All entries for May 2006

May 30, 2006

And we are done baby!!!

This morning, an amazing (for me) thing happened. I sat my last ever examination for my degree. This means that now all I have to do is wait for my marks to come back and turn up to graduation. See my exam post for how well I think they've gone, I can't be bothered to repeat that here. I'm now going to relax for a bit and then focus on Formula Student and other bits and bobs that I have lined up for the next few weeks, and generally try and enjoy life a little more. Next step as far as my degree goes is aquiring graduand status on June 22nd. Woo!

May 29, 2006

Test – are you Liberal or Conservative?

To find out which description fits you best (if you don't already know), or to fund out how deep your allegiance runs, take this test. I'm not at all surprised by my profile, except I expected to be more conservative than liberal on personal responsibility.





Your Political Profile:

Overall: 70% Conservative, 30% Liberal
Social Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal


Are you Liberal or Conservative?

This amused me greatly when I read it on Iain Dale's diary. I warn in advance that this post may contain comic generalisations that people who lack a sense of humour will get het up by, so if you're one of these people please don't read this entry and take a nice walk in the park instead. For the rest of you, I hope it brings a chuckle to you as it did me.

"History began some 12,000 years ago… Humans existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunter/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer & would go to the coast & live on fish & lobster in winter. The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer & the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization & together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into 2 distinct subgroups: Liberals & Conservatives. Once beer was discovered it required grain & that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early human ancestors were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed. Some men spent their days tracking & killing animals to B–B–Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as "the Conservative movement." Other men who were weaker & less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly B–B–Q's & doing the sewing, fetching & hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement. Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as 'girleymen.' Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy & group hugs & the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat & beer that conservatives provided. Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass. Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, & French food are standard liberal fare. Another interesting revolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood & group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't "fair" to make the pitcher also bat. Conservatives drink domestic beer. They eat red meat & still provide for their women. Conservatives are big–game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, military men, athletes & generally anyone who works productively outside government. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living. Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to "govern" the producers & decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America. They crept in after the Wild West was tame & created a business of trying to get MORE for nothing. Here ends today's lesson in world history. It should be noted that a Liberal will have an uncontrollable urge to respond to the above instead of simply laughing and forwarding it.


There's no news like bad news

It's occurred to me more of late that people don't tend to take an interest in a debate unless it's negative or they can contribute in a negative way. Most of my positive topical posts seem to attract very little, if any, comment, suggesting to me that the old saying that "there's no news like bad news" is true, and that people aren't interested in having a positive outlook, just trying to find something to moan about. The strange ways of human nature.

May 26, 2006

So what do the public think?

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5016136.stm

So, the results of the BBC "Electricity Calculator" are out. The idea was to put it to the public how they'd like to see their electricity generated by 2020. The conclusion was as follows:

*Reduce fossil fuels to 21% share (currently approx. 80%)

*Increase nuclear power to 28% share (currently approx. 17%)

*Increase renewables to 36% share (currently approx. 3%)

*Leave imports largely alone at approx 4% share

*Reduce demand by 10% by increasing insulation, installing more efficient appliances etc

So, what can we tell from this? Firstly, that the public appear to be not as anti–nuclear as we are often portrayed (read any "have your say" at the beeb and you find about 10 anti–nuclear for every 1 nuclear comment). Secondly, that the public appear to have massive support for renewables (68% supporting expansion), which would definitely be extremely tricky to integrate at this level of market share (apparently more than 60% of people wouldn't mind having a wind farm within 5km of their home, although I'm skeptical of this figure). Also, 54% of the public would be happy with new nuclear stations if it helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And lastly, that people appear to be very majorly concerned by CO2 emissions and fossil fuel depletion. Interesting stuff.

Personally, I can see nuclear expanding to this kind of market share, but I'll bet a lot of money on renewables not exceeding 15%, unless they build the 7.6GW tidal barrier accross the Severn, which would alone generate around 4% of the UK's energy. I reckon we'll see a move toward coal sequestration to take up the load, thus keeping fossil fuels at a larger percentage mix for longer without contributing to CO2 emissions. Reduced renewable growth to this end is not a cause for concern.


May 25, 2006

The future is coming

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5012638.stm

Following an announcement nearly a year ago that a site in France has been chosen for ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), the news came yesterday lunchtime that the go–ahead has been given for work to start. This represents a long term security for clean energy supply, and is the successor to the JET fusion reactor in Culham, Oxford. It is expected for work to begin in 2007 and for construction to take 8 years. If all goes to plan we should see a full scale demonstration reactor being set up by 2040, with commercial availability around 2050. About time I say. Sequestration of clean coal won't keep us going forever, and gas is fast running out. Other nuclear fission alternatives, such as fast breeder reactors or thorium reactors, aren't yet here either and would I suspect prove unpopular with the public, just as conventional fission is currently. I even doubt the inherently fail–safe pebble bed systems being developed and built in South Africa will prove acceptable to the NIMBY brigade.

For those who are unaware with the background, Fusion is a nuclear process involving the joining of small atoms as opposed to current nuclear technology based on fission, which splits large atoms into smaller ones. For anyone who wants the physics, it releases energy because atomic stability (measured in binding energy per nucleon) increases for small elements up to Iron, which is the most stable element in nuclear terms. Beyond this, binding energy per nucleon decreases (due to electrostatic repulsion from protons in the nucleus becoming more significant than the powerful but short–ranged strong nuclear force). Reactors on earth use two hydrogen isotopes (usually deuterium and tritium) to make a helium nucleus and a free neutron, which most of the energy goes to. The high speed neutron is then absorbed by a blanket around the reactor, and heats up. This can then be converted to steam and power extracted from turbines. Radioactive products from the reactor are only the helium atoms, which have a radioactive half–life of 10 minutes. In order to overcome the strong electrostatic repulsion of two protons, immense energy is required, and so temeratures in excess of 100 million degrees centigrade have to be reached, with up to 300 million degrees reached at JET. The process takes place in a vacuum, and obviously at these temperatures the material cannot come into contact with any non–reaction material so is magnetically confined. In any case, contact between the reaction material and the reactor walls (or any impurities in the vacuum) would result in massive temperature loss and bolts shooting through the reactor pressure vessel. Because the products have such a short half–life, and because any failure of the vacuum or magnetic confinement results in immediate massive temperature loss and therefore reaction ceasing, the process is inherently safe and there is no possibility of the reaction becoming unstoppable.

With regards to fuel availability, deuterium is readily extractable from water (which is not exactly in short supply), and enough deuterium exists in 500 litres of seawater to supply a person's electricity needs for a lifetime. One kilogram of fuel for a fusion reactor has the same energy content as 10,000 tonnes of fossil fuel.

So basically, the future of energy supply draws ever closer. Watch this space!


May 24, 2006

An entry for Rachel

This is an entry for one of my Formula Student team–mates Rachel Taylor, who earlier asked me if she was mentioned on my blog. Well I don't think she was before, but she is now! To give you an insight into her persona, I shall leave you with a quote from her when she decided to try and describe me when we were revising Advanced Fluid Dynamics together earlier:

'Wise like Budda, but not as fat'


May 22, 2006

Noooooooooo!

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5003420.stm

Apparently the conclusion of a media think tank is that the BBC should be forced to privatise Radio 1 and 2. Damned if that should happen – the BBC stations are the only ones where you don't have to put up with crappy annoying adverts all the time (except for their own shows), and are much better stations than any commercial ones. There's a very marked difference between commercial radio presenters and BBC ones, and my preference is very much for non–commercialised BBC type ones.

Perhaps most amusingly, the author of the report argued that Radio 1 and 2 offered a "minimum public service role". A BBC press release shows that combined Radio 1 and 2's breakfast shows are listened to by over 14.6 million people every week. And combined BBC Radio has a 55.1% share of all listening. Minimal public service role eh?


May 18, 2006

The little book of New Labour sleaze

Writing about web page http://www.politicos.co.uk/item.jsp?ID=5678

For those who enjoy reading such things, I'm pleased to announce that Iain Dale's "The little book of New Labour sleaze" has been released. The project, which has taken form entirely over the last 18 days from concept to publish, is basically a guide to 101 of Labour's sleaze moments since getting to power in 1997 (from the party that promised an end to sleaze, political dig!). The concept was to publish a list of Labour sleaze scandals (it stated out as 50 but quickly grew to over 100) and for any blogger who wanted to contribute to write the entry for that incident. Iain and Guido Fawkes jointly edited it. As the book states on the cover: At 7.99 it's cheaper than a peerage and much, much funnier. I intend to get my copy soon from Waterstones, but you can also order it through Politico's at the above page.

The who what now?

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4985332.stm

Forgive me if I'm being daft, I'm sleep deprived and in the middle of my finals (and hard at work as you can tell) but I really don't understand the above link, which is complaining about carbon trading. I'll put the headlines here for those that don't follow the link:

"But the latest figures for the ETS (that's European Trading Scheme, which trades carbon emissions on the open market)– started in January 2005 and heralded as a template for such schemes – revealed that 21 of the 25 member states produced 2.5% less CO2 in 2005 than participants had forecast."

Right. Great news surely? Apparently not…

""The whole point of any [carbon trading] scheme is that what is given out is less than what would have been released," said James Wilde, head of strategy at the Carbon Trust, which helps organisations cut their carbon emissions."

Ok. So what's been said here is that we're trading carbon and trying to combat climate change, yet actually we don't have enough carbon emissions to make the trading system to work as well as it should. So we can now meet more reductions in the knowledge that we're emitting less than we forecast. Can someone please explain why emitting less carbon is a bad thing!

The article then goes on to claim that trading schemes "fail to encourage meaningful investment in carbon reducing technologies" (despite the fact that our emissions are 2.5% down on predictions). The article finishes by suggesting that China is not obliged to cut carbon dioxide emissions by any international agreement (a fact, but I hear no suggestions as to what we should do about this from anyone) and that we're in denial about climate change and carbon emissions.

Let's examine the facts. Emissions are down on predictions. That's the news. Therefore for whatever reason, we are emitting less carbon than we thought we would. This can scientifically only be a good thing, if CO2 emissions are proportional to global temperature rises and climate change (although not quite such good news if the reductions aren't happening fast enough, but I see nothing in this article that really argues that). By reasoning I don't at all understand, this is bad and shows we're not doing out bit, and that carbon trading is a failure and we need to change our habits and blah blah blah.

If anyone ever needed compelling evidence that ecomentalists are desperate to find things to moan about and won't be satisfied until we're all living in caves, it's right here.


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