" /> Coruscation: December 2015 Archives

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December 30, 2015

Drive-by automobile emissions testing

About a half-dozen states now use it routinely to supplement their inspection programs, and at least 10 others perform periodic surveys and studies, mostly in urban areas with air-quality problems, to monitor overall compliance to clean air rules. In Colorado, for instance, cars that are found in compliance by a remote sensing device are exempted from vehicle emissions tests.

What makes this technology particularly useful is its ability to aggregate emissions data on makes and models of cars and measure how various models, vehicle technology classes and emissions-control components are performing on the road.

The results can be eye-opening. I was part of a team of scientists in Colorado that used this technology to identify emissions problems with Volkswagens and Audis that have two-liter diesel engines months before the recent scandal broke.

The first hint came from a colleague in Europe who, looking at remote sensing data collected in Switzerland, had noticed high diesel nitrogen oxide emissions coming from passenger cars. At his suggestion, we examined thousands of measurements collected by Colorado's vehicle emissions program.

Peter M. McClintock, air quality and vehicle emissions consultant for Opus Inspection, an international vehicle inspection company, and a contractor for the Colorado and Virginia emissions inspection programs.

Sure enough, late last year, we found nitrogen oxide emissions from Volkswagen and Audi two-liter diesel vehicles significantly above not only the regulations, but also above the emissions of similar vehicles. But we had no idea then that VW had rigged inspection tests, let alone of the scope of the company's subterfuge.

Cops walking their beats notice things, and in this sense, remote sensing is the "cop on the beat" of emissions control, spotting abnormalities, defective emissions devices, deteriorating emission-control systems or unexpected emissions in unusual conditions, such as high elevation and high temperature.

December 29, 2015

Branding and the SOHO neologism: Solo District by Appia Group

'At the corner of Lougheed Hwy and Willingdon Ave, Burnaby, BC' or 'SOLO' South of Lougheed ?

Solo District by Appia Group offers aspirational branding for their planned mixed use infill community development.

Included with the first building is a Whole Foods store, which, if history is prologue, bodes well for Solo District and the surrounding area. In the U.S., they call it the Whole Foods effect: wherever the Texas-based organic food chain locates a store, prices for surrounding real estate jump. The debate continues over whether those prices rise because of Whole Foods' presence, or because the chain is good at selecting markets where the future is bright. In any case, no one questions that Whole Foods is a desirable amenity.



December 20, 2015

Physics happens after the classroom

By suggesting, and sadly litigating, that diversity -- and more important, inclusion and equal opportunity -- aren't paramount to the production of new scientific information, we wrongly imply that the most important part of scientific discovery is in the classroom.

The purpose of the classroom is to build a tool kit and to understand what we know in the hopes of uncovering something that we don't. It's the door through which we create new physicists. Closing that door to students of color unless they can justify their presence is closing the door to the kinds of creativity that can be shown only after a student has mastered basic skills.

A physics class should interrogate and transfer the canon of scientific knowledge. Those students will go on to consider the many unanswered questions at the frontiers of what is known about the universe.

If we limit the physics classroom to white students, or students whose presence in a classroom we leave unquestioned, we also limit the production of new information about the world -- and whose perspective that world will reflect. If that's the case, then we all lose.

-- Jedidah C. Isler, a National Science Foundation astronomy and astrophysics postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University.

December 19, 2015

Write what you think

SEOUL, South Korea -- WHEN she published her book about Korean "comfort women" in 2013, Park Yu-ha wrote that she felt "a bit fearful" of how it might be received.

After all, she said, it challenged "the common knowledge" about the wartime sex slaves.

But even she was not prepared for the severity of the backlash.

In February, a South Korean court ordered Ms. Park's book, "Comfort Women of the Empire," redacted in 34 sections where it found her guilty of defaming former comfort women with false facts. Ms. Park is also on trial on the criminal charge of defaming the aging women, widely accepted here as an inviolable symbol of Korea's suffering under colonial rule by Japan and its need for historical justice, and she is being sued for defamation by some of the women themselves.

Op-Ed Contributor: South Korea's Textbook Whitewash:
The women have called for Ms. Park's expulsion from Sejong University in Seoul, where she is a professor of Japanese literature. Other researchers say she is an apologist for Japan's war crimes. On social media, she has been vilified as a "pro-Japanese traitor."

Japan's Apologies for World War II:
"They do not want you to see other aspects of the comfort women," the soft-spoken Ms. Park said during a recent interview at a quiet street-corner cafe run by one of her supporters. "If you do, they think you are diluting the issue, giving Japan indulgence."

In her book, she emphasized that it was profiteering Korean collaborators, as well as private Japanese recruiters, who forced or lured women into the "comfort stations," where life included both rape and prostitution. There is no evidence, she wrote, that the Japanese government was officially involved in, and therefore legally responsible for, coercing Korean women.


Continue reading the main story

Although often brutalized in a "slavelike condition" in their brothels, Ms. Park added, the women from the Japanese colonies of Korea and Taiwan were also treated as citizens of the empire and were expected to consider their service patriotic. They forged a "comradelike relationship" with the Japanese soldiers and sometimes fell in love with them, she wrote. She cited cases where Japanese soldiers took loving care of sick women and even returned those who did not want to become prostitutes.

The book sold only a few thousand copies. But it set off an outsize controversy.

"Her case shows how difficult it has become in South Korea to challenge the conventional wisdom about comfort women," said Kim Gyu-hang, a social critic.

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Ms. Park's book, published in Japan last year, won awards there. Last month, 54 intellectuals from Japan and the United States issued a statement criticizing South Korean prosecutors for "suppressing the freedom of scholarship and press." Among them was a former chief cabinet secretary in Japan, Yohei Kono, who issued a landmark apology in 1993 admitting coercion in the recruitment of comfort women.

December 12, 2015

48 movements for fitness and health

Animated illustrations of 48 movements for fitness and health.


Clicks on mobile ads: accidental, when attempting to close the ad

Clicks on mobile ads: accidental, when attempting to close the ad

Mike Pilawski, vice president for product at Vungle, which builds and serves mobile video ads, says some advertisers ask Vungle to make the whole screen clickable at the end of the ad -- not just the X or other specific buttons -- which would make the ad difficult to close. He says Vungle refuses to do that, but it does design ads with X buttons in the top left instead of the usual top right. The switch confounds some users, though he insists that is not the intent.