New Cars Ain’t What They Used to Be

A friend of ours whose age is somewhere north of seventy recently bought a new pickup truck.  Soon afterwards, in text messages she started calling herself “Keyfob.”  When we asked why, she said, “Well, that’s what my truck calls me.  When I get out of it it says, ‘Keyfob has left the vehicle.’” She has…

Earth Deserves Better Than TV Coverage of Climate Change

As I write this, a day after Earth Day 2017, the memory of hundreds of “Marches for Science” and in particular, a CNN report on climate change makes me wonder whether the medium of television is more harmful than helpful in bringing the attention of the general public to complex issues of public interest.  These…

A Modest Proposal to Save California $200 Million

In order to forestall a lot of hate mail, the following blog is written in the tradition of eighteenth-century satirist Jonathan Swift’s essay, “A Modest Proposal.”  It is not meant to be taken seriously.  With that out of the way, I have a modest proposal to save the good citizens of California over $200 million. …

What Really Happened With Internet Privacy?

Anyone paying attention to U. S. headlines recently heard something about internet privacy.  But what you heard probably depends on where you heard it.  President Trump signed a bill on Monday, Apr. 3 that used a thing called the Congressional Review Act to reverse a pending FCC rule.  So whatever it was, the rule that…

Atlanta Burns a Bridge

For several years—possibly since 2006, according to one report—construction crews working near an elevated section of Interstate 85 near Piedmont Road in northeast Atlanta had stored large quantities of bright-orange high-density-polyethylene (HDPE) pipe.  It’s used for a variety of things in public works, such as conduits for streetlight and traffic-signal cables, and comes in large…

Ransomware Comes To the Heartland

Imagine the following scenario circa 1962.  From an aircraft carrier in international waters in the Gulf Coast near Houston, the USSR flies a team of helicopters that land in a parking lot outside a urology clinic in Baytown, Texas, on the Gulf Coast.  Soldiers with AK-47s surround the clinic and hold everyone in it hostage…

In Praise of Doppler Weather Radars

On Mar. 28, 1920, a series of more than 30 deadly tornadoes made widespread paths of destruction through the central and southern U. S. and caused deaths from Michigan all the way to LaGrange, Georgia.  Shortly before 6 P. M., that southern mill town was struck by a tornado with an estimated Fujita rating of…

Game of Chance: The Grade-Crossing Accident in Biloxi

One of the first safety issues faced by the early railroad engineers (meaning the designers, as well as the guys who drove the trains) was how to handle grade crossings:  the place where a railroad line intersects a surface road.  The only foolproof way to handle such an intersection is to build a bridge so…

Telephone Museum, Anyone?

The spirit of modern science and technology is forward-looking, always reaching out for the next new discovery or invention and neglecting that which went before.  The creative destruction of the global technological economy means that every new technology is on a moving conveyor belt taking it to the dustbin of history, where its physical component…

Is GM Building A Roadblock for Self-Driving Cars?

General Motors is trying to do something about self-driving cars, otherwise known as autonomous vehicles.  Besides their technical R&D efforts, a recent Associated Press report revealed that GM lobbyists have been busy in numerous U. S. states trying to get a particular bill passed that allegedly would protect the public from self-driving-car hazards.  But what…