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[P]
McDonalds In Space? It'll sneak up on you

By jesterzog in Op-Ed
Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 10:12:00 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

For those of you who don't know, the International Space Station (ISS) has recently had the largest and most powerful solar wings ever installed, making it one of the brightest objects in the sky after the Sun and the Moon.

From the article above: "Fantastic! No binoculars, no telescopes," [Daniel] Goldin (a NASA administrator) said. "It's a symbol of what great accomplishments we've made."

This is one way to look at it, I think it's costing us a lot - and I don't mean monetary.


This recent story which included this short thread prompted me to post this story. The picture looks nice, but consider the amount of light being aimed up into the sky.

As an amateur astronomer I have a biased interest in light pollution. Traditionally light pollution has come from the ground, but the ISS opens up an entirely new threat which I'll get to below. First though, some background.

Astronomers obviously consider excessive light a bad thing. Light from towns and cities washes out the sky, making it impossible to see the stars. I live amongst about 100,000 people, and I still have to travel at least 100km (roughly 75 miles) to get a decent view. Even then it's not optimal.

If you've never been under a really dark sky, it's a beautiful sight. It's possible to get light pollution filters for some telescopes, but looking through a filter with a telescope is poor compensation for being able to see the sky as it is.

A common argument defending light pollution is that astronomers are a minority in the community. If they have to travel away from civilisation to do what they enjoy, it's no great collective loss. On it's own this has merit, but I think it's also narrow minded. One of my favourite quotes from the front page of the New England Light Pollution Advisory Group (and I've quoted it here before) says:

"Imagine children growing up without being allowed to see trees or birds (or any other aspect of nature): now, how is this any different from preventing our children from seeing the stars? But by our thoughtless erection of outdoor lights everywhere --- without consideration of glare and light trespass, without consideration of safety, without consideration of the right to privacy, and without consideration of the energy waste and the waste of taxpayer dollars --- we are making it so that a very small percentage of children are able to grow up in the world today with the ability to see and ponder the wonders of our beautiful starry night sky.

"Indeed, after a full century now of outdoor electrical lighting, one must wonder what a lot of the lighting manufacturers and installers were thinking when they put up such glary monstrosities as now permeate our world. And there is real overkill in the sheer numbers of outdoor lights now in existence! Far fewer outdoor lights are needed than are now lit every night, particularly over streets, highways, and parking lots."

This explains perfectly how I consider the night sky - as a scarce resource that can be enjoyed. I don't expect or need everyone to agree with me. There are a lot of other reasons why people should be conscious of lighting besides protecting the sky, like efficiency and security, for example. (As opposed to perceived security from having lots of light lazily splashed everywhere, making shadows darker and producing more glare.) Unfortunately as some here will be familiar with, it's difficult to get some messages through to people.

What does this have to do with the International Space Station? Ignorance, mostly. The majority of today's developed population has grown up in cities, never having seen the night sky properly. Some wouldn't care anyway, but others are being denied the chance to experience what they're losing. People see it as a great and fun thing to have a really bright and easily visible artificial bright light shining down on them from space. It's likely that most won't care after a week of it.

The quote in the opening shows the typical media slant on things. I don't see how putting a reflective object in space is a "symbol of great accomplishments". It probably could have been done thirty years ago, and now the marketing of it is just a gee-whiz thing for publicity.

Moving along, it's one light and it orbits - it's not up there the whole time. But where is this leading? Read on.

In January 2000, the International Dark-Sky Association posted two articles (article 1 and article 2) expressing concern about giant advertising billboards in space.

To summarise the articles, Space Marketing Inc, based in Roswell, Georgia (USA), proposed to launch a billboard one kilometer (a bit less than a mile) in dimension. It would be visible for about 10 minutes out of every 90

In a twist of irony when challenged about the disruption of the night sky, Space Marketing Inc said it had intended to display environmentally friendly messages and symbols on it. The content is hardly the point, but it still opens the door for any number of commercial ventures. My point here is simply to ask: Do you want your quiet, romantic evening sunset away from civilisation to be sponsored by McDonalds?

A project like this hasn't taken off so far, but unless people in developed countries start to notice and take the sky seriously it's only a matter of time before it does. The night sky is valuable real-estate! It could also be political. For example, one government might spread propaganda to citizens of another government in a similar way to the USSR's alleged plans to nuke the Moon during the space race.

Billboards or not, artificial lights from space would destroy the environment as we know it. It takes at least half an hour for people's eyes to adjust to the dark for properly looking at the night sky. This could be near impossible with bright lights continually overhead, impossible to escape wherever you are in the world. Obviously there are ethical issues about one person's right to force a message onto everyone, irrespective of whether it's commercial or political. This is not just a problem for astronomers, but for everyone.

What I'm trying to do with this article is bring the problem to people's attention, and get any feedback and experiences people have had with light pollution in general. If you like the idea of living and working in space then that's great. I do too. But also keep in mind the environmental problems that bright light causes, wherever it comes from.

Usually we don't really need it - invading light is either from bad design or popularity contests. What is this obsession people have with bright lights?

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Related Links
o installed
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o article 2
o Also by jesterzog


Display: Sort:
McDonalds In Space? It'll sneak up on you | 64 comments (62 topical, 2 editorial, 1 hidden)
-1 Bad title, and Pizza Hut is there already (1.95 / 20) (#1)
by farl on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 05:27:53 AM EST

What exactly does the article's name got to do with anything? Besides, Pizza Hut was there first. Do some research. Try find that lovely picture of the Russian Rocket that has the massive Pizza Hut logo on it.


Farl
k5@sketchwork.com
www.sketchwork.com
Please explain what you mean (4.00 / 5) (#3)
by jesterzog on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 06:18:44 AM EST

I don't follow. How does the title not have anything to do with the article?

Did you read to the halfway point when I got up to commercial orbiting billboard advertising, which is a lot more visible and invasive than Pizza Hut sponsoring the side of a rocket. Just do a text-search for 'McDonalds' in the story if you don't want to read the whole thing.

(For the record, McDonalds was a stereotypical example.)


jesterzog Fight the light


[ Parent ]
Not a small percentage. (3.64 / 14) (#2)
by titus-g on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 06:07:19 AM EST

*we are making it so that a very small percentage of
children are able to grow up in the world today with the ability to see and ponder the
wonders of our beautiful starry night sky. *

A small percentage in the 'civilised' world maybe, but nitpicking aside.

I do know people, now in their 20's who have never really seen the stars, this came as a real shock for me, I grew up in the country and am used to occasionally brilliantly clear nights, and it's something everyone should have the chance to see and feel.

That any company could even consider destroying/distorting that for commercial gain...

Homebrew surface to space missile kits for christmas to all my family I think :)

--"Essentially madness is like charity, it begins at home" --

Life in the country... (4.66 / 6) (#5)
by theboz on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 08:48:49 AM EST

I agree that everyone should get that chance. I don't know if there is really that much urban sprawl that it is necessarily difficult to get away from the lights, but most people that do live in urban areas tend to stay in there few square miles that they are familiar with and won't go a little futher to get away from the lights.

I have spent a lot of time in the Appalachin mountains, and at night it is beautiful in the sky. I have spent many days sleeping under the stars while in the mountains, and not only do you see the stars, but also the stuff they call "heat lightning", the details of the moon, meteors and other things called falling stars, and perhaps a comet if you are lucky. Also, one of my best experiences of looking at the sky was while I was laying on a cliff at night. It was complete silence around me, I was laying down and because I was above almost everything around me, I could only see the sky. I felt like I was actually in space at that moment and off of the Earth. It was a nice feeling but all too rare in most people's lives.

My girlfriend has lived in the big city all her life, and we are going to Arizona next week so I think I am going to try to take her out in the middle of nowhere to look at the stars so she can see what has been one of my greatest inspirations.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

Inspiration. (4.00 / 3) (#25)
by titus-g on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 02:45:16 PM EST

Auroras are probaly mine, the first time I ever saw one was on the way home from a friends funeral, and it was, hey the sky looks a bit weird over there, before we got home the whole sky was waves of coloured fire, it's not something you can describe, but it's not something you ever forget.

It's also one of the very few things I ever get evangelical about.

so I'm shutting up now before I use up my years superlative quota :)

everybody, go outside, go north, look up...

--"Essentially madness is like charity, it begins at home" --
[ Parent ]

Eeek! Eeek! Stupid people-o-meter going off! (3.50 / 20) (#6)
by 11223 on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 09:11:48 AM EST

A common argument defending light pollution is that astronomers are a minority in the community. If they have to travel away from civilisation to do what they enjoy, it's no great collective loss.

That's right. It isn't much of a collective loss. But may I remind you of what Robert Wilson said when a Congress committe on defence asked him about the application of particle physics to defense? He said that "It has only to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. I has to do with, are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate and honor in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending."

--
The dead hand of Asimov's mass psychology wins every time.

Well... (2.50 / 12) (#7)
by AgentGray on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 09:36:05 AM EST

Can commercialism pollute anything else? Marketers are always looking for eyeballs.

When is it ever going to stop? I greatly enjoy looking up at the night sky. I definitely don't want to see an ad or billboard flying over the horizons.

As a pilot, I would also want to campaign against something like this. There are enough destractions that one has to look out for already (birds, other planes, passengers, etc).



poor little luddite (1.68 / 25) (#9)
by cryon on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 11:22:47 AM EST

Imagine that--your expensive toy worthless, unless you hop into your Land Rover and drive, all so that science can advance and maybe the hungry peasant billions can have a better life. The very thought!!

HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

NIMBY==NOT IN MY BACKYARD (1.88 / 9) (#10)
by cryon on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 11:26:05 AM EST

That's some backyard you got, fella....
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

About ISS brightness (4.18 / 11) (#11)
by Kartoffel on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 11:28:47 AM EST

Dan Goldin was just drumming up publicity (that's his job). The new solar array actually doesn't make ISS any brighter. Heavens-above.com has a good explanation why.

The new panels certainly have a huge area, but they will be oriented towards the Sun to maximise the energy generated, and most of the light will be reflected back towards the Sun and not in the direction of observers on the ground. The panels will actually cast large shadows on the rest of the ISS and it's even possible the brightness will be slightly less!

Although the new panels might not increase the brightness, one can safely say that the ISS will generally become brighter as new modules are added over the coming months and years. As a rough guess, it might reach magnitude -3 at its best, which is much brighter than Mir and Sirius, the brightest star in the sky at magnitude -1.4.

Thoughts on pollution, population (4.66 / 18) (#12)
by NoNeckJoe on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 11:36:26 AM EST

I remember when I was a kid growing up in Salt Lake. One clear night I was straining to make out the night sky in my back yard and was lucky to make out the big easy constellations. My dad threw me into the car, drove me 50 miles outside of the city along I-80, and amazed me with the wide swath of stars that filled the sky.

Years later, I moved to Boulder. During my first year there I became a real meanace on my bicycle. Every night I would ride home from campus, more intent on the sky than on where I was going. Two years later, this became impossible as development creeped up from Denver, creating one sprawling swath of homes.

I've moved a few times since them, and now I find myself in a small ski town in Northern Colorado. Again, the night sky is amazing, and I am very happy to be living here (and hacking when most people are slaving at restaurants or running ski lifts). But this town keeps growing, and is becoming a more popular destination every year (after all, I moved here too).

A simple fact of life is that population grows, people move to the beautiful places because of the beauty there, and wind up spoiling the beauty in the process. The real kicker is that most people want to preserve their own little corner of the world, but contribute to it's destruction none the less. Without anything to galvanize public support, little can be done to change anything.

Take for example the environmental protection legislation of the 70s. A series of disasters (Love Canal, Three Mile Island) increased public awareness, and gave the public a common cause to rally around. A friendly political administration (Jimmy Carter) provided the means to pass environmental legislation. The circumstances were right, and laws were passed that still infuluence us today.

Without this sort of political environment (described very well in William Lowry's thesis "The Dimensions of Federalism , there is very little that can be done. We all may think the same things, but our selfishness, lack of organization, and need for a common cause prevent us from moving forward.

-- No Neck Joe!

Space Advertising Prohibition Act of 1993 (4.40 / 10) (#13)
by interiot on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 11:39:39 AM EST

Here's a link to the text of the (presumably failed) Space Advertising Prohibition Act of 1993, along with a humorous Java game depicting the efforts.

ISS: BTDT (3.66 / 9) (#14)
by Kartoffel on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 11:41:01 AM EST

ISS isn't really a great accomplishment. If the US needed a space station, they could ramp up and have a good one completed in a year or two.

The ISS program is just a rehash of older projects. It has grown so large that the ISS program won't die. If you really dig down, you'll find that the ISS program never had any defined goals. Science? Exploration? Feh. We're doing it because NASA needs something do to.

Meanwhile, the Europa orbiter mission has been pushed back to at least 2010, there are no plans to return to the moon, and NASA's Mars strategy is focusing on a quickie manned flag-planting mission, rather robotics or serious study of long term living in space.

Living in Space (3.66 / 3) (#15)
by Kartoffel on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 11:48:22 AM EST

Replying to myself, eh? Oh well.

We already know that long term exposure to microgravity is bad for humans. You lose bone mass, your metabolism slows, etc. Heavy excercize only delays the effects. On top of that, you have to worry about micrometeoroids and increased exposure to radiation.

We also know that 1 g (Earth gravity) is sufficient to keep people healthy. we don't know whether one third or one sixth g is enough for people to remain healthy.

Carl Sagan once proposed returning to the moon and building a small station or base on the surface. We don't know if 1/6th gravity is enough to support life. Even if 1/6th isn't enough resistance, Mars's 1/3rd gravity could be enough--the problem with Mars is that it's really far away. Setting up a small station on the moon is at least an order of magnitude cheaper.

[ Parent ]

That's why we need a space station.... (4.00 / 2) (#48)
by PenguinWrangler on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 06:30:26 AM EST

We already know that long term exposure to microgravity is bad for humans. You lose bone mass, your metabolism slows, etc. Heavy excercize only delays the effects. On top of that, you have to worry about micrometeoroids and increased exposure to radiation.
And one of the places where we've learned most about long-term exposure to microgravity is Mir. The Russians had people in Mir for FAR longer than America has ever had anyone in space. A space station near earth is an ideal place to test out new exercise regimes that can help reduce muscle shrinkage and bone loss from microgravity. Again, the Russians are currently the experts.
A space station is an important testbed for learning the things we need to know to send people to Mars...

"Information wants to be paid"
[ Parent ]
Stretching our wings (4.00 / 2) (#31)
by interiot on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 04:32:25 PM EST

If you really dig down, you'll find that the ISS program never had any defined goals. Science? Exploration? Feh. We're doing it because NASA needs something do to.

The same could be said of the first flights of the Wright brothers. I bet they were doing it more out of a "wouldn't it be cool if...?" rather than "well, if we could fly at 100 knots rather than drive, we could get from point A to point B 50% faster".

Maybe it's just nice for humanity to increase its abilities for the sake of it. We never know when an ability will become useful (and possibly be critical in the case of space).

[ Parent ]

Any more info? (3.50 / 2) (#32)
by AgentGray on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 04:34:41 PM EST

...NASA's Mars strategy is focusing on a quickie manned flag-planting mission...

Where is your source for this? I'd be interested in learning more about it. It seems to me that NASA just wants to take pictures and send robots to study soil samples.



[ Parent ]
Manned Mars Missions (4.66 / 3) (#36)
by Kartoffel on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 05:54:02 PM EST

It seems to me that NASA just wants to take pictures and send robots

Yes, that's the near term plan. The long term plan, besides robots, is to look at sending people to Mars to stay there for few months and return to Earth. It won't be long term habitation, althout it is a serious option that may eventually happen.

NASA's long term plans are publicly available; they're on the web somewhere, though I will admit I haven't looked recently. I work at Johnson Space Center where some of the long range planning happens. I'm not directly involved in the Mars stuff. At this point the plans are still really high-level. We're not rushing to Mars the same way we went to the Moon in the 60's. There are plans, but they're on the back burner until the ISS program nears completion.

Mars Mission Objectives
NASA conducted a series of workshops to define a set of objectives and supporting rationale for a Mars exploration program. The workshop chose 3 objectives:

  1. To conduct a human mission to Mars and verify that people can ultimately inhabit Mars
  2. To conduct applied scientific research for using Martian resources to augment life-sustaining systems.
  3. To conduct basic scientific research to gain new knowledge about the solar system's origin and history.

Since past mission studies had characterized manned Mars missions as inherently difficult and terribly expensive, the Mars Study Team added 3 nearer-term objectives:

  1. Challenge the notion that human exploration of Mars is a 30-year program that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars
  2. Challenge the traditional technical obstacles associated with sending humans to Mars.
  3. Identify relevant technology development and investment opportunities.

To be more specific, NASA is planning to (eventually) land people on Mars and return them safely to Earth. To make the trip worthwhile, we must learn to live and work effectively on Mars for 2 years or more without resupply, with minimal communication to Earth. The near term robotic missions will help catalog Martian geology, so future missions can find the resources they need on Mars.

Mission Profiles
There are 2 likely trajectory options between Earth and Mars. The first short-stay will take about 400 to 650 days for a round trip, with only 30 to 90 days at Mars. For example, depart Earth in mid January 2014 arrive at Mars in late August 2014, leave Mars late September 2014, swing by Venus in mid February 2015 and return to Earth in late July 2015.

The second trajectory allows as much at 500 days on Mars, but the round trip time may be as much as 900 days. For an extended stay mission, you might leave Earth in late January 2014, get to Mars in late August 2014, don't leave Mars until late November 2015, and ride a relatively quick return to Earth, arriving in July 2016.

[ Parent ]

Great stuff! (3.00 / 1) (#50)
by AgentGray on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 10:51:02 AM EST

You should post that reply as a story and ask for other ideas to Mars. It was a great read, and thanks for the reply.



[ Parent ]
Light Pollution (3.58 / 12) (#16)
by madbilly on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 11:58:33 AM EST

I'm also an amateur astronomer, and about 5 years ago I did a project in school on light pollution. The teacher laughed at me and didn't realize that light pollution is a serious environmental problem.

We must make the "cities" realize that, if they change their street lighting, the cost of doing so would be paid back within a few years, and they would then be saving money. The streets would be just as safe and bright, but at the same time there would be less glare, and the light would be kept out of the sky.

This is the first step in eliminating light pollution...

Much better things to spend money on (2.80 / 5) (#21)
by ewan on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 01:48:08 PM EST

So changing the street lighting would pay for itself? How? I can see using a more energy efficient bulbs might pay for themselves, but thats different from a system that would reduce upwardly directed light.

I live in a city, you know what I want? Reduced crime, better traffic management, less pollution, and maybe some trees. If someone tried to make me pay taxes to make the sky darker at night before trying to deal with those 4 i'd laugh in their faces.

Plus of course, even after you've gotten rid of the lights you're still going to be blinded by those clouds of carbon-monoxide.

Ewan

[ Parent ]

I'm so very glad you asked... (4.40 / 5) (#23)
by madbilly on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 02:41:14 PM EST

How will changing street lighting pay for itself? I'll attempt to explain how. Please note that my figures are rough estimates acquired from the DarkSky Association and email correspondence with Canadian Astronomer and Author Terence Dickinson.

First of all - the problem. The glow from cities such as Toronto or Calgary can be seen up to 100km away. This results in a waste of about $1.5 billion worth of energy every year by North America alone, because 30% of the energy is spent lighting up the sky! At this rate, the view of the night sky will surely be completely destroyed in most areas by the year 2020. It's a pretty sad state of affairs when cities have to close their Astronomical Observatories because light pollution is so bad! (Case in point - Mount Wilson in 1985).

Solutions to this problem include what is called "full cut-off" lighting, which involves shields that extend below the centre of the light sources. Things like billboards should only be illuminated from above.

Getting into specifics of actual light bulb types, a gas like a low pressure sodium (LPS) would be more efficient to use, instead of a high pressure sodium gas, or old mercury vapour or metal halide lamps.

For example, in Quebec in 1984, it cost the city of LaSalle about $600,000 to convert to a mixture of LPS and full-cutoff lights. This money was paid back in savings in just 4 years! These kinds of lights use less electricity which is great considering North America's extremely heavy demand for it.

I find it ironic - you state that there are better ways to spend money. How right you are. Couldn't that $1.5-2.0 billion dollars spent lighting up the sky be better spent elsewhere?

[ Parent ]
But changing the light bulb won't darken the skies (1.75 / 4) (#28)
by ewan on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 03:42:48 PM EST

Using an efficient light bulb will save money, of course it will. But how will it reduce light going into the sky?

Shields around the light sources won't save money themselves (unless theyre highly reflective and need little or no maintenance), they'll just stop light going upwards.

Two solutions to two different problems as far as I can see? Maybe i'm missing a piece of information noones posted yet.

Oh, and no offence but ill be completely ignoring those figures themselves as i have a slight feeling they'll be insanely biased towards their own agenda, just as the figures always are in this kind of situation.

Ewan

[ Parent ]
That's an old tactic, you can do better (3.25 / 4) (#38)
by KindBud on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 07:04:30 PM EST

Oh, and no offence but ill be completely ignoring those figures themselves as i have a slight feeling they'll be insanely biased towards their own agenda, just as the figures always are in this kind of situation.

That's the spirit! Ignore any information that might change your mind. Way to go, Rush Limbaugh!

--
just roll a fatty

[ Parent ]

LoL (2.66 / 3) (#41)
by ewan on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 08:18:01 PM EST

Yeah, because taking biased data at face value is a valid way to make your mind up. If i was to change my mind over this it would be by reasonable arguments just as he's doing, and certainly not my some numbers plucked out of the air by a consultant somewhere trying to avoid having to use a reasoned argument and instead just swamping people with big numbers.

False or biased information is often even worse than no information at all.

Ewab

[ Parent ]

Geez! (4.33 / 3) (#44)
by ghjm on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 12:18:39 AM EST

Have you ever seen an old kerosene lantern? They used to come with reflector shields. If you sit the lantern on a table in a dark room and try to read a book, you can't. If you put the reflector on and aim it anywhere near yourself, all of a sudden you've got plenty of light to read by. And these aren't "highly" reflective, they're just dull metal.

Suppose you have outdoor lighting fixtures that consume 1000 watts each and throws light in all directions, including up. We're getting 500 watts of light at the ground, where we care about it. Suppose you bolt a dull, not-particularly-reflective barrier to the top, but you at least bother to paint it white, giving it an albedo of 0.5. That means of the 500 watts you were wasting, now 250 is reaching the ground. With the same energy input, now you have 750 watts reaching the ground. Now you can turn off one out of every three lights, angle the reflectors on the remaining ones to cover the dark patches, and you've got a perfectly adequate lighting system that costs two-thirds as much money.

Personally, I don't buy the astronomy argument. I think the brightening of the night sky is trivial compared to everything else we've given up to achieve the modern urban lifestyle. And given the choice, I'll take 100+ year lifespans, cheap global air travel and round-the-world-in-800ms ping times over nineteenth-century villages, even if the villages come with impressive starry skies. But regardless of all that, you just can't argue with the economics of improved lighting efficiency.

-Graham

[ Parent ]
Other cities... (2.00 / 2) (#49)
by madbilly on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 08:49:23 AM EST

such as San Diego, Long Beach, San Jose, and Tucson would disagree :)

[ Parent ]
huh? (3.00 / 1) (#59)
by Arkady on Sun Dec 24, 2000 at 01:31:53 PM EST

I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you're trying to say here. Are you implying that these cities have other experience with this or that they've tried it and it didn't work out this way?

Or are you just saying that these cities don't understand basic math and elementary economic numbers? I'd probably buy that. ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Efficient lighting and crime (4.66 / 3) (#30)
by jesterzog on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 04:16:29 PM EST

I was thinking of talking a bit about this in the story, but it was going away from the topic.

Firstly, if you have better fixtures on light to aim it down instead of up, the lights themselves don't need to be as powerful. This is energy saved straight off, and depending on power generation methods can also be less pollutive.

Secondly, more powerful and brighter lights isn't necessarily better for preventing crime. (It's written up some more here.) It makes people feel more secure, but arguably doesn't prevent anything.

It's not that I'm saying people shouldn't be able to feel secure, just that I think it should be done properly. By installing lights correctly and intelligently, using the right lights for the right job, it's not too difficult to get nice, even lighting that's effective.

As for better traffic management, you'll certainly get safer roads in a city if lights are designed better so as not to dazzle and distract drivers. I've lost count of the number of times I've had stray lights shining in my face when I'm trying to drive. But that's not as bad as the amount of badly designed lights that have made it near impossible to see traffic coming towards me when I'm walking down the street or through a partking lot. The irony is that they're supposed to make it easier to see.

Trees? Fair enough. You want trees, I want stars.

Unfortunately there aren't that many tradespeople around who are very qualified to do this. Usually they're not educated in it, and lots of lights are installed by electricians or other professionals who don't specialise in it. Because of this, we end up with a lot more light than anyone really needs since nobody knows how to use less light more efficiently.


jesterzog Fight the light


[ Parent ]
All this you want (1.00 / 12) (#34)
by maketo on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 04:50:34 PM EST

because you are a selfish moron who cares only about your street.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
[ Parent ]
Full cutoff lighting fixtures are key (4.60 / 5) (#37)
by KindBud on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 06:59:45 PM EST

Using a full cutoff light fixture prevents light from escaping uselessly into the sky, and horizontally into your neighbor's yard.

Therefore, a smaller light bulb in a full cutoff fixture can provide the same amount of illumination on the ground, where it is wanted, as compared to your typical poorly designed fixture that leaks light in all directions.

Smaller bulbs use less electricity. Using less electricity reduces your electric bill and eases demands on the electric power network. Reduced power consumption leads to reduced emissions from fossil-fuel-fired generators, which leads to cleaner air.

It's not just about preserving the dark night sky, though that is the motivation of amateur astronomers like myself, and of organization like the Dark Sky Association. We have no illusions that people will get excited about preserving the night sky. That's our gig, and we don't expect to make many converts on this point. But when it comes to money and pollution and improving the security of our communities, these are the points on which we can reach out to people whose interests don't necessarily coincide with our passion. In the end, if we get the dark skies we seek, that makes the efforts of educating people about the tangible benefits of cleaner air and cheaper energy costs worthwhile. If we get to tell people about the night sky and our enthusiasm for it in the process, that's just gravy.

--
just roll a fatty

[ Parent ]

History is written by those who survive (4.10 / 10) (#17)
by Andante on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 12:04:47 PM EST

Woah, be careful when referencing "known facts" in your article. The recent "nuke the moon" story involved the United States, and not the USSR. http://slashdot.org/articles/00/05/15/1238219.shtml

oops (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by jesterzog on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 04:42:39 PM EST

Sorry, I stand corrected. :)


jesterzog Fight the light


[ Parent ]
Asimov? (3.00 / 6) (#18)
by paxtech on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 12:05:38 PM EST

Wasn't there an Asimov short story where somebody built a device that could distort the positions of the stars as viewed from Earth, and used it to spell out a giant ad in the sky?

I vaguely remember reading that.. Could be just a dream I had though.. :)

--
PaxTech
--
"Eggs or pot, either one." -- Ignignot
Probably. (2.75 / 4) (#20)
by Farq Q. Fenderson on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 01:46:31 PM EST

I remember reading that. It was either in "I, Robot" or one of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novels.

farq will not be coming back
[ Parent ]
possibly (3.50 / 2) (#22)
by pallex on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 02:00:07 PM EST

Dont think it was `hitch hikers` - think you are talking about the concept of travelling around space until you find a vantage point where the stars spell out a rude word!

[ Parent ]
Nah. (2.00 / 1) (#27)
by Farq Q. Fenderson on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 02:55:13 PM EST

No, I remember reading the whole thing with the ad, so if it's not in H2G2, then it's somehwere in "I, Robot."

farq will not be coming back
[ Parent ]
Actually (3.66 / 3) (#24)
by Captain_Tenille on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 02:42:48 PM EST

It was a Frederic Brown story, but it appeared in one of the science fiction anthologies that Asimov edited with Martin Greenberg. I believe it was published sometime in the forties.
----
/* You are not expected to understand this. */

Man Vs. Nature: The Road to Victory!
[ Parent ]

Red Dwarf (4.50 / 4) (#35)
by spaceghoti on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 05:26:30 PM EST

As well, the novelisation of the Red Dwarf television series at BBC mentioned Pepsi going out to induce supernovas in stars, timed so that the light from all of them would reach the Earth at the same time to spell "Pepsi" or somesuch.

What's scary is that I can imagine a company going to that extreme for advertising, given sufficient funds and technology. Corporations are notoriously amoral, giving no thought to any concern but increasing profits unless someone points out damaging effects and manages to enforce fair play.

While that may seem slightly inflammatory and biased against big business (conspiracy theory, anyone?), this is an observation I've made about the capitalist system in general. There's a reason the Sherman Anti-Trust laws were passed in the US. Unchecked, big business really doesn't, care about anything but more business. It's the nature of the beast. I'm not advocating communism or an overthrow of the system; capitalism is the best way to focus human drive and greed that I've found thus far. Eventually we'll mature into something less selfish and destructive, but not today.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
There was an Arthur C. Clarke story (3.00 / 8) (#26)
by Captain_Tenille on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 02:49:29 PM EST

... that addressed this issue. It was the relatively long, multi-part story about the first mission to the moon. Anyway, one of the parts concerns an experiment that required shooting some compound into space that would illuminate when struck by the Sun's rays. Lo and behold, one of the engineers on Earth had been paid off by a certain soft drink company and changed the nozzle that shot the cloud into space. According to the story, the O's and A's were a little hazy, but the C's and L's were perfect.

Fortunately, it didn't affect the experiment, it just embarassed alot of people.
----
/* You are not expected to understand this. */

Man Vs. Nature: The Road to Victory!

What About... and Other Questions (3.72 / 11) (#29)
by eskimo on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 04:12:35 PM EST

First of all,how about inspiring a kid to go to a museum before we worry about your particular niche. Culture is dying faster than...than...metaphors. Or a library. I can understand you yourself being pissed, but don't bring the kids into this. They are blissfully ignorant about more than the stars.

Second of all, why did you become interested in astronomy? I think it is fair to say that a large portion of astronomy enthusiasts out there became such because they were interested in the exploits of astronauts. At the very least, these new efforts on ISS, no matter how clumsy they seem to you, will likely inspire a whole new generation to look up.

And though nobody would reply to this by saying it, I HAVE seen the stars. Try swordfishing at the edge of the Gulfstream with a new moon.And it doesn't have to be dark to look up. I have never seen a more blue sky than after Hurricane Andrew.

And the space billboards sound a little Skaggs to me. Their only mention is in a couple weird sites (including this one, which marginally works, and has a bad space invaders parody where you shoot billboards). When you go www.spacemarketing.com you'll see that these are definitely the people who have the power to launch tons of material into space. They couldn't even launch a site. For the record, there was/is apparently an arm of the Russian space program that was to handle commercial ventures such as Pizza Hut, but they are apparently not faring so well either.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto

And before we do that... (3.40 / 5) (#39)
by KindBud on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 07:13:32 PM EST

First of all,how about inspiring a kid to go to a museum before we worry about your particular niche.

Carrying this thought to its logical conslusion, we should instead take care of feeding and clothing the poor and starving kids overseas and at home before we worry about the museums. Hell, why spend all this money on schooling, when there are children who can't go to school because there aren't any in their part of the world? Shouldn't we fix that first before passing the latest education funding measure?

There is so much you can do to affect the world around you, so many problems to attack on all fronts. If we waited for the most pressing problems to be solved before going on to the less important ones, nothing would ever get done.

Besides, what have you done lately to get children into museums? Or was that a rhetorical point you were trying to make?

--
just roll a fatty

[ Parent ]

Oops... (4.00 / 5) (#40)
by eskimo on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 07:37:24 PM EST

I am a mentor. I also take my nephew to museums. And honestly, I don't think your conclusion is a logical one. It certainly isn't where I was going. I specifically mentioned the death of culture and science. Honestly, this is not a third world kind of discussion. I am sorry that there are kids starving, but this story has little to do with that.

All I was trying to say was that kids are ignorant of so many things, it seems kind of weird to stake out this particular plot and plant the flag.

I also resent your fatalistic view of being unable to solve the biggest problems, therefore moving onto the ones we can solve. It seems especially irrational since you are talking about revising an infrastructure more entrenched than even the Interstate Highway system, when you are talking about municipal lighting.

In that light(NPI), I think the argument should be that the cause should have valid, measurable and generally appreciated returns. I am sorry, but furthering earthbound study of the stars for hobbyists does not compare in anyway to anything I mentioned.

We are about to have more teeagers in the U.S. than in any previous era. Things like the ISS will serve to inspire them much more than a select group of pointy heads complaining about occasionally missing Sirius, or worse, having crappy java games indicting 'the man.' Of all the people in the world who should know the sky isn't falling, you'd think it would be the astronomy people.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

Interest in astronomy (5.00 / 3) (#45)
by jesterzog on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 01:38:02 AM EST

Thanks for the reply.

First of all,how about inspiring a kid to go to a museum before we worry about your particular niche. Culture is dying faster than...than...metaphors. Or a library.

The reference to children is out of the quote I included, but I still think it's a valid concern. I won't argue directly with what you've said because there's nothing wrong with it. But is it really that difficult to concentrate on more than one thing at a time?

If people aren't aware of a problem then they won't react to it. By using information a bit better, amounting to a collective cost of approximately zero if even that, it's not hard to take a few simple steps like properly installing efficient lights when it comes time to replace the existing ones. All that would take is better educating electricians, landscape planners and a selection of various city officials.

People are working on this already (myself included), but as I said in the article it's always difficult to get the message out. As far as I'm concerned, the more people who are aware of the problems, the better. If and when people do something it's a bonus. Even having heard something about it though, it's much more likely that people given an otherwise evenly weighted choice between alternatives will choose the better one.

Second of all, why did you become interested in astronomy? I think it is fair to say that a large portion of astronomy enthusiasts out there became such because they were interested in the exploits of astronauts.

Not quite. By that logic almost nobody would have been interested in astronomy until the mid 20th century. To suggest that the space programme is the main reason for astronomy interest is (to me) stating that astronomy now needs to be bandaged together by an unreliably funded spinoff interest in order to succeed. Perhaps it is for people in cities, but I don't think it should be.

Where I'm from, we can't afford astronauts anyway. I became interested in the stars because I could see them.


jesterzog Fight the light


[ Parent ]
Great, a thoughtful response... (4.33 / 3) (#46)
by eskimo on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 02:34:47 AM EST

In a completely different story, the writer talked about whether or not computer science degrees emphasized critical thinking and research skills. Didn't respond. Don't know. But I think that by emphasizing general science and the principles of science, we will have a generally more informed generation. I think that once that foundation is established, interest in specific fields will come about. In the words of the immortal...chick from Ghost in the Shell, 'Overspecialize and you breed in weakness.'

I think it is a disservice to any cause to resort to fine tuning before the picture is sufficiently resolved. That is absolutely the least efficient way to do things. Astronomy is an important part of science, but presented just as a part, something is lost. I think a night sky is a beautiful thing, without the context of Wallace Stevens or Vincent Van Gogh, something is lost.

I also refuse to concede that, 'All that would take is better educating electricians, landscape planners and a selection of various city officials.' That sounds like apretty monumental task to me (I really wanted to make a 'fiat/inherency' joke for all the debaters in the house...). I agree that for many issues, knowledge is useful, and education works. But this is a cynical society, and no matter what, arguing from an aesthetic perspective will fail. No matter what, unless you provide hard facts, which I am sure do exist, to prove that there are more efficient ways to utilize articial light sources, that will save actual money and real lives, you will just sound like an obsessed hobbyist.

I doubt very many people place much value on the hard science of astronomy and the research of actual astronomers. It simply comes off as fringe to most, a two day a week or less section of their newspaper of choice. Sad maybe, but true. This is definitely a battle that you will have to fight on their turf. The less the argument has to do with astronomy, the better you will fare. The end justifies the means.

As for the amount of enthusiasts pre-Mercury vs. today...I will still go with today, or just post-Mercury. I agree that there have been important astronomical discoveries throughout history. But for the most part, interest in the heavens has been by men living on the seas. Continuing with my theme from above, I think that space exploration, especially early conquests, generated a general interest in science that has been missing for some time.

You argue that you want people to know about the problems facing astronomy, but I am talking about how some of the things you percieve as problems will increase interest in astronomy. People have to be interested in the science before you tell them about the hurdles. If I want somebody to go fishing with me for the first time, I talk about tagging and releasing a sailfish, not the 4-6 foot waves after four days of north wind.

It's a fine line, but it seems to me, the more people you have interested in astronomy, the more vocal you can be about the problems.

Now the tangents: First of all, I think it would be interesting to see a graph of astronomical discoveries versus the increasing efficiency of optical telescopes. Not interesting enough for me to do it, but interesting. Maybe there's nothing there. And regarding your sig...I really don't rate that often, so I gave you a '5.'

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

The main non-astronomical arguments used (4.66 / 3) (#47)
by jesterzog on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 03:35:15 AM EST

The less the argument has to do with astronomy, the better you will fare.

Absolutely. You're 100% correct.

The main arguments being used by interest groups are related to safety, privacy and money. It's not just blind justification either, they're all valid, IMHO.

For example, there aren't really any established studies that show having more light reduces crime. It's simply a perceived thing by the general public. As I said in another comment in this story, there's no real problem with people wanting to perceive safety. But they could feel even better if they knew the lights were doing what they're actually supposed to.

Simply splashing light randomly over an area and then making it as bright as needed to lighten things up is what happens so often. Realistically though, it causes serious problems. Notably, shadows suddenly get darker and more contrasted to the light areas, and glare from very bright lights blinds people. People see a bright light and assume they're safe. They don't see the shadows caused by it and in worse cases they don't see people and vehicles moving towards them since the light hogs all their attention or simply shines too much in their eyes.

By using a little information, getting the right lights for the right job, and making sure they're aimed where they're supposed to be aimed, it lets the lights do what they're supposed to much more effectively. The added bonus (for astronomers) is that the light isn't going up.

The privacy argument is fairly straightforward. If a neighbour shines a light from their property into my house, I get annoyed. That's called light tresspass, and it essentially says keep your own light on your own property - or at least make sure the neighbours don't mind where you're aiming it.

It might seem that this one isn't terribly important to astronomy and dark skies, because light going up isn't going onto someone else's property. It's actually one of the worse problems, because it's light going sideways. If all non-down light went straight up, the sky wouldn't be in nearly as bad shape around civilisation as it is presently. By going straight up, it gets out of the atmosphere as quickly as possible. But by going sideways, particularly above the horizontal plane, it takes one of the longest possible routes that it can out of the atmosphere. By the time it finally gets out, the beam of light has caused about the most possible damage it ever could have.

The money argument says that carelessly aiming light into the sky when we could simply shield it is wasteful. Both of money, and electricity generation resources which can indirectly cause other more noticed types of pollution. If you catch light before it goes up, you only need to generate half as much for the same or better effect - probably much less than half if it's being aimed properly.

I think that sums most of it up, although there are people around who are much more informed about it than I am. I definitely think it's important for people to know that you're coming from an astronomy perspective, for authenticity if nothing else. There are convincing unrelated arguments to put to people to justify it for them, though.


jesterzog Fight the light


[ Parent ]
"Fantastic! No binoculars, no telescopes" (3.87 / 8) (#42)
by bafungu on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 10:50:16 PM EST

I don't understand this. Just about any darned satellite is glaringly visible without binoculars or telescopes. MIR has been charging by as a screaming white dot in the evening sky for well over a decade now. Haven't you all noticed??

ISS, like all LEO (low earth orbiting) satellites, will only be visible at dawn and dusk, when the patch of earth you're standing on is in marginal darkness but the satellite itself is still high enough to still manage to catch some sun rays. You'll see a nice bright dot, much like an airplane, crossing the sky for a few minutes and then vanish. Whoopee. Personally I think it's a nice change from the monotony of the same constellations and planets.

And if you don't like it, fine, just wait a few hours. By midnight it doesn't matter if the Empire State Building was in Low Earth Orbit, because all Low Earth Orbit objects are in the Earth's shadow at that time and will be invisible

Sorry to concentrate on the specifics, but (3.40 / 5) (#43)
by mystic on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 11:56:14 PM EST

no where in the article is it mentioned that ISS is the "brightest objects in the sky after the Sun and the Moon". Ok, I am a bit ignorant of the present details, but in a documetary on MIR in BBC or CNN, it was mentioned that ISS will be the brighest thing in the night sky after the moon and Venus.

Now, is that an old estimate? Has that position changed because of this wings?

I was expecting (3.00 / 1) (#63)
by mystic on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 09:01:25 PM EST

a clarification from atleast the submitter of the story. It is really annoying when the story initiator himself doesn't care to answer the question raised regarding the authenticity of details stated in the story.

[ Parent ]
ISS apparent magnitude (none / 0) (#64)
by jesterzog on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 10:51:37 PM EST

Actually I was hoping someone else would have jumped in and confirmed it - sorry for letting that slide. I don't have specific information about the ISS's apparent magnitude.

I got it from someone as they read it in a recent issue of New Scientist (October or November I think) although I didn't read the article directly.

It said that the ISS was turning into one of the brightest objects after the Sun and Moon, which is what I put in the writeup. This would have put it in the same category as Venus but not necessarily brighter as you suggested.

At least there's only one ISS, but it would be worse if it becomes trendy to have over-bright satellites - either because of bad design or because some sponsor just wants recognition.


jesterzog Fight the light


[ Parent ]
Sorry, but that quote is horrid (2.85 / 7) (#51)
by Zane_NBK on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 12:51:51 PM EST

That quote just basically ignores reality. This is what I'm talking about:

But by our thoughtless erection of outdoor lights everywhere --- without consideration of glare and light trespass, without consideration of safety, without consideration of the right to privacy, and without consideration of the energy waste and the waste of taxpayer dollars

One section at a time.

But by our thoughtless erection of outdoor lights everywhere --- without consideration of glare and light trespass

"without consideration of glare and light trespass" is hardly "thoughtless". Light are there for a purpose. Lights are not just thrown up to suit some mad polictians fetish.

without consideration of safety

Excuse me, how in God's name does a light adversly affect anyone's safety? Most lights are primarily there FOR safety. Most outdoor lighting (brilliance-wise) is there to lightup streets, parking lots, building entrances, secure areas, driveways and the like. They're there so you don't get mugged walking out to your car or down the street, or so you don't run into some obstruction at 40mph that you didn't see untill your headlights hit it, etc...

without consideration of the right to privacy

This one is really stretching it. Light is intruding on your right to privacy? Hmm... I'll just say "your rights end where my rights begin" and vice-versa. No, I shouldn't be shining floodlights into your window in the middle of the night but that's not exactly what we're talking about.

You might be able to stretch this as infringing on your right to the pursuit of happiness. But what would you rather have, a clear view of the night sky or 10 less people mugged or in a fatal accident at night every year? (Obviously pulling that number out of my ass)

without consideration of the energy waste and the waste of taxpayer dollars

Again, another blatantly false statement. Every time a light is put up the city (county, whatever) must consider the cost of construction and the cost of maintenance vs. their public works budget (just like CTP2! :) and the real need of the citizens. Again, they just don't put up lights willy nilly.

Streets and parking lots (not so sure about highways) are one of the places we need these lights the most. Consider this:

You're working in downtown Chicago and have a late late late night (!@#$!@# NT crashed during monthly processing) and you head out to your car at 1:30am. The parking lot is huge and completely dark, you can just make out your car in the middle. You're a bit nervous but you walk out to your car as quick as you can. 5 feet from the car you notice you're not alone, someone is behind the car. It's a bit too late though, your keys are already falling from your hand as a bullet rips through your ribcage. Good thing they turned off all those lights to stop light pollution.

Now I'm not saying the above wouldn't happen with lights on, but it is less likely to.

-Zane

Crock (1.00 / 4) (#52)
by mrfiddlehead on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 01:40:00 PM EST

Now I'm not saying the above wouldn't happen with lights on, but it is less likely to.

That's the biggest load of shit I've read today. Congratulations. The dicussion is light pollution not your childhood fear of the dark.


:wq
[ Parent ]

Discussion? Hello? (3.00 / 1) (#53)
by Zane_NBK on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 01:52:31 PM EST

Would you care to argue the point or are you just here to insult?

So you think that it's just as likely that someone will attack you in a darkened area as a well lit area? Hmm.. Everything I've ever read tends to indicate that criminals prefer to commit crimes where visibility (and their chance of being detected/caught) is lowest.

Or were you just trolling?

-Zane


[ Parent ]
No trolling here (3.00 / 1) (#56)
by ehayes on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 10:09:49 PM EST

>So you think that it's just as likely that someone will attack you in a darkened area as a
> well lit area?

The one time I was robbed at gunpoint, I was sitting under a security light,
no more than fifty feet away from an open-air bar and restaurant.
Anecdotal, I know, but...

>Hmm.. Everything I've ever read tends to indicate that criminals prefer to
> commit crimes where visibility (and their chance of being detected/caught) is lowest.

When you have immensely bright lights that are ill-placed, then the contrast
between the lit areas and the unlit areas - the shadows - can be immense.
More than enough to hide a human being or two. And if the contrast is that
great, then you will have no chance of seeing into the darker areas.

Visibility <> chance of being caught

Visibility <> chance of detection

A bright light within your field of view will cause your pupils to contract
automatically, and thus impede your vision into the dark places. I can hardly
think of a better way to set someone up for a mugging....


Ellen


[ Parent ]
I don't think you're very informed (3.50 / 4) (#55)
by jesterzog on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 02:53:48 PM EST

Actually the quote's very valid. Your concerns are quite ordinary for anyone first off, but I don't think you're very informed about the problem and proposed solutions. (First I was going to detail it more in the story, but it started to detract from what I was really trying to say.)

The argument is about light being used properly - not about switching lights off. Of course by directing it properly, we can use less of it instead of mindlessly pumping more energy into lights to make them brighter while wasting over half of what's there already. People automatically think that making lights brighter is the answer to all their problems, but it's definitely not.

For example, making lights brighter while not bothering to direct them properly makes shadows darker and more contrasted, providing more places for anyone to hide rather than less. You sometimes don't even see that though, if glare from an over-bright light shining in your eyes prevents you from seeing people and traffic even coming directly towards you. Obviously, simply making it brighter doesn't help prevent extra light going where it's supposed to, either. (ie. up and sideways.)

I could go on much longer and explain everything, but I already have here and here. I ask that you please read them.


jesterzog Fight the light


[ Parent ]
Crime vs Lighting (5.00 / 4) (#57)
by Kotetsu on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 11:55:26 PM EST

I want to start by saying that I don't want to come across as flaming your views about lighting and crime - they are the views held by the majority of people, and they seem to be based on TV and movies. However, according to the Department of Justice the majority of crimes against people occur during the day. (I apologise for it being an Acrobat .pdf file, but the alternative from them is zipped spreadsheet format)

Please start by referring to the table Percent distribution of incidents, by crime and time of occurence. You should note that the majority of violent crime (54.6%) occurs during the day. While I would be the first to admit that this is not that overwhelming a majority of the crimes, refer next to the table Percent distribution of incidents, by type of crime and place of occurrence (which happens to be the next table in the document). There are two type of crime I'll focus on here, because they are the main types of crime people seem to worry about.

Sexual assaults are committed in or near the victim's home 45.8% of the time (almost half of all these assaults). Parking lots account for 2.8%.

Robberies are committed in or near the victim's home 33.0% of the time. Parking lots account for 11.1%, and streets away from your home 27.0%.

I want to point out that the areas away from home where most of these crimes occur are, in fact, the best lit places we have. The main thing that can be derived from these statistics is that criminals commit the crimes in the places where they are most likely to get what they are after (duh! - we need the DoJ to tell us that, right?). The robbery in the parking lot outside work at night is very unlikely, because robbers know there won't be many victims there, and they are unlikely to have much money on them. Assaults in the parking lot at work at night are going to be by someone who is targeting you specifically. Lighting actually helps the assailant in these cases, because they are focused on getting you, and much less on committing some crime and getting away.

Think about it from the criminal's point of view for a moment - if you want to rob somebody, where do you go? Outside shopping malls (especially during the holidays) is a good time, because the crowds of people make it easy to hide and get away, and you know most people are going to be carrying more money than most other times.

If, on the other hand, I'm some nut who wants to kill you, I'm going to want to do it somewhere you are less likely to be able to summon assistance. Your home is now the best place. I'm very likely to find you there, especially in the evening, and, especially if I know you (the most likely scenario for this type of crime), I'm probably going to be able to get close enough to do my thing before you realize my true intentions.

There are, actually, no reliable statistics on crime vs lighting (the only ones I've heard of are by the companies who sell the lights - not a source I would trust for these numbers). People who oppose light pollution do not oppose lighting - they oppose wasteful and "bad" lighting. Bad lighting is lighing that causes glare or creates deep shadows. Both of these conditions create areas where you can see less than you would without any lighting. Wasteful lighting is light going straight up. If you want to light an area for security, I think we can all agree that all the light that goes up into the sky is wasted and benefits nobody. There should be reflectors and shield placed on lights to ensure the light goes where it is needed, and reduce the waste.

[ Parent ]
Privacy (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by Joshua on Tue Dec 26, 2000 at 11:12:23 AM EST

This one is really stretching it. Light is intruding on your right to privacy? Hmm... I'll just say "your rights end where my rights begin" and vice-versa. No, I shouldn't be shining floodlights into your window in the middle of the night but that's not exactly what we're talking about.

I recently moved to the city of Boston. One of the things I dislike most about this city, and cities in general for that matter is the absence of real night. When I turn out my lights at night, my bedroom is far from dark. There is a rediculous amount of light shining in from the street. Many of my friends have very annoyingly placed streetlights shining directly into their windows at all hours of the day and night.

Now, i can see the reason that street lights are put up in cities, and I will admit that the only real solution to this problem is a new social structure that does not include cities (yes, I am a rabbid idealist and extremist). Granted, this is not an easily implemented solution, but the point is that having a light shining in my window all bloody night sucks, and I don't want it. I miss the stars quite a bit.

Joshua

[ Parent ]

FUD Alert! "Light == Good" (none / 0) (#62)
by phliar on Wed Dec 27, 2000 at 01:36:51 AM EST

Excuse me, how in God's name does a light adversly affect anyone's safety? Most lights are primarily there FOR safety.
No, most lights are placed for the illusion of safety. I'd rather have an unlit parking lot in the city than one that's poorly illuminated so between the bright areas there are impenetrable pits of darkness. Have you ever been walking along at night in the mountains (or in the country), and then some damn fool turns on a flashlight? Instantly you can see only a five-foot wide ellipse in front of you while before you could see everything.

But what would you rather have, a clear view of the night sky or 10 less people mugged or in a fatal accident at night every year? (Obviously pulling that number out of my ass)
You aren't just pulling the number out of your ass.

I have been blessed by the city with a streetlight on the street in front of my house. Wonderful, right? Except that the stupid light shines into my bedroom window (I'm on the second floor). I guess this means I'll be safer when I'm asleep, right? If the streetlights had been installed correctly, there would have been a proper reflector/guard around it so it illuminated the street and the sidewalk only, not second floor bedrooms. Then they could also have used a smaller lamp and saved a ton of money.

You're working in downtown Chicago and have a late late late night (!@#$!@# NT crashed during monthly processing) and you head out to your car at 1:30am. The parking lot is huge and completely dark, you can just make out your car in the middle. You're a bit nervous but you walk out to your car as quick as you can. 5 feet from the car you notice you're not alone, someone is behind the car. It's a bit too late though, your keys are already falling from your hand as a bullet rips through your ribcage.
You really are amazingly paranoid. How often has this actually happened - an innocent citizen was shot in a parking lot with no warning? But that's beside the point.
5 feet from the car you notice you're not alone, someone is behind the car.
And if the parking lot was well lit (and we'll even say it was properly illuminated so there were no black pools between lights) you're going to see the assailant hiding behind your car... how?

Ah, I get it! They installed X-ray tubes in the street lights, and you have one of those Star Trek visors!


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Put it in context. (3.75 / 8) (#54)
by spyffe on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 02:15:04 PM EST

The Space Program is perhaps the last frontier of humanity, which will hopefully be a catalyst for scientific development and innovation for years to come. Compared with this great endeavor, perhaps the slight inconveniencing of land-based telescopes is not too great a loss?

A solar panel at light is certainly a bright spot. But it is in the sky for, at worst, minutes (check me if I'm wrong here, folks!) And think what this little speck careening across the sky, causing amateur astronomers around the globe to curse and shake their fists, is doing for them!

In addition, children looking at the night sky will not be deprived of a source of wonder and fascination. After all, their parents will be able to tell them that that little white dot is actually a space station, which leads very comfortably into discussions about space travel etc. No problem there as I see it.

Advertising banners, on the other hand, are to be deplored, and I hope very much that appropriate legislation can be passed. If you haven't read Fahrenheit 451, which deals with exactly this phenomenon of over-advertising, please do.

In the end, the restrictions placed upon our space program by regulations to minimize "light pollution" would do far more harm than good. Hopefully, when nuclear generators become small enough to be sent to orbit, we'll be able to eliminate solar cells, but even then solar cells will be an attractive alternative for zero-maintenance space vehicles.
Sigmentation fault - core dumped.

And we danced by the light of the Mir! (4.00 / 1) (#61)
by phliar on Wed Dec 27, 2000 at 12:42:30 AM EST

A solar panel at light is certainly a bright spot. But it is in the sky for, at worst, minutes (check me if I'm wrong here, folks!)
If it's just one bright satellite in LEO, it's a technological marvel; when it's a few thousands, it's going to be a huge nuisance.

The only redeeming thing is that satellites in LEO are only bright for about an hour after sunset and before sunrise.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

starry nights (3.50 / 4) (#58)
by base_16 on Sat Dec 23, 2000 at 08:13:39 PM EST

I live in a city with a significant amount of light pollution(Holland, MI), enough that's there is no feeling of awe when one looks up into the sky at night. I make multiple trips to a spot in the state further north (Carp Lake, MI), where there is nearly no light pollution, and I am amazaed every tiem that I look upward (at night).

The concept of sky-based billboards has alwasys frightened me, especially since there is no way to avoid them. Unfortunately, since there is no controlling power, I do not see how it could be easily prevented at this point.

In many sci-fi novels ( such as Neuromancer [Gibson, William] ) this concept is discussed, and seen as typical. At this point in time, it still seems like a distant, furturistic concept, but perhaps considerations could be taken at this time to prevent or, at least, regulate such activity.


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McDonalds In Space? It'll sneak up on you | 64 comments (62 topical, 2 editorial, 1 hidden)
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