Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ok, so I should blog more.

Here’s some interesting articles that I’ve recently read.

We know for sure that melatonin is a significant hormone for the human body and that not only do humans use melatonin but all living things also use melatonin.  Melatonin acts as an antioxidant, this mean melatonin is used by the body to repair damaged cells.  This occurs through the interaction of melatonin with mitochondria in individual cells.  The article recommends the following:

Turning off lights and especially screens about an hour before bedtime.
Going to bed and waking at the same time every day, even on weekends.

Avoiding light pollution from street lamps and other external sources of light, using light blocking curtains if needed.

Street Lighting Studies

One of the arguments thats regularly surfaces in dark sky advocates vs the lighting industry when concerning street lighting is how street lighting relates to safety and crime.  This issue comes about for several reasons, one is that the advocates for higher levels of illumination, along with greater uniformity, better colour rendering will claim reduced levels of crime.  It is expected that crime is reduced because better visibility will deter would be criminals will be deterred from crime because there will be a witness to their crime.  The corollary of course is that criminals will go to areas of poor illumination to commit their crime.  The dark sky advocates will claim that there is no proven relationship between levels of crime and levels of illuminance and to a high degree it is a correct claim.

There have been plenty of studies to ascertain the relationship between crime and illumination, most destined to be inconclusive because the reality is that crime is primarily driven by reasons other than the level of illumination.  The Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research has recently released two reports around the influence of street lighting on safety and crime.  These two studies are a direct result of a program to convert street lighting in Houston to LED technology.  The two reports are:

The conversion to LED technology in street lighting is inevitable, the cost saving is far too favourable to ignore.  In every aspect of a street lighting inventory costs are found to be saved in electricity consumption and maintenance.  The studies address the above aspects that have come to the fore as communities have started to question the outcomes of the LED street light programs.  

An aspect of the study that is crucial to how the data is interpreted is how they assessed the level and nature of light, in fact in some instances this would be a critical factor when engaging the lighting industry, as the level and nature of light is completely reliant on human perception, and that makes the final assessment difficult as human perception is just that - perception,  Trying to quantify perception in terms of a proxy parameter is a fraught difficulty as it ignores confounding factors that have an affect on other aspects of behaviour, however the results will indicate trends that can later be analysed within the other factors.

This study used the density of street lighting as determined by linear extent of streets within an areal polygon defining a particular residential/business district.


The conclusion of the study looking a crime split the aspects of crime into crime against the person and crime against property.  When considering property crime it was found that where higher levels of street lighting density occurred there was in fact a higher level of crime and that “well lit places are also places of high activity that may attract some crime.”


The first study assessed the nature of the distribution of street lighting in Houston.  The most significant findings were the highest level of street light concentration was within the commercial/business district as well as an industrial/port area.  The lowest density of street lighting was to be found on the edges of town.

Other factors that came into play were based on the socio/economic mix of Houston where it was found that street lights were most prevalent in neighbourhoods of mixed socio/economic background and that neighbourhoods of higher median income have a higher density of street lighting.

Overall the papers are worth a read as not many researchers have taken this approach to analyse this type of crime data.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cool blue or warm amber - If insects could vote.

The issues around light pollution are varied and when considered in relation to the ecosphere and biology can be quite different to the on going debate around the statement from the American Medical Association (AMA). Is it all about spectrum or do very particular wavelengths have a greater influence. On particular article that cycles around on website of Luxreview 'LED lights don’t attract insects. True or false?' makes an attempt to explain a few points and unfortunately doesn't get to a real conclusion. Other than it's probably pointless trying to conduct a scientific trial in your backyard. 
There's no shortage of research articles on the topic of light and insects. I think many of the researchers in this area would agree on one principal, that artificial light at night (ALAN) shifts the balance in the ecosystem and general creates a better environment for predators. If you're at the bottom of the food chain it's bad news. If as a human you're basically at the top of the food chain then the bad news is that ALAN may well attract nasty insects bearing disease. These ideas were published by 'Jari Lyytim¨ aki ' in 2013 in the paper "Nature’s nocturnal services: Light pollution as a non-recognised challenge for ecosystem services research and management" (Ecosystem Services).
Some recent research around moths suggests that populations of urban moths have reduced propensity to fly to light when compared to populations of moths in rural areas as found by 'Altermat & Ebert' in "Reduced flight-to-light behaviour of moth populations exposed to long-term urban light pollution" (Biology Letters 2016).
So a few months ago I was wandering around Brisbane one night, attending a conference by Institute PublicWorks Engineering Australia on ... whatever ... (I'd hasten to add that I'm not an engineer, I'm an IT consultant with a Masters in Illumination Design). I found an interesting piece of grass, I think it was nearby the Science Works museum. It was interesting because it had two types of lighting, high CCT and low CCT (see the header image). I think the luminaires were both LED but I can't remember now, and the close up images aren't revealing of the technology. Either way I'm not sure there's much difference. So to the images. The first image is of the small grassed park, the two types of luminaire are most definitely high CCT to the right ans low CCT to the left. I'm not too sure why this would be?
Grassed park area Brisbane showing high and low CCT luminaires

A close up of the high CCT shows a web of - well cob webs and plenty of insects.  In fact in this image it does appear that the luminaire may well be a LED package, there appears to be an array of square modules.
High CCT luminaire Brisbane Science Works
 A close up of the low CCT luminaire shows an absence of cob webs and no insects.  Is this surprising?
Amber (low CCT) luminaire BrisbaneScience Works
So - who has voted?

Thursday, October 27, 2016


It’s a while between blogs, scanning through the Twitter feed this morning and an interesting outcome is the quantity of articles on astro-tourism.  Whilst those in the light pollution game would be more than familiar with the concept of asto-tourism it doesn’t really appear much on the sales brouchres around Australia.  In fact cannot recall one iconic form of astronomy and tourism from any advertising campaign. 

I think the concept of Astro-tourism is so new there's no accepted way of spelling it, although what astro-tourism actually is needs to be spelled out.  Over the last few days I've had a bit of a flood of astro-tourism tweets into the @SOLIS_Syd Twitter account and so I've been inspired to write a blog post - even though there's several conferences I need to write-up here.

I recently, within the last year have been contacted twice by gradute students conducting research on asto-tourism, these have generally been students in buisness or economics.  I think they both struggled to get some taction in getting their survey forms completed and getting a relevant ’n’ value for a significant result.  I know that organised astro-tourism does occur in central Australia, centred on the resorts of Alice Springs, Alice Springs though is easily described as remote from most of the population of Australia.  What is happening in the rest of Australia  and where is astro-tourism headed around the world?  Is astro-tourism a real business?

Australia is one of the most urbanised, if not the most urbanised country in the world, over 70% of the population live in the major capital cities of the nation’s states, major urban conglomerations.  The dark sky map of Australia from the recent Second World Atlas of Night Sky Brightness shows Australia as being dark. 

Australia - World Atlas of Night Sky Brightness
I no longer live in Sydney, I’m over 400 kms from Sydney in a regional centre of 25,000 people yet the readings from my Unihedron SQM are on average just one 1 SQM level darker, on the other hand I can easily see magnitude 4.5 and maybe deeper on some nights, yet in Sydney I’d be lucky to get magnitude 4.0, generally somewhere between 3.5 and 4.0, and in my new location,  a binocular field,  10x80 Fujinon’s, the area of Scorpius is crammed with stars.   From the centre of Sydney, the location of Sydney Observatory and yet 100 metres from the Sydney Harbour Bridge it is possible to make out the 4 stars of Crux (‘Southern Cross’).  The future of astro-tourism in Australia must be seen as positive (no puns here) and yet there’s little to be seen, the future is too dark or dim ( I couldn’t resist).

What is happening overseas?

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is held in the Jasper National Park in Canada.  This national park was declared by The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a ‘Dark Sky Preserve’ and this month held for the third time a ‘Dark Sky Festival’, check out the Twitter feed on #JasperDSF, it was 10 days of astronomy under a dark sky.  With a diverse range of activities and some unique sponsors.  Such a high level of interest in science and astronomy and with high profile sponsors it looks like science can do well in Canada, check the website on Jasper Dark Sky

The most likely known Dark Sky Activist organisation would be the International Dark Sky Association (IDA)  a recent interview with their outreach officer by a travel organisation  Confetti Travel Cafe can be found here.

The IDA after being formed in 1988 has fought many lighting battles and established a process for certifying dark sky locations.  These days it has become a popular process in the United States and similar systems exist in Europe, locally a dark sky park has been established surrounding the Australian Astronomical Observatories (AAO) at Siding Spring (Coonabarabran) in the Warrumbungles National Park, and the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve was established at Tekapo in the South Island of New Zealand a few years ago.  The popularity in the United States has led to Utah making applications for 14 State Parks, where two parks have already been established.

Ngari night sky
Also to be included in the list of organisations concerned about the loss of the night sky is an organistaion in China called ‘MountainStar’.  A location in the autonomous region of Tibet called Ngari prefecture has been nominated as the location of the first Dark Sky Reserve in China.  The description by Tibet Travel is : "With an altitude of 4,200m, Ngari Dark Sky Park is now located, 25 km to the South of Shiquanhe town of Ngari.  It is the first dark sky park its kind in Asia, featuring sky observation, photography and study.  It is a paradise for star gazers. "

Sunday, June 5, 2016

So ..., long time between posts.  I've been attending seminars and conferences and finishing off my Masters in Architectural Science (Illumination Design).  The latest conference was Media Architecture Biennale 2016.  This will turn into a long blog post so the start is here:

Media Architecture Biennale 2016

So for the last four days I’ve been attending the Media Architecture Biennale 2016.  It’s been a self-indulgent immersion in the ideas around Smart Cities / Media Architecture / Lighting.  An assembelage of signiifcant players and personalities in these fields spoke on their topics over those four days.  In multiple streams it makes a difficult choice so I unfortunately missed a few items around the concept of Media Architecture.

The Media Architecture Biennale was held in Sydney 1st to 4th June 2016, looking for a Twitter hash tag use #mab2016.  This is the fourth conference of this type, the previous being held in London(2007), Denmark (2102, 2014), the next in 2018 to be held in Beijing.  a theme of ‘Digital Placemaking’ was chosen for this conference.

The program comprised of the SPARC Design exhibition, a day of workshops across urban environments and digital engagement through media architecture to smart cities and urban spaces, the city as a platform and the utilisation of data and creating public spaces at night.  It’s important to remember that the urban place/space exists in a diurnal world.

On the first day the workshops I attended was on “Smart Cities and Urban Innovation”, introduced by Scott Hawken and Hoon Han of University of New South Wales.  The speakers:

Greg Stone - Head of Digital Services - Australasia, ARUP.

Greg Stone - Head of Digital Services - Australasia, ARUP
Here Greg spoke on drivers of change these being: political, social, economic, technological and environmental.  He emphasised that the sontext of the system is mobile that artificial intelligence needs to be the intent of the system and the implementation needs to be over the internet protocol.  In the world of artificial intelligence and machine learning it is simple to conceptualise a scene  where the  daily aspects of a persons life would be centred around functions such as:  finding nourishment, arriving at the workplace, getting around, access to localities  being welcomed, access to business services  managing identity, unique and personalised retail.  Greg said a fundamental nature of a city is change and with that is  a changing technology landscape, have a look at his slide describing the changing technology landscape.  The clincher though is cost, how will it be funded and what the yield will be.  The take away was the intent and role of the street in the city and how open data will combine with ubiquitous sensors. 
Jeremy Gill - SCG Economics and Planning

Jeremy Gill - SCG Economics and Planning.  

The second speaker Jeremy Gill of SCG Economics  and Planning described the city as its people and that to define a city you need to start with data, he described data as a lens through which a city can be viewed.  That data is to be used to define the future of the city.

Friday, March 4, 2016

CIE 2016 - Day 1

The first day of #CIE2016 is over, I’m not sure they realise they need a hashtag, and it was packed full of exciting detail.  It was fantastic to hear a talk from a local indigenous man, he described the plight of Australian aboriginals and how this local land was once a burial ground.  I wish he had spoken of how the light form Melbourne is ruining the night sky and the elaborate stories that the Australian aboriginies used to transfer knowledge through the ages of 50,000 years of occupation of this continent.  I’ll be missing the next meeting of Sydney City Skywatchers on next Monday night 7th March where Duane Haramacher, formerly of Macquarie University Sydney but now of Monash University Melbourne will be talking in indigenous astronomy. 

The Keynote Presenation by Bruce Ramus was impressive as he always is, Bruce’s resume including working on spectacular rock music shows of likes of U2 gave wonderful experience with large video screens.  The latest achievements of Ramus Entertaiment includes building size presenations such as the full facade display of Commonwealth Bank at Darling Harbour Sydney, and an impressive full building size barometer for 800 Collins Street Melbourne and an impressive building in Perth.  It can be difficult aligning these efforts with the objectie of acheiving dark skies, and as Bruce’s talk emphasised that city planners are moving to 24 hour cities, smart cities and public spaces where information is delivered through interactive lighitng displays.  Soon 70% of the population of world will be living in city - will they ever see a starry night sky?

The #CIE2016 runs in three strands and it’s impossible to see and hear everything, my choice was for the technical nature of ‘Advanced Radiometry and Photometry’ and I dragged Dr Nick Lomb (formerly of Sydney Observatory) and now with IDA Victoria, along to this session.  Of the four speakers two where concerned with measuring and estimating the the uncertainities in measuring colour, my discrete mathematics was taken for a test run as they spoke on Monte Carlo simulations from their collected databases, so I’m glad I took those gradute statistics classes in 2015.  The other talks were on actually measuring colour and the laser calibrated trap detector is evidence that lasers are making their way into lighting. 

I might need to leave day 1 report here for the moment because it's the begining of day 2 and I need to get the conference, so I'll update with a few images later.  Looks like excellent weather in Melbourne, first time ever I've been here and it's not raining.

And a fitting way to end the first day was with an SQM reading from Fiztroy Gardens, 18.36 from the centre of Melbourne, unfortunately I needed an astro finder on the iPhone to locate Crux, only three stars barely visible, delta Crucis was definitely not visible - but it was clear night.  I made my first Melbourne entry for Globe At Night 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Hon. Lily D'Ambrosio Vic Minister for Industry
Minister for Energy and Resources
SOLIS and IDA Victoria have attended the first day of Australian Smart Lighting Conference 2015 or try #auslight2015.  This is conference for the lighting industry so no specific topics dealing with light pollution.  The conference does give an excellent overview of where various organisations are at with new technologies and ideas in the Australian sphere.

The current trend in the bread & butter component of the lighting industry, street lighting, is the refits of LED streetlights.  This is also a trend across the world in the USA and Europe in particular, I also discovered today that China is also racing ahead.  Some of these programs in other countries, and an example is the city of Davis, California where an LED program was halted and assessed on the premise of community amenity because the CCT of the newly installed lights was considered by the residents to be too high.  The high CCT of these lights was felt to be too harsh and too much glare.  The high CCT results in a very sharp white colour more suitable for clinical hospitals than residential streets.

So where is the Australian LED program at?  The Hon. Lily D'Ambrosia is Victorian Minister for Industry and also the Minister for Energy and Resources, she spoke at length regarding the national positioning of Victoria as the leading State for road lighting efficiency.  All State Govts. and the Federal Govt have schemes that encourage the replacement of old technology road lighting with energy efficient road lighting and of course this means LEDs, the greater the efficiency gains the greater the incentive.  This means that the blue-rich LEDs will almost always win out.

I'll leave the actual numbers for another blog, I think SOLIS and IDA Victoria need to be suggesting that  any efficiency gains should be accepted and that lower CCT lights will also bring savings and additional benefits without the risk of blue-rich light

Monday, June 22, 2015

Here's an interesting article on light and health the Sydney Morning Herald last Sunday 21st June 2015. Six Ways Sleep Deprivation Can Damage Your Life . The article is at an introductory level and doesn't include any mention of melatonin - still it is worth a read.  The graph showing the increase of incidents related to sleep disorders is interesting - it's  steady increase.  And the link to Altzheimers is also important for investigation.