Efficency End To End

From The Economist:

ENGINES on airliners are highly efficient when they are in flight, but not when operating on the ground. When a plane is taxiing under its own power, the engines burn vast amounts of fuel. A Boeing 747 can consume a tonne of fuel and emit several tonnes of carbon dioxide during an average 17-minute taxi to take-off. And when the aircraft lands there is likely to be another long drive to the passenger gate. Which is why there are various methods being developed for aircraft to use other means of propulsion while moving around an airport.

If you think about it, this was an area ripe for innovation for a long time now. Obviously having a second engine for taxi purposes on board is ruled out for weight and space reasons. Something external is obvious since these negatives are shed when it’s detached. Since engines would only need to start shortly before takeoff it would also mean less noise at airports.

It’s interesting that in engineering you focus on the primary use case and make it efficient. Once you’re done you continue to refine and make it more efficient. The folly is when you forget about other low hanging fruit near the edge cases, in this case when the plane is on the ground. While not a huge savings, it can potentially add up.

Your Beverage Ice Is Dirtier Than Toilet Water

You may want to consider ordering your drink without ice next time you’re at a fast food restaurant (or any place):

“I found that 70-percent of the time, the ice from the fast food restaurant’s contain more bacteria than the fast food restaurant’s toilet water,” Roberts told local station 10 News in Tampa.

How did that happen?

The reason that the bacteria was more prevalent in the ice could be that while toilets are cleaned regularly, ice machines are not.

This really isn’t terribly surprising. In addition to regular cleaning, toilets are intentionally made of glazed porcelain because bacteria has trouble latching onto it. It’s worth noting bacteria is all around you and almost unquestionably that bacteria in question, while plentiful is not likely to cause any health issues.

It’s still an interesting observation.

Where Amazon Will Go Next

The other day Amazon’s Jeff Bezos admitted Amazon makes no money from the Kindle itself. That’s not as bad as it sounds. Jeff Bezos is referring to the hardware. Amazon sells content for the Kindle and that can make money. This is akin to shipping at cost and making money off the product you sell.

The Kindle isn’t a product, it’s a delivery method.

This however has me thinking. Jeff Bezos is a bright guy, and Amazon is a clever company who is constantly innovating. It’s pretty clear Amazon is looking to expand its warehouses to more locations to cut down on delivery time and perhaps even offer same day delivery in many places. It seems quite possible however that Amazon’s Lab 126 may have another trick up it’s sleeve for the (substantially) longer term: 3D printing. If Amazon can manage to create an ecosystem where products can be printed on demand, it can turn anything into eBook. Sold and delivered through their ecosystem. Simplistic items first and perhaps eventually more complicated items.

That’s not to say expect Amazon to sell 3D printers tomorrow. We’re talking years most likely. However it would be the ultimate delivery method for applicable goods.

Looking At Cute Animals Can Boost Productivity

From the “you can’t make this stuff up department” over at LifeScience:

Previous studies have shown that humans slow down their speech when talking to babies, and the Japanese researchers speculated that viewing the cute images may have had a similar effect — slowing the behavior of the students who saw the cute baby animal images and improving their accuracy in the game. In addition, the researchers suspect the baby-animal group got a boost in nurturing feelings, something that would likely benefit performance in the care-related task that involved helping someone (even if that someone was an anthropomorphic game board).

So now you have an excuse to look at /r/aww. Here are some monkeys to help you work.

QOTD “Facebook is the Microsoft of social media”

Quote of the day goes to Paul Saffo for his opinion piece on Facebook:

Facebook is the Microsoft of social media; used by everyone but truly loved by few.

I’m not sure I 100% agree with the quote, however it does make a valid point about what not to be as a tech company with a huge chunk of the market share. You really want to be the Apple of social media, used by many who absolutely adore you and highly value your product. I’m not sure there’s anyone in social media yet who has achieved that. The closest so far might be Instagram who is now owned by Facebook. Twitter has its loyal users, but many are grumbling over their recent changes and the ever changing app ecosystem.

Paul goes on to say:

Facebook resembles Microsoft in other ways as well. Facebook’s interface is nearly as clunky and inelegant as Windows, and like Microsoft, Facebook is struggling to migrate off the desktop and follow its users onto mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately, Facebook’s revenue model depends on ample screen real estate in order to please advertisers without annoying users. Ads that can be tolerated on a laptop become a major annoyance when hogging scarce and valuable space on a smartphone.

Facebook can solve for these problems. Facebook will need to move beyond advertising no matter what. Google’s been trying to figure out that problem for a while now. Advertising only gets you so far. Google’s experimented with things like SaaS (Software as a service) via Google Apps. Facebook could potentially bundle up it’s collaboration, authentication, pieces as an alternative to products like SharePoint and Google Groups. Facebook users generally use these things for personal uses, but Facebook apparently utilizes its own features for it’s own purposes all along. There’s not terribly much blocking them from making that a product itself. Facebook also has vast amounts of data and could make itself into a research platform. Both would be viable options and quite frankly could be killer products.

It’s an amazing thing regardless for a company as young as Facebook to be compared to Microsoft. Lets just hope they can avoid the pitfalls that have hit Microsoft in the past decade.

Someone’s Got A Case Of The Mondays

According to scientists, the idea that people hate Mondays more than any other day of the week is partially unfounded. People hate Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday as well.

Not terribly shocking. If I had to guess I’d ponder it would graph something like this:

Happyness Day Of Week

Peaks on Saturday, wanes on Sunday in anticipation of the ending weekend, rock bottom on Tuesday since the “freshness” of the new week is over yet the bulk of it remains. Wed/Thurs climbs as “hump day” passes and the end is in sight. Friday kicks of the weekend. That’s my theory at least.

Operation: Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum

Operation: Let's Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum

Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal started a campaign to raise money to purchase Wardenclyffe, perhaps the most iconic thing Nicola Tesla worked on aside from the Tesla coil itself. The building, built by no other than Stanford White, of Washington Square Arch fame.

Like Inman, I’d argue Nicola Tesla is one of the greatest geniuses to ever walk this earth. Given he spent the majority of his life and his career in the US, it seems fitting this last remaining facility (the NYC labs are long gone) be made into a museum. I first mentioned the sale on this blog back in 2009.

I’m actually currently reading Tesla: Man Out of Time, so this ironically works out quite well.

Lost da Vinci Painting Found

We’ve seen stories like this before, yet it’s impressive still:

For years it sat on a farmhouse wall gathering dust.

And when Fiona McLaren redecorated, she didn’t even take the time to cover the apparently worthless painting in a protective sheet, so it got flicked in specks of paint.

However, in an astounding twist it has emerged that the picture is likely to have been the work of master artist Leonardo da Vinci and worth over £100million.

Can you imagine a da Vinci was just in your possession and you didn’t even bother to protect it before painting a room? It’s amazing how artifacts get lost and then rediscovered in time. Sobering to think how many were likely thrown out because their owners didn’t even realize what they had.