This is very cool.
Working in Haiti, Shawn Frayne, a 28-year-old inventor based in Mountain View, Calif., saw the need for small-scale wind power to juice LED lamps and radios in the homes of the poor. Conventional wind turbines donâ€™t scale down wellâ€”thereâ€™s too much friction in the gearbox and other components. â€œWith rotary power, thereâ€™s nothing out there that generates under 50 watts,â€ Frayne says. So he took a new tack, studying the way vibrations caused by the wind led to the collapse in 1940 of Washingtonâ€™s Tacoma Narrows Bridge (aka Galloping Gertie).
Frayneâ€™s device, which he calls a Windbelt, is a taut membrane fitted with a pair of magnets that oscillate between metal coils. Prototypes have generated 40 milliwatts in 10-mph slivers of wind, making his device 10 to 30 times as efficient as the best microturbines. Frayne envisions the Windbelt costing a few dollars and replacing kerosene lamps in Haitian homes. â€œKerosene is smoky and itâ€™s a fire hazard,â€ says Peter Haas, founder of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, which helps people in developing countries to get environmentally sound access to clean water, sanitation and energy. â€œIf Shawnâ€™s innovation breaks, locals can fix it. If a solar panel breaks, the family is out a panel.â€
Newsreel about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse.
Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be available on Google Video, whose player has random access along the timeline. The You Tube player annoyingly needs to load fully before you can choose a location, and it doesn’t seem to cache in my browser. So I’ve had to restart the damn thing three times, and listen to the intro three times and still haven’t gotten to the end of the lecture. This isn’t so bad for the usual under-ten-minutes You Tube Video, but this one is almost an hour long. We’ll listen to the end together.
Cory mentions some problem he has with Google Video’s drm, that I guess does not apply to You Tube. Maybe this is why it is on You Tube.
“The brain is a little Python script I wrote that tags each picture with GPS coordinates that it gets live from my Wintec WBT-201, and hopefully when you play the video you see the position of the picture on Google Maps. The picture taking part runs really well and I could conceivably leave the laptop in the trunk, but I like to see the pictures as they’re taken. And besides I like to watch everyone freak out when they see the computer in the front seat, they think I’m doing some kind of deep scan on their cars for overdue parking tickets.” – Wrybread
Earthships have many interesting environmental ideas incorporated into them: use of recycled tires and cans for construction, passive solar heating, rainwater harvesting and treatment, low draw DC appliances. The basic idea is to construct with massive walls to moderate temperature. You aligning the windows for maximum effect in your location.
I wonder about using tires. Tires are primarily petroleum. I would not want to be in a well sealed container made from tires heated by the sun. But they probably aren’t being heated so drastically embeded in earth, and I hope earthships have decent ventilation. Tires can be recycled in other ways.
Solar towers use the chimney effect to drive turbines. This solar power device I’m sure appeals to the folks who enjoy owning centralized power plants. But it is certainly a more welcome neighbor than a coal or nuclear plant. I wonder what to do with all that plastic after its ten year lifespan.
Interesting information, crappy video. You can find many of the illustrations for this talk here: pdf
But this is well worth seeing, for an understanding of the state of this emerging technology. He talks about making it “easy to engineer biology, really easy.” The process is analogous to electronic circuits. He emphasizes the positive potential. I see an equal potential for disaster, leaving powerful tools in the hands of the greedy and stupid.
The Way Things Go – A lengthy (26 minute), and dangerous looking (It’s full of strange chemical reactions, flames and fireworks) video of a Rube Goldberg device. There are several dissolve transitions in it, which makes this kind of a cheat, but it is very cool anyways.
There is a short appended section showing some kids doing a Rube Goldberg project in school. That segment is what, for some reason, shows up in the image above.
I didn’t make it back to the Lower East Side until 1:30 last night. The US Airways 737 from Charlotte, NC left the gate late, and then sat on the tarmac for a long boring stretch. When finally in the air, we got near Newark and circled above like a seagull. I wish I had a window seat, the view of Manhattan skyline must have been swell. I caught tantalizing glimpses above the girth of the football player sized kid next to me. The pilot was laconic. He mumbled sparse often inaudible messages at low volume. These key phrases stood out: “looking at alternate airports,” “fuel concerns,” and “those with window seats may have noticed that we have been circling for quite awhile.” A frequent traveler behind me, was able to translate, and allay my fears, saying that this was business as usual getting into Newark. I overheard an interesting conversation about how little pilots are paid. We eventually land in Newark.
The US Airways luggage carousel was amusing, it made loud squeaking noises without any apparent useful action. I had plenty of time to look around. My confidence was not inspired by the rows and rows of unclaimed luggage lining the walls. When the carousel finally started the first piece of luggage jammed, tantalizing us with flashes of luggage skin poking and retreating through the rubber flaps for maybe two or three minutes. Men talked of forming an expedition down the hole. My luggage did emerge. Onward to Airtrain.
There the PA is droning a loop of apologies for late night maintenance delays. One of the robot airport shuttles apparently needs mechanical or cleaning attention. The monorail system doesn’t seem to have a maintenance sidetrack. This threw the remaining trains into late-night confusion. The train’s micro brain had nothing pre-recorded in its chip appropriate to ease a weary traveler’s confusion. And the LED signs above the entrances only scrolled an endless line of red dots; “. . . . . . ” I suspect the red-coated station guides had no useful idea of what was going on either, as the ones I saw were awkwardly lurking as far out of the line of questioning as possible.
I was on the far side of the airport. Asking directions from the redcoat to the NJ Transit station, I was told the right hand side, the same side where a train was just leaving. But one came shortly and took me fairly quickly to one stop away from my station stop. I was feeling pretty good at this point. Then I sat there for about five minutes with no announcements from the lurking human or the ignorant robot, and with no more information conveyed than “please watch the closing doors,” the robot reversed directions, trapping me in its sealed glass box. Leaving the station I caught the eye of the silent lurking guide at that station. He looked as surprised as me. I was joined at the next stop by a load of confused travelers for a stately tour to the parking lots at the other end of the airport. Half-way there the LED signs started listing destinations again. We found a red coat on our way back to where we were who seemed to know what he was talking about, who instructed us to get out and wait for the train on the other side of the station. Fortunately this let me make the 12:40 train to Penn Station with two minutes to spare. If I’d missed it, I would probably not have made it home until 3, and this account would have a lot more vitriol.
Dr. Robert Bussard, former Asst. Director of the Atomic Energy Commission and founder of Energy Matter Conversion Corporation (EMC2), has spent 17 years perfecting IEC, a fusion process that converts hydrogen and boron directly into electricity producing helium as the only waste product. Most of this work was funded by the Department of Defense, the details of which have been under seal… until now.
As a science fiction reader, Bussard’s ramjet is a familiar idea, magnetically gathering hydrogen for use as fuel for interstellar travel. It was fascinating seeing him, and his lecture on his fusion energy project, which apparently has been experimentally proven to work. He claims that only 200 million dollars more into the project should produce a practical working prototype.
He disdains Tokamak fusion reactors as “cathedrals of super conduction,” that will never work, but continue to provide “rice bowls” for thousands of physicists. “I often thought that Lavrentyev of the Soviet Union invented it and gave it to us so that we would never get there.” Tokamak is the official fusion path chosen by the DOE.
â€¢ In particular, there is ”substantial concern” about the pending loss of an important satellite-based instrument employed by tropical weather forecasters and hurricane researchers.
The QuikSCAT information helps scientists estimate wind speeds at the ocean’s surface. That information contributes to year-round forecasts of marine conditions, and it’s crucially important to hurricane specialists, helping them assess the strength of storms that are far from land and often enabling the identification of new tropical systems.
But the device is well past its designed lifetime, which was expected to end by 2002, and budget concerns and technical compromises prompted NOAA to replace it with a less sophisticated instrument that still hasn’t been launched, the committee said.
â€¢ Much of NASA’s budget and many of its scientists are being diverted to the human space program that was reenergized by President Bush’s proposal to send astronauts back to the moon and onward to Mars.
The president’s 2007 budget reduced NASA’s research and analysis budget for science missions 15 percent compared to 2005. Since 2000, the agency’s earth-science budget has been slashed 30 percent. That caused the elimination of some projects, including measurements of solar radiation and Earth radiation that could help scientists understand global warming.
â€œThereâ€™s no flame or fire inside. Itâ€™s just electricity,â€ Lynch assures me of the multimillion-dollar system that took Longo almost two decades to design and build. Then the two usher me into the lab, where the gleaming 15-foot-tall machine theyâ€™ve named the Plasma Converter stands in the center of the room. The entire thing takes up about as much space as a two-car garage, surprisingly compact for a machine that can consume nearly any type of wasteâ€”from dirty diapers to chemical weaponsâ€”by annihilating toxic materials in a process as old as the universe itself. Called plasma gasification, it works a little like the big bang, only backward (you get nothing from something). Inside a sealed vessel made of stainless steel and filled with a stable gasâ€”either pure nitrogen or, as in this case, ordinary airâ€”a 650-volt current passing between two electrodes rips electrons from the air, converting the gas into plasma. Current flows continuously through this newly formed plasma, creating a field of extremely intense energy very much like lightning. The radiant energy of the plasma arc is so powerful, it disintegrates trash into its constituent elements by tearing apart molecular bonds. The system is capable of breaking down pretty much anything except nuclear waste, the isotopes of which are indestructible. The only by-products are an obsidian-like glass used as a raw material for numerous applications, including bathroom tiles and high-strength asphalt, and a synthesis gas, or â€œsyngasâ€â€”a mixture of primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be converted into a variety of marketable fuels, including ethanol, natural gas and hydrogen.