Category Archives: Science & Nature

Create the change you want to see in the world, one environment at a time

Today I came across this article from Peter Bregman on the site, titled: The Easiest Way to Change People’s Behavior. It’s an excellent read and highly recommended.

What Peter discusses in this article is that one of the most important motivational factors in our lives is environment. If you put the right things in front of you, you’ll tend to use them more. Move them away, and they’ll get used less.

This goes for good things as well as bad things. On the positive side, consider proximity of the things that are beneficial: The gym is only a block away, so you go regularly. If the gym is far, you don’t go. Some examples based on the article:

  • Use a bigger spoon or plate, and you eat more. Use smaller ones and you eat less.
  • Live near a liquor store or a Burger King and people tend to drink more and eat more junk food. Place yourselves farther away from those and you tend not to indulge in such sins.
  • For musicians, keep your instrument and music in an area where you’ll most likely use it. Designate a practice area and have your instrument either out of it’s case or put the case in an easily accessible area. Music on the stand. Metronome on the desk. Ready to go. (I personally have found having a tuner (iStrobeSoft) and metronome (Dr Betotte TC) on my iPhone to be one of the biggest music practice productivity boosts yet. No searching for gadgets…)
  • Want kids to do their homework? Give them a clean, organized place to do it and make sure the homework is there and not floating around the house in some random place. (I know this from experience…)

In a Web 2.0 context, this equates to the usability of your software. Make it easy for your users to get things done, and they’ll do it without a hitch. Throw up roadblocks, and they’ll get stuck. It doesn’t matter how small the roadblock is or whether or not the construct was well intentioned or not – if it impedes usability, then it will impede usability. πŸ˜‰

In a greater sense, there’s a lesson for the nation or the world: If you want people to change the way they are doing things, make them want to do it. Make it easy for them. Remove any and all barriers to getting things done. You want people to vote? Put voting booths in more neighborhoods or promote the option to vote by mail. Need people to get immunized? Set up neighborhood clinics. Want your employees to be more productive? Find out what is it about your office environment that is getting in the way or not helping promote the results you want to see. For kids, for employees, for citizens, provide the right environment and make it a place they want to be.


It is a pretty planet on which I live:


Grabbed this shot up on Mt. Diablo today. The wildflowers were off the hook. Really gorgeous out there lately. The poppies were predominant, dotted with other spots of purple, white, and yellow blossoms here and there. The flowers ran rampant down the hillside:


And then in this perfectly bucolic scene, we have the 3 year old, making faces:

My crazy son, with poppies.


Sigh… πŸ˜‰

Well that was fun!

We just had a nice 5.6 magnitude earthquake here in the East Bay. I was playing video games with noise cancelling headphones in the kids’ room when I felt the desk shake. I was about to get all over the kids for not sleeping, and saw Dylan crawling out of his bunk. But when I took the headphones out, I finally realized that the whole house was freaking shaking and all kinds of crap was falling on the floor. Chandeleirs were swinging all over the place. So naturally, the first thing I did was to look it up on the USGS site and register my ratings. Then Twitter. Then blog.

This reminds me: I really need to quit playing video games and go practice.

Saving the world, one beer at a time

I think if we all band together, we can realize our dream of world peace through beer:

Beer: the energy drink for bacteria – Los Angeles Times

Scientists and an Australian beer maker are teaming up to generate energy from brewery wastewater and bacteria.

The University of Queensland was given a $115,000 grant to install the experimental microbial fuel cell at a Foster’s Group brewery near Brisbane.

The fuel cell is a battery in which bacteria consume water-soluble brewing waste such as sugar, starch and alcohol. The battery produces electricity and clean water, said Jurg Keller, the university’s wastewater expert.