Archive for October, 2010

By Harry Babad © Copyright 2010, All right Reserved.

Introduction

Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

That introduction also tells a little about my information sources, all of which — pro and con — are referenced. On the sometimes negative, to my views side, I also pick up items from Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists, when they provide source references I can check, and authors whose technical credentials background I can verify.

Article selection — my blog – my choice — are obviously and intentionally biased by my education, training, experience and at rare times my emotional, philosophical and intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send us feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click through on the links I always provide if you want more details, as well as <often> added references on the same topic(s).

Doc.

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • ‘Radioactive Boars’ on the Loose in Germany
  • Dog Poop Has a Bright side: Powering a Massachusetts Park lamp
  • How to Cool an Electric Power Plant
  • The Earth Doesn’t Care About What is Done To or For It.
  • The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale — INES is 20 years Old
  • In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming
  • Recycling Land for Green Energy Ideas and projects
  • Clear-Cutting {forests} Has a High Cost
  • Pedego® Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry Demonstrate a High Density Power Solution for Electric Bicycles

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‘Radioactive Boars’ on the Loose in Germany

Berlin – Radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is still poisoning Germany’s boars nearly 25 years on, with authorities fighting to keep the {slightly} toxic meat off the market as the wild boar population rockets. The boars feed off mushrooms, truffles and wild berries which still contain higher than permitted levels of cesium-137, carried in the radioactive cloud that spread across Europe following the 1986 accident at the Ukrainian nuclear plant.

Cesium has a half-life of about 30 years so almost half of what was deposited as fall out had disappeared by natural decay. In addition, radio cesium contain compounds, indeed most cesium compounds are water-soluble. Much of that original fallout was washed deeply into the subsurface or diluted as runoff during the rains that keep the forests of Germany so green; but that’s another story.

“No one has fallen seriously ill after eating boar meat,” said Emrich, but all boar hunters in high-risk areas must have their game tested for radioactive contamination before it can go on sale in market stalls. According to the Bavarian health and food safety, nine of the 56 boars analyzed last year showed contamination well above the allowed level of 600 Becquerels per kilogram of meat, with some as much as twice the limit. < Snake oil anyone? >

The EPA has established a limit of 370 Becquerels per kilogram of meat in 1998 for imported food. The limit for domestic food is 1,200 Becquerels per kilo. As is usual with such guidelines, the calculations are based on the linear no threshold theory that is undergoing more scientific challenges and will ultimate be defined as invalid as this generation of regulators and health physicists, with vested interests in their reputations, dies out.

On the other hand the bioaccumulation of cesium in mushrooms, truffles and wild berries, which the boars feed off “still contained high levels of cesium-137 of up to 100 Becquerels”. < Help, this is below the regulatory limit so either this is much ado about nothing or is someone running for reelection. >  Note this too is a case of bioaccumulations (e.g., 100 to 600 Bqs since bears eat lots of mushrooms.

Doc wonders why American could eat all of these foods safely, when some German’s are concerned about them, however we were not in the direct path of the fallout from Chernobyl. …As far as the costs of all this European regulation to German tax payers, click though and find out why you pay the piper for over- regulation.

‘Radioactive boars’ on the loose. News 24.com, July 8, 2010 http://www.news24.com/World/News/Radioactive-boars-on-the-loose-20100807

Background References

European Cesium Limits in Food — http://www.stuk.fi/stuk/tiedotteet/2003/en_GB/news_287/

EPA Food Safety Standards for Radionuclides. US Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FoodContaminantsAdulteration/ChemicalContaminants/Radionuclides/UCM078341

Linear No Threshold [LNT] model. Wikipedia; See the first several paragraphs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_no-threshold_model

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Dog Poop Has a Bright side: Powering a Massachusetts Park lamp

It stinks and it’s a hazard to walkers everywhere, but it turns out dog poop has a bright side. Dog poop is lighting a lantern at a Cambridge dog park as part of a months long project that its creator, artist Matthew Mazzotta, hopes will get people thinking about not wasting waste.

The “Park Spark” poop converter is actually two steel, 500-gallon oil tanks painted a golden yellow, connected by diagonal black piping and attached to an old gaslight-style street lantern at the Pacific Street Park.

After the dogs do their business, signs on the tanks instruct owners to use biodegradable bags supplied on site to pick up the poop and deposit it into the left tank. People then turn a wheel to stir its insides, which contain  the waste and water. Microbes in the waste give off methane, an odorless gas that is fed through the tanks to the lamp and burned off. The park is small but has proven busy enough to ensure a steady supply of fuel.

The lamp, a shining example of how humans can make use of an underutilized and perpetually renewable energy source — feces — is the brainchild of Matthew Mazzotta, a conceptual artist who studied at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who wanted to give back to the community.

The Seattle Times by JAY LINDSAY Associated Press Writer September 22, 2010

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2012960688_apuspooppower.html …and …

AOL News: http://www.aolnews.com/weird-news/article/dog-poop-lights-up-city-park/19643188

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How to Cool an Electric Power Plant

Thermoelectric power plants, whether fossil-fueled or nuclear, require cooling water systems. The fuel source—uranium, coal or natural gas—heats water into steam, which drives a turbine generator that produces the electricity.

The exhausted steam from the turbine must be condensed back to water and recycled to the steam generator or boiler to begin the process anew. This condensation occurs by passing it through a heat exchanger—or condenser—where low-temperature cooling water absorbs the heat of the steam and cools it down to water again.

The majority of power plants use one of two types of cooling water systems. In a once-through or open-cycle cooling system, water is withdrawn from a water source, such as a lake, river or reservoir. The water passes through the condenser and is then returned to its original source, with a negligible amount of heat transferred to the aquatic environment.

In a recirculation or closed-cycle system, cooling water is pumped from the condenser to a “wet” cooling tower, where the heat of the water transfers to the ambient air by evaporation. The resulting lower temperature cooling water is then returned to the condenser, and the amount of water that evaporates in the cooling tower is replenished.

Once-through systems will draw more water than recirculating systems, but consume little of it—on average; only about 1 percent of the water withdrawn is ultimately consumed. Recirculating systems withdraw much less water than once-through systems, but consume about 70 percent to 90 percent of what they withdraw by evaporation in the cooling towers. Cooling towers consume about twice as much water as once-through systems.

Both systems typically withdraw only a very small quantity of water relative to the overall size of the water bodies on which they are located—typically 1 percent to 2 percent of the average river flow. The cooling water at nuclear plants that is returned to lakes and rivers is never made radioactive and is entirely safe.

The electric power industry is pursuing strategies to use less water, less fresh water, or no freshwater at all for plant cooling. There’s more, check it out.

Nuclear Energy Insight, July 2009.

http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/publicationsandmedia/insight/insightjuly2009/how-to-cool-a-power-plan

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The Earth Doesn’t Care About What is Done To or For It. I know this violates the dreams of all faithful Gaia Worshipers

The cover of The American Scholar quarterly carries an impertinent assertion: “The Earth Doesn’t Care if You Drive a Hybrid.” The essay inside is titled “What the Earth Knows.” What it knows, according to Robert B. Laughlin, co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics, is this: What humans do to, and ostensibly for, the earth does not matter in the long run, and the long run is what matters to the earth. We must, Laughlin says, think about the earth’s past in terms of geologic time.

For example: The world’s total precipitation in a year is about one meter—“the height of a golden retriever.” About 200 meters—the height of the Hoover Dam—have fallen on earth since the Industrial Revolution. Since the Ice Age ended, enough rain has fallen to fill all the oceans four times; since the dinosaurs died, rainfall has been sufficient to fill the oceans 20,000 times. Yet the amount of water on earth probably hasn’t changed significantly over geologic time.

Damaging this old earth is, Laughlin says, “easier to imagine than it is to accomplish.” There have been mass volcanic explosions, meteor impacts, “and all manner of other abuses greater than anything people could inflict, and it’s still here. It’s a survivor.”

Laughlin acknowledges that “a lot of responsible people” are worried about atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. This has, he says, “the potential” to modify the weather by raising average temperatures several degrees centigrade and that governments have taken “significant, although ineffective,” steps to slow the warming. “On the scales of time relevant to itself, the earth doesn’t care about any of these governments or their legislation.”

This is an incisive and deeply troubling, to me, article. Check the link and read the rest — feedback is welcome. Why troubling? It goes against all my beliefs.

Laughlin concludes his article by noting Six million years ago the Mediterranean dried up. Ninety million years ago there were alligators in the Arctic. Three hundred million years ago Northern Europe was a desert and coal formed in Antarctica. “One thing we know for sure,” Laughlin says about these convulsions, “is that people weren’t involved.”

Newsweek, by George F. Will, September 12, 2010 http://www.newsweek.com/2010/09/12/george-will-earth-doesn-t-care-what-is-done-to-it.print.html

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The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale — INES is 20 years Old

Jointly developed by the IAEA and the NEA in 1990, in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident, the international nuclear and radiological event scale helps nuclear and radiation safety authorities and the nuclear industry worldwide to rate (1) nuclear and radiological events and (2) to communicate their safety significance to the general public, the media and the technical community.

INES was initially used to classify events at nuclear power plants only. It was subsequently extended to rate events occurring in any nuclear facility and during the transport of radioactive material, thus also covering events related to the overexposure of workers. Since 2008, INES has been extended to any event associated with the transport, storage and use of radioactive material and radiation sources, from those occurring at nuclear facilities to those associated with industrial use.

More generally, INES has also become a crucial nuclear communications tool. Since its inception, it has been adopted in 69 countries, and an increasing number of countries have expressed their interest in using INES and have designated INES national officers. Over the years, national nuclear safety authorities have made growing use of INES, while the public and the media have become more familiar with the scale and its significance. This is where the true success of INES stands, having helped to foster transparency and to provide a better understanding of nuclear-related events and activities, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency said.

Doc Sez: Just because something happened and was reported, doesn’t make it a big deal. This is a universal truism, but one not accepted by news and fear mongers, and those afflicted with nuclearphobia. Although I’ve not succeeded, I’ve attempted to create a comparable scale for gas, oil and mineral extraction and for releases from chemical and heavily chemistry based production facilities. Any Ideas?

Certainly on a fatality per serious incident basis, respiratory illness caused by routine and accidental releases, and ground water contamination comparisons such a scale might also prove a useful communications tool. I wonder where Beijing and Denver smog, the BP oil Spill, and the enormous toxic waste spill recently reported in Hungry would rank against Chernobyl. Note the headline sucking TMI accident let to no fatalities and to no measurable increases in health effects. You can Google the actual TMI off site health and environmental consequences for your selves.

Nuclear Engineering International, October 22, 2010

http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?storyCode=2057833; and

The International Nuclear Event Scale, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Nuclear_Event_Scale

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In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming

Event Log

  • The floods battered New England, then Nashville, then Arkansas, then Oklahoma — and were followed by a deluge in Pakistan that has upended the lives of 20 million people.
  • RUSSIA Wildfires stoked by the country’s worst heat wave on record have caused clouds of smoke and burned 1.9 million acres.
  • CHICAGO June storms brought high winds and heavy rains, knocking out windows and leaving thousands without electricity.

The summer’s heat waves baked the eastern United States, parts of Africa and eastern Asia, and above all Russia, which lost millions of acres of wheat and thousands of lives in a drought worse than any other in the historical record.

Seemingly disconnected, these far-flung disasters are reviving the question of whether global warming is causing more weather extremes. The collective answer of the scientific community can be boiled down to a single word: probably.

“The climate is changing,” said Jay Lawrimore, chief of climate analysis at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. “Extreme events are occurring with greater frequency, and in many cases with greater intensity.”

He described excessive heat, in particular, as “consistent with our understanding of how the climate responds to increasing greenhouse gases.”

Theory suggests that a world warming up because of those gases will feature heavier rainstorms in summer, bigger snowstorms in winter, more intense droughts in at least some places and more record-breaking heat waves. Scientists and government reports say the statistical evidence shows that much of this is starting to happen.

But the averages do not necessarily make it easier to link specific weather events, like a given flood or hurricane or heat wave, to climate change. Most climate scientists are reluctant to go that far, noting that weather was characterized by remarkable variability long before humans began burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

There are more details and event images in the article.
Even the Russians are paying more attention.

Thermometer measurements show that the earth has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution, when humans began pumping enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. For this January through July, average temperatures were the warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported recently. NOAA scientists think is only the beginning of a trend that most experts believe will worsen substantially.

If the earth were not warming, random variations in the weather should cause about the same number of record-breaking high temperatures and record-breaking low temperatures over a given period. But climatologists have long theorized that in a warming world, the added heat would cause more record highs and fewer record lows.

The recent annual statistics suggest that is exactly what is happening. In the United States these days, about two record highs are being set for every record low. This seems to be telltale evidence that amid all the random variation of weather, the trend is toward a warmer climate.

Climate-change skeptics dispute such statistical arguments, contending that climatologists do not know enough about long-range patterns to draw definitive links between global warming and weather extremes. They cite events like the heat and drought of the 1930s as evidence that extreme weather is nothing new. Those were indeed dire heat waves, contributing to the Dust Bowl, which dislocated millions of Americans and changed the population structure of the United States.

But most researchers trained in climate analysis, while acknowledging that weather data in parts of the world are not as good as they would like, offer evidence to show that weather extremes are getting worse.

Doc Sez: It’s not a question of either whether mankind is the cause, or we’re just in a natural cycle upswing in temperature. The real issue {aka ethical question} is what are we, mankind going to do to protect all of us from the after affects of climate changes and the likelihood of drastic changes to the way we live. — Oh, my choice of pictures… ‘a rose by any other name still has thorns.’

The New York Times, Article by Justin Gillis, August 14, 2010, and links therein

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/science/earth/15climate.html?_r=1

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Recycling Land for Green Energy Ideas and Projects

Lemoore, Calif. — Thousands of acres of farmland here in the San Joaquin Valley have been removed from agricultural production, largely because the once fertile land is contaminated by salt buildup from years of irrigation. But large swaths of those dry fields could have a valuable new use in their future — making electricity.

Farmers and officials at Westlands Water District, a public agency that supplies water to farms in the valley, have agreed to provide land for what would be one of the world’s largest solar energy complexes, to be built on 30,000 acres.

At peak output, the proposed Westlands Solar Park would generate as much electricity as several big nuclear power plants.

Unlike some renewable energy projects blocked by objections that they would despoil the landscape, this one has the support of environmentalists. Check it out, for a change this is not a ‘wet’ dream.

The first phase of the project would consist of 9,000 acres leased from farmers. When covered in solar panels, that acreage would generate 600 to 1,000 megawatts of electricity. One megawatt is enough to power a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The New York Times, by Todd Woody Published: August 10, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/11/business/energy-environment/11solar.html?nl=&emc=aua21

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Clear-Cutting {forests} Has a High Cost

For people living in poverty in the Amazon, cutting down the rain forest often appears to be the only way to thrive economically—first by selling the lumber, later by farming and ranching on the land. A study published in Science in June indicates otherwise. Despite gaining some temporary benefits, communities that clear-cut their forests end up no better off than those who do not.

Ana Rodrigues of the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in France and her colleagues found that Amazonian towns in the midst of a deforestation binge initially see higher life expectancies, literacy rates, and incomes. But once the local forest is gone, income from timber typically dries up, the researchers believe; many farms and cattle ranches are abandoned after a few years because the nutrient-poor soil rapidly becomes depleted.

“The current development strategy results in a lose-lose-lose situation,” Rodrigues says. It destroys the rain forest habitat, fails to alleviate poverty, and contributes to global warming by eliminating trees that would absorb and store carbon dioxide. “The challenge now is to create a development path that is win-win-win.” One possibility, Rodrigues suggests, could be to create a provision in the next international climate-change treaty requiring wealthy countries with high carbon emissions to pay Brazilians for the environmental benefits of keeping their forests standing.

Bottom Line — Selling the lumber gets money in the short term but is a “lose-lose-lose” in the long term.

Discover Magazine, by Eliza Strickland, January 25, 2010

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jan-feb/22

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Pedego® Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry Demonstrate a High Density Power Solution for Electric Bicycles Electric bicycle gets 60-mile range with a portable hydrogen fuel cell

LAS VEGAS, NV: September 23, 2010 – Pedego®, Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry have developed an ultra-high-performance range extender for electric bicycles.  The announced battery-fuel cell hybrid system is compatible with all existing Pedego bicycles and batteries.  For every 1.5 lbs. of weight a rider carries, an additional 700 watt-hours of energy is available (compared to ~350 watt-hours for an ultra-high performance lithium-polymer battery at a weight of 7 lbs.).

Compared to advanced Li-ion batteries, which have an energy density of about 65 Watt-hours per kilogram, SiGNa’s cartridges have an energy density of more than 1,000 Watt-hours per kilogram. The hydrogen cartridge produces up to 200 Watts of continuous power, and excess energy is stored in a Li-ion battery for climbing hills and energy-intensive acceleration.

The new hybrid system utilizes the battery for peak conditions such as acceleration and hill climbing, while the fuel cell to extend the operating range of a Pedego bicycle by over 40 miles for each additional cartridge.

Riders can carry additional cartridges, which are real-time hot swappable.  A key innovation is the use of sodium silicide to liberate hydrogen from water as needed by the hybrid fuel cell. The hydrogen system is safe, as the hydrogen is produced at just 50% of the pressure in a soda can. The system’s only emission is water vapor, and sodium silicate, an environmentally safe byproduct of sodium silicide, which is fully contained in the cartridge.

PhysOrg News, October 6, 2010 http://www.physorg.com/news205599186.html

By Charlie Sorrel October 4, 2010, Wired, http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/10/electric-bike-runs-almost-on-water

Pedego Electric Bicycles — http://www.pedegoelectricbikes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=3

SiGNa Chemistry — http://signachem.com/2010/10/electric-bicycle-gets-60-mile-range-with-portable-hydrogen-fuel-cell/

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

I compulsively again share Dr. Isaac Asimov thoughts on evidence.

Paraphrasing: The Paradigm I’ve Live By, a quote from Dr. Isaac Asimov writer, thinker and scientist. 

  • “I believe in evidence.
  • I believe in observation, in measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers.
  • I’ll believe any thing, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

I would also add Albert Einstein’s comment Scientific-Technical “insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Emphasis Added – The same holds true for half-truths and fear mongering by those with vested interests and/or undocumented and presently un-documentable beliefs.

Readers Please Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable — and if you Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many studies that are skeptical.

A reminder, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is not to stop questioning.” — Albert Einstein.

I seem to have a thing for Albert Einstein this month, coming soon Feynman and Hawking my other heros.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved. 

Version: 8.0.0.316
Website: http://www.apimac.com/notepad/
System Requirements
: Mac OS X 4.x or later; (e.g., MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, Mac mini, Mac Pro, PowerMac, iBook and PowerBook)
Release Date
: January 15, 2010
Download Size: 18 MB
Shareware Cost: Single Computer – $29.00, Site License (5 computers) – $39.00 USD. In the trial version a reminder window appears and forces you to wait for some seconds every time you open the application. The print feature for is disabled only a limited number of notes can be added to the database.
Doc’s Previous Reviews: – Apimac Note Pad v.1.6.6 macCompanion, July 2005; and Mac Note Pad 3.0.2 macCompanion January 2007.
Star Ratings 3.5 Stars

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Audience: Everybody that wants an alternative to the Mac OSX text editor.

Strengths: Mac Notepad helps you organize any piece of text you may want to keep on hand.

Weaknesses: list, separated by commas.

Previous Reviews: links to previous macCompanion reviews on the same product.

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Sidebar #1: Reviews were carried out on my iMac 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM running Mac OS X version 10.6.4 with all security updates kept current.

Sidebar #2 Disclaimer: When reviewing software I will often use the developer’s product, functions and features descriptions. Because of this unless I’m quoting directly from another source, I do no cutter up the review with quotation makes. All other comments are strictly my own and based on testing. Why need I rewrite the developer’s narratives, if they are clearly written?

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Introduction, including Publisher’s Summary

Just to make things clear to our readers, notepad applications come in two distinct flavors. One is a place to put your ToDo and schedule them, checking the as done when indeed you completed them. The second is a repository of notes, actions, memorabilia snippets that you want to save for future memory or use. <Apimac’s Mac Note Pad is of the later type. This is not to say that you can’t collect To-Do’s in the application, but it is not designed to optimize the ‘scheduling’ function.

Babad’s Mac Notepad Database
The Original Memoblock ToDo Collection

Mac Notepad is a straight-forward (standard) application built around notes. Using a standard three-pane window similar to Address Book’s or Mail’s, you can create individual notes, give them titles, customize text fonts and colors, and sort them into categories. You can also password-protect them, back up your database of notes and email them. To save screen space, you can ‘iconize’ the application down to a floating palette containing just a search box. New to version 8 is the ability to drag and drop text into and out of Notepad.

Publishers Description — “Hold that thought! Now you can store any piece of text right at your fingertips thanks to the new Mac OS X note pad program from Apimac. Mac Notepad is the “missing notepad application” you’ve been waiting for. You’ll never be at a loss for words again! 

Now designed from the ground up to support the latest Apple technologies, Mac Notepad allows you to save, copy, paste and organize all your favorite snippets with ease. You can drag the text from other applications, drop a text file from Finder or, of course, write it yourself. 

Mac Notepad is a great tool to boost your productivity and creative output by not letting those great thoughts and ideas just slip away. You can assign a title and category to each note. Notes are easily retrieved by category or content by simply typing the text in a search field.” Many more features have been added as noted below.

Getting Started

This is a well-developed Macintosh application. Drag it to your applications folder. Start using it in demo mode or type in a password. Decide which preference settings you prefer. Check out, if you like, any readme files. You’re good to go. The developer’s site has a short Help file, but I never need to seek aide. I did skim the file at http://www.apimac.com/help/macnotepad/ but it I more designed to trouble shoot than to get a new user started with this application. However if you can use the basic Macintosh editing skills as found in applications like Apple’s TextEdit, and understand the simple [Category > Notes > Notes details] logic, using the product is a no-brainer.

Using the Software

I kept this review to a KISS level. I copied and retagged, as appropriate, several dozen of the notes from my Memoblock list to Notepad 8.0.x.  The transfers of data were simply a combination of copy (from Memoblock) to paste into Notepad. Redoing the tags, the organizing feature that groups items was also straightforward but required a little forethought. Why? Because Memoblock organizes categories by color-coding and had so set up my categories from the color-coded ‘lists’ Also Memoblock has only two windows so sub-tasks to an item are tiered in ‘outline” form, compared to the three provided by Notepad X.  The left hand side is a principal task list (coded to an appropriate cation category. The right hand window list is a set of subtasks which can’t be ‘flagged out individually.

You can paste text into it, by dragging it from other applications, drop it into the application as a text file from the Finder or type often-used boilerplate yourself. In addition, you can assign each note to a standard (defined by its developer) or a user-named category. This added feature allows users to retrieve notes on a category-basis using a popup menu. Users can search note contents via a find function from within the application. For completeness, you can assign a password to your notes or hide your notes folder.

Notepad X, on the other hand, with its simple [Category > Notes > Notes details] hierarchy allows for a simpler to modify and organized set of tiered ‘data content” descriptions.

Where Is The Database Hidden — To backup data of Mac Notepad to a different disk, or to create a backup copy the Notepad file that contains all your data. Here’s the location of Notepad’s data file:

[/Users/<you>/Library/Application Support/Apimac/Notepad/Notepad File]

Annotated Selected Key Features List

The notes are all kept in a separate Valentina database [http://www.valentina-db.com/]. There is an effective multiple format export facility for saving notes in a variety of formats or to some iPods, but the later requires manual intervention and is no better than Text Edit’s export functions.

You can assign a title and category to each note. Notes are also easily retrieved by category or content by simply typing the text in a search field.

Recents menu — A handy Recents Menu keeps track of your latest edited notes. Notes can be edited at will and text can be customized with a choice of fonts, styles and colors. If you need a hard copy, go to the “Print” function in the menu.

Iconized Search Window Mac Notepad sports the brand new Iconize feature. Just click and your notepad becomes a small, handy search window that floats on top of all other windows. To access the note again, just make a search or click on the icon.

Password ProtectionThe products unique privacy features allows you to protect your personal notes with a password. If this option is selected, a password dialog box will be displayed when the Mac Notepad database opens.

Advanced SearchMac Notepad gives you two search options:

  • Easy Search: Matches any text you enter in the search field, even if it’s not an exact match. For example, “nice girl” will match “Mary is a nice girl” and “Bernice is a little girl.”
  • Regular Expressions: An advanced search method based on patterns. For example, “nice|girl” will match either “nice try” and “pretty girl.” More information on this topic can be found on many websites such as the dedicated page of Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regular_Expression].

•    Drag and Drop to Import and Export Notes — For exporting, dragging notes to a folder or the desktop will export the selected notes into that location. The reverse is obvious.

Mail Notes Feature — There are new mail note features that I’d previously not tried. I was and am delighted that the feature works well with my long of tooth, totally extinct version 6.2.4 of Eudora. What a Joy!

•    New Expanded Import and Export Formats — Supported formats now are: Plain text, Styled Text (Simple Text), RTF, HTML, Open Office .odt, Word (.docx), Word XML .xml, and /or Word (97- 2004) .doc

Kudos

Where Notepad is superior to the baker’s half-done applications I’ve tried is in its speed as well as its ability to organize and search large numbers of notes. It also has a convenient Recent Items menu for quick access and you can search by partial text or by means of a “regular expression.”

Discomforts

General — I wish there was a way, from a reviewer’s perspective to intelligently extract the contents of one notepad product to another. I know the databases or other data organizational tools differ between products, bit it sure would save time when I again review a new notebook/notepad product – transferring the whole database from the old product as tab-delimited for to a new one, e.g. Bento and FileMaker Pro; would be great.

Synchronizing Databased Between Devices — There’s no import facility available to get your existing Mac OS X notes into Notepad. There’s also no MobileMe syncing to sync notes between different computers, no Spotlight integration, no iPhone app with which to sync your notes and no option to attach files to notes. This is all true, albeit I have no need for these missing functions.

Creating Additional Separate Databases Collections — I prefer, as I’m enabled to, in DEVONthink, to create separate databases for items that are clearly totally unrelated to each other. Therefore I have a separate personal/professional database and a separated focused uniquely on the Environmental-Energy articles, which I collect as a basis for my greening articles and occasional book. Finding an article I need thus, although its time consuming to create, is easier than the alternatives. These are search in though a separate drive partition nested folded for articles <5.6 GB and growing> or doing HoudahSpot front ended Spotlight search.

If Wishes were Horses… — It took me less than an hour to transfer about 40 items in my Memoblock program while both updating and reconfiguring them to avail myself of the Apimac software’s greater flexibility Along the way I sprinkled a dozen or so items I wanted added to NotePad from DEVONthink into the mix. Why, it added a bit more robustness to the notepad file contents. During this time I came across a number of wish list items that would further enhance this fine program. I list them below in no order of priority. Remember I managed a speedy transfer/update/expansion of my records without having the extra features available. However several of items are additional feature I would welcome.

  • I would welcome a menu item to insert a date item and perhaps time into a note
  • For this kind of use, casual and continuing w/o disrupting my work cycles an Auto Save feature would be helpful.
  • I couldn’t color code note names in the note listing (2nd Column of the application window, I would have used that to assign my notes an order of priority.
  • Having the ability to customize the tool bar, which many products have now added, would be useful and timesaving.  At a minimum, I could put the text color wheel into the toolbar.
  • Need ability to use Apples spell checker and to check spelling in real time as I type.
  • I would ability to create single or space and a half and double space formatting.
  • A feature like the ability to transform caps to lowercase/title case etc. would be nice.

 

Yes I know, this sound s like word processor 101, but if I’m actively using a note pad tool, it makes things both easier and more attractive.

Conclusions and Recommendation

In reflecting about note pad applications, that over the last few years I’ve been using two and a half applications to keep tract of snippets of information. The two main products are both database engine based and therefore have great search and ‘tagging’ capabilities. My favorite for heavy lifting is DEVONthink Pro Office in which my main database has grown to 176 MB in size.

As an experienced reviewer of checklist and notepad software I had no trouble leaning to work with the product but a less experienced user deserves at least a short manual or access to a help file. For a twenty-nine dollar license fee, a bit of available help, just in case, is something a user deserves. After working off my irritations with the product, due in part because I’m a heavy user both of FileMaker Pro and occasionally Bento, as well as DEVONthink Pro, I’ve been slick features spoiled. I, however, recommend the product to those users for whom my specific concerns don’t matter. Using something stronger like one of the FlleMaker products seems like overkill, and my DEVONthink database configuration is too rich, broad and complex to suit me for simple notepad/to do functions.

I’ve otherwise alternated between the freeware Memoblock 4.9.5 by Blocksoft and Apimac’s Notepad X 4.0.x, the last version I regularly used. After testing v. 8.0.x of Notepad Pro, I am returning to the Apimac product. I maintain (see the postscript) that for most users who are not hooked on the need for i-Synchronization features, Apimac’s Notepad X is a fine, easy to use, trouble-free product. Try it — you’ll like it.

Oh the remaining half — shadowClipboard, the best multi-clip application I’ve yet found,

Therefore, I am delighted again to give the product a 3.5/5.0 score. It’s still not perfect but gets better with each major release. Now if I could only color code notes to create an urgency scale.

Doc!

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Post Scripts

First: A number of reviewers have down rated this product for lack of iPhone and iPod synchronization and its price. From my perspective, as an extremely casual iPhone use the lack of such a feature is irrelevant to my needs. The price is also not a criterion since Apimac has allowed users of its version 3.0.x product <Aug 2006> to continue to use their old registration number free of charge.

Second: After competing this review I was surprised that my of the download sites I checked, had the product priced at $39.00, about 25% higher in price then the developer’s site list. No wonder some folks balked at the price. The later is the price for a site license for five people.

Third: I would suggest the developer do a price/sales tradeoff to see if revenues would increase were the product priced at $19.95. Under $20 for most shareware products seems to be a major marketing inflection point. Despite this being a fine product there was too much ‘BG’ on the web about price.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Sir Richard Branson is the CEO of Virgin Galactic Airlines, a company dedicated to fulfilling the dreams of people wanting to take a suborbital commercial space flight. On July 19, I posted this short piece about SpaceShipTwo. October is a month of important milestones for Virgin Galactic.

October 10th – WhiteKnightTwo (the mothership of VSS Enterprise) launched VSS Enterprise at an altitude of 45000 ft, and it made a safe landing at the Mohave Desert runway. It was an 11 minute unpowered flight, but it was successful. I believe the engine was not tested, but expect that in the near future. Sir Richard was kind enough to post a YouTube video of the October 10th flight VSS Enterprise flight – check it out.

October 18/24/25, 2010 – A National Geographic documentary is run on Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan. Click here to see a promotional video about this documentary.

October 25, 2010 – Virgin Galactic opened Spaceport America in Upham, New Mexico. The sole runway is 2 miles long and the surface is 3 1/2 feet think, so it was intended to handle any current spacecraft flying right now. This is huge, as it gives government spacecraft a viable alternative in the event that other landing areas are unavailable due to bad weather. Spaceport America’s primary tenant is Virgin Galactic. Go here to see the official press release.

Sir Richard’s company marches into the history books with milestone after milestone successfully met. The airlines is expected to start regular commercial in 2012. I don’t know about the rest of you readers, but I certainly know where my next “extra” $200,000 is going. Wow!

For more information on Virgin Galactic Airlines, go to their website.
For information on Spaceport America, go to their website.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Publisher: Isaac Wankerl
, Kerlmax LLC
Website:
http://www.kerlmax.com/products/sharpshooter/
System Requirements
: Mac OS X 10.4 or later, including Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)
 Mac computer with either an Intel or PowerPC processor
 8.9 MB Hard Drive space
Release Date
: September 15, 2009        Download Size: 4.2 MB
Shareware Cost
: $15 USD — Free to try for 30 days.
Star Ratings
— 5.0

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Audience: Anyone who takes screenshots

Strengths: Sharpshooter is a helper utility designed to give you more control over your screenshots. It lets you choose what to do with your shots as you take them.

Weaknesses: None, I wish I had this tool when I was writing my nuclear textbooks. I was so overloaded with screen shots and cropped clippings that I almost screamed into my coffee.

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Introduction

As an author and blogger, not they are not the same; I often have the need to capture images. These may originate from screen shots taken within the software I review, or are clipped parts of images googled. [Trimming an image does not require a graphics program such as iPhoto, PSE or GraphicConverter].

Over the years I’ve tried my programs that propose to help me do screen capture, including such stalwarts as:

An early simple version of Voila, [http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/29995/voila] which as version 3.0 is now a full featured tool; to the elegant and full featured Snapz then standard and now Snapz Pro X 2.2.3 [http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/6149/snapz-pro-x].

I also played with a few other freeware/shareware products such as:

All of these products were and still are highly regarded in both Macworld and MacUpdate reviews and indeed I gave SnapNDrag a “5” in the October 2009 issue of macCompanion. However, I’ve most part I’ve stuck with Apple’s finder commands and the use of Apple’s Grab application. Why — That’s all I needed, then and now.

Apples Screen Capture Tools Limitations — But that didn’t/doesn’t stop me from grousing about the limitations of Apples tools. The image below shows the Sharpshooter solution.

One gripe was my desire to capture all my images as JPEGs, something I figured out how to do, but now don’t remember how.

  • The second was my desire to give the images names at the time they were captured getting way from the ‘picture 1 – picture 2… metaphor. After all I knew what I was thinking about when I captured the image, and really wanted to label it appropriately, in real-time. That would save me from dinking around when narrowing down the number of images I used, an editor’s constraint, in my articles.

Eureka, I found Sharpshooter meets my added ‘naming’ needs, as well as allowing flexibly in changing their format, it a real find.

Publishers Description — Sharpshooter is a small application, which aids the management of screenshots. When you take a screenshot on Mac OS X with Command-Shift-3, Command-Shift-4 (or with another variation). Sharpshooter is a background agent application so you. I did, may want to add it as a login item to always have it running in the background. You can control Sharpshooter through the menu status item on the right side of the menu bar.

 

Getting Started

Drop the sharpshooter application into your, you guessed it, application folder. Use it free for 30 days or pay the modest shareware fee and enter your license code. There it was, its icon sitting neatly in my menu bar. The develop claims that begin able to name your images, while the subject is still fresh on your mind, is a great time saving advantage. I agree. You can even, if your addicted to scanner naming conventions or those on your camera, use its default name with or without the extension.

As always, in a hurry, I instantly found a screen shot I wanted to capture. In less than two blinks of an eye, there it was. The software’s’ main window was there ready to use as described in the review. Type in what you want for an image title, change to the format you want – your done. I actually used the product for a few days before I decided to check to see what it’s preference panes offered. If you use two monitors, that’s the place to ‘tune’ things up.

Review Limitations

I found the product to be rock stable.

There’s two attributes (features) I did not test.

  • First, Sharpshooter has the ability to work with screenshots that span multiple monitors, If you have more than one display connected to your Mac. My iMac screen although 24” in size, lives alone on my desk.
  • Second, an attribute identified in an Aug 13, 2007 review of Sharpshooter version 0.4.1, review in Macworld by Dan Frakes was its ability to deal with the output from other screen capture tools. Since I don’t use any, I could not pull this string. Check http://www.macworld.com/article/59453/2007/08/sharpshooter.html/.

    The product also has a folder-watching watching feature that I did not test because all my screen shots go to my desktop!  Then I can sort them out and put them into the folders that best reflects the project in which I to use them. However, this is not a problem since the software has a first class help function so I can get the information should I ever need it.

    A Wish, Unfulfilled

    Real Time Ability to Input Information to Get Info — I would welcome, either from this or any other screen capture tool, the ability to quickly add information to a file’s spotlight comments [-I] because unless I remember to, I usually have to do an extra search to document the source of the images I capture, especially from Google images. Yes I know this is not a function of a screen capture tool, but “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

    An Added Sharpshooter Preference Desired — I would welcome the ability to select a ‘preference’ to make JPEG conversion my default graphics format. Except for an occasional use of TIFF, JPEG is my image format of choice.

    Conclusions and Recommendations

    This as a simple to use, intuitive and great product. By using its main, and ‘only’ window Sharpshooter where you can review the picture and choose what to do with it. You can either rename, move the screenshot to the Trash, or cancel the operation keeping the captured screenshot as is. The Move To Trash option, combined with an in-window preview, is useful for quickly spotting and deleting obvious screenshot mishaps.

    From the perspective of time it already saved me, it is well worth the $15 shareware fee — a 5 ‘Flower” product!

    APPENDICES

    What Mac OS X keystroke combinations are used to take Screen shots?

    Action Shortcut
    Take a picture of the whole screen ⌘-Shift-3
    Take a picture of part of the screen ⌘-Shift-4, then drag to select the area you want in the picture.

    To cancel, press Escape.

    Take a picture of a window, a menu, the menu bar, or the Dock. Press ⌘-Shift-4, then press the Space bar. Move the pointer over the area you want so that it’s highlighted, then click.

    To drag to select the area instead, press the Space bar again. To cancel, press Escape

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    Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

    Reviews were carried out on my iMac 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM running Mac OS X version 10.6.4 with all security updates kept current.

    Disclaimer: When reviewing software I will often use the developer’s product, functions and features descriptions. Because of this unless I’m quoting directly from another source, I do no cutter up the review with quotation makes. All other comments are strictly my own and based on testing. Why need I rewrite the developer’s narratives, if they are clearly written?

    Voyager 4.5.7 Sky Simulator
    Carina Software (Phone: 1- (925) 838-0695, Mon – Fri, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM PST)
    Website: www.carinasoft.com
    Price: $179.95 w/DVD, $129.95 w/2 CDs, w/CD download $99.95
    Upgrade prices and educational discount information available at Carina’s website.

    By Ted Bade, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

    Introduction

    Astronomy buffs or anyone looking for a solid astronomy simulation program should take a serious look at the Voyager Dynamic Sky Simulator software package developed by Carina Software. It offers a good user interface, easy to understand controls, along with the ability to control computer driven and certain motorized telescopes. Voyager provides a huge sky catalog, complete with images and a variety of ways to view the skies. It will satisfy just about any amateur astronomer’s needs.

    Let me qualify myself on the subject of Astronomy before I begin this review. I am a true amateur, who enjoys employing technology to make observing the sky more fun and informative. I own a decent computer controlled telescope, (6” Newtonian), and I live in southern New England (USA), where light pollution and overcast skys are the norm. It is important to me to own a good sky simulation program, so I can plan for those few nights when the sky is clear and I can actually use my telescope to view the sky. It’s also important that the program can help me learn what my sky would look like if the clouds (and light pollution) weren’t there.

    My experience with Astronomy software packages has been using Starry Night Pro and an earlier version of Voyager (3.x). My apologies to those people who have written shareware programs, I have not taken the time to give any of them a serious look, (but I am open to doing that).

    I would like to explain what a sky simulation program does, for those of you who might not be familiar with this type of software. We are all familiar with planetariums, an auditorium with a domed ceiling on which is projected a simulation of the sky. Although they are used mostly for entertainment, their real purpose is to allow us to study the motion of stars. Combining what we have observed in our short history with the laws of physics and motion, scientists can predict the motion of the stars, and be able to simulate where they have been and will be at any time. Using this technology, a program can display what the sky looks like from any point on the earth at any time in the future or in history. Obviously, the simulation cannot predict unexpected events and is limited by the mistakes we have made in calculations. But it is pretty accurate and I doubt I will ever observe a mistake in my lifetime.

    System Requirements

    Voyager runs under Mac OS X or Windows.

    Mac Mac OS X

    • Mac OS X 10.4 or higher
    • PowerPC or Intel 1 GHz or faster processor (2 GHz or faster recommended)
    • 700 MB of hard disk space (4.2 GB for DVD version)
    • 512 MB of memory (1 GB recommended)
    • 1024×768 display with 32-bit color
    • CD-ROM drive (for CD version) or DVD-ROM drive (for DVD version)

    Windows Windows

    • Windows XP or Vista
    • Pentium 1 GHz or faster processor (2 GHz or faster recommended)
    • 700 MB of hard disk space (4.2 GB for DVD version)
    • 512 MB of memory (1 GB recommended)
    • CD-ROM drive (for CD version) or DVD-ROM drive (for DVD version)
    • 1024×768 display with 32-bit color
    • Adobe Reader or similar software to view on-line User Guide in PDF format

    Using the Software

    With this software, you can see what you sky will look like tonight, next year, or even a thousands years ago. You can view what the sky would look like from many locations, your back yard or places you might never visit like Australia, the north or south pole, or even the moon! While it is not currently available in this version, I expect in the future advanced features should let you explore the surface of planets and moons that we have data on.

    I am not going to try to analyze the validity of the star catalog and other astronomical information provided in Voyager. I am no expert on this subject and I trust that a reputable company like Carina checks the data. The program can check for updates that give the latest information and ephemerides (orbital data) for comets, asteroids, and satellites. It also will check for updates to the application. I am reviewing specifically version 4.5.7, which is the current version as of this review.

    Voyager’s main window is the Sky Chart. This is your view of the sky. You can have more then one sky chart open at one time. A reference line near the bottom of the window represents the circle of the horizon around where you “stand”. In the program the line shows the cardinal points (N, NE, E, etc.) and is also marked in degrees, with North being zero. When you click and hold on the screen you can move the view around the horizon or up and down. As you do, the view of the sky changes as if you were moving your head to look at different parts of the sky. Additionally, when you click and hold, small windows pop up displaying the current altitude and azimuth of the center of the screen a great feature to let you know where you are, especially in more zoomed views.

    How much of the sky you see on a single screen is controlled by the Zoom window. The default is set to about what a human would see standing outside. You can zoom in or out from this view using the zoom controls. Zoom in far enough and you will see the object as if looking with a powerful telescope, zoom out enough and the view of the sky becomes a bowl.

    The star field you see will be what you might see if the sky were perfectly clear and dark. Voyager falls a bit short on simulating light pollution, for those of us who would like to see an image of the sky as we see it. You can choose to show a “Natural Sky” which brightens when the sun is up and darkens as it sets. But there are no controls to simulate the effects of the lights of a nearby city. You can control the minimum brightness of stars to display. If you know your local limitations, this can be used to show only those stars or objects that you could actually see wit ha naked eye.

    In the real world, you cannot see below the horizon, so you can chose to fill in the areas below the horizon. Voyager offers different options from just opaquing the area below to using a photo. Since most users don’t live in an area with 360 degrees of unobstructed horizon, the images obstruct a little above the horizon as well. The program comes with a handful of photos to use. My home location includes a lot of trees that block a good portion of the lower sky. I was pleased to find that you can create your own image, if you have the time and patience to do it. Instructions are provided with the program, but I didn’t give it a try.

    Voyager does a lot of things, offering many ways to simulate the sky and the objects one can see. There are many very useful tools included in the package. One could easily write volumes about all the things that can be done. For this review, I am going to hi-lite some of the features I found especially useful. If I don’t mention a feature you think is important, check with Carina Software to see if Voyager does that.

    Voyager lets you easily turn on and off all types of labels and information related to the sky. A name label can be shown for every object that can be shown on the screen. By default the popular name (if one exists) is shown, and there are plenty of options for selecting a specific list or catalog number. There are a lot of stars and other objects in the sky. If you turned on all the labels, the sky would be covered with the labels. Voyager offers a couple of options for limiting labels. The best one for naked eye observations is to limit labels to those stars of a certain magnitude or greater, which can be adjusted by the user. There is also a very nice option to show spectral colors for stars.

    Planets and moons, when observed from earth, might be seen as having phases. You can choose to show the phases or not. What this means is that when looking at the Earth’s moon, the program will display it with the same phase as it currently has. In addition to moons, you can show asteroids, comets, and satellites on your simulated sky. There are options for how these show and how they are labeled.

    I found the comet options especially useful. At the time of this writing a comet was passing our night sky (103P Hartley2). The comet had a magnitude of 5.3, which means it might be visible to the naked eye or a good pair of binoculars. On the screen it shows as a typical comet symbol. Using Voyager, I was easily able to locate where to sight my binoculars to see the comet in real time. I was also able to plan the best time to go out for the observation, ensuring the comet was above the trees in the open sky.

    There is a lot of stars and other interesting objects in the sky that are not visible to the naked eye. You can tell Voyager to put symbols on the screen showing a symbol for the object at the location and even the name of the deep sky object. This is very useful for creating a list of objects to observe. What I did was set Voyager to the time and date I planned to take my telescope out, and then use the symbols to locate objects in the sky. Knowing the limitations of my telescope and sky, I could then select a variety of objects to try observing.

    If you mouse over any star or object, it’s name (if it has one) or star designation appears on the screen. If you left click on it, an information window pops up. The pop up window provides various bits of information about the object depending upon what is available. The information window offers information, images, and some controls. Getting the mouse on the correct point was relatively easy for stars, but a lot more difficult for the symbol of the comet, since the point you have to have the cursor on is significantly smaller then the symbol.

    Voyager does a great job of simulating the sky. It offers many images of popular objects. One thing that is especially interesting is the ability to link to another sky chart, allowing you to see a simulation of an event from two different locations at the same time (provided you have enough screen space!).

    Conjunctions are very popular viewing events, since they generally can be see without a lot of special equipment. Also, some major historical events occurred along with significant conjunctions. Voyager includes a “Conjunction Search” tool that will search a range of dates for Solar Eclipse, Lunar Eclipse, or Planetary conjunctions. The range of dates you can search includes 498000 BC to 502000 AD. The search creates a list of events indicating what time and date they occur and whether they are visible from the location of the sky chart you currently have opened. Voyager doesn’t provide any information to help if the event isn’t visible from your current location.

    Another nice tool is the “Planetary Report”. This tool provides various information pertaining to planets in our solar system and some major moons.  A pull down menu offers many types of information including distance to the object, phases, rise and set times, apparent magnitudes, and more. Some very useful information for the backyard observer. For instance, you can plot a chart showing where the major moons of Jupiter will be, so when you observe, you will know which is which. Along the same lines, there is another tool that plots the orbits of specific man-made satellites from a giant list of choices. After looking at this list, I was amazed at just how much stuff is up there!

    Other tools Voyager provides are more scientific in nature, although they can help with observing as well. The Binary Star Orbit tool lets you choose a known binary star system from a huge list. Choosing a system brings up a graph, many of which can be animated to show the secondary orbiting the primary star. This tool offers a number of ways to organize and search for the binary system as well as facts about the stars. You can even center the chosen binary on the main sky chart, to see where it is in the sky.

    There is a Star Survey tool, which provides a graph of information concerning the stars in the program’s database. Options are Star count by distance or magnitude, Color magnitude diagram, and Mass-Luminosity. The tool lets one select from all or various sets of stars.

    There are three tools to simulate views off the earth. The solar system gives a view of the solar system from 1 to 200 AU (Astronomical Units *1) out.  The Solar neighborhood chart that simulates a view with our sun at the center, showing the universe from 20 to 4000 ly (light years *2), and a Redshift Distribution Chart. All these charts are interactive and simulate a 3D view. You can use sliders to change the orientation of the chart. The first one also lets you see the orbital motion in large time increments. Each of these charts provides a bunch of information related to the topic. A lot of fun and a great tool to use to learn about the stars.

    *1 – An Astronomical Unit equals the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is approximately 150,000,000 kilometers (93,000,000 miles). Mercury is 1/3 AU from the Sun, while Pluto is 40 AUs from the Sun. AUs are typically used for measurement within the solar system, and light years are used to measure distance between the Sun and objects outside the solar system. – Ed.

    *2 – A light year is the distance that light travels in 1 year, which is 9,500,000,000,000 kilometers. – Ed

    Voyager and Telescopes

    Voyager 4.5 can control a variety of telescopes with computer controls. There is a large list of options, including controlling a telescope that has just drive motors and no computer. I found connecting to my Meade LXD75 to be very easy. All options to set up the program for working with a telescope are in the “Telescope” menu. To turn on the controls, you first need to know and set up the specifics for your type of telescope. This includes the type of telescope you are using, (there are over 30 options for many popular manufacturers), the correct communication port, Baud rate, and telescope mount type. Choosing the telescope type doesn’t automatically select the standard mount type. For instance, my LXD75 comes standard with a German Equatorial mount, byt Voyager defaults to equatorial fork. Which means you need to consider all the choices before making the connection.

    Since this is a real time connection, you cannot do much with it until you have hardware connected. For instance, I use a serial to USB interface to make the connection. This option doesn’t show up until the interface is actually connected between the telescope computer and the MacBook. However, you do see other communication ports that the MacBook has. Align your telescope if necessary before making the connection to Voyager.

    Once the connection has been made a telescope window pops up, showing some information about the connection. The view of the sky also changes to align with the orientation of you telescope. Since the program has no way to know what eyepiece you currently have in the telescope, the field of view remains where every it was. I like keeping the zoom level the same as normal eyesight. This way, I can look at the screen, and then at the same area of the sky, to make sure there isn’t an obstruction before slewing the telescope to that location.

    Assuming your telescope is properly aligned, you can select anything you can find in the Voyager program and slew your telescope to that object. The alignment process for lower end scopes (like mine), isn’t an exact or easy process. Even with a very good alignment, the scope is off by a little bit. But a little bit is a lot when you consider the effect a small error has when trying to find something thousands of light years distant! After the scope has moved to where it thinks an object should be, one normally fine tunes the position to center it in the viewfinder. Once it is centered, there is an option in Voyager that lets you feed back to Voyager that this is where the object really is. By doing this with several objects, one hopes that this improves the alignment of the scopes computer making it easier to find objects as the night goes on.

    There is an option to turn on “night vision” when connected to the telescope. This feature dims the screen and gives it a red hue. Doing this is similar to using a red flashlight, you can see it, but it doesn’t reduce your night vision ability. This effect extends to other applications you might have running, in case you switch to them. I will often listen to internet radio when I am out with my telescope and sometimes will have a need to check something on the internet. By affecting all applications, this means that switching to another App doesn’t kill your night vision.

    By default, the Voyager screen is locked to the view of the telescope. This can easily be switched off, allowing you to scan the skies as shown by Voyager, for an object to visit. Once an object is located, select to move the telescope to it. Pretty easy.

    If you are organized and plan your night session, Voyager offers an observing list. Before your nightly session use Voyager to plan what objects in the sky you intent to observe. Add the ones of interest to the observing list. When the telescope is attached to Voyager, there is an option to “Go To” the object on the list. The observation list provides other options as well. You can jump to the objects information screen, show the object on the sky chart (a flashing circle appears around I for a few seconds), or move the telescope to it.

    Issues

    The only issue I had with Voyager’s interface was that the telescope command is at the bottom of the standard object right click menu. It is a long list, and for most objects many of the standard choices on this menu are grayed out (not functional). It’s a minor issue, but still inconvenient! This leads to another complaint: this menu isn’t contextual, so the same menu is shown for every object, whether any of the options are valid or not and there are many that apply to only planets. While non-valid options are grayed out, they still take up menu space.

    Conclusion

    There is a lot more that one can do with this program. As I mentioned, I discussed only a few of the items I found most useful. Voyager is a true encyclopedia of the sky, with many options for accessing and viewing the data it contains. One could easily spend hours just perusing the skies Voyager simulates, looking for interesting objects, learning about them as well as looking at some very nice images. It’s a terrific program.

    This version of the Voyager Sky Simulation program is a great tool for learning about the skies above us and a useful tool to help people interested in astronomy and observing the sky with both the naked and enhanced eyes. I am not sure I could easily choose a favorite between Voyager and the other commercial applications I have tried. All the information is available in these programs, but the methods that the information is made available or accessed is different. I have been using Starry Night Pro plus as my telescope assistant tool for a number of years. As I tested Voyager, at first I was put off by these differences, but as I continued using it, I realized that some of the differences actually make sense as well as streamlining the process. I doubt I will be able to make a final choice until I have used Voyager for a lot longer time.

    Recommendation

    If you are considering buying a sky simulation program that provides many tools to help with your observations of the night sky, you should definitely consider Voyager. Price-wise it is competitive. Choices include a DVD version (with a lot more star/object information) for $180, a two CD version with less information but all the important stuff for $130, and an option to download the CD version for $100. The boxed versions come with a printed manual (a nice feature these days). I highly recommend giving this program a close examination; it will be worth your time.

    By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

    Jupiter Facts:

    • Location: 5th planet from the sun
    • Size: largest planet in our solar system
    • Orbit: 5.2 AU
    • Orbital Period: 11.86 Julian Years *
    • Average Distance from Earth: 5.26 AUs *
    • Diameter: 142,984 km
    • Discovered: 1610 by Galileo
    • Atmosphere: 90% Hydrogen, 10% helium
    • Interesting facts: visited by Pioneer 10&11, Voyager 1&2, Ulysses
    • Total Number of moons: 63 (Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, Thebe, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Themisto, Leda, Himalia, Lysithea, Elara, S/2000 J11, S/2003 J12, Carpo, Euporie, S/2003 J3, S/2003 J18, Orthosie, Euanthe, Harpalyke, Praxidike, Thyone, S/2003 J16, Iocaste, Mneme, Hermippe, Thelxinoe, Helike, Ananke, S/2003 J15, Eurydome, Arche, Herse, Pasithee, S/2003 J10, Chaldene, Isonoe, Erinome, Kale, Aitne, Taygete, S/2003 J9, Carme, Sponde, Megaclite, S/2003 J5, S/2003 J19, S/2003 J23, Kalyke, Kore, Pasiphae. Eukelade, S/2003 J4, Sinope, Hegemone, Aoede, Kallichore, Autonoe, Callirrhoe, Cyllene, and S/2003 J2)
    • Click here for Wolfram|Alpha data on Jupiter

    * = Courtesy of Wolfram Astronomy Assistant

    I’ve been an amateur astronomer all my life, and I’ve been fortunate to use some of the best non-professional astronomy packages on a variety of platforms. Two of my favorite Windows/Mac astronomy applications are Starry Night Pro 6.x and Voyager 4.x. I’ve reviewed Starry Night for several UK magazines – MacWorld and Software Latest – and Ted Bade recently reviewed the Voyager 4.5.7 software.

    This afternoon I ran Starry Night on my older G5 iMac and, as always, it showed the daily events for today. There were four, so I selected the first that was of Europa in transition around Jupiter. I liked it well enough to take a moment to grab an image so I could share it with you readers. Jupiter is my second favorite planet in the solar system, not because of the size but because of turbulent gases that make up the atmosphere and the many moons that surround it. Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and a bunch more.

    Jupiter as Seen with Software

    Europa transitions Jupiter - 10-16-2010

    The shadow of tiny Europa on Jupiter

    After seeing the shadow of tiny Europa on Jupiter, it might be a good idea to see how Jupiter appears to someone on Europa:

    Jupiter as it appears from Io, the closest of the large moons of Jupiter:

    Finally, Jupiter as it is seen on Ganymede:

    It is so easy to change viewing locations in Starry Night. Just use the Options/Viewing Locations menu option and select the location to use for home, then press the Go to Location button. Simple.

    Now an image of Jupiter while in Starry Night’s Spaceship mode (a fun way to play space explorer), on course for Jupiter:

    The keyboard shortcuts are in the upper left area of the screen, while speed/distance/acceleration are by your target. I tried the Captain Sheridan thing (diving into the Jupiter atmosphere like he did to avoid the Shadow ship in ‘Messages from Earth’ Season 3 of Babylon 5), but hitting the atmosphere of Jupiter just puts you on the other side. Bummer! I should also add that some of the shortcuts (Roll, Pitch, and Yaw) don’t do me a lot of good on my Macbook, but I still love this feature of Starry Night.

    Starry Night always makes my top 10 list for students of any age, and I can’t wait until they release the next major update. Please take the time to look over the various versions of this software at the website of Imaginova. And also take time to check out Carina Software’s site – the company that developed Voyager. Carina’s mobile versions of their products were known as Carina Mobile, but are now known as SkySafari and SkyFi and are available here.

    Jupiter Moons as Seen by Probes

    1. IO

    Check out the coolest picture ever taken from a Earth vessel: an erupting volcano on distant Io:

    Image courtesy NASA

    This is a new image of IO shows incredible surface details. I find it as impressive as the erupting volcano image above.

    Image courtesy NASA

    2. Europa – from ZDNet 5/16/2011

    Europa’s surface does not look inviting, at least if one planned to explore it on foot.

    Image courtesy NASA

    3. Ganymede – from ZDNet 5-16-2011

    When I was young, I read Robert Heinlein’s ‘Farmer in the Sky’, a novel about humanity colonizing Ganymede. Heinlein didn’t have the images and scientific knowledge we possess of Jupiter today, but he wrote an interesting tale how we might live there.  This is an image taken on the last Jupiter mission by Galileo.

    Image courtesy NASA.

    4. Callisto – from ZDNet 5/16/2011

    The surface of Callisto appears as inviting as that of our moon, however the view of nearby Jupiter would be impressive.

    Image courtesy NASA

    Astronomy is interesting, and while it is fun to catch shows on the science channel, the computer is the ideal media to really get into the subject. There are a number of good open source astronomy packages like Celestina and WorldWideTelescope.org that are available for cash-strapped people that are interested but unable to afford the cash outlay for more software.

    =====================

    Updates

    6-24-2011 – Added Orbital Period, Average Distance from Earth information.

    5-16-2011 – Added 3 new images of Jupiter moons taken by Galileo.

    2-14-2011  – Added names of all moons.

    =====================

    And for something completely different…

    On an aside, I first tried the Starry Night software because my favorite painting of all time is Van Gogh’s Starry Night, which was the inspiration for Don McLean’s song called “Vincent”, which can be seen below:

    Take care and be well.
    Mike

    By Harry Babad, © Copyrigght 2010, All right Reserved. 

    ——— The most interesting & eclectic of what I read.

    Introduction

    Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

    https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

    Paraphrasing: The Paradigm I’ve Live By, a quote from Dr. Isaac Asimov writer, thinker and scientist. 

    • “I believe in evidence.
    • I believe in observation, in measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers.
    • I’ll believe any thing, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

    Let me reemphasize on more bias. Research does not create sustainable jobs despite politician claims, neither does piloting (scale-up testing} of new technology. Going commercial, without subsidies, and making a profit does. More customers, the more jobs, and making a profit for their creators are the only sustainable path.

    Remember, governments have an almost perfect record of picking failure relative to commercialization and new technology based job creation. It does and should support R&T, Scaleup efforts and guaranties for capital-intensive projects and the higher cost/risk to keep the NIMBY wolves eating projects by legal tactics in the courts. Alternatively, if the messiah comes soon, let the challengers and their lawyers pay the undiscounted out of pockets costs for any delays they cause.

    Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).

    Doc.

    Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

    • The Greener Energy World Has a New Class of Refuseniks — The UltraNIMBY
    • The Water Costs of Fossil Fuel Production
    • The Return of the Automotive Steam Engine
    • New Zealand Sheep Farmers Harvest Carbon Credits — Growing trees can be more profitable than raising sheep
    • Gulf Oil Disaster: Looking Beyond the Spill, Obama Highlights Long-Term Restoration
    • Climate Change: Critics Are Far Less Prominent Than Supporters /// US National Academy of Sciences Clears Climatologists of Wrong Doing.
    • Nuclear Micro-reactors Could Supply Jobs, Energy to South Dakota
    • Algae Might Be a Viable Source of Clean, Renewable Diesel Fuel
    • Which Senators Refuse to Let Coal Ash Be Regulated as Hazardous Waste?

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – –

    The Greener Energy World Has a New Class of Refuseniks — The UltraNIMBY

    “For the past 25 years, virtually anyone who opposed the construction of some kind of major energy facility, such as an oil or gas storage tank, electrical transmission line, power plant, or wind farm in his or her area has been labeled, derisively, as a “NIMBY,” an acronym standing for “Not In My Back Yard.”

    I do in principal agree with Glenn Scheede that “it’s time to shed light on the NIMBY issue, identify provable NIMBYs associated fears, and challenge those who use the epithet in an attempt to avoid dealing with real, substantive issues raised by energy projects. Those fears – concerns, as described by their author, are found later in this article.

    “Citizens have long been concerned about adverse health, safety, noise, environmental, and ecological impacts of energy and other facilities located near them, including projects that impair scenic, property, and other values they consider important. Federal, state and local governments have enacted a variety of measures to protect private property rights and to limit adverse impacts extending beyond property lines. Governments have also exercised powers of eminent domain to permit construction of facilities that government authorities believe have public benefits that should override private property rights.

    “Objections to the location of energy facilities is not a phenomenon that begins with people living in rural areas or those who wish to protect scenic areas or the value of privately owned property. Instead, objections to the location of energy facilities really begin with people living in urban and suburban (“metropolitan”) areas and organizations located in those areas.

    “People and organizations in these areas account for a majority of the nation’s energy demand. These people and organizations want the convenience of having reliable energy supplies — electricity, gas or oil — immediately available for their homes, offices, shopping centers, and cars.

    “However, they don’t want storage tanks, electric generating units (whether powered by coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, or wind) located anywhere near their homes and offices or impairing their parks or scenic areas or impairing their views or life styles. Also, they want the pipelines and electric transmission and distribution lines needed to bring the energy to their homes and offices to be as nearly invisible as possible – preferably buried underground.”

    However I also believe many of those whose hue and cry stop energy related projects are fueled by either misinformation, selfish self interests and/or at time the dupes of the circulation seeking media and vested interest naysayers. On a case-by case basis, just keep reading and dissecting the protests against energy projects, and see who gains at general societies loss. Then make up your own mind

    I also strongly believe that in a democratic society, the common good must prevail, and that those who cause delay or actually stop well conceived, technically defensible and commercial viable energy project need to be forced to pay the piper for cost they cause to be run up.

    “So, while they want the convenience of immediately available energy, they also want any adverse environmental, health or safety impacts kept away and out of their sight! They insist that adverse impacts associated with the facilities should be borne by someone else — as far away as possible.

    “For example —

    • People in California object to power plants in their area, but are quite willing to import electricity generated in Utah or Arizona using coal or nuclear energy. They also want oil and gasoline for their vehicles (even from insecure or hostile nations!) and natural gas for generating plants but do not want any production from oil and gas reserves located off California’s coast.
    • People in the New York City metropolitan area demand electricity but also want necessary generating plants and transmission lines that serve their needs to be built in upstate or western New York – or even in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia or West Virginia.
    • People in New England want adequate and reliable electricity but prefer that it be generated elsewhere, perhaps in Canada, and moved to them over long transmission lines.
    • Political leaders are eager to override citizen and local government opposition to electric generating plants, wind farms, and transmission lines but would be aghast if a 400+ foot wind turbine with blades covering an area larger than the length and wingspan of a 747 aircraft was placed on the front lawn of a capitol building or executive mansion in Washington DC or a state capital, or if a transmission line with 125 foot towers were to be placed near their private residences.”

    How should people who object to energy or other facilities respond when developers or others seek to dismiss their objections by labeling them “NIMBYs”? Glenn Scheede suggest the following five steps to factually substantiate you claims and concerns.

    • First, learn the details of the proposed project and its true costs and benefits, both for the owner, the area, and the nation.
    • Second, those objecting to a proposed facility should have a sound, substantive case for objecting to the facility.
    • Third, identify and understand the motives of those promoting construction of the facility, particularly those people using the “NIMBY” label in a derisive way.
    • Fourth, those who are labeled “NIMBYs” should not be embarrassed and should not “back off” when they are pressured.
    • Fifth, citizens should not be intimidated by government pronouncements concerning the energy technologies and facilities that should be constructed.

    The article concludes with the question — What should be done about necessary energy facilities < emphasis added>?

    “Are some of these facilities clearly necessary and in the national and public interest? Certainly they are, but that doesn’t diminish the critical questions: (a) where should they be located, (b) who should bear the adverse environmental, scenic and property value impacts, and the health and safety risks, (c) how should those who are adversely affected be compensated, (d) should eminent domain laws be changed to give greater protection and/or compensation to those adversely affected, (e) how should people in rural areas be protected, particularly if they are not protected by zoning laws, and/or they have inadequate political representation because legislatures are dominated by representatives from urban areas?

    Alternatives should be evaluated. Perhaps, more facilities such as electric generating plants should be located near or IN the heart of metropolitan areas that are being served so that long transmission lines with attendant losses of electricity are not needed. Many cities have blighted areas that could be restored with properly constructed generating plants – perhaps not as large as those plants would be if located at a distance, but still large enough to supply a significant amount of electricity for people in the urban area.” Read further to find out about a nuclear alternative that proposes the use of micro scale nuclear reactors so you can get only the amount of power you want/need at lower cost and risk.

    There’s more detail in Glenn’s fine analysis – please check out the link and read on!

    I found this article written by Glenn R. Schleede, and posted on March 2, 2009 by accident. This one speaks for itself. Although the UltraNIMBY, as an individual or grouped in protest may have valid reasons for their concern, they must prove them and let the review process determine whether their individual good, out weight that of their regional neighbors, the country and the world.

    I have in this and other articles and books shared how things like nuclearphobia or radiophobia cause cost in siting and building a nuclear energy generation plant to be 3 to 5 time that in other no-less safety conscious countries. How many of our children will die of small pox, once eradicated, because of fears, which are scientifically demonstrated and peer supported, of unproven dangers of vaccination?

    http://www.nimbyexperts.com/uploads/1/7/3/9/1739724/schleede-ultranimby.pdf

    “Schleede is semi-retired after spending more than 35 years dealing with energy related matters in the federal government and private sector. He writes frequently about wind and other energy issues, particularly government policies that have adverse impacts on taxpayers and consumers.”

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    The Water Costs of Fossil Fuel Production

    — Burning Water: A Comparative Analysis of the Energy Return on Water Invested

    A short tidbit… In comparing competing sources of energy, many recent analyses have focused on relative conversion efficiencies and associated greenhouse gas emissions. However, other potentially limiting factors also contribute to the value of a given approach. Based on the prediction that fresh water will become one of the most limited resources in the future, Mulder et al. [http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1007/s13280-009-0003-x] estimated the energy return on fresh water input (for production and processing) across a range of energy technologies.

    Mulder and the team found “while various energy-producing technologies have been analyzed to assess the amount of energy returned per unit of energy invested, this type of comprehensive and comparative approach has rarely been applied to other potentially limiting inputs such as water, land, and time. We assess the connection between water and energy production and conduct a comparative analysis for estimating the energy return on water invested (EROWI) for several renewable and non-renewable energy technologies using various Life Cycle Analyses. Our results suggest that the most water-efficient, fossil-based technologies have an EROWI one to two orders of magnitude greater than the most water-efficient biomass technologies, implying that the development of biomass energy technologies in scale sufficient to be a significant source of energy may produce or exacerbate water shortages around the globe and be limited by the availability of fresh water.”

    One of the more striking outcomes of the analysis is that the most efficient petroleum-based energy source (diesel fuel) yields over two orders of magnitude more energy per volume of fresh water used than does biomass. Such a vast difference in return on water invested suggests that policies striving to replace fossil fuels with biomass resources—their many other appealing characteristics notwithstanding—may exacerbate the increased burden on a global fresh water supply already stressed from the higher agricultural demands of a more populated world (though feedstock shifts may relieve some of this pressure). Solar and wind technologies show potential advantages in this context. — NW

    By Nicholas S. Wigginton, Science Magazine VOL 327,        26 MARCH 2010

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/327/5973/1555-a.pdf

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    The Return of the Automotive Steam Engine?

    Startup Cyclone Power thinks it has a way to replace internal combustion engines.

    The gasoline-powered, internal combustion engine dominated transportation during the 20th century, but during the early years of the automobile it wasn’t obvious that it would beat out two alternatives: batteries and steam

    The Cyclone Engine is a Rankine Cycle heat regenerative external combustion, otherwise known as a “Schoell Cycle” engine. In short, the Cyclone is a 21st century, high efficiency, compact and powerful steam engine.  It is capable of running on virtually any fuel (or combination of fuels) including today’s promising new bio fuels, while emitting far fewer pollutants than traditional gas or diesel powered internal combustion engines. To date, Cyclone has over 1,000 hours of running and testing our engines, has achieved verified thermal efficiencies above 30%, and is very close to putting the first of these engine models into small-scale commercial production.

    The movement to cut carbon emissions and petroleum consumption has of course renewed interest in electric vehicles. But there’s also an effort to revive the steam engine.

    Today I got a letter (speaking of antiquated technologies) from the president of the Steam Automobile Club of America, Tom Kimmel, directing my attention to Cyclone Power Technologies, a startup based in Pompano Beach, FL. A few days ago, the company demonstrated its new steam engine, which generates 100 horsepower. The company has also posted some videos of the engine here. It can run on just about any source of heat: the sun, wood pellets, biofuels, diesel, or waste heat from other engines. Basically anything that can be used to produce a head of steam. The first application would be generating power from waste heat, the company says, but the engine could also be used to power vehicles.

    Kimmel writes that steam engines can run directly on biomass, without the need to convert it into biofuels, with the energy losses that this entails. But there’s a reason why liquid fuels beat out the alternatives before–they store more energy. It’s hard to imagine this being a real alternative–outside of some nice applications. Anyone think otherwise?

    In reading the feedback on this hard science based blog, I was again made aware of how both uninformed and scientifically unknowledgeable most readers are about even simple scientific concepts. Many of the feedback items noted that water can’t burn and therefore the idea was absurd. Of course water can’t burn and obviously it contains NO carbon…duh! , But any carbon based fuel from pelletized wood to the oil from MacDonald’s potato fryers makes a great source of energy of a boiler converting water to steam with less energy overall need to concert it to a biodiesel. No I’m not going to hang a list references to life cycle costs for the conversion of used oil to biodiesel for burning in an internal combustion engine.  Perhaps burning such ‘waste’ efficiently in a diesel engine, to burning that fuel directly in a modern steam engine to run the boiler.

    Google it your self to get the input pieces and do the calculation for yourself. But just maybe as ‘dancrisso’ noted in the blog feedback, steam engines can do away with gearboxes. It is a great idea to work on steam engines and find a way to power generators & cars. We can perhaps directly convert all combustible our waste and reduce consumption of imported oil. [Emphasis provided by doc.] Ah the sweet <???> smell of success.

    Another set of feedback to Kevin Bull’s blog stated, “Steam is a significant source of CO2. Water vapor of any kind produces a lot of carbon dioxide. Oceans, for instance, are the number one cause of CO2 emissions. Goodness knows, if we were trying to cut back on CO2, steam would be counter- productive. We should be more like Mars- though desolate, it has halted its CO2 production by drying up all its water and consolidating all its carbon dioxide in the form of dry ice at its polar caps. Have you seen any steam cars on Mars? No, because they know its bad for the environment. It would take a page or two to point out the incorrect assumptions in this puppy — you count the ways.

    Information for the rebuttal argument can be found at: [http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/Bi-Ca/Carbon-Dioxide-in-the-Ocean-and-Atmosphere.html], or in the Wikipedia Articles on Carbon Dioxide

    By Kevin Bullis

    Technology Review, December 15, 2009

    http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/energy/24534/

    Will Your Next Car Be Steam Powered? RideLust  Blog,
    http://www.ridelust.com/will-your-next-car-be-steam-powered/

    Cyclone Power Web Site See a video and read bout how the engine works  — http://www.cyclonepower.com/index.html

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    New Zealand Sheep Farmers Harvest Carbon CreditsGrowing trees can be more profitable than raising sheep

    …Is this another potential case of unintended consequences related to short-term gains tied to long-term losses?

    In New Zealand, where the sheep outnumber humans 9 to 1 and National Lamb Day is celebrated every Feb. 15, a carbon emission trading system that kicked off in July is upending the economics of sheep farming, a once crucial sector of the economy. Sheep farmers are walking away from the business of selling wool and lamb chops and are converting their grazing lands into tree farms that could prove valuable when the country’s agricultural sector is forced to pay for greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2015.

    Home to alpine glaciers, massive mountain ranges, and rolling green farmland, New Zealand would seem the last place on earth with a greenhouse gas problem. (The country actually ranks 51st in such emissions with only 0.2 percent of the world total, according to the U.N.) Yet sheep and other livestock do have carbon foot (or hoof) prints. Sheep emit methane when they belch and nitrous oxide through their waste.

    Prime Minister John Key’s government in Wellington has said a carbon trading regime probably won’t have a big impact on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet will boost the country’s green credentials and clout in global climate talks. The government’s carbon program is also a welcome opportunity for some sheep farmers, struggling against slumping wool prices, drought, and competition for land from the dairy and lumber industries, to diversify, says Neil Walker, a forester in the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island.

    Farmers who convert their land from sheep grazing to planting trees could add $172 per acre in value each year to their land holdings, says David Evison, a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury’s New Zealand School of Forestry. Forests planted for carbon credits may increase to 74,000 acres, or about 0.27 percent of all pasture and grass land a year, compared with about 8,650 acres in 2009, the government estimates. “It turns forestry into a cash-flow business,” says Evison.

    Some New Zealanders aren’t convinced carbon farming is a wise move. Communities that rely on the farm economy are losing jobs once held by shearers, mechanics, and veterinarians. Farmers may not understand the risks involved in forestry, says Don Nicolson, president of Federated Farmers of New Zealand. And while the loss of sheep farms is likely permanent, the carbon-trading program may only be temporary, and its benefits illusory, Nicolson says.

    Nicolson estimates carbon forests could replace 20 percent, or 2,800, sheep and beef farms and put the economy in danger. He says farmers are being sold on carbon trading without understanding that they could lose trees to fire or disease or that the government might cancel the program at any time. “The trouble is, it comes with massive risk, and that’s not what’s being talked about,” says Nicolson.

    The bottom line: New Zealand sheep farmers are converting pastureland to forests, driven by a carbon-trading plan whose benefits some doubt.

    By Stuart Biggs, Bloomberg Businessweek, August 26, 2010

    http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/10_36/b4193027868842.htm

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – –

    Gulf Oil Disaster: Looking Beyond the Spill, Obama Highlights Long-Term Restoration

    As disastrous as the oil spill has been, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy is just the latest affliction for wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico. For decades this productive coastline has been sliced apart by navigation channels and chewed through by invasive rodents. Worse, engineering of the Mississippi River has starved the delta of the sediment needed to keep it above sea level. All told, nearly 6000 square kilometers of wetlands have disappeared underwater in the past 100 years. Even though about $1.2 billion has been committed over the past 2 decades by the state of Louisiana and the federal government, efforts to restore the ecosystem are dwarfed by the scope of the problem.

     

    Tough choices. Louisiana’s coastal plan includes a proposal (left), recommended by scientists, to divert river water and maximize new land. Another concept (right) would disrupt fisheries less and better protect downstream infrastructure.

    All told, nearly 6000 square kilometers of wetlands along the Gulf of Mexico have disappeared underwater in the past 100 years. Even though more than $2 billion has been committed over the past 2 decades by the state of Louisiana and the federal government, efforts to restore the ecosystem are dwarfed by the scope of the problem. But now advocates have hopes for new momentum. In a primetime speech about the oil spill, President Barack Obama last week called for long-term restoration and put the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, who was governor of Mississippi from 1988 to 1992, in charge of developing a plan.

    By Erik Stokstad, Science 25 June 2010: 
 Vol. 328. No. 5986, pp. 1618 – 1619

    Full story at http://www.info-aaas.org/l.jsp?d=5148.573996.654.4vN0mfC5_

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    Climate Change: Critics Are Far Less Prominent Than Supporters

    A new analysis of 1372 climate scientists who have participated in major climate science reviews or taken public positions on their main conclusions confirms what many researchers have said for years: Those who believe in anthropogenic climate change rank, on average, much higher in the scientific pecking order than do those who take issue with the idea.

    The co-authors examined lists of scientists who have signed statements in support or opposition to the main findings over the years of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, namely that the planet is warming and humans are largely responsible. They categorized the scientists as either “convinced” or “unconvinced” and then analyzed how many papers involving climate they had published. “Unconvinced” scientists comprised only 2% of the top 50 researchers ranked by number of climate publications and 3% of the top 100. Among scientists with 20 or more papers on climate, the so-called convinced group had an average of 172 citations for their top paper compared with 105 for the unconvinced.

    But the paper, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, faces several criticisms. The first is that the grouping of researchers into “unconvinced” and “convinced” fails to capture the nuances of scientific views on the subject. That makes the paper a “pathological politicization of climate science,” says Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder. Pielke also objects to applying the “unconvinced” label to anyone who signed a paper opposing immediate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. “So you are a ‘climate skeptic’ if you have a certain view on climate policy?” he asks. “Bizarre.”

    Critics say the results reflect the cliquishness or biases inherent in peer-reviewed science. “We are being “black-listed,” as best I can tell, by our colleagues,” says John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, who was in the “unconvinced” group.

    On a generally similar climate studies related subject, a pat of the infamous email blame game, US Panel(s) Faults IPCC Leadership But Praises Its Conclusions.

    The world’s most authoritative climate science bodies, the U. S. National Academies of Science and Engineering, noted that based on it’s studies and has performed well enough so far, says a new independent review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is also supported by scores of individual papers in recent months have confirmed the bottom line of the IPCC assessments: The world is warming due to release of greenhouse gases from human activities, and the emerging consequences are severe.

    But the report, from a panel convened by a coalition of national science academies, says the increased public scrutiny IPCC is facing and the growing importance of its work means that it must do better than that.

    “Overall, IPCC’s assessment process has been a success and served society well,” says Harold Shapiro, president emeritus of Princeton University and head of the review carried out by the Inter-Academy Council (IAC). But “it’s not as agile and responsive as it needs to be,” the report says.

    Both by Eli Kintisch, Science 25 June 2010: 
 Vol. 328. No. 5986, p. 1622 http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/328/5986/1622-b?sa_campaign=Email/sntw/25-June-2010/10.1126/science.328.5986.1622-b

    Also:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/329/5996/1135?sa_campaign=Email/sntw/3-September-2010/10.1126/science.329.5996.1135

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    Nuclear micro-reactors could supply jobs, energy to South Dakota — An Op-Ed Piece

    A new generation of small, low-cost nuclear plants soon might be producing climate-friendly energy. Known as micro-reactors, they could be built at factories in the United States for a fraction of the cost of conventional nuclear plants.

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently said that micro-reactors could be licensed, built and generating electricity by 2020. Some utilities might prefer micro-reactors instead of a large nuclear plant. Others might see a need for both.

    Artist’s Rendering — Toshiba 4S Reactor Design Hyperion Power Generation’s Mini Nuclear Reactor

    If micro-reactors no larger than semitrailers can be deployed within a decade, a significant reduction in global greenhouse-gas emissions could occur. Small modular reactors capable of producing 45 megawatts to 140 megawatts of electricity could be manufactured quickly at a factory and transported by rail or barge to a nuclear site for one-tenth the cost of 1,200-megawatt designs being planned. Utilities could use them to replace coal-fired power plants that face future restrictions and penalties for carbon.

    The article continues with (1) discussions of barriers to introducing micro reactors, (2) general descriptions of such reactors, (3) Potential benefits to South Dakota by using this form of nuclear power generation, and finally described the industrial players who are leading the micro reactor efforts.

    Most micro-reactor designs are simplified versions of large reactors, requiring fewer pumps, valves and moving parts but using the same conventional light water technology. But unlike traditional plants, micro-reactors would be small enough to be located underground for added safety.  Moreover, many micro-reactors are being designed to refuel every five years instead of every 18 to 24 months as nuclear plants are today. Since they also could either be cooled by water or air, there is no need to locate them near lakes, rivers or the ocean. States in the arid West and the semi-arid Great Plains might find this appealing.

    I agree, but with the proviso that the licensed reactors be installed and refueled in a mode that protects them from proliferation risks and potential terrorist attacks. — Doc.

    Robert McTaggart • September 1, 2010, The Aurgus Leader Website (Sioux Falls)

    http://www.argusleader.com/article/20100901/VOICES05/9010317/1052/OPINION01 {Robert McTaggart, 41, of Brookings is associate professor of physics at South Dakota State University.}

    More Reading

    Micro Nuclear Reactor and references/links therein, Wikipedia – 2010 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_nuclear_reactor

    Mini Nuclear Plants to Power 20,000 Homes, by John Vidal and Nick Rosen, The Observer (UK, Sunday 9 November 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/nov/09/miniature-nuclear-reactors-los-alamos

    Traveling Wave Reactors, Wikipedia, 2010 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_wave_reactor

    Traveling-Wave Reactor, Technology Review, March/April 2009 http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/22114/

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    Algae Might Be a Source of Clean, Renewable Diesel Fuel

    “At the beginning we’d tell people, ‘I know this sounds crazy,’” says Bryan Willson, a Colorado State University engineer and cofounder of Solix Biofuels.

    When researchers conceived of turning algae into diesel fuel three decades ago, the idea sounded like something out of the old sci-fi movie Soylent Green. But in July, ExxonMobil teamed up with biologist Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics to take algaebiofuel to the marketplace. ExxonMobil has invested $600 million to design better strains of algae and to convert them into fuel. Meanwhile, several start-up companies—including Aurora Biofuels and Solix Biofuels —have built pilot plants that prove it is possible to brew algae-derived diesel fuel in large quantities. “At the beginning we’d tell people, ‘I know this sounds crazy,’” says Bryan Willson, a Colorado State University engineer and cofounder of Solix Biofuels. “But with the Exxon Mobil investment, algae is entering the mainstream.”

    Traditional biofuel crops such as soybeans yield 50 to 150 gallons of fuel per planted acre per year, but Solix’s facility near Durango, Colorado, is producing more than 2,000. The centerpiece is a sealed growth chamber, or photo-bioreactor, made from a clear polymer to let sunlight through; inside is a strain of algae selected for its high rate of oil production. (Closed reactors are less susceptible to contamination by out side algae than are open-pond systems.) After the algae are harvested, their oils are extracted and refined into renewable diesel. Besides sunlight, the algae require little more than carbon dioxide from nearby power plants, so operating expenses should be low.

    Willson predicts his company’s algae fuel (and its co-products, which are to be sold for animal feed) will be cost-competitive with petroleum diesel within five years. “It represents a large-scale solution to a global problem,” he says.

    Doc Sez, this area is becoming more interesting as a possible achievable technology since it has move d from laboratory, to pilot plant and soon to scaled up further. At that point we’ll, as will ExxonMobil, whether the whole effort will be cost effective. An issue I’d like to learn more abut is how such a product will be distributed into the normal fuel (e.g., gas station, heating oil supply chain) and whether it is will need to be dispensed separately or can be mixed with petroleum diesel fuel.

    This is an area worth following closely, but always being reminded that diesel, like any alternative fuel such as biodiesel, must be compatible with the existing distribution-user devices systems chain or will need to sustain the costs of modifying it in a cost effective manner. I’ve not had the time to check out the general chemistry of such algal oils to see how they compare with the hydrocarbons used in diesel engines. Feedback of course is welcome.

    By Elizabeth Svoboda, Discover Magazine, January-February 2010 Special Issue; http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jan-feb/37

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    Which Senators Refuse to Let Coal Ash Be Regulated as Hazardous Waste?

    — Despite numerous studies on the potential health risks of using coal ash in products many members of the public are exposed to daily.

    We know that the EPA {was?} is considering classifying coal ash as hazardous waste, and we’ve heard that the process is a bit lacking in transparency. The EPA wrote initially “maintaining a [nonhazardous] approach would not be protective of human and the environment.” Now, here’s at least one clue into what’s holding the EPA back on taking the leap to recognizing coal ash, the waste produced at coal-fired power plants, as hazardous waste.

    First, 31 members of the House energy committee, nine of them Democrat and 22 Republican, sent a letter to the EPA denouncing such a classification. Fine, mostly Republicans and all members on the energy committee — to be expected. But Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, both Democrats, sent a separate letter (coauthored by Sam Brownback—definitely not a Democrat) to the EPA pressing the agency to continue to treat coal ash as a non-hazardous material. . Read more from the Center for Public Integrity.

    From their letter, which Conrad posted online and which the Center for Public Integrity points out echoes “almost word for word the utility industry’s letters to the EPA opposing its coal ash waste plan”: “Regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste is simply not warranted. Doing so would fly in the face of years of research and force unworkable requirements on our state’s utilities, resulting in serious economic consequences.”

    The letter also says, “Federal policies should encourage greater recycling of CCRs by facilities that use coal,” despite numerous stories from around the country illustrating the potential health risks of using coal ash (CCR is “coal combustion residue”), which contains and leaches toxic metals like arsenic, in products that people use in their daily lives, including roofing shingles, fertilizers, even kitchen countertops. It is also used in highway de-icing and can be mixed into resurfacing compounds.

    By Rachel Cernansky, Green Planet.com Blog, Aug 16, 2010

    http://planetgreen.discovery.com/work-connect/which-senators-refuse-coal-ash-regulated-hazardous-waste.html/ Also See —the Center for Public Integrity web site.

    http://www.publicintegrity.org/blog/entry/2299/

    References

    EPA Proposed Rule: RIN – 2050-AE81; Hazardous And Solid Waste Management System; Identification And Listing Of Special Wastes; Disposal Of Coal Combustion Residuals From Electric Utilities

    http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/industrial/special/fossil/ccr-rule/ccr-rule-prop.pdf

    Opens Public Comment Period on Coal Ash. What Happens If It’s Not Regulated as Hazardous Waste? By Rachel Cernansky, Green Planet.com, Jun 30, 2010

    http://planetgreen.discovery.com/travel-outdoors/epa-opens-public-comment-period-coal-ash-what-happens-if-not-regulated-hazardous-waste.html

    EPA Backed Off ‘Hazardous’ Label for Coal Ash After White House Review

    By PATRICK REIS (of Greenwire) to the New York Times Published: May 7, 2010

    http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/05/07/07greenwire-epa-backed-off-hazardous-label-for-coal-ash-af-10431.html

    As an aside I wonder whether is rulemaking will move to the same inaction that in the past lead to classify radioactive coal clinkers (furnace bottoms) as non-regulated from a radwaste perspective while treating less highly radio- active nuclear waste materials as if one exposure, however slight will possibly cause you cancer.  Yes I know I’m mixing cats and dogs here, but it’s my column. In addition, I have no idea how well ground water regulation pertain to such burned coal bottom hills which are also loaded with toxic materials.

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    ATTRIBUTIONS

    Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

    Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

    Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

    In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the duplicated material with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

    AFTER THOUGHTS

    I’ll continue posting articles for attract your interest and at times anger you in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

    Thanks for Reading – Feedback is welcome.

    Readers Please Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable, scalable, and make an unsubsidized profit for their investors, including the taxpayer.

    If you Google new technologies in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often, as many studies that are skeptical — Beware, think out of the box, and search for unintended consequences.

    What I now know, and truly hold to be true about energy and climate change — For green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases), these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

    …Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about things {climate change} are all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, facing that possibility is better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, that “G_d Does Not Play Dice With the Universe” (Einstein) – and mankind is far from perfect. Remember, there’s no free lunch — as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper. The most recent example is corn based ethanol… for which you twice {as noted above} both as a taxpayer and as a driver.

    May your world get greener and all creatures on G_d’s green Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their destinies
    in this Gaia’s world.

    Harry, aka doc_Babad

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