Written by Hank Green on 17/07/06
OK, I just got home from Superman Returns and I think Lex Luthor
was right. I mean...Superman, sure he saves a lot of people, but
usually small groups of individuals in straightforward ways. What he
doesn't do is use the combined knowledge of the 28 known galaxies stored in his crystalline
supercomputer to serve the interests of Mankind.
just take one example: Superman is solar powered. He gets all of his
amazing strength and energy from our yellow sun, but you've never seen
him go to a laboratory and try to figure out how exactly that energy
conversion takes place.
Instead of taking the easy way out, I
guess we'll have to just labor through the next 20 or 30 years of solar
power breakthroughs before we can truly rely on it as an economically
viable source of power.
No thanks to Superman...
Written by Hank Green on 15/07/06
Markus Antonietti of the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces (whatever that means) in Germany
has pretty much figured out how to convert plant matter into coal without all
of the millions of years of waiting inherent in the traditional methods.
Basically, Antonietti sticks plant matter, water and citric
acid into an autoclave (pressure cooker) and then cooks the mixture at a few
hundred degrees for about 12 hours. The
result is coal, well…wet coal, which can be filtered and dried until it’s ready
The amazing thing is, the process produces no excess CO2,
and all of the CO2 produced when the mixture is burned was recently fixed by
modern plants (so there’s no net CO2 increase.) Maybe not as impressive as The Doc's Mr Fusion home fusion generator, but a step in the right direction.
Antionietti says that there’s nothing standing in the way of
industrializing this process and creating a mine-free, carbon-neutral form of
coal. Of course, he also says, as he
rubs his faux coal between his fingers, that it has a strong masculine scent. The look in his eyes… is one of love.
Full article and Video available at DW-World
Written by Hank Green on 15/07/06
Continuing the pattern of making electric cars tiny and peculiar,
DaimlerChrysler just released their plans to sell an all-electric version of
the Fortwo Smart Car. The EV version actually performs better than its gasoline brother. The rather lame standard
measure of 0 to 30 mph was brought down to 6.5 seconds, no word on how fast it
gets up to 60. The good news is, it does indeed get to 60, and a bit
The EV Fortwo Smart Car is slated for release in the EU in
2007 and a year later in the US.
Written by Hank Green on 15/07/06
The direct conversion of sunlight to electricity is looking
to become economically competitive with traditional burning-hot-stuff
electricity within the next ten or fifteen years. Every time something happens to shorten that
period of time, we do a little dance here at EcoGeek. No, we aren’t going to tell you about the
dance…we’re going to tell you about Holographic Solar photovoltaics.
It’s actually kinda difficult to get a photovoltaic cell to absorb
a wide wavelength of light. While some
work is being done to increase the spectrum of light PVs can absorb (even into
the infrared range) Prism Solar Technologies is splitting sunlight and concentrating
specific wavelengths onto a variety of cells designed to collect those specific
In their most recent trial, the holographic concentrators
boosted the efficiency per square inch of photo-cell by 25%. Excellent because the concentrators are
cheaper than the silicon solar cells, and also because they’re less environmentally
costly to create. If the cost of the
concetrators drops enough, we could see economicall competitive solar panels
(that you can see through most of) even sooner.)
"If you want to start a revolution, don't pick up a gun. Do it with
science and technology." So says Stanford R. Ovshinsky Chairman and CEO
of United Solar Ovonic
and President and Chief Technology Officer of Energy Conversion Devices
, Inc. We couldn't agree more.
Stan is a feature character in the recent movie "Who Killed the Electic Car
which EcoGeek has been entirely lax in promoting. We're not overly fond
of battery-powered transit, batteries are heavy, toxic, hot and
expensive, but who are we to deride any alternative to gasoline. A slew
of other idealistic EcoGeeks are featured in the movie including Alan Cocconi
designer of the GM EV1 and the GM SunRaycer, Consumer Advocate Ralph
Nader and the former CIA director R. James. Woolsey.
The real star of "Who Killed the Electric Car" however, is General
Motors' EV1. The celebrated electric car was developed in reaction to
California's Zero Emissions Mandate (ZEV) issued in 1990 by CARB
(California Air Resource Board). In many ways the EV1 was
revolutionary; quiet, non-polluting and fast yet requiring no gas or
oil changes and a very simple maintenance routine. But before it really
caught on, it all but disappeared… As the facts unfold the movie makes
the case that it was a carefully planned and executed murder.
Who is guilty? Big Auto, Big Oil, Fickle Consumers, CARB, The US
Government, Wimpy Batteries, Fuel Cell Technology? The creators of the
film certainly have their opinions, but we at EcoGeek are firm
believers in the theory of all-of-the-above. Whether you see the movie
or not, whether you buy their case or not, the website
is packed full of facts and definitely worth a look.
Written by Hank Green on 05/07/06
Converting our world's cars to hybrids,
electrics and hydrogen powered may turn out to be a far more simple
task than reducing the amount of fossil fuel burned by flight. But
we're not gonna stop flying just because it's bad for the planet.
Packages need to be shipped. Bombs need to be dropped. EcoGeeks
need to visit their moms.
So today we're looking at the future of
fuel-efficient flight. From just-around-the-corner to the
far-fetched ridiculous possibilities....and we'll hit them in that
Written by Hank Green on 03/07/06
We're glad whenever we can praise GM, a company that we believe is
suffering due to non-environmental reasons (though you wouldn't know it
listening to some hype that's being passed around). But GM has a
future...and here it is.
Hy-Wire is revolutionary for two reasons (three, if you include the 10
million dollars that went into developing it). First, you have the
Hy...a hydrogen fuel-cell engine with
a tank big enough to carry the car fast and long. Or, if you so choose, it could just power your house for a couple of days.
there's the Wire. The fuel-cell, the hydrogen tanks, and all the
motors are all housed in a six inch tall 'skateboard' configuration at
the bottom of the car. We've been hearing about the skateboard car a
lot in the last few years, but it's nice to see prototypes rolling of
at a pretty good rate now (see the Pivo
a couple of posts down for another skateboard car.) The vehicle's controls actually plug into the chassis via a single
data wire (in the case of the Pivo
, this linkage is actually wireless (scary)).
Hi-Wire also beats its coolness into us with a revolutionary new
control scheme. No pedals, just a 'steering thingy' which you twist to accelerate and squeeze to break. Also on the steering thingy
you'll find a display showing you your rear-view, and two side view
cameras take the place of external mirrors, minimizing wind
So, next time you hear someone badmouth GM, tell them about the Hy-Wire. We all see the future, and GM getting ready.
Thanks to the anonymous Aussie tipster who sent me to techeblog
. And to CarShark
for the YouTube
post. And of course to Top Gear
for filming the segment in the first place.
Written by Hank Green on 30/06/06
Doesn't it seem wrong to you that your laptop uses less power than a light bub? I mean, a computer has the power to change your world AND cast an eerie glow in my cave-like office.
Well, thanks to the compact fluorescent light bulb (CFLs,) light bulbs no longer have to be electron-sucking bulbous space-heaters. In fact, according to a report just published by the International Energy Agency
swapping all of the world's tungsten bulbs with CFL's would cut the world's energy use by 10%, far more than is planned to be saved by solar and wind power in all but the most progressive nations.
And the CFL's last for years, AND they produce a very pleasant light AND they're getting to be darned cheap. That's the power of technology, save the world by making it an easier place to live in.
Written by Hank Green on 29/06/06
The Pivo is a concept electric car from Nissan. It's lithium ion batteries power two motors, one one in front, one in back. The weird part is that the controls are wirelessly connected to the motors so there is no need for the, I dunno...cockpit? to be connected to the rest of the car.
The advantage of this is that the, yeah, cockpit can swivel, eliminating the need for the driver to ever actually turn the car around. No more 3 point turns and, yes, you could conceivably spin the cockpit 180 degrees while travelling at the Pivo's maximum speed of 60 mph.
As a zero-emission concept car for city driving, the Pivo is very weird but pretty cool. Recently an annoying Australian guy got to ride around in a Pivo at a Nissan test facility. The video after the jump is worth a watch.
At some point you probably went through the painstaking process of loading all your tunes onto the computer. Well, now you're stuck with a stack of CDs and don't know what to do with them. The new music exchange service La La, enables CD trading for just $1.49, allowing several people to use each CD, keeping discs in circulation instead of going on the landfills or cluttering up your valuable closet space.
Once you become a member, the service encourages you to list all the CDs you want to exchange as well as ones they would be interested in receiving. Once an exchange is arranged, the recipient pays $1.49, of which 63 cents pays for shipping the disc. Netflix-style shipping kits (prepaid standard envelops) will arrive in the mail after you list your first CD at the site.
Twenty cents of each dollar you pay goes either directly to the artist. Or, if the artist no longer holds a copyright (think Beethoven,) those 20 cents go into a charitable fund to provide health insurance for musicians. The site is Inspired by a Wikipedia style information model. Fans and artists jointly decide whether a musician who applies for compensation will get paid under the system. This model has the potential to transform music-industry economics, giving musicians a major cut of the proceeds while largely freezing out record labels and other intermediaries. Whatever remains after shipping and those 20 cents goes to running the company.