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Edison Would Have Loved New Light Bulb Law, Says His Great-Grandson 473

Posted by timothy
from the free-to-disagree dept.
New submitter futuristic writes with a link to Thomas Edison's great-grandson's take on Thomas Edison and the alleged demise of the incandescent light bulb. From the article: "My great grandfather's 100-watt incandescent will be replaced with new energy-efficient versions, including CFLs, LEDs, and — yes — new and improved incandescent bulbs. ... And my great-grandfather wouldn't have it any other way."
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Edison Would Have Loved New Light Bulb Law, Says His Great-Grandson

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  • Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 31, 2011 @06:43PM (#38551898)

    Absolute bullshit. As much as any sensible man should support the new lightbulb law, Edison was *not* a sensible man. All you need to know to figure out his stance on old outdated technology versus new, superior technology is this: DC vs. AC, Edison vs. Tesla.

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 31, 2011 @06:45PM (#38551914)

      It isn't old vs new technology, it was where he could make the most. I'm sure he'd love the new laws....if he could make a buck from them.

      • by sd4f (1891894)

        It isn't old vs new technology, it was where he could make the most. I'm sure he'd love the new laws....if he could make a buck from them.

        Well, wouldn't anyone love laws where they can make money from them!

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

      by countvlad (666933) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @06:59PM (#38552034)
      Any sensible man would know we shouldn't have such stupid laws. If CFLs/LEDs/etc are so superior, why do we need a law banning them? If everyone cares enough about the environment to pass a law to mandate the use of such bulbs, don't enough of us care that a law isn't necessary? The government shouldn't be passing laws for this kind of BS, guidelines and industry standard recommendations maybe, but not laws.

      If you want to save electricity, how about turning off the millions of street and parking lot lights at night? How about wiring homes with DC so that damn near every piece of electric equipment doesn't have to take a >10% efficiency hit in order to operate? Or a law to limit the number of hours a TV can be used (we can all agree that that freedom isn't needed anymore, right)?

      Maybe we should have laws limiting the amount of power your computer can draw or how long it can be on. Or perhaps outlaw that scourge to computer efficiency, the hard drive?
      • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Adriax (746043) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @07:16PM (#38552154)

        Lets drop all environmental laws while we're at it. Why should I have to pay a city sewage utility when I can just connect a pipe to my toilet and dump it all in my neighbor's yard, or even better the river.

        These laws are put in to stop idiots from doing stuff now that will com back to hurt them and others later.
        I can dump my sewage in my neighbor's yard now, but really damn quickly that neighbor will pop over to my place and pop me one in the face. I can guarantee you there are a LOT of people who do not understand dumping your sewage on someone else's property might be objectionable and might cause that response.
        Just as there's a bunch of people who don't know those more expensive bulbs easily save you more than they cost, and using less efficient bulbs just hastens rising power costs.

        • That argument doesn't apply. If customers to purchase newer more efficient tech, they actually *save* money so it self-incentivizes/punishes and needs not be legislated.

          The environmental laws are good to restrict when saving money causes external damage.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by submain (856941)
            IMHO, this law has nothing to do with the environment. Most likely, its a corporate lobby to give them an excuse to raise the price of incandescent bulbs. In other words, legalized price fixing.
        • by trout007 (975317)

          Property rights would protect you from people polluting your property. The EPA and environmental regulations exist to protect the polluter not you. The EPA and politicians set legal limits for how much pollution companies can put in your air and water without you being able to do anything about it. Also if they exceed this amount they paya fine to the politician not to you the person they harm. What a great system.

          • by unitron (5733)

            "Property rights would protect you from people polluting your property."

            If they come on to your property to do it, then, yeah.

            If they put the pollution into the water and/or the air, all of us acting in concert (otherwise known as government) have to stop them.

      • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bunratty (545641) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @07:34PM (#38552316)
        The same reason there are building codes. People would just buy cheap houses that fall down and have all sorts of other hazards otherwise. People are pretty dumb and cheap. We're doing all sorts of other things to reduce energy use, also, including having new standards (laws) for energy efficiency for cars and applicances. We should also update building codes to require more insulation.
        • by jbengt (874751)

          We should also update building codes to require more insulation.

          Too late, it's already [citation.com] being done, in most localities in the US, anyway.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Tesla invented the flourescent lightbulb to begin with. He did so to avoid patent issues with Edison. Tesla also though Edison's lightbulb was rediculously wasteful (which it is really).

      I first started using flourescent lights myself not because of the alleged energy savings but because of the waste heat generated by a normal bulb. I lived in the desert then and cooling a house is hard enough in the summer even if you aren't fighting against yourself.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @06:45PM (#38551916)

    ...that had Thomas Edison been alive today, he would have held the patents on these assorted new lightbulbs.

  • by slagish666 (607934) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @06:48PM (#38551944)
    ...he just bought the patent from two Toronto inventors http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Woodward_(inventor) [wikipedia.org]
    • by westlake (615356) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @09:55PM (#38553314)

      ...he just bought the patent from two Toronto inventors. (wikipedia.org)

      Read on:

      Thomas Edison obtained an exclusive license to the Canadian patent. Thomas Edison developed his own design of incandescent lamp with a high resistance thin filament of carbon in a high vacuum contained in a tightly sealed glass bulb which had a sufficiently long service life to be commercially practical.

      Historians Robert Friedel and Paul Israel list 22 inventors of incandescent lamps prior to Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison. They conclude that Edison's version was able to outstrip the others because of a combination of three factors: an effective incandescent material, a higher vacuum than others were able to achieve and a high resistance that made power distribution from a centralized source economically viable.

      Another historian, Thomas Hughes, has attributed Edison's success to the fact that he developed an entire, integrated system of electric lighting.

      The lamp was a small component in his system of electric lighting, and no more critical to its effective functioning than the Edison Jumbo generator, the Edison main and feeder, and the parallel-distribution system. Other inventors with generators and incandescent lamps, and with comparable ingenuity and excellence, have long been forgotten because their creators did not preside over their introduction in a system of lighting.

      Incandescent light bulb [wikipedia.org]

      Perhaps this will give you a small taste of Edison's achievement:

      Much is said about the subdivision of the electric light by certain gentlemen, who hope to distribute it throughout our houses from one central [source] and furnish it cheaply and abundantly in our cities. I am one of those who do not believe in the impossible, but I say that, with our present knowledge, this problem is unsolvable. Sir William Armstrong can only keep thirty-seven lamps going ; Lane- Fox could only show twelve lights ; Professor Adams could only produce from the most powerful dynamo-electric machine, by calculation, one hundred and forty lamps. Where is the subdivision ?

      Popular Science Monthly/Volume 19/July 1881/Recent Advances in Electric Lighting [wikisource.org]

      The system that emerged from Edison's lab included practical designs for generators, mainline distribution systems, home wiring standards, switches, sockets, fuses, training programs for linesmen and electricians.

      Essentially everything you would need for wiring a city without burning it to the ground or electrocuting half the population.

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @06:50PM (#38551956)
    Well this is refreshing; it looks like the truth. Usually people cramming words into the mouths of the dead are self-serving, bullshit-spewing weirdos. Either that or maudlin, irrelevant losers.

    This guy, on the other hand, is a university professor who appears to have actual research behind his claims. It goes against him, of course, that he's attempting to improve or revive his famous great-grandfather's reputation with this article, but the research looks real and I presume it's open to review.

    How refreshing.
  • by stockard (1431131) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @06:59PM (#38552036)
    You can already get around the restrictions if you want an old fashioned light bulb, they're just called Heatballs [heatball.de] instead. Two guys in Germany [reuters.com] started marketing them as "heaters that fit into a light socket" last year after a similar law went through in the EU.
  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @07:13PM (#38552132) Homepage Journal

    Of course Edison would have loved modern lightbulbs -- what's not too like? Cleaner more aesthetically pleasing light drawing lower power. Of course they last longer, and don't break as easy so people buy less, but hey -- can't have everything right?

    But -- if these lightbulbs had been invented by a competitor such as Tesla -- well, many household pets would have to lay down their lives to fight off this infernal contraption that is a peril and danger to us all.

    Frankly, Edison was an asshole. Brilliant -- but an asshole nonetheless.

    • I'm not sure I would even call him brilliant. By his own admission, he brute forced his way through inventing, finding 10,000 ways that didn't work. He was a savvy businessman, but I don't think that's the kind of brilliance generally associated with him.
    • CFLs most certainly do not last longer. I have boxes full of dead ones, whenever I need a new one I call GE and get a free one on warranty. Since none of them have even been on the market for the 5 year period, I don't even need a receipt.

      • In my experience, they do last longer than incandescent. But they don't last anywhere near as long as claimed on the packaging.
        • I have put them on a common circuit, a 60-watt incandescent and a "100 watt equivalent" (about 23 watts actual, base down). If it's turned on and off frequently (10, 20x a day), the incandescent beats it by almost a factor of two. If it's left on most of the day, (1-2x a day) it's about even. If its in a horizontal or base-up orientation, or a closed but not recessed fixture, the CFL is about half or less than an incandescent. And the infant mortality is tremendous in all cases.

          As far as I ca

          • by fnj (64210)

            I'll see your anecdote and raise you with my own. I have a CFL that I run approximately 20 hours per day, once on, once off. I have had it in use for 4 years; that's 29,200 hours. It's rated for 8000 hr. Still seems as good as new.

            I have a fair number of CFL's I use about 4 hours per day, or 1460 hr per year, that have been in use for about the same 4 years (5840 hr total) and still work fine. One of them is horizontally mounted in a fully enclosed fixture.

            Incandescents are typically rated for 1000 hr, but

  • Chasing the sun (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @07:18PM (#38552182)

    I'm all for energy efficiency, but I've yet to find a CFL or LED that feels as good as the light from an incandescent bulb. It just brings the most natural experience. The best ones I've seen are the 100W lamps with neodymium (purple) coating [zoomoo-aquaristik.de] which corrects the spectrum to be more white. There's also 60W versions of those, but as the filament burns cooler, it creates a bit too yellow/red light.

    I've also tried a plethora of different CFLs including the "hifi" full spectrum ones, but they always give a bit of synthetic experience. The spectrum is still lacking. The modern HF ones are flicker-free, but I maybe can still sense some kind of subliminal flicker. Things like that. They just give the body a message that "something is wrong". Then again, there might be some other industrial high-power lamp types that give good results.

    So, I've been in search for great lighting in the same sense like someone seeks the ultimate IPS display. After all I would probably be better off just moving to some sunny country. :)

    • by Rhywden (1940872)

      Well, you're entitled to your opinion, of course, but I fear what we're seeing here is the birth of the optical equivalent to the audiophile.
      I'm highly doubtful of stuff like "synthetic experience", "I feel something is wrong" and so on and so forth. It's the exact same language audiophiles use.

      Not to mention that stuff like that is a self-fulfilling prophecy - you're sensitive to the kind of lamp and you're thinking that something must be different, so obviously there is something different.
      Particularly

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        No the words used are used because the person doesn't know how to describe exactly what he is seeing. While Audiophiles use the words the same way they are not hated for that reason, if that were the case we may as well just hate all people who make subjective reviews, be it movies, books, wine, music, sound quality etc.

        Audiophiles are hated because of their persistence in belief against all facts. The vast majority of what an Audiophile hears is entirely due to a placebo effect and has no measurable differ

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>I've yet to find a CFL or LED that feels as good as the light from an incandescent bulb

      Me as well. Flicker from CFLs and LEDs is noticeable to me, so I can't stand to have them around me in any rooms that I spend a lot of time reading, or in front of a computer.

      Fortunately we'll always be able to buy our lightbulbs from Canada. I know a guy who works in a grey market lightbulb store there.

  • I had no idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zakabog (603757) <[moc.guamj] [ta] [nhoj]> on Saturday December 31, 2011 @07:30PM (#38552278)

    I had no idea there was going to be a ban on 100W incandescent bulbs. I currently have 4 150W bulbs and they're in use as modeling lights for my AlienBee strobes. They work well cause they provide really good reference lighting, they're cheap ($2), I haven't replaced them in the 4 years I've had them and they're fully dimmable. I'm not sure what I'm going to end up doing if I have to replace them, anyone have any experience with that? Are there replacements that will be just as bright that will work with a dimmer or do I just have to hope these bulbs never die?

    • by compro01 (777531)

      Specialty lighting bulbs are exempt from this law, and those would fall into that category.

      Also anything bigger than 150W or smaller than 40W is exempt.

  • by Alaska Jack (679307) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @07:48PM (#38552440) Journal

    The idea that someone's great-grandson should be taken as some kind of authority on what his grandfather would think -- which in ITSELF is just an "appeal to authority," void of any real meaning.

    So this is an appeal to an appeal of authority. Or is it an appeal to authority of an appeal to authority? Whatever, it's meaningless.

    - aj

  • by caseih (160668) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @08:42PM (#38552810)

    Banning them outright is indeed silly. Incandescents work very well for things like ovens, outdoor porch lights in -40 weather. Also they really are more environmentally friendly in places like a closet that you only turn the light on a few times a day for maybe a minute or two, where a fluorescent bulb would never warm up and have its lifespan significantly shortened by frequent starts.

    Now a room that is lit for an hour or more a day, yeah for sure I ditched all my incandescents a long time ago and haven't regretted it, even in fixtures with glass covers. The thing I like most about compact fluorescents is that I can get a much brighter bulb with less heat and watts. Where I'd have a 60 watt bulb in a lamp before (hate indirect lighting!), I can no put a 75 or 80 virtual watt CF. Little 25 apparent watt fluorescent bulbs are excellent in a reading lamp. This said, I'm not convinced they are actually cheaper and I can't say they've saved me money. They don't seem to significantly outlast incandescents, and while they do use less electricity, the savings are not that much compared to TVs, Computers, Fridges, Stoves, Furnaces, AC, etc.

    My shop is lit with a row of fluorescent tubes and a bunch of very large (200 watt) incandescent bulbs. Winters are brutal on the fluorescent bulbs. They flicker a lot while the ballast warms up. As well we replace more fluorescent tubes each year in the shop than bulbs (why would cold affect the tubes?). Which is nice because the bulbs are 20 feet overhead. Getting reliable, energy-efficient replacements for these bulbs would be very nice but I haven't seen any yet.

    • by ChumpusRex2003 (726306) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @09:27PM (#38553120)

      My shop is lit with a row of fluorescent tubes and a bunch of very large (200 watt) incandescent bulbs. Winters are brutal on the fluorescent bulbs. They flicker a lot while the ballast warms up. As well we replace more fluorescent tubes each year in the shop than bulbs (why would cold affect the tubes?). Which is nice because the bulbs are 20 feet overhead. Getting reliable, energy-efficient replacements for these bulbs would be very nice but I haven't seen any yet.

      The problem with fluorescent tubes is that they need a sufficient temperature to get the correct mercury vapor pressure in the tube. If the pressure is too low, the discharge current will be too low giving poor light out, and an unstable discharge leading to flickering. The tube will need an abnormally high a voltage from the ballast, this will cause excessive sputtering from the tube filaments, shortening the tube life dramatically.

      To an extent, the use of electronic ballasts can help, as electronic ballasts operate in an almost constant-power mode, whereas magnetic ballasts act instead as a current limiter. If the tube pressure is too low, the electronic ballast will still deliver near full power to the tube, whereas the magnetic ballast will severely underdrive the tube, leading to a prolonged warm-up time, during which time the tube is overstressed. Electronic ballasts also prolong the life of the tube and improve efficiency and reduce flicker due to the use of high frequency drive.

      For extremely cold environements, you need to use low temperature fluorescent tubes. These use a different gas mix and mercury charge, this ensures that the discharge is stable and tube parameters appropriate at temperatures as low as -40 C.

  • by grimsnaggle (1320777) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @09:45PM (#38553246)

    My shop light (wire cage lamp on a stick) could be populated with LEDs or CFLs, but I it's a lamp that sees rough use. I drop it, hit it with two-by-fours, and drop my drill on it all the time. LED bulbs are too expensive to justify in a location where they'll get abused, and CFLs contain mercury so it seems irresponsible to put them in a place where I expect to regularly break bulbs.

    Fuck you Congress, for thinking you're smarter than I am. For the record, all of my household bulbs are LED and I love them.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @10:54PM (#38553660) Homepage

    Tesla was amazing. Edison was a huge jerk-hole. There's a lot of detail that has already been said supporting my position. I just wish the rest of the world would learn about the two and how we have Tesla to thank for AC power and a lot more.

    The problem is that Tesla's story also includes his vision for FREE ENERGY. If you can't put a meter on it, you can't add it to the history books... or something like that.

  • by drolli (522659) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:33AM (#38555066) Journal

    Finally, solar panels and LEDs could show how to use DC networks.

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