Smart thought

Seth Godin says, “You can’t have a bad table.”

He’s talking about being shuffled to a cramped and noisy table at a restaurant.

He says, “…you need to figure out how to improve your lesser offerings. Maybe the table in the worst location comes with a special menu or a special wine list or even a visit from the chef. Maybe the worst table, for some people, becomes the best table because of the way you treat people when they sit there…

Treat different people differently. But don’t treat anyone worse.”

He’s talking about paying attention to fairness.

A People’s Agenda

Frank Paynter asks, “Who is best qualified to take a 3AM phone call?” He answers, “No one is.”

Frank points to Ronni Bennett’s clear list of issues the candidates must address. I agree these are credible, simple demands any citizen will be proud to insist from every candidate and all our government.

  • the Constitution has been trashed and must be restored
  • the U.S. has supported and committed torture and it must end
  • the economy has been wrecked by the power elite in both government and corporate America and that greed will stop, regulations will be enforced
  • the Iraq War has been a disaster and we need a way out while acknowledging that we bear responsibility for bombing that country back to Ur
  • universal healthcare is a human right and we’ll find a way to provide it
  • our infrastructure – bridges, roads, water, sewer systems – will be fixed
  • No Child Left Behind will be canceled and we’ll figure out how to improve our schools
  • unwarranted searches and surveillance of citizens will stop
  • there will be no more fooling around about the environment
  • a fair solution will be found for immigration
  • government ethics legislation will have real teeth
  • separation of church and state will be restored
  • every last political hack (thousands of them) appointed by the Bush administration to government agencies will be fired, replaced with non-partisan competents
  • earmarks will disappear entirely from legislation – let them be properly legislated
  • the wealthy elite have had it their way long enough, reaping collective trillions of dollars on the backs of the middle and lower classes and now it is their turn to pay it back

Bravo!

Ultra-deep Power Plants

In a sea of challenges and proposals about energy, why do we seem to neglect the hot earth under our feet?

For instance, the geothermal energy potential in western Canada exceeds all of Canada’s oil and gas reserves.

You can say Canada’s geothermal potential has never been developed.

An event at the University of Calgary March 28th, 2008 will discuss hydro-geological power plants. Organizers are hoping this meeting might restart policies that have been asleep since the 1980s.

In the 1970s, the DoD looked at special steels for use in drill bits that could endure more than 400°C for geothermal wells as ‘shallow’ as 35-40,000 feet where temperatures exceed 260°C.

Sandia Labs and other hi-tech researchers are serious about deep drilling. In a proposal from Harvard, down-hole lasers might melt rock in pulses of “subsurface explosive boiling”.

Site of the Kola Superdeep BoreholeThe deepest hole ever created lies beneath this tower on a thinly-crusted sub-Arctic shelf near Finland.

From 1962 until 1994, Russia drilled Kolskaya SG-3, the Kola Peninsula Superdeep Borehole [wiki] to 12km / 7.6miles, but after 30 years they didn’t reach the hot magma at 30 miles deep. The softer heated rock could not be penetrated by a rotating steel drill bit because the plastic rock flowed closed before it could be chilled with refrigerants!

Incidentally, maybe the Bible correctly states that water can indeed come from rock because the Russians found water-filled crystalline rocks on their way down.

Since this was too deep for free water to reach, researchers think they were formed when incredible pressure squeezed hydrogen and oxygen atoms out of rocks due to the incredible pressure – trapped by layers of impermeable rocks above it.

And of course the Soviet government were using nuclear bombs for possible access to deep resources, but this abstract from 1984 only indicates bombs were used to spread a seismic signal as far as 3,000 miles!

“A large geophysical program of exploration that uses deep seismic sounding has been under way in the Soviet Union for decades. Underground nuclear explosives have been used as strong seismic sources since 1971. By Soviet account, deep seismic sounding has been instrumental in confirming the existence of numerous sedimentary structures containing oil and gas fields in western and eastern Siberia.”

Generally, only mega-corporations such as Petrobras, British Petroleum, Royal Dutch/Shell, ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco are investing in ultra-deep research and development, almost entirely for oil and gas under 10,000 feet of water. Energy ‘interests’ spent $388 million lobbying Congress in 2003, the year Tom DeLay (R-Texas) arranged for zero royalties if wells are started under water that’s merely 700 feet deep!!

A 1989 article at BusinessNet offers several pages of synopsis about our unexplored “inner space” and the progress beyond 7 miles in Russia and Germany. China, Singapore, Norway, among a long list of nations expanding their economic zones into deep waters, are establishing dozens of drilling operations beyond a depth of 30,000 feet – including the ocean above the hole – almost entirely to bring oil or gas to the surface.

Germany used this sophisticated bit to drill 5 miles deep at the 1995 KBT borehole [pdf].

Most of our efforts and funds are directed only at pockets of oil or gas.

The US has a robust but effectively unsupported scientific drilling community. DOSECC (Drilling, Observation and Sampling of the Earths Continental Crust) is a non-profit corporation providing support for subsurface research.

Collaborating in Iceland, some USA researchers are collecting data about the chemistry of corrosive deep waters.

Larger energy firms are also looking at frozen methane deposits deep under oceans, gas hydrates, but many are worried about another industrial cycle releasing huge volumes of carbon gases.

If not already, Iceland’s geothermal investments might soon help it become the most energy efficient nation on earth.

A 2007 Iceland Deep Drilling Project is looking to produce energy from “supercritical geothermal systems” at depths to 5km at 400 to 600°C. Current wells are 2.5 km and generate about 4 to 7 megawatts, but deeper wells with temperatures above 450°C might each generate 40 to 50 MW.

Deep holes that liberate the earth’s heat are attractive options. Why build a nuclear plant to merely produce steam for a turbine? But today’s geothermal power plants use half their capital for well drilling to depths that offer meager power capacity. And no matter how strong the steel, what can drill through flowing plastic rock?

Harvard’s laser might boil enough rock to be effective. MIT is thinking about ‘thermal spallation‘ by supersonic flaking of rock that’s rapidly heated to a high temperature (2300C) using a flame-jet drill. By drilling with “rocket exhaust”, MIT’s Jefferson Tester expects to penetrate granite at 100 feet per hour, ten times greater than conventional drilling.

By now, we should be able to disintegrate rock:

abrasive jet drills; cavitating jet drills; electric arc and plasma drills; electron beam drills; electric disintegration drills; explosive drills; flame jet drills; high pressure jet drills; implosion drills; rocket exhaust drills; spark drills; and thermal-mechanical drills.

Hot water and steam from boreholes can be used to run turbines for electricity. Why not?

Tyler Hamilton of the Toronto Star says, “At a time when we’re scratching our heads on ways to fight climate change, and talking about elaborate plans to build CO2 pipelines and sequester greenhouse gases, you’d think we
‘d go for some low-lying fruit first.”

Clean air nowhere

We can’t clean the air in western USA period, because “any reduction in our emissions may be offset by the pollution” from Asia.

“China, the world’s most populated country, has experienced rapid industrial growth, massive human migrations to urban areas, and considerable expansion in automobile use over the last two decades. As a result, the country has doubled its emissions of man-made pollutants to become the world’s largest emitter of tiny particles called pollution aerosols that are transported across the Pacific Ocean by rapid airstreams emanating from East Asia.”

Almost 40 billion pounds of pollution is exported over the ocean each year with nearly 10 billion pounds deposited on North America….

But not all imported aerosol pollution can be blamed on China and Asia. Satellites also show that pollution in western USA originates as far away as Europe. Delivered around the earth, even small particles from our eastern states pollute the air of the west coast!

Grab a banker!

Slack analysis of libertine wealth is a serious error of our era. There’s too few challenging a banker’s feed trough and it’s hurt us. We’ll be feelin’ the pain on every continent as the agriculture of these financiers is once again shown to be both loose and unverified but packaged and traded nevertheless.

Greed can turn a blue ribbon bank into a casino almost overnight. Public regulators have known this for centuries but we fail to require our governments to adequately police the rich and their institutions. Scandals here are not about prostitutes and favors, but entire populations that are merely used to factor numbers as if farmers fertilizing grain.

Ever so willing to fund the enforcement of rules until our communities are saturated with civic armies in the name of jobs and pork barrel votes, our legislators are too weak hearted when confronting the gold and glitz of their wealthy patrons.

And our media has been bought by those media must expose. In most cases, we know very, very little about the very, very rich even though this handful own the majority of the earth! This silly oversight, and it is a silly oversight, seeds a ‘society of deference’ until it’s fashionable to wink or complain but remain ignorant and powerless.

As if enlisted in a military culture, we complain of rations and snap to salute. Yes, we should kindle a legislative and media fire while crony politics is rudely embarrassing us again. We’re failing to corral the money barons.

Abusing millions of mortgages and credit lines in their latest sweep across our cities is only the most recent dis-use of our economy, as if our citizens are mere cattle or crops to tweak and measure until fat numbers are branded, packaged and shipped away as leverage and discounts.

I enjoyed this news article linked below about how we’ve let unbridaled greed trounce us once more. I think the advice in this article to re-regulate investors and banks, [perhaps as far back as the reins of the 1970s], might be the first task we insist our government carry out before it mails another pittance to stimulate sales at the mall.

In the journal International Economics and Economic Policy, Paul Welfens sees inadequate protection of deposits and poor banking supervision as the root of the problem.

Despite cuts in interest rates, the problems on the US real estate and banking markets have not yet been solved and form the epicenter of a financial crisis in the OECD countries.

…inadequate protection of deposits and poor banking supervision in Britain – and in other OECD countries – as the root of the problem.

…the banks’ behavior amounts to a casino mentality.

The crisis will continue or reoccur if banking supervision systems are not improved.

…the US system is unstable and causing serious global instabilities.

…the large US banks lost all sense of proportion in the 1990s

…the leading finance centers are responsible for the shocking international crisis

High Altitude Wind Power

This guy is going after high altitude wind; says the force up there can power the globe. Plus Google is 100% behind the approach.

Saul Griffith, Ph.D. is the President and Chief Scientist at Makani Power.

He has multiple degrees in materials science and mechanical engineering and completed his Ph.D. in Programmable Assembly and Self Replicating machines at MIT. He is the co-founder of numerous companies including: Optiopia, Squid Labs, Potenco, Instructables.com, HowToons and Makani Power. Saul has been awarded numerous awards for invention including the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Collegiate Inventor’s award, and the Lemelson-MIT Student prize. Recently, he has been named a MacArthur Fellow. Saul holds multiple patents and patents pending in textiles, optics, nanotechnology, and energy production. Saul co-authors children’s comic books called HowToons, about building your own science and engineering gadgets, with Nick Dragotta and Joost Bonsen. Saul is a technical advisor to Make magazine and Popular Mechanics.

Makani Power is secretive, but there are several efforts to lift generators into the steady force winds at high altitudes.

Spinning blimp grabs high wind powerSee the blimp?

See the height of the blimp?

See the wing foils on the blimp?

See the cable around the wheel on the blimp?

Roots of insight

Via TroutsFarm, two snippets from the land we call our Heritage Oak.

Tree at sunsetI think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
– Joyce Kilmer


The most beautiful thing about a tree is what you do with it after you cut it down. – Rush Limbaugh

Future on a razor

While our energy future crumbles, millions of us are studying options, 10s of 1,000s of research teams and new firms are showing alternative ideas, but we’re on a razor’s edge.

Most of our first efforts to bring better energy options are failing. Corn ethanol seemed to be an excellent idea until we learned its downside was food inflation, land depletion and greater ocean dead zones. Willy Nelson’s biodiesel company is quickly going broke while feedstock prices soar. New hydro dams may be far too destructive to waterways already saturated with solids and pollution. Along with political hot air, wind may not have the global force to meet our needs, though it’s important. If photovoltaics cover everywhere, silicon might still remain only a supplemental solution. Unless we stumble into a new era of physics or magic, nuclear plants face uranium depletion and cannot prove atomic waste won’t kill us.

Extreme prices and conservation will function until our economy slows to a standstill. With or without tar sands, Arctic discoveries or high tech drilling, gasoline at $10 or $20 a gallon might be less than a couple decades away. If all its costs were factored, oil might already cost this or much more if we included bringing billions of tons of carbon to the surface and into the air. And the blood cost of oil is already too high.

Water is too often ignored while we study energy options. Producing ethanol, for instance, can more than double the water consumption of an acre of corn. More than 40% of all fresh water consumed in this country is used by power plants; both fossil-fuel and green-fuel power plants withdraw more than 100 billion gallons of fresh water each day. Groundwater is being used at a faster rate than it can be replenished. Air pollution is consuming water too. Our largest freshwater sources in glaciers are melting nearly 2 feet per year faster than the 1980s and will disappear as soon as 2050. And once again, our daily habits are costly. More than 50% of the water applied to lawns is lost. Just lost.

But I’m not discouraged.

Easier to fix but usually last on the list, we still pile in cars to drive inefficiently at the same time of day to work in 100s of millions of poorly designed buildings that devour our coal and natural gas reserves.

Maybe our next energy option should be staying home.

Update:
How sharp is that razor? Fleets of hybrid and electric vehicles won’t save us if we cannot deal with scarce water. The Bureau of Economic Geology in Texas calculated water usage, consumption, and withdrawal during petroleum refining and electricity generation in the United States.

Each mile driven with electricity consumes about three times more water per mile than with gasoline!

Upside down at the Whitehouse

It’s “a lie” that nuclear doesn’t contribute to the climate crisis.

Nuclear energy doesn’t live up to its billing as the “emission-free panacea,” says a study from Pennsylvania’s Clarion University.

Each step in the current U.S. process of building and operating the power plant, mining the uranium ores and disposing of the wastes contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 50% of all fresh water consumed in this country is used by power plants.

It takes 10-20 years to put a billion dollar plant on line.

We have 50-60 years of uranium left.

Imagine the train-OUEC of uranium exporting cartels if nuclear power becomes our panacea!

But as usual and against science and against the tide, Bush says nuclear plants are “safe and clean”.

“You people in developing nations know what I’m talking about,” he says while stumping for ‘proliferation-resistant nuclear power’ with $18.5 billion in loan guarantees and “streamlined regulations.”

“There is no better way to produce electricity and promote the environment.”

“America’s gotta change its habits.”

You bet we do!

FDA fails to prove generic drugs

The Bush policy to wreck our government continues. The FDA is on the carpet, to put it generically, about its failure to adequately regulate generic drugs.

Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Giuseppe Borgheini in a 2004 article published in the journal Clinical Therapy documented differences in samples of brand-name and generic drugs and found three popular generic formulations “either failed to release the correct dose to patients’ bloodstreams or eventuated in higher rates of “breakthrough seizures.” [emphasis added]


“…the agency demands little clinical evidence that a proposed generic drug will work the same as a pioneer drug in a broad cross section of real patients.

“The agency conducts quality-control tests on generic samples periodically after marketing begins, and patients and physicians can report problems with a generic drug…. But neither generic-drug manufacturers nor the FDA does post-marketing studies that might indicate patients are responding differently to a generic than to its brand-name counterpart.

LATimes doing what big papers do:

The agency’s measurement of a drug’s active ingredient in the body is too relaxed.

There are no “realistic trials” or follow-up studies within patient populations.

Tracking lifeless waters

Aquatic ecologist Patrick Mulholland of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory reports that streams are losing their ability to filter excess nitrates from fertilizers and sewage. They released an unusual isotope of nitrogen into 72 different streams — from urban waterways to pristine rivulets — to find out how much made it downstream.

Typically, bacteria remove excess fertilizer from water through a chemical process known as denitrification, which enables them to convert nitrate to nitrogen that is then released into the atmosphere as a gas. The team found, however, that bacteria in the streams they studied only eliminated an average of 16 percent of the nitrogen pollution… not the normal 46%.

What is clear is that a significant portion of such fertilizer is still making its way through the soil and water to the sea. As a result, algae and other microorganisms take up the nitrogen, bloom and, after they die, suck the oxygen out of coastal waters. Such “dead zones” have appeared seasonally near most major river mouths, including those emptying into Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay as well as the Gulf of Mexico, where lifeless waters now cover more than 7,700 square miles (20,000 square kilometers) during the summer months.

The bulk of this nitrate comes from fertilizer running off agricultural fields. A boom in crops such as corn for biofuel will only make matters worse.

Simon Donner of the University of British Columbia and atmospheric scientist Christopher Kucharik of the University of Wisconsin–Madison predict that nitrogen pollution from the Mississippi River Basin—the nation’s largest watershed—will increase as much as 34 percent by 2022 if corn kernels continue to be the source of a growing proportion of ethanol fuel that U.S. energy legislation mandates. That would also make it almost impossible to reduce the New Jersey-size dead zone at the Mississippi’s delta.

[Scientific American]

15 million volts per meter

Storms a-brewin’, Batman! There’s lightning inside our cells.

The smallest voltmeter in the world has produced a shocking revelation: Lurking deep inside an ordinary cell are electric fields strong enough to cause a bolt of lightning. [Discover]

Human body is a sieve

Millions of neutrinos pass through you every second!

“A block of lead the size of our entire solar system wouldn’t even come close to stopping a cosmic neutrino,” said Eiichiro Komatsu of the University of Texas at Austin. [more at Science blog]

What? We’re not dead?

The DoJ asserts there’s nearly a million ‘terrorists’ in the USA.

“The absurd bloating of the terrorist watch lists is yet another example of how incompetence by our security apparatus threatens our rights without offering any real security.”

The Department of Justice, which reported that the Terrorist Screening Center had over 700,000 names in its database as of April 2007, and that the list was growing by an average of over 20,000 records per month.

As of today, the list stands at approximately 917,000 names.

ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program. [via boing boing, 1 in 300 Americans are terrorists]

On the matter of Bush, it’s time to wrap his root around a tree.

The Jury Movement

I’ve probably gummed this story 1,000 times in my life:

If you serve on a jury, and you just flat don’t like the law you’re asked to enforce, you do NOT have to enforce it. You can vote in direct contradiction of the law and in direct contradiction of the judge’s instructions — without fear of reprisal.

John Bloom at UPI’s Assignment America says we are keeping juries stupid and it’s damaging all of us.

News alert: it’s the jury’s job to decide what’s fair and what’s not fair.

It’s not the judge’s, and, contrary to popular wisdom, it’s not the legislature’s. …

Unfortunately, we’ve reached a stage in our history when the people are forced to take back the rights granted by those ancient kings, notably in the form of Amendment A in South Dakota. The so-called “jury nullification” proposal in that state would require judges to tell juries that they’re allowed to interpret the law — not just the facts — so that they can follow their own consciences if they disagree with some concoction of the legislature that shouldn’t be applied to the living, breathing human being set before them.

Oddly enough, this idea strikes fear into the heart of the judiciary everywhere. And yet it’s one of the oldest ideas in the land — almost all the Founding Fathers agreed with it — and, if you think about it, it’s self-evident. If the judge could direct a verdict, by framing a question so narrowly that you could only vote one way, then it wouldn’t be a real jury in the first place, would it?

New hazard from manure

As far as I know this is the first indication manure’s odor may be unhealthy in the feedlot concentrations we face these days, a new incentive for drying and bio-conversion.

Farm smells can cause real stink

Ammonia and other smelly gases from farm animals can attach to dust particles, forming an unpleasant and unhealthy mix…

Aside from the stink problem, the gassy particles may pose human health risks.

“Particles smaller than 10 micrometres can penetrate into the large upper branches just below the throat where they are caught and removed by coughing and spitting or by swallowing,” says Lee.

“Also, particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres can get down into the deepest portions of human lungs and can cause respiratory disease.”

sYstem poem

BEST VOICED:

Where do we live, boys and girls?
We live in a

S
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SYSTEM
SYSTEM

SYSTEM!

SYSTEM
SYSTEM
SSSSSYSSSTEM
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SSSSSSSSSSYYSSSSSSSSTEMMMM

C’mon. It will only take a minute. Go back and try it out loud!

p.s. This poem won the Governor General’s Award in Canada maybe mid-60s.
I’ve searched hours for the original author but Google is not helpful searching for audio!

No more sewers

“Imagine a day when mini-bioreactors, located under apartment buildings, are able to convert raw sewerage from flats into valuable methane gas for use in household heating, and treated water recycled back to flush toilets. Funds from my award will develop the first low-waste bioreactor which has the potential to revolutionize the way we deal with effluent,” says Professor David Stuckey while receiving his award from the Royal Society.

Time to face bullies

I’ve always thought bullies (of each sex and within families) are unrecognized and common hazards. Blind to the favors of authoritarians, we often elect bullies too:

Workplace bullying, such as belittling comments, persistent criticism of work and withholding resources, appears to inflict more harm on employees than sexual harassment. [story]

Oil Crisis Solved near Saturn

The Carlyle funded Bush Brigadiers are suiting up as we speak:

Saturn’s orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes. read more