Sunday, December 12, 2010

street life lights

One of the cool things about this time of the year is the sparkling lights on Christmas trees. It's always a shame when the holidays end and we're left with long dark nights and streets lit by ugly phosphorous street lights that make you eager to get back inside. Street lights are, of course, important for lighting our way home and for keeping the streets safe but as well as shining in a somewhat poisonous spectrum, they're also very costly to operate.

A group of scientists in Taiwan recently discovered that placing gold nanoparticles inside the leaves of trees causes them to give off a luminous reddish glow after dark. They were looking for a way to create high efficiency lighting at low cost without using toxic chemicals. Essentially, the gold treated leaves act like little solar panels storing up UV light throughout the day and glow softly through the night.

There was no discussion in the article I read about what happens in high latitude cities where the leaves actually drop in the autumn but it would give us all another good reason to look forward to spring. Considering the current price of gold it's also certainly true that there'd be lots of people eager to rake once the leaves began to fall. A world lit by bioluminescence would be pretty neat but it all sounds pretty complicated and I'm a bit nervous about nano-anything.

What I know would be nice is being able to see the moon and stars again.


Francis Hunt said...

A much better use for gold than casting it into heavy bars and locking it away in vaults!

The skies are clearing here in Germany so we'll be able to see moon and stars at the latest tomorrow night. Freezing temperatures though ...

linda said...

what a lovely idea and maybe it would smell good too, something the other can't possibly do....i love the idea but where to get enough leaves?

hoping the weather is still passable there...many apologies i have not been out and about much but it's snowing too much here and i can't find my boots and hat. xoxox

marja-leena said...

Gold sounds a bit toxic to me, hmm, though an interesting idea. What about all this light pollution so that we can't see the stars so well anymore in our cities? I'm always astounded how bright and close they look when I'm far from cities. But I do love the holiday lights in our dark winters.

lindsaylobe said...

Early days so we don’t know much about it; it may even be injurious to the tree since potentially it is interfering with its biology which may be harmful or kill it.

Better prospects apparently in cancer research.

I was interested in your previous post and agree that nature left to her own devices can sometimes stage a spectacular recovery at times; but it’s not as it seems. What is left is always different to what was previous because the earth is always naturally evolving. You cannot restore a wildenernes any more than you make one up afresh – but what is left nevertheless can be quite agreeable and fairly close to what was previously present if by one means or another you introduce specific indigenous plants and shrubs. Overall resilience exceeds expectations. The idea of survival only of the fittest is not true – what we have naturally occurring is an exuberant abundance in diversity and profusion constantly evolving. It all depends upon understanding the prevailing ecosystem and environment of the area affected. That eco system there may not respond elsewhere in that same way. Best wishes

Spadoman said...

Tonight, (Monday 12/13/2010), there is suppose to be the best meteor shower for the year. It is very cold, and that means clear. I hope the skies stay that way. I'll see the moon, stars and meteors.
And wouldn't it be a nice world if we didn't need streetlights as a crime deterent? I guess the poison lights are better than whale oil to light the streets. Maybe not.
On my block, it is pitch black in front of my house. There are streetlights all up and down, but they skipped a section. I have the only section in our little town that doesn't have a curb either, I'll go check my tax bill.


gfid said...

very wow!! wouldn't that be magical?! nano - yes - far beyond my ken, but middle son has just got his iron ring for computer engineering in just that field ( a field of softly glowing trees.... lovely thought).

susan said...

francis - Softly lit trees would be a much better way to use the stuff. I hope you get to see the meteor showers tonight and tomorrow.

linda - Yes, it does sound lovely. I hope you've been able to find your hat and scarf by now :-)

marja-leena - Apparently phosphorous is very toxic but I've never met anyone who ate either substance. I'd love to see tonight's meteor showers but the city lights her are too bright as well.

lindsay - I doubt anyone will actually attempt to try this since it's far from practical for a number of reasons but it did provide a nice idea.

As far as the restoration of the open coal pit is concerned of course you're right that it's not a restoration of an ecosystem but a version of how the land begins to heal itself after a terrible injury. A similar thing happens when any space previously occupied and damaged by humans is left alone. First weeds grow and then any number of other plants suitable to the climate and health of the soil. Whether humans still inhabit the planet a hundred years or more from now our presence will affect the ecology for millenia.

spadoman - I'd love to be able to go out and watch the Geminids but alas, even Halifax is too brightly lit and besides, our apartment faces the wrong way. You're very lucky your municipality missed your block but I still hope they haven't been charging you.

The best thing we can hope for with the light pollution is that they at least put lids on them and turn them down a bit.

gfid - It would be very beautiful to walk next to bioluminescent trees along the sidewalks and perhaps a few here and there in the parks :-) I'm sure you must be very proud of your son.

TheCunningRunt said...

What a beautiful photograph!

La Belette Rouge said...

I am so much happier now that our tree is up. I won't want to take it down. It is so light and bright and cheerful. It might stay up for a while. It is a fake tree. No consequences for keeping it up other than the neighbors thinking I am a nut and I am okay with that possibility.

Pagan Sphinx said...

Yes. The moon and stars. But the glow does make for a lovely effect.

Joss Albért said...

Hi Susan!

I hope you are well and settled. I keep track of the blog though I know I've been quiet. The session leopard blog has been superseded by my website, and you are welcome to visit anytime.

And another thing, next year (perhaps, if I get my act together) I am going to try and write a little book. I may well be asking you to provide some illustration. For money as well as love of course. :) I love your sketches and watercolours.

Don't be a stranger!

jams o donnell said...

What a wonderful idea. As francis says it is a far better use than leaving the stuff in vaults

Liberality said...

A beautiful photo as others have commented. I don't trust scientist to do better than nature though.

I heard recently that low level lights at night is depressing for people as it suppresses melatonin levels in the brain. Apparently the only light at night that is alright is starlight and moonlight. ;~)

susan said...

cr - Finding them is much easier that actually going out and looking through a lens :-)

belette - When I was young there was one year when I insisted we keep the family tree up long after Christmas but one day even I could see the poor thing was done. I removed the decorations and lights and by then every needle was on the living room floor. Fake trees don't smell as good but they are a better option if you want to keep them up til spring :-)

pagan sphinx - It does, doesn't it?

joss - Hello again. All is well here and I apologize for being an infrequent visitor but I will be by to see your new site soon. I've been working on some new drawings and wondering if I'll ever write a new Adventure.

I'll look forward to reading your little book when you get around to it and we'll see what happens.

All the best.

jams - Wouldn't it be lovely to walk under glowing trees? Not the whole forest, perhaps but just the same..

liberality - It is a pretty picture but one I'm sure was photoshopped since all they've managed so far is plants that grow in water. I wonder if they'd have to feed the nano-gold to baby trees? It all does sound kind of weird but the idea amused me.

Starlight and moonlight are just fine with me too :-)

Anonymous said...

After staying in PA for many weeks, I welcome the street lights in the Illinois. For some reason, the highways and roads in PA are either not lit or dimly lit. My night vision is not very good and it was a nightmare every time I had to go out in the evening.

I also love the Christmas lights, especially when I drive through town and the main street is all lit up with white lights. Just beautiful.

--Nunly/Mary Ellen

Randal Graves said...

Stars? What are those?

okjimm said...

nanoparticles? //glow softly through the night.//

... usually a couple of beers and a shot of tequila works form me.

no nano-beers neither!

susan said...

nunly - I'm very glad to see you back. Nah, I'm not fond of driving in the dark either but it's nice to sit in the dark outside and let the starlight in sometimes.

randal - I'm not sure Clevelandistan has them. I'll have to read up.

okjimm - Mescaline will also do the trick (or so I've heard).

Lydia said...

You have such interesting stories at your blog! I wonder what glowing leaves would do do nestled birds.....

I hope you get to see some stars soon. Last night there was a break in the clouds and I saw the moon and the Dippers. Beautiful sites, indeed.