Showing posts with label computer disposal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label computer disposal. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Car lovers seek green energy, not gas guzzlersStory Highlights

(CNN) -- Daniel Gray loves automobiles so much that it almost feels wrong to drive another vehicle: "I'll admit it. I love my car, but I cheat on it with a different car every week," he said.

Car reviewer Daniel Gray loves to drive, but he decided to try getting around without a car for one afternoon.

The Belle Mead, New Jersey, resident runs the car-review Web site with a focus on fuel efficiency, but even he strays over to public transit every now and then. Nowadays, even the biggest car lovers are taking notice of energy conservation.

Readers may not realize a guy who revs engines for a living might need a ride back home after dropping off a test car in New York. In these cases, he typically takes a train most of the 55-mile trip and gets a car ride for the rest of the route.

Gray shared an iReport video explaining how he decided -- for one day only, he emphasizes -- to see whether he could go entirely without the assistance of an automobile on the return trip. His journey was successful, but he spent an extra hour fumbling around with local buses and taking an unintentional detour to a local mall. Watch how drivers ditched cars for a day »

"Taking car-free trips back from the city is an eye-opener," he said, noting that the area could benefit from better bus service to get to the Princeton Junction train station. Car reviewer goes car-free (temporarily)

Gray says he believes government policies have supported urban sprawl instead of efficiency and transit, and 2008's gas-price spiral provided a lesson in the importance of conserving fuel and using public transit.

"Energy independence and alternative fuels represent this country's future. They are our best shot for economic revival."
Don't Miss

iReporters go car-free for a day
Daniel Gray's Web site: Family shuttles children around with bikes Cargo bike carries items like a car

Since he first started buying cars, Gray has been concerned with fuel conservation.
He got his early muscle cars during the 1979 gas crisis, which meant he could only gas them up on alternating days of the week. With a few mechanical tweaks to his Tri-Power GTO, he could use less fuel. When gas prices became an issue in 2007 and 2008, he decided to use his experiences to launch a blog.

"I could feel the winds of change and only had to look back to my youth to know what to do."
With so many drivers on the road, he says small but consistent reductions in everyone's fuel expenditure would have a huge impact on overall energy consumption. Gray is skeptical that high-powered executives with fancy cars will ever want to abandon their wheels, but he says employers should look into telecommuting options for their employees.

He is one of the estimated 4 percent of people who work from home, according to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau numbers. The same study reported that more than 75 percent of U.S. workers drive to work alone and only about 11 percent carpool.

On his Web site, he evaluates cars' gas mileage. Special pages are devoted to the most efficient vehicles. All sorts of cars are examined, and he takes particular interest in hybrids, diesels and other vehicles claiming to be efficient while also looking at more traditional popular cars.
Gray says some people may not be able to avoid driving, but they could start using a lighter foot on the gas pedal to save some gas. Traveling at a steady speed and allowing reaction time helps conserve energy, he said.

He has found fuel efficiency gauges in some newer cars to be a godsend. The dashboard indicators tell drivers when they're driving in an efficient manner. Buying a car with a built-in sensor or installing an aftermarket gauge is one easy way for an ordinary person to save gas, he says.

At the dealership, Gray says car buyers should make miles per gallon a priority. He said he thinks Europeans have better access to cleaner cars than Americans do and encourages looking into fuel-efficient vehicles such as hybrids. Gray is a big proponent of clean diesel vehicles, which he says haven't gotten the attention they deserve. He also expressed hopes about alternative fuels made from algae and hydrogen.

"We're going to need them all," he said.

John Pucher, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University, says the average American is using too much fuel, and many people have become almost "addicted" to their cars. He believes that driving less and finding alternative ways of getting around are in people's best self-interest and that selfish motivations are frequently overlooked in transit promotion.

Pucher, whose voicemail introduces him as "car-free John," hasn't owned a car since 1972. Also a New Jersey resident, he notes that transit options serve some areas extremely well and other areas not at all.

"The problem is all your transit is based on going to New York. If you want to go from suburb to suburb, you'll find that there are very little options."

He says he has noticed that people are often less likely to take public transit for leisure trips than for work commutes and adds many car trips are short enough to be walked.

He hopes that governments will take notice of individuals' desire to use other ways of getting around. A lot of money spent on cars, gas and maintenance could be used for other things, Pucher says, adding that using alternative forms of transportation forces people to get exercise.
Columnist and car reviewer Roman Mica of Boulder, Colorado, also said he thinks people will seek out alternative transportation and efficient vehicles if doing so is in their self-interest. He also hopes people will also try to set an example for others.

Mica makes video reviews of efficient vehicles and sometimes pits the cars against each other, because those are the cars he thinks his children will be driving years from now. He even goes after luxury cars. He posted a video on examining a Lexus hybrid that bills itself as "the fastest hybrid in the world." Does the Lexus hybrid live up to the hype?
He loves cars -- such as the Prius he drives -- and especially loves new technology. He adds that environmental friendliness is part of a car's image.

"People buy cars because they're emotionally attached to them. You buy with your heart not your brain. You buy because of what the car says about you and who you want to be." Prius vs. Prius showdown

Like Gray, Mica works at home. This saves fuel on commutes, but other kinds of driving can be required. Outside of work, Mica tries to take public transit when he is traveling to Denver for events, ballgames and visits.

He says finding ways to use less of finite oil resources will help people save money in the long run and the market will probably encourage or support their increased use.

He is a proponent of energy-efficient vehicles and researches their carbon footprints on Web sites such as to estimate how they compare with standard cars.

Based on his experiences, he opines that driving a standard sedan is like driving two Priuses. Upgrading to a Ford F-150 is similar to putting three of the hybrids on the road. By considering one's carbon footprint in a car purchase and driving habits, he says, one person can make a big difference.

He says people should try to make small changes in how they drive because they can feel secure in knowing that they have made a small difference, but more importantly, they can set off a chain reaction among people they influence.

"It begins with one person," he said. "The government can mandate all it wants, but in the end, it comes down to personal choices and personal responsibility. You're making a difference because you believe that it starts with you and it ends with you, especially today when people are very frustrated with how

Monday, June 2, 2008

Why we should love logarithms

The tendency of 'uneducated' people to compress the number scale for big numbers is actually an admirable way of measuring the world, says Philip Ball.

Philip Ball

Do kids instinctively think logarithmically - and is this the smartest way to look at numbers after all?PunchstockI'd never have guessed, in the days when I used to paw through my grubby book of logarithms in maths classes, that I'd come to look back with fondness on these tables of cryptic decimals. In those days the most basic of electronic calculators was the size of a laptop and about as expensive in real terms, so books of logarithms were the quickest way to multiply large numbers (see 'What are logarithms'.

Of course, logarithms remain central to any advanced study of mathematics. But as they are no longer a practical arithmetic tool, one can’t now assume general familiarity with them. And so, countless popular science books contain potted guides to using exponential notation and interpreting logarithmic axes on graphs. Why do they need to do this? Because logarithmic scaling is the natural system for magnitudes of quantities in the sciences.

That's why a new claim that logarithmic mapping of numbers is the natural, intuitive scheme for humans rings true. Stanislas Dehaene of the Federative Institute of Research in Gif-sur-Yvette, France, and his co-workers report in Science 1 that both adults and children of an Amazonian tribe called the Mundurucu, who have had almost no exposure to the linear counting scale of the industrialized world, judge magnitudes on a logarithmic basis.

Down the line
The researchers presented their subjects with a computerized task in which they were asked to locate on a line the points that best signified the number of various stimuli (dots, sequences of tones or spoken words) in the ranges from 1 to 10 and from 10 to 100. One end of the line corresponded to 1, say, and the other to 10; where on this line should 6 sit? The results showed that the Amazonians had a clear tendency to apportion the divisions logarithmically, which means that successive numbers get progressively closer together as they get bigger.

The same behaviour has previously been seen in young children from the West2. But adults instead use a linear scaling, in which the distance between each number is the same irrespective of their magnitude. This could be because adults are taught that is how numbers are 'really' distributed, or it could be that some intrinsic aspect of brain development creates a greater predisposition to linear scaling as we mature. To distinguish between these possibilities, Dehaene and his colleagues tested an adult population that was 'uncontaminated' by schooling.

The implication of their finding, they say, is that "the concept of a linear number line seems to be a cultural invention that fails to develop in the absence of formal education". If this study were done in the nineteenth century (and aside from the computerized methodology, it could just as easily have been), we can feel pretty sure that it would have been accompanied by some patronizing comment about how 'primitive' people have failed to acquire the requisite mathematical sophistication.

Today's anthropology is more enlightened, and indeed Dehaene and his team have previously revealed the impressive subtlety of Mundurucu concepts of number and space, despite the culture having no words for numbers greater than five3,4.

Everything in perspective
But in any event, the proper conclusion is surely that it is our own intuitive sense of number that is somehow awry. The notion of a decreasing distance between numbers makes perfect sense once we think about that difference in proportionate terms: 1,001 is clearly more akin to 1,000 than 2 is to 1. We can even quantify those degrees of likeness. If we space numbers along a scale such that the distances between them reflect the proportion by which they increment the previous number, then the distance of a number n from 1 is given by the harmonic series, the sum of 1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + 1/4 and so on up to 1/n. This distance is roughly proportional to the logarithm of n.

This, it is often said, is why life seems to speed up as we get older: each passing year is a smaller proportion of our whole life. In perceptual terms, the clock ticks with an ever faster beat.

But wait, you might say – surely 'real' quantities are linear? A kilometre is a kilometre whether we have travelled 1 or 100 already, and it takes us the same time to traverse at constant speed. Well, yes and no. Many creatures, execute random walks or the curious punctuated random walks called Lévy flights, in which migrations over a fixed increment in distance takes an ever longer time. Besides, we can usually assume that an animal capable of covering 100 kilometres could manage 101, but not necessarily that one capable of 1 kilometre could manage 2 kilometres (try the latter case with a young child).

Yet the logarithmic character of nature goes deeper than that. For scientists, just about all magnitude scales are most meaningful when expressed logarithmically, a fact memorably demonstrated in the vision of the Universe depicted in the celebrated 1977 film Powers of Ten The femtometre (10-15 metres) is the scale of the atomic nucleus, the nanometre (10-9 metres) that of molecular systems, the micrometre (10-6 metres) the scale of the living cell, and so on. Cosmological eras demand logarithmically-fine time divisions as we move closer back towards the Big Bang. The immense variation in the size of earthquakes is tamed by the logarithmic magnitude scale, in which (roughly speaking) an increase of one degree of magnitude corresponds to a tenfold increase in energy. The same is true of the decibel scale for sound intensity, and the pH scale of acidity.

Law of the land
Indeed, the relationship between earthquake magnitude and frequency is one of the best known of the ubiquitous natural power laws, in which some quantity is proportional to the n th power of another. These relationships are best depicted with logarithmic scaling: on logarithmic axes, they look linear. Power laws have been discovered not only for landslides and solar flares but for many aspects of human culture: word-use frequency, say, or size-frequency relationships of wars, towns and website connections.

All these things could be understood much more readily if we could continue to use the logarithmic number scaling with which we are apparently endowed intuitively. So why do we devote so much energy to replacing it with linear scaling?

Linearity betrays an obsession with precision. That might incline us to expect an origin in engineering or surveying, but actually it isn't clear that this is true. The greater the number of units in a structure's dimension, the less that small errors matter: a temple intended to be 100 cubits long could probably accommodate 101 cubits, and in fact often did, because early surveying methods were far from perfect. And in any event, such dimensions were often determined by relative proportions rather than by absolute numbers. It seems more conceivable that a linear mentality stemmed from trade: if you're paying for 100 sheep, you don't want to be given 99, and the seller wants to make sure he doesn't give you 101. And if traders want to balance their books, these exact numbers matter.

Yet logarithmic thinking doesn't go away entirely. Dehaene and his colleagues show that it remains even in Westerners for very large numbers, and it is implicit in the skill of numerical approximation. Counting that uses a base system, such as our base 10, also demands a kind of logarithmic terminology: you need a new word or symbol only for successive powers of ten (as found both in ancient Egypt and China).

All in all, there are good arguments why an ability to think logarithmically is valuable. Does a conventional education perhaps suppress it more than it should?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Battle Between the Bottle and the Faucet

THOSE eight daily glasses of water you’re supposed to drink for good health? They will cost you $0.00135 — about 49 cents a year — if you take it from a New York City tap.
Or, city officials suggest, you could spend 2,900 times as much, roughly $1,400 yearly, by drinking bottled water. For the extra money, they say, you get the added responsibility for piling on to the nation’s waste heap and encouraging more of the industrial emissions that are heating up the planet.
But trends in American thirst quenching favor the 2,900-fold premium, as the overflowing trash cans of Central Park attest. In fact, bottled water is growing at the expense of every other beverage category except sports drinks. It has overtaken coffee and milk, and it is closing in on beer. Tap, if trends continue, would be next.
Now New York City officials — like the mayors of Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and San Francisco — are campaigning to get people to reverse course and open their faucets instead of their wallets. The city Health Department, mindful of high obesity rates, says water is more healthful than many other, sugar-filled drinks. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection touts its low environmental impact. Both note that it’s practically free (leaving aside those New Yorkers for whom paying extra is a lifestyle choice).
New York’s water is the envy of municipalities everywhere. It is one of just five major American systems whose water is so good it needs little or no filtration, saving energy and chemicals. (The others are Boston, Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Seattle.)
The system is self-sustaining from rainwater stored in reservoirs. Gravity takes it downhill to the city, where pumps are unnecessary in all but a few neighborhoods.
New York water is quite pure, requiring little chlorine, and low in minerals, giving it a clean taste.
Sounds like an ad for bottled water.
But beverage industry representatives say their version is not just about health and taste — its plastic container, scorned by environmentalists, is actually a plus for consumers.
“The tap water quality is fine in most of the United States,” said John D. Sicher Jr., editor and publisher at Beverage Digest, a trade publication. “The issue is convenience and shifting consumer preference. It’s not so easy, walking down Third Avenue on a hot day, to get a glass of tap water.”
Bottled water has profited from the sagging image of soft drinks, a category in decline for nearly a decade (but still the most consumed of beverages, by far). Preferences evolve — could it be tap’s turn?
“Through education and motivation you can get people to change their habits,” said Emily Lloyd, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, citing smoking, recycling and wearing seat belts. Convenience comes in different forms, she added: “It’s easy to fill a bottle of water and stick it in your backpack.”
With surveys showing climate change a growing concern, officials and advocates say they hope people will consider the implications of billions of bottles.
“More than 90 percent of the environmental impacts from a plastic bottle happen before the consumer opens it,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Oil for plastic, oil for shipping, oil for refrigeration — and in the end, most of the effort goes to landfills.
“The bottle is going to have to change,” he said, noting research in plastics made from plants. “I’m seeing more interest in this than any time in 30 years.”

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