Four short links: 16 June 2009

  1. Dealing with Election Results Data — taking the raw UK European election data into Google’s Fusion Tables to try and make sense of it. More cloud-based tools for the data scientist within. (via Simon Willison)
  2. Time for an Open 311 API — “311” is the US number to call for non-emergency municipal services. There have been a lot of individual projects to hack together web sites that provide the single coherent view of government services that the government itself is unable to offer, but the individual projects have all built their own APIs. SeeClickFix suggest these be unified so tools can be written (e.g., iPhone apps) that run across multiple municipalities. (via timoreilly on Twitter)
  3. Shoppers Cars Soon Able to Power Supermarkets (Daily Mail) — At the Sainsbury’s store in Gloucester, kinetic plates, which were embedded in the road yesterday, are pushed down every time a vehicle passes over them. A pumping action is then initiated through a series of hydraulic pipes that drive a generator. The plates are able to produce 30kw of green energy an hour – more than enough to power the store’s checkouts. (via Freaklabs)
  4. Humans Prefer Cockiness to Expertise (New Scientist) — the blogosphere explained in one paper. (via Mind Hacks)
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  • I can’t believe they got as far as implementing the kinetic plates and still believe (or say they believe) it’s green. It takes extra energy to push a car over those plates, the power is coming from the extra gas required by the customers’ cars.

  • Jeremy

    Don’t believe the hype. Kinetic plates powered by cars are not green. They’re a small tax on the efficiency of the car. So at first blush they are best as green as the cars that power them. Then factoring in the energy requirements for building that scheme and inefficiencies of acquiring and transmitting the power it’s even less green!
    The only benefit is to those who are getting energy at the expense of someone else!

  • Adding to the two previous comments:

    Not only are the kinetic plates a way to get cars to inefficiently generate electricity but, additionally:

    Any solution based on the premise that so many people will so frequently be driving cars *of any sort* (electric or gas or whatever) — any such solution is no solution at all. We can’t afford the energy budget for so many cars, period.

    If I owned a “big box” retail space, I’d be thinking very differently: either converting the space to other uses entirely or else thinking of it as a warehouse and working on building an efficient, local delivery network.

    They’re an easy target, in this case. The idea is pretty absurd on its face. Bread and circuses stuff.


  • It is good to see that Google is finally entering the Data Visualization and Infographics space with Google Fusion. Data visualization is currently not available in the Google Apps platform. There are some 3rd party Google Docs gadgets for creating TreeMaps, Timelines, Pivot Tables, Maps and such, but nothing that is officially supported by Google.

    There are many players in the consumer data visualization space – IBM Many Eyes, Chartle, Timetric, dabbledb, Microsoft Research Excel add-ins and others, but IBM Many Eyes is the best thus far. You can create amazing visualization with Many Eyes.

    In time, I am sure Google will be a strong contender in this technology space, but they have a long way to go.

  • My 2 cents is that speaks volumes about the scientific illiteracy of the media. As has been pointed out about, this is not a green idea, just a “tax” on drivers. The energy extracted will just have to be made up by pushing on the gas pedal, thus incurring more fossil fuel waste. Had the plates been some sort of buffer in the parking bay, then it would have made sense, recovering some of the kinetic energy of the car instead of heating the brake pads. It could even make sense for cars rolling down ramps to the exit, reducing brake usage.

    But most annoyingly, when I went to the original story on the Observer (Guardian site), there was not way to comment on the ridiculousness of the PR piece, errm… “story”.