Musings on optics, physics, astronomy, technology and life

Archive for August, 2011

Spotlighting Those New Bulb Choices

In today’s New York Times, writer Bob Tedeschi has an entertainingly written piece on the new federal light-bulb rules that will go into effect next January. It’s certainly worth a read, if only because next January marks the start of another election year, and you just know that some presidential or senatorial hopeful is going to scream, “The government wants to outlaw your light bulbs!”

As Tedeschi points out early on, the new law doesn’t ban incandescent bulbs entirely; it only places new standards for energy efficiency on them. I pointed this out when I blogged about the then-new law in December 2007. Assuming that the rest of the news media reported correctly on this legislation when it was passed, anyone who claims the government is banning light bulbs is misinformed (or willfully misinforming the audience).

Tedeschi also introduces newspaper readers to a few phrases and concepts that optics folks are already familiar with, such as “lumens,” “correlated color temperature” and “color rendering index.” He seems to find it odd that a bluer light has a higher color temperature than a yellower light. Personally, I learned this from a book on the fundamentals of photography back in the… OK, I won’t cop to how long ago it was, but let’s just say that it was back in the days of film-based photography, and you had to know whether your color film was balanced for “daylight” or “tungsten.” And I hadn’t yet encountered E = hν in a college physics class.

In a related blog post, Tedeschi seeks to allay some of the concerns frequently expressed about compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), namely the environmental costs and the mercury content.

Tedeschi ends the main article (the online version, at least) with two series of “bullet points”: a list of suggested lighting choices by room (bathroom, kitchen, etc.) and “tips for buying bulbs in the complex world to be ushered in by the new lighting law” (take it slow, study up, brands count, read the label, experiment, consult others). He also throws out this interesting tidbit: some women “perceive a much better spectrum of colors” than men because they have more types of color receptors in their retinas. Maybe that’s why some men can’t tell the difference between taupe, tan, bone and ivory….