Monday, October 20, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;38.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nskc.png;2014-10-20 05:34:30

Closing Vermont Yankee will cost $1.24 billion ... if nothing goes awry

Shutting down Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant will cost $1.24 billion over a decade, says the owner.

But remember: Renewable energy is way too expensive.

Here's the AP story.

Uber, which profits when you moonlight as a taxi driver, arrives in Manchester

Uber, the summon-a-car-by-smartphone firm, starts in Manchester today, reports the Union-Leader.

Kudos to reporter Mike Cousineau for not using the misleading "sharing economy" tag. Uber is cutthroat capitalism at its best or worst, depending on your point of view - it doesn't share anything that it can keep for itself. Ask Lyft.

AMC puts electric-car chargers in White Mountains (no, not at Mizpah hut)

gg1016electriccaramc

For one second when I saw the announcement, I thought Appalachian Mountain Club was putting electric car charges at some of its High Huts. While an intriguing idea that would be kind of stupid, since you can only reach the huts on foot.

Turns out they're installing a Clipper Creek HCS-60 electric car charger at both the Pinkham Notch and Highland visitor centers. You know - places along paved roads.

Much more sensible. Here's the AMC announcement.

UPDATE: If you're a tool-wielding primate who wants to get into electric vehicles big time Artisan's Asylum, a big makerspace in Somerville, Mass., has a class tonight (Friday) on how to convert a fossil-fuel car to electricity:

Interested in converting your car to all-electric drive using the latest lithium battery technology? In just a couple of hours, learn how to plan your own conversion project, set a realistic budget (both time and money), find the right components, and design vehicle performance to match your ride objectives. We will cover motor and controller options, recharging, charge ports, wiring design, battery pack layout and mounting systems, transmission adapters, DC-DC converters, fuses, safety considerations, and vehicle performance.

Did that can of soup just talk to my grocery cart?

gg1016scicafeafter

Joe Junze, president of SI2 Technologies of North Billerica, Mass., answers an audience question during Wednesday night's Science Cafe New Hampshire held at the Nashua Holiday Inn. With him are panelists Craig Amiento, UMass-Lowell professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Chris McCarroll, director of engineering at Raytheon.

Quite a techno-fest at last night's Science Cafe NH, where the topic was printed electronics. Telegraph veteran Dean Shalhoup has an excellent writeup in today's paper - an impressive bit of journalism, since he wrote it on the fly, on deadline, as the panelists were speaking in acronym- and geek-speak-laden sentences.

One consensus is that printed electronics will first be seen in normal life via cheaper and more powerful RFID tags - for example, replacing barcodes with RFID tags so that the can of soup can check itself out as you stroll out of the grocery store, or that a bridge can be covered with stick-on sensors to gauge its safety in real time.

"I try to avoid the public. But I can’t avoid it completely right now."

Great interview in the Nautilus quarterly with Tom Zhang, the unknown UNH math professor who has become reluctantly famous for his work on the twin-prime problem. It gives a fine portrait of the classic pure mathematician, a man of the mind.

You’ve said you don’t care about the money and honor. Why not?

Because of my personality. I am a quiet person. I like to concentrate on the math, on what I like. I do not care about the life conditions, like a good house, good cars, good clothing. This is my personality. I don’t have a car right now. I have a townhouse, but it is in California, where my wife lives. In New Hampshire I rent an apartment. The most important thing is to concentrate on math itself.

Read the whole thing here.

New Makerspace opening in Keene, and maybe Peterborough

A new makerspace is opening in Keene early next month, I learned from this Union-Leader article today.

It's called "Make It So" and will be downtown, at 12 Eagle Court. The only online presence I can find is their Facebook page; I assume that, like most makerspaces, its promotions budget is pretty slim.

The Union-Leader story says a makerspace is also planning to open in Peterborough early next year. A Monadnock Ledger story earlier this month said it was still trying to get some funding.

It or they will join the thriving MakeIt Labs in Nashua and Portsmouth's Port City Makerspace.

E.O. Wilson loves alien-invasion movies, but says aliens will never invade

gg1015wilson

Actually, they don't look too claw-like.

E.O. Wilson, biologist extraordinaire, loves movies about alien invasions, including the Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg version of War of the Worlds. But he didn't like one thing about it: The aliens had claws. "You can't make tools with claws," he complains. Soft pulpy fingers are obligatory for a species to create civilization, he thinks, as is living on land, because you can't make fire underwater and there's no other obvious concentrated energy source to get society started.

Wilson made these comments as part of Tuesday night's Writers on a New England Stage presentation in Portsmouth, attended by me and my wife and several thousand other people in the funky Portsmouth Music Hall.

Despite his cinematic preferences, Wilson said aliens will never actually invade: Biologies are likely to be so different between solar systems that there would be no point, since they could never live here.

It was a fun event. Wilson, who is 85, hs just written a book titled "The Meaning of Human Existence," the middle work in a trilogy about where we came from, who we are, and where we're going. He is more optimistic than I am about humanity surviving its own despoiling of the planet. He thinks we have a chance to make it through this century, after which population decline should save us; I'm not so sure.

The 90-minute event will be edited and broadcast on New Hampshire Public Radio.

US approves first mussel farm in federal waters, off Nantucket  

gg1014musselfarm

Photo by Canada Fisheries, which is establishing mussel lines in Newfoundland.

Growing shellfish is a - dare I say it? - win-win for the environment and economy: They clean the water and provide localvore tidbits. But it's hard to do this commercially now that we've destroyed most of the East Coast's oyster and mussel beds.

The UNH Open Ocean Aquaculture program has been working on mussel farms for years, and their work is helping a new federal program. The first shellfish aquaculture project in federal waters off the East Coast has gotten to the OK to operate next spring. It will grow blue mussels within a 30-acre area in Nantucket Sound.

Here are some details from the NOAA announcement:

The project authorized three mussel lines, at first, to ensure that the technology can withstand rough weather so there is minimal risk to marine life. Over time, partners could deploy up to 25 mussel lines, if the initial tests are successful.

Each mussel line consists of a 480-foot long, 1-inch thick horizontal polysteel rope (head rope), which is suspended in the water column to a depth of 20 to 30 feet using anchor lines and buoys. Mussels are then hung vertically, in “socks” from the head rope, roughly three feet apart. Mussels grown from seed (small mussels captured from the area) reach a marketable size (about 2 inches) in about a year.

Another advance for Vermont line carrying Quebec hydropower (take that, Northern Pass) 

gg1014vermontpowerline

The folks behind Northern Pass must be gnashing their teeth in jealousy: The proposed high-power transmission line from Quebec through Vermont has just gotten the presidential go-ahead, necessary for crossing international borders, reports Fierce Energy. Construction is expected to begin early next year, with service starting by late 2018.

The 1,000-MW project, called New England Clean Power Link, involves a cable crossing the U.S.-Canada border in Lake Champlain and staying underwater along the Vermont-New York border to Benson, Vt., where it would move eastward to an existing substation in the center of Vermont. On land, the high voltage DC line would be buried.

It thus avoids the despoiling-our-landscape concerns which have stalled Northern Pass from day one.<

Harvard Bridge lighting will be homage to the Smoot measurement

If a prank is embraced by the establishment, is it still a prank? I asked that question a number of years ago when the MIT Museum first held a display about the tradition of student pranks at the school - although, MIT being MIT, they prefer the term "hacks". I think such an embrace undermines the making-fun-of-powers-that-be aspect of hacks, removing most of their potency. Still, they retain a mild anti-establishment tinge. And they're still fun.

The latest embrace of an MIT hack comes via the news, as reported by the Boston Globe, that new lights on the Harvard Bridge will be in Smoots. (The bridge connects Boston with MIT, despite the name)

As you probably know, Smoot refers to Oliver Smoot, who was used as a bridge-measuring stick in 1958 as part of a fraternity pledge. A Smoot is about 5 feet 7 inches.

Smoot, happily, grew up to become president of the International Organization for Standardization, which establishes measurements, and the event has become part of the cultural scene. Its 50th anniversay was celebrated in 2008 and in 2011, "smoot" was one of the 10,000 new words added to the American Heritage Dictionary.

The greatest hack of all was

Blog search

Loading...

About this blog

David Brooks has written a science column for the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph since 1991 - yes, that long - and has overseen this blog since 2006.

He chats weekly with New Hampshire Public Radio about GraniteGeek topics, around 5:50 p.m. on Tuesdays. You can listen to old sessions here.

Contact:   E-mail or call 603-594-6531.

ggScienceCafeSidebar

Free, informal get-togethers at a bar that feature discussion among the audience (everybody is welcome) and experts in various fields. Check the website here.

NEXT CAFE: Wednesday, Nov. 19

TOPIC: Medical testing - how much is too much?

Location: Killarney's Irish Pub, 9 Northeastern Boulevard (Holiday Inn, just west of Exit 4 on the turnpike).

PAST TOPICS:

2014:

October: Flexible and printed electronics. September: The science of marijuana. June: Fluoridation in public water. May: Organic gardening. April: Tele-medicine, or doctoring from afar. March: Bitcoin - what is it? February: The science of allergies. January: Electric cars.

2013:
November:
Multiple sclerosis. October: Genetically modified organisms. September: Aquaponics. June: Flying robots (drones!) May: PTSD and brain tauma in veterans. April: Cats vs. wildlife in NH. March: Mosquito-borne disease. February: The science of brewing. January: 3-D printing, with MakeIt Labs.

2012:
November:
"Dark skies and light pollution" with Discovery Center. October: "The science of concussion." September: "The science of pain management." June: "Arsenic in our environment." May: "Invasive species in New Hampshire" April: "Nanotechnology in business and the lab". March: "Lyme disease in NH". Feb: "Seasonal Affective Disorder." Jan: "Biomass energy"

2011:
Nov.: "Science of Polling." Oct.: "Digital Privacy." Sept: "Vaccinations." June: "Future of Food." May 2011: "Climate Change"

ggScienceCafeSidebar

Alternative power map

Click here to see my alternative-power Google map showing large-scale solar, wind, hydro and nuclear plants in N.H., plus intriguing alternative-power items.

More archives