Archive for the 'Environment' Category

Inmates Running the Asylum

Yup, a Climate Change Denier Will Oversee NASA. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

This is very worrisome. NASA is one of the key scientific agencies studying global warming and climate change. A good fraction of NASA’s annual budget goes to Earth-observing satellites critical in looking at various factors of climate change (like the recently launched OCO-2, which monitors CO2).

This is as close to the analogy of putting the fox in charge of the hen house that there is. It would be as ludicrous as putting the rabidly anti-science Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) in charge of the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency.

Oh, wait.

Idle Engines are the Devil's Playthings

The biggest winter energy myth: That you need to idle your car before driving

During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, however, the auto industry did away with carburetors in favor of electronic fuel injection, which uses sensors to supply fuel to the engine and get the right air and fuel mix. This makes the problem of warming up the car before driving irrelevant, because the sensors monitor and adjust to temperature conditions.

Another big myth, at least based on how I’ve seen people drive, is that it’s a good idea to spin your tires to get traction. But since the coefficient of sliding friction is lower than that for static friction, once the slipping begins, you’ve lost. You should ease off the gas and start over.

Eat Lead! And Nickel, and Mercury, etc.

Cleaning Up Polluting Mines With Plants–Plants That Then Turn Into Precious Metals

Interesting. Though I wonder what happens to animals that eat the plants (or eat the insects that eat the plants), or if the metal content makes them so unpalatable that it isn’t an issue. Or do you just have to fence it all off.

Udderly Ingenious

These Backpacks For Cows Collect Their Fart Gas And Store It For Energy

Researchers put plastic backpacks on cows, then inserted tubes into their rumens (their biggest digestive tract). They extracted the methane–about 300 liters a day. That’s enough to run a car, or a fridge for 24 hours.

If Only it Mattered

British Columbia Enacted The Most Significant Carbon Tax in the Western Hemisphere—What Happened Next Is It Worked

Nice to see that this can work. If only facts mattered in US politics…

Nothing New Under the Sun

Energy-Harvesting Street Tiles Generate Power from Pavement Pounder

The marathon runners generated 4.7 kilowatt-hours of energy

That’s a little more than fifty cents’ worth of electricity

I’ve already commented on this system, but I’ll sum up:

– It’s converting roughly a dollar’s worth of food into a penny’s worth of electricity. If they weren’t stealing the energy from people, this would never save anyone any money.

– The energy they steal is not green, so this energy is not, despite the effort to “launder” it.

– It’s still not clear how long it would take to save enough to pay for such a system

A Liter of Light

An Innovative and Cheap ‘Solar Bottle Bulb’ Solution Lights Homes in Manila

This is a really neat solution to the problem of dwellings that could really use passive light; it’s not truly an alternative to something like the gravitylight , which is not passive, but for closely-spaced dwellings that don’t have much in the way of window real estate relative to the interior area, and lack (affordable) electricity, it’s just the ticket to light them up during the day.

This is a kind of light pipe (one version of which is a deck prism seen on some boats). I have to think something like this would have been useful for a playhouse when I was a kid. Some more detailed instructions exist, if you are inclined to employ on of these.

I Am Killing the Planet with my Christmas Spirit

Dot Physics: How Much Does It Cost to Power Your Christmas Lights?

Rhett also analyzes the Griswold house’s consumption from Christmas Vacation, with its over-exaggerated decoration and also set in an era when the tree lighting was less efficient.

As Old as Methuselah

The vanishing groves

Bristlecone pines, dendrochronology, and climate change.

The chronology tells a familiar tale about what is happening to the Earth’s climate. In 2005, a researcher from Arizona’s tree-ring lab named Matthew Salzer noticed an unusual trend in the most recent stretch of bristlecone tree rings. Over the past half century, bristlecones near the tree line have grown faster than in any 50-year period of the past 3,700 years, a shift that portends ‘an environmental change unprecedented in millennia,’ according to Salzer. As temperatures along the peaks warm, the bristlecones are fattening up, adding thick rings in every spring season. Initially there was hope that the trend was local to the White Mountains, but Salzer and his colleagues have found the same string of fat rings — the same warming — in three separate bristlecone habitats in the western US. This might sound like good news for the trees, but it most assuredly is not. Indeed, the thick new rings might be a prophecy of sorts, a foretelling of the trees’ extinction.

That's a Big Twinkie

I’ve been reading about some people expressing frustration that they are still in a bad way after hurricane Sandy — no power, long lines for gasoline, etc. Yes, it’s tough and you have my sympathy and empathy (90 hours without power this summer after being hit with a derecho gives me an inkling of the troubles)

But this was no small thing. The NOAA website discusses the energy released in a hurricane

It turns out that the vast majority of the heat released in the condensation process is used to cause rising motions in the thunderstorms and only a small portion drives the storm’s horizontal winds.

A typical hurricane releases an average of 6 x 10^14 Watts of power — it’ll be higher where there is more rainfall — which is 200 times the electrical energy generation in the world. The wind energy is a fraction of a percent of that, but is still half the world’s electricity generation level. And Sandy was bigger, so the numbers will be higher. All of that, focused on the mid-Atlantic/Northeast coastal areas.

The point is that there was a lot of fury unleashed last week, and it takes some time to recover from that. Gasoline in short supply indicates some of the logistical problems going on. A lot of people, requiring a lot of energy, all of it needing to be imported somehow. All of the behind-the-scenes things we take for granted, until a disruption occurs.

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