Category Archives: Technology
Interesting Fuel Cell + Ship Tech
There’s a lot to like about ammonia. This colorless fuel emits no carbon dioxide when burned. It’s abundant and common, and it can be made using renewable electricity, water, and air. Both fuel cells and internal combustion engines can use it. Unlike hydrogen, it doesn’t have to be stored in high-pressure tanks or cryogenic dewars. And it has 10 times the energy density of a lithium-ion battery.
So there is always a fly in the ointment of this sort of story…
Manufacturers and engineers must overcome key technical hurdles and safety issues in the design of ammonia engines and fuel cells. Port operators and fuel suppliers must build vast “bunkering” infrastructure so ships can fill ammonia tanks wherever they dock. And energy companies and governments will need to invest heavily in solar, wind, and other renewable-energy capacity to produce enough green ammonia for thousands of ships. Globally, ships consume an estimated 300 million tons of marine fuels every year. Given that ammonia’s energy density is half that of diesel, ammonia producers would need to provide twice as much liquid ammonia, and ships will need to accommodate larger storage tanks, potentially eating into cargo space.
So to fully replace oil you need 600 million tons, all produced artificially in new chemical plants. And then there is the ‘pungent’ odor and its solubility in water where it produces a strong alkaline Ph, the fact that it can cause breathing problems etc etc etc.
Not saying it is not an interesting approach but I really have to wonder how acceptable this would be. This seems like a question of ‘what kind of hell are you willing to accept to reduce CO2’ when the reality is that there are a lot of other things to do first and a lot better future directions to take. I like the idea of the age of windjammers returning…as in the last post.
Marine Tech is getting Interesting…
Not so much for the wings + Wind Turbines + Solar Cells but because it is not one hull but Seven (7!) each one of those sub sections is essentially a barge with a rugged locking mechanism that creates a rigid sea going hull once engaged. This way the crew and propulsion section can drop off and pick up sections either all or one or two as they make their rounds and the expensive bit gets much more use as well as being smaller and less expensive, probably safer as well.
Russian Naval Renaissance
The Russian Navy has a peculiarly multi faced history and reputation. As a land power with huge boarders and vast empty sectors it would seem more than a little excess to needs. In imperial splendor it has burgeoned into one of the greatest navies in history, in troubled times it has rotted or rusted away. It has lost a whole fleet in battle at the far end of the world after a voyage that would have been hailed as incredible except for the ending. It has built ships, particularly submarines second to none in technological innovation, then had to let them rot. Always a technological arm the Navy has often attracted the best and the brightest and being world spanning it has attracted funding to grow hugely when the money was available….
So today Russia is as troubled as ever, but it does sit astride Eurasia and if you consider the polar region is near the Americas. It has intimate contact with the sea and it needs a Navy for reasons both local and global.
The cycles of growth and rot have shown that one should never count the Russian Navy out. While the end Soviet Era strategic Navy is rotting away the latest revival appears to be underway. The article above and others, point to the fact that after a period of grim news about over runs, decades long builds, etc the lates Corvette program and its predecessor appear successful even given quite sever supply chain issues of geopolitical nature.
While one can poo poo a Corvette as a ‘little ship’ the reality is that this firecracker could conceivably sink a fleet of ships boasting the best of 1980’s technology without a scratch. The US navy and others are rapidly rethinking the efficacy and rational for cruiser sized destroyers in this modern age of omnipresent satellite reconnaissance and hypersonic smart munitions.
But beyond this ship the Russians are once again showing their intellectual metal with A New “Universal Sea Complex” ‘Varan.’
“It is a new approach in domestic and global shipbuilding. The project will represent a new class of naval hardware — universal sea complexes (UMK),”Nevskoe Bureau (a major Russian designer of ships and the sole designer of aircraft carriers and simulators.). NavalNews.com
The approach appears well suited to modern ship building practices. At modestly sized commercial yards. It is very much in line with the skeptics view of aircraft carriers as a modestly sized vessels with a reasonable strike force. It is not at all a competitor to a US Nuclear Super Carrier in itself but is well suited for power projection and strike warfare in a fleet setting.
Noting the sea gate at the stern you could see this ship as having a significant landing force either standard or optionally providing a strong ‘swing’ capacity. This might be an ideal Marine Amphibious warfare ship.
Looking at it one can see that it is unlikely to be able to support even the noted 24 aircraft wing for long periods at sea. But is that really necessary if you have enough ships so that in peace time they only spend a couple of months at sea at a time?
You can also see that it is unlikely to be able to support a fleet commanders facilities and staff. Again that makes sense, with high bandwidth covert data links the fleet commander can and ought to be separated from the strike asset.
If there was a significant Marine contingent the air arm would have to shrink. But once more you need to think of distributed capability and building your fleet from blocks of assets rather than one Super Duper anything.
So once more the Russians have set the fox among the hens, at least in an intellectual sense. They are always listening and watching the rest of the world and trying to conceive of a ‘system’ that gives them an advantage versus the rest. It’s always a good idea to understand what they are thinking…as in chess and mathematics they are often leaders in the intellectual sphere.
A Cold day in H__L
Did Frozen Wind Turbines Impact the Texas Freeze? Here’s the Data
BY BRYAN PRESTON FEB 17, 2021
From StreetWiseProfessor: Who Is To Blame for SWP’s (and Texas’s) Forced Outage? “The facts are fairly straightforward. In the face of record demand (reflected in a crazy spike in heating degree days)…
…supply crashed. Supply from all sources. Wind, but also thermal (gas, nuclear, and coal). About 25GW of thermal capacity was offline, due to a variety of weather-related factors. These included most notably steep declines in natural gas production due to well freeze-offs and temperature-related outages of gas processing plants which combined to turn gas powered units into energy limited, rather than capacity limited, resources. They also included frozen instrumentation, water issues, and so on.”
So then Krugman rolls in from the NYT saying ‘Texas’ problem was Windmills is a Lie. ‘ Which itself, while not a lie in Detail, is a lie in Essence. As per some top line thinking in ManhattanContrarian in This Piece Points out:
Total winter generation capacity for the state is about 83 GW, while peak winter usage is about 57 GW. That’s a margin of over 45% of capacity over peak usage. In a fossil-fuel-only or fossil-fuel-plus-nuclear system, where all sources of power are dispatchable, a margin of 20% would be considered normal, and 30% would be luxurious. This margin is well more than that. How could that not be sufficient?
The answer is that Texas has gone crazy for wind. About 30 GW of the 83 GW of capacity are wind.ManhattanContrarian
….sometimes the wind turbines only generate at a rate of 600 MW — which is about 2% of their capacity. And you never know when that’s going to be.
But/And it IS complicated. 1) You can install deicing systems on windmills but they are expensive to install and maintain and require INPUT of electric power to operate (Texas average weather makes this uneconomic to install.) 2) Texas did this to itself, it has an independent Grid because it IS a country sized state, the grid operator is actually a Bit Wind Crazy…why…because Texas has a lot of wind power. 3) This weather is a Combination of once in a hundred year cold AND snow/cloud cover, which systems are not designed to deal with other than in some degraded manner.
So one can only hope that because it is complicated and is fairly easily shown to be so that the cool heads will be left to work out some solution that prevents this sort of thing happening again. Because yes weather is unpredictable and while this was a 1/100 double header, it did occur and that says that the odds may not be what we think they are and so some mitigation is required. That mitigation is Not more wind, Not stored power, it IS more nuclear +better of all the above, AND better links to the broader national grid, etc, etc.
Myself, I’m planning a new house in the country. Big propane tank, backup generator, solar power, grid tied battery backup, ultra insulated house (for the region.) My prediction is that the grid is going to get worse not better and if you you can, you need to be able to survive without electric power from the mains for a week or more. I can make that possible, though I am in the few percent just because of location, situation, grace of the Infinite.
To explore you need Access
While a chemically powered trip to Mars is feasible given the ability to lift a lot of mass so orbit, See SpaceX-Elon Musk, this is probably not the solution you would go for first. I think it makes sense as part of the Vision Setting that Musk does but the preference has always been for nuclear propulsion it enables faster (safer) trips and makes reusability even more effective since the ‘shuttles’ are not spending many months in transit each way.
Posit a Freighter something like the illustration below. Departing Mars having dropped of say 2, 3, 4 starships’ worth of cargo. MarsStarships shuttle up and down and provide point to point transport on Mars. EarthStarships shuttle cargo up to earth orbit. Maybe LunarStarships shuttle fuel from production stations on the Moon to reduce the cost of fuel for the starships and the Freighter.
Now you have a system that provides Access to the solar system with significant cargos and the ability to establish and support exploration stations wherever you go.
Space, a little at a time
MiTEE is a cool space experiment out of the University of Michigan. Faculty led, undergraduate, graduate and PhD student team, developed and got launched a cube (stack) satellite that is demonstrating the use of tethers for de orbiting spacecraft, a serious need in this day of thousand plus satellite constellations.
As a note of interest this was on the first successful Virgin Orbit launch.
KelTec the wild man of the gun world
COMPLETE WITH TWO FN P90 MAGAZINES, THE ALL-NEW KELTEC P50 LOADS BY LIFTING UP THE BARREL AND SLIDING THE 50-ROUND 5.7X28MM MAGAZINE I By BALLISTIC STAFF
So I love the old StarGate series and one of the icons of the series was the use of the FN P90 bull pup machine pistol with its 50 round transparent plastic magazine on the top of the barrel, just popping off the bad Egyptian dudes by the dozens.
The reality was that this French sponsored weapon was not just a prop. Developed in the 80’s as better than a pistol, sub machine gun or rifle for vehicle crews and security forces . Something with the ability to penetrate bullet proof vests, carry a lot of rounds, but not load the soldier down or make a big visual impression.
The core of this is the 5.7×28 mm round…a center fire 22 pistol round. With the ability to accurately hit and penetrate at moderate range. A 9in (ish) barrel in a bull pup kept the weapon short. The plastic magazine was bizarre but worked, stacking the rounds sideways with a ramp/pivot to feed the rounds into the chamber. It doesn’t sound like a great idea but apparently it was engineered well and does the job reliably while providing 50 rounds.
The 5.7×28 round has started to make an impact with the current interest in self defense and concealed carry. The Ruger 57, the FN 57 pistol both are modest successes and deservedly so. Now KelTec kicked it up a whole lot with this 5.7x28mm Maxi Pistol…really a bit of a competitor to the P90 which may be out of print now. It is a wild take on what is supposed to be a personal ‘side arm’ but it certainly makes an impression.
Tragedy of the NotCommons
A blog tag to an article I did not read set me to thinking today. Read on if you think that the Net today is fraught with societal risk.
I have been using the WWW, Internet, since a couple of years after its start as ARPANET and MilNet for email and data transmission. Following it through the years I saw the slow exploration then the exuberant exploitation through the 80’s and 90’s even the 0ughts.
One of the things I had a hard time understanding was the effervescent froth about how this was freedom and that governments could never control it. When governments where the entity that installed it and ran it in many places. There are arguments in support of a weakish case for net freedom but for the masses it is not and will never be a truly open commons.
A big part of this is because of the way most people interface with the Net. They use it like they use a car, get in and drive, many times not knowing a thing about internal combustion engines, transmissions, etc. They are not technically savvy people, but then even people like me, an engineer, thirty plus year user of the Net, do not understand the ‘stacks’ on ‘stacks’ that are the interwoven hardware, firmware, protocols and software that makes the Net hum.
In the early days the Net was about Protocols, eMail and Hyperlink were two critical protocols that enabled communication and the creation of documents (Still, though they are called, Blogs, or Sites) that could be read out of sequence and include incredible depths of information that were simply impossible with a book or the like.
This early Net was dynamic and boisterous but largely a land of technical folks, academics, geeks and nerds. It was a natural environment for them in a way only the still evolving desktop computer had been until then.
After a while businesses started to move in and the media started to look at this as a way of distributing their content without the cost and logistic drag of newsprint, TV stations or even radio. Of course what most did not see coming was that the net would make their old advertiser supported business model very difficult to support over the long term while giving new Platforms (AOL and their ilk, now TWITTER, FACEBOOK etc) a leg up as essentially the new middle man between the consumer and ‘the content.’
But even at the start with AOL et al, some philosopher technical types pointed out that these Platforms ,while they gave Joe User an easy path to the internet, put a barrier between the user and the broader Net. Some like me never went down the platform path because we wanted the depth of the Net in the raw as it were but we pay the penalty of having to work harder to get things that Platform users get for free.
Twenty years on Facebook and Twitter have paved over the Net to a very significant degree. They started as just social networks with different focuses. But they have become the principle distributor of news and opinion. They have sucked up adjacent Net onramps in their fight to gain share and suppress competition. Now they lust after your data so they can sell it to the highest bidder, while using it, somewhat unintentionally to wrap the users in ever thicker cocoons of confirmation bias. They have also strangled the legacy media in its bed by stripping away the advertiser revenue.
I see 3 main reasons, ease of use, addictive content and the network affect. Ease of Use: You might argue that some of them are not that easy today but in the beginning essentially each of them was drop dead simple, so simple a tweener cheerleader could use it in ten seconds or less. Addictive Content: Most of these tools make something you want to do easy and provide reinforcing feedback, if your tweet goes viral to a 1000 people, woohooo! If your facebook post gets a like from a dozen friends, charge UP! This is addiction. Network affect: Simply stated, a network of 10 people has 100 interconnects, 100 people have 10,000 interconnects, the more people on a platform the more valuable it is to the user as well as the owner. Since you have limited time in your life, you cannot copy identical on multiple platforms going along. Then the platforms will make it hard for you to migrate from them with your list of friends, follows, photos, blogs, whatever.
The title of the article I mentioned at the start said something about Protocols vs Platforms and this was one of those epiphany things you hear about. AHA!
Platforms are largely just Net hubs and they hate open protocols because it will reduce them to pipes and strip away their ability to siphon off value from the users, both consumer and creator.
Facebook or Twitter are just Protocols of Protocols with a software wrapper. Their core are proprietary protocols & software, not open protocols so that competition is impossible. The network affect and the users addiction to the particular flavor of Platform makes changing essentially impossible.
But if the Platforms are required to open their protocols and enable users to migrate their core identity the monopoly would be broken without destroying the user side value. One could even see an anti monopoly order that required some kind of Baby Twitter / Baby Facebook disaggregation that requires the ‘Babies’ interlink and compete.
This seems relatively clear cut process . It would provide the users with competition for their core value that is simply not there today. And while it will hurt the stockholders (who are earning monopolist profits today) it does not strip their assets while providing the opportunity to earn significant returns going forward.
The NonCommons of today, the Platforms, are a tragedy for the users in that their value is stripped without much recompense beyond ease of use. If we go back to the roots of the Net, open protocols, and user value, we have a chance to build back better….and make the Net great again.
Mice with damaged spine, enabled to walk again…Faster Please…
JANUARY 15, 2021
Designer cytokine makes paralyzed mice walk again
“Thus, gene therapy treatment of only a few nerve cells stimulated the axonal regeneration of various nerve cells in the brain and several motor tracts in the spinal cord simultaneously,” says Dietmar Fischer. “Ultimately, this enabled the previously paralyzed animals that received this treatment to start walking after two to three weeks. This came as a great surprise to us at the beginning, as it had never been shown to be possible before after full paraplegia.”Above article in MedicalXPress via Phys.org
Let’s hope this paves the way for human treatment. Not that I don’t love cyborg exoskeletons in their place, but this is far better.