David Nightingale: A Few Pet Peeves

Oct 29, 2017

Let's get away from trumpitudes and politics for a moment. This essay is about brights, loud ads, passwords, and 'unavailable'.

First, brights. Driving at night, an oncoming vehicle appears to be warning of a hazard ahead. Is it bouncing up and down from the undulations of the road, or is it flashing its lights? Methinks it didn't used to happen with older lamps. Perhaps what's occurring is that because of the mix of different colored LEDs in some modern headlights -- after all, Newton's prism experiment showed that white light is comprised of all the colors of the spectrum -- a slight bounce may possibly favor certain LEDs over others in the solid angle of the cone of light, depending on the actual lamp design.

I've noticed that this color effect occurs even during the day. At other times, when blinded by brights during night driving, I rationalize that the oncoming driver may be a learner, or has borrowed a car and may not yet know which lever/button/twist is the one for lo-beam. But worst of all, even worse than the intense daytime bright lights from motorcycles, are those very high-above-the-road trucks that have banks of lights on the front that should shine downwards properly when switched to lo-beam, but don't seem to. These are things I wish designers would re-examine.

Now, loud ads. Didn't Senator Schumer address this problem in 2009?  I've noticed, from my trusty decibel meter, that listening comfortably to TV at 50 dB there can suddenly come a deafening commercial blast of over 60 dB! There must obviously be people who believe this is the way to sell, not realizing that the effect is to irritate so much that no-one in his/her right mind would ever go for whatever item that commercial is overpoweringly proclaiming. It's analogous to the oaf who contributes to a debate by yelling, and it's almost as annoying as those ubiquitous ads that cover and hide half the front page of the newspaper ... but I digress. Sadly, after the passage of the CALM Act (the 'M' stands for Mitigation, in the Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act) pushed by the good Chuck Schumer, and enforced successfully by the FCC in 2012, I learn now that there's an exception -- the mitigation doesn't apply to internet TV!

Let's mention passwords. Don't we just love it when registering online for something -- an airline booking, a ticket for a concert, and so on -- and after carefully entering all the data and what you think is a good password -- to be told at the end that the password must have a minimum length and a specific mix (to their liking, not yours) of numbers, letters and caps. Couldn't such information have been conveyed BEFORE all the data entry began?

Finally, 'unavailable'. The phone rings and the caller ID screen says 'unavailable'. But later you learn that it was actually the propane company, or the cable company, and not an ad. Why was the cable company, or the utility, or the insurance company, or the vet, or even the exterminator, afraid to identify itself? Don't they realize that that goes both ways -- i.e., I'm unavailable too?

That's just a few pet peeves. T will bwill will be glad to know my time is up.

Dr. David Nightingale is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the State University of New York at NewPaltz and is the co-author of the text, A Short Course in General Relativity.

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