Fire and Light

Burning mountain (Mount Wingen, near Scone) by Conrad Martens, 1874.

Mount Wingen in New South Wales, also known as Burning Mountain, contains the world’s oldest known coal seam fire. Thought by early European settlers to be a volcano due to the constant emission of smoke through fissures in the ground, it has been burning for 6,000 years. Wingen is the Wanaruah word for fire.

Arguably, the world’s oldest anthropogenic fire is the 2,500 year-old flame maintained by the zoroastrian community at the Yazd Atash Behram fire temple in Iran. A thousand year-old zoroastrian fire burns at the Iranshah Atash Behram fire temple in Udvada, India.

The world’s oldest working light bulb is the Livermore’s Centennial Light which has been burning more or less continuously at the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department in California since 1901. Its remarkable longevity is partially due to the fact that it was manufactured prior to the adoption of a business  strategy known as planned obsolescence, the intentional limiting of a product’s lifespan in order to increase sales. For fifteen years from 1924, the world’s biggest light bulb manufacturers formed the Phoebus cartel which both fixed prices and capped light bulb life span to 1000 hours.

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