June 25th, 2003


Alternative Energy

Some of you may be aware of my interest in alternative energy issues. Three items that have been on my radar for a while:

(expired link) Thermal Depolymerization: Turns any hydrocarbon waste (from old tires to turkey guts) into oil, natural gas, water, CO2, and trace element sediments. An experimental plant is already running. This has the promise to totally eliminate the landfill problem, and help wean us off dependance on Middle Eastern oil. In addition, because the fuels produced were made from materials that were already at the surface -- and in many cases made from biological materials -- it's a closed loop; no new CO2 is added to the atmosphere by burning them.

Broad-Spectrum Solar Cells: If they can be mass-produced cheaply, they'll up the efficiency of solar power by at least a factor of five. This is a long way off -- at least 20 years, probably -- but still, if the tech goes commercial, it will suddenly be economical to build every new house with a bank of solar cells on top. The cells would generate enough power to pay off their installation cost within a few years, and enough to cover any maintainance costs, with plenty to spare.

And, most interestingly if you're into nuclear, it turns out that back a few months ago, while everyone was distracted watching news about yet another war in some country that has lots of oil, the folks at Sandia Labs got an experimental fusion generator operational. The concept is old, but now they've actually built the thing and fused some hydrogen in it. Yet another technology to keep an eye on. Between these three, we just might kick the fossil-fuel addiction within the next couple of decades.

Lastly, what prompted me to make a post now, is a new concept that may soon replace the rechargeable battery: Microengines. I highly recommend following the "Research TV" link, and checking out the video on the subject.
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Auros Face from wedding

I *heart* Dahlia Lithwick!

In some comments on Supreme Court issues in other people's journals, I've mentioned my adoration of Dahlia Lithwick, Slate's reporter on the SCOTUS beat. I'd make a comment on how I want her to be the mother of my children -- along the lines of Gio's obsession with Mark Morford -- except, well, she's married and just had her first child. Guess I'd better find somebody else for that job. Also, I have to grant that Morford is funnier. But you'll learn a lot more reading Lithwick.

In any case, I had been mourning the fact that she hadn't been around the last couple of months -- ever since the oral argument on Lawrence, which she covered in an article titled The Supreme Court Tries Sodomy (it really is as good as the title suggests; possibly her best ever) -- and hoping that she would return to analyze the decisions at the end of the term.

Happily, my wish has been granted. She and a law professor friend are hashing out various arguments over the decisions coming down this week, and posting their discussion in a column called The Breakfast Table. With any luck, Lawrence will be out tomorrow. :-)
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