Tuesday, March 24, 2009

cold fusion stigma melting

Ever since the episode of extraordinarily bad science (on everyone's part: those who claimed it happened, those who claimed it didn't, the media. bad science all around) in the '80s, it has been difficult for any serious scientists to investigate the phenomena because of the stigma attached to it.

Cold fusion (known as low energy nuclear reactions LENR in boring circles) promises to be everything nuclear fusion power was meant to be. Ubiquitous cheap energy, but without the radioactive waste.

But instead of being continually investigated by the best and brightest, a series of very poorly funded but dedicated folks have kept the dream alive. In basements, garages and France and Japan and one US military lab, mostly.

Up until a few years ago, the DOE even had a blanket ban on funding any cold fusion research.

But, if my interactions with a variety of physicists, engineers, and scientists is anything to go by, there is still a quiet but strong undercurrent of interest in the phenomena.

But today, this article appeared on Science Daily after being published in a proper journal: the American Chemical Society.

Even if the results are quickly proven to be the result of a known phenomena and the authors gently mocked, the fact that that the results were published in a real journal at all is significant. It means more researchers will be able to spend time studying it without throwing their careers out the window.

It is a good day for science.

Three cheers for the editors who allowed the paper in their journal.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


That's my clever name for a multi-mode baby soothing mechanism.

It is a conjunction of haptic and habitat.

It will be the ultimate machine for sleepy baby soothing. It'll produce white noise, vibrate, bounce, and stay warm.

Something tells me someone has already produced this device and I just haven't found it yet. It is probably only sold in Japan.

And it probably has a less creepy name.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

wrong economic theory fundamentals

I've been thinking about economics recently. Specifically about how it's foundation is a bit backwards. I don't really have time to write much, but the general idea goes a little something like this:

Classical economics states that the purpose of an economic system is to distribute scarce resources.

This was thought up at a time when resources meant something. When they were a limiting factor. When engineering, marketing, branding, and science barely existed.

I think that today, there virtually are no scarce resources. I'm wrong about this, obviously. Energy is a scarce resource. But, with energy, basically everything else becomes plentiful.

Instead, the vast majority of wealth creation has nothing to do with scarce resources. Wealth is created via added value actions. Specifically, humans modifying or creating things out of basic materials to male them more valuable to other humans.

If the vast majority of value is added by humans, rather than fundamental to the resources themselves, then economics that focus on the resources are missing most of the picture.

An example of why this matters:

From the classical perspective, poor countries are a good thing because they mean that the physical resources of that country can be exploited by he wealthy countries.

From my perspective, poor countries are a lost opportunity because each unemployed person is unable to add value to the system. Each untrained mind and underutilized pair of hands is a lost opportunity for humanity. There is no telling what great works of art or scientific discoveries aren't being made by the billions living hand to mouth right now.

I'm at a Power Systems Conference and Expo right now that brings this point home. I've listened to about 20 technical presentations on details of wind integration, turbine modeling, power system planning, etc and at least 80% of them have been given by PhD's whose parents or grandparents were (or are) probably subsistence farmers.

Naturally, there is also the problem of the selfish materialistic assumptions of modern economics that helped prepare investment bankers to create the mess we're struggling through right now, but I have no time for that right now.

It should be noted that I barely know what I'm talking about when it comes to what is an isn't classical economics, so it may be that there is a branch of it that believes as I do. If anyone can provide a reference, I'd be interested in reading it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fast charge battery tech

One more barrier to electric vehicles fell today. The several hours to recharge a battery pack may soon fall to just a few minutes, if claims from MIT can be trusted.

With this tech, you could keep your car on a constant slow charge at home overnight to take advantage of lower costs, but then also be able take the vehicle for long trips by doing a rapid recharge at a charging station.

Because of the amount of power involved, the rapid recharge will still take several minutes, even if the batteries themselves could recharge in a few seconds. If you have a 60kWhr battery pack (big enough for a subcompact car to have a decent freeway range), recharging in 6 minutes requires a 600kW connection. At 600 volts DC, this requires 1000 amps. Which is just barely feasible with standard equipment.

More likely, you'd have to give it 20 minutes and recharge at about 300 amps.

If you're driving cross country, you should stop and have a decent stretch every few hours anyway, I guess.