Monthly Archives: January 2011

Electric Cars: Comments, No. 1

From time to time I will continue to post some comments on various energy subjects. Here are the first ones on electric cars that I think help put the enthusiasm of advocates and promoters in perspective. The common mistake by most electric car supporters is that they either do not appreciate that the bigger picture must be considered, or they choose to ignore it to advance their case. These come from the London Telegraph and the Washington Post. Before you read them consider the following: A lithium-ion battery, at its best, packs 110 watt-hours of energy per pound. Gasoline has 6,000 watt-hours per pound. Now, a gasoline motor is inefficient, discarding 85% of the fuel’s energy–losing it to the transmission, wasting it on idling and discharging it as heat. Electric motors waste just 10%, but it still leaves gas with a 9-to-1 weight advantage. (And the cost of the battery today is likely more than the cost of the gasoline saved by going electric!) Here’s the reference: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0628/energy-autos-electric-cars-ibm-nissan-running-on-air.html

London to Edinburgh by electric car: it was quicker by stagecoach.

The BBC’s stunt of taking an electric Mini to Edinburgh reveals just how impractical rechargeable cars are, writes Christopher Booker of the London Telegraph.

van Gogh Sketch

Stagecoach, depicted by Van Gogh in one of his letters, Photo: Paul Grover

In its obsessive desire to promote the virtues of electric cars, the BBC proudly showed us last week how its reporter Brian Milligan was able to drive an electric Mini from London to Edinburgh in a mere four days – with nine stops of up to 10 hours to recharge the batteries (with electricity from fossil fuels).

What the BBC omitted to tell us was that in the 1830s, a stagecoach was able to make the same journey in half the time, with two days and nights of continuous driving. This did require 50 stops to change horses, but each of these took only two minutes, giving a total stopping time of just over an hour and a half.

Considering that horse power was carbon-free, emitting only organic fertilizer along the way, isn’t it time the eco-conscious BBC became more technologically savvy? Continue reading

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Periodic Table and Oliver Sacks

Here’s more on the periodic table.

I was listening to a podcast on my iPod while walking my dog Genji. I often do that, not only because he is deaf (he never was a good conversationalist even when he had his hearing), but there are so many interesting podcasts available, and free. I subscribe to a few and every few days they are automatically downloaded to my computer from which I copy (“sync”) them to my iPod.

The podcast I enjoy most, along with “Car Talk”, is “Radiolab” that is produced by WNYC and NPR. I was listening to it while walking Genji one day and the hosts were visiting Oliver Sacks in his apartment and he was showing them his bathroom which, to their surprise, had a large periodic table on the wall.  Then, with a “you ain’t seen nothing yet” type response, Sacks said, “Let me show you my bedroom.” And there on his bed was a coverlet, full bed size that was “quilted” as a periodic table!  Continue reading

Periodic Table (tin), Amundsen, Scott and Antarctica

Earlier I posted a story about meeting Glenn Seaborg, who participated in the discovery of about ten elements, and getting his autograph and his entering Sg (for Seaborgium) in the element 106 place in the periodic table I brought to the dinner where he was the honoree and main speaker. Element 106 was named for him a year or so after the dinner making him the first living person to have an element in the periodic table named for him.

My daughter knew of my interest and for the last Christmas she got me a large periodic table that I will get framed and mount over my desk, a book; “The Periodic Table” by Eric Scerri, that I am yet to read, and another; “The Disappearing Spoon” by Sam Kean that I have trouble putting down. There is so much fascinating information and so many stories about the personalities and discoveries of the elements that I had no idea about. If only my chemistry professor in college had presented some of this kind of information I might have learned more. One such sad but interesting story involving tin follows. Continue reading

Cold Fusion Going Commercial!?

My favorite blog is a very popular one and is called “Watts Up With That”, web address:  wattsupwiththat.com. It is written by Anthony Watts, a meteorologist who lives in Chico, CA. He just posted this and I thought some of you would be interested.

I was in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory fusion group when “Cold Fusion” was announced years ago by Pons and Fleischman. ORNL immediately formed a research team to duplicate the results and could not. All the furor from the announcement gradually settled down as many labs around the world tried but failed to match the described results. It will be interesting to see what becomes of this claim. It would be an amazing finding if there is really “a pony in there somewhere!” will1be

Posted on January 22, 2011 by Ric Werme

Nickel-hydrogen cold fusion press conferenceForeword: I gave Ric Werme permission to do this essay. I don’t have any doubt that the original Cold Fusion research was seriously flawed. That said, this recent new development using a different process is getting some interest, so let’s approach it skeptically to see what merit it has, if any. – Anthony

Continue reading

I Knew Your Breath was Polluting, But I Blamed it on Garlic!

But it turns out, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, you are polluting by exhaling carbon dioxide! And the Supreme Court in Massachusetts vs EPA, http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/06pdf/05-1120.pdf, permits the EPA to call carbon dioxide a pollutant, http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html.

Although any significant government regulations and controls regarding carbon dioxide are unlikely to result from all this to-and-fro-ing by the powerful adherents of both sides of the argument, one must wonder, “How in the world did we get this far?” 

Continue reading

Random Memory No. 1 – Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Tokyo

In the early eighties I went on a two-week business trip to Japan to meet with a number of fusion research groups in and around Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. Since our daughter, Myra, was studying that year at Waseda University in Tokyo, my wife Pauline went with me. While there Myra was able to be our guide and interpreter and we enjoyed visiting with her, having her travel with us, and meeting the Japanese family she lived with near the university.

One day near dusk in Tokyo we were coming back to our hotel after leaving the nearest subway station. We had a few blocks to walk and along the way we saw, up ahead, a cluster of people gathered in a small square. They were engrossed in something and were circled around it. Continue reading

While We’re on the Subject of Bear Bryant

My Nephew, John Slone, contributed this and it ties nicely with the Great Lakes story.

IT DON’T COST NUTHIN’ TO BE  NICE

At a Touchdown Club meeting many years before his death, Coach Paul “Bear”Bryant told the following story:

I had just been named the new head coach at Alabama and was off in my old car down in South Alabama recruiting a prospect who was supposed to have been a pretty good player and I was having’ trouble finding the place.

Getting hungry I spied an old cinder block building with a small sign out front that simply said “Restaurant.” I pull up, go in and every head in the place turns to stare at me. Seems I’m the only white fella in the place. But the food smelled good so I skip a table and go up to a cement bar and sit. A big ole man in a tee shirt and cap comes over and says, “What do you need?”
I told him I needed lunch and what did they have today?

He says, “You probably won’t like it here, today we’re having chitlins, collared greens and black eyed peas with cornbread. I’ll bet you don’t even know what chitlins are, do you?”(small intestines of hogs prepared as food in the deep South)
I looked him square in the eye and said, “I’m from Arkansas, I’ve probably eaten a mile of them. Sounds like I’m in the right place.” They all smiled as he left to serve me up a big plate. Continue reading

You Don’t Remember the Great Lakes Bowl?!? With UK in it?

Before we leave the college football bowl season with its infinite number of games and forgettable bowl names completely, here are some answers and memories.

Yes, there was a Great Lakes Bowl and UK played it’s first ever bowl game in it. It was in 1947 and Kentucky won. They beat the “perennial football powerhouse” Villanova 24 – 14. Bear Bryant, in his second year, was the UK coach, and my schoolmate at UK, George Blanda, kicked the three extra points plus a field goal. He was my schoolmate, not my classmate, because he was one year behind me.

The game was played in Cleveland, in December, outdoors, no dome, and drew all of about 15,000 fans. That was the only time the Great Lakes Bowl was ever played, but, hey, it was a bowl game, the school’s first bowl game and our team won! We students celebrated and felt we were beginning to build a football dynasty. And it seemed to continue for a few years until Coach Bryant was “stolen” from UK by Texas A&M who subsequently lost him as Alabama hired him away “for life.” Continue reading

African Bees, Alkali Bees, Pear “Bees”

African Bees

In the late 1980’s I was working with Howard Kerr, an engineer with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory on a project associated with neutral particle beams for defense against enemy missiles. I learned that he was a bee keeper, had about 150 hives that he hired out to orchards and farmers for pollination, and he sold good honey. From then on until we moved from Oak Ridge we bought his honey.

Doing our working and traveling together we talked a lot about bees, in particular about African Bees, because at that time they were being tracked moving north from Mexico. There was quite a lot of concern about them being so aggressive compared to the domestic or European bees.

Howard was asked to work with the USDA, since he headed up a bee keepers association in Tennessee, and he traveled to Mexico and Central America to track and become more familiar with the African bees. Continue reading

Déjà Vu All Over Again – Wind Power

Once upon a time long ago, in 1973, OPEC “tied a knot in our gasoline hoses” and had us standing in long lines to fill up our cars. The country became panicky and a myriad of actions were proposed to alleviate the effects of the embargo. Many were band-aided into a package of salvation called Energy Independence, but not including such practical approaches as a surge in drilling for more oil. Included were the usual solutions or “hopey-changey” things like windmills and photovoltaic power that are also bundled into today’s salvation, Alternative Power.

One of the first acts of government in 1974 was to establish the United States Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) an organization to throw money at the problem, preferably into the districts of the congressmen who were in charge of the appropriations. It was formed from the functions of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) other than its regulatory groups. These groups became the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, essentially as it is today. The Energy Research and Development Administration was finally activated in January 1975.

While this huge, slow re-organization was going on, the government was pushing in many directions, including getting all government buildings to set their thermostats to 68 degrees, as I remember. President Carter made his “memorable” TV address in his cardigan sweater while admonishing us to get cool and stay cool.

Anyone who had any work with the government agencies knew that money was going to be flowing fast from Washington and there were many suggestions and proposals advanced to “help” the government spend it. Continue reading