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Hybrid cars are at the intersection of nanotechnology and battery technology research June 1, 2007

Posted by Brian Angliss in Energy & the Environment, Environment, technology.

Nanotechnology isn’t a technology in and of itself so much as it’s an enabling technology. What this means is that the science and technology of the very, very small (aka nanotechnology) enables radical changes across a massive number of other technologies and fields. For example, nano-scale particles of gold can be combined with a chemical marker to turn from red to blue (or vice-versa) in the presence of toxins.

However, as PBS’ NewsHour program reports, another application of nanotechnology is dramatically improved batteries and electronic components called “ultra-capacitors.” (more…)

In a Technopoly, no one can hear you think… May 7, 2007

Posted by Jim Booth in culture of learning, Education, educational reform, technology.
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XPOST: Scholars and Rogues

“Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong…”

Stephen Stills

The New York Times reported Friday that the Liverpool (NY) school district will begin phasing out student individual use laptop computers beginning next year. Citing problems such as students using their computers to cheat on tests, to surf porn sites, and to hack into local businesses as well as nightmarish problems with network security, laptop hardware/software problems and system crashes caused by large numbers of students surfing the Net when they were supposed to be studying, Liverpool, like an increasing number of school districts, has decided to give up on the grand experiment of having a computer for every child:

“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president here in Liverpool, one of the first districts in New York State to experiment with putting technology directly into students’ hands. “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”


Cellulosic Ethanol April 17, 2007

Posted by Brian Angliss in Energy & the Environment, technology.
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Ethanol is all the rage – President Bush wants us to produce billions of gallons of the stuff by 2050. But ethanol from corn (then most common source of the fuel additive in the U.S.) is already increasing the global price of corn and thus increasing food prices both here at home and in countries as diverse as China, India, and Mexico. The increased food prices are already generating some criticism from people like Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez, but there will less shrill and more rational criticism coming from other quarters soon enough.

I’ve discussed ethanol previously and pointed out that the only way that largely switching over from oil to ethanol makes any sense is if we can start producing ethanol from sources of cellulose instead of feed products. Some sources of cellulosic ethanol include corn stalks and cobs, bagasse left over from the processing of sugar cane, wood chips left over from any number of wood products, and even good old fashioned grass. Well, today’s New York Times ran a story on the technological and business challenges to large-scale cellulosic ethanol production. In a nutshell, the enzymes needed to break cellulose into sugars that yeast can then ferment into ethanol are too expensive at this time. But now there is finally a much needed influx of capitol to fund breaking through the technological and biological barriers to solving this problem.

It’s too early to say for sure whether the organizations and individuals involved will be successful, but I hope so. I’d like ethanol to be a part of the massive equation that gets us to a decarbonized economy, but only if ethanol makes economic and technological sense, and only if it can be done without government subsidies. And until the issues discussed in the NYTimes article above are addressed, our taxes would be better spent on other projects that give more bang for the buck.

[Crossposted from The Daedalnexus]

Automotive X Prize April 8, 2007

Posted by Brian Angliss in Energy & the Environment, technology.

A few years ago, a group was formed to give a prize to the first commercial, non-governmental team to get into space twice in a single week using the same vehicle and carrying at least three people (or the mass equivlalent). This prize was the Ansari X Prize, and the $10 million prize was awarded to Mojave Aerospace Ventures and Scaled Composites LLC, builders of SpaceShipOne. The goal of the X Prize foundation was to use prize money to get smart, out-of-the-box thinkers to dream up wild ideas that could be applied to reduce the cost of human space flight. While it hasn’t done this yet, there are a lot of indications that it will, since the Ansari X Prize has spawned off Spaceport America in New Mexico and Virgin Galactic, a budding space tourism subsidiary of Virgin Atlantic.

The X Prize Foundation’s mission is “To bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity,” and they plan to do so with a series of X Prizes along the lines of the Ansari X Prize for space flight. The X Prize Foundation has just offered its third X Prize: the Automotive X Prize. (more…)

Revisiting Nuclear Non-Proliferation April 6, 2007

Posted by Brian Angliss in Energy & the Environment, Foreign Policy, technology.

United States energy policy is intertwined with foreign policy, global heating, and public health. The strategic energy plank I’ve written for Dr. Slammy’s campaign will be posted some time in the next few weeks, but one of the tactical realizations that informed my broader thought process was how we could power our civilization while weaning ourselves off coal, oil, and natural gas. Nuclear energy is the only candidate energy supply currently widely available that will be able to meet our energy needs. Unfortunately, widing access to sustainable nuclear energy will eventually run afoul of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

My argument for revisiting how the NPT works, and for dramatically increasing the enforcement power of the IAEA, is presented below.


Even better than the real thing February 4, 2007

Posted by @Doc in art, Education, newspeak, simulacra, technology.

Item 1: While waiting for a table at a restaurant this morning, my wife, sister-in-law and brother-in-law were looking at a series of photographs by Sue Norris, whom I know little about. Nice work, though – very pretty landscapes. We were noting the vividness of the colors and I made an offhand comment about how they’d certainly been Photoshopped. We found the “About the Artist” piece on one of the walls, and she talks in some detail about her technique, which does in fact involve the use of Photoshop for color and contrast balancing, filtering, etc. All straightforward enough. (more…)