Archive for the ‘Boston Traffic’ Category

Auriga Leader Spotted

December 28, 2010

We have scaled back here on productivity recently, partly due to the holidays and partly due to our chronic illnesses, ranging from bronchitis and a lung infection, to a cold featuring 24/7 coughing. This kind of constant coughing means that neither of us has slept much in the last two weeks. I’m sure our usual output will resume in a few days.

But what I must mention is the gigantic ship that glided past our East Boston window this morning, on its way into port. The Auriga Leader is a Japanese car transport ship that derives part of its energy needs from solar power.

The ship is squat and chunky, like the former Washington Redskins full-back John Riggins. (It’s 650 feet long with a 100-foot beam.) When it came into view cruising north in the Boston Harbor channel, it was on a course parallel to Meridian Street. From initial perceptions, I had expected a much bigger vessel like the tankers we see occasionally, and expected to watch its progress for much longer. But soon the blue brick of a ship was out of view and gone.

Its name was unusual, to I had to look it up, and discovered the ship itself is unusual. Launched in 2008 the ship, built by a partnership of Nippon Yusen, a huge Japanese shipping company, and Nippon Oil, set the marine world alight by the revelation that it is, at least nominally, a solar ship.

Approximately 300 deck-mounted solar cells produce 40 kilowatts, or only about 0.3% of the energy needed for engine-based devices and roughly 7% of the electricity needed for lighting and other purposes, but green pundits contend that this is significant nonetheless.

A blogger named John wrote: “This is probably not for propulsion so much as for electrical power when in port. Things like diesel power generators on board ships, and trains and trucks transporting cargo to/from the ships, cause big pollution problems in and around ports. With major ports such as Los Angeles charging ever-higher fees for supplying electricity and hefty fines for excess emissions from on-board diesel generators I can see why shipbuilders are responding with equipment like this.”

This makes plenty of sense. If a large ship can produce clean power at least part of the time, say while anchored in a dirty port city, that would be an important contribution to the health of the planet’s atmosphere. If, on the other hand, that green contribution is outweighed by the pollution produced by the extra cars being delivered by such giant freight ships, that’s another question.

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Bostonius and Trafficus

November 20, 2010

Imagine a different history for New England.  What if Athens was never overthrown by Sparta or the Ottoman Empire, and then what if the Greeks eventually took over Europe and then North America, spreading civilization and democracy? In this new world, Boston today looks a little different, and its citizens dress differently, but some things stay the same.

The main characters in our play are Bostonius and Trafficus. They are men of a mature age, and are fashionably dressed in upscale tunics and sandals.  Bostonius pulls up in front of the house of Trafficus in his vehicle.  Trafficus gets in and they drive off.

Trafficus: Is this new, Bostonius?

Bostonius: Yeah, it’s a new GM Colossus.

Trafficus:   It’s the biggest GUV I’ve ever seen.

Bostonius: She’s a beaut, all right.

Trafficus:   They make even bigger ones, you know.  This thing must be twenty cubits long — what’s that? At least thirty feet?  I hear that Retiarius down at the coffee shop has a new Ford Trojan.  From what I’ve read in ‘Chariot and Driver’ you could park your car inside his.

Bostonius: Very funny.

Trafficus:   It’s very smooth and quiet.  Wait, Bostonius, is that speedometer right?

Bostonius: Yeah, why?

Trafficus:   Why are you going so fast?  The speed limit here on the MassPike is 55 mph.

Bostonius: Only losers go the speed limit, Trafficus.  Nobody does 55, so why should I?  Besides, this baby can go three times the speed limit.

Trafficus:   Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it, Bostonius.  Socrates rejects the “everybody does it” argument, declaring that it carries no intellectual weight.  And Aristotle says that thinking like that can lead to lawlessness and chaos.  You are doing more than 20 mph over the speed limit; do you really think you can go as fast as you want?

Bostonius: Of course.  And besides, there are never any cops around.

Trafficus:   Watch out!

Bostonius: What’s the matter now?

Trafficus:   Why are you driving so close to that car in front of you?  Why do you hate him so much?

Bostonius: What do you mean?

Trafficus:   Don’t you remember what you were taught back in high school, Bostonius?  That you should allow one car length in front of you for every 10 mph you’re going?  So here we are in a 55 mph zone, doing 70-75, so you should be at least seven car lengths back, instead of the two or three you’re doing now.

Bostonius: That’s crap.  I’m a good driver.

Trafficus:   I cannot agree, Bostonius.  Granted, on the golf course you can out-drive me and some of the other guys, but what if the guy in front of you has to stop suddenly?  As Archimedes pointed out in his calculus book for children stopping distance is a function of the square of the speed of the car.  So at 75 it would take about 165 feet longer, about 75% further, to stop than at 55 mph. And since this huge vehicle must weigh as much as the Parthenon, you’d have to add on an additional chunk. Don’t forget, Bostonius, it will take quite a bit longer in time, as well as distance. Besides, don’t you think you make that other guy nervous being on his tail like that?

Bostonius: Who cares?  He should get out of my way.

Trafficus:   But there is heavy traffic in front of him; there’s no place to go, and he has the right to drive in whichever lane he wants.

Bostonius: C’mon, Trafficus, I’m in a hurry, and if I follow this guy close I’ll get there sooner.

Trafficus:   Has Dr Bacchus been prescribing his home-made remedies again? You’re talking nonsense.

Bostonius: I drive like this all the time and I’ve never had an accident.

Trafficus:   You’ve been lucky.  Pythagorus generated statistics telling us that you’re going to have an accident sooner or later if you continue to drive like this.  Honestly, you’re going too fast, you’re too close to the car in front of you, and you’re driving recklessly.  By the way, Aristophanes wants us to use the word “collision” since “accident” implies that no one is at fault.

Bostonius: Look!  There’s just enough room to change lanes, zoom up ahead and then swerve real fast back into my lane!  I’ll be one or two cars ahead!

Trafficus:   Really, Bostonius, you’re driving like a teenager who has been kicked in the head by a horse.  Hey, why are you lifting your digit at that driver?

Bostonius: The guy cut me off!

Trafficus:   Didn’t Plato teach you anything about virtue behind the wheel?

(They arrive at their destination.)

Trafficus:   Thank Zeus we got here alive.

Come back next week, when Trafficus teaches Bostonius about the use of a clever device called a “turn signal.”