Boing Boing 

Jay Leno's wind turbine

Ed Begley, Jr, says:

Thought I would send along this video from my friend Jay Leno about a new wind turbine called the MagWind from Enviro-Energies that he and I will be installing soon. As many of you have asked about "vertical axis wind turbines," I thought you'd like to see the latest in this technology.
Jay Leno's wind turbine

Nuclear slide-rules from a time after nukes and before pocket-calculators

The Oak Ridge Associated Universities website has a splendid gallery of nuclear-age slide-rules (as Mr Jalopy notes, these are artifacts from an age after nukes but before pocket calculators) -- mostly circular cardboard calculators that help you compute the size of the crater generated by the nuke that touches off WWIII. Shown here, the 1960 Nuclear Bomb Effects Computer by EG&G.

As a convenience to those interested in the effects of nuclear weapons, this circular computer was designed to make data easily available on various weapon effects - some as functions of both yield and range and others on yield alone . . . The weapons data incorporated in this computer were taken from the very informative and useful text, The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, edited by Samuel Glasstone for the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project of the Department of Defense.
Nuclear Slide Rules (via Dinosaurs and Robots)

Al Gore: The Climate for Change

In a New York Times op-ed today, Al Gore (or should we say, @al_gore) reprises some of the themes he spoke of at this week's Web 2.0 summit. Snip:

THE inspiring and transformative choice by the American people to elect Barack Obama as our 44th president lays the foundation for another fateful choice that he -- and we -- must make this January to begin an emergency rescue of human civilization from the imminent and rapidly growing threat posed by the climate crisis.

The electrifying redemption of America's revolutionary declaration that all human beings are born equal sets the stage for the renewal of United States leadership in a world that desperately needs to protect its primary endowment: the integrity and livability of the planet. The world authority on the climate crisis, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after 20 years of detailed study and four unanimous reports, now says that the evidence is "unequivocal."

To those who are still tempted to dismiss the increasingly urgent alarms from scientists around the world, ignore the melting of the north polar ice cap and all of the other apocalyptic warnings from the planet itself, and who roll their eyes at the very mention of this existential threat to the future of the human species, please wake up. Our children and grandchildren need you to hear and recognize the truth of our situation, before it is too late.

Here is the good news: the bold steps that are needed to solve the climate crisis are exactly the same steps that ought to be taken in order to solve the economic crisis and the energy security crisis.

The Climate for Change (NYT, via @timoreilly)

Previously: Web 2.0 Summit Videos: Lessig, Kelly, Al Gore, many more

Photo: "Treasure Island / The Island" by Aaron Escobar, Creative Commons licensed, on Flickr.

Sensors powered by trees

MIT researchers are developing a novel power scavenging systes for small wireless sensors that monitor for forest fires. The sensors are powered by the trees themselves. Each sensor's battery is trickle charged with the electricity generated by the imbalance in pH between the tree and the soil. From the MIT News Office:
 Newsoffice 2008 Trees-2-Enlarged A single tree doesn't generate a lot of power, but over time the "trickle charge" adds up, "just like a dripping faucet can fill a bucket over time," said Shuguang Zhang, one of the researchers on the project and the associate director of MIT's Center for Biomedical Engineering (CBE).

The system produces enough electricity to allow the temperature and humidity sensors to wirelessly transmit signals four times a day, or immediately if there's a fire. Each signal hops from one sensor to another, until it reaches an existing weather station that beams the data by satellite to a forestry command center in Boise, Idaho.
Preventing forest fires with tree power

As price of fuel soars, so does a dirigible renaissance?

Snip from an article in today's New York Times about a slew of designers and firms developing new models of airships. These passenger-carrying aircraft float on the wind, rather than being propelled solely by fuel (more precise explanation here). And, ah, hopefully they don't blow up in the sky or whatever.

As the cost of fuel soars and the pressure mounts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, several schemes for a new generation of airship are being considered by governments and private companies. "It's a romantic project," said Mr. Massaud, 45, sitting amid furniture designs in his Paris studio, "but then look at Jules Verne."

It has been more than 70 years since the giant Hindenburg zeppelin exploded in a spectacular fireball over Lakehurst, N.J., killing 36 crew members and passengers, abruptly ending an earlier age of airships. But because of new materials and sophisticated means of propulsion, a diverse cast of entrepreneurs is taking another look at the behemoths of the air.

Mr. Massaud, a designer of hotels in California and a stadium in Mexico, has not ironed out the technical details, nor has he found financiers or corporate backers for his project -- to create a 690-foot zeppelin shaped like a whale, with a luxury hotel attached, that he has named Manned Cloud.

And, heh, my favorite quote here:
"A dirigible is something magical," said Jérôme Giacomoni, who was 25 when he founded Aerophile with a friend. "But most of the ideas are crazy."
Why Fly When You Can Float? [NYT]
Image: Jean-Marie Massaud.

Update: most LOLlable comment in this thread, #4 posted by Chris the Tiki guy...

[I]f they're exploring whale shapes, why not other aquatic creatures, like the seacow? That way people can point and say "Oh, the huge manatee!" (...) [I]f Helium is in short supply, I doubt we'll be launching very many lighter-than-air craft any time soon, unless we can figure out how to make hydrogen just as buoyant but less explode-y.

Image: found floating (snort) around on the internet, provenance unknown Something Awful Dot Com's Photoshop Phriday.

BBtv: Omega Recoil: Electricity as Art

In today's episode, Boing Boing tv features John Behrens and "Omega Recoil," a group that builds giant Tesla Coils. Their work explores how electronic fields can be excited in the environment, and their creations become the centerpieces of interactive public art performances.

Some of the tinkerers and performers in the SF Bay Area-based collective were previously associated with Dr. Megavolt, an electrical art project which...

[featured] a person in a metal mesh suit interacting with artificially generated lighting. The Doctor sets objects on fire with electricity originating from large Tesla coils, spars with the electric arcs and exhorts the audience to worship the elemental force of electricity.

Link to Boing Boing tv post with discussion and downloadable video.

Nuclear launch center "blast door" art

Design Observer has an article about "blast door" art, painted by the people who man nuclear launch control centers in the US.
 Images Vanderbilt.Delta2 Like the garish and cheeky illustrations etched across the noses of World War II aircraft, these images in launch control centers across the United States testify to the bravado of the men (and, from the mid-1980s onward, women) of what has been called "America's Underground Air Force." But they also reflect the sometimes surreal pressures faced by two-person missile crews on 24-hour duty alerts, waiting for a call to turn their missile launch keys and perhaps end civilization as we know it. "You're sitting there waiting for the message you hope never comes," says Tony Gatlin, who painted the Domino's homage as a young deputy flight commander at Delta One in 1989. "That's a pretty screwed up way of looking at the world."

Now an Air Force major and deputy director of staff with the 100th Air Refueling Wing, based at the Royal Air Force's Mildenhall Base, in England, Gatlin was struck by the similarity of Domino's delivery time and that of his missiles. "One went with the other kind of well," he deadpans. Gatlin's painting is one of only a few the public can see, following the transformation in 1999 of the Delta One control facility and the nearby Delta Nine missile silo into an historic site by the National Park Service (NPS). Under the terms of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the then-Soviet Union and the United States, many Minuteman missile sites have been deactivated or destroyed.

Link (Thanks, William!)

Steam-powered battery charger

Here's a video and build notes for a steam-powered battery charger.

For the most part we have all the power we could ever need from our small 600 Watt solar array and our 20' diameter wind turbine, but on occasion I do need to run a generator and I always figured that a steam engine would be the most fun, plus... I don't need to rely on petroleum - I have lots of wood all around me!

The engine is a 1903 C&BC 6 horsepower steam engine. I bought it at auction nearby (stole it) for less than $150. It's in very good shape, I believe it's been rebuilt and never run since. The boiler we got about a year later. I'm guessing it to be about a 4hp boiler. It was made by 'The Look Out boiler company' in 1940. It seems to be in good condition.


Wind turbine self destructs (video)

"The braking mechanism that limits the speed of the wind turbine broke during a storm in Denmark. This was the outcome." Article about the turbine failure

Solar video player/Game Boy clone -- Boing Boing Gadgets

Over on the Boing Boing Gadgets blog, our Joel spots a delightful solar-powered, movie-playing, game-emulating handheld computer:

This knock-off "MP4 Player" not only plays music and video, it can emulate the NES and Game Boy Color. But even better, it can be recharged with built-in solar panels. That's right: you can play Faxanadu until the sun explodes.

It comes with 2GB of memory built in, which is plenty for NES and GB ROMs, although perhaps not music and movies, and can be expanded up to another 2GB with an SD card. Oh, and it's got a USB out to which other gadgets can be connected--not for data, but to be recharged from the solar panel.

Link Discuss this on Boing Boing Gadgets

Edison electrocuted an elephant 105 years ago today

Today's the anniversary of Thomas Edison's vicious electrocution of a live elephant in order to prove the dangers of Nikola Tesla's alternating current and the safety of his competing direct current.

When the day came, Topsy was restrained using a ship's hawser fastened on one end to a donkey engine and on the other to a post. Wooden sandals with copper electrodes were attached to her feet and a copper wire run to Edison's electric light plant, where his technicians awaited the go-ahead.

In order to make sure that Topsy emerged from this spectacle more than just singed and angry, she was fed cyanide-laced carrots moments before a 6,600-volt AC charge slammed through her body. Officials needn't have worried. Topsy was killed instantly and Edison, in his mind anyway, had proved his point.

A crowd put at 1,500 witnessed Topsy's execution, which was filmed by Edison and released later that year as Electrocuting an Elephant.


Scientists discover "radiation-eating" fungi

Scientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered a fungi that uses radioactivity to make its source of nourishment. The upshot? Spacemen will eat this fungus when they travel to other planets. Yum!
The ability of fungi to live off radiation could also prove useful to people: "Since ionizing radiation is prevalent in outer space, astronauts might be able to rely on fungi as an inexhaustible food source on long missions or for colonizing other planets," says Dr. Ekaterina Dadachova, associate professor of nuclear medicine and microbiology & immunology at Einstein and lead author of the study.

Reader comment:

Jerm says:

This is the second time I've seen this study linked (slashdot was the first), and I feel compelled to mention that one of the fungi, C. neoformans, is far from edible. It causes pulmonary infections and meningitis in immunocompromised people (AIDS patients, etc.). Furthermore, saying it "eats" radiation is somewhat misleading. It implies we could use these fungi to detoxify a radiation contaminated area, and we could do no such thing. They appear to utilize the radiation in a way plants utilize solar radiation, which while cool, isn't quite "eating," in my book.

Solar power plant looks heavenly

This 40 story tall tower just outside Seville, Spain is actually a new solar thermal power plant. Operated by Solúcar Energía, the facility uses 600 mirrors on the ground to tightly focus the sun's rays on water pipes at the top of the tower. The heat converts the water into steam that drive turbines to generate electricity. It's the photo of the reflected solar rays hitting the tower that really impresses me though. As editor Alistair Strachan pointed out to me, the scene "looks strangely religious," like a bad biblical illustration. From the BBC News:
 Media Images 42877000 Jpg  42877005 Mirrors Bbc 203 The tower looked like it was being hosed with giant sprays of water or was somehow being squirted with jets of pale gas. I had trouble working it out.

In fact, as we found out when we got closer, the rays of sunlight reflected by a field of 600 huge mirrors are so intense they illuminate the water vapour and dust hanging in the air.

The effect is to give the whole place a glow - even an aura - and if you're concerned about climate change that may well be deserved.