The Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio
Brian Gongol

A safe following distance on the roads, according to the AAA, is about three seconds on dry pavement, and about 8 to 10 seconds on wet or icy pavement. Given the proclivity of many central Iowans to follow at about a 1/4th-second distance, perhaps we could use a little more patience on the road.

Both Brian Gongol and Brian Dean are live on Twitter this week.

When people as smart as Greg Mankiw and Paul Volcker think that the Bear Stearns bailout deal set up by the Federal Reserve is a bad idea, it's a lot easier to believe the deal isn't such a good idea. What we really need is a Federal Reserve that focuses on inflation, not on sustaining the stock market, which it seems like they're trying to do.

It's been a bit breezy this week -- just enough to deter Brian Dean from hitting the bike, but not bad enough to keep Brian Gongol off the roads. But it did require a lot of bundling up -- layers of sweat-wicking, body-insulating, and wind-breaking materials -- just to stay warm enough to make the rides. Brian Dean, meanwhile, was eagerly anticipating the arrival of his biking shorts.

Some Chicago Tribune staffers won first place in a Chicago Sun-Times contest about why they shouldn't rename Wrigley Field. It's too bad that newspapers are a natural monopoly and thus two-paper towns are so hard to find. Otherwise, this kind of mischief would entertain us far more often.

The Defense Department's far-out projects agency, DARPA, has been working along with private-sector researchers on developing a robotic pack mule that can carry 340 pounds over ice, snow, rocks, debris, and anything else that isn't a regular roadway. You can easily understand how that would be useful to the Defense Department. We have lots of soldiers in inhospitable places like Afghanistan who have to carry heavy loads, and having robots that could do the hard work for them would be an obvious improvement. But what might not be so obvious is how this kind of technology will make our day-to-day lives better in the ordinary world. But consider this: As America's working population ages, it will be hard to find the muscle power to do things like carrying loads of bricks and cement across construction jobsites. But an agile robot that could do the heavy lifting could free up skilled human power to do the tricky stuff (like building a wall). Or perhaps the same kinds of robots could carry the heavy loads of tools needed by forest firefighters, allowing the firefighters to get some much-needed rest, rather than extra wear and tear.

If you've never seen the "Chocolate Rain" video, you've missed out on a great Internet phenomenon. Brian Dean makes up new lyrics to the song for his own amusement. One of the neat unanticipated benefits of the Internet is that we can be exposed to new cultural influences -- music, movies, literature, and so on -- that otherwise we'd never know about, thanks to those bits and bytes flowing along the high-speed data lines.

The Iowa DOT and State Patrol deserve some credit for upgrading the state's road-conditions website to use Google's mapping technology. It makes for a better service to the public, since the new format is easier to use than the old one. It's a great example of the government piggybacking on private-sector technology to make better use of taxpayer dollars.

Ten teams are now competing for the Google Lunar X-Prize. It's a great example of an incentive or inducement prize, which remains an outstanding way to encourage new technological development. Ultimately, if humanity is to survive in the long term, we will have to start populating planets other than Earth. We might as well start learning about how to at least get to the Moon (and stay there). The Google Lunar X-Prize is a start.

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