Friday, July 31, 2009

Using White to Decrease the Red

As anyone who has stepped barefoot on a sunny day from a concrete surface to a slate one knows, dark colors get really hot. Since white surfaces reflect more of the sunlight's energy, using light-colored roofs can reduce air conditioning needs and expenses. How much? 20% in hot, sunny weather, says an article in the New York Times. Cumulatively, this could have a big effect.
Turning all of the world’s roofs “light” over the next 20 years could save the equivalent of 24 billion metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions. “That is what the whole world emitted last year,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “So, in a sense, it’s like turning off the world for a year.”
What about locations where there's little AC load, and you want the sun's heat in the winter? For one, there's far less sunlight in winter (that's why it's winter), so the unhelpful 'loss of solar gain' in the winter is less than the beneficial loss in the summer. Even so, having light roofs in Sweden or Alaska is probably not a good idea.
The extra heating costs may outweigh the air-conditioning savings in cities like Detroit or Minneapolis. But for most types of construction, they say, light roofs yield significant net benefits as far north as New York or Chicago. Although those cities have cold winters, they are heat islands in the summer, with hundreds of thousands of square feet of roof surface absorbing energy.
By the bye, I will be on vacation next week, so a little break from posts.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Baryonyx Plans Big Wind Project

There may be a new Texas superpower in the world of wind energy. Since T. Boone Pickens gave up on building enormous wind farms, there hasn't been so much highly visible talk about large projects. However, recently Baryonyx Corporation won the bid for thousands of acres of off-shore wind space. earth2tech asked the fledgling company how they intend to operate in this industry of notoriously high capital expenses, and
While the answers don’t necessarily paint a picture of a company with a strong action plan, or enough money in the bank to finance such a project, the company does provide some more insight into their intentions.
My first thought on hearing about this off-shore wind company was not how they're going to manage costs and engineering. What I immediately noticed instead, being once an elementary school dinosaur expert, was that the company is named for a strange, possibly semi-aquatic relative of the Tyrannosaurus, known for its single huge claw on its hand. (I didn't find note on their website saying "We are named for a dinosaur because blah blah blah" either.) A little odd for a wind power company moniker, no?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Goodbye Snow

No, I'm not talking about Global Warming here. This year we're saying goodbye to a different type of "snow." Also just called static, TV snow is a signal picked up by analog televisions when there is no stronger signal around. And where does this weak signal come from? Much further away than you might expect. As Scientific American writes,
The impending digital-TV transition has a forgotten victim: the big bang. You can tune an analog set between broadcast channels and see static, part of which is energy left over from the hot primordial universe. This static is known as the cosmic microwave background radiation, and its discovery in the 1960s proved the big bang theory. But on a digital TV, the best you can do is "The Big Bang Theory".
Since the the digital TV signals don't pick up this analog ambiance, the only relic of Big Bang snow on TV may be the opening sequence for HBO.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Population Control

The Columbia University magazine has an interesting article about overpopulation in this season's issue. On the one hand, population control seems like a good thing:
Now, after decades of unprecedented population growth, the land is running out. In southern Uganda, as in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, farm communities are bumping up against one another and against dry lands, mountains, and rain forests... Other farmers are subdividing their parents’ land, reducing the typical-sized farm plot in some parts of Africa to half an acre.

“That’s too small to feed a family,” says economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, who directs Columbia’s Earth Institute.
The only way to break this cycle of overpopulation and misery, Sachs writes in Common Wealth, is for wealthy nations to provide birth control to the world’s poor.
However, any mention of population control is immediately going to bring up memories of the last time large-scale birth control was attempted, during the '60s and '70s. China's "one-child" policy was one of the most innocuous methods used.
Western family planners in the 1960s and 1970s, in their zeal to slow population growth and to spur development in Asia, supported forced sterilizations, slum demolitions, and other abuses.
The article has a lot of details the sudden population increase in Africa and Asia, the history of the birth control agencies and processes, and how more kindly methods of birth control (for the purpose of slowing population growth rather than focusing only women's rights) may become a major issue again.

In a different news story, India is looking into an untried birth control idea: having Indians watch more television.
In rural India where birthrates are high, many people live in homes without electricity. Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has called the country to redouble its efforts to bring electricity to the rural population so these people can plug in TV sets and watch late-night soap operas rather than have sex.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Upsetting all your gravity and quantums and stuff

Let's start it off with a funny picture. The next post will be more serious, I promise.