Saturday, February 25, 2012

Are Incandescent Bulbs Really that Bad?

Ok; So, here's a thought. Everyone is always railing about how traditional incandescent light bulbs are so inefficient because in addition to generating light, they also emit a lot of their energy as non-visible heat. Compact Florescent Lights on the other hand convert more energy into light with less wasted as heat. I get it.

However... is this really so much of a problem... at least in the winter? Here's what I'm getting at: If you live an a climate that requires heating, then the extra energy being converted to heat rather than light in an incandescent light bulb is not really being wasted--it is heating the room to some extent. Yes, I realize that it is much more efficient to just burn fossil fuel to heat a room, but the added bonus of useful heat generated by traditional bulbs should be considered in the CFL argument along with the other factors such as quality of light, dim-ability, etc. It's just not as clear-cut as "Edison Bulb"=Bad, CFL = Good.

The key to efficiency is to getting the most use/value out of something. It's common sense that some situations would be better for CFLs than others. I believe that most people can figure out for themselves that a hard-to-replace light location would be ideal for a longer-lasting CFL or LED, but a cozy bedside reading lamp deserves a good, old-fashioned incandescent bulb. Further, who's to say that one person couldn't simple conserve by leaving their incandescent lights off most of the time, while another could install CFLs that are on constantly?

Since it is very clear that there are a multitude of situations where either CFL, LED, or Incandescent would be ideal, it would be best that all of these choices remain available to some extent. I can't possibly begin to imagine all the reasons that go into every homeowners' personal light bulb choices. So, how can the federal government begin to believe that they know the best bulb choices for everyone? They don't, which is why government regulation of light bulbs to this extent is to say the least, unenlightened.

The claim that it is about saving the environment by conserving electricity is a little flimsy as well. Conservation is a wonderful goal, and I support it, but there are so many situations where a one-size-fits-all policy is much less efficient in reality. Wouldn't it be simpler to promote conservation and let individuals make their own informed decisions? How much energy would be wasted in actually enforcing a strict light bulb regulation? Just imagine, some bureaucrat sitting at a computer tracking down meter readings or border patrol agents wasting time and fuel to go after light bulb smugglers. Really efficient.... Americans are talking about legalizing marijuana because too many resources are wasted on the war on drugs and incarceration of offenders. Yet, we would consider using our precious resources of time and energy to pursue light bulb violators?

The same goes for those interested in extreme salt regulation and taxing of sugary drinks, etc. We don't have the resources to go after pot dealers and users, and yet we want to go after salt and sugar? Does this make sense? Does it make common sense?

As always, comments welcome. Thanks.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Life Points and Infinite Life/Energy/Matter Superposition

Yes, that title is a mouthful. I've decided to expand my format to include some ideas and my own random philosophical ramblings.

This particular idea is one that I thought up while responding to a comment on a recent Wired magazine story:

When attempting to see the larger picture, you can only zoom out so far.
Conversing with others may get you a slightly broader view, but even that is limited to the amount of interactions one can have in their lifetime. The absolute outcomes of any action are infinite and perhaps only fully comprehensible to the full collection of all life past and present into infinity. Of course, this is merely the theory of one single point of collective life.

This builds somewhat on a theory which I have been developing in my mind. In can be best explained through a photography analogy...

In photography, one technique for successful nighttime photography is to increase the exposure time for the film. However, any motion (think of a car's taillights passing by) then becomes a streak in the still photo. This streak consists of every point in which the object existed over that period of time, and it's all represented in one overall picture.

Let's suppose that our lives and the energy contained within us exists not only in the present moment, but also simultaneously in every moment past and present extending to infinity in both directions. Since we are part of the picture, we are only capable of seeing one moment of life at a time. That would explain why we need to collectively analyze our own and others' past and present experiences if we ever want to attempt to predict any future event with some accuracy. In theory, the more data points (or life points), the more accuracy. However, since this extends infinitely, only the entire collection of life or the universe itself could possibly see the "picture" which is composed of all positions of life, energy, and matter past, present, and future into infinity.

Certainly we can hypothesise and imagine all we want. I imagine that if we could see the whole picture of infinite life and energy into past and future, it would have to be an entirely blinding light of energy extending to infinity, to use the photo analogy. After all, extending to infinity would mean that all possibilities would eventually be (could this be considered similar to the concept of "superposition"). Everything would be everywhere at some point in time, whether past, present, or future. The complete view would, in my opinion, be completely useless to see as just one life occupying one moment in time. It would be incomprehensible and utterly too much "data" to be of any use (phew, I am glad I don't have to sort through all that).

So, I guess it comes down to a matter of scale and scope. As a collective, humanity will continue to share more and more experience until we have a larger more accurate picture (assuming we will lose pieces of it along the way), but it will always be an incomplete picture (which actually seems to be a good thing). I would say it is more important to remember that we are all a part of the picture and that we can't possibly know or predict everything. That is, I believe that it's much more practical to know the limits of what you think you know than to think you can know everything.

I am happy to be just one point in life itself. While we cannot see or comprehend the full collective life picture, ever little action we do changes the overall picture. So, by having societal, religious, or whatever codes to follow over a time period, this could in theory increase the predictability of life going forward over the few thousand years during which that code holds sway. This to me underlines the importance of some sort of established moral code for life. This is something that can be explored in future posts....

Comments appreciated. For now, goodnight.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Next Bubble...

Ok, I was going to write this post a long time ago, but I never got around to it.

So, we know now that the housing market was in fact a bubble and that homes were greatly over-valued, etc.

Well, we here in the United States have quite a few bubbles that are still waiting to burst, in my opinion.

One such bubble could be that of our infrastructure. How can something like infrastructure possibly be considered a bubble, you ask? After all, it is in dire need of repair and maintenance...

That's just it though... Take transportation infrastructure. Since people and jobs keep moving, the infrastructure constantly needs to be built and re-built. This is a great stimulus for contractors and design firms who will always have a source of projects.

Here's the bubble part: There is an industry that is motivated to keep designing and building more and more roads, rails, transit, etc. The problem now is that resources (especially public funds) are and should be much more scrutinized. Have we built too much infrastructure to be sustainable without devouring vast budgets or begging the feds for stimulus? Eventually the public will realize that maybe people got a little overambitious with projects and need to cut back. Is building a million or billion dollar roadway project really worth it to "save" 5 minutes off of everyone's commute? How much additional revenue will really be generated? Is anyone following up on the accuracy of the studies making claims of the merits of various projects?
What happens when gas prices go sky-high and demand for roads are reduced? What happens when a town's population and tax base decrease leaving crumbling roads as a reminder?

True, big projects are monuments to engineering... but what people need is everyday functionality and economy of which they can still be proud. The re-phasing of an intersection or a well-placed sidewalk can be so much more valuable than a new interchange.

We can keep adding lanes and treating symptoms while spending more and more resources with each expansion, or we can get creative, get back to basics and work with what we've got. Instead of adding lanes, why can 't we add reliable (maybe even profitable!) transit service? If a road is not that important, pave it less or downgrade it--maybe turn it into a bicycle-highway. No one likes to move backward, but in tight times, we need to move back to reality to move forward. Then we can focus our resources on the really critical, most-bang-for-our-buck, infrastructure.

If we want to be smart and sustainable about the way we are investing our resources in infrastructure, then we need to stop building throw-away roads, throw-away houses, and throw-away suburbs.--I'll ponder this more in a future post.

What do you all think?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Time for private companies to fill the public transportation gap?

With gas prices skyrocketing and more people looking to ditch their cars in any way possible, it's a shame that so many public transit agencies are short for the cash they need to improve operations and infrastructure. Freight rail companies are now enjoying an increase in their freight rail business.

What I'm wondering is, why don't some railroads try their hand at some regular passenger rail service again? Is there just too much red tape or are the freight companies perhaps unwilling to sacrifice their level of freight service? At any rate, I think now would be a great time for some forward-thinking railroads to look into the possibility of operating some small-time commuter rail service along some strategic routes.

Is it a simple matter of getting some used rail coaches and installing a few parking lots and platforms? I'm guessing it's a lot more complicated than that (passenger cars need power, while boxcars don't).

There are likely a lot of logistical issues, but I think certain railroads could at least consider the possibility of providing some commuter rail links where state-run agencies are behind due to funding issues and heavy regulations.

Anyway, it's perhaps wishful thinking at this point. What do you think? Feel free to post a response.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Selling Out for Sameness

How many streetlights do you count?

I have no idea how many streetlights there are in this photo, but I know there are enough to light up the night sky for miles around. Now, how many feet of sidewalk do you see in this photo? Bike lanes? Charming family-owned restaurants? Uniquely memorable street corners?

Well, I think you get the point. Sprawl is a problem that plagues many parts of the US, including Columbus, OH (this particular picture). Only after living in New England for the past 13 years do I realize just how much I appreciate the diversified transportation options, uniqueness of space, and locally-owned businesses found in this region of the country.

When I go back and visit parts of the country like those in the picture above, I am deeply saddened (and sickened) as I see the people of this great country trading in the heart and soul of their communities for commercialization and sameness. Obviously, this did not happen overnight--no one would have stood for that. Nevertheless, it seems that many people have decided that they'd rather eat OK food that tastes the same in California or Ohio than find the best meal ever after trying a few local places.

I'm not sure if these attitudes are simply generational, but it is my hope that they are changing. I know it sounds trite but ,"Variety is the spice of life."

Further, since when should it be easier to drive to the corner store than it is to walk? Columbus, OH has excellent roads, but without a car, you can't get anywhere (buses don't count). In my mind, that is a failed transportation system. I made the mistake of attempting to go for a run around the area in that picture, and all got was a heap of frustration and a piece of glass in my shoe (fortunately, no cuts). In order to stay fit, people have to get in their car and drive to a park or gym. What a waste! It's no wonder us Americans have an obesity problem; our communities cater to obesity (pun intended).

The development in that picture has been built within the past few years, and it is still under construction in places. The people designing/approving/building it know better, but the culture seems to allow corners to be cut when it comes to transportation options and livability. Why are we shooting ourselves in the foot?

Thankfully, there seems to be smart development spreading. So there is hope.

Where do you think we are headed? What's it like in your neck of the woods?

Inaugural Post

Hello and welcome to Derailed Perspective. This is the place where you get to step back and get a fresh perspective on well... anything. It is my hope that this blog causes people to think outside the box and outside their boxes. The beauty of this is that it is a two-way street. Your replies will allow me to see another angle on whatever the subject happens to be!

To better understand our world, we must see it from many angles. By knowing where we're coming from, we can figure out where to go. So, let's get started!