In 2014, the Nobel Prize in physics went to three Japanese physicists for creating blue LED light. Their successful invention happened in 1989. Some in our pop culture laughed and ridiculed the invention of a blue LED light being something worthy of a Nobel Prize. Was this just an example of science working in an ivory tower vacuum?

The thing about blue LED light is that we had red and green LED diodes for a long time but nobody seemed to be able to create blue. Then, after much long and hard work, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura did what no one else had been able to do. They found a way to create blue LED.

What’s the big deal about blue LED light you might ask? Just this – without blue LED light, you can’t make white LED light. You see, white light is made up of a combination of red, green AND blue light. And quite frankly, white LED light has changed everything; from energy efficient home lighting to the way we light our Christmas trees. White LED light is bright, energy efficient, cool to the touch and extremely reliable.

I think of the flashlights I had as a kid. They took a small incandescent light bulb and really large batteries. One of my dad’s flashlights would always go out and required a couple of hits with the side of my hand before it would go back on. It cast a yellowish light that only illuminated for what seemed like a few feet in front of me. (By the way, I still have that flashlight and I keep it in the pantry next to my high tech emergency LED flashlights for nostalgia’s sake. I smile every time I see it.)

Our new LED flashlights take less energy and give off a bright white beam that seems to go on forever, penetrating the darkest night.

We are called to shine our light into a dark world

Christianity has always been about light. “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5 NRSV). Sometimes I think that our modern world is so full of light pollution that we don’t always fully understand the power of the light and dark analogies. There is a tour in Mammoth Cave that goes down deep into the caves. The ranger asks everyone to stand still and remain quiet. The ranger then turns off the lights and you find yourself in as close to absolute darkness as you’ll ever experience. Only by the movement of your eyelids do you know if your eyes are open or closed. You move your hand toward your face to see how close your hand has to get before you see it but it’s so dark that you never see it. Instead, you’ll just hit yourself in the face. True darkness is haunting, disturbing, and even lonely. If the ranger doesn’t turn the lights back on soon enough, some will start to panic.

We are called to shine our light into a dark world. Even though, metaphorically we might say light is light, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura showed us a way to shine light more efficiently. I wonder what would happen if the church would discover or create our own elusive blue LED light? I wonder if there are ways to shine more brightly and more efficiently than we currently do? Are we are still using my dad’s old flashlight when the world needs a brighter, better spectrum light to see us through the glare of our troubled world?

 Dreisbach_bwDavid Dreisbach serves as Director of Communications for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Contact him at ddreisbach@diosohio.org.

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