In defense of Incandescence

Friday, January 29, 2010

A few days ago, @ataussig pointed out that 75% of Americans unaware that most incandescent light bulbs will become illegal starting in 2012-14. I was certainly among the ignorant. I know that environmentalists have been pretty excited about CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps). I’m not.

I’m not against CFLs because I don’t believe the energy savings math.[1]

The mercury content gives me some pause, but doesn't tip the scale. Mercury poisoning is bad, and it doesn't take much to hurt you. Mercury from CFLs gets into the environment when people throw them away.[2] But, CFLs also get mercury into your environment when they break. Check out the EPA’s 206-page study on how to clean up a broken CFL while minimizing toxicity risk from mercury poisoning. For parents that go nuts about what food additives their kids eat, I’m surprised there isn’t more concern over the mercury in CFLs.

No, the real reason I oppose a switch from incandescence to fluorescence is that it just looks terrible.[3] Fluorescents produce more green and less red hues, making everyone look vaguely diseased (lighting experts call this “cool” light). I’m willing to compromise environmentally in other areas of my life, but destroying my visual environment after sundown just isn’t worth it.

The new incandescent ban doesn't seem to be based on good science or good thinking, and that makes me sad. Here's an article that can tell you more.

1. Marginal energy savings to CFLs works out like this: 6x the energy to make; last 6-10x as long using x/4 the energy. So, the energy to use them is a wash, but energy savings from lighting the bulb is ~75%.
2. CFL Fun Fact: CFLs cannot safely be thrown out in the trash, but everyone does anyway.
3. CFLs! Now with more wan!


Closer still

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

To continue my self-analysis of exercise routines, and specifically to follow up on my squash post, @Bain asked the following: “I'd love to see win percentage by game # within a match. I'd guess that Steve was 75% in the first two games; I was 75% in the third and fourth games, and we were even in game five.” His hypothesis sounded right to me—I also perceived that I tended to come out strong, then fade. Turns out, we were wrong again.

Here are the totals for the full set of games. I think that past the first match we've got some pretty small sample sizes and weird incentives with added on 1 or 3 game sets[1]:

But, this isn’t exactly right, since matches don’t always stretch to five games. Someone’s going to try a lot less hard in game 5 if they’ve already lost the match. In the match-relevant games[2], here is my win percentage by game:

It looks like I had a *slight* edge in game 1, Alex had the edge in 2/3 and I completely dominated Game 4 (reflecting, in part that it's often a "must-win" for me, and in part that I tend to win matches 3-1 and Alex tends to win them 3-2). A final note is that within the games that determined matches we're 44-38 in match *games* (my advantage) even though we're 10-9 in matches. I've won more matches 3-1 while Alex has won slightly more 3-2. Here's how our match scores have broken down (again, all from my perspective)[3,4]:

Put one way, Alex converts his game wins more efficiently into match wins than I do.

1. E.g., “Now that I’ve lost, let’s bet lunch that I can take game 6”*
2. (ignoring games after the match was concluded; e.g., counting only the first four of a LWLLW match -- this is why there aren't 18 games for Game 4 and Game 5)
3. There's one match missing because I recorded only that Alex won the match, not the game totals (methodologically, I also credited Alex with one game in the game totals, since you must have taken *at least* one game more than I did from the first five).
4. Also, methodologically, I’ve got two fewer match win/losses in this analysis than I did in the last one because I excluded three round robins in which we played two games against each other (result: 2-0, 1-1,0-2) for simplicity.

*Most matches included a wager on the match. A post-game Gatorade was common, as was a beer (though those rarely got redeemed). Big bets were usually lunch. Oddly, the post-match bet was often higher stakes than the first bet; e.g., a beer following a Gatorade, or the loser had to listen to a podcast of the winner’s choice or purchase and read a book of the winner’s choice.


As close as it gets

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I’ve been keeping a log of working out since 2003. For the last ~12 months, I’ve been recording the game-level detail of squash matches as well (e.g., WLLWL for a 2-3 loss). I’ve been playing @Bain since 2008, and we’ve made some jokes about how our matches have always seemed very even, but I realized this week that I have the data to test that. I did a quick look through my data and sent off this email to most frequent 2008-09 squash partner:

“So, what I have learned (in addition to the depressing stat that I've averaged 9.5 minutes/day of working out since December 2003) is that Alex and I are 11-10 in matches and 60-60 in games. That's pretty much as close as it gets. Awesome.”

Alex posted this to Twitter with the aside, “I'd thought it was much closer :-)”

Turns out, he was right. Alex had a suspicion that he had a huge advantage in the first few months we played, and that more recently I’ve taken charge. Nope – if that were true, you’d see his game total climb much faster than mine, then see me catch up. Not the case:

In fact, over 120 games, neither of us have ever been ahead by more than five games:

Not only that, but squash is notoriously streaky. If that were true for Alex and me, you’d expect wins to tend to be followed by wins and for losses to follow losses. Or, perhaps each win takes so much out of the winner that he tends to lose the next game. Nope, once again completely even. Following a win, I was 30-29. Our games are exactly as predictable as a fair coin: dead random.


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