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What people miss about the convenience of electric cars

What people miss about the convenience of electric cars

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Our pick of the week’s science and tech stories, including fast-food jargon, the unintended effects of mobile money and a new way of thinking about Google.

Pumps versus plugs
Steven Johnson | Medium | 31 May 2013

What people don’t get yet about the convenience of electric cars: 95% of the time you will be charging the car at home, which is as convenient as refuelling can get. Imagine never visiting a gas station in months. “You pull into the driveway, turn the car off, plug it in, and you’re done. Electric cars are ‘hard to refuel’ only because we’ve been acclimated to the tedious grind of driving to gas stations and standing around a pump.”

Google is the General Electric of the 21st Century
John Gapper | Financial Times | 5 June 2013

Tech giant is focused, far-sighted, and way ahead. “The best comparison for Google seems to me not Microsoft in the 1980s but General Electric in the late 19th century – the age of electrification. Like GE, Google is a multifaceted industrial enterprise riding a wave of technology with an uncanny ability not only to invent far-reaching products but also to produce them commercially.”

Theoretical physics: Truth or bluff?
Margaret Wertheim | Aeon | 3 June 2013

Is theoretical physics a science, or “another kind of storytelling”? Physics used to aim at giving us a blueprint of the universe. Now it gives us competing accounts of reality in which the claims of relativity contradict those of quantum physics. Nils Bohr said, in the early days of quantum physics, that we might never know what “reality” is. But if so, how can the “truths” of physics differ from those of literature or myth?

Pumps versus plugs
Steven Johnson | Medium | 31 May 2013

What people don’t get yet about the convenience of electric cars: 95% of the time you will be charging the car at home, which is as convenient as refuelling can get. Imagine never visiting a gas station in months. “You pull into the driveway, turn the car off, plug it in, and you’re done. Electric cars are ‘hard to refuel’ only because we’ve been acclimated to the tedious grind of driving to gas stations and standing around a pump.”

The jargon of fast food
Paul McFedries | IEEE Spectrum | 31 May 2013

Manufactured foods need manufactured words. Food companies strive to increase "stomach share" by cranking up the "pillar ingredients" – salt, sugar, and fat – to a "bliss point" of overwhelming flavour. The optimal "mouthfeel" is a "vanishing caloric density" at which the food melts in your mouth so quickly that the brain is fooled into thinking it’s hardly consuming any calories at all, so it just keeps snacking, or "auto-eating".

The mysteries of the cereal box
Paul Lukas | The New Republic | 28 May 2013

Irresistible. A feature-length piece in a major publication on a taxonomy of cereal-box closure mechanisms, and their respective strengths and weaknesses. You never thought about it before. And now, every time you see a cereal box, you will say to yourself: “Aha! Slotted!” Or, “No! Slotless”. Conclusion: The slotless closure is by so much the better that it’s a mystery why any manufacturers still persist with the slotted.

Unintended consequences of mobile money
Brendan Greeley | Business Week | 23 May 2013

On the use of mobile phones to make payments and transfer money in African countries. New technology collides with older customs and rituals surrounding payments and gifts, where the economic unit is the community, not the individual. Ease of transfer is a mixed blessing when sharing is expected: “Some mobile money account holders report avoiding their phone altogether. No call comes without a request for money.”

BONUS READ: Fat City: What can stop obesity?
Karen Hitchcock | The Monthly | 1 March 2013

Another piece on obesity? Yes, another piece on obesity. But shame on me for missing it when it came out. You start it, you’ll finish it, and you may even act on it. By an Australian doctor working in an obesity clinic: “It is the 300 kg–plus people who come to the attention of a hospital, when their bodies start to die around them”. Fine mix of expert knowledge, strong writing, common sense, and a repertoire of anecdotes to make you squirm.

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