Thursday, January 18, 2018

What is GPS and How Does It Help You Navigate to Work?

Everybody uses GPS yet most have no idea how the technology works. Developed for the first time by the U.S. Department of Defense in the 1973 and initially used solely for military purposes, GPS is now a common piece of technology that even any elementary school child can use it to find an imaginary Pokémon. Just like TV and Internet when they became common and affordable, the sophistication of GPS now faces the dreadful fate of underestimation by its very users. As long as people can watch Ancient Aliens, there is no need to understand how TV works; if the guy from the TV show said that extraterrestrial beings invented terrestrial TV, he lied.

Approved for civilian use in 1980s, GPS navigation system soon became a preferable feature in cars and handheld devices such as smartphones. It is also widely used in other industries such as agriculture, sports, recreation, fitness, fleet tracking, geofencing, clock synchronization, and more. There is also a good chance that some wives also use GPS to track their husbands’ whereabouts, so the technology apparently is popular among married people as well; whether it helps to improve or ruin relationships is entirely another matter.

What is GPS and How Does It Help You Navigate to Work
When you're lost, use your phone to do a Google search for "how to use a compass and read map"

Since the first time GPS began operational in the 1970s, relatively little has changed with how the basic principle works. There are 3 major elements in Global Positioning System:

  • Space Segment: the satellites that orbit the Earth. A network of 24 to 32 satellites orbits the Earth at an altitude of approximately 12,600 miles (20,200 km). Every single one of these satellites carries a super-accurate atomic clock (accurate to one-billionth of a second) that synchronizes to each other in every few nanoseconds. They constantly emit microwave signals to be received by all GPS-enabled devices on Earth, including your smartphone when you don’t use it underwater.
  • Ground Segment: also commonly referred to as Control Segment, it is composed of a Master Control Station (MSC), an Alternate Master Control Station (AMSC), 4 dedicated ground antennas, and 6 dedicated monitor stations. This segment is responsible for making sure that all satellites are orbiting in the right paths and properly updated. The U.S. Air Force monitoring stations located at Hawaii, Kwajalein Atoll, Ascension Island, Diego Garcia, Colorado Springs, Colorado and Cape Canaveral also help track the flight paths of the satellites. Control segment work collectively to monitor data transmission and perform analysis to make sure everything is accurate and efficient. 
  • User Segment: all GPS-enabled devices make up the entire user segment of the operation. In simple words, user segment includes all receivers that consists of antenna (tuned to signals and frequencies emitted by space segment), stable clock, and processors. There are millions of devices on Earth receiving signals from satellites at any given time. These devices may include vehicle navigation systems, watches, fitness trackers, outdoor-activity gears, smartphones, dog collars, wildlife trackers, and smart-home utilities.

The next day when you navigate to work using GPS, please remember that the technology can only serve you well thanks to the collaborative functions of millions of components and the hard works of thousands of operators, not witchcraft as you previously thought. They must solve ridiculously complex and difficult math equations before deciding whether you should turn left or right; people who hate math do not deserve to use GPS.

How It Works

For a GPS-enabled device – such as a fitness tracker - to work, it must be visible to at least four satellites in the space segment. Each of them sends information about where the satellite is and what time it sends the signals. As the fitness tracker receives the signals, it processes the data and calculates its distance from those four satellites. This process is known as trilateration. The basic formula is as follows:

D = vt

D: distance between receiver and satellite
v: signal speed (constant at 300,000,000 m/s)
t: time required by the signal to travel from satellite to receiver

The fitness tracker uses and solves the same equation for remaining 3 visible satellites. A receiver actually uses only distance calculations from the first 3 satellites, while the fourth one is mainly used to confirm if the calculation is accurate. Ground segment also makes sure that the flight paths of satellites allow at least 6 of them to be always in the line of sight of from almost any place on Earth.

Einstein’s theory of relativity dictates that time runs slower in a place where the gravitational force is greater and therefore the clocks in those satellites are a little bit faster than those in the receivers. Although the difference is probably a mere fraction of a second, incorrect calculation (either under or over compensation) can miss the exact location by miles away. Receivers and transmitters counteract with each other to take the difference into account. You may not think much about it when you navigate to work, but a tiny mistake in the process can guide you to a public toilet located somewhere out of town instead of your workplace. Albert Einstein, who has been dead for quite a while now, was so smart that even now he can still help you find your way home from busy cities or even wilderness. It does not mean that his ghost lingers in everybody’s car, but his discoveries and ideas are fundamental in GPS technology.

In general all GPS devices and satellites for public use are optimized so they work as effectively as possible and make most precise calculation. However, consumer-grade devices will not likely perform with pinpoint accuracy because there are restrictions of GPS on civilian use. Only the government has the most precise encrypted code GPS to determine actual ground location of receiver with nearly zero margin or miscalculation.

What Is Geofencing and How Does It Work?

If you break down the terminology, you get Geo which refers to Geographical and Fencing which means boundary or perimeter. Putting those two words together as a single term give you geographical perimeter; a phrase that sounds like something the military will use when they want to keep the enemies away. One thing that’s missing from that literal interpretation is the word virtual, because it forgets to mention that it exists only in virtual world thanks to GPS and cellular or Internet network, just like online dating.

Let us consider an analogy to deal with that issue.

"A friend of yours is curiously listening to your story about your girlfriend. You tell that particular friend a description of her beauty, brilliance, devotion, veneration - or simply perfection. Your friend believes the story and asks you to take her for dinner in a double-date; that way they will meet face to face and know each other better. While your description of the girlfriend is unmistakable, you forget to mention one thing: virtual. The difference between girlfriend and virtual girlfriend is beyond measure. The former actually exists, while the other is basically a combination of pixels, Internet connection, graphics card, and more importantly your unbound imagination."

The geographical perimeter in geofencing does not actually exist; while the geographical area is real, the fencing is just a virtual set of boundaries created by using location-based service (for example GPS) and location-aware devices such as smartphone or any stand-alone GPS-enabled transmitter and receiver. The boundary is set around real-world geographical area and its radius is possibly configured to reach several hundred meters or more, although smaller distance generally means better reliability. Geofencing depends almost entirely on network coverage or Internet connection to work, so it is almost exactly similar to the virtual girlfriend mentioned earlier. In Geofencing case, however, the coverage is used for accessing/processing GPS signals and triggering an alert anytime the boundary is breached rather than bringing up pretty faces on your laptop screen.

How It Works

Virtual boundary must be set around a central location by an administrator of the Geofencing system. In most cases, the system is integrated to digital maps for easier configuration purpose. The administrator can be anybody, because the technology is commercially available for public use. A mother who wants to know whether her child is inside a school building can be an administrator; prison warden can set geofencing to know if all prisoners are in the yard digging ditches; business owners may also configure geofencing to annoyingly send advertising email to people inside the virtual perimeter; a cowboy is probably interested in doing the same thing to see if all the cows are inside the ranch, and so on.

What Is Geofencing and How Does It Work
Watchtower is an early form of Geofencing. Radius is as far as the eyes can see and it is always active except when the guard is asleep. Trespassing triggers flying arrows instead of alarm.

Remember that the system can only work if the objects being monitored also carry GPS-enabled or RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) devices. When the virtual boundary is breached (both in and out), the system sends alerts to the administrator’s control panel. The administrator, depending on the sophistication of the system in use, has the options to specify various settings including but not limited to exclusion, automated response, and radius.

Common Applications of Geofencing

As previously discussed, Geofencing is available for civilian use. The cost to require the necessary hardware and system is not particularly expensive either. Some ready-made system is available as subscription-based service, so users have access as long as they pay for the fee on regular basis. Some of the most common Geofencing applications are as follows:

  • Security: a geofencing system can be configured to trigger alert only when an unauthorized device enters the virtual perimeter or when authorized device exits the same boundary. The system can be applied not only to devices used/carried by people but also GPS-equipped vehicles or motion objects.
  • Home Automation: based on the location of your GPS-enabled smartphone, geofencing system can trigger a sequence of automated actions anytime the device enters the perimeter for examples turning on the thermostat, switching on the lamps or TV, and unlocking the door. It is a good example of IFTTT (If This, Then That) concept. Assuming you carry your phone all the time, this is somewhat a convenient idea of how technology makes you lazy.
  • Marketing: business owners can use geofencing technology to create a perimeter surrounding their offices or business locations to send advertising campaign to anybody within that perimeter. When the virtual boundary is breached-in, the system typically triggers automated push-email or text message sent to the person entering the geofencing radius.
  • Crowd Engagement: in certain cases that involve outdoor events, geofencing is useful to inform attendants about specific issues regarding the event. For example, concert attendants can receive information on their phones about the venue, crowd size, rest rooms locations, and scheduling as long as they stay within the perimeter set by organizer.
  • Telematics: companies can set virtual perimeter around work site to monitor workers.

When used for marketing or crowd engagement, geofencing does seem a little bit invasive. System administrators or senders do not actually need recipients’ permissions to send messages that may contain advertisements of some sort. Turning-off GPS or Location Service in the phone can help, but it is not a practical option when people really need to keep the function active for personal purposes. It is a different thing when geofencing is used in work environment and for work-related purposes where there is an agreement between employers and employees to use Geofencing service as part of the jobs.

Monday, January 15, 2018

What is Passive Income and Why Do You Want It?

When people hear or talk about something called passive income, here is what they think: everybody loves receiving income and hates doing the work that earns it. The best kind of work in the world is one that requires you to do nothing at all, yet you get paid a handsome amount of money for that. There is no deadline for doing such work; you can do anything you like and consider that a job done.

What is Passive Income and Why Do You Want It
The money in piggy-bank is the worst example of passive income - it is not even an income
By definition, passive income means a stream of revenue received on regular basis and generated from minimum amount of works on the recipient’s part to maintain the cash flow. Passive income does exist in real world; one of the most common is the revenue from property rentals. At least in the United States, dividends and interest from certificate of deposits are usually referred to as portfolio income.

The difference between passive income and portfolio income is a bit vague, so it is probably necessary to use some IRS words to explain:
  • In general, passive income refers to the stream of revenue gained from commercial ventures or for-profit entities in which the recipient is not directly involved in the business undertakings of any sort. Rental property income is still considered passive income by IRS even when the recipient materially participates or is directly involved in the rental activities; revenue from rental activities does not count as passive income if the recipient is real estate professional. In this case, passive income is the portion or revenue earned mainly for the use of the property. For example, if the amounts paid (or to be paid) by renters are also used for other types of services such as massage or foods, this particular portion is not considered passive income.

  • On the other hand, portfolio income only includes four major sources including interest, dividends, annuities, and royalties. Income from any of those sources must not be from the ordinary course of a trade. Portfolio income also includes the gain or loss from disposition of a property. Another notable source is self-charged interest; however, the revenue can be treated as passive income if the loan proceeds are used for passive activities.

Besides rental property, another form of passive income is the revenue gained from investment as long as the investor is not directly involved in the business conduct or operation supported by that particular investment. For example, you make an investment of $10 into a newspaper stand with the agreement stating that the owner of the newspaper stand will pay you back a percentage of earnings. Assuming you manage to stay away from the business operation (by not purchasing the newspapers, not sending lunch, not offering a ride home, and so on), your revenue is considered passive income.

Passive Income Taken Way Out of Context

All around the Internet people are talking about passive income as if it is the money you can earn on regular basis without doing too much work. While it can be correct to some extent, that description requires a good length of very specific explanation regarding the kind of work it refers. Having an online store and actually managing the sales does not generate passive income because you actually have to work. Having an affiliate marketing network and earning commission from every sale still does not make the revenue passive income. Running an advertising-oriented websites and making money from those also cannot qualify the revenue as passive income. In reality what you really want simply is: income. It does not matter if it is active, passive, or portfolio kind.

What is Torque and How Is It Different from Horsepower?

Let us now talk about Torque, the single terminology that separates engineers and physicists from the rest of the human race. Some people have heard about it, others read about it, and the vast majority of people simply don’t care about it. To be fair, torque is not actually that important to the point where you have to actually choose between knowing what it is and dying. Spending money on books about torque and time to read them all will not give any considerable change to your life either. It is just like knowing that the Earth is round, rotating on an imaginary axis, and orbiting the solar system center mass; will knowing those facts change your life? It probably will not.

The principal of torque can be seen in various objects or activities in everyday situations such as opening a bottle cap, hinged doors, playing seesaws, wrenches, as well as bolts and nuts. Despite the common applications, it is highly unlikely that you are aware of it. No one counts how many pound-feet of torque are necessary to open a lemonade bottle or the basement doors. It also does not help that your plumber never explained to you about the torque he generated while he was in the toilet – to loosen the rusty bolt and nut form the drain pipe, of course.

Torque is most prominently used in automobile and associated with cars or vehicles in general, measured in either Nm (Newton meter) or lb-ft (pound feet). Among the common examples, the single biggest chance that torque is mentioned during a conversation between two people during lunch break is when they talk about cars. By the time one of them mentions it, they realize that they cannot afford the cars they talked about and so they go back to work. While torque is not as popular as horsepower or turbocharger and supercharger, it actually is one thing that makes them all work. You can think of horsepower as lamps, turbocharger as TV, and supercharger as a computer, but torque is the electricity puts them to function.

While all average car enthusiasts realize that torque and horsepower play major roles in determining performance, many (if not most) of them do not exactly how those things work. Some probably have good ideas in their heads, but they don’t know how to tell it properly; in other words, they just pretend to understand.


Simplest definition of torque is engine rotational force, which gives no comprehensible meaning to the average mind. Remember that any car starts the acceleration and reaches whatever top speed allowed by road signs from zero. Your car does not start at 60 miles per hour or any speed for that matter; it starts from zero, and this is what torque is for. The initial energy that moves your car forward originates from the engine combustion chamber; fuels and oxygen are delivered to the chamber where they collide and explode. Forces generated from the explosion move a group of pistons connected to the crankshaft. The rotating crankshaft is where torque develops. Once the crankshaft rotates, the energy is forwarded to multiple components including flywheel and transmission before it actually reaches the wheels.

What is Torque and How Is It Different from Horsepower
 If you look hard enough there is torque somewhere in there, maybe
Vehicle specification sheet often lists the maximum torque at certain engine revolution speed or RPM, for example your car has 250 pound feet of torque at between 2,000rpm and 5,000rpm. Besides the obvious possibility of poor performance, the stated number also indicates peak torque it can generate. In general, a car is more responsive when it can produce higher torque at lower rev range.

Remember that torque number simply tells you how much rotating force is at work inside the engine. Higher rotating force generally means faster acceleration, but it depends on how much the car weighs as well. You can also say that torque is the force required to move the entire car. Imagine a plumber’s wrench that clamps to a rusty toilet pipe; assuming the wrench is about 1.5 feet long and he needs to apply 100 pounds of torque to start loosening the pipe, the total amount of torque he generates is 150 pound-feet (100 pounds x 1.5 feet). Double the torque and the plumber probably will twist the rusty pipe as if it is nothing and burst some damp ugliness all of a sudden into the air. Apply that analogy to a car, and you get the idea of how torque works.


Another way to put it, torque is the potential energy of a car used for rotating the wheels – and potential is what it’s all about. Torque is the base number of work for moving the car, whereas horsepower is the rate at which the car is doing the work. Our understanding of horsepower is a little bit ancient. James Watt and Mathew Boulton standardized horsepower as the amount of power required to perform 33,000 foot-pounds (not to be confused with pound feet) of work in one minute in 1783.

  • Foot-pound (ft/lb): the traditional English unit of work indicating the amount of work possibly done by one pound of force for one foot distance.
  • Pound-feet (lb-ft): the traditional English unit of torque that indicates the tendency or potential energy of a force to generate rotation.

James Watt used an actual brewery horse to measure that. Now whether or not the fact that the horse was working in a brewery played a role in the number is anybody’s guess. Maybe a winery horse was more relaxed and therefore it generated less power, for example. Centuries later we still use the same equation to measure the horsepower of supercars.

What is Torque and How Is It Different from Horsepower
Use one more wrench and it is just going to be a waste of torque
If torque starts a car movement from a point of standstill, horsepower is what keeps it moving to maintain speed. You want torque to get the car start moving quickly such as in the start line of a race or more realistically in a parking lot because you don’t want to rev-up the engine only to move the car as far as 15 feet. On the other hand when the vehicle is going, you want low torque and more horsepower. Of course it is not that simple because you also have to calculate downforce, too. Lack of downforce and more torque leads to excessive wheel-spin which does not always translate to how fast the car is going. Sure the wheel is rotating unbelievably fast, but the wheels have to grab and stick to the road and generate traction for movement, so it helps if you are slightly overweight.

Friday, January 5, 2018

What are Inflation and Deflation?

The scope of economy, as both scientific study and everyday conversation, is overwhelmingly broad to the point where people actually think they know more about the origin of universe than the origin of their debts. Even those who appear on TV in nice suits and shiny shoes can rarely agree on what exactly is happening to the current economic situation; either those people only pretend to look smart or the economy is indeed too difficult to understand. Fortunately in many cases of day-to-day economy discussions at a neighbor’s porch or in an in-law’s car you don’t actually have to understand everything there is to know about it. You only need to recognize some of the most common issues such as inflation and deflation; they are the stars of almost all economic shows, just like Tom and Jerry from the Tom and Jerry Show. Even when you have no idea what it is, you are almost certainly considered a fan as soon as you mention those two characters.


Let us start with definitions because they hardly explain anything about everything. Inflation is often defined as an economic condition when prices rise. It sounds very simple, but not convincing enough. Sometimes it takes just a bit more complicated explanation to get your attention, and this is precisely what we’re trying to accomplish here. In a smarter language, inflation is an economic situation resulted from a steady increase in prices of goods and services over a certain period, usually a year. It is also safe to say that inflation measures how much more you have to pay now for a gallon of gasoline compared to last year, and that’s assuming you have a car.

Nobody actually is responsible for measuring inflation, so there is no one to blame if the calculation is wrong. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is tasked with compiling price indexes as indicators for inflation among other purposes. Main price indexes are:

  • CPI (Consumer Price Index): the measure of price increases from consumers’ perspectives. To measure inflation, BLS has to track price records of all goods and services including the volatile commodities such as food and energy. The bureau publishes CPI monthly, because weekly-report means too much work for the employees.

  • PPI (Producer Price Index): the measure of price changes of goods and services from local producers’ and sellers’ perspectives. Data is also released on monthly basis.

From the two price indexes, CPI is more widely used by the government, businesses, and banks to help determine the exact rate of inflation, probably because it is less confusing. CPI measures the purchase prices of commodities including imported goods charged to end-consumers. On the other hand, PPI also calculates raw materials purchased by companies to manufacture their end-products.

Core Inflation

Economists, whoever they are, do not use inflation rate based on CPI to accurately calculate trend of price increase annually. Instead, they will use something called Core Inflation and here is why: CPI includes the changes in prices of volatile goods such as food and energy. Prices of those commodities are unbearably unstable during any given year because there are just too many factors in play. Prices of energy goods are affected by the fluctuation of oil supply and the increasing demands for electric cars or bicycles; of course if you sell your car to buy a fancy bicycle, fuel price does not affect you anyway. Foods are also volatile commodities affected by weather conditions, overall crop quality, cost of agricultural labor, and collective willingness to go on a diet. Price changes of all commodities excluding food and energy give more accurate review of the trend.

What are Inflation and Deflation
The general rule is that the more absurd the price index chart looks, the more people are convinced

It is worth mentioning that the increasing price of energy goods may affect other commodities too. For example, price increase in oil indirectly affects the price of oil-dependent goods such as automobiles and paraffin-based candles.

Why It Happens

There are two main reasons why inflation happens: Demand-Pull Inflation and Cost-Push Inflation. The former is closely related to the increasing demand of commodities, while the latter is mostly affected by the decreasing supply of goods and services; both lead to price increase. The most basic economic principle is the Law of Supply and Demand. It dictates that there should be a balance between those two factors to keep prices of commodities in check. In other words, the law makes everything within reasonable price level so you can purchase a diet coke without emptying your wallet, unless you have no wallet or it is empty already.

Demand-Pull Inflation happens if the demand for commodities increases to a level where the sellers feel like they have some sort of control over price. Notice that there is no shortage in supply, yet the price goes up anyway because sellers have the luxury to ask for more money without the worry of not making any sale. In an ideal world the increasing demand does not directly lead to price mark-up; however, some sellers and manufacturers are greedy and they take advantage of consumers’ craving as soon as the opportunity is there. Take smartphones for example; people do not really need new smartphones, but they flock to the stores anyway when phone makers release fresh products every week. Although the new products have exactly the same features as the older ones, a lot of folks buy the things regardless. Demand-Pull inflation may happen because:

  • Burst of economic growth indicated by the increasing wage. People have more money to spend and they buy things they don’t need such as new smartphones.

  • Expectation of inflation which encourages people to buy more things now before the price goes up in the future. Such thing happened before to chocolate bars when Willy Wonka announced the Golden Tickets.

  • Over-expansion of nation’s money supply through the lowering of interest rates or printing more money. People think they’re rich because they have more money in their pockets, so the demand increases. However dollar value becomes very low relative to foreign currencies and even domestic commodities. If previously a pile of money can buy a car, now it can only buy half a car.

  • Asset inflation such as when the housing market burst in 2005. Investors thought there were not enough assets to go around, and this drove the demand up.

In fact, asset bubble in 2005 caused subprime mortgage crisis in 2007. When finally homebuilders could no longer meet investors’ needs, housing prices went down. The problem was that investors borrowed money from banks to purchase the properties, and so the price of the assets became almost worthless to repay the debts. Eventually, this led to global financial crisis in 2008, the greatest global recession since the Great Depression.

Cost-Push Inflation is related to the shortage of supply. Prices for goods and services increase because manufacturers cannot produce enough commodities to meet the demands. There is no mistake on consumers’ part because even when the demand remains at the same level, prices still increase simply because the commodities are only available in low number. It can happen because:

  • Higher tax on products often leaves suppliers with no choice but to distribute the burden of tax to end consumers. In other words, buyers need to pay more for commodities to cover the tax.

  • Increased production cost from labor, raw material, or both. Manufacturers have to increase prices of their products to maintain healthy profit margin in response to higher operational cost.

  • Natural disasters that affect production facilities will also reduce supply of commodities and increase prices. Over-exploitation and depletion of natural resources also contribute to higher prices for those particular resources or goods and services dependent to the depleted resources.

When prices of stuffs go up, it is called inflation. It becomes a problem when the price increase keeps on going and your employer does not seem to care about increasing your salary as well. Inflation basically makes the money you have worth less than it was before, regardless of why or how it happens.

How the Government Handles Inflation

Federal Reserve is responsible for controlling inflation and deflation while avoiding recession at the same time. There are several methods to help stop inflation, and it all depends on what started the economic problem in the first place. When demand increase because people have more money than they should, Federal Reserve can also increase interest rate to discourage people from borrowing money and spend it. High interest rate also helps to reduce money supply (less money in circulation). Another method is to raise reserve requirement or the amount of money that banks are required to keep in reserve at the end of the day. This means banks shall not release money or approve loans more than the Federal Reserve allows. Reducing bond prices also encourage people to invest and save money at the same time; the end goal is to keep money out of circulation so level of demands is in check.


The opposite of inflation is deflation, obviously. Deflation is defined as the gradual decrease in prices of goods and services, which directly also suggests the increase in value of money. Judging by the definition alone, deflation sounds like good news because it means you can buy more private jets and bottles of wine with the same amount of money which previously (before the deflation) could only afford a bicycle and a glass of water.

Deflation is also measured through CPI and spotted when inflation falls below 0% or commonly referred to as negative inflation rate. It is more difficult to measure because the decrease in prices does not happen for all items during the same period; when prices decrease anyway, it does not always mean a bad thing either. You could argue that price increase also happens more or less in the same way, but you’d be wrong again as usual.

An increase in prices almost always suggests weakened purchasing power simply because money can afford fewer things than it used to. On the other hand, a decrease in price may actually mean improvement in manufacturing industry for examples better work efficiency, more production capacity, and higher market competition. For example in technology sector, the price of Internet service has gone down to considerable amount compared to several decades ago. According to Statistic Brain, the cost of a hard drive with 26MB data storage capacity in 1980 was around $5,000; now you can purchase one with more than 500GB capacity for $50 or even less if you choose a crappy kind. Simply put, taking your date to a movie was actually much cheaper than downloading a cat video, or any video for that matter, in the ‘80s. No wonder people preferred going outside to browsing the Internet in the old days. This particular type of price deflation happens thanks to innovation and healthier market competition which eventually lead to better living standard. There is nothing to complain here.

Causes of Deflation

Real deflation occurs after long-term decrease in demand. People are reluctant to purchase goods and services and therefore sellers must reduce prices just to stay in business and actually earn money before the breads reach the expiry date. Drop in demand may occur thanks to:

  • Increased exports, especially from countries with lower standards of living. This means the exporters can afford to keep prices low because wages in those countries are low as well. Domestic commodities must compete with exported goods by reducing prices.

  • Low prices due to exports indirectly encourage people to postpone spending. They wait until sellers drop prices even further (they usually do) before making more purchases, hence low demand.
  • While postponing the spending, consumers put their money in the bank. The amount of hard currency in circulation falls; when money is scarce, it becomes overvalued.

  • Low demand can happen when government and domestic private companies cut wages; one possible culprit is the abundance of exported goods. Manufacturers must drop prices on their products, so it is necessary to reduce expenditures to maintain profit margin; workers are not uncommon victims of the adverse circumstance.

  • Employers can keep wages low because of over-population. Workforce is willing to accept lower wages as they know that their employers can easily find new workers in case the existing employees refuse to accept low salary. Workforce saves the money instead of spending it.

In the event those things happen in long-term, deflation hits a vicious spiral where one bad thing leads to another. Decreased demand forces manufacturers to lower prices; companies often anticipate the potential loss of revenue by cutting wages or downsizing operation (laying-off employees); low wages and more unemployment can only worsen the already reduced demand; constant cost-cutting potentially brings companies to end productions altogether; jobs are scarce so the unemployed remain unemployed. With less money, you cut back on demanding things, but unfortunately your kids don’t. It is never a good sign when your kids are crying over toys you cannot afford. And when you try to explain what deflation is, they cry harder.

What are Inflation and Deflation
Either the kid has just heard you explained about deflation or is taking a nap in the street
Dropping the prices is only a good thing when it is caused by lower production cost. When raw materials become more affordable or new innovation allows for better productivity, there is no need for companies to cut wages or have massive layoff to keep the business profitable. In such period, the deflation is benign, or in fact good for the economy.

How Deflation is Stopped

Once again, the Federal Reserve is responsible for taking actions to stop the vicious spiral. This is a prominent example of why people are reluctant to be responsible for anything; when things go wrong, the first question you hear will be, “Who is responsible for this mess?” and the next thing you see is everybody pretending to be busy sharpening their pencils.

While the government or Federal Reserve can claim that they are not directly responsible for the troubles, they are assigned by the people to prevent bad things from happening in the first place. It is customary to blame the government, so go ahead and do it the next time deflation is here.

There are several popular methods to handle deflation such as by lowering interest rates, lowering taxes, or increasing government spending; all of those are designed to bring demand back to its glory. People love low interest rates because they can borrow money from banks and repay it later with just a little bit more amount than they received earlier. It also means people have affordable capital to start businesses which open new job opportunities. When combined with lower income taxes, workers actually have more money in their pockets so they can spend more on things they don’t need such as gym membership, extended warranties, and books. Government can also spend more money on new projects such as infrastructure or defense equipment. Building a wall comes to mind, which theoretically creates more jobs and it does not even increase government spending because a certain foreign country will pay for it.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Turbocharger vs. Supercharger

When you are browsing the Internet for cars you plan to buy in the future or after you save money for a few more decades, you’ll come across two common automotive terminologies: turbocharger and supercharger, unless you plan to purchase an electric car in which case what you read will only be charger. Just by the names alone, it is easy tell that a car with either supercharger or turbocharger is going to be a lot faster than the same exact model without the additional component. Even in everyday conversation which has nothing to do with automotive engineering, the words turbo and super indicate something superior. Superhero is more fictional than just hero, superman is an alien, supercars are more expensive than cars, and even Super Mario sounds a lot better than Mario. The same thing applies to turbo with turbojet, turbofan, turbo-generator, and so on.

Cars, beside for the purpose of taking people from point A to B, are also excellent for showing-off. This is one of the main reasons that car manufacturers want to produce something faster than ever before and sell it to people who can also afford personal drivers. They can also brag about the fact that their cars are supercharged, turbocharged, or maybe both even when they don’t know exactly how the components work; the not-so rich ones should be content as long as their small slow green electric vehicles are simply charged.

Turbocharger vs Supercharger
Some cars are turbocharged or supercharged, or both; that one is just charged
To understand what turbocharger and supercharger are, let us first take a peek into how combustion engine works. There are pistons inside an engine; they move back and forth to create vacuum, and therefore introduce air (oxygen) into enclosed chambers along with fuel. A mixture of oxygen and fuel creates a highly combustible formula. Movements of the pistons constantly compress the mixture to make the combustion more intense. Fortunately the ratio between air and fuel is quite constant, so an engine that sucks more air can also burn more fuel. Stepping on the throttle pedal deeper only increases the supply of fuel but not air, except when the car is equipped with a turbocharger, supercharger, or both.

Even a typical combustion engine without those components is already fast enough for most people. In real world circumstances and city roads, you don’t actually need any turbocharger or supercharger to get a speeding ticket or arrive on time at a costume party. However, having a ridiculous amount of power at your disposal at any given moment is almost as exciting as actually using it. Everybody loves redundancy – or more precisely things they never use – and it is exactly the same thing with an abundance of horsepower in a car.

Forced Induction System

Both turbocharger and supercharger are forced-induction systems. They compress air and force it to enter the engine. By compressing air before it actually mixes with fuel, the engine does not need to make larger space for more incoming oxygen. Typical forced-induction system can deliver 50% more air. A small engine with either turbocharger or supercharger can match or even surpass the power level of its normal counterpart. It also means more power without sacrificing fuel efficiency. Although those components have the same purpose, they deliver the extra air and power through different methods.

A turbocharger works thanks to the expanding gas inside the engine’s exhaust. It has two turbines: one is connected into the exhaust, and another into the air intake port. As the engine develops power, the exhaust spins one turbine. When this turbine spins, another follows suit and increases engine air intake. Such mechanism gives double advantages. First, there is no direct mechanical load to the engine. Turbocharger is powered solely by the still-expanding gas in the exhaust; it does not require or consume power from the engine at all. Second, it improves efficiency since the power that spins its turbines is basically residue to be wasted as heat through the tailpipe anyway. Turbocharger transforms an otherwise unused heat into more power.

Key disadvantage is something called turbo-lag. Since turbocharger requires wasted energy, you need to produce more of it to get more intense air intake. In other words, you need higher RPM for the action to happen. At low RPM, the amount of backpressure in the exhaust offsets the advantage of air intake increase.

On the other hand, a supercharger is driven by the engine. It is connected to the engine with a belt, gear, chain, shaft, and anything else except supernatural powers. A supercharger spins its turbines because it gets power from the engine as well. However, the increased air intake gives much more power boost than the energy required to spin the turbines. This means a supercharger kicks-in even at low RPM. It does introduce mechanical load to the engine, but there is turbo-lag issue.

To eliminate the disadvantages, some cars are both supercharged and turbocharged at the same time, hence twin-charger. At low RPM, supercharger does the job to deliver more air into the engine, but the task is soon taken over by turbocharger as the engine develops enough RPM to offset the backpressure in the exhaust. Also immediately the supercharger is decoupled and bypassed to eliminate mechanical load. Some examples of cars that come with twin-charger from factory are Volvo T6 and T8 models lineup, Volkswagen 1.4 TSI, Nissan Super Turbo, Lancia Delta S4, and Zenvo ST1.

There is also another variant called electric turbocharger, which takes advantage of both wasted energy in the exhaust and electric compressor developed by Audi. As the name says, it is basically a typical turbocharger but with the addition of energy recovery system to help spin the turbines.

More Air is Better

The real mechanism of turbocharger and supercharger are pretty complicated, but the point is that they deliver more air into fuel combustion chambers. Increased volume of oxygen in the chambers allows the engine to burn an increased amount of fuel and turns it into more horsepower. Think of these chargers as superheroes suits that transform Bruce Wayne into Batman or Tony Stark into Iron Man. Well, Batman does not actually fit to the description because the man behind the bat-suit is already combat-ready anyway; Iron Man does fit nicely, though.

What is Trophy Hunting?

The world is full of controversial stuffs. Without them, your life would be quiet, slow, and pretty much boring; even more boring than it already is. Controversies bring disagreement, and believe it or not, people disagree almost all the time on almost everything. One of the biggest most talked-about on-going controversies of them all is trophy hunting – you are allowed to disagree on this too but let us just agree to disagree.

In the event you experience some sort of revelation and actually come out of the house to meet other people, there is a tiny possibility that you get into a debate with a stranger about trophy hunting. Before that happens, it is best to make yourself familiar with the topic. Because during a debate you don’t want to just stand there, listen to others’ arguments, and be humiliated through the entire conversation.

The debate on trophy hunting mostly occurs between, generally speaking, conservationists and hunters. You would assume that conservationists are against trophy hunting, and hunters are the proponents; in real world, however, the case is not really that simple. Hunters are indeed craving for more trophies, but maybe they hunt for the sake of wildlife conservation and this is where things become a bit complicated.

Trophy hunting, in simple words, is a hunting activity of carefully selected animal living in conservation zone such as national park, nature reserve, or protected area. The animals are most frequently endangered species for examples lions, rhinoceros, elephants, bears, and pumas. In trophy hunting, the trophy is the animal itself or its body part; it can be the head, skin, antlers, trunks, tusks, and so on. Before hunters can load up some guns and begin the not-so adventurous undertaking, they must acquire a license-to-kill-animal from the official government and management of the protected area in which they hunt.

Acquiring the license is not as simple as signing some papers and submitting ID cards, because there is a big fee involved here. According to USA Today, the fee could go up to more than $60,000 for an exotic animal hunt. Of course the fee also depends on the species – you may not have to pay a dime to kill a bee, an ant, or a catfish for example.

What is Trophy Hunting
Trophy Hunting fee is so expensive the hunter can only afford bow and arrow

While the hunters do their business mainly for pleasure, the money earned from them is (or supposed to be) used for conservation efforts. It can be used for breeding program, animal rescue, purchasing tracker devices to monitor animals’ movements in the wild, making fences, habitat restoration, and basically for protecting endangered species. Conservation efforts sure can afford a lot of things with tens of thousands of dollar but that is not always the case according to Fortune, because the money is often diverted to some other purposes.

Hunting area management chooses which specific animal to hunt in an area. Hunters are prohibited from killing any other animal roaming in the same place. There is almost 100% chance of killing the animal, however, the management is responsible to make everything look like all-natural. In some respects, it is hard to call the activity “hunting” when you pay for the trophies beforehand. No matter how natural it may seem, everything is designed so that the animal falls into a trap and becomes easy to kill.

It is almost like Deer Hunter game, except this happens in real world and involves real animals as well as real deadly weapons. Also in the game, you get fake trophies which look like a piece tournament cup to give you a sense of accomplishment. Another thing is that you don’t actually have to spend money on Deer Hunter and the game poses no threat to endangered species; you choose a weapon, shoot some deer or other animals, brag about it in the class, and everybody pretends to care. Trophy Hunting, on the other hand, kills a living organism.

Canned Hunting

Trophy hunting is seriously bad, but canned hunting is even worse. Canned hunting started by separating cubs (usually lions) from their mothers. The cubs are fed by humans and kept in cages only for hunters to kill in the future. Even worse, the fee doesn't go for conservation effort.

It is almost like fishing in your neighbor’s pool of goldfish, so there is nearly zero chance of failure even if you are seriously bad at it. Trophy hunting also has a guaranteed success, but at least the money is theoretically used for conservation efforts.

Legal yet Controversial

There are many countries where trophy hunting is considered legal including but not limited to Canada, South Africa, Namibia, Mexico, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Tanzania, Argentina, Zambia, and Botswana. Two main reasons behind the legal status are as follows:

  • It brings economic development to local people. This can be true for some countries, but Canada does not seem belong to the group.
  • Large amount of money from hunters are used for conservation efforts in various forms. Well-managed trophy hunting generates economic incentives for protection of endangered species. The money earned can be used for scientific research regarding wildlife sustainability and improvement in overall protection such as defense against poaching.

Moral issue is another thing to consider. Of course everyone has every reason to choose any particular hobby, but trophy hunting is not exactly the kind of leisure activity that all elementary school teachers suggest, and for good reasons. We have to admit that it is hard to feel sympathetic for a cockroaches and bed bugs, but endangered lions (or rhinos, elephants, jaguars, bears, pumas, and so on) are not for your pleasures to kill even when you have a luggage full of money at your disposal.

The most common defense that trophy hunting proponents use is that their money actually helps conservation efforts. If they kill one lion, the money benefits much more lions and a lot of other animals. Let us not forget that the people who manage nature reserves and national parks indeed allow for the activity as long as the hunters comply with the laws and regulations. When properly regulated and supervised, trophy hunting does work quite well to support the efforts to bring back animals population, according to a publication by CNN.

All animal conservation efforts have one ultimate goal: protection for animals well-bring and their habitats so wildlife thrive alongside humans. Now if those trophy hunters really do care about conservation, why don’t they just give that money and skip the hunting part in its entirety? The trophies they get are more likely for showing-off; there is no other good use of the trophies other than that. If they need some adventurous activities, there are definitely some perfect alternatives: being a conservationist and actually working for animal conservation.