Mirror, mirror, on the wall

When you go to a park, the whole point is to sit on the grass and bask in the lovely sunshine, right? Unless you’re in New York — where the enormous buildings impose a canyonlike gloom over many areas. So it was with the designers of Teardrop Park South, down in the Battery Park area of New York: They began extending their park at the same time as a new building was being erected, and realized they were about to face a huge problem. When both projects were completed, the building would permanently shield the park from the sun. What to do?

Haul in some huge-ass mirrors and manually re-route sunbeams, that’s what! Apparently, David Norris — a “sunlight consultant,” a job title that has simply got to look suave on a business card — stepped in to save the park, by designing a trio of eight-foot-tall mirrors that will be installed on nearby roofs and controlled by computers. As the Tribeca Trib reports:

The mirrors … will reflect enough of the sun’s rays to keep the park in sunlight year-round, he said, and in some ways will be more effective than broad daylight since the rays can be directed to different spots at different times of the day or season, as needed. The light will shine in large pools or in well-defined spotlights, but will not be concentrated enough to blind or burn, he said. “It’s nothing more than once-reflected sunlight, somewhere on the order of 70 to 80 percent of the power,” he said.

Heh. I love the fact that they had to clarify that the mirrors would not be used to fry passersby like tiny ants.

Seriously, though, I wonder — has anyone ever used this technique in other ways, such as to direct sunlight deep inside buildings that have many internal rooms with no windows? Every time I visit a friend who works at a major newspaper, I’m amazed: Those places are like mushroom farms, they’re so dark and unlit. Similarly, I once thought it’d be fun to put a webcam on the roof of my apartment building, pointed at the sky, and route the picture down to my computer as its desktop image. It would, in effect, be just like the old Windows “blue sky” desktop picture, except the clouds in the sky would actually move, and occasionally it would rain.

(Thanks to Sean for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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