Thursday, June 30, 2005

Three about love

These three stories have caught my eye during the last couple of weeks:
  1. First there is the story about the man who couldn't get a date, so he stood on the street asking for one: Date stall man's 'life changed'. From the article: "A man who set up a stall on a busy high street to advertise for a girlfriend says his faith in human nature has been restored by the experience." A key quote from this article: "Mr Butler got a whopping 93 phone numbers," which indicates that the technique may not be a bad one.

  2. Once he gets a date, he may wish to travel to Taiwan, where they are "designing some of the most luxurious love hotels in the business." See Designed for love for details on this trend.

  3. If things don't work out, there is always Germany, where "A German city is rushing to install a series of drive-in wooden "sex garages" in time for next year's Soccer World Cup and an expected boom in the local sex trade, a city official said on Wednesday." See German city prepares "sex huts" ahead of World Cup for details. Somehow, Taiwan sounds nicer...
See also: Finding your soulmate.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

New idea - microgenerating hot water heater

[See previous]

This article is rather obscure, but buried inside of it is one small paragraph that defines a new idea: Micro-power hailed as cheap, safe energy of future: "The report says 1 million new gas-fired boilers are installed every year in the UK. If half these boilers micro-combined heat and power they would produce the equivalent electricity of a new power station each year, removing the need for new large-scale power plants."

You can see what the paragraph is getting at. Currently, if you buy a new water heater that burns natural gas, what you get is simply a water heater. What if, instead, the water heater contained a natural-gas-powered electric generator, and the excess heat produced by this generator heated the hot water?

Since 80% of the energy consumed by a gas-powered generator like this is waste heat anyway, you capture the waste heat to heat your hot water and get the electricity, essentially, for free. You could do the same thing with any natural gas furnace.

Let's say that your water heater currently runs for one hour per day. During that one hour, you would be producing, say, five kilowatt-hours of electricity. You would use the electricity yourself, or sell it back to the grid. Let's say electricity costs 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, so now your water heater is making you 50 cents per day, or about $180 per year. A typical water heater costs about $900 installed, and lasts about 10 years. So, your water heater makes you $1,800 over its 10-year lifespan.

Obviously a water heater that contains an electrical generator is going to cost more than a "standard" water heater. Let's say that adding the generator (plus its maintenance and the new wiring) doubles the price of the installed water heater, from $900 to $1,800. The upside is that you get your water heater for free. Instead of your water heater "costing you $900", your water heater is free over its 10-year lifespan.

You could do the same with a gas-fired furnace. However, in the winter months, a gas-fired furnace runs more than an hour a day. Therefore you would end up making more money from the electricity that your furnace produces.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Fun fact - Malibu rent

[See previous]

Stars rent out their mansions for the summer

From the article:Other homes listed include Sting's, Ozzy's and Brosnan's.

$30,000 a month sounds bad until you make this comparison. In Raleigh, NC, a typical $200K house might rent for $1,000 a month [example]. If you scale that up, a $15M house should rent for $75,000 a month. $30,000 is a bargain compared to that.

New idea - GW Space ring

[See previous]

Space Ring Could Shade Earth and Stop Global Warming

From the article:Only two problems right now: 1) You'll be able to see the ring at night, and 2) it might cost $100 trillion.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Simulated oil meltdown shows U.S. economy's vulnerability

Simulated oil meltdown shows U.S. economy's vulnerability

From the article:The article is fascinating because its scenario could happen tomorrow. It has nothing to do with "peak oil" -- it has to do with very poor planning and the resulting effects of an instantaneous "oil shock" (see peak oil for details). The article explores the kind of scenario that caused the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s to have such debilitating effects on the United States.

The gist of the article is simple: Even though the world consumes 84 million barrels of oil every day, supply and demand are balanced on a knife edge right now. Therefore, a very small aberation in supply (e.g. - the loss of just 600,000 barrels a day from Nigeria) can have a huge effect on the price of gasoline in the United States. The article concludes with this thought, "The simulation taught him how little influence policy-makers would have in reversing an oil shock wave."

The fact that we are in a situation of such vulnerability is very, very sad. We spend so much time and money worrying about far off threats, but here is a threat to national security and the economy that is right under our noses. Yet we do nothing to mitigate our vulnerability. We are, in essence, sitting ducks.

We can easily get ourselves out of this situation if we simply make the conscious decision to do so. There are many different technologies we can use to supply the energy we need. See The U.S. can be energy self-sufficient within a decade for details.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Makes me smile

[See previous]

Me and about a million other people per month...

See Alexa for traffic details on

Friday, June 24, 2005

New idea - a very new way to pay the rent

[See previous]

Dude, Where's My Digital Car?

From the article:

New idea - ending power blackouts

[See previous]

Appliances Wipe Out Blackouts

From the article:Also:The interesting thing about it is that it is such a simple idea.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

New idea

[See previous]

In How to make a million dollars there is this quote:Here is a classic example of that sort of thing:From the article:What is so interesting about this is that most of us heard about the Concorde crash and thought, "Wow, debris on the runway, that's too bad." Daryn instead thought, "Wow, debris on the runway - we should be able to fix that." Now he has an idea that people would be willing to pay money for.

Makes me smile

[See previous]

The Onion 2056

Something else to worry about...

[See previous]

Three-in-one today:

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The U.S. can be energy self-sufficient within a decade

Two weeks ago I ran three articles here that talked about "peak oil":The gist of these articles is simple: As oil gets more expensive, we will replace it with less-expensive technologies in a completely natural way. Therefore, peak oil will be a non-event.

Then I started collecting a large quantity of material showing all of the different energy technologies that are currently being researched and deployed. You can find the material here:What you can see is that the United States can be completely energy self-sufficient within a decade. We simply need to make the decision to do it. We do not have to create any new technological magic. Here is one example that uses some of the simplest technology possible.

The technology is called CSP (Concentrating Solar Power). And this technology is incredibly simple -- you use mirrors to reflect lots of sunlight at a single focal point. The mirrors can be arranged in a trough configuration, a dish configuration or a tower configuration. At the focal point, you use the heat of the sunlight to create steam, and use the steam to drive a steam turbine and electrical generator. This page provides a very nice, easy-to-understand overview of the concepts:There are two great quotes in this article:Clearly, if we make the decision to do so and put our minds to it, the United States can become energy self-sufficient in a decade or so. This problem is much, much simpler than putting a man on the moon, and we did that in about the same amount of time. The fact that we are not actively doing this already is sad.

In all likelihood we will never make that decision. What will happen instead is that normal economic forces will cause the transition to happen in a natural way. The cost of electricity and gasoline will rise as oil gets more expensive. The cost of solar electricity, nuclear power, wind energy, etc. will fall as technology advances and economies of scale kick in. There will come a point where companies find it quite profitable to build power plants using these other technologies rather than fossil fuels. So they will. Oil will come to play less and less of a role in our economy, and peak oil will be a non-event.

See also Simulated oil meltdown shows U.S. economy's vulnerability

Monday, June 20, 2005

Settings for your body

If you have ever used a large program like Microsoft Word, you are familiar with the dozens of settings available in the Options dialog. They let you customize and tune the program to your specific needs:

One pane of Word's Options dialog

I was walking with a couple of friends recently, and we were talking about how nice it would be if our bodies came with options screens. Some of the options we discussed included:Do you have other settings you would like to be able to manipulate? Put them in the comments....

New idea

[See previous]

How To Kill a Dead Zone - My quest for perfect cell-phone reception.

The Google Machine

I have written before about how frustrating it can be to own a computer, and I have had my share of things like hard disk crashes. But this weekend, as I was helping a yet another friend recover from a persistent XP problem, it hit me again -- the world must be wasting millions of man-hours every day on various computer problems. There must be a better way.

The solution lies in the ultimate reductionist strategy -- The Google Machine™. The thing that will fuel the Google Machine is the fact that computing hardware is getting so inexpensive, combined with the fact that broadband connections are nearly ubiquitous.

Here's how the Google Machine will work:
  1. Google sells extremely low-cost machines in places like Wal-Mart. Maybe these machines cost $200 in the desktop version. [It is also possible to imagine a scenario where the hardware is free -- see below.] You can attach USB devices like printers to it if you like.

  2. These machines would behave exactly like video game consoles in that you pull your new Google Machine out of the box, plug it in and it is ready to go with everything pre-loaded. For the user it is truly "plug and play".

  3. The Operating System is remarkably bare bones or non-existent (and it is completely irrelevant to the user). It is possible that these machines would not need hard disks -- the machine might boot from a ROM and then load updates from the network. In that case, the hardware is essentially a cheap motherboard and a cheap processor with some RAM. Or maybe it needs a 20GB disk as a scratchpad/buffer/cache area. The user could care less, but the simplicity of the hardware will keep the cost of the Google Machine way down.

  4. Google redefines the role of the browser. Right now we think or a browser as an application running on a desktop. In Google's definition, the browser is the desktop and it can run web-enabled applications loaded over the Internet as well as viewing web pages.

  5. Google supplies you with all of the applications that you need -- word processors, spreadsheets, photo management, email, etc. etc. These applications come pre-loaded on the machine's hard disk or load from the Web as you need them. However...

  6. ... When you open or save a file, nothing lives on your hard disk. Instead, everything flows between your machine and an Internet file area that Google manages for you (let's call it GoogleSpace). Google might initially give you 10 gigabytes of space to store your documents, photos, videos, songs, etc., and you ask for more space as you need it.

  7. Because all of your files live on the Internet, you can access all of them from anywhere. You are completely freed from the restrictions of a desktop machine. You never have to back your machine up, diddle with the operating system, etc. Your files are safe in GoogleSpace, meaning you never have to worry about them and they are always accessible from wherever you are. Everything is automatic.

  8. In addition, if you ever have a problem, you completely reset your hardware, let it reload a fresh copy of what it needs from the network and then it is fine, OR... you simply throw the hardware away and get a new box. Since every one of your files is stored in GoogleSpace, your files are always safe.
By doing this, all of the problems and hassles that most normal people have with their computers completely evaporate. Your computer becomes an appliance like a TV or a video game console, and you never have to worry about it. Your files are always safe.

How do you pay for it? Google might charge a monthly fee of $20 or $30 per month. In that case, the hardware is likely to be free or extremely inexpensive. Or you buy the hardware and pay maybe $10 per month for the applications and storage space you need.

This solution would work for the vast majority of people who use computers today. It would make their lives significantly better by eliminating all of the problems and data loss that go with owning a desktop machine or laptop.

It would not work for people who are currently playing games like Half-Life 2 on their PCs. However, the culture of PC gaming will shrink anyway because the new batch of consoles will be so much more powerful than a desktop PC. Maybe Google ends up selling its own game console version of the Google Machine (for example, a Google Machine built into an XBox). It is also easy to imagine small wireless handheld versions of the Google Machine that completely replace PDAs. A wireless laptop version would also be available for slightly more than the desktop version.

Google does not have to be the one doing this, although it seems the most likely candidate. Microsoft could pull this off if it had the vision to see the writing on the wall. Apple could do this. Or perhaps a new company forms to do it. Whoever does it is irrelevant, however -- this product is inevitable within the next two to three years. There are simply too many people wasting too much time and spending too much money managing desktop PCs. Owning a computer should not be this hard. Instead, it should be as easy as owning a video game console.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Makes me smile

[See previous]

It is probably sad that this makes me smile, but it did:

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


[See previous]

The author of this piece read a number of books on personal finance and then created a very nice summary of what they said. It is like a super-compressed "Reader's Digest" version of 5 books, which means you get a lot of nuggets quickly. Very helpful:

New idea

[See previous]


From the page:In 5 to ten years, it is quite possible that all video will come to you through the Internet like this.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Microsoft recall

Here is a letter that I received from Microsoft recently:

Click for larger image

Think about how sad this is. We live in one of the most technologically advanced civilizations on earth. And the letter comes from what should be one of the most technologically advanced companies on earth. And yet...In other words, Microsoft has a very simple problem: Microsoft wants to send a new power cord to a certain group of Xbox owners. However, Microsoft has no easy way to do that. Microsoft does not know who all the Xbox owners are or where they live, and has no easy way to get a message to these people even if it did.

There are several ways to imagine this system getting better:
  1. We create a single, nationwide database that contains the name and address of every citizen. When you move, you change that single record. Every magazine subscription, bill, recall notice, etc. automatically reroutes to your new address.

  2. All devices become intelligent. All devices communicate regularly on the Internet with their manufacturers. That way, if there is ever a recall notice, the device automatically knows that there is a problem and communicates the message to its owner.

    Right now it is hard for us to imagine something inert like a baby seat becoming network-enabled. But then when you think about it, why should something as important as a baby seat be inert? Why shouldn't it be smart enough to know that it has been installed correctly, and that the baby has been strapped correctly?

  3. Using the nationwide database, we create a new communication channel that is specifically used to transmit important pieces of information. One problem we have right now is that every communication channel we use is overwhelmed with junk. People's mailboxes overflow with junk mail, their email boxes are full of spam, and their phone lines are jammed by telemarketers. As described in this post, we need some sort of communication channel that is free from junk, is inexpensive like email and has guaranteed delivery and acknowledgement of receipt. Do we have a way to create a communication channel like that?
Or do we have a way to make existing communication channels reliable, to clean out the junk, and to make delivery guaranteed?

Sunday, June 12, 2005


30 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do on the Internet

Quick Reference: Google Advanced Operators (Cheat Sheet)

11 steps to a better brain

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Hard to believe but true

[see previous]

Cell phone addictive for users

From the article: See also The silent cell phone and Cell phones and sex.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Fun fact - Mall of America

[See previous]

I read an article last week that said that the Mall of America is the most popular tourist attraction in the United States. That really surprised me -- I thought it would be something like Disney World or the Statue of Liberty. But after doing some research, it would appear that the Mall of America definitely ranks in the top 3 of tourist attractions in the U.S.

What does a "top 3 tourist attraction" mean? According to Mall of America, there are about 42 million visitors each year that arrive at the mall. If you divide 42 million by 365, it works out to 115,000 people every day. That is a couple of football stadiums full of people arriving at the Mall every single day, which is pretty remarkable.

I have been to the Mall of America only once. I had a connecting flight in Minneapolis, but it was something like minus 50 degrees F outside and they had to close the airport. The hotel they put us in was across the street from the mall, so we took the Hotel's mall shuttle over and had dinner.

Even though it was lethally cold outside, inside the mall it was beautiful. The place is huge, with acres of retail space under glass (the amusement park in the center of the mall covers 7 acres all by itself). It was the first time I considered the fact that it might truly be possible to create complete cities under glass.

It also reminded me a little bit of the man-made Palm Island being built in the Middle East.

But if you start poking around, you realize that the Mall of America is actually a pipsqueek. For example, look at Latest great mall of China nearly ready for shoppers. According to the article: "The South China Mall -- a jumble of Disneyland and Las Vegas, a shoppers' version of paradise and hell all wrapped in one -- will be nearly three times the size of the massive Mall of America in Minnesota. It is part of yet another astonishing new consequence of the quarter-century-long economic boom here: the great malls of China."

If the Chinese already have us beat even in the category of malls, it is quite likely that China will become the world's next superpower very quickly. In 50 years, America may very well compare to China in the same way that Great Britain compares to the United States today.

So we must take up China's "mall challenge". What can we do? Perhaps we could start by putting something like the Las Vegas Strip under glass. Or we could begin building a new, completely enclosed city where the weather is perfect every day. We will definitely be competing with China in space -- a Space Race with China is inevitable. We may need to take the Mall Race just as seriously.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Cheap electric cars from China

Imagine the following scenario. Oil prices suddenly jump to $150 a barrel because of fighting in the Middle East. Gasoline prices head toward $5 a gallon. Your "typical American car" is getting 25 miles per gallon, and gasoline costs are starting to eat you alive because you commute 30 miles each way to work every day. What are you going to do?

What if you could go down to Wal-Mart and buy an electric car made in China for $4,000?

The car will be on the small side, obviously. That will be one thing that keeps the cost down. It might have a range of 125 miles. You would not use this car to drive 1,000 miles for a family vacation in Florida. You would use it for all of your day-to-day driving, and you would plug it in every night just like you do with your cell phone.

The small size would also mean that it is efficient. It might use 150 watt-hours of electricity per mile. If electricity is costing 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, then you will be spending only 3 cents a mile on electricity (compared to 20 cents a mile for gasoline).

Here are some of the articles that point in this direction:See also this post on peak oil.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Gauss Rifle

This is a fascinating little article. The "rifle" that you build is cool and the explanation of the phenomenon is very clear:There are several other articles on the site that are just as interesting.

See also Gauss gun

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Follow-up on Peak Oil

The post entitled Peak oil will be a non-event generated a lot of email. One comment was, "can you show me a list of all the alternate energy ideas you are talking about?" That list is now available here:If you know of other articles that belong in this list, please send them in.

One of the most interesting articles in the list so far is this one:From the article: Also:The part that is so interesting about it is that all of the technology to pull it off exists today. It is not as though this is hypothetical -- we've had nuclear reactors running in the U.S. for decades.

If you simply cannot stomach the idea of nuclear power, then you can take a technology like the Bill Gross' Sunflower. It is able to generate 200 watts of solar electricity for $400. If you assume that electricity costs 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, then a Sunflower pays for itself in about seven years. However, the cost of electricity is rising fast (here in Raleigh, the request before the utilities commission is to raise residential electricity rates 10% this year). So if you assume that the cost of electricity is 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, a Sunflower pays itself back in three years. After that, the Sunflower's electricity is free.

If you were to plant millions of Sunflowers (or something similar) in places like the Mohave desert or Texas, you've gone a long way toward eliminating both oil dependence and greenhouse gases. And, again, this technology exists today. This article proposes that a solar energy farm of the size shown in the map below could meet all of the energy needs of the United States:

Given that these technologies exist today and are ready to go, "peak oil" will be a non-event. Yes, we will have to make some minor adjustments. For example, we are all likely to be buying new cars powered by electricity or hydrogen or biodiesel (or whatever) over the next decade or so. But most people will end up buying a new car over the next decade anyway -- it is not like this is a major change of behavior.

The adjustments to peak oil will all be like that -- gradual and obvious and straightforward. If we do it with a little forethought, we and the environment will all be much better off without oil. We will look back on the fossil fuel economy like a bad dream.

[See Cheap electric cars from China for one example of how the gradual and straightforward adjustments to peak oil will take place.]

Friday, June 03, 2005

Peak oil will be a non-event

I seem to be getting a lot of mail lately about the phenomenon known as "peak oil" -- the prediction that we have consumed half of all of the oil available on the planet, and will consume the other half quite rapidly. For example:And:And:And so on.

Wired magazine chimed in last week with this article:On June 5, FX first broadcast its new documentary called "Oil Storm: America's Lifeline has been Severed," which discusses a scenario where a slice of America's refining infrastructure fails and leaves us in a place where we suddenly do not have enough gasoline. [There is a trailer available on the FX home page]

The FX scenario is actually something to worry about. In the U.S., because of market forces, supply and demand for oil are almost perfectly balanced. If a rogue hurricane or rogue terrorists were to take out several refineries, America does have a problem. The way to fix that is to recognize that oil is as important as oxygen to the American economy right now. We need to build 10% to 20% extra oil production capacity to handle an emergency like this (despite the fact that it is "economically inefficient" to do so). Whether or not we have the foresight to do that is an open question, but it is strange for the U.S. to have a Strategic Petroleum Reserve without having "Strategic Refinery Capacity" as well. We need to do the same thing for electricity, roads and several other vital resources.

But ignoring a catastrophe like that, what about peak oil itself -- the idea that the U.S, Europe, China, India, etc. will be burning through the planet's remaining oil reserves quickly (say in 50 years) causing massive price spikes in the very near future? What will happen?

Personally, I don't think anything will happen. I look at "peak oil" in the very same way I looked at the "Year 2000 crisis" in 1999. "Peak oil" will be a non-event. We will see prices for gasoline go up, yes, and there may be some short term spikes that are a little disruptive, but overall I believe we will work this out in a natural way.

The very simple explanation for why this will happen can be summarized in about 15 words: As oil gets more expensive, other technologies will compete on price and replace oil.

Here is the simplest example. Right now, in 2005, we are about to reach the point where you can buy a tanker car full of soybean oil for about the same price as a tanker car full of diesel fuel. With a very simple reactor you can turn the vegetable oil into biodiesel. That puts a cap on the price of diesel fuel. Petroleum diesel prices cannot increase much above the price of biodiesel, or people will stop buying petroleum diesel.

A naysayer would point out, "But that will cause the demand for vegetable oil to rise, which will increase the price of biodiesel." True. But within a year farmers around the world can be growing more soybeans, which will increase the supply. People will start buying efficient diesel hybrid cars and trucks as the price of biodiesel stabilizes. The demand for petroleum will decline.

That sentence "People will start buying efficient diesel hybrid cars and trucks..." is important. Right now we are using incredibly inefficient vehicles. When you burn a gallon of gas in your car, maybe 20% of the energy in the gasoline gets turned into motion. The rest turns into useless heat. That leaves a lot of room for increasing the efficiency of cars. So if the price of gas doubles, we can switch to cars that get double the gas mileage, and the price increase in gasoline becomes meaningless.

There are so many technologies available for producing energy. Most of them are not quite economically viable because oil is still quite cheap. But as oil prices continue to increase and head toward $100 a barrel (which could happen within a year or two without too much trouble), all of these technologies start to become viable. Here are some examples:In other words, there are so many new options that become available as oil prices rise that we will simply replace oil with all of these other technologies.

One question, which has been asked by many people in many places, is this: why don't we accelerate the process by artificially increasing the cost of gasoline? (This article explains that in China, where energy prices are held artificially low, people waste a lot of energy -- "every kilogram equivalent of coal only produces a gross domestic product of $0.36 in China, vastly lower than Japan's $5.58 and the world average of $1.86.") The advantage of artificially increasing gasoline prices is that it would make all of these new technologies viable more quickly while, potentially, reducing global warming.

To summarize -- rising oil prices will make other technologies economically viable. There are hundreds of other technologies to choose from. Normal economic pressure will naturally cause oil to become less and less important to our economy. That is why I am not worried about "peak oil".

[See also this Follow-up post on peak oil which talks about how simple it would be to supply all of America's energy needs with nuclear or solar energy. (See also )]

New idea

[See previous]

Student builds 'out of box' life
The furniture is made of cardboard. From the article:You can put all of your furniture in your Cardboard house and have a matching ensemble.

For the kids there is this nice cardboard playhouse, which goes nicely with these cardboard blocks. It makes you wonder how long before there is a complete cardboard lifestyle.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Pervert of the day on CNN

Turner: CNN Focuses Too Much on Perverts

According to the article: "CNN should cover international news and the environment, not the 'pervert of the day,' network founder Ted Turner said Wednesday as the first 24-hour news network turned 25."

Yes. Lots of people have spoken about this (even I spoke about it in this post), but you would like to think that Ted Turner has a certain amount of clout.

CNN's response would be, "but, but, when we put Michael Jackson on the home page, people click on it!" That is true, some people do click on it. But if CNN put pornography on its home page, even more people would click. So why doesn't CNN publish porn? It is because CNN has drawn a line that says, "no porn". All that Ted Truner and everyone else is saying to CNN is, "draw another line that says, 'no perverts.'" CNN should cover the news, not perverts. Let People magazine or the National Enquirer cover the perverts.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The silent cell phone

I was in one of those situations yesterday where: a) every seat on the plane is full, b) the plane has pulled away from the gate but has not yet taken off, and c) air traffic control has just decided that the plane cannot take off because of weather problems in the destination city. So we were trapped in the airplane and sitting on the tarmac waiting for permission to take off. The pilot helpfully comes on the intercom to say, "feel free to use your cell phones."

I was in row 14, and this row was six seats wide. I was in one of the window seats. Upon hearing the announcement, a woman in the opposite window seat instantly whipped out her cell phone and made her first call.

The first problem with cell phones in tight spaces is that she began talking loudly enough that everyone in my row (and likely everyone 3 or 4 rows away) could hear her quite clearly. I have no idea why this happens -- if two people are talking to each other on a plane, they will tend to do it sotto voce. On a cell phone, many people instead pump up the volume. Everyone nearby is a prisoner forced to listen to the conversation.

She hangs up after five minutes and she makes her second call. Much of it is a repeat of her first call, and all of us on the plane are hearing it now, at full volume, for the second time. One line she used in both calls was, "We are sitting in the plane on the run way, and I am getting a lot of studying done." By the second call, the guy next to me mentioned, "Why don't you hang up and do some of that studying?"

The second problem with cell phones in tight spaces is that, when you hear only one side of a private phone conversation, and especially when you hear it twice, it almost always sounds completely idiotic. Or it is painful. If the two people on the call are having an argument, that's when it is painful. Having to listen to one side of a lovey-dovey or phone-sex call is no fun either.

After ten minutes the woman hung up and then made her third call, reciting the same crap again. At this point everyone around her was exchanging "urge to kill" glances. Which is the third problem with cell phones in tight spaces -- the person making the call is generally oblivious.

From this description it is obvious why cell phones can be annoying in public places. But I have been thinking for awhile that there must be some extra "annoyance factor" at work, because the people around her truly were ready to kill her. As I listened to this woman babble on for the third time, I had this idea. The woman on the cell phone was in essence saying to everyone around her, "screw you." Her obliviousness was a part of that. But the other part was, "All you people who are sitting next to me, you are not good enough -- I need to be talking to someone else who is more important than you." It is like a public snubbing. Maybe that is the other factor that makes it so annoying?

The previous post talks about a voice scrambler. That is not what we need. What we need is a device that somehow allows someone to talk on a cell phone in complete silence. It seems like this would be possible (maybe not easy, but possible) -- Sort of like a noise-canceling muffler for a cell phone. The cell phone's microphone would pick up the caller's voice, and then a speaker on the cell phone would emit the opposite waveform to completely cancel it out. The person would be talking, but no one around him/her would hear a thing.

Whoever creates such a device -- the silent cell phone -- would be doing the world a gigantic favor.

New idea - voice scrambler

[See previous]

No Privacy in Your Cubicle? Try an Electronic Silencer

From the article:

New idea

[See previous]

Low-tech valet parking gets high-tech treatment

From the article:Now, if you blanket the garage itself with cameras as well, so there is zero theft/tampering while the car is in the garage, you have created a small bubble where protection is perfect.

ARCHIVES © Copyright 2003-2005 by Marshall Brain


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