Saturday, September 15, 2012

Out the window

At breakfast today I read that there are plans to put CCTV cameras around apartment blocks in Singapore, to see which residents are guilty of throwing things out of windows. There have been complaints about how this will invade people's privacy - it might make them angry enough to throw something out the window. I think it shows a lamentable lack of education in Singapore.

Firstly, if you need to install cameras to stop people throwing things out of windows, you're not doing it right. You need to teach people that the correct way to dispose of things you don't want is the trash chute. Except for domestic helpers. It's just as unacceptable to stuff them down the trash chute as it is to push them out the window. Hong Kong managed to persuade everyone to stop throwing televisions/occasional tables/farm animals from high windows long ago, and apart from somebody tossing out a chopper every year or two, people abide. There are some cameras, but they don't work - as shown when the police couldn't figure out where the Mongkok acid dropper was back in 2009.

Maybe you think education is too difficult, or the populace too stubborn to acquiesce. Then just move everyone down to the ground floor, until they promise to not throw things out the window. You don't need high tech cameras for that, just some shouty people with a highly-developed sense of their own authority.

Still, doing that doesn't land a juicy contract to install cameras for anyone. But to allow that would also show a worse failure of education: don't they teach basic mechanics in maths any more? Terminal velocity is easy to determine as a function of height; all they need is a radar trap at ground level to tell them which floor the offending items were dropped from, and then hope when people lob things from windows, they don't fling them left or right to confuse the issue. Hey, you don't need a radar trap really; just see how high the thing bounces when it lands, and then keep dropping it from each storey until you match that height.

(That does mean to combat people dropping things out of windows you'll have to drop things out of windows, but it's always best to fight fire with fire, you can't make an omelette without getting egg on your face, etc etc etc...)

I was so glad to solve this problem that I spent the rest of the day trying to find some of those old inventions for enlarging your abdominal muscles through repetitive electric shocks. No such luck - I'll just rig up my own version using a broken electric toothbrush and two wire coathangers. Abs of steel await...


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