it. Now it has become the world’s prime enigma. Its speed expresses and limits something essential to the universe. It is thought to have weight. The study of its radiation is destroying our previous ideas of empty space and pure time. It resembles and is yet different from matter, in a mysterious mixture of ways. Finally, this same light that once was the common symbol of full, distinct, and perfect knowledge, is now involved in a sort of intellectual scandal. It is compromised, together with its accomplice, matter, in the suit brought by discontinuity against continuity, probability against images, integers against complex numbers, analysis against synthesis, hidden reality against the mind that would track it down and, in a word, by the unintelligible against the intelligible. Science seems to be facing its crucial trial. But the case will be settled out of court.
Location: Valais, Switzerland
Text: Paul Valéry, Regards sur le monde actuel et autres essais, 1938