Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Tech in the future

The reason i think that all the many predictions about the future from the 1930's 40's and 50's were often wrong is because many of them were predictions about robots, and other technologies that would change our life except to make it easier. The most impactful technologies from the last 30 years or so have, rather than make life easier they have changed the way we live and doing this by allowing us to do more. most of the technologies like the internet, the advent of the personal computer have served to make our lives more efficient. think about the house wives that were supposed to benefit from most of these new technologies. in the time that the predictions were made they spent the day cooking and cleaning,(in the stereotypical manner). today the stay at home mom with the use of computers and cell phones has become the soccer mom. She now does twice the work of in the past. efficiency is the main source of new inventions to come. i think technology will change our society by making us more efficient. The likely technologies will be geared toward simplification. i think the cell phone, laptop, palm organizer, car keys, and even credit cards will be replaced by small single units that will be capable of more efficient communication of information. Also, advances in transportation will make a big change in the future. Last month nasa launched a scram jet that flew at nearly mach 10. They expect to be able to launch a manned scram jet in 25 years that could possibly reach mach 15 that is nearly 10,000mph. they think that this could make flights to china in a few hours. Also, this technology is supposed to be used to provide extremely cheap access to space. The possibilities for expansion of the space industry and the short travel times if the future is likely to increase the efficiency of business and change society in ways we can hardly imagine.

What is going on?

I went to the drink machine the other day and I hit the button for a cherry coke and water came out and I didn’t get mad, I just swiped my card again and got a regular coke. That wasn’t anything amazing, but then I thought what would happen if I went to a restaurant and asked for a cherry coke and the waiter gave me water and I couldn’t get a refund and I had to pay again to get a drink I want? I’m pretty sure that I would be furious and argue them out of a free meal. So I wondered, why didn’t I go on a rampage and show the machine who was boss? First I think the machine would win the fight. Second I think that sometimes we just expect technology to fail and I just can’t figure out why we would put up with drink machines taking our money and our computer crashing the night before a paper is due. I have thought and thought and I just can’t figure it out. If anyone has a clue tell me. It is just odd to me that technology which is supposed to solve all problems can be just fine if it fails too.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Space Accidents

I started looking up all the American space flights and I counted about 113 space flights that carried 777 passengers and only 14 of them died in 3 of the flights. So why then is it such a big deal when people die in a space flight accident. The death rate of space flight passengers is 2 deaths for every 111 passengers. That is a 1.8% death rate. 1.8% sound like a lot but when you remember that they are going to SPACE, that is an amazing rate.

I think there is some hype brought on by the fact that our space program is so transparent.
In the early days of the Apollo 1 fire we were set back because everyone knew what happened. The Russians lost their fair share of cosmonauts too but they didn’t tell anyone unless they were successful. I think that as Americans we like to see our selves as the most technologically advanced country on the planet and that is why it is such a shock when we find out that we can make such a mistakes like caused the challenger and Columbia accidents.

On the issue of going to mars, I think the spin offs are worth trying to go. Some say that we should just invest in the spin offs we want and not go but in the Apollo mission there were spin-offs that we got that we never knew we could use before. Apollo brought us huge advances in battery technology that without an immediate need, would not have come about for years. I think the main reason people don’t want to go to mars aside from the spin-offs is that unlike the first expeditions to the new world, we know what we will find on mars. We know what to expect where as Columbus did not. I think that in this case our technology is actually hurting our efforts to push our boundries.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Political ads

I think that TV has a much greater influence on elections today than it used to. I also think that for the most part it is a negative influence. Most of the times a TV ad is one sided and very biased. Most of the opposing adds end up saying the exact opposite of the other ads so you are left wondering who is right. I think that the campaigns should use the money spent on ads and have more debates so that the voters can see both sides of the issues in one place all at once. Another issue with TV and politics is that the stations that give the most balances and logical are not watched by most young voters. One poll said that 21% of people aged 18 to 29 cited "The Daily Show" and "Saturday Night Live" as a place where they regularly learned presidential campaign news. Which are both comedy shows that were never intended as a news source. With the constant ads on TV, people today are getting more information but far less substance than ever which is a bad thing.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Government

In the case of the television, it took the government to start regulating airwaves before programming used a standard system so that you could buy any tv and pick up and decode all programming. Often the government is needed to force companies to standardize electronic systems to make things easier for the consumer. The question I have is, when should the government step in and standardize and systems and when should the free market be left to work for itself. In the case of HD TV the government has mandated formats change by 2006 but HD tv started in satellite and cable TV which didn’t use public airwaves like radio and regular TV. Yet XM and Sirius radio use their own satellites but the government doesn’t force them to use the same code. I can’t find any pattern to how the government decides to regulate this stuff

Monday, October 18, 2004

Tesla's idea could work

When tesla used microwaves to light a lightbulb 20 miles away he wasn't able to implement world wide power because there was no way to make people pay for it. But today with the internet it could work. if you had the devices in your house have a small electric meter and transmitter to just send the power useage to the meter on the outside of the house. or you could at least have some sort of colector on your house to recieve the power then use the wires on the inside to atleast end power outages forever. I know that if i had the choice of never losing power in a storm i would gladly pay more. i think as computers become more mobile it will get to the point that bateries are the only thing holding them back. I think then the wireless power will become more attractive. I think eventualy we could have the world wide power tesla dreamed of.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Big Business

After the gilded age anti trust legislation began to improve the free market and helped level the playing field for small businesses to start rescuing them from the brink of obsolescence in the days of huge monopolies eradicating the “little guy” before he could even finish moving in to his factory. Small businesses now are an irreplaceable part of the economy. These laws did wonders for the American economy. But, I think that these laws, though written with good intentions and enforced with good effect, opened the door to over regulation of business in the name of fairness. I think that regulation and licensing are now to the point of absurdity. In Florida you need a license do be an interior decorator. Apparently having drapes that don’t match your carpet could be dangerous to society and the government needs to protect you from it. This type of licensing is not the kind of regulation that I think is hurting our economy but it is an example of how it seems that regulations are being overused and relied too heavily upon. Today regulation is binding the hands of business and slowing progress. With only a loosening of regulation rather than a complete absence of regulation will still yield increased innovation. For example the spaceship one will likely win the X-prize for putting a completely reusable spacecraft into space twice in a week. Imagine if the government tried to do this it would take years and years and billions of dollars to accomplish this. However spaceship one has done it in a few years and for far less money. The $10 million prize did help the company get investors, but the main factor that allowed this to happen was a total regulatory vacuum that exist in space let space ship one be developed cheaply, quickly and safely without having to get through the “red tape” of extensive regulations. Private industry can have the ability innovate without needing the government to protect the public. If other industries had this sort of “breathing room” the rate of innovation would grow dramatically and the government would only need to get involved when the public truly needs to be protected. In the 1900’s the government moved from a dangerous “buyer beware” mode of thinking to thinking that the buyer is incapable of thinking for their selves. Deregulation would achieve a happy medium.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Green chemistry

Today in my chemistry class i saw Terry Collins' lecture on green chemistry.
I thought he raised some good points about the role of technology and society.
One of the main he stressed was sustainability. He said that if humans start looking towards more sustainable technology then our civilization will not be able to last more than a few hundred years from now. Although i don't think that we should start today and stop using nuclear and coal power and stop mining oil, i do agree with him in that i do believe that the us needs to begin phasing in more solar power. He made the point that leaders don't stress this technology because there is not enough political pressure on leaders to encourage it. I tend to agree, but he gave me the feeling that he blamed the 'big evil power and oil companies' for this lack of drive towards solar power. I think the problem lies in the fact that we won’t live to see the oil wells dry up. So many of these big evil companies are so tied up with getting through next week that they can’t afford to think about how we will produce electricity 200 years from now. Mr. Collins said that he doesn’t think that nuclear power will stop being used until there is a major meltdown that will wake the country up in the kind of manner that September 11, woke the nation up to terrorism. I don’t think we have to wait for some catastrophic accident before companies look for other means of making energy. I think that part of the reason that companies are so narrow-minded is that with current regulations they are spending more time looking at what they did last week to make sure they didn’t mess up than they did actually working. When a power company can’t even redecorate its office with getting government approval that you can’t expect them to plan for 200 years in the future. Companies must be held responsible for the safety of the operation, but under the current system they are encouraged to try to push the limits of the law. If you want real change you can’t write a law for everything a company can do wrong. You must make the companies want to do every thing they can to be safe and responsible by rewarding the safest and most “green” companies while harshly punishing the others. Deregulation is the key to improving the energy industry in America today. When companies aren’t being forced to make their coal plants as efficient as possible and as clean as possible through very specific laws and are being rewarded and punished for overall efficiency on a broad scale they will naturally want to invest in these more “green” technology.