Before the dawn of electric light in the early 20th century, humans mostly took cues from the Sun to determine when to sleep and when to stay awake. Now, however, our exposure to artificial light sources is nearly constant. City-dwellers are barraged with all sorts of lights at all hours of the night, and anyone with a laptop, an e-reader or even just a working lightbulb can choose to stay in light long after the Sun goes down. While these extra hours spent in light are widely viewed as more time to pursue work or leisure, studies show they might also be playing tricks on our body and cutting against our default biological rhythms.
How Electric Light Changed the Night combines a brief history of artificial light and sleeping patterns with a scientific exploration of the surprising ways artificial light affects us. The film was produced through a collaboration between the California Academy of Sciences and PBS Digital Studios as part of KQED San Francisco’s short science documentary series, Deep Look.
See also: Towers that mimicked the moon
Nice review, what ever you think of Edison:
Today we largely undergo variations on a theme — faster, easier, cheaper. Those in the Gilded Age, however, witnessed mind-bending changes in communication, infrastructure, transportation and entertainment hardly imagined beforehand. Buildings soared into the sky, people talked over wires, and steam-engine trains linked a nation. “Men and women of the nineteenth century were the first to live in a world shaped by perpetual invention,” writes Ernest Freeberg, a professor of humanities at the University of Tennessee, in “The Age of Edison.” And if there is one person who stands out as a chief architect in that transformative era, it is Thomas Edison.
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Who could resist a story like this?
City leaders, racing to bring their towns into the future and encouraged by electric companies seeking the same destination, tried to find better ways, cheaper ways, quicker ways to illuminate the American landscape. And in their haste to vanquish nature by erasing the line between day and night, they ended up looking to nature as a guide. They looked up, seeking a model in the largest and most reliable source of nocturnal light they knew: the moon.
And so, for a brief and literally shining moment early in the days of human-harnessed electricity, the future of municipal lighting was glowing orbs suspended high above cities — towers, resembling oil derricks, capped with 4 to 6 arc lamps with a candlepower of 2,000 to 6,000 each. These man-made moons made the ultimate promise to the people below them: that they would never again be in the dark.
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