Gongol.com Archives: 2010 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

Aviation News The flying car is here, but it isn't cheap
The Terrafugia Transition is designed to drive as a street-legal car and fly like a light sport aircraft. But it won't come cheap: The "anticipated purchase price" is $194,000. Once someone can knock that down below $100,000, they could start targeting the flying car to outside salespeople who cover large territories. They would be among those who could most easily make economic sense from such a purchase.

Computers and the Internet Google is killing off the Nexus One
It was the phone that Google tried to sell using its own Android operating system and private-labeled hardware. What's interesting is that now Google and Microsoft have killed off relatively unsuccessful experiments in supplying phones to the consumer market. As has been remarked before and will undoubtedly need to be remarked again, Google and Microsoft need to stop trying to find ways to make money selling computer equipment and services and start finding new ways to use their massive computing power to make other goods and services altogether. There are a whole host of industries that could be a lot more profitable if only the right problem-solvers set their attention to them.

Humor and Good News Who knew that a library could use an advertising budget?
The college library at Brigham Young has rather hilariously spoofed the Old Spice commerical campaign on television now

Health Do yourself a favor: Take two minutes for a self-exam today
Take a minute or two and conduct some basic self-screenings for cancer. Early detection saves lives. There's lots of misinformation about cancer that finds its way around the Internet, largely because we've been trained to wait expectantly for some sort of magic-bullet solution to cancer. But cancer risks can be significantly reduced through a balanced diet, exercise, and early detection and treatment. Meanwhile, science is making great progress towards improving genetic detection, which holds great promise for some types of cancer. Instead of forwarding hoax-ridden e-mails about "cancer cures" and false threats, people should instead remind their friends and family to assess their health once a month.

Broadcasting Why preventative care should come with a nominal patient fee
And other notes from the Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio tonight

News One of the intangible costs of living in oversized cities
An EMT in New York City was killed recently in a shooting outside a nightclub. He had been involved in a situation about six months prior in which he failed to give aid to a dying pregnant woman at a restaurant, in an apparent case of "not my problem". Living around as many people as one inevitably must in a place like New York makes it enormously difficult to see other individuals as people, rather than as obstacles and objects. Thus we have problems like the diffusion of responsibility that become almost routine in large cities. It's difficult to account for matters like the relative dehumanization of ordinary life that might take place in large cities, but surely it counts for something when choosing where to live.

Business and Finance FedEx accuses UPS of seeking a "Brown Bailout" from Congress
Language proposed for FAA regulations would place FedEx under regulations that give unions an easier shot at organizing workers. FedEx would like not to have to live under those rules, but UPS (which due to the differences in how they were established is already governed by the union-friendly rules) would obviously like to do whatever it can to impose new burdens (like unionization) on its rival.

Weather and Disasters Tornado sirens for non-tornadoes
Civil Defense sirens don't get a lot of exercise for nuclear-fallout drills anymore, so in the Upper Midwest, they're mainly used for tornadoes. But in the Des Moines area, they're now being activated for 70-mph winds, since those can cause the same kind of damage as tornadoes. They're pretty sure it won't become a "boy who cried wolf" problem, because historically those kinds of winds have occurred only about once a year. Of course, Murphy's Law being what it is, the sirens have been activated twice already for non-tornadic wind storms in this, the inaugural year for the program.

Computers and the Internet In the year 10,000...
Though it doesn't quite have the ring of the classic Conan O'Brien comedy sketch, it turns out that the Year 10,000 poses a serious problem for some computer systems, in much the way that Y2K did -- those computers and programs aren't designed for five-digit years. And though it sounds like the kind of problem that won't matter for something like 7,990 years, there's actually a set of practical matters that requires 10,000-year planning -- one of which is the storage of nuclear waste. Interesting.

News Worse than any college-entrance exam
Plastic surgery is becoming a tool for college admissions in India

Humor and Good News Is this a homeowner's policy claim or an auto claim?

Health Vaginal gel provides huge benefits in preventing HIV
The development is excellent news for women who aren't in a position to demand either monogamy or safe sex from their partners

Science and Technology NASA offers a Moon-base video game
It's designed to encourage interest in space and science among students. But what they really ought to think about doing is building some kind of distributed computing project into the background -- especially if it could be the kind of distributed computing that requires some kind of human intervention for something like pattern recognition. Then it would be both a promotional tool and a useful scientific instrument. Related: Airbus has released pictures of a concept airplane for travel in 2050, which may sound like it's far away, but really isn't. 2050 is only as far in the future as 1970 is in the past. And in terms of passenger-miles flown, Americans are flying five times as much today as we were in 1970, so a lot can change in 40 years. Then again, a lot can remain the same: The Boeing 747 had just entered service in 1970.

Business and Finance How day-traders and computer algorithms are messing up the stock market
Oddly enough, understanding how things are working in the stock market now requires understanding Benoit Mandelbrot's work in fractal mathematics. It's not enough to just "like" a business or have a good feeling about it anymore.

Health The Jenny McCarthy Body Count
McCarthy and other celebrities are indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people due to preventable diseases -- people who might have lived if vaccines weren't under continued absurd and groundless attack by those celebrities

Humor and Good News A chimpanzee playing baseball
(Video) It's much funnier than a person could normally imagine

Humor and Good News Sometimes Nature needs to be put in its place

Science and Technology Energy-efficiency investments may be much more productive than new energy production

Business and Finance WD-40 hopes to exploit lubricant nostalgia
They're putting out 1950s-style cans of one of the greatest chemicals around

Iowa Dear outsiders: Don't underestimate Midwesterners
An Iowa judge has laid out exactly why he's disinterested in hearing from high-priced attorneys who can't name the states of the Midwest

Humor and Good News A roster of the heart-attackiest foods in America's baseball parks
Sports Illustrated's list of "all-star" foods misses one of the greatest culinary delights in all the world: Wrigley Field's "special", a combination sausage and Italian beef sandwich buried in onions and peppers that is undoubtedly worth every minute it shaves off one's life expectancy

News Holocaust survivor dances in front of Auschwitz

Business and Finance GM buys a subprime lender to sell cars to bad credit risks
Seriously? Is this even remotely a good idea?

Business and Finance The better the banker knows the customer, the less likely the customer will default
Research from the Chicago Fed suggests that "relationship banking" has a strong advantage in terms of measuring moral hazard over non-relationship accounts

News Raytheon is programming Android smartphones to help target Patriot missiles

Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter

Science and Technology Moss and the mushroom cloud
Scientists have taken a close, high-speed look at moss and discovered that it spreads by releasing a high-pressure vortex of air containing spores that spread relatively far and wide. Evolution is truly an awesome tool for creating fascinating results.

Health California and South Carolina have whooping-cough outbreaks
Children are dying because they're catching what is a vaccine-preventable disease. The problem is that the infants who are dying are too young to get the immunizations themselves, so they depend upon herd immunity -- resistance to communicable diseases created by the accumulated vaccinations of many people -- to protect them against deadly infections. Unfortunately, vaccines are still getting an utterly undeserved bad rap from high-profile celebrities who let their emotions trump science.

Aviation News Florida's "space coast" launched 60 years ago
The first rocket launch from Cape Canaveral was on July 24, 1950, shifting rocket tests away from the Desert Southwest to the Florida Atlantic coast. The advantages are obvious: It's closer to the Equator (which is better for lots of orbits) and the bordering ocean means that accidents would happen over water instead of populated land. Right now, it's anyone's guess what we'll be doing with space in another 60 years. The increase in space junk and the government's noncommittal approach to space exploration are rather significant factors of uncertainty.

Computers and the Internet The life of the world in a day
YouTube is promoting the "Life in a Day" project, which will seek to document, in video, the life of the world on July 24, 2010. The resulting submitted content is to be professionally edited and produced as a feature-length documentary film. They're calling it a sort of "time capsule" for the future. With the vast proliferation of content (we're undoubtedly producing more of it than ever) documenting everything about our lives, and with the ability to archive those documentary moments improving all the time, the big question might really be: How do we condense the things that we record in a way that separates the important from the ephemeral? A century ago, an ordinary American might have looked forward to being photographed twenty times in a lifetime. Today, a person with a normal social life could easily be photographed by twenty different photographers in a single day at the ballpark and a night at the bar.

Science and Technology The bridge designed in 1956 might not fulfill its destiny in 2010
The friendly drawings of a Philadelphia bridge designed in the Korean War era promised an elevated roadway that would fit in naturally with the surrounding trees. Today's graffiti suggests that it has failed to reach its potential as a monument.

Science and Technology If an alternative to fossil fuels will take 20 years, do we have enough time left?
We're largely preoccupied with the immediate questions about energy, like whether it's fair to keep China from taking over BP. But the slightly longer-term issue is whether we're at all prepared to figure out how to survive when fossil fuels start rising dramatically in price.

Broadcasting How to curate a conversation

The United States of America Wealthy American Presidents
George Washington is estimated to have been the President with the greatest share of national wealth in existence at the time of his period in office. Who knew?

Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter