Electric cars will change the cultural landscape

Alix Paultre

❝ There are many reasons for the birthing pains behind the development and deployment of the next generation of electric vehicles. In the marketplace, range anxiety is the primary criticism, but in reality, the issues go much deeper.

A car (or van or truck) isn’t just a means of conveyance for you and the people and things that you want to take with you. It is part of some people’s personal identity and the lens through which they choose to engage the world. Reinventing the car alters our relationship with it. Change the car, and you change society.

The tipping point is coming — in years, not decades.

❝ We’ve seen this before. Many people were highly critical of HDTV deployment and early-generation flat-screen TVs. Complaints ranged from price points to real performance issues, such as phosphor burn-in on plasma sets, and many people believed that flat-screen high-resolution TV would remain a playground for rich folks and tech geeks. Then flat-screen TVs crossed a price-point threshold, and the market reached its tipping point…

The electric car is already here, and the industries that support it are in a disruptive renaissance of creative development, shaping the future as they go along. Our staffers have put together a collection of reports that take a look at several important aspects of the electric car and the infrastructure inside and out.

RTFA for hints – and links to the articles Alix Paultre references. A Renaissance Man in his own right, I have no doubt you’ll find them readable, informing, and if you’re in one of the electronic arts he addresses – carrying new directions to your attention.

Thanks, SmartAlix

288 analog clocks turned into a digital-like display — including a digital clock

‘A million times‘ is a kinetic sculpture that uses hundreds of small wall clocks to create a ‘meta-clock’ that displays the time using the hours and minutes hands of each clock in a digital-like display. The installation project was created by Humans Since 1982, a design studio based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The original version consisted of 288 clocks however the studio has designed smaller versions in various shapes and sizes as well as a portrait version. Here’s the home site of ‘A Million Times’ in action.

Human beings are at least as interesting as the stuff they think up. Nice touch this.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

In a cameras-everywhere culture, everyone can watch everyone else

Science fiction writer David Brin calls it “a tsunami of lights” — a future where tiny cameras are everywhere, lighting up everything we do, and even predicting what we’ll do next.

Unlike George Orwell’s novel “1984,” where only Big Brother controlled the cameras, in 2015, cheap, mobile technology has turned everyone into a watcher.

With each technological advance, more of our lives — from the humdrum to the hyper-dramatic — is being caught on camera.

That includes the police, whose actions can be recorded by anyone with a camera phone. In South Carolina, a cellphone video released last week showed a police officer firing eight shots at a fleeing man’s back. In San Bernardino County, news choppers captured footage of deputies punching and kicking a man as he lay face-down on the ground with his hands behind his back.

Painting a picture that cameras are everywhere and anywhere is pretty provocative,” said Ryan Martin, a technology analyst at 451 Research, but it can also present opportunities to increase accountability and improve safety.

There are 245 million surveillance cameras installed worldwide, according to research firm IHS, and the number increases by 15% a year…

ParaShoot is selling a $199 HD camera that’s light enough to wear on a necklace or stick to a wall or car dashboard. “Never miss the meaningful moments again,” the company touts.

Another company, Bounce Imaging, is manufacturing a throwable camera shaped like a ball, with police departments as the target customer. The omni-directional cameras can literally take pictures on the fly and instantly transmit pictures to a smartphone.

It’s not just governments that are collecting rich stores of data. Facebook uses face-recognition technology to identify users’ friends in photos.

We expect the government, city, state or feds, to keep an eye on us. In public places, I think it can serve up as much good as opportunist evil. They didn’t expect us to start watching them on our own.

“Evolutionarily, we’re primed for it,” said Kevin Kelly, author of the book “What Technology Wants.” “For most of human history, we’ve been covering each other. It’s only in recent history we’ve developed a heightened sense of privacy.”

But, he adds, social norms guided behavior in the less-private past. Norms for the cameras-everywhere era haven’t been developed — nor are there well-thought-out legal structures that would keep inevitable abuse in check.

Meanwhile, while courts continue to uphold the rights of ordinary citizens to record police and politicians, the states run by the most repressive politicians fight back – passing new laws every year making it illegal to photograph or record the actions of officialdom even in public. Every one of those has to be challenged.

From Texas to Kansas, Arizona to Minnesota, conservative political hacks are scared crapless that someone will catch them being stupid – or criminal – and post it online. And if they’re scared, I’m impressed.

The cracks are still widening, but some light is also getting in

If you’ve been following the media industry over the past year, you probably don’t need anyone to tell you the waves of disruption continue to increase in both height and frequency — so the news that widespread cutbacks have caused dissatisfied readers to flee won’t come as much of a surprise. But while those waves have swamped some traditional players, other parts of the industry have been able to ride the tide, and non-traditional sources continue to play a growing role in how people get their news — although whether that is good or bad is still open for debate.

All of that and more is contained in the latest State of the Media report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism…There’s a lot to take in, but here are what I believe to be some of the key takeaways:

The Bad News:

Cutbacks continue, and consumers are leaving: Close to one-third of U.S. adults say they have stopped using a news outlet because of dissatisfaction over the content — in other words, because they weren’t getting the news they wanted, or the news they expected to get. Survey respondents mentioned both fewer stories in general and less complete reporting, and while it’s impossible to know whether this phenomenon is related to the repeated rounds of cutbacks and job losses, it seems likely…

The Good News:

Demand for news is growing, not shrinking: Although it may be coming at the expense of some traditional players, there is clearly a large and growing appetite for news, since the top news sites saw traffic increase by 7 percent in 2012, according to Pew. And the impact of social media seems to be clearly positive, in the sense that those who have heard about news from friends and family through such channels show a stronger interest in finding out more…

As with any overview of the media business, there will be those who see this picture as a glass half-empty, and those who see it as a glass half-full — and perhaps a growing number who have completely lost interest in the glass because they are already getting their water elsewhere…upheaval is the order of the day in the media business and will likely be so for some time…

Even now there are new entities being born, and new models being applied — like the Forbes “BrandVoice” model, or Sullivan’s direct-to-readers model — that could either be the savior of the industry or a dangerous distraction. If you like bumpy rides with an uncertain ending, the media industry is definitely the place for you.

RTFA. Lots of meat and potatoes to munch on – both form and content. Producers who come from traditional print journalism are doing better than I thought they might. It may be out of desperation as anything else – like sudden insight – but, the truth will inform you even when it doesn’t set you free.

Austrian grave sites partner with QR codes and smartphones

People are doing this absolutely everywhere!

The fabled Viennese fondness for fine funerals and “a schoene Leich” – a beautiful corpse – is about to get a modern twist.

Digital technology is about to give Austrian gravestones the potential to speak across time by showing pictures and biographies of the people buried below.

All you need is a smartphone equipped with a scanner to read the so-called “quick response” (QR) codes, the square of squiggles already widely used in advertising campaigns to unlock a trove of information for the curious.

The first QR codes will start appearing on graves in Austria within weeks, said Joerg Bauer, project leader for Austrian bereavement company Aspetos, who has been working on the QR project for five years.

Bauer said cemetery visitors could even view videos if connection speeds were high enough, although he frowned on the prospect of disturbing others with loud music…

The codes – first developed in Japan to track car parts in the 1990s – may eventually link music fans with the lives of legendary composers like Beethoven and Mozart enshrined at Vienna’s central cemetery, he said, although local officials say there are no immediate plans for this…

The deployment of QR codes on gravestones has taken off more slowly, perhaps due to privacy concerns of grieving families, but has gained momentum in Japan and is also being experimented with in the United States, Britain, Australia and Germany…

They certainly are being deployed everywhere. I had a choice of 124,000 results searching an image on Google.

Public interest paparazzi serve a purpose – for pay – in South Korea

Learning in-car technique at a ssu-parazzi school

With his debts mounting and his wages barely enough to cover the interest, Im Hyun-seok decided he needed a new job. The mild-mannered former English tutor joined South Korea’s growing ranks of camera-toting bounty hunters.

Known here sarcastically as paparazzi, people like Mr. Im stalk their prey and capture them on film. But it is not celebrities, politicians or even hardened criminals they pursue. Rather, they roam cities secretly videotaping fellow citizens breaking the law, deliver the evidence to government officials and collect the rewards.

“Some people hate us,” Mr. Im said. “But we’re only doing what the law encourages.”

The opportunities are everywhere: a factory releasing industrial waste into a river, a building owner keeping an emergency exit locked, doctors and lawyers not providing receipts for payment so that they can underreport their taxable income.

Mr. Im’s pet target is people who burn garbage at construction sites, a violation of environmental laws.

“I’m making three times what I made as an English tutor,” said Mr. Im, 39, who began his new line of work around seven years ago and says he makes about $85,000 a year… Wow!

Snitching for pay has become especially popular since the world’s economic troubles slowed South Korea’s powerful economy. Paparazzi say most of their ranks are people who have lost their jobs in the downturn and are drawn by news reports of fellow Koreans making tens of thousands of dollars a year reporting crimes.

There are no reliable numbers of people who have taken up the work since governments at all levels have their own programs, but the phenomenon is large enough that it has spawned a new industry: schools set up to train aspiring paparazzi…

The outsourcing of law enforcement has also been something of a boon for local governments. They say that they can save money on hiring officers, and that the fines imposed on offenders generally outstrip the rewards paid to informers…

For most infractions, rewards can range from as little as about $5 (reporting a cigarette tosser) to as much as $850 (turning in an unlicensed seller of livestock). But there are possibilities for windfalls. Seoul’s city government promises up to $1.7 million for reports of major corruption involving its own staff members…

Not a new idea; but, certainly the most extensive implementation of civilian policing I can recall. Being a bounty hunter – without a gun and the crap ideology it’s wrapped in here in the USofA – is an old and usually honorable profession. Only the crooks and corrupt are serious about their complaints. And honest civilians who criticise the craft – should take a look at the standards they’re using to judge their fellow citizens who own both a conscience and a camera.

Paper books are dead – says renowned publisher

The prince of coffee table books believes paper books are dead. Now he wants to be king of the app.

Since 1980, Nicholas Callaway has made the finest of design-driven books, building a publishing house and his fortune on memorable children’s stories and on volumes known for the fidelity of their reproductions of great art. But the quality of paper, ink and binding mean nothing to him now.

For Callaway, it’s all about apps — small applications sold in Apple’s App Store where books are enhanced beyond the mere text of e-books. In this cutting-edge new medium, cooks can clap hands to turn pages of an interactive recipe, a book about Richard Nixon can include footage of him sweating during presidential debates, a Sesame Street character can read a story out loud and, should your child get bored, the app can turn the tale into a jigsaw puzzle or a computerized finger-painting set.

“I have bet the whole ranch on this,” Callaway told Reuters. “This kind of juncture happens maybe once in a century.”

Publishers from New York to London agree this as a moment of huge change. They are adapting to rising sales of e-books, and the popularity of smart phones and tablets such as the iPad. The retail landscape has changed with Amazon becoming the dominant seller of books while countless book stores go the way of video rental stores. America’s No. 2 book store chain, Borders, is bankrupt. Some authors have dropped their publishers entirely, self-publishing online and using social media to connect with readers. Others have become adept at using Facebook and Twitter to reach readers or have attracted fans by becoming popular reviewers of books on Amazon and then publishing their own book.

Callaway is among those who believe the change is just beginning and, in the years to come, the app will change things utterly.

RTFA. Several pages of history, analysis and commentary – decision and the courage to follow that decision to its logical new beginning.

For my part, I think he’s right. Though few have followed through on the breadth of editing and presentation techniques made available by digital media, what I have seen approaches a qualitative change in communication.

Everything a book can offer and more. All the rest is cultural accommodation.

Zwitterionic liquid crystals may radically improve digital displays

Chemists at Vanderbilt University have created a new class of liquid crystals with unique electrical properties that could improve the performance of digital displays used on everything from digital watches to flat panel televisions.

The achievement…is described by Professor of Chemistry Piotr Kaszynski and graduate student Bryan Ringstrand in a pair of articles published online…in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

“We have created liquid crystals with an unprecedented electric dipole, more than twice that of existing liquid crystals,” says Kaszynski…

In liquid crystals, the electric dipole is associated with the threshold voltage: the minimum voltage at which the liquid crystal operates.

Higher dipoles allow lower threshold voltages. In addition, the dipole is a key factor in how fast liquid crystals can switch between bright and dark states. At a given voltage, liquid crystals with higher dipoles switch faster than those with lower dipoles…

“Our liquid crystals have basic properties that make them suitable for practical applications, but they must be tested for durability, lifetime and similar characteristics before they can be used in commercial products,” Kaszynski says…

The newly discovered liquid crystals are not only important commercially but they are also important scientifically…

What distinguishes the new class of liquid crystals is its “zwitterionic” structure. Zwitterions are chemical compounds that have a total net electrical charge of zero but contain positively and negatively charged groups. The newly developed liquid crystals contain a zwitterion made up of a negatively charged inorganic portion and a positively charged organic portion. Kaszynski first got the idea of making zwitterionic liquid crystals nearly 17 years ago when he first arrived at Vanderbilt. However, a critical piece of chemistry required to do so was missing. It wasn’t until 2002 when German chemists discovered the chemical procedure that made it possible for the Vanderbilt researchers to succeed in this effort.

Outstanding that Professor Kaszynski stuck with his idea. Part of my fascination with computational analysis is that many aspects of research only become possible sometime after the research begins. Kaszynski gives us an example of chemistry doing the same thing.

3rd Edition of Oxford English Dictionary unlikely to appear in print

Publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary have confirmed that the third edition may never appear in print. A team of 80 lexicographers began working on it following the publication of the second edition in 1989. It is 28% finished. In comments to a Sunday newspaper, Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, which owns the dictionary, said: “The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year.” Asked if he thought the third edition would appear in printed format, he said: “I don’t think so.” However, an OUP spokeswoman said no decision had been made.

“It is likely to be more than a decade before the full edition is published and a decision on format will be taken at that point,” she said.

“Demand for online resources is growing but large numbers of people continue to purchase dictionaries in printed form and we have no plans to stop publishing print dictionaries.”

The Oxford English Dictionary already publishes revised and new entries online every three months, with a new version of its OED Online website due to be launched in December.

The publisher produces approximately 500 dictionaries, thesauruses and language reference titles in more than 40 languages in a variety of formats.

Ten years from now, I don’t doubt there will be folks who still want a hard copy of some book or other – including the OED. They most likely will be made available as vanity publishers now offer single copies from digital files.

Electronic prescribing reduces medication errors by seven-fold

Medication errors are cut by seven-fold when doctors use an electronic system to write prescriptions, compared with scrawling prescriptions by hand, reports a new study by physician-scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC), published online recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

We found nearly two in five handwritten prescriptions in these community practices had errors,” says Dr. Rainu Kaushal, the study’s lead author… “Examples of the types of errors we found included incomplete directions and prescribing a medication but omitting the quantity. A small number of errors were more serious, such as prescribing incorrect dosages…”

“Although most of the errors we found would not cause serious harm to patients, they could result in callbacks from pharmacies and loss of time for doctors, patients and pharmacists,” says senior author Dr. Erika Abramson, assistant professor of pediatrics at WCMC. “On the plus side, we found that by writing prescriptions electronically, doctors can dramatically reduce these errors and therefore these inefficiencies…”

The study noted that, without extensive technical support, it is difficult for physician practices to achieve high rates of use of electronic prescribing and subsequent improvements in medication safety.

In total, the authors reviewed 3,684 paper-based prescriptions at the start of the study and 3,848 paper-based and electronic prescriptions written one year later. After one year, the percentage of errors dropped to 7 percent from 43 percent for the providers using the electronic system; for those writing prescriptions by hand, the percentage of errors increased slightly to 38 percent from 37 percent. Illegibility problems were completely eliminated by e-prescribing.

Timing couldn’t be better for me. This is doctor-day for me and my first stop is with a friend and physician who has resisted putting a computer in his office for 25 years.

When his office manager called yesterday to remind me of the appointment – she couldn’t wait to tell me that Paul has finally computerized his practice.

After we finish our usual discussion of worldly affairs – like Ferrari vs. McLaren – I will try to nudge him along in his entry into the digital age.