There’ll be no hiding in the dark for alien civilisations any more

Monday, 8 October, 2012

Forget looking for alien radio transmissions, they may use other methods of communication, the idea instead is to look for energy gathering solar panels positioned close to their host star, that in the case of any sufficiently advanced civilisation, whose power needs would be considerable, would be anything but small or few in number:

In 1960, mathematician, physicist, and all-around genius Freeman Dyson predicted that every civilization in the Universe eventually runs out of energy on its home planet, provided it survives long enough to do so. Dyson argued that this event constitutes a major hurdle in a civilization’s evolution, and that all those who leap over it do so in precisely the same way: they build a massive collector of starlight, a shell of solar panels to surround their home star. Astronomers have taken to calling these theoretical megastructures Dyson Spheres. Dyson’s insight may seem like nothing more than a thought experiment, but if his hypothesis is sound, it has a striking implication: if you want to find advanced alien civilizations, you should look for signs of Dyson Spheres.

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There’s a lot of… energy in the work of this graffiti artist

Monday, 2 July, 2012

Charging up, or powering, your phone and other devices may one day be a simple matter of spraying several layers of paint onto a surface, such as a wall or floor, that in turn creates a lithium-ion battery.

Regular batteries contain a positive and negative electrode, both paired with a metal current collector, and a polymer separator sandwiched in the middle. These five layers are normally manufactured in sheets and rolled up into a cylinder, making it hard to create extremely thin batteries. Now, Neelam Singh and colleagues at Rice University in Houston have used a combination of existing metallic paints and custom materials to create sprayable versions of each layer, allowing them to make batteries just a fraction of a millimetre thick by airbrushing the layers onto a surface, one at a time.

I could see graffiti problems arising here though if there were indiscriminate use of these spray paint batteries.

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Would androids dream if they were in subconscious mode?

Tuesday, 27 September, 2011

While we wait for Koomey’s law to kick into effect, smartphone manufacturers could consider shipping devices with a “subconscious mode” of operation, which has been found to extend battery life by up to 50% between charges.

University of Michigan researchers have proposed a new power management system for smartphones that could dramatically improve battery life. Working with doctoral student Xinyu Zhang, computer science and engineering professor Kang Shin has created a proof-of-concept system known as E-MiLi, or Energy-Minimizing Idle Listening, that addresses the energy waste that occurs when “sleeping” phones are looking for incoming messages and clear communication channels. For users on the busiest networks, it could extend battery life by up to 54 percent.

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Earth Hour, out of sight, out of mind, after the lights are back on

Friday, 1 April, 2011

One hour is not enough, argues Ben Jervey in a critique of last Saturday’s Earth Hour event… to really make a difference, efforts to reduce energy consumption need to be on-going, not fleeting.

First, the fleeting nature of the event makes it all too easily forgotten. Like Earth Day, it’s a commitment that one can make for a short, set amount of time and then abandon. Second, the hour itself doesn’t have any real impact. Utilities don’t cut their power production for such a short and slight drop in demand, so no energy is really saved. Third, and most importantly, the symbolism itself of powering down for Earth Hour gets it all wrong.

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Something to write home about, a tour of a nuclear power station

Monday, 31 January, 2011

Charles Stross’ account of a recent visit to a nuclear power station in Scotland.

I can report that, standing on top of an operational 600 MW nuclear reactor weighing several thousand tons, all you can feel is a slight rumbling vibration like distant traffic felt through a road surface – there’s no indication that metres below your feet, hundreds of tons of gas compressed to conditions more normally associated with the surface of Venus are being blasted through the guts of a radioactive inferno.

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The world’s biggest oil spills since 1901

Tuesday, 22 June, 2010

A map charting the world’s largest oil spills since 1901.

It is especially alarming that the current Gulf of Mexico oil spill is (so far) by no means one of the bigger ones, despite the immense environmental damage to date.

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The peak oil theory, has oil production levelled off already?

Tuesday, 17 November, 2009

Oil production estimates have been over-stated according to a whistle-blower within the International Energy Agency (IEA), and is a revelation that many people do not want publicised.

Now the “peak oil” theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. “The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year,” said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. “The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today’s number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.

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The electrically charged photos of Hiroshi Sugimoto

Friday, 18 September, 2009

Fascinating, lightening like photos of electrical currents by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Hiroshi Sugimoto uses a 400,000-volt Van De Graaff generator to apply an electrical charge directly onto his film.

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What does that equation of Albert Einstein’s stand for anyway?

Thursday, 27 August, 2009

A dissection one of the best known equations of all time:

The speed of light is a huge, huge quantity. Square it, and it’s even bigger. What this tells us is that a small, insignificant amount of mass can generate an amount of energy so fantastic it’s barely fathomable. The most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated, the Tsar Bomba, with a yield of 60 megatons, was the equivalent of only 47 grams (less than 2 ounces) of matter being converted into energy. The Sun – our seemingly endless source of energy for the entire 4.5 billion years of the solar system’s life – has burned up less than 0.03 percent of its mass to burn as brightly as it does for all of the eons that it’s burned.

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The powerful beauty of backlit pylons

Tuesday, 12 May, 2009

The eerily beautiful work of Andrew Hara, a photo collection of lit up pylons at night.

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