Hurray for Darkness!

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I’ve been gazing at the stars since I was a teenager. I used to lay down in a snowbank and spend minutes (it was too cold to stay out for long!) looking up at the stars decorating the sky above the farm where I grew up. Although we lived in the country, there was a bit of light pollution in the north – the orange glow of Edmonton outshining all but the brightest stars. But here, there is nothing to block the beauty! I’m amazed how dark it gets at night! When I am driving home after dark and I get to the highway, I stop, signaling right and looking left for traffic. There usually isn’t any, and I am struck by the darkness of the highway. Beyond the intersection, it is completely, utterly dark. It’s like the world just ends there – it’s so dark, it’s like you’ll fall off the Earth if you keep going. And while driving on the highway, I have the same feeling – just beyond the headlights, there’s complete darkness. This is, of course, assuming there’s no moon. When the moon is out, its light gives the land a beautiful, silver cast. And of course, the northern lights are often gracing the sky, bright enough almost to read by! Okay, that’s a bit too exaggerated… but definitely bright enough to see features in the landscape outside the headlights.
To many people, darkness is a bad thing. They are afraid, or at the very least uncomfortable, to be out in the dark. I wonder why that is… maybe it’s because over-active imaginations tell us there’s something to fear? I don’t find it scary, but reassuring. It reminds me that we are not the masters of the universe we think we are! There’s only light because we built devices to produce light, but outside of our influence, we must surrender and adapt to the natural ways of things. It’s natural for things to be dark at night, and we humans like to mess with nature, don’t we? So we install bright lights everywhere, and keep shop lights on all night long, so that we feel safer. Well, I’ve found that there are conflicting studies about security lights – some show they actually help the criminals! On the whole, we are meant to sleep in the dark – there are studies showing that people who have lights on at night, or who work shift work with bright lights at night, have less melatonin, and less melatonin leads to growth of certain cancers, such as breast cancer. There’s also evidence that excess light at night can cause children to be more hyperactive! Who knew?! You can read about all these studies (or find links to them) at http://www.britastro.org/dark-skies/health.thml?7O . So three cheers for darkness!!
Take care, everybody!

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