What Exactly is Limelight?

You hear it all the time -- that so-and-so is "in the limelight" or "stealing the limelight" -- and while we all know what people mean when they say that, we may not have any idea what limelight actually is. It's one of those phrases that was a lot more literally true when it was coined, back in the 19th century, when theaters actually used limelight to illuminate their stages. Used for the first time in London's Convent Garden Theater in 1837, it had come into widespread use around the world by the 1860s. They were employed as ultra-bright spotlights that shone on the performers center stage, focusing the audience's attention while regular gaslights lit the rest of the theater. By the end of the century, electric arc lights had replaced limelight -- but the phrase lived on.

Limelight is created by exciting the atoms in a chunk of lime (also known as calcium oxide) by applying a flame to it, which creates an intense glow. It has other uses as well, most notably for breaking down organic materials (like corpses) and if you're creative, like King Henry III, for blinding one's enemies during battle. According to historian David Hume of Godscroft, Henry's navy destroyed an invading French fleet by, having "gained the wind ... throwing in their faces a great quantity of quicklime, which he purposely carried on board, he so blinded them, that they were disabled from defending themselves." (Don't try that at home, kids.)

Here's a fun clip showing what happens when you burn lime:

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TASCHEN
Everything You Need to Know About Food in One Book
TASCHEN
TASCHEN

If you find yourself mixing up nigiri and sashimi at sushi restaurants or don’t know which fruits are in season, then this is the book for you. Food & Drink Infographics, published by TASCHEN, is a colorful and comprehensive guide to all things food and drink.

The book combines tips and tricks with historical context about the ways in which different civilizations illustrated and documented the foods they ate, as well as how humans went from hunter-gatherers to modern-day epicureans. As for the infographics, there’s a helpful graphic explaining the number of servings provided by different cake sizes, a heat index of various chilies, a chart of cheeses, and a guide to Italian cold cuts, among other delectable charts.

The 480-page coffee table book, which can be purchased on Amazon for $56, is written in three languages: English, French, and German. The infographics themselves come from various sources, and the text is provided by Simone Klabin, a New York City-based writer and lecturer on film, art, culture, and children’s media.

Keep scrolling to see a few of the infographics featured in the book.

An infographic about cheese
TASCHEN

An infographic about cakes
Courtesy of TASCHEN

An infographic about fruits in season
Courtesy of TASCHEN

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