Archive for June, 2011

Sustainable Energy Choices

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Barry Brooks at ‘BraveNewClimate’ has made a brave effort at summing up the need for nuclear power as part of the CO2-free mix in a brief video, but parts of it still felt to me like “industry propaganda” – to the extent that I might be a bit embarrassed if anyone seeing my earlier references to the BNC site should subsequently come across it.
My first concern is that very little argument is given to support the claim that non-nuclear options won’t suffice. No-one is likely to be convinced that just because Denmark has not yet displaced anything close to the major part of their coal use with wind that they may not eventually do so (though I suspect that in fact they won’t), and the use of that as an apparent argument will just make the case seem weak and forced. Another point that troubles me is at the conclusion where the video compares the golf ball sized lump of nuclear fuel that is capable of providing enough energy to meet the needs of a typical western human lifetime with the many tons of coal that it would “displace”. I suspect that this will seem obviously “unfair” even to those who cannot say why (The only comparison that really matters is with volume of ore rather than volume of fuel).

Of course is hard to tell the full story so briefly, but if it can’t be done well enough then it were better not done at all. The BNC site has a lot of credibility but the video actually undermines it so I actually hope  it doesn’t “go viral”.


Citizen Surveillance

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

I tend to agree with Stephen Downes that there is nothing wrong and much to be admired in the use of social media to record criminal acts and bring the perpetrators to justice. And I particularly object to Alexandra Samuel‘s apparent agreement with referring to those who do so as “douchebags”. But the line between bringing to justice and punishing by public censure can be important if there are either possible mitigating circumstances and/or the censure remains public record for an excessively punitive duration, and/or when the behaviour is offensive to some but not illegal,and so on. As one who generally favours open access to information I tend to have little time for privacy concerns but I have to admit that sometimes they do have a real basis and the question of how to address them deserves some serious consideration.

Twisted Language in Physics

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

From the discussion in Quantum Diaries, it seems that helicity is a property of motion and chirality a property of shape (where, in the case of an elementary particle, this might be represented by something like the shape of a level surface of its wave function).

The language chosen by physicists is unfortunate as a helix is an object with fixed chirality but the chirality of the path of a “helical” motion depends on the relative motion of the medium in which it is traced.