Friday, November 3, 2017

fuel from cellulose? Possible huge breakthrough

"Officials with Poet DSM Advanced Biofuels have announced a breakthrough that will allow for increased cellulosic ethanol production.
The latest development from the South Dakota-based company is a process called pre-treatment. Matt Merritt with Poet DSM Advanced Biofuels says pre-treatment transforms plant residue like corn cobs and husks into a substance that can eventually lead to fuel. "

The article doesn't say how energy intensive the process is. Of course you don't want to be using up one kind of energy to produce less energy in another form (ethanol).  So we wait to see...

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

some places where the US could save a load of money

"The cost of the US nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years will be over $1.2tn, even before any new weapons ordered by the Trump administration, and is unlikely to be affordable without cuts elsewhere in the defence budget, according to a independent congressional report.

The total price tag marks nearly a 25% increase from previous estimate, taking in the modernisation programme established under the Obama administration, which account for $400bn, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found. The costs would peak in the 2020s and the 2030s."

"American taxpayers have spent $1.46 trillion on wars abroad since September 11, 2001.
The Department of Defense periodically releases a 'cost of war' report. The newly released version, obtained by the Federation of American Scientists Secrecy News blog, covers the time from the September 11th terrorist attacks through mid-2017."

NOW we're talking real money!  How come this isn't talked about much?  I'm going to guess that we don't really need our military in 150 countries...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

some interesting results from basic income test in Finland

"So what accounted for his change? Certainly not the UBI money. In Finland, €560 is less than a fifth of average private-sector income. 'You have to be a magician to survive on such money,' Järvinen says. Over and over, he baldly describes himself as 'poor'.
His liberation came in the lack of conditions attached to the money. If they so wish, Finns on UBI can bank the cash and do nothing else. But, in Järvinen’s case at least, the sum has removed the fear of utter destitution, freeing him to do work he finds meaningful.
It sounds simple. It is simple. But to this visitor from Austerity Britain, with its inglorious panoply of welfare scandals stretching from universal credit to Concentrix to Atos, it was almost fantastical."

I think this is a 2 year experiment. I'm looking forward to other interesting results.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

rice that grows in salt water; huge breakthrough

"Researchers initially expected an output of around 4.5 tons per hectare, but surprised themselves when four types registered 6.5 to 9.3 tons per hectare."

not much information but lots of photos. Hopefully this will lead to a new source of food. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How to fix income inequality in the US? Math has the answer

"According to a new report published today by the New England Complex Systems Institute, mathematics can indeed be used to find a solution to income inequality. And as it turns out, the math points to targeted programs that redistribute wealth to the poor as the way to close the inequality gap and improve the health of the economy as a whole.
'We need a very measured, but definite shift in direction that will address the economic problems and also address economic inequality problems,' Yaneer Bar-Yam, a physicist and the founding president of the New England Complex Systems Institute, told me. 'We went too far with Reaganomics and now we have to go back in order to have healthy economic growth.'"

Another point for universal basic income?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

the green way to slow global warming

"Natural climate solutions, also including protection of carbon-storing peatlands and better management of soils and grasslands, could account for 37% of all actions needed by 2030 under the 195-nation Paris plan, it said.
Combined, the suggested 'regreening of the planet' would be equivalent to halting all burning of oil worldwide, it said.
'Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought,' the international team of scientists said of findings published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The estimates for nature’s potential, led by planting forests, were up to 30% higher than those envisaged by a UN panel of climate scientists in a 2014 report, it said"

Saturday, October 14, 2017

shipping container tiny homes delivered to your... er... door

Yes, you’ve heard right, we now offer tiny homes on the Amazon marketplace. To be realistic, it’s not like shipping a TV set or a toaster. Some planning is involved and these units require site preparation. They should be placed on either a full slab, a frost wall or sonotube foundation. There is one connection on the bottom for the sewer (we’ll show you where it needs to be located) and one simple plug and play side connection for water and electric. You can add internet too. These basic living units are fully furnished.
Contact us with any questions you may have about our tiny homes, larger custom homes, restaurants, shops or portable trade show displays.
MODS units can also be used for military bases, man camps, equipment storage, data-centers, you name it, we can build it.
Read more about this interesting trending topic at Curbed:

Monday, October 2, 2017

Cities ignore housing needs of the lower classes

"The birthplace of the yimby movement, the San Francisco Bay Area, has among the highest rents in America. It added 307,000 jobs between 2010 and 2013, but built fewer than 40,000 new housing units, according to state of California estimates.
'It’s clear that this is a housing shortage – and the answer is to build housing,' says Laura Foote Clark, who heads San Francisco-based Yimby Action. 'You generate policy by yelling about things.'
Clark and other members of yimby groups consider themselves progressives and environmentalists, but they’re not afraid to throw the occasional firebomb into the usual liberal alliances. They frequently take aim at space-hogging, single-family homeowners and confound anti-capitalist groups by daring to take the side of developers, even luxury condo developers. They have started a 'sue the suburbs' campaign that targets cities that don’t approve big housing projects and have even attempted to take over the board of the local Sierra Club."

Cities need to keep all their citizens in mind during planning, not just the wealthy.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

turning the desert into a green land

"Since 2013, we have been conducting an outdoor planting experiment  at  two  sites  (with  areas  of  approximately  550 m2  and  420m2,  respectively)  in  the  Nan’an  District  of  Chongqing,  China. 
Desert landform conditions were simulated in the experiment by establishing  a  15-cm-  to  25-cm-thick  plain  sand  layer  underlain  by  a  20-cm-  to  30-cm-thick  gravel  layer  on  the  ground.  Afterward,  three  types  of  “soilized”  sand  layers  with  thicknesses  of  10–20 cm, which were obtained by mixing sand with a modified sodium  carboxymethyl  cellulose  (CMC)  solution  (containing  2%  modified  CMC  and  5%  compound  fertilizer)  at  a  weight  ratio  of  1:0.15, were placed on top of the plain sand layer in separate sections. Three types of commercially available sand for building and construction (clean river sand), with different fineness moduli of 1.22,  2.97,  and  3.71  and  without  any  soil  content,  were  subjected  to  “soilization”  for  the  experiment.  In  addition  to  these  river  sands,  three  other  granular  materials  (machine-made  sand  from  stone, sand mixed with machine-made sand from stone, and sand mixed with saw-dust) were also used in the planting experiment after  “soilization.”  Many  types  of  plants  (Fig.  1(a)),  such  as  rice  (Fig.1(b)),  corn  (Fig.  1(c)),  and  sweet  potatoes  (Fig.  1(d)),  were  planted in the “soilized” sand. In each year of the experiment, the plants  have  survived  the  heavy  rains  and  continuous  high  temperature  over  consecutive  sunny  days  that  are  characteristic  of  the climate in Chongqing, China. During these periods of continuous  high  temperature,  the  plants  have  been  appropriately  watered  at  different  intervals.  The  constraining  material  was  added  to the “soils” only once in the spring of 2013, and no further supplementation  has  been  made  to  the  “soils”  after  that,  except  for  the addition of an appropriate amount of fertilizer each year since 2014.  There  have  been  two  harvests  each  year,  and  the  plants  have  always  grown  luxuriantly  and  fruitfully  in  the  different  'soils.'"

This would be a wonderful thing for many countries, and for the world by helping slow climate change.  and simple!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

simple solution; make the polluters pay for their pollution

"Highlighting the dramatic progress made by China and India, Erik Solheim, executive director of UN Environment, urged governments to take a joined-up approach to going green.
'The profit of destroying nature or polluting the planet is nearly always privatized, while the costs of polluting the planet or the cost of destroying ecosystems is nearly always socialized,' he told an international conference on sustainable development at New York's Columbia University on Monday.
'That cannot continue,' he said. 'Anyone who pollutes, anyone who destroys nature must pay the cost for that destruction or that pollution.'”

Makes perfect sense to me.  The Commons must be protected for all.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Netherlands shows the way for farming

"Seen from the air, the Netherlands resembles no other major food producer—a fragmented patchwork of intensely cultivated fields, most of them tiny by agribusiness standards, punctuated by bustling cities and suburbs. In the country’s principal farming regions, there’s almost no potato patch, no greenhouse, no hog barn that’s out of sight of skyscrapers, manufacturing plants, or urban sprawl. More than half the nation’s land area is used for agriculture and horticulture.

Banks of what appear to be gargantuan mirrors stretch across the countryside, glinting when the sun shines and glowing with eerie interior light when night falls. They are Holland’s extraordinary greenhouse complexes, some of them covering 175 acres.
These climate-controlled farms enable a country located a scant thousand miles from the Arctic Circle to be a global leader in exports of a fair-weather fruit: the tomato. The Dutch are also the world’s top exporter of potatoes and onions and the second largest exporter of vegetables overall in terms of value. More than a third of all global trade in vegetable seeds originates in the Netherlands."

Great article.

Friday, August 25, 2017

What are smart cities up to?

This looks like a great series;

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Build housing for the poor, not the rich

"So how do we get housing into the hands of the poor? Imagine a Venn Diagram: In one circle is empty housing built for and/or owned by the upper classes, and in the other is everyone who needs housing. The answer is obvious. Merge the two circles by giving the vacant housing and land owned by the rich to the poor. The problem is there’s little political will in hyper-capitalist economies to take over privately owned land. But as the housing crisis continues, that’s changing.
In June, after the London public housing project Grenfell Tower in London caught fire, killing dozens, Jeremy Corbyn proposed taking over the unoccupied apartments of the rich and giving them to the victims of Grenfell. People applauded the City of London for buying up unfinished luxury housing complexes to house Grenfell’s victims. It was a small sign that housing redistribution is becoming politically palatable."

Pretty drastic idea.  But the point is valid; the rich hold land they're not really using except as an investment, while many homeless cannot find a place to live.  I would think if tax laws were changed this could alter the situation.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Riasing the minimum wage does not hurt business

"One common critique of higher minimum wages is that they also raise the cost of living. But last year, an initial study from the University of Washington found that retailers, despite having to pay their workers more, weren’t raising prices. Another is that higher pay will lead to fewer shifts and fewer jobs. And while those same UW researchers are analyzing the data, other researchers at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) used an innovative model to prove that the city’s increased minimum wage has had no negative effect on job availability."

Still more examples and research needed, but things are looking good so far.

My limited understanding of economic theory is that  money is like blood in an animal. It has to circulate to work.  And I would think that if people had more money in their pocket, money would circulate through an economy better.  No?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

How are we doing? Maybe the Santa Monica Wellbeing Index can help us

I just found out about this so have no opinion so far.  We really need something more than GDP or such economic indicators to know how our society and people are doing.  Perhaps this is a good tool.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Micro loft apartments turn mall into success

"Developer Evan Granoff bought the property in 2005, with the hopes that he could restore the beautiful building to its former glory. And he did exactly that! He converted the upper levels into 48 tiny apartment homes, while the lower promenade is reserved for boutique shops. No major chain stores are allowed here! The smallest units only cost $550 per month, which is a steal for downtown Providence, Rhode Island."

The developer had to think creatively to get around local size restriction rules for apartments, but he seems to have done it.  This is a unique (for now) idea that seems to be working well.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fear of the Other takes over in Trump World

"A French historian was detained for 10 hours by US customs officials this week while on his way to an academic conference in Texas.
Henry Rousso, 62, a specialist in the history of World War II who has taught at the Sorbonne in Paris and Columbia University in New York, was held for questioning after his flight from Paris landed in Houston on Wednesday."

While on the one hand Trump wants to create new jobs in the US, on the other he is single-handedly destroying international tourism and travel to the US.  No one wants to travel to a country where they will be treated like a terrorist or some sort of criminal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

solar water filtration system

"But rising awareness of water scarcity issues has led researchers like Gan and his team in Buffalo to apply new techniques to make solar distillation more efficient. Their solar vapor generator and condenser uses porous paper covered with carbon black, a material that has a near-zero reflectivity and therefore absorbs a higher amount of solar heat. The carbon-covered paper is then placed over floating white polystyrene foam and a thermal insulator that helps concentrate the solar heat onto the carbon layer. The device is then placed on the surface of a dirty water source while the paper acts as a sponge and the carbon as an evaporator. The vapor then condenses on the angled wall of the vaporizer, seeping into a culvert that collects the potable water.
Gan and his team have claimed that their prototype produces as much as three times more potable water as comparable solar stills, or about 4.2 cups an hour under sunny conditions. The average healthy adult needs about eight cups of water a day. Crucially, this is all done using cheap materials that can be scaled, meaning arrays of floating stills could be tapped in emergency situations to provide a considerable amount of fresh drinking water to a disaster-struck community, especially in the sunny parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In November, the researchers registered a company called Sunny Clean Water and are hoping to have a production-ready version of their prototype by the end of the year.  "

I believe clean water will be one of the most important problems in the near future, around the world.  Any cheap method like this will be very welcome.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

We need to completely revamp how we teach our children

"In the future, if you want a job, you must be as unlike a machine as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. So why are children being taught to behave like machines?
Children learn best when teaching aligns with their natural exuberance, energy and curiosity. So why are they dragooned into rows and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts?
We succeed in adulthood through collaboration. So why is collaboration in tests and exams called cheating?
Governments claim to want to reduce the number of children being excluded from school. So why are their curriculums and tests so narrow that they alienate any child whose mind does not work in a particular way?
The best teachers use their character, creativity and inspiration to trigger children’s instinct to learn. So why are character, creativity and inspiration suppressed by a stifling regime of micromanagement?
There is, as Graham Brown-Martin explains in his book Learning {Re}imagined, a common reason for these perversities. Our schools were designed to produce the workforce required by 19th-century factories. The desired product was workers who would sit silently at their benches all day, behaving identically, to produce identical products, submitting to punishment if they failed to achieve the requisite standards. Collaboration and critical thinking were just what the factory owners wished to discourage."

Finland has started to completely revamp their educational methods.  Let's look to them for advice.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

graphic artist loses to robots, turns to alternative

"The biggest change he’s referring to is the technologically driven separation of people from traditional jobs. Experts predict that, by 2020, over 5 million jobs will be lost due to robotics, AI, 3D printing, and other technologies—largely in office and administrative work. But other sectors will be affected as well. After all, robots can deliver pizza, mop floors, make soup, work an assembly line, check in hotel guests, carry cargo onto battlefields, and perform surgery. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine them one day displacing sex workers."

Trump wants to re-open coal mines, which is like bringing back buggie whips.  We have to think more about what job displacement can mean. When I was young the magazine articles promised that robots would mean more leisure time for workers, not less pay and wealth transfer to corporations.  That promise could still be realized.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

MLK was for the guaranteed minimum income!

Turning Chernobyl into a solar farm

"The 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine also resulted in vast areas of land being contaminated by nuclear fallout, with a 30-kilometre exclusion zone, which encompassed the town of Pripyat, being declared in the area round the facility.
Now two companies from China plan to build a one-gigawatt solar power plant on 2,500 hectares of land in the exclusion zone to the south of the Chernobyl plant.
Ukrainian officials say the companies estimate they will spend up to $1bn on the project over the next two years.
A subsidiary of Golden Concord Holdings (GLC), one of China’s biggest renewable energy concerns, will supply and install solar panels at the site, while a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Machinery Corporation (Sinomach) will build and run the plant.
'It is cheap land, and abundant sunlight constitutes a solid foundation for the project,' says Ostap Semerak, Ukraine’s minister of environment and natural resources.
'In addition, the remaining electric transmission facilities are ready for reuse.'"

This is such an excellent idea!  Using land that has no other purpose (except maybe a preserve) and making pollution-free electricity!