Craft & Design Energy & Sustainability Technology
Eternal flame replaced by LEDs
ukrainian_eternal_LED_flame_memorial.jpg

Must. Resist. Yakov Smirnoff. Joke. This is a war memorial, after all, and to a particularly nasty bit of a particularly nasty war, at that. Still, in the same way that Italians can laugh about the fact that, yes, it can be a bit of a pain to renew your driver’s license in Italy, or that Estadounidenses can admit that, yes, we have been known to occasionally over-commercialize certain things, even patriotic Russians will see that there is something of the stereotypically Russian in this story.

This memorial was erected in Ukraine shortly after WWII to commemorate the legions of fallen dead. For 50 years its eternal flame burned natural gas piped in under the Soviet administration. Then…well, things fall apart, as everyone knows. With the breakup of the USSR, the flow of free natural gas into Ukraine stopped and it became too expensive to keep the torch lit. I’m sure it was a sad day that finally saw the flame go out.

Apparently it sat unlit for several years until this compromise solution was achieved: The flame would be converted into a cell-phone tower, the antennae concealed by a round facade bearing a pixelated flickering LED-flame image funded by the cell-phone company. One of those capitalistic solutions where everyone wins, but only kind of.

To my eye, this is in awful taste. But the story, I think, is kind of beautiful. If it’s really true that the only two alternatives were to leave the flame unlit or to replace it with a cheesy simulation, I think, ultimately, that I would have made the same choice. And as we continue to oxidize the world’s supply of hydrocarbons, sooner or later the sensibility of keeping fossil-fuel flames burning “eternally,” only for symbolic purposes, may well become an issue in other parts of the world. [via Hack a Day]

16 thoughts on “Eternal flame replaced by LEDs

  1. The intent of the eternal flame is noble, but I think you may be right in light of our dwindling resources. Perhaps the natural gas source of the flame itself has become a bit tasteless, especially as more wars are, on some levels, being fought for those very resources.

  2. Couldn’t they have at least used RGB LEDs and had the negative space sorta, kinda, just a little bit match the color of the sky?

  3. It’s not a bad idea, but they could have probably have made a better simulation. I’ve seen a reasonably plausible fake fireplace fire at CostCo for a few hundred, and it isn’t using anything particularly wondrous.

  4. Why not find a way to use some other flammable gas such as methane?

    Also I think having a memorial turned into a cellphone tower is a little disrespectful.

  5. “it can be a bit of a pain to renew your driver’s license in Italy”

    Please check your facts or make fun of another country, thanks.
    To renew a driver license in Italy you only have to pass a physical exam and it takes less than an hour.

    1. …Umberto Eco’s essay “How to Replace a Driver’s License” is nearly 30 years out of date. I was talking to a post-doc in my lab, recently transplanted from Pavia, about it a year ago, however, and he assured me that “it’s really like that.” I certainly do not intend to give offense, but you’ll forgive me if I say it seems an odd thing to be touchy about. And while I am no expert on global license renewal procedures, I would point out that even the “physical exam” procedure you describe seems to qualify as a “bit of a pain” from my perspective. I have not had to actually visit a government office to renew my license since it was issued to me on my 21st birthday 12 years ago. I’ve done it online and through the mail since then.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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