Category Archives: Science

Aircraft carrier jet fuel

The headline to this article is misleading, to say the least, and I’m late to the party here, but it’s still an interesting development.  Next up:  tanks that run on human waste.

The U.S. Navy Just Announced The End Of Big Oil And No One Noticed

Source: www.proudtobeafilthyliberalscum.com | Original Post Date: April 12, 2014 –

the-u-s-navy-just-announced-the-end-of-big-oil-and-no-one-noticed

Surf’s up! The Navy appears to have achieved the Holy Grail of energy independence – turning seawater into fuel:

After decades of experiments, U.S. Navy scientists believe they may have solved one of the world’s great challenges: how to turn seawater into fuel.

The new fuel is initially expected to cost around $3 to $6 per gallon, according to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, which has already flown a model aircraft on it.

So, what this really means is that the nuclear reactors powering the ships will also power the equipment that makes this fuel, because conservation of mass/energy.  It’s not displacing fossil fuels in other ways, it just means they don’t have to carry it around with them, but can make it as needed.  Still interesting.

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How we think

From Dynamic Hedge.  The author has a friend who suffered an injury resulting in short term memory loss.  Each time he went to see him, they repeated the same conversations, with his friend offering the exact same responses every time.

Two brain analogies

Imagine a massive house or building. Each attribute of the building represents something unique that make us who we are. Things like our genetic predispositions, our personality, cognitive biases, our ethical constructs all form this one-of-a-kind building. Reality comes to us like weather. The wind blows, rain falls, or a child bounces a ball off the door. Depending the design of your house the water may pool in some areas, and the child’s ball may rebound wildly depending on the shape of the door. Our interactions with others are simply bounced back off our emotional exterior with the same predictability as a ball bouncing off the side of a house. The house is built the way it’s built, and there’s little choice in how things interact. And mostly nothing we can do to stop the govern the responses except to go through the painstaking process of changing the structure. Call this the fortress paradigm.

Now, imagine a bus driver standing behind a giant steering wheel. The driver is navigating intersections of choice as he travels life’s road. However, it’s not easy to steer because the bus filled with backseat drivers representing our genetic predispositions, our personality, cognitive biases, our ethical constructs, or even a spontaneous emotional state. Sometimes the passengers reach for the wheel and try to steer the bus themselves. Nevertheless the driver can see intersections and decide to turn left or right, and those decisions feel like real choice. In this world, all we have to do is quiet the backseat drivers to adjust our true course. Call this the bus driver paradigm.

In my view, my friends behavior shows that we are probably more fortress than bus driver. Interacting the same way over and over again seems to implicate he was bouncing back reactions more than he was consciously considering them. These reactions were wholly unique to him but such minor variation in his patterns (not just reacting, but initiating jokes, etc.) leads me to the conclusion that he had little conscious authorship in the interaction. It happened again and again. To believe he was more of a bus driver would mean that he might have different reactions, if only once in a while.

What does it mean?

I never imagined myself as an immovable object with outside events bouncing off me, predetermined by physics. For my entire life, I imagined my consciousness and decision-making capability similar to that of the bus driver. However, seeing my friend work through the same interactions with people over and over again made me think that there may be some things burned into the deeper levels of our psyche that we have no control over. Potentially, some facets of what we consider our “self” may be even deeper than even the subconscious and exist in our nervous system or some other aspect of out physiology. Philosophy on this topic is clearly beyond my expertise, but my experience (rather than intuition) makes this possibility hard to ignore.

If our identity and behaviors exist on a more primal level than consciousness, it explains why self-help leaves many disgruntled and why personal development is so difficult. The self-help industry emerged and profited greatly from the boomer generations growing self-consciousness that behavior may be the root of their problems. While this might be true, the reason many people become disillusioned with self-help is because they underestimate the difficulty that meaningful change requires. Altering a fortress is no easy task.

There are a couple very positive conclusions I come to based on my experience. One of them is that if you believe you are more fortress than a bus driver, listening to others is more valuable than ever before. The easiest way to take yourself off your default “story path” is to shut up and listen more.

This reminds me of Kahneman’s system 1 and system 2 thinking.  We must make an effort to use our brains.

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Tesla Powerwall competition

I’m pretty sure this is exactly what Elon Musk had in mind when he announced Powerwall.

From Yahoo News:

As renewable-energy use becomes more widespread, energy storage could become a major business.

Using stationary battery packs to store energy increases the effectiveness of wind and solar.

Tesla Motors hopes to exploit this potential market with packs that use the same lithium-ion cells as its electric cars.

But researchers at Harvard believe there is another configuration that could better suited to energy storage.

Professor Michael Aziz and his team are researching flow-cell batteries, believing they have certain properties that make them a better choice for this type of use, according to Gizmag.

This is wonderful news for Tesla, as well.  They will be able to use their battery factory to produce batteries for their cars and for other cars.

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Hydrogen gas generated directly from sunlight

The artificial leaf:

When the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) was established at Caltech and its partnering institutions in 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Innovation Hub had one main goal: a cost-effective method of producing fuels using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, mimicking the natural process of photosynthesis in plants and storing energy in the form of chemical fuels for use on demand. Over the past five years, researchers at JCAP have made major advances toward this goal, and they now report the development of the first complete, efficient, safe, integrated solar-driven system for splitting water to create hydrogen fuels.

The new system consists of three main components: two electrodes—one photoanode and one photocathode—and a membrane. The photoanode uses sunlight to oxidize water molecules, generating protons and electrons as well as oxygen gas. The photocathode recombines the protons and electrons to form hydrogen gas. A key part of the JCAP design is the plastic membrane, which keeps the oxygen and hydrogen gases separate. If the two gases are allowed to mix and are accidentally ignited, an explosion can occur; the membrane lets the hydrogen fuel be separately collected under pressure and safely pushed into a pipeline.

More here.

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GE goes into battery storage

This hurt Tesla’s stock price.  Did people think no one else would enter the market?  Although it’s tough to compete with a company that has a direct line to the president, and pays negative taxes.  From Reuters:

General Electric Co (GE.N) wants to be a “sizable” player in the market for systems that store energy to manage power volatility, a sector the company expects to quadruple to $6 billion by 2020, the head of GE’s energy storage business told Reuters.

Demand for industrial battery systems is being driven by increasing reliance on intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar power and the potential to add energy to the grid quickly when power needs spike.

This need has attracted a wide range of companies, including Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O), which said in April it plans to package batteries for use for utilities as well as homes and businesses.

“We believe in the space and its ability to grow,” Jeff Wyatt, GE’s general manager for energy storage, said in a recent interview. “We think we can be a sizable player within it, and that’s really what we’re intending to do.”

GE over the past year has overhauled its approach to the energy storage market, as it saw weaker demand for the battery it developed.

Now Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE is repositioning itself as a one-stop shop for power producers seeking to install energy storage systems, offering inverters, control systems, software as well as financing options.

Earlier this year, it scaled back production of its own Durathon industrial batteries, reducing its manufacturing workforce from 200 to 50 at the Schenectady, New York plant where the battery is made. The company is focused on improving Durathon’s longevity, including managing its chemical degradation.

As part of its new energy storage package, GE is offering customers the option to install lithium-ion batteries made by other companies.

 

This is great news.  GE would not get into a business that doesn’t have a BIG future.

 

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Tesla Batteries

Oh, Elon Musk, can I love you any more?  Probably.  When you deliver broadband, somehow.

But for now, the battery is great news.  A couple weeks ago this was hinted at, but the details are mind boggling, really:

Last Thursday in California he introduced to the world his sleek new Powerwall – a wall-mounted energy storage unit that can hold 10 kilowatt hours of electric energy, and deliver it at an average of 2 kilowatts, all for US$3,500.

That translates into an electricity price (taking into account installation costs and inverters) of around US$500 per kWh – less than half current costs, as estimated by Deutsche Bank.

That translates into delivered energy at around 6 cents per kWh for the householder, meaning that a domestic system plus storage would still come out ahead of coal-fired power delivered through the conventional grid.

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IBM’s Watson

BBC has a story May 6 2015 about how IBM’s Watson can determine which cancer treatments are best for an individual, and how IBM is working with a bunch of health centers to make this available.

Most people currently diagnosed with cancer will receive surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

But as genetic sequencing becomes increasingly accessible and affordable, some patients are starting to benefit from treatments that target their specific cancer-causing genetic mutations.

However the process is very time-consuming – a single patient’s genome represents more than 100 gigabytes of data – and this needs to be combined with other medical records, journal studies and information about clinical trials.

What would take a clinician weeks to analyse can be completed by Watson in only a few minutes.

Watson has also been mentioned for the area of financial advice.  From the Street:

Schroeter noted that by opening up Watson through APIs, Watson would be less customized then going into certain areas of the economy, but the use cases are plentiful. The finance chief, who took over in January of last year, highlighted an example of Watson working in a call center for a financial advisor.

Cognitive computing will certainly become a huge part of our world someday, but I think the healthcare use, as well as military, will be the early adopters.  This is because those are the areas where cost is less important, or hidden.  These apps that IBM is selling right now are not making full use of the technology.

Computers really only became ubiquitous once the prices came down, and that happened due to competition.  Once someone comes up with HAL 9000 to compete with Watson, then we will see cognitive computing technology put to use in business on a broad scale.

 

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