Autoblog’s Technology of the Year is the BMW i8

No one’s pretending this is a car for everyone – even if you can afford one. But, it’s proof of concept that a production vehicle can have dynamic levels of performance in combination with better than average fuel consumption.

i8 small
Click to enlarge

The winner of Autoblog’s 2014 Technology of the Year award was given this year for not just one technology, but for how a suite of technologies worked together to make one impressive vehicle.

The BMW i8 was named the winner Wednesday night at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles, just outside the Los Angeles Auto Show. Autoblog’s editorial staff agreed that the i8, which drew crowds of attention during our testing days, represents a future of driving that we can’t wait to see happen…

Ultimately, we picked the car that excited us the most. The BMW i8 has a throaty exhaust note when accelerating. It’s got carbon fiber, and a plug-in hybrid system that uses a small 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine and an electric motor. It has through-the-road all-wheel drive, and in Europe it’ll come with laser beams for headlights.

All that, and it’s a massive eye catcher. People stop and stare when they see this car, for good reason. It’s simply gorgeous. For a more in-depth look at the Car and Driver test, click here.

An engine governor holds top speed down to 155mph. 0-60 times are under 4 seconds. Yet, through the C&D testing cycle and track testing they averaged 24mpg. With an electric-only range of 22 miles, this critter can match the mileage of a Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid IMHO.

Of course, the Ford ain’t $136K.

About these ads

A year in the life of Earth’s CO2

Concentrations of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere continue to increase. On Monday, NASA released a striking video that visualizes the invisible gas as it travels around the planet over one year.

The simulation shows plumes of carbon dioxide “swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources,” according to NASA. The video also shows differences in carbon dioxide levels in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, as well as the change in concentrations of carbon dioxide that come with changes in season due to the growth cycle of plants and trees.

Created with an ultra-high-resolution computer model, the visualization is called “Nature Run,” simulating May 2005 to June 2007.

The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates,” NASA wrote. “The model is then is left to run on its own and simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere.”

Computational analysis is fundamental to growing and understanding modern science. I admit it. I love it.

What a fascinating tool.

Thanks, Mike

Examining public perceptions of privacy and security in the post-Snowden era

Summary of Findings

Privacy evokes a constellation of concepts for Americans—some of them tied to traditional notions of civil liberties and some of them driven by concerns about the surveillance of digital communications and the coming era of “big data.” While Americans’ associations with the topic of privacy are varied, the majority of adults in a new survey by the Pew Research Center feel that their privacy is being challenged along such core dimensions as the security of their personal information and their ability to retain confidentiality.

When Americans are asked what comes to mind when they hear the word “privacy,” there are patterns to their answers. As the above word cloud illustrates, they give important weight to the idea that privacy applies to personal material—their space, their “stuff,” their solitude, and, importantly, their “rights.” Beyond the frequency of individual words, when responses are grouped into themes, the largest block of answers ties to concepts of security, safety, and protection. For many others, notions of secrecy and keeping things “hidden” are top of mind when thinking about privacy.

More than a year after contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents about widespread government surveillance by the NSA, the cascade of news stories about the revelations continue to register widely among the public. Some 43% of adults have heard “a lot” about “the government collecting information about telephone calls, emails, and other online communications as part of efforts to monitor terrorist activity,” and another 44% have heard “a little.” Just 5% of adults in our panel said they have heard “nothing at all” about these programs.

Perhaps most striking is Americans’ lack of confidence that they have control over their personal information. That pervasive concern applies to everyday communications channels and to the collectors of their information—both in the government and in corporations.

RTFA for details and conclusions.

The folks at Pew recently asked me why I use their studies, surveys and analysis. Prime – from my perspective – is integrity. They consider the standards inherent in our Constitution inviolable. A group of ideals advanced not only for their time; but, for today. And they would wish, I believe, to carry the standards forward into the future we must all fight for.

I admit to being blasé about the questions we confront in this study. I haven’t had the privacy Pew strives to address as a standard since the very first days I stood up against oppression and racism in this the land of my birth.

On the way to my first sit-in in the civil rights movement, crammed into a VW Kombi owned by the college student driving our very mixed bag of black and white, town and gown, to Virginia – hoping to survive sharing a Coke at some drugstore soda fountain – we were spotted and tailed by the Virginia State Police the instant we crossed their border. Which meant local coppers, FBI, had recorded our departure from New Haven and passed the word along.

Before the 1950′s were out I had my first confrontation with FBI agents who waited outside the factory where I worked. I was the chairman of the union’s COPE committee. The Committee On Political Education – which mostly concentrated on issues and platform questions in local and national elections.

Nothing much to say about it. A standard intimidation tactic back then. It never matters what they say they want to talk to you about. They usually try to sound like they’re really concerned about helping you. Which is a crock. The point they’re making is that they know who you are and what you say.

I told them to stick it where the sun don’t shine and walked away. That all happened before I made it to 1963. Ain’t much changed since as far as privacy in my life is concerned. Laws change. Politicians change a very little. Establishment, government lies about protecting the people haven’t changed a jot.

Grandmas smoking pot for the first time

Smoking dope for the first time? Mid-1950′s with a fellow poet in the ghetto where his cousin lived. Of course, the weed was mellower, less powerful than even homegrown, nowadays – decades later. First offense, back then, caught with a joint was seven years hard time.

Daniel and I would bake some cornbread and play chess till dawn. I haven’t the slightest recollection who won – or how.

Only a few years later, I quit smoking anything; so, the odd toke at a party seemed stronger every year. And sometimes it would be a dozen years in between.

The last time was still in the 20th Century. At the wet opening of a one-man show here in New Mexico. The artist wanted to sell one of his paintings to a bud of mine who’d invited me to the opening. He trotted out his best local homegrown weed and we each had a couple of tokes. At least that was all I had. It knocked me for a loop and I had to leave before I ended up paralyzed on a couch.

I think it took me three weeks to drive home. :)

Congressional Republicans reflect their ideology — “Old White Guys”

Old White Guys

The secretive Republican Steering Committee announced its recommendations late Tuesday after an all-day meeting to pick the heads of 17 committees, with all of those slots going to white men. Rep. Candice Miller, who was previously reappointed by Speaker John Boehner to lead the House Administration Committee, will remain the only woman to wield a gavel.

As Rachel explained last night, “This is your Republican Party in Washington in all its glory. It should be noted, this is the cross-section of America they’re offering to the American people now that they’ve taken power.”

RTFA. The blog post goes into some brief detail; but, you know exactly what it’s all about.

I wasn’t kidding when I started this personal blog and noted in “What this blog is all about” that people generally stop learning anything new at the age of 26. Beaucoup scientific studies have confirmed that statement. Google some scientific sources if that gives you a problem.

The point remains – why I joke about having a 26-year-old mindset with a much older brain. I learn new things daily, weekly, every waking moment of my life. Some conclusions haven’t changed; but, knowledge, understanding a broader approach to conclusions is happening all the time.

Then there are people like this crew that Congressional Republicans are placing in charge of committees. Some of them were old farts when they were eighteen years old. We’ve all known people like that. It’s not limited to conservative politics either. Just more prevalent. So, here we are, once again. A useless Congress controlled by clowns less productive than their predecessors.

Sculptor, jeweler, Bonneville record holder with 1952 Buick


Click for larger

Like many properties in Española, Jeff Brock’s yard is filled with old, beat-up cars, many of which haven’t run in decades…But a few do, like Bombshell Betty, a 1952 Buick Super Riviera that holds several U.S. land speed records.

Brock has pushed the souped-up vehicle to an average of 165.7 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, a record for its class.

A jeweler and sculptor, Brock was successful at racing from the start, even though Bombshell Betty was his first car modified for racing.

He hails from Flint, Mich., and ran an electrical contracting business there that he sold to spend a year traveling the country on a motorcycle. During his travels, he found Northern New Mexico and made his home here 12 years ago…

Brock, a tall man with a solid build and tattoo-covered arms, speaks with a faint Midwestern accent. He says he’s funding his racing through the sales of his artwork…He sees racing as an extension of his art. “It’s about the satisfaction of the creation and the ability to power it under extreme speed,” he says…

In late 2008, he decided to build a car. He bought the shell of what would be become Bombshell Betty…The car had been side-swiped and was a crumpled mess, but today the sleek, silver Buick in his garage bears none of its old scars.

It’s also clear from the lack of headlights, lowered chassis and the air-swoop that resembles a rocket that Betty wasn’t built for regular roadways.

The salt flats are hot and unrelentingly bright. Brock had no idea what to expect. He hadn’t yet driven the car and just hoped it would be able to complete some runs without causing serious bodily harm. But in his first race, he broke a land speed record in his division — 129 mph…

Since then, he’s been back almost every year, tweaking Betty’s design every time and breaking more records in the process. He’s pushed Betty to speeds more than 36 mph faster in the intervening years and thinks she still has more in her. Most recently, he installed a back fin that helps reduce the air drag. Brock never knows if his engineering tweaks will work until he gets to Bonneville.

RTFA. More interesting stuff about the car. And about Jeff Brock. A Renaissance man, New Mexico-style.

Got Triclosan? Have any idea what else you may get?

Using some antibacterial soaps may promote tumor growth, according to a study just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings add to a body of concerns about triclosan, one of the most common antimicrobial chemicals in consumer products from detergents to cosmetics, including links to allergy development in children, and potentially to breast cancer via disruption of hormone signals that may also cause thyroid dysfunction and weight gain.

Triclosan is regulated in many countries, but the U.S. isn’t among them. In 1974 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a ruling on the safety of triclosan; but, four years later, the agency said that was not possible due to insufficient evidence. In 2010, still with no FDA ruling, the National Resources Defense Council sued the FDA over the matter. Still today there’s no ruling, but the FDA has said that it will commit to something by 2016. The chemical is in an estimated 75 percent of antimicrobial soaps and body washes, though some companies have begun voluntarily phasing it out due to health concerns. Products like Johnson’s baby shampoo and Palmolive no longer contain triclosan.

Still a study in August from the University of California, San Francisco, found that about three-fourths of doctors and nurses had triclosan in their urine, and another study earlier this year found triclosan in the urine of 100 percent of pregnant women tested in Brooklyn. Because triclosan-infused products have been so widely used for many years, exposure to the chemical entirely is unavoidable. It is among the most common chemicals to be detected in streams.

“The result that it led to liver fibrosis was startling to us,” lead researcher Robert Tukey said. The researchers also noted a similar effect in kidneys. Their findings suggest that triclosan does not cause liver tumors by itself, in that it does not mutate DNA. But it does promote tumor formation once a mutation has occurred. Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma, specifically) is the world’s number-three cause of cancer death.

If non-triclosan-containing soaps are available, use the alternative,” said Paul Blanc, a professor of medicine at UCSF, earlier this year in a press statement. “This is based on the precautionary principle–that is, if you don’t know for certain that something is unsafe, it’s better to err on the side of caution.”

No one is saying triclosan causes cancer. It just promotes an environment that aids the growth of tumors. Whoop-de-doo! Not a big difference for ordinary folks who acquire liver cancer.

Americans have a lifetime exposure to propaganda – called commercials – that say there always is a magic ingredient that cures everything wrong in your life. It may be soap, it may be beer. It may be where you bank, it may be which old white guy will guarantee to keep your political life all snug and unchanging. And it’s mostly bullshit!

There are plenty of reasonable if dull sources for information about health. If you can, try to stay away from the quacks. Try to avoid the folks selling you snake oil. I sometimes feel that any solution that sounds extra easy has to be wrong – or at least less reliable. Anti-bacterial soap is one of those.

Designed to kill off critters instead of the awesome labor of scrubbing them away with soap and hot water – doctors and nurses are as guilty of being misled as the rest of us. The medical-industrial complex – predictably – uses their success at selling crap products to the medical community to sell them to us. We get to see pictures of folks in white starched coats smiling while they endorse mutation-enhancing products.

Keep on rocking in the Free World.

Thanks, Mike

Marijuana revenue helping schools on projects political hacks won’t fund

image

As marijuana revenues trickle into the state, slow to meet projections, a few Colorado school districts are among the first to see some impact from the state’s new funds.

The state Department of Education’s program to fund capital projects — known as Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, grants — had received more than $1.1 million from marijuana taxes in May when it made the annual award recommendations.

The state also is readying another $2.5 million from pot taxes so interested schools can hire health professionals.

The additional capital project money has been welcomed as the state fund for the BEST grants has been declining and the program reached a cap for the financed grants it could issue through bonds…

The marijuana excise tax — which is 15 percent on unprocessed recreational pot sales on its first sale – — netted about $3 million from January through June 30. The education department receives the funds monthly and will dole out the awards recommendations every May.

Next year, officials estimate the pot contribution to the BEST grants will be about $10 million. But some school officials say there’s a misconception about where the pot money is going.

“I feel like the word on the streets is marijuana funding is going to schools, but certainly it’s not going to schools for operating costs,” said Ryan Elarton, director of business services for the Pueblo district. “And not every district gets it.”

Besides the new marijuana funds, BEST grants have been funded by sources including money from the state land trust and spillover from Powerball profits after funding the Great Outdoors Colorado fund…

From other marijuana revenue appropriated by the legislature, $2.5 million has been set aside to increase the presence of health professionals in schools.

Schools that apply for those grants and win could have that money by January.

It’s hilarious that schools may get back some of the necessities cut by conservative politicians — and they’ll be getting it from profits generated by legal ganja.

The sad part remains that folks trapped in the two-party belief system can’t get any results from simply going to the polls on election day. Frankly, issues like school safety, healthcare for the student population, reasonable curricula dedicated to learning and all that entails — are a natural for independent political organizing. Yes, just like legalizing marijuana.

Then, you’re not required to shove a natural local response to problems into a cookie cutter mold designed by seventeen lobbyists employed by a Congressional action committee.

Life with a Tesla — spent more on tires than electricity

David Noland always knew electric cars were cheap to run, but this is ridiculous. [OK - Back to first-person]

After I bought the first set of replacement tires for my 2013 Tesla Model S (at 26,000 miles), I crunched the numbers and came to a startling conclusion: I’ve spent substantially less per mile for my electric “fuel” than I have for my tires.

The tires weren’t cheap. The Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season grand-touring tires set me back $250 apiece, plus mounting and balancing, for a total of $1,131.

Over 26,277 miles, that works out to 4.3 cents per mile. Pretty typical for a high-performance luxury sedan.

Over those same 26,277 miles, I used a total of 8,531 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

But, thanks to Tesla’s network of free high-power Superchargers, I didn’t pay for all of it.

As best as I can figure, I drove about 5,500 Supercharged miles during that time, including a 2,500-mile round-trip to Florida from my home in New York’s Hudson Valley.

That means I probably sucked up around 1,800 free kWh from the Superchargers.

So let’s say I paid for 6,700 kWh…My local utility, Central Hudson, charges about 14 cents per kWh. (Unfortunately, it offers no special night-time or electric car rates.)

So, let’s do the math: 6,700 kWh x 14 cents/kWh = $938…Divide by 26,277, and my total “fuel” cost per mile works out to a remarkable 3.6 cents per mile.

That’s 20 percent less than the per-mile cost of the tires that carried me on all those miles.

Yes, you can spend more – or less – on electricity or tires. Or tyres [I spent more years selling tyres than tires - few countries use American spelling for English].

RTFA for the fun and satisfaction of driving a car absent fossil fuel and the direct pollution that results. Tesla also takes advantage of the rate of torque transmitted directly to the road by a DC motor. It is a feeling that demands gobs of horsepower from anything that requires fire inside.

Thanks, Smartalix