Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The History of Light

by Drew Martin
Even though we can see starlight from billions of years ago, light is fresh: we can create it with chemical, nuclear and mechanical means. With the quest for fire, humans discovered a powerful combination of heat and light. The electric lightbulb lit up civilization around 1880. Motion pictures were first projected in 1895. The first installation of a neon sign was 1912, the same year as the first red-green electric traffic light. In Times Square, the first large electric billboard was installed in 1917 and the first running electric display was installed in 1928. The first television screen was created in 1923 and the first LCD computer monitor was developed in 1972. When I think about light, I wonder just how long plain light will last in its simplest use - to illuminate, and how it will be replaced by informational light. Could, for example, headlights of cars contain signatures that would provide law enforcement with registration information, car-make and driver identification that could be picked up by a scanner. For that matter, could headlights even project images, like a drive-in-movie-for-one. Likewise, could street lamps also project or relay information about lost cats, garbage pickup, and parking. Light has always been a key to our existence but now it is a valuable resource for energy and information.