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Effects of perpetual darkness.

Discussion in 'World Building' started by druidofwinter, Oct 24, 2013.

  1. druidofwinter

    druidofwinter Sage

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    OK guys, this might be a tough question to answer.
    My world is flat and circular like a table, and in the center of the world stands a mountain at the top of which is The Lamp. The Lamp gives light to the world just like the sun does for ours, but it does not give the heat. Well, the Lamp is taken away and the world is left in darkness. What effects would this have? How long would it take trees and plants to die? How long would it be before humans started to suffer from light deprivation? What about land animals, in general how would it effect them? Anything else it would substantially change?
    I know this is a tall order, but any help would be greatly appreciated. :)
     
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Xkcd did a What If? on this topic not long ago. It mainly lists the positive side effects of the sun going out, but concludes that the negative side effect would be that we'd all freeze and die.

    I think the article is probably more amusing than useful for you, but it does point out some interesting side effects that at least I wouldn't have thought of: Sunless Earth
     
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  3. Ayaka Di'rutia

    Ayaka Di'rutia Troubadour

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    I imagine many plants would die off within a month at the most without any sort of light. When it comes to humans, a wave of depression may sweep through the population due to the lack of light (natural sunlight helps produce happy chemicals in our brains), as well as confusion and even fighting for other sources of light.

    Animals could be in a similar state of confusion, and may just end up dying off after sometime, at least those that don't see well in the dark. Predatory animals are more likely to thrive in the dark than herbivores and humans, as they are more likely to see better in the dark.

    Such a world would create an interesting story dynamic, that's for sure.
     
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  4. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

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    What technology (torches/fires) or magic does your world have for alternative light? Does it need heat in general?

    You might find your humanoids gathering around these alternative light-sources. Even animals that might have been hitherto unwilling to risk humanity might be drawn by these isolated beacons.

    I was formerly a lighting designer in theatre, I specialized in opera. One of the key things to remember about lighting is that it can both "conceal and reveal." It can conceal not only in the shadows, but by blazing a light behind an object or person. Revelations in dark or severely dimmed light are also possible, but may rely on other senses, specifically sound (music), but also in scent.

    Lights also draw attention. In theatre, it's a great way to focus action on a particular part of the stage or given action on a stage. If the eyes of your denizens are like the eyes of our earthly creatures, than they are drawn to light, any light.

    I know this isn't perhaps the direction of answer you were looking for, but my first thought in a total blackout would be an alternative light source. If I saw one that wasn't my own, I'd certainly want to investigate it.

    Also, if I recall correctly, there are many fungi that bio-luminesce and thrive in darkness.
     
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  5. druidofwinter

    druidofwinter Sage

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    Just to clarify, my world is at a medieval leave of technology, so the only other way to get light is to start fires. As far as magic goes the four druids that live in the world could generate a light that could cover several square miles, but it would not contain the UV rays needed by many living things.
    Thanks to all who have replied thus far.
     
  6. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

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    Another feature of lighting that is often ignored in everyday life is timing.

    I'm not sure how much help it would be in text, but I can tell you that, truly, even 1/10th of a second in the speed of a light's dimming or raising can make a difference on stage---in combination with, say, a musical score or an actor's given action.

    Lights can also take several minutes or hours to change. On stage we'd see this, say, in Madama Butterfly's overnight vigil for Pinkerton, also known by the aria, "Un bel di vedremo." Traditionally, this is done by lighting afternoon, through sunset, deepest night, and sunrise into day.

    I bring this up because as lights slowly progress into brightness, different features are, again, "concealed and revealed." A familiar shape may turn out to be a stranger. A stranger may turn out to be a friend.

    Sorry, I get very excited by lights. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013
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  7. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

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    Fires flicker and shift, they cast shadows that create a great deal of movement. That shadowed movement can easily trick the eye. In what I've heard referred to as "matrixing," your mind will try to create order out of shadows. You may have had the experience yourself, when you see something in the darkness, and you're sure you know what it is, only to have the lights come up and reveal something else entirely.

    Your mind can kind of stutter at that moment. Most minds aren't happy at having their preconceptions challenged.

    Torchlight, campfires, and bonfires are a dream to play with, lighting wise. Intimate moments can occur in the dimmest of light. Bonfires bring great light---and heat---but potentially great danger.

    Another fun source of light in pure darkness is lightning! Oh, I love to play with lightning!
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013
  8. deilaitha

    deilaitha Sage

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    Suicide rates are much higher in places above the Arctic Circle.
    Not only would you have a huge wave of depression, but after so long you might see an epidemic of suicides.

    Also, anything that relies on photosynthesis would die. Anything that relies on those plants would die.

    All in all, I don't think that your world would have anything living in it within a year, if not sooner.
     
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  9. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

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    A few thoughts on lightning...

    Lightning gives you instant, brief flashes of incredible brightness---rivaling or even surpassing (potentially) daylight.

    It also has the effect of throwing things into a sort of negative view in the moments after in the mind's eye.

    Another effect that would result, say, from a less-than-natural lightning would be a sort of stop-motion effect. If you've seen horror movies where the baddies move, but you don't see them moving; strobing lightning would do the same thing. I wouldn't encourage "dance-club" strobes, because the human mind so quickly latches on to patterns. But off-set (in timing) flashes can achieve a similar effect.

    Lightning can linger. By that I mean it can flash bright, and secondary/tertiary strikes can allow the light to remain bright (with lesser peaks and troughs) before dimming completely.

    And I'm still super excited by lights. And lightning. :)
     
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  10. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

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    Can't help myself. I hope I'm not being annoying.

    Think of darkness as a jewel. You can use lighting to carve facets into that jewel. In essence, you retain the darkness as your centerpiece, but the lights are used as tools to give it a more defined shape and meaning.

    Whereas your initial lamp-like source, for sake of comparison, could be viewed as a diamond faceted by shadows, your darkness could be viewed as onyx faceted by light---from a design perspective.
     
  11. druidofwinter

    druidofwinter Sage

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    Thanks to everyone who has replied thus far, you guys are really helpful.
    @Sam I'm not annoyed :)
     
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  12. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

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    Thank you for not being annoyed! :) It's been a while since I've played with lights/lighting, but I still get very excited about it!
     
  13. Quillstine

    Quillstine Troubadour

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    Awesome thread. Really good question. I am no Sam Evren, I have no technical training in light and to me it's just something I expect when I flick a switch or wake up in the morning!
    One of my ultimate books, one I have been penning since a young boy, deals with this very same issue in a slightly different way. My planet is one of four, orbiting twin suns. It gets thrown into perpetual darkness by magic, which helps escape the heat and UV issue; I just decided these can get through without the light! Still it's hard, the usual answers for living with a lack of sun is - Death. Plain and simple. Making it impossible to make the situation feasible in any other manner than "I'm the writer and I said so"! My planet is dealing with this issue long term, so the circumstances are a little different from yours, but I want my planet to still have civilizations and sustainable life, long term, with no sun. Honestly, I rely on creative license a lot to make that plausible (Don’t you love it when you need the fact that life without the sun is plausible for your world, but readily feel able to justify wizards and witches!)
    Major issues are heat, obviously difficulty living with a lack of light, depressions, the lack of vitamin D (which people have lived with, all be it turning a pasty white, for several years) and photosynthesis requiring organisms. These say you’ll be dead quickly, months. That’s no fun and to me there obvious results. It gets interesting on the deeper level….
    As Sam Evren said, timing, but on a cycle level. My wife is an animal scientist, or was, and I used to trail along to her uni classes when I had nothing better to do. The chicken pens they study at where in total darkness, with huge “sun hue” globes stretching across the roof. Essentially the coop keepers would switch these on and off to control the chicken’s sense of timing. They could make them lay whenever they wanted to within 15 minutes, control egg output by making the chickens think the days were going faster and do all manner of freaky things to their phycology.
    You said this is medieval times, do they hunt for food. How would they cope when animals stopped following their cycles? Stayed in dens and never came out to feed, making them easy to hunt.
    Fertility cycles & mating seasons would also be effected, species will go extinct just because they would no longer populate without the sense of timing. Females would not go into fertility seasons, chicken would not lay eggs, bee’s not make honey etc… All because they would be waiting for “Day Time”
    Seasons would be gone also (I know your world had lamp, so maybe its seasons are different). Trees would suffocate under no longer having an autumn; plants would not germinate in spring and so no longer go to seed.
    Our innate sense of the day would be off, in medieval times (I assuming no atomic clocks!) how would groups calibrate to a social calendar. One village could be living a totally different cycle to another. How do they decide the making of a day, a month, a year? There are some truly mind boggling issues that come up when you really get into it!
    I would be really interested in learning all things you find out from here, and other places.
     
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