Monday, January 31, 2011

Let's Life Cycle Analyze Everything

Consumer products already undergo some testing, generally to meet governmental regulations or a recognized set of standards.  This testing is done to ensure that the product attains a level of quality and does not pose an unacceptable risk of injuring the user.  But there is a risk from these products that is being overlooked: the environmental risk.

Some companies perform life cycle analyses of their products, attempting to quantify all environmental impacts of a product from cradle to grave.  A life cycle analysis examines, among other things, the environmental impact of the following phases in a product's life:

  • Extraction and transport of materials used to make the product
  • Manufacture and transport of the product
  • Use of the product, including maintenance, repair, and storage
  • Disposal of the product by consumer
  • Destruction of the product through landfilling, incineration, or recycling
Life cycle analysis can reveal surprising facts about how a product impacts the environment.  Unfortunately, life cycle analysis is not widespread among industry, and the companies that practice it usually do not do so on a regular basis.

As the American economy recovers and our manufacturing sector is hopefully renewed, it would make sense to adopt industry-wide life cycle analysis practices now--not to wait until we're "ready."  If all products were to undergo life cycle analysis, the vast amount of information, processed by our vast computing power, can reveal areas of improvement that can be addressed in methods more easy and efficient than traditional methods of environmental remediation such as emissions reduction.  The life cycle analysis data can be made available to the public and can lead to a new, product-level movement in environmental stewardship.

As consumers, we all buy stuff, keep it in our house, and dispose of it in our environment.  It would be useful to know how everything, from our ballpoint pens to our plasma TVs, affect the environment from cradle to grave.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Wattage of Life

As heard on the "Cities" episode of the WNYC Radiolab podcast at about the 38-minute mark, the estimated daily wattage of the following people:

  • Someone just lying in bed all day: 90 watts
  • A hunter-gatherer in a New Zealand tribe: 240 watts
  • A typical American who commutes and uses common household appliances, including a computer: 11,000 watts! That's more daily energy than a blue whale requires.

Eighty percent of Americans live in cities, and cities are just growing and growing like insatiable monsters.

But, because cities are such dense producers and markets of science and innovation, if anyone will solve humanity's energy problems, it will probably be a city-dweller.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sonamu PC

The Sonamu PC is a system comprising a computer case, power supply, and power module that automatically shuts off power to peripherals when they're not in use rather than let them remain on standby power.

From the video and comments, I believe the only vital component of the power-saving system is the power module that fits next to the power supply of the PC. It seems that you do not have to use Sonamu's case or power supply.

If you're building a PC and want an easy power-saving option, this is something to consider.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Games are the Romance Section for Men

In the Femininity in Games episode of the Moving Pixels podcast, it was mentioned that very few games with female lead characters allow the player to pursue a romance. I guess this is because the gamers are still predominantly male.

I've played some male-centric games that feature romance, such as Riviera: The Promised Land, Sakura Wars: So Long My Love, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and a few Final Fantasy and Persona games. I've noticed that they portray romance much differently from romantic movies aimed at women, such as Notting Hill and The Notebook.

In romantic films, the man and woman usually have a rocky path toward becoming a serious couple. There will be initial rejection, foot-stomping, door-slamming, crying, and misunderstandings. It all works out in the end, but the two may not be truly together until the movie's parting shot. So women enjoy a romance filled with uncertainty, turbulence, and even long periods of isolation for both the male and female leads.

In games that feature romance, the romance is portayed in almost the opposite fashion. It builds slowly but surely. As the chapters pass, the male and female characters will have more frequent, more meaningful conversations. They usually stick together and don't experience a major falling-out. Their relationship is made stronger by the dangers they face in the game, and their mutual assistance leads to mutual emotional dependence. So, if men are the main audience for games, then men enjoy a journey of stable, dependable togetherness.

I believe men enjoy romance in their entertainment as much as women, but games are better than films in portraying romances that men enjoy.

There is a similarity between romance movies and the "harem romances" of certain Japanese roleplaying games such as the aforementioned Riviera and Sakura Wars. In both, the lead character is faced with a difficult choice of suitors. She or he may bounce from one romantic interest to another, not sure who to be with. In the end, though, the lead makes a choice, and the movie or game rejoices in it, celebrating it as the best choice.