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Aurora hunting and Tesla Ubers
Seriously, why is no one talking about the solar storm situation?
I’m writing this newsletter from Alaska, where I’m up too late and planning to set an alarm for 2 am because according to my NOAA aurora borealis forecaster, that’s when I can expect to hopefully see some Northern Lights activity here on the Kenai peninsula.
I’ve been obsessed with this aurora-hunting thing for several weeks now, ever since I brought up how the Northern Lights are a thing back in February. And I’m lucky enough to have family in Alaska, so even if the Kenai isn’t the most likely spot for aurora viewing, I’ve seen them here once before, and free is free (the Montana-to-Alaska pipeline is strong).
But the funny thing is, almost everyone I’ve told about this wild jaunt up north has not heard about the fact that the sun is hurling radioactive matter at us like a mother-trucker right now. I don’t know what’s happening in your algorithms, but mine is all, “hole in the sun the size of five earths” “stealth” coronal mass ejections, more X-class flares already than in all of 2022, and Northern Lights activity visible as far south as New Mexico. NEW MEXICO!
And solar storms are pretty wild, turns out. Apparently, last February, Starlink launched a fleet of 49 satellites right into a solar storm and they got caught up in the space weather and flung back into orbit, where they burned up and died. Snarky side note from Phys.org:
The loss of the Starlink satellites cost the company millions of dollars. The company elected to launch, even though the space weather community warned about the effects of a geomagnetic storm.
Yep, that tracks. Anyway, apparently more of this is expected because the sun is in an 11-year cycle of increased activity that’s set to peak in 2025, and in between, we can expect a little bit of weird electronics behavior, maybe the occasional flight disruptions (because it can interfere with GPS navigation), danger to satellites launched by companies too cocky to listen to scientists, and, apparently, some awesome Northern Lights viewing. Plan your upcoming vacations accordingly, and wish me luck!
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It’s actually an accident that there’s double El*n snark in here today, but considering all this absurdity about the blue checks, I’m not in the mood to tone it down, either.
But on the topic of “it’s a thing,” it is apparently a thing for Uber drivers to suddenly, en masse, at least in San Francisco and the Bay Area, be driving Teslas.
On its face, this makes sense: they all used to drive Priuses (Prii?), and many still do. But Tesla has been cutting prices at a pretty breakneck speed lately, and as of January, at least, you could lease a Model 3 for $399 a month. Uber (and Lyft) have committed to all-EV fleets by 2030, and Uber has been aggressively rolling out EV availability across the US.
This is great! Yay! I’m so glad! EVs for all, if Uber and Lyft are going to increase traffic on the road, the least they can do is reduce emissions by transitioning their fleets to electric, right? Also, there’s something about Teslas that feel sort of perfect for this task: they all look alike, like road drones at this point, and the idea of them just slowly migrating into fleets of taxis feels … right, somehow.
Except there’s just one problem. No one knows how to drive an electric car and the result is rampant, horrific, absolutely miserable carsickness. Well, at least if you’re me. But I know I’m not the only one.
Last week I had a day of meetings in San Francisco; I took an Uber from Oakland, and three more Ubers around SF and home from BART. All four were Teslas, and all four left me weak, shaky, and nauseous. And it’s not the first time: I got a Tesla on the way to SFO several months ago with a car full of people, and at one point, I thought we were going to have to do a vomit-comet pit stop on the Bay Bridge.
Here’s the thing: EVs drive differently, because of something known as one-pedal driving. Basically, the accelerator and the brake are the same pedal. When you lift your foot off the “gas,” the car slows itself, and will come all the way to a stop as long as you don’t depress the accelerator again. You can use the brake pedal to stop, you just don’t really need to.
It’s a driving mode that takes a little getting used to, because it’s not standard for a car to suddenly decelerate when you take your foot off the gas. And for passengers in an EV with a novice driver, it can be an absolute nightmare of herky-jerky, stomach-rumbling stop-and-go. On top of that, EVs (and Teslas in particular) can accelerate incredibly fast, which again, makes them super fun to drive but extremely terrible to ride in, especially in the backseat.
So, I beg you, Uber and Lyft, pair your transition to all-electric fleets with some driver training, even if it’s just helpful tips in the app. One-pedal driving is an art, and drivers should practice a lot before they start picking up passengers. And just because you can accelerate like a bat out of hell, maybe drivers should be advised not to do so when someone is in the back seat. Oh and on that note, if you’re prone to carsickness and a Tesla shows up, I recommend the front seat, hard.
Every big change comes with unintended consequences, and on the main, a transition to an electric fleet is far better than the alternative. But a little training will go a long way so that customers don’t rebel against their Tesla rides due to the overwhelming urge to hurl.
Don’t judge me, or do, but I’m in love with Shadow and Bone on Netflix. I have a little bit of a YA soft spot, I admit it! Just about to start Season 2 and it’s guilty-pleasure escapism at its best. In case you’re wondering, yes, I have been advised to start Extrapolations on Apple TV and I will do so and report back, post-haste.
I don’t know if I recommend this, exactly, but I recently started listening to a book that’s ominously titled “The End of the World is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization.” (Thanks a lot, Dan!) I … mean. You know how for a minute everybody was super into Ray Dalio’s new thing, “Principles for a Changing World Order,” and before that, “The Fourth Turning,” and sort of whatever tells us that history has made it super obvious that we’re screwed and a period of massive change is upon us and it’s probably time to get the bunker and here’s why?
Ok imagine those two but with sort of a breezily brutal extreme confidence about complete collapse, including, apparently, China completely collapsing within a decade. I mean, say what you will for the geopolitical analysis, it’s a CORKER. If you’re prone to anxiety, I do not recommend. Interesting as hell, though.
Until next week (if we’re still here …), happy aurora-hunting!