October 23, 2009

We Don't Need No Stinking Giant Fans

Robert Bryce, Energy Tribune;

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing William Tucker speak at a conference in Washington, DC. His explanation of E = mc2 was the best I had ever heard. Even better, Tucker explained how Einstein's equation applied to renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro. His lecture was a revelation. It showed that the limits of renewable energy have nothing to do with politics or research dollars, but rather with simple mathematics. During a later exchange of emails with Tucker, I praised his lecture and suggested he write an article that explained E = mc2 and its corollary, E = mv2.

To my delight, he informed me that he'd already written such an essay and he agreed that we could publish it in Energy Tribune.

I love this essay. And I'm proud that Tucker has allowed us to run it.

Continue reading Understanding E = mc2, and then send it to everyone you know.

Posted by Kate at October 23, 2009 12:26 PM

I just read the article. Now, Obama and the rest of the moonbats need to read it. Will they read it? No; it does not fit their world views or political ideologies. It is sad that most people here in North America would not understand it anyway.

Posted by: ConGris at October 23, 2009 12:45 PM

Great article, but its more of the same regarding greenies and their renewable energy fantasies. I would absolutely love if Kate came out and supported the new Net Neutrality proposal by the F.C.C., and maybe devote a post or two to debunking the lies and false information that the Republicans and Glenn Beck have been spreading about it.

As an avid blogger, I would expect her to be quite a supporter of this initiative...? Why haven't we seen anything regarding this on the blog lately when its such a large issue in the states and in Canada? I may just not be keeping up to date on SDA enough though so I may have missed it.

Posted by: barjebus at October 23, 2009 12:49 PM

I have no opinion on net neutrality, and there are plenty of others covering it. Thanks just the same. Now please remove your comments to reader tips, and stay on topic.

Posted by: Kate at October 23, 2009 12:51 PM

Just like "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

There is no FREE energy.

There is however economical use of existing resources. Hydro electricity being an example.

I'm in favour of using coal which can be used as fuel to produce and HC gas that can be used as natural gas or LP is used.
Gasifiers leave minimal waste and produce useable clean fuel at reasonable cost.

Of course you need to get your head around the fact that byproduct CO2 is not a pollutant.

Posted by: OMMAG at October 23, 2009 12:54 PM

That article changed my life. I have been a supporter of nuclear power for a long time now, but I was never able to articulate why. I never had good answers for the naysayers. Now I do.

An idea takes 100 years to enter history, imagine that! We thought we were already in the nuclear age, but it might be only just now beginning.

Posted by: Kevin Lafayette at October 23, 2009 1:03 PM

Plasma TV technology was invented in.... dum dum dum ...1964!

People cannot grasp the reality of how long it takes to perfect a technology and gain acceptance.

On topic, I always simply respond to All Renewable Energy greenies with this "When you can smelt iron ore into steel with a solar panel or windmill give me a call"

Nuclear is the future, miniaturization is the next great frontier for this technology.

Posted by: Illiquid Assets at October 23, 2009 1:21 PM

" The Sierra Club, which opposed construction of the Hetch-Hetchy Dam in Yosemite in 1921, is still trying to tear it down, even though it provides drinking water and 400 megawatts of electricity to San Francisco. Each year more dams are now torn down than are constructed as a result of this campaign. "

The same 'Sierra' club Lizzie may ran before her Green Party fame.Obviously tey have been around too long.

Posted by: bluetech at October 23, 2009 1:27 PM

It all seems so incomprehensible that we make up problems in order to make things seem normal again. A reactor is a bomb waiting to go off. The waste lasts forever, what will we ever do with it?

It would have been nice if the author had extended his article to debunk these made-up problems in the same simple quantitative manner that he used to explain the potential of nuclear energy.

Posted by: glasnost at October 23, 2009 1:33 PM

Like I love to say, basic math has power to correct illusions about many things in life.

I just did not like his stab at guns, otherwise great essay.

Posted by: Mike Smith at October 23, 2009 1:35 PM

"It showed that the limits of renewable energy have nothing to do with politics or research dollars, but rather with simple mathematics."
Something that Steven Den Beste got tired of pointing out at his former USS Clueless blog.

Posted by: andycanuck at October 23, 2009 1:37 PM

That is a MUST READ essay.

I am going to forward it to everyone I know.

Posted by: James at October 23, 2009 1:39 PM

So, as an investor, where to start? China is building coal fired plants like there's no tomorrow, and the shares of uranium miners have been showing signs of life as of late. Coal short term, uranium long term?

Posted by: steve at October 23, 2009 1:47 PM

Thanks for the link 'Kate'. Great essay.

Posted by: Merle Underwood at October 23, 2009 1:47 PM

Always nice to have ammunition when the moonbats start talking about giant fans.

Posted by: Thomas_L...... at October 23, 2009 1:57 PM

I work in the nuclear industry and I have always believed that one of the downfalls of nuclear energy was the long term storage of the waste. A new dry fuel storage building has been built at Darlington and I think it will store the used fuel for the life of the plant. After that I don't know. Of course the people who are against nuclear power for the same reason think we can bury hundreds of billions of pounds of CO2 forever. At least the spent nuclear fuel will become less radioactive over time and will probably eventually fuel the next generation of reactors.

Posted by: minuteman at October 23, 2009 1:59 PM

I am an avid supporter of nuclear power and I think using nuclear power to provide energy for the oilsands projects would go along way toward dispelling the "dirty oil" mythology surrounding the development.

I will say one thing about nuclear power that doesn't get much mention in the pros vs. cons discussion and that is the rarity of uranium. Uranium is one of the rarest elements in the earth's crust. There are still some rich sources, including northern Saskatchewan. However, if the world were to switch wholesale to nuclear power, even utilizing European breeder technology which recycles nuclear fuel, we would still find ourselves facing a uranium shortage in a very short period of time. Sadly, there is no single magic bullet to solve our energy needs...unless we can someday perfect nuclear fusion.

Posted by: RM at October 23, 2009 2:28 PM

> we would still find ourselves facing a uranium shortage in a very short period of time

How could you possibly know?
Just recently we thought we were running out of oil...

Posted by: Aaron at October 23, 2009 2:37 PM

I chuckled a little at this:

Solar radiation is the result of an E = mc2 transformation as the sun transforms hydrogen to helium. Unfortunately, the reaction takes place 90 million miles away.

It's all realtive, I guess (no pun intended, but since I made it, what the heck. Let's run with it.) I think it's rather fortunate that it's so far away. Fusion reactions on that scale happening right next door would be a bit unsettling.

Posted by: Lickmuffin at October 23, 2009 2:39 PM

We are running out of oil and it will hit us a lot sooner than global warming.

Posted by: RM at October 23, 2009 2:40 PM

Not a bad effort.

A minor quibble is that the author fails to note that wind, hydro and chemical (fossil) power all get their energy via the suns e=mc2 reaction.

More significantly he blames the bomb for nuke's bad rap. The meltdown problem with the tech currently used commercially is the main problem not just for the explosive hazard but perhaps even more for the exponentially higher level of toxicity of it's byproduct.

A breeched dam or oil spill can only do so much damage, much of which dissapates within a few decades. Nuke wastes last ten thousand times longer.

Downplaying those hazards is a mistake. Better to aknowledge them and provide solutions to the operational hazards (pebble-bed etc.) and waste storage issues (yucca mountain, breeder technology etc.) and explain them in a Mann similar to what the author has largely achieved explaining e=mc2.

Posted by: Gord Tulk at October 23, 2009 2:47 PM

Rm: new tech has already boosted NG recoverable reserves past the 300 yr mark. Tech like thai will do the same for oil within a decade. Coal reserves are double that number. For practical purposes they are unlimited reserves.

Posted by: Gord Tulk at October 23, 2009 2:55 PM

I actually understood that!! LOL!

Posted by: Louise at October 23, 2009 2:56 PM

Dear RM (2:40)

Get a grip -- We will not run out of oil -- oil is mainly a mixture of hydrocarbons -- there are lots of ways to produce it -- South Africa during the embargo period produced synthetic oil from coal -- lots of plants produce a variety of hydrocarbons or related compounds, which can be used to produce 'synthetic' oils -- the problem is cost -- as cost of oil goes up new supplies and new technologies will develop to meet demand -- that's basic economics.
Also, check out abiogenic oil -- there are some who believe that oil/natural gas are continuously being produced in the Earth's crust via hydrogenation of carbonate -- a process shown to occur in the lab at pressures and temperatures analogous to those estimated to occur several miles below the surface.

Posted by: Old Chemist at October 23, 2009 3:01 PM

Two points on reserve estimates, 1) they are notoriously unreliable because many countries like Saudi Arabia inflate their estimates for strategic reasons and 2) they are typically based on conservative extrapolations of current demand. The increasing industrialization of the developing world will almost certainly result in accelerating demand.

Peak oil doesn't mean no oil. It simply means new supply cannot keep pace with growing demand.

Posted by: RM at October 23, 2009 3:03 PM

Abiogenic oil is geofantasy. Can it happen? Probably, but not a single reservoir has ever been found. For one thing, below a certain depth, permeability and porosity fall pretty close to zero due to lithostatic pressure. Even if hydrocarbons were being produced, they can't migrate and they can't pool.

Posted by: RM at October 23, 2009 3:10 PM

Gord Tulk - Not a bad effort.

Make a list of Nuclear Containment breaches, actual breaches, not the fake list of incidents that caused emergency shutdowns, world wide. Then compare that with the number of reactors ever constructed and the total years they have operated then look at the total amount of energy in Gw they created, then look at the total loss of mass of spent fuel rods. Then even look at the total amount of unreprocessed spent fuel rods.

The risks are minimal on all fronts, you have a much greater risk of dying from freezing to death in your home in Florida than being impacted by a containment breach, good thing for you that with Nuclear power you could heat your home, removing that risk as well.

The dangers have been overblown for decades by a persistent misinformation fear campaign by enviromentalists, the same ones who protest anything that might actually lead to progress and the support of more humans on the planet. Think about what they protest against.

Posted by: Illiquid Assets at October 23, 2009 3:15 PM

> We are running out of oil and it will hit us a lot sooner than global warming.

People like you, who believe what they read in newspapers, are those because of whom the wars start.

The discovered deposits of oil today are several times what was considered doomsday scenario in the 70s when the idea of world running out of oil was first pronounced. I repeat - discovered. We don't know shit about our planet's surface, needless to say what's underneath. Boo hoo!

Posted by: Aaron at October 23, 2009 3:27 PM

Aaron, I have a Ph.D. in geology, do you?

Posted by: RM at October 23, 2009 3:34 PM

>> The waste lasts forever, what will we ever do with it?

The earth is a giant nuclear reactor. The energy produced by nuclear reactions in the earth's core are the reason that molten rock is spewed up by volcanoes. So I ask, what are we going to do about all those naturally occuring radioactive materials in the earth's core that have been breaking down for millions of years. Move to another planet? :-)
By the way, the really dangerous nuclear waste is the stuff that has a very short half-life, in the order of hours or days. Material with a half-life of 10,000 years is pretty benign.

Posted by: albertaclipper at October 23, 2009 4:06 PM

It is wrong to assume that the leaders of the environmental movement do not understand the physics of nuclear power and the alternative energy sources. Suzuki knows all the stuff in this article.

The reason they promote solar and wind as solutions and employ scare tactics on the innumerate public to discourage nuclear is not ignorance.

Their motivation is funding and social engineering.

Posted by: political junkie at October 23, 2009 4:14 PM

I. A. :

it is not the frequency but the scale of the disaster that matters. BTW how confident are you that the FSU,romainia NK Pakistan et al are doing an excellent job on the prevention front. Unlike a dam bursting in NK a reactor meltdown and the airborne emissions could be fatal for people living far away from the site.

Don't get me wrong i am a very big proponent of new nukes (and I think that small scale fusion technology may prove out someday too). But those new facilities need to have passive rather than active systems for dealing with controlling the core. The new westinhouse reactors would be an example.

Posted by: Gord Tulk at October 23, 2009 4:19 PM

"Aaron, I have a Ph.D. in geology, do you?"

So effing what? Please explain why Thai and frac and the dozens of other technologies that are only in the early phase of commercial development will not unlock - on economically viable terms - literally centuries worth of fossil fuel supplies?

Posted by: Gord Tulk at October 23, 2009 4:22 PM

RM, everyone is special forces colonel on the Internet anyway.

That's not the point - point is, are you disputing, that today's discovered oil deposits are much larger than in the 70s, and that we don't have clear understanding what is underneath our feet?

Posted by: Aaron at October 23, 2009 4:29 PM


Why not drop a few kilos of the nasty long half life stuff down an abandoned well? If it is down a couple kilometers, who really cares.

Why not encase it in concrete and drop it into a subduction zone?

Why not launch into space?

All three solutions would be easy with current technology and would essentially make it impossible to get.

RM... the way I like to put is that we are not running out of oil/hydrocarbons,,,,we are running out of the cheap and easy stuff. As the price start to constrain the use of HC, economics forces WILL push the development of new technologies to replace or synthetically produce the HC.

heck IMO we would be better off to synthetically produce gasoline/kerosene than switch to a hydrogen economy. H2 have energy density, storage and transportation issues.

Posted by: dkjones at October 23, 2009 4:29 PM

Maybe the saving grace for all those uneconomical giant fans is to find some way to convert the tens of thousands of birds they kill into some useful biofuel.

Posted by: Fred at October 23, 2009 4:33 PM

One other thing about wind; you could call it indirect solar. There is a number, I do not know what it is, it is the percent of the suns energy reaching the earth that is converted into wind. Windmills, at whatever theoretical maximum efficiency, will only ever be able to harvest a fraction of the power available to solar.

Why waste effort and research dollars on indirect solar, when by definition, there is greater power available from direct solar?

Posted by: Kevin Lafayette at October 23, 2009 5:10 PM

Its all about nuclear in my opinion, here sits the greatest boon to mankind, gathering dust because of the greens. Interesting that a compelling argument against fossil fuels, AGW, materializes.
By Accident or by design?

Posted by: bob at October 23, 2009 5:22 PM

Aaron, I have a Ph.D. in geology, do you?

Do you? Prove it. Post a copy right here, sport.

Most Phd Geologists that I have had to deal with are loons. A lot of them post "the end of times" drivel like you do. Brilliant people but they tend to get bogged down with their egos, pecadillos and eccentricities. They have very little "people" smarts. Your comment is indicative of a La-de-dah-I'm-a-Phd complex. Like Certified Mnagement Consultants.

By the way. I'm a geologist too and your construct posted above is false. The numbers disprove your post that we are running out of oil. Easily found and extractible oil, that is and like others here who postulate on the economics of oil, you are still wrong.

By the way, I actually work as a geologist in the oil and gas industry and I am constantly amazed at the numbers of geologists who continue to "find" more of the stuff, when we are supposedly running out. I've seen your mentality proclaimed year after year not only on hard rock "end of times" but the same in the oil and gas industry.

You think that we are running out of "stuff" only because you have given up looking for it.

Posted by: jt at October 23, 2009 5:23 PM

One other thing about wind; you could call it indirect solar.

If you want to get semantic, most power sources on the planet are indirect solar.

Why waste effort and research dollars on indirect solar, when by definition, there is greater power available from direct solar?

Not that I think either is a great or economical solution, but some locations have much more reliable wind than sun conditions, especially in the higher latitudes.

Posted by: Waterhouse at October 23, 2009 5:23 PM

Why waste effort and research dollars on indirect solar, when by definition, there is greater power available from direct solar?
~Kevin Lafayette

Good idea.
They could put solar cells on the blades of windmills, cover the outer faces of hydro dams with solar cells and put windmills on top of the dams!

Yeah! Now we're cooking with gas.

Posted by: Oz at October 23, 2009 5:26 PM

RM There is no shortage of uranium. It is estimated the earth's crust contains about 2 ppm. The uranium in Sask is unusually rich. There is at least one mine that has to shield the shaft for the workers when a fuel rod can be handled with gloves. Australia has lots and also Russia but is less economical than Sask.

Posted by: Speedy at October 23, 2009 5:57 PM

RM: As a Ph.D in geology, so you say, I'm sure you are familiar with waterflood programs. I made a proposal to Red Eds' energy dept re: a carbon capture project in NW Alberta that would affect about 6 companies with a program having the same effect as a waterflood program, only faster.
It was too much for them to wrap their brain around and so they opted to...opt out of any such idea.
PS, RM, it would have been a self contained field for the companies involved.

Kate: Great article. I have that one bookmarked to forward. Thanks

Posted by: Jim in Calgary at October 23, 2009 5:59 PM

Whatever we do, lets not store nuculear waste on the moon, 'cause it'll explode and stuff in Space 1999.

Posted by: PiperPaul at October 23, 2009 6:00 PM

Gord Tulk

I am glad to hear you support nuclear, but what does the North American conversion to Nuclear Energy as the dominant provider of base load electricity have to do with Russia and Pakistan?

I mean really, do you lie awake at night worrying that a cloud of radiation will waft in the window because we do not have some form of Global Governance to ensure a nuclear design engineer in Pakistan did not make a mistake?

BTW the IAEA would be the ones responsible for that, as far as North Korea or Tehran, too late North Korea has Nuclear Bombs and Iran is very close. Neither has a working Nuclear Power Plant.

I am more afraid of a nuclear device on a long range missle than a domestic power reactor failure. Nations tend to not want to irradiate their own country, only the neighbour's.

Posted by: Illiquid Assets at October 23, 2009 6:01 PM

Ok as a sop to the green people here is a clip on how to help heat your house with beer cans. Whether you still care to after the contents are consumed may be a debatable point.

Posted by: Speedy at October 23, 2009 6:03 PM

jt, my name is Robert Marr. You can look my up at the University of Calgary, Dept. of Geoscience. Have at 'er.

Posted by: RM at October 23, 2009 6:04 PM

The article doesn't really have much to do with Einstein's equation, but otherwise he does a pretty good job of explaining the difference between producing energy by chemical means vs via nuclear reaction. Still, as others have pointed out, he glosses over the containment and disposal concerns. He also doesn't mention cost. Nuclear isn't presently much more cost-effective than wind and solar, and is more expensive than hydro or fossil-fuels. Lastly, he doesn't mention the fact that nuclear (much like hydro) has to be situated near a large supply of water. You can use smaller rivers too, but then you run the risk of destroying their ecosystems by massively increasing the water temperature.

Of course, the cost equation will change over the next few decades, since the price of fossil fuels is likely to continues it's climb. We could also further reduce the cost of nuclear power by improving our waste reprocessing capabilities, thereby reducing both fuel and disposal costs. Finding suitable locations to put power plants might eventually become a problem, but we could build hundreds of them before that happens. Safety concerns will always be the biggest issue, largely because the fears of most people tend to be based on emotion and ignorance rather than on a rational analysis of the data.

Nuclear may not be a panacea - no source of power is. However, it's safe to say that if people really ARE worried about fighting AGW and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, we need to start building reactors as soon as possible. Unfortunately, as with most things in life it comes down to a question of trade-offs and priorities, and most people aren't willing to expose themselves to the perceived threat of nuclear power no matter what sort of benefits it may have. As long as we continue to have a fearful gut-reaction to the word "radiation", we're going to have a hard time making progress.

Posted by: Alex at October 23, 2009 6:11 PM


LOL Space 1999 I hardly ever meet anyone who remembers that series! Pleased to do so now.

Ya no nuclear storage on the moon, but an Eagle would be awesome to fly around and an alien shape-shifter would be a fun friend to have.

Eagle 5 to Moonbase Alpha.

Posted by: Illiquid Assets at October 23, 2009 6:13 PM

Speedy, there is no shortage of uranium at current usage levels. My point was, a wholesale switch from fossil fuels to nuclear would quickly deplete reserves.

Posted by: RM at October 23, 2009 6:20 PM

just a nitpicking thingie- "..But what does it really mean? (The answer is not “relativity.”).."
With a minor perspective shift, It really does!

Oil shale in the U.S. was estimated at 2-3trillion barrels a couple yrs ago. Tho expensive to extract today, who knows 5yrs from now?

Posted by: reg dunlop at October 23, 2009 6:20 PM

borrow this from your local library:

'Einstein's Big Idea'. a dramatization of the centuries of progress in mathematics, some chemistry and a lot of physics to the moment Einstein put it all together.

Im still trying to figure out why it is the speed of light squared and not some random arbitrary colossal number. why that number? obviously a connexion but no explanation yet. even from physicists.

Posted by: curious_george at October 23, 2009 6:55 PM

jt, my name is Robert Marr. You can look my up at the University of Calgary, Dept. of Geoscience. Have at 'er.

Well Robert Marr, I did and guess what - I didn't see your name in any of the categories listed on their website as "people" and the sub-directories, or graduate students, or faculty etc. You should speak to the U of C about that.

Posted by: jt at October 23, 2009 6:56 PM

Try again. Look under support staff.

Posted by: RM at October 23, 2009 7:03 PM

Nail. Hammer. Head. Direct hit!

First commentator got it also. The Western world is now currently be run by hyppies and their silly ideas; this reasoning isn't just not fitting to their ideologies, it is beyond their intellectual clouds of smokey comprehension.

Posted by: RW at October 23, 2009 7:07 PM

Jt: I googled RM and yes he is at the UoC. Again, so what?

Keynes was an economist as was Galbraith and lately Jeffrey Rubin. And they are completely mistaken on their understanding of economics. There is no reason why a Phd in Geology can't be completely wrong on fossil fuel reserves - especially as it pertains to estimating what is and what will be the economically recoverable reserve.

Posted by: Gord Tulk at October 23, 2009 7:08 PM

also: we need to factor in the cost overruns of building nuke plants, the historic record of much longer than expected down time, the factoid there is a helluva lot more radioactive waste coming out than uranium fuel rods 'you can handle with a pair of gloves' going in.

Im still jaded by the qty of bullshyte that came from the nuclear industry. I still recollect in my early teens going to the nearly completed bruce nuclear plant and hefting a rather dense pc of concrete that was described as part of the radioactivity shield somewhere part of the construction. found out eons later they did no such thing, it was all claptrap propaganda to defuse opposition based on safety issues.

c'mon people !!! you do yourselves a disservice by glossing over the -ve aspects of the debate.

Posted by: curious_george at October 23, 2009 7:08 PM

Yes, I could be wrong. I'm just stating opinions here. I just find it amusing that people who applaud the original article which says, in effect, that so-called renewable energy sources aren't really renewable, insist that finite resources like oil and uranium will last forever.

Posted by: RM at October 23, 2009 7:18 PM

The properties and value of c, Curious George, were determined by James Clerk Maxwell and then later applied by Einstein, along with Lorentz's equstions, to the problem of non-Galilean relativity. You can read more by following the 1864 link here.

Posted by: Vitruvius at October 23, 2009 7:38 PM

Great article. It captures very succinctly the reason so many "green" energy favorites can never be more than token sops to a political lobby and makes a further, compelling argument for nuclear power.

Posted by: DrD at October 23, 2009 7:48 PM

Um, sorry - hate to be pedantic (actually, that's not true...rather the opposite), but E=mc^2 is not correct...and when talking about solar (i.e., photons), the correct expression is rather important.

The more accurate equation is

E^2 = p^2 c^2 + m^2 c^4

where p is the momentum, and m is the rest mass. A photon has no rest mass, so the expression reduces to

E = pc = hf

where h is Planck's constant and f is the frequency.

This establishes the limit on the highest temperatures that you can achieve on earth using solar concentration, effectively limited by the surface temperature of the sun (that is, by the frequency distribution).

I think solar furnaces exist that can hit 3000k

Why, that's hot enough to melt steel!

Posted by: Tenebris at October 23, 2009 7:53 PM


"Im still trying to figure out why it is the speed of light squared and not some random arbitrary colossal number. why that number? obviously a connexion but no explanation yet. even from physicists."

The simplest explanation is that Einstein didn't originally phrase it that way. His first relevant observation was that if an object gives off X amount of energy as radiation, it's mass decreases by X/c^2. The reason it's related to light is because the radiation being generated travels at the speed of light. Basically, mass is being turned directly into pure energy, or, to put it another way, is being turned into particles without mass which are traveling at the speed of light. So the energy contained in ANY particular mass is equivalent to the amount of energy which would be released by it if it became massless particles traveling at the speed of light.

Or, at least, that's the way I understand it :) If you want a better explanation, talk to a real physicist!

Oh, and I should mention that the actual formula is:

E^2 = m^2c^4 + p^2c^2

It's just shortened to E=mc^2 for mass at rest.

Posted by: Alex at October 23, 2009 8:21 PM

Illiquid Assets, we have no shortage of shape-shifters here on earth. Quite a few work in Washington, D.C.

Posted by: Gary Hladik at October 23, 2009 8:42 PM

RM Wasn't trying to be a pain, owned some U stocks at one time and did due diligence. I was surprised to find out how common it was and then was flabbergasted at how much Sk. had compared to other operations.

Posted by: Speedy at October 23, 2009 9:26 PM

So it seems there are energy fuel cells more effective than traditional battery designs and which can lower the capital cost of
every energy source including the ones we have in operation now. This is profound.

Energy efficiency may be the only thing that can reduce the cost of new energy systems given how high the capital costs of all new types of construction have become.

We humans are so smart it's hard to keep up with ourselves. :)

Posted by: Larry at October 23, 2009 9:34 PM

Vitruvius, did you hear that they found a crystal compound that contains magnetic monopoles. Now they will have to revise Maxwell's equations. Gauss's Law for magnetism no longer equals zero, but that is OK because now there is symmetry with Gauss's Law for electricity. And you know how physicists love symmetry.

Posted by: qwerty1 at October 23, 2009 10:08 PM

Time will tell, Qwerty1; so far though I'm not convinced that what they've seen isn't just the phenomenon that would be produced in said crystal structure if magnetic monopoles existed even though the phenomenon is simply a property of the crystal in that context, independent of the existence of magnetic monopoles. As I said, time will tell.

Posted by: Vitruvius at October 23, 2009 10:15 PM

One of the amazing ways that the media and many environmentalists demonstrate their ignorance is by getting their knickers in a twist about minor incidents, such as at Chalk River. Two issues here:

One, coal fired power plants pour out radioactive pollution every day in doses exceeding by far the minor leaks reported from reactors. No protesters, or press coverage.

Two, the most knowledgeable people in the world about safety issues at Chalk River or our nuclear power plants are the scientists and engineers working there. They are perfectly happy to punch in daily and to raise their kids in the neighbourhood. When they start to panic, I'll panic!

Posted by: political junkie at October 23, 2009 10:18 PM

I concur Vitruvius. When I read the article last week, there was only one guy in the office where I work who knew Maxwell's equations and the importance of the monopole. I still remember from my E&M class in university where the prof got all philosophical about the beauty of the symmetric equations. He figured that the "=0" portion was God playing tricks on mankind.

Posted by: qwerty1 at October 23, 2009 10:24 PM

George, it may also help to understand that the energy, mass and speed of light are need to be expressed in a consistent set of units. For example:

E (in joules) = m (in kilograms) multiplied by (299,792,458 meters/second)2

Posted by: political junkie at October 23, 2009 10:27 PM

Alex..."I'm still trying to figure out why it is the speed of light squared.....".

Perchance the "speed of dark (squared) might fit the equation??..!

Posted by: Garry at October 23, 2009 11:58 PM

"Aaron, I have a Ph.D. in geology, do you?"******

Well RM I can't play bagpipes but I can identify talent in that enterprise just by listening.
If you are indeed a PHD in geology----You are being dishonest and not just intellectually.
Ehrlick made now debunked predictions about population, food supply and "peak oil". "Peak Oil" is basically rubbish as more proven reserves of conventional oil keep appearing regularly and oil fields once thought depleted mysteriously are replenishing---common knowledge.
It is also common/general knowledge that uranium is perhaps one of the most common is the main factor in "background radiation) detected long before "Trinity". The KT boundary (60 millions years back) beside being heavy with iridium is also very rich in uranium----which a geology PHD would be well aware of.
My impression is that like Keynes' economics---you are very off key....your political agenda is showing Tovarich

Posted by: sasquatch at October 24, 2009 2:26 AM

Sasquatch - do you have a PhD in geology, though? Because RM does and like, that should be enough for you if you are a layman on the subject.

However, as a geologist and only a BSc one at that from 30 odd years ago, I am impressed with how you handled Sir RM with the PhD in geology. It emphasized my point about PhD's in geology - good for the theory, but not in the field.

I also noticed that one of the faculty at U of C listed a geologist that used to work for me. My previous post applies. The statement "those who can do, those who can't teach and those that can't teach, teach teachers" applies as well.

This conversation brings back a memory of a TV ad for some photocopy machine, where a young gentleman is handed a stack of paper to photocopy by an office lady, and drawls: "I have an MBA" and she says : "good, you should be able to run this machine, then".

Posted by: jt at October 24, 2009 3:26 AM

I've been saying this for a long time. If the enviromenalists and all those waste of skin hippies hadn't blocked us from building nuclear power plants back in the late sixties and early seventies we would be paying a lot less for our power today . Plus with the cheaper electricity car manufactures would have been building electric cars a long time ago. Way to save the planet by the hows that global warming working out for you

Posted by: shawn taylor at October 24, 2009 10:41 AM

Sasquatch, has this become some sort of political litmus test? I always thought that was a tactic used by the koolaid-drinkers on the left. Conservatives are supposed to be more open to alternative points of view without questioning one's ideological purity.

Posted by: RM at October 24, 2009 8:39 PM

> article which says, in effect, that so-called renewable energy sources aren't really renewable

RM, the article did not say anything to that affect.

Did you read it?

It said that the so called renewable sources are whole lot weaker than nuclear.

I agree with the above assessment of your posts here as dishonest at best.

Also, I knew a PH.D. in geology. He specializes in the plate tectonics, whatever it is. I asked him once about oil and he said 'what?' Oil, I said, like in a thick black liquid that gasoline is made of. He replied that he had no clue about it, except that it existed. Specialization is something every scientist should strive for - he knew nothing other than his plates and could speak endlessly about them.

So, next question is: are you in specialized in oil? :)

Posted by: Aaron at October 24, 2009 9:54 PM

RM, we might be running out of cheap oil, but we are certainly not running out of oil. I am a geologist, working well site, and we are still finding "virgin" oil in an area that has been poked and stroked since 1954. It is expensive to get at but not $50-a-barrel-expensive. And as the price goes up, technology seems to have a way of bringing new techniques and practices that increase production.

Same thing with uranium. If the resource has not been discovered, it is pretty silly to say it will not be. It may not be, but it might be too. When Uranium City was built, the world had 30 years of reserves when nobody was using the stuff. 70 years later we still have 30 years worth of reserves.

Posted by: rock smeller at October 26, 2009 1:16 AM

Aaron, I have a Ph.D. in geology, do you?

That's a logical fallacy called Appeal to Authority. An educated person should know that.

We noted you didn't dispute a thing Aaron said.

Oil production peaking while demand grows is not the end of the world as we know it. As the relative supply of oil falls, its price rises. As its price rise, the relative prices of substitutes decline. There is a normal, natural, efficient, and timely transition from one energy supply to the next. The bottom line is that we will NEVER run out of oil. We will have substituted for something else long before that happens.

Furthermore, the higher the price of oil, the greater the incentives for oil and gas exploration. What Aaron was saying, which you didn't bother to address, is that there is likely plenty of oil which is not commercially feasible to reach now, but WILL BE when oil prices rise.

I have a PhD in Economics. Do you? I didn't think so.

You might have a PhD in Geology and be an electron microprobe and petrology TECHNICIAN, but I doubt you've found as much oil as Exxon, Chevron, BP, et al have found.

You're nothing but a $^%&ing lab geek who has been inserting his microprobe in the wrong borehole.

Posted by: POWinCA at October 26, 2009 1:29 AM

POWinCA - The Hubbert analysis incorporates advances in technology and rising commodity prices and the result is still the same. Incidentally, I never said anything about the end of the world. I don't think peak oil will be catastrophic, although it will be expensive and it is inevitable. It has already happened with conventional oil and it will happen with unconventional oil, natural gas and eventually coal.

As to your first point, you're right. It was a error in judgement on my part, and if I had it to do over again, I would. Aaron insulted me and I responded in a rather unprofessional manner.

Posted by: RM at October 26, 2009 1:54 AM

Gord, if you think that AP1000 is a passive safety design compared to existing technology, you really need to go back and do your homework. While we're on the topic of accidents, Gord, go read "Project GaBE: Severe Accidents in the Energy Sector", Hirschberg, Spiekerman and Dones, Paul Scherrer Institut, and stop wasting our time with silly fantasies about accidents in Romania. Who do you think trained the Romanians, and why is it that they're members in good standing with CANDU Owners Group? It just so happens that Cernavoda is one of the best run plants in eastern Europe, not to mention the best built.

Well, Curious George, be specific. What was rubbish about what you were told about containment construction at Bruce? Either back it up or crawl back under your rock. Too many of us here are sick and tired of antinukes like you throwing around meaningless statements. Yes, there were indeed cost overruns at the time of construction, for example. Today, those same plants with huge construction cost overruns produce electricity at less cost than anything else. Darlington, double the construction cost to build, produces electricity at a cash cost of less than 2 cents. Nuclear is something for the long term investment.

Posted by: cgh at October 26, 2009 9:54 AM

RM, "if I had it to to do over again, I would"?? So not only do you not rebut points put to you, you will also repeat errors in judgment. Perhaps this is why you are a technician in a university and not an actual practicing geologist.

What is this Hubbert analysis that you write of and what are its results still the same as?

Posted by: rock smeller at October 26, 2009 10:21 AM

Whoops you got me, it was a typo. I meant to say I wouldn't repeat that mistake. Clearly, new mistakes are still possible.

As to rebutting other arguments, Aaron simply accused me a reading newspapers and starting wars. There's nothing to rebut, really. Yes, I do read newspapers and obviously I just started a war right here.

Posted by: RM at October 26, 2009 1:00 PM