Tesla Master Plan, Part Deux

I use this blog as a type of time capsule for history, as well as my interests over the years. I’ve become quite the Tesla fan as of late, and a recent post by the Chairman/CEO Elon Musk seems like a great opportunity to carve a notch in the ole Tree of StormEffect and make a post about it here.

Red_Updated_Tesla

I’ve excerpted his TL;DR below:

Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage
Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments
Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it

sa-power-will-provide-tesla-poweAmong these, the most interesting to me is actually the conventional and boring solar/battery integration. This is something that can be engineered with existing technology, but nobody has cracked the code and made it compelling. I’m really hoping Tesla can pull an iPhone on home electricity generation. The democratization of energy generation will have liberating knock-on effects globally, and it will likely dovetail with globalized internet access. Like the other points in Elon’s Master Plan, it has a profound chance to change the world for the better.

Tech Rewind

So many things have happened since I last posted. In the original science/tech spirit of this blog, here are just a few highlights to cover the last 3 years:

1. Tesla Motors, something I didn’t know much about back in 2013, released Model S, Model X, and began taking reservations for Model 3. These are fully electric cars infused with the beginnings of autonomous driving capability.


2. SpaceX started landing first stage rocket boosters, a major milestone in their reusable rocket technology. Eventually (2025) they plan to begin colonizing Mars. This puts them way ahead of NASA, who plans to send people there in the mid 2030s.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…

A video posted by SpaceX (@spacex) on


3. CRISPR is ‘invented’. Incredibly powerful and precise gene editing is now cheap and easy.

The Genesis Engine. Coolest name for a thing, ever. The Genesis Engine. Coolest name for a thing, ever.


4. Real VR exists now. HTC Vive versus the Oculus Rift (now owned by Facebook). I lean toward the Vive because of the Steam/Valve partnership alongside the full room VR experience.


5. I’m still crazy into Solar (Photovoltaic) tech. It’s gotten crazy cheap in the last few years, although I had to let go of my solar powered satellites dreams as an unexpected side effect. The new idea is battery storage to get us through the night. (Thanks Tesla)


Here’s hoping I don’t take 3 years to write the next post!

Snow?

It’s nearly Christmas in Boston, and beyond a light dusting several weeks ago, no snow graces our only recently chilly city. For one, it hasn’t been cold enough, we regularly have afternoons in the 40s (Fahrenheit, 5-10 Celsius) so snow wouldn’t last long anyway. If it had snowed earlier in the season it’s possible it would be cold enough for snow now. Why is that, you might wonder? Clean, white snow reflects sunlight back into the sky, preventing it from heating the ground. Snow can have a reflection coefficient near 0.9 if it is fresh. Either way, I’m crossing my fingers for a white Christmas.

Reflection Coefficient, aka Albedo, is the measure (between 0 and 1) of a substance's reflectivity.
Reflection Coefficient, aka Albedo, is the measure (between 0 and 1) of a substance’s reflectivity.

Faster than light particle measured?

Information coming from CERN, a center for nuclear science in Geneva, Switzerland, claims that particles called neutrinos may have broken Eisenstein’s speed-of-light speed barrier. This is big news, if independently verified, and could shatter almost a century of physics assumptions.
UPDATE: A measurement error may have occurred due to the time keeping process used in the experiment. Satellites were used to synchronize clocks at the start and end stations of the neutrino’s path, but the relativistic motion of the satellites may not have been considered when updating the clocks. In other words, Einstein is likely still correct, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

Neutrino Sensor Room
Neutrino Sensor Room

Fusion – Closer to Reality

MIT (of course, who else? :P) has discovered radiowaves can be used to effectively manipulate plasma used in would-be fusion reactions. Theorists are stumped and cannot explain exactly what is happening to induce this behavior. This brings Fusion based power generation one step closer to reality, a development that could effectively deal with most of the world’s energy problems.

Gamers and Medical Research

Recently, GPUs (Graphics processing units) have garnered much media attention attention for their newly-tapped ability to process massively parallel data faster than than CPU (central processing unit, your processor). In fact, GPUs are so suited to parellel processing on a massive scale, they are edging in on super computers as a superior way to run scientific modeling simulations. (source)
Already, groups like SETI and Folding@Home have begun harnessing GPUs in the search for aliens and proteins, respectively. Now pathologists and epidemoligists have jumped onto the bandwagon, using GPUs to simulate the introduction of pathogens into complex (human) immune systems as well as the spread of those pathogens in society as a whole. 

In other words, every gaming PC just became a medical modeling super computer. Should this newfound power be used for good or for evil? Tell me below!

Welcome Back!

Hey there yall. Been quite the vacation from posting on the good old blog here, so I thought I’d return to you in a very meta-fashion.
Newsbits:

The ATI 4870X2 ($550) kicks the butt of every other “single” GPU available. Each card is outfitted with 2GB of GDDR5 RAM. It is actually possible to combine two of these cards in Crossfire X for a total of 4GPUs and 4GB of GDDR5 RAM. 64-bit Vista is an absolute requirement in this case, otherwise you’ll be running your monster gaming system with virtually no usable system ram. Woo for playing Crysis on a 30 inch computer monitor at 2560×1600 resolution! (link) Great, but I can’t wait until Fusion, a processor in which AMD will be slapping at least 2 CPU cores and a next-generation (5000 series) GPU core. Can anyone say, “the death of integrated graphics?”

Intel has finally released the USB3.0 specification. We are talking a 10x increase in transfer speed over USB2.0. Cool…I guess. But with eSATA already punching up transfer speeds as high as internal SATA, who needs the extra speed for anything besides a USB key? It’s not going to make my mouse any faster, that’s for sure. (link)

I just saw Tropic Thunder in theaters and was pleasantly surprised! Ben Stiller grabbed Jack Black and Robert Downy Jr. as well as the curiously unmentioned Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey and made an actually worthwhile comedy! Now I can forget about The Heartbreak Kid! *gag*

A new company has E. Coli crapping out Diesel. (link) It works like Cellulosic Ethanol (organic matter –> product). By producing Diesel instead of Ethanol, existing infrastructure is already capable of transporting and selling it. Ethanol requires a slightly modified engine and more expensive oil pipelines because it is more corrosive than normal gasoline. The start-up company responsible says with a few genetic modifications the E. Coli can also produce normal gasoline and even jet fuel! Very cool, but until this process is scaled up thousands and thousands of times, it isn’t much more than a proof of concept. The E. Coli used is allegedly harmless though, can anyone say home-made diesel?

I can’t remember if I already posted this, but check out my favorite site on CFLs and LEDs, seriously, click the link. When you get bored of the cave, pull on the lever. With recent LED breakthroughs, hopefully we can just forget about the CFLs and transition completely to LEDs. Of course, it’ll take at least 2 years (it always does).

Space Siege was just released, on Steam even! Too bad early reviews (including a review by my favorite video game editor, Jeff Green) call it absolutely average. I’ll still be picking up the game (probably on Steam), but I’ll wait for the 20 dollar price drop in a few months.

And finally, wonder where I was? (click for full resolution image)

Canada Coast

Fusion (not fission)

Solar panels, yada yada…
Fusion is where it’s really at. Using 192 massive lasers sucking 500 trillion watts, we MAY have ignition!(source)

Fusion power is the other nuclear power. Instead of ripping atoms apart and harvesting the released energy as in fission, fusion takes two atoms and smashes them into one, releasing even MORE energy than fission. We have been using fission for many years, starting with the atomic bomb and leading to the many nuclear plants around the world. While we have touched on using fusion in hydrogen bombs, we have yet to make a viable fusion reactor.

Fusion

The most common candidates for fuel I have seen (since we don’t live in a star and can’t just use everything up to iron on the periodic table) are tritium and deuterium, both isotopes of hydrogen. If we can create a fusion reactor capable of a sustained reaction, then we find the holy grail of energy (until we get to anti-matter). Cheap (relatively) fuel, waste that is only radioactive for decades instead of milennia, very little possibility for nuclear proliferation (neither uranium nor plutonium are directly involved), no possibility for runaway chain reactions,  and the bragging rights that our electric power source uses the same reaction as the sun.

Yes, my friends, fusion. Let’s hope we get there soon so we can all forget about oil and get on with our lives. And for those that are too far from the grid, SOLAR PANELS!

Solar Powered Air Conditioning

Solar Air ConditioningI think EVERYONE has considered how solar powered air conditioning would be a perfect solution to one of our biggest energy needs. As it gets hotter, you get more cooling! Right? Well, sort of, in reality central air conditioners use so much energy (several thousands of watts) that they would quickly overwhelm a standard residential solar panel installation even during sunny summer months.
But Professor Marcelo Izquierdo of the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid realized that there is another way we could solve our solar powered air conditioning problem. Instead of using a standard air conditioner compression system, he considered a technology that has been used by industry for many decades, absorption chilling.

Instead of powering a compressor to condense coolant through a standard air conditioning unit, absorbption chilling uses waste heat (from a turbine, hot garage, sunlight) to drive a circulatory system of cooling fluids. Here is one case where more outdoor heat would result in more indoor cooling. In addition, there could be significant energy savings as a result of the process. Also, these absorption air conditioners contain no ozone depleting coolants, while certain older central air conditioning units are still full of the stuff. (source)

Just a few considerations: How large will the thermal collectors need to be? Do they need to be roof mounted like solar panels? Is absorption chilling more efficient than simply mounting solar PV panels and using their electricity output to drive standard air conditioners?

Learn more about Absorption Cooling here, and here.