9:31 am - Sun, Apr 13, 2014

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the challenges of carbon sequestration is the need to deal with large quantities of carbon dioxide, which under normal conditions is a pretty stable molecule. 

The US Navy claims to have developed a process for extracting carbon dioxide from seawater, and converting it to hydrocarbon fuel. For the Navy itself, this would mean that, for instance, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier could make the fuel for its airplanes, rather than having to carry a separate supply of jet fuel. 

The implications for the civilian energy industry are less clear. The announcement has sparked lots of excitement, but doesn’t say much about the energy efficiency of the process. The energy to break all those carbon-oxygen bonds has to come from somewhere, and not all of it is going to be recovered when the fuel is burned. 

That raises two questions. The first is cost. The Navy estimates that fuel produced this way will be cost-competitive with conventional fuels, but they haven’t actually scaled up to the point where they can fly a full-sized airplane, much less compete in the civilian transportation market. 

The second question is carbon-neutrality. The fuel itself is carbon-neutral: carbon extracted from seawater came from the atmosphere to begin with, so burning it doesn’t add any more carbon to the system. But you still have to consider the energy used to drive the reactor. If it comes from a carrier’s nuclear power plant, that’s great, but if it comes from coal — as 20% of US energy does — I’m not sure you’ve really gained anything compared to conventional oil or natural gas. 

3:53 pm - Wed, Apr 9, 2014
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Just in time for summer.

Researchers at the University of Porto have found that marinating in beer, especially dark beer, reduces the concentration of potentially carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in grilled meat. Anyone want to share their favorite Guinness marinade?

3:03 pm - Fri, Mar 28, 2014

So this is why Google is interested in what D-Wave is doing. In theory, a quantum implementation of PageRank would scale to very large indexes (like the web) more efficiently than a classical implementation.

(Warning: Here there be dragons. This is a very dense, difficult paper.)

4:25 pm - Thu, Mar 27, 2014
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Wayback Machine to the Rescue

I’m working on an article on quantum computing for Semiconductor Engineering. As part of the research, I dug up my copy of an article on the subject for the now-defunct Semiconductor Magazine. Even though it was written in 2001, the article has held up pretty well. But, as I said, the magazine is no more and an article on my own hard drive is kind of inconvenient to link to. 

That’s when I remembered the Internet Archive, which has taken upon itself the Sisyphean task of archiving the internet. Yes, all of it. I thought it was a long shot, but, hey, it’s worth a try…

And success! Article recovered without much difficulty — it helped that I did have the original URL and the publication date — and grateful donation to the Archive sent. Very cool. 

2:07 pm - Fri, Mar 21, 2014
1 note
Even if a black hole capable of swallowing a plane out of the sky did exist, Peter Michelson, a professor of physics and Stanford University added, “a lot of other things would be missing as well.” when asked for examples of what we’d notice missing, Michelson said, “probably the Earth.”
2:44 pm - Wed, Mar 12, 2014

Maybe I would use slightly less colorful language. However, the mishap at TSMC is a reminder of just how much juice EUV sources require. Source designers are talking about ultimately needing things like 40 kW drive lasers. That’s a lot of hole-drilling potential.

2:32 pm

Semiconductors run on research

I’m a little behind on the news lately, so I only just noticed this. Apparently the latest IC Insights ranking has TSMC as the industry’s #6 R&D investor. That puts it behind, among others, two fabless companies — Qualcomm and Broadcom — but it’s still the only pure-play foundry to crack the top 10. Intel, meanwhile, maintains its stranglehold on the top spot, spending more than the next four companies combined. 

2:50 pm - Thu, Feb 27, 2014

Nice little video tour of the US Naval Observatory, which keeps the official reference time for the United States.

4:01 pm - Wed, Feb 26, 2014

Crowdfunding journalism

Since the emergence of tools like Kickstarter, allowing people to get backers for their projects without necessarily tapping into traditional venture funding sources, I’ve been wondering if crowdfunding might be an answer to the internet-era problem of how to fund journalism. 

In a nutshell, the problem is that serious, in-depth reportage is time-consuming and expensive to do. In print, that was okay. Being the Paper of Record made you a must-read, allowing you to sell lots of advertising, and it didn’t really matter whether people were reading the heavy think piece about Middle Eastern politics or the light fluff about fashionable canines. On the internet, though, we suddenly learned that lots of people read about fashionable canines, not as many people read about Middle Eastern politics, and nobody reads the ads. Ad sales plummeted, and it is becoming more and more difficult to actually pay people to take the time to do serious reporting. 

But what if the people who care about journalism can pay for it directly? They know what they’re getting, and they can get it without being buried in advertising. And the reporters can report without worrying too much about how many clicks each article gets. Can that work? 

The team at Climate Confidential is trying to answer that question, seeking subscribers for a new venture dedicated to cleantech and other environment-focused technologies. It’s an interesting project and I wish them well. 

9:27 pm - Tue, Feb 25, 2014

The Atlantic has a good overview of California water politics. Californians will definitely want to have a look, and it’s interesting enough to be worthwhile for everyone else, too. 

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