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Sunday, December 23, 2007

How To Read The Newspaper

I'm from the Intertubes, and I'm here to help.

Just kidding. You're on your own. I'm busy. But I noticed something last week I'm not sure many people did. The two news items did not seem to be related, really. But I felt as if I was reading the paper and discovered that an obscure person named Rockefeller was drilling a well in Pennsylvania, and simultaneously, some German fellow with a daughter with a hot babe name had figured out how to build a carriage without a horse.

Some background: I don't read like most people. I am generally not interested in many people's opinions as any sort of guidance, as I am a big, hairy adult with opinions of my own. I am much more interested in people's likes and dislikes, which you can only glean by observing them, not by listening to them. And facts. I like them, because they are so rare and piquant.

There is little in the various media that is not editorial in nature. I'm referring to the news stories. The "editorials" are Pleasant Sunday Afternoon rants at this point. The news has taken the place of the editorials. Anyway, I read the news with the same bemused attitude I assume when my toddler is trying to assure me that a big eagle swooped down and smashed the cookie jar, and he bravely tried to stop it, hence he is standing surrounded by shattered crockery holding this one cookie. An unsophisticated person is trying to fool me. And in neither case am I likely to answer the query: "Since I'm so brave and smart, can I eat the cookie?" in the affirmative.

So I skip over all the "applesauce" out of hand. It's 99% applesauce. I got no time for begging the question, or sophistry, or the text version of the cups and balls trick, or muddying the water, or hyperbole, or any of it. And no matter how tightly wound the ball of intellectual tomfoolery is, you can always spot the seams, Timesdudes.

Oh yes, the two items. The first is that someone's figured out how to produce solar panels as if they were running them off a printing press instead of making them in a sort of Intel cleanroom. That meant....

-skip on down
-not interested in "green" euphemisms
-skip on down
-a tricycle with a shroud over it is not a car, shut up
-skip on down
-not interested in faeries' farts and unicorn horn shavings used to power my smug machine
-skip on down

There! What you sift through to get, if you have half a cortex. For the first time I've seen, it will be cheaper to collect solar radiation to get electricity than to burn coal to do it. An amazing development.

That means little, in and of itself. The sun doesn't shine at night. I've noticed that's exactly when I like electricity to be available, so I can turn on lights and not live like a medieval peasant.

Then I read this:

-skip on down
-don't care
-off topic
-skip on down

There! They can make an existing lithium ion battery hold ten times the charge it did before, by changing one thing about them. It's not that expensive to do so. An amazing development.

Now, I don't trust the people that wrote those articles. They might not be sharp enough to understand what they are talking about. They probably have an axe they'd like to grind, first and foremost. And you really can't tell if the people claiming these things are full of merde until we get to see the test tubes and rulers and so forth. But if it is true, the fundamental rules of the Western World have changed, because we will shortly be able to make enough electricity to serve our needs, and we have a way to store it.

I live near New Bedford, so I'm going to claim the experience, derived by osmosis, to tell the Let's Douse Shorebirds-With-Crude-Oil Multinationals, the Ed Begley Rationing Freaks, the Composting Toilet/Velocipede Innovators, the Chrome Fin-Cupholder-Carbon-Belching Behemoth Sedan Builders, the Wahhabi Throatslasher Hearts Club Band, and The Switchgrass/Ethanol/ Congressional Jackleg Society that, sorry, but we soon won't be needing your goddamned whales anymore.

And to my friends in the media: Everything you wrote up until now about anything to do with climate and energy and geopolitics has all been nonsense; because unless it was cheaper than burning dead fossils, it was all stupid. Actually cheaper, not "by-fiat"cheaper, I mean. Al Gore can tell me to shiver in the dark all he wants. If he tells Putin and the Chinese and the Iranians that, he's going to get a polonium enema in a big hurry. And the fossils will be burned whether we want them to be or not. No Blood For Oil is a nonsensical slogan. No Blood For No Oil would be twice as dumb.

Did smart people solve the problem while the media camped out in Britney's sister's fallopian tubes and an obscure airport bathroom? Geez, I hope so. How could I tell by reading the newspaper?

6 comments:

AJ Lynch said...

Sipp:

You are one of the best writers in the world. And I don't give a damn what anyone else thinks about what I just said.

I should stop by here more often as I always enjoy your blog.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

SippicanCottage said...

Thanks, AJ-
It is truly a season of fellowship and love when an Eagles fan wishes a Pats fan Merry Christmas.

Janet said...

I hope you read that stuff right. That would truly revolutionize the world. Inexpensive, renewable, non-polluting energy?

The Saudis would not be happy...

Ric Locke said...

Got a number for you. Memorize it.

Eight tenths of a horsepower per square yard. Six hundred watts, about.

That's how much solar power there is. Oh, and that square yard? It has to be perpendicular to the sunlight. On a clear day. At noon.

Multiply by the cosine squared, which is a half. That's because you can't afford to build or maintain a structure that will keep that square yard pointed at the sun, and because the sunlight passes through more atmosphere in the morning and evening than at noon. Call it 300 watts.

Multiply again by the cosine of your latitude. That's because, again, you can't keep that square yard pointed at the sun, so it has to lay flat. Where you are, that's 0.74 -- call it three-quarters. 225 watts. Per square yard.

Now go look back at that gee-whiz story about solar energy. Dig deep. Somewhere in there is an efficiency rating -- how much it collects of what hits it. Good crystalline solar cells can do 12 percent. The magic printable ones? -- Eight.

Be generous. Call it twenty watts. Per square yard. How many square yards to run a planer?

Regards,
Ric

SippicanCottage said...

Awesome. As I said:
And you really can't tell if the people claiming these things are full of merde until we get to see the test tubes and rulers and so forth.

Ric brought some test tubes and rulers.

As to the direct question, if the south facing roof of my little house was covered with solar at the rate you described, it would run the planer, and maybe the light hanging over it. That's using household electrical arithmetic and roofing squares measurement. Or all the lights and some of the appliances in my home at night, if you could store it.

If the article is accurate, and so is Ric,( I think he is) then we've traded "too expensive and not enough of it" for just plain "not enough of it."

I actually thought the battery news was more important. If electricity could be stored more readily, there's lots of ways to generate it, including solar.

I wonder what the combined square footage of all the flat-roofed tar and gravel office buildings in country is. At 20 watts a square yard, that would be a lot of watts.

icr said...

(...)The company chose to build its plant in southern San Jose, news that was cheered by local development officials. Much of the microelectronics industry created here has moved to Asia and new factories are a rare commodity in Silicon Valley.

The NYT seems to be trying to avoid stating the obvious: that new factories are a "rare commodity" absolutely everywhere in the nation-state called the USA-not just in Silicon Valley.