Thursday, March 14, 2013

Considering Others

Why is it that when we are behind the wheel of a car we automatically think that nothing we do affects others? In reality driving down a crowded street is no different than walking down a crowded street.

We see many other people as we make our way along with the crowd. When we are walking everything seems to go smoothly. We nod a polite hello to strangers, we give each other space, and we generally interact in a polite manner. This simple interaction almost never leads to blatant offenses between two individuals, because we all know how to behave in these situations.  

Put us in a car and we become crazy jerks. We drive around like everyone else is some kind of moron and we are the only ones that have any business being on the road. We become quick to judge, quick to offend, and quick to let our sense of decency and courtesy go out the window. Every offense that we commit against another motorist we quickly brush off as ultimately being someone else’s fault. We try to teach others lessons from behind the wheel that we think they need, when in reality such things are dangerous.

The world would be a better place if we could consider others when using our automobiles. Just because you can’t look the other person in the eye doesn't mean that you shouldn't show them respect and decency. Any action you take while driving your car is ultimately your responsibility.

When you pull into a parking spot, keep the car between the lines. When you don’t, it becomes difficult for others to park in the space next to you. What makes you think that you deserve two parking spots? Maybe you have never even thought about it one way or another. If your vehicle is too big to efficiently pull into a particular parking spot then find another.

If you have to run into a store or quickly make a similar stop, you are still obligated to park in the parking lot. Nobody is allowed to leave their vehicle parked in front of the entrance where people are trying to enter and exit, and cars are trying to maneuver around each other. You are not the exception, even if it’s only for a minute. When you push your shopping cart around the grocery store, would you leave it at the end of an aisle so that it blocks other shoppers?

When driving on the interstate, the slower traffic must keep to the right. If you are driving slower than even one other car on the freeway, and that car wants to pass, you are obligated to move over. The passing car must not pass on the right. This is not a time for you to teach this other driver what the speed limit is and dawdle along slowly in the passing lane. Notice that name, it’s called the “passing lane” because it is for passing. If you were a pedestrian on the sidewalk would you not yield briefly to another who was trying to get around you?

The diesel pickup spewing black smoke from its tailpipe as it accelerates from a stop light is offensive to most other drivers. These toxins waft through the air all around the intersection for others to breathe. This smoke is the result of something that is broken. Either the fuel management on the truck is broken, or the driver themselves is broken.

Nobody is impressed with a diesel blowing smoke between stoplights, except those that do it. Get your truck fixed or run a different program in your engine computer. Most of the time these smoke blowing drivers are running a computer program that makes this occur.

If you want to blow black smoke from your exhaust, sign up for a sled pulling competition. Then you can see some real torque in action and learn how weak your truck really is. Your perceived right to blow smoke doesn't supersede anyone else’s literal right to not breathe your garbage. You wouldn't walk up to someone on the street and blow cigarette smoke right in their face would you?
Justice is real. Of course it's a BMW.
 While this seems like just a negative rant, it isn't  Most of the offences mentioned here are small and they don’t occur because people are genuinely rude, but rather because we as a society don’t consider others as much as we should. If we stop and think about how our actions behind the wheel have an effect on fellow motorists, even those whom we cannot look in the eye, we would all behave more courteously. This of course, would mean that we would all be happier drivers ourselves. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Like Perpetual Energy, Not Really

A device that creates electricity and then uses that electricity to create more electricity sounds like a great thing and indeed it would be. The alternator on your can almost do this but not really. Perpetual energy is scientifically impossible, at least with what we currently understand about the laws of thermodynamics.

The alternator is a type of generator so it essentially creates electricity, and to do this it uses electricity, quite often originating in the alternator. The force, or the energy that really makes all of this possible is the rotating force of the engine. The alternator is driven by a belt that is turned using a pulley attached to the crankshaft of the engine. This is the real driving force that makes electrical generation possible within the alternator. The rest is simply a matter of electromagnetic induction.

Electromagnetic induction occurs when a magnetic flux or field passes over a conductor. The point at which the magnetic field collapses around the conductor is the point where voltage is induced into the conductor. This voltage is the pressure that pushes electrons through the conductor, and electron flow is electricity. The alternator actually produces alternating current which is why it’s called an alternator. Before this current actually leaves the alternator it is converted into direct current so the power can be stored in the battery.

In order for this to happen, the alternator has two main parts, the rotor, and the stator. These parts do what their names imply. The rotor rotates or spins and the stator stays in place surrounding the rotor. The rotor contains a large electromagnet that creates the magnetic field necessary for induction. The stator is the conductor that the magnetic field moves through. As the rotor spins, the magnetic field passes through the stator over and over again, thousands of time per minute. The voltage that is induced is then sent to charge the battery and to run all electrical accessories. This electricity even powers the electromagnet in the stator. This may seem like perpetual energy but it’s not even close because the energy to turn the rotor has to come from the engine. The energy to turn the engine of course comes from the gasoline.

Alternator failure is a fairly common problem that most cars will experience at one point or another. When this happens while the vehicle is being driven alternator voltage output goes to zero, or to something very low. Anything electrical on the vehicle will begin to draw power from the battery. This will slowly draw the battery dead until there is not enough voltage to run the fuel pump and fire the spark plugs. The engine then dies. When you try to restart it, the motor won’t even crank because the battery is dead. A jump start can get you going again but only for a few minutes until the car stalls again.

So what can you do the make your alternator last longer? Not much really, it is largely a maintenance free device. Just make sure that the belt is tight and doesn’t squeal. Also, if you run your battery dead because you leave your headlights on or something like that, or if you have a battery that is going bad, this puts considerable strain on the alternator. If you battery goes dead, it is best to recharge the battery with a battery charger rather than just letting the alternator do it. Recharging a dead battery with the alternator once or twice over the life of the car isn’t a big deal, but don’t make it a habit. Be sure to have your battery checked regularly to make sure that it doesn’t slowly go bad and drag the alternator down with it.

Keep these ideas in mind and your own personal power generator will last a long time without much fuss. Perpetual energy it isn’t, but it is essential to the proper operation of your vehicle, not to mention your rear seat DVD player.