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Sunday, March 25, 2012

"The Diamond Age" comes early...

I imagine Neal Stephenson grinning widely as he reads this article on Wired,  High-Powered Plasma Turns Garbage Into GasSmiling that his phenomenal fiction The Diamond Age, a 1995 metawork that tells of a next century technology, the Feed, may come to humanity's aid a lot sooner.  The Feed is the source of molecular nanotech building blocks that can be turned into items by Matter Compilers.  Useful things, such as space blankets to sleep on the beach, which can then be recompiled the following morning.  It also flows with energy, such as our grids.  

Plasma arc is favored as a means to destroy medical and hazardous waste.  Plasma processing of waste is an ecologically clean process. The lack of oxygen and high temperature in a reactor prevent the main elements of gas from forming toxic compounds, such as furans, dioxins, NOX, or sulfur dioxide. Extensive filtration removes inorganic residue (ash) and gaseous pollutants (NO, HCl, H2S, etc) and allows the production of ecologically clean synthetic gas. The gaseous compounds do not contain any phenols or complex hydrocarbons. The circulating water in these filtering systems has removed the hazardous substances and must be cleaned.

As fully as I want to swoon ecstatic for the current realization of such boundless human ingenuity, we are not quite there yet.  The question is of course will Plasma gasification be allowed to flourish with tremendous backing?

Nowhere in the article about the 700-acre Columbia Ridge Landfill in Arlington, Oregon, talk about the price point.  In another Wired piece from 2006, has its own price...
The $425 million facility expected to be built in St. Lucie County, Florida.  Using a 100,000-square-foot plant, slated to be operational in two years, is expected to vaporize 3,000 tons of garbage a day. County officials estimate their entire landfill -- 4.3 million tons of trash collected since 1978 -- will be gone in 18 years.
"We've found projects similar to this being misrepresented all over the country," said Monica Wilson of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.  She also said other companies have tried to produce such results and failed. She cited two similar facilities run by different companies in Australia and Germany that closed after failing to meet emissions standards.

Americans generated 236 million tons of garbage in 2003, about 4.5 pounds per person, per day, according to the latest figures from the EPA. Roughly 130 million tons went to landfills -- enough to cover a football field 703 miles high with garbage.  … if large plasma facilities were put to use nationwide to vaporize trash, they could theoretically generate electricity equivalent to about 25 nuclear power plants.

But in a more recent article about Microwave Gasification, the St. Lucie facility is mentioned but at a third of the cost... 
"To kick this technology off in the region, Geoplasma, part of real estate developer Jacoby Group, has secured a permit from Florida's Department of Environmental Protection to build the St. Lucie Plasma Gasification Facility in St. Lucie County, worth an investment of $140-150 million. The facility is set to produce 24 MW (gross) of power from nearly 600 tonnes of waste and tyres per day.
Speaking to Waste Management World magazine (WMW), Geoplasma president Hilburn Hillestad says the firm intends to break ground on the project in January 2012, with an 18-month construction period meaning the project will be ready by mid 2013. Technology will be provided by Westinghouse Plasma Corporation, subsidiary of Alter NRG.
But, with claims that microwave plasma gasification is 60% more efficient than existing processes, and the ability to produce 70% diesel as a by-product; the ABA process really could be game-changer on the WtE landscape."

So even at the substantially cheaper cost using Microwaves, the hundreds of Million$ price tag will probably not see even 50 facilities, one for each state any time soon.

Were this future waste tech actually to blanket this consumption machine called a nation, I see further uses of the technology could include fitting all Plasma Gas facilites with an Algae snorkel to harvest any Carbon Dioxide emissions, also later coupled with burning the "fabled Clean Coal".  (The whole Mining Industry seems ripe for  robots; this filthy work should have precedence before Warehouses.)

That said even though there is a short list of concerns, that slightly dulls the glimmer of such wondrous science. 
  • Requires large electrical energy input if the waste stream does not contains a large fraction of unoxidized hydrocarbons;
  • The highly corrosive plasma flame may lead to frequent maintenance and component replacement with associated facility down time;
  • The filters and gas treatment systems are themselves sources of toxic waste, some of which (e.g. acidified water) are poor candidates for plasma processing.
Some would also argue that PlasGas money could be spent on many more a $12 million anaerobic digester with estimates of "eating" 50,000 tons of waste per annum.  And as awesome as those sound as well, that does not factor in that the leftover effluent must be heavily monitored for toxic contamination.

Others would let ignorance and apathy take hold, mumbling that dumping garbage into the earth is cheaper.  This is elucidated well over at Earthanet.
"Landfills charge municipalities an average of $35 per ton of trash; according to a recent study in Hamilton, Ont., dropping off a ton of garbage at a plasma gasification plant would run $172 per ton  …Burying garbage in the ground is primitive technology with numerous harmful effects that aren’t taken into consideration when figuring cost per ton. No matter how miraculous the liner material in today’s modern landfills, they all eventually leak and dump a nasty toxic stew into the groundwater below."

 And the scale it could work on.  Ideally one "Mr. Reactor" in every town with electrically or liquid syngas powered Garbage Trucks to service an area.  A Hybrid world should see our civilization a longer distance with a cleaner conscience.   I think Neal Stephenson (judging by his 2011 essay) would heartily agree, that humans must get Back on track to the Future.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Almost a Billion $s to Freedom

Or the Robots are taking all the sweet forklift jobs and leaving the go-bot zombie crap behind, shallow tasks for our superior Parallel processing brains to cope with.  Stunted abolition in the form of fatigue inducement that is the sucking quagmire of Monotonous.  Welcome to the stunning "Revolution".  Oh!  How the Division of Labor shines in the 21st Century.

The Deskill movement worries me the most.  I personally have dreaded the tasks at many a cavernous, dead-eyed warehouse.  But the work is honest to a point.  It is dishonest that most Management iron clad adheres to Lean Manufacturing. 
"Lean," is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination.  
 Waste reduction is a sane enough principle.  But I have seen from the inside of the Machine, that the first "waste" to go is pride in a multifaceted job done well.  Because time spent cross training is money lost, large brained mammals are reduced to one-button automatons. 

Do nothing but hammer out these engine mounts the whole graveyard shift.  Swiftly put miles of plastic casing on streaming glop to make thousands of hotdogs for three 12 hour days.  Run like a hamster in a ball, sort out photos every minute of the hour until they tell you your done.  Socialize on your own time, Frankenstein's monster.

What ignited this industrial diatribe is an article i just read on Venture Beat, Amazon buys Kiva Systems for $775M — prepare for even smarter warehouses.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

And the Crimelords said," 2012 shall be 2008 all over again. This is the Doomsday Deja vu as prophesied."

FDIC To Cover Losses On $75 Trillion Bank of America Derivative Bets
"Regulators have fought to rein in risky trading in derivatives by banks under the Volcker Rule, but the banks have fiercely resisted and, so far, have been winning the battle.  Derivatives contributed to the financial meltdown in 2008 when the government was forced to bail out giant insurance company AIG whose huge derivative bets exploded, putting the entire financial system at risk.  Part of the problem is that due to the immense complexity of derivatives, regulators are unable to formulate rules that would effectively regulate them or reduce risks."
It is immensely frightening that a Superpower Democracy would let its voice fall by the wayside.  That hundreds of milions in unison have not shouted never again to these scoundrel tactics.  A mere 4 years later, and the Notorious 2BIG2FAIL banks continue their under-handed seismic mathemagic.  Then 2 years on from when Pres. Obama signed The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform, is when the Volcker Rule supposed to take effect and bring our Capitalist society back to the lessons learned after the Great Depression.  That's right, a scant 80 years ago the Glass-Steagall Act was put in place for a Reason.  But then insane greed took hold in the 1990's, namely 1999, where even Pres. Clinton  later apologizes for his negligence in accepting The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act as good as gold. The true grounds for impeachment was hiding in the stuffy old deregulating staid protection of millions' Hard-earned currency.   But Sexgate sells the attention better than Bilkgate.
“On derivatives, yeah I think they were wrong and I think I was wrong to take [their advice] because the argument on derivatives was that these things are expensive and sophisticated and only a handful of investors will buy them and they don’t need any extra protection, and any extra transparency. The money they’re putting up guarantees them transparency,” Clinton told me.
“And the flaw in that argument,” Clinton added, “was that first of all sometimes people with a lot of money make stupid decisions and make it without transparency.”
The former President also said he was also wrong about understanding the consequences if the derivatives market tanked.  “The most important flaw was even if less than 1 percent of the total investment community is involved in derivative exchanges, so much money was involved that if they went bad, they could affect a 100 percent of the investments, and indeed a 100 percent of the citizens in countries, not investors, and I was wrong about that.”
Clinton also blamed the Bush administration for scaling back on policing the financial industry.   “I think what happened was the SEC and the whole regulatory apparatus after I left office was just let go.” 
It leads one to start believe that all this mainstream dominated by the strident battle of Church and State is the smokescreen for the True Separation that must always be addressed.  Separation of Investments & Speculations from Savings & Loans.  If Banks want to do so, it should be solely with their own money.  No Glass-Steagall, then NO Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  Both should have stayed hand in hand since passed into law as The Banking Act of 1933.
"TOO BIG TO BAIL OUT" seems to be a very sane rallying cry indeed.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

7 scifi weapons of tomorrow

the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS), is a robot that can open doors and set explosives or remove objects with a gripper claw. Its turret is fitted with an M24b machine gun, which gives it major firepower, and it has a gunshot detection capability, so it can determine where shots are coming from and return the fire. It also has 360-degree vision, two-way communications, night and thermo vision and lasers

"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people WHO DON'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT." ( Albert Einstein 

MACH 20 Drone and Nano Aerial Vehicles

The latest prototype in the Pentagon’s attempts to develop what is, in essence, a Mach 20 drone that can strike any target on earth within an hour, lasted no more than about 30 minutes before losing contact with ground stations Thursday.

Assuming the technology for hypersonic flight can be perfected, "and that's a big if, this plan is less bad than some of the other ones rolled out," says Noah Shachtman, a fellow with the Brooking Institution in Washington who focuses on security issues and 21st-weapons systems.
It certainly beats another idea the Pentagon proffered – putting conventional warheads on submarine-launched Trident missiles. Because these missiles are currently nuclear-tipped, launching one – with any warhead – on the familiar up-and-down trajectory would very likely invite a nuclear response.

A new project partly funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called the Nano Aerial Vehicle (NAV) program aims to develop an extremely small, ultra-lightweight aerial vehicle for urban military missions that can fly both indoors and outdoors and that is capable of climbing and descending vertically as well as flying sideways left and right.

The design the agency green lighted for further development actually will look and fly much like a hummingbird. The winning concept, developed by AeroVironment, is called Nano Scout (Nano Sensor Covert Observer in Urban Terrain). It is a remote-controlled, battery powered NAV with two flapping wings that weighs about two grams (about as heavy as two nickels) and is just slightly longer than three inches.

Lots of competition
The Scout is designed to fly forward at speeds of up to 20 mph, slow down to one mph for precision navigation inside buildings, withstand five mph wind gusts, operate inside buildings and have a range of over one-half mile.
The Nano Scout was selected over competing concepts submitted by Lockheed Martin,MicroPropulsion Inc., and Draper Laboratory at the end of the program’s first phase last year.
An early prototype tested by the company has already reached a technical milestone by achieving a hovering flight equal to that of a two-wing flapping wing aircraft while carrying its own energy source and using only the flapping wings for propulsion. A working prototype, scheduled for demonstration to DARPA when the second phase of the NAV program ends this summer, will have a flight endurance of 11 to 20 minutes.
But DARPA and AeroVironment aren’t the only players with a wing in the NAV game. Though its monocoptor design that is shaped like a maple leaf was passed over for the second phase of the DARPA program, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ Advanced Development Programs is continuing its exploration of NAVs on its own dime with the Samurai program.
The company has built two larger mono-wing vehicles as part of the program, a 30-inch flyer and a 12-inch version that is small enough to fit into a backpack and fly through an open window to enter a building. The Samurai design, says Kingsley Fregene, principal investigator for the program, is inherently stable and has few moving parts, which makes it a robust, aerodynamically clean airframe. Unlike more conventional designs, the entire aircraft rotates.

"A lot of structures in insects are multifunctional," he said. "Biologically, they’re multitasking."

The research is still in its early stages. "A lot of seminal research needs to be done," Adams said, adding that the missionization of NAVs, though, is not that far away.
"Within 10 to 15 years, autonomous microsystems will be on the battlefield."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Privacy n1t3mar3s

The usual way to do grab attention to the topic is to trot out privacy nightmares, such as the secret dossiers that hundreds of companies keep on you (they do), the man who was accused of arson because his grocery store records showed he purchased fire starters (he was), or the idea that a potential employer may one day pass on you because your musical tastes suggest you will be late to work three time per week (they could). But privacy nightmares are beginning to feel a bit like the boy who cried wolf. Cyber experts have warned about both a Digital Pearl Harbor and an information Three Mile Island for more than a decade now; doesn't the absence of that kind of disaster show that perhaps privacy is no big deal?

"I think it's partly because people are part of a large herd, they take a 'the lion is not going to attack antelope' mentality," said Ponemon, who runs the privacy consulting firm The Ponemon Institute. "And people are more scared of physical dangers that privacy risks. When that whole issue about groping and scanning at the airport came up, we did a study and found that people were more worried about getting cancer from the machines, and weren't overly concerned about privacy. It shows me that people feel they can't live without social networking, and they have to go on flights. So they just surrender." 

Gary LosHuertos parked himself in a New York City cafe last fall and fired up a new tool for snooping on people as they use free wireless. Within minutes, he had managed to spy on more than a dozen people as they used Facebook. It was just an experiment by the Web software expert, but he wanted to make a point — so he used the victims' own Facebook accounts to send them each an unnerving warning message. He told them he'd hacked their accounts, and he knew where they were.
He expected cursing, anger, perhaps some furious typing. Instead, many of his recipients just went right on surfing. So he prodded them a second time.
"Really wasn't kidding about the insecurity thing," he wrote. "I won't send another message after this — it's up to you to take your security seriously. You're at the [XYZ Street] Starbucks on an insecure connection, and absolutely anyone here can access your account with the right (free) tool."

60 percent —claim they care about privacy but will barely lift a finger in an effort to preserve it. They don't alter Facebook privacy settings, they don't complain when supermarkets demand their phone numbers and they certainly don't insist on encrypted e-mail.

Monday, February 7, 2011

HACKS - trigger card

Trigger cards n. pl. Magnetic cards used by hackers to access malware embedded in the operating systems of corrupted ATMs. When a trigger card is inserted, the machine spits out a receipt detailing customer account numbers and PINs.

Ethical governor n. Software that controls the moral behavior of a military robot. Drones would be programmed to follow international law, enabling them to make life-and-death decisions autonomously.

buy Wired mag FEB?  & Pop Sci Feb??