New High Tech Stuff Isn’t Always More ‘Environmentally Friendly’

Which is why the EPA won’t let certain things be manufactured in the US. (Not that shipping that manufacturing overseas is really ‘good’ for the environment. But NIMBY is a strong force in America.)

So first up is the whole electric vehicle craze. (And it is a craze.) The Silicon Graybeard: All-Electric Small Airplane

OK, so there’s an electric plane. Not the first. The thing that caught my eye…

Earlier this week, several outlets reported a study from the Swedish Environmental Research Insitute that the “carbon footprint” of producing the batteries for an electric car was equivalent to driving for 8 years. This ignored recharging the batteries for the life of the car, which is obviously coming from an electric power generating plant somewhere, so more than likely generating CO2 itself. I’m sure you’ve seen electric cars referred to as coal powered.

The report shows that the battery manufacturing leads to high emissions. For every kilowatt hour of storage capacity in the battery generated emissions of 150 to 200 kilos of carbon dioxide already in the factory. The researchers did not study individual brand batteries, how these were produced, or the electricity mix they use.

As Graybeard points out, battery researchers are struggling to come up with batteries that have 4% of the energy density of gasoline. (450 Wh/kg versus 12,000 Wh/kg.) And the “8 year” figure doesn’t include charging of the batteries. That is just the carbon cost of producing the battery.

This reminds me of the state of fusion power over the past few decades. Since before I graduated from college, fusion power has been “just around the corner.” And while the ITER (the current international attempt at fusion) might actually produce a reactor that generates more power than it consumes, no utility will ever build one. Imagining Fusion Power | Energy Matters

First off, fusion reactors based on the Tokamak design will produce large amounts of neutrons. These will turn all of the components of the Tokamak into radioactive waste. Large quantities of radioactive waste.

The Hirsch article tells you that worldwide fusion energy research is almost totally focused on a concept called the tokamak, a toroidal (donut) shaped system, which uses the deuterium-tritium (DT) fusion fuel cycle. You are reminded that the DT cycle is characterized by the copious emission of neutrons, which will result in the creation of large quantities of radioactivity, no matter what materials are used to build such a system. Opps! Managing large quantities of radioactive material raises a huge red flag with you, based on the experience with nuclear power plants. Not good!

So we would have EXACTLY the same problems with fusion reactors – storing radioactive waste – that makes the population hate fission reactors. Not a “clean technology.”

Then there is the likelihood of a regular explosion.

ITER-Tokamak reactors appear to be seriously wanting, in part because of the massive amount of radioactivity that will be produced and in part because its massive superconducting magnets could suddenly go normal, resulting in an explosion of the magnitude of a World War II blockbuster bomb.

So radioactive debris in the middle of something that could let go with the force of a VERY large conventional bomb. Yeah, sign me up for one of those!

While I’m not of the “let’s dump all fusion research” camp, I am aware of the fact that there are problems with the current design. And we’ve sort of put all of our eggs in one basket on that front.

On the electric vehicle front, I think that day will dawn, but it will take some serious developments in either battery or super capacitor research. I actually think some of the research being done in artificial photosynthesis to produce alcohol fuels has more promise. But that doesn’t get much press.

Castle Bravo

On March 1, 1954 in the Marshall Islands, on the Bikini Atoll, the US fired the Castle Bravo thermonuclear weapon. Less than 2 years after the Ivy Mike Shot proved that a hydrogen bomb was possible, the Castle Bravo device was the first thermonuclear weapon small enough to be carried by an aircraft. (The Ivy Mike shot had depended on cryogenic equipment making the device weigh 80 tons or more.) This opened the door to the 2nd stage of the Cold War.

The Castle Bravo shot was the first detonation of a dry thermonuclear bomb. It was also a complete catastrophe.

Officially it was Operation Castle, Bravo Shot. (For whatever reason there was no Alpha Shot in Operation Castle.

Scientists working on the shot had used a lithium-6 isotope but also included a lot of lithium-7. They calculated that the lithium-7 would be inert, and that the resulting explosion would be in the 6-megaton range. They were completely wrong.

The explosive power of the Castle Bravo shot was 250 percent ABOVE expectations. In other words, instead of the 6 megaton explosion they expected, they got 15 megatons. The base – built to conduct nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands – was destroyed. The shot crew were trapped in their bunker by high radiation. Several islands – where no one was even supposed to know what was going on – had to be evacuated. The people on those islands suffered for a long time as the result of radiation exposure. A Japanese fishing crew was exposed and at least one death from radiation exposure occurred. This lead to an international call for an end to atmospheric testing.

Remember this when scientists tell you that they know exactly how bad (or how good) something is going to be based on their equations, but in the absence of observation. They often get it right, but not always. “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” (Yogi Berra)

It isn’t surprising that A Capella Science has a take on nuclear weapons. (That does mention Castle Bravo)

“Einstein, We Have a Problem” – The problem with so much science today is it isn’t true

How science is structured when it works, and what we have been doing for the past 50 years, and maybe why so much of it is trash. Saving Science – The New Atlantis

The referenced article is long, but worth your attention. Or I think so anyway. What we have been doing for the past 50 years isn’t working in a lot ways. We haven’t cured cancer. We are losing our ability to fight disease. And spending a lot of money – taxpayer and otherwise – and not seeing much return on investment. Not in a lot of places.

The science world has been buffeted for nearly a decade by growing revelations that major bodies of scientific knowledge, published in peer-reviewed papers, may simply be wrong. Among recent instances: a cancer cell line used as the basis for over a thousand published breast cancer research studies was revealed to be actually a skin cancer cell line; a biotechnology company was able to replicate only six out of fifty-three “landmark” published studies it sought to validate; a test of more than one hundred potential drugs for treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in mice was unable to reproduce any of the positive findings that had been reported from previous studies; Continue reading

Science is Not the Quest of TRUTH, but the Quest for Research Dollars

40 to 89 percent of “scientific studies” cannot be reproduced. Shocking? Hardly. Many scientific “truths” are, in fact, false – Quartz

For example, there’s massive academic pressure to publish in journals, and these journals tend to publish exciting studies that show strong results

“Journals favor novelty, originality, and verification of hypotheses over robustness, stringency of method, reproducibility, and falsifiability,” Hagger tells Quartz. “Therefore researchers have been driven to finding significant effects, finding things that are novel, testing them on relatively small samples.”

Some disciplines have more trouble than others. Psychology is especially problematic.

Researchers have recreated prominent studies from several scientific fields and come up with wildly different results. And psychology has become something of a poster child for the “reproducibility crisis” since Brian Nosek, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, coordinated a Reproducibility Initiative project to repeat 100 psychological experiments, and could only successfully replicate 40%.

Folks believe that science is the quest for ultimate truth. But it isn’t. Science abandoned the quest for “Truth” in the late 1800s, when it was clear that all the truths we thought we knew were wrong. If you are looking for Truth (capital “T”) you should either be studying philosophy or theology. [Hat Tip Small Dead Animals]

What Would We Do Without Neuroscientists?

So the have “proved” that the “I was just following orders” defense is legit. Except of course that it isn’t. Neuroscientists have found a basis for the ‘I was just following orders’ excuse

This BS is all over the news today.

So if you were just following orders, you may feel less responsible, but you are in fact responsible. You may think you don’t have to evaluate your actions. But you would be wrong. You are responsible for you actions, even when you don’t feel like.

Being an adult is hard. Grow up.

Science is a Human Endeavor, Subject to Politics, Bias, etc.

The current view in the media and in some of the scientific community, is that science is pure and immune to things like politics, budget pressure or peer pressure. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Bad Science – Study on Gay Marriage Was Fake, Gets Retracted.

The scientific community is in shock after one of the largest scientific publishers, Science, was forced to retract a study on gay marriage; the reason? The data on which it was based was almost certainly fake.

But that shouldn’t be shocking to anyone, and certainly not anyone in the scientific community.

Scientists are human beings. As such, they have prejudices, biases, and all the other failings that humans have. To think that they could be flawed individuals in their personal lives, and yet perfect, pure scientists in their professional lives is naive, at best.

This is about the study that said, if you want to change people’s minds on gay marriage, all you need to do is have a short conversation.

Turns out it isn’t that easy

Continue reading

Set the Wayback Machine for 2008: McCain, Obama, Clinton push vaccine-autism Link

It is beautiful that the internet is forever. (Except in Europe where they will now forget. McCain, Obama, Clinton push dangerous vaccine-autism myth – Salon.com.

Shocking to discover that politicians pander to the populace. Well, not too shocking, if you are paying attention to anything that has gone on in DC for the past 50 or 60 years or so.

Yet the vaccine-autism myth has been kept alive by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, who pushed the theory in a book and on “Oprah” last year, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who made the case in an article for Rolling Stone and Salon.

During the last few months, John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have gotten into the act.

OK, so it isn’t as damning as I would like it to be, but there it is. Folks on both sides of the aisle ignoring the science to pander to political concerns. What a shock.