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Solar PSA: A South-Facing Window Is Already a Solar Collector

by gmoke
Wed Aug 10th, 2011 at 02:38:54 PM EST

Here's my latest Solar PSA on how a south-facing window is already a solar collector:

"Any window that sees direct sunlight is a solar collector.  You can learn how to use that free energy to make your home more comfortable and secure.  Caulk and seal the window against drafts.  Install storm windows on the exterior, interior, or both.  Cover the window at night with an insulating curtain to prevent conduction, convection, and radiative heat loss.  A valence above the window will stop night-time drafts and reduce condensation.  A sunny window can double as a greenhouse for starting seedlings or growing house plants.  Expand the solar space below, above, or beside the window with a windowbox solar air or water heater.    You can even design a living system to provide fresh vegetables and fish year round while producing space heat, cleaning the air, and reducing waste.  A south-facing window is already a solar collector.  Learn how to use it."

Read more... (5 comments, 647 words in story)

Aging Nuclear Power: USA and Around the World

by gmoke
Thu Jul 21st, 2011 at 11:05:13 PM EST

Ages of US Nuclear Power Plants* at Closure
* Includes only commercial plants of significant size

Plant, Shutdown Date, Age, Reason

Connecticut Yankee, Dec., 1996, 29 yrs, Steam gen. cracking, ECCS undersized

Millstone I (CT), July, 199, 28 yrs, Improper operation, Cost of safety improvements

Maine Yankee, August, 1997, 25 yrs, Steam gen. tube damage, Electrical power cable separation

Yankee Rowe     (MA), October, 1991, 28 yrs, Reactor vessel embrittlement, Steam gen. tube damage

Indian Point I (NY), Oct., 1974, 12 yrs., Lack of an ECCS

Shippingport (PA), Oct. 1982, 35 yrs, 1st commercial plant in US

Peach Bottom I (PA), Nov., 1974, 7 yrs., Helium cooled graphite core

Three Mile Island II (PA), March, 1979, 4 mos., Partial meltdown!

Dresden I (IL), Oct., 1978, 18 yrs., 1st full scale private funded plant

Zion I (IL), Feb., 1997, 22 yrs., Steam gen. cracking,  Improper operation

Zion II (IL), Nov., 1996, 22 yrs., Steam gen. cracking

Big Rock Point (MI), Aug., 1997, 35 yrs. Economics

Fermi I, 1972, 2 yrs., Partial meltdown, 1966!  Restarted (?) 1970-72

La Crosse (WI), April, 1987, 17 yrs.

Fort St. Vrain (CO), Aug., 1989, 13 yrs.,  Helium cooled graphite core,Control rod failure, never dependable

Trojan I (OR), Nov., 1992, 16 yrs., Steam gen. cracking, economics

San Onofre I (CA), Nov., 1992, 25 yrs., Cost of seismic retrofit, Steam gen. cracking

Humbold Bay (CA), 1980, 17 yrs., 2nd oldest commercial plant

Rancho Seco (CA), June, 1989, 15 yrs., Poor operating history (39%), Only nuke plant closed by referendum

Read more... (2 comments, 441 words in story)

Corporate Retread Futures

by gmoke
Wed Jul 20th, 2011 at 04:16:53 PM EST

1993 ATT future - 14 minute video

2011 Corning Glass future - 5 minute video

2004 vision of "Googlezon" in 2014 - 8 minute video

Read more... (99 words in story)

Can We Build a People's Internet? (Part Two)

by gmoke
Fri Jul 15th, 2011 at 03:31:05 PM EST

When Wikileaks was thrown off Amazon's servers, some people began to wonder about the security of their communications on the Internet in a new way.  When Egypt shut down access to the Internet and mobile phones for the whole country, more people began to think about how easy it seems to be to pull the plug, even in the USA.  News that "Beijing plans to track all mobile phone movements", a test run in two areas of the city going on this summer, doesn't help either.

Now, people are beginning to think about what may turn out to be a People's Internet, a non-corporate, non-governmental Internet, that can't be shut down or turned off, perhaps in a variety of massively resilient and redundant systems.
Can it be done?  Should it be done?  Here are some initiatives that move in that direction:

FabFi is an open-source , MIT Fab Lab-grown system using off-the-shelf electronics and reflectors made of common building materials to transmit wireless ethernet signals across distances of up to several miles, a wireless mesh network.  With Fabfi, communities can build their own wireless networks for high-speed internet, connecting to each other and educational, medical, and a wide range of other resources.  FabFi services are working in both Jalalabad, Afghanistan and in Mountain View, Kenya, where JoinAfrica operates an Internet service provider at three sites.

Read more... (4 comments, 683 words in story)

Fully Renewable Grid

by gmoke
Mon Jun 20th, 2011 at 11:18:08 PM EST

A couple of years ago, Dr William Moomaw of Tufts mentioned a regional scale experiment with an all-renewable grid in Germany. I've been curious about that project since then. Today, I did a little googling and found a seven-minute youtube called "Fully renewable: biogas + wind + solar"

Dr. Jürgen Schmid at the University of Kassel, Department of Efficient Energy Conversion is the spokesperson from this December 2007 video. The system described is wind with pumped hydro storage and grid scale solar with methane from biomass (corn biofuels). When the sun isn't out in the South, the wind may be blowing in the North. When there's too much wind, it can be used to pump water into reservoirs that will provide hydroelectricity days or weeks later. When the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing, biomass can be burned or converted to methane. They say Germany can have a 100% renewable grid by 2050. Dr Schmid, along with John Sievers, Stefan Faulstich, Mathias Puchta, Ingo Stadler, is the co-author of Long-term perspectives for balancing fluctuating renewable energy sources (pdf alert), which details the steps necessary to get to a fully renewable grid.

Read more... (6 comments, 462 words in story)

Global-Scale Systems Simulations: FuturICT

by gmoke
Wed Jun 15th, 2011 at 09:59:16 PM EST

There's a Swiss consulate across the street from the new Cambridge, MA main library which sponsors a lot of events.  On 6/7/11, the subject was FuturICT ( (ICT stands for information and communications technology) with Dr Dirk Helbing of ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Dr Helbing  is the Chair of Sociology, with particular emphasis on Modeling and Simulation, at ETH.  He studies research on disaster spreading and disaster response as well as crowds, movement, and traffic. (I like his "outbreak of cooperation among success-driven individuals under noisy conditions" simulation at and wonder if he's looked at Temple Grandin's work with slaughterhouses and feedlots.)  He is also the scientific coordinator of FuturICT, a 10 year 1 billion EUR "multidisciplinary international scientific endeavour with a focus on techno-socio-economic-environmental systems."

Read more... (306 words in story)

Trash Technology for Education and Survival

by gmoke
Tue May 31st, 2011 at 12:36:11 AM EST

Straw Centrifuge Pump

A lot of modern junk - plastic bottles, cups, refills, rubber slippers, pens etc can be reused in many creative ways to make joyous learning aids.  Children could make more than a dozen delightful pumps using all kinds of odd stuff.  For instance, push two film cans on the ends of a 15 cm piece of old bicycle tube to make an air pump.  The opening/closing valves are made using bits of sticky tape.  This high quality pump can easily inflate a balloon!  Or else make a scintillating sprinkler within a minute.  Poke a broom stick in the middle of a plastic straw.  Make two half cuts 2 cm away from the centre.  Bend the arms and secure them in place with some tape to make a triangle.  Twirl this triangle in water to make a most delightful centrifuge or sprinkler.

Arvind Gupta has been building science teaching toys from trash materials since 1978 and for the Children's Science Centre at Inter-University Centre for  Astronomy & Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune University, Pune 411007 Maharashtra India since October 2003.

On his website
you can find hundreds of toys children can make for themselves with easily available materials

He even has video demonstrations of many designs

"The best thing a child can do with a toy is break it !"

"And somewhere there are engineers
Helping others fly faster than sound.
But, where are the engineers
Helping those who must live on the ground?"

Read more... (503 words in story)

The Business Case Against Coal

by gmoke
Wed May 4th, 2011 at 05:10:20 PM EST

In less than 2 minutes, Gil Friend, CEO of Natural Logic, Inc and author of The Truth about Green Business, makes a clear business case against coal:

Read more... (2 comments, 361 words in story)

Harvard Workshop on the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl Accident

by gmoke
Wed Apr 27th, 2011 at 11:26:43 PM EST

Went to two full presentations and part of another presentation on the history and aftermath of Chernobyl on April 26, the 25th anniversary of the accident, at Harvard.  I was surprised that the room was so small.  The seminar's room capacity was 17 people and 15 attended this session, the largest audience during the part of the event I attended.

Guess that what happened in Chernobyl and is still happening because of it is not very important any more, even in the wake of Fukushima.

Read more... (8 comments, 1036 words in story)

Citizens' Radiation Monitoring Networks

by gmoke
Fri Apr 22nd, 2011 at 11:25:00 PM EST Radiation Detection Hardware Network in Japan is a website whose purpose is to provide an aggregate feed of nuclear radiation data from governmental, non-governmental and citizen-scientist sources. That data will be made available to everyone, including scientists and nuclear experts who can provide context for lay people. In the weeks following launch, it has become evident that there is a need for additional radiation reporting from the ground in Japan. This Kickstarter project will help us purchase up to 600 Geiger Counter devices that will be deployed to Japan. (The project minimum will fund 100 devices).

hat tip boingbong

They've raised $13,104 of their $33,000 goal from 128 backers and have 14 days left to fund their project.

Read more... (3 comments, 631 words in story)

2009 Energy Use in the USA

by gmoke
Wed Apr 13th, 2011 at 11:38:22 PM EST

A larger version of this chart, where you can read the numbers more easily is at png

Estimated US energy use in 2009 was 94.6 quadrillion btu's.  54.64 quads were "rejected energy," wasted energy.  39.97 quads actually provided energy services, did work.  We lost about 57.75% of the energy we produced to get the use of 42.25% of what we, mostly, burned.  At least, those are the percentages I get with my calculator.

Read more... (9 comments, 393 words in story)

Fukushima: Prayers and Petitions

by gmoke
Sun Apr 3rd, 2011 at 10:21:46 PM EST

A friend sent this to me.  I do not know if it is genuine, actually from the Ise Shrine and oracle, but the sentiments are real and, as with chicken soup, it couldn't hurt.

A Japanese Monk Sent this Prayer Request

The damage of the earthquake in Japan is devastating. Unable to cool down the reactor, we are facing a possibility of nuclear plant explosion [hydrogen explosions, not nuclear like a bomb]. Please join our prayer. Feel free to forward this prayer request to anyone. It would be great if more people can pray.

Here is a translation of a message/oracle from the Ise Shrine in Japan:

After sunset we need strong power of prayer.
Please let me deliver the message to as many as possible.
We can stop this earthquake with our prayers, but right now the nuclear
plant is in danger.

Please heal the suffering, sadness, anger, worry about nuclear plants.
Please do not think that this accident will bring justice.

Please care for each other.
The energy toward conflict and fight is also fueling the things happening right now.
Please stop the conflict and stop the fight and change the worrying voice to the power of prayer.
Please pray that as many people as possible can be saved.

We will be O.K.
If our hearts start connecting with each other the earth will be healed.

There are the sounds/vibrations that can release the karma of earth.
Anyone who can make a prayer sound, anyone who can do reiki,
anyone who can do long distance healing,
please direct your energy to the center of Japan .
The exact location is above the Hachiro gata, Akita Prefecture .

If you can sing, please sing.
Humming is fine too.
Let the earth listen to the sound.

Please send gratitude to the earth.
If mother earth wakes up, everything will stop.
The word Song/Sing writes in Japanese Kanji - small possibilities
support a big lack.
Please send your prayer to the Earth to wake up the Spirit.

I will be in meditation after the sunset.
I will pray for the light shining in the sky even in the darkness.
May everyone be safe.
Thank you for supporting my heart at this very difficult time.
Gratitude for our life.

Read more... (1703 words in story)

Seesaw Coverage of Nuclear Power

by gmoke
Wed Mar 23rd, 2011 at 11:13:29 PM EST

Today was the last seminar in a series on clean energy and the media at Harvard's Kennedy School.  The subject, scheduled months ago, was "The Seesaw Coverage of Nuclear Power" with Matt Wald, NYTimes, Ned Potter, ABC News, and Matt Bunn, Harvard.

My rough notes follow.

Read more... (7 comments, 597 words in story)

Solar Street Performance Vehicle

by gmoke
Wed Feb 9th, 2011 at 07:39:50 PM EST

My friend, Tom Blue Newell, Uncle Scam, Deacon Blue, Nostrildamus, a Harvard Square busker and street performer ( ), stopped by this morning.  He's thinking about a new show, especially since he expects to be recuperating from an operation this season.  He wants a "Rascal," a motorized wheelchair with solar power that might also serve as a puppet in his show.  He already uses an amp for his performances and has a battery system mounted on his cargo trike.  He even has a little bit of solar.  He envisions a solar awning to charge the batteries that can run the wheelchair and power his audio and other equipment, too.  He also needs a place to keep it in Harvard Square.  He'd like something in the works within two weeks and a usable machine within two months.

Read more... (822 words in story)

DIY Climate Change: Ongoing Global Brainstorm

by gmoke
Thu Jan 20th, 2011 at 10:14:56 PM EST

Since it seems that we can't expect too much out of the international or national policymakers for the next couple of years, I've been thinking that the next logical step for and the climate movement is to do it ourselves.  That could take the form of an ongoing global brainstorm on local, practical solutions where people who are working on projects can report their successes and failures, trade ideas on what works and what doesn't, and help us all climb the learning curve faster as well as replicate successes quickly and modify them appropriately for different local conditions.

There are a number of people already thinking and working along these lines (appropedia, globalswadeshi, the coalition of the willing, global system for sustainable development...*) but they are dispersed, not networked, and there is no central nexus you can point people to.  This is something that needs to be done in order to make do it yourself climate change happen.  If done right, it would eliminate a lot of unnecessary duplication around the world and could build a community of practitioners that could be brought to bear on specific areas and problems like an Emergency Rescue Squad or ecological SWAT team.

Read more... (827 words in story)

Yuki Jizo: For Martin Luther King Junior Day

by gmoke
Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 02:16:59 PM EST


That afternoon seeing
the small child play in the snow
watched over by his father,
I remembered I'd never seen a snowman

In the fading winter light,
I went out to the same little plaza
and with a gloved hand
lifted three small lumps of snow,
delicately, each in one piece,
and placed them
one on top of the other
to make a tiny snowman,
something like a Jizo,
the roadside statues seen
in Japan to remember the souls
of dead children and the aborted.

Yuki no Jizo
Jizo of snow

It was Martin Luther King Day
in Martin Luther King Plaza
right beside the library.

January 19, 2010
revised December 25, 2010

Read more... (220 words in story)

Suntech CEO at MIT

by gmoke
Wed Dec 8th, 2010 at 10:45:35 PM EST

On 12/7/10 Zhengrong Shi, the founder and CEO of Suntech, one of the largest PV manufacturers in the world spoke at MIT, which has about 45 faculty now involved in solar research.  The event was a joint presentation of the MIT China Energy and Environment Research Group, MIT Energy Initiative, and MIT Energy Club.

My telegraphic notes follow.

Read more... (5 comments, 355 words in story)

Global Online Climate Change Brainstorm - November 14

by gmoke
Sat Nov 13th, 2010 at 10:08:26 PM EST

Coalition Movement Camp II: Connecting the Dots
November 14, 2010, 2.00pm to 6pm EDT:

The Coalition Movement Camp series brings new players and possibilities into view and allows us to connect the dots between them. Our goal is to consolidate our collective powers and prepare for a collaborative web development project unlike anything the world has seen.

The inaugural Coalition Movement Camp took place on October 10, 2010. Participants included representatives of Appropedia, OpenKollab, Metacurrency, 350, Dadamac, CoopAgora, JAK Bank, GreenTribe, and Gaia10. For eight hours, we brainstormed ideas towards a new generation of internet platforms and collaborative strategies for the climate crisis. Details of the 10/10/10 Coalition Movement Camp can be found on the Coalition blog
(, ).
On November 14, 2010, the conversation continues.

Read more... (3 comments, 527 words in story)

It Takes a Region:  A Working Conference to Build Our Northeast Food System

by gmoke
Fri Oct 22nd, 2010 at 10:39:33 PM EST


WHEN:            November 12-13, 2010
                         Pre-conference trainings on November 11

WHERE:           Desmond Hotel and Conference Center, Albany, NY (Lodging availability not guaranteed after 10-19)


Limited scholarships  available. Link to online registration via

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Read more... (1 comment, 1890 words in story)

Climate Collaboration Contest

by gmoke
Mon Oct 11th, 2010 at 03:17:59 PM EST

To members of the Climate CoLab community,

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new Climate CoLab contest, as well as a major upgrade of our software platform.

The contest will address the question: What international climate agreements should the world community make?

The first round runs through October 31 and the final round through November 26.

In early December, the United Nations and U.S. Congress will be briefed on the winning entries.

We are raising funds in the hope of being able to pay travel expenses for one representative from each winning team to attend one or both of these briefings.

We invite you to form teams and enter the contest--learn more at

We also encourage you to fill out your profiles and add a picture, so that members of the community can get to know each other.

And please inform anyone you believe might be interested about the contest.

Read more... (1 comment, 217 words in story)

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