by Jane Brox
Souvenir Press (e-book)
Much of this book concerns the different ways in which people have produced light: from trapping fireflies in cages to threading wicks through seabirds full of insulating oil and lighting them. Jane Brox also presents fascinating facts about the consequences of our lust for light, showing how its increase has altered lifestyles by allowing more working hours and changing the way we sleep: medieval villagers apparently divided their nightly rest, kipping for four or so hours, waking up for quiet activity after midnight, then enjoying a 'second sleep'. When gas lights were introduced, streets were dug up for the laying of lines and accidental ruptures caused explosions. Then came electricity, incandescent lights, fluorescents and light-emitting diodes. And now, lighting companies are looking into organic LEDs, which should last 10 times longer than incandescent lights. But not all is brightness and light. Brox ends the book by looking at 'light pollution' obliterating stars in the night sky. Having come this far, she says, less light is needed, at least in the industrialised world.