Monday, December 14, 2015

Are happy lights for Seasonal Affective Disorder the wrong color?

Because Bellingham has lots of dark cloudy weather, many local people suffer a form of depression called "Seasonal Affective Disorder." This is related to lack of sunlight. People often buy special bulbs called happy lights or full spectrum lighting which mimic sunlight, but I wonder if these bulbs are the right color?

Looking at displays at the hardware store, the happy lights tend to be kind of blueish, sort of like standard florescent light. That could be the true color of the sun in space, but when we see the sun, it's often more yellow or even orange. When we see the sun, especially in winter months (if we see the sun) the light is coming to us from a shallow angle through earth's atmosphere so the atmosphere tends to filter out the colors making for a warm sunset or sunrise glow. Maybe happy lights would work better if they mimicked the sun at low angle since that's the sunlight we are evolved to see? The sun tends to be more blueish at high noon, but we tend to see it at lower angles through the atmosphere. In some countries, people take siesta at high noon. Shouldn't artificial sunlight that is designed to wake people up be more like the colors of sunrise? Maybe they've been doing it wrong all along.

Maybe that's why lots of folks tend to be withdrawn around Bellingham in winter months. I'm glad I don't seem to be that effected by Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Some useful comments I got when I posted on Facebook.

Light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder does best with a light that is about 456 nanometers, which is on the blue side. I have one that uses blue leds and works well.

I have a wake up light from Phillips that very smartly imitates the spectral envelope of sunrise; I think they do it with a mix of broad spectrum LEDs that are pulse-width modulated, since from what I understand that's a very flexible way to tune the spectrum. They definitely take into account the filtering effect of the atmosphere, although I don't think there is any simulated change of zenith angle across seasons. But that's actually not a very complicated calculation for a clock that already has the date anyway. This is a really interesting idea!

I agree. bluish light makes me ill, warm dim bulbs make me happy.

Get a light used for snakes and lizards at the fish store on Railroad Ave.

All they need do is spend some time in a place with drought under water restrictions, and they should feel a little better and more fortunate.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Healthcare must be either subsidized or rationed for much of the population

It's a hard truth for politicians and voters to swallow.

As the income gap continues to rise, there seems to be no way around having to subsidize health coverage for lower income people. Most likely, for over half of the population, healthcare either has to be subsidized or rationed. Rationed could mean folks dying do to lack of care, or (in some cases) living longer do to avoiding risky procedures.

Subsidized means some kind of tax that higher income people must pay. Call it a tax, or hide it among premiums and other medical charges, it has to be done. Obamacare tries to hide the tax so it can be swallowed politically. This creates kind of a Rube Goldberg contraption of complexity, but when so many folks say it will fail, it still prevails.

There is no way around either a subsidy or rationing for at least the lower half of the population while income discrepancy is so wide in USA.

Aside from the subsidy issue, lots can be done to lower overall health plan costs. Promoting better diets and lifestyles; bicycling. Reducing bloated salaries toward the top of the medical and insurance sectors. The list goes on. Lots can be done, but there is no way around subsidy; given the current state of society.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

A hard problem to resolve. The problem of anonymous threats against WWU students and anyone else

Threats over the internet, such as those that recently lead to the cancellation of classes at Western Washington University here in Bellingham, are hard to deal with. Dare I say, we might miss the NSA (National Security Administration) as we restrict surveillance? On the other hand, maybe we still don't want law enforcement snooping in on our messages and phone calls? The problem is, it's so easy to post threatening things. Too easy to be anonymous. When the mere typing on keyboards can shut down a university, its a very precarious situation.

Lots of students, at Western have expressed frustration with the ineffectiveness of law enforcement to deal with this situation. It's good to be concerned, but it's also important to realize how difficult the problem of anonymous threats is to deal with. Like threading a needle between privacy concerns and law enforcement. Also dealing with new technologies all the time.

Hopefully, the dialog about this situation can bring some solutions. Also, folks using the internet need to turn down the hostility. I'm hoping for a more civil world.