My earlier post on Solar powered light emitting balloons elicited some thoughtful responses, and as comments aren't always read by visitors I thought I'd address them here. Go read the comments, I'll wait.
You're back? Good. First off, thanks all. Robert, I was actually wondering if anyone was making the connection with the Tropicana sun. So much I wondered if it factored into the student's idea. But really they have very different goals. The Tropicana "sun" was done to sell orange juice. Cool trick, but really that is what it boils down to.
I think the part that really gets me about this idea, is not that it is dreaming big. There's nothing wrong with dreaming big, but not every dream needs our approval. Some deserve derision. Anyone who has driven in a city can deride the idea of commonplace flying cars, they are dangerous enough traveling in one plane.
What really gets me is the arrogance of the idea that darkness is the problem here. The idea that my world is less rich because of it. I'd argue that it is richer because of such unique aspects of the Arctic. It is this idea that we need to beat back nature in order to make our lives better. This need to want to constantly push back the wild. That the way the natural world operates up here is somehow flawed. That bothers me.
And while we shouldn't restrict our ideas to our corner of the globe, if we are going to present ideas that address "enormous problems of in these Arctic communities with the remoteness and lack of light" we should at least have a smattering of knowledge about those communities. Suggesting that the balloons could guide ships in the depth of winter at Iglulik shows very little knowledge about them.
Is it hard to get a taste of this experience? This smattering of knowledge? Of course not, it is expensive but not hard. Another architecture student spent time in Arctic Bay this year. Wanting to be able to address the problem of affordable, practical housing he came up to live with an Inuit family. He came to see how lives are lived here. Now the problem, like almost any other is more complex than that, in this modern world there are many different ideas about what makes an home ideal. But it is at least an effort.
I realize that not every bit of research is practical in and of itself. That the benefits of well thought out pure research can yield surprising results in other areas. If you have a solar cell that could collect light over the period from May to August and release it from November to February, then you have something. It doesn't need a balloon though, it'll save the Hamlet a fortune for the street lights. And use less oil.