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January 3, 2014 1:45 PM   Subscribe

The town of Rjukan, Norway (Google Maps) lies in a valley that does not receive direct sunlight for almost half the year. The municipality has recently attacked this problem by using computer-controlled mirrors that reflect sunlight into town. Despite some initial opposition, some quite vehement, most of the town's inhabitants seem won over by their newfound access to sunshine.

(More pictures from Flickr.)
posted by en forme de poire (47 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
The vampires all had to move out.
posted by eye of newt at 1:49 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


This is, like, the opposite of Mr Burns's plan for Springfield.
posted by entropone at 1:50 PM on January 3 [9 favorites]


Sounds like a place out of my nightmares, I'd likely be stuck in bed much of the time if I lived there. the mirror solution is clever but it's l it would still involve getting out of bed.
posted by Harpocrates at 1:51 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


What happens if you tweak the positions and set the town on fire?
posted by The Whelk at 1:51 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Alternate headline (by Fenriz): The grimmest, most frostbitten town in Norway ruined by the blight of Sunna.
posted by mediocre at 1:54 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


That is a sad patch of sunlight. Looks to me like they need about 30000 more mirrors.
posted by jjwiseman at 1:55 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Am I stupid, or are they stupid for building a town in a valley that doesn't get enough light? At least put it on a hill?
posted by Segundus at 1:55 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


does not receive direct sunlight for almost half the year

Sounds like a place out of my nightmares


Sounds like Seattle in a drought year.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:56 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]


I hope the town was descended upon by sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists to study the population before and after the mirrors.
posted by bleep at 1:56 PM on January 3


Am I stupid, or are they stupid for building a town in a valley that doesn't get enough light? At least put it on a hill?

Towns in deep valleys are common where I live.

Rivers flow in valleys.
posted by vacapinta at 2:01 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]






Am I stupid, or are they stupid for building a town in a valley that doesn't get enough light? At least put it on a hill?

Both stupid.

The town was built on a beautful day in July.
posted by Colonel Panic at 2:02 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


In fact, looking into it a bit further, the river was a source of hydro-electric power and may have helped launch Norway into the modern age. Because of this the area has been submitted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it "created the foundations for the growth and prosperity that characterise modern social development in the West."

So, not stupid. Just the opposite.
posted by vacapinta at 2:06 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Just down the road from the Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum out on highway 37.
posted by pracowity at 2:10 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


The Italian village of Viganella did the same in 2006.
posted by thecjm at 2:10 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Love this quote from the mayor:
The whole history of this town is about new and crazy ideas; about Sam Eyde saying: 'OK, I'm going to tame the water and generate power and build a town and make a product from air and water that the whole world will buy.' This fits.
It makes me feel a little less squishy about liking this one: "...living in the shade must make you afraid to dream of the sun. That's the only way I can explain the resistance: like the valley walls, minds without sun become somehow a little bit narrower."
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:18 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]


I saw this on the news a while ago. Seems like a great idea.
posted by freakazoid at 2:20 PM on January 3


A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine. A day without sunshine is like night.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:21 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


The part of me that can romanticize anything wants to run off and live there.

The part of me that is fairly seasonally affected already knows better.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:22 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]


It was bright and sunny here today but that was like the first sun I've seen since October. I don't expect to see it again until April.
posted by octothorpe at 2:29 PM on January 3


Part of me wants to move there, and the rest of me hates living in small towns and doesn't speak Norwegian.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:29 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


The Italian village of Viganella did the same in 2006.

Yeah it's kind of been bugging me that all of the reporting on this Norwegian project - like on the CBC's As It Happens a couple of weeks ago - has implied that this is the first time this has ever been done.
posted by Flashman at 2:31 PM on January 3


(Yup, I can see why that would be annoying. The Guardian piece above explicitly mentions Viganella as a proof-of-concept that inspired this one, and has a couple of sentences about how the two approaches differ.)
posted by en forme de poire at 2:34 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Ha. I missed that (wee) bit when I read it, and I even took the precaution of Ctrl-F-ing the page for 'Italy' before issuing that (overly) broad denunciation.
posted by Flashman at 2:52 PM on January 3


I'm reminded of the Portlandia sketch with everybody running from patch to patch chasing the tiny beam of sunlight around town.
posted by mykescipark at 2:54 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


And then the local Vitamin D pill supplier went out of business, the town lost its employment base, and was quickly deserted as people moved to new cities with jobs.

This could all be resolved with a dome. A giant, opaque dome. That, my friends, is the price of progress!
posted by blue_beetle at 2:54 PM on January 3


Sure, it's all fun and games until they start handing out the mandatory ant costumes.
posted by bmarkey at 3:06 PM on January 3


Sounds like Seattle in a drought year.

we here in kalamazoo had our 2nd or 3rd sunny day in about 6 weeks - i would have liked to have gone outside and enjoyed the sun this morning, but it was - 4F
posted by pyramid termite at 3:08 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I hear ya. I spent a winter doing residential construction outside of Grand Rapids some years ago, and I think it got down to around -14. First thing we'd do every morning is fire up the torpedo heaters to thaw out the compressor and air hoses. When it got up to 0, we'd all strip down to our t-shirts so the sweat wouldn't freeze. Still have family back there, and I've been thinking about you all.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:17 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


and laughing, i bet - it's an old fashioned winter here this year - lots of snow, even for us, and colder than average

never been to seattle, but i'm sure i could stand the weather there
posted by pyramid termite at 3:23 PM on January 3


The weather, per se, is rarely the issue. It doesn't actually rain as much here as people think. It's the number of cloudy days. And the fact that the clouds, once here, tend to settle in and stay. And stay. And stay. I have literally gone months without ever seeing the sun once. Now, I'm a PNW native, and my ancestors are from similarly thankless Northern European climates, so my eyes basically have no pigment for processing daylight, anyway. But most people crack. They think it will be the rain that gets them, but it's the unrelenting darkness.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:34 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]


Well, right this moment the sun IS shining in Seattle, or may plausibly return from behind a cloud. Which is why I've been outside instead of reading metafilter.
posted by wotsac at 3:35 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


By the way, I don't know if anyone else had trouble with this, but the map link doesn't actually point to Rjukan. The A is in the right place but you just zoom in you end up some other place entirely, so I spent a couple of minutes scanning the wrong place trying to figure out where the hell the town and mirrors were hiding. The town is actually here. I haven't found the mirrors on the satellite image yet. Are they visible? Or is that where the original link was pointing to?
posted by pracowity at 3:35 PM on January 3


Well, right this moment the sun IS shining in Seattle

Is it? Damn skyscrapers. ProTip: If you DO live in the PNW, don't work long hours on the lower floors in the interior of a skyscraper. Seriously limits whatever chances you may have had to see the sun.

Basically, it's like living in Rjukan, if Rjukan had decided to use giant mirrors to deflect the sun.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:41 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Seattle has been surprisingly sunny this winter - the endless fog nearly got to me though.
We *do* sometimes have some long stretches with both no sun and rain - back in the 90's, we had 90 days of rain in a 120 (winter) period. Recent transplants I knew from Colorado moved back the next year.
posted by dbmcd at 4:41 PM on January 3


Yeah - that was a bad year. I lost some friends that year, too. The fog is a real problem for me, in general, because my house is just off the sound, so we tend to get trapped in fog pockets even when the rest of the area clears for a few hours. I swear we didn't pick the spot on purpose. We're not hiding, or anything.

We did have a long stretch of sunny days this past summer, though, and the trend is definitely toward warmer weather. If I can just live long enough, this should eventually be a tropical paradise, even without giant mirrors.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:51 PM on January 3


pracowity, I think the mirrors aren't on Street View or satellite yet; the Google Maps link was just to orient you to where Rjukan was. I did get pretty close to the site in Street View (it's annotated as "Mirror Project" below) but it's from '09 so you can only see the mountain.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:01 PM on January 3


Segundus: "Am I stupid, or are they stupid for building a town in a valley that doesn't get enough light? At least put it on a hill?"

I think historically people would have tended to settle in valleys rather than on top of hills because they would have easy access to creek/river water and be able to use the fertile soil found near streams. Plus up on a hill you're much more exposed to the elements and also much more visible.

I remember reading somewhere that the best available soil on the planet is all hidden under the huge cities that grew from successful settlements near rivers.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:22 PM on January 3


There's a pretty great documentary called Lo Specchio about the Italian village that did this.
posted by statolith at 5:36 PM on January 3


They think it will be the rain that gets them, but it's the unrelenting darkness.

Unrelenting Darkness is the name of my Black Sabbath cover band.
posted by Foosnark at 5:44 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


First the fog comes, then the trees close in.
Those little mirrors aren't going to cut it.
*shudders*
posted by BlueHorse at 7:38 PM on January 3


On the radio this morning - an irony free voice announcing "It's a beautiful, unseasonable Friday here in Seattle, it'll be only partially cloudy for the whole afternoon".
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:38 PM on January 3


Seeing how much the town enjoys this, but also seeing how small an area was illuminated, I'm sure that as soon as I put up a few mirrors and got a little sunlight, I'd get caught up in a mirror erecting frenzy. More, taller, wider mirrors! Must have more mirrors, more sunlight! Till the whole mountain was covered in mirrors.

(We're heading into a very deep freeze in a few days, so I'm a little obsessed with the lack of warming rays of sunshine right now.)
posted by marsha56 at 7:41 PM on January 3


I did this in my backyard with an old 4x4 bathroom wall mirror. I hung it from the north fence and it captures and reflects the sunlight that peeks in over the apartment just to the south.

Prior to the mirror, 90% of the yard was in shadow from mid-November through January.

The dog suns herself in its rays every afternoon.
posted by notyou at 7:54 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


I miss the fog (native Oregonian, of Norwegian descent). We don't get any here, there are so many winds that coastal towns here almost all have at least one decorative wind star sculpted into pavement.

As perspective on "should have built on a hill", that's exactly what people in this corner of the world did, and indeed, it brings its own issues. For one, since, as others have noted, water flows down, you have to hike down to find water. You also have to hike down to get food, since food, both plant and animal, prefers to grow on plains rather than hillsides. You do get amazing views on hilltops, and that was the purpose of hilltop towns (villages perchés, literally "perched villages"): being able to see oncoming invaders, which was a regular occurrence. Cramming houses together on top of a hill made villages easier to defend. Valley housing was a luxury that only started to gain foothold about a century ago: indeed, the city of Nice has no ancient riverbed sites apart from farms. All its main Greek and Roman heritage is built on top of its hills. Roman armies very carefully marched from hilltop to hilltop, avoiding valleys at all costs (there are still Roman cobblestone roads, is how we know this).

Norwegians didn't have many invaders to speak of on their terrain. Plus, cold weather. Having a farmhouse right next to your farm is a big advantage when your GoreTex is wool and your central heating is a fireplace. Hiking/skiing down an icy, snowy hillside in the dead of winter, just to get water and food? How are you going to cart supplies back up, and how long would it take? The only health advantage being a bit of sunlight? The multiple risks outweigh that single benefit.
posted by fraula at 2:44 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Needs more Space Mirrors. ( But I do say that about most things )
posted by mikelieman at 3:44 AM on January 4


The hydroelectric power aspect of this story touches on a major geographical advantage Norway has. They have lots of water and lots of mountains. That's why they are the largest producer of aluminum in Europe (with Iceland a very close second); it takes a lot of power to make aluminum (which is why you can actually make money recycling those PBR cans).

I've been inside one of Norway's hydroelectric plants. The largest "room" I've been in, anywhere. Mind-boggling.

Seasonal Affective Disorder…you'd think those Scandinavians would have gotten used to it, but, no, the body/mind is what it is. People tend to get more depressed as the days shorten, something which is ameliorated somewhat after the first snowfall, which brightens things up a bit. SAD is kind of like the phenomenon of working the night shift. Some people get used to it. I never could, really.
posted by kozad at 10:20 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


What happens if you tweak the positions and set the town on fire?


You risk getting something like the London skyscraper that burns cars...
posted by aqsakal at 7:50 AM on January 5


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