Nov 11

North Dakota’s Black Gold, Texas Tea… Oil, that is

Oil Drilling Rig on Badlands

By James Milstid

You know… a part of me wants to say “Drill baby drill”. Break our dependence on OPEC oil and drill our own! Show them A-rabs that we don’t need their stinkin’ oil. We’ve got North Dakota! YEAH!

But then I come back to earth and think about it. For years, I’ve been preaching about breaking our dependence on irreplaceable natural resources. There’s a huge difference between that and breaking our dependence on OPEC oil that would do nothing to reduce our use of natural resources.

Rather, I’m talking about our complete dependence on oil. Period. OPEC oil, American oil, Russian oil, Chinese oil, Mexico, Brazil… all of it. Sure, we’ll probably always need petroleum products, but not to the extent we use today. There are alternatives.

But the oil and natural gas are there. Right there in North Dakota. It’s so tempting. We’ve known it was there since the 1950’s. But up until recently, when oil prices topped $100 a barrel, it wasn’t economically feasible to drill for it. It’s several thousand feet underground and trapped in a horizontal bed of shale. The shale is fairly shallow, which apparently makes it even more difficult to extract the oil.

Two methods can be used to extract it. Horizontal drilling and fracking. I won’t go into the science behind the methods, but fracking involves pumping tons of water and chemicals into the shale to force the oil and natural gas out. The downside is that it can cause earthquakes, get into the aquafers and pollute drinking water, cause methane leaks on the surface which can cause explosions, and a host of other nasty things.

We have free access to alternate sources of energy that blow the socks off any energy produced by oil products. The sun, wind, the sea, and geo-thermal energy are all plentiful energy sources and “on” all the time. They are clean and eco-friendly.

Why are we not pouring a ton of research into these free and unlimited resources? We have the technology. We have the need. What we don’t have is the desire to free ourselves from the bondage of irreplaceable energy sources.

Interesting articles:


Nov 11

China Docks To Their Own Space Station

A still image from a Chinese broadcast on Thursday of the docking of the Shenzhou 8 capsule with the Tiangong 1 module.

China has achieved an unmanned space docking with their Tiengang 1 module.

The Shenzhou-8 capsule was launched early Tuesday and docked with the already orbiting Tiengang-1 module early Thursday morning. The docked pair will orbit the Earth for 12 days, before the Shenshou 8 capsule will return to Earth on November 17.

China launched its own space station program after being turned away in its repeated attempts to join the 16-nation International Space Station. That was largely on objections from the United States, which is wary of the Chinese space program’s military links.

All the parts of the docking mechanism and the more than 600 onboard instruments were designed and made by Chinese state-owned and private companies.

Two more docking missions with the Tiangong 1 model are planned next year, one of them manned. China will set up a space lab by 2016, Wu said, and its actual station will be launched in three sections between 2020 and 2022.

Thousands of Chinese citizens expressed their pride through Internet postings in what many referred to as the country’s first “space kiss,” remarking how far China had come since its more impoverished days.

For more information see:

Nov 11

What The Frack?

Here’s an interesting and informative 3-D interactive graphic about fracking. It takes the reader on a step-by-step of the process:

Breaking Fuel From the Rock
Geologists long knew there was natural gas in the Marcellus shale formation, but thought it impossible to unlock. But producers in the last decade learned to mine this huge resource by drilling horizontally to reach a large surface area, then fracturing the rock with high-pressure water, sand, and lubricant chemicals.

View Interactive »

Via: National Geographic

Oct 11

iPad Memory Card Readers

One of the pet peeves about the iPad is the absence of a memory card slot.

Why Apple chose to not include one is puzzling, but becoming more apparent as we learn about Steve Jobs’ extreme obsessive propensity to keep things clean and simple.

Well, a company called PhotoJoJo is offering an answer to our (well, “your”… I don’t own an iPad) memory card slot envy.

Priced at $30 for the CF Card version and $15 for the SD Card reader, they are an inexpensive way to load your photos to your iPad on-the-go.

Oct 11

Math Humor

Oct 11

Roll On Columbia…

Aerial View of the Bonneville Dam Complex.

More Power!
I live in the Pacific Northwest and have seen or visited several of the hydroelectric power dams along the mighty Columbia River.

Hydroelectric power accounts for nearly three-fourths of the northwest’s electricity generation, the most in the nation. For years, Pacific Northwesterners enjoyed relatively low electricity costs. I can remember our boasting about a penny a kilowatt when the rest of the nation was paying five times that.

Unfortunately, for reasons beyond my understanding, we are now paying our “fair share” and more in alignment with the rest of the nation. And we’ve even experienced so-called power shortages; never totally understood that either.

All that aside, the dams along the Columbia River are an engineering wonder. The very well-written article below does an excellent job of describing just what a wonder the system is. It’s quite long, so I’ve only posted a portion of it. But please click the link to read the complete article. It’s well worth the time.

The High-Stakes Math Behind the West’s Greatest River

Jon Bruner, Forbes Staff

In the generator room at the Bonneville Dam. From left: Rick Pendergrass, Jim Duffus, Witt Anderson, Jerry Carroll, Harold H. Opitz. Photo by Robbie McClaran for Forbes.

In a darkened, ultra-secure room on the fifth floor of an unassuming office tower in Portland, Ore., Bob Neal sits before a panel of ten computer screens and plays Moses. It’s 8:45 in the morning on a sunny late-August day and electricity demand is rising as office workers across the West switch on their computers. Neal points to a dense blue-and-white display whose flickering numbers show power output at each of 31 dams in the Columbia basin. With a few keystrokes he orders the Grand Coulee Dam, the continent’s largest power plant, to ramp up its output by 870 megawatts in the next hour—an increase enough to light 15 million light bulbs at 60 watts apiece.

240 miles away, the Grand Coulee’s 24 giant turbines ease open, sending a surge of water toward the Pacific Ocean. Just below the dam, the river quadruples in volume and rises by 13 feet over a period of nine hours. By 2 P.M., one and a half million gallons of water—enough to flood a football field three feet deep—moves through the dam’s turbines every second.

Continue reading →

Oct 11

Just Happened To Be In The Neighborhood…

This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was generated from data taken in April of 2010 by the Arecibo Radar Telescope in Puerto Rico. (Credit: NASA/Cornell/Arecibo)

NASA in Final Preparations for Nov. 8 Asteroid Flyby

ScienceDaily (Oct. 28, 2011) — NASA scientists will be tracking asteroid 2005 YU55 with antennas of the agency’s Deep Space Network at Goldstone, Calif., as the space rock safely flies past Earth slightly closer than the moon’s orbit on Nov. 8. Scientists are treating the flyby of the 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter) asteroid as a science target of opportunity — allowing instruments on “spacecraft Earth” to scan it during the close pass.

Tracking of the aircraft carrier-sized asteroid will begin at 9:30 a.m. local time (PDT) on Nov. 4, using the massive 70-meter (230-foot) Deep Space Network antenna, and last for about two hours. The asteroid will continue to be tracked by Goldstone for at least four hours each day from Nov. 6 through Nov. 10. Radar observations from the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico will begin on Nov. 8, the same day the asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth at 3:28 p.m. PST.

Continue reading →

Oct 11

‘Magnetic tongue’ ready to help produce tastier processed foods

Is it just me, or is this just a little strange?

I don’t know… relying on an artificial tongue to decide if food tastes good seems like technology gone berserk. The article below describes a new device using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) to ‘taste’ and help produce tastier processed foods. I guess it should work, since processed foods are laden with chemicals and artificial flavorings anyway.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that our tastes are influenced by our human moods, cravings, and whether we’re hungry. Because of this, human tasters are deemed unreliable. The eTongue (along with the already developed eNose) reportedly can’t be swayed by moods and notions that human tasters suffer.
Continue reading →

Oct 11

I need an inkling

This has got to be one of the coolest gadgets I’ve seen for a long time. And I want one.

The Wacom Inkling is a device that you simply clip to your drawing pad. Using the supplied pen, draw and sketch to your heart’s delight. As large or as small as you want. As detailed as you want. As many as you like.

The Inkling will digitally store your drawings to be uploaded to your computer via USB. It will save your digitized drawings in several formats; jpg, gif, png, tiff, etc. You can use any popular graphics software to manipulate your drawings into the work of art you desire.

The pen has 1024 degrees of pressure, so you can add light or heavy strokes to your sketch. You can add layers for precise detailing in Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or any other graphics program that supports layers.

The Wacom Inkling is scheduled to be released any day now. At USD$199 MSRP it’s a tad spendy, but did that ever stop you before?