I’m thrilled with any post that allows me to make a The Police reference. Harold Hackett has a rather unusual hobby – he puts messages in a bottle and throws them into the sea. If you’re thinking this is a big waste of time, you’d be wrong. He’s put out 4,800 messages and has gotten back over 3,000 messages for his efforts. I’ll bet your response ratio on your latest email invite or forum post wasn’t as good He sends out his address, which forces people to respond to him old school via mail. He’s gotten letters literally from Africa, Russia, Holland, Norway, the Bahamas, and a host of other (mostly European) countries. Harold has been doing this since 1996. His weapons of choice? Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice or Orange Juice bottles because they’re bright and presumably yummy. Plus the pun, of course. His messages have taken upwards of 13 years to bear fruit. He’s made a lot of friends doing this and still gets gifts and cards years later.
It seems pretty obvious to me this will be a trend in future elections – Obama seeks data experts for edge. The President leveraged social media pretty effectively in the 2008 campaign. As the article points out, Governor Rick Perry did the same in his election campaign in Texas. What I find the most intriguing is the degree and effectiveness the campaigns have in synthesizing and analyzing all of these streams of data. It’s certainly true a Presidential election is about collecting public opinion as much as anything, it’s pretty clear they’re developing a pretty comprehensive factual resource. I really like the nugget in the article that mentions combing both traditional streams of data with social media streams to create more holistic and targeted information. That’s a model we in the geospatial industry are quickly moving to adopt, with greater and lesser degrees of success. It seems to me there might be a lot of lessons to be learned in the geospatial community as to how to gather nuggets of useful knowledge from similar efforts.
If you’ve ever heard me chatting with Elvin of the ArcPad team, you’ll know that I can wax poetic about cars almost more easily than I can about GIS. I think an awful lot about transportation (mostly old cars, but still…) It always fascinates me to think how well all get around in the future. How we move about our urban and suburban spaces has a large impact on our cultural and social development, so keeping tabs on this sort of thing could be important. Luckily people who actually have the power to make things happen share this same fascination.
Two European car companies have recently tossed their hat into the ring for personal transportation of the future. Last week Volkswagen showed their NILS single seat electric car. Obviously it’s just a prototype, but I can get behind any moving vehicle that features gull wing doors. Neither the speed or range is anything to write home about, but it might be attractive to those with relatively short commutes. Volkswagen says it could actually go into production. Renault has launched a slightly sexier (at least to my eye) vehicle that has no doors at all! The Twizy will come in two different models, what I’m going to call the ‘slow’ model and the ‘SUPER slow’ one. Unlike the VW, this isn’t a prototype – it’s going on sale in Europe in the not too distant future. One interesting feature of the Twizy is you won’t own your batteries; you’ll rent them from Renault instead at the price of $68/month. At European gas prices, that’s probably a pretty good deal.
VW and Renault aren’t the only one’s exploring this market, as you’d imagine. Check out a slightly old but still interesting video from the British series Top Gear where they explore Toyota’s concept vehicle iReal. Of course if you really want a historical perspective, check out this other Top Gear video showing the smallest car……… in the world!
I really like that quote. The good folks at the Center for Environmental Research Technology (CERT) at the University of California have been engaged in researching new fuel efficiency technology. Their conclusions – fix the driver, not the car. The way we drive has a huge impact on the efficiency of our vehicles. The researchers at CERT estimate you can realize a much as a 30% increase in fuel efficiency with some changes to your driving habits. Unfortunately, we don’t like to change how we drive. The team is trying to develop ways which give the driver feedback on ‘good’ habits that increase fuel efficiency as well as ‘bad’ habits. The trick is doing so without being obnoxious (a trick I’ve never personally learned, as I’m sure Sue and Jesse will attest). They’ve used a variety of techniques, from visual chances on the dashboard to audio clues to force feedback on your gas pedal. The hard part is walking the line between good information and not distracting information. As the research notes, better use of navigation tied to smart traffic networks will reduce start/stop traffic and needless idling, which helps even more.
As a bit of a ‘hypermiler’ from an early age, I can tell you these tricks can really impact your fuel efficiency in a positive way.
I remember reading a science fiction book in the mid-80’s that featured airship transportation on away planets. I had done a report about the Hindenburg a few years before that and thought the idea was daft. Turns out (perhaps unsurprisingly) apparently I’m the daft one, as NASA has begun constructing transportation airships for use right here on Earth! The ships are very different beasts than the old Hindenburg models. They feature more aerodynamic designs and high tech structures that make them safer to use. They also have better controlled ballast systems so they can land, take off, and maintain altitudes much easier than models from 70 years ago. One of the neater more immediate usages of the airships is use in remote areas like Alaska where airplanes simply can’t reach. NASA estimates moving to air travel for our cargo transportation needs could save a great deal of unnecessary fossil fuel expense currently spent on trucking and the like. Other improvements could be made to the systems, including the addition of solar cells and the ability to lift incredibly heavy loads – up to 1,000 tons of cargo!
With more than a month under its belt, South Sudan seems to be moving full speed ahead. There continue to be issues as expected with a new country, but growth seems evident as well. In July we asked you the question “What are your thoughts on South Sudan independence?” and 47 of you shared your thoughts based on the 4 options we provided:
To go along with the results, here is the UN admitting South Sudan.
With South Sudan becoming independent, and the first new country in a while, there are a lot of questions coming up. We will leave the commentary to the talking heads but we are curious about your general thoughts on what is happening, and more importantly what will happen in the future, as South Sudan separates from Sudan. Head over to the website and take the poll over on the right hand side of the page.
On this memorial day weekend the History Channel is kicking off a week of Civil War themed shows. While watching I thought I’d see if there were any interesting maps available on the intertubes. What did I find? Some wonderful animated maps from the Civil War Trust ! The maps are flash based and progress through some key battles of the war. The site also provides users historical maps and new digital maps that are static.
Additionally, the site has available BattleApps. The BattleApps are virtual Civil War tour guides for the war or specific battles for the iPhone or iPad. The apps are location aware and throughout the tour one could view video clips from the national park service and see locations of troops of both the North and South. Another great example of giving old paper maps a new lease on life with digital innovation!
I’ve been fortunate enough to look over the shoulders of a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The project titled “On The Line” is an online, interactive history of schooling, housing and civil rights in the city of Hartford, Connecticut that was created by Jack Dougherty of Trinity College. What makes this online text ‘spatial’ is the series of interactive Google Maps linked to historical redlining documents, as well as view historical photos in Historypin, and examine historical data in linked map viewers.
The site also provides a series of excellent lesson plans ready for educators to use in the classroom.
Some transportation engineers at NS State University have published a new study that shows left turns aren’t needed. We can create what are called “superstreets” that allow only right hand turns. This improves both travel times and safety, not to mention fuel economy. This isn’t exactly a new idea. Michigan already has this type of system (hence the “Michigan left” nickname) and it seems to invoke a love/hate relationship with drivers. UPS implemented a virtual system of no left turns years ago to save fuel and increase safety. There are a couple of things left out of the news reports on this, however. A system like this would take more land for roads, not less. Also, crossing 2-3 lanes of traffic to get to the U-turn can be problematic, I’d imagine, especially in rush hour. I’d also imagine the British would suggest this problem can be fixed with a good old ’round about’, although they’ve not really caught on in the US.
What do you guys think? Should left turns be a thing of the past we tell our grandkids about, like Atari and TV tubes, or do left turns make the most sense if you’re going left?