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Discovery Magazine 3/1/2005

Cold Light

Have you ever tried to unscrew a light bulb from a lamp that has been on for 10 or 15 minutes? I don’t recommend that you attempt this, but if you have, you know that the standard light bulb gets very hot very quickly—and remains hot the whole time it is on. The average bulb lights up when the tiny filament inside is heated by the electricity that passes through it. Unfortunately, heat and light bulbs go hand in hand.About 95% of the energy produced by a light bulb is lost in the form of heat. For this reason, scientists have sought new ways to produce cheaper and safer forms of light.

One “new” form of light involves chemical reactions (without the addition of heat). You probably have seen this kind of light in the form of glow sticks (or light sticks). These “tubes of light” have become very popular in recent years. People use them for all sorts of things. Once when I was staying at a hotel and the electricity was off for a few hours, I used these sticks to see where I was going. People like them so much because they produce light without heat (and they look pretty cool, too!).

What people seem to overlook is that this technology is not new. Man did not invent this kind of light. It actually has been here since the Creation when God made lightning bugs. Lightning bugs (also called fireflies) are little beetles that carrytheir own “flashlights.” These insects have special chemicals called luciferin (lew-SI-fer-in) and luciferase (lew-SI-fer-ace), which they combine with oxygen to form a bright, heatless light. This process is called bioluminescence (by-oh-LOO-meh-NESS-sense)—the emission of light from living organisms.

For years, scientists have studied fireflies, in hopes of learning how they produce “cold light.” And they have been somewhat successful in making light from chemical reactions. But, scientists confess that light from fireflies (and certain other bioluminescent creatures) still is many times more efficient than what they can produce in laboratories.

The more scientists learn about the little beetle we call a firefly, the more amazed they are at its complexity. Sadly, many of these same scientists believe that the firefly simply evolved over millions of years—from who knows what. They dismiss both its obvious design and the Great Designer Who created it.

“And the light shines in the darkness, and the
darkness did not comprehend it”
(John 1:4).



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