All posts by robotchampion

Global solar power surged in 2011 – 73% growth

2011 was a great year for solar power with an increase of 73.3% in generating power – the fastest growth since reporting began. Germany and Italy led that charge by installing 57.1% of the new power. Worldwide there is now 63.4 gigwatts (GW) of solar power – of which 29.3 GW were brought online in 2011.

In graphical terms that is exponential growth:

 

source: Smart Planet

 

Of course, Europe is leading the charge into solar having recently passed the 50GW milestone. Which makes the United States look tiny in comparison, having only recently surpassed the 4GW mark. We are just as far behind in wind power with Europe having 100GW and the United States at 50GW.

The good news is that both are rapidly constructing new installations – both solar and wind – and growing at an exponential pace.

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For more details and a graph of the United States’ exponential growth, visit Solar’s Dramatic Rise.

New study – baldness is a business advantage, men perceived as taller and stronger

From The Wall Street Journal:

Men with shaved heads are perceived to be more masculine, dominant and, in some cases, to have greater leadership potential than those with longer locks or with thinning hair, according to a recent study out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

…Men with shorn heads were even perceived as an inch taller and about 13% stronger than those with fuller manes.

 

I don’t care if this study is true or not – any good news about balding is fantastic. I’m losing my hair and it’s nice to have something to look forward to – the shiny bald look will make me taller and stronger.

Though, it would have helped more in high school when the receding hair line began. Those early years are the hardest to deal with. And I know there are millions of men out there who agree with me.

The study also points out that the in-between period is the worst. The best is having full hair or no hair, but scruffy sides like George Costanza, received the worst ratings. So, men get out the razor when the recession gets too deep.

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Laugh and poke fun at the Presidential Debates with this humorous video

If you’re excited for the first Presidential Debate of 2012 – or if you just want to laugh, watch this video. It has everything from Hillary Clinton’s Victoria’s Pant Suits to George H.W. Bush’s silver foot in his mouth:

 

 

If this interests you the Harvard Kennedy School has a pre-debate “Politics as Theater” discussion with Aaron Sorkin, Chuck Todd, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, and Alan K. Simpson.

Watch the video on Live Stream.

Scientists discover 2 million new plankton species – on a 2.5 year ocean voyage

A team of scientists spent 2.5 years traveling the oceans, over 70,000 miles, and came back with a startling discovery. There was once thought to be 30,000 species of plankton but they discovered more than 2 million species. The diversity, and strangeness, is astounding. One species combines together to form a chain 40 meters long while another forms symbiotic colonies, living within each other.

Watch the BBC story:

 

Learn more about the Tara Expédition by visiting their website, listening to PRI’s interview, or following them on Facebook.

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Finland makes plans to be coal-free – first European country to do so

Finland is a Nordic country in the far north of Europe. It borders Russia and Sweden and is the most sparsely populated country in Europe. It has no natural coal resources, some hydropower capabilities, and a lot of forest. One-third of its energy comes from renewable sources (wood, hydropower), 18% from nuclear power, and the remaining 50% comes from imported fossil fuels.

And it wants to be the first country in Europe to become coal-free. The plan is to phase out several large coal plants by 2025 and begin investing in renewable energy. There were also discussions of subsidies and tax breaks in government documents.

Right now the country imports 5 million metric tons of coal every year, mostly from Poland and Russia. In some years that can cost $388 million, a real hit to the country’s GDP of $266 billion. Keeping that money at home with renewable energy offers significant benefits for the country – energy independence, new jobs, improved trade balance, and cutting emissions.

The country is a strong supporter of the Kyoto Protocol and has worked very hard to meet emission reductions. As of 2008, it was 1% below the target reduction.

Being coal-free is a smart financial and ecological move for the country, and maybe one other’s in Europe could follow.

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10 places in Los Angeles to get a damn good cup of coffee

In the last few years Los Angeles has found its coffee roots. After a slow start the city is booming with exceptional baristas serving high quality beans. And that includes all the features coffee drinkers love: expensive machines, specific dairy options, local roasters, fair trade, and even vendors at farmers markets.

There is also a competition to create the perfect coffee experience. Shops are experimenting with interior design and culture programs – like banning laptops, offering no seating, and – in true LA spirit – wide open outdoor spaces.

This makes visiting the top ten coffee shops in Los Angeles a fun adventure. Here they are, from LA Weekly, with the address included – for more details on each shop read the full article.

 

1. Espresso Cielo - 3101 Main Street, Santa Monica

2. Balconi Coffee Company - 11301 W. Olympic Blvd #124, Los Angeles

3. Coffee Commissary 801 N. Fairfax Ave., #106, Los Angeles

4. Farmers’ Markets – at the Crenshaw market, USC market, Hollywood Yamashiro market

5. Cafecito Organico - 2 locations in Los Angeles - 534 N. Hoover Street & 710 N. Heliotrope Drive

6. Spring for Coffee - 548 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles

7. CoffeeBar - 600 S. Spring St., Los Angeles

8. Intelligentsia - 3 locations:

  • 3922 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
  • 1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice
  • 55 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

9. Cognoscenti Coffee - 3156 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles

10. Cafe de Leche - 5000 York Boulevard, Los Angeles

 

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Obama vs Romney – on climate change, renewable energy, and the EPA

In every election the presidential candidates are forced to make a bold statement, one way or the other, on the environment. And since this blog is focused on sustainability their positions are an important topic. Here are three of them – climate change, renewable energy, and the EPA – from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

I apologize for the strong Democratic Party bias in this piece, but the Republican Party has yet to embrace sustainability. There are glimpses of it from Mitt Romney, but he is backing away from many of those. And honestly, we need the Republican Party to adopt sustainable ideas to make real progress in this country.

 

Climate Change

Barack Obama

  • Supports international efforts to forge a climate change agreement.
  • Enacted regulations to double the fuel efficiency of vehicles by 2025.
  • Directed the federal government to reduce emissions from its buildings and vehicles by 28 percent by 2020.

Mitt Romney

  • Wary of international climate negotiations.
  • Opposes Obama’s new fuel efficiency standards as extreme.
  • Believes climate change is happening but not due to human efforts.

 

Renewable Energy

Barack Obama

  • Invested billions in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Set ambitious clean energy goals, vowing that 80 percent will come from renewable sources by 2035.
  • Supported legislation, now set to expire, that extends production tax credits to the wind industry.

Mitt Romney

  • Opposes extending the tax credit for the wind industry and has vowed to end federal subsidies for renewable energy projects.
  • Supports nuclear, coal, oil, and gas in equal amounts to solar and wind.
  • As governor of Massachusetts, supported renewable energy authorizing the investment of $24 million.

 

EPA

Barack Obama

  • Empowered the EPA to draft stricter CO2 emissions standards for power plants.
  • Supports proposed EPA regulations limiting emissions of mercury and other toxics from power plants.
  • Supports continued federal regulation of oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

Mitt Romney

  • Opposes EPA regulating carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Says the states, not the federal government, should exercise control over oil and gas drilling on onshore federal lands.
  • Has called for fewer regulations on the nuclear power industry to help revive it.

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MacArthur Foundation hands out genius grants to 23 ultra-talented people

“A phone call out of the blue; $500,000 – no strings attached”

Reads the front page for the MacArthur Foundation. Sometimes called the genius grants, they are awarded to the ultra-talented in nearly any field – writers, scientists, photographers. Young and old, this year’s recipients range from 31 to 66 years old. And like the quote says, $500,000 over five years is provided and never talked about again, “in the spirit of fostering intellectual freedom.”

Officially called the MacArthur Fellows, 23 were awarded this year with a focus on “works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.”

The foundation is one of the largest in the world worth $5.7 billion in 2011 – and awarding $230 million in that same year.

A selection of the winners:

Natalie Almada – documentary filmmaker capturing complex views of Mexican history, politics, and culture as both an art form and a tool for social change.

Claire Chase – arts entrepreneur forging a new model for the commissioning, recording, and live performance of classical music.

Dylan C. Penningroth – historian studying property ownership among former slaves and their children in the United States.

Terry Plank – geochemist probing the invisible but remarkably powerful thermal and chemical forces deep below the Earth’s crust that drive the motion of tectonic plate collisions.

Read about all 23 ultra-talented winners.

 

Source: L.A. Times

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Massive wind farm comes online in Oregon – 845 megawatts of clean wind energy

The world’s third largest wind farm just started spinning its turbines in Oregon. Covering more than a thousand acres the 338 wind turbines will create 845 megawatts of clean energy. All of that will be sent down to California for 20 years as part of an agreement with Southern California Edison – who is in need of clean energy to comply with state energy standards, 33% clean energy by 2020.

The name of the project is Caithness Shepherds Flat and it cost $1.9 billion. During construction the project employed more than 400 workers and 45 of those will become permanent full-time positions.

The wind farm will create enough energy to power 235,000 homes. Adding to the growing number of homes powered through clean energy. Recently, wind power in the United States passed the 50 gigawatt milestone, and this project should put that at 51 gigawatts.

A substantial achievement but we still have a long way to go, the United States uses 3,900,000 gigawatts of energy.

 

More information:

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Discover Britain’s best (and weirdest) artist – the Turner Prize 2012

Every year the Tate Gallery in London awards the Turner Prize to Britain’s weirdest artist. The award is £25,000 and there are four finalists exhibiting their work:

  • Paul Noble – drawings of his invented city “Nobson Newtown” and scatological sculptures (poo statutes).
  • Spartacus Chetwynd – medieval morality plays with characters dressed like trees.
  • Luke Fowler – a film covering the life and work of maverick Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing (1927-89), and photographs of people in everyday poses.
  • Elizabeth Price – a film in three parts, The Woolworths Choir of 1979, about a fire in 1979 that killed 10 people set to the music of girl pop bands.

The winner is selected on December 3, 2012.

Photos of their work and a video of the exhibitions with Adrian Searle.

 

Intricate drawing of Nobson Newtown by Paul Noble. (source: Jonathan Hordle/Rex Features)

 

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