Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

Update on solar and wind power, 3-24-14 – solar #17

Here’s a few articles on the environmental and economic issues with solar and wind energy.

Since the uncontained, unresearched, unquantified environmental damage from slice-and-dicers and wing-toasters is not particularly good, I can’t call this series more good stuff. So here are a few updates on opportunity cost, the views of wind power hardware will last forever, more solar farms approved, and regressiveness of solar subsidies.

Opportunity cost

One of many problems with massive subsidies for wind and solar energy is doing so diverts attention and effort from developing new technologies. Some amazing things not yet invented could possibly some day actually be efficient, competitive, environmentally friendly, and not kill off lots of protected birds, non-protected birds, endangered animals and threatened plants.

Walter Russell Mead makes that point on 3/23: Chinese Firm Races to the Bottom of Global Solar Market.

Read more…

More good stuff on the open frontiers – 3-20-14

A few articles on technology, energy, and publishing that are worth a read and a brief comment. Reusable first stages of rockets, several updates on Yutu (Chinese lunar rover), commercial drones, lightly armed drones, and another shale field with big potential.


3/4 – The Feed – Home-Schooling for Higher Ed – Mentioned this idea before. How ‘bout hiring a college professor to privately tutor you for your first year of college. Read the article and think about it a few minutes. Intriguing idea, huh?


3/13 – Technology Review – SpaceX Set to Launch the World’s First Reusable BoosterRead more…

Increased density of drilling in Bakken

Million Dollar Way has a complex post describing the increasing density of wells on each portion of land being drilled in North Dakota. Think 14 or 28 wells on 4 square miles. I’ll try to pull a few key ideas out of An Example of “Ears Pinned Back” — As CLR Calls It – In The Bakken.

Density in 2007

In ancient days, say about 2007, the concept was one well on a section. That according to the article.

Density in 2011

Read more…

What’s the disposal plan for the cadmium in solar panels? Solar #16

Cadmium is a heavy metal that can make humans quite sick. Cadmium is a major ingredient in one particular type of solar panel called cadmium telluride. Dangers of putting that into a few hundred thousand panels, risks of leakage into ground water, and lack of disposal plans 30 or 40 years from now might, just maybe, possibly, be worth considering today.

A few minutes of research starts to outline the issues. My learning points are in bold italics, with article for each idea, and my comments on the article.

  • Cadmium is bad stuff.

Read more…

Radical drop in cost of shipping cotton when steamboats arrived on the scene

We are all amazed at the radical drop in cost of computing over the last 20 or 40 years. I have a number of posts on point and have more planned.

Watching new technology severely drop costs isn’t anything new. Here is just one more data point from the early 1800s for illustration.

I’m accumulating these ideas and hope to weave them together in a larger story some day.

Here’s a comment on the impact of steamboats on Mississippi river commerce from Professor Allen Guelzo in Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction, Read more…

Happy Pi Day!

3.14 is the date today.

While that is nice, next year we will have an even better pi day – 3.14.15. That’s great.

W.C. Varones points out that we will actually get to experience:


Unintended consequences of solar power keep coming into view – Next, reflection off panels as a threat to airplanes – solar #15

I am particularly intrigued by the concept of unintended consequences. You try to do something to fix one problem and wind up causing another problem.

Here’s another unintended consequence for those massive solar farms out in the desert – blinding pilots who are flying over the highly reflective panels.

Chris Clarke at ReWire on 3/12 reports Desert Solar Power Plant a Risk to Air Safety, Say Pilots. (How does he crank out all those articles?)

Read more…

You are not finished when you lose. You are finished when you quit.

today’sTHOT, 2/21/14 from Mikeys Funnies, www.mikeysFunnies.com:

You are not finished when you lose. You are finished when you quit.

Tax revenue projections and first month of sales tax report from Colorado for state-legal-federally-illegal marijuana sales

As an experiment in the heavy hand of tax and regulation, I’ll be watching the results of Colorado and Washington legalizing marijuana. My hypothesis is the heavy sales tax burden and regulatory requirements will cause unintended consequences.

January tax revenue

First month of tax revenues in Colorado were announced this week. In January, the state collected $2.1 million in taxes and fees from recreational marijuana sales and an additional $1.4 million from so-called “medical” sales, for total of about $3.5M for the month.

Read more…

A few other things I wonder about solar and wind farms – solar #14

Here’s a few more ideas on the downsides of solar and wind farms that I’d like to pursue when I can. In the meantime, I’ll throw out a few more concerns for my future research.

How many birds get missed in the official counts?

In addition to birds found at solar sites, how many are mortally wounded by the solar flux but have enough energy to fly another one or 20 miles before giving in to their injuries?

In addition to birds found at the sites, how many get eaten in between the surveys of the site?

Read more…

Consider the radical transformation in the last 300 years. And capitalism’s role therein.

Here’s the formula: compare life for the typical person today to 30, 100, or 300 years ago. The things we take for granted to today would have been an unimaginable blessing back then. I get a kick out of that story line every time I see it.

One more in a long string of examples is from Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:  Capitalism: The Greatest Engine of Equality. He ponders what a man from 1700 would think of a visit to Bill Gates. Just about every one of the astounding things observed by the visitor from 1700 is also available to almost every person living in the U.S.

The driving force behind all of this?


And property rights.

And a functional legal system.

And a functional democracy.

Read the full article. A few things that would have been beyond the wildest dream 300 years ago: Read more…

The shale revolution. Or, what Peak Oil? #33

The change in oil production in the last few years is astounding. For perspective, look at the following two charts by Prof. Mark Perry, from his Carpe Diem blog. Both graphs used with permission:

Oil production in Texas:

 TexasOil 2013 carpe diem

From The remarkable rise of Texas crude oil: The state produced nearly one billion barrels last year, and 34.5% of all US crude. Just under a billion barrels. That’s around a third of US production.

Oil production in North Dakota took off in 2008: Read more…

Do solar facilities make life easier or harder for wildlife? ‘Spose we ought to have an answer before construction? Solar #13

Will another several hundred thousand solar panels in the desert make life easier for ravens? Will those same solar panels store heat, thus making survival harder for desert tortoises? Or does it fail the reasonableness test that solar panels will provide relief from and increase exposure to temperature simultaneously?

I would like to discuss two news articles and then bring the information in them together.

First –

2/19 – KCET / ReWire – Feds Green Light 2 More Solar Projects in Ivanpah Valley -  On 2/19 the Interior Department approved 2 more projects near the Nevada-California border. Expectation is the two projects combined will kill or injure or require relocation of 2,115 desert tortoises. Those critters are in the threatened category under federal law. (2,115? Two thousand tortoises? Do I need to add some sarcasm or is merely stating the expected impact sufficient ridicule?) 

Interesting unintended consequence of the two projects is that hundreds of thousands of photovoltaic cells will provide lots of shade in the hot desert, thus increasing survival rates for ravens, thus reducing survival rates for desert tortoises. Ravens are apparently quite fond of desert tortoises, and not in a BFF kind of way.

Second –

2/24 – KCET /ReWire – Solar Plant May Make Deserts Too Hot For Tortoises – Run that by me again?

Read more…

More good stuff on the open frontiers – 3-3-14

More good stuff on the open frontiers: energy, space, education, publishing. Good info but only time to summarize in a paragraph:  


2-9 – Grumpy Economist – Mooconomics – Superb article assessing current state of MOOCs from a professor who actually taught one. Most of the technology looks like it is still very much version 1.0. Read more…

Update on solar and wind power, 2-26-14 – solar #12

News articles on the environmental damage from slice-and-dicers and wing-toasters are piling up faster in my archives than I can post the info.

So, I guess it’s time to start writing short updates. On other topics covered on this blog, I’m calling those brief comments about a topic more good stuff.  Since uncontained, unresearched environmental damage is not particularly good, calling these updates more good stuff won’t work.

Here’s some brief updates:

2/15 –  San Bernardino Sun – Ivanpah partners tout solar-thermal generating plant’s success - Article discusses the gala grand opening of the Ivanpah plant, which is a sufficient large scar in the desert that it is visible from the International Space Station.

Article says there are dangers to insects and bats, as well as birds. I’ve not had opportunity to research that issue.

Read more…

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