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The Hydrogen Dog and the Quadrium Cat


The public reputation of nuclear power plummeted after the Fukushima meltdowns, but many in the energy sector still see nuclear fission as the only way to keep the lights on and stave off climate change. No private entities, and vanishingly few governments, though, want to spend billions to build new plants, so at least one manufacturer is offering smaller pre-packaged units. Will, The Stars Align for Small Nuclear Reactors?

The Westinghouse Electric Company has lined up Ameren, a St. Louis-based electric company, as a partner for its small modular reactor project. Getting a strong indication of commercial interest is critical because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can review only a few of the many proposed reactor designs and gives priority in the licensing process to those with a stronger chance of getting built.

Some utility analysts have argued that small reactors would be good “drop-in replacements” for 1950s and 1960s-era coal plants that are now being retired, given that that their generating capacity would be about the same.
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Blood or the Volt


About a month ago, former GM vice-honcho Bob Lutz gave up on rational argument with Limbaugh, Hannity and the like:

I Give Up On Correcting The Wrong-Headed Right Over The Volt


I am, sadly, coming to the conclusion that all the icons of conservatism are (shock, horror!) deliberately not telling the truth!

This saddens me, because, to this writer, conservatism IS fundamental truth. It only damages its inherent credibility with momentarily convenient fiction.

So, Mr. Krauthammer joins the list of right-wing pundits I no longer take seriously. After all, how do I know they’re telling the truth when the subject is one I’m not as familiar with as the Volt?
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The Future and Past of the American Empire

I've written before about energy depletion guru John Michael Greer, one of the presenters I saw at ASPO's conference in DC last year. I ran across his dystopian blog novel, Star's Reach, well over a year ago, and have thought about reading it from time to time, but never quite got around to it. But I read the first chapter this morning:

One wet day as we walked north toward Sisnaddi, old Plummer told me that all stories are scraps of one story, one great and nameless tale that winds from world’s beginning to world’s end and catches up everything worth telling on the way. Everybody touches that tale one way or another, or so he said, if only by watching smoke from a distant battle or lending an ear to some rumor in the night. Other folk stray into the one story and then right back out of it again, after carrying a message or a load of firewood on which the fate of kings and dreams will presently depend. Now and then, though, someone no different from these others stumbles into the deep places of the story, and gets swept up and spun around like a leaf in a flood until finally the waters drown him or toss him up gasping and alive on the bank.

He said all this between one mouthful of cheap whiskey and the next, as we waited out a fall rainstorm under the crumbling gray overhang of an old ruin, and I rolled my eyes and thought he was drunk. Now, though, I am less sure. Yesterday, after I arrived at the one place on Earth I least expected ever to come, and nearly died in the process, the thought has occurred to me more than once that this journey of mine is part of something a good deal bigger than the travels of one stray ruinman from Shanuga, bigger than Shanuga or Meriga itself. That something bigger might be Plummer’s one story, for all I know, and if that is the way of it, I know to the day when it caught me up and set me on the road to Star’s Reach.
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Electric Vehicle: Positives and Negatives

In, Stop Bashing Electric Cars!, Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, complains about adverse media coverage:  

It’s not often that you hear national elected officials and media pundits rooting against a growing American industry — especially when it’s reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil. It’s also unusual for them to argue against job creation, global competitiveness, even against innovation.

Strangely, that’s what’s happening to the U.S. electric vehicle industry.

Particularly striking is how far removed public debate on electric vehicles is from the facts. Our industry is growing fast, adding jobs throughout the supply chain and selling more vehicles and components than ever. The future is bright, but you’d never know it from some of the commentary.

There certainly have been right-wing attacks on the Chevrolet Volt and General Motors—ultimately intended to discredit President Obama. But there have also been straightforward discussions about unflattering facts, such as the still narrow market share of EVs and hybrids, the Tesla Roadster and Fisker Karma battery packs that failed and 'long tailpipes'—the actual environmental impact of manufacturing and driving electric and hybrid vehicles. Encouraging the media to accurately report the pros and cons makes more sense to me than Wynne's plea that the media do his job by promoting the industry.

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Extinguishing Kinkade


My wife is a sometime painter. She's done a striking reinterpretation of a Georgia O'Keeffe flower, several flowers she photographed herself, and even a portrait of me (that never gets older). She works long and patiently on each canvas. Around 2002, maybe, we walked by a gallery, and she pointed and said, "Those are by Thomas Kinkade." "Who?" "The Painter of Light." "Oh." As I recall, they were very bright paintings of yellow flowers with sunlight streaming across them—helped by a few downlights. "So ... is it that all his paintings are brightly lit?" "Yeah, pretty much." They were good paintings—I've seen a lot worse in gallery windows—but I wondered about the pretentious nickname.

Kinkade was also known for his idyllic landscapes. Someone told me that there was some controversy because Kinkade didn't actually paint all the paintings he sold as "Kinkades." I love poster art—Mucha's Cigarette Paper Women, the Normandie, Klimt's Kiss, etc.—so reproductions don't bother me, but the Painter of Light seemed to be doing something else altogether:

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Locked, Loaded and Guilt-Free


We were driving past the new location of East Coast Gun Sales a few weeks ago, and I told my wife I had been planning to check out the new store. They had been advertising their move to a larger location, with added facilities like a gun range, for over a year. I was thinking it would be interesting to fire off a few rounds with different caliber weapons and see what it felt like. "They went out of business," she said. She didn't know why.

According to the Altoona Mirror, back in 2007, East Coast's owner James Faith, and Michael Kurty, a police officer and firearms instructor, had been demonstrating a rebuilt mini-Gatling gun during a social event at a sportsmen's club. I'm not sure if this was before or after the chicken Kiev. The Gatling had an electrically-powered magazine, which soon jammed. So Faith unplugged the magazine, while Kurty, the firearms instructor, helpfully stood right in the path of the barrel. Because with no electricity, how could a weapon filled with bullets—which contain gunpowder—possibly fire?

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Clothes Make the Victim


Among all the discussion of the Trayvon Martin case, at least two pundits felt compelled to remind us that how we dress does have an effect on how others perceive us. Chez Pazienza got hammered by his readers, while Scott Adams readers tended to agree with him. I'll leave you to guess between the two quotes below:

Geraldo inadvertently created a controversy by stating the obvious: Our choice of clothes can influence how people treat us. That's a view that every living human agrees upon. Most of us act upon that belief once or twice a day. When I get dressed, the first two questions I ask myself are 1) "Who is going to see me?" and 2) "What do I want them to think of me?" You probably do the same thing.
But the way you choose to dress or otherwise adorn yourself is exactly that -- a choice. Your choice. And while in a perfect world no one would draw immediate conclusions about you based on your personal style, news flash: We don't live in a perfect world, and ignoring or defiantly thumbing your nose at the fact that there may be certain unintended consequences to the image you choose to project is both irresponsible and thick-headed.
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Hot and Cold Running Fusion


In, 500MW from half a gram of hydrogen: The hunt for fusion power heats up, ExtremeTech trumpets a potential efficiency breakthrough in magnetic confinement fusion, the type used at ITER:

Basically, to keep fusion going you need to sustain a temperature of around 11 million degrees Celsius, which requires a huge amount of electricity. Fusion chambers are usually lined with heat-resistant carbon tiles in an attempt to reduce wastage, but the problem is that protons and neutrons escaping from the fusion reaction hit the wall, cool down, and then bounce back into the reaction, reducing the temperature. Electricity must then be used to increase the temperature back to 11 million Celsius.

The PPPL [Princeton Plasma Physics Lab], led by Bruce Koel, have found that a thin layer of lithium metal (the third element in the Periodic Table) absorbs these protons and neutrons, preventing them from bouncing back into the pot, and thus reducing the power requirement of keeping the fusion reaction going.
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A Thousand Hoodies + Video

Baltimore's rally for Trayvon Martin started with a lot of energy and promise. An enthusiastic crowd on both sides of Pratt Street was cheering for passing drivers that honked in solidarity. I'm not sure who planned the march, but the Southern Christian Leadership Council, All Peoples Congress and Occupy 4 Jobs were present. I saw two serious looking people, one black man and one white woman, with small, grey bullhorns. They initiated a few call and respond chants - "No Justice! No Peace!" - "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" - "A people, united, will never be defeated."

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Donal is now posting on a wordpress blog called simply, Donal.

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