After Digiconomist's analysis of the total energy consumption of the Bitcoin transactions on the blockchain went viral, Timothy Lee at Ars Technica provides a much-needed reality check in the form of some technical detail and nuance about what that energy consumption means, and where it might go.
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Nuclear energy produces less carbon dioxide than any other any source (including solar, wind, and geothermal). But nuclear waste is extremely poisonous, and leaks are inevitable. Wendover productions looks at the problems surrounding what to do with the byproducts of nuclear power plants. Read the rest
When the wind is blowing, the great plains could generate enough power to supply all of America, but storing and moving energy to supply those places where the wind isn't blowing, the sun isn't shining and the tide isn't coming in is a significant technological challenge that we're still figuring out.
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A brand manager at Dong Energy finally convinced them that their company name might be getting in the way of their messaging. They will be Ørsted from here out. Read the rest
Skycool Systems is a Stanford spin-out that uses panels composed of "layers of silicon dioxide and hafnium oxide on top of a thin layer of silver" to convert the waste-heat from air-conditioners' heat exchangers into 8-13 micrometer radiation, which passes through the atmosphere and radiates into space. Read the rest
The oil industry is mired in a recruiting crisis because its workforce is aging out and millennials don't want to work for an industry that is destroying the planet they were hoping to live on. Read the rest
Olivia P. Judson's paper in Nature, The energy expansions of evolution, presents a novel, beautifully written and presented frame for looking at the history of life on Earth: as a series of five epochs in which energy became more abundant and available to lifeforms, allowing them to scale up in complexity and fecundity: geochemical energy, sunlight, oxygen, flesh and fire. Read the rest
These SolarGaps prototypes are interesting ways to harness sunlight as it's being blocked. Note: the video is heavy on the promotion and light on the tech specs, but it's a neat idea. Read the rest
The Kentucky Coal Museum in Benham, KY, spends $2,100 a month on electricity; to save money, they're putting in 80 solar panels, which will save them $8,000/year. Read the rest
Trump made a big deal about saving the dying coal industry. “[We’re] bringing back jobs, big league. We’re bringing them back at the plant level. We’re bringing them back at the mine level. The energy jobs are coming back.”
But in recent weeks, owners of two coal-fired power plants announced they were going to cease operations, including the largest coal-fired facility in the western United States. They can't compete with natural gas price, which "have made it more expensive to produce electricity at the facility than to purchase it from cheaper sources," according to the Washington Post. It reminds me of my friend who sells novelty items on his website, but stopping because Amazon's retail price of the same items is usually less than the price he pays to buy the items from manufacturers.
Trump’s ability to save the Navajo plant and others like it is limited, despite his rhetoric. Even if his administration follows through on its promises to relax regulations on the coal industry, those changes aren’t likely to change coal’s fading market.
And if the owners of coal-fired plants lose money when they operate their facilities, keeping them running makes little economic sense.
For some reason, Trump's energy plan makes no mention of solar, "an industry that just added 51,000 jobs." Maybe he could issue an executive order requiring solar panels to have coal burners on them to belch smoke. Read the rest
Scientific American summarized five of Donald Trump's "major moves many see as hostile toward science." They are:
• Trump’s pick for head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has actively battled its mission
"To lead the EPA, Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who has long opposed environmental regulations and has questioned the science behind climate change."
• He chose former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for Energy Secretary
"It is a science-heavy department, and one that (climate change skeptic) Perry—who is not a scientist—had advocated dismantling during his 2012 presidential bid."
• He chose an energy company executive for secretary of State
"Trump tapped former ExxonMobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State."
• He met with a vaccine critic while planning a commission on autism
"(Robert Kennedy, Jr) has repeatedly promoted discredited arguments that link vaccines to autism."
• His transition team sought information about Energy Department staff associated with climate change
"In December Trump’s team asked the DoE for the names of employees who have worked on issues related to climate change."
"Trump's 5 Most 'Anti-Science” Moves (Scientific American) Read the rest
Pete Warden reports in from the ARM Research Summit, where James Myers presented on "energy harvesting" by microscopic computers -- that is, using glints of sunlight and the jostling of motion from bumping into things or riding on our bodies to provide power for computation. Read the rest
With so many recent reports of hacks, software theft, and cloud-based security breaches, this "physical world" espionage case seems all the more mysterious. Read the rest
I've been writing "design fiction" for years (see, for example, Knights of the Rainbow Table), and when people ask me to explain it, I say something like, "An engineer might make a prototype to give you a sense of how something works; an architect will do a fly-through to give you a sense of its spatial properties; fiction writers produce design fiction to give you a sense of how a technology might feel." Read the rest
Bret Victor complained on Twitter that technologists were wasting their imaginations, energy and talent on things that wouldn't matter after climate change reduced the world to a drowned cinder; his followers pushed back and asked what they, as technologists, could do about climate change. Read the rest
In Washington today, District Judge James E. Boarsberge said he will not issue a decision on a legal challenge by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Dakota Access, LLC, the private firm behind a nearly $4 billion oil project Native people say will destroy their land and cause unprecedented damage to human, plant, and animal life in the region.
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For a decade, Canada's previous petro-tory government prosecuted scientists who publicly reported their results without first passing them through the party's commissars, almost as though reality had a well-known left-wing bias and couldn't be trusted. Read the rest