TSA guards at airports had a new weapon in their arsenal in 2014: tablets that they held up to randomly direct travelers into different lines. According to the TSA's documentation, they spent $47k developing the app that did this. In this YouTube video, Chris Pacia develops a clone of the app in a few minutes.
The implication is that the TSA is astoundingly wasteful: Kevin Burke's FOIA request reveals a total spend of up to $336k to develop and distribute the related software, and about $1m more for the actual devices and training. Use of the app was discontinued by the TSA in any case.
You know, I've been thinking about it a while, and while they obviously have travelers' safety and best interests at heart, after seeing TSA guards ostentatiously standing with their arrow apps and "swiping" travelers this way and that, I'm beginning to suspect – forgive me! – that this whole deal might have had more to do with the appearance of security than the real thing. Crazy, right? And that in the absence of any real objectives, expertise or oversight, these guys are easily taken to the cleaners by opportunistic contractors. Someone should figure out a snappy phrase to describe this "theater of security" and do something about it. [via r/PoliticalVideos] Read the rest
Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ghana is the world's largest dump for electronic waste from all over the globe. Meet the teenagers who tend it in this short film, Regolith, directed by Sam Goldwater. Read the rest
Over the long run, keeping stuff like tree limbs and compostable waste out of landfills is good for cities. There's only so much space in a landfill and getting more land is extremely expensive. So why haven't more cities hopped on the curbside composting bandwagon, or at least banned yard waste from landfills? There's probably a lot of factors that go into those decisions, but one, apparently, is the influence of large, private companies that handle waste collection
and see the diversion of re-usable waste as a detriment to their income. (Via Chris Tackett) Read the rest
The video, made by Mae Ryan for Los Angeles public radio KPCC, traces trash from a burger lunch to its ultimate fate in a landfill. It reminds me of those great, old Sesame Street videos where you got to see what goes on inside crayon factories and peanut butter processing plants. Which is to say that it is awesome.
The process you see here, though, is L.A.-centric, which started me wondering: How much does the trash system differ from one place to another in the United States?
Over the last couple years, as I researched my book on the electric system, I spent a lot of time learning about how different infrastructures developed in this country. If there's one thing I've picked up it's the simple lesson that these systems—which we are utterly dependent upon—were seldom designed. Instead, the infrastructures we use today are often the result of something more akin to evolution ... or to a house that's been remodeled and upgraded by five or six different owners. Watching this video it occurred to me that there's no reason to think that the trash system in place in L.A. has all that much in common with the one in Minneapolis. In fact, it could well be completely different from the trash system in San Francisco.
I'd love to see more videos showing the same story in different places. Know of any others you can point me toward?
Suggested by maeryan on Submitterator
Video Link Read the rest
The manure pits on pig farms across the United States have been invaded by a mysterious foam—at Ars Technica
, Brandon Keim describes it as "a gelatinous goop that resembles melted brown Nerf". It's probably the byproduct of some kind of biological process, though nobody knows exactly what. The larger problem, though, is that the foam is rather explosive
. Read the rest
Server farms generate so much heat that they have to run air conditioning year round. That requires energy, which costs money and tends to mean burning more fossil fuels. Meanwhile, in winter, a lot of houses are cold. The people who live there have to turn on the heat, which costs money and tends to mean burning more fossil fuels.
So here's an idea: Why not distribute the hardware from a server farm, putting heat-producing equipment in houses that actually need the heat?
Read the rest
If a home has a broadband Internet connection, it can serve as a micro data center. One, two or three cabinets filled with servers could be installed where the furnace sits and connected with the existing circulation fan and ductwork. Each cabinet could have slots for, say, 40 motherboards — each one counting as a server. In the coldest climate, about 110 motherboards could keep a home as toasty as a conventional furnace does.
The rest of the year, the servers would still run, but the heat generated would be vented to the outside, as harmless as a clothes dryer’s. The researchers suggest that only if the local temperature reached 95 degrees or above would the machines need to be shut down to avoid overheating. (Of course, adding a new outside vent on the side of the house could give some homeowners pause.)
According to the researchers’ calculations, a conventional data center must invest about $400 a year to run each server, or about $16,000 for a cabinet filled with 40 of them.