Monday, March 09, 2009

Blinded by the light

Or why cities are darker than the open lands..

I have commentecd on this before in different ways, but tonight once again highlighted the enormous difference in light from the city to rural or wild lands.

At first blush our inclination is to think of the light pollution which makes cities brighter. In some ways we are right, but I want for the moment to argue that cities are actually darker than the wilder, more open places.

Seem absurd? Yeah does to me too, except that since I am willing to let reality determine what is actually true, I have to accept that in fact cities are darker* than more wild areas.

*where "darker signifies the ability to see what is around you.

This asterisk comment sets the entire stage. When I last lived in a city, I lived in an enclave or neighborhood which had few streetlights and no curbs.. this is as good as it gets in a city INHO.. still I could barely make it across the street on a normal night without the aid of a flashlight.. and I could only make my way across the patio I myself built without a flashlight only my memory..

Yet here in a place I have lived only a very short time, and where I control none of the placements of obstacles around me (until I get my own home built anyway.. on a different location obviously) I can navigate across an area perhaps 100 yards long with various obstacles ranging from pipes coming up out of the ground for spigots, to flower beds, trees, fences (electric and barbed) an out building, and a house.. all on a night with a covered moon (we have a thin overcast night tonight) and obviously no stars, without any need of the nifty little crank flashlight I have bought..

So why the difference?


There is so much of it in the city that we never see the enormous amount of light which hits this planet when we are turned away from the sun.. As a result everything appears darker, we see less, and we need more light to see only the smallest fraction of what is there around us.. but if we would cut the light around us, we could see so much more without any need for additional light..

Seems paradoxical but I guarentee that virtually every thinking person who has ever experienced both will agree.. Heck even now looking out my window, with my eyes adjusted to one of the only two incandescent bulbs left in my very humble temporary abode, I can merely glance out the window and clearly make out one of the outbuildings and the fact that the trim and the body of that building are of different colors. I can clearly see trees, shrubs and even disturbed soil.. all of this with less than a full moon, covered by clouds and my own eyes accustomed to normal incandesancts. If this does not tell us something nothing can..

KIll the street lights.. kill the highway lights. Kill the adverts after hours.. etc.. we will all see better, save money, and enjoy a night sky that most city folk have simply never even seen...

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