TBTW: The End of Night by Paul Bogard
It’s been a very (very!) long time since I wrote anything here. If it is any indication of what I’ve been doing, I’ve seriously considered writing TBTW posts multiple times this semester about my textbooks. My textbooks! I could write reviews of McQuarrie’s Physical Chemistry textbook or the Williams version of Nuclear Physics. Or… I could not. I chose not, and the result was a lack of TBTW posts. And the incredible quantities of work that make me want to run away from my computer screen screaming means that not a single post has been written this semester. Not that I haven’t been having fun and doing things worth writing about. Maybe I’ll be better next semester.
But I’ve been working all semester to read a few pages of one book or another every night, and I’ve finally had the opportunity over Thanksgiving to finally finish one. Often, for me, the amount of time I take to read a book is inversely proportional to how interesting I find it. But this isn’t the case for this book. The End of Night is a truly fascinating book which put into words my constant frustration with the lack of stars. I love the stars, as I believe I’ve mentioned. I stare up at them in San Mateo whenever I get out of my car at home. I stare up at them in Somerville whenever I walk home after dark. Sometimes, I even lay out in the street (the almost-never driven on ones, I promise!) to stare up at the stars the clouds let me see. Every time, I am frustrated by the lack of stars I can actually see.
So is Paul Bogard. He was so frustrated by it that he decided to research the locations in the world where he could see – really, truly see – the stars. The places we can travel to where we can see the Milky Way Galaxy the way our ancestors did. The empty spaces where the starlight is enough to travel by, where moonlight is enough to read by, and where electric light is totally and entirely unnecessary. He collected his stories of travel into a non-fiction book filled with facts about light and light pollution, with suggestions of places to travel, with ideas of what we can do to keep the night sky shining and flickering for our children and their children and all the generations after that.
I’ve always found the winter sky more star-filled than the summer sky, perhaps because the world is dark earlier, so more stars have a chance to come out when we’re still awake. And with winter also comes the opportunities to cuddle up with a blanket, a cup of hot chocolate, and a book. I’d recommend Paul Bogard’s The End of Night for anyone on your gift list with an interest in science, but also for anyone who likes the stars.
Oh, and for those of us in the West, Bogard says the best spot to see the stars in the continental US is either Great Basin National Park or Natural Bridges National Monument.