Tag Archives: energy

Simple Solution – Nokia Bike Charger

Sometimes it’s the simple things. Why not a dual purpose phone charger, phone mount for your bicycle? Stay above 7.5 mph and you’ll charge your phone at the same rate as if you plugged it into the wall and you’ll be able to enjoy free turn-by-turn navigation.

Launching first in Kenya where it’s really needed but also coming to the first world sometime hopefully soon.

Onkalo, long term planning

How would you like to be the Project Manager on a construction project that is due to run through 2100? That’s what they’re doing 300 kms Northwest of Helsinki at Onkalo, a long term storage facility for highly radioactive nuclear waste. It’s a timely topic of discussion. While the uncontrollable spewage from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico from BP punching holes in the earth in search of oil, the Finnish Nuclear authorities are working on a place to keep the spent fuel rods confined and out of way, a trash bin, once full, we hope to forget.

Graphics from Poisiva project brochure

The crypt, 500 meters down in the bedrock granite that makes up most of Finland, will be sealed up sometime after 2100 when it’s full to capacity. Because it’s radioactive waste and will stay dangerous and lethal for a very long time, the design spec requires the storage facility to remain closed and impervious to breach for 100,000 years.

One hundred thousand years. Think about that. Put that to scale. The pyramids were built 4,000 years ago. The first cave dwellers popped up around 30,000 years ago. As Michael Madsen, director of Into Eternity, a documentary film about the project put it, “The human species as we know it today is believed to have existed for approx. 100,000 years.”

Planning for this timeline brings with it all kinds of challenges:

Geological changes predict another ice age within that time so in order to maintain the integrity of the tunnels, they need to be designed to withstand the weight of the anticipated two mile thick ice sheet.

Tomb raiders from future generations also need to be taken into consideration. Refined plutonium is valuable and a core ingredient for nuclear weapons and a valuable target turning this tomb into a treasure. If you think what happened to the pyramids when gold was discovered there, keep future generations out will be a challenge indeed.

It’s an anthropological puzzle. How do you look ahead thousands of generations and figure out how to keep people away? Do you post “No Trespassing” signs everywhere? If so, in what language? Or, is it better to forget this place, leave it unmarked and forgotten? When you lock it up, what kind of locks do you build? Who keeps the key? May this creepy trailer to Madsen’s film will do the trick.

A review of Into Eternity by the New York Times leaves us with this thought:

As a species, we are good at forgetting. So maybe the best, ultimate, defense against people messing with Onkalo would be simply to forget that it is there. The best way to keep a secret is not to let on that there is a secret at all.

But what about the ethical duty to warn those future generations with some kind of marker that would survive the scouring of Finland by glaciers and evolution of language? If, in fact, the canisters are rediscovered a few hundred years or a few thousand years from now, we can imagine our descendants’ reaction at having been left such a nasty surprise.

Of course, we ourselves could be surprised, like the peasant who found Qin’s army. One joke that went around the Onkalo project for a while, according to Mr. Madsen’s film, could have come straight from a novel by Arthur C. Clarke. What if, the team thought, the first thing it found when it started digging were canisters left by somebody else?

Unfortunate Truth

Where Does Oil Come From?

With reports of large plumes of underwater oil making their way to the Louisiana coast, it now appears that the Gulf Oil spill will be much worse than imagined.

The image above is from the wonderful site, Fake Science.

For more on someone who’s doing something about the cleanup, listen to my friend Alex Wise interviewing Lisa Gautier, co-founder of Matter of Trust, an organization that collects scrap hair from barbershops and uses them to make specialty booms to soak up oil.

WaveRoller, a childhood dream realized

I used to read Popular Mechanics magazine back in elementary school and would read about all the cool inventions (Robotic Surgeons! DIY Jet-powered Go Kart!) and it got me in trouble more than a few times because what I learned there was not part of the 3rd grade curriculum.

waveroller

I still remember a test where we were supposed to list future sources of energy. Instead of solar I put “waves” instead and got dinged on my score. I remember protesting, assuming my teacher surely had read the cover piece in that month’s Popular Mechanics. Back then I assumed, for some weird reason all teachers read and knew everything. No dice, the red mark stayed.

Today I read that what I read about back then is actually reality with a Finnish company that has announced a contract to build a working prototype off the coast of Portugal.

Quicktime Video (17MB)

This news was announced at Mindtrek, a conference I attended in Tampere, Finland. Startups are thick on the ground in Finland and I’ll write more on this later and the conference in another post.

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Blackout

They’re calling it the largest blackout the Northeast has ever seen. The Blackout captures the event from the perspective of moblogs all across NYC where thousands were stranded without a way to get home.

Safe in the Factiva offices, all we noticed was a brief flickering of the lights and a sev alert email calmly notifying us that because the entire eastern seaboard was kicked off the grid we were now running on back up generators.