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World's Northernmost Town Gets Nightlights 144

Velcroman1 writes "On October 26, 2,000 Norwegians watched the sun set. The next time they'll see it rise? Sometime in February. Extended nighttime is an annual occurrence for the residents of Longyearbyen, Norway — Earth's northernmost town. Located at 78 degrees north latitude in the Arctic circle, Longyearbyen experiences a phenomenon called Polar Night, in which the town remains in perpetual darkness for four months each winter. To lighten up the seemingly endless night, Philips has started an experiment called 'Wake Up the Town.' And anyone who's complained about the brief daylight hours in winter will want to know how it works."


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World's Northernmost Town Gets Nightlights

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  • Wouldn't wanna live there unless I had to. The darkness would mess with your eyesight, would put you in a low mood (to the point of depression) and your skin wouldn't produce enough vitamin E. I'll stick to smog-ridden, sunny, 80-degree late-fall LA.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I would love to be there. 24hours of light in summer! In winter you can go temporarily in some other place; but in fact, MOST people, face the same even at much lower latitudes: if you stay at the office from - say - 9.00 to 18.00, you will barely see the sun anyway.

      For this reason, to me 24 hours of daylight in summer far outweigh the darkness in winter.

    • by BigDXLT ( 1218924 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:49AM (#34133164)

      Wouldn't wanna live there unless I had to. The darkness would mess with your eyesight, would put you in a low mood (to the point of depression) and your skin wouldn't produce enough vitamin E.

      And that's different from your parents basement in LA how? /profiling

    • by Buggz ( 1187173 )
      There's an obvious reason why there are only 2000 inhabitants there, which is why you get some advantages for living there like an incredibly low income tax, annual reduction of your student loans (financed by the state "loans bank" in the first place) and probably some more I don't know of (I live south of Oslo, sun's shining outside now and I'm happy for it).

      Also, don't forget that while the winter is dark for four months, the summer has no nights. And THAT my friend puts everyone in a good mood as long
      • I'd say the question is why bother encouraging people to live there with special perks, though. Is the farming like, incredible? Is there a super-dense kimberlite cone? Oil?

        What is the state interest in having people there?

        • by Buggz ( 1187173 )
          Hehehehe, farming.. That far up north the ground is solely permafrost soil, as in totally useless for anything but perhaps storing food.

          On a serious note, the main industries in Svalbard is mining (coal), tourism and research, and a long time ago (couple hundred years) whaling. The other thing is that the norwegian government made a point out of encouraging spreading out and keeping most of Norway populated, as opposed to having everyone migrating to the "larger" cities over time. Sweden didn't have the s
    • That would be vitamin D that your skin produces, not vitamin E.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wouldn't wanna live there unless I had to. The darkness would mess with your eyesight, would put you in a low mood (to the point of depression) and your skin wouldn't produce enough vitamin E. I'll stick to smog-ridden, sunny, 80-degree late-fall LA.

      You do realize that a polar night doesn't mean it's pitch black outside *all the time*, right? The sun still goes up and down; it just doesn't go above the horizon anymore. However, when it gets *close* to the horizon, you still get a higher-than-average amount of ambient light.

      Also, in this day and age, we have access to artificial light sources, so "the darkness messing with your eyesight" would not be a problem. As for vitamin D (not E) deficiency, you can eat fish, or take vitamin supplements. Or both:

      • by Sixel ( 977339 )

        You do realize that a polar night doesn't mean it's pitch black outside *all the time*, right? The sun still goes up and down; it just doesn't go above the horizon anymore. However, when it gets *close* to the horizon, you still get a higher-than-average amount of ambient light.

        Wrong. I actually lived there for 10 months, from August '03 to June '04. In December and January, it *is* pitch black outside. No difference between noon and midnight.

  • Slashvertising? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:33AM (#34132944)
    It may be me but that linked article very much reads like one big advertisement. Having the sponsor's name all over the place isn't helping of course. Anyhow great marketing, they even managed to get it on slashdot while it has nothing to do with tech whatsoever - and light therapy isn't something new either.
    • Not to mention that these products have been on the market for quite some time now. Timer + variable light control = ?profit.

      They do seem to work somewhat but nothing to see here, move along.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wvmarle ( 1070040 )

        Some 20 years ago I first heard about winter depression and light therapy to solve it, as winter depression is caused by not enough light. People are always happier when the sun shines than when it's cloudy all day: light is considered the reason.

        At the time the suggestion was to wear some headgear that would shine two fairly bright lights in your eyes from above (similar to the sun: it's direct light hits your eye, but doesn't blind you as you're not looking at it directly). Said to work quite well.


        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @05:21AM (#34133834)

          I live in Finland. Not as north as this town (obviously) but in a place with a few hours of light a day for a large part of the winter. And yes, it indeed causes a lot of depression. Or, I don't know whether one can say "Causes" but certainly amplifies. Let's say you're feeling down and then you won't see sunlight for a week (+don't feel like going outside because the temperature is at [-25C/-13F])... Yeah, it's a lot worse.

          But different people react to it in different ways. A few days ago, some foreign exchange students asked my sister about how dark it gets in the mid-winter and how can they cope with the depression. She answered that if they aren't feeling down yet, they probably won't. I don't know if it is about genes, nutrition or what but some people just feel down because of the darkeness, others won't.

          That brings me to the next subject... Actually, the mid-winter isn't the worst time. There is snow, a lot of it. It is cold and dark, sure... But the white snow is beautiful and any light that you have (stars, moon, northern lights, street lights...) is reflected from it in really nice way. The worst time for most people is actually late autumn: It is getting cold and and dark but you know that everything is only going to get colder and darker and there isn't any snow yet... When the mid-winter actually comes, people tend to be a lot happier. And they'll continue to get progressively more joyful all the way to the late summer.

          Despite the downsides, I would never want to move to a country with different climate. There is something so very beautiful in this cycle of darkness and light... Captcha: Patriot

          • Interesting. I live in South-Central Alaska - also not nearly as far north as this town but we perhaps have a climate somewhat similar to yours. By far, the worst time of year for us is spring (or "breakup", as it's called here). Usually in mid-April the temperature starts to routinely climb above freezing during the day, and the snow starts to melt. It takes about a month until all of the snow is gone, and during that time we're cut off from both the warm-weather and the cold-weather outdoor activities

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

          I still remember an episode of Northern Exposure [] where one of the characters was walking around with that silly headgear on. Not that that made any sense, mind you, since the town where that show was set seemed to exist in a fictional world where they were both below the tree line and above the arctic circle.

          • I don't know the show, but I don't think there's any place above the Arctic Circle that isn't below treeline.

          • since the town where that show was set seemed to exist in a fictional world where they were both below the tree line and above the arctic circle.

            Yes, those places do exist. This map [] shows several places in Canada and Alaska.

    • Indeed, I was expecting to see some kind of innovative idea, but the latest product of Philips is a lamp with an alarm clock?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcvos ( 645701 )

        It's not their latest product. It's existed for years, but apparently nobody had come up with the idea of marketing this in Spitsbergen.

      • At least as innovative as lasers lighting up the sky with shapes of mythical beings. But a flashy alarm clock? Slow news day...

    • by sempir ( 1916194 )

      For people living on the equator and getting a shit load of daylight, is there any chance they will come up with a form of darking to help the people to get a bit more sleep?

      • Despite the fact you're probably trolling, it's a little invention called the "room darkening blind".
      • Yes, that comes natural and it's called night. Incidentally it's also something that's lacking up north in summertime.
  • by mattdm ( 1931 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:36AM (#34132950) Homepage

    It's a gimmick. There's no gigantic artificial whole-town sun or anything. Certainly nothing "ultimate".

    Philips makes an alarm clock that includes a gradually-increasing bright light. They're couching this in the terms of an "experiment", but there's no actual science being performed. They just picked a north-of-the-arctic-circle town and gave away some of the product as a publicity stunt, and then sent out a text release, which is being published as news.

    I live in Boston, which is north enough for me. I have a different Philips lightbox product, and I think it does provide a useful regulation of my mood in late winter afternoons. But I don't think the science behind it is particularly well developed, even if it seems promising. I thought for a second as I started to read the aticle (after I realized it wasn't the giant artificial sun thing) that it was a real scientific experiment with control groups and so on. Even then, it'd be hard to really control, because you can't exactly do a double-blind study. But, it's actually even lamer than that.

    • by mattdm ( 1931 )

      s/text release/press release/

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ikkonoishi ( 674762 )

      Double-blind studies are a type of study, but you don't need a double-blind study to have control groups.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They aren't doing science unless it's a proper double blind study. Both the scientist and the experimental subject should have absolutely no knowledge of whether a bright light is shining on the subject or whether the subject was given a non-functional placebo light.

        • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @04:45AM (#34133722)

          I understand your joke, but it can still be done.

          You tell your subjects you're testing one thing, but you're testing another (with or without the knowledge of the tester).

          With these lights one could set up two groups; saying you want to test who has more problems getting out of bed in the morning, those with a traditional alarm or those with the light-based alarm clock (which is what I know these devices for). And then over the course of a month or two you interview the subjects every week and in that interview ask about getting up, but actually rate them on depression/happiness. This way you at least eliminate (most of) the placebo effect, and may get some interesting side results too, like whether they actually work to get you out of bed easier, albeit those results are likely less reliable.

        • So where do they find enough blind mice to do a double blind experiment? Inquiring Minds want to Know.

    • Go to the local mass-market store like Lowes or even Target and look for a CFL bulb with the most lumens per watt. Also look for bulbs that have a curiously long life rating since these will not have any circuitry to use more power at startup to warm the bulb up. It doesn't matter if it says "instant on" or not (all slow-starting CFLs say "instant on")... in fact if the packaging is really loud about being "instant on!!!" then that's a good one to buy since it's guaranteed to take forever to get fully bri

      • by mattdm ( 1931 )

        Go to the local mass-market store like Lowes or even Target and look for a CFL bulb with the most lumens per watt.

        Well, maybe. All fluorescent bulbs give off light at specific points in the spectrum, not broad almost-black-body radiation like sunlight through the atmosphere. And the cheaper ones are, as a rule of thumb, worse. It might wake you up, but it's unclear if it has the same effect on mood. It might -- more study needed!

      • Get the Ecosmart floods from Home Depot. These things come on at about 60% brightness (with a pinkish hue) and take at least a minute to make it to 100%. They suck, but I'm too cheap to put the incandescents back or get more expensive ones that will probably just warm up slightly quicker.
      • Funny enough, that's exactly what I like about the cheap CFL's as they don't blind me when I turn em on.

    • I live in Sweden and can say that the Philips wake up alarm clock thing works. When it gets dark here in Winter you generally have a few hours of pitch black in the morning to get to work in, and by the time you're home in the evening it's totally dark again. Where my gf comes from there are periods of total darkness for weeks.

      Philips advertise that the light boosts various hormonal levels due to the light hitting your sleeping eyelids. I have no idea about that but it does work as an effective way to gentl

    • It's a gimmick. There's no gigantic artificial whole-town sun or anything. Certainly nothing "ultimate"

      Actually, I find it ironic, that Phillips, a Leading Light bulb Manufacture, can't do an artificial sun, but Tropicana, An Orange Juice manufacture, can [].

  • by aapold ( 753705 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:49AM (#34133002) Homepage Journal
    There are settlements in Svalbard farther north....

    Pyramiden was a longtime soviet mining town in Svalbard that once was home to over a thousand people, it was abandoned in 1998 but is being redeveloped. It is 50km north of Longyearbyen. However since it currently is home to about 8 people we'll bypass that for Ny-Alesund, which is some to about 35 people year-round (over 120 in summer), and also farther north than Longyearbyen. It is listed as the "world's northernmost functional public settlement", whatever that means.
  • Sounds like winter here for me.. Get up at 5am, its dark. Get to work by 6:30am, its still dark. Live all day in my office with no windows (The one that let light in, unfortunately I still have the other kind). Leave work around 5:30pm to see the sun dipping behind the horizon (or if I have to work another 10-15 mins, miss it completely). Repeat for 5 days a week. On weekends I get to sleep in and when I wake up wonder where all this light is coming from and why its hurting my eyes..

    It actually sounds nice

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by EdIII ( 1114411 )


      Sounds like you have an office with windows looking out into the cubicle farm. If you have blinds on the window and want to "lighten" things up a bit you could always close the blinds all the way and then stick your penis in between the slits. See how long it takes for somebody to notice.

      If you still want that crappy job get a flesh colored dildo and stick it in somebody else's blinds.

      • by EdIII ( 1114411 )

        Troll? That hurts.....

        My intentions were not to "troll" but to offer sincere advice to XMode.

        Working that hard... not seeing the sunlight for 5 days a week.... that's rough.

        Life is too short man! You don't want to feel like your 50 by the time you are 30. Act before it is too late.

        XMode needs to take his destiny into his own hands, be responsible for his own happiness, no pun intended.

        Trust Me. Choose Life. Stick your dick in the window blinds. Don't look back.

  • No it is not (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aapold ( 753705 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:16AM (#34133082) Homepage Journal
    All of Svalbard (where Longyearbyen is located) is farthern north than Hammerfest.

    It depends on your definition of what a "town" is. Hammerfest has about 9000 people. Honningsvåg is nearby and farthern north in Norway and has about 2500. Longyearbyen has about 2000 people, and is much farther north than any spot in Norway proper. But as I mentioned in an earlier post, there are small settlements in Svalbard farther north, including Ny-Ålesund which is about 50km north of it, and home to about 35 people year-round (over 120 in summer).

    If you make some arbitrary designation on the smallest thing that can be called a town, then you could find one that makes it Hammerfest, I suppose.
    • or you could look at Alert, Nunavet, Canada: 82:28 N Lat

      Of course this again depends on your definition of "town", as Alert is a military radio listening post. However, it is a "permanent" settlement. :->

      4 months of darkness: pbfffttttt! You get yer 6/6 in Alert.

  • by pgn674 ( 995941 )
    Does the light produce much in the ultra violet spectrum? I had always thought that seasonal affective disorder was partly due to the reduced amount of ultra violet light being received from the sun on your skin. UV helps your body produce or use vitamin D, right? I do still think that waking with light is an important step in the day. Also, I've been using f.lux the past few months, which reduces the color temperature of my computer screen at night (makes it less blue and more red), which has had a signifi
  • Can they see Russia from there?

    • Yes, but they're so far north they actually have to look south to see it.

      Seriously. They seem to be at a higher lat than almost all of Russia. Pretty impressive.

  • by kurt555gs ( 309278 ) <kurt555gs@ov i . c om> on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:11AM (#34133282) Homepage

    Alert, Nunavut Canada is the worlds northernmost town. By a long way. Alert is 82 degrees North.,_Nunavut []

    The town in the article is far South of Alert.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      I was going to mention this as well, but you've beaten me to it. I actually personally know someone who used to be stationed there a number of years ago. It's close enough to the North pole he said that they had occasionally actually referred to the place as "Santa's Workshop" when talking with people via radio.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fadir ( 522518 )

      I wouldn't call a settlement with just 5 permanents a town. Heck, I wouldn't even call it a village. It's more of a scientific outpost.

      Longyearbyen on the other hand is a real town, a small one, but a town.

      • As the Wikipedia article mentions, Longyearbyen is the northernmost town of 1000+ permanent residents. Any smaller and I wouldn't call it a town ... more of a settlement, a village or an outpost.

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        The article is BS, and treads very thinly on what could be described as a town. In Canada places with >500 people but under 10000 are considered towns.

        Villages or hamlets are 10-499 people. We have plenty of those further north than anyone else.

  • Wouldn't it be called Daylights?

  • They could alternatively just whack a giant mirror up in space, to reflect real daylight onto the town.

    Kind of like what they did in Viganella: []
    but on a slightly grander scale.

    This is Slashdot after all...

  • The vast amounts of light pollution in cities means that those of us who live in them are more susceptible to cancer [] and other diseases.

    And to think, all those astronomers were doing more than just whining.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      No, it doesn't.
      It shows lower melatonin may increase cancer risks. .. In mice, and then jumping to the conclusion it's the same in humans. They don't seem to actually look at groups of humans who actually spend more time in lighted area during night.

      And astronomers where whining, they have a good point. More light means less visibility of stars.

      • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

        There's actually studies that show people who live with light pollution have higher occurrences of cancer.. but these studies are considered *less* reliable than experimental results, and rightly so.

        The effect on wildlife is even more obvious.

        Unfortunately, light pollution is still seen as an astronomer's problem and they're terrible at getting anyone interested in their problems.

  • by amorsen ( 7485 ) <> on Friday November 05, 2010 @03:44AM (#34133584)

    I have a wake up light, and I have supplemented it with one of those bright anti-depression lights on a timer. So when the wake up light hits maximum brightness, the 40W fluorescent comes on -- and THAT works.

  • how hard would it be to connect a light to a usb port, and have a driver for it that could be used to also wake you up in the morning? With the new ultramega efficient lights, low power output shouldn't be a real problem...

  • There are various types of indoor lights to mimic "normal" daylight available here in Finland. Philips is one of the more widely used/known. Personally, I do not have a huge problem with the short winter daylight hours but since I live in the south (Helsinki) we don't get it that badly, at winter solstice it's roughly about 5 hours of daylight. By the time you reach the arctic circle a few hundred miles north of here, there is little daylight left in the middle of winter though.

    The benefits of these lights

  • Like this light problem....

    Don't send them any more light, you want to help these people, send them u-hauls, luggage, boxes. If you people would live where the LIGHT IS!

    Why don't you people move to where the LIGHT IS!

  • Worst case scenario: the sun sets on a Friday for the last time that year. Imagine trying to keep Shabbat for four months, at 78N.

  • FTFS: "the town remains in perpetual darkness for four months each winter"

    Four months? That's much shorter than the old definition of "perpetual"

  • FOX NEWS, now on CNN.

  • Bah. Here in the states we are about to start two years of darkness.
  • The only thing missing from that article was more sprinkled mentioning of should really start mentioning more in articles.
  • This makes no sense. Why would the Vampires go for the town that only has 30 days of night when there is this gem?

    Actually, this is probably their vacation spot and the whole 'wake up light' thing is just a cover-up attempt to distract people from the fact that a Vampire clan has made this their haven.

    You read it here first!

    "The views expressed here are mine and do not reflect the official opinion of my employer or the organization through which the Internet was accessed."

  • Do they really want to see what they've been eating?

  • Fun fact: It's not permitted to walk around outside of the town of Longyearbyen (that is anywhere on Svalbard) unless you are carrying a high-powered rifle. Polar bears are a serious threat in those parts. Stephen Colbert be warned!

  • Depression from darkness is really rare. I've never suffered it, nor have I met anyone who has - I think it's comforting. What's the real sanity killer is the midnight sun - full sunlight all night, so you basically need to nail the windows shut if you want to sleep. As the finnish guy wrote above, people only really tend to get down at autumn, but I've met people who get very agitated/disturbed when it gets brighter in early spring for some reason.

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk