bp's science: limelight (v.1)

Back at the beginning of the nineteenth century, gas light took place of candle light. In actuality, gas light was only a little brighter than candle light. However, gas light was made superior by the material that was heated with a gas flame. In other words, the gas had to burn something, and that something gave off lots of light. The "something" that was burnt was an oxide (a chemical compound containing at least one oxygen atom and one other element). The most efficient way to produce a bright gas light was by soaking material in a liquid mixture of the oxide and then burning it with a gas flame. One such oxide was calcium oxide (CaO), or lime. This material would shine very bright and heat up to very hot, so it was only used in large lights (other oxides were used for smaller lights). These big lights were used to light up stages in theaters. This is where the term "limelight" came from and why we use phrases like "I enjoyed my time in the limelight."

This post based off of facts discussed in Oliver Sack's Autobiography, Uncle Tungsten

1 comment:

jo said...

Wonderful! I love facts like these. I had never thought of where "limelight" came from since it's such a common phrase we use I just assumed it made sense. Well, now it does! Thank you BP Science Tuesday. Keep the factoids coming.

You'll have to tell us how you liked the book. Fascinating man. Do you listen to Radio Lab?