August 13, 2004


New 'Smart' Glass Passes Light, Blocks Heat (David McAlary, 12 Aug 2004, VOA News)

Where there is light, there is heat. At least that is the way things usually occur in nature. But British scientists have separated these two phenomena, at least when it comes to glass. They have developed a glass coating that passes light, but blocks heat. The innovation could have a beneficial impact on energy use.

If you look out a window on a sunny, cold day, the glass radiates heat that adds to your comfort. But if you stand in front of that window on a sunny, hot day, the radiated heat is unwelcome, unless you have air conditioning to overcome it.

Scientists at University College London have formulated a glass coating that knows the difference in the outside temperature and limits the amount of heat a windowpane radiates inside. You could call such treated glass seasonally savvy. Its co-inventor calls it intelligent glass. Researcher Troy Manning says it can cut down on indoor air conditioning bills.

"This, obviously, has effects on the cost of maintaining a building, but also in the broader sense, reducing global warming from using less electricity and such," he said.

Where's the Fire? (Gregg Easterbrook, 08.09.04, New Republic)
After witnessing the valor of the New York City Fire Department on September 11, it is impossible not to admire firefighters: The words "firefighter" and "hero" are going to be synonymous for a long time. For the John Kerry campaign, there's a second level of firefighter admiration; the International Association of Fire Fighters was the first major union to back Kerry, and stayed in his camp when the chips were down. Kerry has responded by constantly praising firefighters and by calling for federal legislation to fund 100,000 more firefighters. Firefighters were prominent on the Democratic National Convention stage in Boston; firefighters and fire-union officials often appear with Kerry or John Edwards at campaign stops. Yes, it's impossible not to admire firefighters. But it's quite possible not to want more of them. Indeed, most cities in the United States need fewer firefighters.

Though firefighters have numerous duties, their chief task is to fight building fires--and building fires are in a long-term cycle of decline. In 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 48 percent fewer building fires in the United States than in 1977, though there were substantially more buildings. From 1977 to 2002, civilian deaths in fires declined 46 percent and deaths of firefighters declined 38 percent. The trends of fewer fires, fewer civilian deaths, and fewer firefighter deaths hold for almost every year of the past quarter-century except 2001, the year of September 11. Stricter building codes, the proliferation of smoke detectors, and the fact that most new commercial structures and many new homes have built-in sprinkler systems has led to a big drop in the incidence and severity of building fires.

Meanwhile, libertarians are furious that our right to die in a fire has been infringed by these regulations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 13, 2004 10:56 AM

I suppose a purist libertarian would want to go back to the Roman system, where a freelance for-profit fire company would arrive at the fire, then bargain with the owner for a sizable percentage of the belongings they would save.

But I'm not a purist libertarian, and I don't know of many who are.

Posted by: PapayaSF at August 13, 2004 1:37 PM

Libertarians are either cheap liberals or drug-addicted conservatives.

Posted by: Vince at August 13, 2004 7:27 PM

Brings to mind the most mindless comment of Kerry's acceptance speech: ...And we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America.

I see something really base in the appeal for more firefighters (aside from the standard pandering to a union) -- and I hope I'm never proved right. As the article reminds us, almost no city is prepared to deal with the aftermath of another massive terrorist attack. Realistically, the costs of 100% preparedness for the worst possible outcomes everywhere are just too high. If or when the unthinkable happens, people like Kerry and the firefighters' unions will say they warned us. This is a discussion that should occur before the fact.

Posted by: Dave Sheridan at August 14, 2004 3:25 AM