Friday, October 31, 2014

Surfing @ 1000 Frames Per Second

The people who challenge the ocean's biggest waves are a breed apart.  Just standing on a surfboard, sliding down the front of a small wave is very impressive.  Here is a video produced with the latest camera technology.  We see a handful of the world's greatest surfers taking huge risks on some intimidating,  monster waves.    The opening sequence, in slow motion, of a surfer ripping through a gigantic curling wave is worth the admission alone.  

Here is a link to a remarkable video...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Toyota's Hydrogen Inspiration

Just learned about this video from Michael Stitzki, an engineer from New Jersey, who has been on the leading edge of hydrogen energy technology for more than a decade.  I share Michael's belief that hydrogen is poised to become a major component of the clean, renewable energy era that is emerging. 

Here is the link to Toyota's very creative expression of confidence in hydrogen as an important, clean energy commodity.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Elon Musk's Big Bet on Batteries

The advances in battery technology are very impressive.   It certainly appears that we are on the cusp of a transition away from dirty hydrocarbon fuels like oil to a world powered by clean, renewable sources of electricity like wind and solar. The sooner it happens, the better..

Ultimately,  battery electric cars will have a big place on our highways, but they will hardly be the only option. In fact, the plug in hybrid (PHEV) that combines an electric motor to power the wheels, batteries to store energy, and a small, on board fuel cell to recharge those batteries could turn out to be the best, long term solution for our all around transportation needs. Why? Because the solar panels on your house that can be used to recharge your car's batteries, can also be used to produce hydrogen, a clean, inexhaustible energy commodity that can  power a PHEV vehicle's on board fuel cell.   This technology is already nearing maturity. In a few years, fuel cells could be integrated into PHEV vehicles at a cost that's competitive with the gasoline engines we have relied on for a hundred  years.

Elon Musk is all about batteries. He is definitely pushing the technology envelope with his massive commitment to battery production.  We are now seeing credible predictions that a clean energy transition could be nearly complete by 2050.  That means, almost everything will run on wind and solar generated power.

More than anything at this point, we must find the political will to overcome the aggressive resistance already coming from obsolete technologies...  It can't happen too soon.


Why Musk Is Building Batteries in the Desert When No One Is Buying

Tesla’s planned 5-million-square-foot ‘gigafactory’ wouldn’t just be the biggest battery factory in the world. It would be one of the biggest factories in the world, period. But hours before CEO Elon Musk took the podium last week to tout the $5 billion facility came August sales numbers for electric vehicles and a spate of news stories about how U.S. interest for electric cars has stalled.

So what gives? Why would Tesla build capacity for half a million car batteries a year if no one is buying? Four charts below tell the story.

First the bad news.

August brought another month of electric-car sales that came up short of previous highs. Interest isn’t falling, but at four percent market share for combined sales of hybrids and plug-ins, people aren’t exactly clamoring for them. The dark blue shows hybrids, the light blue shows anything with a plug; stack them together and you've got what's known as the electrified-vehicles market.

But here’s the thing: the “stall” is happening entirely in the category of plugless hybrid vehicles (shown above in darker blue). These are gasoline engines backed by fuel-saving battery drive systems. The batteries are primarily nickel-metal hydride like those found in the standard Toyota Prius -- not the high-efficiency lithium ion batteries that Elon Musk wants to crush the market with.

Here’s what’s happening in the smaller subset of cars that don’t require liquid fuel to roll:

Time to plug in.

The chart above shows the exponential rise of U.S. plug-ins. The light purple signifies rising monthly sales, while the dark purple shows cumulative sales since December 2010.

The rise of the plug-in has been fast, but the category is still diminutive. Most car trackers put plug-in sales at a fraction of a percent of U.S. vehicles sales. But just as it’s misleading to lump in growth with hybrid gas cars, comparing plug-ins to all vehicles on the road isn’t apples to apples. Plug-in SUVs are only just starting to hit the market.

The chart below shows plug-ins as a share of U.S. car sales, excluding those larger vehicles.

Quiet, but with great acceleration.

For 2014, plug-ins average 1.5 percent of cars sold in the U.S. That’s still not a lot, and the trendline for market share appears more incremental than exponential. At this rate, plug power wouldn’t be the dominant form of fuel until the end of the century.

And that excludes the ever-popular SUV category. The BMW i3 and the Mercedes-Benz B Class are still rolling out. Tesla and Toyota recently ended their collaboration on a $50,000 plug-in version of a RAV4 after just 2,000 units sold in two years. Like the Nissan Leaf, the RAV4 was hampered by a limited battery range: 100 miles. Musk told reporters in Tokyo last week that he envisioned a larger project with Toyota than the RAV4 “maybe two or three years from now.”

Tesla's first SUV, the Model X, is set to go on sale in the first half of next year, complete with a third row, space-age falcon doors (pictured above), all-wheel drive and little compromise on the Model S’s 265-mile range. Here’s a sneak peak of pre-orders for the Model X, based on self-reported waitlist numbers tracked on a Tesla Motors Club forum (Tesla doesn’t release pre-order tallies). A reservation for the luxury Model X requires a $5,000 deposit.

Americans heart SUVs.

These reservation numbers are significantly higher, and picking up faster, than reservations of the Model S prior to its June 2012 ship date.

Still, to justify the gigafactory, it would take additional market forces to bend the curve skyward on plug-in market share. That’s exactly what Tesla is working on. The biggest obstacles to plug-in adoption are availability of charging stations, range, charge time and cost. Here’s where those things stand:

Charging stations: By the end of the year, there will be more than 5,000 electric charging stations operating in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Department. In the first half of 2014, more stations were opened than from 1970 to 2011 combined.

Range: Drivers want to know they can make their daily commute, get stuck in unexpected traffic and stop by the store for some emergency pickles without having to worry about being stranded. The best-selling Nissan Leaf, at $30,000, leaves room for worry with its 84-mile average range. The high-end Tesla Model S, at more than twice the price, has an EPA-rated range of 265 miles. That’s a lot of pickle stops.

Charge time: Home charging of a Tesla is still a commitment at 58 miles per hour of charge. The Tesla Supercharger stations, on the other hand, get 170 miles in 30 minutes. Musk has opened up the system’s design for other carmakers to adopt.

Cost: Tesla hasn’t released the official price tag for the Model X, but it’s expected to be in the same luxury range as the Model S, which starts at $60,000 for a version with smaller battery. Bringing down the cost of batteries will be key to plans for a more-affordable Model 3, still years away from market. Musk estimates the gigafactory will reduce the cost of lithium-ion battery capacity by 30 percent.

Musk’s diamond factory.

Last week, Tesla released sketches of the future plant. It’s powered by renewable energy and shaped like a diamond. So why has Musk designed a gigafactory to produce batteries for half a million cars a year (twice the number that's been put on the road by all companies combined)? Because it's increasingly looking necessary.

Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache last month increased his estimate for sales of the Model S and Model X to 129,000 units in 2017, from a previously estimated 83,000. Tesla can reach its 500,000 annual run rate before the end of the decade, Lache said, in time to put the gigafactory to full use. 

Tesla’s growth will be “much steeper, their mix will be much richer, and their costs will ultimately be much lower than we previously assumed,” Lache wrote in a report on Aug. 11.

This doesn’t mean you should rush out and buy Tesla stock. Just 11 out of 20 analysts tracked by Bloomberg give the company a “buy” rating, and the stock price is 261 times estimated earnings, compared with a 12.5 estimated P/E for Ford Motor Co. Even Musk admitted last week that the stock price is “kind of high” right now.

Still, it’s easy to get caught up in Musk’s vision for the future of cars. Defying skeptics, Musk has established the biggest U.S. solar company by market value, built a private space company that’s making deliveries to the International Space Station, and has conjured a $35 billion car company out of thin air.

Now the dude’s got diamonds in his eyes.


Solar Energy Poised for Massive Expansion

So, the evidence of the obsolescence of coal, oil, and natural gas energy is emerging rapidly.  The article below just appeared in Bloomberg news.  The cost of solar has dropped so much, that it is about to become cheaper than coal, oil, or natural gas in nearly every U.S. state.  Very exciting news.

One caveat. U.S. energy policy is still controlled by the fossil energy giants.  They are not about to have their hydrocarbon reserves turned into stranded assets... not without a fight.  They are already waging an aggressive campaign to deny climate change and to undermine clean, renewable energy technologies like wind and solar. They will impede progress as long as they can.

At the end of the day, it will  be up  to American voters to elect politicians who will create a new nationwide energy policy that will allow us to fully realize a transition to clean, renewable, low cost energy. 


While You Were Getting Worked Up Over Oil Prices, This Just Happened to Solar

Every time fossil fuels get cheaper, people lose interest in solar deployment. That may be about to change.

After years of struggling against cheap natural gas prices and variable subsidies, solar electricity is on track to be as cheap or cheaper than average electricity-bill prices in 47 U.S. states -- in 2016, according to a Deutsche Bank report published this week. That’s assuming the U.S. maintains its 30 percent tax credit on system costs, which is set to expire that same year.

Even if the tax credit drops to 10 percent, solar will soon reach price parity with conventional electricity in well over half the nation: 36 states. Gone are the days when solar panels were an exotic plaything of Earth-loving rich people. Solar is becoming mainstream, and prices will continue to drop as the technology improves and financing becomes more affordable, according to the report.


Grid Parity to Reach 36 States in 2016

Solar has already reached grid parity in 10 states that are responsible for 90 percent of U.S. solar electricity production. In those states alone, installed capacity growth will increase as much as sixfold over the next three to four years, Deutsche Bank analyst Vishal Shaw wrote in the Oct. 26 report.
The reason solar-power generation will increasingly dominate: it’s a technology, not a fuel. As such, efficiency increases and prices fall as time goes on. The price of Earth’s limited fossil fuels tends to go the other direction. Michael Park, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein, has a term for the staggering price relationship between solar and fossil fuels: the Terrordome. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it doesn’t sound very forgiving.

 Solar will be the world’s biggest single source of energy by 2050, according to a recent estimate by the International Energy Agency. Currently, it’s responsible for just a fraction of one percent.
Because of solar's small market share today, no matter how quickly capacity expands, it won’t have much immediate impact on the price of other forms of energy. But soon, for the first time, the reverse may also be true: Gas and coal prices will lose their sway over the solar industry


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Potty-Mouthed Princesses

This video is awesome. It's little girls dropping  F-bombs, talking about sexism, equality, respect, etc.  Cheeky and fun, and also right on with its message. 

We need a level playing field, where men and women are concerned. No gender discrimination. Equal access to education and opportunity. Equal pay for equal work. Equal rights in all ways.

Check this out. If you want the best for women, this will make your day...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Humpack Whales from Above

Another gorgeous You Tube video of Humpback Whales in Tonga. This video combines aerial and underwater footage of these magnificent creatures.

Here is the link...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Sense of Being Stared At

So, here we have another book from Rupert Sheldrake, recounting his years of research into mind phenomenon like telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, and the sense of being stared  at.  Sheldrake comes to this inquiry as a Cambridge trained biologist.  His work is based on solid science, but it does not support the 'materialistic' explanation for reality that remains the foundation for modern science.


Here are a couple of facts that one cannot get around when considering things like consciousness, memories, information processing, and individual creativity.

Fact#1 - As hard as scientists have tried, they have never found any physical structures in the brain that can account for consciousness. The nature of human awareness remains a mystery

Fact#2 - There are no structures in the brain that can account for storage of memories.

Fact#3 - There are no structures in the brain that can account for thinking.

Fact#4 - There are no structures in the brain that can account for creativity.

The actual existence of these human capabilities is not in dispute. We are conscious. We do have memories. We do think, and at least some of us are pretty damned creative. But there is nothing in the physical brain that can account for any of it.  Traditional science ignores that reality and simply assumes that these abilities are there in the physical brain in some mysterious, yet undiscovered way.

Sheldrake offers another view. He believes that a person's consciousness mind, memories, thought process, and creativity exist separate from the physical body, in another dimensional form that remains elusive and beyond direct perception.  

In this book, Sheldrake focuses on the unexplained capabilities that some people have for connecting with the past, the future,  and with people, even at great distances.  He reviews the scientific literature and shows that statistically, there is compelling evidence that these seemingly bizarre mental capabilities that some human beings have do exist.

I am big fan of Sheldrake. I think he is on to something very profound about life and how we humans  happen to conscious, and how we are able to think, and to have memories, and to show amazing flashes of creativity. 

Here is a link to Sheldrake's webpage...