Monthly Archives: October 2006

Language changes

So on the weekends I hang out at the various parks of Toronto. One of the interesting things I've noticed lately is that English is no longer the dominant language for kids here… The most common language these days is — quite surprisingly — French. I don't know if that's because French immersion is so common, or if it's because Toronto has a lot of “immigrants” from Quebec. I'm very happy about it — if Nefarious's generation truly embraces Canada as a bilingual nation, it can only be a good thing. My generation is far too monolingual.

Anyway, English is definitely the number two language for little kids at the park, but also at the park today Nefarious played with a Spanish speaking kid and a Croatian kid, and of course there were a variety of kids speaking Asian languages that I don't want to misidentify because I can't recognize them specifically most of the time. So we built a Camp Gitmo in the sandbox for those kids, just to be safe.

Just kidding of course. It's a barnyard for acorn “animals”.

(Original forum unavailable, sorry)*

Body+ = Brain+

So yeah, I'm still pretty weak, but it's getting a lot better… It's pretty funny at the gym when I see people half my size moving twice the weight! But I want to seriously emphasize for people who are scared to try to get in shape (which I was for a long time), that people at the gym tend to be very friendly and happy to be there — and as I've said over and over, the worse shape you're in, the nicer they are to you. Honestly, if I can do it, you can do it.

So I've been at the gym now for a month. I can see a lot of changes in myself physically, and I appreciate that, but I've been enjoying the process a great deal on a body modification level, learning to feel and control every part of my body. It's actually kind of funny how uncoordinated I am… After all, I can juggle, play guitar, type quickly, do card tricks, and plenty of fine-control coordination tricks, but large scale coordination (even basic stuff like simply lifting both arms at the same rate) is hilariously lacking!

I think sometimes my trainer — who's really good, and excellent at coming up with subtle variations in the programs that Jon, Saira, and I are all doing to suit our personalities — can't stop himself from laughing watching me clumsily work out how to even make my brain talk to muscle groups I don't use much after fifteen years at a desk and on a couch. I swear half the time I must look like a little kid that's been spun around blindfolded trying to figure out how to walk. But like I said, from a body modification-ritual point of view, it's really great. I think anyone who enjoys experiencing their body would love strenuous exercise…

But the thing that's most interesting, is I'm starting to become convinced that it's improving my memory. It would make sense, because massage (of the body) is often used to stimulate damaged neural tissue… So I'm wondering if by stimulating and actively controlling nerve pathways that were largely dormant (or at least barely used in a particularly controlled manner) is causing regeneration in my brain in different areas. That said, it could just as easily be having to deal with school schedules that's doing it, because it causes me to regiment and exercise those parts of my brain as well…

And for those of you who prefer entries like the one below, it's essential that you get in as good physical condition as possible before the plagues and the pillaging come… Get your health to peak condition, learn to shoot, stockpile some ammunition and gasoline, and get ready for real life Mad Max world! I don't know what the future brings. I hope it's not as grim as I seem to enjoy predicting, but if it is, I still want to survive it and have fun doing so.

(Original forum unavailable, sorry)*

The Capybera Does Not Approve

So I've been reading The Revenge of Gaia and it's pretty scary. As I understand it within forty years we reach 500 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is an observable and unavoidable truth at this point. To put it into context, that's the same level we had about two billion years ago, except two billion years ago the sun was radiating 25% less energy.

Anyway, at this level under present conditions, three things happen… First, the arctic and antarctic glaciers almost completely melt — we've already passed the point of no return on this. This brings water levels up fifty feet or so, destroying a huge number of cities. This part is pretty much a guarantee, and a guarantee within our lifetime.

However, if the temperature increase continues (which all models predict it will) we then kill off the tropical rain forests (leaving just scrub land and desert), and then if we move up another degree (which we should, because the tropical rain forests are an important temperature regulator), we then kill off the algae in the ocean.

At that point the process is pretty much unstoppable, and the planet becomes barren and inhospitable to anything but thermophile bacteria. I have no idea whether we can stop the process or not. I doubt it. But I know that I won't be buying land that's not elevated.

That said, if we can make solar effective — the sun does gift us a theoretical 1.75 kW per square meter after all — then maybe we can just power through this mess at full throttle? Maybe the solution to the environment is simply to ignore it and replace it completely. I doubt it's the best solution, but it may be the solution we've chosen? It's really the only solution that doesn't involve massive casualties.

Other than that, this ModBlog thread on scarification has been very interesting.

(Original forum unavailable, sorry)*


I'm going out as a different tattooed person.

Seriously though, because of the shirt it reminds me that Brian Decker is currently touring and looking for places to go (you can check out his page to see the work he does, and there's tons of his work on BME as well). If you have a half dozen people that want work (scarification and more advanced procedures), he says he's willing to travel anywhere in the world…

And that painting is terrible. I just had to get it off the easel.

(Original forum unavailable, sorry)*

Energy Consumption

Operating under the assumption that “peak oil” is real and we will either run out or have drastically less over the next fifty years, I've read articles that say it's impossible for us to generate our power needs using alternative power sources, and I've read others that suggest we've got “nothing to worry about”. So, I thought I'd try and estimate just how large our alternative power platforms would need to be to meet our needs.

Last year the US consumed 337 million BTU per person. Let's expand that to a world scale (6.5 billion people), bringing us to a total desired world consumption of about two quintillion (2,190,500,000,000,000,000) BTU. Let's say we could reduce energy use to 1/5 what it is now (personally I think that's possible and reasonable while still maintaining “first world” standards). That brings us down to 438.1 quadrillion BTU, the equivalent of 128.4 trillion kWh.

Here's some ways to generate that power:

  • Biofuels currently yield about 375 gallons of fuel per acre. Each gallon of fuel is about 132,000 BTU, but if you factor in the cost of production (using current European plants as a model), you're only able to retrieve about half of that. So if one acre of biofuel crop generates 24,750,000 BTU, to generate world needs using biofuel, we would need 1.7 billion acres (about half of all the current arable land on the entire planet).
  • Nuclear reactors generate about seven million MWh (23,918,304,000,000 BTU) per year. This does not include the cost of production, maintenance, and so on. I don't know what these costs amount to. If they're low (say 10%), we'd need to build about 20,000 nuclear reactors to meet energy needs. If they're high that number could double…
  • Solar power plants optimistically generate about 350,000 kWh per acre per year (assuming they're in a prime location and have consistent sun). Not including the cost of construction and maintenance, that means we'd need about 365 million acres of solar plants to power the world.
  • Giant wind turbines (like the forty story high ones) generate about 6,570,000 kWh per year (5 MW maximum generator at their observed 15% efficiency), and that doesn't count the cost of construction and maintenance. In any case, we would need to build about 20 million of the biggest towers in the world to meet world needs, and they'd need to be replaced on a regular basis.

Anyway, I apologize if I made any mathematical errors; feel free to double check them. As I'm reading these numbers, meeting energy needs in a way that's equitable (which it must be if we're to be a peaceful planet). My personal feeling is that we need to cut our energy consumption by a lot more than 80%, and that we also need to cut our population radically in order to maintain even a semblance our current life.

Seriously though, feel free to offer alternate numbers or point out errors and other options in the comment forum (like the math for tidal power plants and so on). I could have easily put a comma in the wrong place in any of these.

(Original forum unavailable, sorry)*