Gongol.com Archives: August 2009
Brian Gongol

August 17, 2009

Science and Technology Even more important than finding new "renewable" energy supplies: Finding better ways to store energy
If someone wanted to really make a difference that would help make renewable energy more market-competitive, they would find a way to improve how we store energy. Today's batteries aren't particularly good at doing that, so there's little way to effectively capture energy from sources like the wind or the sun in a way that allows them to be used reliably. Fortunately, a subsidiary of CoorsTek in Utah thinks it has found a way to produce super-efficient batteries of a quality we've never seen before, at a price that would make them quite attractive. Too many times, public debates about resources get caught up in production and consumption without considering the importance of the storage in between. But fixing storage problems could make a lot of difference to improving how we conduct our global energy budget -- just like better storage would solve a lot of problems with our global food budget. We produce enough food to keep anyone on the planet from going hungry, but people still starve because of weather emergencies, disasters, and war. Better food storage and transport would help eliminate needless suffering. And it's important that we learn to store food for the long term -- and do so -- for bigger reasons, too. Every once in a great while, a natural disaster occurs that leads to massive global crop failures. It happened when the Tambora volcano erupted in 1815 and it happened in 1709, when a massive frost killed crops all over Europe. Today, agricultural scientists worry that wheat rust could kill off a fifth of the world's wheat. Ignoring these problems doesn't make them go away, and the threat of massive famine is not only more imminent, it is more certain to occur than any of the problems forecast to occur under global warming. The importance of food storage to help avoid global famine deserves at least as much attention as carbon dioxide emissions.

Computers and the Internet OpenOffice extensions
Free add-on tools to make the free OpenOffice suite (which includes a spreadsheet, presentation, and word-processing programs) do more

Humor and Good News Mr. Picasso-head
Quite possibly one of the best time-wasting gifts ever placed on the Internet

The United States of America A nation of snitches no longer?
The White House appears to have changed course on a policy that encouraged the public to forward in the comments of those who opposed health-care reform. Whether or not they were trying to build an "enemies list", it certainly sounded heavy-handed to encourage Americans to report on the political statements of their fellow citizens. And there's no doubt it made some Americans very angry. We have enough problems with the persistence of data online as it is -- and those problems could be intractable.

Computers and the Internet About 10% of what's said on Twitter has "pass-along value"
That's at least what a bunch of British researchers say. This could be interpreted in two ways: Either it says that Twitter is 90% a drain on society...or that we should be thankful the service exists, since that 10% value of useful stuff is more than existed before.

Aviation News Inventor dies while testing flying taxi
He was hoping to use it in densely-populated urban areas. And when one sees how even some of the world's best subway maps end up looking on paper, it's easy to see why people might want to go directly from point A to point B.

Water News Hurricane season is back

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