Block of the Week: Redstone Lamp
Light 'em up!
Natural light in Minecraft comes from several places. The Sun is probably the most obvious, but the Moon sheds light too. Below ground, you’ll find the glow of lava and redstone ore, and in the Nether you’ll find (a lot) more lava, magma blocks and glowstone. Fun fact: brown mushrooms and dragon eggs actually give off a teeny-tiny amount of light.
Minecraft also features artificial light. Beacons, various gateways and portals, jack o’lanterns, sea lanterns, torches, furnaces, ender chests, end rods, monster spawners and brewing stands all give off light. But none do so more elegantly, with as much panache, as our block of the week. It’s the redstone lamp!
Redstone lamps came to Minecraft in 2012 in update 1.2.1 - which also added iron golems, ocelots, chiseled stone bricks and jungle biomes. They give off a light level of 15 - the same as fire and glowstone - but only when powered by redstone. In fact, that’s how they’re made - by surrounding a glowstone block with four lumps of redstone dust in a crafting table.
Redstone lamps switch on under four conditions. The first is when there’s an adjacent active power source, like a block of redstone, a daylight sensor or a redstone torch. The second is when there’s an adjacent powered block - one that’s getting power from elsewhere. A third is when there’s a powered comparator or repeater facing the lamp, and the fourth is when there’s powered redstone dust either on top of or pointing at the lamp. It’ll activate instantly when switched on, but takes a few ticks to turn off when you remove the power.
Artificial lighting has been around longer than humans have. Our evolutionary forefathers knew how to illuminate an area using campfires and torches as much as 400,000 years ago, and prehistoric people used primitive oil lamps to light up their surroundings - filling a shell, stone or horn with vegetable or animal fat and a fibre wick. In some cases, particularly oily animals were caught, killed, threaded with a wick and then used as lamps themselves.
By the early 1800s, some larger cities had begun using the flammable methane gas emanating from their sewers to power a lamp - and you can still see one working in London, on Carting Lane down the side of the Savoy Hotel. Then in 1880 came electrification, and the modern lightbulb - which is now found across the whole world.
Electric lighting has changed how we live. It lets us be more productive in the evenings, reduces urban crime, and there’s even historical evidence that it has changed how we sleep. Humans used to sleep in two phases, it seems, with about an hour of wakefulness in between when people would read, visit neighbours and pray. But since the advent of electric lighting, allowing us to stay up later in the evenings, we’ve switched instead to a system where we sleep in one single chunk.
So next time you fall asleep on the sofa and wake up in the middle of the night, don’t worry. Be reassured that it’s perfectly natural!