Saturday, 26 November 2011

I’ve looked at Aurorae from both sides now – stunning video

Similar to my previous post – Home - but very much more spectacular, is this video which is a time lapse sequences of photographs taken by the crew of expeditions 28 & 29 onboard the International Space Station from August to October, 2011. The video is HD, refurbished, smoothed, retimed, denoised, deflickered, cut, etc. The editor, Mike Konig tried to keep the looks of the material as original as possible, avoided adjusting the colors and the like, since, in his opinion, the original footage itself already has an almost surreal and aesthetic visual nature. Most notable is the auroral activity - both Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis. Lots of lightning storms feature too.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Snippets from the Interwebs 9

Insulate insulate insulate! It cuts down energy use but most types (foam, fibreglass wool, Rockwool etc) take a fair amount of (usually) fossil fuelled energy to create. Why not grow your own? Of course, in days gone by, people used such as bracken to keep their hovels warmer but bio-insulation is relatively rare these days. Sheep’s wool is excellent and is increasingly used and produced for this purpose – click on this link for “The Woolly Shepherd” - but is not particularly cheap.

Step forward Greensulate from Ecovative design. This wonder stuff is an insulation/packaging material that is made from a fungus mycelium grown on agricultural crop waste, such as rice husks. Its “R-Value” is comparable with fibreglass.


Why you should look pityingly at anyone who recommends economic growth as the solution to our problems… 

There is an old story about the inventor of chess. As the story goes, when chess was presented to a great king, the king offered the inventor any reward that he wanted. The inventor asked that a single grain of rice be placed on the first square of the chessboard. Then two grains on the second square, four grains on the third, and so on. Doubling each time.

The king, baffled by such a small price for a wonderful game, immediately agreed, and ordered the treasurer to pay the agreed upon sum. A week later, the inventor went before the king and asked why he had not received his reward. The king, outraged that the treasurer had disobeyed him, immediately summoned him and demanded to know why the inventor had not been paid. The treasurer explained that the sum could not be paid – by the time you got even halfway through the chessboard, the amount of grain required was more than the entire kingdom possessed.

The king took in this information and thought for a while. Then he did the only rational thing a king could do in those circumstances. He had the inventor killed, as an object lesson in the perils of trying to outwit the king.

For the most part, this fable is used as a lesson in the power of exponential growth. From the one grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard, the amount increases to the point that by the time you get to square 64, there are over 18 quintillion grains of rice on the board. In mathematics, it’s a demonstration of extreme growth.

Eventually, you run out of rice. Or land. Or water. Or any resource.

Retold story adapted from  The Seduction of the Exponential Curve from


An exciting idea to fend off mosquitoes. It also works on flies and wasps too. It uses a “wall” of infrared light to keep the little bloodsuckers out. Szabolcs Marka, an associate professor of physics at Columbia University, is developing a novel way to protect people from the vectors: a virtual mosquito net with infrared light vibrating at wavelengths that irritate the insects’ nervous systems.


A panel of expert judges has chosen Pure Power’s Mobile Solar Power System as one of its Top 10 Green Building Products of 2011. Building sites often have mobile power supplies which are usually noisy diesel generators. Here’s a solar photovoltaic power supply on a trailer to stop all that nonsense. The S48T can supply 72 kilowatts (or about 20 domestic houses worth) because it has battery storage on board too. Amongst other uses, they are being used on location for movie filming e.g. Inception

They also supply a bio-diesel hybrid version for continuity of supply on less sunny days


So much for “trickle down” economics

A recent UN Report - Human Development Report  - says developing countries will see reverse economic growth by 2050 -  it delineates the global challenges of sustainability and equity. It points out that although (conventionally measured) living standards in most countries have been rising, from now on if environmental deterioration and social inequalities continue to intensify, the least developed nations will show a downward growth by 2050.

adapted from


Floods account for more than half of global disasters, affecting more people than any other type of disaster. The menace of flooding is well known to the estimated 65,000 people living in Budalangi, an area in western Kenya near the Uganda border that is inundated by floods every few years. Mudimbia, a village in Budalangi, will be the site of a disaster relief demonstration conducted by Oregon-based Hydration Technology Innovations (HTI) in collaboration with the Kenyan Water for Health Organization

The project will focus on using the HydroPack™, a paper-thin 4-inch by 6-inch pouch filled with electrolytes and nutrients that on contact with water, any old dirty water, swells up over an 8-to-12 hour period to create a flavoured, healthy drink.


Taken from

Honey is supposed to be one of the purest natural foods there is. However, a recent report by Food Safety News blacklisted several US brands of honey for being “ultra-filtered.” Ultra-filtration is a process that removes pollen and therefore, traceability from honey. This technique is also a tacit way for Chinese manufacturers to sell their honey in the US, as there have been strict import tariffs on Chinese honey since 2001 for contamination with antibiotics and heavy metals.


Conventional farmers can sometimes sneer at organic agriculture. The facts are against them though.

Taken from The StarPhoenix

“The results are in from a 30-year side-by-side trial of conventional and organic farming methods at Pennsylvania's Rodale Institute. Contrary to conventional wisdom, organic farming outperformed conventional farming in every measure.

There are about 1,500 organic farmers in Saskatchewan, at last count. They eschew the synthetic fertilizers and toxic sprays that are the mainstay of conventional farms. Study after study indicates the conventional thinking on farming - that we have to tolerate toxic chemicals because organic farming can't feed the world - is wrong.

In fact, studies like the Rodale trials ( show that after a three-year transition period, organic yields equalled conventional yields. What is more, the study showed organic crops were more resilient. Organic corn yields were 31 per cent higher than conventional in years of drought”


On Monday the 14th November United Airlines Flight 1403 made history when it flew because it was the first biofuel powered flight either in the US or the world depending on which news source one reads.The Boeing 737-800 burned a “green jet fuel” derived partially from genetically modified algae that feed on plant waste and produce oil created by Solazyme corporation.


Photovoltaic cells have been steadily falling in price due to to innovation and economies of scale in manufacturing. Here’s yet another innovation that promise not only cheaper manufacturing using less energy but also more efficient cells that make more electricity. A game-changing Optical Cavity Furnace developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory uses optics to heat and purify solar cells at unmatched precision while sharply boosting the cells' efficiency.


Bill Gates backs a Tobin Tax! This tax is designed to slow down the insane pace of international financial speculation and such weapons of economic destruction as CDOs, deravatives etc . The EU are considering introducing it too


Taken from

If just one percent of the Saharan Desert were covered in concentrating solar panels, like those in the picture, it would create enough energy to power the entire world. The Desertec Initiative announced, two years ago, its intentions to harness the power of the sun in the Sahara Desert. Now, the project is moving forward, with plans for the first construction to break ground in 2012. The 500-megawatt concentrated solar power plant (CSP) will cost a cool $2.8 billion and harness the power of the sun from the desert of Morocco. Desertec is a projected half-trillion dollar solar project that will occupy parts of the Sahara, the Middle East, and Europe. The potential for the project is great — if completed, it could produce enough electricity to meet 15-20 percent of Europe’s energy demand by 2050 while providing power to the Middle East and Northern Africa as well.


Brooklyn Grange Farm is though to be the largest rooftop farm in the world. Their one-acre (40,000 square foot) commercial organic farm on a rooftop in Queens, New York is made up of roughly 1.2 million lbs of soil and over 20,000 linear feet of green roofing material. They grow vegetables in the city and sell them to local people and businesses. The goal is to improve access to very good food, to connect city people more closely to farms and food production, and to make urban farming a viable enterprise and livelihood.


Starbucks concerned world coffee supply is threatened by climate change

From and the Guardian

Coffee supplies are being reduced by higher temperatures, long droughts and intense rainfall, plus more resilient pests and plant diseases, according to the UCS, “all of which are associated with climate change.” Coffee varieties are adapted to certain climate zones so a temperature increase of just a half of a degree can have a big affect and cause lower crop yields.

Coffee is not the only food product affected by climate change. A recent International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (known by the Spanish acronym, CIAT) study predicted a one-degree Celsius temperature increase by 2030 and 2.3 degrees Celsius by 2050 in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, which would make it too hot to grow chocolate. Both countries supply more than half of the world’s cocoa.

Tea is also being affected by climate change, according to a CIAT report released in May. Climate change will cause increases in average temperatures and rainfall which will cause many Kenyan farmers at lower elevations to abandon growing tea.


Saturday, 12 November 2011

Ministerial tango!

I just sent the new States House members the following email (subject line: Responsibility) ahead of the elections for Chief Minister and the subsequent selection of new Ministers for the various Departments.  I am expecting that too many narrow viewpoints will lead to a less than ideal outcome. Those who get elected here too often have, or rapidly develop, a kind of defensive armour that prevents them from seeing much outside their preconceptions.

Dear States Member,

I am writing to you ahead of the vote for Ministers. If you need to know why you should give any attention to my words, I have included some of my credentials at the end of this email.


Soon the house elects a new Chief Minister and, subsequently, Ministers for the various Departments. It is surely crucial that the House selects knowledgeable Ministers who are fully aware of the situation that Jersey and the world faces - only then can plans and policies have a hope of being appropriate.

Ahead of us we have environmental and economic challenges the likes of which the world has never seen before and Jersey cannot isolate itself from its responsibilities for planning to meet these. Our finance industry is dependent upon the international economy continuing to grow, which current events suggest is highly unlikely in the near to mid term, possibly ever again. Counter-intuitively, attempting to restore conventional growth, particularly in the developed nations, should be seen by the new Ministers as a very high risk strategy, if they are fully aware of the consequences. Jersey also has a much higher environmental responsibility per capita to get things right, owing to our very high global impact (because of our wealthy consumer society).

Ominously, neither of the two current candidates for Chief Minister appeared to clearly understand the question that I asked at the St Lawrence senatorial Hustings about the urgent need to adopt new ways of measuring economic success. If we continue to rely on the two dimensional conventional remedies of classical economics, which have been partially successful in the past, then we will inevitably fail to deal with the big, unprecedented challenges we face. We have now reached the point where any further conventional global “growth” is arguably uneconomic growth because the marginal long term costs of conventional growth are now outweighing the marginal benefits.

Apart from the Chief Minister, the three Ministers it is most critical for the House to get right are those of Treasury, Economic Development and Planning and Environment. It is so crucial that it might be better to elect no-one to these posts rather than the wrong ones.

When you vote, make sure to elect Ministers who explicitly acknowledge the full scope of the challenges we are up against and who express at least a willingness to investigate the new non-classical disciplines in economics that offer hope of engineering a sustainable civilisation. To do anything else is fundamentally irresponsible, both to the electorate that put you in your place and to the other seven billion inhabitants of this increasingly crowded world.

If you still think that merely tinkering with the constitution, how the States operates and restoring growth-as-we-knew-it is in any way a valid responsible strategy, then you will be of no use for solving the real, serious problems - indeed, you will be part of the problem.

The time ahead is crucial to everybody’s futures. Naïve, ill advised glass-half-full thinking, that looks to the policy successes of the past and imagines that all we need is more of the same, should not sway your votes.


Nick Palmer

• I sit on Planning and Environment's J.E.F. - Jersey Environment Forum - one of the two environmental think tanks set up by Freddy Cohen

• I am a committee member for, and media spokesman of, J-CAN - Jersey Climate Action Network

• I write an internationally respected sustainability blog - Sustainability and stuff according to Nick Palmer - that takes a light hearted but serious view of the dilemmas we face

• I helped with research for, and contributed ideas and text to, the significant climate change book "What's the Worst That Could Happen"

• I am expert at puncturing the tidal waves of politically motivated climate change denial propaganda. Some of my arguments are regularly used in the top scientific climate science blogs, to which I also contribute

• I have a grounding in the newer, deeper forms of economic thought, such as Daly's ecological economics, to which I allude in the text above, which show how the free market can be tuned to deliver both sustainability, economic development (not growth), prosperity at the same time living within our environmental means and renewing that which has been deteriorated. All this with little regulation necessary. This form of economics is as close to "the answer" as is available


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Denialism Tango and something else and SOMETHING ELSE

Not "Men at Work" these are another Australian band called "Men with Day Jobs", socking it to the pathological sceptics.

Having had a chuckle, set your computer to full screen view, crank up the volume and prepare to get emotional.


by Gioacchino Petronicce




And finally, from a time when video wasn’t flashy, comes Carl Sagan’s famous “Pale Blue Dot”. The Voyager 1 spacecraft, which had completed its primary mission and was leaving the solar system (9 years after passing Saturn), was commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and to take a photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space – 3.7 billion miles - at the request of Carl Sagan


Saturday, 5 November 2011

BEST Climate Crock of the week

One of the biggest sources of climate change misinformation on the web, deceptively disguised as “scepticism”, is Wattsupwiththat, run by retired meteorologist Anthony Watts. Watts is the person on the Internet most responsible for viciously smearing scientists and spreading disinformation on global warming, particularly disinformation on the surface temperature record. He gets huge numbers of people reading it. For some years he has been promoting the idea that the apparent rise in global temperature has a lot to do with poor siting of the thermometers used to measure temperature changes and he organised a lot of volunteers to photograph and criticise the placement of thermometers because they were located near to tarmac, concrete, air conditioners etc. His theory is that the recorded rise in global temperatures is more down to urban thermometers getting hotter due to hot air from the tarmac etc. boosting the measurements rather than the planet heating up. Like many, indeed most, of the denialist arguments one sees, it sounds quite plausible –  some of the stupid, ignorant or mendacious types who come up with the propaganda know how easy it is to lie to the public – others do the lying accidentally, because their poor judgement leads them to deceive themselves.

The real science of course went Duhhh!! The effects that Watts and his minions have been ruthlessly claiming are a big flaw in global warming science have, of course, always been known about and the science has always adjusted the raw data to take account of this. If Watts acknowledged this at all, he would then lead his readers to think that these legitimate, necessary adjustments were data fudging! How can science win against someone using paranoid arguments like that? The tragedy is that too many of the gullible public lap up this crap, as one can clearly see if one reads the comment sections of online TV or newspaper websites.

Over the last few months there has been a tremendous excitement in the Wattsup end of the climate science denialism blogosphere because one of the few scientists  they listen(ed) to - Dr Richard Muller - announced that he was going to run a huge investigation into the temperature records. On his team was Professor Judith Curry – another darling of the deniers who writes a sort-of (her stated positions are very often rather muddled) sceptical blog, Climate etc. The research was even backed by, amongst others, the infamous Koch Foundation which bankrolls a fair bit of the denialist infrastructure. They were expecting this “unbiased” study to overturn the current scientific view on how much we are warming. Back in March, Anthony Watts even wrote (very unwisely, as it turned out…)

“And, I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong. I’m taking this bold step because the method has promise”

Well the results are in. The climate scientists were right all along and the denialists were full of ****. Is Anthony Watts accepting his Nemesis with good grace and acknowledging that his "big idea" was disastrously wrong? Sadly, no. Those who use paranoid thinking can always wriggle out somehow and Watts and his ilk are wriggling like champion eels in a world title wriggling competition.

Here’s a couple of media excerpts:

Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post:For the clueless or cynical diehards who deny global warming, it’s getting awfully cold out there. The latest icy blast of reality comes from an eminent scientist whom the climate-change skeptics once lauded as one of their own. Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight”.

Global warming is real,” Muller  wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal.

“When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find,” Muller wrote. “Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that.”

Here’s Pete Sinclair’s climate crock – Bad, Badder, BEST – that sticks the knife in to finally show up Watts as the weasel that he is.