Democrats & Liberals Archives

Science and Technology Links for the Week of March 8, 2010

Energy and sustainability are the predominant political issues in this installment. Our understanding of the very small is proving critical to our ability to figure out how to manage the transition to the endless energy of Solar, and the renewable energy of biomass. Meanwhile, Popular Mechanics looks into the budget politics and practicalities of fighter jets, Discover Magazine finds the vaccination of the kids proves to be a boon to a reclusive community in Canada, Scientific American finds that skin color matters less to some than accent.

Popular Science-

Flexible Nanocrystal Fibers Can Harness Tidbits of Waste Energy to Create Hydrogen Fuel

International Space Station Appears Ghostly Blue in Radar Satellite Photo

Orange Dwarf Confirmed to be On Collision Course With Earth

The Super Mario Multiverse (Article written in 2008, but you've got to see it!)

'Quake Catcher' Software Converts Laptops Worldwide into Earthquake Sensor Network

Tiny Flaws Can Be Tracked to Make Mass-Produced RFID Tags Unique and Unclonable

Concept Waterscraper Brings Monumental Architecture Into The Open Sea

Popular Mechanics-

6 Steps to Prepare Your Car For Long-Term Storage

Driving Hazards More Dangerous Than Unintended Acceleration

Budget Wars Spell Grim Future For F-22 and F-35 Planes

Lost Makes Looney-Tunes Sense With Dynamite Use

5 Most Notorious Recalls of All Time

Discover Magazine-

Spooky “Dark Flow” Tracked Deeper Into the Cosmos; No Word on What’s Tugging at Galaxies

Vaccinating School Kids Can Protect the Whole “Herd” of Community Members

Einstein Proven Right (Again!) by the Movements of Galaxies

Pioneering Deep-Sea Robot Is Lost to a Watery Grave

Fly over Mars!

Beautifully Detailed Supercomputer Simulations

Scientific American-

6 Fun Facts about the James Webb Space Telescope [Slide Show]

Consciousness-Raising: Kick-Starting the Brain's Dopamine System May Revive Some Vegetative Patients

Software behaving badly: Machine learning could resolve issues raised by multi-core processors

A New Spin on Conductivity: Electric Signals Can Propagate through an Insulator

Researchers Gain New Insights into the Mystery of Thalidomide-Caused Birth Defects

Sunshine is free, so can photovoltaics be cheap?

Storing megawatts: Liquid-metal batteries and electricity

Few Studies Compare the Efficacy of Medical Treatments

Accents Trump Skin Color

Technology Review-

Ultra-Efficient Gas Engine Passes Test

Faster Healing for Severe Fractures

Gasifying Biomass with Sunlight

Packing More into Lithium Batteries

Teaching an Old Polymer Memory Tricks

Here Come the High-Definition 3-D TVs

Ars Technica-

Why new hard disks might not be much fun for XP users

Hands-on with Sony's new PlayStation Move motion controller

Researchers get plastic to act totally metal

Pushing the speed limits of quantum memory

Nanotubes help create thermopower waves

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at March 13, 2010 9:15 PM
Comment #297308


Your article on biomass points to the intersection of science and economics. It only makes sense to gasify biomass if the prices of oil and natural gas are high.

The most efficient use of biomass is to burn it directly and cut out the middle energy man. For that, we need to decentralize energy generation and (again) raise the relative price of carbon.

American producers can make wood pellets for home heating, but much of the market is in Germany. Why can we ship a bulky thing like pellets all the way to Germany and still make money, but cannot often do the same closer to home? Because energy prices in Germany are higher. Do that in America and lots of our problems would be mitigated.

Posted by: Christine at March 14, 2010 11:16 PM
Comment #297317

Well, you can also do the research to make energy sources more efficient, so they can compete with gas and oil on their own two feet.

I’d just as soon not rely on price increases alone to motivate the transition. My reasons are: a) the economic ripple effects of high-price energy costs; b) the possibility that such prices could be the product of bubbles; and c) because I think the technology is there already to make some sort of transition, and I don’t think there’s good cause to waste time.

One thing we should encourage is more local manufacturing and food growing, for one thing, because no matter how good that wood pellet be as a green source of energy, if we’re burning the boat fuel to ship it to germany, the green’s just a coat of peeling paint, if you know what I mean.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 15, 2010 12:59 AM
Comment #297340


I would prefer not to ship it to Germany. Of course, there is the paradox of distance, especially sea-freight. Sometimes it costs less, both in dollars and carbon footprints, to ship something many miles than it does to produce it locally.

You may recall the case of Kenyan cut flowers shipped to the Netherlands by AIR. When they figured it all out, it produced LESS CO2 to grow flowers in Africa and ship them by air than it did to grow them locally, where it required heated greenhouses etc.

Posted by: Christine at March 15, 2010 9:35 PM
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