seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Science & Technology

Thoughts on science, technology, energy, and policy intersecting these spheres.

Offsets again

For those who question my skepticism of offsets (recently discussed in my post about Gore's energy usage in his mansion), I just noted an opinion piece that discusses the problems with offsets as a solution to global climate change.

Floatin

Slashdot has an article about a new nanotechnology that reflects nearly no light. This is awesome in terms of implications for higher efficiency LEDs and solar cells but far beyond that in its implications for fun stuff. "

In theory, if a room were to be coated with this material, switching on the lights would only illuminate the items in the room and not the walls, giving a sense of floating free in infinite space.

Climate Change

I just published some thoughts on the current debate about climate change in the media and popular misconceptions. I hope it will help with people who do not follow it super closely and are confused about some of the points they hear on the radio and such...

Apple DRM

Steve Jobs (Apple's Genius) recently wrote an open letter regarding digital rights management. When you buy music from Apple's iTunes store (or don't, like me), it can only work on an iPod as part of the restrictions required by major music companies who are paranoid about music distribution.

Several European countries are trying to force Apple to abandon its DRM because it is such a market leader in music players with the hugely popular iPods. Steve was basically responding that it was out of his hands and said he supports a future without DRM because it would be easiest for everyone and DRM has never worked.

This is true - all DRMs have been cracked and those who really want to copy stuff can copy it after jumping through some hurdles. In the meantime, DRM has unintended consequences that annoy EVERYONE - like only being able to play your iTunes music on a couple of "authorized" machines.

I will commend Jobs for his encouragement of a DRM-free future.

But he is at least partly full of shit on an important point. 70% of the world's music is controlled by 4 companies. They demand DRM. There are significant pockets of musicians in that remaining 30% who hate DRM and want to sell via the iTunes store without DRM. Apple does not allow them to.

Jobs: if you want a DRM-free future, start by changing the iTunes store to support those who want their music to be distributed.

On a side note, my iPod died on me recently and I have been looking around to replace it. I finally picked a slim 2G Sandisk Sansa C250 for $90. Not a bad deal - especially since it comes with a replaceable rechargeable battery (unlike the iPod - which is annoying) and an FM tuner (again unlike the iPod) and a voice recorder (do I have to mention which market leader does not have this feature?).

After using it a bit and looking around I am really angry but have to say that I continue using iTunes to manage my podcasts. I love listening to these shows and I cannot find something that is less bad than iTunes. As I have been critical of Apple in the past, I wanted to note that I can't find anything better - which is a tremendous source of frustration for me.

Terror-Free Oil?

I was going to post this here, but decided to throw it up on energista instead - Oil now comes in a terror-free variety. Americans are some innovative folks... The post is a quick and humorous response to a new gas station company.

Biofuels

For those of you who are interested, I just posted a brief story on Energista about biofuels. It is in reference to an excellent article in Minnesota Monthly, called "Five Reasons Corn Ethanol Won’t Save the Planet."

The article is written for the lay person and is perfect for those of you who are intimidated by the intricacies of energy policy but want to know a little bit about ethanol from corn.

Senate Committee: Yes to RES

I have been covering the discussions in the Minnesota Senate Energy Committee relating to a renewable energy standard and I just put up a post saying the committee has moved the RES bill to the Senate floor.

This renewable energy standard will require utilities to generate 25% of the electricity they sell from eligible renewable sources by 2025. This is among the most ambitious RES's in the country (there are 20 or so other states with an RES).

Amtrak

Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) introduced legislation yesterday that would authorize $3.2 billion a year for Amtrak over six years in exchange for greater efficiency and increased investments by states.

I definitely think Congress needs to increase funding for Amtrak but I have been torn. Amtrak is one of those programs no one can kill but never gets funded well enough to be effective. Limbo.

With this money, I hope it becomes more effective. I would love to see higher speed rail throughout the midwest eventually. 40 hours to Seattle from Minneapolis is fun - I have done it round trip 2 times. But it would be nice to speed it up. At least through North Dakota, West MN, and Eastern Montana because they are boring and flat.

That being said, Amtrak seems may more effective on the coasts and it offers a signifanct advantage over other forms of travel as oil becomes pricier.

Greening Wal-Mart

Yesterday, I published a post on Energista about Wal-Mart and its recent activities to become more energy efficient. They are pursuing a number of good policies and are exploring the possibility of putting solar arrays on the roof of its stores to generate electricity in some states.

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