Linking nuclear power and terrorism is like linking soap with chemical weapons; just stop it!

Nobody opposes the soap industry because it may lead to chemical weapons. Nobody opposes vaccination because it may lead to biological warfare ... well almost nobody! Nobody opposes shipping because it might lead to aircraft carriers and other naval weapons of war. Nobody opposes the making of knives because it may lead to machetes and genocide. But all sorts of otherwise sensible people seem to see a deep and meaningful connection between nuclear power and atomic bombs or atomic terrorism. I could name names, Greens, ALP, various friends, acquaintances, relatives ... even a former time-slice of myself. Yes, believed this myself for more than half of my life; mea culpa. We can all believe

Kirk Smith, the world loses a rational and compassionate person

Kirk Smith died on the 15th of June of a heart attack and stroke. The stream of emails I'd been getting from him since 2008 had gone quiet ... but it wasn't till June 24th that I saw a NYT obituary and realised he was gone. The world has lost a scientist of extraordinary depth and compassion. I came across Kirk Smith's work in 2008 ... about 4 years after I realised that climate change was a very big deal. I'd made a submission to Ross Garnaut's Emission Trading Scheme review along with Peter Singer and Barry Brook. We had realised that the way methane was treated in National Inventories had no physical basis and energy economist Hugh Saddler had emailed me that Kirk Smith (who had two Prof

Hydrogen ... hype or heaven?

You can burn hydrogen and it contains more energy per kilogram than petrol. That makes it sound terrific, but a cubic metre of hydrogen at normal atmospheric pressure only weighs 82 grams ... so a kilogram of the stuff occupies some 12 cubic metres! The other issue with hydrogen is that there isn't any. As a gas, hydrogen is rare. But, as a part of other molecules, it is common. So if you want it, you have to break up those molecules, which takes energy. And then you have to compress it, which also takes energy. Which means that the usefulness of hydrogen as a source of energy is like anything else; it depends on the efficiency of a variety of processes. Most people rightly regard it as an

Covid-19 in slaughterhouses?

The New York Times at the moment has a daily table of Covid-19 cases and deaths in every US state. Here's the top five today (June 19th) ... sorted in descending order of the rate of cases per 100,000 people. New York is top with 2,008 cases per 100,000. But what about slaughterhouses? What if they were a state, or city? Back in May ... at the very beginning of May ... the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) published a survey showing that the 130,000 workers at slaughterhouses in the US had almost 5,000 covid-19 cases. Do the math, this is almost double the rate of New York state. But what about New York City? It has a much higher case rate than the state. Dig a little and you'll find it h

Ruminants belching and LNG leaks; a really big deal

It's always confusing when people use different names for the same thing. Natural gas is burned for warmth and to generate electricity after being pumped from underground where it is generated by various processes. It is almost entirely methane ... but it typically contains traces of other gases. Methane is CH4 ... a carbon hooked up to four hydrogens. So when people talk about the hydrogen economy they are talking about a gas that is almost always generated by busting up natural gas. Hydrogen is also famously part of H2O ... water. But splitting water happens to be more expensive than splitting methane. The quadruple stomachs of a cow or goat are also fine places to generate natural gas

Bolt's confounding problems

The Advertiser today featured Tory Shepherd at the top of the page taking on racists pretending to be protectors of free speech and Andrew Bolt at the bottom. My hyperlink is to a slightly edited Herald Sun version of the same story, you'll have to subscribe if you want the 'Tiser version. Shepherd points out that when a down trodden group wants justice, those at the top defend all manner of bad behaviour by appealing to the right to free speech. Bolt is in her sights, but he's a little different. He tries using numbers to smear aboriginal people and culture. During the last couple of weeks, everybody has heard about 434 aboriginal deaths in custody over the past 30 years. Bolt rightly poi

Batteries, bottlenecks and myopic choices

The image above comes from the Visual Capitalist website in December 2019 ... just before Covid-19 burst upon the scene and borrowed the topic of global supply chains from the board rooms of large corporations and stuffed it down our collective throats. I've only produced a small part of the graphic, the complete image spreads over multiple screens and is a warning to US battery makers that they are totally dependent on China. As Covid-19 tightened its metaphorical grip, we found the same thing with pharmaceuticals and PPE; who remembers when those initials meant point-to-point encryption ... or nothing at all? So, it's not surprising that when a friend recently asked my opinion on a possibl

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