Another example of what should have been done already

Today I read an article posted on Science Daily (Aerodynamic Truck Trailer Cuts Fuel And Emissions By Up To 15 Percent) that made me kind of upset. The story is about a new, more aerodynamic sideskirt design for truck trailers. The design reduces drag, and increases fuel efficiency by about 10%. That is great, right, so why am I so mad about it? Well, because this very small improvement could have been made years ago with little effort, but corporate inertia has kept this kind of innovation from being properly implemented. EVEN MORE EGREGIOUS though, is that there have been radically different designs for trucks for decades that could improve fuel efficiency by 25% WITHOUT CHANGING THE ENGINE. The design that I'm aware of is by Luigi Colani, who I've only become aware of recently by watching "Future Car" on the Discovery Channel. In the 1970s, Colani came up with a radically more aerodynamic truck design, which apparently sat on his shelf unimplemented for a couple decads. In 2001, he introduced a new design, this one 50% more efficient than conventional trucks, but still no one is building it or even stealing some of his ideas. Why? It doesn't make sense.

While I was trying to remember Colani's name, I found two examples of a "more efficient truck." First was just from a couple months ago. Navistar has introduced a new model called LoneStar, which is supposed to be 5-15% more fuel efficient than traditional trucks. The second was from 1995, when the US DOT gave an award to Kenworth for their T600A, which had been produced since 1985. The award was described by Barry Langridge, Kenworth's general manager, "It literally changed the face of the trucking industry forever by creating a new generation of fuel efficient trucks which have saved billions of gallons of fuel. The 70,000 T600s built since '85, when compared to non-aerodynamic conventional models, will save an estimated 1.25 billion gallons during their useful lives." As far as I can tell, these trucks still are getting 6-8 miles per gallon.

Also read a similar post at the "Our Futrure" blog, which sent me to the Colani site and echoes my lack of enthusiasm for current truck design.


recent deaths

I just wanted to note a rash of recent deaths of prominent scientists.

Arthur C. Clarke, writer and futurist, died at 90 years old on 19 March 2008. NYTimes Wikipedia

John A. Wheeler, physicist, died at 96 years old on 13 April 2008. NYTimes Wikipedia

Edward N. Lorenz, meteorologist and "discoverer" of chaos, died at 90 years old on 16 April 2008.

A couple of other notable deaths include:
David Gale, UC Berkeley mathematician, died at 87 on 7 March 2008. Frederick Seitz, physicist, died at 96 on 2 March 2008. Astronaut G. David Low died at 52 on 15 March 2008.

Two very different actors also recently died: Charlton Heston and Paul Scofield.


Science Debate 2008 - May in Oregon!?!

Obama has backed out of the debate scheduled for next week, and McCain and Clinton were non-committal. So organizers are trying to schedule the Science Debate for May in Oregon. [LINK].

Please visit the official Science Debate 2008 web site and find a way to support this important cause. Basic research funding, ethical stands on scientific/technological issues, and policy decisions that should be informed by scientific findings all need to be discussed in an open and fair forum, and the candidates must be expected to be knowledgeable, thoughtful, and articulate about how they will deal with science and technology in the next 4-8 years.

update: If you happen to be reading this and have any doubt that we need a president who cares deeply about science and technology, go read ScienceNOW's April Fool's day joke: Bush to Science: "Let's be friends". This is an official website under the American Association for the Advancement of Science! Can you imagine this kind of attitude from the mainstream scientific organizations with ANY OTHER ADMINISTRATION?

Brian Greene brings science to the masses?

I just saw a blurb in Science about the World Science Festival, which is apparently an attempt by Brian Greene (The Elegant Universe) and others to popularize science on a large scale. It seems like a good idea, and there look to be some really fun events. However, I do wonder about the effectiveness of making science a cultural event in the middle of New York City, where there are abundances of both cultural events and people interested in science. It will be nice to see such an effort in a less "sophisticated" place, even if it is a big city like Houston, Denver, or the Twin Cities: places that could reach large audiences that don't have such easy access to cultural and scientifically interesting events. Just a thought.