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1. How does the Higgs mechanism create mass?

We’re celebrating the release of Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the ‘God Particle’ with a series of posts by science writer Jim Baggott over the week to explain some of the mysteries of the Higgs boson. Read the previous posts: “What is the Higgs boson?”, “Why is the Higgs boson called the ‘god particle’?”, and “Is the particle recently discovered at CERN’s LHC the Higgs boson?”

By Jim Baggott

Through thousands of years of speculative philosophy and hundreds of years of hard empirical science, we have tended to think of mass as an innate property (a ‘primary quality’) of material substance. We figured that, whatever they might be, the basic building blocks of matter would surely consist of microscopic lumps of some kind of ‘stuff’.

But this is not quite how it has worked out. There was a clue in the title of one of Albert Einstein’s most famous research papers, published in 1905: ‘Does the inertia of a body depend on its energy content?’ This was the paper in which Einstein suggested that there was a deep connection between mass and energy, through what would subsequently become the world’s most famous equation, E = mc2.

We experience the mass of an object as inertia (the object’s resistance to acceleration) and Einstein was suggesting that the latter is determined not by mass as a primary quality, but rather by the energy that the object contains.

So, when an otherwise massless particle travelling at the speed of light interacts with the Higgs field, it is slowed down. The field ‘drags’ on it, as though the particle were moving through molasses. In other words, the energy of the interaction is manifested as a resistance to acceleration. The particle acquires inertia, and we think of this inertia in terms of the particle’s ‘mass’.

In the Higgs mechanism, mass loses its status as a primary quality. It becomes secondary — the result of massless particles interacting with the Higgs field.

So, does the Higgs mechanism explain all mass? Including the mass of me, you, and all the objects in the visible universe? No, it doesn’t. To see why, let’s just take a quick look at the origin of the mass of the heavy paperweight that sits on my desk in front of me.

The paperweight is made of glass. It has a complex molecular structure consisting primarily of a network of silicon and oxygen atoms bonded together. Obviously, we can trace its mass to the protons and neutrons which account for 99% of the mass of every silicon and oxygen atom in this structure.

According to the standard model, protons and neutrons are made of quarks. So, we might be tempted to conclude that the mass of the paperweight resides in the masses of the quarks from which the protons and neutrons are composed. But we’d be wrong again. Although it’s quite difficult to determine precisely the masses of the quarks, they are substantially smaller and lighter than the protons and neutrons that they comprise. We would estimate that the masses of the quarks, derived through their interaction with the Higgs field, account for only about 1% of the mass of a proton, for example.

But if 99% of the mass of a proton is not to be found in its constituent quarks, then where is it? The answer is that the rest of the proton’s mass resides in the energy of the massless gluons — the carriers of the strong nuclear force — that pass between the quarks and bind them together inside the proton.

What the standard model of particle physics tells us is quite bizarre. There appear to be ultimate building blocks which do have characteristic physical properties, but mass isn’t really one of them. Instead of mass we have interactions between elementary particles that would otherwise be massless and the Higgs field. These interactions slow the particles down, giving rise to inertia which we interpret as mass. As these elementary particles combine, the energy of the massless force particles passing between them builds, adding greatly to the impression of solidity and substance.

Jim Baggott is author of Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the ‘God Particle’ and a freelance science writer. He was a lecturer in chemistry at the University of Reading but left to pursue a business career, where he first worked with Shell International Petroleum Company and then as an independent business consultant and trainer. His many books include Atomic: The First War of Physics (Icon, 2009), Beyond Measure: Modern Physics, Philosophy and the Meaning of Quantum Theory (OUP, 2003), A Beginner’s Guide to Reality (Penguin, 2005), and A Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments (OUP, 2010). Read his previous blog posts.

On 4 July 2012, scientists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) facility in Geneva announced the discovery of a new elementary particle they believe is consistent with the long-sought Higgs boson, or ‘god particle’. Our understanding of the fundamental nature of matter — everything in our visible universe and everything we are — is about to take a giant leap forward. So, what is the Higgs boson and why is it so important? What role does it play in the structure of material substance? We’re celebrating the release of Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the ‘God Particle’ with a series of posts by science writer Jim Baggott over the week to explain some of the mysteries of the Higgs. Read the previous posts: “What is the Higgs boson?”, “Why is the Higgs boson called the ‘god particle’?”, and “Is the particle recently discovered at CERN’s LHC the Higgs boson?”

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2. Three For Earth Day

Get Outside: The Kids Guide to Fun in the Great Outdoors
by Jane Drake and Ann Love
illustrated by Heather Collins
Kids Can Press, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

This guide is organized first by season, and within each season by these categories of activities: Nature Lover, Outdoor Fun and Games, Snug Inside, and Look to the Sky.

Kind of sad that the sort of "mucking about inventing our own fun and games" stuff we did when I was a kid needs categories and step-by-step instructions, but we need whatever it takes to get this generation of kids outside!

This is a good book for kids, but also a good book for Environmental Club leaders (me), Girl Scout Leaders, Day Camp Leaders, Home Schoolers, and parents.

Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World
by Allan Drummond
Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

This picture book is good for many ages. The main text is embedded in engaging illustrations, but the sidebar information about energy is good for 5th grade and up.

The Danish island of Samso is very windy. This book chronicles the long process the residents of that island went through to make the transition to being almost completely energy-independent by harnessing the power of the wind.

Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story
by Thomas F. Yezerski
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

This gorgeously-illustrated picture book reminds me of A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry. They both are environmental histories about places in nature that humans came really really close to completely destroying...but didn't...and the slow and hopeful recovery process. Both have border illustrations that extend or elaborate on the main illustration or information on the page.

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3. Running on Adrenaline

adrenalineWriting requires energy. Life requires energy! What fuel are you running on?

Many people these days are frantically running from place to place, working too many hours, volunteering for too many projects, working nights and weekends (partly) because of a need for approval.

They are fueled by sugar, caffeine, cigarettes and adrenaline to keep going. You might get more done short-term this way, but if this is your fuel, you’re injuring your health in the long run.


Last week in the online retreat workshop, we talked about “destressing the writing life.” Before we can do much, we have to destress life in general, I think.

I don’t need to tell you that we live “on alert” these days. We are bombarded from so many information sources. We allow ourselves to be at the beck and call of anyone who rings our cell phone or shoots us an email. Adrenaline is used like a drug, pushing tired bodies to work faster and harder. The end result is a crash-and-burn depletion of your reserves.

Go Against the Flow

Do you want to have a long-term writing life? Do you want to have enough energy to write longer than a 30-day NaNoWriMo stint? Then while you still have time–while you still have your health–I urge you to develop a counter-cultural lifestyle. Look at your life now. Make a list of the things that have stressed you out this past week.

No groceries in the cupboard because a meeting ran late and you couldn’t stop at the store? Phone call from a teacher saying little Johnny forgot his required permission slip for the day’s field trip? A bounced check? Having to work late at night while everyone else is sleeping, just to keep life from derailing?

All of these things make us run on adrenaline that wears down our bodies. And much as we might argue otherwise, all of these things are preventable.

Replace the Old with the New

Habits that cause you to run on adrenaline are habits that need to be replaced. I can’t tell you which habits you need to exchange, but I can share some of mine.

For one thing, I’ve noticed that for six months, I’ve arrived places out of breath and a little bit late, and I go tearing into meetings or classes after the program has begun. So embarrassing. I sweat it on the way to the meeting, and backed-up traffic skyrockets my blood pressure. I hate to waste time, so I hate arriving somewhere early and waiting. Solution? To avoid the adrenaline rush, I plan to leave early enough to arrive early, but take work or a book along, stay in the parking lot and write or read, then walk in calmly ten minutes before the class starts.

I have also noticed that the days I DON’T run on adrenaline are the days I start with exercise and devotional reading and prayer. And yet, too many times lately, I’ve awakened feeling energetic, considered the two hours I’d lose if I stuck to my exercise/relaxation regimen, and jumped into work instead. Make hay while the sun shines, right? Mostly, I’ve made headaches and a sore back and neck. I need to remember that my health regimen actually saves me time in the long run. And I run those days, not on adrenaline, but on healthy energy supplies.

I am going to set a boundary on working in the evenings. I couldn’t see what difference it would make if, while watching a good movie with my husband or chatting, I also answered some email questions and deleted hundreds of blog spam and updated my websites. Most of it was “no think” activity, so what did it harm? A lot, I think now. My mind won’t shut off when I shut off the computer to go to bed. My neck and back hurt terribly by then. And

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4. 10 Things that Should Exist by 2030

By Bram Vermeer

Science can create a better world. We are no playthings in the Earth’s fate. Here are my personal top 10 breakthroughs that are badly needed to ensure our future.

1. Smart irrigation

When farmers irrigate their land, they usually water it 100 percent of the time. But isn’t it silly for farmers to ignore the rain? Often they have no alternative, as reliable rain forecasts are not available. Ethiopia, for example, has only a dozen weather stations that report online. But nowadays many farmers own a cell phone. Google.org came up with a simple, yet brilliant idea: let farmers text their own weather observations to a central computer. That will allow experts to make a forecast and text an irrigation advice to the farmers. This is only the beginning for how information technology can revolutionize farming.

2. New energy from the earth

This century we will probably say goodbye to oil. I have great hopes for deep geothermal energy, but it doesn’t feature in many energy scenarios. Planners usually base their ideas on existing technologies. A breakthrough may make it possible to tap the heath of the Earth. If we can really learn how to drill 5 to 10 kilometers through hard rock, we can make many artificial geysers. That would make large amounts of energy available within the next 20 years. A few trials are already underway. If they succeed, we’ll have to completely revise our energy future.

3. Solar cells printed on rollers

For solar energy to provide 5 percent of the world’s energy needs, we would need to cover a surface as large as California with solar cells. We have no way of doing that with current solar cell technology, except if we start using plastic or other thin materials that can be processed on rollers. That means you can use printing techniques, which allow for faster production. Plastic solar cells have progressed over the past decade from a scientific curiosity to a promising breakthrough technology. But we need to improve their lifespan and efficiency.

4. A factory in a shoebox

Size matters. Modern electronics makes it perfectly viable to minimize the size of a chemical plant without sacrificing efficiency. So why not reverse the trend of sizing up installations and start shrinking the equipment? You can miniaturize all the vessels, pipes, and distillation columns that make up a chemical plant—down to the size of a shoebox. The local supermarket could produce your washing powder. No logistics required.

5. Personal genetic profile

Long before 2030, all parents in the US will probably be able to afford to have their baby’s DNA sequenced. Knowing the details of the DNA will make it easier to predict the effects of pharmaceuticals. And it will generate a mass of significant data for scientific research, which will further accelerate progress. Probably we’ll learn that nurture may compensate for our genetic nature. When DNA tells us where our weaknesses lie, we’ll probably start training to improve on that. Learning from DNA will make us less dependent on our genetic fate.

6. Fertilizer factories in Africa

Africa currently imports most of its fertilizers. So why not produce them locally? This would reduce the hassle of transportation on bad roads and connecting to international markets. It would bring the benefits of the Green Revolution to rural communities. Technically, we ‘would have to scale down the chemical installations to meet the local requirements, but new developments in chemistry will make that possible.

7. Antidote for the real pandemic

Not much happened in the 2009 pandemic. But we learned that 85 percent of the world’s population has little

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5. Hot Off the Press! Earth Science: The Physical Setting, 2nd Edition

I am really excited about introducing you to the second edition of Earth Science: The Physical Setting by Thomas McGuire. It has been my pleasure to work with Mr. McGuire to make this edition even better than the original. If you liked the first edition, you will love the second. We have made many changes. The cover, shown above, features a photograph of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland.

What’s New in Amsco’s Earth Science: The Physical Setting, Second Edition?
  • New color photographs specifically illustrate concepts in the text.
  • The 2010 edition of the Earth Science Reference Tables is integrated throughout the text.
  • The new colorul design features Unit Openers that set the stage for what follows.
  • The reorganized Table of Contents puts chapters on weathering, erosion, deposition, rivers, groundwater, oceans, coastal processes, and landscapes before chapters on earthquakes, plate tectonics, and geologic hazards.
  • The 28 chapters of the textbook are now arranged into 8 units:
    1. Earth Measures and Models
    2. Minerals, Rocks, and Resources
    3. Weathering and Erosion
    4. Water Shapes Earth’s Surface
    5. Earth’s Internal Heat Engine

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6. Ten Things WE WON’T Have by 2030

By Bram Vermeer

Overoptimism and overpessimism sells. But let’s face reality. Here are 10 things we won’t have by 2030:

1. Asteroid bomb

Asteroids with a diameter of more than 100 m (109 yd) reach our planet once every 2000 years. Distressing as that may be, their impact remains local. Bad luck if this asteroid hits Washington DC, but humankind as a whole will be able to survive that. The likelihood of a collision that has a real global impact is still 1000 times smaller. So we’d better prepare for more likely catastrophes, like flu pandemics and water shortages.

2. Moore’s law

The incredible miniaturization of microelectronics will inevitably come to a halt. Extrapolating the current pace, we will reach components of atomic sizes by 2020. But long before that, we will have given up the endeavor of making electronics smaller. We face tremendous technical difficulties in the next steps of miniaturization. Even if we succeed, the costs would be staggering. The speed of single processors already stalled at a few gigahertz. We would be better off investing in connecting processors with sensors and small motors, which would make clever devices that interact with us better.

3. Population stabilization

In many countries, birth and death rates are declining, but not at the same pace. It would require careful tuning of the number of babies to achieve demographic stabilization. There is no such stabilization in natural ecosystems, and we won’t see it in human society either. So be prepared for population growth, population decline, and an uneven age distribution in societies. All of these are concerning.

4. Singularity

Will machines outwit humans and take over our civilization? For robots to procreate, they would have to take possession of mines, material plants, microelectronics foundries, assembling sites, and probably some military facilities as well. The collective power of 8 billion human minds will certainly prevent that in the next decades and defeat any machine “gone wild”. And what about our PCs, brain aids, and other appliances becoming increasingly part of us? I think we already crossed that boundary when we started to use cells. We live in a symbiotic relationship with technology, which means that we continuously have to nurture it. Technological evolution is about mastering science, not about submission to it.

5. The greenhouse flood

I live below sea level, as do many people in the Netherlands. The water authorities are already raising the dikes in preparation for climate change. By 2030 the sea level will have risen by only 4 cm (1.6″). So I needn’t be afraid for my house. Climate change is slow compared to the length of a human life. Precisely that makes it difficult for us to act. Also, counteractions only take effect slowly. But I am worried for the generations to come. The last time the earth saw a CO2 level comparable to what we are experiencing now, seas were 70 m (77 yd) higher. Long after 2030, we’ll probably have to give up the lowest parts of my home country. The same is probably true for cities like New Orleans.

6. Clean electric cars

Even in the most optimistic of scenarios, only 10 percent of all cars in Western societies will be electric by 2030. And even these cars won’t really be clean as they depend on fuels burnt in power plants. Worldwide we are still building two new coal-fired power plants a week; the pace of installing renewable power is much, much slower. Moving away from fossil energy is a huge task that requires more than adjustments. We have to prepare for a transformation that touches all aspects of society. Probably we’ll have to rethink the very concept of moving by car.

7. Invasion of nanobots<

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7. What Type of Writer Are You?

1Do you ever wonder if you’re a REAL writer? If you have doubts, it might be because you have a bad case of the “shoulds.”

Symptoms of the “shoulds” include:

  • You should write first thing in the morning.
  • You should write daily.
  • You should keep a journal.
  • You should write down your dreams every morning.
  • You should have a room of your own and be organized!
  • You should write for publication.

What if some of the “shoulds” just go against your grain? Are you not a real writer then? What if you write best after 10 p.m. instead of first thing in the morning? What if you start journals repeatedly and never last more than three days? What if you can’t remember your dreams? What if an organized office makes you freeze and you secretly prefer writing in chaos?

Are you a REAL writer then? YES!

What Am I Exactly?

If you struggle with your identity as a writer–if you don’t seem to fit the mold no matter how you’ve tried–you would love the book I found over the weekend. It’s called The Write Type: Discover Your True Writer’s Identity and Create a Customized Writing Plan by Karen E. Peterson, who wrote the best book on writer’s block I ever read.

This book takes you through exercises to find the real writer who lives inside you. You’ll explore the ten components that make up a writer’s “type.” They include such things as tolerance for solitude, best time of day to write, amount of time, need for variety, level of energy, and level of commitment. Finding your own personal combination of traits helps you build a writer’s life where you can be your most productive and creative.

Free to Be Me

To be honest, the exercises with switching hands (right brain/left brain) didn’t help me as much as the discussions about each trait. I could usually identify my inner preferences quite easily through the discussion. It gave me freedom to be myself as a writer. It also helped me pinpoint a few areas where I believed some “shoulds” that didn’t work for me, where I was trying to force this square peg writer into a round hole and could stop!

We’re all different–no surprise!–but we published writers are sometimes too quick to pass along our own personal experience in the form of “shoulds.” You should write first thing in the morning should actually be stated, It works well for ME to write first thing in the morning, so you might try that.

What About You?

Have you come up against traits of “real writers” that just don’t seem to fit you? Do you like to flit from one unfinished project to another instead of sticking to one story until it’s finished and submitted? Do you need noise around you and get the heebie jeebies when it’s too quiet?

If you have time, leave a comment concerning one or two areas where you have struggled in the pas

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8. Entropy: Should we just go with the flow?

By Jonathan Crowe

It began with the sound of a tyre rim grinding on the surface of the cycle path I’d been travelling along, and a sudden sensation of being on a bike that was moving through treacle rather than through air. My rear tyre had punctured and, not for the first time of late, I found myself resenting the seeming futility of life: of having the bad luck to get the puncture, of having to spend time and effort buying and fitting a new inner tube – of my life being enriched not one iota by the whole experience.

As I trudged home that evening, wheeling the now-useless bike beside me, I reflected on the many situations we encounter that mirror this experience – when we find ourselves having to invest energy, only to be no further forward, in real terms, having done so.

Why is it that we have to invest energy merely to maintain the status quo? Why do we find ourselves running, effectively only to stand still? The answer lies in an intrinsic property of all matter, a universal truth so fundamental to our existence that it is captured by its own law: the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This law tells us, in a nutshell, that we are living in a perpetual downward spiral, in which things just get worse. A cheery outlook on life, if ever there was one. But it is an outlook from which there is no escape: the universe, and everything in it, is gradually crumbling into a state of ever-increasing disorder.

This property of all matter – this collapse into disorder – is given a name: entropy. Things that are disordered have greater entropy than things that are relatively more organized. A glass of water, in which the molecules of water itself can move around relatively freely, is more disorganized – has greater entropy – than a block of ice, in which the molecules of water are trapped into a rigid, organized array.

A process that increases disorder, with its associated increase in entropy, is a spontaneous one: one that happens without having to do work to bring it about. This fact has one important corollary: a decrease in entropy – a move towards a more organized state – requires us doing work to bring it about. This is arguably why housework feels like a chore: a living room doesn’t spontaneously tidy itself. We need to invest effort to reverse the spread of disorder, and bring order to whatever degree of chaos had befallen our living space since we last made the effort to tidy up. We are essentially swimming against the natural tide of entropy, with disorder setting in the moment we take our foot off the pedal.

When we look at life at the scale of the molecules and cells of our bodies we continue to see an ongoing battle with entropy: a tussle between order and disorder. Consider proteins, the molecular machines that carry out many important functions in the cell. As they are first being manufactured (or ‘synthesised’) in the cell, proteins exist as elongated chains of conjoined amino acid subunits, much like links of sausages as they are extruded from a sausage-making machine. However, these elongated protein chains must fold into specific three-dimensional shapes to function correctly. This folding represents an increase in order, and hence a decrease in entropy. As we note above, though, swimming against the tide of entropy comes at a cost: the cell must do work to drive such a process forward.

This battle against entropy is essentially why we must eat on a regular basis: to give the cells of our body the energy they need to drive forward those processes that won’t happen spontaneously.

Even the very continuation of life is a battle against disorder. Successful reproduction relies on the passing of biological information from one generation to the next. Every time a cell divides, it must pass on a copy of its

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9. Japan’s earthquake could shake public trust in the safety of nuclear power

This article was originally published by Foreign Policy on March 11, 2011.

A Radioactive Situation

By Charles D. Ferguson

Is nuclear power too risky in earthquake-prone countries such as Japan? On March 11, a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake shook Japan and caused widespread damage especially in the northeastern region of Honshu, the largest Japanese island. Nuclear power plants throughout that region automatically shut down when the plants’ seismometers registered ground accelerations above safety thresholds.

But all the shutdowns did not go perfectly. Reactor unit 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station experienced a mechanical failure in the emergency safety system. In response, officials ordered the evacuation of residents who live within two miles of the plant. Also, people living between two to 10 miles were ordered to stay indoors. The Japanese government described this order as a precautionary measure.

A worst-case accident would release substantial amounts of radioactive materials into the environment. This is unlikely to happen, but is still possible. Modern commercial nuclear power plants like the Fukushima plant use defense-in-depth safety measures. The first line of defense is fuel cladding that provides a barrier to release of highly radioactive fission products. Because these materials generate a substantial amount of heat, coolant is essential. Thus, the next lines of defense are to ensure that enough cooling water is available. The reactor coolant pumps are designed to keep water flowing through the hot core. But loss of electric power to the pumps will stop this flow. Backup electric power sources such as off-site power and on-site emergency diesel generators offer another layer of defense.

Unfortunately, these emergency power sources were knocked out about one hour after the plant shut down. Although it is unclear from the reporting to date, this power outage appears to have occurred at about the same time that a huge tsunami, triggered by the earthquake, hit that part of Japan.

Sustained loss of electric power could result in the core overheating and the fuel melting. However, three other backup systems provide additional layers of defense. First, the plant has batteries to supply power for about four hours. Second, the emergency core cooling system can inject water into the core. Finally, the containment structure, made of strong reinforced concrete, surrounds the reactor and can under even the most severe conditions prevent radioactive materials from entering the environment.

But the earthquake — the largest in the 140 years of recorded history of Japanese earthquakes — might have caused some damage to the containment structure. Japanese authorities announced that they will vent some steam from the containment structure to reduce the pressure buildup. This action may release small amounts of radioactive gas. The authorities do not expect any threat to the public.

Although a meltdown will most likely not occur, this incident will surely result in significant financial harm and potential loss of public confidence. For example, it was less than four years ago, in July 2007, when the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, Japan’s largest, suffered shaking beyond its design basis acceleration. The plant’s seven reactors were shut down for 21 months while authorities carefully investigated the extent of the damage. Fortunately, public safety was not harmed and the plant experienced no major damage. However, the government accepted responsibility for approving construction of the first reactor near a geological fault line, which was unknown at the time of construction. The

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10. 10 Cool, Awe Inspiring, Nearly Pointless Facts

  1. Cold things don’t give off the cold, they take in the heat.
  2. Every time you move your muscles, 100’s of millions of tiny molecules call adenozine triphospahte are broken down into adenozine diphosphate and energy to make your muscle move.
  3. Eating celery burns more calories than is actually in the celery itself.
  4. Drinking cold water helps to burn calories. Your body has to heat up the water to absorb it. Heating the water up is what burns the fat.
  5. People who aren’t or don’t speak German sound funny when trying to speak it.
  6. Women get a heroine like rush from hearing themselves talk.
  7. Jumping on a grenade that’s just landed in your trench to use yourself as a human sacrifice will work and save all the other men in your trench.
  8. Emos are funny.
  9. We are closely related to primates
  10. I’m not sure why you’re reading this.

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11. 10 Cool, Awe Inspiring, Nearly Pointless Facts

  1. Cold things don’t give off the cold, they take in the heat.
  2. Every time you move your muscles, 100’s of millions of tiny molecules call adenozine triphospahte are broken down into adenozine diphosphate and energy to make your muscle move.
  3. Eating celery burns more calories than is actually in the celery itself.
  4. Drinking cold water helps to burn calories. Your body has to heat up the water to absorb it. Heating the water up is what burns the fat.
  5. People who aren’t or don’t speak German sound funny when trying to speak it.
  6. Women get a heroine like rush from hearing themselves talk.
  7. Jumping on a grenade that’s just landed in your trench to use yourself as a human sacrifice will work and save all the other men in your trench.
  8. Emos are funny.
  9. We are closely related to primates
  10. I’m not sure why you’re reading this.

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12. Countdown to Copenhagen: Donald N. Zillman

By Kirsty McHugh, OUP UK

In today’s Countdown to Copenhagen post, Donald N. Zillman looks back at predictions he and his fellow authors of Beyond the Carbon Economy: Energy Law in Transition made two years ago, and discusses what today’s position is in light of next week’s COP15 conference. Professor Zillman is President of the University of Maine at Presque Isle and Edward Godfrey Professor of Law, University of Maine at Fort Kent.

Click here for the other Countdown to Copenhagen posts.

Slightly more than two years ago, a consortium of 33 authors from 20 nations put the finishing touches on a book called Beyond the Carbon Economy. The authors were law professors, practicing lawyers, and participants in public policy in the fields of energy, natural resources, and sustainability. We noted that 80 percent of the world’s energy for all purposes came from the three familiar hydrocarbon fuels—coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Even the most radical alternative scenarios indicated that the three hydrocarbon fuels would still be major sources of world energy two decades from today. But, compelling reasons demanded that businesses, government leaders, and citizens around the world look beyond carbon, and begin NOW.

beyondthecarboneconomyWe identified five factors compelling that redirection. The first was climate change and other environmental harms from the use of the fossil fuels. When we wrote, the April 2007 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had just been released. It made the clearest case yet that climate change was real, was happening now, and that it clearly implicated the fossil fuels.

The second factor was the myriad of concerns over energy security. We noted: “Were the carbon fuels equally distributed around the world, and were rules of the market economy fully accepted by both producer and consumer nations, the problem would be largely one for economics to solve.” They aren’t and wars, civil unrest, political boycotts, and the like have kept much of the world uneasy since the early 1970s.

The third factor encouraging the move beyond carbon is the enormous increase in demand for energy. China and India are just the most visible examples of nations moving rapidly to a time when a substantial proportion of their population expect personal motorized transport, fossil fuel heated residences and workplaces, and steady access to electricity.

The fourth, and most controversial of the factors, is the potential decline in supply of the fossil fuels, primarily petroleum. The authors recognized the range in views from a strong belief in “peak oil” theories to a confidence in market economics that supports the view that “nothing would increase supplies like $200 per barrel oil.” Even advocates of the latter view, however, have to deal with the heavy investment costs of bringing more fossil fuels to the market.

The fifth factor–“the most sobering of them all”– is the energy needs of the one third of the world’s population who live today without modern energy services. The carbon economy has done them few favors and the future looks even more bleak for them than the present. Even if compassion or a rough sense of equity don’t prompt action, the prospect of dozens of failed states turned to terrorist havens should.<

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13. Need a Break? Make It Productive!

restEven the most dedicated writers need a break sometimes. The brain gives out (often on Fridays), or the back and neck scream for relief. Sure, you can always read more email or surf the web or watch a re-run.

On the other hand, says Arthur Plotnik in a February, 2010 article in The Writer, “Take a productive break from writing.”

His definition of such a productive break includes “activities that can bolster my writing even as they give respite from its grind…A boost [to my writing] in quality or quantity is my criterion for ‘positive’ avoidances.”

Good for Your Writing

Time-wasting breaks produce guilt for not writing, leaving us feeling disgruntled at the end of the day. On the other hand, a break taken to bolster our writing skills is both refreshing and growth-producing. And guilt free!

Read Plotnik’s entire article for many more unusual ideas. (He’s the author of Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style and is on The Writer’s editorial board.) Here are just a few of his suggestions to whet your appetite for the next time you just have to get away from your desk:

  • Talk a walk in your neighborhood as if seeing it for the first time. In your pocket notebook, jot down images and sensory perceptions and things you overhear and character descriptions.
  • Visit a botanical garden, aquarium, museum, zoo, etc. where things are displayed and labeled. Collect metaphors based on the things you see, such as “a roommate like a stinkhorn fungus.” (Plotnick)
  • Wander through your local library’s exhibits, and look through community bulletin boards and local history collections for ideas.
  • Watch a “dopey adolescent sitcom” to update one’s YA-dialogue skills.
  • Play an instrument or do a drawing.
  • Build your inventory of character names from a directory.
  • Spend time with someone in an interesting occupation, absorbing the details of a job one of your characters might perform.

Or do like me-and catch up on reading inspiring magazines like The Writer!

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14. Re-Thinking Your Thinking

thinkAccording to the National Science Foundation, the average person has about 12,000 thoughts per day, or 4.4 million thoughts per year.

I wager that writers are well above the average because we read more and writing causes us to think more than the average.

Who’s In Charge?

I had known for a long time that our thoughts affect our emotions, and that toxic “stinking thinking” could derail our writing dreams and health faster than almost anything. You are the only one who can decide whether to reject or accept a thought, which thoughts to dwell on, and which thoughts will become actions.

But sometimes–a lot of the time–I felt powerless to actually do anything about it on a consistent basis. Sometimes I simply felt unfocused and overwhelmed.

Need a Brain Detox?

I’ve been reading a “scientific brain studies” book for non-science types like me called Who Switched Off My Brain? by Dr. Caroline Leaf Ph.D. which has fascinated me. With scientific studies to back it up, it shows that thoughts are measurable and actually occupy mental “real estate.” Thoughts are active; they grow and change, influencing every decision we make and physical reaction we have.

“Every time you have a thought, it is actively changing your brain and your body–for better or for worse.” The author talks about the “Dirty Dozen”–which can be as harmful as poison in our minds and our bodies.

Killing Our Creativity

brainAmong this dozen deadly areas of toxic thinking are toxic emotions, toxic words, toxic seriousness, toxic health, and toxic schedules.

If you want to delve into the 350+ scientific references and pages of end notes in the back of the book, you can look up the studies. But basically it targets the twelve toxic areas of our lives that produce 80% of the physical, emotional and mental health issues today. And trust me. Those issues have a great deal to do with you achieving your goals and dreams.

There Is Hope!

According to Dr. Leaf, scientists no longer believe that the brain is hardwired from birth with a fixed destiny to wear out with age, a fate predetermined by our genes. Instead there is scientific proof now for what the Bible has always taught: you can renew your minds and heal. Your brain really can change!

Old brain patterns can be altered, and new patterns can be implemented. brain-detoxIn the coming days, I’ll share some more about the author’s ”Brain Sweep” five-step strategy for detoxing your thoughts associated with the “dirty dozen.”

But right now I’m going to read about the symptoms of a toxic schedule. I have a suspicion…

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15. Energy From Thorium

Thorium, element 90 on the Periodic Table of the Elements, is a lustrous, silvery-white metal that is only slightly radioactive. In fact, the mantle in the portable gas lamps that people use on camping trips contains thorium. The element was named for Thor, the Norse god of thunder. Thorium is a member of the actinides, which are found in the bottom row of the Periodic Table. The actinides, which include uranium, release particles (including neutrons) from the nucleus and decay into more stable elements. These neutrons can hit nearby atoms, causing them to split and release even more neutrons. This results in a chain reaction that releases energy. If the chain reaction is uncontrolled, the result is a nuclear explosion. By controlling the chain reaction, these elements can be used to generate power.

Thorium may be the element that solves the problems of generating energy using nuclear fuel. After thorium has been used to generate power, it leaves behind only a tiny amount of waste. In contrast to wastes generated by uranium-fueled plants, which must be stored for hundreds of thousands of years, the waste from thorium-fueled plants would need to be stored only for a few hundred years. Thorium is plentiful and virtually inexhaustible and does not require costly processing. In theory, it acts as a breeder, creating enough new fuel as it breaks down to sustain a high-temperature chain reaction indefinitely.

Thorium would used in a new type of reactor, a liquid fluoride thorium reactor, that would have no risk of meltdown. Alvin Weinberg, former director of the Oak Ridge National Lab, and his team built a similar reactor in 1965. In this working reactor, the byproducts of thorium were suspended in a molten salt bath.

Why haven’t uranium reactors been replaced by thorium reactors? Critics point out that because the reaction is sustained for a long time, the fuel needs special containers that are very durable and can withstand the corrosive molten salts. In addition, replacing the reactors already in service would be extremely expensive.

There is a compromise solution. Uranium reactors can be converted to seed-and-blanket reactors that use thorium oxide and uranium oxide rods. The core of the reactor is a seed of enriched uranium rods surrounded by a blanket of thorium oxide/uranium oxide rods. The result is a safer, longer-lived reaction than uranium rods alone. In addition, it produces less waste and the waste cannot be used for nuclear weapons.

It is a start. I hope they find a way soon to solve the technical problems of the liquid fluoride thorium reactor and replace all the uranium reactors.

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16. Finding Energy to Pursue Goals

tiredWe hear a lot about setting writing goals.  Do any of you have secret thoughts like these? Setting goals is great, but I don’t have the energy to pursue them or I’m already so exhausted that I can’t add one more thing to my life—even something I love.

Is that you? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Plug the Drains

Years ago I had a car that guzzled oil. I added a quart every Monday, but by Saturday the oil light was back on. It did no good to add oil without fixing the leak. The same holds true for your energy level. You can set goals, shore up your willpower, and grit your teeth, but you won’t have any more get-up-and-go until you plug your energy leaks.

We usually lose energy in two ways: enduring annoying or toxic behaviors in other people, and tolerating conduct in ourselves that is harmful (overeating, no exercise, over-due bills, or keeping a cluttered office.) One essential skill is learning how to set boundaries on yourself, such as: no sugar or caffeine before 5 p.m., bedtime by 10 p.m., straighten your desk when you quit work for the day, or pay bills the day they arrive.

You can also set and enforce boundaries with people who steal your energy. Limit your availability, for instance. If you have a cell phone, give the number only to those who really must have it. Your cell phone is to serve you—not the rest of the world. Other people can also drain us with their foul moods, irritating habits, and constant crises demanding our attention.

Learn to set boundaries in these situations; keep your energy inside (where it is useful) instead of spilling out on other people. Believe it or not, family members and friends can be expected to “fix” their own bad moods and self-created crises. (Memorize this: Lack of planning on their part does not constitute an emergency on my part.) If you need help with this essential relationship skill, read Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Remember: the goal is to find more energy for your writing. You must plug the unnecessary energy drains first. Then you’ll be ready to recover your ability to function with ease.

Get in Shape

You’ll be tempted to skip this step, but I hope you won’t. It’s far more important than most writers realize. Just like you need to maintain your car (oil, spark plugs, belts, brakes) if you expect it to run smoothly, you need to maintain a healthy body if you expect to write in flow, enjoy your work, and be productive.

Are you health conscious? “I watch what I put into my body—no alcohol, drugs, caffeine,” says Sophy Burnham in For Writers Only. “I have become so sensitive to my body’s claims that now I actually often eat when hungry (imagine!), stop and lie down when tired. It has taken me years to learn to listen for those two simple demands, knowing that I write better when the machinery’s warmed up, oiled, clean.”

We all write better in that state. I encourage you to take a “health inventory” right now—and do whatever is necessary to turn you into a lean, clean writing machine.

Create Energy!

After you’ve plugged the leaks and kicked your health up a notch, it’s time to actually create energy instead of wasting it. If you have set (and enforced) boundaries on yourself and others, you’re no longer tied to energy-draining habits and situations. This should

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17. How Good Are Your Sunglasses?

As I age, I am beginning to be more aware of the importance of protecting myself from the sun. I wear sunscreen, even in the winter. However I am not really good about putting on my sunglasses. I do have an anti-UV coating on my bifocals, which I hope is helpful, and when I remember them, I have stylish clip-on polarized sunglasses. I recently read an article that got me thinking more about sunglasses and ultraviolet radiation (UV).

As you can see from the top bar in the diagram above, there are different forms of light, ultraviolet and visible. Human eyes detect visible light, which divides into blue, green, and red, as shown on the bottom bar. (We detect infrared as heat.) Ultraviolet light is part of the spectrum of light; its wavelength is shorter than that of visible light. Some animals, such as bees and some birds can see in ultraviolet light, and many flowers and birds have patterns that are only visible in ultraviolet light. Humans cannot see ultraviolet light. However, parts of the eye such as the cornea, the lens, and the retina can be damaged when they absorb too much UV light. Some scientists think that exposure to UV light may cause cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye.

All UV light is more energetic than visible light, which is why it causes damage. The shorter the wavelength of light, the more energetic it is. The more energetic the light is, the more damage it can cause. As you can see from the bottom part of the diagram, there are several types of ultraviolet light. Because our atmosphere protects us from the most of the other forms of ultraviolet radiation, we should be most concerned with UVA and UVB. UVA has a longer wavelength than UVB. In addition to damaging our eyes, UVA and UVB cause sunburn and skin cancer.

With this in mind, I went to my ophthalmologist to have my eyes checked. He gave me a new prescription for lenses. I took my prescription to a local eyeglass shop (Wize Eyes), where the friendly saleswoman helped me pick out stylish new frames. Knowing that I tend to forget to put on my sunglasses, I chose lenses that darken in sunlight and protect my eyes from UV light. This picture was taken in a cloudy evening, so the lenses do not look very dark.

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18. Weekend Gems

gemOver the weekend, I hope you’ll have time to check out some very helpful and thought-provoking blogs I read this week.

Kick back, relax, and enjoy these gems!

Gems of Wisdom

**Agent Wendy Lawton wrote a series called “Career Killers.” Full of wise advice! One post is on speed writing. Other “career killers” included impatienceplaying “around the edges,” sloppiness, and skipping the apprenticeship. If you avoid these mistakes in your career, you’ll be miles ahead of the average writer.

**Are you trying to combine babies with bylines? Try “Writing Between Diapers: Tips for Writer Moms” for some practical tips.

**Is your writing journey out of whack because you have unrealistic expections? See literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s post “Managing Expections.

**Critique groups are great, but you–the writer–must be your own best–and toughest–editor. See Victoria Strauss on “The Importance of Self-Editing.

**We’re told to set goals and be specific about what success means to us. Do you have trouble with that? You might find clarity with motivational speaker Craig Harper’s “Goals and Anti-Goals.

**And finish with Joe Konrath’s pithy statements in “A Writer’s Serenity Prayer.” You may want to print them out and tape them to your computer!

Share a Gem!

What have you read lately–online or off–that you felt was particularly insightful or helpful or thought-provoking? I’d love to have you share a link of your own!

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19. On the Practitioners of Science

By Jennifer Coopersmith

There is a Jane Austen-esque phrase in my book: “it is a ceaseless wonder that our universal and objective science comes out of human – sometimes all too human – enquiry”. Physics is rather hard to blog, so I’ll write instead about the practitioners of science – what are they like? Are there certain personality types that do science? Does the science from different countries end up being different?

Without question there are fewer women physicists than men physicists and, also without question, this is a result of both nature and nurture. Does it really matter how much of the ‘blame’ should be apportioned to nature and how much to nurture? Societies have evolved the way they have for a reason, and they have evolved to have less women pursuing science than men (at present). Perhaps ‘intelligence’ has even been defined in terms of what men are good at?

Do a disproportionate number of physicists suffer from Asperger Syndrome (AS)? I deplore the fashion for retrospectively diagnosing the most famous physicists, such as Newton and Einstein, as suffering in this way. However, I’ll jump on the bandwagon and offer my own diagnosis: these two had a different ‘syndrome’ – they were geniuses, period. Contrary to common supposition, it would not be an asset for a scientist to have AS. Being single-minded and having an eye for detail – good, but having a narrow focus of interest and missing too much of the rich tapestry of social and worldly interactions – not good, and less likely to lead to great heights of creativity.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the science of energy was concentrated in two nations, England and France. The respective scientists had different characteristics. In England (strictly, Britain) the scientists were made up from an undue number of lone eccentrics, such as the rich Gentleman-scientists, carrying out researches in their own, privately–funded laboratories (e.g. Brook Taylor, Erasmus Darwin, Henry Cavendish and James Joule) and also religious non-conformists, of average or modest financial means (e.g. Newton, Dalton, Priestley and Faraday). This contrasts with France, where, post-revolution, the scientist was a salaried professional and worked on applied problems in the new state institutions (e.g. the French Institute and the École Polytechnique). The quality and number of names concentrated into one short period and one place (Paris), particularly in applied mathematics, has never been equalled: Lagrange, Laplace, Legendre, Lavoisier and Lamarck, – and these are only the L’s. As the historian of science, Henry Guerlac, remarked, science wasn’t merely a product of the French Revolution, it was the chief cultural expression of it.

There was another difference between the English and French scientists, as sloganized by the science historian Charles Gillispie: “the French…formulate things, and the English do them.” For example, Lavoisier developed a system of chemistry, including a new nomenclature, while James Watt designed and built the steam engine.

From the mid-19th century onwards German science took a more leading role and especially noteworthy was the rise of new universities and technical institutes. While many German scientists had religious affiliations (for example Clausius was a Lutheran), their science was neutral with regards to religion, and this was different to the trend in Britain. For example, Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) talked of the Earth “waxing old” and other quotes from the Bible, and, although he was not explicit, appears to have had religious objections to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (at any rate, he wanted his ‘age of the Earth calculations’ to contradict Darwin’s Theory).

Whereas personal, cultural, social, economic and political factors will undoubtedly influence the course of science, the ultimate laws must be free of all such associations. Presumably the laws of Thermodynamics would still

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20. What is Energy?

By Jennifer Coopersmith

Energy is the go of things, the driver of engines, devices and all physical processes. It can come in various forms (electrical, chemical, rest mass, curvature of spacetime, light, heat and so on) and change between these forms, but the total is always conserved. Newton missed energy and it was Leibniz who discovered kinetic energy (he called it vis viva). The idea was promoted on the continent, chiefly by one family, the Swiss family of feuding mathematicians, the Bernoullis, in the first half of the 18th century. The more subtle concept, potential energy, slipped in over a hundred years, uninvited, like the 13th fairy at the party.

In Feynman’s profound allegory (‘Dennis the Menace’ playing with blocks), energy is defined by its property of being conserved. But, this doesn’t answer to all our intuitions about energy. Why does it change smoothly between its various forms? For example, when a child swings on a swing, her kinetic energy decreases as the swing climbs (and gains gravitational potential energy) and then, as the swing descends, she goes faster and faster.

A different approach holds the answer. Consider the walk to the shops. You could take the shortest route or you could optimize other aspects, e.g. take a longer route but less hilly, or more shady or with the least number of road-crossings. Nature also works in this optimizing way: it tries to minimize the total ‘action’ between a starting place and a final destination. ‘Action’ is defined as ‘energy’ times ‘time’, and, in order to minimize action, the energy must be able to change in a prescribed way, smoothly and continuously, between its two forms, kinetic and potential energy, (The Principle of Least Action was discovered by an eccentric Frenchman, Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, while head of the Berlin Academy of Science, in the mid 18th century.)

What are kinetic and potential energy? Kinetic energy is the energy of motion of an individual body whereas potential energy is the energy of interaction of parts within a system. Potential energy must be specified for each new scenario, but kinetic energy comes in one essential form and is more fundamental in this sense. However, as potential energy relates to internal aspects (of a system), it doesn’t usually change for differently moving ‘observers’. For example, the game of billiards in the lounge of the ocean liner continues unaffected, whether that liner is coasting smoothly at 30 kph or whether it’s moored to a buoy. The kinetic energy of the liner is vastly different in the two cases.

But sometimes potential energy and even mass do change from one ‘reference frame’ to another. The more fundamental quantity is the ‘least action’, as this stays the same, whatever the (valid) ‘observer’.

Heat energy is the sum of the individual microscopic kinetic energies. But the heat energy and the kinetic energy of an everyday object are very different (e.g. the kinetic energy of a kicked football and the heat energy of a football left to warm in the sun). In fact, for the early 19th century natural philosophers, considering heat as a form of energy was like committing a category error. The slow bridging of this error by people like Daniel Bernoulli, Count Rumford, Robert Julius Mayer and James Joule makes a very interesting tale.

With regards to the looming energy crisis and global warming, here are the things we must remember:

1. Nature always counts the true cost, even if we don’t
2. There is no such thing as safe energy – it is energetic, after all
3. As the sink of all our activities becomes warmer, so all our ‘engines’, cars and humans etc, will run less efficiently
4. We must consider not only energy but also ‘least action’ – and take action.


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21. How much oil is left?

The world’s total annual consumption of crude oil is one cubic mile of oil (CMO). The world’s total annual energy consumption – from all energy sources – is currently 3 CMO. By the middle of this century the world will need between 6 and 9 CMO of energy per year to provide for its citizens.

In their new book, Hewitt Crane, Edwin Kinderman, and Ripudaman Malhotra introduce this brand new measuring unit and show that the use of CMO replaces mind-numbing multipliers (such as billions, trillions, and quadrillions) with an easy-to-understand volumetric unit. It evokes a visceral response and allows experts, policy makers and the general public alike to form a mental picture of the magnitude of the challenge we face.

Here, Ripu Malhotra answers some questions we had about oil, energy, climate change, and more.

Q: What is the goal of your book, A Cubic Mile of Oil?

A: Raising literacy about energy in the general public. Meeting the global demand for energy is going to be a daunting challenge, and the way we choose to do it, namely the energy sources that we choose to employ will have a profound effect on the lives of millions of people. We have tried to provide an unvarnished look at the different energy sources so people can engage in an informed dialog about the choices we make. People have to be involved in making the choice, or the choice will be made for them.

Q: Why introduce a cubic mile of oil as another unit of energy? There are so many units for energy already.

A: True, there are way too many units of energy in use. Furthermore, different sources of energy are often expressed in different sets of units: kilowatt-hours of electricity, barrels of oil, cubic feet of gas, tons of coal, and so on. Each of these units represents a relatively small amount of energy, and in order to express production and consumption at a global or national scale, we have to use mind-numbing multipliers like millions, billions, trillions and quadrillions. To add to the confusion, a billion and a trillion mean different things in different parts of the world. It gets very difficult to keep it straight.

Q: Who coined the term CMO?

A: Hew Crane came up with this term. He was waiting in a gas line in 1973 when he began contemplating how much oil the world was then using annually. He made some guesses of the number cars, and the miles driven by each, etc., and came up with an estimate approaching a trillion gallons. How large a pool would hold that quantity, he next pondered. A few slide rule strokes later realized that the pool would have to a mile long, a mile wide and a mile deep—a cubic mile!

Q: What is your overall message?

A: Currently, the global annual consumption of oil stands at 1 cubic mile. Additionally, the world uses 0.8 CMO of energy from coal, 0.6 from natural gas, roughly 0.2 from each of hydro, nuclear, and wood for a grand total of 3 CMO. Solar, wind, and biofuels barely register on this scale; combined they produced a total of 0.03 CMO i

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22. Mausoleums double as energy source


The next time you visit Spain, you might want to take a side-trip to the Santa Coloma de Gramnenet cemetary located outside Barcelona, especially the mausoleum section. Although one can visit the dearly departed if one feels so moved, the real attraction is up on the mausoleum roofs where 462 solar panels have been installed to catch the sun's rays.

The energy produced with the solar panels, equivalent to the yearly consumption of 60 homes, flows into the local energy grid. The entire project is the community's contribution toward fighting global warming. The graveyard was the only viable spot to proceed with its solar energy program.

Read the rest of the story and photos of the solar panels here: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=6316047

Actually, this is not such a wild idea. Think about the possibilities of creating projects similar to this in mausoleums throughout the world. The concept might not appeal to all families of the deceased but it something to consider. Perhaps - just a thought - some type of wind power device could be utilized in a similar manner. Anyway, the citizens and the city council of the spanish town are congratulated for doing their part in becoming part of the solution to finding alternative energy sources.

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23. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: Environmentalist

Deborah Gordon is a senior transportation policy analyst who has worked with the National Commission on Energy Policy, the Chinese government and many other organizations. Daniel Sperling is Professor of Engineering and Environmental Science and Founding Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. Gordon and Sperling are the authors of Two Billion Cars: Driving Towards Sustainability which provides a concise history of America’s Love affair with cars and an overview of the global oil and auto industries. A few weeks ago we posted an original article by these authors.  Today we have pulled an excerpt from the book which looks specifically at Governor Schwarzenegger.

The unlikely hero who jolted California into climate change leadership is the former bodybuilder and action movie hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Before his election in fall 2003, California was experiencing something of a malaise.  Governor Schwarzenegger resurrected a bipartisan action-oriented government and, molded by circumstance, became and environmental leader.

In signing an agreement between California and the United Kingdom on July 31, 2006, Governor Schwarzenegger proclaimed, “California will not wait for our federal government to take strong action on global warming…International partnerships are needed in the fight against global warming and California has a responsibility and a profound role to play to protect not only our environment, but to be a world leader on this issue as well.”

He had come a long way in a short time.  Governor Schwarzenegger’s second inaugural address in January 2007 made it strikingly clear that he had evolved into an accomplished politician.  He was now focused, serious, and increasingly savvy.  In the cauldron of politics, he was forging himself into a centrist politician, strongly committed to getting things done, especially on the environment.  He emphasized above all else the need for action on global warming.  He was using global warming as his platform to unite voters from both parties behind him-in stark contrast to what President Bush was doing in Washington, D.C.

How did this Austrian bodybuilder evolve into an environmental leader?  He got his chance to govern through an extraordinary set of circumstances.  In 2003, voters became disenchanted with the remoteness and single-minded fund-raising of Democratic governor, Gray Davis, and voted him out of office in a rare recall election.  This election bypassed the normal process of primaries in which each political party selects a candidate.  That shortcut was essential to Schwarzenegger’s election.  Schwarzenegger was a moderate Republican in a state where the Republican Party has become very conservative.  According to most political experts, Schwarzenegger couldn’t have won a regular Republican primary.  But in a free-for-all election, he didn’t need his party’s endorsement.

In the end, the Democrats couldn’t put forth a compelling candidate, and Schwarzenegger slid into power with 48.6 percent of the vote.  he had never held a government office of any type, elected or appointed, and had little policy knowledge.  But he had huge name recognition as a result of his extraordinary success first as a bodybuilder, winning seven Mr. Olympia world championships, and then as a movie star, known for his Terminator action movies.  He also had management savvy in building very successful businesses capitalizing on his fame, though this was much overlooked at the time.  Governor Schwarzenegger resurrected a bipartisan action-orientated government and, molded by circumstance, became an environmental leader.

He entered office speaking of “blowing up boxes” of government, eliminating hundreds of boards and agencies, and bringing a new order.  His style was to browbeat the legislature.  The honeymoon began to fade during his first year when he provoked his legislature opponents by calling them “girlie men,” offended protesting nurses by telling them “special interests don’t like me in Sacramento because I kick their butt,” and antagonized teachers by asking voters to curtail teachers’ rights to job security.  Every one of the propositions he put forth to voters in a special election in fall 2005 went down in defeat.  His popularity plummeted.

He soon righted himself.  He apologized to voters for not respecting them.  He abandoned his more bombastic language.  He engaged himself in the business of governing and forged working relationships with the Democratic-controlled legislature.  His popularity was resurrected with apologies and an ability to learn from his mistakes, coupled with willful rejection of ideology and partisanship.  By late 2006, his ratings were once again soaring.  With a cooperative legislature, he concluded a series of legislative milestones, capped by the precedent-setting Global Warming Solutions Act.  In his 2007 inaugural address, Schwarzenegger justified this landmark law on moral grounds and “because California genuinely has the power to influence the res of the nation, even the world.”

Schwarzenegger was a product of circumstances.  He wobbled toward a model of leadership and innovation.  He’s not an intellectual leader.  He’s a problem solver with charisma and strong management and communication skills, who surrounds himself with strong, competent people, not least of which is his wife, Maria Shriver.  He’s been molded by the experience of being a Republican in a Democratic state and living with a politically astute Kennedy wife.  His bipartisanship was illustrated by his appointment of Terry Tamminene, an ardent environmentalist, as secretary of California’s Environmental Protection Agency and later as secretary of the cabinet, and Susan Kennedy, a Democrat and former abortion right advocate, as his chief of staff.

The governor’s desire to simultaneously achieve a healthy environment and economy in the state has resonated well.  With strong support from the venture capital community and leaders of many high-tech Silicon Valley companies, he has spurred the state’s businesses to think green thoughts.  His unwavering commitment to California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, low-carbon fuel standard, and greenhouse gas standards for vehicles has had the cumulative effect of convincing even the most recalcitrant company that there’s no turning back.  Indeed, Schwarzenegger sees climate change policy and green tech as his legacy.  The question is whether the various rules and laws and what skeptics refer to as the governor’s globe-trotting happy talk will translate into ral action and change.

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24. Personal Projects

Hi! How ya doin'?

Welcome back! So whats new? Well, two posts back work was very slow and I am very grateful to have had some projects come in these past two weeks. So while working on them, I just got my new postcard out last week, and I am working on some new pdfs for the website. I FINALLY just got all my taxes sorted out and found that my amount due wasn't too bad at all. Nice! What else is going on?

Plenty! I actually wanted to talk a bit in this post about the slow times in freelance. It only took a little slow down to make me panic. I was sure the business was done, and I needed to find another production job. Maybe that will be the case if the economy continues the way it has this past year. But for now, I see the past two months as a great test to my fortitude and desire to really be doing this type of work. No doubt about it, my faith was definitely tested every time I looked at my bank account. Also, when not working, one's self-esteem takes a pretty big hit, too. "Why isn't anyone hiring me? Do I suck?" These questions creep up on you in the quiet times.

I have found the best way to deal with these times is to focus. Focus on one's work. Promote more. Fix anything you don't like about your portfolio; make it stronger. Clean up your website. Go draw. JUST DO SOMETHING so you aren't constantly doubting yourself.

I find this is a great time for personal projects. For me, its hard to make time for them when commissions are on the drafting table. So to utilize the time, and to assuage my doubts, I took on the Joker portrait from the last post, and another personal project. Sometihng I have worked on here and there is a comic concept my brother is tinkering with. I liked it so much I want to draw some stuff for it. We are currently reworking a short script, and here are the non-final character concept sketches:
The main character and his father (we are discussing a re-design of the father as I feel his character is wimpy)

The villain in armor and in robes

Supporting characters

A character study to capture a "crazy look"

I also started a little poster campaign for myself concerning our current economic situation and energy needs. It will eventually be a three poster series but for now it just one :)

This was just a sketch in my book. I had been tinkering with the concept for a bit prior instigating the poster project.

Final 11x17:
I decided to crop the art to more easily draw attention to the bulb; I felt the sketch had too much info in it. I mocked it up as a Waste Management poster to work my typography muscles, and I sent it to 'em. My contact there forwarded it to the proper channels, but I don't expect to hear anything as WM works with a design studio for all of their materials. But still, I wanted to at least try my hand as pitching an idea to a cold client to exercise those muscles as well. Anyway, the other two posters are looking to be themed around recycling and public transportation while using the term "green thinking." Someday, you'll see them. They are actually on a far back burner for projects I am much more excited about right now, both commissioned and personal.

And that's that. I have sketches for more posters underway, and some work due early next week so I better get back to it.

Enjoy the Day,

1 Comments on Personal Projects, last added: 4/4/2009
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25. Antimatter and ‘Angels and Demons’: A fiction thought to be fact

Frank Close, OBE is Professor of Physics at Oxford University and a Fellow of Exeter College. He was formerly vice president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (now the British Science Association), Head of the Theoretical Physics Division at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and Head of Communications and Public Education at CERN. His most recent book examines one of the oddest discoveries in physics - antimatter.

In the post below, Frank Close reveals the fallacies concerning antimatter in the Dan Brown novel (and now major cinema release) Angels and Demons. He has previously written for OUPblog on CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

Many people have never heard of CERN. Of those that have, most know it as the birthplace of the World Wide Web; fewer knew its main purpose, which is as the European Centre for experiments in particle physics. However, with the appearance of Angels and Demons CERN is about to become famous as a laboratory in Geneva that makes antimatter. These two statements about CERN are correct; much else in Dan Brown’s novel, which inspired the movie and has led to much of the popular received wisdom about antimatter, is not.

The movie is of course fiction, but the book on which it is based teases readers with a preface headlined “FACT”. This includes “Antimatter creates no pollution or radiation… is highly unstable and ignites when it comes in contact with absolutely anything… a single gram of antimatter contains the energy of a 20 kiloton nuclear bomb”. CERN is credited as having created “the first particles of antimatter” and the curtain metaphorically rises to the question whether this “highly volatile substance will save the world, or… be used to create the most deadly weapon ever made”.

These “facts” are at best misleading and even wrong, but many, including some in the US military, believe them to be true.

Antiparticles have been made for 80 years; a few atoms of antihydrogen have been made at CERN during the last decade; antimatter, in the sense of anti-atoms organised into amounts large enough to see, let alone contain, is still in the realms of fantasy and likely to remain so.

In Angels and Demons the experimental production of antimatter being equated with The Creation is so central to the plot that a scientist tells the Pope the “good news”, even though it is decades old. Whatever led to our universe, it was not akin to the creation of matter at CERN, in either the fictional or the real world. It is not “something from nothing… practically proof that Genesis is a scientific possibility”. This is at best cod theology and non-science.

The Big Bang is the creation of all energy, all matter, and all of the known universe, together with its space and time. We cannot recreate that singular event, but we can examine what happened afterwards, within what became our present universe.

Energy, lots of it, is what turned into matter and antimatter. Energy is not nothing; it is measurable and when you use some the power company will charge you for it. When you create antimatter together with its matter counterpart, you have to put in the same amount of energy as would be released were they to annihilate one another; you do not get matter from nothing. Now reverse the process, such that antimatter meets matter and is turned back into radiant energy. That certainly is not nothing, as Angels and Demons recognises since the resulting blast is what is going to destroy the Vatican.

It is at this point that some in the US military seem to have adopted this fictional work as its practical guide to antimatter, and to have ignored its many contradictions. The preface of Angels and Demons described antimatter as the ideal source of energy which “creates no pollution or radiation and a droplet could power New York for a day”. Antimatter may not emit radiation so long as it stays away from matter, but in that case it offers nothing to bomb makers or power companies. In order to exploit this “volatile” substance, you need to annihilate it with matter, at which it releases its trapped energy as radiation such as gamma rays.

The statement that there are “No byproducts, no radiation, no pollution” is ironic given that it occurs within a few paragraphs of a warning to beware of the gamma rays. The US Air Force were enthused so much that in promoting their interest in antimatter for weapons they announced “No Nuclear Residue”. The media trumpeted that “a positron bomb could be a step toward one of the military’s dreams from the early Cold War: a so-called `clean’ superbomb” San Francisco Chronicle 4 October 2004, uncanny examples of fiction, written in 2000, presented as if fact in 2004.

As a major milestone in antimatter science CERN is indeed marvellous, but trifling compared with what would be needed to make antimatter in industrial quantities. Even were it possible, the belief that antimatter technology could “save the planet” is specious. As we first have to make the antimatter ourselves, we would waste more energy in making it than we could ever get back, so antimatter is not a panacea for “saving the planet”. Thankfully, neither will it become “the most deadly weapon”.

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