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Light Research @ MMU

Light theme at the Institute of Advanced Study, Durham

I have recently commenced a 3 month fellowship at Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study. Each year, the institute selects a particular theme, and this year, the theme is LIGHT. 9 scholars each term, from a wide disciplinary background, are invited to explore, discuss and think about light in the beautiful environment of the 18th century Cosin’s Hall (for a list of this year’s fellows see There are a wide variety of events being held to investigate the numerous ways in which light can be investigated: here’s the full list:

January 20th, 2014 - 15:40pm

The Campaign for Dark Skies

The Campaign for Dark Skies points to an aesthetic loss as well as to the environmental, social, health and economic problems produced by poor and excessive electric illumination, identified according to five criteria that define ‘light trespass’, ‘light clutter’, ‘over-illumination’, ‘glare’ (where contrast between dark and light is great) and ‘skyglow’.

While the first four generally occur in urban areas, skyglow has become so extensive that it pervades areas far from cities, deterring the attempts of astronomers to gaze upon nocturnal skies. The Bortle scale 1-9 measures the darkness of the sky.
See and

February 1st, 2013 - 13:32pm

The Social Lighting Movement

Light design has been an important element in the upgrading of urban centres, heritage districts, cultural quarters and other prestigious areas of cities.

However, though illumination has been utilised to develop public and private buildings, squares, commercial centres, entertainment districts in these spaces, more marginal urban areas have been neglected by the trend to enhance places by illumination. In these low status places, we usually find functional fixtures and dreary sodium lighting. However, mobilising slogans such as ‘Light is a right not a privilege’, and ‘People before places’, the Social Lighting Movement has been founded in order to create a network for lighting designers and other interested parties to collaborate on improving lighting for those who are lack access to good quality illumination. The key principles of the SLM are: to design well lit environments for social and underprivileged housing areas; to involve the community in the actual design of their own environment; to encourage other designers to work in similar environments; to educate housing associations, housing management teams and social housing ownership bodies about the benefits of good lighting; to gain the support of city administrations, urban planners, architects, landscape designers, electrical engineers, lighting designers and other associated disciplines; to influence politicians and decision makers; to promote responsible energy use within lighting design; to persuade people that they have the right to expect good lighting; and to never use sodium. As the Social Light Movement proclaims, ‘Vive La “Light Revolution”!’ We anticipate that in the future, we will look back with embarrassment on the shoddy, unstylish lighting that continues to saturate most urban space, including the housing estates and suburbs that have been so utterly neglected by urban planners and local politicians. See

January 28th, 2013 - 13:38pm