Announcing Our Next Theme – Sustainability Hacks

Our last theme, ATtiny hacks, received a really good response but it is time to move on. Today we are announcing our next theme, which will be Sustainability Hacks. In this theme we will be showing projects that allow us to have a lighter footprint. This could be things like projects that run on renewable resources, projects that control systems that allow us to use less energy such as an automated fan to preempt the need for more aggressive cooling. We are also interested in showing projects that push power consumption to the limit. Like our other themes, we need your help for this to be successful. If you have a project that you think we might be interested in, please let us know on our tip line.

As food for thought, driving is simply part of life for most of us. There are ways to make it have less impact on the earth though. One example of this that isn’t seen very often these days but will probably become more commonplace as fuel prices go up is boat-tailing. This is the process of reshaping the rear of a vehicle to make it more aerodynamic. You can catch a video after the break that makes up for its lack of sound with a pretty good run down on their process.

32 thoughts on “Announcing Our Next Theme – Sustainability Hacks

  1. Given all the revelations about gross scientific misconduct in Climatology and the Solyndra scandal, not to mention that European and British (and Canadian!) wind farms have turned out to be a complete scam, don’t you boys think the whole “footprint” thing is getting a little tired?

    How about some hacks that tell me when the FBI is trying to locate my cell phone with a Stingray? That I’d be interested in.

    1. I disagree.

      Issues related to social, environmental, and economic sustainability are relavent regardless of some companies decisions to focus on “cool tech” and profits while lurching ahead of a careful and holistic design process. I view those companies/groups as giving great examples of engineering mistakes. That does not mean the issues are any less important, or that they cost any less.

      We still have one planet with a growing number of people and dwindling resources…and my income has not gotten any bigger to pay for rising costs.

      I might add that I am sure creative ideas in the realm of energy sustainability could easily be applied to all sorts of other disciplines. I don’t see the point of discouraging coverage of relavent and creative ideas.

      Thank you for including this topic and I would like to see the hacks and creativeness begin.

      1. “Issues related to social, environmental, and economic sustainability are relavent regardless of some companies decisions to focus on “cool tech” and profits while lurching ahead of a careful and holistic design process.”

        Companies by nature -must- focus on profits, its what they are made to do.

        Sustainability changes every time somebody invents some new “cool tech” like fracking. That invention just increased the sustainability of the oil and gas business in North America by about 200 years. Now we have access to economically viable reserves that dwarf those in the Middle East, right here at home.

        What’s really bothering you is I won’t play along with the Carbon Footprint scam. Its a propaganda tool of the political class, and I object to it whenever I see it. Such as here.

  2. I repectfully disagree. Issues related to environmental, social, and economic sustainability will remain regardless of companies decisions to narrowly focus on technology and profits while lurching ahead of careful decision making. I support the inclusion of this topic.

  3. “revelations about gross scientific misconduct in Climatology”
    I think you mean accusations, none of which were found to have merit. This is also totally off topic. If it makes you feel better think of it as a fuel efficiency hack, or electricity saving hack, or some such thing that directly ties it to $

    1. No, revelations. The satellite data and the deep ocean data do not match the ground stations. the ground station network itself has been essentially sabotaged over the last thirty years. Example, in Canada 30 years ago there were over fifty weather stations north of the arctic circle. Today there are -two-. USA is in worse shape.

      However I’d be interested in a hack that can measure the actual output of one of our great government subsidized wind farms and post it to the Internet every day. Something independent of the power company, remote of course and safe for the hacker. Maybe the sight of all those windmills turning and no electricity coming out would rattle some cages that badly need rattled.

      1. This isn’t a “hack” per se, but “The Real Time Wind Generation graph plots average wind generation in megawatt hours (MWh) for each of the past 24 hours.” Are you happy now? I doubt it. Even with published figures you will probably find a way to believe they are fabricated until you build turbines and measure them yourself, but I would find that unlikely since you don’t believe they are worth it. Do you see how your beliefs are limiting you?

  4. @The Phantom: This is a blog about quick effective solutions to problems. Regardless of the repution the eco-movement has earned, this is a decent solution to the problem of a rise in fuel prices. I’m all for it. I’d love to see a return to engine hacks with a view on sustainability.

    1. Snow Performance, water/methanol injection on forced induction engines, 15-25% improvement in fuel economy.

      Notice that doesn’t change anything about “footprint”, but it does put some bucks back in your wallet.

      I have nothing but respect for saving money and resources. Greenie footprint calculations however I consider straight up propaganda.

      1. Actually, if you are traveling the same distance while using less fuel, you are producing less carbon dioxide per mile traveled – OH NO, YOU JUST REDUCED YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. SHIT. Better start burning big pools of gas in your backyard to show those carbon footprint liberal bastards how dumb they are.

  5. 15% Better fuel economy and more room for a larger boot (trunk). I guess the only reasons car manufacturers don’t produce tapered designs like this is because they are hideous and difficult to park.

    Shame really, great investigation!

  6. Based o this video, we went from 55 to 65 mpg, that means buying 1 extra gallon gives me 55 more miles, I rather spend the 5 bucks and not look like a tool going down the street.

  7. There are some safety issues with construction too. If some one were to rear end this the straight aluminum poles would act like a skewer. Very very Bad news if your on a motorcycle or driving a car with a short nose like a smart car.

  8. @Phantom
    The House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee said that they’d seen no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit or its director, Phil Jones, had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming two of the most serious criticisms levied against the climatologist and his colleagues.

    No reputable papers have articles on anything with British, scam and wind farms. Complete scam? are the windmills overpriced, do they produce less electricity? what makes them a scam other than not being competitive with the ridiculous amount of energy from a barrel of oil.

    1. The fact that wind farms follow roughly the Pareto distribution in producing energy, and that means you can never utilize wind energy to a significant degree.

      1) You can never build more wind power than you can expect to sink into the grid as a whole.
      2) 80% of the time it will produce next to nothing
      3) 20% of the time it will produce nearly that much

      That means, slightly more than 20% of all the electricity produced can be derived from wind power IF ALL THE OTHER energy production methods can follow the wind output and throttle up and down with it.

      That means no nuclear, can’t fit any solar power in there either because that’s not adjustable, no wave or tidal power, no geothermal power because you can only throttle them by blowing the steam past the turbine… etc.

      The only things you’re left with are pretty much coal, oil, natural gas and a limited supply of water power.

      1. Dax has the right of it. For North America which I am more familiar with, I’ll add to what Dax said that the cost of hooking large wind farms to the existing grid would be catastrophic, as in no one would be able to afford electricity for their house.

        The reason is two-fold. First, every watt of wind generation has to be backed up with a watt of gas fired turbine generation, because only a gas turbine can spool up fast enough to prevent brown-outs. Because the wind don’t blow when its cold.

        Second, the North American grid is OLD and FRAGILE. Even with carefully controlled generator loads it still crashes periodically. It is one of the most complex machines ever built by man, and nobody can really predict what its going to do.

        Into this fragile antique system it is proposed we introduce generators that can produce four megawatts one minute, zero the next and four megawatts again right afterward. Thousands of windmills move from nothing to full production in five minutes, what’s that going to do to the power lines, transformers, switches, fuses and etc. downstream?

        Its going to -melt- them, is what. That’s why wind farms produce so little marketable electricity. Load balancing. And every electrical engineer in the world graduates knowing that. Therefore, since governments are building them anyway, its a scam. Q.E.D.

        Come on, this is supposed to be a TECH board here. Do the math, guys. It doesn’t add up.

  9. I nominate any/all of the projects over at for a highlight on HaD.

    As for the politics of the “green” movement: I was trained as a meteorologist/climatologist. My personal feelings on the subject are:

    (1) we don’t have enough data or CPU capacity to perform decent day-to-day forecasting, much less decent long term forecasting. Heck, in a modern meteorological model, one of the variables is local gravity, with a precision of 14(!) decimal places. You get the gravity figure wrong, and within a 72 hour forecast I can have Dale Gribble’s oranges growing in Alaska.

    (2) there isn’t enough understanding by politicians or scientists of the Norwegian Cyclone Model, which drives most wave/thunderstorm weather in the middle latitudes — and without that understanding you can’t even begin to predict warming/cooling in the upper or lower latitudes,

    (3) there is probably another, unknown “thresholding” mechanism at work — which better explains the long-term effects of several ice ages despite the fact that modern meteorology can’t account for how long they actually lasted. Of course, if I’m right about this, everything will be hunky-dory until the threshold is violated, and they humanity will be facing an ELE on rather short order.

    Finally, a thought: If a conservative makes a butt-load of money espousing a particular platform, he is considered to be a self-starting hero. If a liberal does the same thing, then he is considered a traitor to the race. What gives?

  10. sustainability is just a common desire to do more with less for the betterment of the future. this can exist either in the presence or absence of a beleif in human-induced climate change.

    get creative whether you’re a sceptic or not – its a theme, not a public debate – no one cares about your inclination, only the hacks you create

    1. Sorry dude. -Thrift- is a desire to do more with less. I applaud thrift. I practice thrift.

      “Sustainability” is a propaganda device meant to keep certain people in political office. This is a social evil, not to tolerated.

      Distinctions are important.

  11. Note to Ed: “Economy” or “Efficiency” Hacks might have been a better term to use with such a techno minded audience. While The Phantom is correct that there need to be distinctions, I think we all understand your meaning.

    Me? I like money in my pocket. You save me a buck making my home, car, or computer more efficient I say heck yeah.

    For mile/gallon hacks, head over to There’s some cool stuff you can do without adding a crazy boat tail.

  12. rear visibility is an issue, but cameras are pretty cheap and so are display screens the size of rear view mirrors.
    Construction of the extension might be done with real low-density urethane, with a thin paintable (or natively colored) skin.
    I assume that shorter extensions give you less improvement, but there may be a less ugly version that still saves enough to make it worthwhile.
    The real benefit (payback time, $/year) depends on number of highway miles per year and $ saved per – let’s say per thousand miles.

  13. “sustainability” is an overused and poorly defined term. “footprint” is also to be skeptical of.
    The attached concepts are still worth considering.
    As others have pointed out, wind power needs good infrastructure (to average production over large areas) and really needs some kind of fast-response leveling system (BIG batteries or flywheel systems) to store and release energy. Then we could make decent use of that non-uniform energy supply!

  14. yeaaaah….nah – to practice sustainability is to sustain a resource or make efficient use of it, thrift may be the monosyllable simplification – whatever you call it its the same.

    dont you republicans work?

  15. One of the uses of windpower that I have seen is to pump water into a massive reservoir from which it can be released on a moments notice producing electricity one demand. Sure this is inefficient but it works.
    Other than that you would need either massive batteries or massive capacitors to hold the charge or a flywheel to keep it as kinetic energy, just like Jay M said.
    I have seen applications that store cold and hot in heavily insulated banks which could also be used to store energy and for example in Scandinavia they use the excess thermal energy from a electrical plant to heat houses and industrial complexes by running heated water in underground pipes to a buildings heat exchanger.

  16. Conserving of any kind of resource, without regard to the amount of supplies, is good. Look at how much water we in America use while a lot of the rest of the world has to survive on less. If we can use less fuel, it means less drilling/shipping, etc. is necessary and the forests/oceans are spared from the damage. If we can recycle more, it means smaller landfills, less trash in the ocean, etc. I like the idea of calling these hacks eco-minded :-) Sustainability is too often used by different groups with different meanings.

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