Archive for February, 2010

Protection Racket

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Want cops ? Pay up.

“That bill is for their share of the operating costs of the Unified Police Department.”

$186 for homeowners. $81,912 for Wal-Mart.

“Hospitals, churches and non-profit organizations will also be assessed the fee.”

Gotta pay to pray.

The mob might be cheaper.

Coming soon to a neighborhood near you

Making Wind Turbines Builds Career Interest

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

The wind turbine that Louis Solis and Jose Santistevan fashioned in about 20 minutes promptly registered a 5.1 on the voltage meter in their Denver West High School classroom, tops in the class.

But Solis and Santistevan, both 17-year-old juniors, were determined they could do better. So, they bent and trimmed the balsa wood, flattened the angles on the blades, and tried again. They flipped on the house fan and, what do you know, the meter read 5.3 volts.

Definitely worth some high-fives.

“This appeals to me,” Santistevan said. “To try to find new technology to make renewable energy more accessible and more affordable, that’s important. Enjoying your job, having a good time while you’re working, that’s also important to me.”

Rick Shin, science consultant with NREL’s Education Programs, presented the hands-on lesson aimed at sparking interest in clean-energy careers for students who don’t necessarily see a bachelor’s degree in their futures.

The Energy Workforce Program of Goodwill Industries of Denver sponsored the visit.

Inspiring the Work Force of the Future
“We are well aware of the future challenge of filling such jobs in our nation,” said Cynthia Howell, NREL’s Education Programs manager. “We’re partnering with education to home-grow such technicians and engineers.”

A major goal at NREL is to spark the development of a work force for the renewable energy economy of the future. NREL’s Education Programs staff visit local schools dozens of times each year to instruct and inspire.

About 28 percent of American adults have a bachelor’s degree. The remaining 72 percent vie for a number of jobs that may require specialized training or certification. For example, there are 874,000 electricians and 773,000 hair stylists in the United States.

More education — or at least more training — typically means more income.

According to the U.S. Census, the average American with a bachelor’s degree earns about $51,000 a year; those who drop out from high school earn $18,700; and those with a high school diploma but not college degrees earn an average of $28,000.

Of course, there are huge variables in income among those with high school diplomas, the higher-paying jobs going to those with the most marketable technical skills.

Soon the renewable energy industry will be looking for electricians, welders, pipefitters and turbine installers.

“There are all kinds of good jobs that don’t take a lot of education after high school,” Shin told the students. “For those jobs, you need about nine months or a year of training after high school.”

Most of the students participating in West’s Energy Careers class already are determined to pursue a technical career.

Milynda Montez, 17, sees a huge dichotomy between the dropouts who are on the road to trouble or to dead ends, and her Aviation Careers classmates who are acquiring skills for a technological world. Montez said she plans to enlist in the Air Force — one of nearly a dozen students who are interested in engineering and aviation.

But she sees renewable energy as a promising career choice, too. “It’s pretty important and vital to our nation,” Montez said. “I know it’s a growing problem.

Job Explosion in Renewables Expected
A key part of the new energy future equation is educating students, teachers and consumers. From elementary school mentoring to senior-level research programs, NREL’s education opportunities help provide the link to the new energy future. The goal is to engage young minds in renewable energy and support teachers’ commitment to excellence in teaching and learning.

An economic model developed last year by researchers at Yale University and the University of California-Berkeley predicted a net increase of 1.9 million green jobs by 2020 in the U.S. if Congress passes the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

Colorado is a promising location for green jobs if the West High students choose to stay near home. The state has established a requirement of 20 percent alternative energy by 2020 for major utilities. A bill introduced the current session of the Colorado Legislature would increase the requirement to 30 percent, with most of that additional clean energy generated by wind power.

“We hope our messages will travel home with the students to their parents,” Shin said. The hands-on activities aim to “inspire students to wonder and then seek more knowledge.”

Renewable Technologies Are Linked
Training in one renewable energy field often leads to related work.

For example, NREL is working with Xcel Energy to launch a wind-to-hydrogen demonstration project at the laboratory’s National Wind Technology Center near Boulder, Colo. The project links wind turbines to electrolyzers that pass wind-generated electricity through water to split it into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen then can be stored and used later to generate electricity from a fuel cell or an internal combustion engine.

Shin talked to the students about the shape of airplane wings and wind turbines, both of which are air foils, and about the increased importance of wind energy in the future.

He showed them a fuel cell that contains precious platinum, a catalyst that makes it easier to use wind energy to break down water into oxygen and hydrogen. They learned that by starting with wind and using water to produce hydrogen, a utility doesn’t have to store electricity in batteries. Instead, hydrogen can be stored in tanks, to be used later to make electricity when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.

The students’ silence during the lecture part of the class had Shin wondering if he had connected with them.

But as soon as they were allowed to use their hands and their brains to model the kinds of wind turbines being tested at NREL, the classroom came alive.

Students used glue guns, balsa wood, dowels and plastic gears to design wind turbines.

“When we do hands-on, everyone feels more comfortable, working with each other, building something,” said Solis. “This is creative. You have to have a creative mind.”

John Foden, 17, foresees his interest in mechanics and welding with a job in clean energy. “It’s probably a good career,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen a few years down the road with the Earth.”

Gerardo Espinoza, a senior, changed the blades on his model to make it more aerodynamic. “I’d like to go into mechanics and engineering,” he said. “All this, it’s like a difficult puzzle to solve. And I like puzzles.”

Students not Afraid to Fail
Amber Smith, who teaches the Energy Careers class as part of Career and Technical Training Education at West High, said the NREL program is effective because it exposes the students to real opportunities within their reach and rewards experimentation.

“The hands-on part that NREL provides is just amazing,” Smith said. “The NREL educators explained to the students, ‘This is what you’ll be doing in technical careers.’ When they see it and do it, it means so much more to them. They get a lot out of it. They love it, they become engaged.”

“Most of the time, children are afraid to fail, afraid to do something wrong. But with the NREL projects, I love that the children didn’t mind that the blades didn’t spin as fast as they wanted them to. They just said, ‘OK, back to the drawing board.’ That kind of attitude is hard to replicate in the classroom.”

Learn more about NREL’s Education Programs.

— Bill Scanlon


Monday, February 22nd, 2010

No, this is not about the Olympics. An interesting article about wind power and an economic analysis.

A comparison of capital costs for a wind farm of larger vs. smaller towers:

“25 towers @ 4 MW
25 towers @ $500k/tower = $12.5 million in structure + foundation
10 miles roads @ $1.5 million/mile = $15 million
Total infrastructure cost = $27.5 million or $275,000/MW
100 towers @ 1 MW
100 towers @ $350k/tower = $35 million in structure + foundation
50 miles of roads @ $1.5 million/mile = $75 million of road
Total infrastructure cost = $110 million = $1,100,000/MW ”

Makes the case for larger towers ? Not quite: Read the whole article at
Reaching for the Sky

The Inhuman Condition

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Calling 911 will cost you money in this town.

“they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help. ”

How many people will not call 911 now ? Let’s say you were going down the road and see a wreck. Or a burglary ? Or an assault ? Will you pay to report it ?

What are we becoming ?

Going down the road, feeling bad

Tropical Cyclone Gelane

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Cyclone / Hurricane / Typhoon

Tropical Cyclone Gelane Storm System

Tropical Cyclone Gelane Storm System

Tropical Cyclone Gelane had sustained winds of 230 kilometers per hour and gusts up to 275 kilometers per hour, according to a report from the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) on February 19, 2010. The JTWC reported that Gelane was roughly 315 nautical miles (585 kilometers) east-northeast of Port Louis, Mauritius, and was forecast to travel toward the southwest, weakening slightly as it moved.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on February 19, 2010. Gelane’s spiral arms span hundreds of kilometers over the open ocean.

The high-resolution image provided above is at MODIS’ full spatial resolution (level of detail) of 250 meters per pixel. The MODIS Rapid Response System provides this image at additional resolutions.

Thieves and Liars

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

We have known for some time that the best way to rob a bank is to own the bank. The extension that we are seeing now, is that the best way to rob a country is to own the country.

From William Black:

“They were able to get Congress to extort FASB, which is the Accounting Standards Board, to change the rules,”

“They said, you will change the rules, and you will change the rules such that banks no longer have to recognize their losses, or we will remove your authority over the accounting rules, which is the whole reason for existence for FASB, right? So, that’s extortion in anybody’s language.”

Regulatory Capture

and from Matt Taibbi:

“selling a car with faulty brakes and then buying an insurance policy on the buyer of those cars.”

“They made money selling the crap mortgages, and they made money by collecting on the bogus insurance from AIG when the crap mortgages flopped.”

“Any bankruptcy court that saw those collateral payments would have declined that transaction as a fraudulent conveyance,”

“You’re borrowing at zero, putting it out there at two or three percent, with hundreds of billions of dollars — man, you can make a lot of money that way,”

“You can lower interest rates all you want, but we’re still not fucking lending the bailout money to anyone in this economy.”

Ripoff Artists

Origin Of Key Cosmic Explosions

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC — New findings from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have provided a major advance in understanding a type of supernova critical for studying the dark energy that astronomers think pervades the universe. The results show mergers of two dense stellar remnants are the likely cause of many of the supernovae that have been used to measure the accelerated expansion of the universe.

These supernovae, called Type 1a, serve as cosmic mile markers to measure expansion of the universe because they can be seen at large distances, and they follow a reliable pattern of brightness. However, until now, scientists have been unsure what actually causes the explosions.

“These are such critical objects in understanding the universe,” said Marat Gilfanov of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany and lead author of the study that appears in the Feb. 18 edition of the journal Nature. “It was a major embarrassment that we did not know how they worked. Now we are beginning to understand what lights the fuse of these explosions.”

Most scientists agree a Type 1a supernova occurs when a white dwarf star — a collapsed remnant of an elderly star — exceeds its weight limit, becomes unstable and explodes. Scientists have identified two main possibilities for pushing the white dwarf over the edge: two white dwarfs merging or accretion, a process in which the white dwarf pulls material from a sun-like companion star until it exceeds its weight limit.

“Our results suggest the supernovae in the galaxies we studied almost all come from two white dwarfs merging,” said co-author Akos Bogdan, also of Max Planck. “This is probably not what many astronomers would expect.”

The difference between these two scenarios may have implications for how these supernovae can be used as “standard candles” — objects of a known brightness — to track vast cosmic distances. Because white dwarfs can come in a range of masses, the merger of two could result in explosions that vary somewhat in brightness.

Because these two scenarios would generate different amounts of X-ray emission, Gilfanov and Bogdan used Chandra to observe five nearby elliptical galaxies and the central region of the Andromeda galaxy. A Type 1a supernova caused by accreting material produces significant X-ray emission prior to the explosion. A supernova from a merger of two white dwarfs, on the other hand, would create significantly less X-ray emission than the accretion scenario.

The scientists found the observed X-ray emission was a factor of 30 to 50 times smaller than expected from the accretion scenario, effectively ruling it out. This implies that white dwarf mergers dominate in these galaxies.

An open question remains whether these white dwarf mergers are the primary catalyst for Type 1a supernovae in spiral galaxies. Further studies are required to know if supernovae in spiral galaxies are caused by mergers or a mixture of the two processes. Another intriguing consequence of this result is that a pair of white dwarfs is relatively hard to spot, even with the best telescopes.

“To many astrophysicists, the merger scenario seemed to be less likely because too few double-white-dwarf systems appeared to exist,” said Gilfanov. “Now this path to supernovae will have to be investigated in more detail.”

In addition to the X-rays observed with Chandra, other data critical for this result came from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the ground-based, infrared Two Micron All Sky Survey. The infrared brightness of the galaxies allowed the team to estimate how many supernovae should occur.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

NASA Successfully Launches a New Eye on the Sun

Monday, February 15th, 2010

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, lifted off Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 41 on a first-of-a-kind mission to reveal the sun’s inner workings in unprecedented detail. The launch aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:23 a.m. EST.

The most technologically advanced of NASA’s heliophysics spacecraft, SDO will take images of the sun every 0.75 seconds and daily send back about 1.5 terabytes of data to Earth — the equivalent of streaming 380 full-length movies.

“This is going to be sensational,” said Richard R. Fisher, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “SDO is going to make a huge step forward in our understanding of the sun and its effects on life and society.”

The sun’s dynamic processes affect everyone and everything on Earth. SDO will explore activity on the sun that can disable satellites, cause power grid failures, and disrupt GPS communications. SDO also will provide a better understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth’s atmospheric chemistry and climate.

SDO is the crown jewel in a fleet of NASA missions to study our sun. The mission is the cornerstone of a NASA science program called Living With A Star. This program will provide new understanding and information concerning the sun and solar system that directly affect Earth, its inhabitants and technology.

The SDO project is managed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center managed the payload integration and launch.

Goldman is Everywhere

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Seems like Goldman Sachs is too big to ignore any thieving. Their motto went from “Any scam, anywhere, anytime” to “Every scam, everywhere, every time.” They are involved in every financial crisis, and they profit from all of them. From participation in only the largest robberies to control of the whole system.

In this latest, Greece and Goldman conspired to evade Greece’s obligations under the Maastricht treaty to disguise the true volume of debt. Goldman laughed all the way to the bank, wait, scratch that, they are the bank. Greece, not so much.

“For Greeks a blush — for Greece a tear.”

Please Save NASA !

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

by Christopher Brouse

Virginia Tech — Obama released his new budget which included canceling all future manned missions to the moon and mars. A lot of people would probably say that NASA is dying anyway, which is terrible because of everything that they do. The reason I’m angry at Obama is three-fold:

1) Obama claims that the only way to save America from spiraling into a depression from our already deep recession is to increase innovation (something that I agree with). Yet, his hypocrisy stands as he shoots down the single best innovator in the nation. Looking at NASA’s history we can see that many of our modern conveniences come from developed NASA technology. Look simply at ONE mission, and exclude all the other work that NASA has done since its inception. In this case, I chose the Apollo mission. The technology that was created from that includes: smaller (modern) computers, synthetic fibers that are used in clothing, and water filtration. (These are my favorite three from a huge list [see for more]). Now imagine all of the rockets that NASA has made and how many other unnamed contributions they have created. While over a long period the funding for NASA is expected to increase, a majority of that money is going specifically toward developing “in-orbit fueling”. Which, may not yield the same technological advancements as building a rocket, like the Apollo. Many of the developments that have come from NASA come from designing around an issue, specifically keeping humans alive and comfortable in space.

2) Obviously, all the people working on the Ares rockets (the ones scheduled to go to the moon/mars) probably lost their jobs, and anyone who would make parts for the rocket (e.g.: manufacturers) won’t be getting paid. For someone who claims to be trying to preserve jobs he is throwing away an awful lot of them. Even state officials (of several states) are worried about the jobs being lost. Think also, indirectly. All of NASA’s suppliers are going to take a hit and may also have to increase lay-offs. Some 7,000 jobs are expected to be lost.

3) We just found WATER ON THE MOON. After crashing a rocket into an isolated region NASA discovered 24 gallons of water. Water is a valuable resource in space for two reasons. Humans need water to sustain life. Also, water is a necessary component of rocket fuel. In my personal opinion, we should be investing more money into manned moon flights so that we can establish a colony. If the government doesn’t, then hopefully a corporation will (which would still be terrible because then aforementioned corporation would have grounds to stake a claim on the land they settle on); otherwise, we are wasting a valuable resource. Right now it looks like Obama is handing the future of space travel over to the private industry.


Wissahickon Robotics Ramp Riot

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

“Go Ares I-X!” Rocket Prepares For Launch

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Long, Long, Long Walk In Space

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Georgia On My (If I Only Had a) Mind

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Miss Daisy Feels Peachy

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Is There Life On Mars?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

FIRST: Driving Miss Daisy to Atlanta, Georgia

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Wissahickon High School’s Robot Advances

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

What Would You Pay?

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Lunacy — Robots In Space

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

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