The Future Of Police Cars

November 29, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Each year the LA Design Challenge asks major automobile companies to predict the future. This year they were asked to suggest what law enforcement might look like in 2025. Some of the ideas that stood out included:

  • General Motors outlined a future where highway patrol uses different, specialized vehicles based on the task at hand. Depending on the objective, the police can choose a vehicle specially designed to either “observe”, “pursue”, or “engage”.
  • Honda saw the police of the future operating out of a vehicle that acted as a command and control center. That vehicle would simply monitor the roads, and then could launch unmanned road-drones that could pursue and pull-over wayward drivers.
  • BMW combined the best of GM’s and Honda’s ideas. It too envisions a future where the police operate out of a single mothership like vehicle with the ability to launch drones. However it envisions the cops being able to launch different types of specialized drones depending upon the situation.
    • In heavy traffic a flying drone can descend upon a suspicious driver, and in other scenarios the police can launch a ground drone to pursue their target.

Read Subaru’s, Honda’s and Mercedes’ speculations about the future of law enforcement over here.

Source: Autoblog

Via: Popular Science

How Much Is A Good Central Banker Worth?

November 27, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

The United Kingdom has made the unconventional decision to hire a foreigner to lead the Bank of England – the central bank of the country. How much should he be paid? Matthew O’Brien reflected on the question and suggested that London was making an incredibly smart move:

  • The great crisis has cost the United States a trillion dollars in lost output every year. This means that if there existed a central banker who could more quickly fix America’s economy then they would be worth trillions of dollars.
  • In contrast Ben Bernanke, the chair of the central bank of the United States, has an annual salary of $199,700.
  • But you can’t just pay somebody (in this case entirely unrealistic) monetary amounts and hope that they will do a good job. They must have proven themselves. Preferably in a smaller, less important economy. They can then be poached away to the big leagues.
  • But if you truly want a successful economy, you’ll want a team of the best…a ‘fantasy team’ of central bankers. You’d simply pay to hire the best central bankers from smaller economies across the world.

Read more about why Obama should consider hiring Sweden’s central banker, where Bernanke would fit into this all-star list, and why most economists would be okay with a $199,700 salary for the position of America’s chief-central banker, over here.

Source: The Atlantic

Via: The Economist

Mannequins That Look Back At You

November 23, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

The next time you look at a mannequin, keep in mind that it might be looking back at you. Andrew Roberts described the latest in mannequin-technology:

  • Mannequins are now coming equipped with cameras that allow the store to monitor you.
  • The cameras record your age, gender, and race and the store uses that information to maximize their sales
    • One store found that Chinese visitors generally left from one exit. It used that data to dispatch Chinese speaking staff to that exit.
  • The mannequins can even learn to identify sales staff and then exclude them from its analysis.
  • Soon the mannequins will also be able to hear what you say, to find out what you think about the outfits they’re wearing.
  • This technology allows traditional retailers to compete with online stores which use detailed information from your computer to identify your shopping habits.

Read more about the legal issues related to the practice, other ways this technology can be used, and why it’s better than overhead store cameras over here.

Source: Bloomberg

Why Denmark Gave Up On A Fat Tax

November 19, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

A year ago Denmark introduced a ‘fat-tax’ of 16 kroner (US$2.70) per kilogram of saturated fats in a product. The tax ministry has just announced that the tax is being revoked. What happened? Olga Khazan explained:

  • Danes were just crossing the border to indulge themselves at lower prices; thus hurting local Danish businesses.
  • Moreover businesses had to pay additional administrative costs to comply with the requirements of the tax law.
  • A proposed tax on sugar has also been cancelled due to concerns that it would have similar effects.
  • Hungary, France, and the United Kingdom should take note – they too are considering implementing similar policies.

Read more about how Danish obesity rates compare with American ones, and why the problem might have been that the tax was too low over here.

Source: The Washington Post

Why Coke Cost A Nickel For 70 Years

November 18, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

David Kestenbaum wrote a fascinating piece titled “Why Coke Cost A Nickel For 70 Years”. He notes that between 1890 and 1960 – a period of time that covered a Depression and two world wars – the price of coke remained unchanged at five cents. The reason or this is:

  • The President of Coca-Cola thought that bottled Coke wouldn’t sell well. So when a couple of entrepreneurs asked to sell bottled Coke on his behalf, he agreed to sell them the syrup for a fixed price, thinking that their enterprise would fail.
  • However bottled Coke was extremely successful, and the makers of it had an agreement to buy the ingredients for Coke for a fixed price indefinitely.
  • Coke itself couldn’t determine what price the bottles sold for. But if the price were to increase they wouldn’t see any increase in profits – all the proceeds would go to the Coke bottlers.
  • To fight this eventuality, Coke went on a marketing blitz which made it clear that Coke was to be sold for five cents – and no more. This made it impossible for the Coke bottlers to sell the drink for more than five cents.
  • Coke was also being sold in vending machines which could either accept five cent coins or ten cent ones. Five cents was too low, but doubling it to ten would be too much. Instead Coke worked with the government to (unsuccessfully) produce a 7.5 cent coin.
  • Eventually inflation made five cent Coke impossible, and the deal with the bottlers was renegotiated.

Read more about this fascinating quirk of history by clicking here.

Source: NPR

Which Countries Hasn’t Great Britain Invaded?

November 17, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

There are 200 countries in the world today. Almost 90% have some history of British invasion according to a book by Stuart Laycock and reported on by Jasper Copping:

  • There are only 22 countries today whose territory wasn’t the subject of British invasion at some point or another.
  • These countries include Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Burundi.
  • Not all of these countries were a part of the British Empire. Some were just the subject of small military raids with no intention of conquest.
  • In terms of number of countries invaded, France comes in second place.
  • France also has the distinction of being the country that is attacked most often by Great Britain.

Read more about Britain’s military history and the event that sparked the idea and led to Laycock writing the book over here.

Source: The Telegraph

Via: Kottke

Is James Bond…A Coward?

November 16, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

007 is a coward writes Frank Jacobs. Highlights of his argument include:

  • In all of his movies James Bond has visited ~46 countries. The majority are in safe and stable Europe. A few are in Asia and the Americas. Bond only visits Africa four times.
  • Since 9/11 there have been four Bond films. Not one of them took place in a Middle Eastern country.
  • This avoidance of Britain’s great battles isn’t unprecedented. During the days of The Cold War Bond was loathe to visit or fight the Soviet Union.
  • As China becomes a bigger geopolitical threat to Britain, you can expect to see Bond somewhere far away, safe from the danger China may pose.

Read more about Bond’s various trips abroad, what they say about England as a great power, and speculation about where the next Bond film will be set over here.

Source: Foreign Policy

The Puzzle Of Empty Classrooms

November 14, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Duke Cheston looked around his university and wondered…why are so many classrooms empty for most of the day? Highlights of the article include:

  • On average during standard school hours universities only utilize about 49% of their classrooms.
  • This seems like a waste. If you could bring that up close to 100%, then you could shut down half the buildings on campus and pass the cost savings onto students.
  • The trend itself is odd. College administrators can schedule classes whenever they want, and don’t have to worry about surges in demand the way restaurants do. Moreover they know exactly how many students they will have each year since there’s no shortage of college applicants.
  • There are a few explanations for why this is the case:
    • Professors prefer to schedule classes so that they can come in late and leave early. This creates peak surges of demand.
    • There’s a mismatch between demand and supply of certain types of classrooms. Budget cuts have meant that classes have become bigger, while the classrooms might have been designed for smaller class sizes.
  • One solution would be to charge departments for the classrooms they use – with prices rising for the most in-demand locations and times. That way they would have an incentive to schedule classes in rooms that aren’t often used.

Read more about classroom utilization at UNC-Chapel Hill, why agricultural routes might be the main source of the problem, and other strategies for dealing with this waste over here.

Source: The John William Pope Center

Via: Newmark’s Door

A Love Motel For Dogs

November 13, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Centives has reported in the past on restaurants and menus designed specifically for dog owners. Now entrepreneurs in Brazil have taken things a few steps further in launching a love motel for dogs:

  • The motel rooms have heart shaped mirrors, red mattresses, and mood-setting lighting.
  • Dog owners can pay $50 for a mating session where dogs can do things in privacy and comfort. Doggie beer costs extra. Spa services are available.
  • If the attempt to mate is unsuccessful then the motel can arrange for artificial insemination.
  • In addition to the on-call veterinarians the upscale motel keeps 35 staff on hand.
  • Other services available for pets in Brazil include a pet taxi that transports the animals, café’s that specialize in pet food (“beef-flavoured muffins”), $40-a-bottle perfume for dogs, and plastic surgeons willing to provide Botox injections to pets.

Read more about the hotel, the people behind it, and why one pet owner was impressed with the establishment over here.

Source: The New York Times

Via: Marginal Revolution

Is Public Transportation…Bad For The Environment?

November 8, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Conventional wisdom says that public transportation is more environmentally friendly than cars. Conventional wisdom may, (once again), be wrong writes Eric A. Morris:

  • Most studies that show public transportation to be environmentally superior to car travel assume that buses and trains operate at full capacity, while cars only carry one passenger at a time.
  • In reality the average car carries 1.6 people. Buses utilize about 25% of their capacity and trains anywhere between 24%-46%.
  • Once you take this into account, transporting a passenger by car requires less energy than transporting them by bus, and only slightly more than transporting them by train.
  • However if you consider the cost of building the vehicle, and the vast distances that public vehicles typically travel, then things look slightly better for public transportation since the cost of construction per mile travelled is lower.
  • Moreover public transportation often relies on electricity, thus creating fewer greenhouse gases than gas guzzling automobiles.
  • Yet electricity is often derived from coal – thus failing to reduce greenhouse gases. Moreover as the efficiency standards of cars increase, they may soon become the indisputably better option for the environment.

Click here to see why all hope is not lost for public transportation and what politicians should do.

Source: Freakonomics