Google’s Self Driving Car Initiative


The self driving car is Google’s initiative, but what drives the giant to complete it?

Google has yet to NOT surprise me. From balloon wifi to free internet to Google glasses. I mean, Google finds ways to incorporate itself into everyone’s daily lives one way or another. If you have an android phone, the Play Store where you get all your apps? Google. How about your web browser Chrome? Google. (Mind you if you don’t have it, it is quite possibly the best browser out there, at least from what I have tested.) I mean who doesn’t use for their daily searches. How about YouTube; now I know for a FACT ya’ll use YouTube. And yes, Google owns that too. Here is a diagram of stuff Google owns and invests in, just for fun.

Related ArticleThe Road Rage is Strong With This One



It seems that Google is once again taking things further, this time in the form of a self driving car. As it is, Google has been working on self driving cars for a long time now, but most recently they decided to roll out their idea into the world around us. Google’s self driving car initiative is taking to the public streets for tests and trials as they move forward to a promised public release date of 2017. But of course, that consumer friendly release of a self driving car is all speculation, and critics such as Dan Flores, from General Motors’ advanced technology group, say very hurtful things:

 We do not think someone will have a fully autonomous production vehicle that soon, vehicles that can drive themselves are years — maybe decades — away. The technology will develop in steps to allow the vehicle to do more and act incrementally as sensors get more robust and costs come down.

Leave it to a big auto company like GM to put us down. And yet, Google perseveres. Already 3 states have legalized public testing of the self driving cars; Nevada, California, and Florida have made changes to laws to help Google’s plans for driver-less cars to move forward. Already we are seeing companies work on transport grids that would warn drivers of upcoming hazards and instant traffic details. With technology like this in the works, it wouldn’t be too unrealistic to expect driver-less cars sometime very soon.

Google’s future in car transportation seems to point to a Google taxi service, a Robo Taxi of sorts. With the newly introduced, and fairly popular Lyft driving services, it would only make sense for Google to move in the direction of replacing conventional taxis. As this idea is only speculative, it does somewhat make sense. A search engine giant that has a taxi service to inspire more search engine time goodness? Focusing on creating self driving cars to allow for more YouTubing and Google+ing? Why else is Google Maps so popular and updated so frequently?

Related Article: Blimps are the Future!

Who knows what is in store for driver-less cars from Google. With the way things are panning out I wouldn’t be surprised if Google’s driveless cars featured solar panels and some sort of wind turbine to gather energy throughout the daily drives. Then again, (deep breath) I wouldn’t be surprised if Google turned out to be run by a self aware computer that was looking to entwine itself into everything and anything living on Earth only to have the human race rise against it and fight nearly to extinction but through a last ditch effort survive and beat the main computer that the AI started from because of course the computer wouldn’t think to make a lot of central hubs that it can reside in. Boy wouldn’t that be a sci-fi movie cliche. Cheers to artificial intelligence!



Google Glass

Wikipedia: Google Play

Google Browser: Chrome

CNET: How Google’s robo-cars mean the end of driving as we know it

GM: Dan Flores

CNET: First Smart Cars, Next Smart Transport Grids

USA Today: States take the wheel on drive-less cars

Google’s Robo-Taxi Rumors

Be a Lyft Driver

Google Plus

Google Maps

Wondergressive: A Non-Loony Google Project Called Loon

Wondergressive: Free Internet, Help Yourself

Wondergressive: The Road Rage is Strong With This One

Wondergressive: Blimps are the Future!

On the Pulse About Perfume

For most people in the world, dabbing on a spot of perfume or cologne in the mornings is a part their morning routine. Many of us have heard that maxim made famous by style icon Coco Chanel: “A woman should wear perfume wherever she wants to be kissed.”

Romanticism aside, the general consensus on this has been that perfume should be worn on the pulse points in order to lengthen the life of the perfume. However, Elizabeth Barrial, a perfumer at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab in North Hollywood, California says:

The body heat generated by pulse points helps intensify fragrance, and can often diffuse, magnify and amplify a scent, but it won’t affect the longevity. Perfumes will generally be stronger on someone with oily skin and good circulation whose body runs a little hotter.”

For longevity, she suggests spritzing it in your hair.

Hair is great at retaining scents (both good and bad). Dr. Michael Roizen answers a question on the smell of smoke lingering in hair over at

…your hair acts like a paper towel—it’s absorbent. And hair also often has a mild electric charge, particularly in very low humidity, and this can attract charged pollutant particles. So in a nutshell, your hair takes the stink from the air, and brings it home with you.

If you opt to go the hair route, make sure you only do this with clean hair, as’s Catherine Helbig warns that “natural oils (and any lingering hair products) will affect the odor.”

Also, not all scents work for everyone. TLC Style’s Alia Hoyt advises to

carefully test each scent before making a public debut. Many physical factors, like body chemistry and skin type, can alter the impression of any fragrance, rapidly changing a soft, sweet scent into a sour or overpowering one.

And for those of you out there who like to spray scent onto your wrists and rub them together—don’t. From eHow Style:

Do not rub perfume into skin. Doing so will break down some of the molecular composition (or “bruise”) the perfume.

On a similar note, some perfumes can stain clothing, it is recommended that you apply fragrances before dressing.

Go forth and eliminate B.O!

Is there a benefit to applying fragrance to pulse points?
Why does my hair smell like smoke after being around smokers?
How and Where to Apply Perfume to Make It Last Longer
Why Do You Put Fragrances on Your Pulse Points

Smoking: A Pre-existing Condition Under Obamacare

I have written about the perils and predictable pitfalls of Obamacare before, and yet another example of the law’s asinine and unworkable structure has been revealed. One of the act’s most hyped lauded features is that it forbids insurance providers from charging more for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Stretching language to absurd, Joycean lengths, the medical exchange boards of Washington DC, California and Connecticut have decided that being a smoker is such a condition, and that smokers cannot by law be discriminated against. To cover the losses, non-smokers will be forced to make up the difference.

Mohammad N. Akhter, chair of the DC Health Benefit Exchange, stated that tobacco use is a “pre-existing medical condition” and that charging smokers more for their insurance would be “in direct conflict with our efforts to help people quit smoking.”

So there you have it. A risky and voluntary behavior—directly associated with the death of nearly a half million Americans a year—is now a medical condition. Americans should be prepared for more of this topsy-turvy nonsense as the Patient Protection Act is an absolute bureaucratic nightmare. As Nancy Pelosi famously said, Congress has “to pass the bill so [people] can find out what’s in it.” That prediction has has largely come true, though not in the way the former Speaker of the House intended. People don’t seem to be thrilled with Obamacare now that they see what a mess it will be. Three years after passing the controversial legislation, only 37% of Americans support the bill and 67% of the uninsured, the very people it was supposed to help, are unaware of how it will affect them.

This financial consideration from the government should come as a complete shock to smokers everywhere, as cigarette taxes have skyrocketed in recent years. The average state and federal tobacco excise taxes increased by 290% between 1995-2009, from $0.57 to $2.21 a pack. Obama is currently cheerleading for a further 94-cent increase.

So charging smokers more for medical insurance isn’t conducive to helping people quit, but charging them more than $3 a pack in taxes alone somehow is. Huh.

Bureaucratic weaseling like this is fraught with eminently foreseeable consequences. Kevin D. Williamson has a pretty stellar takedown at National Review:

Obamacare is designed to destroy the insurance market. Markets do not function without prices, and Obamacare ensures that prices will not be allowed to emerge. There is a medical price associated with smoking, but the District of Columbia has decided to suppress that price by law. Pretending that smoking has no relationship with health-care costs does not make it so — it is only a way to push costs around in a way that is agreeable to the likes of Barack Obama, converting a system that prices risk into a system of entitlements.

That leaves us with a system that is private in name only — which is the point.

It is meaningless to say that we have a private system in which private consumers buy insurance from private insurers when the insurers have been forbidden to price their products, and have instead been converted into something somewhere between a public utility company and a government contractor. Sure, you are free to buy any insurance you want — but if what you want is a lower rate for being a non-smoker, the point is moot, because it would be a crime for anybody to sell it to you.

Another unpleasant reality in this whole debate is how meaningless it actually is. The common conception is that smoking drives up the cost of medical care and that minimizing tobacco use would save millions or billions of dollars every year. The government is clearly torn between enacting sin taxes to punish smokers and giving them victimhood status by declaring their habit a pre-existing condition. However, it turns out that non-smokers actually cost health systems more than both smokers and the obese. Turns out that living longer and healthier is actually much more costly than dying younger.

One of the biggest problems with Obamacare is that it creates incredibly perverse incentives to interfere with the lives of adults. When people are forced to pay for others, they feel entitled to control behavior that may affect their tab. The rationale goes like this: Smoking is dangerous and seemingly costs money; therefore it’s an activity that needs to be controlled. The same reasoning justifies paternalistic efforts to curb obesity, leading to bans on sodas over 16 ounces and trans fats in Michael Bloomberg’s New York. Everyone should be terrified of following this rabbit hole towards its logical conclusion, where politicians can arbitrarily create laws to control seemingly any activity.

As dysfunctional as our current health care system is, Obamacare is the wrong prescription for change. It doubles down on bureaucracy and further diminishes individual choice. Barring repeal and a true injection of market forces, Americans should brace themselves for more schizophrenic and intrusive measures like this, where the government wants to both subsidize and tax the same activity, and the healthy are forced to pay for the lifestyles of the reckless.




The Power of Wind Farms

Yesterday, my day both began and ended with the California sun moving through a horizon speckled with wind turbines. As humans we have only to thank Sol for our existence. We’ve come a long way in terms of mechanized energy efficiency. Seeing these two great power sources together lead me to wonder: How much power do we get from wind farms? How much power does one wind turbine produce?

To understand the energy intake of wind turbines we should take a closer look as to what is actually happening inside to harness this electricity. An anemometer gauges the speed and the direction of the wind. The wind speed information is then passed through to a controller. This device turns the turbines on, points the turbine’s blades in the most fortuitous direction, and when the wind speed is too high (over 55 mph) or too low (under 8-16 depending) it adjusts accordingly.

The turbine blades are directly connected to an electrical generator which creates electricity. A simple generator does this by spinning a magnet inside of copper wiring. The generators used in wind turbines are obviously more sophisticated though they have the same effect.

So how much electricity can one wind turbine create? Wind Energy America states that

Typically modern turbines range in size from 660 kilowatts to over 3 megawatts of capacity. They are placed in fairly windy locations with minimum wind speeds in the range of six meters per second (around 13 miles per hour). Wind turbines generally run at 30 to 40 percent capacity, so a 1 MW turbine could produce around 3 million KWh of electricity in a year.

The amount of wind in an area plays a huge role in how much energy is produced. So if you’re in a windy part of the country it is time to ask yourself: Is this a viable option for me?


Inside a Wind Turbine

Wind Energy America FAQs

Simple Generator

The Folly of High Speed Rail in America


This transit layout, put together by California Rail Map and Alfred Twu, envisions a future America thoroughly connected via high speed rail. After repeatedly popping up on my Facebook feed like a freakish case of shingles, I decided that I couldn’t allow this quixotic dream and the fevered intentions behind it go unchallenged. The love affair for high speed rail in the US is nothing more than noxious propaganda, seeping fumes that mute rationality in favor of misplaced adoration for antiquated, 19th century technology.

Don’t get me wrong: I love trains. I’ve been living in South Korea for over three years and am fully enamored with its spectacular rail service. I also lived in Germany and was equally impressed with the efficiency of their inter-city mass transit system. The problem with Alfred Twu’s map is simple and profound: America was not designed to be like Europe or Korea. What works for them simply cannot function Stateside, no matter how much people wish it would.

There is one area in America where high speed rail  makes sense: The megalopolis between Boston and Washington D.C., a relatively small stretch of land that supports almost one-sixth of the US population. With the possible exception of a route between San Diego and San Francisco, that is the only place where extensive passenger lines are sensible. It is a hyper population-dense region with a string of cities that enjoy adequate access to public transportation. Every other route on Twu’s map is expensive folly. I should actually say more expensive folly, because in 2011 Amtrak somehow managed to lose about $1.2 billion, despite having better than expected ridership.

The rail system in Korea works so well because of its unique geography and population density. South Korea is home to about 50 million people, all living in an area roughly the size of a mountainous Indiana. Because of its condensed urban nature and high public demand, every city has an orderly and efficient public transit system. This makes it possible to travel to every city, and also within every city without the need for a car. Another simplifying factor is that a trip between Korea’s two largest cities, Seoul and Busan, which are on totally opposite sides of the country, can be made in about two and a half hours.

Most cities in Germany and other European countries are also similarly compressed and friendly to high speed rail. Their narrow, bicycle-spoked street layouts are based on their medieval roots, when expanding city streets were cobbled together for immediate convenience and with an understanding that space was at a premium. This makes the modern cities more conducive to light rail systems than the spacious grids of most American cities. This in turn helps ensure that once a tourist or visitor arrives to a city by train, they can fairly easily travel to wherever they want to go by public transport.

Other than the notable exceptions I mentioned earlier, America simply doesn’t have the population density required to sustain high speed rail. One of the glaringly obvious and defining characteristics of the US is its size, and this geographical reality has helped to fundamentally shape American culture and the design of our cities. Once Americans migrated west of the Appalachian Mountains, they built cities that reflected the new-found abundance of land. They eschewed the congested, radial street plans of Boston and Washington DC in favor of the sprawling grids of cities like St. Louis, Phoenix and Los Angeles. The farther west people traveled  and as railroad and eventually automobile technology advanced, this effect was magnified. For a simplistic example, the Greater Los Angeles Area covers just under 34,000 square miles, compared to just 5,617 sq miles for the Paris aire urbaine.

One area of the country that could theoretically support high speed rail is—at second glance—utterly incapable of doing so: The Midwest triangle between Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis. Chicago is a large metropolis with a good transit system, and the cities are all economically and culturally intertwined, with a high volume of traffic between the three. However, St. Louis and Indy are decidedly built around the automobile. St. Louis does have two light rail lines, but they largely overlap and aren’t very popular. From personal experience, Indianapolis might as well not have any public transport. It has no light rail and its bus system is notoriously byzantine and tortuously slow. It would be virtually impossible for a businessman to pop into these cities by train and promptly get to where he needed to go. It simply isn’t feasible without a car. And these are major cities; can you imagine how these problems will compound in small towns like Quincy, IL (pop. 40,633) or Cheyenne, WY (pop. 59,466), which are also covered in Twu’s fantasy map?

With the size of the US, any proposed high speed rail lines are going to be prohibitively expensive, especially considering that the country is $16 trillion in the hole. The California High Speed Rail project from San Diego to Sacramento was approved by voters in 2008 and financing for the first leg was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July, 2012. The project has already become a massive boondoggle, with the expected cost having greatly expanded from an estimated $45 billion to between $68 and $98 billion. The completion date has also been delayed 13 years to 2033. Incredibly, this is in a region that—on paper—looks like a perfect place to implement high speed rail. How farcically will the process further degrade on a proposed route between Tulsa, OK and Corpus Christi, TX?

Without a car, there is simply no reasonable way to navigate the vast majority of American cities. The infrastructure to travel on mass transit simply isn’t there. And in most respects it shouldn’t be: There just isn’t a big enough demand to justify it. The US system depends on cars and airplanes. The routes can be largely customized by the user and they provide a level of freedom wanting from high speed rail that is expected by the American traveler. They are also cheaper and more efficient in our country of suburbs and interstate travel.

There is no rational reason to support a mass increase in high speed rail projects in the US. America is not structured like South Korea or European countries that make rail a viable and dependable mode of transportation for the majority of inhabitants. They have a system that works, and so do we. We don’t need to abandon organically-driven functionality in a vain and expensive effort to be “more European.” Cars, from the ’67 Ford Mustang to Marty McFly’s DeLorean, are a part of America’s DNA; they symbolize and help grant the liberty that the nation was founded on. It would be a shame to throw that all away on a futile wish that “If we build it, they will ride.”



Business Insider: Here’s What an American High Speed Rail Network Could Look Like

AMTRAK National Facts

Visit Korea Greate Los Angeles Area

Metro St

St. Louis Park Patch

US Census Bureau

US Debt

California High Speed Rail Authority

LA Times: Bullet Train’s $98-billion Cost Could Be Its Biggest Obstacle

Huffington Post: California High Speed Rail Still Faces a Lot of Obstacles

The Economist- An age of transformation

Implantable Telescope Restores Elderly Vision

It’s too late for the elderly of the world to undergo laser eye surgery, but all hope is not lost.  Researchers have developed an implantable telescope that completely restores vision, well sort of.

The easily implanted, pea sized telescope doesn’t actually restore vision, but in fact redirects incoming light to healthier areas of the retina.

The telescopic implant restores vision by projecting images onto an undamaged portion of the retina, which makes it possible for patients to again see people’s faces and the details of objects located directly in front of them.

Virginia Bane, an 89 year old artist from California, was the first person to undergo the surgery. According to Bane:

I can see better than ever now. Colors are more vibrant, beautiful and natural, and I can read large print with my glasses. I haven’t been able to read for the past seven years. I look forward to being able to paint again.

Richard Van Buskirk, an optometrist, explains that Virginia will continue to regain vision as she retrains her brain to see. The implant, which is only in her left eye, will help her to see details and small text, while her right eye will provide peripheral vision.

I’d like to get a pair of these telescopic eyes to help me be more romantic. I could view spectacular sunsets all around the world at anytime of the day! Sure, ocular telescopes might not be the most aesthetically pleasing sight, but they improve vision, so that totally equals out.



Make a Permaculture Connection

permaculture graph

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture was invented in Tasmania Australia by Bill Mollison, David Holmgren and their associates in the 1970’s. It was a revolutionary approach to age old problems with farming and gardening.  Through a series of publications they began to spread their ideas and it has continued ever since with growing international communities and passionate people expanding and improving methods everyday. Wikipedia tells us that,

Permaculture is a branch of ecological designecological engineering, and environmental design which develops sustainablearchitecture and self-maintained horticultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

Geoff Lawton, a permaculture consultant, takes it a step further in his TEDx video and explains why it is such an important practice.

How can I get involved?

There are many great websites that connect worldwide communities interested in sustainable agriculturepermacultureorganic lifestylesclean energy methods and more.

Permies is a forum with invaluable information abound! It’s called Permies, because that’s what these wonderful people are called!

Permaculture Global is another website that helps connect people all over the world through projects and classes.

If you’re interested more in organic farming make sure to check this site on WWOOFing. The WWOOFing organization allows people to travel and learn this valuable information on a low budget. If you just want to stay at home and learn a little more the  Permaculture Activists site is quite useful. Of course you could always take a vacation to California where they’re working a lot harder at it than the rest of the states. (There is also a really great detailed version with explanations of the above chart)

In addition to looking at websites and joining forums there are also classes and schools you can go to in order to receive permaculture certifications or general foundation knowledge. Here’s a link to courses in the American Midwest.

The Chart

In the chart above the three main circles stand for earth care, people care and fair share.

The 12 smaller circles represent the following ideas.

1. Observe & interact

2. Catch & store energy

3. Obtain a yield

4. Apply self-regulation & accept feedback

5. Use & value renewable resources & services

6. Produce no waste

7. Design from patterns to details

8. Integrate rather segregate

9. Use small & slow solutions

10. Use & value diversity

11. Use edges & value the marginal

12. Creatively use & respond to change

So check out the site, become a permie and as Gandhi said:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”


Permaculture Global

Certification Courses

Short History

Fundamental Courses 

Geoff Lawton



Permaculture Activists

Transition California