mm262: Making the world better, one wall wart at a time

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s back! SASB©. Three recent looks at technology in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

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Wall wart? That’s the affectionate term for those transformers that power so many of today’s electronics. And even if we turn off the computer or the printer that’s plugged into one, if we leave the transformer in the wall, it’s drawing power and wasting energy.

But there are people out there with a better mousetrap – er, wall wart.

“We’re talking about the exact same principle as replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones,” he said from Phoenix. “If our products were built into all consumer electronics — computers, flat-screen TVs, cellphones — we could save 800 million pounds of carbon emissions.”

Turns out that while we’ve been wringing our hands over greenhouse gases and energy wastefulness, technology has been pecking away at the issues.

In spite of ourselves, carbon emissions have only grown at half the speed of the growth of the world’s economy.

Now it’s a matter of having the will (and the capital) to apply the technology and start banking the benefits.

washingtonpost

A Big Drop In Emissions Is Possible With Today’s Technology

By Doug Struck | Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 21, 2008; Page A06

… Technological societies are constantly striving to create ways of doing things more efficiently. Advances in efficiency in the past 30 years have led carbon emissions to grow only half as fast as the world’s economy, according to Robert Socolow, a Princeton University engineer. But those savings have been offset by the rise in population and consumption.

From personal observation, we know the truth of the following:

On a broader scale, the mundane trappings of our modern life are becoming more efficient. Household appliances, including the thirstiest of them, furnaces and air-conditioners, have steadily diminished their energy consumption in the past three decades. Today’s new kitchen refrigerators, for example, use 70 percent less power than those made in the 1970s.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

A Big Drop In Emissions Is Possible With Today’s Technology – washingtonpost.com

Compact fluorescent bulbs, which as it happens, are an interim technology (and I don’t know why this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© didn’t give Philips Electronics LED lighting a story of its own!), are gradually replacing every conventional light bulb casa MUDGE, and in households nationwide. What did it take?

The government didn’t have to legislate for more efficient lighting – the marketplace did that.

Engineering the means to fit a fluorescent into the ubiquitous, decades-old incandescent bulb socket. Once over that hurdle, it was just a question of time, and Wal-Mart.

One would expect the same pattern to repeat where those dramatically improved efficient wall warts are concerned.

Creating efficient automobiles may require a more activist intervention – way overdue. But even for our personal transportation, the technology to improve efficiency and emissions may be close at hand.

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Maintaining for the moment our focus on bright electronics, we consider rear-projection televisions, powered by digital light processors (DLP).

nytimes

Betting on a Bright Future for Rear-Projection TVs

By ERIC A. TAUB | Published: January 21, 2008

PLANO, Tex. — Back in the early years of this decade, when plasma high-definition televisions cost $10,000, consumers found that buying a rear-projection TV was a more affordable way to jump into the digital era.

But with prices plummeting for liquid-crystal display and plasma TVs, the rear-projection market is quickly drying up. Sony and Philips got out of that business last month.

“The market is moving rapidly to L.C.D.,” said Todd Richardson, vice president for marketing of connected displays for Philips Consumer Lifestyle North America, a division of Royal Philips Electronics.

But Texas Instruments, the chip maker that developed the digital light processor most commonly found in most rear-projection TVs, is holding the line. It isn’t going to be easy.

Rear-projection TVs are getting thinner and brighter (just the opposite of yr (justifiably) humble svt, sorry to admit), and Texas Instruments is working on gamer friendly gimmicks like 3D to sweeten the pie.

Digital light processor technology uses up to two million microscopic tilting mirrors, all housed on a single chip, that direct light to the screen.

The technology, which was invented in 1987 by Larry Hornbeck, a T.I. engineer, has inherent advantages. Its TV sets weigh less than equivalent-size plasma displays. The sets can be frameless, increasing the size of the display that can fit into a given space. And D.L.P. sets consume less energy than plasma displays, an increasingly important factor as consumers opt for very large sets.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Betting on a Bright Future for Rear-Projection TVs – New York Times

On a related note, anyone else find those Texas Instrument DLP advertisements with that little girl (“it’s the mirrors”) just the slightest bit annoying, if not creepy?

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Our third technological exploration takes us to the wonderful world of Tim Harford, the “underground economist” whose columns are found in Slate and, in this case, Wired.

wired

How Email Brings You Closer to the Guy in the Next Cubicle

By Tim Harford | 01.18.08 | 6:00 PM

As a columnist (which is fancy for “journalist in jammies”), …

Savor that one… “journalist in jammies.” What we commentary bloggers aspire to, I suppose.

… I ought to personify the conventional wisdom that distance is dead: All I need to get my work done is a place to perch and a Wi-Fi signal. But if that’s true, why do I still live in London, the second-most expensive city in the world?

If distance really didn’t matter, rents in places like London, New York, Bangalore, and Shanghai would be converging with those in Hitchcock County, Nebraska (population 2,926 and falling). Yet, as far as we can tell through the noise of the real estate bust, they aren’t. Wharton real estate professor Joseph Gyourko talks instead of “superstar cities,” which have become the equivalent of luxury goods — highly coveted and ultra-expensive. If geography has died, nobody bothered to tell Hitchcock County.

Harford brings to light an astonishing paradox of our modern electronic collaborating world.

But I think the truth is more profound than either of those glib explanations: Technology makes it more fun and more profitable to live and work close to the people who matter most to your life and work. Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, an expert on city economies, argues that communications technology and face-to-face interactions are complements like salt and pepper, rather than substitutes like butter and margarine. Paradoxically, your cell phone, email, and Facebook networks are making it more attractive to meet people in the flesh.

Go figure.

He points out that, even as electronic communications have grown by orders of magnitude, air travel keeps growing (despite the Transportation Security Administration’s best efforts to persuade us to stay home and nest!).

Why?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

How Email Brings You Closer to the Guy in the Next Cubicle

What a fascinating duality: electronic communications enhancing face to face communications.

No wonder the web conferencing technology I support and evangelize for has grown, while our corporate travel expense has grown even more. Thanks, Mr. Harford, for enlightening us!

And that’s SASB© for today. Email your friends all about it, then discuss it with them over coffee.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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One Response to mm262: Making the world better, one wall wart at a time

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