From Limestone Lamps to LEDs... How Artificial Light Has Changed Our World

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Could we live in a world without the lightbulb? Imagine having to wait for a full moon to travel at night. Or being locked in your house from sunset until sunrise, so the government could prevent crime and chaos in the streets.


Jane Brox, author of the new book, “Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light,” joins us to talk about the history of our relationship with artificial light, and how our ability to have light any time, anywhere has changed our lives and culture. Brox says that light is often associated with with wealth. Historically, light is connected to opportunity. In the 1930s it was proven that when farm children got light, they did better in school. In America today, light is more democratically distributed than it used to be; rich and poor neighborhoods have good access to light. However, a third of the world still isn't tied to electrical grids.

Produced by:

Samantha Fields

Comments [2]

AJ from Detroit, MI

Thanks for the insight on light.... it sounds like a must read for me.

Jul. 08 2010 11:08 AM
Rabbi Matt from UWS

One of the most famous Jewish rituals is directly related to this topic: the practice of lighting Sabbath candles Friday night.

Over two millenia ago (and until modern times) when the sun went down, you finished dinner and went to sleep. For most people it was simply too expensive to light the home after dark.

But the Rabbis of the Mishna (c. 100 C.E.) wanted to ensure that the Jewish people would cherish the Sabbath. So they instituted the requirement that there be a light source (i.e., originally an olive oil lamp; only much later did candles become common) by which to eat the Sabbath meal. Thus Sabbath observers were able to enjoy a transformative experience at least once a week -- a more leisurely and meaningful (and romantic!) family dinner.

Technically today's electric lights could fulfill this rabbinic requirement, but the atmosphere generated by candles or oil lamps cannot be beat!

Jul. 08 2010 09:28 AM

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