Thursday, April 06, 2006

SloGlas Sheds Light on Privacy and Legal Issues

Five years after the light-slowing material known as SloGlas has been installed throughout the US, groups are becoming concerned about the privacy and legal concerns that are now starting to arise.

SloGlas is created from a carbon-silicon crystallite that slows down the light particles that pass through it at a predetermined rate. This way the light shone through the material can be seen a few minutes or years later in perfect clarity.

This has become a great boon for reducing artificial lighting in homes and businesses as dual-sky lights have been pre-installed in millions of buildings. The delay is usually set at 12-hours on one half of the skylight while the other half is just normal glass. Enjoying the night sky and natural sunlight 24 hours a day has now become the norm.

Since light passes through at the same speed in both directions, these skylights and windows offer a glimpse back in time for both those inside and outside. The legal ramifications of this became apparent during the murder trial of Benny Harris who was accused of killing his wife. The prosecutors were granted an eight month recess while they waited for the subpoenaed SloGlas to reveal what happened at the murder scene at the time of the crime.

In another creative use of the material for the other side of the law, a serial flasher found a way to get around the statute of limitations. He exposed himself in front of the three-year pane at the Slivers of Time sculpture in Central Park, then came back three years later with a flash mob he created to enjoy their reactions. After being charged with indecent exposure, the judge ruefully had to throw it out because they were past the statute of limitations. Congress is now considering ways to get around this new loophole.

Joint ownership rights of SloGlas have been giving divorce and property rights lawyers a headache. Spouses want to see their kids grow up all over again, but don’t want their former significant others to see them in compromising situations. And previous renters of apartments claim they own the images that will someday shine through the other side of the expensive panes that were installed in their residences.

The material’s use as energy storage has also elicited a lawsuit. A broken pane that had been shipped from the Sahara and ended up in a US landfill spontaneously combusted the trash it was laying on when the direct sunlight finally shone through.

What once started as modern art sculptures and time capsules to novelties, batteries and ubiquitous energy-savers has time- and place-shifted light in a way that we are only now beginning to grasp.



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