30 April 2008

Solar Breakthroughs: Promises from the Sun God

Silicon Valley researchers have developed a promising new "Xtreme Concentrating Photovoltaics (XCPV) system that can generate electricity at 5 cents/KWH--as cheaply as coal!
Sunrgi, based in Hollywood with a research office in Silicon Valley, says it can produce devices that magnify sunlight and produce electricity at 5 cents a kilowatt-hour, or about the cost of coal-generated electricity.

At the National Energy Marketers Association conference in Washington, D.C., today, Sunrgi will make its presence known with an announcement that it plans to start selling its Xtreme Concentrated Photovoltaics, or XCPV, product in 2009. MercuryNews

Meanwhile at the University of Tel Aviv, researchers have announced a way to produce highly efficient solar cells at a cost only 1/100ths of current PV production costs!
The scientists applied genetic engineering and nanotechnology for the construction of a hybrid nano -- bio, solid state device. According to the researchers, although using photosynthesis for photovoltaic application is not new, their specific technique is the first to enable the production of useful photosynthesis-based photovoltaic cells.

...The researchers suggest existing silicon based photovoltaic cells offer low average energy conversion efficiency of 12-14 percent, while their system is capable of efficiencies of about 25 percent. They based their photovoltaic device on genetically engineered dry proteins photosystem I (PS I), encapsulated in solid state substrate bottom metal and a top transparent electrode.

...Larry Loev, director of business development for high technologies at Ramot told EETimes the low cost of the proposed device is based on the low cost of PS I in comparison to silicon. While one square meter of PS I should cost around $1, a similar area made of silicon should cost around $200. __More Details at CheckBiotech
The U. Tel Aviv approach incorporates a number of unique approaches to the light-to-electricity problem. Time will tell how well the approach will scale up, and hold up under harsh real world conditions.

Finally, far from the jealous eyes of the Sun God, deep within the bowels of the Earth, other scientists are devising ways of stealing more energy from heavy/solid oils, and from abandoned coal deposits. British and Canadian scientists are proposing to infuse heavy oil and coal deposits with an aqueous mix containing special microbes that over time will convert coal and heavy oil to methane--releasing the epochs-old energy as a free gas to be tapped nearer to the surface.

H/T NextEnergyNews
More at Al Fin Energy
More at NextBigFuture

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This Makes Sense: Tracking Commodities Response to Bad Monetary Policy

Prices for food and energy commodities have risen in synch with the falling value of the US dollar. Since the recent rapid cuts in interest rates by the US Federal Reserve Bank, the commodities market has gone wild with speculators. Worldwide commodities havoc caused by the weak US dollar is one more indication to politicians who meddle in monetary policy that trying to get something for nothing rarely works out well.
Eight months into the Fed's most recent rate-cutting spree, the evidence is overwhelming that it has been a major policy mistake. Aggressive rate cutting – taking the fed funds rate to 2.25% from 5.25% last September – has had little effect on the banking crisis it was supposed to ease.

...the Fed's decision to open the general monetary spigots has inspired a global commodity boom unlike any since the 1970s. Oil has climbed to nearly $119 a barrel today from $70 in late August, a 70% increase. Farm and other commodities have seen a similar surge, with corresponding increases in food prices leading to shortages and riots in Egypt and other places, and to rice hoarding even in Southern California.

...Like oil, world trading in most commodities is denominated in dollars. When the dollar declines, especially as fast as it has since September, commodity prices surge and speculators gamble on even further declines. As the nearby chart shows, since 2003 the dollar price of oil has climbed far more rapidly than has the euro price – 273% in dollars, compared to 146% in euros. Note in particular the oil spike in dollars since the second half of last year. This reflects the European Central Bank's sounder monetary management. And it means that had the dollar merely retained the same purchasing power as the euro, today's price of oil would be below $70 a barrel.

The practical impact has been to send energy and food prices soaring. This is a direct tax on both the world's poor and America's middle class. Just when the U.S. economy needs a resilient consumer given the fall in housing prices, these price increases have eviscerated consumer pocketbooks. In its attempt to help Wall Street and the financial system, Fed policy is punishing average Americans. The public is frustrated and angry with these price increases, and it has a right to be. Inflation is the thief of the thrifty middle class.

The Fed's weak dollar policy has also done great harm to overall financial confidence, which is essential to any growth revival. A main source of the credit crisis is a lack of trust. Investors stop taking risks, bankers stop lending, and everyone flees to the safety of Treasurys or cash. But how can the Fed expect people to calm down and begin taking risks when it is clearly debasing the currency? Monetary easing itself also becomes less effective, because without confidence more liquidity is merely "pushing on a string," in the famous phrase. __WSJ
The logic makes sense, and economists such as Larry Kudlow have been sounding the warning for some time now.

What would be the short-term cost of letting interest rates rise, and firming up the dollar? If the rates rise too rapidly, a severe recession could occur. A more gradual raising of rates would in the short term depress some economic activity. It is a political risk in the front of the minds of incumbents.

Someone needs to have the courage to take the strong medicine. Otherwise the current slipping into a chaotic commodities environment will sooner or later exact a much higher price.

Of course, commodities could be linked to the Euro instead of the US dollar. The problems with that approach lie with the much weaker long term demographic prospects for Europe as a whole, and the dependency of Europe on the US for its defense. Europe's economy has been largely spared the huge expense of maintaining world trade routes, and all that that implies.

US defense costs in pursuing the anti-jihadist actions in Afghanistan, Iran, the Horn of Africa, and numerous other parts of the globe are a significant expenditure, although not so much when looked at as a proportion of the GDP historically. At this pivotal time in history, the US has no choice but to maintain a large combat readiness to act as a counter-weight to the largely centrifugal forces of tribalism, neo-nationalism, and general third world nihilism so well described by Robert Kaplan.

The developed world is at the brink of a transition from one type of economy and philosophy to one that will be qualitatively different. Only one world power has the ability to provide stability, to allow the transition to take place. If that world power allows its very substance to erode through bad economic policy, it is the entire world that will pay the price.

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29 April 2008

Can You See the Tiny Dots On the Map?

The dots cover the land area necessary to provide the current energy needs of the human world, given only 8% energy efficiency of the solar to electricity process used. Solar thermal gets about 30% efficiency, and most photovoltaics get close to 10% or more.Solar thermal energy is an abundant resource most constant and plentiful in the near-equatorial desert regions of the world--such as North Africa. Europeans hungry for more energy are looking south to the African desert for electricity that may allow Europe to limp forward despite a suicidal KyotoII gesture being pushed forward by EU bureaucrats.

A small modular solar thermal plant such as this might produce roughly 25 MW of electrical power. If you could also utilise the waste heat from the plant, your total energy production including useful heat would at least double.

A large power grid spanning huge distances of North Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and parts of Europe, would allow the abundant solar resource of the Sahara to be exploited by wealthier and more productive Europeans to the north.H/T Treehugger (from Spiegel) via Peswiki

Excerpted from Al Fin Energy


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Biomass to Electricity: The Reliable Renewable

The world produces abundant waste biomass which humans could be using as fuel, instead of coal, oil, and gas. Forward-thinking engineers and entrepreneurs are beginning to act on this promise, without waiting for corrupt bureaucrats and politicians to give them the go-ahead.
Renegy Holdings, Inc. (Renegy) (Nasdaq:RNGY) announced today that it has successfully synchronized its 24 megawatt (MW) biomass power plant located in Snowflake, Arizona, to the electric utility grid. As of April 24, Renegy has been generating electricity from its Snowflake facility and is currently selling test power in advance of commencing full commercial operations.

...The plant is located adjacent to a recycled newsprint mill owned and operated by Catalyst Paper Corp. Fuel for the plant will be derived from wood-waste material from local green waste sites and the surrounding forests and from waste recycled paper fibers generated by the newsprint mill. The current fuel inventory at the plant site includes approximately 200,000 tons of wood waste fuel, approximately equivalent to a two-year supply. The Snowflake plant will sell its entire power output through long-term power purchase agreements in place with Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project, Arizona's two largest electric utility companies. __Money.CNN
An earlier Al Fin posting recommended Renegy as a stock prospect to watch. Andritz, an Austrian company, is involved in similar biomass to electricity projects in Europe.

Biomass to electricity is a baseload, 24/7 renewable power generation approach, unlike current wind and solar energy schemes. Until battery storage is able to effectively scale up to utility needs, we are likely to see more plants that combine solar thermal with biomass to electricity, to provide 24 hour energy needs. Using biomass in place of coal or gas should provide significant energy savings--once the infrastructure for collecting and processing biomass is more mature.

Previously published in Al Fin Energy


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Lame Attacks Against Biofuels Continue

Venezuela's dictator Hugo Chavez has emerged as the world's spokesperson for denouncing bio-energy and biofuels--approaches for reducing dependency on petroleum. Enraged that anyone might find a way to reduce demand for oil, the Latin tyrant said the world's poor are going hungry because the US is using maize for fuel. But is something wrong with the math Chavez is using?
Actually, since a bushel of corn yields 2.8 gallons of ethanol, the corn needed to fill a 20 gallon SUV tank is 7 bushels, which at the current market price of $5/bushel, costs a total of $35. According to Mr. Chavez, then, the cost of feeding one person for a year is $5.

...the ethanol program has actually stimulated corn production so much that, after the part used for ethanol is taken away, the net US corn harvest available for food and feed is up 34% since 2002. Furthermore, contrary to claims in many articles, this has not been done at the expense of soy or wheat production. In fact, U.S. soy plantings this year are expected to be up 18% to a near record of 75 million acres, wheat plantings are up 6%, and overall, US farm exports are up 23%. Much more can be produced as demand requires, since of 800 million acres of US farmland, only 280 million are actually being farmed. This is why - $5 per person per year feeding price aside - the entire Malthusian conceit underlying Chavez’s fuel vs. food argument is nonsense. __Source
Chavez' self-interested complaints about biofuels aside, the uninformed cant in condemnation of biofuels is heard far and wide in the world's news media. The biofuels industry is in its infancy and is far too small to be blamed for problems that have been ongoing for centuries and millenia.
Commodity costs are only one component of higher prices at the grocery store. Other factors, such as soaring crude oil prices and fertilizer costs that cut into farmers' profits... [are even more important AF]

Additionally, growing worldwide demand for meat could cause some food shortages if higher percentages of corn, wheat and soy are used to feed livestock. __CheckBiotech
Food is becoming far too expensive to use as feedstock for fuels. Several biofuels companies have already gone out of business due to high food prices. As biofuels feedstocks move from food to cellulose, algae, and other non-edible materials, the rants and ravings of Chavez and his crew will naturally move on to other pet topics.

But always remember: if we run out of all other feedstocks for biofuels, we will always have corrupt politicians . . . and trial lawyers . . . and post-modern liberal arts professors . . . and political activists . . .


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28 April 2008

100,000 Gallons of Oil per Acre: Closed Loop Algae

This company claims that the entire fuel supply for the US could be supplied by 1/10th the surface area of New Mexico, using the closed-loop algae process. Palm oil can only provide 800 gallons of oil per acre of land. Instead of cutting down tropical forests in SE Asia, Africa, and South America, perhaps these third world nations should consider algal oil instead?

Algae is not food. This is not a food to fuel process. Watch the video and decide whether you believe the process can be scaled up in the way Vertigro thinks it can.

H/T Gas2.org

More at Al Fin Energy Blog

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How Politicians Can Help Solve Energy Shortages

Exciting breakthroughs are occurring in the area of biodiesel and backyard ethanol. But ethanol and biodiesel alone cannot solve all of our energy problems. The addition of new garbage to energy solutions is likely add even more to our domestic energy supply, but is it possible that North America's greatest potential source of energy has been kept a secret for centuries?

Although North America may suffer from occasional "energy shortages", it has never suffered from a shortage of corrupt politicians--and probably never will. Animal flesh byproducts from turkey and hog processing plants have been used to create biodiesel and ethanol, as a side industry. Consider, if you will, the amount of energy contained within the body of a corrupt politician. Closely related to both the turkey and the pig, corrupt politicians must be quite energy rich, if processed properly.

North America is currently suffering from "political peak oil"--energy shortages caused by corrupt politicians who cater to special interest groups by making available energy supplies too expensive or illegal to develop. The energy is there, but the corrupt politicians do not want us to develop it. What can we do? I propose to kill two birds with one stone.

When corrupt politicians achieve an adequate state of ripeness, they can be sent to thermochemical waste to energy processing plants, to be turned into useful energy. By processing the politicians in the middle of their terms, new politicians are allowed into office to be groomed for future energy production. If the new politicians actually help solve energy problems instead of making them worse, they will be more useful in office, than turned into energy. If in the more likely case the new politicians become corrupt themselves, they can be converted to energy in the same way as their predecessor.

High rollers such as Tony Rezko can actually expedite this process in two ways. First of all, by corrupting politicians, Rezko is adding to our energy supply. Secondly, by occasionally opening his books to energy regulators, Rezko and his friends can reveal the true extent of this energy resource.

Remember. If a politician is a part of the problem, he can also become part of the solution.

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Waste to Energy in Iraq

The oil rich countries of the Persian Gulf understand the need to diversify their energy approaches. High oil and gas costs affect their own domestic use of fuel, and push them toward nuclear electricity and renewable energies like solar. Although these desert countries are not necessarily richly endowed with biomass potential, wherever there are cities there is municipal waste and garbage. Current waste to energy approaches in Iraq are being spearheaded by the US military and its contractors. Once the Iraqi government sees how well the process works, perhaps they will want to use it to avoid the fate of Egypt's cities.
Various wastes including food slop, plastic, paper and styrofoam are fed into TGER and converted by the hybrid systems using thermochemical and bio-catalytic technologies into either synthetic gas (similar to low-grade propane) or hydrous ethanol, respectively. The ethanol combined with the synthetic gas can be used to power a 60kw generator, however, there are additional options for utilizing the energy. TGER is capable of converting the non-biological materials into fuel pellets, and the biological waste into ethanol that can be stored and burned later. Power from the TGER could be stored in batteries or the technology itself could be literally plugged into the local power grid, a large electrical network that powers basic appliances on demand.
TGER was created through a partnership with Defense Life Sciences, LLC, the visionary and system Lead for TGER, its academic partner Purdue University and the ECBC. Motivated by a study conducted in 2001 by the National Research Council, which identified opportunities in power and energy, ECBC's Scientific Advisor for Biotechnology, Dr. James J. Valdes, responded by writing a Small business Technology Transfer Research Program (STTR) topic on tactical energy. _Source
All of the cities of the world produce abundant waste and garbage. The smarter cities such as Vancouver BC, and Austin TX, are beginning to tap into that waste stream to supply energy for city operations. In fact, for many areas of North America landfills are starting to be seen as the new oil fields.


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27 April 2008

Don't Be Stuck on Stupid! Stop Blaming Biofuels

Biomass to liquid fuels (BTL) is a promising approach to weaning modern societies off of petroleum. As we learn to make transportation fuels from biomass and other non-food feedstocks, it is important not to kill the infant market while it is still in the cradle. Don't be stuck on stupid. 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels and biomass offers one way out of our petroleum trap.
Biofuels already make up about 50 per cent of the extra fuel coming to the market from sources outside the Opec’s oil cartel this year. This explains why fears of a retreat from biofuels this week helped drive oil prices to record levels.

William Ramsey, deputy executive director at the IEA, said: “If we didn’t have those barrels, I am not sure where we would be getting those half a million barrels [from],” adding that Opec has said it would not raise supply.

The warning comes as the backlash from rocketing food prices has increased pressure on the European Union and the US to review their support of fuel made from crops.

The views of the IEA carry significant weight in Europe and the US and policymakers have warned that the debate about biofuels should take into account its implications for energy markets and climate change. The issue has been put on the agenda for the next G8 summit in July. __FT
Advanced biofuels are the nearest term solution to ever higher energy prices. If you kill that chance, you have doomed yourself foolishly well.


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$1 a Gallon Ethanol Getting Closer-Plasma Power!

Coskata's gasification process uses a plasma "torch" to gasify biomass to syngas. The syngas is then converted to ethanol using proprietary micro-organisms.
Coskata leverages proprietary microorganisms and efficient bioreactor designs in a three-step conversion process that can turn virtually any carbon-based feedstock into ethanol, from anywhere in the world. The three steps are:

1. Gasification. Carbon-based feedstock is converted into syngas using well-established gasification technologies. In the Madison demo plant, plasma torches will super heat feedstock to 1,600°F (871°C), which creates a synthesis gas consisting of carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

At its commercial scale plants, Coskata intends to use WPC Marc-11 plasma torches, which have been proven in metallurgical and waste-to-energy commercial applications throughout the world. The Marc-11 torches have more than 500,000 hours of operation in industrial settings, including a GM foundry in Defiance, Ohio.

A smaller version, the Marc-3, will be used in Coskata’s Madison facility. A WPC Marc-3 has been used in Japan to gasify municipal solid waste for more than five years.

2. Fermentation. The syngas is cooled to about 100°F (38°C). Coskata’s proprietary microorganisms convert the cooled syngas into ethanol by consuming the carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) in the gas stream.

3. Separation. Pervaporation technology separates and recovers the ethanol.

Plasma is the term given to a gas that has become ionized—i.e., one where the atoms of the gas have lost one or more electrons and have become electrically charged. Man-made plasma is formed by passing an electrical discharge though a gas such as air or oxygen. The interaction of the electric discharge and the process gas causes the temperature of the gas to increase significantly often exceeding 5,500°C (10,000°F).

WPC’s plasma torches can be fed with process gases of widely varying chemical composition including air, oxygen, nitrogen, argon and others. WPC’s plasma technology can increase the energy of the process gas to between two to ten times higher than conventional combustion. __GCC
A wide variety of gasification approaches are being taken by various biomass to liquid fuels (BTL) processors. As they compete in the marketplace, we will eventually discover how cheaply liquid biofuels can be made from cellulose and other non-food feedstocks.


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Runaway Expertitis: Low-IQ Societies Vulnerable

Imagine living in a world where the average IQ is 70. There are plenty of people, since procreation is more or less instinctive and requires no particular thought, training, or discipline. But effective health care is in short supply, so one makes due with witch doctors. People die of a lot of diseases which are virtually non-existent in more intelligent societies. Fuel is in short supply, so one strips the land of vegetation for cooking fires. Neighboring tribes procreate as fast or faster than you, so tribal wars and feuds occur regularly. Rivers become open sewers, life is nasty, brutish, and short.

Now imagine that a small sub-population exists within your population. The average IQ of this sub-population is 100. These "subs" build cities, hospitals, schools. They provide modern medical care and electricity. They provide clean water and sanitary disposal of wastes. They also occupy almost all of the important jobs in the advanced society they have created among you.

You outnumber them 10 to 1. You want what they have. What do you do?

Now imagine a society with an average IQ of about 100. It has electricity, modern medical care, clean water and sanitary treatment of wastes. It has universities, doctors, engineers, scientists. But it also has politicians that demand more and more control over people's lives every year. It has "experts" at the beck and call of powerful interests and politicians who provide public pronouncements over the news wires and air waves that substantiate the needs and demands of the powerful politicians and special interests. These politicians with the willing assistance of the "experts" are spending your society into ruin--just to maintain their power. Their policies are destroying your freedoms and your livelihood.

You outnumber them 10 to 1. What do you do?Imagine a society with an average IQ of 200. Each individual is trained to be competent in many different skills and areas of expertise. There is no permanent political class, or legal/judicial class. Every person is qualified to act as arbitrator or adjudicator of most simple disagreements.

The resource limitations that spark tribal wars in the "70 IQ range" and class warfare in the "90 to 100 IQ range" are not existent at higher levels of IQ. Resource limitations are largely a function of the incompetence that comes with low IQ, and low IQ methods of education.

Basic modern human services can be provided by societies with average IQs of 90 and above. If the average IQ is between 80 and 90, some services can be provided, but coverage will be very spotty. If the average IQ is below 80, without outside help, the situation is unsustainable in terms of modern technology.

Source for top image and tableWhat is "expertitis?" It is the overdependence of society on the opinions of hyper-specialised individuals whose conclusions and recommendations cannot be properly vetted for validity. We see such a phenomenon in climate science at this time. Climate modelers are given undue authority to speak for the entire broad field of climate science--and all scientists who dissent from the radical recommendations of the modelers are derogated as "deniers", dishonest, or otherwise demonised as unreliable. The dissenters are denied tenure, denied publication, denied research funding. As long as expertise is politically determined, and only the experts are listened to, society is being victimised by "expertitis." This is more likely to occur in a low-IQ society, but even in an average IQ society it can occur when most citizens have been educated in an inferior educational system--as in current government school systems.

IQ Range



Typical Educability


Below 30


>1% below 30


Unemployable. Institutionalized.

30 to 50


>1% below 50

1st-Grade to 3rd-Grade

Simple, non-critical household chores.

50 to 60


1.5% below 60

3rd-Grade to 6th-grade

Very simple tasks, close supervision.

60 to 74


5% below 74

6th-Grade to 8th-Grade

"Slow, simple, supervised."

74 to 89


25% below 89

8th-Grade to 12th-Grade

Assembler, food service, nurse's aide

89 to 100


50% below 100

8th-Grade to 1-2 years of College.

Clerk, teller, Walmart

100 to 111


1 in 2 above 100

12th-Grade to College Degree

Police officer, machinist, sales

111 to 120


1 in 4 above 111

College to Master's Level

Manager, teacher, accountant

120 to 125


11 in 10above 120

College to Non-Technical Ph. D.'s.

Manager, professor, accountant

125 to 132


1 in 20 above 125

Any Ph. D. at 3rd-Tier Schools

Attorney, editor, executive.

132 to 137


1 in 50 above 132

No limitations.

Eminent professor, editor

137 to 150


1 in 100 above 137

No limitations.

Leading math, physics professor

150 to 160


1 in 1,100 above 150

No limitations

Lincoln, Copernicus, Jefferson

160 to 174


1 in 11,000 above 160

No limitations

Descartes, Einstein, Spinoza

174 to 200


1 in 1,000,000

above 174

No limitations

Shakespeare, Goethe, Newton


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26 April 2008

Is Earth's Climate Related to Solar Cycles?

There seems to be a relationship, certainly. Just looking at the graph above appears to suggest at least a superficial relationship.
It is clear that the late 20th Century warming spell matched the duration of the two shortest, fastest solar cycles in the historical record ( 21 and 22) At the same time thare was a matching sequence of strong El Nino events. These points should not be lightly dismissed. The cooling fears of the 60's and early 70's coincided with weak cycle 20 and the cessation of warming occurred during cycle 23 which has been weaker than the two cycles before it.

On balance the evidence shows that solar is more likely the cause than CO2 but the issue can soon be resolved by observing the global temperature changes that occur as a result of the extended cycle 23 and the probable weak cycle 24.

If we now get a period of natural cooling it might well last several decades.There has been a gradual background and wholly natural warming trend since the end of the Little Ice Age. Of course it is all a matter of trends over time periods. You can 'prove' any trend you require by choosing the right time scale. What matters is the scale of human influences either towards cooling or towards warming as against the underlying trend behind natural variability. It really is an unknown quantity. Even the scale and trend behind natural variability is subject to an unknown number of overlapping cycles from multiple causes many of which are unknown, unquantified or both. _Source__via_GreenWatch
We are overdue to enter Solar Cycle 24. Solar Cycle 24 is a solar cycle that was supposed to have been one of the strongest cycles in the past 400 years, according to NASA solar prognosticators. We have an opportunity to determine whether the correlation between the length of the solar cycle, and Earth's estimated average temperature, will hold during the next two solar cycles: cycle 24 and cycle 25--a cycle predicted to be exceptionally long and weak.

There is a lot more to solar variation than just sunspot number. The possible mechanisms by which solar variation can affect the climate of Earth are much more numerous than the gnomes of NASA Goddard are willing to admit. The cosmic ray hypothesis of Svensmark is only one of many potential means by which the Solar dynamo can impact Earth's naturally chaotic climate.

Sir Karl Popper attempted to head off an ongoing takeover of science by ideological interests, but in the field of climatology, many of Popper's lessons have gone unlearned.
Popper, then, repudiates induction, and rejects the view that it is the characteristic method of scientific investigation and inference, and substitutes falsifiability in its place. It is easy, he argues, to obtain evidence in favour of virtually any theory, and he consequently holds that such ‘corroboration’, as he terms it, should count scientifically only if it is the positive result of a genuinely ‘risky’ prediction, which might conceivably have been false. For Popper, a theory is scientific only if it is refutable by a conceivable event. Every genuine test of a scientific theory, then, is logically an attempt to refute or to falsify it, and one genuine counter-instance falsifies the whole theory. In a critical sense, Popper's theory of demarcation is based upon his perception of the logical asymmetry which holds between verification and falsification: it is logically impossible to conclusively verify a universal proposition by reference to experience (as Hume saw clearly), but a single counter-instance conclusively falsifies the corresponding universal law. In a word, an exception, far from ‘proving’ a rule, conclusively refutes it. __SEP
Climatology--as interpreted by the bureaucrats at the UN's IPCC, and by politician Al Gore--has become an unfalsifiable ideology, rather than a science. It has become a secular religion, like Marxism or other leftist ideology of "social justice". It has become an instrument of social justice, rather than a branch of science. Sadly, Gavin Schmidt of NASA Goddard has acknowledged the unfalsifiability of CAGW, catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

Climatology is not the only former branch of science to be attempting the "ideological breakaway." But it is certainly the best financed and most politically connected.

A lot is at stake, as the violent inner workings of our local star go about their cyclical activities. We should assume an attitude of humble observation, curious and open to what we may find.

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25 April 2008

Confusing Computer Fantasies With Reality

Lately, it is not just the science journalists who are confused about what science is. More and more, the "scientists" themselves appear to be confusing hypotheses with research. Computer models are hypotheses--attempts to generate hypothetical data that can be tested by real world observation and experiment. Computer models should not be viewed as research studies. Consider:
The study results are published today in the journal Science Express. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NCAR's principal sponsor, as well as by NASA and other agencies.

"Our research indicates that trying to artificially cool off the planet may be a perilous endeavor," Tilmes says. "While climate change is a major threat, this solution could create severe problems for society." NSFNews
But what was this "research", what was this "study?"
To determine the relationship between sulfates and ozone loss, the authors used a combination of measurements and computer simulations.

They then estimated future ozone loss by looking at two geoengineering schemes--one that would use volcanic-sized sulfates, and a second that would use much smaller injections.
In other words, they did runs of a computer model. They generated hypotheses--they did not do a research study. The same "bait and switch" technique is used to breathlessly report on "climate change", "ocean acidification", dangers to coral reefs, and many other areas of environmental research. This deception becomes particularly dangerous when political decision-making is unduly influenced by these shenanigans.

If the National Science Foundation allows itself to be fooled by a vacuous "non-science science", how can the public be expected to know any better?

If you would rather see data than to self-stimulate over a computer climate fantasy, take a look at the graphs here. If university students are being taught to hand over their critical thinking functions to computer models, the scientists of the future will reflexively continue to do so. And since they are all oscillating to the same computer models, they will be in perfect consensus.

The perfect "ex cathedra" computer models. Something to look forward to.

H/T Tom Nelson

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24 April 2008

You Must Remember This: Unless You Forget

We navigate our way through the world around us by memory. Imagine having to consult a map each morning on the way to work or school! How do we remember these things, and what goes wrong when we start to forget?
Dr Sarah Griffiths, lead author on the paper, explained: "Nerve cells in the perirhinal cortex of the brain are known to be vital for visual recognition memory. Using a combination of biological techniques and behavioural testing, we examined whether the mechanisms involved in synaptic plasticity are also vital for visual recognition memory."

In their experiments, they were able to identify a key molecular mechanism that controls synaptic plasticity in the perirhinal cortex. They then demonstrated that blocking the same molecular mechanism that controls synaptic plasticity also prevented visual recognition memory in rats. This shows that such memory relies on specific molecular processes in the brain.

Professor Bashir added: "The next step is to try to understand the processes that enable visual memories to be held in our brains for such long periods of time, and why these mechanisms begin to break down in old age."

The research is published online April 23 in Neuron. ScienceDaily_via_KurzweilAI.net
In that utopian future that we all envision, the things that we want to remember are remembered, and the things we wish to forget are forgotten. Too often in the real world, just the opposite is the case.

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Urban High Rise Farming Cuts Transportation Cost

The largest driver of current high food costs is the high cost of energy. It requires energy to run farm machinery, and energy to transport the goods from the farm to the warehouse, and from the warehouse to the market. Why not grow the food in the city where it will be consumed, and save some of the energy cost?
Advanced aeroponics growing systems can provide fresh-grown vegetables and fruit year-round, with minimal use of water and no soil required! Aeroponics-grown produce is free of disease, and requires less energy than most other growing systems.
As biological systems are being modified to produce medicines and fuels, as well as food, the full range of crops and products could be grown in almost any urban environment.

We are only beginning to see the variety of approaches to building an urban high-rise farm. As the idea begins to be implemented, and the various problems of financing, marketing, and custom building are overcome, expect urban architects to bring a lot more imagination to the enterprise.The last image provides an architect's view of a "prosthetic add-on" to pre-existing buildings. These "vertical parks" could incorporate wind turbines and photovoltaics, as well as crop-growing zones. They could provide emergency exits from high-rises in case of fire, and could also serve as "skywalks" in cold weather, to allow people to brave the iciest of ice ages.

We live in a de-centralised world, in terms of food supply. In a single day, a person may consume food products from at least 3 or 4 different continents. But a lot of things can change to force food services and retailers to look much closer to home, for product.

H/T FutureScanner

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Bio-Energy Growing Despite its Vocal Critics

Bio-energy is a particularly promising energy for the future, due to its regional and local scale. The sheer variety of approaches to bio-energy to suit almost any region, should induce more humility among the bombastic critics of "biofuels," who generally have no clue what they are talking about. Here is a quick survey of various bio-energy projects in research and industry:

QiBioenergy looks at projects at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and Oklahoma State University, which are helping to perfect sweet sorghum as a better feedstock for bio-ethanol--to replace maize.

New Fischer-Tropsch approaches to creating bio-synthetic fuels are showing promise in Germany and Utah.

Brazil is gearing up to produce biodiesel, jet fuel, and synthetic gasoline from its biomass, by acquiring proprietary technology from California's Amyris biotech company.

University of Texas, Austin, have created a new cyanobacterium that may be used as part of a "biological assembly line" to create fuels from airborne CO2. H/T Brian Westenhaus

Finnish company Wartsila is supplying the "engine" for a Jatropha bio-oil fueled CHP (combined heat and power) plant in Belgium.
HELSINKI,Finland (PRNewswire)- Wärtsilä has secured an order for an engine-driven combined heat and power (CHP) plant that will run on the liquid biofuel, which is extracted from the seeds of the jatropha plant. This CHP plant will be the first power plant in the world ever to produce both electricity and heat using crude jatropha oil as fuel. The contract is valued at approximately seven million euros.

The plant is to be located in an agricultural area in Merksplas, Belgium. The plant will be owned by Greenpower NV, a joint venture between Thenergo (50%), the Belgian developer of sustainable energy projects, four local agricultural companies (40%), and a private investor (10%). Commercial operation of the plant is scheduled to begin in February 2009. ___Source
These projects are only the tip-of-the-tip of the iceberg. Bio-energy is available now, it is becoming more lucrative and more efficient by the month, and it is moving away from the "food for fuels" model faster than our "differently abled" energy journalists and analysts are capable of following.


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23 April 2008

Drug to Treat Accelerated Aging in Phase I Trial

Prodarsan is a combination of small protein molecules devised by Pharming NV[PHGUF.PK] for treatment of premature aging including Cockayne's Syndrome.
Leiden, The Netherlands, April 23, 2008. Biotech company Pharming Group NV (Pharming) (NYSE Euronext: PHARM) announced today that its wholly owned subsidiary DNage has started a Phase I clinical study to evaluate the pharmacokinetics and tolerability of Prodarsan(R) in humans.

Premature ageing, the primary target of Prodarsan(R), is a group of rare genetic diseases which manifests itself in several forms that are genetically and clinically similar although not identical. Dependent on the specific form of the disease, patients have a strongly reduced life expectancy and exhibit many ageing-related diseases early on in their lives. There is currently no effective therapy available for these patients.

Pharming has demonstrated that Prodarsan(R) as an oral, liquid formulation has significant effects in animal models for Cockayne Syndrome (CS). CS is one of the more common forms of premature ageing and is characterized, amongst others, by growth failure, mental retardation, eye abnormalities and a reduced life expectancy. The positive effects of Prodarsan(R) in preclinical testing on life expectancy in general and more specifically on the eye abnormalities are promising for further development of the product and its testing in humans.

The Phase I trial that is now being conducted consists of a combined single and multiple dose escalating clinical study in healthy volunteers. By studying the pharmacokinetics and tolerability of Prodarsan(R) and the effects of food intake on the absorption and elimination of the product, an oral dosing scheme will be determined that targets the pharmacological effective concentration range effectively. It is expected that following a successful completion of this trial the first clinical studies in patients will start later in 2008. Source
Prodarsan's proposed mechanism of action is via the DNA repair mechanism of the cell.
CKN1 is caused by a defect in the Cockayne syndrome type A gene (CSA or ERCC8) located on chromosome 5. Affected persons inherit 2 mutant genes, one from each parent. Cells carrying ERCC8 mutations are hypersensitive to UV light. They do not recover the ability to synthesize ribonucleic acid (RNA) after exposure to UV light. In addition, the cells cannot remove and degrade deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) lesions from strands that have active transcription.

Mutations in the DNA excision repair gene ERCC6 located on band 10q11 cause CS type 2 (MIM number 133540; CSB). This gene encodes helicase, a protein that is presumed to have DNA unwinding function. Mutations include a deletion of exon 4, an amino acid substitution at the 106th glutamine to proline (Q106P) in the WD-40 repeat motif of the CSA protein, and large deletion in the upstream region, including exon 1 of the CSA gene. The Q106P mutation could alter the propeller structure of the CSA protein, which is important for the formation of the CSA protein complex. Additionally, a missense mutation (A205P) and a nonsense (E13X) mutation have been identified, as well as a new common single nucleotide polymorphism in CKN1. No genotype-phenotype correlation exists. _EMedicine
We can hope that experience in augmenting DNA repair in the tragic accelerated aging syndromes may be helpful in devising strategies to augment DNA repair in helping to delay normal aging.

Previously published in Al Fin Longevity

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How to Learn and Remember Anything

The mind remembers things--anything--best when the items to be learned are presented to the mind according to a particular schedule of "re-minding." This has been known for many decades. A computer program called "Supermemo" helps to organise information for proper presentation scheduling, according to this 100 year old + theory of learning.
SuperMemo is based on the insight that there is an ideal moment to practice what you've learned. Practice too soon and you waste your time. Practice too late and you've forgotten the material and have to relearn it. The right time to practice is just at the moment you're about to forget. Unfortunately, this moment is different for every person and each bit of information. Imagine a pile of thousands of flash cards. Somewhere in this pile are the ones you should be practicing right now. Which are they?

Fortunately, human forgetting follows a pattern. We forget exponentially. A graph of our likelihood of getting the correct answer on a quiz sweeps quickly downward over time and then levels off. This pattern has long been known to cognitive psychology, but it has been difficult to put to practical use. It's too complex for us to employ with our naked brains.

Twenty years ago, Wozniak realized that computers could easily calculate the moment of forgetting if he could discover the right algorithm. SuperMemo is the result of his research. It predicts the future state of a person's memory and schedules information reviews at the optimal time. The effect is striking. Users can seal huge quantities of vocabulary into their brains.

...Our capacity to learn is amazingly large. But optimal learning demands a kind of rational control over ourselves that does not come easily. Even the basic demand for regularity can be daunting. If you skip a few days, the spacing effect, with its steady march of sealing knowledge in memory, begins to lose its force. Progress limps. When it comes to increasing intelligence, our brain is up to the task and our technology is up to the task. The problem lies in our temperament....You must clarify your goals, gain knowledge through spaced repetition, preserve health, work steadily, minimize stress, refuse interruption, and never resist sleep when tired. This should lead to radically improved intelligence and creativity. The only cost: turning your back on every convention of social life. It is a severe prescription. Wired__via__kurzweilai.net
More information about Supermemo here.

Supermemo is just one of twelve mind hacks presented by Wired at this webpage.

Of course, everyone will not be able to learn and remember everything. Each person has his limits. But in a world where educational systems seem more concerned about proper political indoctrination and orientation than in teaching students to use their minds, approaches to learning that actually work are most welcome.

Why do the schools not try to copy the brains natural methods of learning and remembering better? Many reasons, I suspect. Foremost among them is sheer incompetence on the part of those who teach the teachers. University schools of education are staffed by the ideologically correct, who seem intellectually inadequate to prepare the next generation of teachers to help future generations of students grow up to face a more challenging world.

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Sunspots and Ice Ages

Sunspot cycles average about 11 years in length. But cycles that are particularly long, with much lower numbers of sunspots per time period, tend to be accompanied by colder climates on Earth. Australian astronaut Phil Chapman is concerned that Earth may be approaching such a time of low sunspot activity--and colder climate--in the next several years.
The sunspot number follows a cycle of somewhat variable length, averaging 11 years. The most recent minimum was in March last year. The new cycle, No.24, was supposed to start soon after that, with a gradual build-up in sunspot numbers.

It didn't happen. The first sunspot appeared in January this year and lasted only two days. A tiny spot appeared last Monday but vanished within 24 hours. Another little spot appeared this Monday. Pray that there will be many more, and soon.

The reason this matters is that there is a close correlation between variations in the sunspot cycle and Earth's climate. The previous time a cycle was delayed like this was in the Dalton Minimum, an especially cold period that lasted several decades from 1790.

...There is no doubt that the next little ice age would be much worse than the previous one and much more harmful than anything warming may do. There are many more people now and we have become dependent on a few temperate agricultural areas, especially in the US and Canada. Global warming would increase agricultural output, but global cooling will decrease it.

Millions will starve if we do nothing to prepare for it (such as planning changes in agriculture to compensate), and millions more will die from cold-related diseases. __Australian
This fascinating PDF paper by David Archibald presents a very confident prediction of a coming period of extraordinarily cold climate due to hit Earth within the next 12 years, as a result of a cyclic solar downturn. We do not have long to wait, to see if Archibald is correct. If he is wrong, we can all sit back and have a good laugh at the ice age alarmists. If he is correct, we will all be too busy trying to mitigate the effects of a genuinely catastrophic climate change.
The “Little Ice Age” was a period of time between the late 1500s and the mid 1800s when glaciers advanced, winters in the northern hemisphere were unusually cold and the summer growing seasons were shortened. These conditions were well-documented in art and writings from the times, and are still, to this day, perceived as being unusual. One of the leading theories for why the climate changed so dramatically has to do with the number of sunspots observed during that same time period. Solar activity was extremely low, with some years having no sunspots at all. Fewer sunspots indicates fewer releases of solar radiation and hence less solar energy reaching the Earth.

Over a few years, this does not make a large impact on our climate. However over several decades, the lower amount of overall radiation reaching the Earth can have an impact on long-term weather patterns. ___Source
You will not likely read about these alarmist predictions in the New York Times, nor hear them from the BBC. The IPCC will almost certainly ignore these Chicken Little pronouncements from the "cooling alarmists", and Al Gore is too busy with his own "grand tour of doom" to consider an alternative--and much worse--catastrophe than his own pet warming apocalypse.

If the IPCC models are truly worthless, as IPCC insider and expert reviewer Vincent Gray maintains, then it is unlikely that the IPCC models will ever give us a hint of warning about a potential cooling disaster. IPCC models have all been carefully tuned to the warmer side of the scale.

Solar cycle-based predictions of climate change are refreshingly falsifiable. Solar Cycle 24 is slow off the starting blocks, and may signal a downturn in solar activity. But Solar Cycle 25 is the one that is predicted to be truly depressed. Solar Cycle 25 is due to start anywhere between 2017 and 2019, depending upon when Cycle 24 finally gets started in earnest--and how long Cycle 24 lasts. If solar energy input to Earth does turn down, and Earth's climate responds by cooling, then other predictions--such as a downturn in atmospheric CO2 levels--made by climate skeptics can be easily tested.

There are several possible physical mechanisms of solar influence on climate, which will need to be tested one by one. But it will be nice for science to return to climate studies. Falsifiable science is much to be preferred to the tautological climate models that provide only garbage out in response to garbage in.

H/T Tom Nelson

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22 April 2008

Solar Thermal Kicking PV's Arse

Solar thermal energy plants have advantages over photovoltaics (PV) plants. Thermal energy is easier to store than electrical energy, for matching production to load. In addition, solar thermal is more efficient than PV. And, electricity from solar thermal plants can be produced by steam turbine driven generators, in three phase AC--just like in the most common form of electrical power systems. Eleven solar thermal companies are currently vying for desert space in the US Southwest.
California’s Mojave desert sure is getting crowded as more and more companies are raising money in an effort to build large solar power plants to harness the sun’s heat. Yesterday, eSolar said it had raised a massive $130 million from the likes of Google and Idealab for its small-scale solar thermal designs, while Stirling also said it had raised $100M from Irish renewable energy developer NTR for its SunCatcher solar thermal dishes. And this morning Infinia, which makes Stirling engines for solar thermal, said it had raised $57 million in a second round of funding. __Read more at earth2techfor information about 11 solar thermal companies
eSolar has been quite successful in raising funding, and has developed a modular design to match the power plant to the available land and required power loads.
Based on eSolar’s 33 MW pre-fab form-factor, the company’s modular design translates to minimal land requirements and are tailored to fit local resources and produce a low environmental footprint, favoring a straightforward sitting and permitting process. Various locations with multitude interconnection options mean that eSolar can deliver more clean, carbon free power where it is needed; close to the cities and towns where it is consumed.

“The eSolar power plant is based on mass manufactured components, and designed for rapid construction, uniform modularity, and unlimited scalability,” said Asif Ansari, CEO of eSolar. “Rather than over-engineering the solution, eSolar’s smart scalable solar architecture targets what we see as the four key business obstacles facing the sector: price, scalability, rapid deployment, and grid impact.”

eSolar’s approach to power plant design revolves around a tiered delivery model, beginning with a 25 MW base unit, called a module, consisting of several thermal receiver towers, each with a field of heliostats. These modules are replicated as many times as necessary to fit specific power requirements. ___ImpactLab
The rush is on to cash in on abundant solar energy in the desert regions of the US, in Spain, and soon the Persian Gulf countries. Solar thermal plants range from the 25 MW eSolar module up to 500 the MW installation being installed by Stirling Energy Systems, which can be expandable to over 850 MW eventually.

Someday, PV will be ready to compete with solar thermal. But that day will not appear within the next 15 or 20 years.

And if you need a lot of baseload energy--in the multi-GW range--nuclear is still your best bet for large scale baseload energy, other than coal.

The US is unfortunate in having what appears to be an incompetent US Congress at this time, on energy matters. The current US Congress seems determined to choke US energy sources and to create a large scale economic crisis in the US economy. I say the Congress "seems determined" to do this. If there is a better explanation for the extreme incompetence of the US Congress on energy matters, I am open to hearing it. Perhaps the Congress is simply stupid. That is possible. I prefer stupid over criminal.

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Arab Emirates Push for Nuclear Power

The United Arab Emirates is pushing hard to develop its "post-oil economy" in time to sail through the rougher days ahead. By establishing itself as an economic "gateway to the Arab world", as well as a world financial center in its own right, the Emirates are attempting to build a prosperous future that is less dependent upon local production of oil. Nuclear power will provide baseload energy for the huge new developments being built in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Air conditioning demands for the growing population centers within the Emirates will require a much greater expenditure of energy.
The UAE’s plan to acquire nuclear technology for power generation and other peaceful uses will allow it to save its oil and gas wealth and maximise its income from hydrocarbon exports in the long term, according to information from analysts.

Although it is importing gas from Qatar and is planning to get more supplies from Iran, the UAE could curb any increase in such imports by introducing nuclear technology for power generation, they said.

The nuclear programme, which is expected to be implemented in phases in the long term, could also help offset a steady and rapid increase in oil consumption in the UAE because of growth in most non-oil sectors.

“This will of course enable the UAE to save its oil and gas wealth for future generations,” said an economist at an Abu Dhabi-based bank....In a comment yesterday, the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research said the UAE nuclear plans would support its efforts to preserve the hydrocarbon wealth, meet growing domestic energy demand, protect the environment and boost the economy.

“Generating power through nuclear energy is a very viable option commercially… it will effectively contribute to economic development,” it said. _Business24/7
A growing population within a very hot, arid desert, will require a large amount of electrical energy for air conditioning and desalination. Nuclear energy makes sense, given the high costs of natural gas and oil currently.

Does the same energy calculus apply to Iran as well? Certainly. Unfortunately, Iran has been caught enriching uranium for other, less innocent purposes. Combined with Iran's hostility toward its Middle Eastern neighbors and outspoken belligerence and threatening posture, Iran will have to be looked at as a special case.

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Cellulosic Fuels to Come Online 2008-2017

We are just now entering the era of cellulosic fuels, according to a new report from Research and Markets.
  1. - The US biofuel industry especially ethanol production is expected to lead the global production during the forecasted period of 2008-2017.
  2. - Corn is anticipated to dominate the [Ed: near] future ethanol production in the US, however, cellulosic ethanol requirements are expected to boom during the period 2008-2017.
  3. - US biodiesel sector need strong support from the government as well as from technology point of view to sustain growth in future.
  4. - Biodiesel prices in the US are expected to see a declining trend to push up commercial usage during 2008-2015.
  5. - Supply of raw material (corn and soybean oil) will be a major concern for the US biofuel industry in coming years. Source_via_BusinessWire
Here again, we see a mixture of valid conclusion and popular misconception. Biocellulosic alcohols will lead one charge away from "food as feedstock." Biomass to liquids (BTL) will lead another--ultimately much larger--charge away from foods for feedstocks. Biodiesel from algae and non-edible oilseeds such as jatropha, is yet one more important leap from "foods as feedstocks" to foods and food-prices as a non-issue. Cellulosic electricity--substituting biomass for coal in co-generation plants--is yet another way that bioenergy will help to reduce oil costs--and thus reduce food costs.

Zeachem, Coskata, and a number of other small to medium bio-fuel plants will bring cellulosic biofuel product to market starting within the next year. In Europe, Choren is ready to bring BTL biodiesel to market, and looking to expand within North America in the next year.

Biomass, farm waste, agricultural waste, forestry waste, municipal waste, and industrial waste, are all available for making important contributions to the energy supply. It is a matter of making the necessary technological and managerial adjustments that will allow more industries and regions to take advantages of these resources which are currently going to waste.

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Manure & Garbage Cut Biofuels Costs

Producing bio-ethanol takes a lot of energy. And energy is expensive--especially natural gas and oil. Bio-ethanol manufacturers are substituting manure, plastics, paper, rice hulls, and other garbage for natural gas--saving many millions of dollars in production costs!
The world's first manure fired ethanol plant is expected to go online in the next two months. Not only will it be environmentally friendly but it will also save Panda Ethanol about $30M a year. ___Source (good video)__via__QiBioenergy
A wider array of garbage and waste can be used to fire bio-ethanol plants using a new flex-fuel boiler developed by EPI.
Substantial savings are realized by using in-plant waste streams as fuel. Paper mills produce a paper sludge waste that is typically land filled but can be utilized as a fuel to produce steam for the paper making operations. Other industries may have plastics, paper, cardboard, oat hulls, rice hulls, distiller’s grains, syrup, glycerin or other byproducts that could be converted into usable energy utilizing EPI’s flexible fuel fluidized bed system. ___Source (PDF)__via__QiBioenergy
This move away from natural gas and oil-fired boilers for bio-ethanol production helps reduce costs of production for bio-ethanol--making it more competitive economically--and it makes more natural gas available to the parts of thegeneral market which may have more difficulty making the same type of substitution.

Such flex-fuel boilers will be equally as useful when cellulosic alcohol processing is more common in 5 to 10 years. The same technology will be useful as well for various biomass to liquid fuel thermochemical processes which are expected to take over most of the biofuels industry within 20 years--unless Craig Venter and his merry band of synthesists can create a new life-form that makes a better, cheaper biofuel from CO2 and sunlight.

Most analysts of bio-energy seem to be lost in a haze of misinformation. Blaming biofuels for high food costs is one clear sign of confusion on an analyst's part. But these things have a way of sorting themselves out.

Oil costs between now and the November US Presidential elections are likely to be kept high, by various machinations. Behind the scenes currency manipulation is only one tactic that seems to be working for now. US government budgetary and Federal Reserve Bank monetary policies have made such manipulation fairly easy. Other reasons for high oil costs--high demand, temporary short supplies due to manpower and infrastructure shortages etc.--are simply part of doing business in any industry. Oil is not just any business, however, and its price has repercussions that propagate throughout the geopolitical globe.

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21 April 2008

A Marriage Made in Heaven--Courtesy of Virgin

Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic Airways intends to begin presiding over marriages performed in sub-orbital space. You had best plan your wedding far enough in advance. Oh, and make it a small and intimate ceremony. Virgin's spaceships can only accomodate a small wedding party.
He's married a couple on board a Virgin America jet, he's also officiated the marriage of Google's co-founder Larry Page on his private island in the Caribbean, now Richard Branson wants to marry couples as they reach the apex of their Virgin Galactic flights into space. The British billionaire already has two wedding-related bookings, one marriage and one honeymoon, and it is hoped he will obtain a licence to conduct the ceremonies for more. Certainly unique, but I wonder how popular getting hitched in zero gravity will be…..Virgin Galactic already has 200 people booked to fly into space proving there is a market for space tourism out there. Construction of SpaceShipTwo has already begun and the first test flights are expected to commence in 2009.
Being the first couple from your home town to be married in space may be a large enough novelty to attract hundreds--even thousands--of couples to space tourism, despite the hundred thousand dollar price tag. Next, people will want to actually spend the night in an orbiting hotel--perhaps one of Bigelow's--and experience a weightless honeymoon that lasts long enough to actually enjoy.

None of these things are actually doing anything to put human enterprise, and colonies, into space permanently. That will require ongoing commercial ventures that require a human presence in space, and that pay very well for the risk that such a presence entails.

Unfortunately, for such ventures, human governments and inter-governments are turning out to be the enemy. When governments oppose a burgeoning market based upon rational returns, it is often the government that loses in the end.


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Climate Always Changes; The Question is Why?

Are CO2 emissions from human activities changing the planet's climate and devastating its biosphere? Or is it possible that Earth's climate changes for reasons other than varying CO2 levels, with humans playing a minimal role?
The experience curve shows the huge capacity of the oceans to absorb the carbon dioxide emissions of humankind. It seems likely that within about three years we will be experiencing natural global cooling, and with that a decline in levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In essence, it is impossible for carbon dioxide to accumulate in the atmosphere other than to the level determined by the long-term behaviour of the oceans. ___Source
The oceans have tremendous ability to sequester CO2--both in solution and by creating calcium carbonate and other carbon containing compounds using sea organisms.

One fascinating look at the relationship between CO2 and temperature was recently posted by William M. Briggs at his climate statistician website:
The question we hope to answer is, given the limitations of these data sets, with this small number of years, and ignoring the measurement error of all involved (which might be substantial), does (Hypothesis 1) increasing CO2 now predict positive temperature change later, or does (Hypothesis 2) increasing temperatures now predict positive CO2 change later? ___Much more at the source
Briggs is attempting something quite amazing for climate science: he is attempting to generate a falsifiable hypothesis in order to test it! Although a few scientists involved in climate-related science are attempting to generate and test climate hypotheses via experiment, such a rational approach remains too often the exception in climate science, rather than the rule.

All three candidates for US President still in the running promise to shift US climate policy to better suit the United Nations and the European Union. "It had better be worth the huge economic tumult which that would cause", you might say. Unfortunately, the underlying science is much too weak for the type of bold moves that Obama et al are proposing. Even though China is now the world's largest emitter of CO2--with India trying to catch up--the US is still blamed for most of the world's woes, including "climate change." You might see Obama's and the US Congress' rush to leap off the carbon cliff as being a suicidal gesture to placate the zeitgeist, rather than being a rational act based upon realistic expectation of benefit to US citizens and taxpayers.

2008 has been a cold year so far. Solar Cycle 24 seems in no hurry to commence with normal sunspot activity. In large parts of the northern hemisphere, spring does not seem to be in a hurry to bring its warmer ambience. As time goes by, more scientists, statisticians, and ordinary persons with good powers of observation, are beginning to look at the chinks in the climate alarmist's armor. Climate models are not holding up so well, and the better look we get at climate parameters--the oceans, the atmosphere, the biosphere--through our better and more advanced scientific instruments, the less convincing the pronouncements of holy warmers such as Gore and Hansen actually appear.

More time. Better data. Falsifiable hypotheses. Elegant experiments. Better models. Less hysteria.

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