Sunday, March 03, 2013

NPR in Conflict

This afternoon I was listening to NPR on its weekend news program.  The program reported on the ill effects that artificial light has on health.   A researcher at the University of Connecticut has argued that artificial light does all sorts of horrible things to circadian rhythms.   He went a bit further than the AMA is willing to go at this point but none-the-less there are at least some correlations that might be moving toward causation.   The story pointed out that the city of lights (Paris)(France) has instituted some new rules to reduce the number of lights at night.

Imagine my surprise when I find out that one of the leading loci of health paranoia (perhaps after New York) is sponsoring something called Bay Lights.  Bay Lights is privately funded and is called an "installation" and would, for the next two years, illuminate the Bay Bridge with Twinkle lights along the span.   Isn't that adding artificial light?  What about all those poor neighbors living in Treasure Island and all those expensive condos in the city and in Oakland?  Can those poor codgers live with all that light?

There is clearly not a direct link between the amount of light and the amount of security.   But dark corners tend to encourage the less legitimate of our communities a chance to operate (think cockroaches).   But the researcher brings up some interesting ideas about the relationship of artificial light to health.   I, for one, tend to sleep better in a darker room.   And yet when I sleep in a pitch black room, I do not sleep well at all.

There are three strange things about the stories together.  First, who should we believe?  Is it the research with his preliminary notion that it is harder to sleep in light or is it the notion of civic virtue and installations?   Second, did SF that city known for its wretched excesses of public troughs actually fund something from the private sector?   Third, will we all be healthier if our cities are darker?

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