Caption: Tesla Model S on November 22, 2011. Image source: Wikipedia. Image credit: Crixxor.
This is distantly related to spaceflight, since Elon Musk owns both Tesla Motors (electric cars) and SpaceX (www.spacex.com).
In The Rolling Stones, a science fiction novel, Robert Heinlein derided old-fashioned cars like ours for having hundreds of moving parts in the engine. Like the Nissan Leaf, the Tesla Model S is all electric. Its motor has one moving part. Instead of four, five or six speeds, it has one speed, and very fast acceleration. Maintenance: take care of the tires and brakes. Batteries: three options are available, providing three different capabilities for vehicle range. Competition: BMW Series 5, etc. Environment: on the whole, it probably does not help with carbon emissions because of the way electricity and maybe batteries are produced, but it is a zero emissions car. It is great for the environment where you live and drive.
As for global warming and climate change caused by the greenhouse gases we produce, such as CO2 and methane, after watching oil leaking for months in the Gulf of Mexico, I tell myself I need to CHANGE something in my life to make this problem better. Electric cars seem to be a stopgap until fuel cell cars arrive, but electric cars seem like a good CHANGE. Can we do a better job producing electricity and maybe batteries?
As for climate change and global warming being an emergency caused by people, most of us are skeptics or alarmists, so to speak. Skeptics ask themselves, “Must I listen to this? Nothing much will convince me this is a real problem. Scientists just want to earn their living, so they will provide results that employers require. Scientists just want to raise our taxes. Just a little plausible evidence will allow me to stop looking into this and ignore the supposed danger.” Alarmists ask themselves, “Is there just a little bit of data to allow me to conclude that people are really causing this climate abyss? If I see a little bit of data like that, I will stop looking into it and conclude that this is an emergency for our planet’s survival.”
What are the odds of a comet-Earth impact like the impact that killed the dinosaurs? What are the consequences when it hits? I compare that in my mind to odds that the climate abyss exists, a real emergency for all of us now on this planet. I conclude 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming and climate change are caused by people (greenhouse gases). I am not sure how they describe the danger. Who should we trust to summarize the data for us and make conclusions? I trust the climate science community. The email scandal sounds like much ado about nothing to me. The related group (IPCC for short) won a Nobel Prize for this work. I trust their conclusions. I conclude that it is much more likely than the comet impact, with about the same consequences by 2100, with terrible pain long before 2100.
Electric cars do not help the big picture, I am told, but for me they represent a good CHANGE. A simpler motor, too. The Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S (coming soon) represent two very different price points. I live in a big city, and I trust I will be able to charge my car if needed while driving around town, probably at a grocery store that sells a lot of organic food.
Elon Musk and his Tesla Motors plan to keep making models that are less and less expensive. They started with a small sports car, and the Tesla Model S sedan is coming out now for a much lower price, but it still competes in the category of the BMW Series 5, so that is an expensive luxury car, and the “middle class” is getting smaller in the USA. His progress has been excellent. The Tesla Model S appears to be a great innovation, and the Nissan Leaf looks great to me when I see them on the road now. (I have seen one so far, maybe two.)
I am not publicizing this web site (blog) yet, but I will keep these posts here once I get to that stage.
The Righteous Mind (a link on the Amazon web site for this book), a book by Johnathan Haidt. I do not recommend this book to anyone because of some brief scenarios used to quiz people about their moral psychology, but I like this book with those exceptions. He explains that we make up our minds about moral concerns using emotions without reason, then we use reason very briefly in isolation only to confirm our conclusions, and reason will not be a good guide unless we use it with a diverse group of people we respect. He then explained, as I recall, that we approach new challenges, such as my climate change example above, with one of two mindsets, “Must I believe this?” (skeptics?), or “Can I believe this?” (alarmists?). That reminds me of some funny quotes from the TV show, The X-Files, a show I rarely watched, but a show with a good sense of humor, and I think one quote in the advertising was, “I want to believe!”
The Climate Abyss blog in the Houston Chronicle. Its author is John Nielson-Gammon, as I recall. He referred to an audio file from a recent conference in Marfa, Texas. The subject was climate change, and the speaker was a convincing “alarmist” from Canada. He compared the odds of a climate change disaster to the odds of something like a comet-Earth impact, a dinosaur-killing impact, I would say.