Monday, September 13, 2010

Car Replacement Summarized

Since I dropped a link in the latest Gizmag post, I'm expecting an influx of international visitors.... welcome to my blog! I didn't want to put a bunch of links in my comment, so instead I'm going to weave them all together in this summary post.

When we consider what makes a vehicle energy efficient, two things are more important than anything else: weight and aerodynamics--the lower the weight and wind resistance, the lower the energy required to move. Consider the ratio of cargo weight to carrier weight (in kg): for me and the average sedan, that's about 72.6/1360.8 or 0.053; for me and my electric bicycle, 72.6/18.1 or 4.0; me and a racing bicycle, 72.6/6.8 or 10.7. It is clear that the bicycle represents one of the lightest forms of transportation, and it is thus also one of the most efficient. I am convinced that bicycles can save the world--the outline of my argument in support of this is found in my post titled A Radical Proposal (for any literature fans, yes this is a play on A Modest Proposal).

But the bicycle alone may not be enough, maybe in a sincerely fitness oriented culture, but that kind of mentality takes a long time to develop... technology develops much faster. For instance, the road I live on has a hill with a grade around 10%. In days past I was fit enough to ride my bicycle up worse, but in the time I've lived here I don't recall ever being able to make it up without feeling like I was about to keel over dead. Quite recently I added an electric motor to my bicycle, and despite more than doubling the weight I can haul up that hill in nearly my tallest gear, without even standing up--I've done this almost every day since I got the kit. Also, my legs look better than they have since shortly after I finished my trans-America tour; just because there's a motor doesn't mean I'm not doing any work! I'm going to do a very rigorous overview of electric bicycles at some point in the future, but until then this will have to suffice.

As I mentioned, weight is only part of the battle; the more significant part is wind resistance. The only way to significantly change the aerodynamics of a bicycle is to add a fairing, which generally necessitates the use of a recumbent tricycle. This vehicle is called a velomobile, which is discussed in my post Rise of the Velomobile.

The last part of the puzzle that I mentioned in my Gizmag comment is autonomous navigation and solar roadways. Autonomy is more a necessity for the very heavy and fast every day car, but the benefits of such a system would still be reaped by this ultralight human/electric hybrid. The concept of autonomous transportation and a few different perspectives on energy are covered in depth in the post Intelligent Transportation Systems. The danger caused directly by cars is covered in several posts, notably How Dangerous is the Road?, which also links to information about the very promising solar panel roadway. Solar roadways and roadway to vehicle power transmission are important because they enable significant weight reduction by reducing battery capacity requirements, which leads to further weight reduction by allowing for the use of a smaller motor.

There is still much to be covered (for instance, the average US citizen spends 17% of their income on car related expenses), but not enough time to cover it right now.

Thanks for visiting, please enjoy

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Universe is Impossible: A Proof

A set is a group of things, ex: {dog, food}
A subset is a set that has only things also in the super set, examples: {dog}, {food}, {dog, food}
A power set is the set of all subsets, ex: {(dog), (food), (dog, food)}.

It follows that the number of things of things in a subset is less than or equal to its parent set, which is in turn less than the number in its power set.

...prepare for mindlblowing...

Suppose there is a set of all things called the universe, then any set must be a subset of the universe. But this implies that the power set is a subset of the universe, which is a logical contradiction since the power set is larger than the universe. Thus, the universe doesn't exist.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reconsider Healthcare

While on my bicycle ride across the country, I picked up a book by Patrick Lynch called Omega. This book was remarkably well written, and communicated in the clearest possible way the danger of antibiotic abuse. Using antibiotic measures can result in microorganisms developing genetic resistance, potentially making them more menacing. In fact there are known strains of such dangerous organisms, like MRSA aka Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is named for the fact that it is resistant to antibiotics. MRSA is found most frequently in hospitals and other medical care facilities, perhaps not coincidentally the places where the most extreme antibiotic measures are undertaken. There is no question regarding the effectiveness and necessity of a sterile environment for medical practice, but it seems very clear that the tradition of doing so in one large building is not the best way to achieve said sterile environment, and thus not the best way to conduct medical procedure. There is further evidence in the grim fact that babies born by Cesarean section are more likely to have their skin be populated by the hospital flora in the absence of vaginal flora, which in many cases means MRSA and other scary bugs; MRSA is known to live on human skin and in the nose without necessarily infecting the carrier. If you are sensitive to graphic medical imagery, I'd recommend not looking at pictures of the effects of MRSA.

The really unfortunate thing is that C-sections are still increasingly popular in the USAs medical-industrial complex despite growing activism (documentary: The Business of Being Born, available on Netflix), whereas the rest of the world has continued the ancient tradition of home birth with a midwife.

The most obvious solution is that healthcare be undertaken in a physically distributed fashion by way of house calls. What else might help?

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Invisible Hand

One of the problems with free market economics is that the logical consequences depend on the distributions of supply and demand operating with the assumption of perfect information availability. The thought was that in the marketplace the true value of a good would be reached based on customers purchasing the fairest available price amongst various vendors. There are various unacceptable assumptions here and it is easy to think of situations that break that economy; perhaps the most obvious is the monopoly, but there's all the related phenomena: vertical and horizontal integration, price fixing and collusion, all the emergence of market forces no longer subject to the invisible hand. These emergent forces are to be abhorred because, as it turns out, corporate greed or the pursuit of profit at any cost turns out to be an unfun way to traverse time and transcend our animalistic consciousnesses. In my humble opinion, the purpose of industry should be to expand the sentience and influence of life in all forms; all of us brothers and sisters, how much would we gain if we learned to overcome our trivial squabbles and join together to explore the universe? I can not even imagine the wealth that might be had by all of us if our daily lives were dedicated to the betterment of life on earth instead of increasing the numbers on a bank slip.

But I digress.

The notion of perfect information distribution is these days more conceivable than ever before, but at the same time the actual effectiveness of information dispersal is far less than ideal. For instance, I had reasoned for some time that the sundry AC/DC adapters loathingly known as wall warts should be very low cost, and that the many different device side plugs and form factors were facades constructed to trick people into thinking the differences actually mattered. This artificial sophistication can be very profitable--given the customer assuming that only the OEM wall wart will work, Accme Laptops can charge a minor fortune for a replacement. Arguably worse is when Accme introduces the proprietary copyright protected uPlug, which can be purchased from Accme alone.

I had for some time been unable to find this mythical PSU, so it was with pleasure that I finally found a versatile and cheap DC power supply in a small store known as linked through Adafruit Industries. I am impressed by Adafruit, because instead of trying to sell me individually packaged LEDs for hyperinflated prices (that also just happen to be on sale for a short time only), they simply pointed me to a good direct source for LEDs and a handful of other cool items. I feel as though more than just myself will benefit from this openness, for reasons that will almost certainly be documented here shortly.