The pick of the crop from the E&T mailbag and inbox
DON'T REVIVE A KILLER INDUSTRY
John Cure (Letters, May 2015) appears to believe that if we scrap our gas-emission targets we could satisfy the Climate Change Act 2008, and solve our energy deficiency problem, by burning our coal more efficiently.
His Aneurin Bevan quote was misleading. The problem is not the shortage of coal, but its location. Britain's mines are deep, and their closure was not in the main due to their loss making, or their use as a political weapon, but their escalating human cost with the attendant astronomical rise in the Miners' Fund, the world's largest personal injury scheme, which has cost the UK billions of pounds and is still growing.
I hope that the days are gone when we were prepared to bribe a worker with a few extra pence an hour to risk his health, and even his life, so we could live comfortably. All forms of energy production are dangerous, but coal mining is the biggest industrial killer in history. Nuclear is the safest, by a big margin, but is perceived as a danger to the nearby population despite 50 years of evidence to the contrary.
The French have had no major problems, and much of our electricity comes from their reactors, and many of our citizens are nearer to them than most of France. It's time to accept that 'we're all in this together' and accept any risk.
LET'S HAVE A UK LEARNING REVOLUTION
The answer to Pelle Neroth's excellent question 'Do any of our politicians care about technology' (View from Brussels, May 2015) is obviously, verbally 'yes', but in reality 'no'. The Government's recent attempt to focus on engineering qualifications must also be questioned. Why strive for technical qualifications at all when so many qualified engineers state they have not used their hard-won academic knowledge in their jobs? This fact is not really surprising when one considers the speed of technological change.
Also, remember the old saying; 'Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and he has food for life'. Well, traditional teaching methods have fed us a fish! By this I mean they have given us specific knowledge about mainly out-of-date technology and techniques. This has left us in the lurch and we now find it's up to us to learn how to fish for ourselves, but how?
Well, we will have to 'engineer it'. We need a new national learning infrastructure; we need to negotiate a new industry-wide understanding of how, where and when we learn; and we need to explore our own individual drive to make learning an every-day event. We need the academic equivalent of the Industrial Revolution, and we need it now.
Andrew WS Ainger
VERDICT ON 3D TV
I was not impressed by my first sampling of 3D television. I soon tried closing each eye in turn and noticed the difference in appearance between the two images, so it became obvious that the advantages of this technology can be realised only if the visual acuities of both eyes are equal and indeed perfect.
Advancing years have caused a minor cataract to develop in my left eye, a condition that I have now had corrected with spectacular results. As the ophthalmic surgeon explained to me, the cataract causing the reduction in image brightness acts as a low-pass filter from the blue end of the visual spectrum. Blue as seen from that eye was quite grey, even though I had not even noticed any real deficiency in my eyesight, and was enough to negate any real appreciation of 3D TV.
Has any attentions been given to those who have to wear corrective glasses for myopic conditions? One hears about special coloured or shuttered glasses, but do these allow for the use of normal corrective lenses for other conditions?
Bill Brading FIET
Auckland, New Zealand
REAL VALUE OF DRIVERLESS CARS
Unlike Mike Danbury (Letters, May 2015), I see the real value of driverless cars not in economics, but in the reduction in road deaths and serious injuries. It's a simple fact: most road accidents are caused by human error.
But economics are important. A premature death has a cost (which is nothing compared to the tragedy for relatives and friends), as does the working time lost to rush-hour accidents.
Increased mobility of non-drivers including the disabled and infirm would provide a major economic boost. Car parks could be moved out of town centres freeing up the space for other use. Even country pubs, many of which went out of business when the breathalyser was introduced, would see a new lease of life.
Of course lorries will also be made driverless, but it is a long way between taking the first steps and completing the marathon. I'd rather those first steps were taken with small cars rather than juggernauts.
Dave Neale MIET
MORE HOMES, OR FEWER PEOPLE?
As a housing association resident, I support the call in the May 2015 issue of E&T by National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr for more build to house the many in urgent need, but would take a much longer view.
Where demand exceeds supply, taking the former as given and increasing the latter may work where the products have a limited life span, but in the case of housing we are taking about something that may stand for well over a hundred years.
Hence it is desirable we introduce policies which reduce demand for new-build in the long term. We can begin by heavily taxing empty properties and discouraging under-occupation of large ones. But we need to go further by stabilising and eventually reducing the number of people in housing need. This means policies such as balancing the flow of migration in and out of the UK and encouraging families to have no more than two children.
These sound like draconian measures until we realise that the latest UK population projection suggests that, on present trends, by the turn of the century well over 100 million souls will inhabit these islands.
John Gamlin MIET
East Bergholt, Colchester
By subtle means, many of us can contribute to improving the perception of professional engineers. I renewed my passport as EurIng Tierney by including my FEANI certificate and have a motorcycle registered with the same title. The process was simple and the DVLA required no proof of title. I will register other vehicles in the same manner.
EurIng Tim Tierney