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Pumping Sunlight Into Homes

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the doctor-my-eyes dept.

Earth 182

ByronScott sends a snippet from Inhabitat that begins "What if you could light your entire building using no electricity or artificial lights – but just the natural light from our favorite star, the Sun? Enter the Sundolier, a powerful sunlight transport system that's like putting a solar robot on your roof to pump sunlight indoors. The manufacturer claims a single Sundolier unit can provide enough light to illuminate a 1,000-2,500 sq. ft. area [93-232 sq. m] without any other sources." The company's website is a bit thin on details, such as what happens on cloudy days, or how many days of sunlight per year on average are needed for the device to perform acceptably.

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There are no details (5, Informative)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730694)

It's thin on the details because there are no details. This is just a flexible aluminum tube and a diffuser. The only thing different about this than the kits you can get at Menards is the big collector array which tracks the sun.

There's no solar panels in this system. On cloudy days, you use electric lighting.

Our Sundolier delivers sunlight so effectively that electric lighting can be turned off when the sun is out offering excellent opportunities to save electricity while reducing heat generation through cool indirect daylighting.

There's no mention anywhere, not in the inhabitat.com article, nor the companies website, that this does anything on cloudy days.

Re:There are no details (1)

dysan27 (913206) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730766)

Exactly, as the site says it only works when the sun is out. It's basically a fancy skylight

Re:There are no details (2, Insightful)

oscartheduck (866357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730944)

Right, exactly. The use cases on the website are even all things like offices, schools, the kinds of places that aren't inhabited at night.

Re:There are no details (1)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731320)

And it makes some pretty bold claims about those use cases...

Studies have shown that retail sales go up, productivity increases, and school grades improve thanks to natural indoor light. But the biggest gain is in the occupants’ health.

Is this true? I have a kneejerk reaction to "Studies have shown..."
I guess there may be some benefit to SADs cases*.

*Though I can never decide if it doesn't exist or if everyone in London has it. Check out the symptoms; "...some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and crave sweets and starchy foods. They may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up." [via Wiki]

Re:There are no details (1)

leenks (906881) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731896)

[via Wiki]

Which wiki?

Re:There are no details (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31732084)

school grades improve thanks to natural indoor light

I know it's "only" anecdotal, but my productivity is greater and the quality of my work better when I'm working near a window.

I used to have a windowless studio and would start to get sleepy after just an hour or so of work. When I bought my new place I made sure to put my work area in a room with a skylight and windows.

I had to do a lot of dicking around with the acoustics because a sheet of glass is a highly reflective surface, but once I put up proper baffles, and even some sheer curtains, I still got lots of light. The skylight wasn't such a problem, maybe because the glass was angled. The only problem now is that when it rains, I hear the pitter-patter on the skylight. That's a problem, I admit. Now, not only do I feel better when I work, but when I step out into the world after a long session I don't look like a mole crawling out of the ground. And I find that I like being able to know what time it is by the nature of the light.

Re:There are no details (1)

The Great Pretender (975978) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730800)

It's a solar collector, plenty of them out there and better designs than this.

Re:There are no details (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730898)

I recall reading a while back about a company that replaced some of their big fluorescent tubes with fiber-optic arrays that piped in sunlight, this seems like a fancier version of that.

Re:There are no details (3, Insightful)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730920)

Or a less fancy version. The article says

The concentrated light is then reflected down a two foot tube and distributed using a “sun chandelier”.

Fiberoptics would allow you to snake light to various rooms, into basements, etc. That seems more useful.

Re:There are no details (2, Interesting)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731102)

Considering it's for blunt transfer of light I think the fiber version might be cheaper too since you could basically make it out of the cheapest still-transmitting rejected cables.

I'm not sure how much the cheapest functional cable for this is though, or how flexible, although the real trick would be getting the light into the fiber-optics to begin with. Some kind of half-pipe and tube-collector design both capable of just being hosed down by a home user is obviously the best solution but probably also expensive or impossible.

Re:There are no details (-1, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731662)

Considering it's for blunt transfer of light I think the fiber version might be cheaper too since you could basically make it out of the cheapest still-transmitting rejected cables.

Air is cheaper than plastic or glass.

Some kind of half-pipe and tube-collector design both capable of just being hosed down by a home user is obviously the best solution but probably also expensive or impossible.

Any kind of fiberoptic transfer for the collected light is also going to be so expensive as to be effectively unworkable. The only affordable solution might be something made of plastic. But plastic is disgusting. I already want to find an alternative to common wiring insulation because it's made of PVC which not only offgasses disgusting compounds nonstop, but also releases dioxin when it burns. The jackets on the wire in your car are made of the same stuff. In your house it's there by code; that's right, the code demands that you use toxic materials. Welcome to the land of the free.

Re:There are no details (2, Insightful)

magamiako1 (1026318) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731818)

I'm pretty sure if the electric wiring in your house is burning to the point of causing you problems with toxic fumes, you've got quite a bit more to worry about.

Re:There are no details (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731866)

Sweet a hypochondriac geek.

If you are worrying about the tiny bit of VOC's from your houses wiring, then I better not tell you about what your carpet and the wood in your house is outgassing. or the paint on the walls (yes even the "enviro-junk" they sell to try and placate people like you).

The wiring puts out far FAR less than many other sources in a home even a LEEDS certified green home. Natural woods gas out nasties if you want to go looking for nasties.

Oh and dont get me started about the impurity of the gypsum in your wall board.....

Re:There are no details (0, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731996)

If you are worrying about the tiny bit of VOC's from your houses wiring, then I better not tell you about what your carpet and the wood in your house is outgassing. or the paint on the walls (yes even the "enviro-junk" they sell to try and placate people like you).

I'm worried about all of that shit, frankly. Not so worried that I won't rent a house with stupid carpet, but worried enough to where I would never put it in. You can use milk paints which are not only VOC-free, but also don't bleed anything else toxic, either. Further, they last longer than stupid toxic paints that you buy at the home despot... which also sells no-VOC housepaints, of course. The actual plan is to build with earth bags and mud plaster.

Oh and dont get me started about the impurity of the gypsum in your wall board.....

I would never build anything with sheet rock. That stuff is fucking disgusting. Everywhere I want to live it always eventually becomes little more than a mold substrate. I want to build an earthbag+mud plaster home topped with decks and greenhouses (made of glass and metal) rather than living in one of these stupid overprocessed shit shacks that continually drains one's wallet. The one I'm in now is about to need a new roof, probably mostly because it flops all over hell every time there's an earthquake because it was inadequately triangulated and rests on a pair of disconnected concrete slabs, which is about the most retarded thing I've ever heard. But at least it was built before that run of Chinese sheet rock made from unpurified fly ash that was sweating toxics and killing people.

Re:There are no details (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31732036)

Air is cheaper than plastic or glass.

Glass fiber-optics means:
-more light for less heat
-longer lasting
-easier installation
-never having to MacGyver a device to clean a dirty tube (with turns!)

Any kind of fiberoptic transfer for the collected light is also going to be so expensive as to be effectively unworkable.

There are already a number of consumer level manufacturers in the market. The prices are high but this is not due to any inherit cost in fiber optics. The problem is there is no low grade fiber optic market.

Glass fiber-optic solar collectors/directors/diffusers have great potential for cost/energy/environmental savings but to realize that some company is going to have to plunk down a nontrivial investment in fiber-optics manufacturing solely for the solar industry.

Re:There are no details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31731916)

Using a parabolic mirror to reflect light to a point and collect it into fiberoptic cables was patented by some professor at a university (I don't know where, just remember reading about it.) It was then sent to a diffuser to spread the light. He also augmented it with a sensor to detect the amount of solar light, and then could turn on electric lights when needed.

Re:There are no details (1)

crashumbc (1221174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31732146)

Which is why process patents suck. Because this bum isn't going to actually produce anything and his "patent" prevents others from entering the market...

Re:There are no details (1)

Lord Pillage (815466) | more than 4 years ago | (#31732220)

Simple fix: don't use a mirror, use a lens.

Re:There are no details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31730922)

Even on cloudy days you should get a fair amount of light. I would envision this as something you would use with some light meters to maintain a specific level of light where a small computer (like an arduino) would measure light levels and if they are too high, turn off some lights and/or close a shutter on the solar light and if too dim open up the shutters and turn on lights as needed.

You could even embed lighting in the solar delivery tube to keep the lighting more consistant.

Due to varying cloud cover you would really need some sore of reactive shutter so you didnt put people through varying light levels during work.

Mixing CTB and CTO (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31730942)

I noticed that they are mixing color temperatures [wikipedia.org] in that video.

Sunlight is CTB-- "color-temperature blue" -- about 6500 Kelvin.
Tungsten lights are CTO - "color-temperature orange" -- about 3200 Kelvin

When you have a big skylight but use tungsten lamps to light the same room, the effect is this weird blue/orange clashing effect where areas lit by the different light sources appear to have different hues. The same thing is common in grade schools or offices where blue light from the windows collides with the greenish or yellowish flickering light of fluorescents. Photographers may be especially familiar with the idea of color correction [wikipedia.org] to keep the colors appearing uniform. If you mix bulbs in the tungsten spectrum with these bottles or the horizontal lighting cutout panels we call "windows", you may want to get specially color-balanced lightbulbs with the blue color so they don't clash.

Re:There are no details (-1, Troll)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731042)

Screw sunlight i want one of these: http://bit.ly/cncAqx [bit.ly]

Re:There are no details (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731346)

Australia's CSIRO was working on a light pipe that's similar to a big fibre optic cable a few years ago. I'm not sure what happened to that.

Re:There are no details (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731522)

I saw the same thing, looked like a great way of getting sunlight into parts of the home that it was difficult to.

Re:There are no details (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731826)

Also the same thing can be done with a single skylight in each room. Far more effective and gives you a beautiful view of the sky in every room. NOTE: dont put skylights directly above showers... A lot of people do this, ask hot air balloonists how many naked people they see through them.

P.S. if you have opening skylights you can significantly reduce your cooling bills as well. If you try and tell me about the "energy savings of the tube ones versus the real skylight. I laugh. a leaky reflective tube and diffuser loses more heat than a decent triple pane skylight. if you live in snow land, cover the skylight with the dome covers and add another airgap and save on snow load damage.

A real step foreward would be a fiberoptic setup that has a sun tracking fresnel. zero heat loss, and almost zero heat gain. all with easy to retrofit, and tiny point sources to allow you to do something creative with the lighting.

If they are smart... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731890)

They have a set of powerful light on the concentrator. That way, the same tube can be used by all.lighting. Otherwise, if adding lights and these, it is too expensive. Though to be fair, I suspect that this really is too expensive.

Re:There are no details (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 4 years ago | (#31732062)

Google Ships Crystal, or its more modern equivalent, manufactured by solatube or velux (and probably a gazillion others.)

Not sure what the news is here, other than they got a big, complex, mechanical thing on top that costs money and needs fixing.

what a great idea! (4, Funny)

cnkurzke (920042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730712)

this works amazing, we should find a new name for this revolutionary device, how about we call it a WINDOW????

only downside, it doesnt work when it's needed most, namely AT NIGHT, when it's dark.

Maybe WINDOWS version 2.1 will fix that??

Re:what a great idea! (4, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730728)

only downside, it doesnt work when it's needed most, namely AT NIGHT, when it's dark.

That's not a bug.....it's a feature.

Re:what a great idea! (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730740)

i don't understand your negative reaction. i for one would love to be able to get natural sunlight in a room with no windows. and even if the room has windows, sometimes their placement means that the direction from which the light comes isn't convenient (think horrible shadow on book while studying with your back to a window). sometimes it's too bright. sometimes it's too hot, and you want to close the shades. sometimes you want to do the same for privacy. there are many potential reasons why this could be an improvement over a conventional window.

Re:what a great idea! (1)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730812)

Didnt they use these back in ancient times with someone adjusting the mirrors by hand?
Or did they just do that in the movies? I remember they used metal dishes to reflect light to kill the devil in the 1985 movie Legend.
I'm sure I've seen other prior usage in film, but that is the oldest movie using the prop I can think of.

Re:what a great idea! (2, Funny)

anarche (1525323) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730878)

Didnt they use these back in ancient times with someone adjusting the mirrors by hand

Yes, but I've been banned from training monkeys to move the mirrors and the slaves keep going blind.

Never trust a blind slave to shave you...

Re:what a great idea! (4, Funny)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730952)

Yes, but I've been banned from training monkeys to move the mirrors and the slaves keep going blind. Never trust a blind slave to shave you...

The sighted monkeys aren't such a great idea either.

Re:what a great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31731270)

Oh tosh! Monkeys with straight razors. What could possibly go wrong?

Re:what a great idea! (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730888)

The basic reflective light pipe design dates back to ancient Egypt, according to Wikipedia, but I doubt they used tracking mirrors back then. I mean ostensibly, but really, why bother when you can just use a bigger collector? It's not like they were building high density housing back then.

Re:what a great idea! (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730864)

This has lots of interesting uses, but homes are not generally the primary market. Light pipes are most useful for businesses. You want to build a big office building to minimize cost, which means that not everybody can have a window office. So what do you do? You put in light pipes so that you can significantly reduce your energy costs and significantly improve worker health and morale.

Same principal applies to apartment buildings, hotels, etc. Imagine a sun deck with outdoor-style gardens at ground level in a 20-story hotel. Imagine cutting the lighting bill for an entire office building (including interior rooms) to zero almost every day. And so on.

Re:what a great idea! (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731070)

this works amazing, we should find a new name for this revolutionary device, how about we call it a WINDOW????

Sounds like a bad idea, since Windows have lots of security issues. They let all sorts of malthings in, just read the news.

Re:what a great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31731124)

This is Slashdot. My basement has no windows, you insensitive clod!

Re:what a great idea! (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731170)

You should not use organic materials to build those windows. It attract bugs,is perfect for growing up virus and other health threats, and are so easy to break that they dont protect you against thieves. Over that, you need to do permanently big expending on cleaning solutions.

Re:what a great idea! (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731350)

Come on, we all know Slashdotters live in their parents basement where windows won't do any good. This could finally get some sunlight to them before they evolve into mole people.

A little tube that will light up an opera house? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31730716)

Sounds like a scam.

50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (5, Informative)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730732)

This has been done in the 3rd world for ages. You drill a hole in your roof, mount a 2L soda bottle filled with water (and two cap-fulls of bleach to keep it clean and clear), and stick an old black plastic film canister overtop of the white lid to keep the plastic from degrading. The video of these in use is amazing. Sadly however it only works when the sun is up - which is most of the workday (12 hrs typically) in the tropics.
 
Watch it in action. Wow. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zMAWztZ6TI [youtube.com]

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31730756)

That's really cool. Thanks for sending.

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (1)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730842)

This was worth the article. I have always felt if we just thought about things more, there are natural ways to have things even better than we have now. Lighting has been something that was on my mind lately. This is giving me ideas.

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (1)

am 2k (217885) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731306)

As natural as a 2L plastic bottle is anyways ;)

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730932)

Hey man... thanks for that. I'm glad to see how much easier/cheaper you can do it for at home and may actually make use of that kind of design for a shop or garage or something.

One thing I must say about the originally pointed out product and these bottle ones.... the light looks really appealing. It looks very natural and cozy, like when you have a well lit home that gets most its light from nice location and windows.

Rockin!

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730938)

Could you extend this idea by adding some kind of glow in the dark chemical? Then you could use it at night as well.

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31731082)

I doubt that there is any glow in the dark chemical that will stay luminescent for more than an hour or so. That's why watches that have glowing hands and faces are basically worthless.

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (4, Informative)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730978)

Maybe you're the person to ask ...

Some years back I stopped for a meal at a restaurant in the historical district of a small town here in California. The restaurant was a converted barn of some sort and had two large double doors for an entrance. During business hours, those doors were left open, as were another set of interior doors that led to an open air patio outside. Hanging on the wall by each sets of doors was a large 1-quart ziplock bag. The bag was filled with water.

Noticing the bags, I asked the owner about them. She told me they were there to keep the flies from coming into the restaurant. I asked how a water-filled bag worked to keep flies away, and she said, "No idea, but do you see any flies in here?" Indeed, there were no flies to be seen (though there were some outside). She went on to tell me that that they had a regular fly problem years back, and one day a local immigrant gardner suggested the bags. The rest, as they say, is history.

I'd guess an entomologist might be the one to ask, but have you heard of this technique being used?

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (0)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731142)

and most importantly, it keeps the lions away too.

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (1)

rsaralegui (1783136) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731226)

Yes, I have seen it being used in Spain in similar situations. In the small village where my father was born there are a lot of flies in summertime; the local bar had a small plastic bag filled with water nailed over it. I asked my father about the bag, and he explained that it was to keep the flies away.

I also have no idea why it works... but I have seen it working.

Roberto

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (5, Informative)

masterQba (699425) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731228)

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1956/whats-the-purpose-of-bags-of-water-hanging-in-restaurants/ [straightdope.com] The water bag acts as a lens that enhances movement. The flies react to the movement - they stay away.

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31731844)

Or the real answer, they don't actually do anything but people want to believe that they do so they simply perceive fewer flies. It's a placebo, nothing more.

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31731878)

I asked how a water-filled bag worked to keep flies away, and she said, "No idea, but do you see any flies in here?"

In other news, I have a rock that keeps tigers away. Want to buy it?

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731236)

That's cool. I think my garden shed, which is too far away from the house to make running cables worth the effort, is going to get two holes in the roof today.

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (1)

punit_r (1080185) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731324)

A very interesting link. Thanks :-)

However, this 'hole in the roof, bottle' method will not work in modern structures with concrete roofs and more importantly when there are more than one floors in a building.

The article points to a interesting way of lighting a room by sunlight captured at a distant spot. This may not completely replace the traditional lighting because of concerns like lighting on cloudy days and during the evening and night hours. But, this can definitely help in reducing energy consumption. Again, as many readers have already pointed out, the website is thin on details and the important thing to know would be the total cost of ownership of such a system and the lighting capacity of such a system on an average i.e. replace how many bulbs etc.

Spreads the light nicely instead and no tracking (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731366)

That spreads the light a lot better than a simple hole in the roof and gets around the problem of the light coming from different angles.

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731368)

That's great. It shows very nicely the difference between the western techno-fetishistic approach, that would produce big shiny solar panels at enormous expense to run the electric lights, and true human ingenuity.

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31731952)

Did you think about it much? This doesn't work so well in the west for several reasons:

1) northern latitudes just don't have the same length or quality of daylight.
2) we don't live in favelas with zinc roofing, we have those things like two-storey houses, apartments and roof insulation.
3) high density areas where you can enjoy shadow from the neighbouring buildings.
4) higher quality cloud cover than the tropics.

There even may be more practical reasons, if you thought about it.

Re:50W lightbulb using a common 2L Bottle (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731726)

That was cool. It's not an accident that this was invented in tropical Brazil. If insulation is a requirement for your roof (heating where required will dwarf light usage, especially with fluorescents), using sunlight for lighting will require different technology. But this is awesome for those areas, or non-insulated buildings in temperate or colder regions. It should be fairly frost resistant, having a relatively large thermal mass. In climates with snow it may explode unless you put a hole in the lid.

Why haven't these been around? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31730736)

I've wondered for years why nobody made something like this... (Or have they, and I just didn't know about it?)

Seems like a "well, duh" kind of device. Add a combiner with a high-efficiency, natural-spectrum, high-lumens-output light, and you'd only need one light source for the whole house. (As in: Just inside the house roof, you add a very-high-output, but dimmable, light so that at night, you get light through the same system. Obviously, for redundancy sake, you'd want more than one bulb in there, and you'd still want to have secondary lights throughout the house.)

Re:Why haven't these been around? (3, Informative)

eclectro (227083) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730982)

I've wondered for years why nobody made something like this... (Or have they, and I just didn't know about it?)

You just haven't known about it. This is a variation upon a theme of the solar tube [solatube.com] . You can even get them in Costco now for under $200 USD each. Though this company appears to be trying to patent this very specific design, a parabolic collector feeding sunlight indoors is not new, and much of the technology is in the public domain and used with varying degrees of success. Naturally, you'll have a higher performing system the more money you put into it, but a good ROI is difficult to achieve as with any solar product. Of course, there also is something to be said for getting off the grid (and more reliability outside of cloudy days) in itself, which may be difficult to put a price on.

Re:Why haven't these been around? (2, Funny)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731582)

The difference - and this is important - is that they used the word 'robot' and pretended it was something exciting, rather than an incremental improvement on the standard light-pipe design.

Bradbury story (4, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730758)

There was a story by Bradbury (sorry slow internet here don't want to look it up) where they had "picture" windows made of glass(?) with an extremely(!) high index of refraction. These windows had been left out in some scenic location (African savannah) and because the velocity of light was so slow through the glass, it would take years for the light to get through! Thus a "perfect" 3D display of whatever the window had been exposed to.

Sounds (extremely) farfetched but in "light" (ha ha) of the discovery of a method to slow down or even stop light (admittedly in a Bose-Einstein condescent in a near perfect vacuum just above absolute zero), it is not entirely fantasy. Not entirely.

Re:Bradbury story (1)

lindseyp (988332) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730802)

"Light of other days", is all I can find. I think that's Clarke, though.

Anyway I remember it, I liked that story. A bit sad at the end, though, when the guy flips his glass over so he can look into his own house and see his late wife as she was 10 years ago.

Re:Bradbury story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31730984)

Light of other days is all about wormholes, not light refracting glass.

Re:Bradbury story -- it was Bob Shaw (4, Informative)

andrewbaldwin (442273) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730968)

I think you mean "Other Days, Other Eyes" by Bob Shaw

Thanks for reminding me -- I read it many years ago and enjoyed it - may re-read it now :-)

It also appeals to another Slashdot meme - an evil government using crop-dusters to sow millions of shards of 'slow glass' to act as passive surveillance.

Pretty cool... (0)

ItsJustAPseudonym (1259172) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730764)

...but can a hailstorm wreck the collector? What about a tornado or a major wind storm? Will the user end up with a big hole in the roof, and a nice reflective tunnel, down which the rain can cascade into the living room?

Re:Pretty cool... (2)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731288)

A tornado can wreck any roof.

Huh? (1)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730772)

What exactly makes this a robot?

Re:Huh? (2, Informative)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730866)

The collector has servo motors so it can track the sun and maximize the amount of light sent to the diffuser. Otherwise it's just the same standard aluminum tubes you'd find in any solar collector installation.

Re:Huh? (1)

xs650 (741277) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730950)

My guess is that it tracks the sun.

One big problem with a device like the one in the article is that by following the sun, the light level varies much more as cloud cover changes than light from a normal skylight does.

I have some 10 inch diameter tubes with a clear raised plastic cap, a reflective lining and a diffuser in the ceiling. The provide as much light as a 100 Watt electric light and because they are aimed directly at the sun, the difference in light level doesn't vary as drastically with time of day or cloud cover. No they don;t work at night, although with a near full moon the do provide enough light to see where you are locking. They are primarily useful in areas lacking windows.

Are you rich? (3, Insightful)

mikeiver1 (1630021) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730780)

Don't know about you but I am not rich. Look at the fabrication work on that thing. For starters what do you do when the rain hits the reflectors. Water spots and wind blown dirt won't effect the performance of the reflector assembly in a detrimental way. I am sure that the proud owners will not mind in the least climbing up on the roof and cleaning the reflectors and admittance windows. Should be fun on a 12/12 pitch roof install. Dual tracking motors, those are really reliable and will never fail in service. The sun tracker and electronics should last for ever as well. There is no way that this thing is anywhere near a reasonable price. All that stainless steel and special assemblies. Don't get me wrong, it is a beautifully crafted device from the pictures but the fabrication is gonna be stupid expensive. They are not going to give it away. Another rich mans folly.

Re:Are you rich? (2, Insightful)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731950)

They are not going to give it away. Another rich mans folly.

You'll notice two things about their site:
1) No prices.
2) No "home" applications listed.

We're not their target market anyway.

OLD tech! (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730792)

Reflective tubes and fitting collectors are known for decades now! Nothing new about it. Remember that Dilbert house some years ago? Yeah, that one had them too.
It’s useless beyond passing one roof and one floor. But if that fits, it’s really great for places where you can’t use windows. Especially if the windows are on the sides, while the roof is above you. But if the roof is right above you, of course a simple window makes more sense. ^^

Re:OLD tech! (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731360)

while the roof is above you.

As opposed to...?

From their website ... (3, Insightful)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730810)

Increase the speed of learning
Directly impact student performance
Improve student behavior
Recruit the best teachers who seek the best environments
Highest quality light = highest quality learning environment

The Heschong Mahone Group analyzed test scores of over 21,000 students in multiple school districts. The study showed that students with the most daylighting in their classrooms progressed 20% faster on math tests and 26% faster on reading tests when compared to students in the least daylit classrooms. Heschong Mahone Group, "Daylighting in Schools" Report at www.h-w-g.com, 1999.
In a North Carolina Performance Report, students attending daylit schools outperformed the students in non-daylit schools by 5%-14%. National Renewable Energy Laboratory Report, " Daylighting in Schools: Improving Student Performance and Health at a Price Schools can Afford, " 2000.
A National Renewable Energy Laboratory Report concluded that students benefit from daylighting, both in terms of increased performance and general health and well being. National Renewable Energy Laboratory Report, "Daylighting in Schools: Improving Student Performance and Health at a Price Schools can Afford, " 2000.

Wow ... "increase the speed of learning?". Given crackpotery on their site, the poor science, the ridiculous claims that instead of focusing on fucking light delivered, focus on subjective, unmeasurable bullshit, the complete lack of details, video, specs, etc. this product doesn't sound very serious ...

Re:From their website ... (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730902)

They're just trying to make learning by osmosis a reality.

Re:From their website ... (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731052)

I already figured it out... Fall asleep on a textbook in Braille then read your face during the test...

Re:From their website ... (5, Interesting)

thsths (31372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730928)

> Wow ... "increase the speed of learning?"

Actually that is an important point. Most artificial light is so poor that it hinders whatever you try to do. It is well known how to produce better lighting, but it is just not done. When was the last time you experienced lighting that can adjust the color temperature, for example? That is quite an essential feature to keep your day rhythm working properly, and it has been shown to improve learning results significantly.

Re:From their website ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31731072)

Please don't breed. The gene pool is already stagnant and if you breed, it will be beyond repair.

Re:From their website ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31731378)

LOL so unfunny it's funnily unfunny in a funny way.

Re:From their website ... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731078)

Wow ... "increase the speed of learning?". Given crackpotery on their site, the poor science, the ridiculous claims that instead of focusing on fucking light delivered, focus on subjective, unmeasurable bullshit, the complete lack of details, video, specs, etc. this product doesn't sound very serious ...

See, if the designers of the site had more natural lighting, they wouldn't create such crackpottery!

Re:From their website ... (1, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731712)

Wow ... "increase the speed of learning?". Given crackpotery on their site, the poor science, the ridiculous claims that instead of focusing on fucking light delivered, focus on subjective, unmeasurable bullshit, the complete lack of details, video, specs, etc. this product doesn't sound very serious ...

If you compare to incandescent light, this is all probably bullshit. If you compare to fluorescent light, then I believe it. Fluorescent light has been shown to cause migraines in a significant percentage of the population, and it negatively affects attention span in nearly everyone. Nobody knows why yet; maybe it's the flicker, which suggests that the latest high-frequency stuff might not do it; maybe it's the lack of spectrum, with emission centered hard on certain peaks, forcing you to work harder to see the same things. Whatever it is, natural light is the best light for a broad variety of reasons, and could well improve learning speed over fluorescents.

I bet (1)

OrwellianLurker (1739950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730838)

I bet I could sell A LOT of these. I mean the average /.er wouldn't buy it, but most people don't think scientifically (or logically).

Old news (1)

AresTheImpaler (570208) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730886)

Old news, the Texas State capitol had to be extended almost 20 years ago. The extension is like 3 stories underground. On the top 2 or maybe all 3 stories they added some skylights and windows so that sunlight could go down into the rooms and natural light could be available. Even if you are underground, it never feels like it.

Technique can also be used with lamps (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31730906)

This is actually a new twist on an old invention which was used by medieval types. They had glass globes that they filled with water and placed around lamps in order to improve the relatively poor lamp light.

Happening in Berkeley... (1)

G4Cube (863788) | more than 4 years ago | (#31730962)

Bob Carlson is doing this at Cal Berkeley. Way cheaper.

This one goes around corners (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31730992)

Something like this one: http://www.sunlight-direct.com/ uses fiber optic cables to catch the sunlight and then send it around corners/to other floors/etc. It also doesn't work at night . . . yet. But throw in a few undersea cables (interlight backbone) and we could have a daylight exchange program with nations on the other side of the planet.

Re:This one goes around corners (1)

dominious (1077089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731766)

But throw in a few undersea cables (interlight backbone) and we could have a daylight exchange program with nations on the other side of the planet.

wow this is not funny this is insightful!

What distinguishes this from, say, Solatube? (4, Interesting)

GlenRaphael (8539) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731044)

When I had a house built back in 1998, "Solatube" lighting was one of the build options. From this pictures, this looks like the same thing with a slightly different input lens for a system like this:

http://www.solatube.com/residential/product-catalog/brighten-up-series/index.php [solatube.com]

I bought one to brighten a dark bathroom. It was nice. pretty much the same effect as a skylight, but it worked even where there was an attic in the way that would make a standard skylight unworkable.

Gee, I wonder. (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731062)

The company's website is a bit thin on details, such as what happens on cloudy days...

Are consumers really that stupid that a company now has to explicitly state what their product does when it loses its power source?

Sunpipes are old news (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731322)

Though this one, looks far too complicated, with it's solar tracker 'n' all. Too much to go wrong for what has generally been considered a simple solution due to it's low-tech approach at getting light into a space.

However they all suffer from the same drawbacks. You want lighting when it's dark - not (just) during the day, so you still have to install conventional lighting too. Plus they aren't so good when it's cloudy. They also pump in all the solar heat as well as the light so you use more energy than you save cooling the place down.

Hey! (3, Funny)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731650)

our favorite star, the Sun?

My favorite star is Proxima Centauri, you insensitive clod.

Aziz! Light!! (1)

niks42 (768188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31731700)

Didn't archaelogists in Egypt use local slaves to hold tin mirrors to bounce sunlight into the dark recesses of a dig?

cloudy days vs. light bulbs (1)

viridari (1138635) | more than 4 years ago | (#31732032)

There have been a few mentions that something like this would not work on cloudy days.

Without seeing further evidence to the contrary, I'd be more inclined to believe that it wouldn't work as well as it would on sunny days, but would still work better than conventional indoor lighting.

As gray & dreary as it may be outdoors when the sun is hiding behind a cover of clouds, it's all really more of a mental illusion. Measure the light with a light meter (as a photographer would use) and you'll find it's still remarkably brighter outside than it is inside with all the lights on.

UV exposure? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31732052)

A little UV exposure is good for most of us, and a lot is bad for most of us. How much UV do these units transmit?

Wow, slashdot sure can be stupid at times (0, Flamebait)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31732128)

This idea is hardly new. It has been used for ages. The idea is simple. There is lots of light outside, I want light inside, I take the light outside inside.

No, it does not work at night. Geez, you must be so clever for pointing this out. But it saves you having to use artificial light from sources which many feel is not as nice as sunlight, during the time the sun is out.

How about cloudy days? Yeah, because it is cloudy outside now and I need a flashlight to move outside it is so dark. NOT.

UV radiation and heat? Can and are often filtered depending on demands.

In a way, this is a just a window. Are the slashdotters responding today so used to living in their mothers basement that using a window to light the room when you can is a completely alien idea to them?

Or maybe the hatred of MS Windows has spilled over?

It is a window. Dissing the usefulness of windows is a bit silly. And we know how to work around it. When the window goes dark, you use artificial lighting. It ain't rocket science.

If human civilization depended on some slashdotters responding today we would have died out long before we got out of the trees.

Smart monkey: "Oh look meat, we can eat that and grow big brains".

Slashdot dweed: "But the meat might not be available tomorrow, this plan is doomed to failure!"

What happens on cloudy days (1)

celibate for life (1639541) | more than 4 years ago | (#31732172)

You just turn the artificial lights on.

I wonder if it's patented? (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 4 years ago | (#31732212)

I think you could look to Edgar Rice Boroughs for prior art. Does prior art have to be from the planet Earth?

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