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Member since: Thu Mar 16, 2006, 02:07 PM
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Wind Power Breakthrough

Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 08:21 AM PST
Wind Power Breakthrough
by LeftOfYouFollow

Electrical engineers all over the country must be slapping themselves in the forehead in a "Why didn't I think of that?" moment after the announcement of an elegant high-tech fix for a persistent wind energy efficiency problem that has plagued the electric wind turbine industry and retarded the growth of wind farms. The story is here of an ingenious design that, in effect, replaces heavy, breakdown-prone and expensive wind turbine transmission systems with small, light weight computer controlled electronic circuits while increasing efficiency and maximum output at the same time. The story in MIT's Technology Review put it thus:

The generator works on the same principles as many ordinary generators: magnets attached to a rotating shaft create a current as they pass stationary copper coils arrayed around the shaft. In ordinary generators, all of the coils are wired together. In ExRo's generator, in contrast, the individual coils can be turned on and off with electronic switches. At low wind speeds, only a few of the coils will switch on--just enough to efficiently harvest the small amount of energy in low-speed wind. (If more coils were active, they would provide more resistance to the revolving magnets.) At higher wind speeds, more coils will turn on to convert more energy into electricity.

Conventional generators operate at optimum efficiency only at a particular speed, with efficiency dropping off rapidly as that speed increases or decreases. This has always been a problem for wind farms and has been addressed with mechanical transmissions to mediate turbine speed and variable pitch technology for the wind foils, all adding weight, complexity and expense to the design. The new generators will still need variable pitch, but the design totally eliminates transmissions and allows the turbine to operate at ambient wind speeds and remain efficient.

After the fact the new variable speed generator design almost seems obvious, given the physics, but nobody else apparently thought of it first, particularly the big players like Siemans, GE and Westinghouse. Regardless, lighter weight, less mechanically complex, easier to maintain, more efficient and higher output wind turbines look like a heck of a breakthrough...


FRANK RICH: The Molotov Party

The Molotov Party
For the new GOP, conservative isn’t nearly radical enough.

By Frank Rich
Published Dec 26, 2011

Even those who loathe Karl Rove’s every word may be hard-pressed to dispute his pre-Christmas summation of the Republican circus so far: “the most unpredictable, rapidly shifting, and often downright inexplicable primary race I’ve ever witnessed.” And all this, as he adds, before a single vote has been cast. The amazing GOP race has also been indisputably entertaining, spawning a new television genre, the debate as reality show. Installment No. 12, broadcast by ABC in the prime-time ghetto of a Saturday night in early December, drew more viewers (7.6 million) than that week’s episode of The Biggest Loser. It’s escapist fun for the entire family (Hispanic and gay families excluded). Or it would be were it not for the possibility that one of the contestants could end up as president of the United States.

Rove does have one thing wrong, however. His party’s primary contest, while unpredictable, is not inexplicable. It is entirely explicable. The old Republican elites simply prefer to be in denial about what the explanation is. You can’t blame them. To parse this spectacle is to face the prospect that, for all the GOP’s triumphal declarations that Barack Obama is doomed to a one-term presidency, the winner of the Republican nomination may not reclaim the White House after all.

In the standard analysis of the race, which the embattled GOP Establishment is eager to believe, the rapid ascent and implosion of each wacky presidential contender is seen mainly as a passing judgment on Mitt Romney, the android who just can’t close the deal and improve his unyielding 25 percent average in polls of the Republican electorate. The Old Guard professes to have no worries. That steady 25 percent has been good enough to induce much of the press to portray Romney as the “presumed” (if not the “commanding”) front-runner ever since Beltway handicappers like Mark Halperin of Time and Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post labeled him as such early in 2010. One day or another Romney will surely make good on that bet. He has money, organization, and the looks of a president (or perhaps an audio-animatronic facsimile of one). Eventually primary voters will exhaust all conceivable alternatives and accept that no Chris Christie will descend from the heavens as a deus ex machina. Then they will come home to the 25 percent leader of the pack, because that’s what well-mannered Republicans always do. Add to this scenario the GOP conviction that much of the electorate shares its judgment that Obama is an abject failure—he’s “an incumbent nobody likes,” as Peggy Noonan framed it—and the presidency must be in the bag.

But this narrative is built on a patently illogical assumption: that a 25 percent minority is the trunk wagging the Republican elephant. What makes anyone seriously assume that the 75 percent will accommodate itself to that etiolated 25 percent rather than force the reverse? That lopsided majority of the GOP is so angry at the status quo that it has been driven to embrace, however fleetingly, some of the most manifestly unqualified, not to mention flakiest, presidential contenders in American history. The 75 percent is determined to take a walk on the wild side. This is less about rejecting Mitt—who’s just too bland a figure to inspire much extreme emotion con or pro—than it is about fervently wanting something else. While the 75 percent has been splintered among the non-Romney candidates, it is largely unified in its passionate convictions. Just because Trump and Cain have folded their tents doesn’t mean those convictions have fled with them, or that financial underwriters like David Koch (a major Cain enthusiast) have closed their checkbooks...


My 82-year-old mother just told me what happened to her on Christmas Eve...

Over the last three weeks, my mother has complained over the phone to me about how she just couldn't get in the mood for Christmas this year. She didn't want it, she didn't care for it, she just wanted it to be over. We talked about it, with me reassuring her it would come -- but it never did.

Then, on Christmas Eve, she went out to do some last minute shopping. Since she did not want to worry about her purse, she decided to carry all of her cards in the pockets of her jeans. In one front pocket, she put her driver's license and medical ID card. Then she took a one hundred dollar bill, wrapped it neatly around two credit cards and stuck them in her other front pocket. While shopping at the first stop, she decided to buy something for $2.01. That's when she noticed her one hundred dollar bill was missing. She retraced her steps; she dug in her pants over and over, but she just couldn't find it. She was baffled. The cards were still there, only the $100.00 was gone. Frustrated and bewildered (how in the world did that happen? It was neatly wrapped around the cards!!!), she went ahead with her shopping.

Next, she headed to Walmart for some kitchen staples -- flour, sugar, etc. She said the lines were very, very long. While standing there, thinking about what could've happened to her money and feeling the financial loss, she noticed a tiny, elderly woman in a shopper's wheelchair at the neighboring checkout. The checkout attendant was taking things OUT of the shopping bags and removing them from the purchase. My mother noticed that it was all food to make a Christmas dinner --the same kind of things that my mother was purchasing. Only it wasn't just a couple of items -- it was the whole dinner. When the cashier's total finally reached a sum which the woman could afford, there was very little left. My mother leaned over and asked the attendant why she was removing the items. "Because she doesn't have enough money to pay for them." My mother looked at the lady, bent over in her chair, and said, "Please ring them back up, I'd like to pay this woman's bill." My mother said her decision held up both lines as the items were re-tallied. No one said a word of complaint. They all watched as the items were given to the woman. The woman beamed a toothless grin at my mother and thanked her. My Mother smiled back and said, "I hope you have a very Merry Christmas." In that moment, my mother was awash in the Christmas spirit. She felt the tears well up in her eyes and she felt so grateful.

That evening, while getting undressed, the hundred dollars fell out of my mother's pocket.

Everything you ever wanted to know about the 9/11 conspiracy theory in under 5 minutes

Oboy! Another way to deal with joblessness: Debtors' prisons

Wed Dec 14, 2011 at 03:03 PM PST
Oboy! Another way to deal with joblessness: Debtors' prisons
by Meteor Blades

What with the recent call for ending child-labor laws, the relentless assault on unions and Gilded Age levels of inequality in wealth and income, you might get the sense we're reliving the 19th century. Stir into that toxic mix debtors' prisons and it's clear we'll not soon be seeing an end of efforts on the part of the powers-that-be to return us to the good ol' days in which we can all be Little Dorrit, but with Facebook accounts.

A year ago the American Civil Liberties Union concluded in its year-long investigation, In For a Penny: The Rise of America's New Debtors' Prisons, that thousands of individuals with unpaid legal financial obligations were being jailed. This was done, in many instances, in direct contradiction of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Bearden v. Georgia nearly three decades ago.

NPR reported earlier this week that collection agencies are using tougher measures to force people pay their debt. These include filing lawsuits. When that is done, a notice to appear in court is supposed to be sent to the debtor. But the notices seem to go missing quite often. So people wind up being arrested on failure-to-appear warrants and they can subsequently wind up in jail for long periods.

Take, for example, what happened to Robin Sanders in Illinois.

She was driving home when an officer pulled her over for having a loud muffler. But instead of sending her off with a warning, the officer arrested Sanders, and she was taken right to jail...

MUCH MORE AT: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/14/1045351/-Oboy!

NYT on Recriticality: Japan nuclear prof. says chain reaction at Fukushima can’t be ruled out

Japan May Declare Control of Reactors, Over Serious Doubts
Published: December 14, 2011

...Perhaps to give itself some wiggle room, the government is expected to use vague terminology, announcing that the three damaged reactors are in a “state of cold shutdown.” Experts say that in real terms, this will amount to a claim that the reactors’ temperatures can now be kept safely below the boiling point of water, and that their melted cores are no longer at risk of resuming the atomic chain reaction that could allow them to once again heat up uncontrollably...


...“Claiming a cold shutdown does not have much meaning for damaged reactors like those at Fukushima Daiichi,” said Noboru Nakao, a nuclear engineering consultant at International Access Corporation...


...Mr. Jennex said he believed the government’s claim that the reactors themselves were now stable, and particularly that the resumption of the heat-producing chain reaction called fission was no longer possible. While the discovery last month of the chemical xenon, a byproduct of fission, in one of Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors briefly raised alarms that a chain reaction had restarted, Mr. Jennex said enough of the radioactive fuel had decayed since the accident in March to make that unlikely.

Other experts disagreed. Kyushu University’s Mr. Kudo said that the restart of fission, a phenomenon known as recriticality, could not be ruled out until the reactors could be opened, allowing for an examination of the melted fuel. But he and other experts said their biggest fear was that another earthquake or tsunami could knock out Tepco’s makeshift cooling system. They noted that it was not built to earthquake safety standards, and relied on water purifiers and other vulnerable equipment connected to the reactors by more than a mile and a half of rubber hoses.

“All it would take is one more earthquake or tsunami to set Fukushima Daiichi back to square one,” Mr. Kudo said. “Can we really call this precarious situation a cold shutdown?”


Gundersen: Could Fukushima have a China Syndrome?

Fairewinds' Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen discusses whether the accidents at Fukushima were a meltdown, a melt-through, or a China Syndrome. Whatever the accidents are named, thousands of tons of water contaminated with plutonium, uranium, and other very toxic radioactive isotopes are flooding the site, the surrounding water table, and the ocean.

"...So the good news is I do not think a China Syndrome can happen. I do not think this core can keep melting into the bottom of the earth. And I do not think there will be a steam explosion either. That is the good news.

Here is the bad news. That nuclear core is in direct contact with tons of water. And that containment, while not leaking down, is leaking out the sides. That contaminated water is going into every other building on site. And there is literally thousands and thousands of tons of water in other buildings. That water contains radioactive cesium, radioactive strontium, and it also contains nuclear fuel. There will be uranium in that water and plutonium in that water as well. We know for sure that that water is leaking into the ground water and into the Pacific Ocean. So while it is important to know that we are not going to release the nuclear core directly into the center of the earth, the problem is not over. And as a matter of fact, the problem will last for tens, perhaps even as long as 30 years because this contaminated water is in the basements of all the buildings on site. And not only does it contain cesium (that hangs around for 300 years), strontium (hangs around for 300 years), but it also contains plutonium and uranium and they have half lives of tens of thousands of years.

So the problem is, what do we do with all that water that is contaminated? It is already leaking into the groundwater. It is already leaking into the ocean. TEPCO is frantically catching it and putting it into tanks. But just today, TEPCO announced that they are running out of tank space on site, and eventually they are going to have to release those tanks into the Pacific Ocean. Now they will try to clean up some of the isotopes like cesium. But they have been unable to capture all the strontium. Strontium is a bone seeker that causes leukemia.

So we are not out of the woods. We are far from out of the woods. It will be 30 years before we capture all that nuclear fuel that is underneath that reactor vessel. And until then, it will be surrounded with water that is leaking into the groundwater..."


A new day has dawned...

Okay, yesterday, I spent a good portion of my time here on DU whining about the loss of the greatest page (and I still feel that way as one can observe here http://www.democraticunderground.com/12407052 , here http://www.democraticunderground.com/12403623 and here http://www.democraticunderground.com/12407101 .)

But a new day has dawned and I wanted to spend some of my precious time and energy letting the creators of this masterpiece-in-the-making know what I really like about it. (Dare I say love?)

Best thing: I CAN EMBED VIDEO!!! How cool is that!?!

Also, I love that I can see who is recommending what posts. That's a wonderful new feature and I am glad that others can also see what I am recommending. (Why does it feel extra special when Skinner recommends one of my posts? It's like getting praise from Daddy...Hmm.)

As far as the "greatest" goes and how it is set up now (other than my vitriolic complaints)...I do like the options now offered. Please don't misconstrue my whining as me dissing those features. It's a great addition. And I love how the drop-down options can take us back to the beginning of time -- well, DU time -- if one so chooses.

I like the streamlining of the topics. And I love the name "Creative Speculation" in the "Offbeat" section. Well done!!

Oh, yeah...and new emoticons!!!

Thank you for all your hard work. Thank you for this site. And thank you for your immense dedication.


1. It combined all the high recs from all the different forums into 1 place

2. It was current (last 24 hours)

3. It displayed the highest recs with the latest ones climbing the rec chart


5. It was easy for those of us who have limited time to spend on DU

6. I saw a survey once whereby the author had asked what DU'ers logged into first. Top place was the Greatest Page. Why take it away?

BTW, how do you post a poll/survey now?

Breaking: Bubbling ... the news isn't good

Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 07:02 PM PST
Breaking: Bubbling ... the news isn't good
by A Siegel

...In the backdrop of our lives, the atmospheric carbon dioxide count keeps mounting higher. While a level of 350 ppm might represent safety for human civilization, we are closing on 400 with little hope of keeping below 450 ppm (and likely to keep moving beyon that). We are already seeing climate catastrophe with mounting climate chaos (from droughts in Texas to floods in Durban around climate talks to ...) causing damage and, yes, killing people.

One of the great concerns has been a basic question: at what point does the situation move beyond humanity's ability to control. When do we reach the point where 'positive feedbacks' (no, positive is not a good thing) create out-of-control runaway conditions that will push catastrophic climate chaos into a death spiral for species after species ... potentially even humanity.

One of the greatest concerns: methane burps (and Arctic methane release -- including permafrost melting). That methane hydrates, methane capture at low temperatures and under pressure in the ocean, will start to release in massive amounts that will lead to runaway conditions. Methane, as a reminder, is roughly 25 times as serious a greenhouse gas per molecule than carbon dioxide.

The news ... Russian scientists have reported massive size methane bubbling in areas of Arctic ice retreat, far before anything ever recorded before:

"Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing," Dr Semiletov said. "I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them."

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