EssentialstheDiagonal is a personal blog by Mike Gerra, skeptic, technologist, psychologist, artist, humanist, collector of grand, eclectic ideas.theDiagonal blog connects the dots across multiple disciplines for inquisitive, objective and critical thinkers, exploring the vertices of big science, disruptive innovation, global sustainability, illuminating literature and leftfield art. It is on this diagonal that creativity thrives, big ideas take flight and reason triumphs.
Tag Archives: sustainability
Friday, May 3, 2013
It should come as no surprise that those who deny the science of climate change and human-propelled impact on the environment would also shirk from purchasing products and services that are friendly to the environment.
A recent study shows how extreme political persuasion sways purchasing behavior of light bulbs: conservatives are more likely to purchase incandescent bulbs, while moderates and liberals lean towards more eco-friendly bulbs.
Joe Barton, U.S. Representative from Texas, sums up the issue of light bulb choice quite neatly, “… it is about personal freedom”. All the while our children shake their heads in disbelief....read more
Monday, April 15, 2013
Researchers at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, have discovered an alternative and possibly more efficient way to make hydrogen at industrial scales. Typically, hydrogen is produced from reacting high temperature steam with methane or natural gas. A small volume of hydrogen, less than five percent annually, is also made through the process of electrolysis — passing an electric current through water.
This new method of production appears to be less costly, less dangerous and also more environmentally sound.
From the Independent:
Scientists have harnessed the principles of photosynthesis to develop a new way of producing hydrogen – in a breakthrough that offers a possible solution to global energy problems.
The researchers claim the development could help unlock the potential of hydrogen as a clean, cheap and reliable power source.
Unlike fossil fuels, hydrogen can be burned to produce energy without producing emissions. It is also the most abundant element on the planet....read more
Friday, March 29, 2013
No, the drawing is not a construction from the mind of sci fi illustrator extraordinaire Michael Whelan. This is reality. Or, to be more precise an architectural rendering of buildings to come — in China of course.
From the Independent:
A French architecture firm has unveiled their new ambitious ‘farmscraper’ project – six towering structures which promise to change the way that we think about green living.
Vincent Callebaut Architects’ innovative Asian Cairns was planned specifically for Chinese city Shenzhen in response to the growing population, increasing CO2 emissions and urban development.
The structures will consist of a series of pebble-shaped levels – each connected by a central spinal column – which will contain residential areas, offices, and leisure spaces....read more
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Often the best creative ideas and the most elegant solutions are the simplest. GravityLight is an example of this type of innovation. Here’s the problem: replace damaging and expensive kerosene fuel lamps in Africa with a less harmful and cheaper alternative. And, the solution:
From ars technica:
A London design consultancy has developed a cheap, clean, and safer alternative to the kerosene lamp. Kerosene burning lamps are thought to be used by over a billion people in developing nations, often in remote rural parts where electricity is either prohibitively expensive or simply unavailable. Kerosene’s potential replacement, GravityLight, is powered by gravity without the need of a battery—it’s also seen by its creators as a superior alternative to solar-powered lamps....read more
Friday, September 28, 2012
The quest to tap fusion as an energy source here on Earth continues to inch forward with some promising new developments. Of course, we mean nuclear fusion — the type which drives our companion star to shine, not the now debunked “cold fusion” supposedly demonstrated in a test tube in the late 1980s.
In the high-stakes race to realize fusion energy, a smaller lab may be putting the squeeze on the big boys. Worldwide efforts to harness fusion—the power source of the sun and stars—for energy on Earth currently focus on two multibillion dollar facilities: the ITER fusion reactor in France and the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California. But other, cheaper approaches exist—and one of them may have a chance to be the first to reach “break-even,” a key milestone in which a process produces more energy than needed to trigger the fusion reaction....read more
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Aside from the ubiquitous plastic grocery bag will any human made artifact last 10,000 years? Before you answer, let’s qualify the question by mandating the artifact have some long-term value. That would seem to eliminate plastic bags, plastic toys embedded in fast food meals, and DVDs of reality “stars” ripped from YouTube. What does that leave? Most human made products consisting of metals or biodegradable components, such as paper and wood, will rust, rot or breakdown in 20-300 years. Even some plastics left exposed to sun and air will breakdown within a thousand years. Of course, buried deep in a landfill, plastic containers, styrofoam cups and throwaway diapers may remain with us for tens or hundreds of thousands of years.
Archaeological excavations show us that artifacts made of glass and ceramic would fit the bill — lasting well into the year 12012 and beyond. But, in the majority of cases we usually unearth fragments of things....read more
Friday, March 16, 2012
Since 2006 Evolo architecture magazine has run a competition for architects to bring life to their most fantastic skyscraper designs. All the finalists of 2012 competition presented some stunning ideas, and topped by the winner, Himalaya Water Tower, from Zhi Zheng, Hongchuan Zhao, Dongbai Song of China.
Housed within 55,000 glaciers in the Himalaya Mountains sits 40 percent of the world’s fresh water. The massive ice sheets are melting at a faster-than-ever pace due to climate change, posing possible dire consequences for the continent of Asia and the entire world stand, and especially for the villages and cities that sit on the seven rivers that come are fed from the Himalayas’ runoff as they respond with erratic flooding or drought....read more
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
From Cosmic Log:
Researchers have been trying for decades to improve upon Mother Nature’s favorite solar-power trick — photosynthesis — but now they finally think they see the sunlight at the end of the tunnel.
“We now understand photosynthesis much better than we did 20 years ago,” said Richard Cogdell, a botanist at the University of Glasgow who has been doing research on bacterial photosynthesis for more than 30 years. He and three colleagues discussed their efforts to tweak the process that powers the world’s plant life today in Vancouver, Canada, during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science....read more
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Dreaming of a self-sufficiency? The infographic below shows that an average U.S. household would need around 2 acres of outdoor space for the ultimate sustainable backyard.
From One Block Off the Grid:
More from theSource here.
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Thursday, July 28, 2011
From Ars Technica:
Since the 1970s, chemists have worked on storing solar energy in molecules that change state in response to light. These photoactive molecules could be the ideal solar fuel, as the right material should be transportable, affordable, and rechargeable. Unfortunately, scientists haven’t had much success.
One of the best examples in recent years, tetracarbonly-diruthenium fulvalene, requires the use of ruthenium, which is rare and expensive. Furthermore, the ruthenium compound has a volumetric energy density (watt-hours per liter) that is several times smaller than that of a standard lithium-ion battery.
Alexie Kolpak and Jeffrey Grossman from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology propose a new type of solar thermal fuel that would be affordable, rechargeable, thermally stable, and more energy-dense than lithium-ion batteries. Their proposed design combines an organic photoactive molecule, azobenzene, with the ever-popular carbon nanotube.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Bjørn Lomborg for Project Syndicate:
In May, the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change made media waves with a new report on renewable energy. As in the past, the IPCC first issued a short summary; only later would it reveal all of the data. So it was left up to the IPCC’s spin-doctors to present the take-home message for journalists.
The first line of the IPCC’s press release declared, “Close to 80% of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies.” That story was repeated by media organizations worldwide....read more
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Energy efficiency sounds simple, but it’s rather difficult to measure. Sure when you purchase a shiny, new more energy efficient washing machine compared with your previous model you’re making a personal dent in energy consumption. But, what if in aggregate overall consumption increases because more people want that energy efficient model? In a nutshell, that’s Jevons Paradox, named after a 19th-century British economist, William Jevons. He observed that while the steam engine consumed energy more efficiently from coal, it also stimulated so much economic growth that coal consumption actually increased. Thus, Jevons argued that improvements in fuel efficiency tend to increase, rather than decrease, fuel use.
John Tierney over at the New York Times brings Jevons into the 21st century and discovers that the issues remain the same.
From the New York Times:
For the sake of a cleaner planet, should Americans wear dirtier clothes?...read more
Sunday, June 14, 2009
President Obama plans to spend billions building it. General Electric is already running slick ads touting the technology behind it. And Greenpeace declares that it is a great idea. But what exactly is a “smart grid”? According to one big-picture description, it is much of what today’s power grid is not, and more of what it must become if the United States is to replace carbon-belching, coal-fired power with renewable energy generated from sun and wind....read more
Friday, April 3, 2009
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
“Manufacturing scarcity” is the new watchword in “Green capitalism”. James Heartfield explains how for the energy sector, it has become a license to print money. Increasing profits by cutting output was pioneered by Enron in the 1990s; now the model of restricted supply together with domestic energy generation is promoted worldwide.
The corporate raiders of the 1980s first worked out that you might be able to make more money downsizing, or even breaking up industry than building it up. It is a perverse result of the profit motive that private gain should grow out of public decay. But even the corporate raiders never dreamt of making deindustrialisation into an avowed policy goal which the rest of us would pay for....read more
Friday, January 25, 2008
From Scientific American:
By 2050 solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions.
High prices for gasoline and home heating oil are here to stay. The U.S. is at war in the Middle East at least in part to protect its foreign oil interests. And as China, India and other nations rapidly increase their demand for fossil fuels, future fighting over energy looms large. In the meantime, power plants that burn coal, oil and natural gas, as well as vehicles everywhere, continue to pour millions of tons of pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually, threatening the planet.
Well-meaning scientists, engineers, economists and politicians have proposed various steps that could slightly reduce fossil-fuel use and emissions. These steps are not enough. The U.S. needs a bold plan to free itself from fossil fuels. Our analysis convinces us that a massive switch to solar power is the logical answer....read more
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
By Robert H. Socolow and Stephen W. Pacala, From Scientific American:
Getting a grip on greenhouse gases is daunting but doable. The technologies already exist. But there is no time to lose.
Retreating glaciers, stronger hurricanes, hotter summers, thinner polar bears: the ominous harbingers of global warming are driving companies and governments to work toward an unprecedented change in the historical pattern of fossil-fuel use. Faster and faster, year after year for two centuries, human beings have been transferring carbon to the atmosphere from below the surface of the earth. Today the world’s coal, oil and natural gas industries dig up and pump out about seven billion tons of carbon a year, and society burns nearly all of it, releasing carbon dioxide (CO2). Ever more people are convinced that prudence dictates a reversal of the present course of rising CO2 emissions....read more
From Scientific American:
If efficiency improvements and incremental advances in today’s technologies fail to halt global warming, could revolutionary new carbon-free energy sources save the day? Don’t count on it–but don’t count it out, either.
To keep this world tolerable for life as we like it, humanity must complete a marathon of technological change whose finish line lies far over the horizon. Robert H. Socolow and Stephen W. Pacala of Princeton University have compared the feat to a multigenerational relay race [see their article "A Plan to Keep Carbon in Check"]. They outline a strategy to win the first 50-year leg by reining back carbon dioxide emissions from a century of unbridled acceleration. Existing technologies, applied both wisely and promptly, should carry us to this first milestone without trampling the global economy. That is a sound plan A....read more
Wednesday, July 5, 2006
From Scientific American:
On the afternoon of August 14, 2003, electricity failed to arrive in New York City, plunging the eight million inhabitants of the Big Apple–along with 40 million other people throughout the northeastern U.S. and Ontario–into a tense night of darkness. After one power plant in Ohio had shut down, elevated power loads overheated high-voltage lines, which sagged into trees and short-circuited. Like toppling dominoes, the failures cascaded through the electrical grid, knocking 265 power plants offline and darkening 24,000 square kilometers....read more