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                             Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Contact:   Rebekah Mullaney
Lighting Research Center
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mullar2@rpi.edu
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Troy, N.Y. -  12/9/2014

LRC Research Confirms Rudolph's Red Nose is the Right Color

The songs "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are staples of American holiday music written by Johnny Marks. The "Rudolph" song itself came to Marks from a story book written earlier by his brother-in-law, Robert May. Further, some of the inspiration for Marks to write this song based on May's book might have come from yet another family connection—his father, Louis B. Marks, a prominent engineer and inventor who in 1906 became the first president of the then-new Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute now houses the Louis B. Marks collection of technical books, journals and other materials, transferred to the LRC by the IES in 1993. Could the younger Marks have been thinking about his father's career when he wrote this familiar and "illuminating" song about a red light that saved the holidays?

Performance of a virtual driving task through a simulated blizzard was more accurate under red light than under other colors.

Interestingly, LRC research on perception under headlamp illumination of different colors under inclement weather like blowing snow (http://papers.sae.org/2001-01-0320) confirms that the red color of Rudolph's nose was a very fortunate circumstance. LRC researchers John Bullough and Mark Rea measured peoples' ability to perform a driving task while looking through a simulated nighttime snowstorm. The headlights in that study could be red, yellow, white or blue-green, meaning people had to look through visual noise illuminated by different colors while performing the driving task. Performance was best under the red light and worst for the blue-green light. Bullough's and Rea's results showed that the light reflected by blowing snow when driving at night is least distracting when the color is red and that sensitivity to conditions like their simulated snowstorm may be influenced by rod photoreceptors in drivers' eyes, which are more sensitive to "blue" light and less sensitive to "red" light. In other words, the light from Rudolph's red nose could help make rooftops more visible by making blowing snow less visible!


About the Lighting Research Center
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the world's leading center for lighting research and education. Established in 1988 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the LRC has been pioneering research in solid-state lighting, light and health, transportation lighting and safety, and energy efficiency for nearly 30 years. LRC lighting scientists with multidisciplinary expertise in research, technology, design, and human factors, collaborate with a global network of leading manufacturers and government agencies, developing innovative lighting solutions for projects that range from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to U.S. Navy submarines to hospital neonatal intensive-care units. LRC researchers conduct independent, third-party testing of lighting products in the LRC's state of the art photometric laboratories, the only university lighting laboratories accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP Lab Code: 200480-0). In 1990, the LRC became the first university research center to offer graduate degrees in lighting and today, offers a M.S. in lighting and a Ph.D. to educate future leaders in lighting. With 35 full-time faculty and staff, 15 graduate students, and a 30,000 sq. ft. laboratory space, the LRC is the largest university-based lighting research and education organization in the world.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering; the sciences; information technology and web sciences; architecture; management; and the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Rensselaer faculty advance research in a wide range of fields, with an emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology, computational science and engineering, data science, and the media arts and technology. The Institute has an established record of success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, fulfilling its founding mission of applying science “to the common purposes of life.”