Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Scientific Terms Used in LEGACY OF LIGHT

How do actors prepare for a role? It's called dramaturgy, and we want to share some of it with our audiences! For Legacy of Light the dramaturgy includes bios of key figures Émilie du Châtelet and Voltaire, a glossary of scientific terms used in the play, as well as musical selections that show up in the production. Read on to find out more!


Brown dwarf: Stars are formed from collapsing gases which have sufficient mass to generate their own heat and, therefore, light.  Planets are formed from the dust leftover from these colossal events, which is why they are captured by stars.  Brown dwarfs are “failed stars” – bodies which collapsed but with insufficient mass and density to generate their own light.

Dark matter: A hypothetical form of matter that is believed to make up 90% of the universe; it is invisible (does not absorb or emit light) and does not collide with atomic particles, but exerts gravitational force.

Elements of the Philosophy of Newton: Voltaire published this book which he wrote with help from Émilie (her Latin was apparently more fluent than his, and Newton, like most scientists of the period, wrote in Latin for an academic and international readership).  Voltaire’s book helped to popularize Newton’s theories with French audiences.

Gravitational collapse: This is the point at which massive objects collapse under their own gravity.  The force is so great that not even light can escape; the consequence is a black hole in the universe.

Newton's Laws of Motion: Newton's three laws of motion are physical laws that define the relationship between the forces acting on a body and its motion due to those forces. The first law states that every body remains in a state of rest unless it is acted upon by an external unbalanced force. The second law states that acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated), the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object). The third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton’s Principia (Philosophiae Naturalis Principiae Mathematica): Published in 1686 with help from Sir Edmund Halley, the Principia states Newton’s Laws of Motion, the foundation of classical mechanics.  Émilie translated the Principia into French, but it was not published until 1759, ten years after her death.  Émilie’s Principia is still widely read in France.

Rubin, Vera: an American astronomer who pioneered work on galaxy rotation rates.  Rubin is credited with proving the existence of “dark matter,” or non-luminous mass, and forever altering our perceptions of the universe.

Stellar nursery: A region within a nebula where stars are forming.

Vega: Vega is the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra, one of the brightest in the night sky and one of the closest stars (“only” 25 million light years away) to our solar system.  Olivia calls her planet, which revolves around Vega, Vega B.

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