The Corner


Four Cheers for Incandescent Light Bulbs

(Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

It brought me much — indeed, too much — joy to hear of the Trump administration’s rollback of restrictions on incandescent light bulbs, even if the ban will remain in place. The LED bulbs are terrible. They give off a pitiable, dim, and altogether underwhelming “glow,” one that never matched the raw (if abrasive) brightness of their incandescent counterparts. The isolated light bulb that dangles from a chain above the interrogation table in every police procedural show? It’s incandescent, naturally — the bulb teeters and sweats right along with the accused. It’s poetic in that way.

And there is something charming — stop laughing, please, I’m mostly serious — about the gradual heat that builds within the incandescent bulb. It’s working hard. Far harder than the LED bulbs, anyway. And it’s less condescending — the state-sanctioned LED light, with its plain optical inferiority, stares you perpetually in the face screaming: “You didn’t build that!”

Shut up, LED bulb. I did build that.

The incandescent bulb, with its utter lack of pretense, is inefficient, sure. It’s inefficient in much the same way the English system of weights and measurements is. Smart People are always telling us just how burdensome the English system is — Most other countries use the metric system! It makes it easier for scientists! Are you anti-science? Well, the LED bulb is the metric system of household light bulbs — it’s utterly European. And as Joe Biden said to the senator from the People’s Republic of Vermont last night, “This is America.

Stop looking at me like that. You’re saying you don’t anthropomorphize your light fixtures? Well, you’re weird. Long live the incandescent bulb, and its inefficient, horribly bright, and plainly American light.


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