Forum: Our Readers Write (May 2004)

Diesel Anyone?

"Top 10 Tech Cars" [March] devoted a fair amount of text to the hybrid electric vehicle. While I welcome new, environmentally conscious, and economically sensible technology, I think some space should have been given to another engine, the turbo diesel.

Photo: Audi
With the turbo diesel engine, "I was getting nearly 45 miles per gallon and never wanted for power"--Miguel Apezteguia

While living in England for two years recently, I was lucky enough to drive an Audi A6 station wagon with a turbo diesel engine. It was astounding because I was getting nearly 45 miles per gallon [5.23 liters per 100kilometers] and never wanted for power. In addition, there were smaller vehicles with the same or a similar engine that were approaching 65 miles per gallon [3.62 L per 100 km]. Why has the American gas-guzzling fleet ignored this remarkable technology?

Miguel Apezteguia Thornton, Colo.

Sight Unseen

The article "Sight for Sore Ears" [News, February] presents an interesting mechanism for converting computer-acquired visual images into acoustic patterns to provide blind people with a form of vision. I do not mean to degrade this excellent piece of work, but as an IEEE fellow and a former president of the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society, I would like to point out that identical work was rejected by the U.S. National Institutes of Health more than 30 years ago.

My colleagues and I acquired an optical image with a Sony TV camera and fed it to a Commodore 64 computer. I wrote the software that converted the optical image into a sound pattern. The apparatus worked perfectly.

We wrote a proposal in reply to an SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) request. It was rejected as "Very Bad." The ground for rejection was that we had included the head of the ophthalmology department at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, as a consultant, and "her résumé was incomplete."

Igor Alexeff

ialexeff@comcast.net

Chess Wars

Regarding the "carbon-silicon" chess battles ["Psyching Out Computer Chess Players," News, February], how about making this a more interesting engineering problem by imposing an energy limit, rather than a time limit, on each player's moves? It would be a real challenge for the designers of hardware and software if the computer were limited to the human body's power consumption of around 100 watts.

John McNeill

Worcester, Mass.

The author states: "Fritz should have begun by pushing its king bishop pawn from its initial square, on f7, to f4…" That would require a pawn to move three places forward from its initial position. A move like that would not only open lines but raise a few eyebrows.

David Kitaguchi davidkitaguchi@yahoo.com"

Author Philip E. Ross responds : Kitaguchi thinks that when I say that black must push his f7 pawn to f4, I mean it can happen right now. Of course, such a move would be illegal. I'm talking about a long-term plan to prepare the pawn's advance. A chess master can hit upon the plan without calculating every last detail--a computer can't.

Ohm'S Law

In his letter , Daniel Feldt states that V = R*I [voltage equals the product of resistance and current] is not Ohm's Law [Forum, February]. According to ANSI/IEEE 100-1996, Ohm's Law has it that the current that is in an electric circuit is inversely proportional to the resistance of the circuit and directly proportional to the electromotive force in the circuit. Note: Ohm's Law applies strictly only to linear constant-current circuits--which, of course, is V = R*I for direct current.

The same or similar definition can be found in the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics , as well as in various editions of books written by (former IEEE general manager) Donald G. Fink.

Warner W. Johnston

warner.w.johnston@abc.com"

A Bad, Bad Idea

"Recycling a Bad Idea" [January], which disparaged breeder reactors, was a bad idea.

You should not have portrayed the United States' current handling of spent commercial reactor fuel as any sort of "cycle" or any remotely ethical sort of behavior. We are packing used fuel into overcrowded cooling pools, and that's not a cycle. This fuel has a huge number of fission products, and the pools are open to the air. The fuel is fissile and there's no criticality monitoring. A carelessly placed garden hose poses a risk far more real than does a carload of fanatics bent on thievery.

There's enough uranium-235 in the crust of the earth to perhaps equal the fossil fuel that used to be there, too. As the world industrializes, we'll rip through both in a very few decades. Breeder reactors would provide substantial amounts of thorium and uranium to get mankind over the energy hump just ahead.

J.D. Hardy

jdhardy@scientech.com

Readers are invited to comment in this department on material published in IEEE Spectrum, and on matters of interest to engineering and technology professionals. Letters do not represent the opinions of the IEEE. Short, concise letters are preferred. The editor reserves the right to limit debate. Contact: Forum, IEEE Spectrum, 3 Park Ave., 17th floor, New York, NY 10016-5997, U.S.A.; fax, +1 212 419 7570; e-mail,n.hantman@ieee.org.

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