Archive for the ‘Academia’ Category

I was reviewing AppCoda’s Beginning iOS 10 Programming with Swift when the new versions of XCode, Swift, and iOS were released. The publisher also updated the book, so I decided to switch to the new material.

Instead of discarding the initial review and starting over again from scratch, I decided to publish what I’ve done already and will delete this older content once I reach the same point in the new book (Ch 14). I will leave out the screenshots for this older material as well, but will have plenty in the new material.

I intend to update this review once a week, even though it is the holiday season right now.  Please follow this post so you can see when it is updated.  Now on to the review.

Title: Beginning iOS 10 Programming with SwiftBeginiOS10Prgm
Author: Simon Ng
Published: AppCoda publisher
Price: NO LONGER AVAILABLE
Length: 612 pgs (PDF) (30 chapters)
Website: www.appcoda.com

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

This book is for Swift 3, Xcode 8 and iOS 10, and the intended audience is people without programming experience as well as people wanting to learn the Swift programming language.

I’ve been a programmer a long time, and have dabbled in mobile development awhile but have not been happy with the iOS tutorials I found until now. I came across ‘Beginning iOS Programming with Swift’ after searching for iOS tutorials on Yahoo, and started following the online book. AppCoda provides part of the course at no charge, which is a nice approach and similar to other publishers providing free chapters to interest prospective buyers. After going through the first five chapters, I had created two new iOS apps fairly easily, so I contacted AppCoda and got the book so I could complete the course.

Before we get started, I want to point out that this book used Xcode 8.0. If you upgrade to Xcode 9 and iOS 11, so if you already upgraded to both, you may want to contact the publisher to see when the update to this book will be done.

During development, you need to select a target version of iOS – my mini tablet just has 9.3.5, but my old iPhone 5 has 10.3.3, so I used that as the default target iOS initially. Now lets get started with the review.

IMPORTANT NOTE!! My review was done using the iBook version of the book, not the PDF, so I use those page numbers in my references. Please be aware there are a lot pages in the iBook version of documentation than in the PDF version, so the page numbers do not match up.

THE BOOK
The first three sections are: Preface, Ch 1:Getting Started with Xcode 8 Development, and Ch 2:Swift Playgrounds – all important if you’ve never developed, or new to development with a Mac. I’ve done both, but I still read over the material and did find it useful and accurate for setting up a development environment for Macs. Being anxious to create an actual iOS app, I pressed on to chapter 3 so I could see how easy it is to build an app.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The list in the table of contents at the start of the iBook lists the sections, but it shows Preface as the first. The actual chapters are not part of the items in the TOC, which is a small item I would suggest the author change, as well as update any chapter titles that might have been updated since initial publication.

Chapter 3: Build Your First App

This chapter has you build a simple Hello World app – the task most books have when teaching a programming language. Simon has you build an app with a single button, plus the code needed to tie the button to functionality.

The author gives you the specific steps you need to follow to create this app. It really is easy, and all I needed to do was follow the steps to build a Hello World app:

  1. Create a newXcode project.
  2. Select a template for your new project (Single View Application).
  3. Choose options for your new project (the book has the options plus what you enter for them – nice).
  4. Save the project (pick a location on your computer – I decided to use different ones for each book project).
  5. After selecting Next and Create, Xcode opened my new project (See below). The author points out the importance of learning a development environment, and I followed his advice and explored the Xcode Workspace. The author explains how to use the Xcode Simulator to run Xcode projects, and uses large and clear graphics to show what to select to see a project execute. I have an iPhone 5s, so I took the opportunity to change the Xcode Simulator to use that instead of the default iPhone 6. You could use newer iPhones or tablets too.
  6. To build the button for the Hello World project, you need to switch to the Interface Builder, where buttons and other interface items (like lists, other controls, etc are available to the developer).  I selected the Button and moved it to the middle of the View Controller area of the screen.  I positioned the button in the middle of the screen (easy the the Xcode alignment guideline, as shown in Fig 6), then renamed the button (per the book). The author says you can already test the app at this point so I did. It did take a few minutes for the Simulator to get started and render the iPhone with the new app, but it did – be patient. At this point, you have created a simple iOS app with a simple button that does nothing, but you still have created a app.NOTE: The author makes a great point about iOS development. The code and UI for apps are separate – this means you spend less time learning how to create a UI and more time on the layout and logic of app design. Sweet.
  7. To add code to the the app, which is executed when the button is selected, you need to switch to the ViewController.swift file.  I added the code is the first IBAction function (the other two functions were added later to extend my learning). As you see, Swift coding isn’t difficult. The book explains what each part of the simple code does, not too deep to slow you down at this point, but enough to understand what is happening.
  8. Now you need to connect the code you wrote in step 7, to the UI you created in step 6. This is easy. Just switch back to the Interface Builder, select the button and drag it to the View Controller under the View Controller Scene at the left of the UI.Now you can test how the code works with the button you added. This is better than the simple test you did in step 6, as you get to see your app do something. Run it with the simulator and there you are. Your first iOS works. Sweet.
  9. I wanted to learn more, so I did the end-of-chapter exercise and added a few extra buttons plus added two new functions to display different messages than the first button. It was intuitive and easy, and something I suggest you do too. The only way you get better as a developer is to learn all the ranges you have at your disposal, so play time in this case is actually very productive. Now play.NOTE: As this Hello World is very basic, I only used the Simulator to test it. I will deploy more advanced apps developed later in this book, using my iPhone and iPad Mini. The iPad mini will require an older version of iOS, so I will describe how easy that is to set before creating and deploying my apps.

Chapter 4: Hello World App Explained

This chapter goes into detail into what you just built. You must read this, as it clarifies the other options you have. I kept my Hello World app open while reading the chapter, and checked out the options as I followed along in the book.

The material in this section was just as useful as the earlier chapters, and keeping it separate from the first app you develop means you don’t get bogged down in language details while creating your first app, yet you still get the technical information needed to back up the process of creating an iOS app. I like this approach – very easy to make progress, while still learning detailed processes.

Chapter 5: Introduction to Auto Layout

Auto layout is where the UI elements can be arranged and can handle the different sized screens available to iOS apps. iPhone 4s – 8s use different screen sizes, as do tablets, so this is important unless you only want to develop apps for your own use.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time in this chapter, since it is no longer the way you develop apps for different devices. The author includes it so you see how it was done, but the next chapter gets into stack views, which is the newer method for developing multi-device apps.

To use auto layout, you set constraints to the sides and top or bottom of the screen, which help retain formatting when a device is turned on the side or when devices with different-size screens run your app. It takes a bit of work, but it works. Now on to the next chapter.

Chapter 6: Designing UI Using Stack Views

In iOS9, Apple introduced Stack Views to layout UIs. What is a Stack View? I asked that myself. As the author says:

“The stack view provides a streamlined interface for laying out a collection of views in either a column or row….
You can embed multiple UI objects into one by using stack views…
The stack view manages the layout of its subviews and automatically applies layout constrains for you. That means, the subviews are ready to adapt to different screen sizes. Furthermore, you can embed a stack view in another stack view to build more complex user interfaces.”
– Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 87

NOTE: This doesn’t eliminate the need for auto layout. You still need to define layout constraints for stack views. This is the chapter where we learn how to develop more advanced iOS apps.

Creating a New App

  1. You need to create a new project for this chapter. The author suggests StackViews, which is the same name I used for the directory to hold the new project. He provides the answers you need to create the project, so no guessing at this point.
  2. You will need some images (3 images, each in 3 different sizes), which he provides as a download. Xcode groups images in an asset catalogue (called Assets.xcassets in Xcode).
  3. Download the images and drag them to in the AppIcon list as described in the book. Once you need to access each image, you don’t need to specify size which is used – iOS does that for you.
  4. Open Main.storyboard for this project to add two labels to the new app. Drag a Vertical Stack View object (from the Object Library at the bottom left of Xcode) to the storyboard view controller.
  5. Now drag a label object and drop it on top of the stack view. Rename the label per the book, then resize it and change the font color as well.
  6. Drag a 2nd label object and drop it on the same stack view. Rename the second label, per the book. By default, labels left-justify, so change the stack view property from Fill to Center to center align both labels.
  7. Now add 3 images to the view. You place the 3 images side-by-side, then you will use another stack view to group them together. Add another stack view to the view and add the images to that stack view.
  8. Now you combine both stack views so all of the elements are positioned as a unit.
  9. Add constraints. This is where the free online material differed from the purchased book. The book says:

    “Now click the Pin button in the layout button. Set the space constraints of the top, left and right side to 70, 0 and 0 respectively. When the constraint is enabled, it is indicated by a solid red bar. Then click the “Add 3 Constraints” button to add the constraints.”- Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 100

    I found this unclear, so I looked around and noticed the button looking like a cutout of a tie fighter in the bottom right part of Xcode, so I selected it and was able to set the constraints as directed.

  10. The book then says that there will be problems positioning the stack view. I got (very) lucky and had no issues. Sweet.
  11. Now preview the app on other devices. It looked good, except some issues truncating the top label – easily fixed. I again got lucky and had no issue with the aspect ratios of each image (they did not appear stretched), which was due to my playing around with the app before receiving the book from the publisher. Compared to the first app, I was impressed.Per the book, I fixed the title truncation (very fast easy fix) and tested it and it worked fine.
  12. Add another 2 labels to the view, then add both to a stack view. Following the book, very simple. This app is starting to look like a real app. I adjusted position (relative to the bottom of the device) and size and spacing to keep the buttons looking good.
  13. Now it was time to learn about a new (since iOS 8) UI design concept: Adaptive Layout, which lets apps adapt the UI to particular devices and device orientation. You need Size Classes to achieve adaptive layout.

    “A size class identifies a relative amount of display space for both vertical (height) and horizontal (width) dimensions. There are two types of size classes: regular and compact. A regular size class denotes a large amount of screen space, while a compact size class denotes a smaller amount of screen space.”- Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 111

    “By describing each display dimension using a size class, this will result in four abstract devices: Regular width-Regular Height, Regular width-Compact Height, Compact width-Regular Height and Compact width-Compact Heigth.”- Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 112

  14. Size Classes made it easy to position UI elements, or hide them on certain devices. Sweet.

Chapter 7: Introduction to Prototyping

“A prototype is an early model of a product used for testing a concept or visualizing an idea.”
– Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 119

I’ve created many prototypes before and during projects over my career as a developer, as they help the customer see what you intend to deliver. Unfortunately, while prototypes can prevent scope creep with some customers. they encourage scope creep with other customers.

Scope creep is where projects change as work progresses, as customers decide to ask for more features or functionality. Scope creep is an enemy of any Project Manager, as it destroys estimated project timelines. You can’t prevent everyone from asking for more, but you try to get them to accept adding those after the initial project rollout or update.

With traditional enterprise-class software projects, writing a prototype on paper or in PowerPoint or on a whiteboard is usually faster than creating a software prototype. You draw the basic UI elements of each page and show the flow between design elements/pages. When you need to add functionality to an existing site or system, you just need to prototype the new functionality to demonstrate it works.

This chapter of the book has a list of good tools to help prototype iOS apps, including: Marvel, Photo.io, Flinto, Principle, InvisionApp, POP, Sketch, Adobe Experience Design and Keynote. Of these, only the last four are described – no worries as well all know how to Google. For this review, the prototype tool I used was POP (Prototyping On Paper), which lets you create working prototype without writing any code – a real timesaver when preparing a quote for a client.

I downloaded from the iTunes store and installed on my iPhone, then grabbed the app prototype same the author provided (1.6M file available as a link in the book). I added the downloaded images from the author to my iPhone, opened POP, created a new project, then linked the pages together. Pressing the Play button allowed me to navigate through the prototype screens, which would look very good and useful to any client. Then, you just need to make the app in Xcode, test, and demo the working product to a customer. Nice.

I like this included. Prototyping isn’t included as part of Xcode (wish it was, Apple) but the tools mentioned in chapter 7 are worth time learning. I’d suggest initially POP and Adobe Experience Design, but the others are very good too.

Chapter 8:Creating a Simple Table Based App

“First of all, what exactly is a table view in an iPhone app? A table view is one of the most common UI elements in iOS apps. Most apps (except games), in some ways, make use of table view to display content. The best example is the built-in Phone app. Your contacts are displayed in a table view.”
– Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 130

This is where you create your third iOS app. After creating a simple table project in Xcode, I added a single table view to the view, then made the table view take up the entire view. Next, I set the Prototype Cells to 1. Why?

“Prototype cells allow you to easily design the layout of your table view cell. You can think of it as a cell template that you can reuse in all of the table cells.”
– Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 133

The app created in this chapter uses the UIKit framework, which provides classes to construct and manage the UI app interface. All objects in the Xcode Interface Builder Object Library are in UIKit.

The author mentions in this chapter he is not discussing classes and methods yet – OOP elements that some find confusing – but he does cover them later. A good idea when the audience is new to development.

Following the instructions, I created a simple table, using a list instead of a database, similar to the iOS Contacts app. Not terribly difficult, however I forgot to set the prototype cell identifier to Cell, so I had an error to track down – an email to AppCoda and I had the answer how to fix the issue, so I was back at it again. Good example, but now I am looking forward to using a database or data source that isn’t a fixed array list and I want to see how to add individual images to each item in the list – the second item is covered in chapter 9.

Chapter 9: Customize Table Views Using Prototype Cell

This is where we built a real app called FoodPin. After closing the SimpleTable app, I created a new project, similar to the project in chapter 8 but using UITableViewController and using individual images for each restaurant displayed in the app. It was easy using Swift, which is well worth learning for novices as well as experienced developers.

This app has custom labels for each cell, which I created by dragging 3 Label objects to the cell, grouping them with a stack view, then grouping the new stack view and the cell image in another stack view. Simple. Then, Simon points out an important fact about iOS development:

“By connecting the source code with the UI objects, we can change the values of UI objects dynamically.

This is a very important concept in iOS programming. Your UI in storyboard and code are separated. You create the UI in Interface Builder, and you write your code in Swift. If you want to change the value or properties of a UI element (e.g. label), you have to establish a connection between them so that an object in your code can obtain a reference to an object defined in a storyboard. In Swift, you use @IBOutlet keyword to indicate a property of a class, that can be exposed to Interface Builder.”
– Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 391

We created a new class for the project, where we defined variables for all four items in each cell (Name, Location, Type and ThumbnailImage) using @IBOutlet.

“@IBOutlet is used to indicate a property that can be connected with a view object in a storyboard.”
– Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 393

You use these outlets to change font characteristics or events to be triggered when a button is selected. Handy and something you must understand. You also need to set the prototype cell to use the custom class you create, which is also simple. The chapter also explains how to set the images to appear circular instead of square – a few extra steps, but the presentation is worth it. We also set the restaurant name, location and type values to be dynamically displayed, which was fairly easy too.

Chapter 10: Interacting with Table Views and Using UIAlertController

In this chapter, we select an item in the view, just like selecting a contact name in the Contacts app. We also are exposed to UIAlertController, which is commonly used to display iOS alerts. In this chapter, we improve the FoodPin app by using individual images and rounding them to improve the look of our app. We also add three labels for each restaurant (name, location and type) to each row in the table, plus add three arrays to provide custom information for each restaurant.

No real problems following along with the directions in this section. I did copy and paste some of the code to save time, but I did read the information on everything new we are exposed to, and suggest you do so too. After getting the custom information to show in each line, we add a button to show a checkmark beside a restaurant – to show when a restaurant is selected. Then we addressed a known bug on reusing cells, plus add a line of code to deselect a cell once an option is chosen from the new popup list.

Good chapter. A LOT more Swift coding was covered. Not too much, but more than earlier chapters. Now on to chapter 11.

Chapter 11: Table Row Deletion, Custom Action Buttons, Social Sharing and MVC

According to Wiki (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model–view–controller):
Model–view–controller (MVC) is a software architectural pattern for implementing user interfaces on computers. It divides a given application into three interconnected parts. This is done to separate internal representations of information from the ways information is presented to, and accepted from, the user. The MVC design pattern decouples these major components allowing for efficient code reuse and parallel development.

I’ve used this architectural pattern doing web development, but was unaware this was also popular for desktop GUI development. Sweet. I would suggest you read more about this pattern if you even think you may do web development some day.

“Separation of Concerns (SoC). The concept is pretty simple. Here, the Concerns are different aspects of software functionality. This concept encourages developers to break a complicated feature or program into several areas of concern so that each area has its own responsibility. The delegate pattern, that we explained in the earlier chapters, is one of the examples of SoC.

The model-view-controller (MVC) concept is another example of SoC. The core idea behind MVC is to separate a user interface into three areas (or groups of objects) that each area is responsible for a particular functionality. As the name suggests, MVC breaks a user interface into three parts: Model, view and controller”
– Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 446

To illustrate MVC using an iOS app, consider the SimpelTable app developed in chapter 8. The restaurantNames object is an array and is the model, the UITableView object is the view, and the UITableViewController is the controller.

On to deleting rows in a view. In iOS apps, data in a view is usually deleted by swiping across the row in the view. A good example: the iOS Mail app. The Swift code needed to delete a row and refresh the view is simple:

override func tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, commit editingStyle: UITableViewCellEditingStyle, forRowAt indexPath:IndexPath) {
// enables deleting a row in a table view
// Now u can swipe a row and a delete button is visible, but not enabled

// this code allows deletion of data from the 4 arrays:
if editingStyle == .delete {
// Delete the row from the data source
restaurantNames.remove(at: indexPath.row)
restaurantLocations.remove(at: indexPath.row)
restaurantTypes.remove(at: indexPath.row)
restaurantIsVisited.remove(at: indexPath.row)
restaurantImages.remove(at: indexPath.row)
}

print(“Total item: \(restaurantNames.count)”) // for debugging purposes
for name in restaurantNames {
print(name)
}
tableView.reloadData() // refreshes the view to show revised data
}

Something I like about this example: being able to access Twitter and other social media. I added the UIActivityViewController code to enable tweeting from the FoodPin app, including embedded images, logged into Twitter on the Simulator and tweeted from the simulation of FoodPin – it worked. Sweet. Talk about a great real world example! One suggestion I’d make regarding this functionality, is mention it is a test in your tweet plus include @AppCodaMobile in the tweet so the book publisher is notified you are testing this functionality of the book.

Chapter 12: Introduction to Navigation Controller and Segue

Navigation controllers let you drill down into content. Using our FoodPin app as an example, selecting a restaurant in the view, a navigator would drill down into pertinent information on that restaurant.

“Generally, you combine a navigation controller with a stack of table view controllers to build an elegant interface for your apps.”
– Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 484

Yes, it’s finally time to have more than a single view in our FoodPin app. Yay, lol.

“add more view controllers in the storyboard, link them up, and define the transitions between them. All these can be done without a line of code. When working with storyboards, scene and segues are two of the terms you have to know. In a storyboard, a scene usually refers to the on-screen content (e.g. a view controller). Segues sit between two scenes and represent the transition from one scene to another.
– Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 485

To make storyboards easier to use, large ones can be broken up and linked using storyboard references.

I followed the directions in this chapter, using the Interface Builder to add a navigation interface to my FoodPin app. It was easy and took no coding to get it to work. After adding the navigator, I used the Interface Builder to add another view controller to display restaurant details. I then added a segue to connect the first controller to the detail controller, also using Interface Builder. Now I had two view controllers and a navigation controller, and now I needed to share the first images with the details view controller, so it was time to add another class.

“A segue manages the transition between view controllers, and contains the view controllers involved in the transition.”
– Simon Ng, Beginning iOS Programming with Swift, Page 674

This is the Swift code from the book for the segue:
override func prepare(for segue: UIStoryboardSegue, sender: Any?) {
if segue.identifier == “showRestaurantDetail” {
if let indexPath = tableView.indexPathForSelectedRow {
let destinationController = segue.destination as! RestaurantDetailViewController
destinationController.restaurantImage = restaurantImages[indexPath.row]
}
}
}

CH 13: Introduction to Object Oriented Programming

Swift and Objective-C are OOP languages, where you create and use objects. As the author points out, some of the iOS SDK objects we’ve already used up to this point include the UIViewController, UIButton, UINavigatorController and UITableView. Essentially, one uses OOP to develop complex applications using small building blocks, where each has a specific purpose. In OOP, you create a class and use that class as a blueprint to create objects (also called instances) with methods (to provide functionality) and properties.

In the FoodPin app, we have five arrays holding individual types of restaurant data. In this chapter, we modify that.  This is the Swift code used to make that new class:

class Restaurant {
var name = “”
var type = “”
var location = “”
var image = “”
var isVisited = false

init(name: String, type: String, location: String, image: String, isVisited: Bool) {
self.name = name
self.type = type
self.location = location
self.image = image”
self.isVisited = isVisited
}
}

The five properties for the new class are name, type, location, image, and isVisited. The 1st four properties are declared as blank strings (“”), while the 5th is boolean. init() defines the object initializer, which sets the initial property values for each new object created with this restaurant class. The restaurant data is now grouped by restaurant, instead of by number – data in the real world is kept in database tabes, grouped by a key value that is called instead of a relative position in an array. The code for this is:

var restaurants:[Restaurant] = [
Restaurant(name: “Cafe Deadend”, type: “Coffee & Tea Shop”, location: “Hong Kong”, image: “cafedeadend.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Homei”, type: “Cafe”, location: “Hong Kong”, image: “homei.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Teakha”, type: “Tea House”, location: “Hong Kong”, image: “teakha.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Cafe loisl”, type: “Austrian / Causual Drink”, location: “Hong Kong”, image: “cafeloisl.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Petite Oyster”, type: “French”, location: “Hong Kong”, image: “petiteoyster.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “For Kee Restaurant”, type: “Bakery”, location: “Hong Kong”, image: “forkeerestaurant.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Po’s Atelier”, type: “Bakery”, location: “Hong Kong”, image: “posatelier.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Bourke Street Backery”, type: “Chocolate”, location: “Sydney”, image: “bourkestreetbakery.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Haigh’s Chocolate”, type: “Cafe”, location: “Sydney”, image: “haighschocolate.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Palomino Espresso”, type: “American / Seafood”, location: “Sydney”, image: “palominoespresso.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Upstate”, type: “American”, location: “New York”, image: “upstate.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Traif”, type: “American”, location: “New York”, image: “traif.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Graham Avenue Meats”, type: “Breakfast & Brunch”, location: “New York”, image: “grahamavenuemeats.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Waffle & Wolf”, type: “Coffee & Tea”, location: “New York”, image: “wafflewolf.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Five Leaves”, type: “Coffee & Tea”, location: “New York”, image: “fiveleaves.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Cafe Lore”, type: “Latin American”, location: “New York”, image: “cafelore.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Confessional”, type: “Spanish”, location: “New York”, image: “confessional.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Barrafina”, type: “Spanish”, location: “London”, image: “barrafina.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Donostia”, type: “Spanish”, location: “London”, image: “donostia.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “Royal Oak”, type: “British”, location: “London”, image: “royaloak.jpg”, isVisited: false),
Restaurant(name: “CASK Pub and Kitchen”, type: “Thai”, location: “London”, image: “caskpubkitchen.jpg”, isVisited: false)
]

After making the code changes to reference restaurants.*, I ran the sample in the simulator and it worked just fine. Introducing OOP concepts and making this change was the purpose for this chapter. One thing I want to point out: at the end of this chapter, the author includes some links to Swift OOP programming. I am impressed he included a link to a free online course from MIT. MIT is one of the best sources for free college classes, and I rarely see anyone link to them, so kudos to Simon.

 

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

THE NEW REVIEW MATERIAL BEGINS HERE

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

Title: Beginning iOS 11 Programming with SwiftBeginiOS11Prgm
Author: Simon Ng
Published: AppCoda publisher
Price: $39, $69, $149
Length: 833 pgs (PDF) (30 chapters)
Book Website: www.appcoda.com/swift

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

I’ve been a programmer a long time, and have dabbled in mobile development awhile but was unhappy with the iOS tutorials I found on the internet. I came across ‘Beginning iOS 10 Programming with Swift’ after searching for iOS tutorials on Yahoo, and started following the online book, since the developer provides part of the course for free. Other publishers also provide free chapters to interest prospective buyers, since you can try before you buy.

I went through the first five free chapters and had created two new iOS apps fairly easily, so I contacted AppCoda and got the book so I could complete the course. Two weeks after starting the iOS 10 course, Apple released an OS and development tool update, so the publisher released an update to the course. I got the new course and started over, so this review will be from beginning to end of the new course material.

This review covers “Beginning iOS 11 Programming with Swift”, which is for Swift 4, Xcode 9 and iOS 11. The intended course audience is people without programming experience as well as experienced developers wanting to learn the Swift programming language.

CHAPTER 1: The Development Tools, the Learning Approach and the App Idea

This chapter covers what you need to get started: essentially a fairly modern Mac with Xcode. Not too expensive these days, and the only way to go to develop iOS apps, The material is good, plenty of pictures to guide the users, and it should put new developers at ease before they start creating their first app.

CHAPTER 2: Your First Taste of Swift with Playgrounds

This gets you started writing Swift code using Xcode playgrounds. . When I started reviewing “Beginning iOS 10…”, I said that this chapter was useful, but inferred it was unnecessary for experienced developers. The author has enhanced this chapter for this new release of the book and, while it does have good setup information useful for non-developers, the rest of the chapter is worth reading for experienced programmers that are new to programming on a Mac.

Why use Swift instead of Objective-C? Swift is easier to learn as the syntax is closer to English. An example from the book:

Fig2-1 Objective-C vs Swift

Fig 2-1 Objective-C vs Swift

I’ve used Xcode for a number of years, but I like how the author gives an intro to using Playgrounds. Playgrounds are places where you test pieces of code – AKA snippets – during learning or development. Something true about learning to program that is shared with music: you can’t learn how to do it by merely reading theory about it.

The author gets into writing Swift code with Playgrounds in chapter two, but not in detail until covering how to install Xcode for people new to development. He explains the Playground environment so new developers understand how to test their code snippets during the course of this course – good idea.

The Swift coding topics covered after Xcode setup are:

  • constants, variables, and how/when to declare types
  • control flow (looping and using switch)
  • collections (arrays and dictionaries)
  • optionals

Swift can infer what type to use for a variable, but specifying by declaring the types makes code easier to read and helps avoid type issues.

Flow control statements are if-else and switch. I particularly like Swift’s range operator for lower bounds and upper bounds, as it simplifies coding when using switch statements. Collections hold groups of data, and arrays are familiar to developers familiar with other programming languages. Like Java arrays, Swift arrays begin with element 0. Swift has the familiar for loop, but also has a for-in loop to move through dictionary elements.

What are dictionaries? They are like arrays, but they use a key to reference each stored value instead of a number relative to the index. The key can be specific to the data, so this can be quite useful when writing apps that use keys like ISBN numbers for books, account numbers for clients, etc.

The code example for creating dictionaries is simple but useful for people new to them. The last code topic covered in this chapter is on optionals. Optionals let you specify variables without default values, which makes you verify the variable has data before you access it.

Fig 2-2 Optional Var Checking Unwrapping

Fig 2-2 Optional Variable Checking Using Unwrapping

 

Fig 2-3 Optional Var Checking Binding

Fig 2-3 Optional Variable Checking Using Binding

Time to get started building an app, so let’s move on to chapter three.

 

CHAPTER 3: Hello World! Build Your First App in Swift

Every new developer knows what a “Hello World” program is: it’s the first thing you write when learning a new programming language. In this chapter, we create our first Swift iOS app and we call it Hello World. We worked with a Playground in chapter two, but now we will create a project and test it with the Xcode Simulator.

The book uses screenshots with the step-by-step process to show how you create the HelloWorld project. Not difficult at all. When finished, you should see something like this:

Fig3-1 New HelloWorld Project
Fig 3-1 New HelloWorld Project

Make sure you take time to get familiar with the Xcode project screen. You are expected to know where to find each area as the course progresses. The editor area in the center changes, depending on which design element (AppDelegate.swift, ViewController.swift, Main.storyboard) is selected at the left part of the project. The right side of the project is the utility area, where you select properties. You can expose or hide the leftmost and rightmost areas as well as the debug area for a project – this is at the top rightmost part of the Xcode project screen:

Fig3-2 Three Areas of an Xcode Project
Fig 3-2 Three Areas of an Xcode Project

After creating a basic project and a new iOS app, you can run it in the Simulator. One note: the first time you run the Simulator, it takes a while to start, so be patient. The Xcode control to run an app is the right-pointing arrow at the top left side of Xcode:

Fig 3-3 How to Run Apps in Simulator
Fig 3-3 How to Run Apps in Simulator

In this chapter, Simon points out something nice in the new version of Xcode 9: you can now run multiple simulators at the same time. Now that I like, as you may want to have an Apple Watch sim going the same time as iPhone and iTablet simulators.

Now it’s time to add an interface to the HelloWorld app. The book points out you can easily add one or more views and link them together without writing a line of Swift code. It’s similar to some RAD products like Power Builder and Lotus Notes. Xcode uses one View Controller per iOS app screen. The Interface Builder is shown below, with the View Controller in the middle, with the Button object in the center of the View Controller:

Fig 3-4 Xcode Interfact Builder Screen
Fig 3-4 Xcode Interface Builder Screen

I ran the Simulator after adding the Hello World button and saw this:

Fig 3-5 Simulator with Hello World Button
Fig 3-5 Simulator with Hello World Button

That’s it. I didn’t need to write any code to make a simple iOS app. It is simple. Hopefully this encourages people with good ideas but no programming experience to try to make something for themselves or for others.

The next step in the book is to add some code to make the Hello World button do something. We access the ViewController.swift file in Xcode and add the following Swift code to have the button say Hello World:

@IBAction func showMessage(sender: UIButton) {
 let alertController = UIAlertController(title: "Welcome to my first app", message:
 "Hello World", preferredStyle: UIAlertControllerStyle.alert)
 alertController.addAction(UIAlertAction(title: "OK", style: UIAlertActionStyle.default, handler: nil))
 present(alertController, animated: true, completion: nil)
 }

I want to echo the tip the author makes about entering code vs copying and pasting.  The easiest way to learn is to do, not copy.  Take the time to type, as you will see how easy it is to make mistakes, and when you fix them you learn a bit more. My 2 cents on developing:

A developer writes their own code, they don’t copy and paste and modify someone else’s code – that isn’t creating code, it’s appropriating.  If you want to work as a developer, you better remember this tip, because professional developers do not look fondly on people copying and claiming the work of another person.  It isn’t ethical.

 

Now you need to connect the Hello World button to this new code. Select Main.storyboard in Xcode, select the Hello World button and hold down the Control key and drag up to the yellow View Controller object at the top of the View Controller, then select showMessageWithSender: option in the popup box.

Fig 3-6 Connect Button and Swift Code
Fig 3-6 Connect Button and Swift Code

Run the Simulator again and now you see that the button does something:

Fig 3-7 Working Hello World Button
Fig 3-7 Working Hello World Button

There are a couple of exercises at the end of the chapter. I wanted to see what I learned, so I added 3 more buttons, which is what exercise 1 is, however I wanted to use different messages so I added additional code to ViewController.swift and linked it to each button. It was fun, and the best way I know to really learn. If you want to learn how to write code or develop apps, you must do it, mot just read about it. I strongly encourage people to do both exercises and play around on your own. It helps.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: Hello World App Explained

This chapter explains in detail what happens in the first app you create: Hello World. Take time to go over this chapter, especially if you are new at learning to program, as the explanations here lay a foundation that grows in future chapters.

How does the interface you build connect to Swift code that you write? It is important to understand this now, so consider the TV remote example the author uses:

“The user interface in the storyboard is the interface, while the code is the implementation. The user interface objects (e.g. button) communicate with the code via messages.

Specifically, if you go back to the Hello World project, the button you added in the view is the interface. The showMessage(sender:) method of the ViewController class is the implementation. When someone taps the button, it sends a showMessageWithSender message to ViewController by invoking the showMessage(sender:) method.”
– Simon Ng, Beginning iOS 11 Programming with Swift, Page 95 & 96

As the author points out, this demonstrates the OO concept of encapsulation. The specifics of what happens is hidden when the button is pressed. For example, the programmer could choose to send an email as well as display “Hello World” when the button is pressed, and the button pusher wouldn’t know.

What happens when the Hello World button is pressed? The button is event-driven, meaning that it does something when the button is pressed or released. In this app, we made the action occur when the button was released. This illustration shows the process:

Fig 4-1 What Happens in Hello World App
Fig 4-1 What Happens in Hello World App

We used a method to specify the message we displayed when the button was released. Methods provide functionality to objects – they make things happen. In this example, the class ViewController has a method called showMessage() – Swift methods are declared with the func keyword, and the @IBAction keyword in showMessage() connects source code you wrote to the interface button object you added using the Interface Builder.

Fig 4-2 ViewController and showMessage
Fig 4-2 ViewController and showMessage

This chapter is loaded with great information for new developers, as well as people learning Swift. Take a day to cover the material the first time, then take a second day before progressing on to chapter 5. You will learn important information that will help you further into this course.

 

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.Merchants of Doubt dust cover 2010

Title: Merchants of Doubt
Authors: Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway
ISBN: 978-1-59691-610-4
Published: 2010, Bloombury Press
Price: $27.00
Length: 355 Pages
Book Website: http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/index.html

In the past, tobacco use was socially acceptable and was allowed in most public places, including work and schools. When researchers learned that the scientific evidence was clear that tobacco use dramatically increases the chance of developing various cancers, they alerted the public and the government. In response, special interests mounted a PR campaign challenging that tobacco was bad for your health. Think tanks published papers refuting tobacco and cancer were related, ads aimed at placating people were run on radio and television; scientists and scientific data was attacked on a regular basis.

Why? Because the fact that ingesting tobacco products can cause cancer is inconvenient to companies making money selling tobacco products. Companies in the tobacco industry fought lawsuits for years, attacking the scientists and data and sometimes the victims themselves, in a bid to avoid accountability. Finally the US Government became involved, since the costs of treating cancer were costing so much money, and there was a settlement with the tobacco companies. That battle is over.

The new crisis our planet faces today is global warming. We have temperature records, using satellites and land-based and ocean-based temperature gathering sites around the planet, and that temperature data is readily available for scientists of every nation to examine. The data shows an important truth: the Earth is getting warmer. The Earth warmed up and cooled down in the past, but the data that concerns climate scientists today is the vastly elevated levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. These greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and methane – help trap heat on the Earth, reducing the amount of heat we radiate back into space, resulting in a warmer planet.

Why is a warmer planet a concern? Ice caps. Ice caps on Antarctica and Greenland contain a lot of ice, which, if melted, will raise sea levels around the globe. Why is that a problem? Because the majority of people on our planet live fairly close to a coastline, so rising water levels can harm or require relocation of many millions of people. Can you imagine how much it will cost to move millions of people from our coastlines to the interior of our country? And the cost to upgrade the existing infrastructures of cities far from the coasts to support much larger populations? Let’s just approximate it for now: a lot.

Another reason a warmer planet is a concern: weather. Meteorology 101: warm air holds more moisture than cooler air. Climate scientists predict that weather systems like hurricanes and monsoons, will increase in force as our planet warms. On average, one category 5 hurricane occurs every three years in the Atlantic. In 2017 alone, three Atlantic cat 5 hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria – made landfall, causing hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars of damage affecting millions of people in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. As of November 1st, 2017, months after Maria hit Puerto Rico, over half of the people there still lack electrical power, cellular phone support is spotty, and many people still have no clean drinking water.

The dangers of global warming are clear, and we need to act now to slow down the accumulation of global warming gases. We need to burn less fossil fuel, use alternate power sources with little or no carbon footprint, and use cleaner products like natural gas instead of coal. During the terms of President Obama, alternate power sources – wind, water and solar – were promoted and less clean fossil fuels like coal was de-emphasized. Unfortunately, the current US government under President Trump is actively suppressing and denying global warming. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) under President Trump removed climate change data from their websites, instructed scientists to not appear at conferences discussing global warming, and even replaced qualified advising scientists with fossil fuel advocates. Why? Because fossil fuel special interests have friends in the Trump administration.

Naomi Oreskes, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, and Erik Conway published a book in 2010 called “Merchants of Doubt.” This book has been identified as a classic for people interested in global warming, so I want to review it now, seven years after it was published. From what I saw, the material is not dated and it is still relevant. Let’s get started.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction
Ch 1. Doubt Is Our Product
Ch 2. Strategic Defense, Phony Facts, and the Creation of the George C. Marshall Institution
Ch 3. Sowing the Seeds of Doubt: Acid Rain
Ch 4. Constructing a Counternarrative: The Fight Over the Ozone Hole
Ch 5. What’s Bad Science? Who Decides? The Fight Over Secondhand Smoke
Ch 6. The Denial of Global Warming
Ch 7. Denial Rides Again: The Revisionist Attack on Rachel Carson
Conclusion: Of Free Speech and Free Markets
Epilogue A New View of Science

 

INTRODUCTION

There is good information in this section, so don’t skim over it. Two very relevant quotes:

“Why did they <climate change deniers> continue to repeat charges long after they had shown to be unfounded? The answer, of course, is that they were not interested in finding facts. They were interested in fighting them.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes, page 5

“Santer was reading the morning paper and came across an article describing how some scientists had participated in a program, organized by the tobacco industry, to discredit scientific evidence linking tobacco to cancer. The idea, the article explained, was to “keep the controversy alive.” So long as there was doubt, about the casual link, the tobacco industry would be safe from litigation and regulation. Santer thought the story seemed eerily familiar.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes, page 5

I’ve studied and followed science for nearly fifty years, and I’ve never met nor communicated with scientists that were not interested in the truth. Science is a self-correcting profession: when mistakes are found, they are corrected and our knowledge advances. The idea of scientists helping discredit valid data seems incredible, yet I remember how science and scientists researching tobacco and cancer links were attacked by people. It seemed incredible that, once science proved it was right the raised issue remained relevant to many people, but it did. At the time, it didn’t dawn on me that someone was trying to keep a controversy alive to fight the facts, but it makes sense in hindsight.

I am sure the scientists helping discredit climate change science have their reasons, but I don’t know what they are. I believe truth in science is mandatory, and that it is wrong to promote facts that are expedient to some political party or special interest or big business. I do not believe the bottom line is the most important thing in life. And in my opinion, any position that must be based on misinformation or falsehood is built on a wobbly foundation that will fail apart as soon as it is exposed.

When statements are proved false, why do the wrong statements still convince people. Let’s see what the authors of this book can show us.

CH 1. DOUBT IS OUR PRODUCT

This chapter shows that the tobacco industry used advise from a PR firm to create doubt about tobacco use being linked to cancer. They (the tobacco industry) used doubt to manufacture a debate to mass media that there two sides to the tobacco and cancer link, and the mass media needed to provide both sides equal time to argue. The mass media agreed and gave the tobacco industry a way to challenge scientific finds on tobacco use links to cancer.

A tactic used to counter prevailing science that tobacco use and cancer were linked was to cherry pick data and focus on unexplained or anomalous details. The purpose of this approach was to convert scientific consensus into scientific debate. Even when evidence mounted in 1964 that smoking increased the changes of developing cancer, the tobacco industry continued to fund research casting doubt on the facts.

Even into the seventies and eighties, when research that tobacco use was harmful, the tobacco industry was still quite profitable. It continued to market doubt by funding more research to counter scientific consensus on tobacco use links to cancer. Eventually, mass media realized that the argument that ‘the research raising doubts about tobacco use being linked to cancer’ deserved equal time to research showing ‘a correlation between tobacco use and cancer’ was wrong: it was not necessary to allow equal time to both sides. Why?

“While the idea of equal time for opposing opinions makes sense for a two-party political system, it does not work for science, because science is not about opinion. It is about evidence. It is about claims that can be, and have been, tested through scientific research – experiments, experience, and observation – research that is then subject to critical review by a jury of scientific peers. Claims that have not gone through that process – or have gone through it and failed – are not scientific, and do not deserve equal time in a scientific debate.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 32

The tobacco industry started fighting against the cancer links to tobacco use in the early 1950s, and didn’t start losing lawsuits until the 1990s. It is sad to note that:

“although the FDA sought to regulate tobacco as an addictive drug in the early 1990s, it was not until 2009 that the U.S. Congress finally gave them the authority to do so.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 33

An interesting correlation: the FDA didn’t get regulatory powers over tobacco until there was a democratic president and democratic majorities in the House and Senate in 2009. In 2017, there is a pro-business republican president and pro-business republican majorities in the House and Senate, and the US government denies that global warming is real or a threat to our planet – even though the scientific data and the rest of the world disagrees. Could that be part of the problem having a pro-business political party in power? I think you can be pro-business without attacking inconvenient scientific facts that prove some businesses are not good for people or our planet.

One point the authors make about doubt and science also should be mentioned:

“Doubt is crucial to science – in the version we call curiosity or healthy skepticism, it drives science forward – but it also makes science vulnerable to misrepresentation, because it is easy to take uncertainties out of context and create the impression that everything is unresolved. That was the tobacco industry’s key insight: that you could use normal scientific uncertainty to undermine the status of actual scientific knowledge.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 34

If you had a relative that used tobacco products and die from cancer, this chapter is an eye opener. And the sad thing, is that other industries continued to use the same tactics developed by the tobacco to counter science in other issues affecting our world. Next up, President Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars initiative.

CH 2. STRATEGIC DEFENSE, PHONY FACTS, AND THE CREATION OF THE GEORGE C. MARSHALL INSTITUTION

SDI – Strategic Defense Initiative – aka Star Wars, was Ronald Reagan’s ballistic missile defense system. It was predicated on the false believe that nuclear war was winnable. I remember the SDI, and how scientists said it wouldn’t work, and how the Reagan administration was determined to implement it regardless what the experts said. Scientists like Cars Sagan were actively against it and vocal in their opposition, and Reagan and his cabinet were just as determined to install it. It was another case of science being attacked because it presented inconvenient facts.

“The crux of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was to install weapons in space that could destroy incoming ballistic missiles. This would “shield” the United States from attack, making nuclear weapons obsolete.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 43

As Naomi and Erik point out in this chapter, there were a number big reasons SDI should never have been promoted. One, it was technically impossible to work 100% of the time, so some bombs would get through. Two, if the Russians believed it would work, they would build more bombs to be sure they could win, meaning the arms race would escalate. Three, if Russia believed SDI would work, they might launch a pre-emptive attack before SDI was implemented to win before SDI could protect the US. Fourth, SDI was not testable, since we would need to launch many missiles at ourselves to test it.

A PR campaign, like the one used by the tobacco companies, resulted in Congress approving and budgeting $60 billion dollars for Star Wars. Crazy but true. Star Wars really was a major military buildup. Then scientists studying the atmosphere of Mars realized their model could be used to study Earth and began examining the chance that an asteroid strike killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. They thought dust in the atmosphere would cut off light to plants, killing off the dinosaur food supply and killing off the dinosaurs. The scientists realized they could test the effects of a nuclear war, and discovered something chilling: nuclear winter. If we have a nuclear war, we could wipe ourselves out like the dinosaurs. Thus the TTAPS paper was written.

TTAPS, a nuclear winter paper, was examined by scientific peer review and only minor revisions were made, so it was considered valid. Before the TTAPS article was published in the scientific magazine Science, Carl Sagan published articles in Parade and Foreign Affairs, showing that we had too many nuclear weapons – enough to cause climate catastrophe. We needed to reduce, not increase, our nuclear arsenals from 80,000 soviet/US weapons to 2000 total. Some scientists were not happy Sagan published his Parade/Foreign Affairs articles before publishing the paper in Science, and some felt he left out important information that showed a more succinct picture of nuclear winter. Unfortunately, other scientists published papers criticizing the issues with the publications – Sagan’s decision to go public early was a problem for TTAPS.

Pro-SDI forces decided to counter the TTAPS nuclear winter paper, attacking the data and science and scientists. Following the same process as the tobacco companies, pro-SDI forces demanded equal time for their views and the media agreed, giving them an equal voice in the issue. These pro-SDI people attacked scientists credibility, as well as denying the validity of their views and data. This was when scientists were painted as left-wing political activists, instead of seekers of truth. They were making this into a political issue, which meant anyone disagreeing with it could dismiss it as political. This was the time that right-wing turned against science. This was when the Wall Street Journal started publishing articles critical of science.

CH 3. SOWING THE SEEDS OF DOUBT: ACID RAIN

The same time science was being attacking by Pro-SDI forces, a new issue – acid rain – was coming to light. The opponents of acid rain used the same argument as pro-tobacco forces: not enough was known, so nothing should be done about the problem.

INTERESTING FACTS: President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and signed the following important legislation: the Clean Air Act Extension, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. President Reagan moved the Republican party away from environmental concerns and started the war on science. These days, the republican party is against environmental laws and rules, shown by Scott Pruitt attempts to change the EPA into the EDA (Environmental Destruction Agency).

What is Acid Rain?

“Collateral damage is what acid rain is all about. Sulfur and nitrogen emissions from electrical utilities, cars, and factories could mix with rain, snow, and clouds in the atmosphere, travel long distances, and affect lakes, rivers, soils, and wildlife far from the source of the pollution.”
— Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 68

acidrain

How did Acid Rain Become a Problem?

“… the acidity was due to dissolved sulfate and the rest mostly to dissolved nitrate, by-products of burning coal and oil. Yet fossil fuels had been burned enthusiastically since the mid-nineteenth century, so why had this problem only arisen of late? The answer was the unintended consequence of the introduction of devices to remove particles from smoke and to reduce local air pollution.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 68

The environmental damage caused by acid rain includes leaching nutrients from soils and plant foliage, acidification of lakes and rivers, damage to wildlife, and corrosion of buildings. Studies showed that acid rain reduces forest growth as well as impact fish mortality.

Acid rain was studied for twenty-five years, then a summary article was published in Scientific American in 1979, introducing the science to the general public. The problem with acid rain, was that it was not restricted to the area or country where pollution originated. It affected neighboring areas and other countries, so it was a global threat. Under President Jimmy Carter, the US worked towards reducing pollutants that caused acid rain, but that was about to change.

Ronald Reagan became president in 1980, and Reagan wanted to: reduce regulations, decrease the reach of the federal government, and unleash the power of private enterprise. Sound familiar? It’s the same stuff touted by republicans today, and they have the same disregard for the environment. Acid rain was as acceptable a subject during the Reagan years as global warming was during the George W. Bush years – meaning not at all.

There was research into acid rain, and scientific views that immediate actions was needed, but the government took the side of the power industry and wanted more studies done and less concern raised to the public. Sounds like the situation with global warming these days, doesn’t it?

The only scientific research into acid rain reviewed by Reagan’s administration was modified to make the issue seem less critical than it was. There was no legislation during Reagan’s administration to fix acid rain, as

“the problem was too expensive to fix.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 101

Sadly, regardless of twenty-one years research on acid rain, the official position of the Reagan administration in 1984 was:

“We don’t know what’s causing it <acid rain>.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 101

Eight years after the Reagan administration suppressed the seriousness of acid rain, it was finally acted upon by the George H.W. Bush administration, which implemented a “cap and trade” plan that reduced sulfur emissions by 54% between 1990 and 2007. Sounds promising doesn’t it? It isn’t.

Are you ready for the bad news? Acid rain is still a problem. “Cap and trade” DID NOT FIX IT, and the same pro-business forces that fought against action during the Reagan years continue to downplay the issue, which is getting worse. The reason that is a problem, is that deforestation impacts global warming (reduce the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide removed by trees, means more in the air).

Acid rain was a concern during the Obama administration, but sadly it is no longer during the Trump administration. On 11/11/2017, a search for “acid rain 2017” on Yahoo yielded a link to the EPA. I went to the EPA link and selected “Cross-State Air Pollution Rule” under “What EPA is Doing” and got: “Page not found”. It has been removed from the EPA site, a common tactic Scott Pruitt has implemented to obfuscate science that threatens the technologies he and President Trump embrace. Apparently using more coal and gas is too important to allow people to see that the EPA knows that Acid Rain is still an issue. If this concerns you, please write, email and call your state and local representatives and ask them to investigate why the government is suppressing science to support industry.

CH 4. CONSTRUCTION A COUNTERNARRATIVE: THE FIGHT OVER THE OZONE HOLE

The public first became aware that our protective ozone layer was in danger was in 1970. This was a concern, because the ozone protects us from ultraviolet radiation, which is known to cause skin cancers, and a decrease in ozone meant an increase in cancer.

Initial research investigating the possible danger from Supersonic Transports (SSTs) looked at the impact of water causing problems with the atmosphere, but it was determined there wasn’t enough potential traffic to be an issue. Another venue studied was nitrous oxide compounds, which was a possible issue for ozone and it led to studies on emissions by the space shuttle, which used propellants that released chlorine into the upper atmosphere. Further studies focused on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which could degrade into chlorine and fluorine, which could reduce atmospheric ozone. CFCs were common, used in spray cans and air conditioners and refrigerators, and there were billions of pounds of CFCs produced every year for these uses.

CFCmolecule

Who would find this science threatening? How about the industries that used CFCs? And whom do you suppose mounted a PR campaign against the findings on CFCs? Yes, you are correct. Big business. Companies using CFCs argued against regulating or jumping to conclusions, but people eventually decided to use alternative products (roll-on deodorants, spray bottles) which made a difference. Then, in 1985, a hole was found in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

The ozone hole was verified by data from a satellite, but the amount of ozone depletion was unexpected. While people didn’t live on Antarctica, if the hole grew then it could affect people living in Australia and South America. NASA and NOAA began research in 1985 and sent researchers to McMurdo Bay in 1986 – the initial results confirmed the loss of ozone but failed to account for meteorological effects. NASA and NOAA conducted additional tests in 1987 to look at meteorological effects and found the weather conditions did speed up chlorine and ozone interactions.

Science studied the ozone hole and CFC issue, provided recommendations to cut back and eventually eliminate CFCs (thereby restoring Ozone coverage over time), and regulations were introduced to bring this about. It worked as it should, but there was still resistance from the CFC industry and skeptics, who continued to challenge ozone depletion after the science was settled. This resistance continued to propose that volcanos were the source of chlorine and that there was no need to regulate industry – the intention was to delay any action on CFCs to the benefit of the CFC industry.

The counter narrative to ozone depletion was driven by a pro-business group that decided to use their own facts to obfuscate science data to cause a delay in regulating CFCs. Is that right? Shouldn’t we want a safe environment for ourselves and the life on this planet, instead of merely making more money for some corporations? One of the people involved with producing a counter narrative to ozone depletion attacked the scientific community, and I want to share a quote I found astonishing when I read it in this book:

“It’s not difficult to understand some of the motivations behind the drive to regulate CFCs out of existence”, he wrote. ”For scientists: more prestige, more grants for research, press conferences, and newspaper stories. Also the feeling that maybe they are saving the world for future generations.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 129
NOTE: The “he” quoted above was neither of the authors – it was written by a skeptic.

EXCUSE ME?? It’s bad to want to save the world for future generations?? If that’s the case, I guess I’m in the same wrong camp, as I believe it is ethically and morally right to care what kind of world we leave our descendants. Perhaps I need to re-read Dantes’ Inferno to see where God sends people who care to save the world for future generations.

CH 5. WHAT’S BAD SCIENCE? WHO DECIDES? THE FIGHT OVER SECONDHAND SMOKE

In 1986, a new Surgeon General’s report concluded that second and smoke could cause cancer even in otherwise healthy non-smokers. When the EPA implemented regulations to limit indoor smoking, the pro business movement once again moved to attack, this time science and the EPA was the target.

In 1981, Takeshi Hirayama, chief epidemiologist at Japan’s National Cancer Research Institute did a study showing that wives of smokers had a much higher cancer rate than wives of non smokers. His study did as any good scientific study does: it demonstrated an effect and ruled out other causes. And, as you might expect, the study and the scientist was attacked by industry special interests. Health advocates responded to the attacks on Takeshi’s study and within five years forty states passed restrictions on smoking in public places.

The tobacco industry argued against second-hand smoke dangers, using studies to challenge the dangers to people around smokers. The EPA produced a report on the dangers of second hand smoke, linking it to lung cancer, bronchitis and asthma in infants and young children. One thing left out of the EPA report was the link of second hand smoke to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), as there was uncertainty at what point in development or life infants were actually exposed to second hand smoke.

To counter the science, special interests decided to attack EPA science as junk science. The intent: to slow or stop regulation of second-hand smoke. This counter narrative meant that the media should cover skeptics that fight science on the same level as science. Special interest also released a book “Bad Science: A Resource Book” aimed at challenging the authority and integrity of science. I did a search on Yahoo and easily found it. It appalls me that science and scientists should be attacked, and that more people are not outraged at the insinuations. In my personal experience with science and scientists, I found both far more truthful than any politician or business, and I hope that people without any science education would be less susceptible to accepting claims attacking the scientific community.

This book lists six key points that “Bad Science” uses to challenge and attack science and scientific findings. To sum up these six points: bad, bad scientists. Wow. Special interests want to be the authority figures to scold scientists and hold them accountable. Like, special interests have no “special interests” in the stakes. Right. And I have a nice bridge for sale, you can have it cheaply if you have cash and act now.

In addition to attacking science, special interests decided to attack the EPA. Using pro business scientists, they challenged that the EPA was fair and promoted the view that the EPA was motivated by environmentalists with a hidden agenda, not science. They also attacked how data was studied and suggested other approaches that would favor skeptics over science. Attacking EPA guidelines let special interests control the fight and slow down the EPA’s ability to regulate second-hand smoke.

It’s hard to do your job, when your credibility is constantly being attacked. If people doubt your credibility, they doubt your defense of yourself and your work. To attack science as being anti-business because of their work, means that people believe business cares as much about their welfare as about their spending. Do you believe that?

CH 6. THE DENIAL OF GLOBAL WARMING

I’ve read good, authoritative books on global warming – The Madhouse Effect, Dire Predictions, Unstoppable – so I understand global warming is real. Scientific research on climate change has been going on for over 150 years, so the science isn’t new. The lead organization on climate change is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and it was formed in 1988 and published its first report on global warming in 1990. IPCC released their 3rd assessment on climate change in 2001, their 4th in 2007, their 5th in 2014, and the 6th assessment is scheduled for release in 2019.

In 2007, I worked with a self-proclaimed global warming skeptic. He proudly stated that “the only law I accept is the law of gravity.” He chose to accept the propaganda of his political party instead of actually reading any of the four IPCC reports. Why? Because it’s easy to be a skeptic when you believe in conspiracies. In 2008, Barack Obama became president of the U.S. and during the eight years he led the government, President Obama focused the government on the dangers of climate change – he signed the Paris Climate Accord, joining all but two countries of the world.

In 2016, Donald Trump became president, and he withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Accords, and when the two remaining holdouts signed the accords, the U.S. was left as the only country in the world not to sign the Paris Accords.  As of November, 2017, 170 of the 197 nations that signed have ratified the accord.  That will be Donald Trump’s legacy, which is sad.

The facts are, 97% of scientists in the world accept evidence that humans are affecting our global climate and we must make changes to reduce our carbon footprint to reduce the impact to our planet. With the science settled, why are papers and websites still publishing articles that attack climate change science and scientists?

Why do we have climate change skeptics twenty-two years after the initial IPCC climate change assessment? Why does the current U.S. government want to erase the improvements we made reducing carbon emissions under President Obama? As you probably guessed, we can once again thank special interests for delaying action to reverse the effects of climate change.

To reduce global warming, we need to reduce greenhouse gases, which increase the greenhouse effect. What are greenhouse gases? Primarily carbon dioxide and methane. Both come from natural sources, but the increased dependency on fossil fuel energy sources has released a lot both gases into our atmosphere, causing the Earth’s temperature to increase over time until it is climbing at unacceptable rates, which will cause the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps to melt and raise sea levels so much that people living near our coasts will be forced to move inland.

a-3.greenhouse_effect

A sad fact about acceptance of global warming in the book:

“Yet many Americans remained skeptical. A public opinion poll reported in Time magazine in 2006 found that just over half (56 percent) of Americans thought that average global temperatures had risen – despite the fact that virtually all climate scientists thought so. An ABC News poll that year reported that 85 percent of Americans believed that global warming was occurring, but more than half did not think that the science was settled: 64 percent of Americans perceived ‘a lot of disagreement among scientists’.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 169

A TRAIL OF PRESIDENTIAL ACCOUNTABILITY ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The first official report on global change was given to President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, and the information was also made available to President Nixon when he came into office in 1968. Both Johnson and Nixon had more pressing matters at the time (social issues, Vietnam war), so climate change didn’t receive the attention it deserved. I would point out that Republican President Nixon did create the EPA and sign several important acts concerning climate change.

President Jimmy Carter was president from 1976 to 1980, and drought-related climate issues affected food supplies for Africa, Asia and the Soviet Union, demonstrating how our global food supply is affected by climate. In 1977 the Department of Energy (DOE) had an advisory committee look into carbon dioxide and climate, which recognized that:

“the acute sensitivity of agriculture, and thus society in general, to even small changes in climate: ‘The Sahelian drought and the Soviet grain failure … illustrate the fragility of the world’s crop production capacity, particularly in those marginal areas where small alterations in temperature and precipitation can bring about major changes in total productivity’.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 171
(referencing MacDonald et al., The Long Term Impact of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide)

This advisory committee developed a climate model that showed that doubling the preindustrial levels of carbon dioxide from 270 ppm would result in an increase in surface temperature of 2.4 degrees C. The model suggested that warming would be at the poles, with a temperature increase of

“10 to 12 degrees C – a colossal amount.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 172

NOAA knew and discussed this as early as 1977, and President Carter’s science advisor asked National Academy of Science president Handler to review the advisory committee study. Handler gave the study to MIT Professor Jule Charney to review, and he assembled a panel of eight scientists plus two climate modelers (Syukuro Manabe and James E. Hanson) that had created the most advanced climate models at that time. The new models showed there could be natural processes providing negative feedback, that could slow down global warming some, but these wouldn’t affect a substantial warming. The small things like negative feedback didn’t address the problem caused by the villain: carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas.

Charney’s group prepared a report which concluded:

“If carbon dioxide continues to increase, the study group finds no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 173
(referencing Verner E. Suomi in Charney et al., Carbon Dioxide and Climate viii)

Charney’s group knew they needed more data, as they didn’t know how fast the oceans absorbed heat, as:

“the more the well mixed the oceans are, the more heat would be distributed into the deep waters, and the slower the warming of the atmosphere would be.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 173

Essentially, the oceans act like a heat sink, delaying surface temperature increases. A positive from this news was global warming would be delayed. A negative from this news, was that the delay might mean people wouldn’t accept global warming until it was too late to change it.

The next report on global warming was written in 1980, and it focused more unsocial and political impacts – the authors suggested doing nothing, until more data was available, so we could continue burning fossil fuels. This report suggested that natural market corrections (voluntary reduced use of fossil fuels, alternative fuel sources) would be enough to address climate change – no need to regulate anything. Sound familiar? Yep, the same argument we hear today.

The next study on global warming had scientists and two economists. As you might guess, they had very different views to the dangers and facts of global warming. The report was written as chapters by each expert, including those by the economists. The chapter on sea level rise predicted a rise of 5 and 6 meters (1 m = 3.28 ft, so that meant 16.4’ to 19.6’ increase of sea levels). All chapters written by scientists reported that increased levels of carbon dioxide was bad and needed to be addressed immediately. The chapters by the economists disagreed – they argued that changes were too far into the future to matter at that time. The problem was this study, was that is focused on the chapters of the economists, not the scientists, and so it was not a true synthesis of ideas from all of the authors.

It may have appeared to be balanced, but it was not. The paper also downplayed the issues involving with moving people from affected areas to other locations – it is not trivial, but the paper presented that it was not an issue. When reviewed, the paper was criticized for failing to provide evidence to back the recommendation of doing nothing, which was contrary to scientific views on the issue. The comments from the reviewers were ignored, and the report (leaning 100% to the economists view) was published.

The problem with this new study, was that it was used to refute real scientific evidence about global warming, from scientists and from the EPA. It gave climate change deniers a report to back their stance and to attack climate change science. This paper gave the Reagan administration an excuse to do nothing for the years 1980 to 1988, while Reagan was president.

In 1988, the first organized effort to deny global warming began during the presidential election. James Hansen, climate modeler, testified at a congressional hearing that climate change was now visible and affecting the world. Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush promised to use the presidency to address global warming and sent Secretary of State James Baker to the first IPCC meeting. Unfortunately, deniers began attacking climate science in 1989 and climate scientists a few years later.

The deniers first blamed the sun as the source of increased surface temperatures on Earth. The deniers published a white paper denying global warming, and presented it to departments of the U.S. government – this caused the George H.W. Bush administration to deny climate change. This report suggested the Earth was near the end of a 200 year heating cycle and should soon begin to start cooling off. The problem with this paper, was it misrepresented the actual data and cherry-picking valid data to support the position of no global warming.

The first IPCC assessment, published May 1990, rejected that the sun caused the temperature increases as shown in the report by the deniers. Unfortunately the deniers continued to say the sun was the source of global warming and presented their stance on the road in 1991 and 1992, attacking the IPCC.

In June 1992, leaders of many governments went to Rio de Janeiro for the U.N. Earth Summit. President George H.W. Bush also attended and signed the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which came into effect in 1994. The framework was an agreement in principle on limiting emissions, and the real limits would be set at Kyoto Japan. Unfortunately, adoption of the Kyoto accord was blocked in the U.S. Senate by Senators Hagel and Byrd in 1997.

CH 7. DENIAL RIDES AGAIN: THE REVISIONIST ATTACK ON RACHEL CARSON

Rachel Carson revealed the dangers of industrial pesticides, leading to the ban of DDT in 1972. Since it was banned, Ms. Carson and her work has been attacked by deniers trying to create a scenario where any regulation is bad. This has gone on into the 21st century and is part of the new denial culture.

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

CONCLUSION

I decided to leave out the individual players in the different chapters because the authors did such a good job with the details and references. This review isn’t meant to replace the book, but to encourage you to read it, as it is very powerful, compelling and honestly somewhat frightening. When you see the link between the deniers of tobacco and the deniers of climate change, you may be as shocked and angry as I was.

I’ve always maintained that, if you need to lie to promote your views, your views are wrong, you lack the courage or wisdom to accept the facts, or you are more interested in protecting something than doing what is right.

I understand that special interests have an obligation to support their industries – I disagree it should be necessary to misrepresent or distort facts or attack researchers, but I understand the motives. They are interested in the success of their industries; the bottom line rules.

I find it terrible that the people we elect to protect us – members of Congress and some presidential administrations – failed to support science, the EPA, and their constituents. Our elected government should have our best interests at heart, not the interests of companies that donate a lot of money to their election campaigns. I cannot see how history will view the actions of politicians that helped special interests affect the viability of life on our planet. Perhaps they hope to rewrite the history books.

In 2017, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria made landfall in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico respectively. Of the three, I only recall one climate change denier say he would stay in his house that was in the path of Irma, but he “changed his mind and moved to be able to continue his broadcasts”. If climate change is so wrong, why do these deniers not line every shore that scientists predict will be hit by hurricanes? Those predictions, based on science, are good enough reasons for climate change deniers to move to safety, so why do they choose to ignore predictions of rising sea levels and increased air and water temperatures? Choosing which facts you believe and which you deny, based on what costs the least money, is indefensible. Unfortunately it is a common tactic of science deniers.

HOW TO ADDRESS THESE ISSUES

The truth is, we need to change how science raises concerns to adapt to the attacks by special interests. There will be more scientific findings in the future that will affect businesses, and special interests will continue to use the same type of attacks that worked for tobacco, ozone depletion and global warming.

SCIENCE: As long as some scientists are willing to put their economic or political interests ahead of the facts, more education isn’t the answer: we need an easy way to prove that science is right and has addressed some concerns already. There is a site online that contains a list of issues raised about global warming – I’ve not seen it mentioned on social media or in articles, but referring the media to it when skeptics attack should be done automatically.

THE PRESS: I cannot see how the press allows attacks on the scientific community, without questioning what attackers have to gain by these assaults. How can any members of the press promote that politics and big business as more trustworthy and reliable than people dedicated to seeking out the truth? Doesn’t make sense to attack the scientific community for having a political agenda, without questioning the political agendas of the people attacking science. The press needs to stop taking the view that there are two sides to every scientific issue and stop being used to slow down regulations that help people and the environment.

INTERESTED NON-TECHNICAL PEOPLE: Far too often people with little or no science background challenge scientific findings in newspapers and on the Internet. If you lack a basic science background in a topic, why do you believe you can challenge scientists? If you doubt climate change, read “The Madhouse Effect” by Dr. Michael Mann or “Unstoppable” by Bill Nye – both clearly explain the science, and neither author is making billions of dollars by selling books. They both want to educate people so people can make informed opinions on climate change. Curious people need to educate themselves, not with stories on the internet, but with solid information from people without a stake in the topic. Read a book, don’t watch a short YouTube video and consider yourself informed.

INDUSTRY: The government should reward companies that report issues with their products. If a company received a tax credit for coming forward about an issue, they would be compensated for their honesty. If they received a fine for failure to report, they also have financial motivation to be honest. If companies are shown to know about an issue but they decided to delay regulation, they should be massively fined and all people associated with that act sent to prison.

GOVERNMENT: Due to the complexities of science, we could use a special court to focus on science issues – this could lead to a new area of law in the near future. And regulatory portions of the government should be lead by non-partisan people that new political administrations can change, as Scott Pruitt has done with the EPA.

MY RECOMMENDATION ON THIS BOOK

I enjoyed this book – tremendous job by the authors on compiling so much relevant data and presenting it clearly and at a level most people can understand. The writing is logically organized and flows well, and it is easy to read. I give this book 5 stars out of 5. It is worth buying and keeping in your library. Buy a copy of this book for yourself and extra copies for family and friends that are interested in the subject.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Title: Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change 2nd Edition 2015 Product Details
Author(s): Michael E. Mann and Lee E. Kump
ISBN: 978-1-4654-3364-0
Published: 2008,2015 by DK Publishing
Price: $24.95 (hardback)
Length: 224 pages

Author Bios

Dr. Mann has undergraduate degrees in physics and applied math, a Masters degree in Physics, and a Ph.D in Geology and Geophysics. Dr. Mann has published books (The Hockey Stick, The Madhouse Effect) and over 180 peer-reviewed publications on global warming, and has testified in congressional hearings about the subject, as well as made himself available via social media to people with questions on global warming.

Dr. Kump has an undergraduate degree in geophysical sciences and a Ph.D in Marine Science. Dr. Kump has published over 100 peer-reviewed publications on global warming, and his work has appeared in documentaries produced by National Geographic, BBS, NOVA Science-Now, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

These two scientists are far more reliable sources on climate change than special interest commentators with an agenda to cast doubt on climate change. Let’s take a look at their book and see what the scientific data shows.

 

Table of Contents

Introduction – do NOT skip this section! Great intro to climate
PART 1: Climate Change Basics
PART 2: Climate Change Projections
PART 3: The Impacts of Climate Change
PART 4: Vulnerability and Adaption to Climate Change
PART 5: Solving Climate Change

 

INTRODUCTION

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. ”
http://ipcc.ch/news_and_events/docs/factsheets/FS_what_ipcc.pdf

Dire Predictions explains the findings of the IPCC on climate change, using clear and detailed visual graphics to demonstrate the data in the 5th IPCC assessment.
Note 1: As of 2017, there is a new assessment on the IPCC website (ipcc.ch).
Note 2: The IPCC/Links website page contains links to different government websites that contain climate change information, and the US EPA website no longer contains Climate Change data per President Trump and EPA Admin Pruitt – for pre-Trump information, see  https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climatechange_.html

 

CLIMATE VS. WEATHER

“We plan our daily activities around the weather. Will it rain? Is a storm or a cold front approaching? Weather is highly variable, and, although considerable improvements in weather forecasting have been made, it is still often unpredictable.

Climate, on the other hand, varies more slowly and is highly predictable. … Climate represents the average of many years’ worth of weather. This averaging process smooths out the individual blips caused by droughts and floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, and blizzards and downpours, while emphasizing the more typical patterns of temperature highs and lows and precipitation amounts.”
Introduction, Dire Predictions

Sen. James Inhofe (republican, Oklahoma) received a BA from the University of Tulsa in 1973, when he was nearly 40 yrs old, which is commendable. Checking his biography (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Inhofe and https://www.inhofe.senate.gov/biography), t I was unable to find out what he studied for his undergraduate degree, nor could I find any graduate school credentials for the senator. On Feb 25, 2015, Sen. James Inhofe appeared at the US senate and used a snowball for the reason his does not believe that global warming is happening (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/02/26/jim-inhofes-snowball-has-disproven-climate-change-once-and-for-all/). Yes, a person elected by the people of Oklahoma to represent them in government doesn’t understand the basic difference between weather and climate.

For the sake of people that don’t understand the difference between weather and climate, let’s summarize:
WEATHER: highly variable and unpredictable.
CLIMATE: varies slowly and highly predictable.
CLIMATE REPRESENTS THE AVERAGE OF MANY YEARS WORTH OF WEATHER.

THINGS THAT INFLUENCE CLIMATE

  1. Latitude (location on the Earth)
  2. The oceans
  3. The atmosphere
  4. Atmospheric Circulation – the Hadley Circulation

Fascinating information about ice ages in this section. When they did and didn’t occur.

 

GREENHOUSE GASES

It is important to understand what greenhouse gases are, since climate change deniers often attempt to claim these are not important or that science is wrong is stating certain things are greenhouse gases. According to scientists that actually study climate science:

“Greenhouse gases exist naturally in Earth’s atmosphere in the form of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and other trace gases, but atmospheric concentrations of some greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are being increased as a result of human activity. This increase occurs primarily as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, but also through deforestation and agricultural practices. Certain greenhouse gases, such as CFCs and the surface ozone found in smog, are produced exclusively by human activity.”
Dire Predictions, Introduction page 14

Something in this section is very important today, as current news in 2017 shows that the Greenland Ice Sheet is melting, and that ice sheet has remained intact during climate changes over the past 2 million years. The fact it is melting is extremely important, as it shows we are experiencing something today that hasn’t happened in 2 million years!

 

PART 1: CLIMATE CHANGE BASICS

THE ROLE OF SCIENCE AND SCIENTISTS IN UNDERSTANDING CLIMATE CHANGE

“Basic principles of physics and chemistry dictate that Earth will warm as concentrations of greenhouse gases increase. Though various natural factors can influence Earth’s climate, only the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations linked to human activity, principally the burning of fossil fuels, can explain recent patterns of global warming.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 16

Scientists study climate change, and often find themselves questioned by special interests or people hired to look for reasons to contest climate change. Scientists approach climate science the same way they approach other topics: using the scientific method (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method).

“Scientific conclusions arise from time-tested theories, accurate observations, realistic models based on the fundamentals of physics and chemistry, and consensus among colleagues working in the discipline.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 21

Real scientific conclusions are not based on what is politically correct, what pleases conspiracy theorists, or what is economically prudent. We do not live in a Star Trek universe where everyone has a theory, so the opinions of people that doubt climate science but lack a scientific education do not trump scientific theories.

 

IPCC 5th ASSESSMENT – WHAT IT MEANS

The 5th assessment of the IPCC makes predictions about the possible outcomes we can expect from climate change. I understand why possibilities that are low are not as alarming, but I do not understand why any politician would reject risks that 50% or greater probability of happening. Intensified cyclone activity, raising sea level (threatening coastal communities around the globe), rising surface temperatures (affecting plant and animal life, as well as humans), impacting the amount of sea life (reducing a food source for a growing population), and a change in long term weather patterns are serious. The IPCC report shows these dangers, yet many politicians ignore them and the outcome, endangering our children and grandchildren, as well as plant and animal life on this pale blue dot we call home: Earth.

Why do politicians argue against climate change? Ask your representatives in the US house and senate. And when (and if) they respond, ask them for the scientific data/peer-reviewed papers that back their position. And be sure to ask them why they disagree with scientific consensus, where 97% of climate scientists agree global warming is happening, is caused by human activity, and is a serious threat to humanity.

 

WHAT IS THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT?

A greenhouse lets sunlight in, reducing heat loss from wind and trapping the heat so the enclosed area is warmer than the outside. These are used in cold climates, as well as when there is a need for warmer climate plants in cooler parts of the world.

“The greenhouse effect occurs on our planet because the atmosphere contains greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are special – they absorb heat, which then warms the atmosphere. Not all gases are greenhouse gases.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 22

The greenhouse effect is simple:

  1. The Earth receives sunlight and warms up.
  2. The Earth begins to radiate heat.
  3. Radiating heat encounters greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane) that absorb and retain the heat.

When greenhouse gas levels increase in the atmosphere, more heat is retained and the Earth gets warmer.

Positive feedback loop – in global warming, it happens when one change (like increased carbon dioxide) causes another result (more water vapor in the air) – water vapor is a greenhouse gas, so more water vapor means warmer Earth.

Negative feedback loop – in global warming, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide causes increased amounts of water vapor (a greenhouse gas) in the air – clouds form. Some clouds trap heat, while others reflect heat, and so this isn’t as much of a factor as positive feedback.

Anthropogenic – human generated. A cause for concern, since we started burning fossil fuels over 200 years ago and have not done anything to remove the excess carbon dioxide. This anthropogenic greenhouse gas has been increasing without a mechanism to reduce the extra carbon dioxide, so our Earth is getting warmer.

Greenhouse gases can be studied in the past, by analyzing ice from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Scientists take core samples of the ice and analyze the air bubbles in different times to see how much greenhouse gases were present. Core studies show far more greenhouse gases are present today than in pre-industrial era air. Not good.

“If we use existing fossil-fuel reserves and do nothing to capture the Carbon dioxide released, atmospheric carbon dioxide will exceed anything experienced on Earth for over 50 million years.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 43

There was a myth that climate scientists in the 1970s predicted a new ice age was coming. This was published in popular magazines, not scientific magazines nor scientific journals, and was not the opinion of climate scientists. It was speculation and it was wrong.

The authors discuss climate models in this section, in detail and showing the strengths and weaknesses of them. Many climate change deniers argue that models are bad or inaccurate, but I have not seen any model complaint that was not addressed by scientists. Climate change models are being updated and enhanced, which proves that scientists want the best models possible. Science needs accurate data, but that does not mean we cannot use what we have now, even though it bothers climate change deniers.

 

PART 2: CLIMATE CHANGE PROJECTIONS

“researchers can draw certain conclusions given best-guess scenarios of fossil-fuel burning and the average projections of theoretical climate models.”
Dire Predictions Part 2 page 82

Some critics claim that climate change is false because we still have winters. Ridiculous. Climate scientists believe that, as climate change speeds up, there will be fewer frosty days (that doesn’t infer it will never be cold or frosty), longer heatwaves (that doesn’t mean we will only have heatwaves), and more intense rainstorms (that doesn’t infer we never had intense rainstorms).

Climate Sensitivity – the amount of warming to expect when factors controlling climate change. This shows how how much Earth will warm with increased greenhouse gas emissions.

We have limited real temperature data for land and sea, about 150 yrs for land and 50 yrs for sea, so scientists use tree rings and ice cores to estimate how average temperatures varied over time in the past. We can track solar activity and volcanic eruptions and greenhouse gas concentrations much further back than 150 years, and these help improve our climate models, by helping discern when climate change was influenced by natural or human factors.

By studying historical climate information, science shows that continued buildup of carbon dioxide results in warming of the Earth. Since burning fossil fuels adds greenhouse gases to the air and seas, increased reliance on fossil fuels increases the amount of greenhouse gases and so increases the temperature of our planet.

Recently, there was a false pause, where it appeared that global warming slowed, but that was a result in sparse data gathered, plus a few natural factors that offset global warming. These natural factors included volcanic activity, a short term reduction in solar output, and a series of La Nina events. When you factor in ocean heat content and arctic sea ice losses, the climate change models are still accurate – our planet is heating up, even though natural factors masked global warming during this false pause.

There have been IPCC projects for nearly 25 yrs, and the early ones have proven to be quite accurate. What should concern people living near the coast, is that sea levels have risen as projected for each of the earlier IPCC projections, A large percentage of global population live near the coast, so many people can expect to be impacted in the future, based on current expectations.

While some climate change deniers attack the IPCC findings by claiming they overstate the impact of global warming, actual evidence shows the IPCC predictions underestimated the effects of climate change.

The most conservative estimates for climate change over the next century are grim, with a 50% chance we will exceed 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) increase in average global temperatures. That 2 degree increase is viewed as a dangerous amount of climate interference by humans – called a tipping point. The most liberal estimates are far worse than 2 degrees C increase, with effects far more devastating.

Precipitation will be affected by increased average Earth temperatures, meaning more droughts and more floods. Cold seasons would see more precipitation and warm seasons should less precipitation, which is only good if you like plenty of snow in the winter and no rain in the summer. Increasing droughts could have a terrible impact on desert regions of the world.

Increased temperatures means we can expect to lose ice from our two largest continental ice sheets: Greenland and Antarctica. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, it would result in rising global sea levels of 16’ to 23’!  If the West Antarctic ice sheet melts, that would add another 16’ of rising sea levels. If you live in Louisiana, Florida, New York, or on any island in the ocean, you should be very concerned.

With the evidence we see from climate science, I cannot understand why people would choose to deny climate change and refuse to understand science. Harvey, a recent Cat 4 hurricane hit Texas, and most people were willing to accept the news from climate scientists about that hurricane, so they left endangered areas. Why accept some of what climate scientists say and reject other information? Because special interests promote doubt about climate change, but they don’t interfere with warnings about hurricanes. If you accept scientists are right on hurricanes, you must accept they are right on global warming.

 

PART 3: THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

If you are a climate change denier, this is the section you should focus on. Scientists expect human and animal habitats will be impacted by global warming, and that we will see mass extinction of many land and sea creatures which will affect animal and human food chains.

Climate change will result in less food to feed more people, so who gets to eat and live? We can expect wars as people lack what they need to survive and they will want with others have. We can also expect mass migration of people from less developed countries to the most developed parts of the planet. More people means less surface area to grow or raise food, meaning still less food.

We have already started to see rising sea levels affecting people in Louisiana (Katrina, 2005) and Texas (Harvey, 2017), and the heavily populated eastern seaboard will lose habitat land and heavy storm surges will cause increasing damage and property losses to people and businesses, affecting our economy – insurance companies aren’t in business to pay out more than they bring in, so insurance rates will soar.

If the Greenland ice sheet melts, we can expect over 19’ increase in sea level. Belgium and the Netherlands in Europe, the entire eastern seaboard, the gulf coast, and the west coast will lose much of the available land. And coral reefs like the Great Barrier Reef will be impacted by global warming too, impacting the sea life dependent on reefs and reducing parts of the food chain we humans need that eat food from the oceans. And with ice in the arctic and Antarctica gone, life that lives (like polar bears) in those parts of the world will be gone, except for the animals kept in zoos. That will be a tragedy as we learn from studying life in the natural environment.

Droughts, which we have been experiencing since the early 2000s in Texas, Oklahoma and California, reduce plant and animal food production and increase food costs for people everywhere. And flooding won’t just cause loss of life by drowning. Many infectious diseases spread in water, and having more floods means more people are exposed to those diseases and so health costs will also rise.

All continents will be impacted by climate change. Yes, even the US and Europe, as well as Africa and Australia. Less coastal land for people to live on, famine from reduced food production, more disease from floods, and economic chaos from skyrocketing cost increases in every aspect of life. And war, meaning too many people will die far from home and family and friends, trying to gain what they lack.

The only good news we have right now? That the amount of global warming impacts how much our world is affected by global warming. If we act now and reduce our carbon emissions into the environment, we can reduce the changes that happen in the future.

 

PART 4: VULNERABILITY AND ADAPTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE

For our economies to change, we need to reward use of alternatives to fossil fuels and to provide a carbon tax to reward companies that use less fuels that add to the carbon dioxide levels in our environment.

Rising sea levels means our global communities will need to either pump out the excess water like Holland, or move inland. The costs for either will be huge, to individuals and to each country.

We will need to find more fresh water, which could be done by desalination plants if we can find an economically feasible means to mass produce fresh water. We need to produce more food on less arable land, so improving the efficiency of growth/production, as well as reducing spoilage will help.

To adapt to climate change, we need to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we use for energy sources. Alternatives like solar and wind and tide power, as well as nuclear will reduce the fossil fuel we need for energy sources, which reduces carbon dioxide output to the sea and atmosphere. Alternative transportation – more trains, intercity mass transit, and electric-powered vehicles – will reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases is another way to adapt. Reducing carbon dioxide from cars by carpooling and improving engine efficiency will help reduce our carbon footprint. Reducing emissions from power systems – as President Obama did by requiring coal powered plants to decrease greenhouse gases – will help, as long as another administration doesn’t make changes that eliminate those emission savings.

Unfortunately, President Trump as made rolling back changes that help the environment a priority of his administration. Removing the US from the Paris Climate Accords was President Trump’s defining act that may well be his lasting legacy – and not for the better I am afraid.

Many ecosystems around the world are sensitive to climate, and many will be wiped out unless we make changes now. Our scientists have seen the effects of climate change on sea corral, and the changes have been accelerating in recent years as greenhouse gases increase.

The truth is, economically it is less expensive to address climate change now that after it gets far worse. We can’t expect to see things immediately return to pre-industrial era conditions, but we can hope to see lower temperatures and less dangerous weather systems. Climate Scientists have shown that higher concentrations of greenhouse gases will take a long time to remove from the environment, so the longer we wait to reduce emissions, the longer the recovery time.

We can do something besides reduce emissions. Implement a carbon tax to reward companies that produce fewer greenhouse gases. This is not popular among republicans, but we are all Americans first and our country’s needs should come before party needs. We are past the point where we can do nothing and things will fix themselves. The cost of inactivity will escalate the longer we ignore or fail to correct the problem. That should motivate anyone that cares about this planet more than profits.

 

PART 5: SOLVING CLIMATE CHANGE

Adaption will help, but we still need to do more to solve global warming. We need to work with the other countries of our planet together, as we all impact each other. Unfortunately, President Trump removed the US from the Paris Climate Accords, so a future administration will need to make alliances with other countries and get political buy-in to prevent some other politician from harming our environment for the sake of profit.

We also need to improve engineering processes to reduce power wasted by inefficient transmission, improve tools like stoves to use fuel more efficiently (reducing the amount needed). This chapter of the book shows graphs that demonstrate the potential places we can reduce greenhouse emissions, along with the costs for each place.

Creating more wind farms and tapping more water power sources like dams and tidal power systems will help. We also need to stop trying to get more fossil fuel from the Earth, so reduce or eliminate fracking (which has proven a problem in Oklahoma, where they are experiencing earthquakes up around 5 on the Richter scale) in 2017.

Using lighter colored surfaces on the roofs of homes and businesses and road surfaces means less solar energy to be absorbed, which will help as well. Using electric cars instead of gas burning cars will make a tremendous difference as well.

We also need to consider future building projects, to reduce power needs and to utilize alternate power sources like solar. We may want to eat less red meat, as cows produce methane, and wheat doesn’t. Nothing wrong with people adapting by having meatless days during the week, which is healthier for us too.

Planting more trees as well as rewarding countries that preserve trees will help. We can’t match the efficiency of trees to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, so planting more is a good option. Some people propose returning carbon to our environment, the same way that fossil fuel holds carbon. There are np good methods at this time, but that will change.

Each person on Earth can help in the fight against global warming. Reduce your use of carbon dioxide producing power systems. Add solar panels and energy efficient appliances to your home. Bike to work or work from home to save gas (and money) while reducing carbon dioxide output. Have a meatless day, where you eat no red meat one day a week. Add insulation to your home, turn off unnecessary lights, get rid of power-leaching power strips, and turn down your thermostat in the winter (and turn it up in summer). Communicate with people that doubt climate change and get them to see the reality of the problem. And write your government representatives and remind them they work for you, not the fossil fuel industry, and we need them to make laws to protect our planet. Plant a tree and a garden at your home.

We must act now. Global warming is real, and a serious threat to life on our planet. Sea life and land-bound life alike are at risk, and the effects will last a very long time, affecting our descendants who will rightly blame us for leaving them in this predicament. Climate change is a very real danger and we need to push our politicians to stop taking special interest money opposing climate change and to start fighting for us, their constituents. Inaction is no longer a realistic option.

 

CONCLUSION

This is an update to the first edition of the book, which includes updated scientific data. The pages in the book are thicker than normal and loaded with illustrations, graphs and images to help convey the information. The book is organized into five sections, which are easy to read sequentially or in any order you like. I hope that some people that embrace climate warming denial either buy or borrow this book from a library and read it with an open mind – I don’t see how any real, intelligent, and unbiased reader could go through this book and still believe global warming is not a real issue.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5 possible and strongly encourage that it be purchased and read by everyone in your family. This material should be easy enough for people with a high school education to understand, and it has enough detail for people with higher education to enjoy.

Title: Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the WorldProduct Details
Author: Bill Nye
ISBN: 978-1-250-00714-8
Published: 2015 by St. Martin’s Press
Price: $26.99 hardback
(Reviewing the Kindle version)
Length: 352 pages

 

Yes, another long book review (>6100 words), but this book is loaded with data worthy of an in-depth review.

Chapters

1: We’ve Got the Whole World In Our Hands
2: The Call to Greatness
3: A Hothouse of Disbelief
4: Putting a Price on Inaction
5: Inputs and Feedbacks
6: Thermodynamics and You
7: Fighting Global Warming with … Bubbles?
8: Talkin’ ‘Bout Electrical Energy Generation
9: Stop the Burn – Don’t Frack that Gas
10: Nuclear Energy: Too Cheap to Meter… Again
11: One More Reactor (No, Make it Two)
12: Power of the Sun
13: Is the Answer Blowing in the Wind?
14: Down to the Wire
15: Let’s Transform the Grid
16: Dude, Where’s My Battery Pack
17: Quest for Storage
18: Bottling Sunshine with Moonshine
19: NASCAR – A Catalyst for Change
20: Got to Get Moving on Moving
21: Moving Our Masses
22: Rise of the Taxipod, Robotruck, and Bioplane
23: The Water-Energy Connection
24: Time to Get the Salt Out
25: Feeding the World
26: Bringing it all Back Home to Bill’s House
27: Quien es Was Verde – or, Keeping Up with the Begleys
28: Bill and Ed in a Fight for the Sun
29: Bill and Ed Get Into Hot Water
30: The Tap is Off and the Garden is Green
31: The Case for Space
32: Building a Better Rocket Equation
33: Do Humans have a Destiny in Space?
34: Setting a Fair Price for a Better Planet
35: The Unstoppable Species

 

WE’VE GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN OUR HANDS

“Climate change is coming, and it is coming right at you. Regardless of where you live on Earth, you will live to see your life or the lives of your kids and their friends change due to the overall warming of the planet.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 1

Bill Nye is no climate change denier. He knows enough of the science to know climate change is a real threat to life on Earth and it must be addressed now.

Bill was in China at a science conference and a student became his guide around Beijing and loaned Bill his father’s bike, as his guide’s family was successful enough to now own a car. That prompted this observation:

“That desire – to get more done with less effort – multiplied by billions of people who burn fossil fuels to satisfy that desire, is the root cause of climate change.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 1

He points out that everyone wants what we have in our country: cars, planes, readily available electricity, more electronic devices, more more more.

I’ve heard climate change deniers state that “God wouldn’t let humans change or damage the world he created.” Poppycock! I always counter with “Did you ever hear about nukes? We have far more than needed to change our climate and wipe out all life – God didn’t prevent them.” Bill points out that another species – cyanobacteria – once changed our climate by producing oxygen, which in turn killed off life that couldn’t tolerate oxygen. We humans aren’t the first to affect our climate, although we can hope we will change it back for the better while we can.

When I was young, our total population was 3 billion, and scientists wondered if we could handle feeding 6 or 7 billion people. We are over 7 billion now, and we do feed them, but now our concern is how adding so many new users of fossil fuels adds to climate change. And as more people are born, that means more fossil fuel users are adding to the carbon dioxide contribution in our atmosphere, and carbon dioxide levels directly impact the temperature of our planet.

 

THE CALL TO GREATNESS

“I encourage everyone to reject both of those sentiments (“The climate has always changed in the past and it will always change in the future”, and “We have to save Earth”) and think instead, “We have to save Earth – for us! For us humans!”
Unstoppable, Chapter 2

The first sentiment is a head-in-the-sand view on global warming, and the second is a misunderstanding that the Earth will be destroyed if we do nothing to save it. Both are wrong. We need to act now to counter the effects of global warming, and we need to understand that the effects of global warming could make Earth uninhabitable for humans.

I really liked the author’s question for climate change deniers:

“Would you trust a scientist or a politician who insisted, pounding his fist on the table, that there is no connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer?”
Unstoppable, Chapter 2

For decades, politicians and special interests (the Tobacco industry) denied cancer and smoking were linked, and the approaches they used for denying the smoking-cancer link are being used for climate change denial. Too many people that believed the politicians and cancer deniers died, trusting those people over scientists. Are you willing to let your children and grandchildren go through that same experience? The difference between climate change denial and smoking-cancer link denial, is that everyone on Earth is affected by climate change – you can’t stay away from second hand climate change the way you could stay away from second hand smoke. And, unlike smoking, you can’t quit climate change denial. We have to reverse the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The author points out that, to address climate change, we will need to come up with solutions for energy to replace fossil fuels, better ways to transmit electricity, and better ways to store electricity. We also need to be able to convert seawater to drinkable water, grow more food and transport it using power sources other than fossil fuels.

 

A HOTHOUSE OF DISBELIEF

The author studied astronomy with Carl Sagan when he went to Cornell University. I read Sagan’s books titled ‘Cosmos’ and ‘Pale Blue Dot’, and Sagan’s Cosmos video series is still one of my favorite science series ever produced. I think that explains Bill Nye’s audience friendly approach to discussing science, as Sagan was excellent at making complicated subjects understandable by novices. I forgot was how Sagan developed a computer model that showed how the greenhouse effect warms Earth – fortunately the author describes that and gives a simple yet clear explanation of global warming:

“A carbon dioxide molecule is linear. It’s an atom of oxygen connected to an atom of carbon, connected to an atom of oxygen, all in a row. It’s the right length and of the right atomic flexibility (or floppiness) to allow visible light, with wavelengths ranging between 390 and 700 nanometers (billionths of a meter) to pass right by. But, these molecules block the longer reradiated infrared rays (heat), whose wavelengths are about ten times as long as those of visible light. That heat-trapping ability is a feature of the size and shape of carbon dioxide molecules, and the length of waves they trap or let pass. Yes, this really is somewhat like what happens in a greenhouse.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 3

That is one of the easiest explanations why carbon dioxide is directly involved in global warming. The author goes on to explain that the extra heat trapped by increasing levels of carbon dioxide alters weather patterns and local climates around the world. It’s amazing that climate change, which has scientific consensus for 30 years, is still contested by climate change deniers. It is disappointing that the media allows climate change deniers to quote an article in Newsweek published in 1975, that suggests we were heading for a new ice age, not warming. Newsweek is not a science magazine, and we know a lot more about climate science than they did in 1975, yet this is rarely called out by the media when they let deniers state that as evidence scientists don’t know enough about climate to predict changes. The media should stop giving deniers, especially those without education climate science, equal footing with climate change scientists. And a little more fact checking would dispel these old claims that have long been disproven but are still raised by deniers.

“People who should (or do) know better keep confusing weather with climate. Weather is what happens day to day in one place. Climate is what happens over many years to a large geographic area, or the planet as a whole.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 3

This happened in February 2015, where Sen. James Inhofe brought a snowball to the senate floor and declared it proved global warming was a hoax, because it snowed somewhere. Funny, and quite wrong. This senator doesn’t understand climate change. And the argument that more carbon dioxide is good for plants is wrong, as it ignores that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means more retained heat for our planet – not good, as that means some areas of the planet will become too warm or dry for plants to thrive.

Another concern climate scientists have concerns methane, as it has much more effect on global warming than carbon dioxide. Methane is trapped in ice, and will be released as more arctic/antarctic ice melts. Attacks on climate scientists, on the data used, on gases on that cause global warming, and on climate change models serves one thing: to delay a response to global warming.

 

PUTTING A PRICE ON INACTION

The author lists costal cities that will be impacted by rising seas, and it’s not good. New Orleans, Miami, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Venice, Mumbai and Qingdao will need major infrastructure changes to prevent being rendered useless. And these cities will be affected all too soon, as sea surges during storms will impact them long before the sea is thigh for the existing banks and dams. And don’t forget countries like the Netherlands that already have sea level issues. If people need to move inland to get away from the water, where will they go?

Transportation to new homes, food and water and clothing, as well as new equipment for jobs, updating existing infrastructures to accommodate new settlers, and creating new sea ports will cost a lot. And don’t forget, that land can be used for housing, work and food production – if more land is needed for housing, we will lose land that could generate food supplies.

And rising seas will result in flooding, which means water-born diseases and mosquito-born diseases, which will cost lives and time and money to address. And parasites normally unable to handle cold weather will flourish in new warmer climates. If we do nothing, the costs to address these problems will be overwhelming.

 

INPUTS AND FEEDBACKS

“A lump of coal is nearly pure carbon. When you burn it, each carbon atom hooks up with two oxygen atoms from the atmosphere to make carbon dioxide, CO2. An oxygen atom weighs one-third more than a carbon atom, so the greenhouse gases add up quickly. When you burn one kilogram of coal, you get 3 2/3 kilos of carbon dioxide.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 5

That’s a lot of gas that retains heat. In 2014, our atmosphere topped 400 parts per million for the first time in history. The author points out that the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere isn’t the problem: the rate of change is. The rate that carbon dioxide is being added to the atmosphere is accelerating because there are more of us each day. More people means more need for power and food and transportation, meaning more carbon dioxide.

Bill describes a feedback loop in climate science: adding heat increases water evaporation. Warmer air holds more moisture than cooler air, so as air warms up, more moisture is evaporated. And water vapor traps heat too, so this addition of water vapor to the air demonstrates a positive feedback in climate science. When water reaches a certain altitude, clouds form, and clouds reflect sunlight into space, causing the Earth to get less sunlight and less heat. This effect of reflecting heat by clouds is negative feedback. But that isn’t all. Clouds low in the atmosphere reflect heat, but clouds high in the air actually reflect heat back down to the Earth, so high altitude clouds have a positive feedback.

Another example of feedback is arctic ice. When arctic ice exists, it reflects sunlight, which is negative feedback. When arctic ice melts, the darker seas absorbs more sunlight and heat, which is a positive feedback. And warmer seas mean more ice melts, so even more positive feedback. Not good. And warmer seas means disruption in sea currents, causing changes in air and ice and sea elsewhere, causing an even bigger positive feedback.

 

THERMODYNAMICS AND YOU

“But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics (the law that entropy always increases) I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”
Sir Arthur Eddington, Unstoppable Chapter 6

“The energy of motion is converted to the energy of heat all the time in just about everything we do. …
It (the Second Law) constrains all the efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. In short, it is the foundational challenge to anyone who wants to improve the way we live without increasing the amount of energy we use.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 6

This chapter highlights one of the limits affecting the fight against global warming. Heat released as inefficient use of motion energy. There is only so far we can go to improve efficiency. Fascinating read and the one I’ve enjoyed most, so far.

 

FIGHTING GLOBAL WARMING WITH…BUBBLES?

This chapter deals with geoengineering, a proposed way to address global warming. The author explains that clouds and arctic/antarctic snow and water allow Earth to reflect around 30% of the solar energy that us, so we retain 70%. As we get warmer, there is less ice to reflect solar energy and so Earth gets hotter – not good.

One proposal to reduce the amount of solar energy the Earth retains is to inject bubbles into water. That works because bubbles are more reflective that calm water, and so the water with bubbles would reflect more solar energy. Another benefit of adding bubbles is that it reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation – very important in a world with dwindling natural resources like potable water. The author points out that, while this isn’t currently done intentionally, it could be worth the effort very soon.

If injecting bubbles could be done economically, and on a wide enough scale, it could reduce the solar energy we retain and help fight global warming. Other things that could help geoengineer Earth include adding more trees and more green growing things in the seas, as well as genetically engineer food sources to be lighter in color.

 

TALKIN’ ‘BOUT ELECTRICAL ENERGY GENERATION

This chapter shows we as a society have dependence on electricity, and that we need to reduce the carbon used to generate that electricity.

“Electricity is actually a moving energy field, the pure energy of the cosmos, and that field travels at the speed of light.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 8

“Volts measure electrical pressure, amps measure flow, watts measure power. Power over time equals the total amount of energy. That’s why your electric utility bills you in terms of watt-hours.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 8

 

STOP THAT BURN – DON’T FRACK THAT GAS

Coal generates power, but with a huge carbon footprint. so cleaner burning natural gas could be a temporary bridge to newer ways to generate electricity. Bill Nye points out that natural gas is, at best, a temporary solution and we need to leave it underground, due to release of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is even more of a heat trap than carbon dioxide, and methane can leak into the air when fracking to extract natural gas.

The author explains how fracking has evolved over time, from vertical to horizontal fracking. Some states ban fracking, while other states like Oklahoma embrace fracking. The thing is, Oklahoma started experiencing earthquakes after extensive fracking, and now sees earthquakes at level 5 of the Richter scale where none were experienced in the pre-fracking days. Cities and buildings have been damaged enough to warrant evacuation, and the lessons learned in Oklahoma should be recognized by other states using fracking for natural gas extraction.

Tar sands, like those proposed to be carried by the Canadian Keystone pipeline, are far more dangerous to our environment. That is why I was surprised one of President Trump’s first acts as president was to approve the pipeline previously rejected by President Obama. As of July 2017, the Canadian company wanting the Keystone pipeline is reconsidering the need for it. Hopefully Canada will be more environment-friendly than our current Trump administration.

With the Trump administration’s anti-environment, pro-fossil fuel stance, Trump’s EPA director has been rolling back or refusing to implement regulations designed to protect the environment passed during President Obama’s term. What should scare reasonable people, is EPA head Scott Pruitt’s decision to ignore regulations to control methane pollution (http://tinyurl.com/y9nvsbdc). The courts have recognized the validity of these regulations established during President Obama’s administration and have sided with our world against the Trump administration, but one has to wonder why Trump’s administration is so bent on harming our planet. If you die from pollution, how much good does it do to have more money?

 

NUCLEAR ENERGY: TOO CHEAP TO METER… AGAIN

Chapter 10 focuses on nuclear energy – cleaner power plants than coal/gas fired plants, but with their own risks. The author explains how nuclear energy produces power, but isn’t sold on it as a bridge technology from fossil fuels to a clean power system.

 

ONE MORE REACTOR (NO, MAKE IT TWO)

The author gives a simple and clear explanation on the fundamentals of nuclear power plants and the risks they pose. Bill suggests a reactor with thorium may be safer than uranium or plutonium, and he discusses fusion, which has been discussed but not possible for forty years. Fusion would be clean and cheap, but not something we can handle right now.

 

POWER OF THE SUN

Chapter 12 covers solar power: how it works, how efficient it is, and why it is a good carbon-free source of energy. We need better and less expensive solar panels on more homes, and that should happen over time. Bill points out that solar panels used in space are 40% efficient, whereas the ones homeowners can afford are around 15% efficient. Unfortunately, the US only produces about .4% of its power by solar energy and we need to make a lot more to replace coal-powered electricity to make a dent in our climbing carbon dioxide levels.

When I was young, people talked about having solar panels in space to gather energy and send it to Earth. Bill points out the difficulties with that approach and shows how individual power systems for buildings or a city would be more feasible.

 

IS THE ANSWER BLOWING IN THE WIND?

Wind power. Clean energy and the US currently produces ~4.5% of its electricity from the wind. I’ve seen the wind farms in Iowa, many large windmills I’ve never seen stopped whenever I pass nearby. We could have more, and our previous administration encouraged wind power development over coal (a favorite of our current administration).

The author makes a great point about the feasibility of wind power replacing coal powered electricity. Costs for wind power have dropped to 2.1 cents per kWh (kilowatt hour), whereas coal-powered electricity costs 1.2 cents per kWh, so the cost increase for wind powered electricity is not unmanageable.

Bill describes how some hobbyists have rigged a propellor on the top of a boat to catch the wind, and linked it to a propellor under water to drive the boat through the sea. He says that this type of sail boat can drive straight into the wind (something anyone that ever sailed on a traditional sail boat will tell you is impossible). I’ve never seen these myself, but they sound really interesting.

Unlike solar power, wind power typically isn’t reliable during the middle of the day, when electrical energy needs are highest. And the wind does stop, and wind isn’t available everywhere, but the low cost and no carbon footprint of it make wind power a valid candidate to replace much of our coal-based electricity in the US.

 

DOWN TO THE WIRE

Getting power from where it is generated to where it is used isn’t free nor simple. There are limitations to the efficiency of power being transferred. This chapter explains the details why there is power lost during transmission, so you understand why we need to get more efficient to reduce losses (and, in turn, reduce how much electricity we need to generate).

 

LET’S TRANSFORM THE GRID

Chapter 15 covers the power grid – how we distribute power from different sources like hydroelectric dams, to cities and homes. The important items for discussion here are magnetism and electricity: two of my fav topics. Bill says that increasing efficiency and reduces losses by electrical devices will reduce our need for electrical power. He also explains how transformers work, stepping up and down voltage as needed. But don’t let that cause you to skip this chapter. Bill gets into power transmission issues, buckminsterfullerene and nanotubes of carbon atoms. Nanotubes made of carbon atoms would provide almost no power loss of electricity over long distances, but we can’t make them very long now (50 nm max) – Bill points out that solving this problem would be huge and would change the world.

 

DUDE, WHERE’S MY BATTERY PACK

Chapter 16 covers electric-powered cars. In 2007 I worked with a guy that had an electric car and he was proud of it. Unfortunately, he had a short drive (under 20 miles each way) and had to charge his car once he arrived at work and again when he arrived home. It may have been quite, but he told me the cost to replace the batteries would be more than buying a new car. Newer cars do much better these days, and the author is right that we should do more to move to electric cars.

 

QUEST FOR STORAGE

This chapter covers the many many different types of power storage containers (batteries) we’ve used in the past and present. Interesting material, but near the end of the chapter Bill talks about gravity storage pistons, which are simple but potentially huge ways to store power for use when the sun or wind are unavailable. Fascinating subject and the first I’ve seen about it. Really really good information.

 

BOTTLING SUNSHINE WITH MOONSHINE?

In chapter 18, Bill discusses how batteries are not the only means of storing power for off-hour consumption. Food like corn gets energy from the sun, and in turn can be fermented into ethanol, which can be drank or burned. Unfortunately, sun-to-corn-to-ethanol is not efficient (2% according to the author) so it isn’t a good standalone solution over fossil fuel. Sugar from sugarcane can also provide stored power – more than 2x what corn provides – and sugar can be fermented and produce alcohol too.

Bill brings up catalytic converters also. I remember when they were introduced and how some opposed them as too expensive and not likely to help with pollution. As we know today, and as Bill points out, they made a big difference in reducing pollution and weren’t too expensive for their intended purpose. The same arguments many deniers and fossil fuel industry shills make today about reducing carbon dioxide output – and the deniers are as wrong today as they were in the 70s.

 

NASCAR – A CATALYST FOR CHANGE

I’m not a NASCAR fan. No problem with people that like it. Never developed a taste for it. Bill talks about NASCAR and how they use old auto tech to make races exciting, and (showing my age) I understood as I remember a time when cars had carburetors and pushrods. At least he didn’t bring up records yet (if you don’t know what they are, you are not old and you know how to use Google).

 

GOT TO GET MOVING ON MOVING

“almost a third of all energy we use in the United States goes to transportation. We use almost as much energy moving ourselves and our goods around as we use to produce or create those goods in the first place.”
Unstoppable, chapter 20

Bill points our our inefficiency moving power as a great place to start to address global warming. The author mentions that trains are 4x more efficient than a truck – a neat tidbit of knowledge – so trains are better at movement than trucks.

 

MOVING OUR MASSES

This chapter covers mass transit, pointing out that subways are far more efficient at movement than cars. The only unfortunate situation is that mass transit away from the New England area of the US (not including Chicago) usually relies on buses for mass transit, not trains or subways. I agree with Bill that riding public transportation lets passengers read or use their smart phones – something car drivers shouldn’t do while on the road (but, unfortunately, too often do while driving).

One year I worked as a consultant for a client that had showers onsite for the employees, as they encouraged their people to bike to work to conserve gas and reduce pollution. I wish this was the stance of more companies. For a while, many companies allowed their people to telecommute, but that policy comes and goes over time, and it has been cut back the past two years in the technology field.

Bill talks about the need for helmets when biking and I agree. I wear one when I bike outside, on a mountain bike or a road bike, and I wear a helmet when I ride a motorcycle. Being safe means more than looking cool to me. Biking is a great way to exercise, so any laws passed making it more convenient are ones I’ll always vote for – I hope you do too.

 

RISE OF THE TAXIPOD, ROBOTRUCK, AND BIOPLANE

This chapter covers automated cars. We’ve seen stories about self-driven cars the past few years, and Bill believes this will happen and become the major method of transportation within cities in the future. That would make Elon Musk happy.

The idea of flying cars appealed to me, until I earned a pilot license. Ground school and CFIs proved that flying takes a lot more mental work than driving a car. Too many people mentally disengage while driving to talk, text, or play games – you can’t do that in a plane and survive long. Self-piloting planes (or helicopters, like Iron Man used in Captain America: Civil War) would be far safer.

 

THE WATER-ENERGY CONNECTION

Navy ships and subs distill their own water while at sea, whereas cruise ships lack the power needed to distill water, so they use membranes to filter out particles from water. The author points out that this second method would work for cities needing water. This was what I thought, when I considered the recent droughts affecting California, and I suspect this type of solution will happen sooner rather than later.

 

TIME TO GET THE SALT OUT

Mangroves are trees that can handle salty water – they filter out salt for useful water, and eject the salt on their leaves. The author points out that this is what we need to create – a system emulating mangroves. There is a material – graphene – that would work, but the cost of production and utilization could be a problem.

 

FEEDING THE WORLD

“the economic sector that uses the most of Earth’s resources and produces the largest environmental change is our agriculture. Our farms produce greater volumes of more greenhouse gases than all of our cars, trucks, trains, ships and airplanes combined.”
Unstoppable, chapter 25.

With a growing population, this means even more climate change. And we waste too much food. Most of my neighbors don’t eat leftover food, so it goes in the trash. We had leftovers in my family when I was growing up, so I have no issue using leftover food for lunches. The author talks about using GMFs (Genetically Modified Foods) that need less food and water to grow more food, and GMFs have have fans and dis-tractors for many years, but eventually we will need to rely on them to feed our people.

 

BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME TO BILL’S HOUSE

Bill looks for ways to use less energy in his own home. He uses solar power and talks about paying $10 every other month for an electricity bill. Now that is incredible. And he uses other systems to reduce power needs for lights and heating water. What is amazing is that he estimates he saves a tremendous amount of power usage for less than it costs for a nice SUV, and that savings is paid for in 10 years. If only more people did as much as Bill – maybe this will motivate more people to do the same.

 

QUIEN ES MAS VERDE-OR, KEEPING UP WITH THE BEGLEYS

Bill talks about his eco-friendly competition with neighbor Ed Begley Jr., and this is the type of competition we need to see more often if we want to beat global warming. Striving for more efficient uses of power and resources can only help: us save money and the planet save resources and energy used to gather those resources.

Bill had a reflector installed in his fireplace, which reflects more heat into the room. When I spent some time in a Scottish castle, it had one too, and the amount of heat that a few logs gave to the room was impressive. I sat back 20 feet from the fire and could still feel the warmth.

 

BILL AND ED IN A FIGHT FOR THE SUN

This chapter covers solar power panels and the cost benefits. His solar cells generate more power than he needs, so that power is sold back to the power company and he receives the money instead of a bill. Bill’s solar panels are 15% efficient, but I found a company online that says it gets 22.1% efficiency from their solar cells, which is a nice improvement.

 

BILL AND ED GET INTO HOT WATER

The author uses solar power to heat water for his home, which is a cost saver. He also installed tankless water heaters, which I too have looked into, which instantly heat water and save money as there is no need to wait for running water to heat up. A good idea, and I plan to install solar heating and tankless water heaters in my next home for sure.

 

THE TAP IS OFF AND THE GARDEN IS GREEN

The author had a garden installed and used a system with multiple zones and a rain sensor to improve efficiency. I had a sprinkler system with the same arrangement (zones and rain sensor) installed after I built my home, and saw a 40-50% decrease in water used (according to water bills) than when using regular mobile sprinklers. It helped to be able to time the sprinklers to work during the middle of the night, and to be able to control the amount of water sent to each zone.

 

THE CASE FOR SPACE

Finally, some numbers that intrigue me: space flight. The author shows why calculus is needed for rocket science: because burning fuel changes the weight of a space craft constantly. According to Bill, a 100% efficient rocket needs 500 million joules to life one ton of cargo to 62 miles (the beginning of space). To get into orbit, you need twice that amount of energy. To get into geosynchronous orbit (1 day for each time around the Earth), it takes 5000 million joules of energy. This energy does not count the rocket mass and fuel itself.

Air pressure against a rocket decreases as altitude increases.

“When the decreasing static pressure and increasing dynamic pressure reach a maximum, it is called max-q.”
Unstoppable, chapter 31

Max-q is dangerous for the rocket as the pressure on the nose of the space craft is maximum. The location where a space craft is launched is important as well, since launching near or at the equator means the Earth’s rotation will add to a craft’s orbital velocity.

Returning to Earth means getting rid of the energy used to get into orbit. When in low Earth orbit (like the ISS), one ton of payload must dissipate 30 billion joules of energy, and the easiest way to do that is use the friction of the atmosphere to convert energy into heat (the reason for good heat shields on space craft).

There. Bill provides the information you need to plan how much fuel you need to get your own space craft to space and back again.

 

BUILDING A BETTER ROCKET EQUATION

The author states that most rockets use rocket fuel called RP-1 (Rocket Propellant #1), which is refined kerosene with chains of carbon atoms. All particulates are removed (which explains why the first launch in ‘The Astronaut Farmer’ failed so badly). Liquid hydrogen (used in Apollo and the space shuttle) contains more energy than RP-1.

A nice surprise in this chapter is the simple yet clear explanation of ion propulsion (xenon gas atoms propelled by electrical grid out of the craft, pushing it forward as the xenon leaves the craft. Since ion engines develop slow but constant power, they currently can only be used once in space, so you still need RP-1 to get to space.

Bill also talks about solar sail power. NASA launched their own NanoSail-D into orbit in 2011. The Planetary Society successfully launched LightSail in 2015, and they intend the next generation of this to launch in 2018.

The takeoff weight for airplanes is around 10% fuel, while the takeoff weight for space craft is 90%. Lighter materials affect both airplanes and space craft, and would lower takeoff fuel requirements.

 

DO HUMANS HAVE A DESTINY IN SPACE?

“this common goal – to leave the world better than we found it.”
Unstoppable, chapter 33

As global warming is a modern threat, just as dangerous as ISIS and other terrorists, our generation needs to solve the global warming threat to our planet. That would make the world a better place – for us and for our children and grandchildren. We also need to explore space to learn more about life here and out there.

Mars facts that interest maybe just me in this chapter: atmospheric consists of carbon dioxide, air pressure is .7% that of Earth, average noontime high temperature is -40 C/F. Space craft can only depart for Mars every 26 months (due to orbits of Earth and Mars)

 

SETTING A FAIR PRICE FOR A BETTER PLANET

A carbon fee or carbon tax will work, if conservatives stop opposing it. This is the best way to tie economic considerations into carbon emissions, and it could be our best hope to reduce greenhouse gases.

 

THE UNSTOPPABLE SPECIES

“When I decided to write this book, I did it with one enormous goal in mind: I want to help change the world.”
Unstoppable, chapter 35

The issues and optional ways to address them are well covered in this book. Reasonable people being logical should have no issue with Bill’s suggestions, unless they have a special interest agenda that provides economic incentive to ignore the dangers of global warming. That incentive means that some of our politicians and policy makers put the interest of the fossil fuel industry ahead of their own families, friends and fellow countrymen. Is money worth more that human life? It shouldn’t be, but unfortunately it is.

Global warming is real. Doesn’t matter your political or religious affiliation, facts are facts. Radio and internet personalities, political scientists, and people drawing paychecks from think tanks paid by companies promoting fossil fuel use do not know better than people with advanced degrees in science. If that bothers you, you are being unreasonable and are fooling yourself.

I’ve seen vicious attacks on climate scientists by trolls on Twitter, whose arguments were worthless but these trolls were blinded by hate and refused to be reasonable and refused to accept that uneducated people cannot know as much about a subject as subject matter experts with advanced education on climate science. Why trolls with no or little hight school education feel like they can challenge these people on climate science is beyond me.

Either we fight this battle now, or allow our children and grandchildren to face much greater (and potentially unbeatable) challenges that we do at this time.

 

CONCLUSION

This book is well written, flows well and breaks down technical items enough for anyone (except senators on the payroll of fossil fuel companies) to understand the danger of global warming and the technical difficulties we must overcome to make changes to reduce our carbon output.

This book educates and informs people that really want an education on climate science. Deniers should read it as it disproves denier excuses intended to delay our fight against global warming. I can’t see how an honest denier could read this book and still fail to understand the dangers of global warming. I’d think even someone with an advanced degree in political science would understand the science explained in this book, clearly enough to realize they are hurting, not helping humanity.

I give it 5 stars out of 5 and recommend purchasing it. Students and adults will learn a lot about science, and it is not partisan. It is real, it is true, and it must be a wake up call to people trying to harm our world by fighting the fact that global warming is the biggest danger to our species right now.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2012, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

This month I’m temporarily reverting back to earlier tid-bit type entries because I’ve be deluged by input. Being an information junkie requires not only a large hard drive, but also a fairly good memory – so far so good!   Enjoy

Note, many of the technologies I share are in various stage of first, development, and are often far from being a commercial success. Their inventors and supporters still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable, Remember There Ain’t No free Lunch and silver bullets too often turn to lead.

When and if you Google them in depth, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical because there is no easy way to for them into our systems.

I always, as 75 year old cynic, find it appropriate, to step back as I read and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me. In addition, most have no relationship to solving the problem that is being bragged about. I also object to TGTBT (To good to be true) since there never a free lunch and energy runs downhill.

I don’t usually do items with direct political implications, but the items below rubbed my sense of WIIFT.  Recently thoughts about announcements and new service information as well as headlines picked up by the news services. My thought — If its slick and there are no cross checked reference details, it’s probably a scam – legal perhaps but a scam. — As discussed in a recent Bloomberg Business Week:How about rating agencies, Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch’s, glowing credit rating (e.g., investor grades and better) just days-weeks-or one or two months before the firms bankruptcy declarations.

AIG (insurance)

Enron (Energy)

World Com (Telecom), or

Bear Stearns (banking)

Lehman Brothers (banking)

Washington Mutual (banking).

CIT (Financial Services)

MF Global (Baking)

…Tens of Others

I’ve ignored the American auto industry because the Feds both bailed them out and they are back in the black to profitability and job creation. However their bond and shareholders have are still ‘forever’ losers.) I also ignored the airlines because there were not apparently fueled by mis-ratingsReferences:Credit Rating Agencies – Need For Reform — http://ezinearticles.com/?Credit-Rating-Agencies— Need-For-Reform&id=788696 and Credit Rating Agencies — http://rru.worldbank.org/documents/CrisisResponse/Note8.pdf

Why Did Anyone Listen to the Rating Agencies After Enron?http://www.law.umaryland.edu/academics/journals/jbtl/issues/4_2/4_2_283_Hill.pdf

Also See Notable Bankruptcies of 2008: Final Tally | Robert Salomon’s Blog: http://blog.robertsalomon.com/2009/01/05/notable-bankruptcies-of-2008-final-tally/

22 Largest Bankruptcies in World Historyhttp://www.instantshift.com/2010/02/03/22-largest-bankruptcies-in-world-history/

Major Bankruptcies Firms in the Business Historyhttp://www.infographicsposters.com/finance-infographics/major-bankruptcies-firms-in-the-business-history

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Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • German Wind Power Blows Nowhere — Germany’s Wind Power Revolution in the Doldrums
  • How Are Permissible Radiation Limits Set? — How Much Is Science, How Much “Prudence”?
  • Feds Assess Using Abandoned Federal and State Owned Sites For Their Renewable Energy Potential
  • The Discussion Continues: Nuclear Power in Japan (Part I) and A Plea for Common Sense when Prioritizing Environmental Concerns (Part II) How does the danger from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors compare to other health dangers, such as Tokyo pollution?
  • Trying to Change a Climate Skeptic’s Mind?  —  Don’t Bother
  • Feed-in Tariffs Best to Deal with Climate Change Says IPCC Working Group III Renewables
  • Economic And Emissions Impacts Of Electric Vehicles

 

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German Wind Power Blows Nowhere — Germany’s Wind Power Revolution in the Doldrums

By Frank Dohmen and Alexander Jung

Fox News — January 02, 2012   

http://nation.foxnews.com/wind-power/2012/01/02/german-wind-power-blows-nowhere#ixzz1iVLl8hND

The construction of offshore wind parks in the North Sea has hit a snag with a vital link to the onshore power grid hopelessly behind schedule. The delays have some reconsidering the ability of wind power to propel Germany into the post-nuclear era.

Info

The generation of electricity from wind is usually a completely odorless affair. After all, the avoidance of emissions is one of the unique charms of this particular energy source.

But when work is completed on the Nordsee Ost wind farm, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of the island of Helgoland in the North Sea, the sea air will be filled with a strong smell of fumes: diesel fumes.

The reason is as simple as it is surprising. The wind farm operator, German utility RWE, has to keep the sensitive equipment — the drives, hubs and rotor blades — in constant motion, and for now that requires diesel-powered generators. Although the wind farm will soon be ready to generate electricity, it won’t be able to start doing so because of a lack of infrastructure to transport the electricity to the mainland and feed it into the grid. The necessary connections and cabling won’t be ready on time and the delay could last up to a year.

Read more: http://nation.foxnews.com/wind-power/2012/01/02/german-wind-power-blows-nowhere#ixzz1ko1pbebQ

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How Are Permissible Radiation Limits Set?How Much Is Science, How Much “Prudence”?

U.S. Regulatory Report NCRP-136 examined the question of establishing permissible radiation limits.  After looking at the data, it concluded that most people who get a small dose of nuclear radiation are not harmed by it, and in fact are benefited.  That’s what the science said:  Most people would benefit by receiving more radiation.

But curiously, the report’s final conclusion was just the opposite.  It recommended that our regulations should be based on the premise that any amount of radiation, no matter how small, should be considered harmful.  It made that recommendation just to be “conservative” or “prudent.”

Let’s think about that.  Why is it prudent to do just the opposite of what the science indicates?  Why is exaggerating a panicky situation considered prudent?  I’ve never seen a good answer to that question.  Whatever the reasoning or implied logic, that’s where we’ve ended up.

We’ve had three uncontrolled releases of radioactivity from serious malfunctions of nuclear power plants: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.  In each of these, fear of radiation proved to be much more harmful than the effects of radiation itself.  And announcing that no amount of radiation is small enough to be harmless was certainly effective in creating and nurturing phobic fear of radiation, when none was justified by the facts.

In addition, the problem is aggravated by the fact that we’ve been told for sixty years (two human generations) that nuclear terror is infinitely more dreadful than any non-nuclear threat, particularly when you blur the distinction between power plants and bombs.

But what Fukushima tells us that this abstract, academic position looks very different when you’re telling people they can’t go home – perhaps for years, because, well, it seems more prudent that way, even though radiation hasn’t actually hurt anyone there.

Radiation expert Professor Wade Allison, author of “Radiation and Reason, has cast the question in a new light.  He suggests, let’s set the permissible radiation limit the same way we set all other safety limits.  Not by asking how little radiation we can get by with, but how much can we safely permit?  There’s no intention of lowering the safety margin, and it will not be lowered.  That’s not the issue.  It’s a matter of working with the scientific data, rather than from a generic fear not supported by the science.

Prof. Allison concludes that setting the permissible radiation limit, with a good margin of safety, results in an annual permissible level about 1000 times the current figure.

Disclosure: Ted also reviewed and provided feedback on the high-school level book Dr. R. A. Deju wrote called Nuclear is Hot published by the EnergySolutions Foundation.

References

How Are Permissible Radiation Limits Set? http://www.learningaboutenergy.com/2011/11/how-are-permissible-radiation-limits-set.html

By Ted Rockwell – You Tube Video Talk to the Japanese People http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj8Pl1AiOuA&feature=youtu.be

About Ted Rockwellhttp://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/2005/rockwellbio.htm

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Feds Assess Using Abandoned Federal and State Owned Sites For Their Renewable Energy Potential

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have announced a plan to spend the next year to 18 months assessing 26 former landfills, brownfields and Superfund sites. The sites will be assessed for use as future solar photovoltaic, or other renewable projects.

The EPA plans to spend about $1 million on the assessment, according to the Associated Press. The assessment is part of the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative that started in 2007. The analysis will determine the best renewable energy technology for the site, the potential energy generating capacity, the return on the investment and the economic feasibility of the renewable energy projects.

The 26 sites are located in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Mississippi, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, California, Oregon and Washington. The sites include an open-pit copper mine, a former lead smelter, and various hazardous materials contaminated landfills.

The EPA said there have already been more than 20 renewable energy projects built on contaminated sites, and more are under construction.

Doc sez, if the site is being used constructively, monitoring costs become an integral part of doing business, not a burden to their communities and American taxpayers.

 

References

Power Engineering, November 7, 2011

http://www.power-eng.com/articles/2011/11/abandoned_sites.html

Associated Press, By Susan Montoya Bryan, Nov 4, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/feds-assess-sites-renewable-energy-potential-222043648.html

http://www.sify.com/finance/feds-assess-sites-for-renewable-energy-potential-news-environment+and+nature-llgvpdjiedb.html

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The Discussion Continues: Nuclear Power in Japan

(Part I)How does the danger from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors compare to other health dangers, such as Tokyo pollution?

This began as an answer to one letter writer in Friends Journal, and grew. The information that surprised me most is the answer to this question: How does the danger from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors compare to other health dangers, such as Tokyo pollution?

Karen noted that there were a number of responses to Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Power in Japan posting.

It is long past time for Friends to begin a conversation on nuclear power and the much larger issue of how we know what to believe. Many among us insist that what is overwhelmingly the safest of the large sources of electricity should meet standards that no other energy source meets. Many Friends insist that the scientific community is lying about the safety of nuclear power. And overwhelmingly, we as a community insist that solutions to climate change be only the ones we like, even when scientists and policy experts find these solutions partial or even counterproductive.

Karen shares her ideas, to which I thoroughly subscribe in greater detail with the underlying thought “Our simplicity testimony calls for removing obstacles to walking joyfully with God. At the best of times, this is a challenge. Today, there can be little joy in the most optimistic scenarios for climate change. Additionally, our integrity queries don’t seem to raise some vital questions: everyone’s wrong, a lot. When am I wrong? How would I learn that I am wrong, that like-minded people are wrong? A single standard of truth does not mean checking on the web to confirm our hopes and fears.” — Read on check the link(s).

Reference

By Karen Street, The Energy Collective (The moderated community blog for energy, policy, and environment professionals), November 29, 2011.

http://theenergycollective.com/karenstreet/70925/discussion-continues-earthquake-tsunami-and-nuclear-power-japan

Part II:           A Plea for Common Sense when Prioritizing Environmental Concerns

In addition Ted Rockwell recently noted, in Technology Review, an MIT Science, Engineering and Technology and magazine that:

New lessons are beginning to emerge from Fukushima.  Each new concern leads to additional safety requirements.  But some contradictions are beginning to raise questions:  Amid tens of thousands of deaths from non-nuclear causes, not a single life-shortening radiation injury has occurred.  Not one!  And while some people in the housing area are wearing cumbersome rad-con suits, filtered gas-masks, gloves and booties, there are many people living carefree in other places like Norway, Brazil, Iran, India where folks have lived normal lives for countless generations with radiation levels as much as a hundred times greater than forbidden areas of the Fukushima homes.

At Fukushima this is no abstract issue.  People are being told they cannot return home for an indeterminate period – perhaps years.  And efforts to decontaminate their home sites may require stripping off all the rich topsoil and calling it Radwaste.  People who were evacuated have been reduced to economic poverty, clinical depression, and even suicide.

There is good scientific evidence that, except for some hot spots, the radiation levels at these home-sites are not life threatening.  The current restrictions are based on a desire to be “conservative.”  No matter how well intended, this “conservatism” is cruelly destructive.  The respected radiation authority Wade Allison, author of Radiation and Reason, has proposed that the current annual radiation dose limit be raised 1000-fold, which he says is still well below the hazard level of clinical data on which he bases his proposal.  Other radiation protectionists are beginning to feel unhappy about the harm their rules have caused and are joining in the cry for quick action as the Japanese head into winter.

It’s time that the draconian measures are revoked.  A simple declaration of the known health facts about radiation from the proper authorities would be a good first step. — Ted Rockwell

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Kinks in the Road to Solar Power

– It’s about reducing environmental risk

This chapter discusses potential positive and negative environmental, social, and 8 economic impacts of utility-scale solar energy development. The types of solar technologies 9 evaluated include those considered to be most likely to be developed at the utility scale during the 20-year study period evaluated in this programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS), considering technological and economic limitations. These technologies include parabolic trough, power tower, dish engine, and photovoltaic (PV) technologies.

The purpose of this chapter is to describe a broad possible range of impacts for 15 individual solar facilities, associated transmission facilities, and other off-site infrastructure that might be required to support utility-scale solar energy development. This impact analysis will inform the design of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Solar Energy Program and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) programmatic guidance, including the identification of measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate potential impacts associated with solar energy development.

This 300 page chapter is well written, accurate, excellently referenced, and contains much information about issues that solar energy advocated prefer to bury in their search for both a silver bullet and their hatred of nuclear power. But that Doc’s mouthing off again against let me give you free lunch-ism’s and political and profit seeking corporate smoke and mirrors, solar or otherwise.

References

The Solar Draft Programmatic [DPEIS], Chapter 5 “Impacts Of Solar Energy Development and The Potential Mitigation Measures’ December 2010. Argonne National Laboratory — http://solareis.anl.gov/documents/dpeis/Solar_DPEIS_Chapter_5.pdf

Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Going In Wrong Direction

New Report Blasts Administration’s Public Lands Solar Policy — April 4, 2011

http://www.basinandrangewatch.org/solardoneright-PEIS.html

Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States (Solar Energy Development PEIS). You can link to download the entire 1100 page EIS, which is significantly shorter than those I usually read and review related to nuclear projects.            http://solareis.anl.gov/

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Trying to Change a Climate Skeptic’s Mind?  — Don’t Bother 

I’ve mentioned my convictions, yes beliefs, about changing the minds of the fervent 10% of the population — the believers of anything about an issue, whether conspiracy theory, the ‘revealed truth’ or even WIIFT driven.) This article focuses on climate change skeptics, rather the radiation phobia and measured risk or vaccine toxicity. But since we live in an open society, the rest of us can and do require and accept scientifically duplicated and peer reviewed evidence that is always grey. But don’t let that stop you from reading this well written article by Evan Girvetz.

Reference

The Energy Collective Blog, Written by Evan Girvetz
, Published on February 8th, 2011

http://theenergycollective.com/greenskeptic/51411/trying-change-climate-skeptics-mind-dont-bother

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Feed-in Tariffs Best to Deal with Climate Change Says IPCC Working Group III Renewables

Climate change is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. Its most severe impacts may still be avoided if efforts are made to transform current energy systems. Renewable energy sources have a large potential to displace emissions of greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels and thereby to mitigate climate change. If implemented properly, renewable energy sources can contribute to social and economic development, to energy access, to a secure and sustainable energy supply, and to a reduction of negative impacts of energy provision on the environment and human health.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge on climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.

This Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) impartially assesses the scientific literature on the potential role of renewable energy in the mitigation of climate change for policymakers, the private sector, academic researchers and civil society. It covers six renewable energy sources – bioenergy, direct solar energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, ocean energy and wind energy – as well as their integration into present and future energy systems. It considers the environmental and social consequences associated with the deployment of these technologies, and presents strategies to overcome technical as well as non-technical obstacles to their application and diffusion. The authors also compare the levelized cost of energy from renewable energy sources to recent non-renewable energy costs.

The IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) provides a comprehensive review concerning these sources and technologies, the relevant costs and benefits, and their potential role in a portfolio of mitigation options.

The Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) of the IPCC Working Group III provides an assessment and thorough analysis of renewable energy technologies and their current and potential role in the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. The results presented here are based on an extensive assessment of scientific literature, including specifics of individual studies, but also an aggregate across studies analyzed for broader conclusions. The report combines information on technology specific studies with results of large-scale integrated models, and provides policy-relevant (but not policy-prescriptive) information to decision makers on the characteristics and technical potentials of different resources; the historical development of the technologies; the challenges of their integration and social and environmental impacts of their use; as well as a comparison in levelized cost of energy for commercially available renewable technologies with recent non-renewable energy costs. Further, the role of renewable energy sources in pursuing GHG concentration stabilization levels discussed in this report and the presentation and analysis of the policies available to assist the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies in cli- mate change mitigation and/or other goals answer important questions detailed in the original scoping of the report.

A snippet of the findings includes:

The 135-page report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, especially Chapter 11 on Policy, Financing and Implementation, makes it clear that the overwhelming weight of academic studies conclude that feed-in tariffs — or fixed-price mechanisms — perform better at delivering renewable energy quickly and equitably than quota systems, such as Renewable Portfolio Standards in the U.S. or the Renewable Obligation in Britain. This is not the unsurprising conclusion from a surprising source: the IPCC’s Working Group III on Renewables. Below are some selected excerpts illustrating the themes that run through the report.

Page 5 — Several studies have concluded that some feed-in tariffs have been effective and efficient at promoting RE electricity, mainly due to the combination of long-term fixed price or premium payments, network connections, and guaranteed purchase of all RE electricity generated. Quota policies can be effective and efficient if designed to reduce risk, for example, with long-term contracts.

Page 53 — Although they have not succeeded in every country that has enacted them, price-driven policies have resulted in rapid renewable electric capacity growth and strong domestic industries in several countries — most notably Germany (See Box 11.6) and Spain (See Box 11.8) but more recently in China and other countries as well — and have spread rapidly across Europe and around the world.

There’s too much detail available in the report to neatly summarizing, in a page or two of this blog topic. However, it’s easy to get to the full or even the partial reports by linking to them. Note that there appear many legal ways, via the word trade association [WTO], of punishing the goods and services exported by non-cooperating countries like the USA by taxing/tariffing their goods and services, for not taking an active role in slowing or better yet preventing global warming.

 

This is not politically attractive to the European Union’s governance, but popular opinion could never the less bring the issue to an ugly head. Look at how, in the mid-90’s, American’s reacted to the acid rain killing their forests by cross-state boundary sulfur gas releases from coal power plants.

References

Excerpts: Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

By Paul Gipe, Contributor, Renewable Word.com Blog, November 8, 2011.

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/11/feed-in-tariffs-best-to-deal-with-climate-change-says-ipcc-working-group-iii-renewables?cmpid=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+renewable-energy-news-rss+%28Renewable+Energy+News%29

Full Report: http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report/IPCC_SRREN_Full_Report.pdf

Acid Rain  – Wikipedia 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_Rain

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Economic and Emissions Impacts Of Electric Vehicles 

President Obama during his 2011 State of the Union address stated that we should have one million electric vehicles (EV) in the United States by 2015. The benefits of that would be to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and to reduce emissions. These are worthy goals. This article looked at the economic impact of using electric cars, their emissions, and their impact on the electric grid. The analysis was focused on the Nissan Leaf since it is an all-electric vehicle.

Operating economics — The Leaf might be used primarily as a second car for commuting on a daily round trip of say, 50 miles, requiring a daily charge of 12 kWh. A typical home currently uses 25 kWh each day, so this represents about a 50-percent increase in the electricity use. The cost of that electricity varies, depending on where you live, but if we use an average residential rate of 11.3 ¢/kWh, we get a daily cost of $1.35, or a monthly cost of about $40.

This cost needs to be compared with the cost savings of not using the required gasoline. If we assume that a typical equivalent gasoline-powered car would get 25 miles per gallon, and if we assume $3 per gallon gasoline, we get the monthly cost of $180 (50 miles/day x 30 days/month x $3 per g/25 miles/g).

For a complete examination of the economics, we would have to consider the incremental cost of the batteries. The added expense would have to be properly amortized over their effective lifetime. Both the cost and the lifetime are presently difficult to determine because the cost of batteries is not listed in the specification and because experience on the lifetime is limited. A very rough estimate might be that the batteries cost $10 000 and last for five years. This implies that the amortization cost of $166/month, neglecting any interest charge ($10,000/60 months)

Also to be considered is the cost of maintenance, which may be less expensive for an electric vehicle because of fewer moving parts. So the cost of electric vehicle ownership may be about the same as owning a gasoline-powered car.

The article continues with a discussion of Impact on the Grid (infrastructure), and Emissions Reduction-Impact.

The author concludes that the adoption of electric vehicles can have a significant impact on the reduction of unhealthy automobile emissions, but in order to decrease the emissions from the production of electricity in general, nuclear power plants are the only emission-free power generators that can have a significant impact. Currently, they produce 20 percent of the electricity in the United States, with coal’s share being 50 percent. That ratio needs to change in favor of nuclear plants by building more of them.

References

By Ulrich Decher, Ph.D., ANS Nuclear Café Blog, Posted on February 15, 2011

http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2011/02/15/economic-and-emission-impact-of-electric-vehicles/

Factors Affecting Energy Prices (Electricity Explained), US Energy Information Administration, http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_factors_affecting_prices

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Endnotes

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’s the found material I work with.

In addition, when copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

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In Closing

Related to Climate Change – It’s real, no matter who caused it!  I also know from the overwhelming amount of hard data, perhaps even truly believe, is this.

Disparaging data without contrary measured facts is like lying or preaching – its belief not science.

Defaming scientists and scholars with whom you disagree is like casting the first rock. I hope you and your kids have a nice safe asteroid at the Lagrangian point to live on independent of Earth; terra firma will not work.

For green or energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (or greenhouse gases and particles) and give out no subsidies, these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom.

With American ingenuity, Indian and Chinese too, 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.

Continue to remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to solve a problem, or about the problem is 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!

Finally, since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click-through the provided link if you want more detail. In addition, <I hope often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).  Doc. … And yes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!

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QUOTES de Mois —

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” And, “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it.” — H. L. Mencken

“It is no secret that a lot of climate-change research is subject to opinion, that climate models sometimes disagree even on the signs of the future changes (e.g. drier vs. wetter future climate). The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’ — and readers’ — attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty.” — Monika Kopacz – Atmospheric Scientist

By Ted Bade, © Copyright 2012, All Rights Reserved.

Product: SkyFi Wifi to Serial Adapter
Vendor: Southern Stars (http://www.southernstars.com/index.html)
Price: $149.95

Introduction

SkyFi is another fine product from Southern Stars, who sell SkySafari software for mobile devices and Mac computers, as well as other telescope-related hardware products. SkyFi uses WiFi to connect the RS232 control data flow from a telescope controller to an device (iPod/Phone/Pad apps as well as computer applications).

Setup

Figure 1 - SkyFi

Connecting the SkyFi to your telescope controller isn’t difficult. The package includes a couple of adaptors which will work with the mosre common telescope setups. The connection on the SkyFi itself is an RJ11 telephone jack. You can make a cable that connects the SkyFi directly to your telescope controller, use the included adaptors, or purchase a cable specifically for your computer from Southern Stars. Once connected to the telescope controller, you turn it on and it creates a wireless network.Your remote device needs to be connected to this network and also needs to be running software that can send and receive telescope control and data using the TCP IP. The connection scheme is the same as the one in the previous article. The Southern Stars web site has a nice explanation and pin out of the cables you need, in case you want to make one.

The SkyFi device itself is a bit larger then a cell phone. It is powered by 4 double-A batteries and can accept a power brick as well (6 to 12 VDC). There is no on/off switch, but there is a switch that selects either external or internal voltage source. Switching to external voltage source disconnects the internal batteries. (Which acts like a switch). A piece of velcro can be used to attach the SkyFi to the telescope mount, out of the way of motion. It is very light and once running, you won’t need to adjust it at all.

Once on, the SkyFi makes a wifi hotspot available. Firmware on the device controls the IP address and security. There is a standard IP address which is printed on the SkyFi, but you can change this and security settings if needed. I didn’t bother changing the default settings, as they worked well. I could find no fault with the defaults!

Using the Product

Before you begin using the SkyFi, you need to be sure that the telescope control software you use can communicate to the telescope using TCP IP. I Didn’t know some programs do not support TCP IP. On my MacBook, I have Voyager 4.5 and a copy of Sky Safari Beta that will work. The Starry Night Pro Plus that I like using doesn’t do TCP connections to telescopes. The people at Starry Night were unaware of a solution that would work on the Macintosh. For Windows users there are a couple of shareware applications that create a virtual com port that can be tied to the TCP connection, so I imagine this would work with a Window based machine and Starry Night or any other non-TCP controller application.

Figure 2 - SkyFi with a Telescope

If you are controlling with your i-device, you will need the Southern Stars Sky Safari package. (I am unaware of any other astronomy app that controls a telescope). We looked at these Apps a bit in the last article. In the App’s settings, you choose to use TCP IP to connect to the telescope controller. The default address is the same as the default on the SkyFi. (No surprise there!) Select to control the telescope and you are in control using your iPod/iPad/iPhone.

Working with the Voyager software, I had no issues controlling my telescope computer at all. Commands were instant as was feed back. The only issue I had was with me forgetting to choose the SkiFi network rather then my own home wireless network. You also need to make sure the controller software has the same TCP address that the SkyFi has. In Voyager 4.5, there is a box to enter this address. The default address is printed on the SkyFi device, which is another good reason for keeping to the defaults. However, if you need to change it, you can always re-label the back of the unit.

When I first read about the SkyFi, I thought that it was a wireless device and that it would log onto the local wireless network and make the telescope available on that network. It doesn’t do that. Rather then logging onto an existing network, it creates one of it’s own. So I couldn’t use this device to control my telescope with my desktop computer, since it doesn’t have a WiFi card. Nor would one be able to use it to allow access to the telescope from a remote site. You need to be in range of the SkyFi’s wireless netwrok to connect.

Figure 3 - VSP3 Screen

Since the computer you are controlling the telescope with is connected to the SkyFi network, it won’t be connected to your regular one. While observing I usually listen to Internet radio and I will often pop onto some internet site to inspect images and information about the object I am seeking. So I don’t get to listen to the Internet Radio, but I can still do my research by logging back onto my home network, do the research, then re-connect to the SkyFi. Luckily, this isn’t a big issue. Once the telescope is aimed at an object, the onboard controller takes care of compensating for the movement of the earth. Once connected back to the SkyFi, the data stream identifies the slightly changed location and all is well. It is just an added step in the process.

Conclusion

The biggest issue I had with the SkyFi is that it doesn’t come as a package. You buy the SkyFi and then need to find some compatible software. If the software you already purchased isn’t compatible, then you need to consider this as part of the purchase cost. It would be a whole lot nicer if the SkyFi came packaged with either SkySafari or Voyager. However, if you are into astronomy, you probably already have some package that will work with the SkyFi.

Much to my chagrin, I had expected that using the SkyFi would remedy the tangle of cables that I “need” to deal with when observing. However, I found that I still need to bring an extension cord to power the AutoStar (or use the battery adaptor). Since I had the power cord there, I went ahead and plugged in my MacBook Pro, so I still had the extension cord cable and the power supply cord to the MacBook. Thus, the tripping issue wasn’t really resolved. I suppose I could run the Scope on battery and bring the extension cable to the MacBook Pro, but that would cost me a lot in the battery budget.

As far as distance, the SkyFi does pretty well. I walked around the yard with my MacBook and had to get pretty far away to loose the connection. I think I was able to move slightly father then the expected 100 feet from the device. I was also able to put the MacBook on my dining room table and still control the telescope in the yard. I can see this as a real advantage in the winter as it would give me a chance to warm up between observations.

SkyFi is available through the Southern Star’s web site as well as many other astronomy stores. Southern Star also sells Sky Safari for MacOS X in three flavors, the Plus and Pro versions includes telescope controls ($20 and $50 respectively). The version for the iPod/Phone/Pad can be purchased through iTunes store again, you will need either the Plus or Pro version to control the telescope. In the next installment of this series, I will look specifically at the Sky Safari applications for the Macintosh.

Recommendation

Overall, the SkyFi works very well. If you are looking for a wireless connection to your telescope, this is the device you want. I don’t think there are many other options. I had no issues controlling my telescope using the device. If you have an iDevice and want to control your telescope, this is again a terrific solution.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

I just started my second year of graduate school at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in St. Paul, MN, and I am working on a MS in Software Engineering degree. In my first year of classes, I enrolled in 2 classes per semester which is a heavy load when working full time. I felt I progressed so much after one year, that I would continue with the same workload, even though it left me with little time for things beyond work and school.

I enrolled in two classes for the Fall: Object Oriented Analysis and Design (OOA/D) and Data Warehousing (DW). Before classes started I re-read The Object Oriented Thought Process and Code Complete to prep for the OOA/D class. I also ordered both required textbooks from Amazon.com at a substantially reduced price compared to the new text prices in the bookstore. For the DW class, I didn’t know what other books would help, so I ordered all three text books listed in the course syllabus. The DW books, also from Amazon.com, were also at a reduced price compared to new books at the bookstore.

I had classes on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, so I dedicated the other 5 days to studying and project work. The Fall really flew by this year. So much to learn, so many interesting and new concepts, and a few new tools to learn too.

Tools

For OOA/D, we had to use MagicDraw to create UML drawings and I found it to be a fairly intuitive tool to use yet still quite powerful. Our OOA/D professor arranged for MagicDraw licenses, so I obtained one, downloaded and installed the software, and ran through a few tutorials that were quite helpful. Having an MSDN account for students to download Microsoft tools is a real blessing, and UST does provide accounts to those that need tools for their classes. My DW class required the MS SQL Server 2008 Management tools, so I used my UST MSDN account to download the software and installed it on a laptop running Windows 7.

Projects

Our OOA/D class had two person team projects, and our DW class had three person team projects. For OOA/D, each team decided what it wanted to do and then proposed it for approval to the professor. We did a website with Struts and Hibernate frameworks – very cool. For DW, the professor gave a five stage project, where he provided clean, valid data at the start of steps 2 – 4, so any mistakes made early in the project did not affect our ability to learn the material and do well on the assignment. This was the first time I’ve had known clean data in a multistage class assignment and I really liked it. At the start of stages 3 and 4, we were able to look back at to what we did and see how we did right and wrong in the earlier stage. This is one approach I really liked and I hope I see more assignments like it in the future.

Some tools that were useful in both projects we communications tools. Twitter and email absolutely rock, but they alone are not enough. In my OOA/D project, we used a free SVN repository hosted by ProjectLocker for keeping our source code in sync. For the DW project, we used Dropbox to do version control.

Tests and Homework

In both classes classes we had a mid-term and a final exam, and the exams were as challenging as last year. Both classes had multiple homework assignments. Not as much homework as I had in the Advanced Web Development course last Spring, but still more than enough, especially compared to undergrad course homework assignments.

Team Building

I worked with three different people on projects in both classes, and decided to be the driver of both projects. Both teams met at my house on different days to work on our projects, and one thing I did for team building was to fix lunch for the team. We all had different backgrounds and experiences, so a meal is a great way to relax and get to know other people. I like to cook (check out my food blog: mikeh2010.wordpress.com) and I like to try new recipes, so my team mates gamely tried the food. I didn’t duplicate the meals one time, and it seemed to work out well for both of us except perhaps one time. Once I served something very spicy (Korean BBQ) and it might have been too spicy for one of my team mates. He said it wasn’t, but he is a real trooper and may have just been polite. In any case, I appreciated the chance to cook and just talk with all three team mates and hope to partner with them again in other classes.

Conclusion

I enjoyed this semester. I learned a lot and enjoyed spending some time working on projects with my three classmates. I plan to generate another article or two on the topics we covered in both classes, as well as improve some of my existing articles. I know I still have another eight classes to complete my degree, but the education is worth the time and effort. Some people have no choice but attend online schools and that is fine – do what you can to improve yourself however you can. If you can attend class in person, it is well worth it. I missed a total of 1 class this semester, even though I had some health issues early in the semester, because I truly enjoyed being on campus.

I’m still excited to be in grad school, and I still believe it to be a good career choice for many professions besides software development. I’m taking a week off, then it is time to start reading again over the holiday break. I will take two classes in the Spring and look forward to what I learn in both courses I’ll take this Spring. Until then, keep on learning.

— Three National Academies Recent Studies

An Op-Ed Piece; doc’s eclectic views November 1, 2011

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved  — Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License


Introduction

As is my want, I periodically check the National Academies Press web pages for workshop notes/articles/reports that appeal to me, not as nuclear waste and energy expert. Rather I explore the various issues at times only ripples and at times tidal waves related to public policy in both American society and that of the world.

Hence this Op-Ed piece. Herein I COPY the prefaces or abstracts from three reports I found both distress and challenging. Unusual for me, I do not editorialize on them, that’s up to you, the reader. I do however highlight sections that made a deep impression on me by either underlining the (if short) or by enclosing them in a text box. I also could not resist my genetic editors syndrome so I split a few sentences in two, or added in italics, a linking word or two. Remember, my stuff is in italics.

Also the graphics are my idea, the NRC reports a captained extensive tables and figures, good technical stuff, but are not into Flesch–Kincaid readability test  levels for their narratives or illustrations. But my friends in the academies will not disinherit me because its all for an educational purpose. _        Doc.

…Read on!

A Renewable Biofuel Standard — America’s Quandary

Scientific Legal Evidence Revisited – Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence: Third Edition

Essential Health Benefits — Balancing Coverage & Costs

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Setting a Biofuels Renewable Fuel Standard

— Choosing an alternative, an all American Quandary [A NRC Study of the Potential Economic and Environmental Effects of U.S. Biofuel Policy]

“In the United States, we have come to depend upon plentiful and inexpensive energy to support our economy and lifestyles. In recent years, many questions have been raised regarding the sustainability of our current pattern of high consumption of nonrenewable energy and its environmental consequences. Further, because the United States imports about 55 percent of the nation’s consumption of crude oil, there are additional concerns about the security of supply. Hence, efforts are being made to find alternatives to our current pathway, including greater energy efficiency and use of energy sources that could lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions such as nuclear and renewable sources, including solar, and (also their) environmental consequences of increasing biofuels production. The statement of task asked this committee to provide “a qualitative and quantitative description of biofuels currently produced and projected to be produced by 2022 in the United States under different policy scenarios …

“The United States has a long history with biofuels. Recent interest began in the late 1970s with the passage of the National Energy Conservation Policy Act of 1978, which established the first biofuels subsidy, applied in one form or another to (mostly) corn-grain ethanol since then. The corn grain ethanol industry grew slowly from early 1980s to around 2003. From 2003 to 2007,ethanol production grew rapidly as methyl tertiary butyl ether was phased out as a gasoline oxygenate and replaced by ethanol. Interest in providing other incentives for biofuels increased also because of rising oil prices from 2004 and beyond. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 established a new and much larger Renewable Fuels Standard and set in motion the drive towards 35 billion gallons of ethanol-equivalent biofuels plus 1 billion gallons of biodiesel by 2022. This National Research Council committee was asked to evaluate the consequences of such a policy; the nation is on a course charted to achieve a substantial increase in biofuels, and there are challenging and important questions about the economic and environmental consequences of continuing on this path.

The National Research Council committee brought together expertise on the many dimensions of the topic. In addition, we called upon numerous experts to provide their perspectives, research conclusions, and insight. Yet, with all the expertise available to us, our clearest conclusion is that there is very high uncertainty in the impacts we were trying to estimate. The uncertainties include essentially all of the drivers of biofuel production and consumption and the complex interactions among those drivers: future crude oil prices, feedstock costs and availability, technological advances in conversion efficiencies, land-use change, government policy, and more.

“The U.S. Department of Energy projects crude oil price in 2022 to range between $52 and $177 per barrel (in 2009 dollars), a huge range. There are no commercial cellulosic biofuels plants in the United States today. Consequently, we do not know much about growing, harvesting, and storing such feedstocks at scale. We do not know other than for ethanol how well the conversion technologies will work nor what they will cost. We do not have generally agreed upon estimates of the environmental or Green House Gases [GHG] impacts of most biofuels. We do not know how landowners will alter their production strategies. The bottom line is that it simply was not possible to come up with clear quantitative answers to many of the questions. What we tried to do instead is to delineate the sources of the uncertainty, describe what factors are important in understanding the nature of the uncertainty, and provide ranges or conditions under which impacts might play out.

“Under these conditions, scientists often use models to help understand what future conditions might be like. In this study, we examined many of the issues using the best models available. Our results by definition carry the assumptions and inherent uncertainties in these models, but we believe they represent the best science and scientific judgment available.

“We also examined the potential impacts of various policy alternatives as requested in the statement of work. Biofuels are at the intersection of energy, agricultural, and environmental policies, and policies in each of these areas can be complex. The magnitude of biofuel policy impacts depends on the economic conditions in which the policy plays out, and that economic environment (such as GDP growth and oil price) is highly uncertain. Of necessity, we made the best assumptions we could and evaluated impacts contingent upon those assumptions. Biofuels are complicated.

“Biofuels are controversial. There are very strong advocates for and political supporters of biofuels. There are equally strong sentiments against biofuels. Our deliberations as a committee focused on the scientific aspects of biofuel production—social, natural, and technological. Our hope is that the scientific evaluation sheds some light on the heat of the debate, as we have delineated the issues and consequences as we see them, together with all the inherent uncertainty.”

Why No Conclusions or Recommendations? — “The statement of task calls on the committee to refrain from recommending policies but to provide an objective review of the policy instruments available, including an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each in affecting long-term trends in transportation energy use and emissions. Because of the multitude of ways in which individual policy instruments can be designed, targeted, and applied, it was not possible to examine all of their possible variations and outcomes for a sector as large and diverse as U.S. transportation. For example, how fast and by how much fuel taxes or vehicle efficiency standards are raised will profoundly influence the relative prospects of such options for implementation and their effects on energy use and emissions and on other areas of interest to policy makers such as transportation safety, the environment, and the economy. This study is not a modeling exercise aimed at projecting and quantifying the effects of many policy instruments, each designed and structured in alternative ways and applied across one or more modes. The more realistic study goal is to compare the main types of policy options with respect to the main energy- and emissions-saving responses they induce and the challenges and opportunities they present for implementation.”

There is much in this report to stretch you mental muscles. Too, often what we read is distorted by either the silver bullet or golden goose syndrome or by WIIFT. As is usual with NAS reports, there are occasional places where I differ from the conclusions of this consensus report; but consensus is just that — not perfect, just hopefully workable. Indeed where panel members are friends or colleagues, I’ve often argued particular points with them. However, over-all the reports are a very good source of information.

National Academy of Science-National Academies Press <2011> The PDF download is free!  PREPUBLICATION COPY – document is subject to editorial changes only.

Biofuel – Wikipedia, 2011 — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofuels

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Scientific Legal Evidence Revisited – Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence: Third Edition

On many occasions I have gripped about courts treatment of scientific evidence and at times written in praise of revising the tort system with the wider scale implementation science courts using well-trained certified peer accredited combinations legal experts and scientists, to assist the judge. Cases would not go to juries until the underlying scientific evidence had been evaluated. Why — just on example,  chrysotile based asbestos fibers are relatively low in toxicity so should not be painted with the same brush as Amphibole asbestos.

 This NAP document sings the songs I love to hear; belief and science have their own place.

Only then could a case enter the fault finding juried phase. I would much rather give jury applicants tests in scientific methodology and broad knowledge, but I suspect very few potential jurors would pass such a test. Yes, I hear the screams from lawyers deprived of their cut, civil libertarians and educators.

The NRC Report Summary

“Supreme Court decisions during the last decade of the twentieth century mandated that federal courts examine the scientific basis of expert testimony to ensure that it meets the same rigorous standard employed by scientific researchers and practitioners outside the courtroom. Needless to say, this requirement places a demand on judges not only to comprehend the complexities of modern science but also to adjudicate between parties’ differing interpretations of scientific evidence.

“Science, meanwhile, advances. Methods change, new fields are born, new tests are introduced, the lexicon expands, and fresh approaches to the interpretation of causal relations evolve. Familiar terms such as enzymes and molecules are replaced by microarray expression and nanotubes; single-author research studies have now become multi-institutional, multi-author, international collaborative efforts. No field illustrates the evolution of science better than forensics.

“The evidence provided by DNA technology was so far superior to other widely accepted methods and called into question so many earlier convictions that the scientific community had to reexamine many of its time-worn forensic science practices. Although flaws of some types of forensic science evidence, such as bite and footprint analysis, lineup identification, and bullet matching were recognized, even the most revered form of forensic science—fingerprint identification—was found to be fallible. Notably, even the “gold standard” of forensic evidence, namely DNA analysis, can lead to an erroneous conviction if the sample is contaminated, if specimens are improperly identified, or if appropriate laboratory protocols and practices are not followed.

“Yet despite its advances, science has remained fundamentally the same. In its ideal expression, it examines the nature of nature in a rigorous, disciplined manner in, whenever possible, (in) controlled environments. It still is based on principles of hypothesis generation, scrupulous study design, meticulous data collection, and objective interpretation of experimental results. As in other human endeavors, however, this ideal is not always met. “Feverish competition between researchers and their parent institutions, fervent publicity seeking, and the potential for dazzling financial rewards can impair scientific objectivity. In recent years we have experienced serious problems that range from the introduction of subtle bias in the design and interpretation of experiments to overt fraudulent studies. In this welter of modern science, ambitious scientists, self-designated experts, billion dollar corporate entities, and aggressive claimants, judges must weigh evidence, judge, and decide.

“As with previous editions of the Reference Manual, this edition is organized according to many of the important scientific and technological disciplines likely to be encountered by federal (or state) judges. We wish to highlight here two critical issues germane to the interpretation of all scientific evidence, namely issues of causation and conflict of interest. Causation is the task of attributing cause and effect, a normal everyday cognitive function that ordinarily takes little or no effort. Fundamentally, the task is an inferential process of weighing evidence and using judgment to conclude whether or not an effect is the result of some stimulus. Judgment is required even when using sophisticated statistical methods.

“Such methods can provide powerful evidence of associations between variables, but they cannot prove that a causal relationship exists. Theories of causation (evolution, for example) lose their designation as theories only if the scientific community has rejected alternative theories and accepted the causal relationship as fact. Elements that are often considered in helping to establish a causal relationship include predisposing factors, proximity of a stimulus to its putative outcome, the strength of the stimulus, and the strength of the events in a causal chain.

“Unfortunately, judges may be in a less favorable position than scientists to make causal assessments. Scientists may delay their decision while they or others gather more data. Judges, on the other hand, must rule on causation based on existing information. Concepts of causation familiar to scientists (no matter what stripe) may not resonate with judges who are asked to rule on general causation (i.e., is a particular stimulus known to produce a particular reaction) or specific causation (i.e., did a particular stimulus cause a particular consequence in a specific instance). In the final analysis, a judge does not have the option of suspending judgment until more information is available, but must decide after considering the best available science. Finally, given the enormous amount of evidence to be interpreted, expert scientists from different (or even the same) disciplines may not agree on which data are the most relevant, which are the most reliable, and what conclusions about causation are appropriate to be derived.

“Like causation, conflict of interest is an issue that cuts across most, if not all, scientific disciplines and could have been included in each chapter of the Reference Manual. Conflict of interest manifests as bias, and given the high stakes and adversarial nature of many courtroom proceedings, bias can have a major influence on evidence, testimony, and decision making. Conflicts of interest take many forms and can be based on religious, social, political, or other personal convictions. The biases that these convictions can induce may range from serious to extreme, but these intrinsic influences and the biases they can induce are difficult to identify. Even individuals with such prejudices may not appreciate that they have them, nor may they realize that their interpretations of scientific issues may be biased by them.

“Because of these limitations, we consider here only financial conflicts of interest; such conflicts are discoverable. Nonetheless, even though financial conflicts can be identified, having such a conflict, even one involving huge sums of money, does not necessarily mean that a given individual will be biased. Having a financial relationship with a commercial entity produces a conflict of interest, but it does not inevitably evoke bias. In science, financial conflict of interest is often accompanied by disclosure of the relationship, leaving to the public the decision whether the interpretation might be tainted. Needless to say, such an assessment may be difficult. The problem is compounded in scientific publications by obscure ways in which the conflicts are reported and by a lack of disclosure of dollar amounts.

“Judges and juries, however, must consider financial conflicts of interest when assessing scientific testimony. The threshold for pursuing the possibility of bias must be low. In some instances, judges have been frustrated in identifying expert witnesses who are free of conflict of interest because entire fields of science seem to be co-opted by payments from industry. Judges must also be aware that the research methods of studies funded specifically for purposes of litigation could favor one of the parties. Though awareness of such financial conflicts in itself is not necessarily predictive of bias, such information should be sought and evaluated as part of the deliberations.

“The Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, here in its third edition, is formulated to provide the tools for judges to manage cases involving complex scientific and technical evidence. It describes basic principles of major scientific fields from which legal evidence is typically derived and provides examples of cases in which such evidence was used. Authors of the chapters were asked to provide an overview of principles and methods of the science and provide relevant citations.

“We expect that few judges will read the entire manual; most will use the volume in response to a need when a particular case arises involving a technical or scientific issue. To help in this endeavor, the Reference Manual contains completely updated chapters as well as new ones on neuroscience, exposure science, mental health, and forensic science. This edition of the manual has also gone through the thorough review process of the National Academy of Sciences.

“As in previous editions, we continue to caution judges regarding the proper use of the reference guides. They are not intended to instruct judges concerning what evidence should be admissible or to establish minimum standards for acceptable scientific testimony. Rather, the guides can assist judges in identifying the issues most commonly in dispute in these selected areas and in reaching an informed and reasoned assessment concerning the basis of expert evidence. They are designed to facilitate the process of identifying and narrowing issues concerning scientific evidence by outlining for judges the pivotal issues in the areas of science that are often subject to dispute.

“Citations in the reference guides identify cases in which specific issues were raised; they are examples of other instances in which judges were faced with similar problems. By identifying scientific areas commonly in dispute, the guides should improve the quality of the dialogue between the judges and the parties concerning the basis of expert evidence. In our committee discussions, we benefited from the judgment and wisdom of the many distinguished members of our committee, who gave time without compensation.”

http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13163

The PDF download is free!  PREPUBLICATION COPY – document is subject to editorial changes only.

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Essential Health Benefits — Balancing Coverage & Costs <2011>

The academy committee, all volunteers, albeit knowledgeable, managed to stay clear of politicizing, an accomplishment I’m not sure I could equal.

“A critical element of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the set of health benefits—termed “essential health benefits” (EHB)—that must be offered to individuals and small groups in state-based purchasing exchanges and the existing market. If the package of benefits is too narrow, health insurance might be meaningless; if it is too broad, insurance might become too expensive. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Defining and Revising an Essential Health Benefits Package for Qualified Health Plans concluded that the major task of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in defining the EHB will be balancing the comprehensiveness of benefits with their cost.

“Not surprisingly, the work of this committee drew intense public interest. Opportunity for public input was offered through testimony at two open hearings and through the web. The presentations at the hearings reinforced for the committee the difficulty of the task of balancing comprehensiveness and affordability. On the one hand, groups representing providers and consumers urged the broadest possible coverage of services. On the other, groups representing both small and large businesses argued for affordability and flexibility. The committee thus viewed its principal task as helping the Secretary navigate these competing goals and preferences in a fair and implementable way.

“The ACA sets forth only broad guidance in defining essential health benefits, and that guidance is ambiguous—some would say contradictory.

First, EHB “shall include at least” ten named categories of health services per Section 1302 Second, the scope of the EHB shall be “equal to the scope of benefits provided under a typical employer plan.”
Third, there are a set of “required elements for consideration” in establishing the EHB, such as balance and nondiscrimination.
Fourth, there are several specific requirements regarding cost sharing, preventive services, proscriptions on limitations on coverage, and the like.

Taken together, these provisions complicate the task of designing an EHB package that will be affordable for its principal intended purchasers—individuals and small businesses.

“The committee’s solution is this: build on what currently exists, learn over time, and make it better. That is, the initial EHB package should be a modification of what small employers are currently offering. All stakeholders should then learn enough over time—during implementation and through experimentation and research—to improve the package. The EHB package should be continuously improved and increasingly specific, with the goal that it is based on evidence of what improves health and that it promotes the appropriate use of limited resources. The committee’s recommended modifications to the current small employer benefit package are:

(1) To take into account the ten general categories of the ACA;
(2) to apply committee-developed criteria to guide aggregate and specific EHB content and on the methods to determine the EHB; and
(3) to develop an initial package within a premium target.

“Defining a premium target, which is a way to address the affordability issue, became a central tenet of the committee. Why the Secretary should take cost into account, both in defining the initial EHB package and in updating it, is straightforward: if cost is not taken into account, the EHB package becomes increasingly expensive, and individuals and small businesses will find it increasingly unaffordable. If this occurs, the principal reason for the ACA—enabling people to purchase health insurance, and covering more of the population—will not be met. At an even more fundamental level, health benefits are a resource and no resource is unlimited. Defining a premium target in conjunction with developing the EHB package simply acknowledges this fundamental reality. How to take cost into account became a major task.

“The committee’s solution in the determination of the initial EHB package is to tie the package to what small employers would have paid, on average, for their current packages of benefits in 2014, the first year the ACA will apply to insurance purchases in and out of the exchanges. This “premium target” should be updated annually, based on medical inflation. Since, however, this does little to stem health care cost increases, and since the committee did not believe the DHHS Secretary had the authority to mandate premium (or other cost) targets, the committee recommends a concerted and expeditious attempt by all stakeholders to address the problem of health care cost inflation.

“An additional task related to that part of the committee’s charge directing it to address “medical necessity.” Medical necessity is a means by which insurers and health plans determine whether it is appropriate to reimburse a specific patient for an eligible benefit. For example, the insurance contract may specify that diabetes care is a covered benefit; whether it is paid for depends on whether that care is medically necessary for the particular patient—whether, for example, the patient has diabetes.

‘The committee believes that medical necessity determinations are both appropriate and necessary and serve as a context within which the EHB package is developed by a health insurer into a specific benefit design and that benefit design is subsequently administered. The committee favored transparency both in the establishment of the rules used in making those determinations and in their application and appeals processes. Indeed, since the design and administration of health benefits rather than the scope of benefits themselves are what appear to differentiate small employer plans from each other and from large employer plans, monitoring benefit administration is an important step in the learning process and updating of the EHB.

“Further, the committee stated that a goal of the updated EHB package is that its content becomes more evidence-based. The committee wishes to emphasize the importance of research about the effectiveness of health services and to emphasize that the results of this research, including costs, should be taken into account in designing the EHB package. New and alternative treatments, in the view of the committee, should meet the standard of providing increased health gains at the same or lower cost.

“Since the committee saw balancing comprehensiveness and affordability as the Secretary’s major task, it also recognized that any such balancing affected, and was affected by, individual and societal values and preferences. Thus, the committee recommends that both in the determination of the initial EHB package and in its updates, structured public deliberative processes be established to identify the values and priorities of those citizens eligible to purchase insurance through the exchanges, as well as members of the general public. Such processes will enhance both public understanding of the tradeoffs inherent in establishing an EHB package and public acceptance of what emerges.

“The committee recommended that the Secretary develop a process that facilitates discovery and implementation of innovative practices over time. A key source for this information will come from what states are observing or enabling them in their own exchanges. Moreover, the committee recommends that for states that operate insurance exchanges, requests to adopt alternatives to the federal essential health benefits package be granted only if these are consistent with ACA requirements and the criteria specified in the report and they are not significantly more or less generous than the federal package. State packages also should be supported by meaningful public input. The committee hopes that its work will be useful in assisting the Secretary of HHS to determine and update the essential health benefits and that its deliberations will be informative to the public. As with most issues of importance, the committee’s work involved balancing tradeoffs among competing interests and ideas. We hope this work is a positive step toward effective implementation of a key provision of the ACA.”

Since, in America the Litigative, the recommendations and implementation practices recommended by the EHB will be challenged in court, I recommend you read, if you skipped it, the previous topic on ‘Scientific Legal Evidence”.

A Reference and a Note

Essential Health Benefits — Balancing Coverage & Costs, 2011

http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13234

The PDF download is free!  PREPUBLICATION COPY – document is subject to editorial changes only.

A Note ASIDE:

Recent articles and studies on Implicit Prejudice, holding belief based and deeply buried prejudices, which daily affect your decisions. See: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ and Scientific American: The Implicit Prejudice 06/09/2006 Article [http://www.sciam.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=0004B0F0-7813-146C-ADB783414B7F0000] The implications of these hidden workings of our brains add much to how we make de3cision and ‘judge’ truth individually or in court.

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General References

The National Academies Press

Recent NAP Releases  [http://www.nap.edu/new.html]

NAP—Environment and Environmental Studies [http://www.nap.edu/topics.php?topic=285&t=p]

NAP—Energy and Energy Conservation | Policy, Reviews and Evaluations   [http://www.nap.edu/topics.php?topic=358]

Other recent NAS/NAE/NAP topics I skimmed and found interesting and at times quite troubling.

  • Chemistry in Primetime and Online — Communicating Chemistry in Informal Environments <2011>
  • Environmental Impacts Of Wind-Energy Projects <2011>
  • Informing the Future — Critical Issues in Health, Sixth Edition <2011>
  • Relieving Pain in America — A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention Care Education & Research <2011>
  • On Being a Scientist — A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research, Third Edition <2009>

Wikipedia for Background MaterialsYes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy! My Wikipedia checks are no different that my checking websites for whom their publishers represent and what causes they favor.

U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO]   [http://www.gao.gov/]
Recent Reports and Studies. The GAO is the non-partisan 90-year old investigative arm of congress. In a similar manner, to my learning from NRC/NAP reports, many of the technology reports published by the Government Accountability Office make facilitating, if troublesome reading. NAS committee’s to which I have provided expert knowledge specifically in the nuclear waste area are thorough, relatively unbiased and always accurate in using reference materials.

Congressional Research Service [CRS]

The CRS is known as “Congress’s think tank” is the public policy research arm of the United States Congress. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS works exclusively and directly for Members of Congress, their Committees and staff on a confidential, nonpartisan basis. CRS reports are highly regarded as in-depth, accurate, objective, and timely, but as a matter of policy they are not made directly available to members of the public. There have been several attempts to pass legislation requiring all reports to be made available online, most recently in 2003, but none have passed. Instead, the public must request individual reports from their Senators and Representatives in Congress, purchase them from private vendors, or search for them in various web archives of previously released documents.

The CRS is joined by two other congressional support agencies. The Congressional Budget Office provides Congress with budget-related information, reports on fiscal, budgetary, and programmatic issues, and analyses of budget policy options, costs, and effects. The Government Accountability Office assists Congress in reviewing and monitoring the activities of government by conducting independent audits, investigations, and evaluations of federal programs. [Partial Wikipedia Quote]

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End Notes:

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

Disclosure — Some of the articles quoted and listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educationally related purposes, which this column provides. They are likely covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Software: Tides Calculator
Vendor: Wolfram Research (www.wolfram.com)
Price: $.99

Wolfram’s Mathematica (now version 8.0.4) is a mature product used by many professionals and academics, and the past couple of years Wolfram has started getting developing mobile applications. I’ve already reviewed their Astronomy and Chemistry course assistant apps, which are excellent and inexpensive products for students. This review is on Wolfram’s Tides Calculator, one of their new Reference apps for the iPhone/Touch and iPad.

The tides are relevant to many people around the world that live on or near the coast, or that make a living on the sea. Wolfram provides a low cost ($.99) app that is easy to transport and provides good information about the tides, including Current Tide, High Tide, Low Tide, Average Tide, Tide Forecast/History, and Extras.

Getting Started

I downloaded the Tides app from the iTunes store and it was a typically easy install onto my iPod Touch. I selected the first option (Current Tide), and and the default location was set to Current Location (handy of you are on the go and want the tide info for your current site. As tides are not as much of an issue for us in Minneapolis, MN, I entered Maine for the Location and pressed the Compute button. In a couple of seconds, the app displayed a chart for the tides covering 24 hours, with the time and height of high and low tides for Maine. As I entered the search in the afternoon, the returned results covered the current and next days which is better than forcing one to go to a different path to get the tide info for the next day. One thing to note: this data was computed based on historical data and did not include weather-influenced factors like hurricanes, so take this into consideration if you need current information and bad weather impacts your location.

There is other useful data on the same screen. The tide reporting station for Maine is at Bangor, at the Penobscot River, and the coordinates of the station are included (good for using with Google Earth), along with the relative position of the station in relation to the state of Maine. Another bit of useful information on the screen is sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset. Not all of the screen information is visible at the same time, but it is easy to move around or zoom out as needed.

Next I checked out the High Tide and Low Tide information. I again used Bangor Maine as the location and essentially saw the same information displayed as I saw at the Current Tide screen, although the graphs highlighted the high and low tides respectably. I used Bangor again for the Average Tide option, and there were a few extra bits of information (range of tide, average high tide, average of high and low tides, and average low tide), but had mostly the same information as was shown at the Current Tide screen.

The next option I tested was Tide Forecast/History. Using my favorite (Bangor, Maine) location, I retrieved the tides forecast for 11/24/2011 (Thanksgiving Day in the US) and saw a nice 24 hr graph of the expected tides, with times/heights of high/low tides along with sun/moon rise/set times. Good data for a forecast. Next I left the location alone and changed the date to 11/24/2010 and the app downloaded the historical tide data for last year – also, good data.

Finally I checked out the Extras options and they were: Sunrise and Sunset, Sun Exposure, UV Forecast, Weather and Forecast, Moon Phase, and Properties of Oceans. For Sunrise and Sunset, I retrieved the information for my current location (Minneapolis, MN) for tomorrow and saw the data, plus the duration of daylight (good to know as we edge closer to the shortest day of the year), the altitude and azimuth for my location, a nice graph of the sun path for tomorrow, some cool (to amateur astronomers) star properties, an image of the current Earth/Moon/Sun configuration (science teachers, paying attention?), and the 10 closest stars (including Wolf 359, mentioned once or twice in Star Trek: The Next Generation). Excellent information for educators and astronomers.

Another Extras option is Sun Exposure, where you can enter your location, date, and skin type to compute the most appropriate sun tan lotion needed to protect your body. Nice. With my skin type, I will need an SPF 15 if I head outdoors tomorrow. I like the UV Forecast option too – it gave the current UV conditions, along with a map of most of the country that showed this data, along with the expected time to get a sunburn (based on skin type and exposure), and the recommended SPF factor for sun tan lotion.

The next Extras item I checked out was the weather forecast. I regularly check weather when I fly, and I’m just as interested in the weather when driving in Minnesota in January and February, so this is one of my favorite extras.The forecast for the current day and next day is useful, and the graph for the temperatures for the upcoming week is also good to know (especially as the highs and lows for each day is also included). I also find the precipitation rate and wind speed forecast graphs to be very useful and both enhance this aspect of the app. I should add you can get weather forecasts for other locations than current location, so this could be a nice assistant when planning a vacation.

The next option in Extras is Moon Phase, which provides good info if you’re wanting to look at the Moon. The last Extras option is Properties of Oceans and it provides Ocean Information, Ocean Properties, Speed of Sound in the Ocean, and Pressure Under Water data. Good information for planning a dive, don’t you think?

Likes

  • The price is excellent, and the UI is simple yet functional.
  • This is a good tool to use to help plan a vacation.
  • The app does what good apps do – it retrieves information over the internet (from Wolfram servers), reducing the footprint of the downloaded/installed app.
  • I like how the locations default to the current location (great for lazy mobile device owners like myself).
  • The amount of information in Extras is excellent and really expands the app. Weather is my absolute favorite option in this app.

Dislikes

  • Didn’t like seeing the same information in Current Tides duplicated in the High, Low, and Average Tide screens. I’d rather have buttons at the Current Tide screen that would provide the additional information. I think it might have been better to release a Weather App, which includes Tide information, that a Tides App with weather information.

Conclusion

The information is useful to a lot of people, not just sailors. As a fiction writer, I may need to know past or future tides that affect the characters in some of my stories, and this inexpensive app would be an excellent resource. While I know many people (including me) prefer free apps, it is hard to argue with the low price for this app.

Recommendation

Buy it. Skip the burger on the McDonald’s value menu and buy this app. It is interesting information, and good, inexpensive apps need to be purchased to encourage vendors to continue to provide quality apps at a low price. Wolfram currently has another 8 Reference Apps available, and the next one I’ll review is their Fractals App.

Please let our readers know if you’ve tried this app and your impression of the software. Sharing experiences on expensive apps is important, but so is telling others about good, low cost applications.

Be well.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.  Revision 2 (corrected 1/2/2012)

Introduction

Over the years there has been On-N-Off again interest in using thorium rather then uranium to fuel our energy needs. The interest came in part because of the greater availability and more widely distributed quantities of thorium in the earths crust. In addition the a thorium based fuel cycle seem to be significantly, despite nay-sayers, more resistant to diversion to weapons production (proliferation.) Recent studies, both at design phase and pilot plant size demonstrations have demonstrated that in an appropriate rector, the thorium based fuel cycle can both grow its own fuel, and burn up uranium fuel cycle based spent fuel treated as waste.

There are also detail assessments of the costs of such alternative technology, which I’ve ignored in this article. Why? For the most part in my studies, all such cost studies overestimate the end costs. This is in part due to the use of pessimistic values of input data and the use of conservative modeling assumptions.

Figure 1. The (simplified) Thorium Fuel Cycle

The discussions that follow are encapsulated gleanings from the main articles I reference, all published in the last several years. In addition, I skimmed my collection 60+ document collections on the thorium fuel cycle reference that, go back to 2005.

I attempted, within the time I had available, to determine whether any of the older ‘paradigm’ basic assumptions had been wrong in their conceptualization of thorium use for energy production. I found none, however many of the earlier documents differed by their use of then less accurate state-of-the art models. Such models continuously evolve, get challenged and improve  to get more accurate. Technologically, we both get smarter mathematically and computing power grows in accord to Moore’s Law.

In parallel to computational development, more realistic definition of model inputs and available experimental data based on the physics, and chemistry of elements of the thorium fuel cycle have occurred.

The Basic Historical Nuclear Energy Facts as I Know Them

Nuclear energy worldwide is based on a Uranium Fuel cycle.

The non-Thorium elements in this article can be either researched in Wikipedia or just googled. They are no a part of my normal reference practices which tend to focus heavily on the main topics under discussion in these blogs. I do suggest to stick with engineering and science oriented sites or those of the much larger international site that under obsessive peer review by anti-nuclear types. It is better to check out facts than to fight the belief battle with those who have received guidance from small voices in their heads or they’re under technology educated neighbors or media fear mongers.

Uranium fuel use for electrical energy generation is a legacy of US and German weapons development during WW II. At that time the US goal was to beat Nazi German to the super weapon punch. The allies won in Europe against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis by convention means including carpet-bombing of bother German cities, factories and infrastructure.

However to win the parallel war with Japan, our leaders decided to use these newly developed atomic bombs against Hiroshima an Nagasaki. This is not the place to deal with this history — its issues, geopolitical and moral. There are library full of such analysis. I include this background to give our less history minded readers a sense of the past.

The use of nuclear science and engineering newly discover during the US’s weapons program evolved rapidly. This was a result of initially, of general then President Eisenhower’s, Atoms for Peace program. It was paralleled or closely followed by a shared US and UN sponsored program to support the growth of nuclear energy for electricity generation with the nations of the world. There was at the time a hope for low cost, perhaps not needing to be metered, electricity.

The lead agency for doing so internationally is the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA.]

Again, this is beyond the scope of this article, this did not happen. As a result of a combination of accidents, some deadly, some just scary and a growing sense of nucleophobia, especially in the United States and more recently in Germany, nuclear energy became a dirty word. France, China, India do not think so. Apparently neither do Brazil, Russia and Saudi Arabia and it’s neighbors.

For them electricity from highly regulated and proven ‘catastrophe’ safe, nuclear energy remains a reasonable alternative to their options to deal with population growth, middle class aspirations for standard of living related energy shortages, and with energy security.

Even, when the sound and fury and fear factors die down, Japan will have trouble killing off its nuclear program. On the other hand heads should roll for their intuitional and corporative neglect. While the rest of the world made progress in understanding less frequent accident risks such as natural forces (tornedos – tsunamis – earthquakes) the Japanese corporations in bed with their regulators had their heads in the sand. It’s a time honored tradition — They have shamed the nation; perhaps Seppuku would be honorable.

Thorium Fuel Cycle Pro Arguments

Figure 2 - The Thorium Decay Chain

Enough said as background. Despite problems and issues that temporarily shut down nuclear energy programs and projects, almost all the nations of the world are seeking, if not publicly, to make nuclear electricity usually from uranium and a bit from thorium. In that effort, the Thorium Fuel cycle can perhaps play a key longer term role if I understand that ‘energy’ system.It appear to have been well documented, if not yet fully proven to the naysayer’s or for that matter to regulators around the world,Thorium Fuel Cycle is:

  • Safer
  • Cheaper
  • Proliferation Proof,
  • Creates Minimal high-level Waste
  • Eases recycling existing uranium spent fuel, and of course
  • Aiding the effort to become self reliant in Energy for their industry and transpiration needs.

One could now add:

  • Minimizing Greenhouse Gas production
  • Assuring low cost means of purifying sea or recycled and brackish or polluted water for drinking and agricultural purposes.
  • Lowering Transportation and its associated pollution costs

All of these uses have high-energy demands, usually in the form of inexpensive, reliable, safe electricity

For balance, most of the cons of using a Thorium Fuel Cycle have been specifically leveled the Liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) or the to early for it’s time (funding) Pebble Bed reactors.

Therefore I cover both positive and negative aspects of these specific solutions to using a thorium-based thorium, in the section below. Had Pebble Bed not happened in parallel to our recent economic meltdown, it might also have been an alterative.


Future Potential Path(s) Forward

Overview

  • Focus on spent fuel recycling by proven available chemical processing to recover uranium/plutonium for reuse, while minimizing waste and proliferation risks.
  • Progress with Advanced Reactor Design that initially creates intrinsically safe and ultimately inherently safe nuclear energy generation facilities.
  • Make significant International Progress with controlling the various aspects of the fuel cycle (mining though either waste disposal or reuse, to minimize costs to present and future generation, and of course maximize safety.
  • Expedite designing, testing and deploying alternate fuel cycles that avoid the problems caused by our use of uranium or uranium-plutonium fuel  [MOX] to generate electricity.

That’s where Thorium comes into play. In the section that follows I share the pros and cost of developing and ultimately relying on a Thorium based electrical generation cycle for our electrical needs.

The information below, shared at a summary level, described the myriads of pros & cons in slowly switching to a thorium based fuel cycle. These of course have been heavily discussed in both the scientific-engineering literature including the Internet, and on pro-and-con blogs on the issue. Of course adoption, all thing being equal, will likely happened faster in India, and China, … than in the US.

Unfortunately for clean energy advances which include energy independence and closed cycle nuclear power, since we seem to be a ‘fourth world’ (Doc’s New Label) nation with respect to tackling major global problems such as energy independence, climate change, and low-cost abundant safe energy to boot strap our economy and stamp out poverty.

Low cost sustainable energy will play an important role in economic development, especially approaching 2050 or after. India and China are planning very ambitious programs of nuclear power development. Both countries are planning rapid deployment of significant numbers of traditional Light Water and Heavy Water power reactors, while projecting the further development both Fast Liquid Metal Reactors [FLMR]] and Thorium cycle breeder reactors. (Barton I)

More below about thorium based aspects of these reactors types.

 

Liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) Pros)

  • From the nuclear physics standpoint, they are potentially, passively safe,
  • Past and present designs, and demonstration plants show that they are mechanically simple
  • These reactor types can be quite compact in size allowing them to used in the manner projected for other modular nuclear reactors or small stand alone factory built rechargeable battery style nuclear reactors/power generator systems.
  • They can in principal be deployed virtually anywhere and protected more ealy han large reactor facilities.
  • In preparing to build LFTRs we will recover valuable medical radioisotopes that could provide early financial return.
  • Operating LFTRs will generate electricity, desalinated water, and generate valuable radioisotopes for NASA and the medical sector where ever it is needed, requiring minimal expensive complex grid systems.
  • The possibility of utilizing a very abundant resource which has hitherto been of so little interest that its abundance has never been quantified properly seems worth investigating fully.
  • The production of power that creates fewer long-lived transuranic elements in the waste.
  • They, based on their nuclear physics, produce significantly reduced radioactive wastes.
  • Although I could not document this statement, I believe (yep the belief word) that the amount of radiation spread if battle hardened reactor is hit, would be about the same magnitude of the spent uranium ammunition were spreading now. If a war situation used nuclear weapons – shells – missiles or bombs…all bets are off. You are dead, end the environment doesn’t master. Gaia will recover in a millennia or two.

LFTR Cons

  • At the current state of knowledge, they have a high cost for fuel fabrication [e.g., due to the presence of 233-Uranium]
  • There are similar problems in recycling thorium itself due to highly radioactive Th-228 (an alpha emitter with two-year half life) is present.
  • There is some concern over weapons proliferation risk of U-233 (if it could be separated on its own), although many designs such as the Russia’s Radkowsky Thorium Reactor addresses this concern. There appear to be safe-cost effective solution to this issue.
  • The technical problems (not yet satisfactorily solved) in reprocessing solid fuels. However, with some designs, in particular the molten salt reactor (MSR), these problems are likely to largely disappear.

Much development work is still required before the thorium fuel cycle can be commercialized This is being done in India and China, The effort required seems unlikely while (or where) abundant uranium is available. In this respect, recent international moves to bring India into the ambit of international trade might or may not result in the country ceasing to persist with the thorium cycle, as it now has ready access to traded uranium and conventional reactor designs

Nevertheless despite the negative aspects that would limit, universally, switching to a thorium fuel cycle, the thorium fuel cycle, with its potential for breeding fuel without the need for fast neutron reactors, holds considerable potential in the long-term. It is a significant factor in the long-term sustainability of nuclear energy.

Gen IV reactor History and Safety Features

These have been universally claimed to be passively safe; that is, they remove the need for redundant, active safety systems. This is in part due to obviating the need for electro-mechanical safety-fail safe feature and any part for human action – The nuclear physics does the job. This is a result of the reactor is design allowing it to both safely handle high temperatures {No melt-down scenario.} The reactor can cool itself by natural circulation and still survive in accident scenarios, which may raise the temperature of the reactor to 1,600 °C.

LFTR type reactors will offer safe, sustainable and efficient nuclear power at a potentially low cost. LFTR and Pebble-bed reactors can also theoretically power vehicles. Why, they would be fail-crash safe, and there is no need for a heavy pressure vessel for containment. Furthermore, the pebble bed heats gas that could directly drive a lightweight gas turbine.

The use of the advanced thorium cycle in a fusion-fission hybrid could potentially bypass the stage of designing and building fourth generation breeder reactors in that the energy multiplication in the fission part allows the satisfaction (achievement) of energy breakeven point and the in magnetic and inertial fusion reactor designs. I have not discussed this somewhat still academic alternative lack of time,

Historically, in the United States, the thorium-fission fuel cycle, which I have not discussed for was investigated over the period 1950-1976 both in the federally funded Molten Salt Breeder 1976 in the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor Studies (MSBR) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Reactor (MSBR) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as well as in the pilot (ORNL) as well as in the pilot Shippingport fission reactor fission reactor plant.

It has also been used in the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) in a pebble bed and a prismatic moderator Reactor (HTGR) in a pebble bed and a prismatic moderator and fuel configurations. General Atomics Corporation (GA) did a large amount of documented-peer review-published work, which the US has ignored but not so the rest of the world.

The General Atomics (GA) Company built two prototype thorium reactors over the1960-1970’s period. The first was a 40 MWeMWe prototype at Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania operated by Philadelphia Electric. The second a 330 MWeMWe at Fort St. Vrain for the Public service of Colorado which operated between 1971 and 1975.

It now appears that the effort to building a Pebble Bed reactor [PBMR ] that was planned in South Africa failed because of lack of Investors/customers, rather then the albeit, large technical and regulatory challenge.

Figure 4. Molten Salt Reactor

.

Because India was outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons program, it was for 34 years largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant components or materials that had hampered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009. Due to these trade bans and barriers, and the lack of indigenous sources of uranium, India has uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium.

Indeed its expertise has made it the premier source of potential thorium fuel cycle expertise, technology and soon workable-licensable reactor designs. Will building thorium based reactor systems come next?

The Molten Salt Reactor [MSR]

The MSR is an advanced breeder concept, in which the coolant is a molten salt, usually a fluoride salt mixture. This is thermally quite hot, but not under pressure, and does not boil below about 1400°C. The higher temperatures enhance the efficiency of energy generation.

Much of this research has focused on lithium and beryllium additions to the salt mixture to enhance safety. The fuel can be dissolved enriched uranium, thorium or U-233 as fluoride salts. Recent international discussion has been focused on the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, utilizing U-233 which has been bred in a liquid thorium salt blanket and continuously removed to be added to the core.

The MSR concept and design was studied in depth in the 1960s, and is now being revived because of the availability of advanced technology for the temperature-radiation resistant materials and components. There is now renewed interest in the MSR concept in China, perhaps in Japan, Russia, France and even in the USA, and one of the six Generation IV designs selected for further development by DOE’s advanced reactor program is the MSR.

The Anti-MSR View — In his 2009 article, my colleague Arjun Makhijani, entitled Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power reiterates the widely published concerns about with implementing a commercial thorium fuel cycle. I agree with the listing of problems, so dies the rest of the nuclear engineering community both engineering and commercial.

I do ask, Arjun, what’s new other then trying to involve the public in another nucleophobic red herring. This is an IEER fault that I can seldom find in studies by the staff of the Union of Concerned Scientists who’s work on nuclear and other energy issues I also follow.

 

Conclusions

I leave it to the reader, especially the scientist, engineers, economists and science-educated politicians to think about this. I for one would rather pay a short term penalty (cost) for a safer cost effective, proliferation resistant fuel cycle that released except in mining, no green house gases, than the alternatives and comes closer to solving the HLW disposal problem than to throw that valuable asset away.

If wishes were horses (beggars would ride)and I could perhaps:

  • Convince the City of Richland (WA) and Oak Ridge (TN) to set up a municipal ‘battery reactor’ – Ups, NRC is mostly ignoring the licensing of this reactor, and will doubtless prevent us importing them from the UK.
  • If I were not risk adverse, I could invest heavily in thorium mines. However, by the time that licensing anywhere in the world occurs, these ores would become as inflated as gold, palladium or rare earth element ores are now.
  • Buy a real stake (ownership) of the iron and uranium mines that underground repositories create.

I would seriously consider investing my children’s-grandchildren’s future inheritances – what’s left after my wife and I pass on, or at least half of that amount in such a “certified and licensed’ and default insured ventures.


A Final Thought
— Over the many years I’ve know him, I’ve been troubled by my colleague Arjun Makhijani ongoing finding of problems in nuclear and other energy areas that for the most part can be dealt with minor tuning of the design of a project. Most of which has nuclear concerns when reviewed 3-5 years later, have been proven to be technical challenges rather that fatal flaws or perhaps unconventional red herrings. WIIFT anyone?

Doc

REFERENCES

The Thorium Fuel Cycle, Wikipedia, 2011 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle/

All About Thorium, The World Nuclear Association, March 2011.
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf62.html/

Thorium Costs, http://www.thorium.tv site; Undated       http://www.thorium.tv/en/thorium_costs/thorium_costs.php/

Nuclear Power in India, The World Nuclear Association, October 2011
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf53.html/

The Fusion Fission Hybrid Thorium Fuel Cycle Alternative <A Slide Presentation, Feb 2010>. University of Illinois. http://www.intechopen.com/articles/show/title/thorium-fission-and-fission-fusion-fuel-cycle/

Thorium Fission and Fission-Fusion Fuel Cycle, Nuclear Power – Deployment, Operation and Sustainability, by Magdi Ragheb (2011), Pavel Tsvetkov (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-307-474-0, InTech
http://www.intechopen.com/source/pdfs/19682/InTech-Thorium_fission_and_fission_fusion_fuel_cycle.pdf/

Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power, By Arjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd, dated for the Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research [IEER.]            http://www.ieer.org/fctsheet/thorium2009factsheet.pdf/

Safeguards Approaches for Fast Breeder Reactors and Associated Fuel Cycle Facilities, Nuclear Security Science Policy Institure, 2010         http://nsspi.tamu.edu/topical-subsections/research/research-projects/safeguards-instrumentation-fast-breeder-reactors   

The Thorium Fueled Molten Salt Reactor News [MSR] Blog   http://thoriummsr.com/

Nuclear Batteries (e.g., Small Nuclear Reactors) By Eben Harrell Monday, Feb. 28, 2011, Time Magazine.http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2050039,00.html/

Pebble Bed Reactor — Wikipedia 2011.     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor/

Uranium-233 {formed in Thorium Reactors } – Wikipedia. 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium-233/

Sidebar Notes

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

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

The author considers, as do many experts, Wikipedia a reliable and accessible site for technical information, provided that the reference cited in the Wikipedia article meets the following standard.

My Standards for References Checks Are the references provided essentially complete or representative of the literature, and relevant?  Do they include both precedent and present work, including any referenced disagreement with any of the article author’s assumptions, methods or views?In addition I always try to glean WIIFT <what’s in it for them?> WIIFT is a neutral characteristic that sets the authors paradigm, some the reader needs to be aware of. It’s like who actually sponsors research, a political add, or ant means of trying to sway you viewpoint – OKAY enough preaching.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

Jest a bit of preachin’

I do have an attitude and am seldom politically correct, only well referenced in my sources and always biases to evidence, grey as it might be, in my opinions.  

Note, many of the technologies I share are in various stage of first, development, and are often far from being a commercial success. Their inventors and supporters still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable, Remember There Ain’t No free Lunch and silver bullets too often turn to lead.

When and if you Google the topics in depth, you will find studies saying the inventions/ideas are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical because there is no easy way to for them to become reality in our political-economic systems.

Most inventions die at the proof of principal stage, however the ones that count to make a difference survive as commercial success. Even the Chinese government knows that, however they chose to ignore such realty. Government as choosers are almost always losers.

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 and our globe replaced the flat earth.

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!

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Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • ‘Solar Highways’ Transform Our Crumbling Infrastructure Into Something Useful
  • The Rare Earth Elements — Meet the Obscure, Useful Metals Lurking in Products All Around You
  • As Ecosystems, Cities Yield Some Surprises
  • Radioactivity Released in Petroleum or Natural Gas Production — The brave new world of natural gas.

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 ‘Solar Highways’ Transform Our Crumbling Infrastructure Into Something Useful

This is a collation/abstract of several articles dealing to both the potential advantages of Super Highways, aka Solar Highways, and the Western states endeavoring to install them.

At the end of the References on reports of achievements, I share a quick list of the most recent trade war associated references between US solar cell manufactures’ and those in China.

Unfortunately there are two significant problems with what many economist see in this trade challenge before the WTO/WTF.

First in the US and Europe it pit the many installers of solar powered services against the US manufacturers of such panels. These my hundreds of businesses use Chinese crystalline solar panels because not only are they less expensive but also at times reported to be higher in quality and durability then those made by older technology, made in America.

 The second reason this song and dance seems to be farcical, sound and fury signifying nothing, is that it is unlikely the World Trade Federation, will be able to reach a decision in this complex matter, in less that 18 months according to experts at Bloomberg’s. I’ve provided a few references at the end of the main solar related list that provide insight into this mess.

One of the great things about photovoltaics is that all they need is an unobstructed piece of ground, and some basic maintenance, and they pump out electricity all day long. But finding a piece of ground that can be devoted solely to solar collectors can be a challenge, especially in the populated areas that need the power the most, so you will often find solar panels perched atop some structure, where they are exposed to higher winds, and are more difficult to maintain. But the solution to this problem might be on your way to work every day, in the unused spaces that surround our national grid of highways.

Up north in Oregon, as I share below they have been building a some test examples of ‘solar highways‘ that are using the empty space around and alongside roads to generate electricity, and this has been a successful experiment. The solar highways are already supplying a considerable portion of the power that is needed to light a highway around Portland from light that falls on the highway itself. That project, having proven itself, has now spawned more in the area.

But, really, doesn’t it make more sense to build projects like this in places that have a bit more sun than overcast Oregon? What about places like California? If Republic Solar Highways has it’s way, this sensible plan can become a reality, and soon. They plan to use 65 acres of unused roadside land around highway 101 to build a 15-megawatt solar collection network, and with the backing of the California Department of Transportation the project seems on track to break ground within the next year.

Hopefully, this will be just the beginning. There is so much unused land around our nation’s roads that could be supplying a generous flow of electrons to the people around them, rather than just being a money sink. After all, most of this unused space has to be cleared and mowed regularly to prevent fires from breaking out and making a mess of travel. And, looking forward, there are multiple proposals for using the roads themselves as solar collectors. In fact, our roads are currently acting as such efficient solar collectors that they are changing the environment around them by putting off so much heat. There are certainly better uses for that energy, and it’s time we started collecting it.

Okay, we know YOU ride your bike everywhere. But the country’s 4 million miles of roads, and 50,000 miles of interstate highway, probably aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Isn’t there anything productive we can do with this giant car playground? Well, we can cover it with solar photovoltaic panels, so it’s at least providing some energy.

Oregon’s already is testing the idea, installing panel arrays along highway shoulders. Others want to embed the solar panels directly into the road surface, and have already received funding to test the idea. California wants to try it along parts of Route 101.

If you think about it, roads are a perfect place to put solar: They’re already public land, they’ve already been cleared and graded, they’re adjacent to infrastructure like towns and power lines, and they’re super accessible for repair and upgrades. Also, they’re already sitting out in the sun all day.

Mathew Preusch also reports “Here’s another benefit  of today’s sunny weather: The new solar power array at the intersection of Interstates 5 and 205 is breaking power generation records”.

You can track the Oregon “Solar Highway” project’s power output at its nifty home page. As of this afternoon, the site said the 8,000-square foot array was generating about 58 kilowatts, but at mid-day production peaked at closer to 85 kilowatts.

The first of its kind in the country project, installed last year by the Oregon Department of Transportation Portland General Electric, feeds into PGE’s grid. But it is only designed, for now, to supply about a quarter of the power needed to illuminate the interchange.

REFERENCES

ABOUT SOLAR HIGHWAYS

Solar Highways Turn Public Liabilities into Assets, by Aaron Fown, July 18, 2011 Clean Technica Blog.

Solar Highways Transform Our Crumbling Infrastructure Into Something Useful|
BY CHRISTOPHER MIMS, 20 JUL 2011. For the GristList Blog. http://www.grist.org/list/2011-07-20-solar-highways-transform-our-crumbling-infrastructure-into-somet

Oregon’s “Solar Highway” Breaking Records Today. Published: Wednesday, July 01, 2009, By Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/07/oregons_solar_highway_breaking.html

Oregon Installs First Highway Solar Project. Update: Friday, August 08, 2008, 8:04 AM, by Dylan Rivera, The Oregonian http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2008/08/oregon_installs_first_highway.html

Oregon Monitoring Data (PGE/OR-DOT) on America’s First Solar Highwayhttp://www.live.deckmonitoring.com/?id=solarhighway

Republic’s Super Highways Projects; California Here We Come: http://www.cloverleafsolarhighways.com/sites/

Solar Photovoltaics  – Wikipedia, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaics

SOLAR TRADE WAR REFERENCES ADDENDUM

U.S. Solar Manufacturers Request Duties on Chinese Imports, by Mark Drajem and Eric Martin, October 20, 2011, in Bloomberg Business Week.
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-10-20/u-s-solar-manufacturers-request-duties-on-chinese-imports.html

A Trade War With China Over Solar Panels Will Burn US, by Vahid Fotuhi, Oct 30, 2011 I n the National.   http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/energy/a-trade-war-with-china-over-solar-panels-will-burn-us/

Solar Execs Wary Of Trade War With China, CNET News & Reuters, October 20, 2011.  http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20123327-54/solar-execs-wary-of-trade-war-with-china/

Solar Panel Trade War, by Tim Worstall, Forbes Contributor, October 23, 2011.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2011/10/23/solar-panel-trade-war/

Solar Trade War Officially Starts Today, by Eric Wesoff: October 19, 2011 at GreenTech Solar   http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/solar-trade-war-officially-starts-today/

U.S. Solar Manufacturers Request Duties on Chinese Imports, by Mark Drajem and Eric Martin, October 20, 2011, in Bloomberg Business Week.
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-10-20/u-s-solar-manufacturers-request-duties-on-chinese-imports.html

PS: Not only does this involve China and the US, but also pits a small group American and other non-Asian manufacturers of crystalline solar cell against American would be users of such cells. KISS is not a geopolitical concept. It does not protect our national security interests, but governments mostly make bad technological business decisions. Look what happened solar panel maker Solyndra that follows similar bankruptcy actions by Evergreen Solar and SpectraWatt. It’s a great Google topic!

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The Rare Earth Elements

— Meet the Obscure, Useful Metals Lurking in Products All Around You

Without the rare earths, there would be no iPods and no hybrid cars. But who has even heard of erbium or ytterbium?

The name rare earths made sense to the 19th-century mind:  rare because it seemed at first that they came only from Scandinavia, and earths because they occurred in an earthy oxide form from which it was exceptionally hard to obtain the pure metal.

Today it is clear that the rare earths are hardly rare. The most common of them, cerium, ranks 25th in abundance in the earth’s crust, one place ahead of homely copper. Yttrium is twice as abundant as lead; all of the rare-earth metals (with the exception of radioactive promethium) are more common than silver. The “earths” part is also misleading. These elements are actually metals, and quite marvelous ones at that. The warm glow of terbium is essential to high-efficiency compact-fluorescent bulbs. Europium is widely exploited to make vivid displays for laptop computers and smart phones. Rare earths also pop up in more unexpected places like baseball bats, European currency, and night-vision goggles.

With their growing popularity comes new value, and even political notoriety. Terbium and europium recently overtook silver in price, reaching $40 an ounce. The growing demand for rare earths has become the subject of numerous government reports and a bill that passed in the House of Representatives. The reason these elements are causing such a stir is not their scarcity but their inaccessibility. Rare earths tend to occur in hard rock such as granites, where they lump together in a uniform way that makes them difficult to extract.

Separating out the desired elements demands a toxic and dangerous process, and China has the best infrastructure for doing so economically. China holds about 36 percent of the world’s 110 million tons of recoverable rare-earth ores, with the rest scattered worldwide, principally in the United States, India, Australia, and Russia. Yet China currently produces as much as 97 percent of the world’s rare-earth oxides, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Pekka Pyykkö, a professor of chemistry at the University of Helsinki, puts it this way: “Not all the deposits are in China, but the processing capacity right now is.”

Supply would not matter if not for demand, and the demand comes  from the unusual electrical properties of the rare earths—or lanthanides, as chemists prefer to call them, because they mostly follow lanthanum in the periodic table of elements. The lanthanides share similar chemical properties because they all react similarly, mostly with their three outer electrons. (An atom’s arrangement of electrons is what determines most of its physical and chemical attributes.) Like copper, iron, cobalt, and other more familiar metals, lanthanides form many colored compounds. The magic happens when those outer electrons change energy states and release visible light. But the rare earths are especially valuable for their property of fluorescence: They can absorb light or ultraviolet rays and re-emit the energy as an eerie glow of certain colors specific to each element. The brilliant emission of red and green is the reason why lanthanides are indispensable components of today’s television sets and compact fluorescent bulbs.

From a technological perspective, a more intriguing trait of the rare earths is that some of them are highly magnetic. Alloyed with other metals, they make extraordinarily strong and compact magnets: perfect for computer hard drives, cordless power tools, microphones, and headphones. An iPod takes a triple sip of rare earths: to store digital music, to re-create it in ear-buds, and to display what is playing. An iron alloy containing terbium and dysprosium has a particularly useful property: It expands and contracts efficiently in the presence of a magnetic field. Sensors, actuators, and injectors commonly use such materials, for instance to regulate the flow of gasoline into an automotive engine.

Okay, ‘nuff said, click though and read on. The last reference I provide focuses on the geopolitics of the rare earth elements, one more global trade conflict to worry about. The previous topic discussed solar cells for energizing our sunnier highways; there to a trade was is underway.

REFERENCES

The Rare Earth Elements By Hugh Aldersey-Williams. From the July-August special issue; Discover Magazine         http://discovermagazine.com/2011/jul-aug/12-meet-obscure-metals-that-lurk-products-all-around-you.

The Rare Earth Elements, Wikipedia, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_Earth_Elements

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As Ecosystems, Cities Yield Some Surprises

In Boston, scientists measuring the city’s greenhouse gas emissions have found what they call a “weekend effect,” a clear drop-off in the amount of carbon dioxide entering the city’s atmosphere on Saturdays and Sundays. In Fresno, researchers have discovered that backyard water use increases with wealth, as does backyard biodiversity. And in Los Angeles, ecologists studying the city’s “ecohydrology” have calculated that planting a million new trees, an idea with fairly universal appeal, would have the drawback of increasing water consumption by 5 percent.

The researchers, who presented their findings this week at the  Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting in Austin, Tex., are all involved in a nascent program to understand the nation’s cities, home to 80 percent of the population, as functioning ecosystems. The goal is to educate urbanites about their environment and how they can act to make it more sustainable.

The program, called Ultra, for Urban Long-Term Research Area, is a joint effort of the National Science Foundation and the Forest Service. A total of 21 projects are under way, including two in New York City. In establishing financing (known as Ultra-Ex grants) for exploratory sites in 2009, the science foundation called urban sustainability one of “the greatest challenges to the long-term environmental quality of the nation.”

At a research site in Fresno, Calif., overseen by Madhusudan Katti, an ecologist at California State University’s campus there, the aim is to untangle the interactions between city water policy, outdoor water use at homes and biodiversity to help inform policy. On the average, wealthier households in Fresno use more water in their yards, yet not because the water is more affordable for them: the city has no metering system, so residents pay a fixed monthly rate.

Reducing water use is considered crucial to guaranteeing long-term sustainability, yet Dr. Katti found that using less water could cause local bird diversity to decline.

“Half the population globally lives in cities, but we don’t have a conceptual understanding of how cities work as dynamic systems,” Dr. Katti said. “We need to generate that understanding.”

Nathan Phillips, an ecologist at Boston University who runs one of the city’s two Ultra-Ex sites, told the audience at the conference that his project, which includes rooftop plant experiments both in and outside the city as well as measurements of greenhouse gases, had revealed a “pulsing type of urban metabolism. However, Just as these research sites are beginning to reveal how such urban ecosystems function, federal budget cuts are calling their future into question. There’s more details and a few reference links, online.

Why is such research necessary?
Well Cities are growing like Topsey or Jack’s Bean Stalk according to published references, by international agencies, university demographers, national governments and international charitable organizations. Although estimates vary depending on the grown (migration plus birth-death rations) assumptions made by the demographers and the boundaries used in the predictive models the increase is almost beyond belief.

In 2008 according to the United Nations, half the people in the world lived in cities.

In the 20th Century citied grew 10-forld from 250 million people to 2.8 billion. The UN predicts that by 2050 the world population is expected to surpass nine billion with six billion living in cities.

Cities, not villages or towns, which seem to be defined as urban communities large than one million people.

Many of these urban areas already exceed ten million people or more. For a list of the 20-cities that exceed 10-million in population check Wikipedia (2100) which contains links to the demographic studies.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_metropolitan_areas_by_population

One would hope that understanding the environmental impacts of urban areas and how to modify them for the better should matter, if not to all of our present readers, then perhaps to their children’s, children.

REFERENCES

As Ecosystems, Cities Yield Some Surprises, By Hillary Rosner, August 11, 2011 for the New York Times for the New York Times
http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/11/as-ecosystems-cities-yield-some-surprises/

What Drives Cities’ Runaway Growth? By Felicity Barringer, August 22, 2011 for the New York Times. http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/the-city-limits-are-expanding-everywhere/

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Radioactivity Released in Petroleum or Natural Gas Production

— The brave new world of natural gas.

An After thought – Doc’s jest scratchin’ an itch.

Perhaps I’m just a dumb chemist, not a philosopher, or politician, but based on demonstrated reality, The Dose Makes the Poison. A fine book with this title by Patricia Frank and M. Alice Ottoboni can be obtained from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+dose+makes+the+poinson&x=0&y=0

There are assorted run of the Internet Quotes and Clips I collected in 2010-2011

Radium and other naturally occurring isotopes are a common  concern with any petroleum or gas mining operation.   Radium is a daughter product of uranium and thorium, so they obviously will naturally occur in nature.   The existence of the uranium itself is not the primary concern.

Radium is water-soluble and its salts can concentrate in pipes, valves and other mining equipment generating measurable radiation doses.   Levels can be high enough to set-off radiation detectors at local landfills.  In rare cases, they may approach levels, which require radiation monitoring of the workers … though mainly it requires radiation surveys to ensure that further controls are not necessary.  Since this is a form of Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM), it is subject to control at the discretion of the specific state radiation protection agency.   It does not come under the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. There indeed is uranium, not enough for use an an ore, but high enough to be of health concerns under some condition in Marcellus Shale

While he uranium concentrations in the geologic formations are too low for economically feasible removable, the concentrating effect of the radium disposition, in addition to its mobilization for a subsurface to surface location, can produce radiological concerns which do not exist in the naturally occurring material. Processes such a fracking to recover natural gas provide an excellent escape route. However, the radiological aspects of the process is definitely not the most significant environmental concern for the process, but it should be addressed as minor part of overall regulation. “Anthony DeAngelo, CHP” ardeangelo@aol.com 10-28-10; Written Pre the current natural gas recovery bonanza

In response, Charles Barton, a knowledgeable and well-respected Philosopher of Science and Technology and science history author responded on Oct 28, 2010 [ANS SocialMedia.] He is also the author of the Nuclear Green blog, which serves as a forum for separate ng science fro m mere belief,

“Uranium found in Marcellus shale.] Note these deposits are also one of the potential premier sources of natural gas by fracking.

Michael, I (Barton) discussed the potential role of fracking shake,  in Uranium extraction last March in a post titled ‘Radon as harbinger of a cornucopia.”  I wrote: A November 2009 story in Pro-Publica, titled Is New York’s Marcellus Shale Too Hot to Handle. It states, …The information comes from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which analyzed 13 samples of wastewater brought thousands of feet to the surface from drilling and found that they contain levels of radium-226, a derivative of uranium, as high as 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink.”

To which I added; So it is clear that the presence of radon indicates the presence of uranium and/or thorium, and since radon has no other natural source, finding a lot of radon, enough to be dangerous means that a lot of uranium and/or thorium must be around.

And then I pointed to the implications of fracking for uranium mining:

A major limitation to the in situ approach would seem to be that while there is a whole lot of uranium and thorium locked up in shale rock, shale is not permeable, and thus not currently seen as a candidate for in situ mining. That is where fracking comes in.     – Charles Barton

Doc Sez: Google “Marcellus Shale + Natural Gas” It’s not just uranium that of interests in these tight shale deposit.  Perhaps the purveyor of this misinformation should be invited to drink “purified” bottled water, from fracking for natural gas. After all turn about is fair play.

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 Endnotes

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. Since they are likely covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

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 copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot. … And yes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy! Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).

In Closing

Readers please 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/

I always find it appropriate, as 75 year old iconoclast and cynic, to step back as I read and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me. In addition, most have no relationship to solving the problem that is being bragged about. “What’s in it for Thee

Yes there will be pain, whatever changes we need to make to get our energy, health, climate, and security system to work, for all Americans and the other effected citizen of the world. Vested interests will scream about require transparency in their claims to truth and the benefits (to whom) their proposals. Casting the light, creating Transparency of their WIIFT is in part key, as is science literacy. I’d rather not have my children and grandchildren grow up either in a slow cooker, or dry roaster oven or go bankrupt staying healthy.

As an example, as alas sea level continues to rise slowly  for now… Tomorrow – tomorrow and a mere decade of tomorrows; perhaps good-bye New York, Seattle, New Orleans and even Los Angeles. I’m too uptight about this to talk about India, China and the flood plains of Africa… extinction is not, in America, a ‘socially acceptable’ subject.

One perspective, mine, is that the Dutch can and do continue protect their land with massive gates and dikes, and the British so far can do so for London. However Yankee ingenuity could not protect New Orleans from what will seem historically as a relatively small and temporary rise in sea level caused by a hurricane named Katrina. Hmmm!

Doc.

QUOTE de Mois

A Computer Lets You Make More Mistakes Faster Than Any Invention In Human History – with the possible exceptions of a handguns and tequila.

Shucks I do love both Patron Tequila straight shots {also Cognac) and my iMac! Anguish, woe is me… I’m doomed to Murphy … Happy Halloween.

http://celebrationgoddess.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/a-computer-lets-you-make-more-mistakes-faster-than-any-invention-in-human-history-with-the-possible-exceptions-of-handguns-and-tequila/

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

Note, many of the technologies I share are in various stage of first, development, and are often far from being a commercial success. Their inventors and supporters still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable, Remember There Ain’t No free Lunch and silver bullets too often turn to lead.

When and if you Google them in depth, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical because there is no easy way to for them into our systems.

I always, as 75 year old cynic, find it appropriate, to step back as I read and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me. In addition, most have no relationship to solving the problem that is being bragged about.

I know, perhaps even truly believe, is this. For green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases) and gave out no subsidies, these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, Indian and Chinese too, 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 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!

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Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • Abu Dhabi Plans to Go Nuclear — The UAE capital, undaunted by Fukushima, says it will proceed with plans for a civilian reactor
  • Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated
  • Vertical Farming in the Windy City and Elsewhere
  • Food vs. Fuel, Redux: The Biofuel Dilemma
  • Electric Motors — Nikola Tesla’s Revenge
  • Rocks on The Menu — Mineral-munching bugs to extract metals
  • Climate Change – It’s Complicated, But It’s Real
  • Would You Buy A $40 Light Bulb and Other Lighting Options
  • The Thorium Fuel Cycle is Catching On
  • QUOTE de Mois — Correlation is NOT Necessarily Causation

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Abu Dhabi Plans to Go Nuclear

— The UAE capital, undaunted by Fukushima, says it will proceed with plans for a civilian reactor

Even as radiation leaks from crippled plants at Fukushima,  countries from China to the Middle East are forging ahead with nuclear power. On Mar. 28, Abu Dhabi confirmed it would proceed with plans for a civilian reactor despite the Japan disaster. “It’s a technology we should bring to the region,” said Abdulla Saif al-Nuaimi, director general of Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority, at the Arabian Power & Water Summit. Nuclear generation remains the most realistic option, says Jarmo Kotilaine, chief economist at National Commercial Bank in Saudi Arabia: “It’s cost competitive, addresses some of the environmental risks involved in burning crude, and can be built on a large scale.”

Power demand in Abu Dhabi is rising at about 10 percent a year, and nuclear energy is necessary to help make up for a lack of natural gas to burn in new generators, says al-Nuaimi: “With a shortage of natural gas here, we need to find other ways to produce power.” Plans are for a reactor to be operational in 2017.

Efforts to increase power from sources such as solar energy aren’t likely to be sufficient to meet demand. The sheikdom wants to generate about 7 percent of its power from renewable energy by 2020. That would require 1,500 megawatts from projects such as wind and solar plants, says Bruce Smith, an adviser to the Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority.

The bottom line: Far from backing away from nuclear power, Abu Dhabi plans to build its first civilian nuclear plant to meet rising energy demand.

Folks, this is about power for the people (homes) industry, desalinization, and of course ultimately electric cars… read the rest of the article.

Anthony DiPaola, Bloomberg Business Week, March 31, 2011.

PS: 6 More Arab States Announce Plans To Go Nuclear. The countries involved were named by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the UAE have also shown interest…

Nuclear momentum accelerates in MENA [Middle East and North Africa], Nuclear Industry Insight, 11 August 2011

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Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated

Pro Publica Fracking Background Introduction

The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, but cases of water contamination have raised serious questions about the primary drilling method being used. Vast deposits of natural gas, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. The drilling technique being used, called hydraulic fracturing, shoots water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas. The Environmental Protection Agency has declared the process to be safe, but water contamination has been reported in more than a thousand places where drilling is happening. Gas companies, exempt from federal laws protecting water supplies, may conceal the identities of their chemicals as trade secrets, making it difficult to determine the cause of contamination.

The EPA is now conducting a deeper study of the drilling, New York State has blocked drilling in New York City’s watershed, and lawmakers are pushing for closer oversight of the industry. The industry — in the form of millions of dollars spent on lobbying, a slew of court cases, and a robust public relations campaign — is pushing back.

 

Abstracted From Abrahm Lustgarten’s Article


The United States is poised to bet its energy future on natural gas as a clean, plentiful fuel that can supplant coal and oil. But new research by the Environmental Protection Agency—and a growing understanding of the pollution associated with the full “life cycle” of gas production—is casting doubt on the assumption that gas offers a quick and easy solution to climate change.

Advocates for natural gas routinely assert that it produces 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal and is a significant step toward a greener energy future. But those assumptions are based on emissions from the tailpipe or smokestack and don’t account for the methane and other pollution emitted when gas is extracted and piped to power plants and other customers.

The EPA’s new analysis doubles its previous estimates for the amount of methane gas that leaks from loose pipe fittings and is vented from gas wells, drastically changing the picture of the nation’s emissions that the agency painted as recently as April. Calculations for some gas-field emissions jumped by several hundred percent. Methane levels from the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas were 9,000 times higher than previously reported.

There’s a whole lot more information on fracking and the potential of environmental damage vs the use of home ‘drilled’ nominally low cost hydrocarbons with the lowest potential greenhouse emissions. The detailed reader comments are also information full, I call them to your attention.

By Abrahm LustgartenPro Publica, Jan. 25, 2011

 

A Few Interesting Fracking Related References

Keep in mind there’s a wart on fracking fact sheets, but until the peer reviewed R&T and characterization is done, both side are shooting PR loaded blanks and media pyrotechnics. Doc!

Hydraulic Fracturing, Wikipedia, 2011

Hydraulic Fracturing 101, Earthworks, an Environmental Blog,Undated but ca. 2006

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting from the Petroleum and Natural Gas Industry – The latest emissions tally from the EPA (November 2010)

Baffled About Fracking? You’re Not Alone, By Mike Soraghan of Greenwire Published: May 13, 2011; Source — The New York Times

About Hydraulic Fracturing  – Facts by Chesapeake Energy Company, April 2011

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks – An April 2010 EPA greenhouse gas report, now outdated

Preliminary Assessment of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Natural Gas Obtained by Hydraulic Fracturing – Cornell University

Comparative Life-Cycle Air Emissions of Coal, Domestic Natural Gas, LNG, and SNG for Electricity Generation – Paulina Jaramillo, Carnegie Mellon University

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Vertical Farming in the Windy City and Elsewhere

 Vertical farming is a concept that argues that it is economically and environmentally viable to cultivate plant or animal life within skyscrapers, or on vertically inclined surfaces. Despite contemporary notions of vertical faming, there is a long history of ‘vertical farming’ that can be divided into three categories. Check out the Wikipedia article for more background information.

Doc sez, this is sort of a left hand take on Robert Heinlein’s teen-readers book, “Farmer in the Sky” which was doomed because space became an unfocused virtual frontier rather than a goal for mankind. The current concepts of vertical farming seem more appropriate to our times. Reality, alas, populations grow become urbanized, farmland gets destroyed by population growth and climate changes or just plain natural forces become more destructive. Vertical (upwards) growth in urban populations is a fact – Megacroplis’ are on their way… It’s either urban sprawl or up in the wide blue yonder’. Therefore, they appear much more relevant to urban ecology and living modes.

A WAG scenario — New York City as a breadbasket of the East Coast — How? I suggest that the combination of vertical farming, nuclear powered water desalination, and all combustible residues be converted to biodiesel and electricity for car.  It would take a combination of a Bloomberg a Bill Gates and T. Boone Pickens to kick start this, although it might be faster if done in the Middle East, say by Abu Dhabi.

In Chicago’s meatpacking district, developer John Edel  hopes to reinvent the urban food supply with a $4 million, four-story indoor produce and fish farm called The Plant. Edel and his colleagues have already planted 3,000 square feet of hydroponically grown lettuce and other greens and installed 1,400 tilapia fish in tanks.

The fish farm and gardens are connected by a 9,000-gallon water circulation system: Wastewater from the tilapia tanks, rich in nitrogen-based nutrients, flows into the hydroponic beds, where it irrigates and fertilizes the lettuce. The crop roots then filter that water before it returns to the fish. Edel and student collaborators at the Illinois Institute of Technology are also building a custom-designed digester that will turn the project’s leftover vegetable and fish waste into fertilizer and biogas to power a heating, cooling, and 280-kilowatt electrical system. The Plant will offer its first bounty for sale this fall, supplying greens, mushrooms, and tilapia to farmers’ markets and local restaurants.

The Plant is part of a growing push to bring farms into metropolitan areas. Small-scale, multilevel farms have sprung up in Britain and Wisconsin, and an organization called Growing Power hopes to break ground on a five-story project in Milwaukee within 18 months. Such efforts make fresh food more accessible to inner-city residents and could help to reduce the cost and energy of shipping produce. According to an analysis from Iowa State University, conventional produce travels about 1,500 miles on average to its destination, causing the release of 5 to 17 times more carbon dioxide than food from regional and local farms.

Stan Cox, a plant-breeding researcher at the Land Institute in Kansas, points out that while leafy vegetables grow fairly well indoors, staples like wheat and corn require far more light energy. But Columbia University ecologist Dickson Despommier says large-scale projects can still have a big impact: He calculates that a 50-story building occupying one New York City block could feed 50,000 people.

By Christina Couch, for Discover Magazine, May 2011.

 

Other Related References

 Vertical farming, Wikipedia, 2011

Vertical Farming Studies in El Paso By BRYAN WALSH Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008, TIME Magazine.

Vertical Farming – Does it really stack up? The Economist, Print Edition, December 9, 2010.

Growing Skyscrapers: The Rise of Vertical Farms, By Dickson Despommier for Scientific American. November 16, 2009.

Can Urban Agriculture Feed a Hungry World? By Fabian Kretschmer and Malte E. Kollenberg, The Spiegel Online, July 22, 2011.

Vertical Farming — Advantages – Disadvantages – Barriers, Climate Lab Wiki, 2010.

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Food vs. Fuel, Redux: The Biofuel Dilemma

 

A Straight Paste – No ad-libs, just (err) food for Thought The references are click through if you want more to stratify your curiosity cravings. – Doc.

 

Today’s Washington Post includes a noteworthy opinion piece from Tim Searchinger of Princeton University concerning the impact of expanding biofuel production on global food prices and availability. Food vs. fuel competition made headlines in 2007 and 2008 but then subsided during the recession and financial crisis. This year, with global crop yields down and food demand up, and with food-derived biofuel production at record levels, the issue has returned. The relationship between biofuel output and food prices is certainly complex, but it is significant, particularly for those who spend much of their incomes on unprocessed grains and vegetable oils. And both population and biofuels demand will continue to increase from today’s levels.

You might recall Mr. Searchinger’s name in conjunction with a high-profile scientific paper in 2008 casting doubt on the value of crop-based biofuels in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Global land use impact” entered the lexicon of environmental consequences as a result of his and his collaborators’ work, and it had a significant influence on the EPA’s updated Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) regulation, even if the agency’s final version of the rule softened its application in constraining the least efficient corn ethanol facilities. So you might say that Mr. Searchinger is no great friend of first-generation biofuels in general. However, the issue that he’s writing about today, while no less controversial in energy and policy circles, is much more straightforward to understand than the carbon debt of newly cultivated cropland.

As he notes in his op-ed, numerous studies have demonstrated a link between biofuel production and food prices in 2007-8, even in the US, where the basic inputs subject to this kind of price competition constitute a small portion of the retail prices of the processed foods we eat. It affects US food price inflation, but mainly indirectly through routes such as raising the price of livestock feed. Among others, the Congressional Budget Office looked at this issue in 2009. Most of the studies I saw also showed a significant effect on food prices from rising energy prices, another phenomenon that has reappeared in the last year. However one interprets all this, it is inescapable that a bushel of corn turned into ethanol is not available for export to countries that are experiencing a combination of rising demand and disappointing harvests.

As long as US harvests were increasing at a rate that  kept pace with the growth of ethanol output, thanks to increased cultivation and better yields, that wasn’t a zero sum game. Until recently, the corn that went into making ethanol was corn that might not otherwise have been grown. But in a year like this one, when annual ethanol consumption set to rise by another billion gallons while the corn harvest is 5% smaller than the previous year’s, something has to give. In fact, the US Department of Agriculture expects that ethanol plants will take 40% of this season’s crop, compared to just 23% in the 2007-8 “market year.” That exerts a lot more pressure on corn prices, which are pushing $7 per bushel for the first time since 2008.

If anything, the conclusion of Mr. Searchinger’s op-ed downplayed the risks ahead. With output from the nascent cellulosic ethanol industry still minuscule, the EPA will be under tremendous pressure to allow corn ethanol to continue to expand beyond its current 15 billion gallon per year limit under the RFS. That’s one reason the industry was pushing so hard to increase the maximum allowable percentage of ethanol in gasoline from 10% to 15%; it needs that headroom to continue expanding output beyond last year’s 13 billion gallons. At 20 billion gallons per year–a quantity that I heard one USDA expert suggest several years ago was achievable–ethanol would require the equivalent of 55% of 2009-10’s record US corn crop. It’s hard to envision that happening without concerns about food vs. fuel rising to a much higher pitch.

Posted February 11, 2011 by Geoffrey Styles for the Energy Collective Blog

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 Electric Motors — Nikola Tesla’s Revenge

  — The car industry’s effort to reduce its dependence on rare-earth elements has prompted a revival

 ONCE again, worrywarts are wringing their hands over possible shortages of so-called “critical materials” crucial for high-tech industries. In America the Department of Energy is fretting about materials used to manufacture wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells and energy-efficient lighting. The substances in question include a bunch of rare-earth metals and a few other elements, which—used a pinch here, a pinch there—enhance the way many industrial materials function.

It is not as though the rare-earth elements—scandium, yttrium and lanthanum plus the 14 so-called lanthanides—are all that rare. Some are as abundant as nickel, copper or zinc. Even the two rarest (thulium and lutetium) are more abundant in the Earth’s crust than gold or platinum.

A decade ago America was the world’s largest producer of rare-earth metals. But its huge open-cast mine at Mountain Pass, California, closed in 2002—a victim mainly of China’s drastically lower labor costs. Today, China produces 95% of the world’s supply of rare-earth metals, and has started limiting exports to keep the country’s own high-tech industries supplied.

The rare-earth element that other industrial countries worry about most is neodymium. It is the key ingredient of super-strong permanent magnets. Over the past year the price of neodymium has quadrupled as electric motors that use permanent magnets instead of electromagnetic windings have gained even wider acceptance. Cheaper, smaller and more powerful, permanent-magnet motors and generators have made modern wind turbines and electric vehicles viable.

That said, not all makers of electric cars have rushed to embrace permanent-magnet motors. The Tesla Roadster, an electric sports car based on a Lotus Elise, uses no rare-earth metals whatsoever. Nor does the Mini-E, an electric version of BMW’s reinvention of the iconic 1960s car. Meanwhile, the company that pioneered much of today’s electric vehicle technology, AC Propulsion of San Dimas, California, has steered clear of permanent-magnet motors.

Clearly, a number of manufacturers think  the risk of relying on a single source of rare-earth metals is too high.

Read on about Toyota’s efforts to replace rare earths in it’s electric motors and the re-discovery of tech ology invented by Nicolas Tesla an American inventor, back in 1888. Check out Tesla’s own automobile A Tesla Engine Drive Piece Arrow. In addition the article also discussed the topic “Who needs a gearbox” in an electric car.

The Economist, Technology Quarterly, Jun 2nd 2011.

Tesla Roadster, Wikipedia 2011

Tesla Electric Car, Wikipedia 2011

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 Rocks On The Menu

— High commodity prices have encouraged the use of mineral-munching bugs to extract metals from waste or low-grade ore.

 

Bioleaching is the extraction of specific metals from  their ores through the use of living organisms. This is much cleaner than the traditional heap leaching using cyanide. Bioleaching is one of several applications within biohydrometallurgy and several methods are used to recover copper, zinc, lead, arsenic, antimony, nickel, molybdenum, gold, silver, and cobalt.

EVEN the sleekest gadget depends on the mucky business of digging stuff out of the ground. Mobile phones and computers use copper for their wiring and rely on cobalt, germanium, lithium, nickel, platinum and tantalum for other components. Electric motors need magnets made of “rare earth” elements such as neodymium. But rising metal prices and China’s tightening grip on supplies of rare-earth elements (it accounts for 97% of production) have heightened the appeal of finding other sources of supply. The result is growing interest in the use of rock-eating bacteria to extract metals from low-grade ores, mining waste or industrial effluent.

Rock-eating bacteria such as Acidithiobacillus and Leptospirillum are naturally occurring organisms that thrive in nasty, acidic environments. They obtain energy from chemical reactions with sulfides, and can thus accelerate the breakdown of minerals. Base metals such as iron, copper, zinc and cobalt occur widely as sulfides, and more valuable metals such as gold and uranium are also present in the same bodies of ore. With a little help from the mineral-munchers, these metals can be released in a process called bioleaching.

This approach has its pros and cons. To recover large quantities of metals quickly from ores with a high metal content, smelting remains the most profitable route. Bioleaching is slower, but it is also cheaper, making it well suited for treating ores and mining wastes with low metal concentrations. It is also generally cleaner. Material containing poisonous elements such as arsenic is unsuitable for smelting because of the risk of pollution.

For many years bioleaching has been used to recover gold from ores that are hard to break down using heat treatment (known as “roasting”). The bacteria are set to work in huge stirred tanks, called bioreactors, containing ground-up rocks and dilute sulfuric acid. The bacteria change one form of iron found within the ore (ferrous iron) to another (ferric iron) and tap the energy released. In acidic solutions ferric iron is a powerful oxidizing agent. It breaks down sulfide minerals and releases any associated metals.                       …

Interest in bioleaching shows no sign of abating. As part of a European project called ProMine, geologists are mapping Europe’s mineral resources to a depth of 5km (3.1 miles) in an effort to stimulate the mining industry and reduce dependence on imports. Integral to the project is further development of biological metal-recovery methods. In Europe, at least, mineral-munching microbes can expect long-term employment—and lunch.

Read on — There’s Lot’s more!

Bioleaching References

Bioleaching, Wikipedia 2011.

What is Bioleaching — A tutorial, Talvivaara Publications. May 6, 2010.

Bioleaching technology in minerals processing, By John Neale, BioMine Wiki, September 2006

What is Bioleaching? – Includes mechanisms – InovateUS Blog, 2011.

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Climate Change – It’s Complicated, But It’s Real

 

So, the engineers at GPS mission control need to use Einstein’s relativistic theories to make sure your iPhone tells you precisely where you are, whenever you want to know. Similarly, neither Newton’s or Einstein’s equations allow scientists to properly predict the subatomic interactions within the electronics of satellites or iPhones. For that, you need to reference the weird world of quantum mechanics.

Each of these model systems – Newtonian, Einsteinian  and Quantum physics – produces some contradictory predictions, and gaps in understanding remain. The theories have not yet been unified, for instance, to the lament of Einstein and his successors.

Yet the vast majority of us – the average Joe and Josephine Public – are not confused or worried about GPS and iPhones, for the simple matter that we don’t try too hard to understand how they work. After all, it’s plain enough to our eyes, immediately and incontrovertibly, that they do! So we just accept it, like we do for most forms of technology.

Climate science is now treated rather differently, however. This is because although the stochastic and chaotic systems involved are, in their own way, just as complex as relativity and quantum theory, many people just don’t want to take the underpinning science and evidence for granted.

They WANT to know and understand this stuff (which is good, from a science education perspective), and their motivation usually comes about because they feel threatened by it, or guilty about it, or whatever. Dylan’s example of not wanting to be responsible for suffering poor people underscores the point.

Yet, at its core, much of the math, physics, chemistry, models, theory, and so on, which together make up the many fields of climate science, can be really difficult stuff. It takes a lot of learning time, and lots exposure to the many lines of scientific evidence and the general practice of doing science and dealing with uncertainty, to appreciate the complexities and nuances involved.

So when people don’t ‘get’ the science and are left confused by media sound bites, it’s typically because they haven’t got the time, experience or training to really grasp the interconnections, feedbacks and apparent contradictions.

The other obvious problem is that climate model forecasts are not tangible and deterministic – unlike the GPS or iPhone, there is no simple, repeatable test of whether they ‘work’ or not. Climate change is also not being painted on a ‘blank canvas’ – extreme weather has always been with us, for instance, so how to tell what can be attributed to natural versus human-caused effects?

It’s tough, no doubt about it, and there is a huge scientific effort dedicated to identifying the ‘fingerprints’ of human activity amongst the many ‘smudges’ caused by ever present natural influences on weather and climate. There’s more – click trough

Well we can always do the ostrich thing, or we can at least insist that our decision makers demonstrate a competency in the scientific method, and understand science is grey, and each new set of data changes our knowledge base. Our and their jobs are to do no evil (they Hippocratic oath), and be protective — Katrina and the Gulf Spill did not need to happen, and 8if you buy land in a flood plain w/o insurance tough — We neither evolved in a welfare state or a wimp-fare state, mankind kind got where they are now be out toughing nature, and all their enemies.

Article by Barry Brook, The Energy Collective, Posted February 12, 2011.

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Would You Buy A $40 Light Bulb and Other Lighting Options

 

Now don’t think I’m biased against politicians, trying to stem energy use growth, here and abroad. After all there are the folks who deny climate change, manmade or not, while sea levels rise and weather, for now and predicted for the next half-decade, worsens. They also gave us a 15% corn ethanol limit despite auto manufactures plea that that would corrode engines and lower overall fuel efficiency. It also continues raise food prices without doing much, if anything about green house gasses. Another case of WIIFT.

However, life would be so much simpler if a carbon tax, for light bulbs as a low risk example, were implemented.  Tax these by wattage, assigned to all new light bulbs sold starting in 2012 or 2013; obviously much lower for  not to compact fluorescents, LEDs or other low energy alternatives.

The tax rate should be gradated say starting at 10-15% per bulb and rising to the prohibitive level in ca 10 years, increasing the way auto efficiency standards do. This would allow the industry to accommodate the change, allow individuals an alternative on what lights they want to use and how energy efficient. As I’ll share in the next column, the Scandinavian Countries have effectively started doing so, with none of the awful consequences preached by our technically undereducated lobbyist bought, politicians.

Furthermore, The US Government’s aim to ‘outlaw {aka phase out} incandescent bulbs, starting with 100 Watt models in 2012 and they will be mostly gone by 2014, will just create a black market. It’s done so for every other government introduced PROHIBITION around the world.

I’ve wondered whether once Europe and perhaps China adopt more stringent green house gas rules, perhaps by adopting a workable, a gradually imposed and flexible carbon tax, whether they could impose a VAT on US products? None of my economist-international scholar friends know how the Europeans (e.g., Court of Justice of the European Free Trade Association States) would deal with America exporting pollution, albeit indirectly?

Now the rest of the story…

Would You Buy A $40 Light Bulb?

Maybe you should.

This week, Philips Lighting said that its Ambient LED 12.5 watt bulb  — which, just to confuse you, is also sold under the Philips Endura LED brand — has qualified for an EPA’s Energy Star rating. That means that it’s an efficient and, quite possibly cost-effective alternative to the 60-watt bulb, even with a $39.97 list price at Home Depot. <No price listed for Amazon.com yet… jest you all wait!>

Here’s how the math works, at least according to Philips: A conventional 60-watt bulb lasts about 1,000 hours, uses 60 watts of electricity (duh) and costs $180 to run for 25,000 hours. The LED equivalent lasts 25,000 hours (nearly three years if you left it on 24/7), uses 12.5 watts and costs $37.50 to run for 25,000 hours.

That assumes electricity costs of 12.5 cents/kwh, slightly higher than average across the US but a lot less that you pay in high-cost states like California. Practically a bargain, no? {Doc Sez Perhaps?}

The Energy Star rating matters because it means that the bulb, which is evidently the first LED bulb in its category to qualify, can earn you a rebate from your local utility. There’s more on the rebates here from the U.S. Department of Energy. Each state has its own rebate program, forms to fill out, etc. Fun. Better news is that for now Phillips is offering a $10 cash rebate on the bulb.

There’s more — it’s not a silver bullet, but this makes it easier to see the light and lower overall energy costs.

Posted February 15, 2011 by Marc Gunther for The Energy Collective

Once-Scorned C. F. L. Light Bulbs Are Advancing

–It’s amazing how technology improves given an incentive, and profit has always been a better stick, in America, than regulation, when it is written intelligently. No WIIFT!

In my Pragmatist column in Thursday’s Home section, I describe the latest advancements in energy-efficient light bulbs in response to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, part of which takes effect next January. Much of that discussion focuses on so-called C.F.L.’s, or compact fluorescent light bulbs. While they have improved in recent years, the technology continues to be hampered by worries about its environmental impact in landfills because C.F.L.’s contain mercury.

Environmentally minded consumers who hope to shave a few dollars from their electric bills by using C.F.L.’s can take solace in the fact that some groups consider C.F.L.’s greener than the bulbs they replace. In 2008, for instance, the Natural Resources Defense Council published a paper suggesting that C.F.L.’s do less environmental harm than standard incandescent bulbs.

For example, C.F.L.’s require one-quarter the energy from coal-fired power plants that incandescents do, the council wrote. If all consumers changed to C.F.L.’s, the group argued, those plants would send less pollution into the air. The council’s paper cites research by the Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association into toxic waste levels from C.F.L.’s.

If you choose to buy fluorescents, you’ll still need to dispose of your old C.F.L.’s properly when they die or break. Home Depot and Lowe’s both accept C.F.L.’s for recycling, and you can find more information about disposal locations, among other topics, here.

Safety, of course, is another issue, since light bulbs are so easy to break. The amount of mercury contained in a C.F.L. is roughly equivalent to the amount of ink on the tip of a ballpoint pen and about one-fifth the amount in a watch battery, the council’s paper says. But the bulbs can leak mercury vapor when broken, so ventilation is important when cleaning a broken bulb, the council says in its paper. Some manufacturers now produce C.F.L.’s with protective coating; the EcoSmart Shatter-Resistant C.F.L. is one example.

By Bob Tedeschi, For The New York Times, August 11, 2011

The New Law — “The End Of The Light Bulb As We Know It” By Marianne Lavelle, For US News And World Report December 19, 2007

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Thorium Fuel Cycle

In the beginning… India got it, now China is getting on board

All of a sudden the pro nuclear professional media is asking the question  “Thorium: the miracle cure for a new nuclear backbone? … And in case anyone asks, both Uranium and Thorium are Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM)

“You can run a civilization on thorium for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s essentially free,” says Kirk Sorensen, former NASA engineer and one of today’s forward looking nuclear technologists. This week we look at the progress that has been made in developing thorium-based nuclear reactors, global stores, and why China and India believe this ‘miracle metal’ could be the next best thing.

Thorium versus Uranium — A tonne of thorium – the slow-decaying, slightly radioactive metal – produces as much energy as 200 tonnes of uranium, or 3,500,000 tonnes of coal. Besides being much cheaper, thorium is three times more abundant than uranium, so much that miners treat it as a nuisance. After all it is a radioactive by-product when they are digging up rare earth metals.

Unlike uranium, thorium is a low-carbon metal, and although not fissionable, it can be used as a nuclear fuel through breeding to fissile uranium-233 (U-233). Thorium decays its own hazardous waste and can expel the plutonium left by uranium reactors. Also, thorium cannot melt down and does not produce reliable fuel for bombs.

Both uranium and thorium are mined as ore and then detached from the rock, but thorium is four times more prevalent in Earth’s crust than uranium.

“Thorium has the potential to be the backbone of our energy future, and we need to move quickly towards it,” says Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA rocket engineer and now chief nuclear technologist at Teledyne Brown Engineering.

Typical nuclear power stations use uranium as their fuel source, but thorium reactors can offer greater safety, vastly reduced waste and much higher fuel efficiency. While only 0.7% of uranium’s energy is extractable, energy from thorium is 100% extractable.

“Once you start looking more closely, it blows your mind away. You can run a civilization on thorium for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s essentially free. You don’t have to deal with uranium cartels,” says Sorensen.

The article goes on to discuss

  • What if thorium was used to power nuclear reactors?
  • Economy leaders race to thorium
  • Locating the world’s thorium reserves (aka the US and Australia)

By Heba Hashem, Middle East Correspondent, Nuclear Energy Insider, February 17, 2011.

http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/industry-insight/thorium-miracle-cure-new-nuclear-backbone?utm_source=http%3a%2f%2fcommunicator.nuclearenergyinsider.com%2flz%2f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=eBrief+nuclear+17+Feb+11&utm_term=Thorium%3a+the+miracle+cure+for+a+new+nuclear+backbone&utm_content=537963

Other Thorium Fuel Cycle References

Thorium Fuel Cycle, From Wikipedia, 2011.

John Ritch, World Nuclear Association: “Nuclear Waste Is The Duty Of Governments,” Nuclear Energy Insider, August 20, 2010.

An Academic Take On The Future Of Nuclear Energy, By Elisabeth Jeffries, for the Nuclear Energy Insider, October 4, 2010.

The Fusion Fission Hybrid Thorium Fuel Cycle Alternative, by Magdi Ragheb, University of Illinois, Feb 2010

About Thorium, World Nuclear Association, March 2011.

Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke, By Richard Martin for Wired Magazine, December 21, 2009.

Drive to Build Thorium Reactor Prototype Launched In U.K., Posted September 8, 2011 by Dan Yurman for The Energy Collective

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Endnotes

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.

On occasion, where it irritates me, I change British spelling to the US alternative, but not for words like Tonne, which is a difference unit that the US Ton.

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 copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

Readers please 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/

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

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

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).          Doc.

… And yes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!

QUOTE de Mois — “Correlation is NOT Necessarily Causation”,  although you’d not know it from the gab of the nation’s talking heads and would be US Presidents. Science IQ, as a means testing for public office? A corollary to this is the demonstrated finding that you can’t change the beliefs of a true believer, fortunately they are only about 10% of our population; I do exclude water boarding and brain washing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation

By Harry {doc} Babad,  © Copyright 2011, All rights Reserved.

Introduction

Note, many of the technologies I share are in various stage of first, development, and are often far from being a commercial success. Their inventors and supporters still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable, Remember There Ain’t No free Lunch and silver bullets too often turn to lead.

When and if you Google them in depth, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical because there is no easy way to for them into our systems.

I always, as 75 year old cynic, find it appropriate, to step back as I read and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me. In addition, most have no relationship to solving the problem that is being bragged about.

I know, perhaps even truly believe, that for green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases) and gave out no subsidies, these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, Indian and Chinese too, 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 control climate or its effects, or about that your sure its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. By the way, I do agree, it’s all a conspiracy — Gaia and the Good Lord!

Stay tuned; 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 TAMIFLU; there’s no free lunch; as a taxpayer and consumer you must and will always end up paying the piper!

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • China Reportedly Plans Strict Goals to Save Energy —The Yin and Yang of US and Chinese Energy Polices.
  • Solar Energy Faces Tests On Greenness — The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • Energy Payoffs —In search of Radical Solutions by Vinod Khosla
  • Are You Ready for More Baaad Weather? —In a world of climate change, freak storms are the new normal. Why we’re unprepared for the harrowing future.
  • Solid-State Batteries – The Power Of The Printing Press.

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China Reportedly Plans Strict Goals to Save Energy

The Yin and Yang of US and Chinese Energy Polices.

Inertia, one of the few serious limitations of our Western Democratic systems, let’s hope it does kill us all.

 

As the title of this topic and the reference contain therein implies:

  1. The Chinese believe there is a global warming problem
  2. The governments realized that hurting their people lead to Social Unrest
  3. Smoggy cities, drastic unexpected and larger than predictable weather patterns, durations and incidents. Then there’s the increase of temperature/humidity related diseases we’ve begun to document in both the government and it’s policies for a Greater China at risk.

So, according to this article and others I’ve studied they are willing to put their resources where the mouths and platitudes of western politicians now are. You know the three wise monkeys.

HONG KONG — With oil prices at their highest level in more than two years because of unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, the Chinese government plans to announce strict five-year goals for energy conservation in the next two weeks, China energy specialists said Friday.

Beijing’s emphasis on saving energy reflects concerns about national security and the effects of high fuel costs on inflation, China’s export competitiveness and the country’s pollution problems.

Any energy policy moves by Beijing hold global implications, given that China is the world’s biggest consumer of energy and largest emitter of greenhouse gases. And even the new efficiency goals assume that China’s overall energy consumption will grow, to meet the needs of the nation’s 1.3 billion people and its rapidly expanding economy.

As a net importer of oil, China tends to view its energy needs as a matter of national security. And so, even as Beijing tries to quell any signs of the Arab world’s social unrest striking a political chord with Chinese citizens, the government is also intent on not letting similar upheaval impinge on its energy needs.

Although, China, as part of the new five-year plan, has placed a big bet on renewable energy, emerging as the world’s biggest and lowest-cost manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels. But the country remains heavily reliant on coal and nuclear for its electricity. And its oil imports are surging after auto sales have surpassed the American market in each of the last two years.

An important feature of the five-year plan is its call to double the share of natural gas in Chinese energy consumption, to 8 percent in 2015 from 4 percent last year, according to Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the multilateral International Energy Agency in Paris. This will make China a natural buyer of large quantities of Russian gas, making it a competitor to Europe, which already relies heavily on gas from Russia.

The goals in China’s new five-year plan are consistent with the International Energy Agency’s “new policies” plan for climate change, a middle course that represents an improvement from current policies, Mr. Birol said. But he noted that the Chinese goals did not go far enough to meet what the agency considers necessary to prevent world temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius, an increase that many scientists fear as potentially leading to very broad environmental changes.

There’s more, promoting electric cars, building 20 new state of the art Generation III+ nuclear reactors, localizing local energy use by setting enforceable consumption and pollution targets. Click though and read the rest of the details.

Keith Bradsher Article References and Notes

Article by Keith Bradsher for the New York Times, Published: March 4, 2011

How does China’s 12th Five-Year Plan address energy and the environment? By the World Resources Institute, 7 Mar 2011.

China’s Five-year Plan & Renewable Energy – A Detailed Explanation, by DeBlock Consulting Ltd, March 2011.

While China Cuts Energy Waste, the U.S. Just Wastes, Posted by Bryan Walsh for Time Magazine, March 4, 2011.

As a Serious Sidebar – for the Chinese, Nuclear Power is both renewable and environmentally protective.

Nuclear Plans in China, the Japanese accident hasn’t stopped the planning and building, and taken a time out for doing enhanced safety analysis factoring in the lessons being learned from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. “When compared with the 11th Five-year Plan, the 12th Five-year Plan will continue the fast paced development stage; It is estimated that between 2011 and 2015 the rate of increase in China’s installed nuclear capacity will be over 30%, from 2010 levels of 10.8GW to 43GW in 2015. Third generation AP1000 nuclear technology will be an important direction in China’s nuclear development. Currently second generation CPR1000 technology is the most common among completed nuclear projects and nuclear projects under construction, but in planned nuclear projects the third generation AP1000 technology is used much more than CPR1000. Geographical development of nuclear projects will build on the fast paced development in coastal regions such as Liaoning, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian and gradually move into central regions such as Jiangxi, Hunan and Anhui, forming the “central/eastern nuclear belt”.

Nuclear power in the People’s Republic of China, Wikipedia 2011.

Nuclear Power in China, World Nuclear Association, June 2011.

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 Solar Energy Faces Tests and Challenges on Greenness

— It’s a total life cycle cost thing and crossing all the “t’s” and dotting the “I’s” thing, as I’ve been preaching

KISS Me Once, Kiss Me Twice And Kiss Me Once Again:

  • Fragile Desert Environment adversely affected by large plant footprint.
  • Unsubstantiated and waving of the hand environmental documentation
  • Unsubsidized production costs, even without life cycle costs included, are uncompetitive in most areas
  • Grid Connection and maintenance costs are not reliably factored into the baseline costs
  • Inadequate analyses of the costs of pollution control from toxic conditions and chemicals used for photovoltaic solar cell manufacture; not a factor when assessing solar thermal generation.
  • Unusable for base load production, without major breakthrough, so far under costed, for storage when the sun is not shining.

What follows is an excepts from the latest report by folks assessing the total cost of solar photo voltaic energy as a green alternative to nuclear, off shore other coastal based wind power, and perhaps appropriate located geothermal power generation.

SAN FRANCISCO — Just weeks after regulators approved the last of nine multibillion-dollar solar thermal power plants to be built in the Southern California desert, a storm of lawsuits and the resurgence of an older solar technology are clouding the future of the nascent industry.

The litigation, which seeks to block construction of five of the solar thermal projects, underscores the growing risks of building large-scale renewable energy plants in environmentally delicate areas. On Jan. 25, for instance, Solar Millennium withdrew its 16-month-old license application for a 250-megawatt solar station called Ridgecrest, citing regulators’ concerns over the project’s impact on the Mohave ground squirrel.

At peak output, the five licensed solar thermal projects being challenged would power more than two million homes, create thousands of construction jobs and help the state meet aggressive renewable energy mandates. The projects are backed by California’s biggest utilities, top state officials and the Obama administration.  But conservation, labor and American Indian groups are challenging the projects on environmental grounds. The lawsuits, coupled with a broad plunge in prices for energy from competing power sources, threaten the ability of developers to secure expiring federal loan guarantees and private financing to establish the projects. Only one developer so far, BrightSource Energy, has obtained a loan guarantee and begun construction.

Like so many of this state’s troubles, the industry’s problems are rooted in real estate. However, it grew much broader when apparent flaws in both environmental analyses, a potential for actual public fraud, and lots of what the kind at heart would call misrepresentation of liabilities and gains. This makes an interesting read. When added to the references I’ve listed below make a compelling statement of narrow vision, based on gluttons’ visions of a full trough at the public expense. …And there’s also, all the knock on your door solar home system sales people.

After all we know the courts will decide, but regular readers know my opinions of courts and juries to get science related issue right. Again I plead for a science literacy tests, say the ones they use Europe and Asia for 8th grade students, for all who would serve as juries in science and engineering court cases. That should include the judges too, but I’m being too utopian.

By Todd Woody, for the New York Times, Published: February 23, 2011.

References

Pros And Cons Of Solar Energy, Clean Energy Ideas Blog, Undated.

Environmentalists Weigh Solar Power’s Pros, Cons, SolarPower.Org Blog, Posted June 2, 2006.

Solar Power: The Pros and Cons of Solar Power, About.Com Blog, By Larry West, About.com Guide, 2011.

Solar Power, <and> Solar Energy, “Wikipedia”, 2011 – two articles.

The Solar Power Scam, by Brian Schwarz and Thomas Lifson for the “American Thinker” <a conservative blog>, April 19, 2011.

10-Year Sentence In Solar Energy Scam, “The Healdsburg Patch blog”, May 3, 2100.

Are We Really Going To Let Ourselves Be Duped Into This Solar Panel Rip-Off? By

George Monbiot for the Guardian.co.uk, March 1, 2010

Solar Power Scams, “Energy Matters” an Australian Renewable Energy News Blog, March 26, 2009.

How to Detect a Solar Scam – Here’s a deal for you! “Solar Kismet”, March 2007.

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Energy Payoffs

In search of Radical Solutions by Vinod Khosla, Venture Capitalist

Unusual for me, I’m just providing this topic as a reference link and ultra short SciAm synopsis, enjoy. It was published in Scientific American in January 2011, and due to their access restrictions, the full article may be hard to access outside of a library. But the abstract posted a link is well worth reading.

In Brief,

Radical innovation, not incremental improvement, is needed to make dean, efficient energy technologies that can compete, unsubsidized, in big markets.

Mainstream technologies such as air conditioning and automobile engines may be the best targets for breakthroughs that change the energy game.

More people with  Ph.D.’s in technical disciplines are needed to create true breakthroughs.

Students are beginning to flock to these areas. A low-carbon-electricity standard, not renewable energy standards or cap and trade would most encourage cleaner technologies, including for fossil fuels.

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Are You Ready for More Baaad Weather?

—In a world of climate change, freak storms are the new normal. Why we’re unprepared for the harrowing future.

Not only did I find the article detailed and factual, I was also amazed by the amount of Ostrich Heads in the Sand Flaming it produced. It matters not whether this is global warming, or just out turn in the weather cycle, the damage is real and the incidence of more aggressive and destructive weather incidents, worldwide is increasing. We’ve tow choices. The first is to rescue those victimized by bad weather until governments run out of money. Alternative, start slowing and globally to take a chance that climate change theory is good, if incomplete science, caused by green house gasses and other aggressive environmental damage caused by man (e.g., deforestation) and start to do something about it.

 An Excerpt

Joplin, Mo., was prepared. The tornado warning system gave residents 24 minutes’ notice that a twister was bearing down on them. Doctors and nurses at St. John’s Regional Medical Center, who had practiced tornado drills for years, moved fast, getting patients away from windows, closing blinds, and activating emergency generators. And yet more than 130 people died in Joplin, including four people at St. John’s, where the tornado sucked up the roof and left the building in ruins, like much of the shattered city.

Even those who deny the existence of global climate change are having trouble dismissing the evidence of the last year. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,000 tornadoes have ripped across the heartland, killing more than 500 people and inflicting $9 billion in damage. The Midwest suffered the wettest April in 116 years, forcing the Mississippi to flood thousands of square miles, even as drought-plagued Texas suffered the driest month in a century. Worldwide, the litany of weather’s extremes has reached biblical proportions. The 2010 heat wave in Russia killed an estimated 15,000 people. Floods in Australia and Pakistan killed 2,000 and left large swaths of each country under water. A months-long drought in China has devastated millions of acres of farmland. And the temperature keeps rising: 2010 was the hottest year on earth since weather records began.

From these and other extreme-weather events, one lesson is sinking in with terrifying certainty. The stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone. Which means you haven’t seen anything yet. And we are not prepared.

Picture California a few decades from now, a place so hot and arid the state’s trademark orange and lemon trees have been replaced with olive trees that can handle the new climate. Alternating floods and droughts have made it impossible for the reservoirs to capture enough drinking water. The picturesque Highway 1, sections of which are already periodically being washed out by storm surges and mudslides, will have to be rerouted inland, possibly through a mountain. These aren’t scenes from another deadly-weather thriller like The Day After Tomorrow. They’re all changes that California officials believe they need to brace for within the next decade or two. And they aren’t alone. Across the U.S., it’s just beginning to dawn on civic leaders that they’ll need to help their communities brave coming dangers brought by climate change, from disappearing islands in Chesapeake Bay to dust bowls in the Plains and horrific hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet only 14 states are even planning, let alone implementing, climate-change adaptation plans, says Terri Cruce, a climate consultant in California. The other 36 apparently are hoping for a miracle.

The game of catch-up will have to happen quickly because so much time was lost to inaction. “The Bush administration was a disaster, but the Obama administration has accomplished next to nothing either, in part because a significant part of the Democratic Party is inclined to balk on this issue as well,” says economist Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. “We [are] past the tipping point.” The idea of adapting to climate change was once a taboo subject. Scientists and activists feared that focusing on coping would diminish efforts to reduce carbon emissions. On the opposite side of the divide, climate-change deniers argued that since global warming is a “hoax,” there was no need to figure out how to adapt. “Climate-change adaptation was a nonstarter,” says Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. “If you wanted to talk about that, you would have had to talk about climate change itself, which the Bush administration didn’t want to do.” In fact, President Bush killed what author Mark Hertsgaard in his 2011 book, Hot, calls “a key adaptation tool,” the National Climate Assessment, an analysis of the vulnerabilities in regions of the U.S. and ideas for coping with them. The legacy of that: state efforts are spotty and local action is practically nonexistent. “There are no true adaptation experts in the federal government, let alone states or cities,” says Arroyo. “They’ve just been commandeered from other departments.”

The rookies (functionally science illiterate) will struggle to comprehend the complex impacts of climate change. The burning of fossil fuels has raised atmospheric levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide by 40 percent above what they were before the Industrial Revolution. The added heat in the atmosphere retains more moisture, ratchets up the energy in the system, and incites more violent and extreme weather. Scientists disagree about whether climate change will bring more intense or frequent tornadoes, but there is wide consensus that the 2 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming of the last century is behind the rise in sea levels, more intense hurricanes, more heat waves, and more droughts and deluges. Even if the world went carbon-neutral tomorrow, we’d be in for more: because of the CO2 that has already been emitted, we’re on track for another 5 degrees of warming. Batten down the hatches. “You can no longer say that the climate of the future is going to be like the climate of today, let alone yesterday,” says Judi Greenwald, vice president of innovative solutions at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “In all of the plausible climate scenarios, we are going to have to change the way we do things in ways we can’t even predict.”

So what lies behind America’s resistance to action? Economist Sachs points to the lobbying power of industries that resist acknowledgment of climate change’s impact. “The country is two decades behind in taking action because both parties are in thrall to Big Oil and Big Coal,” says Sachs. “The airwaves are filled with corporate-financed climate misinformation.” But the vanguard of action isn’t waiting any longer. This week, representatives from an estimated 100 cities are meeting in Bonn, Germany, for the 2nd World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change. The theme is “Resilient Cities.” As Joplin, Mo., learned in the most tragic way possible, against some impacts of climate change, man’s puny efforts are futile. But time is getting short, and the stakes are high. Says Daniel Sarewitz, a professor of science and society at Arizona State University: “Not to adapt is to consign millions of people to death and disruption.”

Check it out, there’s lots more facts, links to disaster TV footage, it’s real… will likely get worse… who cares the cause.

 

By Sharon Begley for Newsweek, May 29, 2011.

References On a comparable Theme

Piecemeal Possibilities and Climate Change – Paying attention to alternative ways of cooling the planet is a good idea; ignoring carbon emissions isn’t, The Economist, February 17, 2011.

A Fistful Of Dust and Climate Science — The true effect of windblown material is only now coming to be appreciated, The Economist, Jan 6th 2011.

Acute Climate Change in the Arctic: Fighting Air Pollution May Slow Warming, Stockholm Environmental Institute, June 9, 2011.

Carbon Flows, The Omitted Emissions — The usual figures ignore the role of trade in the world’s carbon economy, The Economist, Apr 28th 2011.

References — Samples of Denial and Flaming

Newsweek’s Global Warming Fear-Mongering Isn’t Science; It’s Science Fiction, The Ace of Spades HQ Blog, May 31, 2011.

Cooler Heads Prevail Against Climate Panic, June 01, 2011|By Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe Columnist

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Solid-State Batteries – The Power of the Printing Press

The power of the press; a new process will make solid-state rechargeable batteries that should greatly outperform existing ones. Electronics made a huge leap forward when the delicate and temperamental vacuum tube was replaced by the robust, reliable transistor. That change led to the now ubiquitous silicon chip. As a consequence, electronic devices have become vastly more powerful and, at the same time, have shrunk in both size and cost. Some people believe that a similar change would happen if rechargeable batteries could likewise be made into thin, solid devices. Researchers are working, and succeeding on, various ways to do this and now one of these efforts is coming to large-scale fruition. That promises smaller, cheaper, more powerful batteries for consumer electronics and, eventually, for electric cars.

The new development is the work of Planar Energy of Orlando, Florida—a company spun out of America’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2007. The firm is about to complete a pilot production line that will print lithium-ion batteries onto sheets of metal or plastic, like printing a newspaper. “Thin-film” printing methods of this sort are already used to make solar cells and display screens, but no one has yet been able to pull off the trick on anything like an industrial scale with batteries. Paradoxically, though thin-film printing needs liquid precursor chemicals to act as the “ink” which is sprayed onto the metal or plastic substrate, it works well only when those precursors react to form a solid final product. Most batteries include liquid or semi-liquid electrolytes—so printing them has been thought to be out of the question. Planar, however, has discovered a solid electrolyte it believes is suitable for thin-film printing.

Lack of range is reckoned one of the main obstacles to the widespread use of electric cars. If solid-state batteries could overcome such range anxiety that would, indeed, be a revolution on a par with the silicon chip.

Okay, this is a teaser, so click though and enjoy the rest of the article.

Published in the Economist, Jan 27th 2011.

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Endnotes

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 copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe. Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).          Doc.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot ˆThe name of my game!”

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

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Software: General Astronomy Course Assistant
Vendor: Wolfram Research (www.wolfram.com)
Price: $4.95

Many modern students use their smart phones in school, and Wolfram understands this so they are releasing a series of course assistant applications for smart phones and devices like the Apple iPhone and iPod touch. I’ve already looked at Wolfram’s Course Assistant for Astronomy, and I wanted to look at Wolfram’s General Chemistry Course Assistant when it was released since I initially majored in Biochemistry when I first started my undergrad degree.

This Course Assistant is sold through the Apple Apps store for $4.95, and I downloaded and installed the app through iTunes, which was flawless. The data (just like in the Astronomy Course Assistant) was organized by categories:

  • Atoms, Molecules, Ions
  • Atomic Structure & Periodicity
  • Reactions & Stoichiometry
  • Gases
  • Chemical Bonding
  • Liquids & Solids
  • Acids & Bases
  • The Nucleus
  • Units & Chemical Properties

Atoms, Molecules, Ions

This category has these subcategories: Find an Element. Find an Isotope, Atomic Properties of Elements, Abundance of Elements, Properties of Monoatomic Ions, and Ion Groups.

I went to the ‘Find an Element’ subcategory and entered 8, and then pressed ‘Compute’ to see the information on Oxygen, which displayed the element name,the location in the periodic table, an image of the element, some basic element properties (symbol, atomic number, electron configuration, block, group, period, and atomic weight), thermodynamic properties (melting point, boiling point – in centigrade and fahrenheit – critical temperature and pressure, molar heat of fusion, heat of vaporization, specific heat at STP, and adiabetic index), material properties (density, molar volume, refractive index, sound speed, and thermal conductivity), electromagnetic properties, reactivity (valence, electronegativity, electron affinity, ionization energies, atomic properties (term symbol, atomic radius, covalent radius, and van der Waals radius), abundance (universal, crust, and human), nuclear properties (half-life, isotopes), and identifiers (CAS and PubChem numbers).

In addition to searching for elements by atomic number, you can also use the number of protons and electrons. My favorite subcategory of this category of the course assistant was the ‘Atomic Properties of Elements’, because the search criteria you can use to find information include atomic number/weight/radius, number of protons/electrons.neutrons, and the Lewis structure.

Atomic Structure & Periodicity

This category has four subcategories: Light & Matter, Electron Configuration, Periodic Properties of Elements, and Ionic Radii.

The ‘Light & Matter’ subcategory lets you compute EM Radiation, the energy of a photon, and photon energy. The ‘Electron Configuration’ subcategory lets you compute configuration information for atoms or ions. The ‘Periodic Properties of Elements’ calculates information for elements and element groups. The ‘Ionic Radii’ subcategory computes radii for monoatomic and polyatomic ions.

Reactions & Stoichiometry

This category has eight subcategories to Solve for Mass/Volume, Convert Mass/Volume, Calculating Molar Mass, Composition of Compounds, Concentration and Solutions, and Equations and Reactions. My favorite subcategory was Equations and Reactions, which lets you plug in data to compute Reaction Enthalpy, the Reaction Equilibrium Constant, balance chemical equations, and calculate theoretical yields. Each section lets you specify 1 to 4 reactants and 1 to 4 products. Very useful.

Gases

This category has nine subcategories to solve for Avogadro’s Law (V or n), Boyle’s Law (V or P), Charles’s Law (V or T), Gay-Lussac’s Law (P or T)/Density or Molar Mass, the Ideal Gas Law (P, V, n, and T), Graham’s Law, Average Kinetic Energy, and RMS Velocity.

Chemical Bonding

This category has two subcategories: Bond Properties of Chemicals and Lewis Structures of Elements. The ‘Bond Properties’ include dipole moment, bond types and bond lengths for water, ethanol, acetic acid, acetone, and chloroform.

Liquids & Solids

This category has three subcategories: X-ray Analysis of Solids (Bragg Equation), Boiling Point of Liquids, and Liquid Vapor Pressure. I really liked how the second subcategory lets find boiling points based on city, elevation or mountains.

This was the only area of the app that I saw an error. I went into all three subcategories and all were blank, even though I waited 10 minutes. I quit the app and after I went back into it I was able to see each subcategory, but then the app locked up for a minute. I was able to restart the app, but I have notified Wolfram about this issue and will update this review as soon as I hear back from them.

Acids & Bases

This category lets you look up properties of acids and bases, calculates the ionization percentage of a solution, determine acidity and basicity of solutions (calculate pH and pOH, H+ and OH-, and look up the pH of a chemical), calculate pKa, and solve for pH or pKa.

The Nucleus

This category lets you look up information on isotopes (get element isotopes, look up nuclear properties, and find isotope half-life), as well as compute carbon-14 dating (if you believe that the earth is actually older than 6400 years). I went into the ‘Isotopes’ subcategory and looked up the isotopes for Oxygen, which showed all of the stable and unstable O isotopes. My favorite subcategory of this section was the ‘Isotope Half-Life’, as you can easily use element name or mass numbers to compute the half-lives of elements, which was interesting considering the reactor problems currently being experienced in Japan (as well as in Chernobyl).

Units & Chemical Properties

This category contains five subcategories: Unit Conversions, Physical Properties, Thermodynamic Properties, Element Properties, and Chemical Properties. The ‘Unit Conversion’ subcategory allows conversions based on length, mass, temperature, and volume. The four types of ‘Physical Properties’ are molecular weight, density,boiling point, and melting point. The types of properties found using ‘Thermodynamic Lookup’ are enthalpy of formation, entropy, free energy, heat capacity, enthalpy of fusion, and combustion heat.

I liked the ‘Element Properties’ subcategories, because it returns a ton of information for each element (the element name, periodic table position, an image, basic element properties, thermodynamic properties, material properties, electromagnetic properties, reactivity, atomic properties abundances, nuclear properties, and identifiers), but that seems to be the same as the data returned in the ‘Find an Element’ subcategory option in the ‘Atoms, Molecules, Ions’ category of the app.

Conclusion

Wolfram has expanded their offerings beyond the first 6 course assistant apps available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. I tested this app using my iPod touch and was satisfied with the amount of useful information as well as the content layout. I did have a problem at one point and had to exit the app, but it then functioned normally.

As much as I enjoyed this app on my iPod touch, I’d love to be able  to retrieve all of the ‘Element Properties’ (in the ‘Units & Chemical Properties’ category) using a GUI image of the periodic table instead of the keyboard that was implemented in the app. To select elements not included on the keyboard, you just need to highlight the element that begins with the same first letter of the alphabet, then select the desired element. Preferring a GUI for this UI is a person preference and not a bug or error, but it might be more appropriate on the larger screen on the iPad.

Recommendation

A good value. Good data that will preclude the need to look up technical information in a textbook, which is handy for high school or college students.

By Tobias Lindemann, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

I was not happy when Atlantis lifted off last Friday, because I thought we would not have a chance to see it here in Europe. I was relieved when a friend told me that there would be a Solar-Transit of the ISS (International Space Station) near our home in Munich, Germany. The day after the launch, I read that the Shuttle Atlantis docked with the ISS, so I knew I had a chance to get the ISS and Shuttle together in a picture.

To verify the possibility, I went to www.calsky.com which is a nice site where you can calculate where the ISS will pass, as well as moon and solar transits for your location. Even if there is a flyby that is close to the sun, this site tells you where to go to see a perfect crossing. I was happy to learn that I could go to a place that is only a stone’s throw from my house.

I don’t own a mobile telescope, so I took my 300mm telephoto lens, a solar filter I built years ago for a solar-eclipse, and my EOS to the observation site. But before I left I had to synchronize the clock of my camera to match an exact radio clock.  Calsky had calculated the exact time for the crossing at 14h 56min 18.2sec UTC, and the whole transit duration was only 0.89 seconds which is fast.  I arrived at the observation location at 14:40 UTC, so I had enough time to find the sun, focus the lens and set the correct exposure time (I felt the best exposure time was 1/6000 at ISO 100 and f/9 with my filter).

IMPORTANT! Regarding the correct filter, it is extremely important that you do not look at the sun even though a small photo lens without a filter. Direct sunlight can seriously damage your eyes!!!

I choose JPEG as the image format because I can take many more photos in this format in burst-mode than taking raw format images.

A few minutes later, the key moment approached and I started the photo shot. I didn’t look at the sun through the finder, but after one minute of exposing the image I decided that the crossing must be over and released the trigger. I went home and transferred the photos to my computer and was very exited to see there were pictures of the sun, with something in front of it. I had about 800 photos to look at, but I realized that I had adjusted the time of my camera with a radio clock, so every photo has a very exact time stamp. It was unbelievable, but there were some pictures with the ISS in front of the sun at the exact time of 14:56:18. Thank you calsky.com; that is what I call that accurate.

The only tasks I had left was to stack the images with Fitswork using the “minimum function”, so that the dark ISS looks better plus reduce the intensity of the sun in the consolidated photo. Here is my photo from that event:

Even when a telephoto lens lacks high magnification, you can see the modules and solar panels of the ISS. Normal ISS passes occur in the evenings and mornings, and I do photograph very often at either time, but this was the first time I took some photos of the ISS in front of the sun, which was very exciting.

– Tobias <TobiasLindemann@iss-tracking.de>

Editor’s Comment

Tobias does astro-photography and shares his photos with fellow astronomy enthusiasts. He recently took a beautiful image of the ISS transitioning across the sun and I saw it when he shared it with members of the ISS Tracking Yahoo User Group. I was impressed enough to ask Tobias to write a short article about it for the readers of this site and he was happy to comply. Thank you for sharing, Tobias.

– Mike

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All rights Reserved.

Greening Introduction

REFERENCES AND THEIR USES – A late night musing

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is making changes to improve its scientific integrity. The move comes in part because of mistakes discovered in the panel’s 2007 assessment, including the incorrect statement that Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035.

Last year, the Inter Academy Council, a coalition of national scientific academies, recommended changes to IPCC to address these and other issues (C&EN, Sept. 6, 2010, page 15). At a meeting in mid-May, IPCC adopted a procedure for evaluating and correcting errors in its assessments. The group also established a standardized method for addressing scientific uncertainties in its reports, and it approved a new conflict of interest policy.

The present approach is compliant to the reviews of the IPCC by leading British and American Senior Technical advisory groups (e.g., NAS)

In addition, the panel set a benchmark for scientific literature used for its assessments. This gives priority to peer-reviewed studies but recognizes that reports from governments, industry, and research institutions may provide crucial data even if they aren’t peer reviewed. It states that magazines and newspapers are generally not valid sources of scientific in formation and bans the use of material from broadcast media, blogs, social networking sites, and personal communications of scientific results.

Note that the criteria the panel espouses are comparable to those I use in determining whether or not to use a reference in one of my articles.However, there is one major difference. I seldom use primary references (e.g., journals) as examples for further exploration for you my readers. First, such use of such would be counterproductive as a communications tool on the basis of knowledge accessibility.

Many of you, including my self, would be swamped by journal article contents in areas we had not studied Alternately if long ago studies, has evolved to the point where can not easily connect either with the concept details or newly evolved semantics. There for the contents would be, in terms of understanding, inaccessible to us!

Second, the entireties of journal articles are not easily available via Google and other publicly accessible search methods. Although, the abstracts of the article are, they are not detailed enough to serve as serious information even to a casual ‘knowledge-hungry’ reader. Again it’s a matter of access.

You can access full journal articles through a public library or local college library, only if the local agencies have individual subscriptions to that service. [No I’ve not tried the Library of Congress for journal\access detail.] Buying articles for archive reference copy use w/o the academic and public library discount is pricy… Certainly, as a routine expense, out of my budget. Indeed getting access to an occasional primary reference is the primary reason I maintain local library cards; other information is as easily available from my desktop iMac.

Therefore all of my references will remain secondary and shall only be used after a sanity, logic, and check on WIIFT <What’s in it for them>.

Check out my approaches to topic selection in the endnote entitled Sources and Credits.

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 The New Snippets and Topics ——— Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order

 References and Their Uses – A late night musing

New Reactor Harnesses Sun’s Energy Like Plants The science keeps getting us closer but we’re a long ways from commercial or even breakeven costs.

Carbon Sequestration Core NETL R&D — The DOE Program

The Commuter Bike Redesigned and Electrified — If I was a rich man…

Pollution & Global Warming — Climate change in black and white

Symbiotic Coupling Of Wind Power And Nuclear Power Generation Finally someone serious about merging green power, renewable but intermittent Wind and greenhouse free baseload effective nuclear.

Nuclear Efficiency — With new fuel formulations, reactors could extract more energy, and reduce hazardous waste

Is the Coal Killer Flying Thousands of Feet Up in the Sky? — A new meaning to go fly a self powered kite.

IAEA Fujushima Dalichi Fact Finding Mission Summary and Initial Findings

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 New Reactor Harnesses Sun’s Energy Like Plants The science keeps getting us closer but we’re a long ways from commercial or even breakeven costs.

Researchers have unveiled a prototype reactor, which mimics plant life, turning the Sun’s energy to make hydrocarbon fuel. Developed by a team of scientists from the United States and Switzerland, The device uses the Sun’s rays and the mineral ceria (cerium oxide), to break down water or carbon dioxide into energy, which can be stored and transported.

Harnessing the power of the sun has been but a pipe dream, as conventional solar panels must use the power they generate in situ. With the ceria-fueled reactor, this issue is solved

The scientists, who include Caltech professor Sossina M. Haile and Swiss Institute of Energy Technology professor Aldo Steinfeld, wanted to figure out a way to harness the sun efficiently, without incredibly rare materials. They decided on testing ceria, a relatively abundant “rare-earth” metallic oxide with very special properties.

The solar reactor takes advantage of the ceramic ceria’s ability to “exhale” oxygen from its crystalline framework at very high temperatures and then “inhale” oxygen back in at lower temperatures. “What is special about the material is that it doesn’t release all of the oxygen. That helps to leave the framework of the material intact as oxygen leaves,” Haile explains. “When we cool it back down, the material’s thermodynamically preferred state is to pull oxygen back into the structure.”

Why start the long hard journey to practicality… click the link.

From: FoxNews.com, January 20, 2011

An alternative approach to generating solar power, based on making more effective use of Thermoelectric devices then have been previously been possible is referenced below.

Solar Tower—The Third Way. (A new method of making electricity from sunlight has just been tested) Reported in the May 12th, 2011 Economist.

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 Carbon Sequestration NETL Core R&D — The DOE Program

Many of you know that I have grave doubts about carbon sequestration, putting carbon, as a gas, in underground geological repositories.  Nevertheless, in the interest of fairness, DOE’s efforts on the topic are summarized below, the information taken from their The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) web pages. I am pleased to note that other, international efforts are approaching the demonstration stage, but still fear for the risks associated with diverse environmental (geohydrologic-seismic) environments for any site-specific demonstration of long-term storage or disposal. Each and every location, not just environmental setting, must be proven safe for the so-called ‘disposal’ period, despite effect of plate tectonics (earthquakes) and perhaps climate change. [Think nuclear waste repositories.] 

Therefore herein, I am sharing only information focused primarily on the two areas of Pre-Combustion Capture and CO2 Utilization. However, the references I, link to all the current DOE efforts, my interests continue to mainly focus only on areas where the long term economic risk is a more important factor than the environmental ones.

The DOE Core Research and Development (Core R&D) focuses on developing new carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to a pre-commercial demonstration level. The Core R&D Element includes five technical focus areas: (1) Pre-Combustion Capture; (2) Monitoring, Verification, and Accounting (MVA); (3) Geologic Storage; (4) Simulation and Risk Assessment; and (5) CO2 Utilization.

From my perspective, until the issue of ‘licensing’ geologic site for long storage [… let’s say 100 -300 years> or disposal < ≥ 1000 years> is actually address and consensus reached on it resolution, the most useful part of the pram is the isolation, capture and reuse of the CO2 we emit in generating electricity from coal, oil, and natural gas. Remember, CO2has no half-life. If we don’t concert it to a solid mineral form or release it to challenge the next ice ago, it will do damage whenever it get released back in to the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) capture is defined as the separation of CO2 from emissions sources or from within the CO2 emission process. When CO2 is recovered from emissions sources, such as power plant flue gases, it is in a concentrated stream that is amenable to storage or conversion. Currently this process is costly and energy intensive, accounting for the majority of the cost of storage.

The Carbon Sequestration Program (Pre-Combustion Capture Focus Area) is focusing on developing technologies used to reduce the cost of capture and separation of CO2 in pre-combustion systems. Pre-combustion capture is mainly applicable to Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plants and refers to removal of the CO2 from the synthesis gas (syngas) prior to its combustion for power production. CO2 is concentrated and at a high-pressure as a result. A simplified process schematic for pre-combustion CO2 capture is shown below. Near-term applications of CO2 capture from pre-combustion systems will likely involve improvements to the existing state-of-the-art physical or chemical absorption processes being used by the power generation industry.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) utilization efforts focus on pathways and novel approaches for reducing CO2 emissions by developing beneficial uses for the CO2 that will mitigate CO2 emissions in areas where geologic storage may not be an optimal solution. CO2 can be used in applications that could generate significant benefits. It is possible to develop alternatives that can use captured CO2 or convert it to useful products such chemicals, cements, or plastics. Revenue generated from the utilized CO2 could also offset a portion of the CO2 capture cost.

Processes or concepts must take into account the life cycle of the process to ensure that additional CO2 is not produced beyond what is already being removed from or going into the atmosphere. Furthermore, while the utilization of CO2 has some potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, CO2 has certain disadvantages as a chemical reactant. Carbon dioxide is rather inert and non-reactive. This inertness is the reason why CO2 has broad industrial and technical applications. Each potential use of CO2 has an energy requirement that needs to be determined; and the CO2 produced to create the energy for the specific utilization process must not exceed the CO2 utilized.

Want to know more about potential uses of captured CO2, check out the link.

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 The Commuter Bike Redesigned and Electrified — If I was a rich man…

This week, most people on the East Coast were hunkering down indoors, prepared for this winter’s fourth Snowstorm of the Century. I (Dave Pouge) on the other hand, was riding around a hotel ballroom on a YikeBike. And I’ll be straight with you: I had kind of a Segway moment.

Remember that? After inventor Dean Kamen first gave secret demos of his self-balancing upright scooter to industry hotshots, their awed reactions included remarks like, “They’ll redesign cities for this thing.” Of course, the Segway never did become as commonplace as the bicycle, and the YikeBike won’t either. But what a cool idea.

It’s an electric bike. Top speed is about 15 miles an hour. Buttons that are right under your thumbs on the handlebars smoothly controls the accelerator and brakes. The handlebars themselves are at your waist level, which might seem odd but makes sense—you ride sitting fully upright instead of bending forward, as on a bicycle. That design also means that you can jump forward off the bike in a crisis; there’s no hardware in your way.

Here’s the twist: the whole thing folds down into its own front wheel. You undo four stainless-steel latches, then snap the back wheel, seat and handlebars into the front one. It takes about 10 seconds. (Watch the video embedded in the linked post to get the idea.)

After providing lots more details, David notes,I’m not sure how many takers of the high tech carbon composite the YikeBike will have at $3,600. But I really admire Mr. Ryan’s lean, green folding machine, and I wish him the best of luck.”

The YikeBike on Pouge’s PostsThe Latest in Technology from David Pogue, June 30, 2011, for the New York Times.

You want another choice…

After YikeBike Its Turn Of Honda’s U3-X!Another fun one-wheeler?

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 Pollution & Global Warming—Climate change in black and white

As noted in a recent Economist article, black and white (data) has many grey aspects. When air pollution hurts people’s health and heats up the climate it makes sense to do something about it. But, what about pollution that cools the planet?

An ideal fossil-fuel power plant would produce power, carbon dioxide and nothing more. Less-than-ideal ones—not to mention other devices for the combustion of carbon, from diesel generators to brick kilns and stoves burning dung—also emit various gases and gunk. These often cause local environmental problems, damaging lungs, hurting crops and shortening lives. And some of the gunk, notably soot or “black carbon”, can warm the planet, too.

Next week (February 28, 2011) ministers attending the governing council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi will be presented with the summary, which I could not find, of a new report on how fighting air pollution can help the global climate (the report itself is due to follow a couple of months later). The summary makes a powerful case for acting on two short-lived climate “forcing’s”, factors that change the amount of energy the atmosphere absorbs, as carbon dioxide does, but stay in it only briefly. One is black carbon and the other is ozone. The later is both vital for blocking ultraviolet rays in the stratosphere but hazardous in the bits of the atmosphere where plants live and people have to breathe.

According to the UNEP report, implementing measures known to be effective against these two pollutants over the next 20 years would have “immediate and multiple” benefits. These include (1) average world temperatures between 0.2°C and 0.7°C lower than they would otherwise be by 2050 and (2) the saving of between 0.7 and 4.6 million lives with improved air quality. For black carbon the measures are largely in the form of more efficient ways of burning things; for ozone they mostly involve reducing emissions of methane, which encourages reactions in the atmosphere that make ozone. The black-carbon measures save a lot more lives than ozone control, but are trickier to assess in terms of climate

Beijing, but it could have any major urban industrial community in Asia.

The article continues with a discussion of the history of UNEP’s interest in black carbon including observations initiated by Veerabhadran Ramanathan, of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, and Paul Crutzen, a Dutch climate scientist who was one of the first to theorize about “nuclear winter”. These studies revealed the hitherto unappreciated extent of an “Asian brown cloud” thousands of kilometers across and fed by fires, diesel fumes and all manner of other things.

The article then focuses on the climate politics, as opposed to the science of black carbon; since reducing CO2 release internationally seems stalled politics takes the forefront. [Check it out, this is not intuitive. It’s an interesting read for the non-politicians amongst us.]

The article, lengthy but well written, ends with a straight forward section called “Clouding the Issues” that deals with both potential warming and cooling effects of atmospherically distributed and surface settled carbon soot. Who said science is black or white?

There’s no punch line but the realization at times, due to doubling effects, more R&D is needed before any action makes sense, especially from regulatory forcing factors.

Indeed, if the Arctic is warming faster than might be expected, other parts of the world are warming slower. One reason for this, widely accepted by scientists but little appreciated by policymakers, is that the sulphur given off by coal-fired power stations and some other industrial fossil-fuel use. Sulphur is very good at forming reflecting aerosols that can also make natural clouds both whiter and possibly longer lasting, which provides an added cooling effect. Acid rains anyone?

It is no coincidence that a non-governmental organization active in the fight against air pollution, America’s Clean Air Task Force, now strongly advocates more research into the pros and cons of geoengineering. Jason Blackstock, at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Canada, points out that black carbon; sulfates and geoengineering are all neglected by the institutions that govern climate policy. He is looking at ways to bring the topics together in the broader context of how nations make choices about the climate. If human action on the climate is ever to be properly deliberate, it must first be properly deliberated.

This is a thought-provoking read that should threaten any ‘nature is simple paradigm’. I’ll be doing an Op-Ed analysis on Geoengineering for release in July; keep clicking to keep me honest and on schedule.

The Economist Magazine, a staff report, Feb 17th 2011.

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 Symbiotic Coupling Of Wind Power And Nuclear Power Generation Finally someone serious about merging green power, renewable but intermittent Wind and greenhouse free baseload effective nuclear.

I’ve copied the abstract from the peer reviewed Proceedings of the 1st International Nuclear and Renewable Energy Conference (INREC10), Amman, Jordan, March 21-24, 2010. The paper by Kate Rogers and Magdi Ragheb from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A bit of disclosure, I got my Ph. D. in Organic Chemistry for the U of I at Urbana.

Why?  It has always perplexed me why so little has been published about use of coupled technologies (e.g., nuclear and wind or solar; and perhaps geothermal and wind power) in trying to get cost effective and function solutions to our energy needs while minimalizing direct worsening greenhouse gas releases? The life cycle releases still remain since you must mine-smelt-manufacture the facility, deal with land use footprint and water issues. However these environmental costs are a small portion of the pollution costs of facility based on transporting and burning hydrocarbons for 20-40 years. Okay, here’s the abstract. Check out the whole article…as Arthur Stanton Eric “Arte” Johnson would say on Laugh in, ’it’s verrry interesting.

The coupling of wind power production as an intermittent supply to nuclear power generation as a base load supply is discussed. Wind turbines on a standby operational mode are net importers of power for their control and yaw mechanisms. They need a supply of about 5 kW of power from an existing grid. They also require the vicinity of a power grid with excess capacity to export their generated power. A choice is the construction of wind farms in the immediate vicinity low population density population zones around nuclear power plants.

An example, used by the authors, is the Grand Ridge wind farm adjacent to the LaSalle nuclear power plant near Versailles, Illinois. Since the best wind resources in the USA are located far from the industrial and population centers there is a need for connection to the grid trough High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC). Due to ramping considerations, the planned introduction of 20 percent of electrical wind production in the USA by 2020 would pose challenging grid stability issues. Energy storage alternatives such as hydrogen production, compressed air, flywheels, superconducting magnets and pumped storage, need serious consideration. Doc agrees as long as the results are integrated into life-cycle system operations consideration… To misquote John Donne — no widget is an island!

Another related and more current reference

Hybrid Power Plants: Could They Bank Roll Nuclear Power? Nuclear Insider, 19 May 2011

http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/industry-insight/hybrid-power-plants-could-they-bank-roll-nuclear-power?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=nuc&utm_campaign=1905

Except casually, I’ve not searched this particular mother lode of greening information so any feedback from readers would be welcome.  Doc.

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 Nuclear Efficiency — With new fuel formulations, reactors could extract more energy, and reduce hazardous waste

When it comes to nuclear energy, the world is not exactly an early adopter of new technology: The vast majority of nuclear reactors running today falls into the so-called Generation II category and uses technology from the 1970s. Generation III reactors—the ones being built now or in the near future—are fundamentally based on the same water-cooled design, with improvements in safety, reliability, and efficiency.

It is in the development of Generation IV reactors—the ones that will start up around 2030—that nuclear energy will see a significant change in technology. The six models put forth by the Generation IV International Forum, chartered in 2001 to carry out nuclear energy research and development, aspire not only to be even safer and more reliable than previous generations, but also to get a greater return from the energy source—by extracting up to 90% of the available energy in their fuels instead of the 5% more typical of today’s reactors. In some cases, the reactors will use reprocessed or recycled waste fuel from other reactors. The fuels may also incorporate some of the longest lasting radioisotopes from waste fuel, including americium, curium, and neptunium, thereby turning these radiotoxic isotopes into less hazardous materials while providing a little extra energy in the process. To reach those goals, and especially to reach them safely, nuclear scientists are working to develop and evaluate new fuel formulations and materials.

Current reactors use either uranium dioxide or a mix of uranium dioxide and plutonium dioxide. The fuel powder is pressed into pellets that are about 1 cm in diameter. The pellets are then inserted into thin tubes to form rods. The tube material, known as cladding, is considered an integral part of the fuel. In traditional reactors, the cladding is a zirconium alloy.  After the rods are sealed, they are assembled into bundles of dozens to hundreds of rods; several hundred of the bundles make up the core of a reactor.

Jyllian N. Kemsley goes on to discuss, in a well-written and clearly illustrated fashion, the Generation IV reactors and how they will and can achieve bowered costs, safer operation and minimal need to dispose of high-level long lived radioactive waste. What I drew me to this article was the realization that outside of the US, that future is becoming now!

Article by Jyllian N. Kemsley, originally published in the ACS’ Science & Technology Magazine, September 13, 2010.

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 Is the Coal Killer Flying Thousands of Feet Up in the Sky? — A new meaning to go fly a self powered kite.

JoeBen Bevirt is building an inventive, flying turbine in a bold bid to make wind power practical. Bonny Doon, California is hardly the place one thinks of visiting for high-tech thrills. Once an old logging camp, the tiny hamlet northwest of Santa Cruz, California, sits at the end of a country road, past miles of empty beaches and strawberry farms. Hang a left before you reach the vineyard and you find a short dirt track leading to a barn. And then, amid hundreds of acres of redwoods out back, you encounter an avatar of the future—a whirring black gizmo, about the size of a bread box, zipping around overhead. The strange flying object is controlled remotely by a cluster of giggling engineers. Their leader, a tall man with the build of a gazelle, windswept blond hair, and a permanent grin, starts extolling the possibilities of his device before he remembers to introduce himself.

To inventor JoeBen Bevirt, the flying black box holds our clean-energy future, a world in which wind turbines lift off the ground and fly among the clouds. His company, Joby Energy, designs these turbines from scratch. “In order to have truly sustainable energy, we’ve got to beat coal,” he says. “We are going to need game-changing technology. I believe that technology is high-altitude wind.”

In concept his idea makes sense: Wind power from the sky would strip turbines of their expensive, heavy towers and oversize blades, allowing them to collect energy unobtrusively from the richest lode of wind in the world. Winds at an altitude of 30,000 feet carry 20 times as much energy as those near the ground, representing a source of power that could be a fraction of the cost of coal. The challenge, observers say, is keeping such turbines aloft. ——— Enjoy, read the rest of the article summary-The full version is, alas, available only to subscribers like me.

By Erik Vance; photography by Sean Fenn In Discover Magazine, February 8, 2011.

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 IAEA Fujushima Dalichi Fact Finding Mission Summary and Initial Findings_ A reference masquerading as a topic. I will deal with this topic in March of 2012, when most of the sound and fury has died down, and the facts have been collected, subject to peer review and published.  Meanwhile, we likely be watching the field days being enjoyed both by the anti-nuclear greens and the folks at big oil-coal and gas who profit as the earth appears to warm. From their perspective the only significant competitor, in the absence of a carbon tax, of CO2 and other green house gas free energy is being politically assaulted. No the nuclear renaissance is not dead, some government’s believe both killing their people with smog, and supporting the onward going warming is wrong.

I’ve been wondering whether the European Union, and perhaps the UK and Japan might impose a Value Added Tax [VAT] on product produced with electricity generated by pollution based plants. How? It’s naively simple. The VAT should be the ratio of ‘clean to polluting energy generated within the exporting country, other than transportation related. I know it’s in constraint of trade, but so are likely rising sea levels and the drowning of our port cities.

IAEA International Fact Finding Expert Mission Of The Nuclear Accident Following The Great East Japan Earthquake And Tsunami  Tokyo, Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP, Fukushima Dai-ni NPP and  Tokai NPP, Japan   24 May- 1 June 2011     Preliminary Summary

IAEA Fact-Finding Team Completes Visit to Japan (1 June 2011) – Preliminary Assessment

IAEA links to the Japanese Reactor Accidents and their Aftermath.

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Endnotes

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 copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

 

In Closing

Readers please read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes before flaming me… I show and tell my beliefs and paradigm at:

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

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

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

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s). … And yes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!       Doc.

QUOTE de Mois — A Richard Feynman Cornucopia

  • The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.  I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.
  • For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
  • Scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man’s struggle for good and evil seems inadequate.

Doc’s Eclectic Views — A doc_Babad EDU-Torial Article for MHReports

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All right Reserved

Introduction

Over the years I have both given and attended a variety of presentations made by colleagues, fellow volunteers, and subject mater experts. Alas, most of the ‘seminars and presentations by any other name, I attended as a profession, volunteer, or just pain working stiff (aka scientist and teacher) were just plain awful. They wasted my time, insulted my intellect, and inflicted pain and suffering on my fragile mind already weak from living in a world of linear {cause effect} logic.  Unfortunately, the later exceed my own then feeble pitches by a factor of at least 100; didn’t someone somewhere say that it was better to give than to receive?

Folks of all ranks, experience and pedigrees gave these poor presentations. I also must admit to have dished out more, at least early in my career, of lousy presentations. Not on purpose — Just plain Ignorance <no video monitor> or a bit later in my career not caring enough to do better … If the shoe fits, you name your excuses, lack of time is always a good excuse.

DISCLOSURE: On the subject of Persuasive (e.g., Effective) presentation, I am an impassioned and outspoken demagogue. My colleagues always think such a compulsion strange – – needing to be treated – so what! Me strange, why? …I’d rather read even a relatively poor, by a non-English speaking author than hear the pitch.

Day glow colors, and wiz-bang media props not withstanding,  I remain convinced after being a 55 year part of tortured audiences, that the presenters, at least 99.0% of them, are their own worst enemy. Images with a punchy message that don’t detract from your presentations are not, hard to find or create.

This article is about you making peace with your audiences so they not only listen to you but also give real attention to the information you share.

It’s strange or perhaps even amazing how effective a person scheduled to make a presentation can be when we sit around, sharing their ideas. The props are usually napkins or a scratch pad and now an iPad/Stylus combo. However, make it a PRESENTATION, they become hills of Lethe, the forgetfulness inducing spirit. Amazing, how awful the same information becomes, when you hand that person a microphone and a projector and even worse turn out the lights. As a minor sidelight, the best presentation by a newbie I mentored, was rehearsed by the speaker and a few of us, friends all, in a swimming pool.

A Definition of Presentations, One Man’s View — What you may ask is a presentation? Usually it is a semi-formal, nominallyorganized and mostly a one-way exchange of information – a sales pitch made by you or a co-worker aimed at convincing others of the wisdom and rightness of your views and expertise.That’s different from either listening to or passively watching a speech, or sitting at a coffee house actively table trading of ideas (brainstorming) with colleagues. You can pursue these subjects – Google search about them. It’s also alas different from how most classrooms work – oh my preference the coffee table or booth in a bar with lots of napkins, beverages optional or perhaps optimal.

 Thank you for listening!

A Presentation is More than a Sum of Its Parts — There are main two aspects to a presentation, whether at a convention, or made internally to your management and co-workers. There’s you, the presenter (salesperson), and there’s the visuals – props you use.  The later serve, hopefully, to catch and maintain audience attention interest on YOU! – You’re the key to a grrreat presentation.

Note that I’ve liberally adapted materials from those who’ve written the books I’ve studies, Garr Reynolds for example. Many of the illustrations, not quite randomly selected, were gleaned from the many fine examples on the Slide Share site; those items that seem to fit the themes/points/rules/guidelines in my article.

For most of us today, our visual tool is a PowerPoint (Microsoft) or Keynote (Apple’s iWork) presentation. However, presenters should use be any combination of hard or soft props of which they remain in control! Watch Steve Job’s at a recent TED presentation or at various product release events. [E.g., the Macworld Conferences and Expo) or the WWDC developer’s conferences.] Bill Gates, just to drop names, is no slouch at presentation based out reach. All of these folks have been TED presenters. Okay, in a less technical vein, but presentation professionals all, there’s Bill Cosby, the late Daniel Schurr, Conan O’Brien, and of course Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen note.

Okay, neither you or I are likely the naturally talented, much polished and practiced ‘orator’ heroes types that are part my FAVS list. I’d actually pay to hear my heroes speak, rather than watch them on HD TV for free. The KISS rule suggests also keeping in short so I’ll pick only of few whose last names start with the letter ‘B’.  [E.g., Jeff Bezos <Amazon.com>, Mark Bittman <NY Times Cooking>, Richard Branson <CEO Virgin Galactic>] who share their views on the great, and at times not so great ideas of the world

Focusing The Sales Pitch

  • Selling Me (e.g., my knowledge, trustworthiness, or capabilities.)
  • Selling My Project (e.g., funding, change in in organizational direction, focus.)
  • Selling Negative Findings (Don’t let them kill the Messenger, put you in control instead.)

In the material that follows I’ll first share my views on creating presentation graphics and tools. It’s the easiest element to deal with and initially avoid likely personal confrontation like you talk to the podium. There’s lots of available guides, books and examples to use to train yourself, a few of which I’ll reference below. Some of this you know and practice already great… skim it as a refresher. However if I left the material out, I’d be cheating by the rest of you and insulting the gods of pedagogy.

The section that follows the one on creating the visuals will be all about the human element in a presentation.  The me and you making the presentation – the part that is associated with the forever-moving target of know thyself and know your audience.

How often in my early days of presenting, did I wish I could leave both a copy of my slides and paper on each seat? Let me count the times. Then with a cup of espresso in my hand, likely laced with a bit of rum, go to the microphone… sit and sip or a while. After 15 minutes, I’d turn down the background music, and ask “ANY QUESTIONS?”

Do you remember the first — second —third time you looked at video of yourself
making a presentation? … For it was a pure YUCK moment!

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VISUAL AIDES and PROPS — The 13 Commandments of PowerPoint/Overhead Slide Preparation

Presentation Graphics Do’s and Don’t – Death by PowerPoint creates a lose-Lose for both you and your audience.

1.  Practical Attributes of Better PowerPoint Presentations [Paraphrased from Garr Reynolds]

  • Presentations must be both verbal & visual.
  • Too much slide information overloads people’s cognitive systems.
  • Can your visuals be understood in 3 seconds? If not, redesign them to support your talk.
  • Both your slide design & delivery must help your audience organize, and integrate information. Thinking well of you never hurts.

2. Include only one concept, point or idea per slide. If you have a complicated slide with lots of different data, it may be better to break it up into 2-3 different slides (assuming no side-by-side comparisons are needed). If necessary split your slides horizontally into before and after columns. However, you must then then cut down the bulleted items from phases to single of double word descriptors. You won’t have time to get nervous, you’ll be busy sharing what only you, you only know.

  • Capture the major point of the presentation on the title of a slide.
  • A slide one PowerPoint page or one overhead (transparency)

3. Use key words, phrases and or concepts rather than whole sentences and paragraphs. The slides serve as a crib card to you as well as an anchor to your audience.  After all, you will, hopefully, briefly be explaining — discussing many of these individual key points in your oral presentation. AVOID exposing your audience, to death by PowerPoint.

4. Words and Space Use — Follow doc_Babad’s 8 x 10 rule (I do try…)

  • Use no more than 8 lines per slide
  • Use no more that 10 words per line
  • There is no free lunch here; a blank line counts as a line!

5. Minimize Theme DistractionsE.g., Useless) space consuming, repeated information that serves only to clutter your graphic with redundancies. What that?

  • The 40+ point presentation title of the talk on each slide
  • Too large ≥ 2 x 2 organizational logos in the lower right hand corner of every slide.

The tile page, with your firms logo highly visible is okay… sort of a requirements, but after that it should get only minimal expose, except for you conclusions or acknowledgements slide. You have one, don’t you?

Notice that most Canned PowerPoint Templates are just plain wrong for creating an effective outreach to your audience. The most important items on a slide must be limited to your main points and sub-points using simple graphics that highlight the individual ideas. Most templates I’ve checked, and initially used, do the opposite, they because the focus, you the afterthought.

  • Most Data Tables, complex graphs and curves,  cluttered photographs with an unreadable legend just plain suck.
  • Do you want the reader to listen and learn from you or read your slides?

Too often, when trying to hurry the design of a presentation, the temptation is to use materials directly excerpted (cut/pasted) from your paper. Such selections are likely to be cluttered, (likely) disconnected, and semi-organized Think about it. Every time I work first from my paper, rather than crating a story board from scratch, I triple the work it take to create an acceptable set of visuals for my presentation.

6.  Font Selection Suggestions

  • Sans Serif fonts are more appropriate and legible than other fonts
  • Comic Sans MS is an example of a “fun” Sans Serif font
  • Arial is a more “serious” Sans Serif font, but appears too compressed for easy reading
  • Times New Roman is an example of a Serif font, easy to read in a book, harder to read on a slide. Occasionally at a larger than line size [e.g., 12 ==> 16 points makes a great highlight, but use it sparingly.

To avoid visual clutter limit your fonts to two (2) typefaces. I get too uncontrolled when I try to use three font families. I like the Helvetica Neue Family, at times coupled with the more ‘airy” Verdana or better yet an item or two accented with a bit of Comic Sans MS.

This is the different from what I do when writing articles, like this one.  There, I add emphasis by switching between Helvetica and Times New Roman and making extensive use of indented sometimes framed space.

7.  Use a Consistent Combination Of Font Sizes And Character Enhancements for organization and emphasis:

  • Character enhancements include bold, italics, and underline
  • Use character enhancements sparingly
  • Avoid the use of italics and underline if possible; they are hard to see so lose their purpose.
  • Text should be large enough to be read from any location in the room
    • 40 point is appropriate for SLIDE titles/main headings
    • 24-36 point is appropriate for sub topics. Nothing Smaller Will Be Visible.
Experiment by projecting your slides before the actual presentation. Better yet print them out on 8.5 x 11 transparencies. Then tape the transparency aka viewgraph, to a window. Get at least six feet away from the window and see if anything on the slide is either legible to eye catching. Ask yourself, right after lunch, could you stay awake, attentive, interested if these were flashed in front to you?

8. Other Style Suggestions

  • Use all UPPERCASE for acronyms only. If you explain them, they need not be spelled out!
  • The first letter of a header or phrase should be capitalized.
  • Use bullets to list items. It is acceptable to use alternate symbols in place of the traditional dot variant for a bullet, but don’t get cutsey or change the bullets at random.

9. Maintain Consistent Backgrounds For All Slides

  • Eliminate razzle-dazzle effects and unless your audience are rockers and punkers.
  • No clashing backgrounds or distracting colors between slides, background means exactly that – they’re unobtrusive. They also can serve to effectively frame a slides content.
  • Bad background colors make the words hard to reading distracting the audience away from YOU.
  • Photos make lousy backgrounds, the text which overlays them is both hard to read, and the effort of reading them irritates the listener.

10. Bar graphs, pie charts but NOT line graphs are effective tools to show trends and statistics.

  • Use contrasting, bright colors to delineate between categories.
  • Keep graphs simple and use more of them to make your point.
    – I’ve occasionally used a slide show element, for segwaying evolving data;
    – Namely 2-3 evolving graphs, all formatted identically. Typically, I make a simple introduction before using a related compare sequence. …So things went to hell, having first identified the parameters of interest when addressing the first chart.  
  • Actual data collection based curves are seldom legible, and add too much audience distractions as they squint at your figure.

11. Choose a color combination that is pleasing  to the eye as well as fostering the legible.

  • Use a color for the wording that has a very high contrast to the background
  • I use a white or very light pastel backgrounds with dark lettering rather than dark with light lettering. I prefer dark letters, because I find white print hard to read.
  • Use no more than four (4) colors max, preferably three. If you need more to make the point, redesign the slide!

12. Use high-quality graphics including photographs.  — You can take your own high-quality photographs with your digital camera, purchase professional stock photography, or use the plethora of high-quality images available on line (be cautious of copyright issues, however). Use such graphics and photographs only when emphasizing or illustrating a point.

13. I do not use either Audio Clips and Video clips. They may work for Steve Jobs or other widgeteers, but for me, they only distract from my pitch and chew up time!

Additional Slide Related Transitional Thoughts

  • Visual aids should support and enhance the presentation; they should not replace it or repeat it. The most disastrous visual aids traditionally have been visuals made from typed copy. Although perhaps permissible in a classroom, with handouts, these are useless beyond 20 feet.
  • Keep the lights on. If you are speaking in a meeting room or a classroom, the temptation is to turn the lights off so that the slides look better. But go for a compromise between a bright screen image and ambient room lighting. Turning the lights off, besides inducing sleep, puts all the focus on the screen. The audience should be looking at you more than the screen. Today’s projectors are bright enough to allow you to keep many of the lights on. [Paraphrased from Garr Reynolds].

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The Presenter – It’s all about you and your message

  1. Try To Move Away From The Podium —  Connect with your audience. If at all possible get closer to your audience by moving away from or in front of the podium. Use a remote control to advance you slides. This minimizes your dancing around the stage or having to call out next slide, as we all did in the days of viewgraph transparencies.
  2. Memorizing Your Talk — Memorizing can limit spontaneity and detract from your enthusiasm. However, some speakers memorize their opening and closing remarks to allow them to look directly at their audience with undivided attention. Try to avoid memorizing your entire presentation.
  3. Skip the Pomp and Circumstance — You are not a dinner speaker for Rotary or the American Association of Barstool Professionals. As you present, be respectful toward those you are addressing. Be cautious. I avoid, about using words or phrases such as “obviously” and “as you can clearly see from the figure.” This approach projects a pretentiousness that you don’t want to convey. Don’t be afraid to answer questions, with an I don’t know … leave me your card and I’ll find out for you. But do follow-up or the word will get around.
  4. Body English – Avoid distracting movement and unintentional body language: Be aware of your body’s nervous gestures. Some body language to steer clear of:
    • Checking the microphone con tenuously, if it fail’s you’ll know it – It’s the time for a short break of carry on, pretend your hog calling.
    • Jangling keys or change in your pocket or using a Napoléon pose.
    • Practice using appropriate gestures but only for emphasis. Moving your arms excessively is a sure giveaway – you’re spotlighted as uptight.
    • Watch the introductory ‘poises’ of taken show aspirant, before and often during their performances.
  5. Checkout a TED Presentation or Three [http://www.ted.com/] — Better yet just watch one of Steve Jobs keynote address. Ignore the fancy media effects; just watch him hook you and the rest of their intended audience. Slide share is great for presentation graphics but there’s no audio stream.
  6. Speak Slowly And Clearly enough that people at the back of the room can hear you. My machine-gun New York-ese, actually Bron-nix, although I can do Boston as well but am lousy at Brooklyn.) This is my Achilles heel, which to often I drop into when giving a talk when somewhat unprepared. But don’t speak to your self!
  7. If you have a Quiet Voice, Use a Microphone even in an intimate setting. This is especially true if you are a plenary speaker giving your talk in a large theater. If you’ve not used a microphone enough for comfort, talk to an organizer or secretary, if at work, I’m sure they’ll find you a place to practice.
  8. Start your presentation with a brief outline of your talk. Its helps orient the audience to why information is being given. There’s wisdom on the “tell them thrice” adage.
  9. For Technical Talks, give only:
    • An overview of research undertaken, the reason for doing it,
    • A few examples of tools used and/or chemical/technical pathways involved,
    • The important key results, and
    • Possible implications of your work.
  10. Limit Your Content — You or I, no not even Steve Jobs, can coherently present more that an overview in 20 minutes. The “emphasis should be on significance, rather than detail” The people can always read the paper or you can provide them with more detailed information if needed.
  11. Be Prepared — Go over your talk prior to the conference to determine whether it fits into the time available. If it does not, cut it down — Remember to leave some time for questions.
  12. QA — Check the quality of your slides and overheads well in advance of the conference. If they cannot be seen easily from the back of an average-sized lecture room, do something about it! ASAP. I also do a mike check in the seminar room and use my own laser pointer
  13. DON’T move the laser pointer arrow all over the slide while you are talking. Use the arrow or bright spot to highlight a point or value on a slide and then switch it off. [Resting your arm against the podium avoids the Darth Vader effect.]

Most importantly, starting with PowerPoint of Keynote or even large poster boards, use the KISS approach—“Keep It Simple, Speaker

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After Thoughts  — 13 items (commandments) are too few, but the next prime number 17, were way too many!

Some speakers outline their presentations, and then determine the best way to illustrate their ideas. Others sketch their ideas first, and then build their talk around these. However you proceed, be sure your figures and text support each other.

  • As you write the paper, think just a bit about creating a storyboard for your required presentation. Some folks use a large whiteboard; if you’re lucky it’ll have Xerox capability. I prefer cheap copy paper, which I recycle.
  • It is easy to play with ideas to create good concept slides. I use a text editor to minimize distraction of wanting to format and make pretty.
  • Wait until you have written your paper to have your final figures drafted –
  • Legends on figures and table headings must be self-contained.
  • Think about the presentation of the variables that must be identified. For example, use “Heat Transfer Coefficient, “w/m2” –not “h”; “Flow Rate, m3 /s” –not “f.”
  • You usually use more complex figures for the proceedings than would be appropriate for your presentation. Otherwise the figures will get the attention, illegible or not, not you.

Not only will your figures be consistent, but also you might throw out many too rough to use figures in the process.

Don’t Argue!   EVER — As you receive questions from the audience, always be cordial and courteous. The question may be from a novice. Patience will encourage questions and audience participation. and you’ll look all the better for it.

If you must, punch the person out, after the meeting, preferably in the ally. Your career will be dead anyway, but fewer folks will know about it right away.

Microphone Technique – The best position for the microphone is 6 inches from your mouth. This will keep the static down. I like lapel mikes, on my eclectic hand picked custom Bolo Ties, they work fine and give me room to walk around a bit.

Transitions In Your Presentation — Share the main headings and subheadings in your notes with your audience so you don’t falter. Pauses aide the listener–so if you do falter, just consider it a pause.

Presentation Room Size Considerations — Due to the size of the rooms at the conferences, (100-500 people) and the necessary use of a microphone, your presentation will often appear quite formal. Strive for directness and eye contact that you would use in a smaller setting.

An Extra — Read all about it!!

Although I am in the process of preparing presenters instructions, alas only 2 pages long, for a conference I support, I was delighted by the Techniques for Spoiling Your Own Scientific Talk by Joseph Burnett that I reference below. This is material I cannot use because of my sponsor’s concern over offending their audiences. Since Burnett’s audience were mere graduate students…

Due to copyright limitation I’ll only provide you with the list of John’s 10 commandments. These are a mix of graphics and presenter related goodies, you get to figure out which is which.

   

Notice How The Data Trends Change

It’s Simple, Let Me Walk You Though My Data

  1. Spend a lot of time saying things unrelated to your research.
  2. Don’t waste time on introducing your topic.
  3. Fill your slides with detail.
  4. If possible, represent trends by tables of numbers, rather than graphically.
  5. If you do present material graphically, {e.g., a spectrum) omit from the slide identification of the compound or system represented.
  6. Organize your talk so as to involve many slides as possible
  7. Noting that the rectangular open space on a slide is longer in one dimension than the’ other, arrange your material such that the lone dimension runs from top to bottom.
  8. Create your slides with a few apparently random mistakes that require correction as you discuss them.
  9. Present every detail of your experimental or theoretical results.
  10. If your work involves theoretical principles not frequently discussed, assume that your audience is fully familiar with them and proceed directly with their application to your work

Dr. Burnett closes with… “In summary, to spoil  your talk effectively, you can utilize a number of techniques. Which ones you can use depend on the nature of the work you have done. The general thrust of these techniques is to mystify your audience, to block its efforts to grasp what you have done, and above all to keep it from perceiving the Big Picture. This short article may not provide sufficient guidance on how to spoil your talks. You will however have opportunities to observe practical application of the practices presented in these guidelines, at meetings you attend, at seminars in your department, and the like.”

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References

Slide Share Internet Site — a great place to look at slide presentations, many of which, done by folks like you and I, are great. There are even a section of talks on Persuasive Presentation and Effective Presentation.

The Presentation Zen Books (…and Presentations) by Garr Reynolds. [Disclosure, I reviewed the books for macCompanion]

Don McMillan: Life After Death by PowerPoint, a YouTube Presentation, September 15th 2008.

Techniques for Spoiling Your Own Scientific Talk by Joseph F. Bunnett of the University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064 J. Chem. Educ., 1995, 72 (12). I found, on Google, a copy of his Illustrative PowerPoint  presentation is posted, but the article itself was harder to find.

Presentation Zen: The Sound Of One Room Napping by Garr Reynolds

Death by PowerPoint in Wikipedia, 2011.

PowerPoint Hell: Don’t Let This Happen to Your Next Presentation (An off day for Bill Gates?), March 25, 2009. [Subtitled: In the “so bad it’s good” category, we honor eight PowerPoint slides that will make you say, “Holy $#@%, What were they thinking? Did Bill make these work?]

 

Story Board Related

Multimedia Or Just Plain Storytelling By Jane Stevens for the Knight Digital Media Center, Updated May 17, 2011.

Story Board for Pre-Production Videos – This works fro presentation, I done learned it before I had a care for creating more complex media presentations; it was all about viewgraphs then. Google PowerPoint Storyboards for other views on this process.

Other Highly Praised Mostly Book Based Resources

Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences [Paperback] by Nancy Duarte.

Multimedia Learning [a Paperback] by Richard E. Mayer

The Elements of Graphic Design: Space, Unity, Page Architecture, and Type [Paperback] by Alexander W. White.

Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire [Paperback] by Cliff Atkinson

The Short Road to Great Presentations: How to Reach Any Audience Through Focused Preparation, Inspired Delivery, and Smart Use of Technology [Paperback] by Peter & Cheryl Reimold

Presentations That Get Results: 14 Reasons Yours May Not [Paperback] by Marian K. Woodall

Non-Designer’s Design Book, The (3rd Edition) [Paperback] by Robin Williams. [Disclosure: reviewed by me for macCompanion]

Robin Williams Design Workshop, The Second Edition [Paperback]. [Disclosure: reviewed by me for macCompanion]

The Non-Designer’s Design and Type Books, Deluxe Edition [Paperback] by Robin Williams. [Disclosure: first edition reviewed by me for macCompanion]

The Ten Commandments of Effective Visuals by Deborah Kendell on August 23, 2009 for the Effective Leadership Community Blog.

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PS:

Remember it’s all about getting, keeping the audience’s attention and making you look credible!

Sidebar

You will have noticed, quickly I hope, that I violate some of the graphics concepts I espouse, in my illustrations. However, splitting hairs, this is an article, not a presentation.

I also didn’t always document from which set of slides I grabbed an example, mia culpa – authors-presenters may you all forgive me; it’s not a copyright violation, just my getting absent minded and being to lazy to recheck four or five dozen files for the samples I extracted.

By Harry {doc} Babad,  © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved

Authors: Hideo Nitta, Masafumi Yamamoto, Keita Takatsu and Trend-Pro Co, Ltd.

Publisher: No Starch Press — An O’Reilly Media Imprint

Web Site: http://nostarch.com/mg_relativity.htm

Updates/Errata: http://www.nostarch.com/mg_relativity.htm

Review Rating:  4.5 Quills

Cost: List Price: $19.95, Ebook:  $16.00 (PDF format),  Print +Ebook $21.95 [USD], Street Prices:  $10.88 [USD],  £15.19 [UK],  $15.12 [CDN].

ISBN-10: 1593272723
ISBN-13: 978-159327272

Language: English, Published (April 22, 2011)

Product Dimensions: 192 Pages including the Index, is a 9 x 67 x 0.3 inches paperback, or if you prefer buy it as an eBook from the publisher or Safari books online. The publisher offers the Ebook free when you buy the book from them.

Audience: Folks with science interests who not offended by comic based learning.

Strengths: A high quality, but at time mildly repetitive introduction to the history and implication of relativity from early classical mechanics to the world of Einstein.

Weaknesses: The detailed more academic sections are more disjointed then I cared for, relative to the comic story line and narratives, for my comfort.

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Introduction

Since I attended undergraduate school or perhaps earlier, I have been interested in relativity, as well as the peripherally associated quantum mechanics. That interest was always piqued by the apparent paradoxes they establish related to classical Newtonian mechanics. My often love-hate relationship blossomed as I read popularizations of these theories (often at ‘dummies’ level) about Albert Einstein, the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Erwin Schrödinger’s discovery of quantum mechanics. [Check Wikipedia for lots more detail on these and other topics in this review often with beaucoup equations.]

Alas, the hate part of relativity related information; my class on ’introduction to’ was so filled with math (Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, NY) that I nearly imperiled my future as an organic chemist. For my BS and Ph. D. degrees, at that time, organic chemistry and to a lessor extent analytical chemistry (my minor) were computational requirements-free fields of study.

Flash forward… Articles in Discover, Scientific American and other reputable secondary sources (e.g., not journals or textbooks) kept me reading. Although I was and still am mathematically impaired. More recently my interest level was heightened when my readings alerted me to reports that both physicists and engineers were discovering likely quantum (fuzzy logic) and perhaps relativistic effects associated with Newtonian mechanics. Wow… I’ve added a few references at the end of the review to peak your interests toward further reading.

The Manga Guides — I have previously reviewed a number of books in the Manga series (Molecular Biology, Electricity, Databases, Newtonian Physics and Statistics.) Therefore I was pleased to discover that a new book on relativity had been released. This review services as killing two virtual birds with one quantum stone, as it were. The book credibly supports both my interest in science and technology education and my love-hate for relativity and associated subjects. I am also hard science fiction addict and dote on the assumptions of hyper drives and faster then light travel, as well as the effects of relativistic travel in closer proximity to Sol, our sun.

The book covers all the main questions and topics you would expect such as the definition of relativity, the time dilation effect (where times slows down as speed approaches the speed of light), mass and the contraction of length (again, as speed approaches the speed of light), and explores the difference between special relativity and general relativity.

Each main chapter, as I expand upon below, contains both a Manga comic section and a text tutorial. The former serves as a quirky manga type introduction to and discussion of a relativity-associated subtopic. This is followed in each chapter by a more detailed and technical section filled with equations and deeper explorations of the chapter’s subject.

The Nature of the Beast — How the book is organized

The preface to the book succinctly neatly frames its purpose and goals… “Everyone wonders what relativity is all about. Because the theory of relativity predicts phenomena that seem unbelievable in our everyday lives (such as the slowing of time and the contraction of the length of an object), it can seem like mysterious magic.

“Despite its surprising, counterintuitive predictions, Einstein’s theory of relativity has been confirmed many times over, by countless experiments by modern physicists. Relativity and the equally unintuitive quantum mechanics are indispensable tools for understanding the physical world.” This includes such demonstrated knowledge that the speed of light is a constant, the very faster you travel, the slower you relatively age, and time is not quantized.

The books preface has introduced us to the fact the ’players’ not the story characters, are going to be Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein. It alas neglects one of my scientific favorites James Clark Maxwell, the father of electromagnetic theory and of course the infamous ‘daemons.’ He is only initially acknowledged in Chapter 1.

The preface concludes that:  “Relativity has given us a more accurate understanding of concepts regarding the space-time in which we are living. In other words, relativity is the result of asking what is actually happening in our world rather than saying our world should be a particular way.”

So on to what our ‘graphic’ teachers (the characters) teach us about the mysteries of relativity in the manga world. These characters are mainly our suckered student ‘hero’ Mr. Minagi and his oddly sexy teacher, Miss Uraga. And look out for the metaphysical dog.

In the material that follows I have paraphrased liberally, but only of a sentence or three from references [1 & 2], which surprisingly were both written by Michael Larsen. Nice writing sir!

Okay – Let’s get truckin’

Ignoring the ‘comic’ stage setting prologue and the somewhat surreal epilogue, the later dominated by a sort of deus ex machina dog. The book’s four main chapters focus on:

Chapter 1:  What Is Relativity?
 — “The first chapter helps us get into the mindset of our protagonist Minagi and his sensei Uraga as they discuss the differences between special and general relativity. The history of relativity from Galileo, Newton, Maxwell; on through Einstein and the idea that the speed of light is a constant and the fact that all reality is in constant motion is explored. The illustrations are both cute and informative, and help fill in the blanks for many of the concepts that might be difficult to visualize any other way.” [1, 2]

Chapter 2:   What Do You Mean, Time Slows Down? —“Time dilation is the situation where as an object approaches the speed of light, time slows down for the object. The manga guide uses an imaginary device called a “light clock” to help define how this idea works. This is further emphasized but use of the traveling Twins paradox. It occurs when one of a set of a twins goes on a space voyage for a year at light speed and returns to Earth, and sees that their twin has aged by several years in their absence.” [1, 2]

Chapter 3:  The Faster an Object Moves, the Shorter and Heavier It Becomes.


“The text continues with a discussion of the idea that, when an object gets towards the speed of light. Space and time are said to contract based on this theory of specific relativity (general relativity is discussed in Chapter 4.) Because of these findings, we need to look at space and time as not separate entities, but as interlocking interrelated subjects. In addition, we learn that objects get progressively heavier as they approach the speed of light. Light, which by its very nature is assumed to have a mass of zero is excluded from these relativistic effects. Strange! But otherwise the theories will not work the way they do).” [1, 2]

Chapter 4:  What Is General Relativity?

Special relativity focuses on the concept that gravity and motion of an object traveling in a straight line. General relativity is more mathematically complicated, because the gravity of nearby objects (such as stars) has a direct effect on the object in motion. That requires gravitational effects on fast traveling ‘things’ must to be accounted for. … Time also slows down as it passes such a large gravitational pull as well.” [The later effect has rationalized a number of unexplained fundamental astronomical observations. 1, 2]

The Plot Thickens – General relativity also takes into account, counter intuitively, that matter, space and time all have interactive relationships, and while it’s a “theory” there are devices we use everyday that depend on this theory [e.g., GPS] and in its actions prove it works. [1]

“Follow along with The Manga Guide to Relativity as Minagi learns about the non-intuitive laws that shape our universe. Before you know it, you’ll feel more comfortable, alas not master (shucks) difficult concepts like (1) inertial frames of reference, (2) unified space-time, and the (3) equivalence principle. You’ll get introduced to the concepts that are the basis\ in relativity theory affect modern astronomical observations. Then you’ll discover why GPS systems and other everyday technologies depend on Einstein’s extraordinary discovery.

The Manga Guide to Relativity also teaches you how to:

  • Understand and use E = mc2, the world’s most famous equation
  • Calculate the effects of time dilation using the Pythagorean theorem
  • Understand classic thought experiments like the twins paradox, and see why length contracts and mass increases at relativistic speeds — Poor space explorers.
  • Begin to grasp the underpinnings of Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity

If the idea of bending space and time really warps your brain, let The Manga Guide to Relativity straighten things out.”

 

The Text Tutorials

The Underlying Technical Basis

What is light  — Chapter 1 associated tutorial provides detailed descriptions of the results of (1) Maxwell’s pioneering work, (2) Einstein’s positing and others demonstrating the constancy of the speed of light and the (3) the true meaning of “simultaneous” which is really in the eye of the beholder. The section then proceeds to explaining the Galilean principal(s) of relativity and relating things Galilean to (an introduction to) Einstein’s  special principal of relativity.

Looking at the Slowing of Time —Chapter 2‘s lessons first use the Pythagorean theorem to prove time dilation and then follows this up with qualitatively dealing with how much does time slow down?

Using an Equation to Understand Relativistic Length Contraction — Focusing first on the implication of Lorentz contraction, and then for reason of which I’m some what uncertain, the tutorial branches off in the effects of Muons (a sub-atomic particle) as a means to demonstrate (1) the slowdown of time and (on 2) the parallel effects of contraction of an objects length at near light speeds. [The objects mass also approaches infinity.]

The primary focus of this material is to explain relativities’ effects on a rapidly moving mass using three approaches. First comes a discussion of the Galilean theory. Then, Newton’s second law of motion is invoked. Third and finally there’s a fine discussion of the use of the Lorenz transformation.

These ideas ore explained and their relationships related. [These relativity associated topics (ideas) and more  are explained in significantly greater details and depth on Wikipedia, alas often in a more mathematical manner. — Do check out my  reference 6].

My favorite part, herein, is the treatment of the relationship between energy and mass. The section ends, alas with an all to brief (an after thought?) on whether light has mass; no being the answer.

General Relativity and the Slowing of Time  — Chapter’s 4’s science focus deals with a discussion of the slowing of time under relativistic conditions. It is well illustrated by fallen and at rest clocks, and is accompanied by thee math that support the theory. Check it out, it’s clear in the book.

Kudo #1 —Of all of the technical sections of the book this one is both extremely clear/accessible and well illustrated. All though accompanied by equations of ‘proof’; the diagrams make what could be abstruse ideas, are made clearer, even to the minimally mathematically incline reader.

But then I’ve always had a weakness for melting watches (e.g., Salvador Dali) or even ones that fall, the later were used as thought experiments in the various physics classes I attended.

This section concludes with a more detailed, than the comic section, discussion of Gravity and other phenomena that become more understandable using the principles of general relativity. Nicely done!

Kudo #2 – The Plain Text Sections I found these sections too brief, a bit too mathematical for my taste, but scientifically very solid. Indeed I crosschecked parts of the subject matter in Wikipedia. All passed both that external screen, and my memory of courses long ago taken and doubtless somewhat forgotten.

Disappointments

None of significance

Conclusion

As noted by Michael Larson with whom I agree [References 1-2], the combination of storytelling, emotion, quirky characters and an illustration style that’s both cute and engaging helps lends itself to the idea that “hard topics” can be discussed using manga, and  in addition, that the topic will be much more engaging for the reader.

The comics style approach is as is usual for the Manga Guide Series, is always augmented by thoughtfully presented topical analyses, that provide the reader with a more detailed technical basis for understanding tough aspects of the comic’s subject matter. The Manga Guide to Relativity is an excellent example of this approach to knowledge sharing. Most notably, to my delight as an ex-academic, researcher and author, the book covers a broad variety of interesting, difficult and sometimes downright geeky topics.  Horray for No Starch Press.

As always in this series, the Manga Guide to Relativity is focused on a science or engineering topic. Pedagogically, it uses the premise of the accessibility, in both the young and not-so young, to visual or cartoon learning. There is usually a quirky story, written in a way to entice adolescent page turning. I was also both impressed and delighted that there was no attempt of Americanize the text. Shades of California and Texas textbook sensors’. I loved the subliminally sexual innuendos and ‘light’ by play between the characters; obviously, at least to the Japanese reader, are not either puritanical or virginal.

Never the less, this book, and the series for that matter the intent is more serious, to maintain attention long enough for the ideas in the story to take root in the brain. While the “come on” is the cartoons, there is a lot of knowledge hidden both in the often-simple seeming image sequences. This is accompanied by the more detail information in the textual materials that accompany the graphics based presentations the book is well worth my stingy 4.5 Quills.

My only concern about the effectiveness of this book in reaching the majority of American students is the deplorable level of science education we’ve foisted upon them. This as acknowledged in statistics of worsening scores in math Science and all too often reading, compared to Japanese, Chinese, and other students in the word from India to Sweden. But since I’m not in favor of dumbing down, to the least common denominator our educational goals, bring on this book… and more in the excellent educational and entertaining series.

PS:

If I appear to be badmouthing American education, don’t let my soft tone deceive you. As a hiring manger and ex-academic I was contiguously, even 35 years ago bewildered and frustrated by so-called graduates with great grade point averages who could not write even a simple ‘product’ description or project statement. All to often these folks as well as those I tried to work with in education associated volunteer organizations were both functionally illiterate and totally estranged from scientific reasoning, methods and logic. Someday I’ll blog about my experiences.

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

References

[1]Amazon.com <Books> By Michael Larsen (San Francisco, CA United States)
http://www.amazon.com/Manga-Guide-Relativity/dp/1593272723

{2}  Book Review: The Manga Guide to Relativity, by Michael Larsen. April 28, 2011.
http://mkl-testhead.blogspot.com/2011/04/book-review-manga-guide-to-relativity.html

[3] The Manga Guide to Relativity, Reviewed by Dr. Richard Isaacman
http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/review/manga-guide-relativity

[4] The Manga Guide to Relativity, Reviewed by Brian Dunning, May 19 2011
http://skepticblog.org/2011/05/19/the-manga-guide-to-relativity/

[5] Book Review: The Manga guide to Relativity by Jonathan DuHamel, on May. 18, 2011            http://tucsoncitizen.com/wryheat/2011/05/18/book-review-the-manga-guide-to-relativity/

Other General References

[6]  Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
Made Relatively Simple — Written for those who want to understand relativity but can’t quite grasp the concepts. <Hurrah, no equations!!!>
http://www.perkel.com/nerd/relativity.htm

[7]  Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity – An Easy (I hope!) Explanation, Squidoo blog site – Undated with no author listed
http://www.squidoo.com/relativity_explanation

[8] Theory of Relativity Made Simple, Factoidz Blog, May 22, 2010,
http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=Relativity%20-%20Simple

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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 written in MSW 2011 on my iMac 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM running Mac OS X version 10.6.8 with all current security updates installed.

Sidebar #2: Disclaimer: When reviewing books I will often use the authors or publishers product description, functions and features descriptions. Because of this unless I’m quoting directly from another unique external source, I do not clutter up the review with quotation marks. All other comments are strictly my own and based on my review. Why need I rewrite the developer’s narratives, if they are clearly written?

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

In the old days, developers used file system directories with customer naming conventions to organize their code and support files. This was a problem if the files were stored locally and the computer hard drive failed, and it made it difficult to keep code in sync when other developers had local versions of code that may have changes that impacted other areas of a program. Some companies used file servers to store source code, but again it could be difficult to keep source code synced if developers made local changes and forgot to update the main code on the file server.

The solution? Code repositories. Repositories are programs that store and organize source code, executable code, images, attachments, and libraries for client and server-based applications. Many companies also prefer to store project documentation like requirements, specifications, user guides, and project plans in their repositories. With repositories, materials are checked in and out as needed, and older historical versions of the materials are available for rollback (or comparison) in the event that code changes introduce a bug in the program.

Since many company applications are developed and maintained by more than one developer, repositories enable developers to access the entire application while working on their individual coding tasks. Each developer checks out part or all of the code, modifies existing or creates new code for their assigned tasks, tests their code, and then checks the code back into the repository. The changes are tracked, so it is easy to see who made what changes at any point of the project.

This post covers the procedure to setup a remote Git (a Distributed Version Control System) and a remote SVN (a Centralized Version Control System) repository. Please refer to our posts Configure Mac IDEs to Access a Remote Subversion Repository (June 15, 2011) and Configure Mac IDEs to Access a Remote Git Repository (June 24, 2011) for the steps to configure IDEs to access repositories like the two covered in this procedure.

ProjectLocker

I like ProjectLocker because Git is a popular repository in the business world and I’ve seen a number of companies move towards it the past year. ProjectLocker has one free plan where one to three people can share a SVN or Git repository, whereas Freepository also has a free plan but only one person can access the SVN repository – teams are required to pay a monthly fee to share the repository. ProjectLocker also offers five commercial plans where groups of 15 – 250 users can have SVN or Git repositories. I encourage students that want to learn about code repositories to check out this repository hosting site.

To get setup with a repository at ProjectLocker,  go to their website (http://www.projectlocker.com), register, setup a project, and then you are ready to configure your IDE so it can access your repository. Its pretty simple and straight-forward, so I won’t go into the setup at this time.

Something nice about ProjectLocker: refer friends and gain extra resources. For each friend that you recommend and they join ProjectLocker, you gain 50 MB of disk storage space. When 5 friends you recommend join ProjectLocker, you gain another user for your account.

Setup a ProjectLocker Account
  1. Go to the website (http://www.projectLocker.com), select the Account Type (the first one is free).
  2. Now enter an Account Name and Initial Project Name. Select the Initial Project Type (Git in this case), then enter your email address and a password to access your repository. Press the ‘Continue’ button to continue setup.
  3. Provide personal information as requested.
  4. You should receive a Account Created confirmation.
  5. Log into the ProjectLocker portal.
  6. The first time you log in, you will be prompted for a security question and a security answer. Enter both, then press the ‘Save Security Information’ button to continue.
  7. You now see the main portal screen.
  8. Stepping away from the Portal Page of ProjectLocker, you need a public key to communicate with Git via SSH. Open a Terminal Window and enter ‘ssh-keygen’. You are asked for a file name/location for the file (both a public and private key are generated).
  9. Back at the Portal Page, Select ‘Manage Public Keys’ underneath ‘User Links’ at the far left side of the page.
  10. Since no keys have been added, select ‘New Key’.
  11. Enter the Name, User name, and public key, then press the ‘Save Public Key’ button.
  12. A ‘Public Key <Name> Saved Successfully’ tells you the process was done correctly. Now select ‘User Home’ under ‘User Links’ at the far left side of the screen to return to your main portal page.

Codesion

Codesion, like ProjectLocker offers SVN and Git repositories for free and for a monthly charge.Check out their website for pricing information.

  1. To get started, go to the Codesion website and begin the sign up process.
  2. Enter your information. Your domain, login, and password entered at this time are used to log into your account, so keep track of them. Your email address is where you receive confirmation about the repository setup.
  3. Enter all the information with an asterisk beside the field label and select the ‘Create My Codesion Account’ button.
  4. Codesion emails confirmation the account is setup – check the email you specified in step 2 of this procedure.
  5. Login to your account. Enter your domain, login, and password, and then press the ‘Login’ button.
  6. Enter your industry information from the three drop down lists on the bottom of this page.
  7. Now enter a new project name and press the ‘Next’ button.
  8. Select Git or Subversion as the repository for your new project. For this example, select ‘Subversion’ and press the ‘Next’ button.
  9. Now select ‘Blank repository’ or ‘Best Practice’. For this example select ‘Best Practice’ and press the ‘Next’ button.
  10. You project is now setup. The screen now shows the project URL you need to access the repository from your IDE.
  11. Now that the project is created, you can view the website project tab in your browser.

Pretty simple process to setup a new remote SVN repository.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Last week several of my iPod touch apps were updated, including SkySafari Pro and SkySafari – both were version 3.0.1. I contacted Southern Stars and they sent me a list of fixes/enhancements that are current for the 3.x release – click here to see them. I installed the updates and had no problems or glitches.

I’m a member of the Starry Night Yahoo group and have seen several posts that some are confused about the name of the vendor that produces SkySafari. There is a page on their site that explains why the company – click here to read the post.

We are working on some reviews of Southern Stars products, so stay tuned.

Mike

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Code repositories are server-based applications to store common code. Our post Configure Mac IDEs to Access a Remote Subversion Repository (June 15, 2011) provides instructions on connecting an IDE to a remote SVN repository (Centralized Version Control System), while our post Configure Mac IDEs to Access a Remote Git Repository (June 24, 2011) provides instructions on connecting an IDE to a remote Git repository (Distributed Version Control System). This procedure covers configuring IDEs for remote repositories once they are setup or they are made available to you.

Configuring Git for Eclipse Galileo

  1. Launch Eclipse.
  2. Select ‘Help/Install New Software’ from the IDE menu.
  3. You are at the Install Screen. Enter (without the surrounding quotes) ‘EGit – http://download.eclipse.org/egit/updates-1.0&#8217; in the field beside ‘Work With:’, then press the ‘Add Site’ button.
  4. Expand the top section (Eclipse Git Team Provider) and select ‘Eclipse EGit’. Press the ‘Next’ button.
  5. Review the items to be installed and then press the ‘Next’ button.
  6. Select ‘I accept the terms of the license agreements’ (if you want to), then press the ‘Finish’ button to install the plug-in.
  7. After the plug-in is installed, restart Eclipse. At the top of the workbench, select the ‘Open Perspective’ button, then select ‘Git Repository Exploring’.
  8. This is the Eclipse Git perspective.

Configuring Git for Xcode 4

Configuring Git for Xcode is a bit more involved than it was to configure this IDE for Subversion. There are two extra processes involved: downloading and installing Git, and creating a symlink to the Git command line tool.

IMPORTANT NOTE. I heard that Git might already be installed as a part of Mac OSX but did not find it on my copy of OSX 10.6.7 (Snow Leopard). If anyone knows that it is pre-installed, please drop me a line to the directory location and I will update this procedure.

Lets get started, assuming we need to download and install Git.

  1. If Git is already installed, skip to step 6, otherwise proceed to step 2.
  2. Download Git. I went to this site and downloaded git-1.7.5.4-i386-leopard.dmg.
  3. Double click on the dmg file to install Git. My copy installed in /usr/local/git/bin.
  4. Open a Terminal, then enter cd .. two times to move to the root (/) directory, then enter cd /usr.
  5. Create the symlink to the Git command line tool: Enter the following command (assuming your copy of Git installs in the same directory as mine – see step 2 of this procedure):
     sudo ln -s /usr/local/git/bin/git /usr/bin/git
  6. Launch Xcode.
  7. Select ‘Window/Organizer’ to bring the Organizer to the screen, then select the Repositories section at the top of this screen.
  8. Select the ‘+’ at the bottom left of the Organizer screen, then select ‘Add New Repository’. At this point, select ‘Type’ and Git is now included in the list (along with Subversion) of supported repositories.  Enter a relevant name and the URL to the hosting site (ProjectLocker in this case, but others can be added for work and school sites as needed).

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

There are commercial repositories and open source repositories. The commercial repositories charge, usually based on the number of people accessing the repository. Open source repositories can be installed on internal company servers or there are companies that host open source repositories for no or little cost (also typically rated by the number of repository users). I’ve used Subversion (SVN), a centralized version control system, for company and class projects, so this article covers the the hosted version of SVN on Freepository with the Eclipse, Xcode 4, and Intellij IDEA 10 CE IDEs.

Freepository

Freepository has one free plan, where individuals can have a SVN repository for personal use at no cost. They also offer two commercial plans where groups can have SVN or Git repositories. I have found other sites that have good repositories with the same type of arrangements (free and billable setups), but I like how easy it is to setup and use SVN at Freepository and would encourage students that want to learn about code repositories to check them out.

To get setup with Freepository, go to their website (https://freepository.com/index.php), register, and you are ready to configure your IDE so it can access your repository. Its pretty simple and straight-forward, so I won’t go into the setup at this time. There are a lot of IDEs, so I’m focusing on Eclipse and Xcode for this article.

Configure Eclipse Galileo for SVN

These are the steps to configure Eclipse to use Freepository (or any other SVN repository):

  1. Launch Eclipse, then select ‘Check for Updates’. Some may be available since the last time your copy of the software was built, so get the updates before installing add-ons. Restart Eclipse if any updates were done.
  2. Select ‘Help/Install New Software’ from the Eclipse menu.
  3. At the Install screen, beside ‘Work With’, select ‘Galileo – http://download.eclipse.org/releases/galileo&#8217;.
  4. Scroll down to ‘Collaboration’ and expand that section.
  5. Select ‘Subversion SVN Team Provider (Incubation)’, then press the ‘Next’ button at the bottom of the Install screen.
  6. Verify this is the correct file and press the ‘Finish’ button at the bottom of the screen.
  7. After the add-in is installed, restart Eclipse.
  8. Now it is time to install the Subversion Connector. Select ‘SVNKit 1.3.0 Implementation (Optional), and restart Eclipse after the connector is installed.
  9. Now switch to the Eclipse ‘SVN Repository Exploring’ perspective.
  10. Select ‘New repository location’ at the top/left area of Eclipse.
  11. Enter the repository information (your company’s own or the one from the Freepository in the previous section of this document) in the field beside URL in ‘New Repository Location’ popup. You also need to enter your user name and password at this time to avoid being asked for it whenever you try to access Freepository. I also prefer to select ‘Save Password’ so it is not necessary to re-enter it each time I access the repository.
  12. Now select the ‘Finish’ button. After the repository is added, you can select it in the ‘SVN Repositories’ window (typically at the far left side of the Eclipse ‘SVN Repository Exploring perspective). Please note Eclipse supports multiple SVN repositories, and it is common to have multiple SVN sites for personal, work, and school projects.
  13. All in all SVN works well with Eclipse.

Configure Xcode 4 for SVN

Xcode 3 is shipped with most Macs and is available free to developers that join the Mac/iOS Developer Program, or for $4.99 from the Apple App store. Compared to Eclipse, Xcode 4 is very easy to setup for SVN.

  1. Launch Xcode 4.
  2. Select ‘Repositories’ at the top of the Xcode Organizer.
  3. Select the ‘+’ sign at the bottom left of the Xcode Organizer, then select ‘Add Repository’.
  4. Enter the name and location, then press the ‘Next’ button to finish setting up the repository.
  5. You can leave the Trunk, Branches, and Tags as is for Freepository, then press the ‘Add’ button to complete setup. Select ‘Repositories; at the top of the Xcode Organizer screen to see the new repository.

Not a lot to do to get yourself setup for using a code repository, which is something most new developers learn when starting their first job as a programmer.

Configure IntelliJ IDEA 10.5 CE for SVN

Probably the easiest of these three IDEs to configure to access a remote SVN repository. All you need to do is connect to the repository.

  1. Launch IDEA.
  2. Select ‘Version Control/Browse VCS Repository/Browse Subversion Repository’ from the IDE menu.
  3. To add a new SVN repository, select the ‘+’ beside ‘Repositories:’ at the top of this popup screen, or select the repository from the list in the popup to access an existing repository. To see the projects in each repository, expand the appropriate repository folder.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

I graduated with an undergrad degree in Computer Science in the Spring of 2010, and I enjoyed it so much I decided to go on to graduate school and ended up enrolling at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in St. Paul, MN, and started on a MS in Software Engineering degree in the Fall of 2010.

When I enrolled at UST, I used my experience in under grad courses to determine who many classes to take each semester. Half time in grad school is 1 class, and a full time load is 2 classes, so I decided to take 2 classes per semester. That was a mistake, because graduate school classes take so much more time and effort than undergrad classes.

After taking 4 classes this past school year, I found we read and absorbed an average of 3 books per class, had at least 1 project per class, had 3 – 10 homework assignments per class, and had 2 exams (mid term and final) per class. The part that was most difficult was the classes require the students to learn a variety of tools to use during the course, and these tools are not simple and each one takes time to learn, which takes away time from the assignment needing that tool.

I’m not complaining. I probably learned more over the past year than any 5 year period working in the software industry. I’ll go into each of the classes so I can give the highlights from each course.

Software Engineering is one of the first required classes and our professor was very knowledgeable and did not hold back. When he assigned our team projects, he specified that we use repositories and Twitter to document what we did during the course of the project. I have used repositories, but had little experience with Twitter. I discovered how much Twitter can help quickly communicate short topics and so it has become part of my technical tool belt. I have an account and post from time to time. The textbook was absolutely worth keeping and it is now part of my library.

There are two web design/development classes at UST. The first is web design, which is focused on front end development. I really enjoyed the class because I’ve worked with the web since the mid 1990s and was comfortable working with it. I thought I might not learn a lot but that was not the case. The professor had current technology information and covered a ton of things I was unfamiliar with. We learned about commercial and open source web design applications, but did not have a textbook for the course so I kept the PPT slides for future reference.

Our database class required that we use PowerDesigner, which was my first exposure to that application. I count myself fortunate to have taken 2 database classes as an under grad student, and the professor (Shana) was excellent. The professor that taught our grad course taught more than theory – he taught the material in a way to clarify some concepts overlooked or skipped in under grad database classes. The textbook was one I’d used in the first under grad database course I took, but it was not as useful as the lectures. I would love to see that professor write his own textbook, because his lectures were great and the textbook just wasn’t as useful as the information we received in the classroom.

The second UST web course is web development, and to say it was challenging is a major understatement. This class is focused on server-side web development, and it is assumed you took and knew everything in the first class. Our first homework assignment was to use Python to write a web server, then create a web site that passes images and html content. Whoa! I used my Macbook, which already had Python installed, so I enjoyed the assignment. Apparently I was the only one in class that was not unhappy with the assignment. The homework only got more complicated, and we learned and used PHP, AJAX, MVC, Ruby on Rails (or ASP.NET), and MySQL to develop back end sites. I particularly enjoyed the homework assignment where we had to create a mashup, which was fun and my first exposure to them. I also enjoyed the assignment where we needed to create web content that was viewable via mobile devices, and found it so interesting that I am spending part of this summer trying to learn more about this. Mobile apps rock. We had a team project and the team I was on did an e-commerce application that we hosted on a Amazon EC2 Windows 2008 server instance with the Zend framework installed. Fun. Tough, but fun. We had 1 required book, which was good because it made many references to web content which had current information on the technologies covered in the book. We had a optional book on Ruby on Rails that I also purchased and found it good enough to keep to learn more about this language.

I had intended to go for a second under grad degree in English after completing my Computer Science degree, but now I am so glad I went on for a Masters Degree. The topics are deep, the professors expect a lot but they will go out of their way to help you if you ask for assistance. I won’t have any of the same professors this Fall, but wouldn’t hesitate to take another class with any of them.

I’m reading ahead this summer, but also am taking the experience from the first year and am digging into the tools needed for the topics covered in my fall classes. Yes, I’ve enrolled in 2 classes this Fall and expect I’ll take 2 in the Spring, which is a hard load but it lets me complete the program in 3 – 3.5 years, which is one of my goals. If it takes longer to complete the degree I won’t complain. It took me 3 years to complete my under grad degree and I can handle another 3 – 4 years for a Masters Degree. I’ve spent my career in development and know I will be far better at my job when I complete this program, and would encourage others that consider it to look into it. If it makes you better at your job and the cost and time are reasonable, it is worth the effort.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Image courtesy of NASA

This morning NASA used a Delta II rocket to successfully launch the Aquarius/SAC-D mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This new satellite will help scientists measure the amount of Sea Surface Salinity, which is important for global climate studies. The mission was accomplished with cooperation between NASA and Argentina’s CONAE Space Agency.

What impressed me this morning was the method I used to follow the launch: watching streaming video on my iPod touch. When the first space missions were launched, people saw the poor quality video on black and white televisions, many with tiny (compared to those available today) screens. This morning the video of the launch on my Touch was in color and in very good detail. I watched the final 15 minute countdown (which took longer than 15 minutes due to a built0in pause to make important system checks prior to launch), and it was great.

To read more about this launch, check out NASA’s website.

Two must-have iPhone apps are the NASA app and the NASA TV app. Being able to look up mission information or watch missions on NASA TV is fantastic for space enthusiasts (count me as part of that group). While I don’t have an iPad, I will add both of NASA’s apps when I do purchase one in the future. I imagine the materials will be better when viewed on larger screens. Anyone with an iPad that wants to share their experience with these apps is most welcome to post a comment.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

I am again this week taking advantage of the harvest of clippings I gathered during March and April while I was tied up with other work and family matters. Do remember, yes I trust Wikipedia as a secondary source of information, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!

You may wonder why there are a number, larger then usual in a non-nuclear specific article, of nuclear related items below? It my reaction to the media and the public’s Shakespearian overreaction to the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami tragedy, which far out weights that from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident.

What you ask?         It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5.)

Enjoy!

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • Biofuels Aren’t Really Green N Cultivate inorganic energy sources instead of biofuels
  • Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water
  • Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech?  — A New York Times Debate Feature
  • The Hybrid Electric Car Victory – or at least its seemingly positive progress.
  • Small and Medium Reactors (SMRs) — The cases for and against
  • Assumptions for Land Needed by Wind and Solar — An Analysis
  • Stories vs. Statistics — A reality check

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Biofuels Aren’t Really Green

Cultivate inorganic energy sources instead of biofuels

Interesting, although several a older studies have been published in peer reviewed sources, they appear to have been ignored by politico’s and silver bullet seeking subsidy hunters. Un-green biofuels also  goes against the current governmental biofuel creation goals and subsidy trends.

Has any done a recent updated system study on the effect of all variables on the issue of biofuel potential? The best of what I’ve googled focuses primarily on the transportation sector. Not often, and only weakly is there consideration given to its use for generating electrical power generation in which biofuel would replace, coal, natural gas and perhaps grid linked efficient solar or wind power.

Sustainable, green, renewable, organic—the words come up so often in energy and climate debates that they tend to sound as if they mean the same thing. But of course they don’t. Nuclear reactors emit no carbon and are therefore in a sense green, but uranium is nonrenewable; hydropower is green and renewable but may not always be sustainable, because the ecological consequences can be bad and reservoirs are not limitless; coal is organic, but its carbon emissions make it the very opposite of green. All that is obvious enough. But even so, it may be jarring to hear—as the authors have found and will describe — organic biofuels can’t possibly fuel a growing world economy in a sustainable manner, whereas, in principle, inorganic fuels could.

That inorganic might beat organic contradicts fashionable prejudice, which like all fashion changes with the season. Take the case of the United States: First came the enthusiasm for corn ethanol, its extravagant subsidization, and a farm-industrial miniboom. Then, when corn’s limits started to become better known and its costs more glaringly obvious, we started to hear about the promise of switch grass, a native species of the North American prairie that promises high energy-conversion efficiencies.

All of this knowledge ignored, in parallel to our scientifically trained American legislators allowing and by implication promoting the increased of corn based ethanol. To 15% in gasoline, despite marginal or perhaps negative fuel efficiencies, known engine corrosion problems and the shortage of corn for food world-wide. To mix metaphor, these folks really know which side of their bread is buttered. It’s a shame that there is no legal way to shame them and their staff, as well as the industry lobbyist into using the 15% adulterated fuel for six months to a year.

President George W. Bush first mentioned it in a 2006 speech to the nation. Before long, Al Gore was chiming in too, promising that with adequate government support for research, grass-based fuels could free us from the dual specters of energy shortage and runaway climate change.

In Germany rapeseed has been all the rage; in India, jatropha; and in Brazil, sugarcane ethanol. Yet the plain fact is that nobody really knows when or whether organic fuels will be competitive with hydrocarbon based fuels (gasoline and or natural gas, except under unique circumstance such as hold in Brazil.  Engineering breakthroughs, by their nature, are unpredictable—that’s what makes them exciting. So to evaluate whether organic fuels could ever be in a position to power the world, we looked at them purely in terms of physical resource availability, assuming that the costs would eventually become competitive. We asked how much land and water would be needed to make the quantities of biofuel that a prosperous world would need. We also asked whether there were other sources of fuel and energy that might put less strain on resources while adding less greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.

To our own surprise, the authors note, the model we constructed showed that there is simply not enough land and water to support a prosperous biofueled world. At the same time, it suggested that inorganic sources, such as photovoltaic cells, could in principle do the job. There’s the rub… the words in principle.

There’s much more so read on — make up your own mind, but remember that the 2009 premises input to the authors’ model was already outdated when published. There is, as you all know no thing as constant as change itself. Also check out the last topic in this blog called “statistics and stories. (Doc.)

Article by Deepak Divan and Frank Kreikebaum, IEEE Spectrum November 2009.

See Also:

Biofuel from Wikipedia, 2011

Sustainable (Green) Energy from Wikipedia

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Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water

I’ve combined inputs from two of Rod Adam’s articles to give you a taste of his ideas on nuclear energy related issues. They include his views on nuclear related costs issues and other red flags. I am in total agreement with Rod’s thesis and logic, based on independent reading. No I’m not an economist, venture capitalist, or investment broker, but I am a pretty good systems engineer. Since I’m on a Shakespeare kick, Rod’s articles are as much about “much ado about nothing: but neither does it credit the impossible dream as American nuclear  naysayer preach.

Guys-Gals, France, China, Russia and India are not going either broke by supporting nuclear. Neither will Japan, after they slowly recover from the earthquake-tsunami. Owing ones soul to either the company store or to the international oil magnates is not my version of the American dream. Is it yours?

Why Select Rod’s Articles! — First, he writes for what Steve Jobs would call the rest of us. Experience wise, he is a pro-nuclear advocate with extensive small nuclear plant operating experience and a former engineer officer, USS Von Steuben. He is also the host and producer of The Atomic Show Podcast. Adams and is a frequent contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.  …Mostly, although I’ve looked, I’ve not found any errors in the logic behind his analysis or the validity of his sources.

For the majority of human history, people used their own muscles to provide almost all of the work required for survival and development. A thin slice of humanity achieved a moderate amount of personal comfort and leisure because they were able, often through an accident of birth, to control a portion of the daily work output of hundreds to thousands of their fellow humans. The only sources of work—in the engineering sense—that were not either human or animal muscle came from capturing falling water or intermittently by capturing the breezes through devices like cloth sails or wind mills.

Humans understood fire. They used it to keep warm, to process their food, to produce some implements from metal, and as a weapon of destruction. It was not, however, until inventive people with names like Savery, Newcomen, and Watt started to work out ways of using the hot gas produced when fire boiled water that humans learned how to become masters of the earth’s vast store of combustible materials.

The seemingly simple act of boiling water provided humans the means necessary to gradually invent and manufacture their way out of a life of drudgery. Steam power was the key; H2O had always been important for people, but when they learned to pump it as a liquid, heat it into a pressurized gas, and condense it back down into a liquid, H2O became he vital working fluid that could turn heat into work and force machines to become the drudges in service of human beings. It is not an exaggeration to note that without the act of boiling water to create and use steam, getting rid of serfdom and slavery would have been virtually impossible.

I would bet that most of the people who nod their heads at that phrase have never had to cut and carry enough wood to boil a large pot of water, say for doing a week’s laundry. I am sure that few have ever spent much time watching a coal conveyor steadily feed a large boiler that is producing some of the electricity that feeds the electrical sockets and stoves in their homes. Boiling water is not only important, but it is not as simple as it may seem. It generally requires the consumption of a vast quantity of increasingly expensive materials and it requires a tacit {implied} agreement on the part of everyone in the area of the fire to accept their share of the waste products that are spread far and wide from every fire.

The exception to that general rule is the water that gets boiled by the heat released from atomic fission. Once the work of the talented engineers and builders is complete, operating a fission-heated boiler is a rather simple task. The task is not made simple by sets of complex automation or hard working pumps and conveyors; it is enabled by physics. Once a moderate amount of fuel is loaded into a nuclear reactor, it will reliably and simply produce heat for somewhere between 18 months and 33 years (the later for a Virginia class nuclear submarine) with relatively little additional effort.

There’s a tad more to this historic tale — click the first reference…

Rod concludes the fact is that nuclear energy is a cheap, clean, and even simple way to perform the vital act of boiling water

To get a taste of the economic issues, that red flag nuclear, check out the second link. Rod makes a lie out of many of ways the most virulent anti-nuclear activists have begun focusing almost exclusively on spreading the assumption that nuclear energy means expensive energy. They have been helped in this effort by statements from the established nuclear industry that claim that new plants are so expensive that they require government assistance and incentives in order to get them financed and built.

The fundamental aspect of nuclear energy that the rest of us need to understand is that fission heat is actually quite cheap. The average total production cost from a US nuclear power plant today is just 1.86 cents per kilowatt-hour. That total is normally broken into two pieces – fuel costs and non-fuel Operations and Maintenance costs. For 2008, nuclear plant owners in the US spent an average of just 0.49 cents per kilowatt-hour for fuel and 1.37 cents per kilowatt-hour for non-fuel operations & maintenance. Data from the Nuclear Energy Institute is provided in Rod’s article that describes what is included in those numbers.

Also enjoy the outdated, but still qualitatively appropriate data on US Government and State energy subsidies — =talk about picking favorite or free market distortions.

Okay enough said so just click through. Also relevant, but not part of this articles are the lowered costs when consider either small nuclear power plant (batteries) and modular reactors such as those being designed by Babcock & Wilcox Company for near future licensing.

Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water. Posted on February 1, 2011 by Rod Adams in the ANS nuclear cafe Blog.

Nuclear Energy Is Cheap and Disruptive – Controlling the Initial Cost of Nuclear Power Plants is a Solvable Problem. Posted February 6, 2010 by Rod Adams for the Energy Collective.

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Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech?

— A New York Times Debate Feature

When reading this article or the ones I referenced, I wonder whether this competition stuff is a smokescreen. Does it really matter who the ever changing statistics is number one. By all estimates the projected markets are so huge that they can’t likely be monopolized. (Green tech, please note is different from controlling a narrow commodity such as rare earth elements (of recent headline fame) or OPEC and petroleum supplies. America is known for its inventiveness, creativity and ‘venturous’ spirit. However that does not mean that we don’t  need to re-assert, despite the risks, our ability to get our competitive manufacturing up to snuff; or we’re back to hind teat.

After all the jobs and profits go to those who manufacture, not the inventors. That why jobs are exported to the lowest cost technically savvy  ‘competent’ producer – iPad’s from China and flat screen TV’s from Japan and South Korea, with some of manufacturing in part outsourced to China. In addition everything I read, that is based on peer reviewed hard science is that small business do not have the ability to create more than a few jobs, it’s all about mega manufacturing, in America, that creates jobs and raises living standards — more of that in a future article.

The Obama administration has sought to promote green technology as a growth engine in the U.S. But even with some government support, new firms have a hard time competing with foreign producers. The U.S. currently accounts for just $1.6 billion of the world’s $29 billion market for solar panels, with China, using aggressive policies, to become the dominant maker of equipment like solar panels and wind turbines. Congress was so concerned about unfair trade practices harming American manufacturers that it recently approved a provision to require the Pentagon to buy only American-made solar panels. Anyone for a trade war?

What are the obstacles for American companies trying to win global markets in clean energy industries? Read the NYT discussion. Can green industries take off in the U.S. and compete globally? What might stand in the way? The topics discussed in the NT sponsored debate and Op-Ed include:

Pitfalls in Public Policies— Robert N. Stavins, Harvard UniversityWe Need a Manufacturing Agenda — Joan Fitzgerald, Northeastern University

Ways to Recapture the Lead — Robert E. Scott, Economic Policy Institute

How We Gain From China’s Advances  — Matthew Kahn, UCLA. Institute of the Environment

Government Should Be a CatalystVan Jones, author, “The Green Collar Economy”

Our Comparative Advantage — Frank A. Wolak, Stanford University

Understanding the ObjectiveDavid Roberts, Grist.org

 

 

See Also:

Welcoming The Competition, Like It Or Not, The Economist, June 10th 2010

Senator Harry Reid: US Must Compete With China To Lead On Energy By Matthew Daly, Associated Press Posted Wed Apr 27, 2011.

Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech? –We Need a Manufacturing Agenda, Posted on 19 January 2011 by Sara Haimowitz. For the ‘Trade Reform’ Blog.

US Must Cut $100 Billion from Defense to Compete with China on Clean Energy: Expert, by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York  on January.12, 2011 for the Tree Hugger Blog11.

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The Hybrid Electric Car Victoryor at least its seemingly positive progress.

Calcars.org founder Felix Kramer tells the plug-in hybrid story in this re-post.  For background, see “Plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solution.”

The details:

(1) On the evolution of the hybrid electric car, and perhaps an all electric car.

(2) The lessons learned during their development by their major manufacturers and the

(3) Challenges ahead for this energy saving-petrochemical use reducing transportation alternative.

…All are described in an article entitled “The Hybrid Electric Car Victory” for the Energy Collective by Joseph Romm, Posted December 22, 2010.

Romm, as an early pioneer and advocate for hybrid cars, Romm’s narrative is folksy, anecdotal and easy to read — tune in you enjoy the doing so.

…And while I’m at it my next <used> car is a 5-7 year old Toyota Prius – Consumer Reports tested a 2002 (nine year old model) with 206,000 miles on the odometer and found minimal if any degradation of its operating systems including the battery. Alas, there hasn’t been a used Prius for sale in the used automobile advertisements for the last 6-9 months.

 

More Reading

Hybrid Vehicles, …And… Hybrid Electric Vehicles, In Wikipedia 2011.

How Hybrid Cars Work, by Karim Nice and Julia Layton in How Stuff Works. 2011.

Hybrid Vehicle, The Next Step In The Evolution of the Automobile! By Kjartan Bergsson, Blog Editor

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Small and Medium Reactors  — The cases for and against

Challenges in getting large nuclear projects off the ground seems to have renewed interest in small modular reactors. But not everyone is convinced there is a market for smaller plants. Can the SMR developers play ball with the big boys of nuclear?

This year the nuclear energy industry is thinking small, or at least a segment of it is. Everyone from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Nuclear Energy Insider is staging an event or carrying out a study into small modular reactors (SMRs), while manufacturers are gearing up new product designs.

Is the hype justified? It depends who you ask.

SMRs (the acronym also stands for small and medium reactors, defined by the IAEA as having ratings of under 300MW and up to 700MW, respectively) have been around for a long time and have not exactly shown great commercial promise throughout their existence.

The article discusses a variety of efforts ranging from the failed pebble bed SMR to the ongoing active international approaches in a race that appears to be running almost neck-to-neck relative to technology alternatives. The one thing these designs have in common is the concept of using a small sized 50-100 MW nuclear battery maintenance free unit that is installed underground, used for it’s lifetime, retrieved and recycled by it’s manufacturer. No extra external cooling systems, earthquake proof to NRC or IAEA standards, no refueling, no active safety systems… it’s just a battery. The image is the Hyperon Reactor concept.

Take the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor originally planned in South Africa by the company of the same name, in association with African electrical giant Eskom. After six years of development the project was shelved last September, allegedly due to a lack of customers and investors. Poor management and planning, or the world economic downturn?

On the pro side, However, Steve Kidd (deputy director general of the World Nuclear Association) acknowledges that it is probably current energy generation economics that is driving current interest in SMRs: “You don’t need such a large dollop of front end capital to get a programme underway,” he accepts.

Adrian Heymer, executive director of strategic programs at the USA’s Nuclear Energy Institute, adds: “Interest is being driven in part by smaller utilities looking at different types of energy generation and which cannot afford a large nuclear plant. “If you add capacity in 50 MW to 300MW increments it’s easier on the planning. You can bring the units on in stages, so you are still getting 600MW to 700MW in a 10 to 15-year period but you can finance it as you go forward.”

Another advantage of an SMR design, Adrian says, is that because most of the components can be shipped ready-built from the manufacturer, “it doesn’t take as long to build. You can assemble most of the plant in a factory.”

According to Jay Harris, an independent consultant, a further reason why some utilities might be keen on SMRs is because they provide greater base load flexibility as intermittent renewable energy sources are increasingly integrated into the grid.

The danger for a utility that is bound by regulation to accept renewable energy is that if most of its base load comes from a single nuclear source then a peak in renewables could mean a portion of the base is no longer profitable, and there may be further costs if the plant has to shut.

There lot’s more here to tweak your interest, and while you’re reading check out the supplementary references. Of particular interest are the enhanced safety features, and life cycle, including low construction costs and minimal maintainability, advantages. These are in essence small On the negative side, a terrorists may chose to fly a large helicopter with a sky hook and lift it top drop it where it will ‘scare people’.

It’s Just a BIG Battery

ThreeMmodules in the  B&W Concept

Note that what I report in this topical is not the modular reactor concept, which will be the source of another future article. Modular reactor are large scale reactors which can be built and centrally operated using some installed prefabricated modules to fit power needs, but closely resemble the newer generation of standard nuclear power plants. These are being explored as a means of lowering up front capital costs without a need to significantly change the licensing requirements and regulatory approval process

Nuclear Energy Industry Insight, by Jason Deign, February 9, 2011.

More Reading

Small Modular Reactors.           …And…         List Of Small Nuclear Reactor Designs. Wikipedia 2011.

Small Nuclear Power Reactors. World Nuclear Association, April 2011

Are Small Nuclear Reactors Safer? The Celsias (climate) Blog, by Timothy B. Hurst

Interim Report Of The American Nuclear Society President’s Special Committee On Small And Medium Sized Reactor (SMR) Generic Licensing Issues, July 2010.

The economy of small: how SMRs have captured the imagination of US policy makers and industry leaders. By Jack Craze, October 18, 2010, for the Nuclear Energy Insider.

Small Nuclear Reactors Are Becoming Big Business – The race is on to develop refrigerator-size reactors that could power small towns or plants. Published in Bloomberg Businessweek, By Jeremy van Loon and Alex Morales, May 20, 2010.

PR-CANADA.net – IEER/PSR: ‘Small Modular Reactors’ No Panacea for What Ails Nuclear Power (An alternate View), by Arjun Makhijani of the anti-nuclear IEER, Posted October 1, 2010.            …And…         Small Modular Reactors – No Solution for the Cost, Safety, and Waste Problems of Nuclear Power. Fact Sheet by Arjun Makhijani And Michele Boyd for the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research [IEER], September 2010.

The Gates Path to an Energy Revolution By Andrew C. Revkin, August 24, 2010 for The New York Times

Bill Gates and Toshiba building commercial mini nuclear reactors. By Leslie Shapiro for the DEVICE Blog, Mar 23, 2010.

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Assumptions for Land Needed by Wind and Solar — An Analysis

Abstracted from Martin LaMonica‘s CNET article::

Imagine if your country had an unlimited budget but a limited amount of land: what renewable energy has the most potential? Rutgers University professor Clinton Andrews and colleagues ran the numbers on this thought experiment and came up with some surprises.

The authors identified clear limits on some technologies, notably biofuels, but concluded that the bigger challenges to renewable energy and land relate to siting energy facilities, particularly transmission lines. Andrews presented an early version of the paper at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy conference. The goal of the analysis and others like it is to size up the land requirements for different renewable-energy sources which in many cases require more land than fossil fuels and nuclear power. As the U.S. and other countries seek to ramp up renewable-energy production, land use is becoming a more contentious issue. Already plans to build large-scale solar plants and wind farms in the U.S. have been opposed for aesthetic and environmental reasons.

Even for distributed energy sources, such as rooftop panels, permitting and siting issues stand to loom large because upgrades to the electricity grid are needed, the study found. “It’s not so much the land that we need for producing the energy. It’s how we move to where we want to use it,” according to the analysis that Andrews presented.

Professor Andrews goes on to discuss land use associated with

  • The small land needs for Geothermal and concentrating solar thermal production.
  • Alas, the largest energy associated land hog is biofuels, particularly biodiesel.

There’s more so click though and get the rest of the story. I wish that the reporter who shared Professor Andrew’s work had more directly included coal, natural gas and nuclear in the CNET analysis, but that seemed beyond the scope of the reporter interests. Never the less from the material provided in other references I checked in passing, the land use patterns are very clear. The image is from a 2011 C&EN article.

Remember that land use is only one of the trade-offs needing to be considered while planning our hopefully independent energy future and controlling climate change. The obvious cost of the energy produced, when off set by some sort of charge for pollution needs to be considered. Unfortunately the bureaucrats and industrialists of the world seem to be blind-siding this issue, creating a false balance sheet of costs for energy alternative. “Gaia doesn’t care, the laws of nature will take their coursed whether we believe them or not.

A perhaps more scholarly study, the second reference further highlights energy production  land use issues:

Concern over climate change has led the U.S. to consider a cap-and-trade system to regulate emissions. In the referenced articles we illustrate the land-use impact to U.S. habitat types of new energy development resulting from different U.S. energy policies. The authors estimated the total new land area needed by 2030 to produce energy, under current law and under various cap-and-trade policies, and then partitioned the area impacted among habitat types with geospatial data on the feasibility of production.

The land-use intensity of different energy production techniques varies over three orders of magnitude, from 1.9–2.8 km2/TW hr/yr for nuclear power to 788–1000 km2/TW hr/yr for biodiesel from soy. In all scenarios, temperate deciduous forests and temperate grasslands will be most impacted by future energy development, although the magnitude of impact by wind, biomass, and coal to different habitat types is policy-specific.

Regardless of the existence or structure of a cap-and-trade bill, at least 206,000 km2 will be impacted without substantial increases in energy efficiency, which saves at least 7.6 km2 per TW hr of electricity conserved annually and 27.5 km2 per TW/hr of liquid fuels conserved annually.

Climate policy that reduces carbon dioxide emissions may increase the areal impact of energy, although the magnitude of this potential side effect may be substantially mitigated by increases in energy efficiency. The possibility of widespread energy sprawl increases the need for energy conservation, appropriate siting, sustainable production practices, and compensatory mitigation offsets.

Caveat Lector:  I could not Google a copy of the original Rutgers Study by Professor Clinton Andrews, so can not attest to the underlying technical detains in the original article. All posted information was a variation of the LaMonica CNET report

Figuring land use into renewable-energy equation. Reported n the Green Tech Blog

By Martin LaMonica, May 29, 2010.

Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America. The Plosone Blog, by Robert I. McDonald, Joseph Fargione, Joe Kiesecker3 William M. Miller, and Jimmie Powell; August 2009.

Nuclear Energy: The Antidote to Energy Sprawl, Nuclear Energy Insight, Nuclear Energy Institute, September 2010.

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Stories vs. StatisticsA reality check

Years ago I took a graduate school course, at the University of Denver from my favorite faculty friend and colleague Dr. Albert Ritter. The course combined an introduction to the principals of symbolic logic, dipped into the basis of the scientific method and added what appeared to be a segment on ‘how to lie with statistics.” Although I would not have passed the course being simultaneously being overwhelmed with life’s realities. I was simultaneously teaching, developing an organic chemistry Ph. D. curriculum, chasing funding and then building myself a research laboratory, and enjoying a new marriage. Non-the less, the course changed my approach to what I read and how I approached scientific life!   

Many year later, a book “Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists”, by Joel Best, University of California Press; 1 edition (May 8, 2001) added another nail to my sense of disbelief of ‘public’ infomercials’ on the numerics and cherry-pickled statistics provided by talking heads what ever their titles or positions.

 

Therefor the following NY Times article touched on a nerve, always, especially after elections or congressional debates, raw and bleeding.

 

Half a century ago the British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow bemoaned the estrangement of what he termed the “two cultures” in modern society — the literary and the scientific. These days, there is some reason to celebrate better communication between these domains, if only because of the increasingly visible salience of scientific ideas. Still a gap remains, and so I’d like here to take an oblique look at a few lesser known contrasts and divisions between subdomains of the two cultures, specifically, those between stories and statistics.

Dr. Paulos begins by noting that the notions of probability and statistics are not alien to storytelling. From the earliest of recorded histories there were glimmerings of these concepts, which were reflected in everyday words and stories. Consider the notions of central tendency — average, median, mode, to name a few.

They most certainly grew out of workaday activities and led to words such as (in English) “usual,” “typical.” “customary,” “most,” “standard,” “expected,” “normal,” “ordinary,” “medium,” “commonplace,” “so-so,” and so on.

The same is true about the notions of statistical variation — standard deviation, variance, and the like. Words such as “unusual,” “peculiar,” “strange,” “original,” “extreme,” “special,” “unlike,” “deviant,” “dissimilar” and “different” come to mind.

It is hard to imagine even prehistoric humans not possessing some sort of rudimentary idea of the typical or of the unusual. Any situation or entity — storms, animals, and rock patterns — that recurred again and again would, it seems, lead naturally to these notions. These and other fundamentally scientific concepts have in one way or another been embedded in the very idea of what a story is — an event distinctive enough to merit retelling — from cave paintings to “Gilgamesh” to “The Canterbury Tales,” onward.

The idea of probability itself is present in such words as “chance,” “likelihood,” “fate,” “odds,” “gods,” “fortune,” “luck,” “happenstance,” “random,” and many others. A mere acceptance of the idea of alternative possibilities almost entails some notion of probability, since some alternatives will be come to be judged more likely than others.

Likewise, the idea of sampling is implicit in words like “instance,” “case,” “example,” “cross-section,” “specimen” and “swatch,” and that of correlation is reflected in “connection,” “relation,” “linkage,” “conjunction,” “dependence” and the ever too ready “cause.”

Even (science based) hypothesis testing and Bayesian analysis possess linguistic echoes in common phrases and ideas that are an integral part of human cognition and storytelling. … Despite the naturalness of these notions, however, there is a tension between stories and statistics. One under-appreciated contrast between them is simply the mindset with which we approach them. In listening to stories we tend to suspend disbelief in order to be entertained. Whereas, in evaluating statistics we generally have an opposite inclination to suspend belief in order not to be beguiled.

A drily named distinction from formal statistics is relevant: we’re said to commit a Type I error when we observe something that is not really there and a Type II error when we fail to observe something that is there. There is no way to always avoid both types, and we have different error thresholds in different endeavors, but the type of error people feel more comfortable may be telling. It gives some indication of their intellectual personality type; on which side of the two cultures (or maybe two cultures) divide they’re most comfortable. Check Wikipedia,

Okay, that’s right; if the author’s thesis catches your fancy read on… after all there are both philosopher kings and philosophical scientists, although Plato did not distinguish between them.

Article by John Allen Paulos, in the New York Times Opinionator Column, October 24, 2010.

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

Endnotes

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 copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

Readers please 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/

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

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

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).          Doc!

QUOTES de Mois —

  • The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
  • For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
  • It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.  Richard P. Feynman

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Software: Astronomy Course Assistant
Vendor: Wolfram Research (www.wolfram.com)
Price: $4.95

When  I returned to college to earn my undergrad degree in Computer Science in 2007, I was surprised to see how many students used their smart phones in school. I started on a Masters degree (MS in SE) in the Fall of 2010 and was surprised to see how many students have embraced mobile devices to help with classwork. With the release of the iPad 1.0 product, I’ve seen little or no use of netbooks on campus, and huge numbers of students using mobile devices to access and retrieve information while studying and in classrooms. I bought a iPod Touch in March and have to admit I’m hooked. The apps I’ve tried look and function very well, so I was pleased to see Wolfram Research releasing course assistants for students.

For the 3 or so readers that are unfamiliar with Wolfram Research, they have been selling Mathematica for many years. Over the course of the product life-cycle they have constantly added functionality to their powerful software. Many universities provide Mathematica for their students at low or no cost, and it is a fantastic product for Math, Engineering, and Science majors. I started using Mathematica 5 and have enjoyed using and reviewing versions 6 and 7 for MacWorld UK, and I cover 8.0 (and 8.0.1) on this blog.

This review covers the Wolfram Astronomy Course Assistant, which is sold through the Apple Apps store for $4.95. I downloaded and installed the app through iTunes, which was as fast as you’d expect. After opening the app for the first time, I noticed the data was organized by categories:

Sky Orientation, Moon, Physical Astronomy, Light and Telescopes, Starlight and Atoms, The Sun and Stars, Black Holes, Cosmology, Solar System, and Life on Other Worlds.

Sky Orientation

This category has data on: Constellations, Zodiac, Reference Points, Basic Angles, Degrees to Right Ascension, Angular Diameter, Size Comparison, Seasons, Periapsis/Apoapsis. My favorite option was the size comparison, where you compare 2 astronomical objects. My least favorite option was Seasons, where you look up the nearest solstice/equinox for a specified date.

Moon

The moon is one of my favorite bodies to observe as it is so close that many features can be seen with binoculars. I liked everything in this category, which covers moon phases, lunar and solar eclipses, and the tides. I checked out the most recent solar eclipse yesterday, and it was yesterday (May 20), although it was not visible from many places as it was primarily seen over the Atlantic ocean.

Physical Astronomy

This section covers Newton’s Laws, Newton’s Second Law, Circular Orbit Velocity, Stationary Orbits, Escape Velocity, Moment of Interia, Rotational Angular Momentum, Kepler’s Laws, Kepler’s Third Law, Kepler’s Third Law with Mass, and Relativistic Energy. All are good to have when taking an astronomy or physics class, but my favorite was escape velocity where you can compute this information for astronomical bodies based on radii of AUs, kilometers, miles, meters, and feet. Mass is set using kilograms, pounds, or grams. Very useful.

Light and Telescopes

This section covers materials useful for building or using telescopes. It uses eyepiece focal length and objective focal length to determine telescope magnification. I also like how it calculated light gathering power, so you can compare 2 telescopes (very handy when you decide to purchase your next telescope).

Starlight and Atoms

There were a few options I really liked, but don’t see a need for the Temperature Conversions as this is fairly simple to calculate and I’ve seen the conversion formulas in more than a few intro programming books. My two favorite areas in this category were the Stellar Spectral Classes (determine the property of stars using class/subclass/luminosity) and the Relativistic Doppler Effect (determine speed of a light source using wavelengths). Good stuff!

The Sun and Stars

A ton of information about our sun and stars. It is useful being able to compute the physical properties of the sun based on distance from the surface.

The Star Properties section of the category provides properties for Sirius, Canopus, Arcturus, Rigel Kentaurus A, Vega, Capella, Rigel, Procyon, Achernar, Betelgeuse, Hadar, Altair, Acrus, Aldebaran, and Spica. The type of data returned for each star was useful, however I’d rather have a dynamic list of stars pulled from Wolfram’s servers than a fixed, hard coded list.

Black Holes

How can you not be interested in one of the most powerful objects in the known universe? This category provides a means to calculate Schwarzschild Radius, Hawking Temperature, entropy, surface gravity, surface area, and gravitational redshift for black holes. Excellent information, especially for students.

Cosmology

This category lets you calculate the wavelength of an object that is red shifted. Nice, but I wish there were more sections than the 3 that are provided.

Solar System

Some good, quick reference information on bodies in our solar system. I particularly liked being able to retrieve images of the planets – you first retrieve a thumbnail image and can select a larger image if you want. I like how much amount data you can retrieve on our solar system bodies. I did use some of the data in the Dwarf Planets section when I wrote my piece on Dwarf Planets (see the Astronomy page of this blog for more information).

Life on Other World

This category consists of inputs to compute the Drake Equation, which accepts various data to yield the probability of life on other worlds. Very handy.

Conclusion

Wolfram has 6 course assistant apps available for the iPhone, iPad, and touch. I tested this app using my touch and was satisfied with the amount of useful information as well as the content layout. I would like to see fewer hard-coded lists in future releases, as Wolfram’s data source servers are excellent sources of materials and I’d love to have the capability of this (and other) apps expanded without needing to download an updated version of the app.

I had no crashes or errors when testing, although 1 time I had a timeout when attempting to retrieve an image of Mercury. As much as I enjoyed this app on my iPod touch, I’d love to see it on an iPad.

Recommentation

A good buy for reasonable price. Good for students in high school or college, as they can have a good valid source of information that will help when they take a class in the fascinating subject of astronomy.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Sources of ‘BIAS-Neutral” Information on the Japanese Reactors at Fukushima Daiichi and DaniIt’s time to get away from the headlines and nucleophobic hysteria and look at long and short term realities; both good and bad and the ugly!

Introduction

Since the first announcement on March 11, 2011, I have read dozens if not hundreds of posted articles on the Internet. Some, from relative deep thinking organizations such as the IAEA, World Nuclear Forum, International Health Physics Societies [HPS’], NEA and the NRC. Other articles I’ve studied from seemingly responsible sources acting in a state of shock, and disarray, including parts of the Japanese governmental and industrial infrastructure has also troubled me.

In addition, alas there was/is an overwhelming amount of talking head information coming (print media headlines, blog tirades, TV dialogues.) The accident also enhanced profiles and enriched the purses of professional rumormongers, lobbyists, sales hungry media outlets and those who delight in nuclear bashing.

Alas, all the while the American public seems to be awaiting a miracle to cleanup our air, water and earth before it kills them and their children and children’s-children.

My purpose in this article, it to provide you a easily to follow factual summary events and accessible references that you can read about the Fukushima Daiichi and Dani accident for your selves. I have never been comfortable with these either crying wolf or chicken little.

Don’t Confuse Me With Verifiable Facts; I’m a true believer — Furthermore I do not aim to either cast aspersions on the motives and weakness of the many directly or indirectly involved, nor to grandstand for or against nuclear energy. As readers of my blog and books, you already know my views on that subject and cheerleading specifically on nucleophobia, vested interests, or the gullibility or human frailly will not change my views – demonstrated, reproducible and peer reviewed facts I hope, can.

Neither is it my task to point out the poor quality of science education or education in general that makes curing the earth and our nations ills, difficult, and moves us even closer to replacing the BRICKS as 3rd word nations. It’s economics and hard fiscal realities, not politics and beliefs! Finally, when I close this Op-Ed make some personal observations based on my somewhat compulsive reading of science, technology and the role of politics and bureaucracy play in advancing human error.

We of course as one of the worlds most highly armed nuclear weapons state, in using a Nuclear Winter approach to solving hunger, global worming, water pollution, desertification, species die-out, and the other ailments we have in part inflicted on Mother Gaia. Seems to be a Hobbesian choice – wise up or bow out! Let G-D create someone else in his own image.

Background [From Wikipedia]

The Fukushima I nuclear accidents [Fukushima Dai-ichi (pronunciation) genshiryoku hatsudensho jiko)] are a series of ongoing equipment failures and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, following the 9.0 magnitude Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.

The plant comprises six separate boiling water reactors maintained by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). This accident is the largest of the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents arising from the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and experts consider it to be the second largest nuclear accident after the Chernobyl disaster, but more complex as all reactors are involved.

At the time of the quake, reactor 4 had been de-fueled while 5 and 6 were in cold shutdown for planned maintenance. The remaining reactors shut down automatically after the earthquake, with emergency generators starting up to run the control electronics and water pumps needed to cool reactors. The plant was protected by a seawall designed to withstand a 5.7 m (19 ft.) tsunami but not the 14 m (46 ft.) maximum wave, which arrived 41–60 minutes after the earthquake. The entire plant was flooded, including low-lying generators and electrical switchgear in reactor basements and external pumps for supplying cooling seawater. The connection to the electrical grid was broken. All power for cooling was lost and reactors started to overheat, due to natural decay of the fission products created before shutdown. The flooding and earthquake damage hindered external assistance.

Evidence soon arose of partial core meltdown in reactors 1, 2, and 3; hydrogen explosions destroyed the upper cladding of the buildings housing reactors 1, 3, and 4; an explosion damaged the containment inside reactor 2; 1 multiple fires broke out at reactor 4. Despite being initially shutdown, reactors 5 and 6 began to overheat. Fuel rods stored in pools in each reactor building began to overheat as water levels in the pools dropped. Fears of radiation leaks led to a 20 km (12 mi) radius evacuation around the plant while workers suffered radiation exposure and were temporarily evacuated at various times. One generator at unit 6 was restarted on 17 March allowing some cooling at units 5 and 6, which were least damaged. Grid power was restored to parts of the plant on 20 March, but machinery for reactors 1 through 4, damaged by floods, fires and explosions, remained inoperable. Flooding with radioactive water through the basements of units 1–4 continues to prevent access to carry out repairs.

Measurements taken by the Japanese science ministry and education ministry in areas of northern Japan 30–50 km from the plant showed radioactive cesium levels high enough to cause concern. Food grown in the area was banned from sale. It was suggested that worldwide measurements of iodine-131 and cesium-137 indicate that the releases from Fukushima are of the same order of magnitude as the releases of those isotopes from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986; Tokyo officials temporarily recommended that tap water should not be used to prepare food for infants. Plutonium contamination has been detected in the soil at two sites in the plant. Two workers hospitalized as a precaution on 25 March had been exposed to between 2000 and 6000 mSv of radiation at their ankles when standing in water in unit 3. Radiation levels varied widely over time and location, from well below 1 mSv/h to as high as 400 mSv/h. Normal background radiation varies from place to place but delivers a dose equivalent in the vicinity of 2.4 mSv/year, or about 0.3 µSv/h. For comparison, one chest x-ray is about 0.02 mSv and an abdominal CT scan is supposed to be less than 10 mSv (but it has been reported that some abdominal CT scans can deliver as much as 90 mSv).

Japanese officials initially assessed the accident as level 4 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) despite the views of other international agencies that it should be higher. Note that TMI only resulted in a 3 rating despite all the sound and fury.

The INES level was eventually raised successively to 5 and then the maximum 7. The Japanese government and TEPCO have been criticized for poor communication with the public and improvised cleanup efforts. Experts have said that a workforce in the hundreds or even thousands would take years or decades to clean up the area. On 20 March, the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano announced that the plant would be decommissioned once the crisis was over.

Fukushima Daiichi and Daini Nuclear Power Plants with radius of evacuation zones at 10/30/80 km (yellow circles)

Some Suggested Sources of ‘BIAS-Neutral” Information on the Japanese Reactors at Fukushima Daiichi

Humanitarian Assistance 

American Nuclear Society Japan Relief Fund – http://www.ans.org/relief

U.S. Agency for International Development – http://www.usaid.gov

U.S. State Department – http://www.state.gov

U.S. Red Cross – http://www.redcross.org

News Updates on Japan’s Nuclear Crisis

Understanding Radiation Measurements

English Language News in Japan 

References

The Fukushima Nuclear Accident, Wikipedia May 2, 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Tōhoku_earthquake_and_tsunami

2011 Tōhoku Earthquake And Tsunami, Wikipedia May 8, 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_nuclear_accident

Late News Special Section: Fukushima Daiichi (April 2011)

http://www.new.ans.org/pubs/magazines/nn/y_2011/m_4

Radiation Trends In Japan 21 March 2011, World Nuclear News

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Trends-in_radiation_in_Japan_.html

Safety of Nuclear Power Reactors, Nuclear Energy Institute, April 2011 updated with comments about the Fukushima Daiichi quake-tsunami.

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf06.html

CommunicationA Letter From ANS To President Obama Regarding Japan (Reactor) Situation

http://www.ans.org/misc/letter_to_president_obama.pdf

IAEA Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update Log(s)

http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

Radiation in Japan Seas: Risk of Animal Death, Mutation? National Geographic, 2011.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110331-japan-radiation-health-mutations-nuclear-animals-ocean-science-world/ [See my endnote]

Nuclear Energy Institute Report(s) On Japan’s Nuclear Reactors, April 6, 2011 Plus

Radiation Dispersal From Japan – Radiation Basics Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIOSH and US CDC Responses

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/radiation/RadBasics.html

http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2011/03/cdc-responds-to-earthquake-tsunami-and-radiation-release-in-japan/

The Science Behind the Disaster in Japan _ By Michal Bartlomowicz for The Phoenix

http://thephoenix.eznuz.com/article/US_World_News/US_World_News/The_Science_Behind_the_Disaster_in_Japan/23197

TEPCO in Japan (now) Plans Tsunami Wall by Agence France Presse May 2, 2011 for “Common Dreams Blog.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/05/02-3

Earthquake and Tsunamis In Japan

http://emsnews.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/31111-great-sendai-earthquake-and-tsunami-in-japan/

Doc’s End Note – National Geographic don’t seem to get it – the dose makes the poison and mankind and the world have been exposed to more cumulative natural radiation from anything ranging from volcanic vents to solar excursion, hat that we need to deal with from japan. I wonder, whether the mutations that caused mankind to appear, might have bee radiation induced? I also wonder whether mankind’s long love of natural hot spring baths (most are radioactive) was shared by our progenitors, of the ape family eons ago.

Alas if the levels of natural radiation most cause nuclear phobic folks have nightmares about were an real issue, then mankind would not have survived with the first to die out being in Ramsar, Iran; Kerala, India; Yangjiang China; or Guarapari, Brazil. On the other hand I don’t seem to hear these folks worry much about global warming, running out of water, migration of diseases from the topics to temperate climates, of polluted and likely cariogenic and mutagenic polluted groundwater loaded with chromium.

Concluding Observations

  • Despite the age of the reactors and the lack of focused protection, the effects of the accidents are so far as much smaller than predicted from modeling predictions and formal risk analysis.
  • The Japanese government and Bureaucracy, for decades, ignored peer-reviewed information on the magnitude and effects of earthquake and related tsunamis that were readily available internationally, which had been made actively available to them.
  • Nowhere in the articles I read was there evidence of ‘modern safety practices, common in France, after TMI in the US and after Chernobyl in Russia. The absence beyond lip service to concepts of avoiding single point failures, requiring redundant safety features and generally approaching al safety from a defense in depth viewpoint, remains troublesome.
  • The local as well as national government emergency response plans we woefully inadequate and untested. Not only was the responsibly for emergency response unclear and diluted, but the responses proposed were never ‘formally or rigorously tested. [Hurricane Katrina or 7/11 anyone.]
  • The Japanese nuclear associated energy industry, plagued with years of cover up if not outright lying, were ill prepared for any potentially level 5-7 INES event, despite international ‘requirements’ to do so. This despite the fact that Japan is one of the most energy resource poor countries in the world, and is dependent on nuclear generated electricity for its industrial survival. This is opposite to required practices in the US, France, and apparently with US and IAEA help, post Chernobyl Russia and soon China.
  • It is both naive and irrational to believe that the major countries in the world will give up low-carbon emitting uranium and some day soon thorium based nuclear power. Selling you national soul to oil rich robber barons and your children to slow poverty and illness by global warming is something that only risk adverse hedonistic America will get suckered into.
  • Radiation related fear is an easy thing to foster, making great news ——— It’s all about FUD! Radiation can be detected at ever-lower levels, magnitudes below the upper and lower ubiquitous ranges of natural background ration. [A NIMBY Solution – let’s turn the sun off over America and require zero radiation related material in creating our fertilizers, or supporting our health systems.
  • The human body’s immune system has developed to resist almost all harmful low dose attacks, but even a single gamma ray or alpha particle will pose a risk of cancer… fear “the big “C” word. Innate immune resistance includes low levels of the forever metals and their compounds such lead, mercury, chromium, beryllium, radiation hormesis be dammed.

We too often, only at election times, wonder why China, India, Brazil, Germany, some of the Nordic Countries soon the some in the Middle-East and other so called second/third world nations are gaining in economic clout we remain in economic limbo. Reality Check – if it were easy and painless it would have been done. For failed populist solutions check out Greece, or historically Imperial Japan or China.

As attributed to the French King Louis XV — Après Moi Le Déluge. There and elsewhere, of course it was a deluge as historic evidence supports.

I hope someone in a decision making capacity my America gets it, before grand children inherit the great American dream.” My children already suffer when trying to live it!

Doc.

Quote de Jour – Einstein, a collection on Truth and Stupidity

The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. Truth is what stands the test of experience.

The only source of knowledge is experience.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

Sidebar Notes

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

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

The author considers, as do many experts, Wikipedia a reliable and accessible site for technical information, provided that the reference cited in the Wikipedia article meets the following standard.

Are the references provided essentially complete or representative of the literature, and relevant? Do they include both precedent and present work, including any referenced disagreement with any of the Wiki author’s views?

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

I know it seems like yesterday when Wolfram released Mathematica 8.0, but they just released an update: version 8.0.1. This version is not an incremental update, so the entire application must be downloaded and installed. This update is free for owners of Mathematica 8.0, and it can be installed over or in addition to version 8.0.

8.0.1 Enhancements

The list of updates from version 8.0 to 8.0.1 (courtesy of Wolfram’s site) are:

  • Many new automatic simplifications for derived distributions, including affine transformations, sums of variables, parameter mixtures, and censored and truncated distributions
  • Improved results for Dot with large (> 1,000,000 elements) lists of integers
  • Improved stability under Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs by including a new version of the Intel Math Kernel Library
  • Performance and robustness improvements for many graph and network operations
  • Improved startup time of the front end
  • Improved the creation of MathLink TCPIP connections under certain special network conditions
  • Improved export of Real and “Real32” images to TIFF, to be compatible with more external TIFF image viewers
  • Improved functionality and stability of Home Edition by including more 64-bit components

Click here for a complete list of changes/enhancements to Mathematica, going all the way back to version 1.0.

5-18-2011 Update

Last weekend I downloaded and installed the 8.0.1 release. It is not an incremental update, so it took awhile to download the >2 GB file. The installation of 8.0.1 in parallel with versions 7.0 and 8.0 still on my laptop was nearly flawless, but I had to exit and restart the program to get the application to run without any warning messages (something about an initialization that failed to complete). After the restart there were no more problems (or warnings) and my initial tests with the product have been fine. I did not use a stop watch to time it, but it did seem to start noticeably faster than version 8.0.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved

Apple iPod touch 32 GB 4th generation iPod
Price: $299.00
From: Apple (www.apple.com)

I’ve been an early adapter for several of Apple’s products. I bought (and still have) Apple’s 1st generation Shuffle, Mac Mini (G4 CPU), and AppleTV. I like them even though better versions of the products followed a relatively short time after the initial units were released, but I am still cautious about buying other 1.x or 2.x released. I did get a 3rd generation iPod Nano and love it but the next one has recording features I could have used, but it still functions well and I have no intention of getting rid of it.

We recently bought a new AppleTV (the 2.0 release) and love it, but I have been wanting either an Android or iPad tablet or something similar in function but costing less money. I decided to get a 4th generation iTouch and after using it for a week, I love it. I bought a 32GB iPod touch from the bookstore at my school (University of St. Thomas) for the same price that it is sold at stores or from Apple.

After class I took it home plugged it in to charge over night while I looked at the rest of the goodies in the package. The box for the touch is barely larger than the unit itself. There is a tiny manual, the usual Mac earphones, a cord to connect it to your computer, and a tiny manual that directs you to Apple’s site to get a larger (and far more useful) manual. The touch is thin. it appears to be 20% the thickness and weight of my archaic PalmPilot LifeDrive.

I waited overnight for the unit to charge and then began by getting the user manual and some free goodies from iTunes. Almost immediately I was notified there was a newer version of iOS 4.3, so I downloaded and installed it without a problem. The first thing app I got from iTunes was the remote control app to control our new AppleTV. I used the remote control app to go through the AppleTV options and it worked as well as the remote included with the AppleTV. I also grabbed the NASA app and a few astronomy-related free apps, then downloaded the new commercial Astronomy Course Assistant app from Wolfram ($4.99 at the iTunes store). What can I say? I’m into astronomy and Ted (few contributor on our site) always touts how the iPhone and iPad are great tools for astronomy. You know what? He’s right.

I decided to test streaming movies, so I selected several digit downloads from my iTunes library and synced them to the touch, then streamed the content to the AppleTV. It worked flawlessly. We saw the 2.5 hr Robin Hood movie (the Russell Crowe version, not the dreaded Kevin Costner version) and it was as smooth at play and fast forward as our 1st generation AppleTV when playing and fast forwarding locally stored content (on the internal drive).

Something I didn’t know (should have read more of the manual, I know) was that, when streaming, the touch will send an entire playlist to the AppleTV. To take advantage of that, I went into iTunes and added some new playlists to show the movies I wanted by category.

I used the camera indoors – this generation of the touch has forward and rear-facing cameras and both looked good in the situations when I used them. I took a few pictures but did not do any HD recording, but I will this Spring. I should mention that the 4th generation has what Apple calls Retina Display – it just means they put more pixels of images per area of the scree, so it the content is clear and sharp. Very nice.

I tested FaceTime to call a friend with an iPhone. Dave-Bob and I worked together years ago at a company called BORN, and Dave-Bob has a 4th generation iPhone, so I added him to my contacts list. With my touch accessing the internet with wifi, I called and chatted with Dave-Bob for 15 minutes. We both were really impressed, as it worked so well. The images were clear and updated at a decent (although not flawless) rate. We both were able to switch between the front-facing and read-facing cameras during the call. This feature requires that the receiver has a current version iPod or iPad, so it won’t work with cell phones or landlines, but it is very cool and one of the best reasons to have a new touch/iPhone.

I have some work to do before I’m fully over to the touch. I need to get some music loaded, plus I need to export my PalmPilot data and import it into the touch.

June 1, 2011 Update

I installed a few more apps recently and they are decent:

  • Solitaire – free, but it runs ads before the start of every game and they are a pain to deal with
  • Tetris – old school, but addictive
  • BurgerTime – one of my wife’s favorites and the reason she hijacks my iPod Touch every night
  • Madden NFL – free; the eval version which lets you play a quarter (probably much better on an iPad)
  • Pandora – free; streaming music organized by genre

Email and Tweet alerts continue to be an excellent reason to have the touch nearby while working on code or writing articles. I rarely use the headset at home but have used it several times while on campus.

May 23, 2011 Update

I’ve installed a number of apps since this review was posted on April 2. The ones I liked best are:

  • Angry Birds – $1.99; as easy and addictive as Tetris, and I enjoy playing it a few minutes a day
  • Skype – free; it works as well as the version on my laptop
  • Twitter – free; it also works as well as the version on my laptop
  • WordPress – free; and the Stats section provides a nice way to monitor traffic at my blogs
  • Food Network – $1.99; it has a lot of easy yet tasty recipes

Alerts are an excellent reason for having a new iPod touch. While in sleep mode, my iPod uses WiFi to notify me when I have new email or a new Tweet. I don’t have to stop working on a program or website to see if I need to respond to someone, which is very handy.

CONCLUSION

The new touch is not only good for music and movies, it should be invaluable in college classrooms. My school (UST) does provide support for the touch/iPhone and I expect I’ll test that out when I take it to class next week. I could have used the HD video recording capability last semester in my web design class, but also think it will come in useful this summer when I’m outside on the biking trails. Overall, I really like it and feel it is as good (and useful) of a purchase as my Macbook. Now I have no reason to put off learning how to develop for the touch, and maybe I can create something that will help fund future Apple product purchases. Now that would be nice indeed.

POSITIVES

  • Thin, light, powerful, and a bargain for the features.
  • Auto-reorientation: switches between portrait and landscape easily.
  • Easy to navigate between screens and applications by gesture.
  • Absolutely gorgeous display – small or not, it is easy to read.
  • Video calls over wi-fi connections with another 4th generation touch/iPhone rocks.
  • Good quality video – HD quality recording according to Apple.
  • Streaming content to our AppleTV was flawless – I particularly like having the Touch connected to my Macbook to recharge it and to have the Touch stream a movie at the same time (saving valuable battery life).
  • Use the Remote App to to add Playlists to organize iTunes movies – we put series together in each playlist, so we can watch as few or many of the series without needing to manually select them.

NEGATIVES

  • When watching a movie on the touch, the screen was dark. I know that was due to the low light level in the room, but it wasn’t a simple matter to easily adjust the brightness and I’d like to see Apple include that in a future update of the video player.
  • My fingers are a bit large for doing a lot of typing on the on screen keyboard – I’d love it if they’d let me use a stylus or external keyboard the way I do with my PalmPilot. I’d really like being able to use my Apple wireless keyboard with the touch, and hope Apple does provide that functionality in a later update to iOS.

RECOMMENDATION

5 Stars. Buy it. If you have a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation iPod, this version is far and away the best I’ve seen. I like my 3rd generation Nano, but it will strictly serve as a backup from now on. I know Apple will release another update, probably this Fall, but I don’t see what they can add besides more memory or a faster processor to make an improvement over this release. My wife also likes it and she let me know this touch will become hers when we get an iPad later this year. She loves playing games on it, and is interested in being able to use it to stream movies to other AppleTVs in our house.