Textbook Tour

Energy Ambitions textbook coverLast week, in the first Do the Math post in years, I kept the post brief, only pointing out the new textbook: Energy and Human Ambitions on a Finite Planet, and giving a brief account of the backstory.

In this post, I take a bit more time to introduce new elements in the book that Do the Math readers have not seen represented in some form in earlier posts. In other words: what new insights or calculations lurk within the book?

The following is organized into three sections. The first takes a brief tour of the book, pointing out large, new blocks that are not already covered by Do the Math in some form. The second highlights the results of new calculations or figures that bring new context to our understanding. Finally, I summarize some of the new big-picture framing that emerges in the book.

Rather than laboriously inserting associated graphics into this post, my intent is that you treat this as a companion to be used side-by-side with the downloadable PDF of the book.  References are to sections, figures, boxes, etc. rather than page numbers, which vary between electronic and print forms. So go ahead and get a version of the PDF up, and let’s jump in…

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Textbook Debut

Energy Ambitions textbook coverHello, all, and welcome (me) back! After years of radio silence, I am popping back up and have more to say in the coming months as I re-engage on topics relevant to this blog.

The first thing is to announce the launch of a textbook at eScholarship that is free to access electronically (can download PDF), or is available in paperback form for the cost of printing (royalty-free; at Lulu). Over the years, I received a number of encouragements to write a book collecting the ideas and analysis from Do the Math posts. I appreciated the sentiment, but given the substantial effort required to produce something that was already available for free on this site never rose to a high priority in the competition for limited time.

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Eclipsed, Lately

HDR composite of eclipse (Tom Murphy)In the event that anyone still checks this site for new posts (not sure whether to be proud or concerned), here’s an update. But mostly it’s a pointer to some photos I think some may enjoy.

While I remain concerned about the collision course between growth and resources, I have found ample distraction these past few years: research, teaching, administrative duties, bike commuting, and starting a company to make aircraft detectors. Oh, and politics. What a spectacle!

Speaking of spectacles, ever since traveling to Mexico in 1991 to see my first total solar eclipse, I’ve wanted another one. Just afterwards, a consultation of upcoming events suggested that the next one I was likely to see would have me waiting until 2017! As a 21-year-old, I wondered if I would even still be alive in that distant year, inconceivably old. I made it. And what was I thinking—old?!

So after much anticipation and preparation, I traveled north with a college friend, remote-camping/mobile and ready to pounce on the best weather prospects. We ended up in far eastern Oregon, on BLM (our) land. The experience was amazing: I automated my cameras so that I could largely just gawk. It was all too short: I needed a pause button to really take it all in. I’ll have to settle for future eclipses. And to that, I say Mexico (not the U.S.) in 2024—based on likely weather. Besides, it’s unclear whether the eclipse shadow will be able to get past the wall we keep hearing so much yakking about.

But you can see highlights of my photos from the recent glorious event here.

In other news, my Nickel-Iron batteries seem to be holding up well (I owe a post on some real analysis of these). I am “living the dream” in my daily commute. After 12 years off a bike (obvious routes are dangerous; hilly profile would require time-inefficient shower), I finally solved the problems: (longer) trail route and an e-bike (off-grid-solar-charged). Purists would say I’m cheating, but I say I’m back on a bike and working plenty hard. The rough-hewn route exposes me to wildlife (the occasional coyote or bobcat, even), has a few stream crossings, and enriches my life by offering a daily connection to the natural world. My propulsion energy is now free of direct contributions from fossil fuels, which I find to be rewarding—even if the materials/manufacture are still utterly dependent.

So that’s it for now. I haven’t given up on Do the Math, but have not had much new to say, and little available time in any case. I hope all is well with you all.

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Global Perspective

For some light summer amusement, I thought I would share a map I made a while back to satisfy my curiosity. I’ve had the plot in my office for several years and occasionally think to pull it out for visitors I suspect will enjoy it. I usually just hand it to them and let them puzzle over its meaning before I explain anything. It’s not meant to be an IQ test—although doubtless some feel that way—but rather a chance to delight in self discovery. I “discovered” the 7-24-25 Pythagorean triangle the other day quite by accident while constructing a relativity problem and was delighted by the find—even though Wikipedia has an exhaustive list of other sets wholly unknown to me. Likewise, I “discovered” Saturn as a 15-year-old on a summer night with a small telescope just poking around an unfamiliar sky. I danced around the yard in delight. My point is that discovery is personal, even if not original.

So here’s a chance to discover what the map is meant to convey. I’ll naturally explain later.

wmap-0

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Okay: Three Question Survey for DtM Readers

I should have done it right the first time.  I now realize that I’m hungry for a tiny bit more information in relation to personality type.  I have had almost 500 responses to the previous query (see previous post, below).  The results are fascinating.  I have added two quick questions that will give me a fair bit of insight into some key systematic issues.

Even if you have answered the poll already, I would appreciate a quick moment of your time to answer two additional questions (click here).  It requires very little time: especially if you responded to the first survey request.

If you did not respond to the first survey, please do this one.

Instructions appear on the survey page for how to determine your Myers-Briggs type, if you do not already know it.  Thanks for your patience, and look for a post in mid-April with the jaw-dropping results.

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One-question Survey for DtM Readers

I have a new post written up, but thought that before I release it I should get some delicious new data.

To that end, please take this single-question bare-bones survey (link decommissioned; see this post) about your personality type.  There are sixteen choices in a drop-down menu according to the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator.  If you do not already know your type, you can find free online versions.  While I have no particular affinity for this specific one, it may be good for the sake of uniformity that you go take this one.  It’s 72 yes/no questions (should take 5–10 minutes).

Just remember to be honest and answer for the person you are, rather than the person you may aspire to be (if different).

And don’t forget in your excitement to indicate the outcome on my lighting-fast survey (link decommissioned; new survey here).

I’ll let you know what it’s all about shortly.

 

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Peak What?

[An updated treatment of some of this material appears in Chapter 8 of the Energy and Human Ambitions on a Finite Planet (free) textbook.]

separating U.S. influence on global oil production

(you’ll see larger later)

I’ve been maintaining “radio silence” for a while—mostly on account of an overflowing plate and several new new hats I wear. All the while, I have received a steady stream of e-mail thanking me for Do the Math, asking if I’m still alive, and if so: what do I make of the changing oil situation? Do I still think peak oil is a thing?

Let’s start with the big picture view.

I was wrong about everything. Oil is not a finite resource: never was and never will be. We will employ new technologies and innovate our way into essentially perpetual fossil energy. We’ve only scratched the surface in exploration: there are giant deposits (countless new Saudi-Arabia-scale fields) yet to be discovered). The shale oil tells us so—and it won’t stop there. Shale first, then slate, marble, granite: just squeeze the frack out of rocks and we’ll get oil. Meanwhile, whole new continents are being discovered, rich with resources. The most recent was hiding behind Australia. And naturally it doesn’t stop there. We have now discovered thousands of planets just a hop away, most of which are likely to contain fossil fuels of their own. So game over for the resource limits crowd, yeah?

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Prolonged Absence

The cessation of regular blog posts has prompted a number of folks to ask if I still live and breathe. Several reasons contribute to the silence. Primarily, most of what I set out to do and say on Do the Math has been covered. How many times can I calculate total tidal power available? I’ve expressed views on our precarious trajectory with respect to finite resources, touched on the psychology of major change and sacrifice, and shared personal explorations in reducing energy/resource footprints at home. While some of this continues (look for a post on nickel-iron batteries soon), for the most part it’s already all there.

The second factor is that the research, education, and administration components of my life (i.e., my job) are demanding significant attention. This has generally been true all along, but the administrative burden has skyrocketed of late due to my role as vice chair of the physics department at UCSD since July 2013. Perhaps as I climb up the learning curve, I’ll find more “hobby” time in the months ahead.

While I am sharing personal news, two things of note: 1) My efforts to write and speak about energy and resource use to a broad audience has resulted in UCSD awarding me the Outstanding Faculty Sustainability Award for 2014. This despite the fact that I don’t know what sustainability means (suspecting that none of us really do), and that very little of my efforts have been directed at the UCSD campus.  All the same, I am as pleased as I am surprised by the recognition.  2) While not related to Do the Math, I encourage you to check out this stunning photo taken by Dan Long capturing our recent laser ranging efforts during the April 15 lunar eclipse.  This is a real photo, taken through a C-11 telescope with a focal reducer (700 mm, f/2)—the outgoing laser beam has not been artificially superimposed. Normally it is really difficult to get a picture of our faint beam heading toward the Moon, because the Moon is so glaringly bright. The eclipse provided a great photo-op, and also a means to test the hypothesis of dusty reflectors. To me, this shot is just gorgeous. But I have more invested in it than the average Joe: this picture serves as a visual representation of a key focus in my life over the last 14 years—so of course I’m enamored.

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