Blue Christmas? Why Blue LED Lights Are So Hard To Look At

BD 2.0

Have you noticed that blue LED Christmas lights are simply hard to look at? And I don't mean ugly. I mean difficult to focus on.

If you've ever wondered why blue LEDs are blurry, all the answers to this Christmas mystery can be found here. This article will focus on the interesting backstory behind blue LED Christmas lights. Or should I say, not focus!

For starters, LED is short for light emitting diode. According to this 2014 BBC article, LEDs "convert electricity directly into photons of light, instead of the wasteful mixture of heat and light generated inside traditional, incandescent bulbs."

Maybe you noticed more blue LED Christmas lights around the neighborhood? In general, this trend in LED Christmas illumination follows the larger societal adoption of energy efficient LED bulbs.

Dr. Frances Saunders, president of the Institute of Physics stated that "with 20% of the world's electricity used for lighting, it's been calculated that optimal use of LED lighting could reduce this to 4%."

So why didn't we get blue LED Christmas lights sooner?

In theory, Clark Griswold could have staple-gunned LED lights to his house in "Christmas Vacation." After all, LEDs have actually been around since the 1960s. But like many new technologies, the development of LEDs was uneven across time. In short, early LEDs didn't emit as much light and were much expensive to produce than the ones we have today.

In 2014, three Japanese professors were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their breakthrough in LED technology. Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura essentialy solved the puzzle of blue LEDs.

The highly efficient blue LED they developed directly lead to the next development-- high-powered, high-efficiency, white-light LEDs.

Why does this matter? Because you're reading this article on smartphone screen illuminated with high-powered, high-efficiency, white LEDs!

Great, but that still doesn't explain why it hurts to look at blue LED Christmas lights

Seriously, try your hardest to focus on those blue LED lights. When you look at them, you'll notice they're quite literally impossible to focus on. Why is that?

There explanation for this is actually an optical illusion. The term for it is chromatic aberration.

Chromatic aberration (also known as color-fringing or dispersion) occurs inside our eyeballs. Essentially, blue light gets focused on the front of the retina and is thus not sharply focused. Color fringing makes things look wobbly or as though multiple images overlap. For example, picture the Tik Tok logo.

It's also worth noting that when it comes to the ROY G. BIV color spectrum, each color has different wave lengths. The BIV end of the spectrum has shorter wave lengths. Subsequently, certain blue lights simply scatter inside your eyeball.

Thus, we're helpless against blue LEDs. But not entirely!

In reality, that's why hunters and marksmen wear yellow shooting glasses. That's why savvy drivers keep a pair of yellow lensed glasses in their car for driving in rainy or foggy conditions. And that's also why Dr. Geek got TV-famous in the 1990's for his raps about Blu-Blocker Sunglasses.

Yellow lenses block blue wavelengths! As such, that eliminates the scattering effect inside your eyeball. The result? Crisper overall vision. But there may be a more important long term reason for wearing yellow lenses.

Blue light can lead to age-related macular degeneration

The blue and UV end of the light spectrum takes a toll on our eyes in general. Shorter wave lengths carry higher energy that stresses the eyes. This might explain why too much screen time leaves you with a headache.

According to an article on, retinal specialists believe blue light is worse for the eyes than UV light. In addition, long term exposure to high-powered blue light can result in cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD); left unchecked (gulp), blindness.

In conclusion, this sounds like a rough prognosis considering many of us stare at screens all day. What to do then?

Well, maybe we should invest some capital in eyesight technology stocks. But shy of that, we can also reduce our risk portfolio easily. Just pick up a pair of those cheap bluelight-blocking computer glasses.

And do us all a favor, talk to your neighbor about their light display. They're killing the Christmas spirit!

Thanks for reading. Hopefully we cleared up why blue LEDs are blurry. Follow me if you thought this article was a sight for sore eyes ;).


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