Whorled View

July 30, 2007

Geothermal – Distributed Energy at it’s Best

Filed under: Uncategorized — lullabyman @ 5:45 am

 

A friend of my recently started working for Waterfurnace – a company that makes geothermal heating systems. Being one who’s worked in the Green-energy industry and blogging frequently about it you’d think I’d have been apprised of what a slam dunk it is. I wasn’t. I figured it was like Solar PV – something people do to feel good about themselves. No, this is a true money saver within 7 years complete payoff (probably 5 years now, given oil costs), and so I think we can expect massive growth here. What’s more important payback is done without government subsidies (unlike solar PV), and the suppliers are profitable. Profitability means scalability, and as far as I know wind-turbines and geothermal are the only profitable renewable companies out there – and geothermal is by far the most affordable one. So you’re going to see geothermal explode in the next 10-20 years – it’s all economics. Check out this clip:


Wouldn’t you know it … the best solutions are the simple and cheap ones. While Pres. Bush throws your tax $ toward a fabled hydrogen-based economy involving the most complicated, expensive, and energy wasting distribution methods, most people can cut their heating and cooling costs by 75% by planting a bunch of pipes in their backyard and retrofitting it with a heat exchanger.

On average you’ll save enough to pay it off in 5-10 years. The payoff for solar PV (the other homeowner-owned renewable) is closer to 10-20 years even with 50% government subsidies – what a waste of our taxes – that money should go toward CSP, wind turbine farms, or geothermal plants. If you do a payment plan & have good credit you can possibly do geothermal with no money down and then see your monthly heating/cooling bills significantly drop immediately. Lending companies like it better too for multiple reasons. What’s not there to love?!

Lastly, you’ll also get that”feel good” warm fuzzy I mentioned above, knowing you’re doing something to help out. As much as 30% of our nation’s energy is spent on heating & cooling. If everyone utilized geothermal then that could be nearly as high as a 20% reduction in our country’s energy consumption, plus that savings goes back to drive the economy.

July 26, 2007

My God vs. Your God

Today I was hopelessly searching for a decent radio station to listen to in the garage, and in the process happened upon a “Christian music” station where they were singing some song about how great their God was. It wasn’t about “God” in general, or “the” God, but they consistently used the term “my God” with as much or more gusto on the word “my” as they did on the word “God”. I then thought – if you believe in only one God why even mention “my”, or “our”? The phrase “my God” implies that there is more than one God (my God vs. someone else’s God). That’s an oxymoron if you’re a monotheist (someone who believes in only one God).

“The obvious problem with this claim, of course, is that these people who are comparing Gods also claim to be monotheistic.”

[added 7/27: I actually don’t really have so much a problem with “my God” or “our God”, because I think people generally mean that they’ve chosen to be subject to God. In fact, “How Great Thou Art” is one of my favorite songs, as are others which frequently use this terminology to denote subservience and dedication. It seem however that not everyone uses those phrases with that intended meaning.].

I’ve also heard from many (but not all) religious people claim that their God is better than another person’s God. As a Mormon person I frequently hear this directed toward me from mainstream Christians. I’ve always responded that we worship the same God, although we understand the physical/spiritual nature of the Godhead to be different from their concept. To which they usually respond vehemently that no way is our God the same being as their God. The obvious problem with this claim, of course, is that these people who are comparing Gods also claim to be monotheistic.

The only logical rationale I can imagine for this implicit contradiction is that they consider “God” to be a concept rather than an actual being. I don’t think that is what they’re doing though since they, like me, claim that God lives, not that He’s just some kind of philosophical construct to make people feel better. So I must conclude that they’re just trained to insist that different religions believe in different Gods even though they’re monotheists, and they don’t care that what they’re saying makes no sense.

“…most of the problems in the middle east have their roots in the irrational My God vs. Your God mentality, instead of promoting the fact that we all worship the same God differently and simply have different ideas about Him.”

If one is literally referring to God with the intent to compare religions the best thing they can say is “our understanding of the nature of His being and power are different”. Of course, the implied meaning is “You’re wrong about God’s nature and power, and I’m right”, but at least it’s plainly understood that there is only one God.

From time to time I’ve heard the interesting accusation (from people of all religions, including my own) that certain people “don’t worship the true God” or variations on that theme. Although this seems very offensive, I don’t think it is as dangerous as pitting one God against another, and besides this accusation abides by the rules of a monotheistic perspective. Of course, it is an extremely presumptuous accusation to say someone simply isn’t worshiping the true God because they don’t understand the nature of God’s being and power. It is also irrational to suggest that misunderstanding something about the object of worship instantly disqualifies the worshipful actions, making them null and void; Besides there are no scriptures I know of to back up that absurd claim.

“Making such presumptuous and irrational accusations alienates others and engenders spite between religious groups, wherein the Christian should consider the counsel to ‘Judge not an unrighteous judgment’.”

It’s also obvious that making such presumptuous and irrational accusations alienates others and engenders spite between religious groups, wherein the Christian should consider the counsel to ‘Judge not an unrighteous judgment’. It can be reasonably argued that most of the problems in the middle east have their roots in the irrational My God vs. Your God mentality, instead of promoting the fact that we all worship the same God differently and simply have different ideas about Him. If the middle-east Jews, Christians, and Muslims accepted what an irrational idea that is, and that they all believe in the same God, but only interpret Him and His nature and purposes differently, then the idea of the “enemies to God” based on religious preference would dissolve as would the philosophy behind “Jihad”. The challenge there is that so much of their scriptures do seem to refer to a plurality of monotheistic Gods, so that isn’t likely to happen without a new interpretation of those verses.

Sadly, that’s not going to happen as long as religious leaderships continue to senselessly pit their monotheistic Gods against each other as the Greeks or Romans did. Fortunately, those of us in the civilized world can be rational and realize we all worship just one God, the Creator of the earth, – just differently. Admittedly some might be more accurate that others in their ideas about God, but can all worship the same God by simply doing good and appreciating each other for it.

July 11, 2007

Octogenarians Rule

Filed under: Family,Health,Lifestyles,Politics,Sociology — lullabyman @ 8:54 am

A few years ago Mike Wallace interviewed President Gordon B Hinckley (who’s now a nanogenarian) and doubted the wisdom of having old men run a huge multinational church (it has always been run by men who do so until they die of old age). Pres. Hinckley responded enthusiastically “Isn’t it wonderful … a man who isn’t blown about with every wind of doctrine!?”, but the telling part of the interview was then seen in Mike Wallace’s expression. Mike looked absolutely shocked as if to think “I thought old people were only good for grinding up into soilent green.” Incidentally, Mike is no spring chicken either, though apparently he’s oblivious to the fact.

Mike looked absolutely shocked as if to think “I thought old people were only good for grinding up into soilent green.”

In the meantime I’ve come to the undeniable conclusion that we as a nation, as a world, and as a society are foolish for dismissing our greatest resource: experience. Somewhere in our disposable society someone made the irrational conclusion that all things that mature are both outdated and worthless. That viewpoint has been peddled so much lately that now it just seems a foregone conclusion. I couldn’t disagree more though.

Take an earlier opinion of mine where I introduced perhaps one of the greatest inventions of all time: Dr. Bussard’s Polywell – a highly probable cheap nuclear fusion engine allowing unheard of power and space travel in the very near future if adequately funded. Next year Dr. Bussard will be an Octogenarian (a person between 80 and 90 years old). The science he uses hasn’t been academically pursued since his youth, and there’s only a handful of guys who can pick up where he’s left off – and they’re the same age and older.

“Somewhere in our disposable society someone made the irrational conclusion that all things that mature are both outdated and worthless.”

Another entry of mine I pointed out some research done by another mature scientist, Gerald F. Judd, discovered how you can regrow the enamel on your teeth, and proved that regular toothpaste prevents enamel growth (a fact which rich dentists love – 3 of the 6 highest paid professions are in the dental industry). Gerald, by my calculations, also has to be nearly 80.

Linus Pauling, the great Physicist who won 2 Nobel prizes, may have done some of his greatest work in his 70’s and 80’s in Orthomolecular Medicine where the benefits of antioxidants were discovered and exploited, and to this day these benefits are almost entirely ignored (even poorly disputed) by the medical community as a whole.

In every one of these cases the projects that these mature scientists worked on were very unpopular because they threatened an existing system. For example, what if the $30 billion Tokomak fusion reactor was deemed a waste? Or what if nobody got cavities anymore? Or what if most diseases could be prevented almost entirely … by vitamins?! These guys found the answers, or very nearly did so, and those efforts and their answers are being largely ignored.

And why are these amazing discoveries ignored? Probably because they were discovered by a bunch of old fogeys – who, as we all know, are intellectually inferior to young energetic brains. Right? Wrong.

My grandpa, a scientist himself, was as sharp as a tack and his colloidal silver salves he created near the end of his life are still the best healing agents I’ve ever used, along with some proposed by Pauling. I’d also much rather get advice from my own dad now then when he was younger – he’s wiser now. Even in cases where older people often suffer intellectually they often still retain and even gain greater wisdom through such times.

“In the last 16 years Americans have been infatuated with young Presidents – and where has that gotten us? Lewinsky and Iraq. Our leaders could have used a little more prudence – and that comes with age.”

Besides, in an age of information and massive computing power what we need the most probably isn’t intellectualism, but wisdom. Me thinks they know something that most of the rest of us don’t. In the last 16 years Americans have been infatuated with young Presidents – and where has that gotten us? Lewinsky and Iraq. Our leaders could have used a little more prudence – and that comes with age.

Now… how to get wisdom out of them without sitting through another boring story you’ve heard a dozen times. Oh well, I guess that’s the price for getting diamonds. You gotta sift through a bit of coal, and in the meantime you might find some gold nuggets in those stories you never noticed before. Then again, you might only give them the company they deserve.

July 3, 2007

Healthy High-Tech Family Living

Filed under: Family,Lifestyles,Miscellaneous,Religion,Sociology — lullabyman @ 8:30 pm

We live in an amazing time with wonderful technologies to greatly improve and enhance our life styles. As always, there’s bad that comes with good, and in a world where we all live in glass houses it’s critical that parents be thoughtful and take necessary precautions to protect their children. For example, we all know there are unsavory characters in chat rooms disguising themselves as other children. There are other dangers in cyberspace too that if unchecked can have disturbing consequences. This blog entry introduces ideas on both 1) protecting your family and 2) how to leverage high-tech tools that are otherwise wasted on unproductive activities in most households.

What The Research Says
Pornography, for example, is usually only a typo and a click away in most households. The research (see here) concludes that pornography elicits the same biochemical response as PCP or any other highly addictive hallucinogenic drug, requiring increasing doses of a more concentrated and vile nature to provide the same biochemical response with consecutive addictive pornographic voyerism. Another example of cyberspace dangers are the myriads of activists (example: Clinton Fein’s “ADULTeration”) who feel compelled to expose as many children as possible whether “four years old or seventeen” to “mature dialog”, and since it isn’t technically pornography their efforts are unrestricted, and in some cases it’s even promoted by educational foundations (examples: “Advocates for Youth”, “Siecus”, etc.) that are paid by your taxes to encourage alternative lifestyles among youth as young as 5 years old. In short, enjoying the benefits of living in an information age while protecting youth from untold unwanted influences is a significant challenge, but one that is easily addressed with just a little upfront effort.

“Very young kids don’t need the internet. Within a few hours of training any 13 year old can be nearly as computer competent as another 13 year old regardless of their background. Beyond 13 years old however it’s critical that kids gain certain computer skills or they will be left behind. Unfortunately even many children who already grow up with computers never gain the computer skills that will most help them”

Solutions
How best to meet this challenge? Do you shut your children out of the digital world entirely? Actually, this is not necessarily a bad approach when kids are less than 13-14 years of age (although you can’t do this when they’re not at home). Computers provide few advantages for young children than can’t be quickly made-up later on. For example, within a few hours any 13 year old can become nearly as computer competent as another regardless of their background. Beyond 13 years old however it’s critical that kids gain certain computer skills or they will be left behind. Unfortunately even many children who already grow up with computers never gain the computer skills that will most help them.

How about giving them an unconnected computer to use any time they want? This has many advantages over internet capable computers, though it’s only one of many viable strategies and can be part of a multi-faceted approach. A properly configured unconnected computer can have all of the scholastic advantages of a connected computer and then some. Student based research is perhaps even made easier by using an unconnected computer if it is loaded with Encarta, or Encyclopedia Britannica on DVD, etc. Teachers would far prefer those references to most web-based references (although you can get wikipedia on DVD). Having them use an unconnected PC whenever they want can help them focus on really learning about the computer, computing, programming, etc… instead of surfing the net and loitering in ineffectual chat rooms. The truth is that “the digital divide” is a political and marketing term unscrupulously used to promote government funding of broadband projects, whereas a cheap (used) properly configured unconnected computer can be far more advantageous for kids than an expensive window to the internet requiring a $25/mo to $50/mo fee.

Allowing a net-capable computer in your kid’s bedroom (or other private area) will almost guarantee access to whatever they want no matter how “good” you think they are. It isn’t about them being “good”, it’s about them being curious, and kids are curious. Don’t kid yourself, kids are kids; I kid you not. A simple typo can peak a curiosity, which often becomes seemingly harmless voyerism, descending to a habit, and from there even worse – again, it’s all in well documented research. Again, don’t kid yourself… it isn’t about being “good”, it’s about the curiosity of a child (which is a good thing) and human nature, which can be an entirely good nature if nutured by conscientious parents.

“… kids are curious. Don’t kid yourself, kids are kids; I kid you not. Would you tell your kid to never play with guns and then put a loaded one under their bed? Would you?”

Here’s the multifaceted approach that we use at our house. Feel free to borrow as much of it for your own high-tech family strategy as you’d like:

  1. Educate. Explain in detail to kids why computers are wonderful, while also potentially dangerous with dangerous people, and why porn victimizes and how it alters judgement, alters character, and is socially repugnant. Even if you protect them from harmful internet influences in your own house you can’t place filters on their friend’s computers libraries, etc. so they need to be personally educated on it’s effects.
  2. Provide a “Safe” Environment. Also, give them a protected environment where they can feel safe in, and where you can feel comfortable that they’re safe. You wouldn’t tell your kid to not play with guns and then put a loaded one under their bed would you? Then get to work, here are some methods – you can use any one or a combination of them:
    Method: KidRocket Glubble Client Based Filtering
    (Blue Coat k9)
    Proxy Server Filtering
    What is it: Dedicated kid-friendly fullscreen locked-down browser that won’t exit (not a plug-in), that we link to in the startup folder of their XP account. So when they click their account it boots straight up to this browser. See kidrocket.org. Free. A plugin for Firefox. Restricts where kids can go. You can define where it can and can’t go. Free. More flexible than Kid Rocket, and allows your kids to go to alot more places. Be sure to remove other browsers. Filter all content on each computer as it comes in from the internet or as it is requested. You can do this for free with Blue Coat k9 which is one of the best out there. It doesn’t noticeably slow down the browsing experience and is easy to administer. WHETHER YOU DO ANY OF THE OTHERS AT LEAST DO THIS! You ought to put this on every computer in the house (unless you are doing proxy server filtering). Filter all content by setting up a proxy server. Every webpage viewed on your network is automatically routed through this server, There’s no way around it. Think of it as Big Brother. You can do it for free with a spare computer and Dansguardian and Squid. There are also retail products for doing this.
    How easy is it: Easy. Download and install on their own account (note, early windows versions won’t allow you to create seperate accounts). Put a shortcut in the startup folder so it boots up when they log in. Delete all other browsers from their account. Then password protect your account. Easy. Install Firefox, then install this plugin on their own account (note, early windows versions won’t allow you to create seperate accounts). Delete all other browsers from their account. Then password protect your account. Very easy. Just download and install. For experienced users who know a bit about servers
    How secure Secure enough for under 10. Not very secure, but better than nothing. Pretty secure. Can be circumvented, but not very easily. Only Proxy Filtering is better. Very secure. Can’t go around this as long as they’re using your network.
    Downsides: Very limited. Content is for kids under 10 only. It doesn’t really lock down the user environment (like kid rocket does). Seems like it might be easily circumvented. Not many Downsides. You have to type a password to go to a non-approved site, but that’s easy, and you choose right then whether to make the site temporary or permanently available. Takes some server knowledge, but nothing that you can’t learn given enough time.
  3. Public Area Internet Access. Keep all Internet capable computers in public places (kitchen, family room, etc), and access should only be allowed when they aren’t alone. This can be facilitated by an account with a password that only parents know, to prevent unsupervised use.
  4. An Unlimited-Use Unconnected PC. Provide an Internet-free computer they can do non Internet stuff on (multimedia and DVD-based encylcopedias, homework, journal, write letters, play games, burn cd’s, create, print, make cards, run CD-ROMS, learning programs, etc). Ideally this computer will physically have the Internet capable hardware removed so they can do anything they want, although a password protected network may be adequate. Note: once you have the computer correctly configured then back it up (and create a system restore point) so you can easily do a complete reinstall (this will be necessary from time to time).
  5. Be Upfront and Follow Up. Explain to kids that you’re using a separate program that records all the websites they visit and that you’ll check it regularly (nearly all internet browsers allow this). If you have a way to really do this periodically ask them about a site or two that they visited – that will really let them know you’re seriously interested. It might bug them – but ask yourself whether are you their peer or parent… you can’t have it both ways. They’ll respect you more as a parent if you act like one, and you’ll discover a more enriching and rewarding experience in the long run when that relationship naturally grows into a justifiable peer-peer status.

If you have any more suggestions please post them here.

Bussard’s Polywell, Part 1 (of 2): the greatest invention of all time?

Being deeply interested in the future of Energy, and knowing the interesting fact that what 99% of the public hears is pure baloney, I’m always on the lookout for the latest and greatest new energy technology and this one is worth mentioning. A little background for you non-physics-types first …

E=mc^2 means that if you could convert matter directly to energy then you could get an unbelievable amount of energy from it. One ton (think of a dump truck full of dirt) could power 3 Million homes for a year. Or it can provide the propulsion for space tourists to cheaply fly around the solar system and beyond, and at much higher speeds than is currently possible. The Polywell EIF (Inertial-Electrodynamic Fusion) device, invented by Robert Bussard who was a former Assistant Director to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), can do just that. It seems to have overcome all the major obstacles facing fusion.

The Polywell Reactor
The Polywell Fusion Reactor

That said, don’t confuse a fusion (fuse atoms together) reactor with a fission (tears atoms apart) reactor. Dangerous and dirty fission is what all contemporary nuclear reactors use. If it helps you, think “fusion = fuse together, or build up”, “fission = tear apart, destroy”. Fusion is usually good because it produces safe byproducts, fission is bad because it usually produces dangerous byproducts and requires radioactive fuel.

The proposed fusion-based energy generator uses Boron of which we have enough reserves to last us 200,000 years (at our current energy usage). What’s more is that the only byproduct is unreactive (safe) helium which harmlessly vents naturally to space, where it is the 2nd most abundant element in the universe.

Sounds better than Solar CSP of which I’m such a huge fan. Time will tell.

I’m convinced Einstein would love it Why not us?

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