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Science Technology

Austrian Town Sees the Light 339

Posted by Zonk
from the visitors-from-the-outside dept.
pin_gween writes "The Austrian town of Rattenberg (a 10 minute walk from sunlight during the winter) plans to install a mirror on a mountain to redirect sunlight towards the town. The town was built in the winter shadow of Rat Mountain. The plan is to place heliostat mirrors to shine light in several locations around town, where villagers could 'congregate and get sunned up.' The EU is ponying up half the $2.4 million costs. The company installing the mirrors, Bartenbach Lichtlabor GmbH, is contributing $600,000, and hopes other communities will use their technology."
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Austrian Town Sees the Light

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  • by narkotix (576944) on Monday November 21, 2005 @05:45AM (#14080287)
    SIMPSONS DID IT!!
  • by SlashSquatch (928150) on Monday November 21, 2005 @05:47AM (#14080299) Homepage
    If there's a glitch in focusing, then the people get fried like ants?
  • All good until... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by intmainvoid (109559)
    I'm sure it'll all go well, til some kid stares at the mirror for too long and goes blind, and sues the pants of someone.

    (never mind that the kid probably would have been just as happy staring at the sun...)

  • by Anyd (625939) on Monday November 21, 2005 @05:52AM (#14080314)
    Doesn't this fall into the category of "don't live there?" I'm not saying it wouldn't suck to live in an area without sunlight, but to knowingly move into said area, and then use taxpayer's money (correct me if I'm wrong, I'm assuming EU money = EU taxpayer's money) to change that... in the tone of millions... just seems stupid. It just seems that our global community should spend $ on better things than trying to cram people into every possible nook and cranny on earth!
    • by meringuoid (568297) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:01AM (#14080350)
      Doesn't this fall into the category of "don't live there?"

      Well, yes, probably. That said, I wonder if this might actually attract a certain type of warped tourist to the town? The City of Eternal Darkness, lit only by giant mirrors that reflect an eerie faded sunlight onto its dismal roofs... Chances are something Lovecraftian lives there.

      Myself, I'd be heading up the hill to stick a giant cut-out of a bat onto one of the mirrors :-)

    • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:44AM (#14080468) Homepage Journal
      Not millions. $1.2 million to improve quality of life for around 400 people. In other words around $3000 per inhabitant, or far less than most of them are paying in taxes in a single year. Combined with the fact that this project serves a dual purpose of helping this town and also of growing interest for the EU based mirror manufacturer's business worldwide, and it's likely economically a good long term investment - Both promoting growth in a town that's currently in decline as well as increasing exports from the company involved and boosting taxable revenue that way.
      • It won't even do anything for anyone's quality of life. A few 'hot spots' that will probably give less sunlight than walking ten minutes round the mountain for free.

        And they wonder why people don't like paying taxes, and why people don't trust the EU to do anything other than piss money away.
    • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:58AM (#14080512) Homepage Journal
      Oh, and I guess you missed the part of this town being built in the 1300s, and currently being in decline because people are moving OUT of it, not in... Most people currently living there have lived there all their lives, and now they are getting what could be a significant improvement in quality of life at a small fraction of what they've paid in taxes over those years.

      So it's not about cramming people into every nook and cranny, but about maintaining and possible growing a settlement which already have an established residential area, that employ people, that have established infrastructure etc.

      The likely cost to society of having these people put pressure on house prices etc. by moving elsewhere would likely easily outweigh the $1.2 million the EU is spending all by itself.

    • You've obviously never been to Austria, otherwise you would know that the majority of all towns were built in valleys, many of them facing exactly the same kind of problem as Rattenberg. And what's the alternative to those mirrors? Migration into cities? No way.
      • There is a REALLY simple solution, and it is not rocket science. Don't live in the shadow! Cynical said, for every shadow side there is a sunny side because to cast a shadow you need something to block the sun. So, DON'T build on the shadow side!

        Swiss that are from Graubuenden when buying houses the first thing they check is how the sun rises and sets! It is interesting to see how often a hill side is full of houses, and on the other side not a single house. There is a reason...
    • by Timbotronic (717458) on Monday November 21, 2005 @08:21AM (#14080788)
      Ever been to the Austrian Alps? Think ski lifts stretching to the horizon in every direction, hot Austrian babes, great beer and 13th century villages that you ski into for lunch. It's a *nice* place!

      Also, there's a good chance the residents were born there. You often can't buy real estate in those tiny villages, it's just passed down the generations. I doubt they just moved in and started whinging.

      So I say let them have their mirrors. It's nowhere near as expensive (and environmentally suspect) as air conditioning Las Vegas for example.
    • by PhraudulentOne (217867) on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:54AM (#14081155) Homepage Journal
      Yeah its like that darn New Orleans. I mean, people know its going to flood, right? But they move there anyway and expect tax money to help them out. And like.. New York city, you know, it can't support all those people natively. You need tax payers money to like, make sewers and stuff. Why wouldn't people just move away and poop in the bush?

      Tax payers money gets spent on a LOT of useless things (primarily killing, or "defense contracts"), but improving the quality of life is generally a good thing - as long as it doesn't harm the environment in a severe way.

      Perhaps these people don't have the money to move, or they simply don't want to leave their homes. A lot of people that live out in small country towns and villages get to supply big tax dollars to the huge city infrastructure that they may not agree with. They do it anyway. It's no secret that cities are not self sustaining in any way, shape, or form. The country folk have to pay for the city, AND provide for the cities. Why should they pay for all those people who want to live jammed in together in a detrimental way (environmentally)? Why does so much money get spent to foster that kind of lifestyle?

      If the money is spent on making people happy, and not hurting the environment, or other people, then I say it's a good thing.

      IMO.
    • but to knowingly move into said area, and then use taxpayer's money to change that...

      If you're in the US, see also the National Flood Insurance Program. We pay people to build on coastlines and floodplains.

      There are a handful of people whose homes we've made into floodplains due to misguided and they deserve to get this, but when you've got a $5M chateau going up on the beach and Bob who welds girders for a living is subsidizing that - well, we start to see the cracks in the Republic.

      Sure, it's all 'self-f
  • Cool! (Score:5, Funny)

    by dbolger (161340) on Monday November 21, 2005 @05:53AM (#14080320) Homepage
    During peacetime, it brings light to the people, but if war is declared - instant Archimedes Death Ray [wikipedia.org]! :D

    • Whew. For a second there I was worried that Arky [wikipedia.org] was involved. I've included a link for those that have never experienced Archimedes Plutonium on Usenet. He's a true net legend/kook.

      Dartmouth claims he's real (I saw the photos way back when) but, nah, I'm not buying.
  • Shadows... (Score:5, Funny)

    by cloudkj (685320) on Monday November 21, 2005 @05:53AM (#14080322)
    The mirror better have some decent security... otherwise the town will probably see an endless stream of shadow puppet pranks.
  • by myc_lykaon (645662) on Monday November 21, 2005 @05:57AM (#14080335)
    I cannot (well - I do believe) the EU is paying up for a scheme to redirect sunlight into a town that:

    a) was badly positioned in the first place;

    b) has existed as such for hundreds of years without blowing up, dying or otherwise falling off the edge of the planet without this winter sun;

    What about EU funds for my city - it's a bit chilly in winter. Has been for the last 5000 years. Everyone there knew it was chilly in winter and it hasn't blown up or fallen off the edge of the world because of this winter chill. I think the EU should pay for some weird underground heating to recompense us for this winter horror. Oh and a massive umbrella - it tends to rain a bit here.

    Other than that - 'tis a cool piece of tech.

    • What about EU funds for my city - it's a bit chilly in winter. Has been for the last 5000 years. Everyone there knew it was chilly in winter and it hasn't blown up or fallen off the edge of the world because of this winter chill. I think the EU should pay for some weird underground heating to recompense us for this winter horror.

      Let me guess, you live in Helsinki? :)

      Well, the EU made Finland lower their taxes on alcohol... and since Estonia has joined the EU, the import tariffs on cheap Estonian vodka h

    • by ChristW (18232) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:22AM (#14080402) Homepage
      a) was badly positioned in the first place;

      It's excellently placed... All their crops get the most sunlight, and the village is quite cool in the summer...
    • I agree with some of nthe sentiment of what you're saying, but there's quite a few arguments FOR this too. A town in darkness/shadow in the winter is likely to have a higher percentage of rather lethargic citizens, which probably doesn't do the economy much good. Whilst a lovely bit of fluffy snow does a lot of good for any economy (people get happy and spend money), the snow is, in most places, accompanied by sunlight, whereas if everything is just... dull and badly lit, it's not going to encourage it, esp
    • by tcornelissen (897694) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:39AM (#14080448) Homepage
      The EU is not paying for that town. EU doesn't care for some people in some town. They are paying so that that company has something to do. EU does care for companies, or at least for companies that have enough money to lobby/bribe EU officials.
    • I don't know where you live exactly but where I live, in Birmingham, there are hundreds of buildings, parks, squares, bus stations, railway stations etc which have been built with EU funds which in total I am sure comes to way way more than the couple of million being spent here.
    • by jc42 (318812) on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:58AM (#14081168) Homepage Journal
      The EU should pay for some weird underground heating ...

      Actually, that's not at all weird. Here in the US, there are a number of universities that have done this. I attended two of them. In the winter, when visitors commented on the "waste" of heated sidewalks, it was fun to explain that it was a side effect of the cost-saving heating system.

      What they do is obvious: There's a big campus heating plant, with underground pipes connecting it to the other buildings. Mostly, the pipes are inside tunnels, which contain other long, skinny things like wiring of various sorts. And, for obvious reasons, the tunnels are usually built underneath sidewalks, so that the leaking heat will keep the walks clear in winter.

      The only problem is that they don't put them under all the sidewalks. But in general, such central heating systems cost a lot less than separate heating systems in each building.

      Too bad that people in towns generally can't implement something similar. But if they did, the cost would be called "taxes", and no matter how much less they were than per-house heating systems, people wouldn't accept them. Taxes are, you know, evil; paying twice as much to a private corporation is good.

      There is technology to do similar things with light. Google for "light pipe". How practical this might be on a town level isn't obvious.

  • I'm Sure... (Score:5, Funny)

    by MattLiv (932749) on Monday November 21, 2005 @05:58AM (#14080338)
    ...that the mirror companies decision to pay for some of the cost will reflect well on them over time.
  • by EtherealStrife (724374) on Monday November 21, 2005 @05:59AM (#14080341)
    "But the young folks are moving away."

    Seems like the younguns catch on quick. If you don't like living there, then don't. Problem solved. Seems like they're better off than all the folks near the arctic circle, but you don't see/hear them complaining...
    So once again the government/PTBs are footing the bill for people too lazy to move. *cough* New Orleans *cough* Florida *cough*

    Besides, a few "lawn sized" patches of light aren't going to make the place any less bleak during the winter months...it might blind some folks looking in the wrong direction, though. Or did I miss the part where they add in some kind of diffusing lens?

    The way things seem to be headed (based on TFA), just wait a few years. Give the old folks time to die off, and the younger group time to get fed up and leave. $2,400,000 saved.


    • So once again the government/PTBs are footing the bill for people too lazy to move. *cough* New Orleans *cough* Florida *cough*

      The question you seem to miss in all these cases is how much does it cost everyone in terms of lost jobs, damage to the economy, etc to just move an entire city? (especially in the case of New Orleans). If it's more cost effective to rebuild, you do it. In this case if it's cheaper to put in a big mirror to bring in light, (and it actually works to get people to stay) you do it.
      • So once again the government/PTBs are footing the bill for people too lazy to move. *cough* New Orleans *cough* Florida *cough*

        The question you seem to miss in all these cases is how much does it cost everyone in terms of lost jobs, damage to the economy, etc to just move an entire city? (especially in the case of New Orleans). If it's more cost effective to rebuild, you do it. In this case if it's cheaper to put in a big mirror to bring in light, (and it actually works to get people to stay) you do it.
        • The total economic impact isn't relevant. What matters is the cost/benefit of investing in rebuilding or improvement vs. resettling people.

          The likely cost to society of resettling 440 people is far above $2250 per person in lost taxes, unemployment benefits to those that are unable to find new jobs, pressure on the nearby housing market etc. As such, it would likely cost YOU more in taxes if these people were resettled, and it might very well cost society as a whole more in taxes if these people voluntari

          • Personally, I wouldn't pay to resettle any of them. If they want to move, then it's on their nickel.

            Besides, assuming 300 million people in work paying taxes in the EU (a low estimate), the cost is 0.4 Euro cents per tax payer. I'll happily pay your share if you stop spouting nonsense like what you wrote.

            I'm not European, so this specific issue doesn't effect me, but you're still talking about $1.2 million. Sure your share of that is jack squat, but that $1.2 million being spent to feed the hungry, fi

    • Besides, a few "lawn sized" patches of light aren't going to make the place any less bleak during the winter months...it might blind some folks looking in the wrong direction, though. Or did I miss the part where they add in some kind of diffusing lens?

      Do they use a diffusing lens to protect peoples' eyesight from direct sunlight? Why would one be required in this case? I ask this half-rhetorically... perhaps there's some strange effect present, like when looking at an eclipse.

      The way things seem to be he
      • Do they use a diffusing lens to protect peoples' eyesight from direct sunlight?

        The difference is that the sun itself is (usually) enough high up in the sky that people don't look into it accidentally, whereas these mirrors sit on a mountainside.

        Moreover, the sun will only be visible in these mirrors if you are in one of the "bright spots". So, it may surprise you when driving/walking around, and entering one of these spots, while your eyes are still adjusted to the half-darkness that's everywhere else ar

    • Seems like the younguns catch on quick. If you don't like living there, then don't. Problem solved. Seems like they're better off than all the folks near the arctic circle, but you don't see/hear them complaining...

      You obviously don't talk to people living near the Arctic circle much... Norway for instance have far more people living in areas where the sun never rises during the winter than this, and you'll always hear some of them complaining. More importantly, it affects productivity - that alone means

    • by killjoe (766577) on Monday November 21, 2005 @07:20AM (#14080573)
      Since you brought New Orleans into this allow me to veer offtopic a bit.

      I am a middle class guy. If I heard that a hurricane was coming my way I would lock up my house, get in my car and go to some higher ground and stay in a hotel for a week or so. While I am gone I would have a high degree of confidence that my house won't be broken into and my stuff stolen. Even if it (or if the hurricane destroyed my house) I would still be OK. I have insurance, I have money in the bank to sustain myself for a while, I have a good job, I have credit cards. I would be OK while I am waiting for the insurance process to sort itself out.

      Compare my situation to that of a poor person in NO. They don't have decent jobs, they don't have credit, they don't have money saved up. Everything they own is in their house. Everything. Nothing in the bank, nothing in a 401K. No insurance. When you leave your house you leave everything you own behind. Being in a poor part the town you also have a very high risk of getting everything you own get stolen or destroyed by the storm.

      It sucks to be poor. If you don't have a car, don't have money to stay in a hotel for a week waiting for the storm to pass you are not going to risk hitching a ride or taking a bus and losing everything you have. It's just too much of a risk.

      So before you decide that everybody in New Orleans is too lazy to move take a moment to think about their condition.
    • by thesandtiger (819476) on Monday November 21, 2005 @08:31AM (#14080815)
      Lemme guess - you don't own a home? Don't live in the same area your parents, their parents, and their parents lived? Don't have any sense of community or history where you reside? If any of the above are true, then let me ask you this: what the fuck are you smoking, and may I please have some?

      It's not as simple as "Hey, you don't like it? Move!" You're basically suggesting that people give up their history and property in order to spare ~$3,000 of THEIR OWN money per person (taxes) trying to fix a problem.

      I find it really ironic that a comment modified as "insightful" suggests that, rather than spending a trivial sum, they should just let a community with roots fade into nothing.

       
    • Seems like they're better off than all the folks near the arctic circle, but you don't see/hear them complaining...

      Ho Ho Ho says Santa! It's cold and dark here up here at the North Pole. I demand that world governments unite to change the earth's tilt so that we can warm the place up and get some friggin sunlight all year round.

      Think of my Elves and how much more productive they'd be if it were warmer!

    • Seems like they're better off than all the folks near the arctic circle, but you don't see/hear them complaining...

      That's because you never call!

  • by Indy Media Watch (823624) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:07AM (#14080365) Homepage
    A while ago there was some research into giant tinfoil equipped satellites which could redirect sunlight onto the earth during darkness. Applications included agricultural (think world's biggest hydroponic setup) and emergency situations requiring 24hr illumination.

    I don't know what happened, however between this and Solar Power Satellites [aol.com] transmitting solar generated electricity to earth via microwave I wonder if the research has hurricane implications.

    That is, if they could construct an enormous sun-reflecting hurricane death-ray which could be projected/reflected into the eyes of hurricanes, or over oceans to heat the air/water before Hurricanes can form.

    Playing with weather... Won't that annoy the hippies!
  • 10 Minute Walk? Hah! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by core plexus (599119) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:14AM (#14080384) Homepage
    The nation's northernmost town braces Friday for its last sundown of the year.

    Barrow, Alaska residents say they tend to sleep more during the long months of round-the-clock dark. The sun sets in Barrow on Friday at 1:40 p.m. and doesn't rise again until Jan. 23 at 1:01 p.m.

    Diana Martin is an Inupiat Eskimo and a lifelong Barrow resident. She says it's much easier to start the day when Barrow receives round-the-clock daylight in summer.

  • new news! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Celt (125318) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:17AM (#14080391) Homepage Journal
    This was on the BBC News website two weeks ago, in fairness atleast can we see the news when it happens
  • The EU wants to spend millions of dollars to light up a few percent of a town of only 400 people?

    I guess they can't laugh at our bridge to nowhere anymore . . .

    --Greg

    • Come on now, the EU spends zillions on all kinds of crap. This is nowhere near the top ten most wasteful. I'd rather see the EU spend my money on bringing sunlight to those people, than continue its present strategy of subsidizing tobacco plantations while spending money on anti-smoking campaigns. But I suppose my rulers have deemed our pockets deep enough to pay for all of these fantastic things!
    • The EU wants to spend millions of dollars to light up a few percent of a town of only 400 people?

      I guess they are more interested by the experience itself and all the potential benefits. I have no doubt it was reviewed by quite a lot of people. If they got the money, there was probably an agreement on the usefullness of the project (but that already happens a few times they put money on dumb projects).

      I guess they can't laugh at our bridge to nowhere anymore . . .

      Comparable?
    • First, the EU is not spending millions of dollars, it is spending $1.2 million. Secondly, this works out at $3000/person - probably around what the town paid the EU in taxes over five years. The existence of the mirrors will probably spark tourism, and the proof-of-concept demo will probably benefit the company, providing more jobs (both at the company and up the supply chain), which means more tax money. It seems like a fairly good investment.

      This kind of thing is not that uncommon in the EU, and is kn

  • by worf_mo (193770) on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:29AM (#14080417)
    Last January news.telegraph had an article [telegraph.co.uk] about this that featured kind of a map on how the mirrors will be positioned.
  • by ndogg (158021) <the...rhorn@@@gmail...com> on Monday November 21, 2005 @06:55AM (#14080502) Homepage Journal
    I can't seem to read the site. It seems to be slashdotted.

    So, does anyone have a good...umm...mirror?
  • Rat Mountain? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Udo Schmitz (738216) on Monday November 21, 2005 @07:00AM (#14080517) Journal
    Uhm, I don't think so. The places name derives from a guy named Rapoto, offspring of a noble Bavarian lineage, the "Rapotonen". The Rattenberg castle at least dates back to 10th century. More than enough time for the names to change.
  • Tourist landmark (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Monday November 21, 2005 @07:10AM (#14080541)
    I live in a country neighboring Austria. When the mirror is up I definitively will pay a visit and spend between 5 and 100 EUR in the town. Just because I and my family like trips. And, if we like it, we might return.

    Why build the Eiffel tower? Why build the statue of liberty (and give the ugly thing away?) Why were the funny looking Gaudi buildings built? Why did Linus do it? This list can get pretty long but the common factor is that at the beginning nobody really knew if it really was a good idea.

    The truly strange thing is that this mirror thingy is referred to as a technology. Isn't that like calling a hamburger gastronomy?
  • by JollyFinn (267972) on Monday November 21, 2005 @07:16AM (#14080560)
    A large curved mirror at polar orbit. Think how nice it would be that sunlight of few square kilometers worth that would be otherwice wasted would be directed on a area of meter wide and few meters in length. Sure the atmostphere would widen the affected area so that people could "enjoy" a nice little hot wave ;) And as the earth revolves under it, it could be designed in a way that most people on earth could enjoy it ;) [Except in cases when the mirror is turned to other direction] The polar orbit is good for keeping it in the sun ALL the time. Another good option is Geostationary so that you can deside WHERE to aim it when it works.
  • by Yooden_Vranx (758878) on Monday November 21, 2005 @07:19AM (#14080571)
    For a sneak peek at what happens next, see the classic Thunderbirds episode "Lord Parker's 'Oliday" :) http://www.fanderson.org.uk/epguides/tbirds2eg.htm l#Episode%20Four [fanderson.org.uk]
  • It appears that the writer of the heading has goten confused, the town of Rattenberg is located in AUSTRIA which is a country in europe not australia which is in the southern hemosphere. Why would the EU be paying for a project on the other side of the world in australia? Infact the article makes no reference to australia only austria.
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Monday November 21, 2005 @07:27AM (#14080590)
    Is Wyle E. Coyote and a giant "Acme" mirror.
    Unintended consequences ensue.
  • and the Hood sabotaged the mirror assembly so that the suns rays would set fire to the town.
  • Rattenberg Homepage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by derphilipp (745164) on Monday November 21, 2005 @08:15AM (#14080760) Homepage
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rattenberg_(Tirol) [wikipedia.org]
    The article says that Rattenberg is famous for its glass-processing industry.
  • town was built in the winter shadow of Rat Mountain

    wouldn't it be more interesting to demolish part of the mountain?

  • So if a big complex of mirrors is set up, they will create a large shadow behind them. Can we assume there isn't some other town or single family home (with fewer political connections) ending up in that shadow? I can see it now as these mirror farms spring up all over the place, different settlements stealing sunlight from other settlements. Sort of like the old days of living downstream ...
  • Maybe it is because there are no good jobs there?

    There is a great website about Rattenburg, it states:
    "Rattenberg is a lovely village which is getting more and more popular because of its beautiful location, its charm and as an attraction to hikers and bikers."

    see: http://www.itcwebdesigns.com/tour_germany/rattenbe rg.htm [itcwebdesigns.com]

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