Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Amory Lovins interview
Fairly standard stuff.
Exxon posts $36 billion after tax profit
For the mathematically challenged among us, thats about $36, 000 million dollars. So a consortium of govt and business have reached an historic agreement to commit, over a ten year period, 0.27% of a single company's after-tax profit for A SINGLE YEAR. Needless to say,
can anyone not feel as though energy research isn't getting a fair lick of the ice cream?
Oil reserves discussed on Radio NZ
Qld prawn fishermen demand compensation
If you fish in an oil tanker lane, you take your chances. Oohh, here's an idea - BUY INSURANCE or is it easier to whinge to the gummint to give you other people's taxmoney and not pay the premiums??
Melting artic opens resources
CSIRO changes R&D direction
Wow, is it the new year already? CSIRO and science funding are in the news twice in one day! Don't worry, we won't be hearing about it again for a while till the next crisis-cycle kicks in.
This story is creepy on so many levels. It's a got a real Lysenko-Soviet feel to it; political aims that science is to confirm.
The lack of long term commitment to CSIRO's scientists is pretty pathetic, Aussie isn't that big, there is no labour pool for these people to swim around in, they're likely to be unemployable if their projects are cut.
There is no such thing as 'clean coal' only 'slightly less dirty coal'. The continued use of this term is akin to 'the pacific solution'.
$50 million from govt and $40 million from industry over several years... can you get any more pathetic? this is less than the advertising budget for a decent sized company and really shows the Howard committment to cleaning up industry and generating innovative industries for the future. arrrggggghhhhh.
CSIRO op-ed piece in The Age
Compare this with the UK framework 2004 - 2014 where they are aiming to boost funding from 1% to 2.5% of GDP. This is signed off by the Treasurer, education minister and minister for trade and industry. Who knows, they might not get there but at least they've got an easily measurable target and the 3 ministers needed to have a good go.
Wiki deals with the US congress
Not sure how this will pan out but it's interesting to see yet another community vs authoritative source battle.
I hope the community wins, it's our shared myths that make us who we are.
Ethanol as transport fuel
Monday, January 30, 2006
Ethanol bio-fuel in NZ
Can anyone spell 'wall of wood'? (for my overseas readers, NZ had a lot of mum-and-dad investment in trees a couple decades ago with suitably optimistic price forecasts. Now however, there's a $hitload of wood ready for processing and what do you know? Prices aren't what they thought they'd be - hence a wall of wood on the horizon. It's nostalgic in a way, we used to have a mountain of butter, a bale full of wool and indications of a lake of wine developing. Nice to know we're consistent).
You may be surprised by my cynacism, but i am actually in favour on bio-fuels but on the proviso that they pay their own way. Dig a little deeper into most bio-fuel projects and you'll see some sort of farming subsidy masquerading as alternative fuel production.
As far as i'm aware, breaking down the lignin (not surprisingly, a very tough polymer used by trees to, you know, let them grow really, really tall) takes a bucket load of heat, normally sourced from fossil fuels. There are a number of bio-enzymatic candidates in the pipeline that are starting to show promise but i doubt a Taupo company with a couple years experience is part of the list. Taupo is however a geothermally active region, they could get their heat for free, that'd be a nice bit of synergy.
NZ Herald science reporting: 2/10 (again, mainly for grammatical correctness rather than any sort of knowledge on the subject)
Sonofusion neutrons confirmed
this is really cool, $20 worth of acetone and benzene vs $50 billion for a tokomac... it would be great if this could get some independent verification though, most of us still remember Fleishman and Pons' infamous cold fusion of the 80's.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Seriously addicitive browser game
reminds me of my old Amstrad 464 games, simple and addicitive!
How to make a microchip
Oil spill on the Barrier Reef
This is par for the course in Queensland where fishing, sugar cane run-off and mining operations run bang smack into the Daintree rainforest and the Gt Barrier Reef. I'd love to see an analysis of where Qld's money comes from, i'm betting tourism on the reef/rainforest outstrips sugar cane and prawn fishing, yet they still go out and hoover up whatever they can find ;-(
Nobody pretends to understand Qld politics, especially after NZ's greatest export Joh Bealki-Peterson (spelling?) screwed the place up for the better part of 20 years.
I'm glad i got to go scuba diving before the big one hits...
Thursday, January 26, 2006
HOWTO eat sushi
When CS crosses to biochem...
The problem in science is not coming up with the right answer, if you come up with the right question, the answer is obvious. Doing stuff like this increases your chances of asking an interesting question in both fields.
Dance, monkey, dance
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Cool wave simulator
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Aus GHG debate
Peter Walsh was a senator and finance minister in the Hawke Labor governmentsays it all really...
Monday, January 23, 2006
Stupid taxpayer health schemes
Good grief, the govt should not be funding unproven health quacks. $1 million isn't huge but it's not trivial - how many hip operations or real doctors could we get for this cash?
Oh, and in case you think this is racially motivated it's not - it's stupidity motivated.
What the Sydney Agreement doesn't tackle
the standard response is to just build more power for air conditioners, not design housing that doesn't need air conditioning...
real time markets can help but only very large users will notice or be incentivised to keep an eye on price 24/7.
failure of the cost benefit calculation to include the commons benefit of reducing electricity consumption - consumption is good when you are the company selling the power...
Aus Govt spin on the Sydney Agreement
Predictably upbeat. Here's a projection from Joe to compare with the Aus wheat board projections (hhmm, i suppose we can trust a large agriculture dept in Australia until proven otherwise...surely) in about 50 years time (re-read that 50 YEARS), savings will be about 10% wrt 2000. yep that's right, Joe's prediciting sweet FA changes in how the developed and developing countries generate power and refine all the crap we dig out of the ground.
don't underestimate -10%, that will represent around 50% decrease in actual emmissions considering emmissions grow at about GDP growth (not coincidently some might say) but it still means we're pumping loads of GHG in the atmosphere with no Plan B.
way to play for your average JH
Very good advice on writing a PhD thesis
View PBS shows on-line in full
Funny how public service tv operators around the world are leading the net charge on whenever, whereever. Perhaps they are less constrained by 'possible losses' rather than 'possible gains'?
Friday, January 20, 2006
A Tale of Two Cities
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct
the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present
period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its
being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree
of comparison only.
There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face,
on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and
a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both
countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State
preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were
settled for ever.
Peak Oil discussion
Human body exhibition - NZ opposition
wheel out the same nuts who object to everything else they don't agree with. let's be honest here, it's not that they object and then say that they are recomending that people don't go, they are trying to deny everybody the opportunity.
since i'm not religious, claptrap about 'moral lines' being crossed coming from a religious-bioethicist (a contradiction in terms) should be ignored. i'd love to see the human body displayed with respect in all it's glory - where the hell are the quotes from my demographic??
I don't agree, therefore it should be banned... good grief, feck off.
Michael McCabe, director of the Catholic Church's Nathaniel Centre for bio-ethics, said the exhibition crossed a moral and ethical line and should be banned.
Family Life International warned the exhibition could lead the country down a dangerous path.and our award for hyperbole today goes to... this twit from Family Life (some sort of euphimism for anti-abortion happy clappers i'd imagine). yes, it's obviously a short demented step from studying/seeing the human body to trafficking stolen babies and organs. ye gods, no wonder medicine was held back for a few thousand years when religious bigots like this controlled the power structure.
"The whole concern is that an exhibition like this would just be the beginning, if it proved popular. It would open up a door for more of the same," said spokesman Brendan Malone.
"Where do you go from here? You could make money out of abortion. It is crossing over into some very scary territory."
LNG plants becoming less futuristic
obviously related to the >$65 price of oil and everyone scrambling to secure another decades' worth of 'energy'.
people are smart, high prices are a good thing, they are pushing us closer and closer to carbon free energy vectors (dung --> wood --> coal --> oil --> nat gas --> carbon free), when the cost of easy energy gets too high, we'll come up with better ways of doing things. the real discussion is whether we keep moving to the right or step back into coal which is a 200 year dead-end.
still, its gonna suck being a poor country when the weather starts going haywire no matter which way it all ends up.
Aus car makers getting squeezed
i love this quote at the end:
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary John Camillo said with imported cars now accounting for about 70 per cent of all sales, all four car manufacturers in Australia were doing it tough.
"Australian buyers really have to think about buying local," he said.
Yeah right, they should over pay for a commodity to protect stupid people like you who can't make a car as cheaply as your competitors. Here's a hint: when you start whingeing about how stupid your customers are, it's time to move on.
How to trace an email
Sony has released something similar as well so hopefully they'll battle it out and keep the prices dropping.
In browser C64 games
switch to linux
Thursday, January 19, 2006
US tax breakdown visual
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Response to Salman Rushdie
"Recent information from Guantanamo has derailed plans for attacks during the Athens Olympics next month and possibly forestalled at least a dozen attacks elsewhere." If inflicting mild discomfort on an al-Qaeda operative prevents a mass-casualty terrorist incident, is that a greater act of immorality than allowing the slaughter of children to proceed?what an idiot. What plots? oh yeah, can't tell you for security reasons, the less said about the merits of relative immorality the better.
Doesn't relying on the people that do the torturing to justify the act after the fact become merely a series of just-so stories, much like what passes for economics/finance commentary. WE DON'T TRUST YOU and nothing you've done has made any impression on me to start giving you the benefit of the doubt.
Tim Colbatch on Climate Change in The Age
The only thing that stands in our way is a lack of imagination.
Power Laws, Weblogs and Inequality
those of us not worried about the theory just tend to draw a circle around any set which seems sufficient and call it a 'discipline' and then start making up obscure acronyms so that strangers stay away and our grant applications sound more impressive (hint: any acronym you don't know or can parse as a verb, is a way of saying 'you're not welcome here').
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Good grief, quotes like:
'If any of us back up behind that idea we might just as well slit our wrists,' said Aubrey Meyer, the director of the Global Commons Instituteare just plain stupid (as is the website which i had to back track out of within 3 seconds due to the annoying flashing hyperlinks - if this is an indication of the professionalism of her outfit, and these days of course it is, then she's an idiot until proven otherwise).
As i've said before, the spring has been tightened, it has to play out as it will and we are nowhere near zero emmissions (thats the big challenge for this century) and the blunt fact of the matter is, the rich countries will be (mostly) fine, it's the poor countries that are screwed.
The other thing that is really depressing about the climate change argument is how facts are never independantly checked (not surprising since it's so damned complex) but most greeny zealots selectivily quote those they like (as do the BAUers) and scream abuse at anyone that disagrees with them (again, just like the BAUers). Sounds like a religion in the making.
I'm still not convinced politics and economics are up to the task of dealing with inter-generational issues, GHG's being just one of them popping up at the moment.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Table packs into a box
Friday, January 13, 2006
The Australian schizophrenia editorial
Why does the australian think biscuit makers shouldn't be protected but reserves the right for govt policy to protect 'strategic' industries like coal export or carbon emmitting heavy industry?? You'd think the same argument for biscuits would be valid for everything but i guess the biscuit lobby ran out of money...
Bake a better biscuit
Australia can't compete on price but it can on quality
FOOD manufacturer Kraft is replacing a biscuit factory in Melbourne with a new plant in China, where manufacturing costs are much lower. For the 150 workers who will lose their jobs this is bad, if not surprising news – they expected the plant to shut by July. Nor is it surprising that we are hearing the usual complaints from the usual suspects – union officials who are appalled at what Kraft will do to make a profit. And their point is? Making money by providing products people want is what businesses do. If Kraft can bake the same quality biscuit cheaper in China than it does in Melbourne, that is what the manufacturer will inevitably, and properly, do.
And there is not a thing we can, or should, do about it. The days when the jobs of Australian bakers, or butchers and candlestick makers, for that matter, were protected from international competition by high tariffs on imported products are gone. And in a global market where everybody watches, and learns, from everybody else any idea that an industry is safe from international competition is archaic. As The Australian reported on Monday, expat experts are helping China develop a wine industry which one day could undercut Australian products in markets all over the world.
But there is never much money to be made in a race to the bottom on price. The real challenge for Australian grape growers and vintners is to stay in front on quality. And if tens of millions of Chinese develop a taste for wine, thanks to cheap domestic products, an opportunity will emerge to sell them superior Australian vintages as their palates improve. The phenomenal success of the Yellow Tail wine label, created in Australia for the American market, demonstrates how it is done. With unemployment still at generational lows Kraft staff, especially those with trade training or business skills, should not be out of work for long. And there is now a challenge on offer for any entrepreneurs among them, or anybody else who sees an opportunity to take on Kraft – by baking a better biscuit.
and the right wing Australian angle...
Australia's relatively high energy intensity has to be considered in the context of the country's size and its relatively low population density, its climate, its heavy reliance on coal for power generation, and the presence of energy-intensive industries such as aluminium which form the backbone of the nation's wealth-generation capacity.This is a just-so explanation of per capita emmissions. If you cap carbon emmissions and this is reflected in the price of say, aluminium then countries that don't generate carbon to make aluminium will take up the slack i.e. hydro-power rich countries such as Norway, Brazil and NZ. That's the whole point of the excercise you daft git.
It is extraordinary that the Greens could place the economic security and jobs of their constituents at risk and at the same time advocate a worse greenhouse outcome by displacing Australian industry to countries with lower standards.Funny thing about change, it's all swings and roundabouts. Why should i expect a politician to know what jobs will exist to enhance Aussie's economy in 20 years, it could just as easily be the solar energy industry. This lack of imagination screams industry subsidies and crocodile tears of change. Nobody really gives a crap if America's car industry is destroyed by Toyota but the subsidies that they, the steel and the agricultural sectors get are a crime against humanity. Australia should not pander to special interests and go down that path.
John Howard defending the status quo here.
Arrggh, i'm sick of this talk-fest...
A lot of the problem with transmission and distribution lines is that they need to be big enough for the maximum demand, not the average. Hence you get redundant equipment for 90% of the time - what a waste. Smart grids aim to allow communication between generation and consumption of electricity. Not surprisingly, the best way to communicate value is - A PRICE SIGNAL.
It is however a bit rich expecting ordinairy home owners to give a flying £"$ about electricity prices, they're already paying a 300% premium on the price, the incentives should be all about avoiding investment and extending the lifetime of assets already in place... you know, the generators and distributors...
The Age reports on the Clean Energy pact
To be blunt, $500-odd million over 5 years is loose change in the energy business. I can't see how this is anything but green-washing and the realist in me sees most of the Aussie money getting funnelled back into industry 'research' as a pseudo-subsidy. Set it up as it's own business entity - at least then you'd know where the money went.
I'm amazed that states like Qld aren't up in arms about global warming (hang on though, Qld...), the amount of money that the barrier reef brings in per year through tourism, it's a gift and completely sustainable, you could generate billions from that and yet the whole thing could be destroyed with a 3 degree temperature rise (or more dodgy sugar cane farming, or prawn drag netting or...).
Clean energy funding is suffering from a complete lack of imagination in the cost-benefit calculation.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Electricity from trees - Bollox science
These guys claim to get a voltage out of trees, they've got a patent pending and now they're trying to get investors for a company. This has my crap-o-meter clanging like crazy: no published proof, no mechanism and a pending patent while trying to get start-up funding.
As for the only bit of detail in the last paragraph:
Lagadonis said tests have generated 0.8 volts to 1.2 volts by driving an aluminum roofing nail half an inch into a tree attached to a copper water pipe driven 7 inches into the ground. But the electricity is useless because it’s unstable and fluctuates.Sounds like a normal piece of electrochemistry to me, shove a copper pipe and a zinc nail into an orange and connect them up and voila, a current flow. The orange is doing nothing except allowing the current to flow between the two metals, the energy is coming from the metals themselves as one metal dissolves into ions. Very standard 100 year old thermodynamics...
The Australian Editorial - Climate Change
For starters, the jury is still out on what is happening to the climate and what is causing it. Distinguishing recent small changes in temperatures from natural variability is an inexact science. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen, but it is only one of many greenhouse gases and it has less impact on raising temperatures than the amount of water vapour and clouds in the air. There is controversy over how temperature is measured and the accuracy of the results. Given that political and economic solutions are needed to tackle climate-related issues, maybe it is time most climatologists took a bath.
Wow, i'm so glad that the newspaper editors found the time to grapply with the extreme mathematics needed to understand climate modelling and the ludicrously advanced chemistry involved in gas, gas-liquid equilibria and the high end physics needed to understand the planetary albedo feedback mechanisms on re-radiation of energy. Phew - and they had time to ramble on about something else...
If you want to lose sleep tonight, the phrase:
...the jury is still out...is C&P from the US creationist fundamentalism movement driving evolution (and science in general) out of their secondary schools. In fact, most of the Australian anti-GHG effect proponents seem to be following that recipe book of debating tactics (not to be confused with reasoned debate) step by step.
As for politics and economics being needed, that is indeed true but these are mechanisms for action and change, not the process by which you decide what should be done. There is a reason why most of the major fish stocks have been fished out of existence or rain forests are cut down for furniture wood - kickback politics and bad economics. The tragedy of the commons replayed over and over again...
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
More Nuclear Whitewash spin
...Australia, is the key supplier of clean, green nuclear fuel for such programs...are just unbelievable. Nuclear energy aint that clean and the economics are even grubbier. Don't get me wrong, i think nuclear energy is the least suckiest option on the table, but please stop trying to brainwash a whole new generation with the idea that it's a clean technology.
Richard Dawkins - Religion is the root of all evil
I think he's spot on, if you aren't scared of unilateral hatred based on blind faith (imparted to the masses by divine revelation to some pre-existing power structure) you're part of the problem.
Monday, January 09, 2006
Trustpower windpower plans
Generation in NZ is tricky since any decent slug of generation will tend to flatten the prices and hence if you're too late, you don't get the returns you expected. You end up playing double-double-triple bluff with everyone else wondering who's gonna get caught. Trustpower is lucky that it might be able to tap into existing transmission lines from its hydro station.
Meridian's plans are tricky, any sizable generation capacity in the Sth Is runs the risk of being stranded if the DC link across the straight maxes out. Look for Transpower to upgrade the link (a cost-plus funding monopoly) so that Meridian can pump it's juice north for sale. Yep, we're paying full price and the divedends go straight to Michael Cullen for subsequent redistribution to selected worthies...
NZ CRI's in the news
The commercial relevance of their research and the strong industrial links enjoyed by the CRIs is envied worldwide, McGilvary says.Not entirely sure I agree with that statement Mr McGilvary, I don't know of anyone envious of NZ's research environment. And it's nice to know that everyone's aware that 'fully contestable' funding including salaries may not be the best inducement for long term investments in time by their researchers. This being NZ, I expect much hand-wringing and a non-commital policy review to be scheduled for say, 2010.
Funny how people that are actually making money from technical innovations such as Navman founder, Peter Maire, wonder why CRI's are trying to be commercial. After all, it's hard to do good science, and it's hard to commercialise a good idea. Why do beurocrats expect scientists to be able to do both and not harass businesses to do the same? (They own half the top 20 companies in NZ after all, they could make it happen - or is that a stealth tax?)
'Extraordinary Rendtions' - aka Kidnap & Torture
To quote SR:
Language, too, has laws, and those laws tell us that this new American usage is improper — a crime against the word. Every so often the habitual Newspeak of politics throws up a term whose calculated blandness makes us shiver with fear — yes, and loathing.
"Clean words can mask dirty deeds," New York Times columnist William Safire wrote in 1993, in response to the arrival of another such phrase, "ethnic cleansing". "Final solution" is a further, even more horrible locution of this Orwellian, double-plus-ungood type. "Mortality response", a euphemism for death by killing that I first heard during the Vietnam War, is another. This is not a pedigree of which any newborn usage should be proud.
Ahh, evil acts with such banal descriptions, they cheapen the dignity of all of us and are perpetuated with our electoral mandate.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Anti-ballistic missle defence
Brendan Nicholson travelled to the US as a guest of Lockheed Martinshould be ringing bells on your crap-o-meter but our good friend Brendon, probably fresh out of his post-graduate 'analysing press statements' journalism degree can't help but relish the sound of all those dollars and tecchy-sounding phrases issued from on high by Lockheed Martin, that guru level extractor of public money.
In case you haven't heard about Dubbya's missile defence program, after 10's (100's?) of billions of dollars, every test has failed - and that's including the one's where they strap homing beacons to the target! Check out Bob Park for suitably cynical/realistic opinion.
As for the rest of the article, sounds like LM is getting a whole lot of Aussie dollars to call their own. Funny thing about military spending, you don't know you've screwed up royally until decades later...
On house prices
In situations like this I apply Joe's first law: If something involving money sounds overly complicated or illogical someone, somewhere, somehow, is screwing you