January 11, 2011

It’s not your imagination, Toronto area commuters

Filed under: Cancon, Economics — Tags: — Nicholas @ 13:00

Canadians often have a disturbing eagerness to see themselves coming out atop various world rankings. Let a UN agency or a big NGO list Canada in the top five of any kind of list and they practically declare a national day of celebration . . . it’s kinda pathetic, actually.

Andrew Coyne finds a list that nobody in Canada will find as a source of national pride:

Indeed, for sheer mind-numbing, soul-destroying aggravation, traffic in our largest cities can compete with any in the developed world. A Toronto Board of Trade report earlier this year looked at commuting times in 19 major European and North American cities. Toronto’s ranking? Dead last: worse than New York or London, worse than Los Angeles. But other Canadian cities were scarcely better. Montreal was 18th, Vancouver 14th, Calgary 13th, Halifax 10th.

So, what’s the answer? Ban private vehicles and load everybody into mass transit? If anything would turn Canadians away from their “peace loving” self-image, that might well do it. Canadians love their cars as much as any other western country and more than most. There’s also the fact that for most commuters, taking public transit would increase, not decrease their commuting time.

The reason is simple: it’s quicker by car. As bad as the commute is for drivers, it’s much worse for public transit users: 106 minutes, versus 63 minutes by car. Granted, part of the reason it takes so long to get anywhere by transit is because of all the cars blocking the way. But you’d have to persuade an awful lot of those drivers to give up the comfort and convenience of their cars to put much of a dent in that. And they’d still take longer to get to work even then.

So, what’s the answer? Toll roads.

Glass that is “stronger than steel” developed

Filed under: Technology — Tags: — Nicholas @ 08:59

Arnie Bruce-Cooper reports on a recent development in high-strength glass:

In the world of materials, strength (the amount of force a substance can withstand) and toughness (its capacity to resist fracturing) are not merely different attributes; they’re very difficult to achieve together. Now a collaboration of researchers from Caltech and the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has created a form of glass that has both qualities. It’s stronger and tougher than steel or, indeed, any other known material. The material features palladium, a metal whose possible use in glasses was recognized 45 years ago.

[. . .]

The work is outlined in a study published this week in the journal Nature Materials. Marios Demetriou, a professor at Caltech and lead author of the paper, says the work involved finding a particularly strong version of the simplest form of glass, called marginal glass, and then turning it into the even stronger form known as bulk glass.

“What we did here is find a very, very tough marginal glass made of palladium with small fractions of metalloids like phosphorus, silicon, and germanium, which yielded one-millimeter-thick samples. And we just said, let’s add very little of something that will make it bulk without making it brittle,” says Demetriou. By adding 3.5 percent silver to this marginal glass, Demetriou was able to increase the thickness to six millimeters while maintaining its toughness.

H/T to Virginia Postrel for the link.

Footage of flash flooding in Queensland

Filed under: Australia, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:24

You can donate to the flood relief effort at http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html.

H/T to BoingBoing for the link.

Update: The Guardian is reporting at least nine people are dead, with many more missing:

Floodwaters are now heading for Brisbane where the river, which runs through the centre of the city, has broken its banks and police have urged local residents to begin evacuations.

Police described the wall of water that swept through the city of Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, as an “inland instant tsunami”. Cars were tossed like toys down the street, trees uprooted and businesses inundated as the floodwaters tore through the centre of town. Four people including two children were killed.

“Houses were ripped from their stumps. This is unbelievable damage,” said the Toowoomba mayor, Peter Taylor.

From Toowoomba, the water flowed down the Lockyer valley where emergency services plucked more than 40 people from houses isolated by the torrent, which hit with little warning. Thunderstorms and driving rain were keeping helicopters from reaching people still in danger this morning.

Update, the second: My friend and occasional contributor of blogging material Roger Henry is in the Brisbane area and reports on local conditions:

It has been raining all day with a prolonged thunder-storm. West of here it has been raining at an average 6 inches an hour since early this morning. All bets against a major flood are now off. Ipswich looks like it might go underwater. Caboolture, to our north, flooded so fast that residents were fleeing on foot with no clear idea of where to go (Uphill?).

The four-lane highway north is now a 20 mile long parking lot as the cops try to get traffic turned around. That should be fun.

Stocked up on batteries, candles, tinned food and some extra gas cylinders for the little stove. Water is not an issue:-)

We were assured, by experts, that the rain would stop this morning. The opposite seems to have occurred and now they are hoping tomorrow might be fine.

Ooops. Emergency services have just issued a continuing severe weather alert for the next twelve hours.

The problem is not confined to here. Bad weather has spread into
northern New South Wales, and several rivers there are now in flood.

Getting very interesting.

Amusing ad

Filed under: History, Humour, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:09

H/T to Megan McArdle for the link.

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