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Archive for the 'Solar Power' Category


Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Yesterday I included a link to some video of people popping popcorn using cell phones. I didn’t think it was real and apparently it is not. It’s interesting how marketing has really picked up on the viral video idea. I suppose you can’t get much cheaper exposure than that.

Here is another article about EEStor and Zenn motors a car maker who is supposed to make cars built based on the device EEStor is producing. I’ve been following this for some time because if it is real, it is an amazing breakthrough, not only for cars but for storing solar and wind power. This is supposedly EEStor’s patent.

Here is a series of pictures of water including, among other things, one of China’s quake lakes and also some images from the recent flooding in my home state.

Speaking of water, here is a way to desalinate water using an anesthetically pleasing building.

This is a washing machine that can wash a load of clothes using only one cup of water.

I was going to try using cornmeal to get rid of ants this season but they haven’t showed up, at least for now. I think they all moved into our strawberry tower which is bursting with ripe strawberries.

This is one really huge snail.

This is supposed to be the perfect male voice but I don’t know, I’m not sure what the perfect male voice would be.

BMW’s new concept car can shape-shift. I’d like one that is a sports car on the road but can shape-shift into a camper.

Here is another nice collection of photographs.

And finally, check out this silly picture of baby ferrets in a cup.

Click on the ‘no comments’ or ‘comments’ before to leave a comment.

Inflatable Cars?

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Yeah, you read that right. Just recently I joked about the nerf car of the future. A company called XP vehicles is planning on selling a car made from the same materials used to protect the Mars rovers when they landed. They also have a power system which would allow the car to travel an astonishing 2,500 miles on a single charge. Here is an article about it. Here is the link to the company.

We went car shopping yesterday. What a disappointment! My legs are so long there was only one I would have even thought about driving, and it had adjustable pedals, and a telescoping steering wheel. I’ve been doing some research and the cars with the most leg room are the Nissan Maxima (44.8 inches), the Scion XB (45.3 inches), and a Lexus which I can’t afford. The Scion XB is a really boxy looking thing but it gets good mileage.

I thought this was kind of interesting. It’s a list of the top ten scientists killed or injured by their experiments. Even a long time ago you would have thought a chemist would know not to taste his experiments.

In the first steps to us becoming cyborgs London scientists are developing artificial veins and arteries.

It seems like 3D displays are finally starting to become reality. I wonder how long before they are affordable? Here is one called the HoloVizio.

The Casimir effect is an attraction between two plates that essentially arises from nothing. It really only takes place at extremely close distances but is a problem for people working in nanotechnology. Now a group of scientist claim to have the ability to reverse that force allowing for levitation. Here is the article although it doesn’t explain it much. When do we get our flying skateboards?

Quite some time ago I posted about a machine called RepRap. It’s a 3D printing machine which could duplicate itself. Well it finally has and you can now buy the electronics for it. Apparently if you want to buy the parts for the whole thing you will have to wait until Christmas.

Here is a cool picture of water droplets.

Green housing is finally going prefab.

There is a narrow space between my garage and our privacy fence. On cool days we sometimes sit on a wooden table back there when the sun is just right. Last fall I was back there and I saw one of these creatures. I took some pictures of it but I just didn’t have the lens to capture it. Here are some more photos of crab and other interesting spiders. This one is blue.

Dan sent me this link; Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green. I think it’s ironic the Chinese are doing so much to advance sustainable living. But when you hear about all the major pollution disasters they have, it makes sense. I suppose if I had kids it would make sense to try to buy up cheap land somewhere where it’s very cold (for now). New nuclear plant designs are really much safer than the old ones in terms of melting down. As far as the waste, maybe we will just have to deal with it. I still think solar power will become so cheap so fast no one will bother generating power any other way.

Check out this amazing picture of sting ray migration.

And finally, I will leave you with this nice collection of flower pictures.

Science Show

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

I woke up to my UPS beeping again this morning. That makes it 3 times in 10 days we have lost power, although the first time wasn’t weather related. The news said the group of storms that knocked it out the other day had dropped softball sized hail on Illinois. According to this personal account of a hail storm at a wedding in Minnesota, the world’s largest hailstones are baseball size.

There was also another tornado last night but not that near to us. Here are two short videos from bank cameras of the EF-5 tornado in Iowa on May 25th.

There was a science show in New York last week and the turn out was pretty impressive.

Every event at the four-day science festival was sold out — more than 22,000 tickets in all — according to Ben Austin, the festival’s vice-president of marketing and communications. After the free science street fair began Saturday, Mr. Austin said, police had to close four extra blocks to traffic because so many people showed up — 100,000, by the police’s estimate. And that was on a day with intermittent thunder, lightning and torrential rain.

“I don’t think we ever expected to see 800 people in an auditorium about the weirdness of the quantum world, but we got that — and another 400 people were lined up outside waiting for overflow seats,” Mr. Austin said. “That kind of thing happened over and over again.”

If you read this blog you know I write about quantum weirdness a fair amount. Of course I don’t know if people read that stuff or just skip over it.

I’ve written about Ray Kurzweil before. He has some pretty optimistic predictions about the future. This article covers basically the same thing in more detail but there are interesting comments at the bottom. I think he is right about solar energy because of Moore’s law. Also, I think some technologies will grow even faster. Take this article about Lithium-ion batteries. They aren’t talking about a doubling of performance; they are talking about a battery which is twenty times as powerful!

Cisco is sponsoring a game where the winner gets $10,000. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m guessing any teenager would be faster than I am.

Years ago I worked in a lab which had an electron microscope. When they used to look at chips under them you could actually watch them run because the charged areas repelled the electron beam causing them to “light up”. These photos are from 2003 but they are still pretty cool.

Here is a really creepy article about zombie caterpillars.

More strange animal news; marked up birds become sexier.

I got a chuckle out of this; the definition of irony.

Lost? Here is a collection of funny road signs.

Still lost? You are here. If you can’t see us it’s about 3/4ths the way down, in the middle.

I also got a laugh out of this opinion piece about ‘Deficit Attention Disorder!’

This is a pretty cool collection of ancient inventions. Some of them like the tumbler lock were around well before I would have guessed. I also liked the ship shaker.

The ten deepest lakes on earth.

And finally, check out this silly cat.

Beam It Down, Scotty

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

How to harvest solar power? Beam it down from space. This idea has been kicked around for a long time. Seeing as though the sun shines 24/7 up there, it eliminates the need for storing the power at night, but at a big cost. I could see the military being interested in such a system because they could deploy it anywhere.

Speaking of the military, Thomas Barnett talks about how we need to change it. He uses some adult language in this TED talk so be warned. Basically he says we need a huge number of system administrators, initially as part of the military but eventually an international organization made up mostly of civilians. These people would take over after the military has done its job. Expecting the 19 year old kids to do both rolls in Iraq was unrealistic.

Check out this solar powered speed boat, for only 1.1 million dollars.

Magnetic fields are invisible, but in these pictures and video scientist use computer graphics to visualize them.

Buy one house and get one free? Unfortunately the first one starts at 1.6 million dollars.

Here is a strange story about stones that grow themselves.

I’ve seen water purifiers that remove a lot of things but this one has pores so small it removes all viruses.

This is kind of fun. Move your mouse and click around on the screen and the software produces kaleidoscope type animations. You can also click the little widgets and see what happens.

Here are some pictures of ecologically friendly house designs. I’ve linked to the one tree house before. I think the really striking thing is the lack of straight lines. It would be so different to live in something that has an organic shape to it.

I liked this photo of a horse shaking off dust.

Here is an interactive map of carbon emissions across the United States. My state is one of the worst.

And finally, check out these cute little pigs.

Better Medicine Through Gaming

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Scientists have developed ‘nanoworms‘ which could be used to target tumor cells directly with drugs.

On the other hand, if you could get a virus to attack tumors as in the movie I am Legend you wouldn’t need a drug.

Seeing as though viruses need a host cell to reproduce, where did they come from in the first place?

By 2040, will we live in ageless bodies? And by ‘we’ I mean people younger than me. I wonder when that last bit of organic brain dies away and you become completely synthetic, will you feel any different? I can’t imagine the consequences of society changing so dramatically over a course of 32 years.

In the movie The Last Starfighter the main character discovers the video game he has been playing is actually a test to find talented fighters for a real space battle. A new free computer game called Foldit is trying the same trick in hopes of finding people who are talented at folding proteins. You can know the chemical makeup of a protein, but how it acts depends on its shape. People have developed computer programs to model protein folding, but the possibilities are endless. The creators of Foldit decided to make a game out of it. As the article implies, a talented gamer could win a Nobel prize in medicine.

Here are before and after pictures of the Myanmar Cyclone.

Here is a really cool cloud picture.

Someone created peel and stick solar cells.

I clicked on a link to the Kongamato expecting it was some kind of giant tomato. I realized I had recently watched part of a TV show where people were looking for the creature.

I have written about the Fermi paradox before. I’ll skip the math but the idea is the universe should be teeming with life, so where is everybody? This article at Seed makes the case our ability to stimulate our primitive minds might be our undoing. In other words, advanced cultures would get so wrapped up in their own virtual reality they wouldn’t come out. This guy makes more or less the same point. The Seed article assumes advanced societies would be mortal and need to reproduce to survive. Given the relatively close goal of immortality verses the rather far off goal of interstellar travel I’m not sure it’s a valid point. I mean the point above about ageless bodies in 32 years could be well off but no one is thinking we could travel the vast distances between stars for a very long time. I still think there might be other factors involved.

1. Aliens would probably use a method of communication so advanced we wouldn’t be able to pick up on it. Something like entangled photons instead of radio.

2. We wouldn’t be interesting to them.

3. We live in the backwaters of the Milky Way.

4. You think gas is expensive? Crossing the huge distance of space would require enormous energies which would probably be put to better use.

5. There is probably a really cool party going on out there somewhere in the galaxy.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this stunning collection of photos from National Geographic.

It’s a Circus Out There

Monday, May 5th, 2008

The phone rang. I picked it up and said “Hello”, there was no response. “Hello”, I said again, and again, silence. I quickly hung up before the political pollster or candidate activist could reach me. That’s right I live in Indiana. Unless you are older than 58 (and I’m not), if you live here you have never participated in a meaningful presidential primary. By the time we vote, everything is pretty much settled.

Now, this is not a political blog, but I am going to rant a minute on the process. It’s a circus out there and I’m absolutely sure, the best person we could get for the job would never run because of that.

Recently all three major candidates declined to a debate about science, and I think that is unfortunate because I am truly interested in what they have to say on the subject, and their general grasp of technical matters. Many of our most important problems will either be solved by or caused by technology.

The job of the presidency involves many different skills but if I could get my way I would like to see the candidates demonstrate skills in math and logic. I would also like to see them listen to a logical argument and show they understood the reasoning behind it.

Beyond that, I would like to see them recite an ordered list of hard-to-pronounce countries from memory.

End rant.

I’m always fascinated by alternative building technology. Here’s an article about a house built using the ‘rammed earth’ approach. Granted it’s small and they didn’t include the price for plumbing or power but it only cost $1000. It does look a little like something the Seven Dwarves would live in.

Houses like that have a huge heat capacity so they average the temperature differences between day and night, or between seasons. Usually they use dirt or stone but here is a company that sells really massive wood house kits.

This guy built a home using straw bale construction. Again, he doesn’t include some of the things a lot of us consider necessities, but the house cost 4000 pounds or about $8000 American.

What would you do with all the money you saved on a house like that? Well you could blow it on this really cool but very expensive electric car. Tesla Motors has finally started shipping its Roadster. Any Johnny Photon fans are welcome to buy me one of those.

This is an article about people using robotic squirrels and lizards to do research. Since it’s likely they would confuse the other animals, it reminded me of that very silly Monty Python bit; Confuse a Cat.

Here is how to make fireballs you can hold in your hand. Kids, don’t try this without adult supervision.

After the Kentucky Derby, we were curious why they can’t help horses with broken legs. Here is why.

Here is another optical illusion. You don’t want to stare at that for long.

Finally, I thought this picture of a sewage truck had a funny political message on it.

The Nerf Car of the Future

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

I thought this was pretty clever. Instead of a whole medical imaging machine, why not just hook a scanner up to a cell phone and transmit the data out and an image back. Real Trekkie Tricorder Invented.

Here is another one of those world statistics pages.

I think the most interesting part of this collection of high speed video is the tires on the race car at the end, deforming from the acceleration.

I used to joke about the nerf car of the future. When people run into each other, they just bounce off laughing. Volvo has set a date for an injury proof car.

Wired looks at some Survival Gear That’s Just Crazy Enough to Work. We are usually pretty comfortable when we camp in our van. That last one reminded me I used to think about how you might take a small horse trailer and add a kitchen, bathroom, and shower. I didn’t realize you could buy something like that.

This site may be down. I’m going to post the link and hope it works for you because it was pictures of unusual things people turned into homes. Think jets, boats, and missile silos.

This is a video of a strange magnetic toy.

Here is yet another photo voltaic system which claims to be cost competitive with fossil fuels.

Brazil has an interesting history of how they became energy independent. Part of it was they had a military government and it’s a great place to grow sugarcane. Part of it was they decided to do something about it after the international energy crises of the 1970s. I was interested in where you can grow sugarcane so I looked it up at Wikipedia. I found the whole article pretty interesting.

Here are some pretty nice photos of African wildlife.

Yikes! Check out this spider bot.

Years ago we were in Florida eating breakfast. I was reading the paper and realized the shuttle was about to launch. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to see it, but we ran out to the beach and there was a huge column of smoke. Here is a pretty cool picture of a launch at night into the clouds.

Finally, here is another funny cat picture.

Earth Day

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Sometime in the late seventies I needed one more class in the humanities to finish my degree requirements. Since I was majoring in the sciences I was hesitant but signed up for an honors english class entitled Perspectives on the Future. It turned out to be one of my favorite classes. Part of it was the professor. Not only was he interesting but I remember on at least one occasion, it was such a nice day, we moved the class outside. For the last class we met at a local pub. Imagine earning college credit sipping beer and talking about the future! It was a small interesting group of maybe 12 to 14 people and I don’t think any two of them had the same major.

The class wasn’t all fun, we read a lot, and we wrote a lot of papers. I remember in one of mine I predicted a war over oil would occur in the late nineties. One of the things we learned about was the Delphi method. The Delphi method is a way of trying to predict the future where a group of people each makes a prediction by writing it down along with some reasons for that prediction. A moderator then reads the results and the process is repeated. The idea is, the group gradually converges on an answer which is close to the right one. Here is a Wikipedia article explaining it in more depth.

One of the required books for the class was The 29th Day. It’s about exponential growth. I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately because my statistics for this blog have been following an exponential growth pattern since I stated it. The rate of increase in my number of readers is proportionate to the number of readers I have at any one time. Again from Wikipedia;

French children are told a story in which they imagine having a pond with water lily leaves floating on the surface. The lily population doubles in size every day and if left unchecked will smother the pond in 30 days, killing all the other living things in the water. Day after day the plant seems small and so it is decided to leave it to grow until it half-covers the pond, before cutting it back. They are then asked, on what day that will occur. This is revealed to be the 29th day, and then there will be just one day to save the pond. (From Meadows et al. 1972, p.29 via Porritt 2005)

Exponential growth is great for a blog or your 401K, but when it comes to using up the earth resources, well, you get the idea. The flip side of exponential growth is exponential decay. Newton’s law of cooling states the rate of change in temperature of an object is proportionate to the difference in temperature between that object and its environment. I learned it like this.

The King and Queen of Tasmania are having coffee. Don’t ask me why it’s Tasmania. The Queen adds cream to her coffee right away. The King waits a few minutes and then adds the exact same amount of cream. Who has the hotter coffee? The answer is the Queen. For the few minutes the coffee was cooling, the difference in temperature between the Kings coffee and the air was greater, so it cooled at a faster rate.

It’s Earth Day and I don’t know what it’s like where you live but here it’s one of those days which really makes you appreciate the Earth. The sky is blue, the birds are singing, and everything is turning green. I have asparagus popping out of the ground. Before I started growing asparagus I’m not sure I liked it that much. It may be one of those things that just tastes better because you grew it yourself. It’s the ultimate lazy gardener vegetable. Once planted, a bed can last for 20 years. Bugs don’t attack it. You don’t have to do anything other than pick it.

Here’s a list from Live Science of 10 Ways You Can Improve Earth’s Health. We don’t drive much and we did the light bulb thing years ago. We could use a new refrigerator.

On a bigger scale here is a prefab solar power plant. eSolar is one of those Google funded ventures set out to save the earth and make money doing it.

eSolars primary business goal is nothing short of making solar electricity for less than the price of coal, without subsidies, said Bill Gross, eSolar Chairman and Founder of Idealab. This is not only attainable, but will truly change the world.

Back to small, how would you like to live in a 10 by 10 foot apartment?

Now really small, in Tiny robotic hand has the gentlest touch they describe a robot that can not only manipulate tiny objects such as cells, it can sense how hard it is gripping.

Since its Earth Day, I wanted to include this link to Visions of the Earth at National Geographic.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Yahoo teams with Freecycle to turn junk into treasure.

It’s also an election day in Pennsylvania. Back in the early eighties I built and started programming a small computer. One day it really hit me how these machines could revolutionize scientific progress in all kinds of disciplines. Getting back to the idea of exponential growth, it’s hard to measure such a thing as the rate of change of scientific progress, but I get the feeling it’s increasing exponentially. That’s why I couldn’t agree more with this opinion in the Wall Street Journal; We Need a Science White House.

Finally, I linked to a picture of a really large cat the other day; check out these huge dogs!

Where’s the remote?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

World’s best science-themed hotels and restaurants. Staying in a room underwater would be nice but I’m not so sure about the ice hotel.

Toshiba Protype Robot Controls Devices In Your Livingroom. Unfortunately the speaker in the video is speaking Japanese. Getting a robot to run your remotes does sound like you are a serious couch potato. On the other hand, I guess with all the remotes we have, it would be nice to just say what you want.

This blog discusses whether pushing the buttons down harder on the remote when the batteries are low really works.

I thought this article about human behavior was interesting. In one experiment, the researcher put cokes in refrigerators and they all were taken, but when he put money in the same refrigerators, no one took it.

Too many choices wears you down mentally. I suppose that’s why we tend to be creatures of habit. You need to save up that energy for heavy thinking.

Here are some pictures of rainbow clouds in Russia.

If you have seen the movie, I am Legend, this is how it originally ended.

Pictures of famous people when they were young. It’s funny how some of these people looked so different and some were recognizable. Drew Barrymore was probably not much older when she starred in Firestarter.

I haven’t had a chance to explore much of it, but NASA has a new web site.

Speaking of space, here is a nice shot of the earth rising over the moon.

A ship made out of 15 million ice cream sticks.

I saw an interview with Dean Kaman on the Colbert Report where he talked about his new water purification system. This article has more details about how it works. They talk about running it off some of the heat used by a Stirling engine. A Stirling engine is an engine that runs off an external heat source. Normally they heat a gas as in this YouTube video showing a solar powered version. But here is one invented by the guy who created the Super Soaker that works by circulating hydrogen between two membrane-electrode assemblies.

Finally, you tell me, Photoshop or a real giant cat.

Potholes and Marbles

Friday, March 21st, 2008

I missed it, but the other day there was a cosmic blast strong enough to be seen with the naked eye from 7.5 billion light years away. That’s more than halfway across the visible universe!

Many years ago I came up with the idea of using an inkjet printer to print a cake with frosting. We called it the frostjet and everybody pretty much laughed it off as a stupid idea. Of course, now you can get a cake with a picture on it just about anywhere. Here is a video of a device that can place a picture on the foam of a cup of coffee. My thought was, while you are waiting, your coffee is getting cold.

It seems like spring is coming late here in the Midwest, but I suppose I’ve just gotten used to earlier springs. The AP had this article on global warming the other day. I remember reading something a while back about the sun being slow to begin it’s latest cycle which could result in global cooling. I was hoping to find something recent on the subject, but there is one link here, and here.

Speaking of global warming or cooling, anyone who reads my blog knows I feel CO2 causes damage to the environment regardless of whether global warming is real. Here is an article pointing out reducing carbon emissions could help the economy.

Turns out the area of solar panels required to power the U.S. is about the same as the area covered by the interstate system. A company called Solar Roadways is developing a system of photovoltaic solar collectors you can drive on. On one hand it’s hard to imagine it being tough enough to stand up to the rigors of the road. On the other hand, maybe if they built them tough enough we wouldn’t have to deal with all those construction zones. I remember my uncle telling me in Germany they build the roads so much better, they rarely have to repair them.

Speaking of potholes, I need some of these fake potholes to slow down people in the narrow alley next to my house. Be sure to scroll down to the last picture.

I didn’t realize auroras had seasons. Here is an article explaining why they are stronger in the spring and fall.

Apple appears to be getting serious about 3D display hardware. This is the future and we are supposed to have those along with the flying car.

It’s difficult to grasp how computers work without understanding binary. In decimal the number 111 is 1 or ten to the zero, plus 10 or ten to the one, plus 100 or ten to the two. In binary the number 111 is 2 to the zero plus 2 to the one, plus two to the two. So in binary the number 111 is 7 or 1 plus 2, plus 4. Anyway, all this is leading up to is this video of an adding machine which uses marbles to do calculations. The video is at the bottom of the page and this is a pretty good demonstration of how electronic logic works.

One of the blogs I try to catch on a regular basis is Clicked written by Will Femia at MSNBC. The other day he had this link to an animated gif showing how a sewing machine works. I always wondered about that.

Finally, check out how colorful this fish is.