Climate change

Report on advanced nanotechnology
(先进的纳米技术报告)

October 28, 2013

A recently released report on atomically precise manufacturing, NANO: Nano-Solutions for the 21st Century, is now available via the Oxford Martin School, in conjunction with the Research Center for Sustainable Development of the China Academy of Social Sciences. The report (105 pages) discusses the status and prospects for APM enabling technologies together with a range […]

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Transforming the Material Basis of Civilization
(TEDx talk, take #2)

August 30, 2013

Here’s take #2 of my recent Lisbon TEDx talk. The earlier post linked a version of the talk (take #1, morning) in which the slides often wouldn’t advance and got skipped; I now have the video of the noon redo with debugged visuals: If you’ve linked to the earlier version, please update. If not, then […]

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Must-read papers for anyone
who practices, manages, or thinks
about systems engineering

June 6, 2013

Larger pipes, smaller motors, surprising improvements While in Baku, I met with Amory Lovins, a remarkable physicist / engineer / policy analyst who has changed the world’s understanding of energy systems, how they work, and how they can be radically improved. Amory’s decades of experience and thought have led to deep insights regarding not only […]

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Mining the seabed
for resources that won’t be scarce

May 21, 2013

The BBC describes an unprecedented surge of interest from state-owned and private mining companies in scraping the Pacific seabed to recover manganese nodules, mineral-rich lumps that grow at rates on the order of 1 cm per million years: Millions of years in the making The chemical composition of nodules varies… Those of greatest economic interest […]

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Standard deviations in climate change

August 14, 2012

I found this data graphic entirely too interesting: The graphic comes from The Economist, and is based on last week’s PNAS paper by James Hanson et al. (open access). These observed, accelerating increases in the mean and variance of global temperatures are data, not theory. See also: Greenhouse Gases and Advanced Nanotechnology

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My next book: Radical Abundance, 2013

July 21, 2011

I’m now working on a new book, Radical Abundance, scheduled for publication in 2013 by PublicAffairs. The book has a wide scope in both its content and intended audience, addressing scientists, a general reading audience, and thought leaders in the policy arena. Radical Abundance will integrate and extend several themes that I’ve touched on in […]

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Tsunami disasters
and the cost of making things

March 11, 2011

When I wake up to news of a coast smashed by a tsunami, I see yet another sign of our relative material poverty, a sign that our civilization hasn’t yet mastered the art of making things. Japan, by modern standards, is rich, yet costs deterred the construction of deployable barriers able to resist fast-rising sea*. […]

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Arctic sea ice yesterday

July 3, 2010

In 2007, the area of Arctic sea ice reached a record low. By comparison, here’s the current story:    National Snow and Ice Data Center Looks low by about 4 standard deviations. (Yes, too much geophysics & climate…)

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Reshaping airframes & expectations

May 17, 2010

Opportunity Like most people with a conservative engineering mindset, I usually assume that major commercial technologies are designed to work reasonably close to the limits of current fabrication technologies (currently practical materials, subsystem performance, etc.). Then something like this comes along: …an MIT-led team has designed a green airplane that is estimated to use 70 […]

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Space data lost to whale-oil shortage

March 26, 2010

New thermal map of Asia Nimbus II, 23 Sept 1966 The satellite soared over Earth in a polar orbit every 108 minutes, taking pictures of cloud cover and measuring heat radiated from the planet’s surface, and creating a photo mosaic of the globe 43 years ago. The resulting image is the oldest and most detailed […]

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An Ecopragmatist Manifesto

October 24, 2009

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto This week, with the help of Viking Press, Stewart Brand has offered the world an important book on the collision between humanity and the Earth’s limits — on the facts, the problems, the passions, the politics, and the realistic possibilities for better outcomes. After Whole Earth Discipline appeared in […]

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Pyrite Nanomaterials for Solar Photovoltaics

March 13, 2009

Pyrite (a mineral crystal form) A new paper in the journal Environmental Science & Technology assesses the requirements for scaling solar photovoltaic systems to the terawatt levels needed to supply electric power on a global scale. The authors identify iron pyrite, FeS2, as an attractive but unconventional alternative: The raw materials for pyrite aren’t scarce, […]

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