Category Archives: Sciences

Open Source Politics — Part Deux

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Via /. this Marketing Blog posting from Douglas Karr on the Presidential candidates (declared and not) and what their websites are running on.

So that got me wondering… what are the other candidates’ sites running? Does this provide some insight into their overall candidacy?
Is the next President of the United States running Linux? | The Marketing Technology Blog

Interesting is the balance between the parties. While the whole field is pretty much evenly split between Windows (43%) and Linux/FreeBSD (57%) the split by party is Republicans, Windows (69%) to Linux (31%); Dems Windows (10%) to Linux/FreeBSD (90%). The lone Dem using Windows is, predictably, Hillary Clinton.

Sanity in the UK

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By way of /. and The Register, we today find this beacon of sanity from the British government, in response to an electronic petition on the topic of “Creation Science” and “Intelligent Design”:

The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. The science programmes of study set out the legal requirements of the science National Curriculum. They focus on the nature of science as a subject discipline, including what constitutes scientific evidence and how this is established. Students learn about scientific theories as established bodies of scientific knowledge with extensive supporting evidence, and how evidence can form the basis for experimentation to test hypotheses. In this context, the Government would expect teachers to answer pupils’ questions about creationism, intelligent design, and other religious beliefs within this scientific framework.
nocrescied – epetition response

Pawn is already feeling better about his decision to move back to the UK!

Wit, indeed, and new life

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Just found this on /.
MIT has demonstrated power transfer without wires. Many of us may recognize this as something Nicola Tesla did a century ago, but who’s counting:

Realizing their recent theoretical prediction, they were able to light a 60W light bulb from a power source seven feet (more than two meters) away; there was no physical connection between the source and the appliance. The MIT team refers to its concept as “WiTricity” (as in wireless electricity). The work will be reported in the June 7 issue of Science Express, the advance online publication of the journal Science.
Goodbye wires… – MIT News Office

This seems to be a big day for proprietary claims on obvious prior art. J. Craig Venter and his institute are trying to patent life:

A research institute has applied for a pat­ent on what could be the first largely ar­ti­fi­cial or­gan­ism. And peo­ple should be al­armed, claims an ad­vo­ca­cy group that is try­ing to shoot down the bid. The idea of own­ing a spe­cies breaches “a so­ci­e­tal bound­ary,” said Pat Mooney of the Ot­ta­wa, Canada-based ETC Group, which is asking the pat­ent ap­pli­cants to drop their claim. Creat­ing and own­ing an or­gan­ism, he added, means that “for the first time, God has com­pe­ti­tion.”
First patent claimed on man-made life form, and challenged

Darn, why didn’t we think of that?!?

Einstein’s Solar Panels

Einstein on the Beach - Philip Glass

While known by most for his groundbreaking work on Special, and then General, Relativity, it was his 1905 work on the Photoelectric Effect, which Einstein himself thought was his most significant early work, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1921. For that matter, even though he is often portrayed as a competitor to Max Planck and the other early proponents of Quantum Mechanics, it was Einsteins own work in this field which helped to define it. Now we have some creative students at Rice University developing a breakthrough method to produce “quantum dots” for the construction of more efficient solar cells.

Rice University scientists today revealed a breakthrough method for producing molecular specks of semiconductors called quantum dots, a discovery that could clear the way for better, cheaper solar energy panels.
ScienceDaily: Quantum Dot Recipe May Lead To Cheaper Solar Panels

Pawn thinks the old man would be proud!

Blue Iraq – High Tech Babylon by Bus

Blue iRaq

Pawn is a big fan of edge development and reportage. In the spirit of Babylon By Bus, in which Ray LeMoine and Jeff Neumann chronicle their experience trying to help Iraqi NGOs in the hectic year after “Major Combat Operations” ended, Jon Evans here profiles Ryan Lackey and his efforts to build an ISP in Iraq.

Ryan Lackey wears body armor to business meetings. He flies armed helicopters to client sites. He has a cash flow problem: he is paid in hundred-dollar bills, sometimes shrink-wrapped bricks of them, and flowing this money into a bank is difficult. He even calls some of his company’s transactions “drug deals” – but what Lackey sells is Internet access. From his trailer on Logistics Staging Area Anaconda, a colossal US Army base fifty miles north of Baghdad, Lackey runs Blue Iraq, surely the most surreal ISP on the planet. He is 26 years old.
Blood, Bullets, Bombs and Bandwidth


Cheap Solar Power?!

Sun

/. just mentioned this:

Solar power breakthrough at Massey – New Zealand’s source for business, stock market & currency news on Stuff.co.nz

New solar cells developed by Massey University don’t need direct sunlight to operate and use a patented range of dyes that can be impregnated in roofs, window glass and eventually even clothing to produce power.

The announcement is here: Massey News Article – Taking nature’s cue for cheaper solar power

Greening the Man – or how do you burn without polluting?

Green Man

Fresh from the counter-culture wires. Burning Man, that annual bacchanal in the Nevada dessert, has had an environmental epiphany. They have decided to attempt a zero carbon footprint for the next festival. Here is the skinny:

Greening the Man

In 2007, we will calculate the amount of climate changing gases that are released into the air by the construction and the burning of the Man and its pedestal. This is called a carbon footprint. Then we’ll
sponsor projects in the outside world that will efface this imprint. Such actions might include the planting of trees or the development of non-polluting energy resources.

 

Having played with fire, we’ll take care to cleanse its atmospheric playground.

 

We are taking some radical measures to ensure that Black Rock City will be the largest “Green” community in the world. These steps will all be covered soon in more detail but this is the outline.

 

1. A Vehicle free Playa.

No gas powered vehicles will be parked within the perimeter of Black Rock City. We
will have an adjacent parking area approximately a quarter of a mile away. Cars and trucks will be able to unload at camp but then must park in the lot. Those choosing to come in RVs will have a separate RV lot to park in. We will also be operating a number of bio-diesel fueled buses to bring you and your equipment from the parking area to your camps. Art Cars will not be affected by this.

 

2. People are the Power.

Another step we are taking is a power grid for all of Burningman. We will not be allowing generators this year unless they run on bio-diesel or a solar source. We will be providing a solar power grid for Burningman assisted by a “power plant” run by the power of Burningman attendees. We will have bicycles and “hamster wheels” that YOU will use to power all of Burningman. We are still working out how access to the grid will be provided and details will be given soon.

3. “Burning Potties”

We have reached a deal with Incinolet http://incinolet.com/ to use their new waste system that uses a powerful heater and blower to reduce your human waste into ash. We will provide participants with plenty of ash bags.

 

By starting with these simple steps we will continue to ensure that

Burningman is a proving ground for a better society.

What about this whole “Carbon Offset” concept? Can we really build a trading economy based upon sin-transference?

Food, Fuel and Fools

Corn - food or fuel?
/. has an interesting article.

The US Dept. of Energy is stating that corn based fuel is not the answer. From the article, “I’m not going to predict what the price of corn is going to do, but I will tell you the future of biofuels is not based on corn,” U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell said in an interview. Output of U.S. ethanol, which is mostly made from corn, is expected to jump in 2007 from 5.6 billion gallons per year to 8 billion gpy, as nearly 80 bio-refineries sprout up.
Slashdot | Dept. of Energy Rejects Corn Fuel Future

What is so interesting about this is that this severely truth-challenged administration has issued an opinion which is harmonious with modern scientific and environmental thinking.

Meanwhile, The New York Times has an article today highlighting farmers’ intention to plant more corn this year than at any time since WWII, mostly to support ethanol production.

Then we have Fidel Castro lashing out yesterday in an editorial, his first since his surgery last July, blaming the US and it’s biofuel plans for exaserbating world hunger:

Castro said more than 3 billion people in the world were condemned to die prematurely of hunger or thirst from plans by his ideological foe, the United States, to convert foodstuffs like corn into fuel for cars.
Fidel Castro writes first editorial since surgery – washingtonpost.com

Corn based ethanol is a losing proposition, as it yields little or no more energy than it takes to produce, as opposed to cellulostic sources, such as Bush’s famous switchgrass or sugar cane. Problem is that Iowa, with its first in the nation caucuses has managed to preserve the sanctity of ethanol for many years due to the quadrennial panderfest of Presidential politics.

So, be prepared to see the US maintain its fascination with corn-based biofules for the foreseeable future while other countries find true efficiencies in other materials, such as Brazil with sugar cane.

Epilog: By the close of trading corn futures had dropped by 5% and the stock of Archer Daniels Midland (the largest biofuels producer) had fallen.