Friday, November 20, 2009

Re-allocating energy research... a lesson in capitalism

The Obama Administration, while pumping up funding and incentives to further develop hybrid vehicles, has slashed $100 million (60%) from the budget for George W. Bush’s preferred approach -- hydrogen fueled cars.  Of course, this is one more sign that we are being led by people who want America to succeed, and no longer by technological morons, determined to make every possible wrong decision.

Why am I so fierce in my appraisal of so-called “hydrogen-power” -- despite my portraying it positively, in several stories and novels?  Because it cannot possibly help us in the near (twenty year) future, as was cogently pointed out recently by Energy Secretary ( and Nobel winner) Stephen Chu.  Even were all the bugs to be solved and taken out of the fuel cells under discussion, the lack of anything resembling a system to distribute hydrogen fuel to the masses would relegate this technology to the realm of science fiction for at least several decades.

Meanwhile, it would be business as usual, as the US plunges ever deeper into hock to Big Oil and hostile foreign producers.  Of course, anyone vested with a scintilla of imagination might wonder if this was the intent of the entire H-Power endeavor all along, to suck up public energy research funds and fritter them away uselessly, without ever actually affecting national self-sufficiency.  Moreover, ask yourself this: even once all the problems with distribution were finally ironed out, and hydrogen-ready service stations were finally standing by, who would handle the new fuel’s distribution and commercial sale?

You got it. The same guys who were actually getting all the research money, under Bush.  The oilcos.  All of them Bushite pals.

In contrast, plug-in hybrids have the potential to draw much of their power off the electric grid... and potentially - eventually - solar rooftops, leading to true (if partial) autonomy.  Above all, they would result in a dispersed power and supply system, not dependent upon the oilcos and more conducive to participation by small, startup companies.  In other words, real capitalism instead of reflexive monopolism.

That latter distinction is one that I will continue to hammer home.  When, oh when, will liberals come to realize that the Left has been at-best only a part-time and problematic friend?  That socialism may work in helping redress injustices (free education and all that) but it is absolutely lousy at generating the sort of economy that is wealthy enough to take on big projects?  Good capitalism, the truly competitive and open and accountable kind -- bulwarked by lots of startups and small businesses that unleash creativity -- has always done better under democrats!  So why not crow about it?  Show the statistics.  Embrace the “first liberal,” Adam Smith, who above all denounced and despised crony conspiratorial aristocratic monopolists? Why allow the shills of monopoly to pretend that corporate gigantism has anything, whatsoever, to do with free markets?

Why is Obama allowing Fox to portray him as a socialist?  Is he a Keynsian?  Yes.  But if the energy initiatives are any sign, he also wants creative enterprise to get healthy again.

More Miscellany About Tomorrow

Stefan Jones offers this:  Phthalate Exposure Linked to Less-Masculine Play by Boys -- "A study of 145 preschool children reports, for the first time, that when the concentrations of two common phthalates in mothers' prenatal urine are elevated their sons are less likely to play with male-typical toys and games, such as trucks and play fighting." Maybe this will be the issue that makes concerns over toxins crossover to convervativeland. Yes, these plastics are turning your sons into sensitive nancy-boys who are no good at sports!  Hey, Culture War wasn’t our idea.  But we gotta win it.

Start your home solar system with solar thermal.  It’s more mature, with more rapid payback. 

The future of tissue culture meat... has been predicted by sci fi for nearly 50 years (including by me).  Now there are signs the time may be at hand. "Future flesh" - instead of slaughtered animals - could eliminate 51% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions (and 90% of choking victims). A quarter of the earth's land is currently used to grow meat, along with 8% of the world's water.  There’s talk of then being able to “taste” extinct critters like Dodos, since regrowing muscle may be possible, even if we can’t clone the whole animal.  The meat could be more pure, safer and gene-designed to be healthier.

Alas, the article in H+ is way too sanguine.  Getting texture right will take many years. Purists will despise “chicktish” and “pertribeef” for a long time and ranches won’t go away overnight.  Also, Industrializing tissue culture is going to be a huge undertaking, messy, using a lot more water and energy and feedstock protein, than boosters predict. At least at first.  The zealot author also predicts an end to dairy -- not likely. (See my short story “Piecework” in which “fabricows” are turned to producing a lot more than just milk.)

Nevertheless, meaticulture is potentially a huge breakthrough, perhaps as worldsaving as the solar shingle will be.  Above all, it’d be way more moral.  And the switch away from killing animals could trigger us finally being contacted by those wise but disgusted advanced beings from ... Vega.

Speaking of disgusting.... yipes, a both humorous and cringeworthy analysis of the evolutionary origins of the human... er... scrotum

One of the best political blogs - though partisan - is produced intermittently by my friend Russ Daggatt.  This entry, about what Rupert Murdoch has been doing to the Wall Street Journal, goes beyond that to how we’re in an era of “assertion politics.”  When you are reduced to your red-meat political base, all you have to do, to keep them furious, is assert lots of things without providing a scintilla of evidence.  This, of course, is free speech.... till we start paying for it in a “tsunami of McVeighs...”  my own aphorism for the rising tide of fomented treason that we can confidently to arrive, as bitter fruit of all the lies.
States in New England top a new set of health and death rankings, while the South still lags.

IBM scientists have created a fast, one-step point-of-care-diagnostic test, based on a silicon chip that uses capillary forces to analyze tiny samples of blood serum for the presence of disease markers.

Sergei Mayburov at the Lebedev Institute of Physics in Moscow suggests that optical communication is a natural process in many cells of body, closely related to photosynthesis.

Scientists at  report that playing specific sounds while people slept helped them remember more of what they had learned before they fell sleep, to the point where memories of individual facts were enhanced.

A 25-Year Battery Technology Review .

Two important tips for improving cardiac arrest victims' chances of survival: - (1) Use continuous chest compressions without stopping for mouth-to-mouth breathing (Duh? The chest compressions already fill the lungs.  Still, if a top model needs the full old CPR on the beach, I suppose...
     (2) - Cool the brain.

Make your “Avatar” action figure come alive, onscreen!

Over the next three years, the Planetary Society will build and fly a series of three solar-sail spacecraft dubbed LightSails powered only by sunlight, first in orbit around the Earth and eventually into deeper space. 

The feasibility of redesigning the human condition (such as the inevitability of aging, limitations on human and artificial intellects, unchosen psychology, suffering, and our confinement to the planet Earth) will be the focus at Humanity + Summit, Dec. 5-6 in Irvine, California at EON Reality.  A lot of the usual suspects will be there.... this time including yours truly... (actually, I’ll be at the pre-conference, the day before, about how Hollywood and mythology are screwing the Enlightenment..)