Tag Archives: safety

Electric Car Owners Dish on Their Real-World EV Experiences

Safety first

“I’d rather sit on batteries than a tank of gas, in terms of explosion risk,” says Olivier Chalouhi, who became the world’s first Nissan LEAF owner when he took delivery of one in late 2010. It is a sentiment that Patrick Wang, one of the first to own the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt, shares. “There’s a ton more energy in gasoline than in the battery pack—so to me it’s not a concern at all,” he says.

The only safety concern among a small sample of EV owners interviewed in conjunction with the May EVS26 electric vehicle symposium in Los Angeles relates to pedestrians’ obliviousness to the quiet electric drivetrain. Chalouhi, whose LEAF is equipped with an automatic pedestrian-alert sounder, says he has not had any such issues. Yet Wang, whose Volt is equipped with a driver-actuated pedestrian-alert sound, says that sometimes in parking lots pedestrians have not noticed him, so he activated the chirping noise.

Maintenance and driving range

Given that the battery pack is the single most expensive part on the vehicle—some estimates are up to 45 percent of the total cost of the vehicle—questions have been raised as to how frequently it will need to be replaced.

 

via Nick Chambers – Scientific American

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Sunscreen prevents sunburns, but little else is known about their safety

Sunscreens prevent sunburns, but beyond that simple fact surprisingly little is known about the safety and efficacy of these ubiquitous creams and sprays.

FDA’s failure to finalize its 1978 sunscreen safety standards both epitomizes and perpetuates this state of confusion. EWG’s review of the latest research unearthed troubling facts that might tempt you to give up on sunscreens altogether.

That’s not the right answer – despite the unknowns about their efficacy, public health agencies still recommend using sunscreens, just not as your first line of defense against the sun.

Here are the surprising facts:

- No consensus on whether sunscreens prevent skin cancer.

- Some evidence that sunscreens might increase the risk of the deadliest form of skin cancer for some people.

- The common sunscreen ingredient vitamin A may speed the development of cancer.

- Free radicals and other skin-damaging byproducts of sunscreen.

- Pick your sunscreen: nanomaterials or potential hormone disruptors.

- Europe’s better sunscreens.

- The 34th summer in a row without final U.S. sunscreen safety regulations.

 

keep reading – each fact has an explanation at EWG

 

// Thx to Swiss Miss, Photo via Robert S. Donovan

SpaceX introduces team to test Dragon for manned space flight

Recently, SpaceX “announced it has assembled a team of independent experts to help the company create a safe spacecraft for NASA astronauts.”

And, one of them, Edward Lu, is on Google+:

“I’m looking forward to peeking under the hood of the SpaceX Dragon, and helping them successfully launch humans into orbit!”

More on the company’s initiatives:

The company is already building its Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and has a $1.6-billion contract to do just that for NASA.

SpaceX plans to send its unmanned Dragon capsule to dock with the International Space Station on April 30 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in a demonstration flight for NASA. If successful, SpaceX would be the first private company to accomplish the feat.

Now that the space shuttle is retired, SpaceX wants in on the potentially multibillion-dollar job of ferrying astronauts to and from the station. To do that, SpaceX needs to make sure its capsule — which is built to fit up to seven people – is safe.

The independent “safety advisory panel” is composed of leading human spaceflight safety experts:

  • Leroy Chiao, former NASA astronaut, former International Space Station commander.
  • G. Scott Hubbard, former director of NASA Ames Research Center, Stanford University professor of aeronautics and astronautics, sole NASA representative on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
  • Dr. Richard T. Jennings, former chief of medicine for NASA Johnson Space Center, University of Texas Medical Branch professor at the Aerospace Medicine Center.
  • Capt. Mark Kelly, former NASA astronaut, former Space Shuttle commander, retired Navy captain.
  • Edward Lu, former NASA astronaut.

 

via LA Times

 

More about SpaceX, including their manifesto: “transparency, low prices, and worldwide dominance for the future of space travel.”

 

Test crew included (from top left): NASA Crew Survival Engineering Team Lead Dustin Gohmert, NASA Astronaut Tony Antonelli, NASA Astronaut Lee Archambault, SpaceX Mission Operations Engineer Laura Crabtree, SpaceX Thermal Engineer Brenda Hernandez, NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim, and NASA Astronaut Tim Kopra. Photo: Roger Gilbertson / SpaceX
In 2010, the second flight of Falcon 9 orbits the first operational Dragon spacecraft under the NASA COTS program, and SpaceX becomes the first private company to recover a spacecraft from Earth orbit—a feat previously only accomplished by a few nations.

 

// Photos via SpaceX Updates

Gmail: why do messages end up in spam folder?

Many of our users say the accuracy of our spam filter is one of the key reasons they love Gmail. And while we think you should never have to look in your spam folder, we know some of you may want to know why the messages there were marked as spam.

So starting today, we’ll be showing a brief explanation at the top of each of your spam messages. Simply look at any message in your spam folder and now you can find out why it was put there and learn about any potentially harmful content within the message.

via Official Gmail Blog

 

Help articles from Google explaining why Spam can be dangerous.

Thx Don Burke.

As Senator Boxer and City Council get involved, no word on source of radioactive steam leaking from San Onofre

Sen. Barbara Boxer has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a comprehensive review of the radiation leaks at the San Onofre nuclear power plant, to determine how widespread the problems might be.

In a letter, Boxer asked to NRC Chairman Gregory Jackzo to “thoroughly assess” the conditions at San Onofre plant “to determine what further investigation and action is required at this time, and whether similar actions may be needed at other nuclear facilities.”

A staffer at the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee said the senator is concerned that the reported wear and tear on the unit’s piping, which is only two years old, might reflect broader problems at other plants across the country.

via UT San Diego

In an earlier post, I summarized the situation to-date:

There is also discussion that the Nuclear Commission is suffering from regulatory capture, which means that they are afraid to report any leaks.

This has led to a large amount of confusion in the public and so it’s great that San Clemente citizens are getting involved:

Residents worried about leaks from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station asked San Clemente’s elected leaders Tuesday night to have sensors installed around town to monitor radiation levels.

“We believe with recent events at the San Onofre Waste-Generating Station that it is necessary for the citizens’ safety and well-being to have a monitoring system,” San Clemente resident Gene Stone told the City Council.

Stone said an independent monitoring system would provide radiation readings so residents could tell how safe the atmosphere was at any given time. He also called for a study to identify cancer and leukemia risks in San Clemente, which is just over two miles up the coast from the nuclear plant’s two reactors.

“Edison may know what the radiation levels are, but they’ve told me that they won’t share those with the public,” San Clemente resident Donna Gilmore told the City Council. “I could go to the library and look at last year’s figures. Well, that’s not going to do me any good.”

Read the response from the Nuclear Company (Edison) and the City Council at OC Register

Why do Americans think nuclear power is safe when near-meltdowns and leaks happen constantly?

In a previous post, I reported that 58% of Americans think nuclear power is safe. After reading the below reports one has to wonder why that is…

14 Near Meltdowns

Among the litany of violations at U.S. nuclear power plants are missing or mishandled nuclear material, inadequate emergency plans, faulty backup power generators, corroded cooling pipes and even marijuana use inside a nuclear plant, according to an ABC News review of four years of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) safety records.

There are 104 U.S. nuclear power plants, producing 20 percent of the country’s electricity at world-class safety levels, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

The Union of Concerned Scientists found 14 “near misses” at nuclear plants in 2010. And there were 56 serious violations at nuclear power plants from 2007 to 2011, according the ABC News review of NRC records.

In a statement by the NRC to congress, “the last five years show no abnormal occurrences at U.S. nuclear plants. In fact, America’s reactors produce 20 percent of all electricity at world class safety levels.”

Chicago is in Danger

At the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois, for instance, which is located within 50 miles of the 7 million people who live in and around Chicago, nuclear material went missing in 2007. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined the operator — Exelon Corp. — after discovering the facility had failed to “keep complete records showing the inventory [and] disposal of all special nuclear material in its possession.”

As a result, two fuel pellets and equipment with nuclear material could not be accounted for.

Two years later, federal regulators cited Dresden for allowing unlicensed operators to work with radioactive control rods. The workers allowed three control rods to be moved out of the core. When alarms went off, workers initially ignored them.

New York City is in Danger

At the Indian Point nuclear plant just outside New York City, the NRC found that an earthquake safety device has been leaking for 18 years.

In the event of an earthquake, Lochbaum said, the faulty safety device would not help prevent water from leaking out of the reactor. A lack of water to cool the fuel rods has been the most critical problem at the Fukushima plant in Japan after the recent earthquake and tsunami.

“The NRC has known it’s been leaking since 1993,” Lochbaum said, “but they’ve done nothing to fix it.”

via ABC news: Records show 56 violations in past 4 years

Be Prepared for Facebook Timeline (UPDATED)

This is a guest post by Kirby Plessas (@kirbstr), President and CEO of Plessas Experts Network, a consultancy that informs, trains, and researches for clients on internet technology, information extraction, security and worldwide internet usage. 

Just as users are getting settled into the new Facebook feed style that was released a few weeks ago, Facebook is prepping again for another major change.  I don’t purport to know all of the effects of the next set of changes, but at least three items have caught my attention.

First, is the shiny and pretty new timeline feature. I have to admit, it is going to make profile pages much more attractive. I have not switched to timeline early although I know that some friends have because I wanted to wait until the official switch so I can experience the changes with the masses and notice what is effecting them. This is also the reason why I don’t use any add-ons to adjust my Facebook view (although I know there are some great functional ones out there, such as Better Facebook or the Chrome extension that suppresses the new and annoying ticker). I like my Facebook raw and gritty, if you will.

But the beauty and the danger in the new Timeline feature is that it partially solves one of the major gaps in Facebook – search. Now, I am unsure that you will be able to search through time on a profile via keyword (as would ultimately be my preference), but you could rewind and fast-forward through someone’s account through their timeline and see what they had to say a year ago or more. While this might not seem to be a privacy issue (users put this information out there – they didn’t care then), it is because until now, profile visitors could only go back in time to a minor degree to see what was posted. People change their minds and opinions they may have had two years ago may no longer be valid or what seemed funny back then might not seem funny now.

Luckily, Facebook has already provided us with a privacy tool that will keep the history within your timeline private, however, it is pretty much napalm to everything in your account. If you take a look at your privacy settings, there is an option to “limit the audience for your past posts.” This allows you to retroactively reset the privacy setting for everything you have in your account up until now to your default setting. I’ve used it a few times to set everything to “friends only,” which wiped out the few public posts I had created, and it works like a charm. To block your timeline from being exploited, you could use that tool to set all past posts to “only me” and thus make them privately searchable but blocked even to friends. I’m going to do this… soon. But the side effect is that everything posted up through now will be effectively wiped out from any of my friends’ point of view. Anything I want them to see, I will have to find myself and manually redo the privacy settings so they can view it. I don’t guarantee this would be the case with photos as well (which is probably the main thing I would want my friends to see on my timeline), but I am guessing it is.

MAJOR EDIT: Turns out this is not a solution after all. While Facebook limits posts you made viewable to the public or friends of friends to a default “friends” setting, it won’t affect every post and you cannot set it to “Only Me.” As a result, you will have to go through and get rid of posts manually. Because Facebook doesn’t give you an easy way to do this until you activate Timeline, I am changing my stance on activating it early and suggest anyone who wants to know what it will do to their account before it is viewable by everyone, activate Timeline now.

Second, timeline will also prompt users into entering even more data about themselves, such as previous employment. This might be a counter against popular professional networking site, LinkedIn. If people move their resumes and CVs over to Facebook, they may no longer have a need for yet another social network. Keep your eyes open, you may see professional recommendations as a new feature eventually. In addition, it prompts users to select which of their Facebook friends worked or studied at the same places, effectively tagging this onto multiple people’s profiles and timelines all at once. I have required all tags to be approved by me before adding them to may account and I suggest you do the same so that your resume is not automatically filled out for you by well-meaning friends.

Last note on Timeline – I just came across this article that shows that Timeline might give away your real birthday (at least year) even if you marked it private. Heads up.

Second, is the new instant sharing innovation, a definite privacy issue. Like Timeline, this isn’t a big deal if you are paying attention, but there are so many people out there apparently not paying attention to even the most basic Facebook privacy changes. Coming soon, any Facebook App that you add could include the new automatic sharing option where instead of “liking” a web article, just that fact that you clicked on the link to read that article or watched a video would be broadcast across Facebook to your default privacy settings. Some might not care, but others may not want professional friends to know how much they read the gossip pages, others may not want their political preferences highlighted across Facebook, etc. There are quite a few people already concerned about this.

I have a solution (work around) for you that I will be employing myself. First, go through your applications and delete the ones you don’t recognize. I would only keep the ones actively in use. This could solve the problem entirely, but some apps you may not want drop. If you are actively using one that might expose your reading habits (which could be any), then move on to the next step.

Since I am going to keep using my favorite apps and some of those might employ this instant sharing, I am banishing Facebook to its own dedicated browser. I’ll probably use Opera. The key is to use a browser that is different enough from your commonly used browser so that they will not share cookies/logins. If you use Chrome, don’t use Flock (or Rockmelt?) as they are based on the same code and could share cookies. Same with different versions of Firefox. Choose a browser that you like but don’t often use and keep it strictly for Facebook use. I do need to highlight that you will need to log out of Facebook on your active browser and delete all cookies for this to work, a major side effect of which would be that you cannot then use Facebook as the login to other sites using that same browser. This could be a major detractor for some, as the Facebook login across multiple sites is a great convenience and in many cases more secure.

Third and last, there is also the controversy over Facebook tracking users even when logged out. I’m not surprised, but the uproar about it reminds me of the uproar over the iPhone GPS tracking issue, so I wonder if that will stop Facebook from extensive tracking for a while. To me, this is almost a non-issue since I now expect to be tracked by pretty much every website I visit whether I log in or not. I’m also being tracked by my browsers and search engines. Everyone wants to know where I’ve been, what I had for lunch and whether I prefer Pepsi or Coke. This is the way the internet pays for itself. The only thing that really bugs me about it is that it is very secretive. Many people I know are talking about tracking and its pros and cons but there are also many people who are uneducated about who tracks you, why they track you, and how to avoid being tracked when desired. To learn more about internet tracking, please check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Here are some relevant articles.

Mark Zuckerberg at the F8 conference announcing Facebook Timeline.

Photos: Roebot (timeline), Dtweney (Zuckerberg, F8)