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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Touch Screens in cars

Touch Screens in cars are a really, really bad idea.  Look at all the kerfuffle world wide about using a cell phone in a car.  At least with a cell phone, you're likely to be holding it up by the steering wheel as you dial or touch the green icon to answer the phone.  Or, shudder, you type in some destination into the navigator.  Some part of your vision still records what is going on on the road.  With a touch screen you have to take your eyes right off the road to operate them and it is not a one touch operation.  You have to do multiple touches to get to the application you want to use.
 Image result for image touch screen in car

Remember those old car radios.  There was a nob on one side to turn it on and off and to increase or decrease the volume.  There was another nob on the other side to tune in the stations.  Then between the two nobs were five or six pull-out, push-in buttons.  You pulled one out, tuned the radio and then pushed it back in again.  From then on if you wanted that station you just pushed that button.  Ditto with the rest of the pull-out buttons.  You had five or six different stations all at your finger tips, all without taking your eyes off the road.
 Image result for image old car radios

Or come forward a little to a more modern radio.  Up at one corner is a toggle switch which you can feel.  Once more no need to take your eyes off the road.  Push it quickly and the radio tunes up or down  depending on which side of the button you pushed.  Hold it down for 2 seconds until you hear a beep and it will run up or down the radio spectrum until it finds the next channel.  On the other side is a second tactile toggle button.  Push one side and the volume goes up, the other side and the volume goes down.  In all of this no need to take your eyes off the road.

A more luxurious system has all the tactile buttons on the steering wheel.

If we are all up tight about cell phones, how much more dangerous are touch screens.

And don't get me started on autonomous cars.  Besides the fact that I really like driving, they seem to me to be a bad idea.

Have you ever heard of a soft-ware program that couldn't be hacked.  Recently we have had the UK health system computers hacked and bank after bank.  If anyone should have state of the art protection surly it is these institutions.  Just imagine what happens when some warped 14 year old genius in his mom's basement manages to hack into the system and shut down one of the functions.  Whole cities come to a stand still.  And this could happen even if only a small percent of the cars are autonomous.

Worse still, have you being paying attention to the revelations of Snowdon and Manning.  The secret services have little or no inhibitions against causing collateral damage (killing innocent bystanders) and being human they also make mistakes.  Imagine they have decided that a certain car is carrying a terrorist they want to eliminate.  They send the car into a tree or over a cliff at high speed.  Or they targeted your car by mistake or perhaps they send the car into oncoming traffic and you just happen to be on the other side of the road.

In addition, with your car continually connected to the internet of things (G5), they always know where you are and what you are doing.  And don't give me that old saw that if you are not doing anything wrong you have no problems.  That is such a  discredited a argument that it doesn't deserve another paragraph. This really is a Big Brother scenario.

Have you ever heard of a computer program that didn't need patches and upgrades to fix glitches that the programmers didn't anticipate.  In the first death in a self driving car, the computer didn't recognize a truck coming from the side and thought it was a road sign.  We don't need programmers experimenting with our lives as we travel down the road at highway speeds.

What do I want in a car.  I want all the great engineering that is coming out in Electric cars but none of the bells and whistles.  And I want the lower price that comes with this.  I want any controls to be tactile, not touch screen.  And I want the pleasure of driving my own car.  This isn't for everyone but I bet there is a huge market out there for such a car. If I need navigation, I'll velcro my phone on to the dash board.

If you want to wow me, make all surfaces of the car generate electricity when they are in the sun.  No, I don't expect to be able to drive just on the power the skin of my car generates but it will be a nice little bonus and might get me home. when  I have forgotten to charge up when I should have.  Some years ago a home made electric car visited us here in New Zealand.  He pulled a trailer and the top of the trailer was covered with solar panels.  He said he could carry on driving at 20k/hr if it was a sunny day but his batteries were flat.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A new Battery technology

What would you say to a battery for static use that could be completely charged and discharged with no degradation of it's capacity over time.  A battery that today will hold ten kWh and in one year it will still have the same capacity. A battery that has no self discharge and so if you charge it up and come back in a year it will still have the same charge. Better still, a battery that uses very common cheap materials in it's chemistry so should be pretty cost-effective as production increases. And none of it's materials (like Cobalt) are produced in countries that use child labor.

This is the hype around a new battery chemistry and they are already in production.

Now just a disclaimer here.  I am basing this article on the literature around this battery and have no experience myself in owning such a battery.  In fact, they are in the stage of ramping up production and I haven't been able to find what they cost at present or what they project the price will be in the future.

This is a flow battery meaning that a fluid is pumped through the battery that does 'the  necessary'.  It is a plating battery that plates Zinc onto 'shelves' of plastic (dosed with carbon, I believe, for conductivity) during the charging phase.  The Zinc is stripped from the plates back into solution during discharge.  The other ion is Bromine so this is a Zinc bromide battery.

It has been developed in Australia and production at present is quite small, measured in hundreds per week  but, clearly, if it's promise is fulfilled, production is bound to climb as revenue flows in from initial sales.

The cycle efficiency of this battery is said to be 75-80%.  If you put in a kWh you will get an effective 0.75kWh back out.  

A disadvantage (minor) is that the plates must be stripped every three days to stop the build up of spicules of Zinc that would damage adjacent plates. In other words it must be totally discharged.  Apparently this is automated so it happens without your intervention.  I'm not sure what happens to the electricity which will be produced during a full discharge cycle but I can imagine it will be fed into the grid with the amount you earn from this being determined by the policy of your power company.

If you have more than one of these 10kWh batteries, power resulting from the stripping cycle could be fed into the other half of your batteries.  While operating,,,, one battery (or bunch of batteries) would be in use (discharging) while the other half would be charging.

Incidentally, some recent information on the mega Lithium ion battery provided to Australia by Tesla has shown some interesting results.  This battery holds 100mWh of power and cost $66m.  It's first anniversary will be in November and based on the present rate of return, it will have returned $20m by that time.  A 30% pa rate of return.  Wow!!!  It is installed in a large wind farm so presumably the earnings are due to not having to waste wind-generated power when the grid is producing all it needs.  The power is then sent to the grid when the demand and hence the price is high.

They could also be earning by buying power to charge the battery when power from the grid is in excess and hence cheap, and selling it back when there is a demand.

Another interesting wrinkle is that the response time of the battery is so fast, unlike other sources of electricity, that the quality of the power is increased.  In other words the voltage and frequency are stabilized, unlike when other generation sources  with slower response times are cut in and out of the grid.

Presumable this quality improvement would be the same with any battery system including the ZnBr battery.

Of course, Li ion batteries degrade over time and this is partially compensated for by battery management systems that don't ever charge up the battery to it's full capacity or discharge it to zero.  This slows but does not stop the decrease in it's capacity over time.

This points up the great advantage of the ZnBr technology over the Li technology.  The cost over time is bound to be less, and even more so when the price of the Zn battery per kWh becomes less than the cost of the Li battery as it is bound to do because of it's less expensive materials.  Note that this technology is only for static applications.  The Li ion battery is still king for mobile applications.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Arctic Tsunamis

When a piece of the edge of the continental shelf breaks loose and plunges into the abys, localized but quite severe Tsunamis can result.  They are localized because usually the slump is only a few kilometers wide - basically a point source in world geography terms and as the wave spreads out over a greater and greater circumference, the energy decreases in proportion to the distance from the source.

By contrast the waves that travel across oceans and cause huge damage at far distant locations are the ones produced by earthquakes in which one side of a long crack (fault) in the sea bottom suddenly rises or falls. A good example of that was the boxing day earthquake off the coast of Summatra on December 26, 2004        .

That is not to say that these point source earth quakes, caused by a slump at the edge of the continental shelf, do not travel far distances.  They do.  But their energy decreases quickly with distance from the source.  So what does this have to do with the Arctic Ocean.  First a little background.

Most continents are surrounded by a continental shelf.  This is a relatively shallow gently sloping area from the shore to the continental drop off where the continental slope starts.    At the drop off, the gradient increases sharply and the Continental Slope leads down to the abyss.  The continents surrounding the Arctic ocean are no exception and the Continental Shelf off Russia is particularly wide.

Permafrost is frozen earth and extends downward to a depth of from a few meters to kilometers, depending on location.  Under thick ice sheets there is no permafrost.  Under the Antarctic, for instance,the bottom of the ice hovers around zero degrees C and there are streams and lakes of liquid water.  Ice is a  good insulator  and geological heat seeping up from the earth has to transverse kilometers of ice before it reaches the air at many tens of degrees below freezing.

It has been found that the land under the Continental shelves of America and Russia in the Arctic ocean have thick layers of permafrost.  Therefore they were not glaciated during the last continental glaciation when sea level was as much as 120m lower at the maximum extent of the ice.  I know this sounds odd.  I find it so as well but if it was covered by an continental ice sheet there would not be permafrost. Perhaps the ice sheet left the continental shelf early in the melt and the permafrost was created before the ocean inundated the shelf.

There is another type of 'permafrost'.  It occurs when methane is in contact with water under pressure.  With enough pressure, methane ice, known as methane clathrate can form at a temperature of as much as 30 degrees C but in the ocean with the deep ocean temperature at a couple of degrees above freezing, you need a pressure equivalent to about 300m of water. (31 atmospheres). Warm this clathrate or reduce the pressure and the clathrate will begin to break down, turning into gaseous methane and liquid water.

An other wrinkle in this story is as follows.  If methane seeps up from disintegrating organic material or from deep deposits of coal, shale or oil and meets a layer of permafrost, it can form a clathrate at a much shallower depth than would be necessary in the open ocean.  The permafrost acts like the lid on a pressure cooker and as the methane accumulates at the bottom of the permafrost, the pressure rises until it combines with the moisture there to create a methane clathrate.  It is likely that the blow-out features seen on the Arctic sea bottom are the result of the permafrost weakening enough under increased ocean temperature for this high pressure methane to blow holes both below and above the ocean.  Some such holes have also been found on land.

So what does this have to do with future Tsunamis in the Arctic Ocean. 

Sea water in the Arctic freezes each winter and during the summer the melting ice keeps the water cold.  This effect is lessening year by year with ever larger areas of the Arctic ocean now clear of ice for ever longer periods in the summer.  Open water, as has often been stated, absorbs solar energy unlike ice and snow which reflect the sunlight back into space.  The surface layer is about 200m deep and the continental shelf is roughly 100m below the surface. The Continental shelf is bathed in this surface layer of fresher water which is gaining more heat year after year.  Clearly a formula for the melting of both types of permafrost.  But that is not all.

 At present, with the prevailing high pressure area over the Arctic, the air circulation is predominantly clockwise.  This causes a predominantly clockwise circulation in the ocean.  Due to Coriolis, anything moving in the Northern Hemisphere veers to the right.  To-the-right in a clockwise circulating system is toward the center.  Because of this, the Arctic ocean tends to hold on to floating ice and to the floating fresh water from the rivers entering the ocean.

As the ocean warms, we can expect more and stronger storms in the Arctic which, in the Northern Hemisphere are counter clockwise rotating bodies of air.  This will push on the water below inducing a counter clockwise water circulation.  In a counter clockwise rotating body in the Northern Hemisphere, to-the-right is away from the center.  We can expect this floating layer of fresher water to thin as it is sent outward to be expelled through the Fram Straight.

Below this fresher water is the warmer more salty Atlantic water.  If it comes close enough to the surface to bath the Continental Shelves of Russia and America, we can expect the melting of the permafrost and methane clathrate to accelerate.  Besides venting methane into the atmosphere; a powerful greenhouse gas, this will remove the 'glue' that is holding the sediments together.  A recipe for Tusnami causing land slides.

Another effect adds to the potential for melting the undersea permafrost, resulting in eventual Tsunami-causing-slumps.  As there is more open water, winds can induce larger and longer waves in the Arctic due to the greater fetch* and storms can become stronger due to warmer open water contributing humidity to the overlying air.  The circle of rotation of a particle of water as a wave goes by decreased with depth.  The formula says that for every nineth of a wave length, you go down into the ocean, the circle of rotation halves.  Longer waves project their effect much deeper than short waves of the same height.

*Fetch - the distance of open water over which a wind can blow.

So, for instance, for a eighteen meter long wave, one meter in height, if you go down two meters, the circle of rotation of a particle of water will be half a meter.  For a one meter high wave with twice the length (36m) you would hae to go down 4 meters before the circle of rotation would have decreased to half a meter.

If the effect of the surface waves penetrates sufficiently deeply, they induce waves between the surface cold fresher water and the deeper warmer saltier water.  These waves break, just a do surface waves as they reach shallow water.  This will cause mixing of the layers, weakening the density gradient between the layers and facilitating future mixing.  But there is a much more worrying possible result.

Tsunami waves are both very large and very long. After the first Tsunami we can expect to see that there has been major mixing between the two layers in the Arctic ocean.  If it has been sufficient, this should rapidly accelerate the process as warmer saltier Atlantic water bathes the continental shelf, leading to more Tsunamis and greatly accelerated melting of surface ice -- which will further increase the amount of heat absorbed in the surface water from the sun.  The first Tsunami caused by a slump looks to be a severe tipping point.

Thursday, September 5, 2019


The world has a mountain of spent tires, plastic, (much of it dirty), wood wastes, tallow from abettors  used engine oil and even old clothes with no recycle value.  All these and probably many other waste streams can be pyrolyzed.  So what is pyrolysis.

Any carbon based material, if heated in a retort without oxygen, breaks down into a range of chemicals, many of them alkanes.  Classically, the gaseous part of the output is cycled back to the retort and burnt to provide the heat to power the process.  What a waste.  The gas is essentially LPG and can be compressed into tanks and used for domestic heating and cooking. The lightest fraction, methane, can be turned into methanol as we have done for years In New Zealand with methane from our petroleum industry.

Let's be more ambitious and set up a dedicated wind turbine to provide the energy for powering the pyrolysis  and use the lighter fractions. A bank of Zinc Bromide or liquid metal batteries can smooth out the power supply with any excess sent to the grid. As with any battery, both of these have their weak points but far outweighed by their strong points.  Both can be charged and discharged fully without any degradation of their capacity over time.

And where would we locate the wind turbine???  Anywhere with access to the grid and good wind.  That's why we have national grids; to transfer power from where it is generated to where it is needed.

If your chemistry is a little rusty, what are alkanes

Alkanes are chemicals with a chain of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms on all the remaining bonds. Alkanes are saturated hydrocarbons meaning that there are no double bonds between the carbon atoms.  In ascending order of chain length alkanes are methane(CH4), Ethane (C2H6), Propane (C3H8) Butane (C4H10) and so on all the way up to very long chain tars. (or if you prefer, cooking gas, gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and so forth)

Alkenes are also be produced but are a pain in the kister.  With their double bonds, they can link up with other chemicals and form 'varnishes' and sludges that you don't really want in your carburetor.  More about them later.
                            Feed Stock
When tires are pyrolyzed, most of the resulting chemicals are the usual range of alkanes plus carbon and steel.  The steel is from the steel reinforcing in the tires.  Many manufacturing processes use carbon including the production of black plastic pipes, black paint, filters and new tires.  The steel can be accumulated in rail cars and shipped to a smelter.  All Steel mills use a proportion of waste steel along with the Iron ore they refine.

If the pyrolysis unit is located beside an oil refinery the mixture of alkanes can be fed right into the fractionation towers to separate out the various components.  Tires contain sulfur which is used for the vulcanization process and oil refineries are already set up to remove sulfur from 'sour' crude oils.

Sulfur is another valuable by-product and is a much use element in many industrial processes and particularly for the production of Sulfuric acid which is used in many chemical processes.

Oil refineries  use various methods to 'crack' long chain hydrocarbons to obtain a larger yields of the most needed fractions such as gasoline, diesel and aviation jet fuel and this can be similarly done for the output from a pyrolysis retort. Note that in Finland a plant to convert tires back into petrol has been set up and is reported to be pollution free.

Wood waste
The usual chemicals are produced plus wood char (charcoal) as a by product.  Wood char is a great soil additive which fills a similar function to humus in the soil. Charcoal has a very long life in the soil and hence results in a long term sequestering of carbon. At present, it is not economically worthwhile to produce char for farmers but with a pyrolysis unit producing a lot of this material as a by produce, the price of charcoal should come down.  The petroleum products produced are green and the charcoal sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.

Plastics, long chain carbon compounds, are easily pyrolyzed.  The plastic doesn't have to be clean.  Food wastes, petroleum products and other contaminants will be pyrolyzed along with the plastic. This is a solution to our mountains of plastic and especially those which can't be recycled either because they are the wrong type of plastic or because it is not economic to clean them.  Note that it used to be worthwhile financially, to send these plastics to China before they refused to take any more.  Surly, then it is worthwhile to send them to a pyrolysis unit in your own country.

Just recently (Sept 2019) some numpti of an abattoir poured  tons of hot liquid tallow into their drains.  The congealed fat totally disabled their municipal waste treatment (sewage) plant.  How much is that going to cost in clean up costs, fines and the ecological cost of raw sewage going straight into the environment until they get the pumps and pipes unclogged. How much better if they had accumulated  their tallow in a rail car and sent it off to the pyrolysis unit when the car was full.  Here we get into externalities (see below).  

So what else could we do in concert with a pyrolysis unit.

Side lines
With some of the electricity from our dedicated wind turbine or solar panels we could electrolyze water into Hydrogen and Oxygen and store it in large, low pressure tanks.  Why would we want to do this.  First the Hydrogen.

When longer molecules are cracked to make more of the short chain molecules,,,, everywhere a chain breaks, there is a free carbon bond that needs filling.  If it is not filled, alkenes will result and as we saw these are not desirable in an engine.  If Hydrogen is introduced into the retort at the correct temperature and with the correct catalyst, the hydrogen saturates these bonds converting the alkenes to alkanes.  So how about the Oxygen.

If tires are the main feed stock, this will result in considerable amounts of sulfur being produced.  If it is burnt in air it produced Sulfur dioxide.  However if burnt at high temperature in an oxygen rich environment, Sulfur trioxide is produced.  Add this to water and you produce Sulfuric acid which is a much used chemical in industry, not to mention in lead acid batteries.

When sulfur is oxidized (burnt) heat is produced.  It might be possible to capture this heat for use in the processes.

So already were are producing better fuel by saturating broken bonds with hydrogen and  we have a sulfuric acid producing plant on site.

When calculating the economic feasibility of pyrolysis, externalities must be included.  Externalities are:
 " a consequence of an industrial or commercial activity which affects other parties without this being reflected in market prices" (wikipedia dictionary)

For instance:
*the cost, economic and ecological, of having a mountain of tires leaching poison into the environment and providing water pools for mosquito breeding;
*the cost of a mountain of plastic sent to land fill or entering the environment and eventually  the sea;
*the price to store mountains of materials that could be used;
*the price to our environment of having to mine more hydrocarbons instead of using the ones we already have above ground and
*the hydrocarbons we can produce from renewable sources such as wood waste, thus further reducing the amount of crude that must be extracted.

All these sort of costs should be credited to the plant that is operating the Pyrolysis plant.

                          The Future

Let's look to the future; of what else we could pyrolyze.  

Electronic Equipment
Old computers, radios, communication equipment and so forth are largely plastic these days.  But they also contain many metals.  If they are pyrolyzed, the plastic is converted to the usual gaseous and liquid hydrocarbons but the ash left over contains copper, gold, lead, tin and other metals.  This residue can be sent to a smelter to be separated.  It might be worthwhile to first chop up the material and apply a magnetic and then an eddy current separation first This will separate out some of the elemental ferrous and not ferrous metals.

Treated timber 
At present there is no place to get rid of treated timber.  Tantalized timber contains copper, arsenic and chromium.  If it is burnt and the ash applied to the soil in the mis-belief that you are adding valuable wood ash to your soil, you will have caused serious contamination.  None of these metals are one's you want in your vegi garden.  All the scrap treated wood from construction could be pyrolyzed as well but one would have to make sure that these chemicals, especially arsenic, were recovered from the output of the process. At the end of a batch-pyrolysis, oxygen should probably be introduced to get rid of any remaining carbon, turning the residue into ash which is now further concentrated and can be sent to a refinery.   

A mountain of nappies, both for infants and even more from the aged, are created every year.  They can also be pyloyzed.  Since they will have a high water content, it would probably be necessary to bring the pyrolysis retort up to, say 1100C and hold it there until water vapor ceased to be expelled from the retort.  Some other feed materials might benefit from a similar treatment. A benefit of an initial phase of heating to just above 100degrees C is that you expel all the air in the retort before starting the pyrolysis cycle.  Remember, all this is done using renewable energy from our dedicated wind turbine or solar panels.

Old waste dumps
Recently a waste dump close to the sea was breached by a storm, augmented by our steadily rising sea level.  Old dumps which must be removed for whatever reason could also be pyrolized.  In the anaerobic environment in a dump, much of this material is unchanged.  We could clean up the sins of our grandfathers.

Almost none of the materials which can be pyrolized are effected by being stored in a rail car until it is full.  The rail car can then be sent to the pyrolysis unit, which, hopefully, is located within the grounds of a standard petro-chemical refinery.  These cars can be tacked on to existing trains when they are heading in the right direction.  Thus the cost of shipping should be 'reasonable'.  But we must never ignore the cost of externalities as we so often do.  Pyrolysis should be credited with the cost to us, both long and short term, of doing nothing.

                  Other Benefits of Pyrolysis  
Balance of Payments
Whatever materials we product by pyrolysis reduces the amount of Crude we have to import from overseas, improving our balance of payments. The demand for oil is already decreasing as electric cars gain a greater share of the market.  Oil from pyrolysis would become a greater and greater proportion of the oil we use as this process continues.

Waste Dumps
Pyrolizing as much of the feed to waste dumps as is possible will lengthen their life and ultimately, as we make use of other materials going to waste dumps, could eliminate them. Eventually old waste dumps could be mined and eliminated.

Our Green Image
New Zealand depends to some extent on her green reputation for the marketing of her products and especially her agriculture products.  Reducing our use of 'mined' petroleum fits within our story.  

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Arctic Storms

The Arctic, occasionally has really big storms.  They are called polar lows.  They can be as strong as hurricanes.

How do we measure the strength of a storm.
In the open Atlantic ocean, where they are called Hurricanes, one measurement is the pressure in the eye of the storm.  The lower the pressure, the greater the strength of the storm.   Wind speed is also a measure of the storm but let's leave that aside for now.

Storm categories

Storm rating      Mbar in eye     mmHg in eye     Wind Speed Kts
     1                    980                  28.94                  64 - 82
     2                    979 - 965         28.5 - 28.91        83 - 95
     3                    964 - 945         27.91 - 28.47      96 -113
     4                    944 - 920         27.17 - 27.88      114 - 135
     5                 <919 -="" 136="" 157="" 919="" br="" nbsp="">

What powers Hurricanes.
It is mainly the effect of Latent Heat of Vaporization.  If you evaporate water which is already at 100 degrees C, it takes 540calories per gram of water to change the water to water vapor.  To put that into context, it is enough heat to raise that gram of water from zero degrees to 100 degrees five times  and then from zero to 40 degrees as well.  That is a lot of heat.

More important for our discussion, the same amount of heat is released when the water vapor condenses back into liquid water.

How warm must the surface water be to power a hurricane
The critical surface temperature of the water to power a hurricane is about 25 degrees C.  At that temperature, enough water vapor is transferred to the air that if some little disturbance causes the air to rise and cool and begin the condensation process, the heat released keeps the air warmer than the surrounding air.  The rising air sucks  more moist air across the warm sea, to be pulled upward where it cools and condenses out the water and you are well on the way to a thunder storm or a hurricane.

Despite the fact that the H2O is now heavy water rather than light vapor, the heat released into the air is enough to keep the air surging upwards like a hot air balloon.

One more factor is needed.  Coriolis. Air at the equator is traveling  at about 1000mph.  At the pole it is not moving at all, merely turning on the spot once per day.  Think of a body of air moving northward from the equator.  If it travels a mile northward, the rotational speed of the land under it hardly changes.  It would move to the right but very slightly.  Think now of a body of air a mile south of the North Pole traveling toward the pole.  It has a velocity but the pole has none.  It will veer sharply to the right.  But there is another effect at play here.

Just like a skater that pulls in her arms while she is spinning, a body of air gets an added spin by moving it's mass closer to the center of rotation.

Coriolis is hardly felt near the equator but is more and more effective, the closer you get to the poles.  Near the poles, you are moving almost a km nearer to the center of rotation for every km you travel over land.  At the equator, a km over land hardly moves you toward (or away) from the center of rotation at all.

Incidentally, do the exercise in your head of a body moving southward.  You will find that in the Northern Hemisphere, something moving southward is also veered to the right.

In the open Atlantic ocean, all the power for the hurricane is from the suck in the Middle caused, as mentioned, by the release of heat from condensing water vapor.

So how do we have such strong storms over the Arctic Ocean???
Some of the Arctic storms are as strong as  Hurricanes.  For instance, in Aug 2012 there was a Polar Low over the Arctic  Ocean that, if it had occurred in the Hurricane zone further south would have qualified as a high 2 or a low category 3 Hurricane.  (due to the low pressure in the eye which was 966 millibars).

According to the scientists this is because of the high pressure over the ice remaining over parts of the Arctic Ocean.  The ocean water on the surface is no where near the 25 or so degrees that is necessary to power a hurricane so something else must be at play.  it is apparently the 'push' from the high pressure area over the ice.  The pressure gradient caused by the suck in the middle is augmented by the push from the air over the ice.

Apparently polar lows tend to follow the line between open water and the edge of the ice.

So let's speculate a bit.
What will happen over the years as the Arctic Ocean is more and more open earlier and earlier and collects more and more heat.  Let's say we have reached the situation in which the Arctic ocean is ice free and remains that way for the final month of the summer.  The sun becomes weaker and weaker and the land cools off rapidly.  Only the top couple of feet of the land warms and cools so it warms and cools  rapidly.  In the fall, the sea has absorbed huge amounts of heat to depth.  Say, now, we have a wee storm that coats the land with white.

Now we have the same situation that created the Aug 2012 storm but much larger.  There is more heat in the water and the land all around the Arctic Ocean is a high pressure area  supplying the push to augment the suck over the ocean.

This looks to me to be the formula for some really large storms.

                Effects of large Arctic storms

There are a number of effects of strong Arctic storms, especially when the ice extent is at low levels and the ice is thin.

When the Arctic is covered with thick ice, the wind can not act on the ocean.  Ice flows can be pushed around a little but with complete ice cover, there is almost no place for them to go.  They can be pushed up into ridges and the leads left behind, freeze over.  This creates thick multi-year ice which is hard to melt.

However, when much of the ocean is ice free and what ice there is, is thin first-year-ice, the storms can not only move the ice around but  waves building up from the wind flowing over open water can smash and fracture this thin ice.

The distance a wind acts on water to create waves is called 'fetch' and the longer the fetch with a given wind speed, the larger and longer the waves

Note that the circle of rotation of a particle of water as a wave goes by, decreases by half for every 9th of a wave length depth.  In other words, the length of a wave greatly increases the depth to which it is felt.

Larger waves crash into land that was once protected by ice and erode it.  This is happening around large parts of the shore line of the Arctic.  Permafrost is exposed which is then  easier to melt.

In addition, surface waves can induce internal waves between the deep salty Atlantic water and the surface, fresher Arctic water.  These waves break when the reach shallow water, mixing the layers.

A really interesting effect is connected to our old friend Coriolis.  The 'normal' weather system over the Arctic ocean is a high pressure area.  This is because the energy of the sun is reflected back into space by the ice and its snow cover so the atmosphere is not heated  from below as is the case in much of the world, the air radiates heat into space resulting in dense falling air.  This high pressure area rotates clockwise as the falling air spreads out heading southward.  And it pushes on the ice and water causing a clockwise rotating gyre, especially just North of Greenland, known as the Beaufort gyre.

Remember that everything moving in the Northern Hemisphere veers to the right and in a clockwise rotating gyre, to-the-right is toward the middle.  This is why the Beaufort Gyre collects and holds the fresh water from the surrounding rivers and the ice that floats on the ocean.

The deeper water is warmer but stays down below because of it's saltiness.  It is basically deep Atlantic water.  The layer of lighter, colder surface water is typically about 200m deep.  So what happens when this gyre is reversed by a persistent, stronger storm.  In a counter clockwise gyre in the Northern Hemisphere, to-the-right is away from the center.  We can expect the surface water and ice to be pushed outwards, to be caught by the trans polar current and expelled through the Fram Straights.  This will bring the Atlantic water closer to the surface.

This may be another tipping point.  As the salty Atlantic water comes closer to the surface, it is more easily mixed with the surface water, especially during hurricane strength polar lows.

Also, the mixing of the layers caused by internal waves will reduce the density gradient between the surface and deeper waters.  Once the Atlantic water reaches the surface, the ice will really take a major 'hit'.  We may once again have trees growing right up to the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

Final note
The process doesn't stop with the beginning of freeze up in the middle of September.  You have all heard of the ice-cube-in-the-drink effect.  The drink stays a or very near to zero degrees until all the ice has melted.  the heat seeping into the glass from it's surroundings is used up in melting the ice cube.  Latent heat from solid to liquid is not as much as from liquid to gas but is still substantial.  For water the liquid-gas latent heat is 540 calories per gram while from solid to liquid it is 80 calories per gram.  The same effect works in reverse

As the water in the Arctic freezes over, it releases 80 calories for every gram of water that freezes.  This, of course, doesn't heat up the overlying air.  It simply "tries" to keep the temperature at zero until there is enough ice covering the ocean to provide insulation from the underlying water.  Even then, as more ice freezes on to the bottom of existing ice, the heat produced has to conduct through the ice into the overlying air.  So why is this important.

Remember that the surrounding land is rapidly cooling down as it radiates heat into space and the sun is not replacing this heat in the daytime. The sun no longer shines in the Arctic in the winter.  So all around the Arctic ocean we have cold land and descending  air or a high pressure area.  This should also be able to create powerful storms at the beginning of the winter freeze-up period. 

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The battery I want to own

I want a battery for my home.  It would be no good for a car although it might be good on a train.  I can picture a train pulling it's first car like they used to do with coal or wood in the old steam locomotives but forget about that for the moment.  What would be the ideal home battery.

Completely necesary

* It must be able to be charged and discharged a huge number of times without loosing capacity.

* It must be able to be overcharged without damage, either because that is the way it is or because it has a rising tail of voltage as it approaches full charge that stops the flow of electricity.

* It must be able to be discharged completely without damage.  In other words you can use it's full capacity.

Not needed

 * It doesn't have to be compact.  I will house it in a well ventilated outbuilding on the property.

*  It has no weight restrictions.  Batteries will be on racks in the building.  

* It can need regular maintenance - say topping up distilled water each week or something similar.

* It doesn't have to not give off, say Hydrogen.  The battery building will be well ventilated.

* It doesn't have to hold it's charge particularly well.  If it lost, say, 3% per day due to self discharge, that would be acceptable.

Nice to have  
*  Nice if it used common materials such as graphite, Aluminum, Copper, Iron and so forth.  Readily available materials are generally less expensive and readily obtainable.

*  Nice if it used a fairly common base, acid or salt for the electrolyte.

*  It probably should operate at 'normal' temperatures.  Say from minus 20 to plus 50 degrees centigrade.

* Even nicer if a home builder could put one together by himself but that is probably too much to ask for.

Such a battery will be used in conjunction with home solar panels or wind turbines and, if full, will be good for around 3 days without input.  Does such a battery exist.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Little Princess Effect

Twin brothers marry twin sisters.  One of the sisters is a little princess.  She wants it all and she wants it now so they go out and buy everything that bumps and squeaks for their new home.

The other sister says, no.  We will sit on apple boxes and eat off our knees until we have money for a table, then chairs and on and on for all of their house hold appliances and furniture.

Now flash forward 5 years.  Both couples have the same furnishings although the furnishing of the little princess and her husband are a little older and a little more worn.  The main difference is that the little princess and her husband are still paying off their furnishing with interest while Frugal Wife and her husband are  debt free. 

From here on, the frugal couple have all the advantages.  All their salaries are theirs to spend, save, invest or whatever they choose to do with it.

The same principle holds with overseas investments in our business.  It is a little slower if we insist on using our own investment but in the not very long-run we are better off.

An added advantage of the slower approach is that you don't think you have unlimited money and hence waste it on frills.  You are canny with your money and have time to explore the inns and outs of your new business before you commit huge amounts of cash in mistakes.
What have been the results of being little princesses in the past.

We don't do our own banking.  We have had a number of small banks for some time and just recently, the post office started KiwiBank (the tail now wags the dog).  But most of our banking including banking by our government is with Australian banks.  Because we wanted a banking system right away we now loose around a billion dollars every 6 months to Australia.  Imagine what this amount of money staying in a Kiwi bank would do for our economy but we were little princesses.  We wanted it all and we wanted it now.

We don't fish our own waters.  Yes, we have some fishing boats but the main industrial fishing is done by overseas boats.  Recently we had an example of what this results in.  A Korean boat with Indonesian workers was mistreating their workers most abysmally.  The workers asked for asylum in New Zealand and help getting their wages paid.  Later that same boat caught a particularly valuable net of fish and chucked the fish they already had stored in their holds overboard so they would have room for the new fish.  We wanted the fish landed in New Zealand to be cheap so we went for the overseas option, ignoring all the spin offs of doing our own fishing. Now it has been revealed that not all of the fish caught by these foreign boats are even landed in New Zealand.

Note.  A number of times on National Radio it has been estimated by various experts that for every core job, 4 secondary jobs are created. This will apply to all the examples in this blog including fishing.  In fact it is more extreme in the case of fishing.  Just think of the land based infrastructure with their core jobs, needed to repair boats, process fish and so forth.

We don't build our own rail stock.  Despite a BERL report stating that we would need to purchase our rail stock for 38% of the local price, we decided to buy our rail stock overseas.  This rail stock we bought contained asbestos despite the specifications saying that it should be asbestos free and many repairs had to be made including fixing the suspension systems.  Otherwise, at speed the rail cars jumped off the tracks.  Even if the overseas rail stock had been excellent, it would have been a bad decision to buy overseas.  The BERL report didn't even take into consideration the long term benefits, namely the up-skilling of our work force.  With the sophisticated electronics needed in modern rail stock, our work force might have gone on to use the Open source pattens by Tesla to produce the affordable electric car - called, of course, the Kiwi.  Who knows what other spin offs could have occured.

We don't produce all our own baby formula.  We have allowed a Chinese company to gain a foot hold in New Zealand.  There was a big scandal about melamine being added to milk products in China which besmirched our reputation.  We should simply produce the product here in New Zealand and sell it to whomever wants to buy it.

We don't value add our own logs.  China thinks in terms of centuries, we in terms of quarterly reports and single election cycles.  China has given us top dollar for our logs, destroying our milling capacity. China has huge cash reserves from selling goods to America and the rest of the world made by her underpaid work force.  Now China has generously offered to build us a large modern wood milling plant.   We really need to start to think, at least in decades.

We don't bottle our own water.  This really is beyond belief.  We manage the much more complex wine and milk from field to customer.  Surly we can bottle our own water.  It is a license to print money.  And it is about the most cost efficient use of our water.  It takes over 1000 liters of water to produce a liter of milk.  It takes 1.37 liters of water to produce a liter of bottled water.  And in many places the retail price is about the same.  There has been some discussion in New Zealand on putting a price on water.  A price that would be significant for the water bottling industry would cripple our farmers and a price the farmers could survive would be insignificant for the water bottling industry.  All we have to do is to own the bottling companies and tax them as we would any other business.  And..... keep the profits in New Zealand. We took the easy way out and now someone else benefits from the sale of our pure water.

These are just a few of many examples of the Little Princess Effect.  We wanted it all and we wanted it now instead of taking the slower rout with more effort on our part but ending up far better off.  No wonder we don't have the revenue to pay our teachers and medical workers more.  We have thrown away so many jobs, each of which would pay income tax to the exchequer and so much more money flowing through the economy with GST going to the government at each transaction.

We have to start thinking like Frugal Wife.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

My take on terrorism

This is my take on the creation of terrorists; of people capable of the utterly unspeakable events which took place in New Zealand on the 15th of March 2019.  And of what we should do to stop the creation of more terrorists.  Broadly speaking there are three types, two of which are relevant to this conversation.

First there are people who have had their lives disrupted by war and want revenge on the perpetrators.  At least on the face of it, the taking down of the trade centers in New York on 9/11 was such an attack although there remain serious questions about who was actually behind this attack.

The second type are what we characterize as alt-right terrorists.  These are often white supremacists who think that they are justified in going into a mosque and shooting people at prayer.  The atrocity in New Zealand was such an attack.

A third type is a lonely student, bullied by his class mates who shoots up his school. This type is not relevant to this discussion.

 Imagine yourself in a country that has been attacked by a powerful country for no better reason than they want your resources and want to provide business for their arms manufacturing industry. Co religionist countries around you have also been attacked and exploited for their resources. This powerful country assassinates people extra-judicially in your country and in near by countries by flying drones overhead, killing whomever they want to.  Worse still they have no thought about the so called collateral damage (others killed at the same time). They kidnap people and send them to be tortured, often for no better reason that some jealous person said they were a terrorist. They practice a whole series of steps to create regime change in other countries* up to and including sending in their army and then have the utter hypocrisy to  complain when someone even tries to influence their elections.  What would be your attitude to this country.  What would you do.

*Perkins - Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.  Stone and Kuznic - The Untold History of the United States of America

The second type is the white supremacists, they are greatly encouraged and made to feel justified by the actions of that same powerful country that continually foments unjust wars and kills people, usually brown,  in other countries.  This powerful country also behave toward large parts of their own population as if they are inferior.    This gives the white supremacist  nutters tacit encouragement and approval to commit acts such as occurred in New Zealand.  I hope it is clear to you which country we are talking about.

There is yet another motivation for white supremacists.  Recently we have had huge tranches of people migrating all over the world.  A large proportion of these are from countries that America has stirred up with her never ending wars.  The refugees don't want to be in our countries.  They would much rather stay at home and live  a peaceful existence.  Their home countries have been made uninhabitable and they have been given no choice but to immigrate.

A disproportionate percent of these immigrants are young men.  In Rotherham in Northern England, in  Germany and in Sweden to name a few locations, a rape culture has developed.  Just having a huge influx of single men into a society is already a formula for unrest amongst the indigenous population exacerbated, possibility, by a different "dress culture" which makes these young men think the local women are fair game.  Whatever the reason, having a group of men, easily identified as 'others' raping your women is a power keg waiting to be ignited.  Most of the population does not resort to acts of terror but there is a huge ground swell against immigration in countries that have accepted massive numbers of these displaced people.

Perhaps our anger should be directed to the creators of terrorists, rather than the terrs, themselves.

It sheets back to America causing refugees to leave their own country and seek refuge in the West.

So the question is, what to do about it. Are we going to be reactive or proactive. Clearly the answer is both but I feel that the proactive part has almost been ignored.  Can we do anything to stop the creation of terrorists of both types before it is too late. I believe we can but it is will be  hard and will require speaking speaking truth to power.

We can't go physically against the powerful country and besides even if we could, we would be adding to the same problem of violence we are trying to ameliorate. No, what we have to do is to be a voice against this continual war mongering when we see it building up and before it turns into a hot conflict.  Our main weapon is our news and current affairs capacity, publicized through podcasts and youtube. 

We decry the showing of extreemist content on social media but social media which spreads podcasts and youtube items is just a tool.  Let's use it to our advantage.

Here in New Zealand we punch above our weight and have a considerable reputation for fairness.  In part this was earned by our stand against atomic weapons and atomic powered military ships in our waters.  We took-on the same world power that is warring against the brown people of the world despite the economic hardship that it caused us. We are also known as the first country that gave suffrage to women.

At this time we have gained huge credibility by the actions and words of Jacinda following this abysmal senseless act of terrorism on our soil.

At present (March 2019) we see this powerful country up to the same old same old tricks.  In case you think this is something new under Trump, read this. The USA has done this to almost every Latin American country in Central and South America and is now doing it to Venezuela.  She has also done this in many other countries around the world and I understand that she operates a "school" where she teaches locals from other countries how to overthrow their governments.

At present  she is also  carrying out a ghastly war in Yemen through her surrogate Saudi Arabia, creating  markets for her arms without any risk to her army.

America has put sanctions on Venezuela to stop anyone trading with her and  frozen her monetary assets in American banks.  Venezuela can not buy food and medicine overseas and the Americans are using the suffering that America itself has caused to stir up a population that doesn't realize what the source of their suffering is.

To add insult to injury the USA sent food aid to the border of Venezuela to make the administration either look incompetent (if she accepted the food aid) or evil (if she  refused to allow the aid in). In the past, America has used false flag operations again and again and this is just another variation on the theme.

What we need from our media is in depth articles on the history of such actions by America and how she is operating at present in Venezuela to try to head off yet another terrorist-creating, refugee-creating atrocity. Because of the way international media operates today, articles that are pod cast and are on youtube  are likely to reach the widest audiences through social media.  Shine light on what America is doing.  Their sort of crime withers under light.  A series of articles, building up from the history of such actions to the present day will have the greatest impact. A series like this builds an audience from item to item as it becomes popular.

In the aftermath of the killings in a New Zealand mosque, we are up in arms about the social media not taking down the video of the shooting more quickly.  Fair enough.  But the social media is just a tool.  Let's use it for good rather than evil.

Our National Radio is the tool we should be using.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


It would appear that we are going to have ever increasing flooding on into the future.  On land, rain is coming in more extreme bursts and, as warm air can hold more moisture than cold air,  in many locations there will be more total rain.

On the sea shore, the sea is rising and storms are becoming more intense so higher storm surges will be added to an ever higher sea level.  Areas that were never flooded before will be..

In addition we are seeing a further effect of climate change.  Weather systems are sometimes getting stalled over certain geographical areas instead of continually moving around the globe.  If this is a 'ridge' you are likely to have prolonged drought.  If it is a 'trough', you are likely to have prolonged rain.  We saw this in Townsville in Australia (beginning of Feb, 2019) where they had almost 400mm of rain on each of 4 consecutive days.  I can't even imagine that much rain.

So what are we to do.  We can build up levees to hold rivers in their beds and build walls to keep out the sea but just look at the cost.  And with an ever increasing problem, any such solution will be overcome in the future.  There is a far better and less expensive solution.

In areas that get flooded, the insurance companies should be held to account by the government and forced to honor their commitments.  We saw in the Christchurch earthquake how reluctant insurance companies are to pay up and how they delay any way they can.  In addition to the insurance the government should top up the pot so that the victims are generously compensated but that is it.  The area is then zoned as un-insurable.  The people can stay if they want but they have had their one time pay out.  If they get flooded again, (and if it happened once, it will only be worse in some future event), they are on their own.  They had the option to take the money and move to higher ground.  If they didn't take it, too bad.

Of course, any area that is flood prone but hasn't yet been built on (if there are any such) should be declared un-insurable for floods and no buildings ever allowed on them.

This is a far less expensive option than trying to hold back the floods and the tide.

Better still, the expense is spread over time rather then local and fedral authorities having to come up with huge tranches of money to do major civil engineering works that will be obsolete sooner rather than later.

So what about the land that remains empty.  If it is on a river flood plain (where we never should have built in the first place), it can be used for agriculture, turned into a park or left to regenerate native vegetation.  Incidentally, allowing a river to spread over it's flood plain, reduced the height of the flood downstream and so protects other properties.  This is even more effective if the area is well vegetated with shrubs and trees.

Alternately, shore areas can become nature reserves. Sea shore areas, if vegetated, will tend to collect silt and build up over time, aiding in the defense of landward properties.  On the sea shore, salt tolerant plants can be introduced.  They hold the soil, reduce wave damage and moderate the force of subsequent storms.  They can become mud flats with all the benefits this brings to the bird life of the area.

It doesn't seem likely that we will take the necessary measures to reduce our carbon output to the atmosphere.  In fact, following a few years of steady output, in 2018 we actually increased Carbon dioxide production once again.  This in spite of more and more renewable energy coming on line and ever increased efficiency in lighting our streets and buildings and powering our machinery.

We are so clever individually but so abysmally stupid in the collective.  Let's at least be sensible in reducing the cost of flooding and spreading it over a longer period.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Nano-Aluminum-New Energy Source

Sorry, but it is complete BS - at least the way it's being presented.  I'm not saying that there is no place for nano-Aluminum in the pantheon of energy systems but not as implied.

I get this investment advice site on the web and they are promoting nano-aluminum as the energy source that will soon be found powering virtually everything in our modern society.  They don't say it in so many words but leave the impression that nano-Aluminum - very small particles of Aluminum, is a catalyst which causes water to disintegrate into it's component parts, Hydrogen and oxygen, and that it does this at room temperature.  Either they are ignorant of the most basic chemistry and physics or they are trying to play the market so that they can make a buck on it's ups and downs.  Let's start by looking at what it would mean if Nano-Aluminum was such a catalyst.

As anyone who has taken first year chemistry in High School or even basic science in year 9 knows, a catalyst does not take part in a reaction.  Rather, it enables a reaction to proceed and quite often at lower temperatures than would be necessary without the catalyst.  In some cases the reaction would not occur at all without the catalyst.  So let's pretend, for a moment, that nano-Aluminum is such a catalyst.  What would bubble off.

You are probably way ahead of me.  We would have bubbles of the perfect stoichiometry* mix of Hydrogen and Oxygen  in the exact proportions to convert back to water with one mother of a bang with the slightest spark. And you certainly wouldn't want to try to compress this mixture into a high pressure tank!!!  Let's look at the claim that this is a source of energy.  Clearly the reaction would be endothermic.  It takes energy to split water and if this reaction took place at room temperature, the reaction vessel would cool down, creating a 'delta T' (temperature difference).  Heat from the environment would move toward the cool reaction vessel and continue the reaction.

*Reagents in proportion so that when they react, none of the reagent is left over. All of it reacts.

Of course you could add heat from, say, solar panels, to speed up the reaction but my investment-advice-web-site is presenting this as a source of energy.  Mind you it would be pretty neat and you would have found a way of absorbing surrounding low level heat energy and converting it into a high energy mix of H and O. 

What the reaction between nano Aluminium and water actually produces , is pure hydrogen which can be used in a fuel cell which  by the by, also work at room temperature. What is actually happening here chemically.

The Aluminum is pulling the oxygen off the water, forming Aluminum oxide and in the aqueous environment of the reaction, probably Aluminum Hydroxide and releasing the Hydrogen.  Nano Aluminum is not a catalyst but a reagent which is taking part in the reaction and is used up.  So let's look at how we got our Nano Aluminium in the first place and particularly how much energy went into the process..

First you ship the Aluminum ore, Bauxite, from where it is mined to somewhere that has abundant electricity.  First energy cost.  Aluminum is a tri-valent element.  That means for every atom of Aluminum released from the Bauxite, three electrons are needed. Second energy cost. It is an electrically hungry process but this is not all.  The process takes place in molten reagents.  You have to heat up the Bauxite and other reagents to 1000 degrees centigrade.  No matter how well insulated your reaction vessel, it looses heat and energy must be constantly added to keep the temperature up. Third energy cost.  Then you have to ship the ingots of Aluminum to where they are turned into nano-Aluminum. Fourth energy cost.  And finally it takes energy to convert a block of Aluminum into nano Aluminum. Fifth Energy cost.  We could add one more.  The energy cost of shipping the nano-aluminium to where it is to be used.

But this is all moot.  In fact, as noted above, the Aluminium is not a catalyst.  If it was a catalyst, all the above energy costs would be worthwhile since the Aluminum would remain for a very long time or perhaps forever without being used up and you would have a continual source of hydrogen (mixed with Oxygen)

The Aluminum pulls the oxygen off the water making Aluminum Oxide (Bauxite basically) which probably converts to Aluminum Hydroxide in the watery environment of the reaction.  The Hydrogen is released.  The hydrogen can then be used in a fuel cell.  You can never get more energy that the amount that actually split the bauxite in the first place and actually there are inefficiencies in this process.  AND....You certainly do not recover the other 5 energy inputs listed above.  So you have used a lot of energy to get a relatively small amount at the location where you want to use the energy.

At the very most, the use of nano-Aluminium is a sort of battery or if you like an energy storage device and not a very efficient one and one at that.  It is not chargeable.  In that sense it is comparable with the old Zinc batteries.  Of course you also need a fuel cell as part of the package in order to produce electricity.  At the most, nano-Aluminium could serve as an emergency source of electricity in a pretty safe and compact form for specialist applications where it is worthwhile to go to the expense of the whole process.    It is not a source of energy but at best an energy storage mechanism which could use wind, hydro or solar to product it in the first place and not very efficiently when you consider the total energy input and the final energy output.

It might, for instance, be used for the military in remote areas.  Getting their fossil fuel to their tanks, trucks and generators is not only expensive but highly dangerous.