Morning Ed: Technology {2016.03.14.M}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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46 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    CFL: about time Those things were crap anyway. Glad I bought a stock of incandescent. Maybe when LEDs get a bit cheaper I’ll buy some of those.

    Pay for dates? Well, when I was dating, I did pay for dates. If I’m going to be paying for a women’s time in addition to the date activities, I’m going to expect something in addition to pleasant conversation.

    Shipping containers: The source material is cheap, lot’s of containers around. How soon will we see that folks are using this concept for growing pot?

    Robots: No way that hand is a woman’s hand.

    Wearables: Nothing in that article was any tool that I’d want or need. Self drying clothes? Yes. Self defense coat that generates a taser quality shock to anyone who touches it? Yes.Report

  2. Kolohe says:

    Shipping containers are cheap, but reefers (refrigerated containers) are not.

    I can see the value in a restaurant having immediate access to ingredients that were picked that same day, even for that same meal, but someone has to do a lot more math before I’m convinced that a hydroponic rig that uses an insulated container and grow lights (even LED ones) is more efficient and ‘sustainable’ than someone using acres of land, natural rainfall and sunlight, even with carbon cost of ‘food miles’.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kolohe says:

      I’d need more info about the containers, mainly how they are insulated and what temperature they are trying to maintain. If they are poorly insulated and kept very cool, the energy requirements would be too high. But good insulation and keeping things at, say, 65F, would be doable (modern heat pumps are really damned efficient).

      The LEDs are, you’ll notice, pink. Plants REALLY like that color, so the lights don’t need to be nearly as bright as full spectrum LEDs, and they can burn 24/7, so your grow time is easily cut in half.

      Hydroponic systems are very low power, so the water system is pretty efficient.

      Finally, you forgot other costs of using farm land, such as tractor fuel & operating costs, herbicides, pesticides, etc. I’ve said many times before, there are significant advantages to indoor urban farming. There are disadvantages too (an infestation of disease or pests can get out of hand very, very fast), but I expect you’ll see more & more of such things.

      And given climate change, I expect you’ll see stuff like this start moving underground in order to make the temperature maintenance easier.Report

      • Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Well, @oscar-gordon stock shipping containers are just steel, and get quite hot inside and have no natural air circulation. But, they can be outfitted just like commercial refer trucks (full AC at whatever temp level you want, full insulation.) But, on the gripping hand, a container in a stack, on a ship will get the benefit of being blocked from the sun, keeping its temp down, along with moving away from any easy external cooling source like solar. Also the external parts of a heat pump (ie most of it) would be quite a bit away on said ship, reducing efficiancy and increasing costs.

        A lone container in a fiield would only require insulation and a simple ac unit with external power source. In mass… Then you got issues (the heat load alone would cause havac, even in single stacks.

        Its what ever you want to pay forReport

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Aaron David says:

          It’s the insulation, average environment temp, solar incidence & reflection, & target temp that are important.

          Put a steel box in a northern city on the southern side of a much taller building & my HVAC load equations are much better than in the middle of a mall parking lot.

          Now use that perfect blue pigment to powder coat the whole exterior & it gets better.Report

          • Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Well, if you want to keep it at 65F and grow things in the boxes, you need to remove all heat, without removing humidity. That last is very important, and is the confounding problem for keeping things at the designated temp. AC will strip the humidiy out in a heart beat, so you would have to add H2O to the air at a different temp and then correct for the correct temps as you go, adding to the heat load that would need to be delt with on the removal end of things. In the undergound cavern idea, getting the removed heat away from the containers would be necessary to keep the level of latent heat down outside the containers, otherwise it would add another heat source to be defined and handled. So, air handlers of some sort would be the easy answer, removeing the heat to the outside of the cavern.* This again would take energy (its heatload being easier to mitigate but still needing to be calculated.) All in all doable, but might not be as cost efficiant as people would think.

            I have a few books laying out latitudes for heat calcs, but when sizing AC equip, never count on a shadow of a tree of building, as it might not be there forever. Also, northern side is what you want, if you do count on shade.

            *I would try to find a use for the heat, but you might have to much of it to easily deal with, given a space that would be econimically feasable.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Aaron David says:

              Sorry, was on a red-eye to NY last night.

              AC doesn’t have to remove moisture from air. It does, because dry air helps us sweat, etc., but it doesn’t have to. Also, 65F is comfortable for us humans, but plants are just fine with higher temps, so the target heat could be 80F or 90F.

              I suspect the challenge is not putting moisture back in, but keeping it constant. Although if the container is well sealed, that won’t be an issue except when people come & go.

              As for shade, these are portable, so while I wouldn’t size the unit based on expected shade, if possible, I’d place them in the shade. And in summer, the sun is in the northern sky, so your shade is on the south face? Why would I want my HVAC on the north face?

              Underground – fans & stacks & natural convection (nothing complicated, heat rises, so as long as it has a place to rise to, it will; some low power fans could help to just make sure the heat finds it’s exit, but once the convective flow begins, it’ll be largely self-sustaining).Report

              • Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                AC, as it commonly works, removes heat content from the air. Heat is stored in the moisture. IE you are also removing the moisture content from the air. For example, Genentech uses massive air dryers to control the humidity in their mouse labs, bringing the heat down, and then adding gas controled heat to bring up the heat again before the controlled air gets into the labs. Its not that you cannot control the humidity seperatly, its that the amount of seperate energy needed to control for this is often offputting cost wise.

                As far as moisture content in the controlled areas, plants need the moisture to grow, and as the plants get bigger, need more. Hence moisture needs to be brought in. Not unlike watering a garden. And while there is no sun to bake the moisture out, they do need a supply, as far as I know,

                Of couse you want to provide shade, as that will cut down on run times of the AC units that are necessary, but agian, that is not how they are sized. In many ways a minor thing, but that is the industry standard. The more I think on it, portable overhead solar panels would be the best solution, killing two birds withe one stone. As far as the north side, that is where the shade is in the north , as the sun is over the equator. South of the equator, the shade is to the south.

                Having tall stacks, like an old power plant, would work for the scavanging effect in an undergound facility,as long as they have the correct stochiometric efficiancy. Ugly, but doable.

                And no worries about the red-eye, I don’t get to talk about this very often, and it was one of my favorite things about trade school.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Aaron David says:


                When you said “AC will strip the humidity out”, I thought you were talking about active dehumidifiers, not just the inability of colder air to hold onto evaporated moisture. If I have (mostly) closed system and I drop the temperature without actively removing the moisture from the air, water does not leave the system, it just undergoes a phase change & condenses out (usually as condensation on surfaces, but it could rain inside if the conditions were right). If it condenses out, I can capture the condensate & recycle it. Either way, my overall mass of water remains relatively constant, only the volume varies.

                You are right about shade (I just looked up “aspect” and I get your meaning).

                Solar panels is honestly a no brainer, since the system will need power no matter what (for the LEDs at the very least), so every little bit helps.

                Ugly stacks – do you mean visually, or from a convective viewpoint?Report

              • Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Well, moisture will condese after being stripped from the conditioned air below the inside coil, after which it can be reused. But that said, if the inside* coil is directly in the conditioned space, like a window unit, easy to deal with, but deal with it you must. And that dealing with contains multitude of problems, from cleanliness to how it affects proper humidity. Not insurmountable, but more work nonetheless.

                As for ugly stacks, most people find the exhaust chimneys of a power plant ugly and symbolic of pollution. Getting the convective aspect correct is easy as pie, but so is getting hydro-electric power, at least mathamatically.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                AC removes moisture from the air because the typical dew point of the outside atmosphere in places where air conditioning is used is typically higher than 45-50 degree Fahrenheit, which is the typical temperature of the air that is the product of air conditioning.Report

  3. Richard Hershberger says:

    Wearables: These strike me as at best niche products. I can see how some of this stuff would make sense for an athlete in training for the Olympics, and there always are some people with too much money burning a hole in their pockets looking to buy the latest glitz, but for ordinary people, smart leggings that measure muscle fatigue is an expensive, largely pointless item that will wear out soon.

    More generally, wearables seem to be solutions in search of problems. Or rather, the problem they are trying to solve is that the tech industry is horrified at the idea of being a mature market selling commodities. Fifteen years ago a new desktop computer would come out with a new, faster chip. Ordinary people would look at it and reasonably conclude that yes, this new computer can do more stuff that they actually wanted to do, and it would do it better. We are long past that point. If you want to watch videos and surf the net and do some word processing and any but the most hardcore gaming, there is no need for the newest, fastest, shiniest model. So for the past few years the tech industry has been desperately trying to come up with a new product that they can convince me I absolutely must have. So far they haven’t come even close.Report

    • Kim in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      Acelerometers were useful tools before they put them in the wii,you know.
      Wearable tech is interesting, but often not something you need continually.

      Wouldn’t you love to wear some tech that would tell you when people were lying?

      How about tech that expresses your moods?

      Just because people are coming up with somewhat frivolous stuff doesn’t mean the basic concept is stupid.

      If you were in a wheelchair, having tech that will grab you the morning breakfast cereal is really, really useful.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kim says:

        Wouldn’t you love to wear some tech that would tell you when people were lying?

        Sure! That would be terrific! Tech that would tell me when someone is having some metabolic process that some half-assed pseudo-scientific bullshit claims shows that he is lying? Worse than useless.

        How about tech that expresses your moods?

        Good God, no!

        Just because people are coming up with somewhat frivolous stuff doesn’t mean the basic concept is stupid.

        True, but even the pie-in-the-sky claims for future functionality seem pretty silly.

        If you were in a wheelchair, having tech that will grab you the morning breakfast cereal is really, really useful.

        True, but I don’t see how this relates to a discussion of wearables.Report

        • Kim in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

          Not all psychophysiological data is ESR, dude.

          (We do have tech that expresses your moods via EEG — I know someone who worked on that tech).

          You can think of “wearables” as things you “put on”, or you can think about them as interfaces…

          Pie in the sky functionality is “here, have a second body” And we’re working on that one.

          I’m certain if you could get something that would tell you when someone was falling asleep, and sound a loud tone (or slap the person — I say this referencing German protocols), you could get a ton of money out of the trucking business.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kim says:

        “How about tech that expresses your moods?”

        When they invent that, give me a ring.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:


      Wearables like Soylent, strike me as products that separate the true believers from the rest. Wearables seem to attract people with an unwavering belief that the more data the better.

      Tech seems to attract more true believers than other industries and the true believer never understands the dissenter. Uber doesn’t understand why people find surge pricing is offensive to many. Companies like tuft and needle and Caspar go against sales and discounts with academic jargon.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I don’t think Uber’s management is oblivious to the fact that many people have a strong sense of entitlement and a weak grasp of economic principles. It’s entirely possible that they made a calculated choice not to cater to that. If they were simply unaware, they would have changed the policy in the face of the initial pushback.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          One of the reasons I’ve heard people give for preferring Uber over taxis is that the driver arrives faster and more reliably. Part of what makes that work is getting enough drivers out on the road to meet demand, which is exactly what surge pricing is designed to do. People may not like surge pricing in the abstract, but they like the results enough to use Uber anyway.Report

          • Mo in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            The problem is that Uber ignored the decades of work done by hotels and airlines on similar pricing. Both of those industries could easily profit maximize in the short term, but have discovered that about 3x is the point where people get very upset and begin to feel like you’re being gouged.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mo says:

              Not really. Airlines & hotels can not raise prices and very rapidly cause more rooms or flights to become available (airlines can add flights more easily than hotels can add rooms, but neither can do it in a matter of hours). In both those cases, rising prices are meant to signal that the system can probably add capacity, but it is also a signal that price sensitive consumers should probably seek alternatives.

              Surge pricing with Uber is all about increasing capacity by incentivizing drivers to come online NOW.Report

  4. veronica d says:

    Paid dates, eh? I wonder how much money I could make as a frumpy middle-aged tranny? But on the other hand, we already have that corner of the market covered.

    People can’t be this naive.


    Despite all rumors to the contrary, I am not a robot.Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    For the reasons that Damon and Veronica brought up, the pay to date app seems like a bad idea that will go terribly wrong sooner rather than later. Its basically an escort app or an app that allows people to be escorts. There are going to be plenty of men that are going to see things a particular way that could lead to some bad results. I’m also sure that some prosecutors are going to have some things to say about the app and might act accordingly. I can see the police using the app as an entrapment device in sting operations for both those that would pay for dates and for our would be escorts.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to LeeEsq says:

      @leeesq pretty much took the thoughts outa my head on this.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Aaron David says:

        My big problem with some tech people is they aren’t cautious. I’m not a tech guy but I could give several reasons why the escort app was bad from just lightly thinking about it. So could others.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq says:

          About eight years ago, a friend of mine suggested to me, essentially, that I make Uber. I immediately thought of a number of reasons why it wouldn’t work. Liability. Bad press the first time a driver commits a crime against a rider. Rent-seeking by taxi owners. Regulations.

          And yet, here we are.Report

          • All of those are reasons that creating Uber required deep pockets, not just clever software.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            There are big differences between an Uber app for a taxi like service and an escort app. Governments can over look Uber’s conduct in a way that they can not overlook an escort app. Sex workers and their clients are very popular targets for prosecutors and police because they are seen as easy wins. The danger created by failure mode is a lot higher with an escort app even if you ignore the prosecutor and police part.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Aaron David says:

        I reread the article. The apps way of getting away around the potential legal problems is too clever by a half. Men are basically saying that they will pay x amount for a date with a woman, which I guess is the budget for the date more than anything else, and women respond to those that they are interested in. It could work but I still think that prosecutors in America are going to have a “nice try” attitude towards. Knowing men, I also know that many of them are going to have a less enligtened attitude to spending x amount of money on a date and getting a rejection, especially the ones paying for expensive dates.Report

  6. Oscar Gordon says:

    Fukushima was a tragedy, not an accident.

    TL;DR If you are going to build a reactor in a place with a history of natural disasters, even long period ones, you need to actually factor those into the risk analysis and design mitigation.Report

    • Relatedly, the Missouri River floods in 2011 that resulted in a fire at the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska (classified by the NRC as a “red” event), and a three-year shutdown. Apparently no one had ever asked the question, “What if the last dam on the Missouri opens its floodgates to maximum for several months?” That spring the Army Corps of Engineers had to finally consider what the results might be if one or more of the Missouri dams failed catastrophically.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

        The bit in that article that I found most telling was the placement of the diesels. I get why putting them down low between the reactors and the coast was a good idea, but one would think they’d be in solid enclosures with intake & exhaust stacks that terminated well above the historical high water mark. Diesels can be submerged and run fine, as long as they can breathe.Report

    • Kim in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Japans designs are still better and safer than ours.

      …. despite the use of firetrucks as cooling systems.Report