Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fireworks, and childhood in Guatemala

Having grown up in Guatemala. One of my memories of the November-December holiday season was the ready availability of fireworks.

Thus I embarked on the favored pastime of kids and youths in Guatemala. Fireworks and the things one could do with them...

I used to have fun lofting empty tin cans (I preferred Tuna fish cans) into the air using a bomba or two. These were of a triangular package made out of paper, wrapped in colorful paper.

What put an end to my somewhat risky holiday fun was that like any tinkerer I started to push the envelope on how high I could loft the can using Bombas. One bomba hey it went up 10 feet or so let's see what two will do and so forth it got riskier the bombas sometimes did not go of together and one with a smoldering fuse was an issue at times. Also the heights did go up althou locating the lofted cans sometimes posed a challenge. Innocently I though that tuna cans that had enden up in a dome shape where cool..

What finally made me stop doing it was the time I put one or two bombas two many and managed to have the entire can burst into shards of shrapnel which went all over the place. Luckily no one was hurt but that experience introduced a much needed element of caution...

It also led me out of sheer curiosity to test just how potentially dangerous some fireworks were on a Banana tree relative some of those charges did make some pretty big holes and in one memorable occasion actually shattered the stem of 6-7" in diameter maicena.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A few thoughts on Nuclear Energy and Renewables...

No matter how much some of us would wish otherwise there is no way we can markedly reduce the amount of energy that our civilization uses by any stretch of imagination.

As both human population grows and new technologies develop the amount of energy required to support our civilization will increase it will not decrease. Take a look at the trends in energy usage across human history these have only increased over time.

Getting the average citizen in the street to agree to rationing or to reduce the level his/her lifestyle voluntarily is an exercise in futility that will inevitably backfire particularly in the large modern democracies. In any case bear in mind how will you keep them down in the farm once they have seen gay Paree?

And as far as the non democratic states they will be more likely to base their decisions on what they believe to be their needs and these states will more likely than not make their decision on a different set of political consideration than the democracies.

Surface based solar power and wind will not to any marked degree be a replacement for fossil fuels. Both face the problem that energy production by both these technologies face the the constraint that both their main sources of energy are subject to whims of the local weather.

Nor should we fail to consider that other than in a few spots these technologies will not be producing energy at peak efficiency. Nor will either technology produce a consistent energy output at the time and place it will be needed.

Also the ecologic footprint of both technologies is far heavier than one would think at first look. In order to mantain or equal the current energy output of fossile fuel technologies how many hundreds if not thousands of square miles of land/offshore would be required to even equal the current output from both Nuclear and fossil fuels?

Take the time to ponder the impact on fragile desert ecosystems of endless square miles of solar panel arrays. Also consider the impact on both bird and bat populations of wind turbines.

What would be the amount of raw materials that would be needed to manufacture solar panels? (Silicon, aluminum, iron, copper,assorted rare earth elements, and polymers) Or what amount of materials would be needed to manufacture wind turbines? (Carbon fiber, iron, aluminum, copper, rare earth elements, and polymers)

Sadly these question have been largely ignored both by a majority of our environmental community. And our political class has proven far more adept at responding to

As a civilization we need to carefully consider all our options for energy production. And by any rational measure of consideration we can not afford to rule out or for matter abandon nuclear power as an energy source.

As for the nuclear waste issue has been grossly distorted and overblown. It can be addressed by using reprocessing spent nuclear fuels and making use fast breeder reactors to "burn" out the more radiactive byproducts of nuclear fission.

We could discard unusable nuclear waste materials in subduction zones rather than the current approach of storing them in isolated geologically stable areas. Let Earth own conveyor belt adress the issue by the time any of the material makes it back to the surface the clear majority of it will have run through it's radioactive half life and what is left would be scattered atoms embedded in cubic miles of rock.

Even though we at the present consider a particular series of byproducts of nuclear fission to be waste it doesn't necessarily follow that our descendants will consider these to be waste. They may very well find them to be of use in other ways

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize

I've taken the time to actually think about President Obama's Nobel Peace prize award.

As far as I can see this was a particularly absurd and premature decision on the part of the Norweigan Nobel Peace prize committee. As was most congently stated by the London Times.

There are far more worthy potential recipients out there for the Nobel Peace Prize than President Obama. If they wanted to award a symbol why not award it posthumously to Neda?

Obama has yet to accomplish any of the goals he set out to do. I would far rather the Peace Prize be awarded for actually accomplishing something for world peace rather than for the illusion of the hope of peace in the Middle East and Nuclear disarmament.

In the long run this award will prove to be a millstone around President Obama's neck. And it will inevitably set an impossible to exceed yardstick to measure whatsoever he accomplishes in office.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sunset photos

Sunset photos, originally uploaded by werehawk.

Some susnsets are more spectacular than others...

It has been a while since I posted something here so I will be making an attempt at posting more or less regularly in the future...