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The Mystery of the Eternal Bulb

SpecialChem / Jun 18, 2008

It was little more than a night-lamp, a town benefactor donated to the firemen of Livermore to help them find the oil lamps in the darkness and it never went out from then on. It shines from one million hours, if the verb didn't sound excessive, dim but faithful like a votive lamp perpetually lit to weaken the fear of the dark of Americans, who today revere it as the totem of their hopes. The parable of the immortal bulb is much more than an incredible, but true, world record (it is mentioned in the book of Guinness World Records, indeed) or a freak right for a museum of strange things. Produced by Shelby, a company from Ohio in competition with Thomas Edison, that blown glass bulb with a carbon steel filament inside thick like a pencil, is a lay prayer, a candle the nation lights up in the moments of uncertainty as a little sign of continuity and hope. Every time the country goes through periods of collective difficulty, economic crisis, "bitter" wars, the newspapers, radios, and TV networks punctually rediscover the light bulb, to pluck up courage.

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