Posts Tagged environment

New light bulbs – climate savers?

Posted by on Sunday, 30 November, 2014
The light bulb that will save us

The light bulb that will save us


Lights use up about a quarter of our electricity; they emit about 10% of all greenhouse gases. Newer LED bulbs, which are gradually replacing incandescents. use way less energy –  about 90% less.

If we replace everything with LEDs, we reduce greenhouse gasses significantly.

President Obama reached a deal with China that’s supposed to start lowering the actual level of greenhouse gases by 2030. New kinds of light bulbs are one way to get those levels down.

Are LED bulbs the best we can do?

You’re not going to believe this but Norihiro Shimoi. from Tohoku, University, has been showing around a new kind of light bulb that makes LED bulbs look like energy pigs. He and his team have a light that’s made from flat nanotube panels. It uses about a tenth the amount of energy as LEDs.

That’s right. a tenth of the energy of LED lights. A hundredth as much as incandescent lights.

The Shimoi light consists of ultra miniaturized nanotube diodes with phosphor screens. Not only are they ridiculously efficient, they can be made with a very low defect rate so they might turn out to be practical to manufacture. Mister ScienceAintSoBad doesn’t know how soon these things can show up on the shelves at competitive prices. For now, it’s all science, no impact.

I’ll keep one eye on these for me and the other for you.

ScienceAintSoBad Rating = FT for Fascinating and Too early to say.

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The drawing is mine.

High rise buildings of wood???

Posted by on Monday, 19 May, 2014
Cartoon about wooden skyscrapers

HIgher and higher with wood


The tallest building in the world is in Dubai. 163 stories plus another 46 in the spire. There’s more underground too. That’s where the parking is.

Was that thing built with two by fours?

What do you think?  Of course not. Nobody builds high rise buildings out of wood. That was concrete and steel. In fact, the engineers had to figure out new ways to get the concrete up that high – special heavy duty concrete pumps, the most powerful ever made.

It’s too bad that tall buldings can’t be made of wood. It’s a renewable resource, right? Wood buildings are cheaper to heat, cheaper to cool, and have a good “carbon footprint”. They also do better in a fire. Heavy wood structural members can burn but they don’t fold up suddenly like steel. They last longer BECAUSE they burn (instead of turning to jelly when heated). Burning – at least for heavy timbers – is slow.  If you’ve got a fireplace, you know what I’m talking about. A great big log can burn all night.You don’t WANT your nice building to catch on fire but – You know what? – If it ever does, you SURE don’t want it to collapse before you make it down the fire stairs. Another advantage of wood: wood buildings go together easier. The beams and columns are easier to lift and easier to fasten. You can even use nails and screws.

Well could that big building in Dubai have been made of wood? Wood has advantages but steel is stronger. Getting WAY up in the sky like that pushes everything to the limit. If you insist on a 200 story vanity tower, wood’s probably not a good choice. But could more modest high rise buildings be built of wood? What are the possibilities?

Tom Vilsak, US Secreatry of Agriculture wants to see more wood construction. His agency has put up a million dollars for the best designs of high rise buildings from wood.

Wood designs that reach for the stars.


Vilsak’s feels that new uses for wood and hybrid structural products of wood and other materials could put the US out front in new industries. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are already employed making wood products. A new market for wood would expand opportunities even more.

A radio tower of wood

387 foot radio tower in Poland

Building high in wood isn’t a new idea. Some very high structures have been around for years.  There’s a 387 foot all wood radio tower in  Gliwice, Poland that was built in 1935. As for new stuff, current plans include a 34 story wooden building for Stockholm, Sweden, and a 30 story tower for Vancouver.

This new USDA initiative should encourage more.

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The cartoon is mine. The photo of the wooden radio tower is courtesy of Wikipedia.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Posted by on Saturday, 22 January, 2011



There’s more plastic floating in the ocean then plankton.

More than seaweed.

Take all the dumb ideas in the world, put ‘em on a scale and weigh them. Well there’s more plastic floating in the oceans than THAT.

Actually, they ARE oceans of plastic.

A little water here and there.

We’re doomed!

Aren’t we?


Not this week.

Professor Angelicque White (Oregon State University)  navigated around the oceans on a National Science Foundation funded study, surveying the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. After analyzing the data that was collected, as well as digging through the accumulating and sometimes over-the-top literature on the subject of humans strangling in oceans of plastic, the professor concluded “huh?”

Well, she didn’t actually, say “huh”. But, for sure, she thought it.

Because  we’re NOT actually strangling in plastic. There ISN’T more plastic than plankton. There’s STILL room for a row boat or two amongst the orange running shoes and plastic toys that are tossing around on the crests of the waves.


Dr. White’s not HAPPY with all the crapola in the oceans of the only planet we inhabit. It’s bad enough.

Plenty bad.

A scandal.

But, she says, the increase isn’t “exponential” and, in fact, if you take the worst of the worst estimates of the amount of plastic it’s STILL less than the size of the state of Texas.


And it really hasn’t increased since the 1980’s. So we might be doing better. Unless, of course, it’s just sinking to the bottom.

Anyway, Dr. White’s not making light of the problem. (nor, hopefully, is MISTER ScienceAintSoBad ). Dr White’s point is that it’s bad enough without exaggerating it to the point that nobody believes a durn thing you say.


Credit for above photo: This is Alvin and her support ship Atlantis and the photo is from the NOAA photo library.


Posted by on Tuesday, 23 November, 2010



Mister ScienceAintSoBad loves resuseable grocery bags. They’re just nice. They have logos. They don’t fall apart. You can haul yer pet to the groomer in one. And they’re good for the environment, right?

What if they’re not good for the environment? Does that mean the concept of reusable bags blows up?

Before I go on, I should say I hope I’m not trying to be mean. I don’t LIKE discouraging people who are trying to do good but I signed up for science and technology.

My job.

So – the facts.

Let’s start with a widely read journalist who specializes in this stuff, Bob Lillienfield (Use Less Stuff report), who says that even if EVERYBODY used reusable bags, it wouldn’t much matter:

The bag is not the environmental bogey-person that everybody thinks it is,” he says. “If you look at the entire grocery package that you bought, the bag may account for 1 to 2 percent of the environmental impact.

1 or 2 percent? And, maybe 12% of shoppers use ’em? Gee. Let’s look a little deeper into this environmental miracle.

How long do they last?

Maybe MISTER ScienceAintSoBad’s not as careful as he should be but reusable bags seem to wear out  in as little as 15 uses (holes in the bottom) and since the bags are much heavier and fatter than regular plastic bags, they take more space in a landfill and more space in the trucks that carry them (which then  use more fuel per bag). They’re designed to be degradable and that could be a good thing. But we know that even paper bags don’t degrade significantly faster than their plastic cousins in a landfill. Not enough info on reusable bags yet but MISTER ScienceAintSoBad isn’t real optimistic about them, either.

Then there’s food poisoning.

Which only happens if you let yer bags get nasty.

By reusing them.

Karen Hawthorne (National Post) says we should wash ’em with bleach each time to minimize the chances of getting sick. She describes a study by Sporometrics in Canada. Most of the bags were contaminated. Some were pretty bad.

Wash them? Bleach? EACH time? Electricity, detergent, and bleach? HOW much energy did you say these bags save?

And what about your time? That’s worth nothing?


These bags’re good for all kinds of things. But, if you’re motivated by environmental concerns, they’re a bust.


You’re mad at me?

I’m not surprised.

My wife, best friend and, (she’ll be surprised to learn) editor, hasn’t let me run with my religion article yet. She says I gotta tone it down. Too edgy. Easily misinterpreted. Which really surprises me since it’s very supportive of religious belief and believers (it says, mainly,  that the clash between science and religion is overplayed and overly simplistic).

Well, if you think religion is a touchy area, how about environmentalism?

Screw with those guys and out come the tar pots!

I know it isn’t nice to diss the sacred renewable bag and MISTER ScienceAinSoBad wishes he could be more positive.

You want to register your opinion, here’s a good resource for tar. Feathers are available lots of places, but you can try this one.

Our rating for reusable shopping bags: ScienceAintSoBadRating = 2

(And  that’s generous).