Short takes on the news
Technology benefit • There's an app for that. It can be said about nearly every common computing activity: If it can be done with a hand-held device, someone has come up with a quick way to let users do it. Now that even applies to hunting down and destroying weeds. A $1.3 million state grant and weed-tracking phone app are the latest weapons to help farmers in Utah get rid of invasive and noxious weeds that steal precious water and take over farmland and ranches needed for crops and livestock. Cheatgrass called biological gasoline is a particular enemy because it burns extremely hot, feeding summer wildfires on rangeland. Another is leafy spurge, a native of Eurasia that contains a white substance poisonous to livestock. The free smart phone application called EDDMapS West can help Utah work with officials in other states to prevent new weeds coming in or heading out across state borders.
Free transit upside • After the Utah Transit Authority made 2,500 weekly bus passes free to help encourage Utahns to drive less, the passes were snapped up in 26 hours. That response should tell Utah leaders and UTA officials something. The passes, worth $50, are good for seven consecutive days of unlimited travel anytime in July on TRAX, FrontRunner and UTA buses. July is one of the worst months for air quality in Utah, and getting people out of their cars and into public transit during that month, at least, can make a difference. UTA says it will make more free passes available soon, but why not reduce fares substantially for everyone during the smog periods of summer and the inversions of winter? Such a program proposed by groups worried about Utah's unhealthy air was given little attention by legislators during the session last winter. They should take another look. There would be a cost, but the cost of bad air in poor health and early death is much higher.
Technology downside • Studies show that talking to friends or doing business on cellphones while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk. But new University of Utah research finds that talking to your car while driving may be even more distracting. Car manufacturers are responding to a demand for new auto technology with voice-recognition systems that let a driver essentially have a conversation with the car's computer, and having such chats is as dangerous as talking on the phone to other humans. Around 9 million cars are now fitted with the technology, and this number is forecast to soar to 62 million by 2018. Just more temptation to let your mind and your car wander.
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