Under a Gibbous Moon

Archive for October 30th, 2009

You’ll want to sit down for this one

by on Oct.30, 2009, under News

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A new Pew poll has found that Fox News is considered my most Americans to be the most “idealogical” network. That in and of itself is not surprising, but the details of the poll are downright startling.

Overall, 14% of poll respondents view Fox News as “liberal”. Ok, sit down and take a moment to let that sink in before I hit you with the next one. Among respondents who identify as “regular” Fox News viewers, 17% view it as a liberal news network. I have no idea what network these people have been watching. I can see someone believing that Fox News is “fair and balanced”, but to watch it regularly and to believe that what you are seeing is full of liberal bias is shocking enough to restart someone’s heart.

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Scary, but true, space stories

by on Oct.30, 2009, under Science

Coming from the Discovery.com, comes an article detailing 5 scary (but true) space facts. While some of the entries are not particularly scary (space sex was funny with the line “Then you can fasten the whole two-person sex pod to a stable object — like Captain Pike or a Guild Navigator.”) The first entry was definitely high on the creep factor:

Space exploration research has claimed a number of animal lives, and while the idea of sacrificing monkeys and dogs on the altar of science is rather disheartening, the notion that there are dead simian and canine space explorers in orbit RIGHT NOW just adds to the creepiness.

Several early space missions involved re-entry procedures, but not every spacecraft was recovered. This leads many to theorize that perhaps dozens of mummified animals are still making the orbital rounds up there. Think about that the next time you wish upon a star.

Just something to keep in mind when you look up to the skies this Halloween.

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Wal-Mart, from craddle to grave

by on Oct.30, 2009, under Random

Wal-Mart has recently started selling a variety of caskets and urns on their web site, targeting the budget minded in their waning years. Most of the caskets can be purchased for less than two grand, and if you happen to know the impending date of your demise, you can finance them for twelve months with no interest.

More run-of-the-mill coffin retailers say they are not worried about Wal-Marts entry into the market and I for one would have to agree with them. With them safely stashed in some back corner (While they are listed as being part of For the Home(?) department, I could not navigate to caskets directly with a search) of their web site people are unlikely to even know that they are there. Now if they start stocking them in store, say across from the pharmacy, then they might see some competition.

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Terrorists are among us and they are furry!

by on Oct.30, 2009, under Random

The enemy among us!

The enemy among us!

As anyone who has attended Illinois State University can tell you, one of the greatest threats facing this nation comes in the form of those small furry insurgents who have quietly infiltrated every nook and cranny of this country. It is impossible to go anywhere there is a tree without being secretly surveilled by these grey, brown, and even white furry menaces. In our parks we see them meeting, plotting our downfalls. Lighting raids marked by the hurling of acorns and high pitched chattering. The government must wake up to this rodent menace before it becomes too late.

Hat Tip: NotionsCapital

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Charging Electric Vehicles, or Won’t someone think of the power grid!

by on Oct.30, 2009, under Science

WARNING – THE FOLLOWING POST CONTAINS MATH AND BIG NUMBERS – YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

Recently, upon reading several articles dealing with the upcoming release of a variety of electric vehicles (EVs) onto the market I noticed that nobody was discussing a critical point: Where was all this electricity going to come from. Electrical power is, after all, a finite resource. With all the gasoline that is used in the United States, I wondered if there was enough production capacity to meet the demand of a large scale deployment of EVs.

I had no idea of the answer to this when I first started. Indeed, I initially assumed that the reason I saw no discussion on this is that there wasn’t a problem to begin with, but I wanted to see the numbers for myself. So, without further ado, here is what I found. All statistical data is based upon currently available figures (2007).

First, I needed to find out how much energy is consumed by gasoline powered vehicles in the United States. I found that approximately 390 million gallons per day1. Gasoline has 34.8 megajoules (106) (MJ) per liter or about 131.7 MJ per gallon. So with this, 390 million gallons of gasoline has about 51,363,000,000 MJ or 51.363 petajoules (1015) (PJ) of energy. To put that into terms of power production, I found that 3.6 MJ is equal to one Kilowatt-hour (KWh) of energy2. Therefore, 51.363 PJ equals 14,267,500,000 KWh or 14.268 Terawatt-Hours (1012)(TWh).

The next step is to compensate for lost energy due to idling. It is estimated that 3.8 million gallons of gasoline is wasted in the United States by an idle engine5. This is approximately 1% of daily gasoline usage. Taking 1% from 14.268 TWh leaves us with 14.125 TWh.

Also, gasoline engines do not convert 100% of the available energy into useful work, they are about 30% efficient in converting energy into work3. Therfore, out of 14.125 TWh we actually will use 4.234 TWh.

Now, for the United States electrical generating capacity. The United States generated 4,157,000,000 MWh in 20074. For comparison purposes, I shall move the decimal point so it reads 4,157 TWh. Dividing that by 365, I came to a daily average of 11.389 TWh.

That puts the replacement energy needs at approximately 35% over the current energy output. From 2006 – 2007, United states electrical output increased by 2.3%4. In the highly unlikely circumstance of no other growth in demand for electrical energy, it would take over 15 years to completely replace our gasoline fleet with and EV one and most likely it would take decades longer than this.

This leaves us with an undesirable time table for either removing dependence on foreign oil or reducing greenhouse emissions (assuming the ability for a rapid migration to renewable electrical production).

With this data, the conclusion that I have come to is that EVs are not a viable large scale alternative to gasoline powered vehicles. Due to limitations in electrical production they will only be able to fill a niche role for many more decades.

References

1. Petroleum Basic Statistics http://www.eia.doe.gov/basics/quickoil.html

2. Kilowatt Hour http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watt-hour

3. Engine Efficiency http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine_efficiency

4. Electric Power Annual http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epa_sum.html

5. Anti-Idling Primer http://www.thehcf.org/antiidlingprimer.html

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