Saving the Planet, One Search at a Time

By Julianne Dalcanton | February 1, 2008 11:51 am

One of my postdocs has turned me on to blackle.com. The simple idea behind Blackle is that it’s identical to Google, except for the energy efficient black background:

blackle.jpg

It’s a cute idea, though they should have chosen dark blue and gone for “Bloogle”.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Computing, Environment
  • http://www.darkoogle.com Ray

    I prefer using Darkoogle http://www.darkoogle.com another black Google and is available in over 40 countries http://www.darkoogle.com/international

    Best of all its got the ‘similar page’ option in the result page like the normal white Google. I use that a lot.

  • Yera Meyahu

    Don’t forget that it doesn’t actually save any power, except on CRTs.

  • Z

    It actually uses (slightly) more power on liquid crystal displays.

  • http://spayced.tumblr.com spayced

    I have a hard time believing it’s that dramatic of savings. I like the “ad revenue donated to good cause” model better like done at http://friendsgreen.com/

  • http://mengbomin.wordpress.com/ Meng Bomin

    Well, it’s already been posted but Z is right, it uses more power on LCDs, which make up pretty much all laptop screens and most flat-panel desktop displays because they work by shining a uniform backlight through an array of pixels with liquid crystals that selectively absorb some of the light and the darker the pixel, the higher the voltage being used on that particular pixel, so there is actually a slight increase.

    If you want to save energy on an LCD, lower the brightness.

    Now, if you are using a CRT monitor, this does save energy, but CRTs are making up a smaller and smaller portion of the actual user-base.

  • http://orgprepdaily.wordpress.com milkshake

    this reminds me a story about phreaks who long time ago hacked into Bell system and were making free long-distance calls using the Bells internal technical service lines. When they got busted the prosecution (because of a lack of better grounds for conviction) tried to charge them for the wasted electricity. Too bad, the prosecution did not realise that all active telephone lines at the time were kept under a constant voltage…

  • Ali Shareef al’Dente

    how much energy does it save on a CRT anyway? I was under the impression that the electron beam was created by a thermal process and always on…

  • vanderleun

    You can file this one in the already overflowing bin marked “Intellectual Insanity.”

    But don’t worry, always room for one more.

  • http://www.amandabauer.blogspot.com/ astropixie

    my big complaint is that blackle doesnt have an image search. it was when i immediately noticed the lack of this feature that i realized how much i search thru images!

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    But what if I’m feeling lucky? I often feel lucky.

  • Matt

    Even better are the handful of sites that present google with ads, and then donate all of the advertising revenue to a charity.

    Search Kindly even let’s you vote on which charity to donate to each month!

    It’s a little bit gawdy and ad covered but that’s the whole point, and it doesn’t work any differently than google.

    http://www.searchkindly.org/index.php

  • Big Vlad

    I mainly like this because there’s no glare from the screen

  • Tom M

    Save energy – set your monitor to turn off after 5 minutes (or whatever you find acceptable based on your work habits).

    It drives me nuts that so many people keep their LCDs always on and use a screen savers. Some people have interrupted working habits where they need to often and quickly access their computer, but for the rest of us: have your monitor turn off! Those 5 seconds waiting for the warmup aren’t a big.

    Also, turn off your work computer at night and over the weekends.

  • Tom M

    I mainly like this because there’s no glare from the screen

    Yes, actually this is important to me. Often I need to work on tasks while a photomultiplier tube is on recording data for me, so I set my desktops to black and choose a dark windows theme.

  • http://www.heynorton.org Ken Norton

    Repeatedly debunked, including by Google themselves:

    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/08/is-black-new-green.html

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    I will confess to having an even deeper objection, which applies to the whole notion of helping the environment by saving energy through small steps. It’s nice and all, but mostly it makes us feel good, while having negligible impact on overall resource consumption. What we actually need is collective action in the form of massive government intervention to dramatically change the incentive structure. Personal virtue (as Dick Cheney would put it) is fine, unless it distracts us from the need to enact much more substantial measures.

  • Lawrence B. Crowell

    The biggest technology to focus on in order to save energy are automobiles. A monitor is a 100 watt device (approx) and a car is a ~100 hp device at 770 watts/hp as I recall the conversion. Drive less and drive a fuel efficient car. That will do more than any energy saving idea with electronics.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • nka

    that is really stupid

  • Jon H

    ” but for the rest of us: have your monitor turn off! Those 5 seconds waiting for the warmup aren’t a big.”

    And if your laptop has an LED backlight, there is no warmup.

    What bugs me are offices that leave the overhead lights on.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    You can set most browsers to override page colors and show what you want anytime.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    And Julianne, I hope you’ve learned your lesson. No good intention goes unridiculed.

  • http://www.popcorngallery.net Max

    Here’s an article that explains how using blackle on LCD’s doesn’t really help:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/does-a-darkened-google-really-save-electricity-104/

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/julianne Julianne

    Sean — I agree with you that the far larger problems are structural. However, I am also someone who reuses aluminum foil and plastic bags, so small solutions obviously serve some role in staunching wounds in my psyche.

    Less facetiously, however, I do think that small solutions frequently add up to something substantial. I’ve been spending a significant fraction of my past few summers in Germany, where I was presented with 4 separate recepticles for sorting my trash. I was initially so flummoxed that I left most of my trash on the countertop in fear of doing it wrong. However, after mastering the system, the fraction of my waste that was true, destined-for-the-landfill, capital-T trash was minute, even for a family of 4. If you have a nation of people doing this, you have to have a significant reduction in the amount of stuff going to the landfill. The government clearly plays a role in organizing this effort and making it sustainable, but individual action is critical for success.

    However, I completely understand (and understood at posting) that Blackle is not exactly equivalent. I may reuse my tin-foil, but I’m not quite that naive!

  • http://www.cthisspace.com Claire

    Julianne,

    Thankyou for pointing this site out, I never even knew it existed until now. It is good for me as dyslexia is lessened. It’s also good for partially sighted people.

    Claire

  • Bob

    Odd, just yesterday I was thinking about two things that this site has that aren’t energy specific – one was that I am sometimes interested in minimizing ambient light for dark-adaptation reasons (not astronomical or flight-deck grade serious-level) – and the other was that I was wondering why Google didn’t enlarge the width of their search form – I find myself sometimes searching with somewhat lengthy terms and hate having to scroll around in the slot.

    Thanks for bringing this (and via the comments) another darkened google to my attention. I’ve been using Scroogle for some time because I like the thumb-your-nose at tracking attitude.

  • http://wishsubmission.wordpress.com Manas Shaikh

    1. The darkoogle/whate does little to save energy. But
    2. It has symbolic importance in that it reminds people.

    Next? DarkCV?

  • a cornellian

    Just to play devils advocate there is (in principle) a cross over with recycling where you are spending more energy to reprocess the materials than you would have had to start from scratch.

  • The Almighty Bob

    Yes, cornellian, but as we’re not going to be mining the mantle for our iron ore anytime soon, perhaps spending the extra cash re-using the stuff we’ve already dug up is a good thing?

  • a cornellian

    I was thinking of plastics and the like more than metal.

    I totally agree that recycling is a good thing, I am just throwing out there that it is possible to go too far, similar to bio-fuels. Yes, running on corn sounds like a good idea, but depending on who’s numbers you believe, it ends up energy (read fossil fuel) negative.

  • Richard E.

    Re the lights always on — at my place of work, all the lights were recently attached to timers that turn overhead lights off after they detect no movement in a room for some set time (10 or 15 minutes, I think.).

    I almost always turn my lights off when I go home, but I frequently find that if I have unexpectedly been out of my office they flick on again as soon as I walk through the door. Apparently the cost savings justify the work involved swapping out the light switches, even before you start to talk about C0_2.

    On the other hand, when I was a place with big, roughly cube shaped physics building, it was a pleasant form of pelmanism to look up at the side of the building that housed the faculty offices during the evening, and to know at a glance which professors were burning the midnight oil. And now you could be sure that they were actually in their offices (and moving every now and then).

  • http://mingus.as.arizona.edu/~bjw/ Ben

    I agree with both Sean and Julianne that you can’t save the world one recycled newspaper or compact fluorescent at a time. However, I also agree that making an effort to do things like cut down on garbage, packaging, energy use etc can show a definite improvement per person. The importance of this, I think, is not just “what if everybody did it” but getting people involved. When people think that conservation is something that they can participate in, I think it makes them more open to supporting large-scale conservation and environmental defense actions, such as carbon pricing. People have a way of tuninng out problems that sound so much bigger than their lives as to have no immediate impact.

    Back to Google searching, we might estimate the carbon load of one’s Google search. It is often estimated that Goog operates about 5e5 servers, with power consumption perhaps 20-100 MW and an electric bill of maybe US$20-100 million/yr. I have no idea how many Google searches people do per day – a billion? If so, your search costs them about 1 watt-hour. (Ignoring whatever tiny fraction of their power is devoted to blogspot, etc.) If you spend 10 minutes doing the search and looking at the results on a 60 watt laptop, you used 10 watt-hours. IOW, your computer is a bigger problem, in carbon load, than Goog’s datacenter – because there are so many other computers like it. Thus, while the original premise is of course a joke, the whole idea that we could use vastly more efficient computers is not a bad one. (One that Google is working on, because the way CPUs are developing, their electric bill may soon be larger than the capital cost of their servers.)

  • http://www.iBlackle.com iBlackle Fan

    For those who are iGoogle users, and Blackle users, or for those who search for images a lot (like astropixie above), or for those who simply appreciate efforts of online ecofriendliness, then iBlackle is for you. Its a parody of Blackle and iGoogle, with features that actually work!

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »