Friday, February 1, 2008

While sneering at the "freedom equals light bulbs argument," Dan Niel laments the decline of the incandescent light bulb:
The passing of any technology provokes nostalgia. I’m sure someone bemoaned the rise of the push-button phone and eulogized the rotary dialer (What a beautiful sound, the “shickity-shick” of a well-spun number. . . .) But the Edisonian light bulb is a more fundamental thing—so much the proverbial better idea that it came to symbolize the eureka moment, the flash of insight, when it appeared over a cartoon character’s head. The fact is, how we light the world inevitably affects how we see the world. I predict we’re going to miss the soft, forgiving light of the incandescent bulb with its celestial geometry.

I predict a more harshly lighted future.
Of course, the rise of this "harshly lighted future" (compact fluorescent light bulbs), should it come to pass, will be primarily achieved through government coercion in the banning of contemporary-technology incandescents. The overtaking of oil lamps by light bulbs did not occur through government prohibitions but through the desires of the free market.

Meanwhile, the rise of CFL presents its own environmental challenges. One "green" consumer group estimates that the USA's use of fluorescent lamps could, if bulbs are not properly disposed of, lead to the poisoning of 20 million acres of water a year due to the mercury contained in florescent bulbs.