Sunday, March 30, 2008
This Saturday some idiots and newspeople asked me to turn off the lights for one hour, along with Sydney and some other big cities that were going to do the same thing. Images of people sitting at restaurant tables around a candle as the lights went off flashed around the TV screen all evening long. "Turn off the lights and use candles" seemed to be the message. Well, that's insultingly stupid. That's not an invitation to decrease pollution, but an invitation to return to the dark ages! Don't get me wrong, I hate pointless artificial lighting. I absolutely hate not being able to see the stars and other astronomical objects because of all the fucking lights. Who the hell needs lighting at 2 am in the night? That's a total waste of electricity and a fart in the face of all astronomers and stargazers everywhere. But candles? Let's take a look at the luminous efficiency of candles versus modern lighting. The humble incandescent light has a terrible efficiency of only 2.5%, because of all the thermal radiation it emits, only a small part is visible. The more advanced fluorescent gas-discharge lamp can reach 15%. LEDs are currently worse, contrary to popular belief. Low-pressure sodium vapor lamps can reach 27% efficiency, which is huge. They have an added advantage of being easily filtered out when doing astronomy, because their yellow color has a very narrow spectrum. Take a power station efficiency of let's say 10%, which is a very, very low estimate, stick an incandescent light bulb at its output and you get an overall efficiency of 0.25% from coal or whatever noxious fuel you're using to pure light. Now take a candle and burn it, releasing carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, soot and useless heat into the atmosphere, get an efficiency of about 0.04% (so that's more than 5 times worse than the most inefficient coal-to-light technology in current use) and brag about how great an environmentalist you are. Then smell your farts and comment on their exquisite flavor. Then exchange farts with all your brain-dead environmentalist friends who don't know shit about physics, chemistry or biology and brag and lick each others' asses. And celebrate Earth Hour.