Walking vs Driving – which is better?

Who knew a pint of Ben & Jerry's has less calories than a gallon of gasoline?

A well done infographic is fabulous communication tool. Why? because it caters to the way the brain works. The infographic at right is a great example.

Before we dive into the details, let’s take a very short detour into the brain. Much has been made of the fact that brains are poor at dealing with complexity. Recently a new understanding has begun to emerge from neuroscience labs. In fact our brains have evolved some very clever techniques to work around this weakness. Our brains practice “chunking.” Chunking is both very descriptive of what our brains do and a sign that at least some scientists have a sense of humor.

Neuroscientists coined the term chunking to describe the way our brains process complexity. Instead of trying to track every fact the brain quickly associates the stream of incoming data with some existing high-level representation it already has stored. So you don’t have to recall each and every detail. All you recall is the chunk. And somehow when we recall the chunk we get all the detail associated with it. Nobody knows how, exactly.

The car vs human infographic juxtaposes two forms of transportation that couldn’t be more dissimilar: your car and your feet. But it does this with very simple forms, and lots of white space. Detail and density are the enemies when your brain is prepping for a good chunking. The graphic shows the energy content of the fuel of both vehicles, the burn rate at cruising speed, and the waste each transport system produces.

All this encourages you to explore the relationships. Cruising at 60 mph your car burns 1.125 calories a minute. At your body’s 4 mph cruising speed you burn about 5 calories per minute. It’s easy to imagine the implications. For instance the graphic shows that a car produces about 30 pounds of CO2 per day. The average car commute is 32 miles round trip. You  can walk that distance in 8 hours.   And depending on who’s counting, in a walk of that duration you will emit between 1 and 2 pounds of CO2.

So what this infographic does is put you into the optimal state for learning, known as a flow state. That is, a state where the balance of challenge,  concentration and skills are rewarded with insight.So you’re more likely to remember just how energy intensive driving your car really is.


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