Despite failing English, maths and science at school, Damien McNamara has published a book about astronomy and psychology.
More specifically, The Dark Side of Light details the effects of a blue light LED streetlight had on his son, Rueben, who has autism.
Although he had spent several years researching and experiencing the subject matter, Mr McNamara wrote most of the book in eight weeks, while working full time.
“I basically Googled write a book’,” he said.
“There was a few times when my wife didn’t see me for a few days.”
The book was the result of a “perfect storm” of circumstances, he said.
A keen amateur astronomer, Mr McNamara inherited an interest in the field from his late father, Danny.
Before his father died, Mr McNamara had made a promise to keep his son, Rueben, safe.
But three years ago, Rueben’s behaviour was becoming increasingly erratic, to the point of putting himself in danger, leaving his father at a loss as to what was causing the change.
It was only while attending a stargazers’ conference in 2018 that Mr McNamara was made aware of a link between blue light emissions and melatonin suppression.
He realised when Reuben’s behaviour changed, the New Zealand Transport Agency had just installed a 114W, 4000k LED streetlight about 12m from his son’s bedroom window.
Blue light is above 4000k. The older, high pressure sodium streetlights produce light at between 2500k and 3000k.
Further research revealed people with autism were hypersensitive to light, meaning the effects of blue light were worsened for Rueben.
Within three weeks of Mr McNamara making the connection, Rueben had moved house and showed a marked improvement.
But for his father, it was just the beginning of a journey which culminated in the publication of his book last month.
Mr McNamara started researching the effects of blue light, writing his findings down, and decided to share his story at the New Zealand Starlight Conference in Tekapo last year.
After presenting, he was blown away by the response from other attendees, many of them astronomy experts he had long admired.
“I spent two and a-half days at the conference as a nobody before I talked,” Mr McNamara said.
“Afterwards, people came up that I never expected to get praise from.
“Everyone knows the facts, but now we need personal stories.”
He then decided to self-publish the book, as a way to expand the reach of his research.
Mr McNamara was not against the use of LED lights, but said there needed to be more regulation on the type of light they produced.
And he was feeling positive that his story was being heard.
“The change could be 20 years off, but we need to know we are heading in the right direction.”
Mr McNamara will host a pre-launch of The Dark Side of Light at 6pm today at Adventure Books.