Los Angeles Testing Reflective Roads to Keep Neighborhoods Cool

LA Street Services via Twitter
LA Street Services via Twitter

The urban heat island effect is a well-documented part of city living. Cities are simply hotter than their surrounding regions, thanks to their miles and miles of dark surfaces like asphalt roads, brick buildings, and black tar roofs that absorb heat during the day. When night falls, these hard surfaces release the heat they’ve been taking in all day, keeping cities several degrees hotter than their greener neighbors long after the sun has set. Green roofs and more parklands help, but they can't cancel out the enormous areas of paved surfaces in most metropolises.

In Los Angeles, authorities are combating the hot temperatures of the park-poor city by installing California’s first reflective road coatings designed to reduce temperatures, according to the Los Angeles Daily News and Curbed Los Angeles.

City workers spread CoolSeal coating on a street while residents look on
LA Street Services via Twitter

Called CoolSeal, the gray, reflective coating is designed to keep roads from absorbing heat, cooling their surroundings accordingly. So far, it has been installed on a half-block of road in Canoga Park, and 14 other Los Angeles neighborhoods will be piloting CoolSeal-coated roads by the end of June. To deploy it across the city will cost $40,000 a mile, according to current estimates, and the coating will last about seven years.

There is plenty of asphalt to cover, making the endeavor both expensive and very worthwhile. Los Angeles County has more than 21,700 miles of roads and 200 square miles of parking spaces, resulting in the greatest urban heat island effect in the state of California—increasing temperatures by up to 19°F in some places.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced an initiative to lower the average temperature in the Los Angeles area by 3°F over the next two decades. In a two-year test by the city and CoolSeal's manufacturer, the coating decreased average summer temperatures in the parking lot of a sports complex in the Sepulveda Basin recreational area from 160°F to 135-140°F.

A few gray roads could help make sure no one ever tries to fry an egg on the sidewalk again.

Now Ear This: A New App Can Detect a Child's Ear Infection

iStock.com/Techin24
iStock.com/Techin24

Generally speaking, using an internet connection to diagnose a medical condition is rarely recommended. But technology is getting better at outpacing skepticism over handheld devices guiding decisions and suggesting treatment relating to health care. The most recent example is an app that promises to identify one of the key symptoms of ear infections in kids.

The Associated Press reports that researchers at the University of Washington are close to finalizing an app that would allow a parent to assess whether or not their child has an ear infection using their phone, some paper, and some soft noises. A small piece of paper is folded into a funnel shape and inserted into the ear canal to focus the app's sounds (which resemble bird chirps) toward the child’s ear. The app measures sound waves bouncing off the eardrum. If pus or fluid is present, the sound waves will be altered, indicating a possible infection. The parent would then receive a text from the app notifying them of the presence of buildup in the middle ear.

The University of Washington tested the efficacy of the app by evaluating roughly 50 patients scheduled to undergo ear surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The app was able to identify fluid in patients' ears about 85 percent of the time. That’s roughly as well as traditional exams, which involve visual identification as well as specialized acoustic devices.

While the system looks promising, not all cases of fluid in the ear are the result of infections or require medical attention. Parents would need to evaluate other symptoms, such as fever, if they intend to use the app to decide whether or not to seek medical attention. It may prove most beneficial in children with persistent fluid accumulation, a condition that needs to be monitored over the course of months when deciding whether a drain tube needs to be placed. Checking for fluid at home would save both time and money compared to repeated visits to a physician.

The app does not yet have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and there is no timetable for when it might be commercially available. If it passes muster, it would join a number of FDA-approved “smart” medical diagnostic tools, including the AliveKor CardiaBand for the Apple Watch, which conducts EKG monitoring for heart irregularities.

[h/t WGRZ]

Uber Passengers Can Now Shush Their Drivers with a Mute Button

Spencer Platt, Getty Images
Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Even friendly and sociable people don't always feel like talking, especially if it's late, they're sad, or they're in the middle of an arduous trip. For customers of the ride-sharing service app Uber, there's now a way to terminate conversation with drivers. You simply push a button on your phone and request they stop talking.

This slightly dystopian feature is part of Uber Black, the app's premium interface for people looking for a ride in a luxury vehicle and drivers with top satisfaction ratings. If a passenger isn't in the mood for chatting, hitting "quiet preferred" on the app will notify the driver to stop speaking. They can also opt for "happy to chat" if they care to engage in conversation. It's part of a bundle of features that also allows users to ask for help with their luggage, request more time to get to the vehicle, or adjust the temperature inside the car.

The button is an attempt by Uber to address some of the ambiguity surrounding the relationship between driver and passenger for the service, which allows both parties to rate the other on the overall experience. Some passengers have felt that being uninterested in speaking to their driver might lead to a lower score.

The quiet button might eventually be rolled out to encompass all of Uber's platforms. If the idea of a human mute button is uncomfortable, passengers can also choose "no preference" and let conversation—or the lack of it—takes its natural course.

[h/t Vox]

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