Don’t Go North, It Will Take Longer!

Or so people believe, studies show.  Wired News is reporting a couple of experimental studies that suggest people think “North” is a harder route to travel than “South”, even when moving in a fairly localized area.  The perception, apparently, is that North is uphill and South is downhill.  On trips to North Carolina, when I was a boy, my father would joke the trip back would take longer because it’s uphill all the way.  Apparently, his joke was more indicative of people’s perceptions than he knew.  Both of these studies use experimental situations.  It would be interesting to take real world travel information and see if people moving around in the real world actually behave the way the experiments suggest.  If you ask me, this says more about geography and spatial knowledge in the US than anything else.  It shows we need more spatial education!

Scott Kurtz can predict the future! And there’s Starbucks discounts

If you read (a great webcomic, by the way), you’ll recall a story line where a character uses a fictional Foursquare like service to become the mayor of a coffee shop.  In the comic, this entitles him to discounts on coffee.  In a strange twist of life imitating art, Starbucks is now providing discounts to actual Foursquare mayors of various Starbucks across the land.  This is a pretty cool blending of the virtual space with the actual space and starts to highlight a lot of the promise of Location Based Services.  It turns it all into a sort of ‘meta game’ and I, for one, find it utterly fascinating (not least of all because I find PVP hilarious!)  I think you’ll begin to see more and more of these sorts of blurring between the real world and the virtual world.

The Biggest Game Worlds

Years and years ago, Jesse, Sue, and I had a discussion about the size of game worlds.  The image represents a pretty impressive rundown of the sizes of various current games.  I was impressed at some of the sizes and had no idea some were that large!

Jesse update: There was a question of the source of Frank’s image…some of the folks talking about it are over at Reddit and over on CrunchGear. On a tangent, the question of virtual geographies continues to pop-up in various pop culture locations. Some of my favorites are the sci-fi geographies they often highlight over at io9.

First US Offshore Windfarm

Anyone who talks to me about energy will quickly learn I’m a HUGE fan of offshore wind energy.  So this news item in the New York Times caught my eye pretty quick – regulators have approved the US’s first offshore windfarm.  As the opponents point out in the article, this is just one of several hurdles that have to be overcome before it becomes reality, but it’s a pretty big one.  Several other countries have experimented with this stuff with pretty good successes, so I have a lot of high hopes for US versions.

On a side note, has anyone ever wondered why windmills have three arms?  Turns out there’s a good engineering reason behind it all.  Slate has a good article talking about the engineering benefits of various designs.  The basic punchline is that three blades have the optimal energy output, environmental impact, and manufacturing costs we seek in a good windmill.  If manufacturing costs decrease with better processes, two blade systems might make more sense.

Internet Operating System?

A couple of days ago, Tim O’Reilly published an interesting piece entitled “The State of the Internet Operating System” I’m not going to say a whole lot about it, other than to say it touched on a lot of areas.  He talked about mobile, location based services, platform integration, abstractions, and a bunch of other stuff.  It’s an interesting read and I find myself mulling it over more than most other things I read in the tech world.  Give it a read.  I think it has a lot of applicability in the light of some of the transitions we’re seeing in the geospatial world.

Gulf Stream not Slowing Down

Apparently Dennis Quaid was wrong… the gulf stream is not slowing down as some climate change models (and over the top eco-adventure movies) predict.  Apparently the belief this might happen is a victim of the age old measurement error.  Initial measurements suggested the slow down.  It turns out over a longer period of time, there is no slow down, just an awful lot of variability from year to year.  Scientists are continuing to monitor the flow in attempt to collect more data to confirm these latest findings.  On top of that, they hope to figure out what causes the variability, which in and of itself is rather puzzling.

As an aside, what I find fascinating is the sheer magnitude of these sorts of issues.  We’re talking attempts to understand and predict phenomena on a global scale and time scales approaching geologic time.  That’s a seriously challenging task and more power to all the scientists out there trying to tackle it head on!

Want Google’s Gigabit Network in Your Town?

Looks like you’ll have to get in line with the other 1,100 or so towns that have applied.  Apparently there is a LOT of demand for 1gb fibre network.  The map at the link shows the spatial distribution of the towns that applied.  It shouldn’t be any huge surprise that the coasts seem to have the most interest.  Either way, Google will pick a couple of winning towns by the end of the year.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care if it hits my town, but the odds don’t look particularly great for anyplace.  For me, it shows how much desire we have in the US for faster and cheaper connections speeds m0re than anything else.

Via Engadget

Daylight Savings Time Uses More Energy

If you ask me, this should go into the “duh” file, but I’m glad someone did the numbers to prove it – Daylight Savings Time uses more energy.  Indiana recently changed their laws to require all the counties in the state to adopt DST.  In the past, 15 counties had opted out of the practice.  This change allowed researchers to setup a nice ‘controlled’ human experiment to see if DST actually saves energy.  Turns out, it’s a big fat waste of time.  As an active hater of DST (I don’t like it when everything is suddenly different one day to the next), I hope others verify these results so we can take’em to our legislatures in every state.  Yeah, DST made sense when Franklin first proposed it, but the modern world has pretty much killed it’s usefulness.