Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Driveless Cars A Reality By 2020

In the US alone there are over Six Million car accidents each year. Resulting in 32,367 fatalities in 2011. This number was the lowest in the country since 1949 when there were only 30,246 fatalities with far fewer accidents. Since 1996 We have seen an average of 4% per year decrease in fatalities in auto accidents. While the total number of accidents goes up each year.

What do these data tell us? For one we are manufacturing and driving safer cars. This has been at the front of consumer and manufacturer minds since 1980. This was the first real shift towards safety. and 1979 had more fatalities than all but 1 preceding year.

What then is the cause of all of these +6M auto accidents? Around 97% of these accidents are caused by human error. Another alarming statistic is that the number one killer of teenagers is car accidents. Even more alarming is that in the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day teens are twice as likely to die in a car accident than at any other point in the year.

Now I'm a parent and I have concerns about my 5 year old and 3 year old driving. But the good news is for me by the time my Daughter hits 16 years old it will be 2024. These vehicles will have been out for 4 years. Johnny be sure my little babies will be behind the wheel of a  Driver-less car. Now whether or not they deliver on all the hype the vehicles will need some input from the driver. So they can not be totally driver-less.

But I do like Nissan's goal. Creating a vehicle with zero emissions and creating a vehicle with zero fatalities. Watching the arc of fatalities going from 0 in 1898 then ever increasing to it's highest point in 1972 at 54,589, then despite the exponential population growth seeing these numbers fall to an all time low per capita of 32,367, is impressive.

Im excited to see these numbers plummet even further as we reduce the number of humans driving, which account for 97% of these accidents.

So what can you do if you are putting your teens in cars now? These stats may be helpful.

Teens that have their own car and can drive at any time without permission are twice as likely to die in an automobile accident as those that have to ask to borrow their parents car every time they drive.

Start teaching your children good habits as toddlers. That's when they learn how to drive anyway. point out that a vehicle may be in your lane or swerving and they are probably on their phone. Teach good habits early.

We may not be able to stop texting and driving, in fact the epidemic will claim more lives before the problem goes away. So let's look at the problem from an algebraic standpoint. If we can't solve for the texting part of the equation, then lets solve for the driving part of the equation.

Saving over 30,000 lives a year, that's amazing. Not to mention when you don't have to drive it is much more comfortable to drive.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Study Finds That Oreos Are as Addictive as Cocaine

A new study from Connecticut College has provided proof that Oreos and similar snacks can be as addictive as cocaine. The study found that when rats were placed in a maze with Oreos on one side and rice cakes on the other, the rats would continuously choose the side with the Oreos. In addition, the study found that the rats enjoyed the inner icing portion more than the outer cookie portion, and often ate that part first.

Another piece of information that the researchers were interested in studying was the effect Oreos and other high-sugar, high-fat snacks were having on low-income areas. The researchers found that Oreos were marketed and purchased more frequently in areas with lower socioeconomic status. Because Oreos have high sugar and fat contents, this leads to low-income areas having a higher obesity rate among both children and adults, and is often linked to the negative health risks in eating in the fashion such as the onset of juvenile diabetes. And if Oreos truly are addictive, this could be a never-ending cycle for families that regularly purchase them.

The researchers believe that Oreos and other high-sugar, high-fat snacks could potentially be more dangerous than morphine or cocaine because they are more readily available and cost much less. They found that the same areas in the brain's "pleasure center" were activated when the rats ate Oreos and when they were injected with addictive drugs.

This can lead to a serious problem among the general public. Anybody who has eaten an Oreo will know that it is especially hard to eat only one. Some people may believe that this is just because the cookies taste good, but what if there is something else at play? What if fatty and sugary foods are even more addictive than we previously thought? If that is true, it truly does provide Nabisco (the company that makes Oreos) with a solid business model: advertise Oreos heavily on children's TV networks in areas with lower socioeconomic status, then sell Oreos to the consumer at a low enough price to make them seem like a convenient, economical snack, and watch as the same consumers come back again and again to buy more cookies.

Consumers should be cautious and try to avoid eating fatty, sugary, and generally unhealthy foods. Instead of eating "convenient" junk food, consumers should consider trying a vegetarian diet, which can be just as convenient, but a lot healthier, than Oreos.

Friday, October 4, 2013

23AndMe Awarded Designer Baby Patent

On September 24, genetic testing company 23AndMe was awarded United States patent number 8,543,339 for “gamete donor selection based on genetic calculations.” The idea behind the patent is that 23AndMe can test each parent for physical traits or probability for particular diseases, and then choose which genes to give the baby. This means that if one parent’s family is prone to type II diabetes, but the other parent is not, 23AndMe can choose for the baby to have the gene from the parent who is not prone to diabetes. The same process can apply to physical characteristics as well – parents can choose their baby’s eye or hair color based on the genes from both parents.

In addition to simply choosing from the genes of the two parents, 23AndMe is hoping to have a high-quality donor gene pool so parents can create the ideal “designer baby.” If both parents are prone to diabetes, 23AndMe can simply select genes from their donor pool to ensure the baby will not be prone to diabetes. In addition, parents can also select for their child to have blonde hair – even if both parents are brunette.

Although it sounds like a great idea to be able to “engineer” the ideal baby, many genetics experts are wary. Being able to choose the exact genes a baby will have removes the randomness that is childbirth. In addition, many religious experts are questioning whether this is ethical and if the parents are “questioning God” by giving their babies genes to avoid disease. Even still, this is a great way to cure genetic diseases, create variety, and ensure a healthy baby. Nowadays, most people have brown eyes and dark hair because those genes are naturally dominant. Green eyes and blonde hair have become rare, so allowing parents to give their baby a certain color eyes is groundbreaking.

This technology still has a long way to go, but the framework and patent are both there. It will be interesting to see in the coming years how “designer babies” show up in the news.