01 Feb. 2007
SETI League
PriUPS Project

Those Profligate French People

As you may know, the French people get much of their power from nuclear energy.  They are doing well indeed, energetically speaking.  According to that paragon of accuracy (not to mention bastion of innumeracy) CNN, they are proposing to turn off the lighting on the Eiffel Tower for five full minutes between 19:55 and 20:00 local time, or the five minutes before midnight if you're watching from here in New Jersey.

Don't think you can see the lighting on the Eiffel Tower from New Jersey?  Think again! 

The Eiffel Tower's illuminations are one of the most notable features of the French capital's skyline and account for 9 percent of the 7,000 megawatts consumed hourly by the structure.

Is 9% of 7,000 megawatts, i.e., .56 gigawatts visible in New Jersey?  That's 1/4 of the total power output of the Hoover Dam, just used to light the Eiffel Tower.  Considering that you can hear signals that I transmit all the way to the moon using only a few hundred watts, half a gigawatt should be easy to see!  That nuclear power is pretty dam good, eh?  Unless, of course, CNN is following in the footsteps of the New York Times, whose factor of 1 million error was mentioned here a couple of weeks ago.  I'm guessing that CNN has done better by a thousand, but what's a few zeroes among nerds, eh?  And I wonder if that's too much.  Even 7 megawatts is quite a lot to be consumed by a tower that probably doesn't have any great number of occupants or computers. 

But never mind.  The thrust of the story wasn't the specifics of the power consumption, but rather the turning off of the lights.  Why would the French dim their national symbol?  Could it possibly be that they are doing it

to help draw attention to energy consumption and the environment on the eve of the release of a U.N. report on climate change[?]

I think that must be the case, or the words above wouldn't be in the distinctive format that I use for direct quotations.  It seems

A U.N. report on climate change [which is] to be released officially on Friday in Paris projects a big rise in temperatures and warns of heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels linked to greenhouse gases, released mainly by the use of fossil fuels.

So the French, with the largest percentage consumption of nuclear energy, are saving five minutes of however much energy the Eiffel Tower really does consume for illumination to call our attention to "the impact of energy consumption on global warming."

This event was organized in "conjunction with the Paris mayor's office."  When we do have the floods, droughts, and rising sea levels, presumably the mayor of Paris will be able to move to the top of the Eiffel tower and remain safe.  He'll certainly have plenty of light by which to read.

NP:  "Funny How It Goes" - Squeeze

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