My Photo


  • Jen-Luc Piquant sez: "They like us! They really like us!"

    "Explains physics to the layperson and specialist alike with abundant historical and cultural references."
    -- Exploratorium ("10 Cool Sites")

    "... polished and humorous..."
    -- Physics World

    "Takes 1 part pop culture, 1 part science, and mixes vigorously with a shakerful of passion."
    -- Typepad (Featured Blog)

    "In this elegantly written blog, stories about science and technology come to life as effortlessly as everyday chatter about politics, celebrities, and vacations."
    -- Fast Company ("The Top 10 Websites You've Never Heard Of")
Blog powered by Typepad
Bookmark and Share

« k is for kerfuffle | Main | China report »


I have been looking at getting a new car and have been doing exactly these calculations, so I could could determine how much money I would save with a car that has a high mpg.

There's a precedent for your suggestion, sort of: The Personal Genome Project requires a basic genetics test before people can make their genetic and other information publicly available.

My actual criteria for switching to a higher MPG vehicle is going to be based on ALL the specifications, not just one. For example, I looked at a 2005 Lexus RX330 vs RX330H and the difference in economy wasn't worth it to me financially. While the RX330 gets 20/25MPG, the RX330H gets 25/25MPG. The DIFFERENCE in MPG is what matters here and it doesn't justify the change. I can go 20 miles on a gallon on an RX330 or 25 miles to a gallon on an RX330H, which means for the price I pay 20 miles per gallon on the RX330, I get an extra 5 miles "free" on the RX330H. In reality that extra 5 miles isn't free and will never be repaid from the difference in price between the two vehicles of $5000. The math here is simple. The difference between vehicles is 5MPG or 20%, which at $5.00/gal represents an extra $1.00 for the non-hybrid to travel that same 25 miles as the hybrid. The average American drives 12,000 miles per year, so we need to take the number of 25 mile increments that are in 12,000 miles, and multiply that by the $1.00 extra required for each of those 25 mile increments. The "savings" in gas of the hybrid over the non-hybrid is then $480 per year. While that sounds like a lot, remember that you also had to pay an extra $5,000 to save $480 a year so it would take $5,000/$480 = 10.4 years to make up for that additional $10,000 difference, even with gas at $5.00 a gallon. The numbers are even worse when you consider that for each multiple of ten years you need to add about $10,000 to the hybrid vehicle for the battery pack replacement. In other words, if your payback is not less than ten years, you will never ever realize a payback over the non-hybrid vehicle. Higher MPG does not automatically mean smarter or more economical.

That's why we filthy Europeans like to use liters/100km when talking about mileage. Long live the SI!

There is no point drawing a graph. A single number is all that matters. Gallons per mile if you want everything to be linear, miles per gallon if you aren't afraid of taking an inverse.

Hold back!this filthy European wants mpg's and lots of them. Silly American gallons come from miserable American pintts

But if you require people to pass a test before they can buy a new car, they'll keep driving the old (almost certainly lower-mileage) car indefinitely!

NEVER forget the law of unintended consequences (aka the invisible foot of government)

In fact, the two best things you can do with your current car to help the environment are to make sure your car is tuned up so that if combusts the fuel efficiently, and maintain the right tire pressure.

I have to disagree. The single best thing you can do is to drive less. Carpooling is probably more important than tire pressure or engine tuning if you do it enough.

The Long Tail strikes again!

Whoa whoa whoa, that's a pretty major point just to gloss over like that. Since pretty much every state has speed limits of at least 65mph (might be every state), this thing really isn't highway capable (and therefore roadworthy)? Something tells me the user experience is going to be quite negative. That's a major shortcoming.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.