All the Dark We Cannot See
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Illustration by Kazimierz Wiśniak
Nature

All the Dark We Cannot See

The Disruptive Effects of Light Pollution
Agnieszka Fiedorowicz
Reading
time 15 minutes

“The night sky is the heritage of all humanity, which should therefore be preserved and untouched,” proclaims the resolution of the International Astronomical Union. Excess light affects not only the lives of humans, but also interferes with the functioning of animals and plants. We need darkness to survive, just as we need light.

“When I think of dark nights, I think of this lake in northern Minnesota. On the longest day of the year, my father and I watch as the sun sets across the water and night begins filling a clear sky. Soon the Summer Triangle stands directly over us, Scorpio rises from the bay to the left. […] As a child I was afraid of night at the lake because the dark was so thick it seemed tangible […] like drapery. And the woods are still that way, but the sky is beginning to wear at the edges where gas stations hope to attract customers by immolating themselves in white light, and roadside restaurants blow their electricity bills straight into the sky. Each summer when I return to the lake I am no longer so much afraid of the dark as I am afraid for the dark,” wrote Paul Bogard in his essay published in the collection Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark. Bogard, who is a professor of creative writing at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, was one of 28 authors explaining how important darkness is for humans. This isn’t Bogard’s first book on the topic. Five years ago, he wrote The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light, where he explained how an excess of light can affect and disrupt the functioning of humans, animals and plants. “Just as we need light, we also need darkness to live,” he argues.

Shedding light

To, as it were, shed some light on the problem, let’s take

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Written in Sunlight
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Collection C.H. Florence – Leila et Silvia Florence/Jorge Bastos/motivo, São Paulo
Art

Written in Sunlight

The Curious Life of Hércules Florence
Katarzyna Sroczyńska

He invented photography before Daguerre. He travelled across the Amazon jungle, found a way to document the songs of birds without audio recording, and reproduced political pamphlets without the aid of a printing press. And yet, he was forgotten by the world for over a century.

“I am certain that printing using sunlight will be possible in the future,” Florence noted on 15th January 1833. The French inventor was in his late twenties. He was sitting at his desk in a picturesque Brazilian fazenda in São Carlos, a small town with a population of several thousand, 96 kilometres north of São Paulo. The summer was in full bloom. It was a time when many Europeans were trying to capture the light of the sun on paper, among them the painter Louis Jacques Daguerre. How come everyone knows Daguerre’s name and almost nobody has heard of Hércules Florence, even though he was the first to harness the sunlight? It was the surrealist artist André Breton who wrote that: “The greatest weakness of contemporary thought seems to lie in the extravagant overstatement of the known versus what is left to know.” Hércules Florence would probably agree.

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