Brilliant

The Evolution of Artificial Light
By: Jane Brox
Narrated by: Randye Kaye
Length: 10 hrs and 15 mins
4 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Brilliant, reminiscent of Lewis Hyde's The Gift in its reach and of Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time in its haunting evocation of human lives, offers a sweeping view of a surprisingly revealing aspect of human history - from the stone lamps of the Pleistocene to the LEDs embedded in fabrics of the future.

Brox plumbs the class implications of light - who had it, who didn't - through the many centuries when crude lamps and tallow candles constricted waking hours. She convincingly portrays the hell-bent pursuit of whale oil as the first time the human desire for light thrust us toward an environmental tipping point. Only decades later, gas street lights opened up the evening hours to leisure, which changed the ways we live and sleep and the world's ecosystems.

Edison's "tiny strip of paper that a breath would blow away" produced a light that seemed to its users all but divorced from human effort or cost. And yet, as Brox's informative and hair-raising portrait of our current grid system shows, the cost is ever with us.

Brilliant is infused with human voices, startling insights, and - only a few years before it becomes illegal to sell most incandescent light bulbs in the United States - timely questions about how our future lives will be shaped by light.

©2010 Jane Brox (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Lots of lists with a new perspective of modernity.

This book starts out slowly. I bought it because it was cheap and I had no historical context to put the evolution of artificial light into.

I have certainly gained context. I am going to be checking out some of the books referenced in this one. I always feel a much deeper understanding of humanity when I gain insight into what most of our past was like. I always feel a much deeper connection to humanity when prejudices and real obstacles are laid out for me to see.

The interconnectedness of our own feelings of imagined safety combine with what seems like simple technologies to have huge impacts on the environment and the ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor. The often simple solutions to massive problems and a brief glimpse at a few of the inspired thinkers make the boring lists and the acceptable narrator worth your time.