The Center of Silicon Valley

In honor of tonight’s Yahoo Maps beta and Yahoo Maps API releases, I made a little maps mashup. Sometimes when people visit Silicon Valley, they wonder where it actually is. There is no discernible center to the Valley and you might find yourself passing through it without ever realizing you did. So I set out to find the center via Yahoo Maps. I took the 10 most valuable Silicon Valley tech companies, plotted their locations and then computed their average location weighted by today’s stock market valuation for each company. The result is here.

Here’s what’s weird about it: the center of Silicon Valley came out to be exactly at the intersection of two major highways – 101 and 237. How poetic, in a place that cares mostly about bits and bytes the centerpoint is a freeway on-ramp 🙂

The Peak of Oil

A few weeks ago, I read about the idea that we are nearing the peak of world wide oil production in this Rolling Stone article. Now I’m all of a sudden seeing the idea pop up in several places. They were talking about it last night on NPR, the Guardian had this story, Boing Boing mentioned it. The theory is that sometime in the next 5-10 years we will reach the peak of world wide oil production (just like US production peaked in 1970 and has been steadily declining since). After that, production will start to decrease a few percent per year which will have an immediate effect on our lifestyles, energy consumption patterns and the geopolitical competition for oil. Apparently, this theory goes back to the 50s when a geophysicist named Hubbert predicted that the exploitation of any oilfield follows a predictable “bell curve” trend (Wikipedia entry). I find this fascinating because rather than talk about how we have decades left before we run out of oil, we are forced to face the possibility that within a few short years we will have to start making changes to our energy consumption patterns (i.e. reversing them from growing to shrinking). This seems like a plausible outcome. What I don’t agree with in these articles is the alarmist predictions of the world wide chaos that will follow the peak of oil. It seems to me that once we put our minds to it, we will be able to solve this problem and change our patterns more rapidly than people think (a possible analogy is the surprising speed with which people reacted to the world population growth problem in the 70s after there was critical awareness of it).