Genesis 1:3
August 5, 2005 4:34 AM   Subscribe

Electrical lighting conspiracy theories can be paranoid, downright bizarre, or actually pretty reasonable.
posted by nthdegx (25 comments total)
Did you hear how the oil companies have suppressed the discovery of the 100 mpg car?
posted by caddis at 6:46 AM on August 5, 2005

caddis: That conversation is hilarious, especially the part near the bottom of the page--"I think these 100 mpg carbeurators are about as real as those cars that can run on water (but are similarly prevented from coming to market by the oil industry)."

But what about...

Anyway, that last (most interesting) link seems to be more about how electrical lighting is an unconscious conspiracy, and I'm inclined to agree. I'm not a fanatic about light, as the author appears to be, but I do wonder why we don't just save our electric lighting for when it's really needed. That last link proposes a pretty reasonable (if sad) answer.
posted by voltairemodern at 6:59 AM on August 5, 2005

Wow, those are three great links. I sent each of them to two or three IM buddies.

Is there more writing about the use of skylights? I notice the more prominent architects use natural light more extensively. Is it just the "boring buildings" that get canned up and shut off from the outside world, topped with florescents and lined with ugly floor tile?
posted by NickDouglas at 6:59 AM on August 5, 2005

Here's a pretty cool hybrid fluorescent/solar fixture that uses solar collectors and pipes the light via fiber optic to diffuser rods that looks pretty much like fluorescent tubes. (pdf)
posted by Nothing at 7:10 AM on August 5, 2005

Metafilter: Once they are full of dark, they can no longer suck.

That second link is nutty.
posted by bdave at 7:17 AM on August 5, 2005

There are several reasons not to use skylights in stores.

One is that it reduces the identicallity (not a word) of the stores. Large, national chains, be they hotels, resturaunts, or big box retailers, want your every experience in their store to be as similar as possible every time you go. They want you to see a Wal-Mart in Sheboigan and go in, because you know it will be exactly the same as the one you normally shop in at home in New York. They want the store experience to be familiar, so that no matter where you are you'll always be comfortable going in one. If, in Sheboigan the store is dark (b/c its a cloudy day, but who thinks of that inside a store?) you'll form a negative impression of that store and the brand in general.

Second is that while research has shown that sunlight does increase mood and spending, the same research indicates that cloudy, overcast weather significantly decreases mood and dramatically suppresses spending. While on most days the stores could expect a few percent bump in sales, on rainy days they could expect sales to drop dramatically, to an extent not even closely compensated for by the sunny day bump. This effect is further exacerbated by the noise rain makes when falling on skylights, which would be easy to hear in the store. If you had skylights in your store on rainy days, you might as well just close.

Third is that they are expensive to install and maintain.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of energy conservation, and in the long run it probably does make sense to the accountants, but I bet the marketers and the brand managers (who probably draw more water at corporate, anyway) would have a big problem with it.

Incidentally, Marketplace (the npr radio show) recently did a story on some Wal-Marts in Texas that DO have skylights (and wind turbines) as part of a pilot program to create environmentally friendly, and hopefully cheaper, stores.
posted by ChasFile at 7:22 AM on August 5, 2005

I love going into a store and finding skylights, or even a little fresh air. But I'm an atypical consumer, so I don't count.

I hate typical flourescent light banks. Even when properly functioning they distracted the hell out of me in school. The malfunctioning, flickering ones were terrible. My school classrooms usually had no windows to the outside, or maybe just a small one by or in the door.

I remember wishing they just had some skylights or light pipe fiberoptics so I could at least feel what it was like outside. But then, being the nerdchild I was, I was probably the only one or one of a small handful who even knew what fiber optics were in my school.

The world needs more efficient synergies put to use. (Synergy in the Buckminster Fuller sense, not the management buzzword jerkoff sense.)
posted by loquacious at 7:43 AM on August 5, 2005

Two points. First. Light bulb technologies are like any other technologies - while they depend on innovation for success, they also depend on built-in obselescence, patent laws, market muscle, cartels, technological lock-in, etc., to survive. For history/sociology/technology wonks, Bijker has an interesting case history of the development of the flourescent light bulb.

Second, the dark conspiracy guy only has it half right. Once light bulbs are full of dark, they can be recycled as electric dark bulbs. These are the same as electric light bulbs, but they radiate dark. It's a little known fact that when you go into a dark room and flip the switch, you are sometimes actually turning an electric dark bulb off, rather than switching an electric light bulb on.
posted by carter at 7:48 AM on August 5, 2005

True, and did you know that the military is one of the big users of electric dark bulbs to bathe an operations area in darkness before they attack using night vision equipment? We probably shouldn't even be talking about this because people have been known to disappear when they get too close to the truth here.
posted by caddis at 7:53 AM on August 5, 2005

I think the second one was humor, based on the URL -
posted by fixer at 8:12 AM on August 5, 2005

This reminds me of my first vacation with my husbands family. The one where after a few glasses of wine, they tried to convince me that no one know what electricity actually was, that all engineering and scientific explaination was just a cover to show we didn't know what exactly electricity was or if it even actually existed.

Mind you, these were all what we could call educated folk. One went to Harvard.

Ah yes, conspiracy. It will take a rational man and turn him into a jibbering fool. Well, conspiracy and alcohol.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:48 AM on August 5, 2005

Yes, I think the second one was humour based on the theories of the great De Selby
posted by gds at 8:49 AM on August 5, 2005

I heard that electricity comes from other planets.
posted by anagrama at 9:04 AM on August 5, 2005

Time for me to apply for a patent for that aluminum foil hat I just invented!

It keeps the 60-cycle fluorescent lights from stealing your thoughts!
posted by clevershark at 9:12 AM on August 5, 2005

There Are No Electrons
posted by hortense at 9:23 AM on August 5, 2005

they tried to convince me that no one know what electricity actually was

Well, in one sense, that's true, and in another it's not. We have a lot of excellent predictive theories to describe the behavior of the phenomenon we call "electricity." Predictive theories are only models, though. The deeper you get into the physics, though, the less the model seems to resemble the phenomenon and things get real counter-intuitive real fast.

Pragmatically, we know what electricity is. Ontologically, things are very unclear. Anyways, from your description, it doesn't sound like that's what they meant.

On preview: uh, yeah.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:27 AM on August 5, 2005

Don't forget the glow-in-the-dark light bulbs.
posted by mrbill at 9:32 AM on August 5, 2005

I bet store skylighting would cost (through increased use of A/C) more than it would save (through reduced use of lights). With no other type of ventilation, big-box stores tend to run the A/C even when the weather outside is pleasant, and skylights would make that situation even worse.

Not to say that it wouldn't be possible to build a more energy-concious big-box store, but I doubt it would be as simple as adding some skylights. And if you were really trying to save energy, you could probably save far more by not building pedestrian-hostile facilities like shopping malls and big-box stores in the first place. With every visitor driving in and driving out, the lighting and air conditioning of the store itself is probably a relatively minor player in the overall energy picture.

I've always thought the huge, flat, unused spaces on the roofs of Wal-Marts, grocery stores, etc. looked like a good place to put solar collectors of some sort. One day, when they're cheap, maybe.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:06 AM on August 5, 2005

I bet store skylighting would cost (through increased use of A/C) more than it would save (through reduced use of lights). With no other type of ventilation, big-box stores tend to run the A/C even when the weather outside is pleasant, and skylights would make that situation even worse.

Don't forget the lawsuit filed against a big-box retailer not that long ago that involved a would-be burglar falling through a skylight and then blaming the store for the dangerous condition on the roof. I'm sure it settled for pennies, but the point that skylights increase the risk for roof workers is legit.

Also, skylights leak and drip rainwater onto merchandise in wet climates, and get torn off in windy climates. Not every skylight has that problem, but it's non-zero.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 10:08 AM on August 5, 2005

The 'darksucker' theory predates the intarweb; I remember my high school physics teacher handing it out in mimeograph as an extra credit assignment (devise an experiment to prove/disprove this theory, etc.)

Still funny, though.
posted by ook at 10:11 AM on August 5, 2005

I heard that electricity comes from other planets.

Close the door!
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:21 AM on August 5, 2005

Some of the new Wal-Marts have skylights.
posted by nyxxxx at 10:32 AM on August 5, 2005

Re. skylights in stores: to date it's been all about marketing control, control of the 'vision', what the interior looks like and how it affects buying behavior. A program somewhere has issued forth the 'correct' lighting for a toy store. It dosn't consider natural light, since it much more complicated given local variables including latitude, weather, time of year, time of day and generally how weather and lighting affect mood. They want to keep it simple and maximize profitability. They figure there's a magic formula which is applicable absolutely everywhere. So figure out what the natural light is doing and manage that on a day to day basis? Forget it. Result: walk into a box store anywhere and you can't tell what city you're in, they all look identical - and no skylights to mess with the 'vision'.

Walmart is smart to start including skylights, they'll give their outlets a slightly more upscale friendlier look for very little relative cost.
posted by scheptech at 10:48 AM on August 5, 2005

I'm with fixer ... with the word "Humor" being part of the URL for the second link.
posted by ericb at 2:17 PM on August 5, 2005

Yeah, thanks, Cpt. Obious. This post has been tagged "humor" from the beginning.
posted by nthdegx at 2:45 PM on August 5, 2005

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