Growing up I managed to develop a deep familiarity with Ford Falcons. My parents had three of them over the years. Cars were simple mechanical objects even a teenager could deal with. In the Winter part of my job was to get the engine running in the morning. If it was colder than -20°F it meant raising the hood, taking off the air cleaner and spraying some ether into the carburetor. Changing spark plugs, adjusting brakes and even pulling the head to replace the head gasket were amateur jobs a teenager could handle. But this simplicity came at a cost.
The little straight six engine was based on a 1941 design. Not only were the mechanical tolerances loose (oil changes every 2000 miles), but the design was inefficient. The car only weighed 2,000 pounds, but 20 mpg was dreamland. I think the best trip we took saw 18 or 19 mpg. The inefficiency was the result of incomplete combustion that produced a witch's brew of nasty hydrocarbons. Many cities of the day were covered with thick blankets of photochemical smog.
Two events would fundamental change the simplicity of the car - the environmental explosion of the late 60s and the OPEC oil embargoes. Together these increased power train efficiency larger through government regulation. The auto makers kicked and screamed about the pain of moving from 1940 technology, but the goals turned out to be achievable. The industry had bigger problems at the time.
The OPEC embargo deeply impacted the country. People were talking about conservation for the first time since WWII. Convincing people to converse was a political trap. It proved to be the turning point for a particle physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the nation.
Art Rosenfeld was a successful experimental particle physicist during a remarkable period of discovery. In 1973 he started to think deeply about the energy problem and created a formal study of energy use. Approaching the field as a physicist he and his group identified several areas of low hanging fruit - notably lighting efficiency and window insulation. Industry was uninterested so they had to invent things like the practical compact fluorescent bulb and methods of making large scale tin oxide window coatings. In addition to showing it was possible, Art did the impossible and managed to get California to mandate doable energy efficiency requirements. Among other things this led to energy efficiency ratings for home appliances.
The energy and pollution savings from this work has been enormous. The savings in the early 2000s were calculated at over $100B a year in the US alone. How many people can you think of who have had impacts exceeded a trillion dollars? The ultimate savings in terms of mitigation from avoided greenhouse gas emission may be even greater.
and a 2008 speech
Art mostly left particle physics in 1973. 1974 brought one of the greatest revolutions to particle physics and the five or so years that followed were electric as the Standard Model emerged as the best description of the Universe. Art was doing something of more immediate impact.
He's one of my heroes. I've had the pleasure of a few long chats. Nothing touched on the past - only the road ahead and work to be done.
Not a recipe, but a trick. You should have local tomatoes ripe from the vine within a few hours of picking, but you can extend the tasty life of tomato flavor by dipping the tomatoes in hot water to prevent flavor loss during chilling.
Describing the process in more detail, Bai explains that he and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, and the University of Florida dipped Florida-grown green tomatoes in hot water (about 125 degrees Fahrenheit) for five minutes and then let them cool at room temperature. Next they chilled the fruit to between 41 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperatures commercial producers use for shipping. After the tomatoes fully ripened, the researchers tested them for flavor and aroma.
They found that tomatoes heated before chilling had higher levels of flavor compounds (6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one, 2-methylbutanal and 2-phenylethanol) than non-heated fruit, and they tasted better, Bai says. "Chilling suppresses production of oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur-containing heterocyclic compounds, ketones, alcohols and aldehydes, including 13 important aroma components of tomato flavor. But hot water-treated fruit actually produced higher concentrations of these important aroma contributors, even with subsequent chilling."
Currently, they are monitoring flavor compounds at additional time points -- when the tomatoes are green, soon after the process is performed and when they are partially ripened. This information will be combined with data on fully ripened tomatoes to help the team develop a better commercial process.
Bai says that his team's approach is an easy, inexpensive fix to the flavor problem. Many post-harvest technologies sacrifice flavor to prevent bruising or spoiling, he points out. "Our methods can easily be implemented in the current commercial system without risking fruit decay," he explains.
This is a commercial technique, but tomatoes are cheap at the moment. I've been trying it in a 125°F bath for five minutes before refrigerating and comparing with fresh ones after a few days. So far so good. There is a lot of room for experimentation!