This years Nobel Prize in physics has been announced, and it goes to three guys with a very... wait for it... bright idea. As we make the switch from incandescent light bulbs (the standard curly wire kind) to more energy efficient methods, a blue LED was the missing link in the development of LED light bulbs which could emit white, day-imitating light.
Already there are several questions:
First, a blue bulb will not give us white light. It will give us blue light. The reason we need it is that in order to make white light you need to mix the three primary colors: Red, Green, and Blue. Red and Green LED's have existed for a while now, but the blue ones have always been too difficult or expensive to manufacture. Which brings us to the second question...
LED stands for light emitting diode, and they are everywhere. Pretty much every little indicator light you see on an electronic device is an LED. These are the same LED's that are used (by the millions) in LED screens. They have two major advantages over conventional lightbulbs: They last far longer and they generate almost no heat at all.
Incandescent bulbs are hot. Really hot. Basically an incandescent bulb works on the same principal as the heating element from an electric stove: Let's heat this thing with electricity until it gets so hot it glows. Less than half of the energy put into an incandescent bulb is released as light, the rest is heat. This is a big waste, unless you're planning on using light bulbs to heat your house (good luck sleeping in a room full of 75 watt bulbs). LED's release (almost) only light, enabling us to get the same amount of light for far less electricity. CFL bulbs, while more efficient than incandescents are not as good as CFL's and still generate a lot of heat. Also they are full of mercury and phosphorus, two profoundly unhealthy elements. If you read the fine print on the package, they strongly suggest you to leave the room for at least an hour if you break one.
Now that the first three are covered, now for the important one: What does this have to do with the library? A few things, actually. As the repository for ALL KNOWLEDGE, pretty much any subject is fair game for a library blog. Furthermore, given that many WHS library users are here for the computers, devices that would not exist without LED's. And lastly, do you think these guys just woke up one morning and said "Hey, I think I'll make a blue LED today"? No. They said "Hey, I think I'll research semiconductors and crystal growth. Again. Just like yesterday, and the day before, and the day before. In fact, I can't remember a day in the past year when I haven't done research." Okay, so they probably didn't say exactly that and whatever they did say was in Japanese, but you get my point: Nearly every great scientific development ever has required hours and hours of research, a process which libraries and librarians are famed for supporting.
It may surprise you to know that an old dinosaur like me occasionally uses facebook. I admit I only signed up, initially, so I could play scrabble. It seems to me that the majority of what my friends post can fit into one of the following categories:
Here's the latest development in #5: 12 Mistakes Nearly Everyone Who Writes About Grammar Mistakes Makes
Yes, are always mistakes to be made. In fact, #1 on their list points out that people are not often clear on the meaning of the word. But what I like most about this list over others is that it addresses the fact that language (and its rules) are not set in stone. Things change. And most importantly the rules of grammar are not there so one person can lord their knowledge over another. They exist to make communication easier and more effective. A great example is the word forte, meaning area of strength or specialty. Technically, as a word derived from French, it should be pronounced "fort." However, since the gross majority of English speakers pronounce it "fore-tay," if you told someone "My fort is building forts," they might be a bit confused.
If your adherence to the rules makes you incomprehensible, I would say those rules have failed you. As Emerson said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.
- Neil Gaiman
That is the question posed by Ruth Graham in her latest Slate article. She goes so far as to say we actual adults should be "embarrassed" to be reading so-called "children's books." Let's start by pointing out the fact that children and young adults are two completely different groups of readers, separated by about 3 years (the Tweens, as they say), you'd think Ms. Graham would have taken the time to check on that before completely dismissing one of the most popular and fastest-growing areas of fiction as all "children's books."
Before I go bashing Ms. Graham and her myopic view of a genre* that includes some of the greatest books ever written, it is worth noting that as a high school librarian it is part of my job to read books for young adults. So even if we accept her stance as 100% correct there's no reason for me to be embarrassed. She must be writing about other adults with less interesting jobs. I'm just admitting that I may be a bit biased, just like her, only I have better reasons than my own need for smug superiority. I should admit that she does have some good points, in particular that that 55% of YA purchases were made by people over the age of 18, i.e. actual adults. Now many of these were probably made by college students and other people who qualify as "young," and still more were probably purchased by parents for teenaged children, but I'll bet there are still a sizable number purchased by full-grown, not-young-at-all adults like me. Based on this shouldn't we be asking not whether adults should be embarrassed to read them, but why these books are separated from mainstream fiction in the first place?
Just as there isn't really a clear cut line between childhood and adulthood, there isn't a clear divide between YA and "regular" fiction. And books that were written before the existance of a large YA market could now be considered "young adult," and often are shelved with them. A few titles that come immediately to mind are The Lord of the Flies and The Catcher in the Rye, but the list could go on and on. Graham argues that YA novels tend towards neatly packaged endings, based around what teenagers want to read, and that adults "ought to reject as far too simple."
But she seems to forget that people my age, which is also her age** were young adults when the Harry Potter novels turned the YA world into something immensely and uncontrollably popular (and profitable to the industry, I might add). We grew with it, or maybe it grew with us, and before that there wasn't the huge variety of YA titles available. But is there even a clear cut time when we are supposed to stop getting excited for an authors latest novel to hit the shelves, to buy it at midnight and read it as quickly as possible for no other reason than to be able to re-read it sooner? Perhaps Ms. Graham has a different view of adulthood than I do, one where you can only read serious books that were purchased during normal business hours, and can't enjoy them if the ending is remotely positive for any of the characters.
Now, if an actual young adult were to argue that one of the common themes throughout all young adult fiction is alienation from the adult world, of trying to find something unique and private and special to you alone in a society that pushes conformity and obedience. And that, in a sense, adults reading YA are taking that special thing out of the young adult world, that by making it more mainstream they are taking away the very thing that makes it good. If the common point of YA is that adults don't understand teenagers, that can't really survive if it's read primarily by adults.
But Ruth Graham didn't say that. She just said we should be embarrassed.
* we could debate if YA is in fact a genre, but that is another blog post for another day
** I looked it up
Those who don't read good books have no advantage over those who can't.
- Mark Twain
Well it is. And how did you celebrate? By reading "The Notebook" again?
Books get challenged and banned for all sorts of reasons, but generally "quality" is not one of them. Often people take issue with the language used (as in Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), or violence (as in The Hunger Games), or when - well - actually I don't know why on earth anyone would try to ban A Light In The Attic by Shel Silverstein. But in a country of 300 or so million individuals, no book is going to please everyone, no matter what those book clubs say. And some of those 300 million may not only dislike a book, but feel it is so wrong that other people (children in particular) should not be allowed to read it.
On the other end of the spectrum are those that get some idea that a challenged book is somehow "fighting the good fight", as if the author set out to offend people and challenge censorship (which is sometimes, but not often the case). They see, perhaps accurately, a nobility in fighting an unjust system, a la Atticus Finch in that famously challenged (and just plain famous) book To Kill a Mockingbird.
But as you consider both these sides, it's important to stay grounded in reality, and look at just which books are being challenged. As you consider books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, and A Wrinkle in Time, keep in mind that the most challenged book of 2013 was the epic, modern classic of American Stoicism: Captain Underpants.