All posts by Stephen Years

U.P.S. drives efficiency with intelligent routing software

ups-logo-small.pngAs the holiday season progresses, it looks like it is going to be another great year for online retailers – which means fleets of delivery trucks will be hitting the streets. U.P.S. is doing its part to make sure those delivery trucks are operating as efficiently as possible, which improves their bottom line – but more importantly, puts less CO2 into the atmosphere:

When you operate a gigantic fleet of vehicles, tiny improvements in the efficiency of each one will translate to huge savings overall — is what led U.P.S. to limit further the number of left-hand turns its drivers make.

The company employs what it calls a “package flow” software program, which among other hyperefficient practices involving the packing and sorting of its cargo, maps out routes for every one of its drivers, drastically reducing the number of left-hand turns they make (taking into consideration, of course, those instances where not to make the left-hand turn would result in a ridiculously circuitous route).

Last year, according to Heather Robinson, a U.P.S. spokeswoman, the software helped the company shave 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes, which has resulted in savings of roughly three million gallons of gas and has reduced CO2 emissions by 31,000 metric tons.

Another barrier to space colonization: the common cold

With the US, Japan and China all actively talking about permanent settlements on the Moon and Mars, not to mention the prolonged stays of astronauts on the International Space Station, attention is being focused on a well-known but little understood fact: the human immune system actually degrades in weightlessness.

The human immune system, which [is] as complex as the central nervous system, includes an arsenal of responses to invading bacteria, viruses and other pathogens – ranging from first responders such as neutrophils and microphages to more sophisticated T-cells and B-cells that act on a molecular level. Although research into the workings of these infection-fighters during space missions remains limited – because of technical problems with collecting samples in space, very limited crew time and, more recently, deep funding cuts – [many] key infection-fighting molecules appear to be less available to people in space.

Not only are people more susceptible to sickness inducing microbes in zero gravity, but it also appears that some microbes, such as salmonella, become significantly more virulent in weightlessness.

Taser firing flying saucer drone

At the very end of an article discussing the ongoing controversy of using stun guns (which often quotes Antoine di Zazzo, founder of the French company Taser) we find this gem:

Di Zazzo’s French company is developing a mini-flying saucer like drone which could also fire Taser stun rounds on criminal suspects or rioting crowds. He expects it to be launched next year and to be sold internationally by Taser.

Is it just me, or does this sound like an incredibly bad idea?

Game industry in US outgrew economy by 4 to 1

Via Ars Technica:

As gaming enters the mainstream and video game consoles become as ubiquitous in entertainment centers as DVD players, the industry has become an important economic driver of the United States economy. The economic effects of the video game business economically haven’t faced much serious study to date, but the Electronic Software Association took the task upon themselves with a new report. Titled Video Games in the 21st Century: Economic Contributions of the U.S. Entertainment Software Industry, it found that the US video game industry grew a whopping 17 percent from 2003 to 2006, far outpacing the 4 percent general growth of the US economy. Retail sales totaled $7.0 billion in 2005, and sales of games for both PCs and consoles grow from 74.1 million units in 1996 to over 250 million units last year.


Nuclear fission “battery” can produce 27MW

Hyperion Power Generation is a company that has claimed to produce self contained, portable nuclear fission reactor that can produce 27 megawatts of power.

The portable nuclear reactor is the size of a hot tub. It’s shaped like a sake cup, filled with a uranium hydride core and surrounded by a hydrogen atmosphere. Encase it in concrete, truck it to a site, bury it underground, hook it up to a steam turbine and, voila, one would generate enough electricity to power a 25,000-home community for at least five years.