Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
"The Quantum Factor" – Apr 10, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Galaxies, Universe, Intelligent design, Benevolent design, Aliens, Nikola Tesla (Quantum energy), Inter-Planetary Travel, DNA, Genes, Stem Cells, Cells, Rejuvenation, Shift of Human Consciousness, Spontaneous Remission, Religion, Dictators, Africa, China, Nuclear Power, Sustainable Development, Animals, Global Unity.. etc.) - (Text Version)

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

(Live Kryon Channelings was given 7 times within the United Nations building.)

"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)

"Recalibration of Free Choice"– Mar 3, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) - (Subjects: (Old) Souls, Midpoint on 21-12-2012, Shift of Human Consciousness, Black & White vs. Color, 1 - Spirituality (Religions) shifting, Loose a Pope “soon”, 2 - Humans will change react to drama, 3 - Civilizations/Population on Earth, 4 - Alternate energy sources (Geothermal, Tidal (Paddle wheels), Wind), 5 – Financials Institutes/concepts will change (Integrity – Ethical) , 6 - News/Media/TV to change, 7 – Big Pharmaceutical company will collapse “soon”, (Keep people sick), (Integrity – Ethical) 8 – Wars will be over on Earth, Global Unity, … etc.) - (Text version)

“… 4 - Energy (again)

The natural resources of the planet are finite and will not support the continuation of what you've been doing. We've been saying this for a decade. Watch for increased science and increased funding for alternate ways of creating electricity (finally). Watch for the very companies who have the most to lose being the ones who fund it. It is the beginning of a full realization that a change of thinking is at hand. You can take things from Gaia that are energy, instead of physical resources. We speak yet again about geothermal, about tidal, about wind. Again, we plead with you not to over-engineer this. For one of the things that Human Beings do in a technological age is to over-engineer simple things. Look at nuclear - the most over-engineered and expensive steam engine in existence!

Your current ideas of capturing energy from tidal and wave motion don't have to be technical marvels. Think paddle wheel on a pier with waves, which will create energy in both directions [waves coming and going] tied to a generator that can power dozens of neighborhoods, not full cities. Think simple and decentralize the idea of utilities. The same goes for wind and geothermal. Think of utilities for groups of homes in a cluster. You won't have a grid failure if there is no grid. This is the way of the future, and you'll be more inclined to have it sooner than later if you do this, and it won't cost as much….”

"Fast-Tracking" - Feb 8, 2014 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (Reference to Fukushima / H-bomb nuclear pollution and a warning about nuclear > 20 Min)

Obama unveils landmark regulations to combat climate change

Obama unveils landmark regulations to combat climate change
In a bid to combat climate change, US President Barack Obama announced the Clean Power Plan on Monday, marking the first time power plants have been targeted by mandatory regulations on carbon dioxide emissions in the US.
Google: Earthday 2013

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Korea's On-the-Go Electric-Car Experiment

Vehicles powered by underground cable? Korea's top tech institute is serious about it. For one thing, batteries would be lighter and cheaper

BusinessWeek, by Moon Ihlwan

Auto companies around the world are touting plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. In South Korea, researchers are working on an experimental alternative they say could revolutionize the way vehicles will be powered. A group of 55 scientists and engineers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, the country's top technology university known as KAIST, is working on designs for a shuttle service at a Seoul amusement park where vehicles will be driven with power transferred by magnetic induction from cables buried underground.

The shuttle service, due to begin a test run in November and open for public use next spring, will be the first time the technology will be used for public transportation. Under the university's plan, electricity-powered cars don't need to be equipped with heavy and bulky batteries that are too expensive for most consumers.

That's because electric cars will be continuously charged while running on roads embedded with power strips. "Given the need to cut down emissions, electrification of the power train appears inevitable," says Cho Dong Ho, director of KAIST's Institute for Information Technology Convergence, who is heading the project dubbed Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV). Cho claims magnetic induction technology would be "the most convenient and cost-effective" way to usher in an era of electric vehicles. KAIST researchers point out that it also resolves such problems associated with battery-powered vehicles as short driving range and long charge time.


There are a number of questions to be addressed, and so it could take years for OLEV to become commonplace. But KAIST scientists have reported significant progress since the university first demonstrated the technology in February with a converted golf cart at its campus in Daejeon, 140km south of Seoul.

One major challenge is to gain high efficiency of power transfer without the car coming into direct contact with the supply. When KAIST proposed the idea to Korean President Lee Myung Bak in February, the magnetic device under the demonstration car was only 1cm above the ground and sucked up 80% of power from cables embedded in the road. Researchers managed to widen the gap to 12cm—the minimum requirement for vehicles in most countries—in August when the university ran an OLEV bus on its campus, but the efficiency dropped to 60%. It has since improved efficiency to 72% even as it widened the gap to 17cm. "The biggest hurdle has been removed as we passed the 70% efficiency requirement," crows Cho.

Another big question is cost. Project coordinator Song Min Choul at KAIST argues that laying power strips underground would be less costly than building charging stations in big cities where real estate prices are exorbitantly high. "Investing in charging stations in cities doesn't make any business sense as electricity prices are too cheap to recoup investment," Song says.

Moreover, the OLEV system needs only one-fifth the size of the bulky batteries typically used, saving on advanced battery materials. That's because batteries will be charged while on the go or trapped in a traffic jam. Researchers at KAIST figure Korea needs to place underground charging strips beneath 30% of its roads to make the system work across the country. In other words, alleys and smaller roads in residential areas don't need underground power cables.


Skeptics abound. The magnetic charging technology is not new but has not been commercialized since a similar test was made at the University of California-Lawrence Berkeley National Lab some two decades ago, according to critics. KAIST engineers respond that since then no serious research has taken place for the technology as oil prices stayed affordable until recently.

Doubts linger over whether the system could be put into practice even if results are satisfactory in lab environments. Kim Pil Soo, who teaches automobile engineering at Daelim University College at Anyang, just south of Seoul, notes that power-transfer efficiency drops dramatically once the gap widens between power strips and receiving devices on vehicles' undersides. "Cars move from left to right and it's tough to stay on course to receive energy properly," Kim says. "It could work on a track but results will be totally different on open roads."

The Korean government, however, is prepared to give it a trial. The central government, which in May allocated $21 million for initial research this year on the project, is also reviewing another request for $83 million for next year's experiments as part of President Lee's plan to spur economic growth through green technologies. In addition, the Seoul metropolitan government set aside $832,000 to test the shuttle service at the city's amusement park. "If the shuttle service proves successful, the next step is to test the system on bus lanes in select routes," says Yu Jun Su, an official responsible for managing the city's air quality.

KAIST's target is to attract commercial investments from 2012 for gradual adoption of the system over 30 years or so. "Of all the solutions dreamed up to end emission problems without making drivers give up heating, air-conditioning, or worry about recharging batteries, OLEV appears to be the best path so far," says Cho.

Moon is BusinessWeek's Seoul bureau chief.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Desert dust storm chokes Sydney

Australia's biggest city, Sydney, has been shrouded in red dust blown in by winds from the deserts of the outback.

BBC News

Sydneysiders have woken to a red haze unlike anything seen before by residents or weather experts, as the sun struggles to pierce a thick blanket of dust cloaking the city this morning. (Bridge over Narrabeen lakes. Photo: Paul Bowler)

More pictures

Visibility is so bad that international flights have been diverted and harbour ferry traffic disrupted.

Emergency services reported a surge in calls from people suffering breathing problems. Children and the elderly have been told to stay indoors.

Sydney's landmarks, including the Opera House, have been obscured, and many residents are wearing masks.

Traffic has been bumper-to-bumper on major roads.

The dust blanketing eastern parts of New South Wales has been carried by powerful winds that snatched up tons of topsoil from the drought-ravaged west of the state.

One Sydney resident told the Associated Press news agency: "The colour was amazing... I'm 72 years old and I've never seen that in my life before."

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology warned of "widespread damaging winds" in Sydney and other areas, as gusts of 65km/h (40mph) hit the city.

Forecasters predicted the winds would weaken later on Wednesday.

The BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney says it has been a difficult 24 hours for Australia, which has been hit by earthquakes, hail storms and bushfires.

In parts of New South Wales, huge hail stones whipped up by thunderstorms smashed windows and sent residents running for cover.

Further north in Queensland, officials banned open fires in many areas when bushfires sprang up after a spell of hot, dry weather.

Two minor earthquakes hit Victoria state on Tuesday, and heavy rains that followed led officials to issue a warning of flash floods.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Silicon Valley reinvents the lowly brick

Reuters, by David Lawsky, Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:07pm EDT

NEWARK, California (Reuters) - Forget microchips.

Silicon Valley sees a profitable future in the humble brick thanks to a low-energy production process that illustrates the greening of the U.S. technology capital.

Brick maker Calstar Products is heavy on PhDs and backed by venture capitalists whose vision is to create buildings less expensively and in a way that saves energy.

Calstar Products Chief Executive Michael Kane stands next to submerged samples of experimental high tech bricks undergoing testing in his Newark, California plant September 16, 2009. Silicon Valley sees a profitable future in the humble brick thanks to a low-energy production process that illustrates the greening of the U.S. technology capital. (REUTERS/David Lawsky)

"We think it is time for a second industrial revolution," said Paul Holland, a partner at Foundation Capital, which invested $7 million in Calstar. EnerTech Capital led another round that raised $8 million for the business.

"We and dozens of others are trying to create green alternatives for all the things that happen in the building industry," Holland said.

Currently about 40 percent of U.S. energy use goes toward the heating, cooling and general operation of buildings.

Silicon Valley is finding high-tech ways to make age-old materials, pursuing carbon dioxide-eating concrete, windows that insulate better than walls, and wood substitutes.

The field is still new. Venture investments in green buildings have waxed and waned with the recession, but involved 45 deals worth about $350 million the past year, according to Cleantech Group LLC.


Bricks have been made pretty much the same way for 3,000 years, until Calstar's scientists came up with their new technique, said Chief Executive Michael Kane.

Ordinary bricks are fired for 24 hours at 2,000 degrees F (1,093 C) as part of a process that can last a week, while Calstar bricks are baked at temperatures below 212 F (100 C) and take only 10 hours from start to finish, Kane said.

The recipe incorporates large amounts of fly ash -- a fluffy, powdery residue of burned coal at electric plants, that can otherwise wind up as a troublesome pollutant.

"Ours is a precise product" that relies on getting the chemistry right, said Amitabha Kumar, Calstar's director of research and development.

The process of making the bricks, which look and feel like any other brick, requires 80 to 90 percent less energy and emits 85 percent less greenhouse gas than ordinary bricks, according to Calstar.

Lower energy costs mean higher profit, allowing the company to pay for its research and compete against large companies that have economies of scale. The new bricks -- which the Brick Industry Association says are not actually bricks -- will sell for the same price as traditional clay-based ones. The Brick Industry Association says there is also no proof that products using fly ash will last as well as traditional brick.


The low-carbon footprint in the production process also gives the bricks a strong environmental cachet, and Calstar is targeting the "green materials" market with the goal of competing against traditional clay brick makers like Glen-Gery of Pennsylvania and Endicott of Nebraska.

The company's headquarters and research facility is based in a warehouse on the shores of San Francisco Bay but its first plant is under construction in Caledonia, Wisconsin, the heartland of brick-using country. It is near a Wisconsin Energy Corp plant that can supply calcium-rich fly ash.

The plant is to be running before year's end. At first, the company will make only "facing brick," used on the outside of buildings, a $2 billion annual U.S. market. It plans to branch out into paving stones, roofing tile and other brick markets.

The company has signed 16 distributors to sell 12 million or more bricks the first year, and plans to make 100 million bricks for sale throughout the Midwest and South, Kane said.

After that, fast-growing markets like China beckon.

(Reporting by David Lawsky, editing by Matthew Lewis)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Age of Stupid: An eco call-to-arms comes to Houston, September 19, 6:39 PM, Houston Entertainment Examiner, Rob Cox

The Age of Stupid is an experiemental film mixing science fiction with non-fiction documentary footage in an environmentally-conscious attempt to stimulate activism against global climate change. Though already screened in several countries, it debuts world-wide on Monday to coincide with the United Nations first climate summit, which begins on Tuesday.

According to the AFP news service’s piece on the film, The Age of Stupid is set in 2055 and stars Pete Postlethwaite as the film’s only fictional character. Postlethwaite plays an aging archivist who reviews non-fiction footage of six people from our own time—each of them real people who were interviewed and profiled by the film’s director Franny Armstrong. Those six people are all living with the current, real-world consequences of global warming. They include an aspiring medical student from Nigeria; a young Indian entrepreneur; two young refuges from the current Iraqi war; a 37-year-old British man struggling to start a windfarm; and an 82-year-old French mountain guide. Postlethwaite, looking back from a fictional world devastated by global warming, wonders why we didn’t do something to stop climate change when we could. In his world, it’s already too late. Here's the trailer:

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Quiet" Sun can also hit Earth with wild winds

Reuters, Fri Sep 18, 2009

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The Sun can lash the Earth with powerful winds that can disrupt communications, aviation and power lines even when it is in the quiet phase of its 11-year solar cycle, U.S. scientists say.

(Solar and Heliospheric Observatory - website)

Observers have traditionally used the number of sunspots on the surface of the Sun to measure its activity. The number of sunspots reaches a peak at what is called the solar maximum, then declines to reach a minimum during a cycle.

At the peak, intense solar flares and geomagnetic storms eject vast amounts of energy into space, crashing into the Earth's protective magnetic fields, knocking out satellites, disrupting communications and causing colorful aurorae.

But scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the United States and the University of Michigan found that the Earth was bombarded with intense solar winds last year despite an unusually quiet phase for the Sun.

"The Sun continues to surprise us," said Sarah Gibson of the center's High Altitude Observatory and lead author of the study. "The solar wind can hit Earth like a fire hose even when there are virtually no sunspots."

Scientists previously thought the streams of energy largely disappeared as the solar cycle approached the minimum.

Gibson and the team, which also included scientists from NOAA and NASA, compared measurements from the current solar minimum interval, taken in 2008, with measurements of the last solar minimum in 1996.

Although the current solar minimum has fewer sunspots than any minimum in 75 years, the Sun's effect on Earth's outer radiation belt was more than three times greater last year than in 1996.

The research, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, found that the prevalence of high-speed streams during the solar minimum in 2008 appeared to be related to the current structure of the Sun.

As the number of sunspots fell over the past few years, large holes lingered in the surface of the Sun near its equator. The high-speed streams that blow out of those holes engulfed Earth during 55 percent of the study period in 2008, compared to 31 percent of the study period in 1996.

A single stream of charged particles can last for as long as 7 to 10 days, the study says.
"The new observations from last year are changing our understanding of how solar quiet intervals affect the Earth and how and why this might change from cycle to cycle," said co-author Janet Kozyra of the University of Michigan.

(Reporting by David Fogarty and Sanjeev Miglani)
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
Related Articles:

"... The Role of the Sun

As you move into this new energy, or what some have even called "radiation", you should know how it works, for it's very related to your Sun. Physically, it affects the magnetic field of the Sun (the heliosphere), which then in turn is blasted to your own magnetic field via the solar wind. That's the physics of it, but dear one, let me give you the esoterics of it. This has been the plan all along, that if you made it as a Human race past the 2012 marker, you would pass into this area of space and the magnetics would shift, allowing Human consciousness to change. Dear ones, this was always here waiting for you to pass the marker! This is why I came 26 years ago and told you the magnetics would shift. This is an evolutionary energy that is going to affect your Sun - the heliosphere of your Sun - which then will pass to the magnetic field of the earth, a field that has now been repostured for this new consciousness.

Oh, there are those intellectuals who would say, "Well, what if we had destroyed ourselves as the prophecies said we would? What if there were no Humans to receive this?" It's simple. No Humans would have been here, but the planet would have still moved into this new area of space and the same energies would have been there, but you would not have been. Simple. But indeed, here you are!

So now you can see that the prophecy from the indigenous is also being fulfilled, for they told you about the changes coming after the precession of the equinoxes (December 2012). How could they have had this prophecy about your movement into a new place around your galaxy? Think about it! These things are not new, and even the ancients told you it was coming! They may not have known the specifics of science, but their prophecy is the same one I have: New consciousness is coming.

Dear ones, I want you to continue to put together these pieces physically in what you can see. As we told you, these changes affect your Sun. The heliosphere of your Sun changes you magnetic grid. Now, for this all to work, the Sun had to be quiet for this. I want you to ask an astronomer about the Sun and the cycles of the Sun. Ask about what period of radiance the Sun is in at the moment. The astronomer will tell you that it appears to be one of the quietest cycles that the Sun has ever seen. Solar flares and sunspots are disturbances in the multidimensional field that surrounds the Sun, so these had to be gone while the new energies were starting to be implemented. For this all to work, the Sun had to be as quiet as possible, and it is. The Sun's quiet time is also affecting your weather, and we told you that, too. Due to its quietness, you're in a cycle of weather that we also predicted [a cold time coming] that also has a lot to do with the energy that's coming. That's physical. Ask an astronomer, “Are they worried about all this?” Some of them are and others are not. But it is affecting you and the planet right now. Now you know why the magnetic grid was changed when it was changed and why. That's physical. .."

New Mini Ice Age

"The weather you have today, and all the alarming attributes of it, is a scenario of what was scheduled to happen on Earth anyway. I review again that the weather changes you are seeing prophesied by myself, 21 years ago, are not a surprise. The changes are not caused by the pollutants you put in the air. You call it global warming and that's a nice phrase, and perhaps that will get you to put less pollutants in the air – a very good thing. But what you are seeing in the weather shift today was not caused by Humans putting things into the air. It would have happened anyway in about 300 years."

"We've called this process the water cycle, since it's all about water, not about air. The water is the predominant attribute of Gaia and of the weather cycle you're seeing. More predominant is the temperature of it. The cycle is ice to water and water to ice, and has been repeated on this planet over and over and over. It is not new. It is not exceptional. It is not frightening. But it's a cycle that modern humanity has not seen before, and it's a long cycle that is beyond the life span of a Human Being. Therefore, it tends to be overlooked or not seen at all !"

"In the days of the Lemurians, the water level of the Pacific Ocean was almost 400 feet lower, and that's only 50,000 years ago. [Kryon invites science to check this out – the water level at that time.] That was a water cycle working, and the reason it was lower was due to so much of the water being stored as ice. Today you're going through another water cycle that will eventually lead to cooling. The last one was in the 1400s."

"Science sees that at about 1650. As mentioned, they are so slow there is no remembrance that a Human has of them except in past writings and in the rings of the trees. The time span of the changes is so great that environmental record keeping does not exist in the form that it does today. But you can still look at the rings of the trees and at the striations of the rocks and can generally figure out that a few hundred years ago, you had a mini-ice age. Now you're going to have another one." 

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Climate change: melting ice will trigger wave of natural disasters

Scientists at a London conference next week will warn of earthquakes, avalanches and volcanic eruptions as the atmosphere heats up and geology is altered. Even Britain could face being struck by tsunamis

The Observer, Robin McKie, Sunday 6 September 2009

Kirkjufell volcano erupting above the town of Vestmannaeyjar, Heimaey Island, Westmann Islands, Iceland. Photograph: Emory Kristof/National Geographic/Getty Images

Scientists are to outline dramatic evidence that global warming threatens the planet in a new and unexpected way – by triggering earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches and volcanic eruptions.

Reports by international groups of researchers – to be presented at a London conference next week – will show that climate change, caused by rising outputs of carbon dioxide from vehicles, factories and power stations, will not only affect the atmosphere and the sea but will alter the geology of the Earth.

Melting glaciers will set off avalanches, floods and mud flows in the Alps and other mountain ranges; torrential rainfall in the UK is likely to cause widespread erosion; while disappearing Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets threaten to let loose underwater landslides, triggering tsunamis that could even strike the seas around Britain.

At the same time the disappearance of ice caps will change the pressures acting on the Earth's crust and set off volcanic eruptions across the globe. Life on Earth faces a warm future – and a fiery one.

"Not only are the oceans and atmosphere conspiring against us, bringing baking temperatures, more powerful storms and floods, but the crust beneath our feet seems likely to join in too," said Professor Bill McGuire, director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre, at University College London (UCL).

"Maybe the Earth is trying to tell us something," added McGuire, who is one of the organisers of UCL's Climate Forcing of Geological Hazards conference, which will open on 15 September. Some of the key evidence to be presented at the conference will come from studies of past volcanic activity. These indicate that when ice sheets disappear the number of eruptions increases, said Professor David Pyle, of Oxford University's earth sciences department.

"The last ice age came to an end between 12,000 to 15,000 years ago and the ice sheets that once covered central Europe shrank dramatically," added Pyle. "The impact on the continent's geology can by measured by the jump in volcanic activity that occurred at this time."

In the Eiffel region of western Germany a huge eruption created a vast caldera, or basin-shaped crater, 12,900 years ago, for example. This has since flooded to form the Laacher See, near Koblenz. Scientists are now studying volcanic regions in Chile and Alaska – where glaciers and ice sheets are shrinking rapidly as the planet heats up – in an effort to anticipate the eruptions that might be set off.

Last week scientists from Northern Arizona University reported in the journal Science that temperatures in the Arctic were now higher than at any time in the past 2,000 years. Ice sheets are disappearing at a dramatic rate – and these could have other, unexpected impacts on the planet's geology.

According to Professor Mark Maslin of UCL, one is likely to be the release of the planet's methane hydrate deposits. These ice-like deposits are found on the seabed and in the permafrost regions of Siberia and the far north.

"These permafrost deposits are now melting and releasing their methane," said Maslin. "You can see the methane bubbling out of lakes in Siberia. And that is a concern, for the impact of methane in the atmosphere is considerable. It is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas."

A build-up of permafrost methane in the atmosphere would produce a further jump in global warming and accelerate the process of climate change. Even more worrying, however, is the impact of rising sea temperatures on the far greater reserves of methane hydrates that are found on the sea floor.

It was not just the warming of the sea that was the problem, added Maslin. As the ice around Greenland and Antarctica melted, sediments would pour off land masses and cliffs would crumble, triggering underwater landslides that would break open more hydrate reserves on the sea-bed. Again there would be a jump in global warming. "These are key issues that we will have to investigate over the next few years," he said.

There is also a danger of earthquakes, triggered by disintegrating glaciers, causing tsunamis off Chile, New Zealand and Newfoundland in Canada, Nasa scientist Tony Song will tell the conference. The last on this list could even send a tsunami across the Atlantic, one that might reach British shores.

The conference will also hear from other experts of the risk posed by melting ice in mountain regions, which would pose significant dangers to local people and tourists. The Alps, in particular, face a worryingly uncertain future, said Jasper Knight of Exeter University. "Rock walls resting against glaciers will become unstable as the ice disappears and so set off avalanches. In addition, increasing meltwaters will trigger more floods and mud flows."

For the Alps this is a serious problem. Tourism is growing there, while the region's population is rising. Managing and protecting these people was now an issue that needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency, Knight said.

"Global warming is not just a matter of warmer weather, more floods or stronger hurricanes. It is a wake-up call to Terra Firma," McGuire said.

Related Articles:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

IBM plunges into the 'smart grid for water'

CNET News, by Martin LaMonica

Even as billions of dollars are being spent around the world to modernize the electricity grid, the systems to delivery fresh water are also in desperate need of a 21st century upgrade.

IBM is developing a portfolio of IT-related water management technologies, a business that it estimates can total $20 billion within five years. At a water conference next week, IBM and Intel will be forming a working group to study how information and technology can be used to improve water management, according to IBM.

The goal is to sketch out the technical architecture required to more efficiently use fresh water, only one percent of the available water on Earth.

Water systems even in developed countries like the U.S. are notoriously outdated, with faulty pipes--some of them still made of wood--result in 25 percent to 45 percent lost water. That means high-tech approaches, such as using sensors to gauge water quality, are a tough sell to cash-strapped municipalities, most of which are more concerned with maintaining the basic infrastructure.

IBM is betting, though, that fresh water will have more value attached to it from the public, governments, and corporations.

"The hard truth is that most of the countries in the developing world are outgrowing the amount of water that is available to them," said Peter Williams, the chief technology officer of IBM's Big Green Innovations program, who representing IBM at a conference organized by the Water Innovations Alliance industry association next week. "Certainly, it's the case that water is the great sleeping crisis and it is most definitely starting to wake up."

IBM launched Big Green Innovations two and a half years ago to capitalize on constraints in energy generation, carbon emissions, energy in the data center, and water. For the past 18 months, IBM has focused more of its attention on water, said Williams, who characterized the business as "incredibly nascent."

Reservoirs of data

Upgrading the water utility infrastructure is analogous to the many smart-grid technologies now being tested to make the grid run more efficiently and use more renewable energy.

Gathering and processing information on the status of delivery allows water agencies to better manage their operations. For example, if a water authority can use meters or sensors to locate problems, such as leaks or sewage overflows, they can cut their maintenance costs, Williams explained.

IBM has already had a number of water-related deals. In a partnership with the Nature Conservancy, it's gathering data on various environmental factors to measure the health of river ecosystems. In the Netherlands, IBM is involved in the design of levies to understand potential breaking points.

In these cases, IBM is building the software and networks to handle incoming data from sensors and to provide tools to let people analyze the information. It's also testing smart water meters that would provide more accurate consumption data and alert customer if there's a problem, such as a leak. It's also looking at new sensors being developed to track the level of pathogens or chemical contaminants that come from use of pharmaceuticals.

Big Blue's Maximo "asset management" software is used by many water utilities to keep track and maintain their equipment of pumps, plants, and filtration equipment.

Still, water utilities are a generally low-tech bunch when it comes to IT. Most water authority executives don't consider technology options beyond basic SCADA control systems, Williams said. "They are where (electricity) utilities were five or 10 years ago," he said.

Corporate risk

IBM is pushing into water because the trends on water point to the need for greater conservation for social and economic reasons.

In poor countries, billions of people don't have regular access to clean water. Meanwhile, high-profile droughts in Australia and the western U.S. served by the Colorado River are causing severe financial problems for different industries, notably agriculture.

The high energy cost of delivering water helps makes the economic case for better monitoring and data analysis. In the U.S., between 3 percent and 4 percent of the entire electricity output is used to pump water. In California, it's almost 20 percent. Meanwhile, low water levels in rivers and reservoirs forced the shut down of nuclear reactors in France a few years ago.

Industries that rely on water, such as semiconductors, agriculture, or beverages, are susceptible to disruptions of supply. There's also "reputational risk" when consumers perceive that businesses are profligate with water, Williams said.

"It's something like greenhouse gases. Ten years ago in this country, few people were talking about them but now they are," he said. "The same will happen with water."

Related Articles:

Dutch learn to live with, instead of fight, rising seas

Energy from Sea Water? Consider IBM Intrigued

Friday, September 4, 2009

Air Power

Energy: Batteries that draw oxygen from the air could provide a cheaper, lighter and longer-lasting alternative to existing designs, Sep 3rd 2009, (From The Economist print edition)

MOBILE phones looked like bricks in the 1980s. That was largely because the batteries needed to power them were so hefty. When lithium-ion batteries were invented, mobile phones became small enough to be slipped into a pocket. Now a new design of battery, which uses oxygen from ambient air to power devices, could provide even an smaller and lighter source of power. Not only that, such batteries would be cheaper and would run for longer between charges.

Illustration by Belle Mellor

Lithium-ion batteries have two electrodes immersed in an electrically conductive solution, called an electrolyte. One of the electrodes, the cathode, is made of lithium cobalt oxide; the other, the anode, is composed of carbon. When the battery is being charged, positively charged lithium ions break away from the cathode and travel in the electrolyte to the anode, where they meet electrons brought there by a charging device. When electricity is needed, the anode releases the lithium ions, which rapidly move back to the cathode. As they do so, the electrons that were paired with them in the anode during the charging process are released. These electrons power an external circuit.

Peter Bruce and his colleagues at the University of St Andrews in Scotland came up with the idea of replacing the lithium cobalt oxide electrode with a cheaper and lighter alternative. They designed an electrode made from porous carbon and lithium oxide. They knew that lithium oxide forms naturally from lithium ions, electrons and oxygen, but, to their surprise, they found that it could also be made to separate easily when an electric current passed through it. They exposed one side of their porous carbon electrode to an electrolyte rich in lithium ions and put a mesh window on the other side of the electrode through which air could be drawn. Oxygen from the air took the place of the cobalt oxide.

When they charged their battery, the lithium ions migrated to the anode where they combined with electrons from the charging device. When they discharged it, lithium ions and electrons were released from the anode. The ions crossed the electrolyte and the electrons travelled round the external circuit. The ions and electrons met at the cathode, and combined with the oxygen to form lithium oxide that filled the pores in the carbon.

Because the oxygen being used by the battery comes from the surrounding air, the device that Dr Bruce’s team has designed can be a mere one-eighth to one-tenth the size and weight of modern batteries, while still carrying the same charge. Making such a battery is also expected to be cheaper. Lithium cobalt oxide accounts for 30% of the cost of a lithium-ion battery. Air, however, is free.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Study: 1.6 billion face water, food threat in Asia

The Jakarta Post

Binaj Gurubacharya, Associated Press, Katmandu | Wed, 09/02/2009 5:54 PM

Effects of climate change including the melting of Himalayan glaciers threaten water and food security for more than 1.6 billion people living in South Asia, according to a study released Wednesday.

India, Bangladesh, Afhanistan, and Nepal will be most vulnerable to falling crop yields caused by glacier retreat, floods, droughts and erratic rainfall, said the study financed by the Asian Development Bank.

"South Asia's vulnerability to climate change has extremely serious implications for agriculture and therefore food seurity," Kunio Senga, the ADB's director general for South Asia, told a news conference in the Nepalese capital, Katmandu.

The Manila, Philippines-based bank, which finances poverty reduction programs, reported the findings Wednesday. The full report, produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute, is due for release later this month in Bangkok, Thailand on the sidelines of a U.N. climate change meeting.

The study warned if current trends persist until 2050, he yields of irrigated crops in South Asia will decrease significantly.

In the case of Nepal, Environment Ministry Secretary Udaya Raj Sharma said the rate of glacial melting in the impoverished Himalayan nation's mountains was higher than initially predicted, and the trend threatened rice and wheat crops

A report released last week by British aid agency Oxfam warned millions Nepalese face severe food shortages because of climate change. It said changing weather patterns - extreme temperatures, drier winters and delays in summer monsoons - have dramatically affected crop production already, leaving farmers unable to properly feed themselves and pushing them into debt. An estimated 3.4 million people in Nepal need food aid, it said.

Oxfam predicted river levels will decline because of reduced rainfall and glacial retreat, making it harder to irrigate crops and provide water for livestock.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Energy from Sea Water? Consider IBM Intrigued

Seeking Alpha, by Michael Kanellos, September 01, 2009

You can count IBM as one more institution that sees at least some potential in the idea of harvesting power when fresh water and saltwater meet.

IBM's Almaden Laboratory wants to prepare a proposal to study osmotic pressure gradients, according to Spike Narayan, functional manager, science & technology, at IBM's Almaden Research Center.

Osmotic pressure gradients effectively generate water pressure without raging currents. They work like this. Fresh water from streams and rivers tumbles toward a tank of sea water. Between the fresh water and the sea sits a membrane. The differences in salt concentration draw the fresh water through the membrane. The membrane also can eliminate additional impurities.

As more fresh water enters the tank, the salt concentration decreases but the growing volume of water increases the water pressure in the tank. The pressure can then be harvested to turn a turbine. In effect, it is hydroelectric power without a Niagara.

The osmotic pressure project also illuminates how IBM exploits its fairly unique structure for profit. IBM is one of the few large companies with a sprawling R&D division with a somewhat open-ended mandate to look at projects that aren't necessarily tied to near and mid-term profits. IBM, moreover, isn't likely going to give up the prestige and Nobel prizes that go along with such a lab.

But, since bills do have to be paid, groups like Narayan's comb through different projects to identify commercially promising ideas. As the project progresses, IBM seeks out industrial partners and divisions with in its own consulting groups to commercialize and/or license it. Right now, one of the major green projects at IBM's labs involves components for lithium-air batteries.

Often, the path from lab to market is crooked. The potential for osmotic pressure power grows out of a material IBM has started to promote for desalination and water purification membranes. The material effectively forms a molecular net that fleeces impurities out of water and thereby cuts down the ostentatious amounts of energy required by most desalination systems. The material can also tune membranes to hone in on arsenic or boron or may one day allow governments to produce "recycled water" or purified water from sewage systems. Singapore already gets a small percentage of its drinking water (called NEWater) from recycling, although tourist brochures don't brag about it.

"The whole concept of recycled water is going to happen. It is inevitable," he said. "We need to figure out inexpensive ways to do it.

And where did that material originally come from? It is a polymer IBM originally devised to perfect immersion lithography, a technique for "drawing" the circuits in chips on wafers immersed in distilled water. Immersion lithography started being employed in mass production a few years ago. Thus, IBM's involvement in sea power derives from work Big Blue did on the PlayStation 3.

As wacky as osmotic pressure power sounds, interest is growing. Norway's Starkraft Energi is working with desalination expert Energy Recovery to prepare a pilot program to harvest osmotic power from the country's many fjords. (Don't let the Starkraft name fool you. This isn't a club you'd meet at a sci-fi convention: It's a large utility.)

Danish startup Aquaporin meanwhile is examining how it can deploy an artificial protein it has created for desalination for energy harvesting. Aquaporin works with French water giant Veolia on desalination research. You can get a more full description about osmotic pressure gradients from Rolf Aaberg from Norway's Starkraft Energi here.

"You have the potential of approximately 2,000 terawatt hours a year globally. Any place you have a stream going into the sea you have potential energy," Peter Holme Jensen, a microbiologist turned CEO of Aquaporin told us last year.

IBM will likely take a slightly different twist. Instead of creating osmotic pressure from introducing freshwater to seawater, IBM will see if it can generate osmotic pressure by introducing clean (or somewhat clean) water to the extremely salty waste streams at desalination plants. In effect, a natural stream wouldn't be necessary.

"You could generate more power" with concentrated seawater, Narayan said.

President orders solar energy development

Erwida Maulia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 09/01/2009 5:33 PM

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered that development into solar-cell energy be explored in Indonesia.

Managing director of state-owned solar cell producer PT LEN Industri, Wahyuddin Bagenda, said following a meeting with SBY in Jakarta on Tuesday that the President supported moves for increasing the production of efficient solar-cell energies.

“... And he [SBY] is hoping that the price will be reasonable for the public. That was the most important issue.” Wahyuddin said in a press conference at the Presidential Office.

He said LEN could install solar cells with a capacity of 6 Megawatts, and could offer this renewable energy at US$3 per watt.

Wahyuddin said this capacity fell short of the government’s actual annual requirement of 10 MW.

“Based on our analysis, if we increase the installed capacity to 50 MW, we’ll be able to sell the solar cells at $1.2 per watt. The global price currently stands at around $1.7 per watt,” he said.

The Bandung-based firm will need around $17 million worth of investment to develop the 50-MW power plant, he said.