Monthly Archives: March 2008

Enviro-consciousness in Japan

A recent survey taken across Japan about environment problems and concerns had some curious results. About 81% of those questioned had at least some concern about the environment. Nineteen percent could care less. (I wonder what the corresponding ratio is for the U.S.?) Global warming and unusual weather were the top concerns.

What do people in Japan do about it? About 61% recycle (curiously low in a country where recycling seems to be almost a mandate, at least in the larger cities), 60% turn off water taps when not needed and 41% refrain from pouring used cooking oil down the drain. (Is this something people have commonly done there in the past?)

More curiously, for we gajin at least,

41% use left-over bath water for washing clothes
33% don’t re-wrap shopping (?)
22% set heated toilet seat to a cooler setting (I guess a heated seat is standard. See Inventorspot for more.)

Toyota is considered to be the company putting the most effort into helping the environment. Honda and Nissan also make the top 5. Shockingly, Japan Tobacco comes in at number 6! This might reflect their marketing skills, but JT is involved in pharma and food, too, so maybe they have a wider profile in Japan than one would think.

For more on this survey, and many other surveys about contemporary Japanese life,go to What Japan Thinks


Implications of mass car ownership in China

I referenced this questions as a starting point for a concept map in my last post.

Here is my first stab at it:

Cars in China

I used a really intuitive application from Cmap Tools to produce this map in just a few minutes.

Concept maps

We’ve probably all used “concept maps” at one time or another to puzzle out a procedure or as a study aid. Or as a means to understand the implications of some thing or event. The key features of a concept map are:

Starting concept or question
Linkages to related concepts, as far as you want to go

Concept maps are never finished, since everything links to something else.

Here’s an example of a question that has many real-world implications for resource use, air pollution, oil prices and so on:

What are the implications of personal automobile on a mass scale in China, or India? (Nations where very few people have owned cars until recently.)

For a wonderful article about driving in Beijing see Hessler in the 11/26/07 New Yorker.

Background on concept maps.

Graph paper

Customize your own for free. Many different stock patterns are also available as free pdf downloads. Samples:

chinese hex perspective polar

Climate or weather?

There is often some confusion about these terms.

Climate change refers to a long-term trend. The weather is what happened yesterday or last season. Mt. Kilamanjaro has been losing its ice cap. But this past winter it was covered in snow. Some cite this as “proof” that the climate is not on a warming trend. But it is probably just weather.

This was a cold winter over much of the world. Weather? Or trend (climate)?

Climate Debate Daily provides an interesting forum for opposing views about climate change. It has a deep listing of articles, papers, editorials and other writings that present both sides.

What did the Big Bang sound like?

Not really a BANG, apparently. But maybe like this.

Note: What you hear is the first million years of sound (1 second = 100,000 years), held at constant volume, and shifted up approximately 50 octaves. Notice the three stages; descending scream, building roar, growing hiss.

More sounds of space here. Here’s a sample: Spooky sounds emitted by Saturn and recorded by the Cassini spacecraft.

Very cool science blog: Cocktail Party Physics. It even has drink recipes!

Perfect power?

The light bulbs in my bathroom blinked off and on, twice, while I was shaving a couple of days ago. Later I noticed that digital clocks were blinking and my computer had turned off. Another power failure! And the weather was fine.

Minor power failures seem to be happening more and more often recently, even in good weather. I don’t think it’s happening just here in Katrina land, either. Major failures also seem to crop up a little more than in the past.

Reason: Most of the nation’s power grid is 50 years old. It is over-taxed and under-engineered.

The Galvin Electricity Initiative was created to address this infrastructural problem. They say a perfect power system is possible, through redundancy and “smart systems”. At least in part. I haven’t studied everything on their site yet. Kansas City Power & Light, for example, will give customers a free programmable thermostat, including installation, if they agree to let the power company adjust their AC setting by a few degrees during weekdays at peak load hours. This saves power and money. (Still, seems a little Big Brother like.)

Our infrastructure problems are immense: Roads, bridges, the electrical grid and sewer and water systems are all past their “sell by” date. (Not to mention the education system. Or health care.)

They will all need to be rebuilt sooner or later. But new thinking is needed. We probably won’t use these systems in the same way in the future.