They say, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Then again, they also say, “ignorance is bliss.” So, take your pick. In any case, have you noticed that lately some streetlights are emitting blue or purple light? I mean, what’s up with that? If you search the Internet you’ll find all sorts of conspiracy theories ranging from government surveillance technology to psychological control to insect eradication. But before anyone starts to hyperventilate, the Iowa Department of Transportation has just released an official statement that the reason some street lights are turning blue is that the phosphorus coating on LEDs (which makes the light white) has been flaking off, revealing the natural blue color. The IDOT assures us that all the weird blue lights are getting replaced. So, we can relax.

But, of course, the conspiracy theories are more fun. One theory is that blue lights have a calming effect on people, even reducing depression with those suffering from seasonal affective disorder. It’s supposed to make us think of the ocean or the sky. There have even been (admittedly dubious) studies in Scotland and Japan, suggesting blue street lights in certain neighborhoods reduced crime rates and the number of suicides. But Tsuneo Suzuki, color psychology professor of Keio University scoffed at the notion, saying there is no credible research to support the idea and that if anybody could show that blue lights reduced suicide, they “would probably win the Nobel Prize.”

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