Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Which Gets Better Gas Mileage, a Prius or a BMW M3?

 Jeremy Clarkson, a well known Prius hater, used his BBC TV show "Top Gear" to prove that a BMW M3 could get better gas mileage than a Toyota Prius, depending on how it was driven.

From what I could see on the edited video, the BMW was driven at about one car length behind the Prius as the Prius was driving as fast as it could for ten laps around a track.  Then the supposed accurate measurement showed at the end of the race, that the Prius had consumed more fuel than the BMW.

Unfortunately there is the argument, every time the subject comes up of how rigged the whole thing is. They say that Clarkson is doing it for laughs, and you're an idiot to take it seriously.  But strangely, at the same time, Clarkson's fans believe what he is saying, even as they defend his unscientific tricks as just showmanship. So it is necessary to debunk Clarkson, even though everyone supposedly knows he is a comedian who will say anything to entertain his audience, and not a scientist.

Let the debunking begin.

Point one: You need to run both cars under the same conditions to make the test valid.  The BMW was given the one-way advantage of following the Prius.   Jeremy made no comment that I know of about the effect of drafting.  Following a car at about one car length, will allow you to put the BMW in quite a high gear, letting the engine basically loaf along, while the much smaller Prius engine is running at high RPM to generate the power needed to overcome wind resistance.  And please don't give me any of your "opinions" of whether drafting works or not in this situation, because a true and more believable test would have, at the very least, run both cars under the same conditions.  And there was an easy way to do that:  Let the Prius follow the same car around the track at the same distance and speed as the BMW.

Point two:  The experiment was set up to favour the BMW and put the Prius at a disadvantage.  The Prius gets good gas mileage mostly because it was designed to take advantage of public roads, where much fuel is wasted on braking for other cars, stopping for traffic lights, and slowing for speed limits.  The Prius battery and drive system are designed to recover wasted power in most of typical traffic situations, while the Prius is not designed like a typical car, which normally can run at maximum power and efficiency for long stretches.  This test pits a BMW with its conventional gas wasting powertrain against a Prius on a track with no speed limits, no stop signs and no slow traffic to let the Prius do what is was built to do.  Even so, the Prius could have easily beaten the BMW's fuel consumption if the driver had resorted to speeding up, slowing down, and stopping multiple times on each lap. (i.e. a real world driving simulation) I can only assume that the Prius driver either didn't think of doing that, or was deliberately trying to make the Prius waste as much gas a possible, all the while making it easy for the BMW to stick right to his tail.  If I had been driving the Prius, the BMW driver would have been a very frustrated person by the end of the last lap, and would have used maybe three times as much gas as the Prius.  (Unless he decided to pass and go in front, in which case, the BMW would win the speed part of the test,  probably by many minutes, but lose the gas mileage part by just as wide a margin.)

Point Three:  Jeremy's final statement about "it's not the car, it's how you drive it", is only partly true.  There is no way that I would be able to drive a Prius faster than a BMW M3 on a race track unless the BMW was driven by someone trying to lose.  And there is no way that I could drive a BMW to get better gas mileage than a Prius unless the Prius driver was trying to waste gas while simultaneously making easy for me to tailgate him.

According to the EPA, using a scientifically controlled, unbiased test, done at the same speeds, a 2016 Prius would take 2 gallons to go the same distance that the BMW M3 would go on 5 gallons (Using US gallons. that would be about 100 miles). 

My own experience is that our 2016 Prius gets better gas mileage than my twin cylinder 500cc Yamaha scooter, and about the same as Mary Ann's single cylinder 400cc scooter. And all without any road rage incidents, driving it courteously.  (no tailgating or holding up traffic)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Who Was More of a Car Enthusiast? A Prius Driver or Hitler?

I was inspired to write this by the various discussions on Jalopnik regarding the Toyota Prius, and whether or not a Prius Owner was a "real" car enthusiast.

What is an average Prius owner, what do they look like, think like, etc.  Are they real automobile enthusiast or are they just ignorant eco-weenies?

Let's start with me.  I admit, I do not actually own a Prius right now, that is because I am waiting for the new Prius to become available.  Does this mean I do not qualify as a Prius owner?  Just because I am interested enough in the new technology to wait until the next and more advanced car comes out?  No, that means I'm a car enthusiast, i.e. I care about what car I'm getting, and if I have to wait for it, I will.

Now for some history, from which you may make up your own mind if I am a car enthusiast or not. I did not care much for cars until about 1960.  Our family did not have a car until 1961.  We had only one road to the outside world from our town.  But then I was about 12 or 13 years old, and I bought a Road & Track magazine on an impulse.  Actually, I still have that magazine.  I also bought a paperback book "Kings of the Road" by Ken Purdy.  Do you know that book?  Then congratulations, you may be a car nerd.  Yes, I still have that book too.  Soon after, I bought a subscription to "Car and Driver", and read every magazine that came in the mail voraciously.  I was very interested in cars.  I was car crazy, I guess, and other people started making jokes about my obsession.  Our family got its first car about that time, a little Envoy, the Canadian market version of the British Vauxhall.

I persuaded my Father to teach me to drive, he liked to take me out on the paved highway outside town, and let me drive on a very twisty road through the mountains.  Many years later, there was simple sign at the start of the road north of town: "Dangerous curves, next 200 km"  I guess at the time, we didn't know they were dangerous.  Of course the car had a standard transmission, and only about 35 horsepower.  Every hill needed on or maybe two downshifts. (There were only three gears.)  I had my first traffic accident at fourteen, driving without a licence.  Hitting the back of a Police car that was attempting to pull me over for having a licence plate light burned out.

I didn't drive any more until I was 17.  Then I failed my first drivers test, and had to wait until I was almost 18 before I could try again with the new family car: A 1965 Dodge Coronet with a 318 V8 and Torqueflite automatic transmission.  I was pretty relieved to pass that test.

A few years went by, I was in college, I had no money to buy a car, but my Dad often let me have the keys to the car when I was at home in the summer or at Christmas.  I don't want to write about the stupid things I did with that car, but I have memories, which sometimes I still share with my younger brother and high school friends.

By 1969, I still have no car, but I am graduating.  Instead of getting a real job, I end up with the Peace Corps (CUSO actually, because I am not American) in Africa for a few years.  While in Africa, I could afford a small motorcycle, so I bought a Honda 175 which I maintained entirely myself, by teaching myself mechanics, and I drove it all over the country racking up 15,000 miles.  That was my first motor vehicle of my own, and it started a life long love affair with motorcycles.  I had to sell that bike when I left Africa and came back to Canada.  But I loved it, and today I have two and a half of those bikes.  Yes, one looks exactly like the bike I had in Africa.  The other one is the wrong colour, but it actually was shipped to Canada from Africa where it had been used in the early seventies by a different CUSO volunteer.

Ooops.  I guess that means I'm not a real car enthusiast.  What was the definition of a car enthusiast again? Is it somebody who loves the technology, the driving skill, getting your hands dirty fixing a motor vehicle when it when it goes wrong?  Or is it strictly that you own a four wheeler that doesn't lean into curves, with nice doors to keep you safe, and windows and a roof to keep you dry and keep your hair from getting mussed up?  I think we need to answer these questions.  Or maybe each one of you Prius haters need to clarify exactly what you mean by a car enthusiast.

So to summarize, I don't own a Prius, and I don't even really qualify as a "car" enthusiast as I am probably more of a "Motorcyclist".  So be it.

There is lots more to my story. You probably don't need to hear it, because my point is, everyone is different.  You should be just know that everyone has their own story.  Don't judge me.  And don't say I'm not a car enthusiast just because I may soon be driving a Prius.

Picture: It is true: Hitler was a car enthusiast. I encourage you to read his story before judging.  If you haven't already.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The New Toyota Prius (Gen 4) Unveiling

I have been waiting for about 6 months to get an idea of what the new Toyota Prius (Fourth generation) will look like.  Mary Ann wants to get one, and I'm hoping it will not look too horrible, as we will have only one car.

Last night was the big unveiling, followed by the usual slew of hate from the "automotive enthusiasts" out there on the Internet. Forbes Magazine (The Capitalist tool) titled article "2016 Toyota Prius Hybrid: World's Least Dramatic Car Gets a Dramatic Makeover".  The Verge announces "Toyota just launched an all-new Prius, and it looks weirder than ever".

Jalopnik, a car website that incidentally has a lot of Toyota hating readers, had an article titled "2016 Toyota Prius: WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB". I don't get it, maybe my age showing.

But among the comments on this Jalopnik article, some are surprisingly logical. Such as:  Admitting the rear light doesn't look too bad, but then the first time if you crash it in a parking lot and it costs $500 to replace the light, but then a Ford F150 taillight probably costs more, but it has built in blind spot monitoring.

My own thoughts: "The first time"? I have never cracked a rear taillight in 50 years.  Neither has Mary Ann.  And anyway, isn't that what "Blind spot monitoring built in" is supposed to prevent on the Ford Truck?  But then I suppose some other hit and run driver might leave you with a cracked taillight.  And with my usual karma, I will smash the taillight the first week I have the Prius.

Then several other comments are the usual emotional hate that could apply to any new style of car or motorcycle: "It's fugly." or more emphatically "It's fug-fug-fuggitty-fugly."  And there is also an animated Gif showing a US army tank crushing a Toyota Prius. Those commenters definitely need to ease up.  World War Two is over, man.

My feeling is, the car doesn't look too horrible, that's all I really needed to know.  Mary Ann likes the taillights.  I like the "bump" on the hood.  I can get used to the look of the car, just like I got used to the Toyota Matrix and every other car I have owned.

The 2016 Prius has better gas mileage than the old Prius (so Toyota says), and now for the first time, independent rear suspension.  That could be good.

I'm interested in getting a different color  (our Matrix is silver). Toyota says there are seven exterior colours, which unfortunately is no more than is available with the current Prius. The current 2015 Prius has red, and six colours ranging from white to black with shades of grey and silver. The new red for 2016 is apparently made with a new process that is deeper or something.  I'll have to see that for myself, because in the unveiling photos, my computer screen has it looking the same as other reds.

Picture: New Toyota Prius in red.  I enhanced it on my computer with a little extra colour saturation (70%) Now it's very red.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Hidden (to some people) Message of "The Interview"

Last night, "The Interview" was on at the Princess Cinema in Waterloo.  I went to see it on my own, as Mary Ann is not overly fond of fart jokes, sexist humour, and defying Kim Jon Un.

My initial interest in the movie was that I actually do find Seth Rogan's humour to be funny despite the occasional fart joke.  But then, when the full release of the movie at Christmas was cancelled because of threats from North Korea, it was of course my patriotic duty to see the movie at my local underground art movie theatre.

I had a few laughs, and was entertained all the way through.  But more importantly, I think there is a hidden message in the movie.  I say hidden, because apparently some people just didn't see it, although it is glaringly obvious.  This movie is a message about propaganda, not only in the movie itself, but the hype and controversy around the movie too. You can take it on many different ways.  One way to look at the movie, is that it is deliberate American propaganda, supported by the government agencies, to try and discredit Kim Jon Un. Another way to understand it is that North Korea is trying to block opposing propaganda with terror threats.  Or maybe the terror threats are all made up, as there is no hard evidence the North Koreans ever threatened anything other than their usual thermonuclear war.  Of course, thermonuclear war doesn't worry anyone in the USA, but the idea of a crazed Korean gunman wandering into a movie theatre somewhere does get people excited.

Inside the movie the subliminal message is that propaganda and manipulation is everywhere. Propaganda and manipulation are slightly different, in that manipulation is more on an individual basis, while propaganda is usually for the masses, but the lines are being blurred.  The CIA uses a "honeypot" manipulation to get our hero, Skylark, (James Franco) to cooperate in assassinating Kim Jong Un.  Skylark is easily manipulated by a beautiful female CIA agent wearing glasses (even though he later finds out the sexy glasses are as fake as everything else).  Skylark is also easily manipulated by Kim Jon Un, despite being adequately warned by Seth Rogan before meeting the Dear Leader and master of manipulation. Un comes across as a very likable guy, and even had me taken in during the movie.  How can you kill a guy that plays Katy Perry music in  his tank while doing a little artillery practice on local trees?  And wonders if Margaritas are too gay?  And gives you an adorable puppy that reminds you of the dog you had when you were growing up?

At the end of the movie I was truly shocked to find out that Kim Jong Un was actually a ruthless dictator who deserved to die. At least, if you can believe the propaganda.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Usefulness (or not) of Armed Insurrections

Here is one of the scariest videos I have seen in a while, and there are several copies on youtube, not just on the Anarchy channel.  Not because of the outright violence, but because of what this seemingly sweet young girl is advocating, and the powerful propaganda controlling her mind.  (e.g. equating gun ownership with the safety of air bags)

I am quite sure that sweet "Josie the Outlaw" does not have any real experience of war, revolution or anarchy, or she might reconsider her opinions.  I'm not even sure that she understands the meaning of "outlaw" other than as a cool youtube nickname.

Josie the Outlaw  Why good people need to be armed.

I will admit that I have no experience of violent revolution or anarchy either.  But both history and current events tells us violent armed revolution is quite unappealing.  Not something to be encouraged unless the situation has already become so bad that it can't be any worse.  I can give a few examples in recent years.  Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa show us that there is a tendency to atrocities, and they occur on both sides of the struggle.  There was a documentary about the Liberian insurrection on PBS two days ago.  Also, there is anarchy in Syria and Iraq right now, so plenty of reports to give you an idea what life is like during an armed insurrection.

In case you imagine that armed insurrections are more polite and glorious in America than in Africa, you need to study some history that has not been cleaned up for high school textbooks.

Usually armed insurrections do not really start until thousands of people have been killed by the current regime, or unless there is mass starvation.  Most people realize that they really would prefer to live under rule of law, even if it is pretty bad, rather than the absolute horrors of an insurrection, where not just thousands, but hundreds of thousands will die.  Millions more will live in refugee camps after losing everything they had.

So what is going on in America today, that sweet Josie the Outlaw thinks an armed insurrection may be a good thing?  Yes, the national debt is quite high.  Yes, some people are corrupt, and make too much money off the backs of the taxpayers.  But are Americans close to mass starvation yet?  Are groups of Americans being put in death camps yet?  Do secret service people pick up suspects in the middle of the night, never to be seen again?  If not, then conditions are not ripe yet for armed insurrection.

Does Josie have an estimate of how many people will die in a serious armed insurrection?  If not, I would suggest that you might expect about a million before its over.  And that will not necessarily make America a better place, as many of the best people will die, and many of the most vile, and hateful people will still be there - for they exist on both sides of any insurrection, and even seem to rise to the top as the insurrection become more cruel and bloody.

My own advice would be to cool it with the gun advocacy for a while.  Maybe stop watching Fox News and check the dictionary instead for the meaning of tyranny.  And more than anything stop thinking that there are "good people" and "bad people".  Hitler and Stalin both believed that they were only killing the bad people.  Turned out the bad people were them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We Had a Cold Day

Wall of snow approaches Buffalo NY

Yesterday was the first day I had to shovel snow this winter.  It was also -7c with a strong wind.  I was all set to stay in the house after supper, but Mary Ann wanted to go to the movie, which was "Emptying the Skies", a documentary about bird poaching being shown at the Princess Cinema.  As usual, she wanted to walk, in order to save the world from the global warming that would be caused by the carbon dioxide emissions from our car.  So I dressed up warmly, and then waited for Mary Ann to finish up by putting on 3 pairs of gloves.  As I pointed out to her (jokingly of course), that the top layer alone of her handwear was rated down to -30c, and all three layers together would probably be too warm even if we were on an expedition to the south pole.  She countered that she was just getting over a cold, and needed to stay warm.  I did not counter with "Why are we walking to the theatre then?".

Today I saw in the news that all the US mainland states had freezing temperatures on Tuesday.  Buffalo NY had places with over 1 metre of snow.  And of course the usual comments on the news items about "Well, I guess this proves to the eco-weenies that global warming does not exist".

I guess it would really help the cause of the Global Warming people, if we had +30c temperatures all over Canada yesterday, but the Global Warming models show only about a 3c rise in average world wide temperatures over a period of 50-100 years.  Meanwhile, our front yard can warm and cool by 10c on any given day.

Why is there so much wilful ignorance over the case of global warming?  I am quite sure that most people have some kind of opinion one way or another, while very few show any understanding of the science.  If most people are smart enough to superficially understand how a car works, they should be able to figure out that "average" world wide temperature is not the same thing as seasonal changes in the northern hemisphere. Most Canadians know that a car can freeze in the winter.  You need to have antifreeze in the coolant in order to prevent the car from freezing and ruining the engine.  There are no "deniers" claiming that cars can't freeze.  Funny thing is, that if a car "freezes", the engine is not destroyed by the cold, it is destroyed by localized overheating.  Assuming people can accept this paradoxical fact, why do they still claim that cold weather proves global warming does not exist?

I think we should try to apply some of the same sophisticated understanding that we have of our cars to the planet.  Think of it this way: The planet is a complicated machine, just like a car. The main difference being that all 9 billion people need to share the one planet.  Since we can't even live without our planet, we need to be in agreement if some maintenance needs to be done, or if something is happening that needs attention.  Scientists are pointing out that increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are warming up the planet. We don't need name-calling and gloating about freezing temperatures, we need understanding of how we can deal with the problem.  We need to be cautious in our approach, rather than reckless. And there is nothing more reckless than letting the oil companies influence our approach to this problem.  That's kind of like putting tobacco companies in charge of our health care.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Is the Movie "Interstellar" Liberal or Conservative? (Subliminal Messages)

 I suspect that Interstellar's hidden message may be conservative, despite the seemingly liberal image of the Earth's environment collapsing.

This is not a review of the movie, it is an analysis of the hidden messages in the movie, and whether it is mainly conservative or liberal.  So there will be spoilers below.  And by the way, I don't think that the bias in the message is severe enough to spoil the movie for anyone.  I barely noticed it at the time.

On the face of it, we have America unable to feed itself, with the return of giant dust storms like the 1930's.  But more than just America, in the movie "Interstellar", the entire world is in the same state of environmental decline, and humans will not be able to survive another generation.

This could  be a liberal message because Liberals believe in global warming, and apparently, conservatives don't.  But actually, I think it is made clear in the movie that this destruction of the Earth is caused by blight or diseases ruining the crops.  If you are a die-hard Conservative, you can then assume that dead crops may be causing these dust storms, and not global warming.  However, this argument can be taken either way.  For example the severity of the Mountain Pine Beetle's recent destructiveness may be linked to climate change.

I hope I'm not misrepresenting the conservative point of view, but I think the Conservative point of view is sometimes stated like this: "we do not need to be careful of the environment, because human ingenuity will find a way to save us no matter how much destruction we cause."

I will put a quote and a link here to a conservative website doing a similar political analysis of this movie:

"there isn’t the slightest doubt that Nolan’s view of climate change is that it is simply another of the many environmental situations that man is equipped to cope with. In the context of the film, this means extreme actions that make for cinematically exciting scenes, but on an allegorical level Nolan is saying, “Mankind has the creativity to respond to crises, even global ones."

Is it truly a conservative viewpoint, that if the Earth is failing, we do not need to save the whole planet, we simply need save Humans, probably by getting us off planet Earth? And is it truly a liberal attitude that we need to preserve our planet because we believe that Humans are just evolved monkeys and therefore we are not smart enough to invent a way to survive? If so, then this movie's hidden message really is conservative. Because in the movie, mankind does discover two ways to survive beyond planet Earth.  At the end we see these giant spaceships, complete with farms, where people are living with no need for planet Earth.  And the movie also presents the possibility of colonizing one of the planets on the other side of the worm hole.

As a liberal watching the movie, I admit that I was simply not convinced that either of these survival plans was really possible.   I guess if I was a conservative, I may look at the movie thinking those survival strategies are reasonable, and that the destruction of the Earth is the really unlikely scenario. But it's the ending of the movie that points to the hidden message being truly conservative.  Those huge orbiting space colonies are the result of the scientific work by Murphy, solving the riddle of gravity, and thereby allowing humans to build these giant structures and lift them off the earth without much trouble.  But as far as I'm concerned, overcoming gravity is no more likely than black magic or holy miracles at this time.

Then, in case gravity was not defeated, "plan B", was to fly through a worm hole to another habitable planet.  But Plan B would not allow any more than a handful of existing humans  to survive. Those handful of humans that take this trip could take human genetic material to the new planet, and so regenerate the human race again, similar to Noah and the Ark.  Again, I am not aware of any theories that humans, or anything, really could get through a worm hole if they really exist.  So I think both Plan A and Plan B are just cop outs without any real scientific basis.

So we come back to planet Earth, and the big question: is it worth preserving or should we simply exploit our planet to the maximum then bug out?  What I find strangest is that preserving the Earth has become a Liberal point of view in recent years, while developing technology to escape the Earth used to be the Liberal point of view.  In the past, Conservatives were really all about "conserving" and liberals were all about scientific discoveries (such as evolution, DNA, nuclear physics, and the Earth is not flat).  Ironically, the people most intent on self destructing planet Earth today are not the scientists, they are the religious nuts who believe the end of times are at hand, and their political allies, the Conservatives.  But the theoretical scientists are the ones who have the best chance of inventing the technology needed to save us, and they are mostly liberal, working outside the corporate culture of short term profitability.