Sign Language, Stopping Distances and the Laws of Physics

Last month, one quiet Sunday evening, I was driving into Tunbridge Wells.  My normal route had roadworks, so I had to carry a bit further on – and passed one of those small yellow boxes in a 30mph speed limit zone.  I was doing 38 mph.  I got flashed by the camera and a week later, got a notice from the Police to say I had been done for speeding.

30mphcamera

I was given two options by the Kent Police.  Pay a fine of £60 and get three points on my licence.  Or pay £85 and go on a speed awareness course.  I had heard positive things about the latter – and so decided to go for the course as it would keep my licence clean.

And so it was, last Friday afternoon, I sat for four and a half hours in a small hotel conference room listening to two lecturers about the highway code, reaction times and the laws of physics.

Having filled-out a brief questionnaire at the start on what I thought the meaning of various road-signs were, it became apparent that I probably thought I knew a lot more than I actually did!  I worked out that I hadn’t actually been tested on the highway code since taking my driving test in 1978!  A sobering thought.

The turning point came for me when I was told that 38mph is the speed at which, if you are a pedestrian and you are hit by an oncoming car, you will almost certainly die.  Until then, I though it was a bit daft being done for speeding for so little over the speed limit.  After that point, it made me sober-up.  Added to that, it became clear that the speed limit is just that – a speed limit – not a “got away with it again” sign.  Just because half the population or more see it is the latter, the course was designed to get you into thinking sensibly.

We saw several very effective videos and learnt about reaction times and stopping distances.  Reaction times are when, as a driver, you are in control and have choices.  Stopping distance is the bit where you have decided to stop your pile of metal careering into something – and, here, the laws of physics and the speed you are traveling is the main defining factor as to whether or not you will succeed in stopping in your desired distance.

The stopping distances are in the highway code (a copy of which we were given for our £85) – see diagram below:

Stopping-Distances-723x230

These are distances a car travels, over the time it takes for you to bring the vehicle to a full stop.  These distances are for a well maintained car, with good brakes and tyres, an alert driver, and a dry road, in daylight.  We were told that if you are going at 70 mph down a motorway in good conditions the combined thinking distance plus stopping distance is about 96 metres or 24 car lengths.

What was not on the diagram was the fact that if you are going 80 mph down a motorway in similar conditions, you will still be going 38mph after 24 car lengths.  Spooky how that 38mph keeps coming up!  Oh, and if you are going 100mph down the motorway (who hasn’t, at some stage, gone for a “burn”even if just to see what it feels like?) – then you will still be going at 70mph after 24 car lengths!

So, at the end of this speed awareness course, I came away quite humbled.  On my way home from the course, I felt like a learner driver again.  A lot more aware of traffic signs – and – oh, yes – those lamp-posts which  mean that you are in a 30mph zone – even if there are no signs.  I never knew that – or if I did learn it once, I had forgotten the fact.

So, if you get the chance to pay a fine and get 3 points on your licence – or go for a slightly more expensive Speed Awareness Course, then I’d definitely go for the latter.  You will learn a lot – and hopefully become a safer driver.   Most importantly, I really did learn that you’re never too old to learn!

 

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Beehives and Business Colonies

I took part of the afternoon off yesterday to sort out a friend’s beehive.  He had started keeping bees earlier this year, having been given a new hive by his parents for his birthday.  After two inspections he called for help for me to take them away.  The bees had stung him so badly that he had dramatic side-effects.  Last weekend, I took a new hive over and yesterday I went to put the bees into my hive.  The bees were one of the most aggressive colonies I have ever opened – and it became clear that they were not the best colony for a beginner beekeeper to start with.

It got me thinking of a few visits that I have recently done to business incubators and business colonies around the country in the past few months.

The first was in London, near Kings Cross at the Centre for Creative Collaboration (C4CC).  My good friend, Brian Condon, has just started a new phase of development by taking on a full-time role running the place.  The C4CC is based near Kings Cross and funded by various parts of the University of London.  The way that the centre attracts projects and develops ideas is outstanding.  A particular success has been Pavegen – which creates paving slabs that generate electricity from footsteps.  They started with the founder and a desk in C4CC two years ago and have now moved out to a local office employing about 30 people.

The second example was in Edinburgh, where I was shown around a new venture called “The Tech Cube” .  The building used to be the home of the The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies until last year when the School moved to new purpose-built facility 7 miles to the south.  The vision for the Tech Cube was impressive – though the building was still under refurbishment.  What was interesting was the link between the Tech Cube and the University – with the idea of taking some of the young ideas that will be incubated on the top three floors of the Appleton Tower (part of the Informatics Department) about half a mile away and then to commercialise them further in the Cube.  Again – a strong link between University and the commercial sector seems to be the trend.

I was also lucky enough to be shown around O2’s new Business Academy in London – part of a network of accelerators owned by Telefonica under the brand name  “Wayra“.  19 start-ups in London (from a total of 171 worldwide) are each given about £40,000 as a loan by Telefonica to catapult them to the next level.  They each spend 9 months in the accelerator in a cube on the edge of the building bounded by corner-less walls of black that can be written on by passers by.

There is an interesting map emerging – which is summarised on the TechBritain website:

All this got me thinking what the similarities were between my apiary and the successful custodianship of these new businesses accelerators / incubators around the country:

  • Projects and/or businesses are bounded physically (like a hive is within an apiary)
  • Each project has a leader.  Some are more successful than others – depending on the leadership qualities of the boss (queen bee)
  • The organism depends on cross-fertilisation of ideas between the various colonies (a role performed by the drone in the bee world)
  • The workers of each project (hive) collect ideas (pollen and nectar) and enrich their organisation
  • Some incubators (like C4CC) have private rooms that projects can keep their Intellectual Property (honey stores) from the competition
  • Each building (apiary) needs a good leader (beekeeper) to ensure the right treatment is given to each project (hive) to ensure they flourish and survive
  • Each business (hive) has a different path, a different energy, a different future.  Predicting which ones will win and which ones will fail can be difficult!  Just as with bee hives.

Colonies of Artists are not a new thing (see previous post on the Cranbrook Colony.  However, with all the mergers, acquisitions, outsourcing, offshoring and MBA-ification of our business fabric, I somehow think that the only way we can get the UK back on its feet is to get back to the level of the hive and re-learn the art of business within a colony, or business apiary.

This is backed-up by thinking from the Futurist, Thomas Frey, in his analysis of the future of work and how business colonies will become a growing force in the future of how work works.

This weekend I will move the hive from my friend’s garden to my out-apiary where I will have to decide what to do with it in the spring.  Some colonies are just too angry for an amateur beekeeper to want to keep.  Below is a rather quaint scene from the French Alps of an apiary that has probably not changed for a hundred years or more:

However, on the up-side, they are often one the most profitable hives for producing excess honey.  After  this appalling year of honey production, I might well encourage them to flourish next year.  The again, it might be good to encourage them to swarm – so I lose the queen that produces such aggressive daughters.  As in beekeeping, so as in Wayra’s motto: “The rules are not yet written!”

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