Thursday, September 22, 2011

Music Fueling Exercise, Driver-Based Fuel Efficiency, and Duran Duran

Music not only inspires athletic performance, but also appears to increase its efficiency.  On Talk of the Nation,  Costas Karageorghis, deputy head of research at the School of Sport and Education at Brunel University in West London, describes his research into The psychophysical effects of music in sport and exercise.

Karageorghis discusses with Neil Conan how music lifts the spirit, but also touches on the ways in which music makes your exertion more productive.  Musical tempo consistent with your target heart rate helps to improve performance. Background music reduces the exerciser's perception of effort, and when you synchronize your stride rate with music (like a metronome) you can increase the efficiency of your workout. And, consistent with the ideas of Oliver Sacks in Musicophelia, imagining music also enhances exercise even when you aren't actually listening to it.

I admit I didn't recognize too many of the high-tempo songs mentioned in the piece (I don't get to the clubs very much), although other inspirational songs like  Gonna Fly Now and Kashmir rang a bell. I don't listen to music when I exercise, but my current musical inspirations include The Wood Brothers and Lyle Lovett.

Then from personal performance to automobile performance, and two articles emphasizing the role of the driver (as opposed to the vehicle) in fuel efficiency. (At first I couldn't figure out how to segue from music into driving, but one of the articles provided the perfect transition: Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55").

Marketplace had an interview and related print article presenting a guide to "hypermiling," the practice of increasing your gas mileage by changing the way you drive.  Some of the tips are vaguely familiar (keeping tires inflated, getting regular maintenance, turning off AC), but others like the Driving With Load technique (staying within a narrow RPM range) are novel and interesting.  Try keeping your RPM below 2000 at all times.

Likewise, Wired's Autopia echoed and amplified the hypermiling concept in "Cars Don't Waste Fuel, Drivers Waste Fuel." Researchers at the University of California, Riverside's Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CERT) are trying to boost fuel efficiency by finding ways to change behavior to make drivers more attuned to maximizing gas mileage.

Network connectivity might offer routes that save gas, and information systems within the car might give real-time feedback to the driver.  The challenge of course is giving that feedback on efficient driving without distracting the driver.  (You of course are already aware of the benefits of Feedback Loops).  Some models already offer real-time fuel economy, with dashboard displays that are more friendly when you are going at a reasonable speed.  By contrast, those features that try to change behavior in a negative or "nagging" way, such as Nissan's Eco-Pedal that makes pressing the gas pedal more difficult, are not well-received.

Even smartphones apps might be enlisted for the cause, to detect stoplights and allow drivers to start slowing down to avoid waiting at an upcoming light.

Finally, I couldn't resist going back to music to mention a To the Best of Our Knowledge podcast episode: My Musical Life, and an interview with Rob Sheffield, author of Talking to Girls About Duran Duran:  One Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut.  Upon hearing this, I immediately flashed back to the early days of MTV and junior high.  "Hungry Like the Wolf" was even an unofficial theme song for N.C State's improbable NCAA Championship run in 1983.

Of course, after paying respect to Lorenzo Charles, Jim Valvano, et al., I am obligated to include a link to Dudley Bradley and one of the quietest moments in the history of Reynolds Coliseum, punctuated only by the incredulous response of a disappointed Billy Packer.