Gongol.com Archives: July 2008
Brian Gongol

July 16, 2008

Science and Technology Cell phones become closed-circuit TV cameras
Researchers playing around with Bluetooth-enabled cell phones found ways to make them communicate with one another as if they were a closed-circuit surveillance camera system. For now, it's experimental stuff...but a future can easily be imagined in which camera-enabled phones could be voluntarily (or involuntarily) activated and the resulting data gathered and analyzed to determine, for example, the location of a particular hazard on a subway or in a crowded stadium. This is the sort of technological change for which our lawmakers ought to be prepared. Mobile phones are practically ubiquitous -- they're even being used in student-achievement incentive packages in some schools -- and it's almost impossible to imagine a world in which someone isn't aggressively trying to do something with the data they can collect.

Business and Finance Newspapers are shrinking because paper is getting expensive
One-year increases of almost 25% on average are enough to have a lot of papers scaling back. Add on how much the distribution costs are hitting them in a time of higher gas prices, and the real crunch may be yet to come.

Humor and Good News Seeing double
Improv group puts identical twins in identical clothes on two sides of a subway car. Hilarious.

Business and Finance We complain about gas prices, but many of our fellow Earthlings pay a lot more
Gas may be at $4 to $5 a gallon in the US, but it's about twice that price in London and Rome. Energy is the lifeblood of a modern economy, and a modern economy is the only way to ensure that standards of living keep rising for our children and grandchildren (not to mention for ourselves). The US ought to pursue an aggressive policy of offering inducement prizes for energy research, as recently embraced by John McCain. The prizes need to be gigantic, and the objectives need to be bold. But innovation is going to be driven by greed -- cold, hard cash -- far faster than it'll be driven by wishful thinking or absurd government mandates. Government-set automotive fuel-efficiency standards have been around since 1975, and virtually nothing useful has come of them. Americans ignored fuel efficiency until gas prices started rising enough to really pinch the pocketbook. Just as rising costs create pain and induce action, so do rising rewards spark interest and research. As so succinctly put by Greg Mankiw, "People respond to incentives." That's what made places like Tulsa and Dallas boom towns during the heyday of domestic oil production -- people were responding to the demand. But the real trick is how well a city (or a state) can keep itself together after the boom reaches its inevitable end. Tulsa looks pretty today, but it probably wouldn't mind having the boom back. Iowa, meanwhile, is experiencing a biofuels boom now...but it won't last forever.

Water News Iowa DNR offers use of SRF funds to help with flood repair

Recent radio podcasts