|Size||Surface Area||Lowest Price||$/sq in.||Resolution||$/10k pixels||dpi|
|19 wide||164 sq in.||$159||$0.97||1440x900||$1.28||89.3|
|19 square||176 sq in.||$169||$0.96||1280x1024||$1.29||86.3|
|20 wide||179 sq in.||$159||$0.89||1680x1050||$0.90||99.0|
|20 square||192 sq in.||$196||$1.02||1400x1050||$1.30||87.5|
|20 square||192 sq in.||$276||$1.44||1600x1200||$1.44||100|
|22 wide||207 sq in.||$218||$1.05||1680x1050||$1.24||90.0|
|22 hi res||207 sq in.||$2,783||$13.44||3840x2400||$3.05||210|
|24 wide||258 sq in.|| |
|26 wide||303 sq in.|| |
|28 wide||335 sq in.|| |
|30 wide||404 sq in.|| |
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Saturday, August 25, 2007
It seems everyday you hear about a locked system's protections being circumvented. Today there is the XBox 360, yesterday the Apple iPhone. I used to think the process of locking up these systems was completely useless and a generally bad idea, but today I had a thought. Maybe there is a silver lining to the thundercloud of proprietary lock in technology.
What could that be? Well simple, you're hearing about some useless proprietary barrier being broken, rather than a new virus or set of malware. Hackers will hack, and it may just be that the combination of high flying press and the pseudo philanthropic respect given to proprietary barrier hackers can create a brain drain in the area of the really nasty stuff. Maybe. I'm sure there will still be virus and malware writers, but maybe they'll be a little less smart, a little less numerous.
The problem is we let companies like Apple waste our law enforcement and legal system resources on chasing down the proprietary barrier hackers. We shouldn't let them do that. There's no excuse for chasing down some guy who let people use the phones they already paid for when there's hackers out there destroying our email system, scaring grandparents around the world and wrecking peoples lives through identity theft. Priorities.
A few quotes from a CNN article demonstrate the failures of logic that result in bad policy. The first, from the writer, Steve Hargreaves:
Anecdotal evidence from one utility says some Americans, about 20 percent, are willing to pay about 8 percent more for this power. Yet when given the option, only about 5 percent of people actually sign up.
It's subtle, but clear example of not understanding the argument of Me vs. Us. If you asked me, I'm willing to pay more than 100% more for clean electricity, if I get the full benefit. But if you offer me clean power for 50% more I'll turn it down. Why? Simple, I receive between 1/6,500,000,000th (my portion of the world population) and 1/600,000,000th (my portion of the world GDP) of the benefit.
If, however, the question is a national U.S. policy, I receive 20% of my contribution's value, since the United States spends 1 of every 5 energy dollars spent worldwide. Additionally, since my electric use is half or less the U.S average, my ratio is over 40%.
The fact the difference is only 3% demonstrates an astounding degree of selflessness. Even if you banked on the 5% who actually did sign up, the ratio of willingness should have been 50 to 1, or 0.16% for the initial 8%.
Local vs. national
Next is the argument of the president of a natural gas based energy company, Michael Allman:
Allman's argument implies that if natural gas prices really did spike, people would build more renewable capacity without a mandate from the federal government.
"When you constrain something, it has never been good," he said.
Here, the mistake is similar (though possibly intentional). Without a national bill, building renewable capacity is a localized concern, whereas natural gas shortages are national (not global since natural gas is rarely imported/exported). The overall ratio ranges from 1 to 100 in sparsely populated areas like Alaska, and as high as 1 to 20 in an area like California.
There is also a second mistake. The assumption that the reaction to a spike will be timely and commensurate. I'm sure a spike would have an effect, but since clean power is a 20 year investment, and localities may assume a spike is temporary, the reaction won't be as large as warranted. It also takes time to build clean power. There is no clean power switch waiting to be flipped on.
If you want individuals to invest in clean power individually, you need to give them benefits. The best system I've seen yet is pricing lock-in. One day in a not too distant future, for many areas, clean power will be more economical than natural gas. When this happens, it's only fair that those who believed in clean power reap the benefits. All individually elective clean power programs should offer this benefit. Anything else is not only missing a major opportunity, but also lacking in fairness.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Cities are great places to live, and plenty of urban dwellers will attest to that, but they've always had a bad reputation with a large segment of the population, often for reasons that were once, though not currently, true or other types of misconceptions. For example, they often are given a very bad view by environmental groups, despite being far less impactful per capita than almost all alternatives.
So I was encouraged by two tidbits form Gristmill. The first, mentions a study comparing the health benefits of rural vs urban. The study shows that young people, babies and those under 24 years of age fare far better health wise, on average, in an urban setting.
Another article from the New Yorker extols the value of New York city itself. In short, the life expectancy for residents of New York is now longer than the rest of the United States, and increasing faster too. Admittedly, cities got off to a rough start with the dawn of industrialization and a lack of insight into the problems of pollution, sanitation and safety. But all over cities are finding their groove, are discovering how to cope, defeat and excel in areas in which they did horribly.
It's an encouraging trend, because when you truly consider the world, and its large and still growing population, it's clear that heavy usage of cities are the only sustainable option to support them all. If cities have bypassed a turning point, where they can not only balance efficiency, sustainability and quality of life, but increase them all simultaneously, it's very encouraging.
As an aside, I've been reading, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. It's a great book, but one thing I disagree with Bill McKibben is his inability to consider some alternatives. Sure, we all know there is a greater need for community, for less resource intensive behavior, but he makes the mistake of thinking his way is the only one. Worse, McKibben seem highly biased toward the rural lifestyle with his emphasis of the farmers markets, and myraid other small details. On observing all of this I can't help but notice how much damage some things he takes for granted actually cause.
Take farmers markets as an example. Sure, they have the benefit of not having carted tomatoes 1700 miles to reach their destination, but there are plenty of costs involved with the extra miles associated with the farmers and consumers driving to their markets. Does it add upto 1700 miles? No, but there's no reason the giant grocery chain can't change it's practices to avoid 1700 mile tomatoes, and thus gain both benefits. But McKibben is almost dismissive of the chains heading in that direction.
That brings me to the second tidbit from biodiversivist. He's obviously aware of the problems with "off-grid" living, and the lack of sustainability involved. Placing a home inside a natural environment is not environmentally friendly. It's nice that people who do this try and minimize the impact with solar panels, but there's two major problems with the idea. Number one is except for some very extreme examples, there is an impact, and it's much larger than an urban dwellers impact. If you drive in and out of your rural cottage, and it is 50 miles to the next town, that's not good. Worse if you still work in the city.
If you're on the grid there's an awful lot of wire (and power loss), and you're house is going to be comparable in energy consumption to a suburban house of the same size. If you are off the grid, there's certainly some impacts associated with you're power generation facilities. If it's solar, you've probably bought many more panels then necessary because you need to meet your own "peek" needs. Any personal energy source is going to appear to have a minor impact compared to a coal burning power plant, but when you divide that plant's impact by it's number of consumers, you may be very surprised. Even more, if you compared your personal energy source per capita to a wind, solar or other commercial clean energy source, the comparison will be even worse.
The second problem is how many can actually live that lifestyle, before reasonable sites are exhausted? The answer is astonishingly few. And the sad truth of the suburbs, I've noticed, is many, perhaps half, of the residents didn't want to live in the suburbs at all. They wanted to live in the country. Problem is, they edge of the suburban landscape, the barely rural, and then their neighbors moved just a bit farther out, and so on. This is how sprawl was born, and how it continues.
The fact that yet another suburb was not the intent, changes the outcome not at all. The hermit should be careful never to proclaim the superiority of his lifestyle, or he may inherit a great deal of fellow hermits. And thus the original proclamation would be laid low by the unsustainable nature of the promise.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Since I posted my predictions on the HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray war, it's been rather hard to tell whether I was right or wrong. One thing I didn't count on was the combo drive makers bumbling the job so badly and taking more than a year to release. Today there are two players, the LG BH100 and the Samsung BD-UP5000. Both are still very expensive, which would have worked fine if they were released 6 months earlier, but now Blu-Ray players can be had for $600.
Still I have to wonder if they are part of the motivation for Paramount and Dreamworks dropping Blu-Ray in favor of HD-DVD. The same logic stands, although I expect a good part of this decision is cost, the cost in stamping discs being higher for Blu-Ray. I expect the way they see it, there's not much advantage to them to produce Blu-Ray discs since that market's probably still willing to plop down an extra $200 for a HD-DVD player if they really want a movie. Sales of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray titles doesn't appear to be linked to format, but content, which shouldn't be half as surprising as it is.
At this point, I think HD-DVD has a stronger position, but honestly, both formats are doing so poorly that a third format could easily come in to trump them both if someone did something like release a greater than 1080p resolution TV. There has to be some advantage a third format could exploit, but if such an opportunity arose, both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray would be nearly helpless to fight it off.
Another threat which could defeat both is IP based movies, which if done well, and done cheaply has a similar opportunity today. I suppose this was what Jobs was hoping for with Apple TV, but Apple failed to do it well, and thus missed the boat.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Concerned about mercury? There are better ways to reduce usage of mercury than to spread fear about compact fluorescent lightbulbs. For all the attention CFLs have been given, the state of linear fluorescents in offices, commercial spaces and industrial spaces has gone largely unnoticed. Yet this is the biggest pie a the moment, and although relatively cheap alternatives are available, not all business are buying them.
One alternative is the EverLED lamps. These lamps cost 3 times as much as a fluorescent tube, but last twice as long, contain no mercury and a save 25% more energy. At a 50,000-70,000 lifetime these lamps will last 8 years at 24 hours per day.
Seeing as I've never seen an EverLED in action, I'll present another alternative, the Phillips Alto II T8 lamps. They use 1.7mg of mercury per lamp, 100% of the mercury used is recycled, and the lamps last 36,000-46,000 hours (that's nearly 5-6 years at 24 hours per day) and efficiency is almost twice that of a CFL, or 8 times that of an incandescent. I'm not sure if there available yet as I couldn't find them at online retailers, but it's possible the large distributors have them.
In fact, running the numbers for three sets of bulbs, LiteTronics F32T8, a Phillips Alto II (price not yet available, estimated at $90 for case of 25), and the EverLED bulbs comes up with the following results (11 cents per kwh US average, 14.26 cents CA, 16.55 cents NY, 18.85 cents CN):
|Cost||Hours||Watts||Per 10k hours (US average)||Per 10k hours (CA)||Per 10k hours |
|Per 10k hours |
All three are very close in operational costs, so why not give an EverLED a try? In a few years, perhaps LED based alternatives to CFLs will be available too. That doesn't change the fact that incandescents need to be replaced today.
As I said in Part 1, I'll compare the differences between Space Individualized Transit (SIT), Individual Mass Transit (IMT) and RUF. PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) is an effort to add flexibility back to public transportation systems, and thus increase their use.
Conventional PRT makes progress, but it still misses the final mile. Sometimes I look forward to a walk, but there are many instances where it's a problem. Also, not everyone thinks like I do. Bad weather and time are downers for almost everyone, myself included. In addition, 35lb bags of dog food or furniture are more than just inconveniences. Thus with conventional PRT, conventional rail or buses the need for conventional roads remains. Those costs, being rather large, will always hold back secondary transportation methods.
IMT and RUF however interface with conventional roads and make to your door delivery a reality. While that doesn't reclaim the costs of roads, it does make IMT and RUF viable replacements for 100% of needs. Once you have a guideway and a vehicles capable of using it, there is no reason not to. Guideways are thus no more secondary than highways are today.
SIT provides the same capabilities since compartment can be placed on drive-by-wire sleds in non-automated environments. Operators can then use controls inside the compartment to drive like any other car.
Since SIT's is multi-modal, compartments can interface with conventional rail, long distance mag-lev tracks or Evacuated Tube Transport. In addition, conventional rail or light rail can provide mid range travel to reduce initial infrastructure costs.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
According to Engadget, GM may lower the price of Chevy Volts by way of battery rentals. Two things are interesting about the idea. First, the idea itself, while primarily a marketing tool is smart. Breaking the battery price out into a rental encourages consumers to compare overall costs more rationally. The first comparison most consumers evaluate is the cost of the cars, i.e. the upfront costs. GM hopes with this change these costs will be comparable. The battery rental costs are then evaluated with the ongoing costs including gasoline expenses. Even with battery rental costs an electric should beat a gas car here as well. Essentially what I'm saying is it makes the comparison more apples to apples.
So, that's good, but there is another reason. One way to bypass the range problems of electric cars is to allow them to be swapped in and out at service stations, similar to filling a gas tank. It's a cool idea, but the problem was if a significant part of the wear and tear is concentrated in the battery, it's not very fair to swap out a near dead battery for a full one.
If batteries are rented from GM, then they're all owned by the same company and swapping one battery for another require any financial consideration. You'll continue to pay the monthly rental fee no matter which battery pack you currently have.
Once headed down that road, it's not as great a leap to think of renting the entire drivetrain and only owning the passenger compartment.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
After writing a response to another CFL doubter, I think I let this guy off the hook too easy. Since 1996 D.C. Agrawal has been conducting research on incandescent bulbs, and has this year taken it upon himself to post a great deal of misinformation about CFL bulbs. I've also seen his "response" in other places on the net.
The thing is, this is, on a smaller scale, the exact same kind of scientific infidelity which explains how we have scientists out there still claiming that there is no way humans are causing global warming, that smoking doesn't kill, etc.
The real devil in disguise is those individuals who hide behind claims of scientific freedom. That is harmful to policy, to public opinion, and to the future of scientific freedom, which despite it's abuse is fully justified.
D.C. Agarwal from CFL - Devil in Disguise, decided to post a load of information he believes in my letter to another CFL doubter. D.C. has one or two valid points, but makes all the common mistakes as well. I also have reason to question his sincerity. This is the first time I've run across a doubter who seemed to have a motive other than just being egregiously misinformed.
Read on, first he says:
CFL low-energy light bulbs are up to twenty times more expensive to produce than the standard tungsten-filament bulbs
To which I say, this is unimportant when the cost to produce is under $3.00 and differential cost to operate is $45.00. Dollar stupid and penny smart? Such a common mistake.
Also, he says:
You might also like to know that the manufacture process for CFLs uses up to ten times the energy used in the manufacture of traditional bulbs.
Which is the same mistake. It's impossible that the manufacturing energy exceeds the energy saved because manufacturers aren't in the business of selling products for $3.00 which require $45.00 of energy inputs. Energy is not free anywhere.
In addition, CFL’s need much more ventilation (top and bottom).
It's situational, but sometimes true. Many newer bulbs need much less. It's a reasonable point except that CFLs can be used in 95% or greater of the situations an incandescent can. Also, incandescents have limitations as well associated with their waste heat, and so in many cases you may find you can use a CFL where an incandescent could not have been used.
Low-energy light bulbs do not give off a steady stream of light as they flicker fifty times a second, which can be expected to contribute to health and safety problems, with associated financial costs, down the line.
What he describes is an old lamp using a magnetic ballast. Current bulbs, using an electronic ballast, such as Energy Star rated bulbs, do not. I have personal experience with this as I've bought both Energy Star bulbs and non. I did notice the flickering with the inferior bulb, but not with the Energy Star bulbs. I understand where the misconception comes from, but that doesn't change that it's wrong.
A technical study of ERTL (East) Calcutta on CFL’s shows that these lamps discharges ultra violet rays which are harm full to eyes and causes skin cancer.
This is the only point I can't refute. It's true a CFL can produce UV rays. Incandescents do as well, but generally less. Regardless most information I've seen states there is no risk associated with that level of UV radiation which is many many orders of magnitude less than what 30 minutes of sun exposure will cause. And I also know that many studies suggest that while overdosing on UV is definitely harmful, the human body needs a limited amount daily as well.
But perhaps worst of all, is the fact that low-energy bulbs are currently made using toxic materials. Chief among them is mercury, a substance that, ironically, the EU banned from its landfill sites just last year. For the EU nations special recycling arrangements will have to be made to dispose of CFLs thus incurring a further cost. With between 3 and 5 milligrams of mercury in each CFL and with an estimated 150 million CFLs sold in the United States in 2006, that’s a whole lot of non-recycled bulbs that could end up in garbage dumps. Mercury can affect the nervous system, damage the kidney and liver and, in sufficient quantities, can kill. No wonder scientists and environmentalists are worried.
Net sum, CFLs produce less mercury than current alternatives. In addition you have the option of reducing this further by recycling. Incandescent bulbs contain lead too and ideally would be recycled too (I recycled mine when I replaced them with CFLs). D.C., what do you do with you're incandescent bulbs?
All the CFL manufactures claims its long life more than 5 years or in technical terms 6000 hrs to 10000 hrs. Is it true in Indian conditions? The answer is not at all in Indian condition. CFL’s have built in electronic Blasts (PCB), which require a constant voltage supply of electric as other appliances require. In India there is regular voltage fluctuation in power supply. So the Life of CFL’s is very much less than the declared life by the manufacturers. Nobody will use voltage stabilizers for CFL’s. In India All the companies are selling the CFL’s on one year warranty. Now all the ELCOMA members have decided to withdraw this warranty. Why? The data of all companies shows that replacement of CFL from the markets is more than 20-40% in one year of warranty periods. It means that mostly CFL failed to complete the 1500 hrs life instead of declared life of 6000hrs.The study of these failure CFL’s shows that 80% lamps failed due to failure of electronic blast due to irregular voltage power supply, use of inverters & generators.
I would suggest a better course of action here would be requiring all CFLs sold in India to be dimmable, rather than avoiding them entirely. The cost will be about 2 times more, but still an order of magnitude less than the savings. It's a good point for certain markets, but in markets with reliable power systems it's mute.
In Europe the ban on incandescent lamps, due to come into effect in under two years, does not give much time to EU member states to plan for the changes, a decision taken centrally without consultation with member nations. Thus the EU has chosen to pursue the same dictatorial path chosen by Cuba’s Fidel Castro (in an attempt to ease the strain on the island’s hard-pressed electricity grid) two years ago.
In Europe most bulbs sold are already CFLs. They've been in use for years, even when they flickered, had slow warmup, and had odd coloring. The savings was worth those inconveniences to millions of consumers. With those issues solved there is not much point in the incandescent left.
The potentially hazardous CFL is being pushed by companies like Wal-Mart–a distributor of GE, Royal Philips, Osram Sylvania and Lights of America which wants to sell 100 million CFL’s at 5 times the cost of incandescent bulbs during 2007 and surprisingly, became an environmentalists?
It's surprising you should question others motives. I know it's the rage to suggest any company making money is doing evil, but that just isn't true. But as long as we are questioning motives, how about your's? A little research shows that you're a scientist who's primary field of study is incandescent lamps! Yes, I've found your papers (also (2)). I've been wondering why anyone would have a motive to criticize CFLs other than plain being misinformed. Now I've finally found one.
Greenpeace also recommends CFL’s, while simultaneously bemoaning contamination caused by a mercury thermometer factory in India. But where are mercury-containing CFL’s made? Not in the U.S. or EU, under strict environmental regulation but in India and China, where environmental standards are virtually nonexistent.
Mercury thermometers contain 100 to 500 times more mercury per item than CFLs. They also do not help prevent mercury emissions through power consumption. D.C. Are you defending that factory? That's the height of hypocrisy if so. Greenpeace is just making a tactical tradeoff. I'm sure they would support the ban of CFLs if LEDs were marketable replacements, as when that day comes, so will I. But hoping for LEDs does not change the comparison of CFLs and incandescents.
We can understand easily that in a housing unit we use at the most one piece of thermometer. Can you imagine? What will be happen when we use at least 4-5 pieces or more mercury based CFL’s in a house?
If you use 5 CFLs in a house with a mercury thermometer you'll raise you're houses mercury content by 1%-5% depending on the type of bulbs you use. FIX THE THERMOMETER BEFORE YOU WORRY ABOUT CFLS!!!
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I just finished Essays of Warren Buffet: Lessons for Corporate America. It's an interesting book, not exactly exciting, but Buffet is very clear and humorous. The worst part was since it's a collection of essays some topics become slightly repetitive.
One such topic, the difference between economic goodwill and accounting goodwill struck me as a clear example of the "What isn't easily measurable, doesn't exist" rule. Economic goodwill is "the intangible advantages a company has over its competitors such as an excellent reputation, strategic location, business connections, etc.", where accounting goodwill is "the excess of cost over equity in net assets acquired".
The point Buffet makes is, at the time, the substitution of accounting goodwill for economic goodwill in GAAP rules required accounting goodwill to be amortized over a period of 40 years, but in the majority of cases, this charge was not valid. In fact he makes a good case that when rational purchases are made, economic goodwill will not only be greater than accounting goodwill, but will increase with inflation, rather than waste away.
The reason economic goodwill wasn't used is because if you ask two people to evaluate economic goodwill, you may end up with two very different answers. In other words, economic goodwill is not measurable. Accounting goodwill however is easily calculated by subtracting book price from purchase price.
The rules have changed a bit since Buffet's essays were written. Accounting goodwill is still the standard, but now it is not amortized unless it is judged to be "impaired". A lengthy set of rules (see statement # 142), describe these rules, but the changes only reduce, not eliminate the original problem.
It's unlikely accounting rules will ever correct the error because measurement of economic goodwill is not easily specified. It can only be estimated, and often requires judgements greater than what accounting procedures are comfortable with.
There is some justification to the purist view of accounting procedures as Buffet says,
The accountants' job is to record, not to evaluate. The evaluation job falls to investors and managers. Managers and owners need to remember that accounting is but an aid to business thinking, never a substitute for it.
I could expand upon this wisdom to point out it's validity to all metrics, not just accounting numbers. You cannot reliably react to those numbers directly. Unless you really understand the source, meaning and validity of the numbers to be precisely match your evaluation criteria direct reactions will run afoul. Business is not science, and anyone who ever thinks it can, should or will be doesn't understand business at all.
I've read in On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins, that a significant feature of the human brain is the way the neocortex is connected to the thalamus (I think I have the regions right, but the books on loan so I can't check right now). Generally, there is a more direct connection between motor control and the "learning" regions of the human brain.
Since reading this I've theorized this as an explanation of why humans early development of human babies is so slow in comparison to other species. Elephant babies walk within minutes of birth, yet it's a year or more before human babies walk. Gorillas are closer to humans but still quicker.
But humans reach levels other species never do, and one reason might be that a more direct connection to motor skills produces more valuable feedback. In a sense, it would make life more interactive. Rather than interacting with the world through a instinct based filter, actions and reactions would have a direct loop.
So it was reading GristMill about educational TV's lack of positive effect, that I was thinking back to this. Why is TV such a poor tool for learning? It can be a fairly rich experience, but it's never interactive. And interactivity is key to learning, especially in humans.
But the study doesn't just suggest that TV is no help, it suggests it is harmful. It really states that a child may have been better off starting into space than watching TV. That's right, it's not just a problem of substituting TV for valuable parent time, it's just plain bad.
The researches theorize that the babies are simply over stimulated and unable to process important interactive information when it's available. That may be, but there may be even more going on. If children are trained by TV not to interact, because the TV does not respond, or that they don't need to interact, because the TV responds the same either way, then they won't be trying as hard during parent time.
I think that is a lesson that could be applied much more broadly. I find one of the major differences between good and great programmers is their "research" instinct. When a bad programmer is stumped, he resorts to direct questioning. That may seem more interactive than a Google or MSDN search, but in reality it's not. The person you ask either knows the answer or not (often not). With the other options you're required to find the answer. Do this enough and you'll learn a lot more than if you had the answer spoon fed.
That topic brings me to my last thought, TV vs. computers. Computers are often grouped with TV by parents as two of the same. The glow, they make noises, and they suck time in great quantities, yes. The similarity doesn't go much farther though. Computers are interactive in a way TV's are not. It's possible to find non-interactive material on a computer, but unless trained otherwise most humans opt for the interactive option. Actually, maybe that applies to animals as well, just think of the cat playing with a mouse. It's fun till it stops moving...
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
A company may end up with a situation where every department ends up with its own version of almost every policy. But then again, is that really a bad thing? I do not think so.
I understand what he's looking for but I have to dissent here. Every department with a separate policy would be a bad thing. Fortunately, that's not the probable outcome of his idea, with a little good management.
All you need to do is, in a non-sadistic manner, monitor the different departments. When one begins to diverge, that's okay. But if after a reasonable time their policy isn't producing appreciably better results internally steer them back to the standard. If it is appreciably better steer other departments in that direction. If it's outstandingly better results, you have a new standard.
I should caveat this with one thing to watch out for. It's possible the new policy a department has adopted only works better for that department. If it's outstandingly better then you might have a case for divergent paths, rather than a new standard.
The problem with a central policy isn't generally the sub-optimal results of the subservient departments, but the static nature evolved from having too many simultaneous inputs. If you rely upon a central policy team to evolve your polices it will fail to keep up with the changing world. Then you have bad policy.
Shepherding is an important role and technique in many situations. From the outside it can look a bit frightening because it appears more disordered. In reality, you're simply allowing the systems natural flux to maximize. Reducing flux will reduce the apparent disorder, but at the cost of the systems energy. The best managers redirect energy, rather than suppressing it.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Sometimes members of the environmental community have developed a illogical dislike of anything that reduces costs. The source is understandable, historically many cost cutting measures have done harm to the environment. That history doesn't make the bias any more valid. In fact I'd wager that for every 1 cost cutting measure that harmed the environment, there have been 10 that lessened the impact of an activity.
Despite the title, I'm not really suggesting cheaper is always better. I am pointing out that if your evaluating two choices from a distance, and the only information you have available is price, you're better off betting on cheap, not expensive.
Price is unfortunately a very superficial metric, so I do encourage a deeper examination when possible. The idea of many pieces of legislation is to add to prices the unmetered costs like CO2, sulphur, etc. In the meantime, I'm surprised we haven't begun to publish "environmental prices".
Why not? Why should products be given 3 stars or 5 stars? How does a consumer use this information? I think environmental ratings would be more effective if stated in adjusted costs. Initially I expect there would be a fair bit of disagreement over how many dollars a ton of CO2 costs, but it can't be harder for the community to decide then it is for legislators.
Information presented in this fashion has other benefits as well. It would make the process of legislation easier, since there would already be community backed data to base price targets upon. It would make the different databases of information more compatible. I'd be able to compare Consumer Reports environmental rating with Energy Star's rating, at least in a ballpark fashion. It would also be a useful tool in general debate
What made me think of this? Three things. One was writing about Airline efficiencies. My best guess before research was that the bargain airlines, such as jetBlue, ATA and Southwest. The guess wasn't bad as only jetBlue was #1, and ATA #2 (in 2003). Southwest wasn't very good showing that price is only skin deep, but 2 for 3 is a lot better than I would have done by betting on the most expensive airlines.
The second is a fad that has begun in the anti-environmental community. Every energy conserving proposal is immediately met with a claim, often without any supporting data, that the energy conservation is less than the energy cost to produce. I've seen such claims for solar, wind, ethanol, bio-diesel, CFLs and hybrids so far. Of these, ethanol is the only I've seen data for that indicates the balance is even close (The majority of studies, and the most recent indicate even corn ethanol have positive energy balances though). I've seen data on solar which clearly indicates a very significant energy payback.
But fancy studies aren't always necessary. Here's a very simple rule that is almost unbreakable. If on one side you have $50 in electricity costs, and on the other side you have less than $50 (including subsidized costs) in general costs, you have a positive energy balance. The claim that CFLs have a negative energy balance is thus completely ridiculous. CFLs aren't subsidized, and a 60 watt bulb will save $30 in electricity in a 6cent per kwh market, yet cost only $3-$8. If a manufacture is putting $30 of electricity into a product they sell for $3, I plan to short that stock.
The third is this gristmill article on local food, and some of the comments. It's clear people are in need of more clarity in their decision making process. I'm sure disagreements over priority will remain but I'd rather be debating CO2 to H20 cost ratios than thousands of minute tradeoffs.
I was thinking about the air travel I do recently. My job requires me to make a number of trips per year from Chicago to Los Angeles, and I'm relatively certain this would be the number one source of my own carbon footprint. I rarely drive (less than 2,000 miles a year), and live in an apartment rather than 5,000 square foot suburban manse, so surely the air flight is number one.
I'd like to avoid the air travel for many reasons, but at the moment that doesn't seem possible. There's a number of suggestions I have for the company that would make it less important, but until those happen I either fly or quit.
I've flown American for the past few years, but never spent much time thinking about it. Today I did. I decided I should find out which airline was the most fuel efficient, and consider switching.
My initial impression was American is doing well. I wasn't finding the hardcore statistics I was looking for initially. First, I found this presentation from the Air Transport Association (not to be confused with AirTrans Airlines (ATA)). I found American's name all over. Southwest and Alaska appear frequently too.
However, Unisys did a report back in 2003 which claims jetBlue was number one by a large margin. And American didn't score at all well, nor Southwest. I wish I had something more recent because I know a lot has changed in the last 4 years. Winglets, tail cones, etc.
One lesson from all this, especially the Unisys report is what may be most important is not the airline, but the type of plane. DC9's and MD80's were the worst, 757's and A320 best for the distance of a ORD-LAX trip. Once again I'm wishing for more recent information. Because everything I read says.
The best I can find is American's quarterly report, where it states for the three months ending June 30, 2007 American used 713 million gallons for 35,669 million RPM (Revenue Passenger Miles), and 636 CTM (Cargo ton miles). Unfortunately it doesn't break down RPM and CTM gallons, so we must subtract the CTM gallons by using an average of 6.14 gallons per CTM. This leaves 626 million gallons resulting in an efficiency of 57.01 RPM / gallon.
While that is a 50% improvement from the 40 RPM / gallon American scored in 2003, it's still below jetBlue's score of 65.8 RPM / gallon from 2003. It is possible American is second best now, but unlikely.
Anyone know where to find better data?
Sunday, August 05, 2007
I tried to send a copy of the letter concerning a warning label for incandescent lightbulb packaging to my representative in the U.S. Congress. Apparently it got misdirected to, Janice Schakowsky, representative for the 9th district which starts just across the street (actually I'm no longer certain, I know I voted in Rahm Emanuel's district last election, and I know I went to the right place because the polls are in my buildings lobby, maybe I've been redistricted?).
Regardless, I received a reply, quoted below:
Dear Mr. Baker
Thank you for contacting me to let me know of your support for compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). I appreciate hearing your views on this critical issue, and I strongly agree with you.
As you know, there are numerous benefits to replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs. CFLs are four times more efficient and last up to 10 times longer than incandescents. In addition to supporting CFL use, I am working in Congress to pass legislation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and promote more efficient energy use. For instance, I am a cosponsor of H.R. 1506, the Fuel Economy Reform Act, introduced by Representative Markey. This bill would increase existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards by 4 percent per year through 2018, saving 2.2 million barrels of oil per day and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by over 370 million metric tons per year by 2022. With fuel costs rising for all Americans and the dangers of global warming becoming more evident, Congress must act to increase CAFE standards. I believe increasing fuel economy standards is one of the best ways we can promote conservation, reduce gasoline prices, achieve energy independence, and reduce carbon emissions.
During the first 100 hours of this Congress, I voted in favor of H.R. 6, the Clean Energy Act of 2007. This bill would repeal many of the tax subsidies handed to major oil companies and collect long overdue unpaid royalties for oil exploration along the United States coastline. H.R. 6 would place these funds, about $14 billion, in the new Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewable Reserve, to fund renewable research which is critical to lessoning our dependence on foreign oil and creating a more environment-friendly economy.
Rising energy prices and our changing climate demand a new energy vision that reduces our reliance on fossil fuels while limiting harmful emissions and environmental damage to precious natural resource. I believe that we can accomplish those critical goals in a way that creates jobs and reduces energy cost, and I will do whatever I can to make that happen.
Again, thank you for sharing your views with me on this important subject. Please feel free to contact me in the future if I may be of further assistance.
Member of Congress
H.R 1506 (summary) is a good step in the right direction, probably more important than my little warning label and H.R. 6 has many good points as well. The message I received in the response seems to be that Representative Schakowsky agrees, but is spending her time on other issues.
I suppose that's a fair enough explanation. Hopefully it remains in mind, as vice chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, it's precisely the type of legislation she is responsible for. If you live in District 9 and believe in this idea, contact Representative Schakowsky yourself.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
As I said in Part 1, I'll compare the differences between Space Individualized Transit (SIT), Individual Mass Transit (IMT) and RUF. Storage is one area SIT excels. With RUF or IMT, parking is not much improved. Automation is possible, but garages must deal with wheels, additional height and weight.
SIT however has built-in connectors. Automated garage equipment would use the connectors to move, lift and securely store the lightweight compartments. Compartments could be stored on racks with guides matching the SIT connectors, rather than steel reinforced concrete floors.
Robotic parking garages exist today (Video), but they are more expensive due to difficulty of dealing with the space and weight of conventional cars. Take off the wheels, axles, engine, exhaust, bumpers, and in the future batteries and you have a very lightweight package reducing the cost of machinery and maintenance quite dramatically, as well as raising capacity.
If you've ever seen iRobot, you probably remember the parking scene in the beginning. As cool as the scene looked, it had several problems. One was they turned the car on end thus dumping any contents. Equipment to lift a several ton vehicle is likely to be much more like the video above, then the almost toy like equipment in iRobot. Reduce the weight significantly and the scene loses one flaw, though I'll still prefer to receive my compartment back not shaken and not stirred, thank you.
So to wrap up:
- Conventional cars: Heavy, Bulky. All external automation.
- IMT: Heavy, Bulky. Gets to the garage for you if you're at a exit point.
- RUF: Heavy, Bulky. Rail charges vehicle while parked, rail may be used for storage.
- SIT: Light, Lower volume. Built in mechanical connector guides for storage and mechanical manipulation.
Jerry, who has been tracking innovative transportation technologies, at UW, pointed out a few projects with similarities to the transportation concept, I've blogged about. I've never given it a name before, but lets call it Space Individualized Transit (SIT) for now.
The first, Individual Mass Transit, outlines a dual-mode system, where the first mode is the conventional rubber to road, manual control system. The second mode still is rubber to road, but upon raised guideways and with automated control.
Drivers manually maneuver to a guideway entry station, after which automated systems control distance, speed, routing, merging and exit. As all vehicles are under control, and external obstacles are precluded, the safety characteristics are high.
The second, RUF, is also dual-mode, with the first mode still conventional rubber to road, manual control. The second mode is monorail guided and propelled by internal motors. Like IMT, the second mode is automated and controls all functions from entry to exit leaving the operator to merely select a destination. Since vehicles are singular, an operator can change his mind (oops forgot to pick up flowers!) and routing will automatically adjust.
Both systems are variations of a concept called PRT (Personal Rapid Transit), which calls for small, automated vehicles using a guideway and routing to provide origin to destination service. PRT is also the inspiration for the concept I've written about too.
The primary difference between RUF or IMT and SIT is they are dual-mode, while SIT is multi-modal. Both RUF and IMT keep the drivetrain welded to the passenger compartment, which imposes limitations and inefficiencies. SIT separates the two, which would produce lower weight, increased flexibility, and less space usage.
In the next several posts I'll cover some of the implications, both as a comparison of SIT to RUF and IMT, and the three of them to conventional cars.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
I've long had a little pet idea, my Transportation Concept. I'm happy to say I'm seeing others think about the benefits recently (A Car-Free Future?, Intelligent cars can achieve improved efficiency, Tailgate for Mother Earth!).
I've yet to see others put the two parts together, but the benefits of automated cars are becoming apparent. They start with:
- Still your own space. Put whatever you want inside.
- Do whatever you want en route. Read, watch a movie, eat, surf, write or maybe even exercise (though why not bike instead?).
- Flexible storage. Need to transport that 50" TV? No matter how small/cheap you're daily commuter compartment is you'll always be able to have extra storage follow you.
- No rush hour! Leave whenever you want.
- "Platooning" drag coefficient reduction's.
- Preplanned deceleration reduces braking energy loss
- Planned acceleration reduces "lead-foot" loss
- No stop lights, no braking.
- Smooth speeds
- No traffic jams
- Optimized routing
- Space: Parking spaces hidden and 1/5th the space, or entirely unnecessary.
- Human labor: NONE! $63.1 billion in savings.
- Swap out drive trains. Use batteries if their most efficient, use hydrogen if it is, use <insert future tech> if it is.
- Switch propulsion. Going a long distance? Catch a maglev bullet as cargo without even thinking about it.
- On foot? Take the bus. Change your mind? (Maybe you bought a few more things than you expected?) Your compartment can still come get you. Or rent one.