CAFE Standards for Cars in the US

We all know greenhouse gases are all in the news the last decade or so. On top of that, fuel dependency gets a lot of airplay. Those two things drive a lot of the decision making for car fuel economy standards. In the US, that’s translated into a rather arcane system called the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. Jalopnik has a pretty good breakdown explaining the logic and implications behind CAFE standards. CAFE regulations have had a huge impact on car development around the world, particularly in the US. Ever wonder why small trucks like my personal favorite, the VW Rabbit Truck aren’t made anymore? Completely counter to logic, it’s actually the CAFE standards that have driven these more efficient vehicles out of production. Ever wonder why modern small cars go from pristine to ‘totaled’ even in relatively small wrecks? Again, CAFE standards drive much of this. Yet most people really don’t understand how and why CAFE standards work.

If you’re even remotely interested it either fuel economy, greenhouse gas issues, or cars, check out the link for a great breakdown. It’s really worth your time.

World’s Oldest Message In A Bottle

First, let it never be said I passed up an opportunity to make a The Police reference.

Now that we have that over, The Guinness Book of World Records has officiated the oldest note in a bottle ever found. The note is over 98 years old and it is an old National Geographic note from a 1914 scientific study concerning ocean currents. The note asks people to return the bottle to Captain C. Hunter Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation. Apparently they released nearly 1,900 bottles but only got back a bit over 300. That seems about right for survey return rates, I think ūüôā

The $6,000 Car for Africa


Cars + Geography = Frank in heaven. The car company Mobius Motors has created what is for gearheads like me might be darn near perfect car. The founders of Mobius recognized that access to transportation is critical to modern existence. Anybody doing, say, site location work will tell you one of the biggest factors is how far people have to travel to get to the service. Africa isn’t known for it’s bustling transportation infrastructure and thus any cars that operate there have certain challenges. They have to be cheap. They have to do a lot of different things well. They have to be rugged. They have to be fixable. In short, they have to go like Stig. The Mobius concept is to realize all of these in one vehicle. The drive train is the garden variety Toyota that’s everywhere. The frame is everyday tube steel. The body parts are mostly flat panels you can replace with any other flat panels. It’s a solid 4×4 offroader. It’s back can seat 8 in the old school Land Rover Series 2/3 fold up seats. Fold’em up, and suddenly it’s truck. The Mobius is a true SUV, but its also a delivery truck, a hospital truck, a cab, a pickup… it’s pretty much whatever you want. And it’s super cheap for a new car – a mere $6,000.

Let me tell you, I’d LOVE to get one of these in the US, although I expect safety standards would keep it from being street legal. It seems like the perfect all around ticker with it until it rusts apart type of car. So a gearhead salute to Mobius Motors for one cool little car!

We Give Directions Differently Depending on Where We Live

Europeans and Americans just give directions differently. Who knew? Researchers conducted an experiment to see if people gave directions differently if they thought the person was driving verses looking at a map. Turns out that while that does have an impact, where you’re from has a larger impact on how you describe directions. Americans tend to give directions by saying street names and giving cardinal directions, e.g. “Go North on Main St”. Europeans tend to give directions by saying the number of streets to go and whether to go left or right, e.g. “Go up two streets, then take a left”. The article proposes a number of theories as to why this might be the case, but they don’t actually test any of them fully. Still, it’s a pretty interesting finding, I think. Also, it’s yet another point suggesting that I’m secretly European and didn’t know it ūüôā

NPR Laments the Death of Paper Road Maps

Paper road maps are becoming obsolete, claims a NPR report. Well, not completely obsolete, but less and less used by daily drivers as GPS and SatNav have taken over. A spokesperson for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials believes map printing may be one place state transportation departments cut to ease budgetary issues. Apparently Washington state got rid of printing them complete in 2009! I understand the view completely as technological has taken over. That being said, even this techno-gadget junkie will miss the days the paper map. There’s something to be said for a product you can toss in the back, or stick in your back pocket, or fold over the wrong way, or write all over willy-nilly because you don’t care what happens to it. Oh paper road map your dad yelled at you for ‘folding it wrong’, how you will be missed!

The Most Popular Street Names in the US

Cars and geography go hand in hand if you ask me. After all, transportation is one of our fundamental layers in GIS, right? So Jalopnik’s post detailing the most popular street names in the US really struck my interest. I guess its no surprise that numbers are the most popular names, nor that trees are second. Personally, I wonder the popularity of tree names in areas compared to the trees they grow. Do more cities in, say, the pacific NW like ‘Pine Street’ than the middle states? I’d also bet there’s a lot of spatial clustering of names so that the numbers and trees tend to group together. Its pretty interesting that most polls show Abraham Lincoln as the most popular US President, yet George Washington gets all the street names.

Spatial role-playing and virtual immersion

It is interesting to find that there are many types of spatial immersion projects going on this summer. They provide a good contrast of how creative people can be with spatial immersion as an educational tool and the importance of experiencing an environment to understanding it in a new way.

The original Virtual Trillium Trail was a virtual ecological environment created by Maria C.R. Harrington as part of her dissertation research in Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh. It is represents real world field trips offered by the Audubon Society of Western PA and uses the Pennsylvania Department of Education Ecology Standards. Virtual Trillium Trail has been posted on KickStarter to try to get funding to make it into an online game.

School of Architecture for All (SARCHA)¬†Polypolis¬†is a¬†role playing social simulation that covers different areas of current events. They are currently presenting “Polypolis Athens: Become an Athenian and experience a city in crisis” for the upcoming London Festival of Architecture on June 23-July 8. The theme of the festival is The Playful City and Polypolis is billed as a Playful social simulation, but is playful in the way that serious games allow users to play in a immersive sandbox.

Role-playing and immersion are always great educational tools; virtually or in real life. I have always enjoyed having students create their own role-play activities to share with classmates. I think that both k-12 students and adults respond well to role-pay as an educational activity. A paper on role-playing as an educational technique from 1958 sums it up well, ” Dramatic play has been enjoyed by children- and adults too, if you will — throughout the ages. It is a natural and spontaneous way of learning, but only comparatively recently have educators come to realize its worth as a teaching device.”

Of course, Sue Bergeron and Jesse Rouse have done more than talk about the role of technology, such as the contributions of GIS, to making what educators dreamed about in 1958 possible. There is a good quote from ¬†“Engaging the Virtual Landscape: Serious gaming environments as tools in historical landscape reconstruction and interpretation ” ¬†that says, “Utilizing game functionality we can add sounds, smells, and other sensory input that would be part of such landscapes, and users can begin to experience phenomena that in combination creates a sense of place. ” ¬†It is nice to see how role-playing has evolved as technology and spatial knowledge has evolved. It will be interesting to see what people come up with next.

 

Zombies and Geospatial Analysis

If you have met me, you know that I would love to teach a geography class using ¬†the book ¬†World War Z¬†by Max Brooks, a journalist who uses a zombie apocalypse¬†to discuss current events and world geography.¬†David Hunter, a middle school teacher in Seattle, Washington beat me to the punch. He is asking for help on Kickstarter to create a ¬†Grade 5-8 Standards Based curriculum “Learning Geography skills through a Zombie Apocalypse Narrative”. ¬†His concept is not as far fetched as it seems. At the¬†WV Association for¬†Geospatial¬†Professionals¬†conference this week¬†Sheila Wilson, Executive Director of the¬†GIS Certificate Institute¬†(GISP) started off her talk with the¬†CDC ¬†Zombie Preparedness Guide. She talked about how in the guide a GIS team who were prepared to spatially analyze zombie hot spots, were prepared for anything. ¬†According to Cartographia, Austin TX has been prepared for a zombie outbreak since 2007.

Joking aside, I think that the zombie apocalypse creates a “sandbox” for researchers, educators, and society to analyze and understand complex, interconnected geospatial issues in a non-threatening way. ¬†I’m not the only one who feels this way.¬†Edward Gonzalez-Tennant a geography professor at Monmouth University is hopefully going to be presenting a paper on¬†“Popular Culture and GIS: Using Geospatial Technologies to Model and Prepare for the Zombie Apocalyze.” at the 2012 ESRI Education User’s Conference (EDUC). There is also a 2012 ESRI International User’s session dedicated to Health, Behavior, and Zombies.¬† Preparing for zombie outbreaks on Earth is inspiring geospatial professionals to innovate and think big much like Star Trek has inspired decades of engineers.

If you want to experience your own zombie attack, Class 3 Outbreak is a zombie outbreak simulator played via Google maps at hundreds of locations world wide.