Maybe I’m being overly sensitive but this just irritates me. Sloppy writing/thinking at the BBC.
[UPDATE: They fixed it! Look here: Original version — for the google cached version I’m talking about. ]
The actual function of the device seems straight forward and reasonable. Why not use energy from the vehicles themselves to power the lights etc. needed for traffic safety and convenience? It seems like a very elegant solution, the power source is available at the many and sometimes remote locations where it is needed, and the bill is paid by the folks using the power. It might be less effective in the lowest traffic areas which would also be the most desirable ones from a cost stand point, but that doesn’t mean its a bad idea, just that it might not be perfect. (There’s also a question of how much traffic is necessary to return the life time costs of the device…) I would imagine that Mr. Hughes has given these questions a great deal of thought.
But, what bothers me is the use of language and the implications of it. Confusing power with energy is common enough and I’m reluctant to even quibble about it. It seems to me that "power" has taken on a casual meaning in everyday speech which lumps together power, energy, electricty, volume, and several other concepts. On the other hand, the use of the word "create" in regard to power or energy is just one too many for me. The headline reads "Ramp Creates Power As Cars Pass." The article itself does explain how the device is used, but uses the word "create" again. I really think that this kind of language encourages sloppy thinking on the part of the writer and the reader. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I think the writer would like us to believe that the energy is somehow being extracted from the ether rather than the traffic stream. Whether this is evidence of the BBC writer poorly understanding the physics, expecting the reader to poorly understand the physics, or just muddled writing and poor word choice is difficult to say.
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