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Sun Apr 19, 2015 at 04:59 PM PDT

Beyond the Hubble

by DarkSyde

Reposted from Daily Kos by JeffW
The Cat's Eye Nebula as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in the constellation Draco. Click to embiggen
Ask anyone to name a telescope and odds are one answer will come up every time: Hubble. Not as many know it was named after Edwin Hubble, the father of modern cosmology, who found the universe wasn't just far larger than we dared imagine, its very fabric was expanding in all directions at warp speeds every second of every day. Hubble the man expanded our appreciation of the universe and our place in it much the same way Hubble the telescope has blown our minds with thousands of images since.

For 25 years the Hubble Space Telescope has graced our textbooks and computer monitors with a seemingly endless procession of jaw-dropping beauty hidden far away, in tiny spaces—from our perspective. It stares at a hunk of sky the size of a dust grain once thought totally empty and finds hundreds of primeval galaxies, each an island universe, each one made of billions of stars. It glances briefly at a distant supernova remnant and we fall into infinitely recursive filaments and sheets of star-stuff. You could spend hours and hours scrolling through Hubble space porn and not see the half of it. Not a bad rebound for an instrument that first went up half-blind, needing corrective glasses.

Of course like all man-made devices, Hubble's days were always numbered. It is nearing the end of its operational life. There is a successor slated for launch as early as 2018. It's big, it's bad, it's even a little risky. But boy howdy, if it works as designed, we will all be the richer. Come on down below the fold and meet the James Webb Space Telescope.

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Reposted from Daily Kos by JeffW
Once upon a time an outfit called the Coca-Cola company came out with a new product. They called it New Coke. The can was slightly different, the drink inside was slightly sweeter and tangier from what little I recall. Most of us who lived through it don't remember much, because New Coke lasted about as long as Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan. It was an epic marketing disaster. In one fell swoop, senior execs transformed the globe's most popular soda into an object of ridicule and the respectable company into a worldwide laughing stock. I'm not if sure they all got promotions—they certainly would have today ...

Which brings us to Microsoft and 2015. I'm talking, of course, about Windows 8. To hear Microsoft PR wax poetically, it's the best thing since keyboards were developed. On the other side of the aisle, where reality trumps corporate bullshit and ass-kissing, Windows 8 may yet go down in history as the biggest F-you to loyal customers in the modern Information Age. Its often referred to in my circle of friends as the late-term abortion of operating systems. I have some personal experience with this marvel of short-sighted corporate greed, below the fold.

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Reposted from eState4Column5©2013 by JeffW
Even the FSM used "HCN is abundant in comets, which rained down steadily for nearly the first several hundred million years of Earth’s history. The impacts would also have produced enough energy to synthesize HCN from hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen"
Researchers may have solved origin-of-life conundrum

The origin of life on Earth is a set of paradoxes. In order for life to have gotten started, there must have been a genetic molecule—something like DNA or RNA—capable of passing along blueprints for making proteins, the workhorse molecules of life. But modern cells can’t copy DNA and RNA without the help of proteins themselves. To make matters more vexing, none of these molecules can do their jobs without fatty lipids, which provide the membranes that cells need to hold their contents inside. And in yet another chicken-and-egg complication, protein-based enzymes (encoded by genetic molecules) are needed to synthesize lipids.

Now, researchers say they may have solved these paradoxes. Chemists report today that a pair of simple compounds, which would have been abundant on early Earth, can give rise to a network of simple reactions that produce the three major classes of biomolecules—nucleic acids, amino acids, and lipids—needed for the earliest form of life to get its start. Although the new work does not prove that this is how life started, it may eventually help explain one of the deepest mysteries in modern science.

DOI: 10.1126/science.aab0325

Reposted from benamery21 by benamery21 Editor's Note: I'm conflicted on this story... -- benamery21

A Chinese state owned firm began generating power last Monday at a new 338MW hydroelectric facility in Cambodia that will dramatically increase electricity availability to Cambodians at prices well below those currently prevailing.  Almost all Cambodian electricity has been either imported (from Vietnam and Thailand) or generated from diesel or fuel oil.  This individual project, the 5th completed and largest of 6 projects either constructed or under construction by China, will provide 1.2 million MWh annually, more than generated in the country in 2012, and about 40% of current national consumption including imports (enough to serve the 40% of Cambodians with no electricity, or displace the 93% of domestic production from diesel and fuel oil, and/or reduce the average cost of power dramatically, and/or meet the next two years of demand growth).

Here is an article on the commissioning:

China's development of SE Asia proceeds apace...

Reposted from benamery21 by benamery21 Editor's Note: I've added some specific resources for FL and CA in the comments. I'd like to crowdsource info for other areas of the country for inclusion in an updated diary. If KETI members felt like adding comments about risk and resources in their home states, that would be terrific addition to the diary for our fellow Kossacks... -- benamery21

Radiological hazards
A single ongoing threat from a toxic radiological kills roughly 20,000 people each year in the U.S. or almost 1% of all deaths.  For certain identified high-risk areas, the threat is much higher, meaning that this radiological may represent the single largest mortality risk for those populations.  By contrast, the number of domestic deaths from other risks associated with terror is infinitesimal (lower by 2 orders of magnitude).

Wasteful spending on lesser threats
The U.S. spends about $1T a year combating perceived security risks and yet almost none of it is spent on the biggest radiological killer in the U.S.  The U.S spends trillions of dollars annually on healthcare, much of which is ineffective reaction to preventable risks.  Budget constraints are commonly cited by federal agencies failing to respond to this particular threat, however.  People suffering from being gassed in their own homes with this toxic radiological are apparently of minor interest.  It is estimated that deaths caused by this risk could be nearly eliminated for a net cost of less than zero dollars, since healthcare treatment of casualties by the government is far more expensive than prevention would be.  The gross initial cost of permanent prevention would be on the order of 1% of the security budget for a single year.

Why haven't you heard about this risk?  Why aren't we doing much if anything about it?  Well you probably have heard of this risk.  Oh?

Is it nuclear waste dumps?  No.  Is it nuclear power plants?  No.  Is it the coal power plants which release more radiologicals than nuclear power plants?  No.  Is it hospital radiological waste?  No.

The biggest radiological killer in the U.S., killing tens of thousands of people annually, kills by causing lung cancer.  The cause is a naturally occurring toxic radiological gas called radon, of which you have likely heard, and the risks of which have been well known for decades.  Identification and mitigation of these risks would be a rounding error in the federal budget and would save the government significant money over time in reduced treatment costs of lung cancer.  

Get more info:
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that our government will change course to cost-effectively eradicate this risk in a timely fashion.  Here is a link to the EPA Radon home page if you would like more info on this issue:

Protect yourself
You can obtain a test kit to self-assess your home's radon risk for less than $10, online or at a local hardware store.  If you live in a home that has not been tested, this may be your biggest cancer risk, assuming you are a non-smoker.  Testing your home to rule-out or identify this risk is prudent, particularly if you have children.  I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to address the gross failures of our government on your own behalf.  

Act to ask our government to protect others

If you want to do more: E-mail your test results to your Senator and government representatives at all levels and remind them that we waste trillions on security and healthcare waste, while ignoring prudent policy choices which would actually improve or save the life of average Americans who should not need to do a personal risk assessment of such an insidious, but low-profile killer.

Life, the Universe, and Everything
If you have questions or comments, I would be pleased to discuss radon (and the tangentially related subjects of risk assessment, healthcare systems, security theater, asinine government/private expenditure prioritization, energy systems, and the price of tea in China) in the comment thread.  Do not expect an immediate response on Thanksgiving!  You may get one, but I may well not be available.


Have you assessed your risk from this insidious threat?

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Reposted from akadjian by akadjian

Have you ever said or heard people say that conservatives are stupid?

Here’s a few comments I’ve seen over the past few weeks:

“In short, they’re screwy.”
“This is a big reason the GOP/T can marshal their forces in large numbers = they don't think - they just `behave’”.
“so, they're ignorant, loony, hypocritical, fake, sociopathic, pathetic, and deceitful …”
“I have a functioning brain that will not allow me to place `faith’ where `facts’ belong.”
I’m sure you won’t have to look far to find more. One of my favorites, in fact, was Stephen Colbert’s brilliant send-up of George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents dinner in 2006:
We go straight from the gut, right sir? That's where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. I know some of you are going to say "I did look it up, and that's not true." That's 'cause you looked it up in a book.
The message is that conservatives don’t think with their heads (or much at all).

So what happens when you confront liberals with scientific evidence that refutes their own beliefs? (And WTF does Gödel's incompleteness theorem have to do with any of this?)

 photo kurt_godel_zpse372ee6a.jpg

You probably won't believe me ("That's a joke, son." - Foghorn Leghorn).

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Reposted from moranbetterDemocrats by JeffW
To Alfredo, Olmo describes himself a "socialist with holes in his pockets,"
No LoFo wants to mess with the Unified Intercarrier Compensation Regime unless they're billing by the minute for legal advice. These are not the complex infrastructure tariff and bandwidth exchange value and use values you're looking for....
After all, who needs to understand anything beyond the desire to see more streaming video content (pocket pool with pocket porn for example) rather than come to grips with the fact that GWB does not refer to POTUS 43, but rather Governing While Black.
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Reposted from SciTech by JeffW
Solar battery parity data plot
In Fossil Fuel Generator Industry Will Be Hit Hardest By Energy Storage, Giles Parkinson, of CleanTechnica describes a new report from the investment bank HSBC that predicts "conventional energy generators will be the biggest losers from the upcoming energy storage boom, as both consumers and grid operators look to battery and other storage technologies."

Already under pressure from the rapidly declining prices of rooftop solar collectors and large-scale solar and wind generation, the declining prices of battery storage portends greater challenges ahead for traditional fossil fuel based electrical generators.

A major new analysis from global investment bank HSBC – Energy Storage, Power to the People – says the boom days for the fossil fuel generation are over. “There is no prospect of any return to anywhere near the level of profitability seen in the latter part of the last decade in generation,” it writes. [...]  Its major conclusion is that affordable battery storage will increase distributed generation – solar panels on household and business rooftops – and further reduce demand from the grid.

On top of that, grid operators are also likely to use large-scale battery storage to balance demand and supply and for smart grid enhancements. That’s more bad news for conventional power generators. Once again, it says, the revolution will be led by Germany, notwithstanding the major initiatives in California and China.

“The German energy transition encourages the retail customer to become a ‘pro-sumer’,” the HSBC analysis notes. And it says that domestic storage of solar-generated power is set to take off. ... We believe that in markets such as Germany, households who are in ideological agreement with the drive towards renewables, who wish to be more in control of their own power supply and consumption (ie less of a “consumer” and more of a “pro-sumer”), and who are aware that the financial commitment is long at 20 years, will be prepared to embrace the battery storage principle.”

The graphs shows combined solar storage and battery systems reaching grid-partity in Germany, in late 2015–what the author calls "storage parity"–enabling consumers to become independent of the grid day or night.

As if this is not sufficiently challenging to traditional producers already, Jim Algar of Tech Times tells us how researchers at Ohio State University have combined a solar collector and battery into a single device, improving efficiency and reducing cost, in World's first solar battery promises to reduce cost by 'breathing':

"The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy," lead inventor Yiying Wu, a professor of biochemistry and chemistry, says. "We've integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost."

The mesh in the OSU battery belongs to a class of devices known as dye-sensitized solar cells, where colored dyes are used to tune the wavelength of light a cell captures.

Light hits the mesh solar panel and creates electrons that, inside the device, are involved in chemical decomposition of lithium peroxide into oxygen and lithium ions. The oxygen is released while the lithium ions are stored within the battery.

When the battery is discharging, it consumes oxygen from the air to re-form the lithium peroxide.

"Basically, it's a breathing battery," Wu says. "It breathes in air when it discharges, and breathes out when it charges."

"Breathing combination solar collector - storage systems?" We might have the premise for a Sci-Fi movie here:

"It's Alive ... with energy!"
"The Solar Collectors that Ate New Jersey! -- Auggh!"

Seriously though, if these trends continue, combined solar-storage systems may very well "eat up" utilities' fossil fuel generated electricity profits. You have to admit, this is a tasty article.


Are you concerned that declining prices of combined solar collector - storage devices may disrupt traditional fossil fuel based utility profits?

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Reposted from SciTech by JeffW
National solar energy grid parity map.
Mike Jacobs, senior energy analyst of the Union of Concerned Scientist's Climate and Energy Program, alerts us to the good news of solar energy grid parity in his article How Much Does Rooftop Solar Power Cost? Grid Parity Here or Coming in More Than Half of U.S. States. Even without considering state incentives, UCS estimates that with federal tax credits and financing, rooftop solar energy generation has already reached grid parity in 11 states, including many in the northeast, due to higher-than-average electricity rates.

UCS estimates that with rapid declines in the cost of panels and installations, homes in 11 states plus the District of Columbia can use a federal tax credit and financing to make electricity cheaper than they buy it. Seventeen more states are within three years of this tipping point. ...

How do we reach that conclusion? We start with two National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyses of break-even for an investment in PV (solar photovoltaic) panels compared with paying the residential rate for electricity. We picked through the NREL studies as we were producing our own update on the rise of solar energy. In their analysis, NREL assessed the available sunshine, projected current and future local electricity prices escalating 0.5% per year, and included financing and federal tax incentives to determine what the cost of solar (in dollars per watt) would need to be to reach break-even.

NREL’s analysis (and therefore ours) is conservative in some important ways:

*  No state or local incentives are used. Including existing state tax incentives available in 45 states, or other local support for solar generation would lower the break-even cost for a residential PV system (net present value).
*  Some utilities have an optional time-of-use rate structure that also would improve the economics of residential solar. The benefits of this can be seen in this analysis.
*  Also not included in our take on the NREL numbers is a price on carbon, which would recognize a value of avoiding emissions.

Jacobs reports these findings are consistent with similar conclusions from Deutsche Bank and NRG.

Is that a rooster I hear crowing? Why no, its a HoundDog! But either way, we can be sure the sun is rising on rooftop solar energy in America.

Reposted from angryea by squidflakes

The technology wage theft scandal has been expanded to visual effects studios:

A new class action lawsuit on behalf of VFX workers just been filed in the Northern California District Court against the biggest names in the industry, including Walt Disney Animation, Dreamworks Animation, Sony Pictures, as well as the two original “Techtopus” conspirators — LucasFilm and Pixar.
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I like radio. I'm a member of the radio underground. I've got enough decisions to make, so I'm happy to let somebody else with skills and insight select my listening content for me. Surprise me. Stereophiles much smarter than I tell me that the quality of a radio signal rivals that of commercially mastered CDs. And when you have the radio on, you've always got a friend in the house.

I pump my radio signal throughout my entire premises, and - in simple terms - I'd like to show you how. My objectives with my whole-house radio project was as follows:

  • A clean, quality 24/7, whole-house signal.
  • On/off/volume room by room.
  • Try not to make the FCC's most wanted list :)
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I could work out this problem myself, probably, but I'm holding down three part-time jobs, and since I'm only a journeyman when it comes to this sort of applied engineering, I'd have to run my prospective results by someone authoritative anyway. My hope is that you KETIs would find this to be a worthwhile challenge.

So I did a whole-house renovation in 2010-2011, and I messed up. I put in good, solid, windows all around. Some of them don't open at all, however (to be better insulated), and others are glass brick (surprisingly good R-value)  - great for cold northern Ohio winter insulation, but in the summer, I get this:

What you're looking at is a clock in my bedroom indicating that it was 16 Jun 14 at just past 10pm at night. And yes, it was 104.6F degrees at that moment, and a few hours later the temperature went up to more than 107.4F! A sealed rather large ranch-style home with a broad roof that bakes in the sun - no one could have anticipated that. Yeah, right lol!

Along with breathing new life into the 33yo ailing hardly-Energy-Star-compliant heat exchanger I use only for the air conditioning side, I figured the overarching solution would be a whole-house air evacuation system. Here's Sean "the Wookie" Caskey cutting a 2'x8' (16sqft) slot between the joists in the ceiling of my great room. Outside air is often pleasant and much cooler here in Northern Ohio than in my hothouse, and my expansive basement hovers around 61F in the summer.

The idea would be to evacuate hot air first out of my attic (adding life to my new tar shingle roof, btw) then evacuating my first floor, pulling in cool air to replace it, then supplementing with occasional air conditioning from the patched-up heat exchanger when absolutely necessary.

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