1. Quorum1
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    Quorum1 Member

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    How to light my underground community

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Quorum1, Sep 8, 2011.

    I'm having a mental blank with this and am hoping you can help me brainstorm more ideas. My current project is post-apocalypse, with some people living underground. I have one community that is in caves with no natural light available. Obviously they can't just get around in the dark, so where do they get light? The area they live is cavernous, so there would need to be a lot of light, not just torches.

    The other issue is vitamin D - though I'm considering bending the truth on that detail.

    The community is about 1000 people and has been established for at least one generation.

    Ideas? I have a few up my sleeve, but not entirely happy with any of them yet (mostly because of the vitamin D issue).
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    It depends on the nature of your post-apocalyptic word, but if it's nuclear in nature, then how about solving the lighting issue with irradiated stones?
     
  3. NaughtyNick
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    NaughtyNick Member

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    Quorum1, have you ever read The Time Machine by HG Wells? Most of the action takes place far into the future where evolution has resulted in humankind splitting into two almost distinct species. One species lives pampered, tranquil lives above ground, whereas all the ugly sides of humanity, industry and production has shifted below ground and is maintained by the other human types. The two species never mingle. The below ground species (I forget the name Wells gives them) spend all their days in the dark, never once emerging. All of Wells' stories are fantastical but he keeps their roots in accepted science (albeit the science of the early twentieth century), so he did explain how the below grounders managed to survive. But it was a fair while ago that I read the book, so I can't remember too much of the science. So, really I haven't been much help have I? But I think that if you read the book, it would give you a few ideas.
     
  4. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    The rock idea gets my vote too. I wouldn't even worry about if it's scientically correct. Maybe when they went underground they found a root that gives them the Vit. D they need and the rock was created when a bomb went off. (the lighted rocks being the only good part of the bomb)

    Maybe there are bees that live down there and their honey glows. I'm not trying to sound silly here, I can really see this working. :) Maybe their honey glows because they go above ground and get nectar from flowers that are radioactive.

    Good luck, let us know what you decide to do.
     
  5. Cain
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    Cain Member

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    I wondered if the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency would be interesting to a story, but it doesn't sound that bad - just tiredness and aches.

    I should imagine if you get forced to live underground after an apocalypse, then you're fairly screwed if you haven't got masses of stored resources.

    Oh, an idea just popped into my head - what if there's flowing water nearby (underground river etc). Doesn't take much expertise to build a water-wheel and knock up an electricity generator. The thing that would run out within a generation are the light bulbs though, so that might be an area for some imagination. There's also underground gas - maybe they can trap that somehow and you'll have a little gaslight community (how quaint!).

    Glowing bee honey? That's just crazy enough to work though :)
     
  6. Quorum1
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    Quorum1 Member

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    Good ideas! I had considered glowing insects, so the bee idea is not that nuts! It's an environmental apocalypse (ice age sort of thing), so can't use neuclear radiation. Electricity is a possibility, but as pointed out, what about globes?

    I like the gas lamp idea, and there could be something down there to cover the vitamin D that they could eat, or I could make the community a bit sickly, which could make it a but more interesting anyway. The book is a bit between sci-fi and fantasy, set in the real world with scientific ideas behind it, but definitely fantasy elements too. I'd call it science fantasy :)

    Maaaan - I can't beleive H.G. Wells stole my idea! Now I'm not going to be able to write it :p I haven't read The Time Machine, I think I shall have to now though :D
     
  7. Rebo
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    Rebo New Member

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    How about a bio luminescent root, the juices of which are harvested and stored in jars that are then used as lightbulb.
    The pulp can be used as your source of vitamin D.
     
  8. Mr Mr
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    Mr Mr Active Member

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    What about some form of luminous moss or plant?
     
  9. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was just about to suggest luminescent fungi/moss/whatever. Now going with the radiated rock idea(if it were nuclear caused apocalypse) you could have these plants sorta mutate and give off more light. Though not sure how accurate you want to be in the science. So I have no idea if this is even possible. But if you dont mind stretching the science a bit then some form of luminescent moss/fungi/whatever could help.

    Of course if this were Minecraft, you could just dig around for coal, make an underground tree farm, and just torch spam everywhere. That or get a bucket and find a lava source block? :p

    (sorry I just remembered a MC challenge where you have to survive in this huge underground cave system... that and 1.8 is coming soon so... yeah. :p )
     
  10. Quorum1
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    Quorum1 Member

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    Hehe, I have a younger brother who is addicted to minecraft - maybe I should pick his brain? Lava... now that could be an option!
     
  11. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    For light bioluminescence is your best bet. Fungii, some plants and insects all exhibit this property. So think glow worms, fire flies, and molds that glow in the dark. The water wheel idea from an underground river powering some light bulbs is also a good option. Another, assuming the caves were modded out, might be solar tubes,even if its very deep down. The river is also interesting because some rivers do have minor phosphorescence. Can't quite remember why, probably mineral content, algae and agitation.

    Vitamin D is a bigger issue. A lack of it along with a lack of calcium can lead to a condition called ricketts. (Deformed bow legs). However you can get Vitamin D from dietary sources including liver.

    Cheers.
     
  12. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    One of my early stories, "Nuclear Winter", featured the protag, who lives in caves, using various glowing animals(glow worms, fireflies) and so on inside jars with small holes in them as sources of light.

    I'm not very good at the Vitamin D part.
     
  13. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Interesting question. Another option is artificial light - i.e. they have a supply of lightbulbs that will last for indefinite decades/centuries to come, but will eventually run out.

    If you have any type of authoritarian regime in your story, giving them the power to shut off all the lights is quite a heavy deal. (Try reading "City of Ember" - this instantly sprung to my mind upon reading your OP).

    The glowing rocks is a cool idea, too. Also, what about lightening bugs? I realize the ones that exist in real life are far too small to light an entire society, but you could create a larger and more powerful (dangerous?) species of insects/birds that have enough light to illuminate the place.

    Really, this is a question that seems fun to figure out. There are so many places it could make your imagination stretch to.
     
  14. MarmaladeQueen
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    MarmaladeQueen Senior Member

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    Rickets wouls be a major problem. Vit D deficiency is a major problem for children and pregnant women.
     
  15. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I really like all these ideas. :)

    I've heard there's a lightbulb somewhere that's been left on for about 100 yrs. Back in the day they made the filaments much more durable. Of course that's when people cared about their product/invention working well and lasting long rather than making money. So there's a thought with the light bulbs if you choose to use those. They can last a very long time if they are made right.

    Edit- Found it! http://www.centennialbulb.org/photos.htm#anchor1234 I remember seeing this on mythbusters a long time ago. :p
     
  16. aimi_aiko
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    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

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    I agree with this poster. Completely.
     
  17. AllThingsMagical
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    AllThingsMagical Member

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    I think it was the Egyptian's who used to do the mirror trick with light but not too sure. Basically they set up underground rooms with lots of mirrors and angled one of them so it reflected the light from the sun outside onto the other mirrors. It lights up the room pretty well and solves the vitamin D problem. I guess it depends how far underground your community is and they would still need an alternate light source for night and winter.
     
  18. colorthemap
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    City of Ember got away with light bulbs, in fact the running out of them was the main theme. I don't know if you are planning a mass exodus or anything think about things like that.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a little puzzled about this - people use torches for light outdoors, where the ceiling is obviously a good deal higher than it would be in a cavern. :) That doesn't mean that you can't use something else, I just don't see why the torches and other fire-based light like oil lanterns wouldn't be an option. They wouldn't light the space up like streetlights, but I'd suspect that your underground people would be somewhat adapted to the lower light.

    Edited to add: I read that "the flesh of fatty fish" is rich in Vitamin D. If you have an underground river that such fish use for migration (do fish do that? even if they don't, maybe it's a small enough creative liberty?), you could solve both the Vitamin D problem and part of the food problem. (I'd be more concerned about food in general than about Vitamin D.)

    ChickenFreak
     
  20. Quorum1
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    Quorum1 Member

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    You make good points CF - thanks for your input. You're right, they will be adapted to low light, my other qualm with torches was the smoke, as there wouldn't be anywhere for it to go. Maybe it's because I have bad asthma - the thought of writing a setting full of smokey torches makes my throat close (how weird am I?).

    Food I have covered - this is one community of several, they are stealing supplies from a larger colony (lots of scope for secret tunnels in this world :D).
     
  21. Yggy Sprout
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    Yggy Sprout New Member

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    This is a spectacular brainstorm session. :D If you place your society close enough to the ocean, their cave system could feature mollusks, which have high contents of Vit. D. Maybe the intensity of light coming of of cave-adapted algae could be increased through human effort? Many of the bio-luminescent algae I discovered were living in very nutrient-depleted environments, so it could be a fun addition having whatever the human diet solution is also being used to make the algae more healthy. Algae farmers. :)
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There could also be old technology from a fallen high civilization, like self-contained lighting panels with a built in energy source that never seems to run out -- or does it? If some of the ancient light panels begin to dim or go dead, you have a source of tension.

    Also, if you have bioluminescence, consider what it does for the organism producing it. Is it merely a metabolic byproduct? If so, it will be wasted energy for the organism. But what if it is a lure to attract animals or plants within feeding range? Now you have a light source that people know to keep their distance from -- if they can.

    Even a "decorative" scene element can become a plot driver.
     

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