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Archive: December 27, 2004

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alternative entropy

Monday,  12/27/04  12:20 AM

Ottmar Liebert noted Alternative Energy: "The world's biggest solar power plant went online in Mulhausen, Germany this month, putting out 6.3 megawatts of power."  From my comments on his blog:

Unfortunately this illustrates why solar power is NOT an interesting alternative source of entropy.  Mulhausen now has the world's biggest solar power plant, but at 6MW it is about 1/100th the power of even a small nuclear facility.  For example the San Onofre plant in Southern California was turned on in 1983, and has two 1100MW units, together providing roughly 400 times more power than the Mulhausen solar plant.  San Onofre is considered small and old by nuclear standards.  France currently has 59 reactors with an aggregate capacity of 63GW.

Similarly, wind power, which is another alternative entropy source often mentioned, is likewise too expensive and does not have nearly enough capacity to be a useful alternative.  The wind power installation in the San Gorgonio pass in California, just outside Palm Springs, is the largest in the world, with 4,000 turbines operating.  This is an area with strong winds, very dry, with lots of open land, and hence unusually suitable for wind power.  Unfortunately the aggregate power of this facility is 600MW!  Which puts it in the category of a small commercial plant in terms of its power output, but when you see those turbines covering hundreds of square miles, you know it was massively expensive.  It is also debatable how "clean" this source of power really is; although the environment isn't directly harmed by using wind as power, it is certainly harmed by having thousands of large steel structures erected, to say nothing of the associated roads, power lines, buildings, etc.  It is impressive but could be considered an eyesore, and I wouldn't be surprised to find it has significantly affected wildlife living in the area.

I really wish greens were on the other side of the nuclear energy issue.  Of all "alternative" sources of power, it is the only clean source of power which can practically displace burning fossil fuels (coal and oil).  The only other large-scale source of entropy is hydroelectric power, and the destruction caused by damming rivers is immense.


Monday,  12/27/04  10:18 PM

The Ole filter makes a pass...

It just keeps on raining here!  This is the rainiest winter I can remember for a long time.  Good thing, too, we need the water.  It really feels like winter with the wind howling and rain lashing the roof.

Sumatra earthquake (click for animation)Big news right now of course is the massive 8.9 earthquake off Sumatra, which unleased Tsunamis all over the Indian Ocean.  (Click on the picture for an animated version; the USGS has more info.)  Apparently 26,000 people have died.  That is about 10 times the number of people killed in the 9/11 attacks; mother nature puts humans to shame in her capability for destruction.

Xeni Jardin has been linking up a storm [literally] on BoingBoing; click through for more blogospheric coverage.

Interestingly, this happened exactly a year after the massive earthquakes which devistated Iran.  That killed over 20,000 people too, although is was a "mere" 6.5 magnitude, 100 times less energy than the Sumatra quake.

Yesterday's news about astroid 2004 MN4 having a probability of 1/45 of hitting Earth has been revised twice, first to 1/37, and then to 1/56,000.  Somehow I'm not reassured :)

Clifford May writes We have met the enemy, and he isn't us.  And in a similar vien, you may enjoy Norman Podhoretz' World War IV (from August).

Osama bin Laden (or someone pretending to be him) has released a video urging Iraqi Muslims not to vote in the upcoming elections.  So this is a tangible measure of our progress; this terrorist leader has been reduced from ranting about killing millions to begging people not to vote.  [ via LGF ]  The same thing is happening in Palestine.  Wow.

Meanwhile, in another triumph for democracy, Viktor Yushchenko has won the new elections in Ukrane.  "'It has happened,' said Mr. Yushchenko, his face still disfigured from dioxin poisoning this fall for which he has blamed his adversaries in the government. 'Today we are turning a page of lies, censorship and violence.'  Ahead, he said, lay a 'new epoch of a new great democracy.'"  Excellent.

Michael Moore and beached whaleThis is amazing; Yahoo reports Drug firms issue memos on Michael Moore.  "The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that at least six drug companies have released internal communications telling employees to be wary of filmmaker Michael Moore...  Moore has now set his sights on the health care industry, including insurance companies, HMOs, the Food and Drug Administration, and drug companies."  What's even better than the story is that is is accompanied by two pictures, one of Michael Moore, and the other of a beached whale.  I am not making this up; I'm laughing uncontrollably as a type the photo caption "Michael Moore and beached whale".  Who says the AP doesn't have a sense of humor?

GC_emeritus considers the bell curve for doctors.  "What you tend to find is a bell curve: a handful of teams with disturbingly poor outcomes for their patients, a handful with remarkably good results, and a great undistinguished middle."  This doesn't surprise me in the least; you find the same in every field of human endeavor.  The article goes on to draw a strong correlation between doctors' performance in medical school and later success.  Which has implications for affimative action, of course.

the iPhone (mockup)AlwaysOn carries an interesting interview of Steve Jobs by WSJ's Walt Mossberg.  My favorite part is at the end: "Mossberg: What's your favorite thing you've not done?  Jobs: PDA."  I do think Apple could make an awesome smart phone - think of a Treo crossed with an iPod...  (the pic is a mockup; click for larger view.)

I received some interesting email regarding my post on alternative entropy, thanks!  Reaction was about evenly split between people who agree with me and people who don't.  The contra view was more interesting, with the main objection being the safety of nuclear power plants.  (Not the disposal of radioactive wastes, which seems like the biggest objection to me.)

Check out this flash animation:

A continuous fractal-like sequence zooms through a series of paintings.  This is a cool idea, and could be done with virtually any sequence of pictures whatsoever.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]
zoomquilt 1 zoomquilt 2 zoomquilt 3 zoomquilt 4

Fortune: Why there's no escaping the blog.  Resistance is futile :)


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