Trading Places in the Podcast News

This is your Podcast Recommendation Post. I have a half hour commute every morning and evening, and I almost always listen to books on Audible. But between books, I usually plow through a bunch of podcasts. For a while I was listening to the History of Rome podcast, which I thoroughly enjoyed. But since the Roman Empire ended, so too did the podcast. So here’s your first tip: history podcaster Mike Duncan is back at it with Revolutions, “a weekly podcast series examining great political revolutions.”

The second tip also has a Roman connection: you should be listening to 99% Invisible with host Roman Mars. I just did a ten-show binge, and they were all good and getting better. As a product of the 1980s, I especially liked the show he did with the Planet Folks on Trading Places, the Dan Aykroyd/Eddie Murphy movie. If you don’t have time to listen to the podcast, here’s a written version of the basic story: What Actually Happens At The End Of ‘Trading Places’?

It’s really staggering how many good podcasts there are.

What the good drones are up to

We know what bad drones can do, but what about the good ones? Sensefly is a company that can map a disaster site with a few hand-held robot planes. Their latest PR move is to map the Matterhorn with the same technology. It’s pretty remarkable. Watch the video.

You see this and you realize it’s is being done by a small company with limited funds. Soon, these things, and other robots like them, are going to be everywhere. I imagine they’ll be putting aerial survey pilots out of business just as soon as the FAA sorts out how to manage drones and people in the same airspace.

And while these guys map the earth, the underwater drones will be spanning the seven seas. Get ready for a data tsunami.

LED lighting for cities

I’ve started to notice significant numbers of LED streetlights around my town. This makes me happy for a few reasons: the lights use less energy, they last longer, the color is more pleasant, and they dump less light overboard into the sky.


I was thinking of this when I saw a picture of Berlin taken at night. After all these years, you can still see the divide between the east and west. It’s nothing like North and South Korea, but still, what’s going on? Different kinds of lights originated with different governments long ago, and the difference persists. The orange lights in the east are sodium vapor streetlights (Natriumdampflampen!) whereas on the west they had the whitish mercury vapor lamps (Quecksilberdampflampen!).

It got me wondering what the US will look like five years from now as you fly across it at night. Perhaps the sickly orange grid (we like those sodium vapor lights too) will be replaced by a muted soft white lattice.

It’s easy to latch onto one version of a story and forget about it for a few years. For a long time LED lightbulbs and solar power were the fanciful dreams of tree huggers. While it’s true that they’re not going to free us from petroleum anytime soon, they are both making huge advances. Here is an encouraging report from Greentech Media: Four Charts That Prove the Future of Clean Energy Is Arriving. Once these technologies become good business choices on their own merits (that is, unsubsidized), they will blossom quickly.