Friday, July 30, 2010

Jane Brox

Jane Brox is the author of Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light.

From her interview with

So many of us work under fluorescent lights on a daily basis and hate it; I'm currently sitting under fluorescent lamps that I despise. Why are we so bothered by fluorescent light?

It flickers; it buzzes; it's not constant. Some people have medical problems attached to fluorescent light. I don't think it's ever going to be accepted in the way incandescent light has been accepted. But a lot of our resistance to compact fluorescents comes from the history of light itself. Incandescent light is the light of the 20th century. It's the light that brought us into the modern world and is inextricably linked to all of our modern appliances and the modern home. It's also the light of the cities, in America especially. In 1920, when incandescent lights began spreading, for the first time the number of people in America living on farms was less than the number of people living in cities and suburbs. Incandescent light is the warm light of life, and fluorescent light is entirely something else. Fluorescent light was developed first in 1939, and I think General Electric imagined it would be the light of factories and working places and public spaces, and it continues to be that way until now.

And yet in 2012, when we'll start phasing out incandescent bulbs, we'll pretty much be stuck with compact fluorescents.

We're at a moment when it's hard to know where the predominant light of the future is going to be. I think compact fluorescents are an interim solution because of the problem of disposal -- every compact fluorescent light has mercury in it and it's not a great idea to be throwing them in the trash. There is all kinds of research and development going on around halogen lights and LEDs, but those aren't going to be in place in time for 2012 or 2014.

All of these lights have a much colder tinge to them than incandescent lights. Are we just going to have to get used to living under less warm-looking light?
I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue