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The Illuminati Project Pushes For Dark Skies In 2009 315

Posted by timothy
from the daddy-what-were-light-bulbs? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "2009 is the 400th anniversary of Galileo's observations of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter published in Sidereus Nuncius ('Starry Messenger'). To improve scientific literacy, the NOAO and NASA are promoting dark-sky initiatives in 2009 to draw attention to the problem of light pollution which obscures nearly all night sky colors and objects except for the moon and a few bright stars and planets. Project Illuminati is a Flickr project by James Cann to showcase the beauty of light pollution to raise awareness and educate fellow Earthmates to lower energy consumption and become more curious about our place in the universe."
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The Illuminati Project Pushes For Dark Skies In 2009

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  • I am confused... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GweeDo (127172) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:38PM (#26365503) Homepage

    They are trying to promote dark skies (which of course show some amazing celestial bodies) by showing how pretty of a red sky light pollution makes???

  • by GottliebPins (1113707) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:53PM (#26365689)
    Think how much easier it would be to see the stars if we just stopped making electricity. The night skies would be black like they were a thousand years ago. We could all go back to living in caves and wearing fur, no wait, we can't kill animals, and wearing fur is evil and sit by the fire, no burning wood produces CO2, so we'll sit in our dark caves, huddled together to stay warm and slowly starve to death. But then there wouldn't be anyone to look up at the stars. And that is the true goal of "environmentalism".
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:59PM (#26365769) Homepage Journal

    The goal of environmentalism is to improve the quality of life for human beings -- to ensure that our environment, which by definition is everything that surrounds us, is a healthy and pleasant place to live. I'm not sure what it is about this that raises your ire.

  • Re:Simple Example (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Naturalis Philosopho (1160697) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:17PM (#26366013)
    Errr, and that's a problem? Sounds like a win-win to me!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:20PM (#26366071)
    A little domestic terror could solve this problem! Umm... on second thought, maybe not.
  • The name game (Score:5, Insightful)

    by westlake (615356) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:22PM (#26366083)
    Project Illuminati is a Flickr project by James Cann

    Is it something in his genes that compels a Geek to give a worthwhile project a name that carries a lot of excess baggage?

  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:53PM (#26366445) Journal

    Yeah, that was a knee jerk response, but a good one. Often You hear advocacy group A advocate their position as if it was the only one around. For the price of a starbucks latte we could put a Man on mars!. Or eliminate Cancer. Or eliminate AIDS. Or Create 1 million high paying jobs.

    The point being that there are trade offs... opportunity costs. That isn't an argument for the status quo, but somethings need to be considered in conjunction with other factors. As the parent suggested perhaps there is a way we could cheaply reduce the light pollution while maintaining the current level of crime fighting that it gives us.

  • Re:Cost of energy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) * on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:12PM (#26366631) Journal

    Towns will question why they are spending so much on lighting and cut back...Similarly, I think people will curb their habits of trying to light entire cities at night.

    And this curbing of their habits will come to an abrupt halt once someone is mugged/assaulted/raped on a normally safe - but slightly darker - street, and the think-of-the-children rallying cry is raised.

    The bottom line is that lighting in heavily populated areas does increase safety, by discouraging those who would use the cover of darkness for their crimes. The couple dollars a night it takes to light a mile of street is well worth the cost to those living on, or walking at night on, those streets.

    "It's better to light a candle, than curse the darkness."
    -Eleanor Roosevelt

  • by golfbum (1408137) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:13PM (#26366651)
    illumination effectiveness falls off with the square of the distance from the source. any illumination that comes from a street lamp that comes from an angle much more than 45 degrees from directly down is pretty useless. all it does is act as a beacon to blind folks unfortunate enough to view it. lights are often visible from a half mile away which is completely absurd. of course in addition to light pollution and reducing night vision ability it also pisses away power. gb
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:26PM (#26366783) Homepage Journal

    Oh no, you've uncovered our evil plan! And we would have got away with it, too, if it weren't for you darn /.ers!

    GMAFB. Environmentalists don't want people to starve to death any more than anti-environmentalists want people to choke to death on pollution. Pretty much everyone (well, everyone sane, anyway) wants steady food production, clean air and water, a healthy economy, thriving wildlife, etc.; we simply disagree about the best ways to accomplish these goals and resolve the conflicts which sometimes occur between them. If you want to talk about specific issues and ways you think we can do better than the current approach, go ahead. If all you can do is throw out blanket accusations, you have nothing of value to contribute to the discussion.

  • by coryking (104614) * on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:31PM (#26366825) Homepage Journal

    My annoyance with any and all of you who are reading this and use any kind of bright hurricane light while camping. You ruin my night vision. You dont need your stupid light you fool. Grrrr.

    Even on the darkest of nights, you dont need any light to find your way around in the dark. Give yourself a couple minutes to adjust and you will do fine. If you really need light, get a maglite and some blue gels for it. Using a blue gel will let you turn on the light for a second or two while you check for the boogie man, and when you turn it off you'll have most of your night vision back right away.

  • Re:Cost of energy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:32PM (#26366843) Homepage Journal

    Towns will question why they are spending so much on lighting and cut back...Similarly, I think people will curb their habits of trying to light entire cities at night.

    And this curbing of their habits will come to an abrupt halt once someone is mugged/assaulted/raped on a normally safe - but slightly darker - street, and the think-of-the-children rallying cry is raised. The bottom line is that lighting in heavily populated areas does increase safety, by discouraging those who would use the cover of darkness for their crimes. The couple dollars a night it takes to light a mile of street is well worth the cost to those living on, or walking at night on, those streets.

    I am not sure I agree, Public lighting increases the contrast between light and shadow. And shadowed areas are still there.

  • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:54PM (#26367029)

    like this one taken on the night of the 2003 blackout, and on the following night
    http://www.skynewsmagazine.com/pow/pow94.jpg [skynewsmagazine.com]

  • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:07PM (#26367103) Homepage Journal

    Light is way more effective (and cheaper) than surveillance cameras. The real issue about the light
    pollution is that most street lights are old and are positioned wrong. They should target the floor, and the light should not spread in every direction (which is useless anyway). Better street lights would both reduce costs and light pollution.
    However, it is extremely costly to replace all the street lights in a city.

  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:11PM (#26367141)

    I used to live in the country side when I was I kid and there were no lights. It used to be pitch black to the point where it felt like walking with my eyes closed.

    Perhaps in open areas what you say is true however if you're in a wooded area with overhanging trees then you'd have no chance of seeing in the dark.

  • Re:Cost of energy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:28PM (#26367271)

    Your comment uses something that he never said (slightly darker), to base your whole argumentation off of it.

    The point of this whole thread was, that you can reduce light pollution without reducing brightness on the street at all.
    in fact, mirroring the light back to the ground instead of losing it to the sky, will make for more efficient lights. So just installing mirrors will brighten the streets!
    Installing lamps that are darker by the same amount, that they gain by reflecting everything to the streets, will make them exactly as bright as the old lights, while saving energy.

    That's why some grand-parent post called it a win-win.
    But you could not afford not to ignore that, could you? Or else your whole argumentation, and with that, your whole point of view, would collapse like a house of cards. And that you just could not accept.

  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:45PM (#26367413)

    If you want to talk about specific issues and ways you think we can do better than the current approach, go ahead.

    That's great, get back to me when Greenpeace and the World Wildlife foundation stop lying and want to join in real scientific debate rather then scaremongering.

  • by magarity (164372) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:08PM (#26367611)

    Nothing provides a more dramatic reduction in crime than a good streetlight
     
    Nothing provides help for criminals like a poorly designed streetlight that provides strong cover shadows while blinding would-be crime watchers. Most super bright nighttime lighting does exactly this. People like you who think any light is a good light are part of the problem, both for crime and seeing the stars.

  • by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:37PM (#26367807)

    Nothing provides a more dramatic reduction in crime than a good streetlight.

    Wealth.

  • Re:Red lights (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iknowcss (937215) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:45PM (#26367883) Homepage
    I think you're both sort of right. The photo paper is insensitive to the red light because the photons in red light carry less energy per photon and can't alter the chemical structure of the crystal halides in the emulsion. I think, at least. Photo + chem + physics = my reasoning
  • by amirulbahr (1216502) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @12:22AM (#26368157)
    I would have though light reflected up from the ground would be non-negligible.
  • Re:sprawl (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stiletto (12066) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @01:14AM (#26368455)

    So buy it

    It's unfortunate that so often our answer to an injustice against someone is that the victim should fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars if he wants it rectified.

  • by MadnessASAP (1052274) <madnessasap@gmail.com> on Thursday January 08, 2009 @01:24AM (#26368503)

    Perhaps simply because blue is a calming color?

  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @01:28AM (#26368523) Journal
    No, you totally missed the point. completely. Just because improving things isn't easy and there are tradeoffs, doesn't mean you don't try. You can't only do the easy, obvious things in life. Complexity is not impossibility.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 08, 2009 @02:24AM (#26368827)

    Light pollution is when light intended for one purpose is directed in a manner such that it is wasted. For example, why should light from a streetlamp also emanate upwards? The light that doesn't serve the mission of having the source in the first place is considered pollution.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 08, 2009 @04:12AM (#26369271)

    light at night can negatively effect sleep patterns, and the amount of power used to provide it is enormous.... which means it pollutes, both by proxy through the generation of the power to provide it, and through it's effect on humans.

    these are only two examples. imagine how both these effect animals.

    also, light at night is blatantly unnecessary in so many common situations.

    consider the use of motion sensors for security lights! and the strategic placement of street lamps to minimize their presence. and the benefit of lowering the demand on the grid by requiring business lights and signs be shut off during hours where the business is closed. or that at least the parking lot lights be dimmed severely!

  • by OolimPhon (1120895) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @08:59AM (#26370527)

    You can't have a dark city.

    No-one's suggesting that anyone has a dark city. Just that you don't waste up to half the output from streetlights lighting up the sky. Better design of street lighting which focuses all the light to the lower 180 degrees would also mean one could use lower-power bulbs (for the same amount of light on the ground) and save money at the same time.

  • Re:Simple Example (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Zippy_wonderslug (990892) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:04AM (#26370577)

    Why legislate? If the lamps were cost effective, then the municipalities would make the switch. Right now in central Ohio the primary electric provider charges in the neighborhood of $5 per lamp per month for power. The muni is responsible for purchasing the bulbs if I am remembering correctly. If the cost of power and the cost of the bulb are figured in, the LED street lamps take an insane amount of time to recoup the cost. Even when you figure in the labor to replace the bulbs every couple of years it still doesn't add up. When many budgets are being stretched to the breaking point would you advocate for your town to install LED street lights that will cost more? Would you vote for your taxes to be increased to purchase the lights, or would you prefer that a couple of employees be terminated to pay for the cost difference? I, myself, am not opposed to the idea of installing power saving, pollution reducing equipment, but there has to be a balance somewhere.
    The shields over the lights have been shown to reduce the amount of light being thrown into the sky, but they also increase the amount of glare on the road. In order to be effective, the entire fixture head needs to be replaced with one that has been designed to cast the light downward in the right way, another cost for the muni to absorb.
    Legislation will do nothing to improve these conditions, it will likely pass costs on to the states or local government that they do not have the money to work with.
    One way that this might work is for residents, local or state government to work with the manufacturers in a test situation. Let the manufacturers perfect their processes for building the lamps and they can be field tested. But until the funding situation is improved, these efforts are full of problems.

  • Re:Simple Example (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cowmonaut (989226) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:59AM (#26371047)

    Sigh, wasting a good thread for modding by replying to this but since no one else has I'll bite.

    Why legislate? If the lamps were cost effective, then the municipalities would make the switch. Right now in central Ohio the primary electric provider charges in the neighborhood of $5 per lamp per month for power. The muni is responsible for purchasing the bulbs if I am remembering correctly.

    First, you legislate it since its the only way to get it done. Sad but true. Next, you only need LED light bulbs [wikipedia.org]. You don't have to replace the full lamp, at least if these [ccrane.com] consumer [earthled.com] sites [productdose.com] are anything to go by.

    If the cost of power and the cost of the bulb are figured in, the LED street lamps take an insane amount of time to recoup the cost. Even when you figure in the labor to replace the bulbs every couple of years it still doesn't add up.

    Per the source [nytimes.com] Wikipedia provided the extra initial cost is paid off within two years just from the electricity savings, and barring a physical disaster (such as the streetlamp falling over or getting shot with a gun) you don't have to change the bulb for 20 years. Really, it is a better choice but it would require work by city employees to actually make the change happen. They may even have to do a slide show!

    When many budgets are being stretched to the breaking point would you advocate for your town to install LED street lights that will cost more? Would you vote for your taxes to be increased to purchase the lights, or would you prefer that a couple of employees be terminated to pay for the cost difference? I, myself, am not opposed to the idea of installing power saving, pollution reducing equipment, but there has to be a balance somewhere.

    Hell yes I would advocate for this. Budgets don't magically get bigger on their own. You have to work for it. You have to plan and invest for it. This is a very, fucking, simple, means to save the city/town a lot of money and power, and it cuts down on light pollution as an added bonus!

    Oh and something else to chew on: as more demand for LED lights increases, in the form of cities and towns using them for streetlights, the manufacturing process will be improved as companies compete with one another to produce a cheaper light bulb to sell. That's basic market principles. Demand drives innovation. Yet another long term economic bonus by mandating a switch to LED lights.

    Apparently the Department of Energy in the US thinks they're a damn good thing that should be improved so they can become the defacto light source. They're hosting a contest [lightingprize.org] since May 2008 to create a better LED light bulb. They call it the L-Prize.

    Really, once you look at the known facts and the future potential you have to ask yourself why not? A handful of employees might lose their job? Taxes may go up a fraction of a percent? You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and you can't make improvements for the future without paying for it. To hold back on something as simple as this for the reasons you gave is petty, just petty.

  • by jacoby (3149) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @12:02PM (#26372751) Homepage Journal

    Nothing provides help for criminals like a poorly designed streetlight that provides strong cover shadows while blinding would-be crime watchers. Most super bright nighttime lighting does exactly this. People like you who think any light is a good light are part of the problem, both for crime and seeing the stars.

    C'mon. If nobody's watching, then all a streetlight does is let the criminal see what he's doing.

  • Re:Simple Example (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Miseph (979059) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @12:36PM (#26373251) Journal

    "$5 per lamp per month"

    Times how many lamps? $60/lamp/year isn't bad if there's only a few lamps, but a lot of places run lamps every 50 feet or so down every decently populated street, and that could mean hundreds or thousands of lamps in an area... even a fairly small improvement in per lamp cost can be dramatic once multiplied out across that many units.

  • by Aris Katsaris (939578) <katsaris@gmail.com> on Thursday January 08, 2009 @12:51PM (#26373447) Homepage

    My point was that "not being able to see a lot of stars" is extremely petty

    Petty, compared to what? Compared to air-pollution and sound-pollution? Certainly -- that's why we have laws for those things already, and not yet for light-pollution.

    But that it's of smaller significance that *those* things, doesn't make it a meaningless one to try to solve.

    I agree, but the benefits of streetlights far, outweigh the downside of "waaah I can't see as many stars as people in 1850 could!"

    The only one saying "waah" is you. As for the benefits of streetlights, I see worth in streetlights, but I also see room for improvement in them.

    If astronomy is important to you, move somewhere where you can practice astronomy!

    If the quality of life in MY CITY is important to me, I'll bloody well discuss about how to improve life in my CITY. And looking at the stars may not be as important as clean air and clean water, but its worth isn't zero either.

  • by jstott (212041) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @12:59PM (#26373569)

    Or people who want to see dark skies could just drive for a couple hours and leave the rest of us alone.

    You can see city glow for literally over 100 miles. Where, pray tell, on the east coast (where I live) can I drive "a couple hours" and be 150 miles from the nearest town, city, or lighted interstate?

    That's the whole point — there is virtually no where in the continental United States left that has truly dark skies anymore. And the sad part is, we could get them back at low cost, but its not expedient.

    -JS

  • Re:Simple Example (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bjolley (262805) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @02:18PM (#26374649) Homepage

    Here is a page full of light pollution examples [flickr.com]. Look at those and think in terms of the energy wasted.

    If the light was simply directed at the ground you could get away with fewer fixtures, lower wattage and actually *improve* nighttime visibility.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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