Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Better Disposable Razor

Almost every adult in America shaves something. Men shave at least part of their face, women typically shave their legs and armpits. Most new shaving technology since 1930 has been to just put more blades on it.
Some people even insist that the old fashioned way, with a long knife, is better. The knife, unlike the disposable razors, doesn't deform when heated, and experts point out that heat is important for a good shave. I think these people are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. After all, disposable razors replaced knives for most people because they eliminate the possibility of cutting yourself from holding the blade at the wrong angle.
I can think of an immediate improvement. Lengthen the plastic holder, but leave only air in the extra space. When the blade expands from heat, it expands into the empty space, without deforming. This would combine the advantage of the straight knife (doesn't deform) with the advantage of the disposable-type (never the wrong angle, can't cut yourself.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Computer Cooling

Recent computers are immensely more powerful than the older ones, but this power comes at a price. See, the faster it works, the more power it uses, and the more it makes heat. Heat is bad for electronics. They don't like it.
So, in the past, first the heat sink was invented, then the computer fan. The heat sink is a piece of irregular metal that dissipates the heat into the air by virtue of its spiky, semi-irregular face. Metal conducts heat really well. Air, not so much. The fan blows air on the heat sink, taking some of the heat with it. At the cost of noise and a little power. Your computer is noisy to the degree that it is because of the fans. The fans also tend to get louder with age, and my machine is starting to sound like a jet taking off. A jet with what sounds like a desperate need to use the little jet's room.
Some people would like their computers to go even faster, so fast that fans just aren't going to work anymore. Now what? They use water cooling. Water cooling works like your car's radiator. Water goes through pipes that touch the heat sink, taking heat with them. Water isn't very good at collecting heat, but it absorbs a lot in aggregate. Then, you run the hot water through a radiator, which uses the heat-sink and the fan technologies to dissipate the heat. This way, you can use just one big, quiet, reasonably efficient fan instead of the four or five normally used, and it's quiet. Although if anything leaks, you will experience the mother of all short circuits.
But let's say you don't like that, and you want to do it the weird way? Fine, Peltier cooling. You attach a big chunk of metal to the hot parts, and plug it in. The metal becomes freakishly cold on one end, and mind-bogglingly hot on the other. The hot end is even hotter than what the cold end was before cooling. You then cool off the hot end however. Yeah, a fan if it's inside the case, but if it's on the outside, you could drip water on it. (Evaporative cooling? Very effective indeed.) Peltier cooling is not very efficient, but it is perfectly silent, which is why it's in digital cameras and whatnot.
Speaking of evaporative cooling, you can already buy devices that are a long metal tube the bends upwards. There is liquid sealed into the tube. When exposed to heat, the liquid evaporates, absorbing the heat into itself, and rising up the tube as a vapor. At the end of the tube is a radiator, which cools the vapor until it liquefies again. The now liquid flows back to the bottom, ready to absorb more heat. This only works if the radiator is above the heat source, and useless in zero-g. (But when are we ever going to need to run electronics there?)
Okay, you can buy all of this at the store. Now how about crazier techs?
My first idea is central-vacuum cooling. Many homes and businesses are built with a pneumatic tube system that connects to an air-pump that sucks the air from the tubes. This is done so that any hose connected is now a vacuum cleaner. The system runs quietly all the time, and uses the same amount of power despite being much more powerful. Given such a system, connect the computer case to it. Air will now be drawn in through any holes in the case by the low pressure, dropping temperatures inside. As old, heat-bearing air is sucked away, fresh air from the room replaces it.
Speaking of gases, how about a compression cycle? We run freon tubes in a maze inside and outside the case. Before it goes outside, we compress it with a compressor. It radiates its heat to the outside world. Now as it returns to the inside, we expand it again. The computer case is now a ridiculously cold freezer. (This is how your refrigerator works.)
Or, if you're totally insane, how about a cooling tower? A small amount of water is drawn off from a tap, run through a water-cooling system, but instead of a radiator, it is put in a metal tower at the top, where it evaporates into steam. As an added bonus, such a computer doubles as a humidifier for those awful, dry climates.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Terraforming: Earth II

Okay, I'm back. That was a nightmare of an assignment, now I hope I can sleep enough such that I don't go insane and/or die.

So, in the early days of this blog, I showed you plans to terraform Venus and Mars, both plans being thousand-year, trillion dollar, logistical nightmares that would provide multi-trillion dollar benefits. And of course, that won't get financing because no one organization is sure that it will live that long. (I can describe the UK as being that old, if I really stretch the definition of what "the UK" is.)
But let's say you handed me all the money on the earth, and demanded that I produce a terraformed planet in 100 years. This much, I think I can handle. With the insanest plan, ever.
Using some very large mass driver (to be invented by someone at NASA, someone more insane than me), we haul Venus from its current orbit, and into the L4 Lagrange point. If this causes too much gravitational disturbance, we can replace it with its weight in similarly mass-driven rocks from deeper in the solar system. The Kupiter belt if need be.
Now we go to Mars, and ram its two moons into its surface. Then we mass-drive it over to L4. That's right, we ram them together. Preferably at an angle other than 90 degrees, because we need to spin Venus up.
The two will violently collide, providing quite the light show here on earth, slagging both of their materials molten. Part of the two will spin off into a small moon, and the other one will spin quite fast, having a ten hour day. Toss a few ice meteors at this every year, both to provide oceans and to keep the cooling time down to a mere 100 years.
At this point, the planet is like early Earth, but don't move there yet. No oxygen. You'd die. But when liquid water is apparent on the surface, it's time to bring over many plants. Any humans doing this would have to wear diving suits, because the pressure would be great, but the air would choke you dead. When the seas are full of seaweed and the ground is full of trees, then we watch. Within 50 years, it should be human-breathable.
The good news is that the planet would now support human life, but the bad news is that this would be a baby planet, with no fossil fuels. If you want coal or oil, you'll have to bring it over from Earth, at great expense. A better idea would be to fill it with wildlife and hippies. Zoo-planet, maaaaan. Also, Theodore Kazinski. He'd love the wilderness, and maybe he could manage to not get eaten.
If this plan proves wonderful, we can repeat it with Jupiter's moons, Saturn's moons, Uranus's moons, and some Kupiter belt objects, all tossed into L5 and exploded together.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm Tired

Behind on homework, housework, and, well, everything. No more insane inventions for you for a while.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Automatic Dog Toy

My parents own a fetching-addicted dog, and are real tired of throwing balls. I'll bet you they'd love to have this.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dust Reduction

Dust is an annoying, grey substance that builds up where you live, but is electrostaticly attracted to screens and electronics. I hate it. It makes the house smell stale, it gums up the cooling fans, it gets stuck where it's hard to clean, and I can never get all of it. What the hell is that crap, anyway?
Dust varies from place to place, but it almost always contains skin cells and hairs from you, textile fibers from your clothing, and cosmic debris filtered down to tiny particles by the atmosphere. Whereupon it coats every surface, especially the electrically charged ones.
When it's really important to keep out dust, clean rooms are invented. The room is totally sealed, then over pressured with known-clean air. If any leaks develop, air blasts through it, repulsing any dust that seeks to come in. To stay that way, all humans in the area have to wear bunny suits so as to not contribute to the problem.
Okay, but that costs a pretty penny. What's a cheaper way to keep my dwelling free of that grey crap?
Two words: Air Flow. Have a (ludicrous) fan suck air through a filter, and blast it through every room. The dust would be trapped in the filter, so I'd never have to dust again. I would, however, have to frequently change the filter.
(My house does in fact have a central air system fed by a filtered-intake, and it does in fact trap a large amount of dust. Doesn't stop more from evading it, grumble grumble.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

No thank you for the soda -- soda make you fat

Professor Zeno has published a startling proof a few days ago of Soda calories causing obesity. I look forward to his later proofs of water being wet, and nighttime lacking natural illumination.

A Question For Blogger Staff

How the hey are the "Backlinks" functions supposed to work? I've noted that blogs I've linked to don't mention my writeup, even when I obey the format.....

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Root engineering

Need a bridge, but don't have one? How about Growing one from scratch (also trees).
Artistically it's great, but there's a certain degree of impracticality in this. You'd have to set it up YEARS before needing to actually walk across this bridge. Worse if you wanted a bridge you could drive a car over, that could take decades...maybe even centuries.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Are you the kind of person who'd like to live as low-impact as physically possible? Or maybe you have a teen-aged child that you'd like as far away from your house as possible due to their loud and annoying music? Do you have a very large tree on your property? If so, maybe "mad engineering" industries' tree-house program is for you!

You will need:
* A huge tree
* 100 pounds of planks
* 10 boxes of nails
* Pipe
* Two or so windows
* Ladder (can make it out of more planks)
* Plywood.
* Electrical wires
* Electric outlets
* Insulation

Install the ladder into the tree.
High up, but below the top of the tree, construct a frame of planks. This is the floor. Try to use existing branches for support, and install support beams where plausible. (As many as you can, because it would suck if the floor gave way.)
Attach the pipe to the tree. (Possibly near the ladder, but definitely in a way that one doesn't trip over it.)
Lay plywood over the floor, but don't attach it yet. We may need to lay something under.
Thread electrical and phone wire through the pipe. They can be attached to an existing installation.
Install framed walls to the edge of the floor. Where you want the windows to be, have a short beam up to a horizontal one.
Attach plywood to the outside of the walls. This may require a crane, or a second ladder.
Install interior electrical. Thread up from the pipe, drill small holes in the wall frame, and thread through. Nail boxes and outlets to the frame, according to code.
Install insulation, hiding the exposed electrical work.
Attach plywood floor. Cover with hardwood, or carpet.
Frame in a ceiling, then a roof on that. (Keep the rain out.) Cover the roof with plywood, and then something waterproof. (Probably actual roofing shingles.)
Move in a small amount of furniture. Probably a chair, or a bed, a desk, and maybe a TV.

What happens next depends on what the tree-house was built for. If it's a "low ecological impact" dwelling, then you should build a garage nearby for any vehicles you own, and put solar panels on that to provide the power. (And if you're remote, batteries for night.) If this is a teenager's pad, and your house is two stories, maybe an external door and a bridge to your house, so they can come to dinner.

In any case, it's one of many strange dwellings that I can semi-describe how to build.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Central Compost

How about a company that has many big bins, and takes all the green waste in an area. The waste goes into bins, is occasionally turned, and when completely rotten, sold as organic fertilizer?

Ideally, this would take place on land that is useless for agriculture. Composting can take place almost anywhere, but benefits from a small amount of additional water, and from regular "turning" to add air. It produces a considerable amount of heat, which would make it strangely pleasant in colder climates.

The prime advantages of doing this are an increase in resources, a sustainable agricultural infrastructure, and a reduction in landfill space. The prime disadvantages are an increase in labor (these jobs would be absolutely terrible, and very low paying), increased water use, and the NIMBY principle would make people dislike it. (Compost piles smell strange, so people would complain if you built such a facility near them.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Weirder Pipelines

I feel weird that I pay so much for liquids. Food sauces, vinegar, gasoline, bleach, Cleaning fluids. And the biggest business I can name immediately is cola. Bottles and cans, by the trillions, of sweetened and carbonated and flavored water. (Okay, gasoline doesn't come in a container, but it's shipped by truck to a tank at the gas station, which is a weird way to do it.)
When I use up the liquid, I still have the container sitting around. Typically, I end up throwing it away. Sometimes I wash it out and reuse it, but usually I don't bother. That's a waste.
I suppose that instead I could have pipelines into my house. Turn on the vinegar tap for the salad, turn it off when I have enough. Steak sauce from the tap for the steak. I have a guest, and he wants a coke? Fresh from the pipeline, fizzed at serving time. At laundry time, I squirt a bit of beach and detergent from the respective lines. At the end of the month, I get bills from the pipeline, which I promptly pay lest I lose service. (God forbid I have to do without vinaigrette!)
Nah, that's too insane. Each house would have hundreds of pipelines going to it and digging would be impossible. Not to mention all the kinds of hell that would break lose if one of the pipes clogged or ruptured.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Endangered Animal Gene Bank

Biologists now report being able to recreate viruses from only a complete sequence of the virus's DNA and a handful of proteins. This is worrisome and awesome at the same time. It's worrisome because some nutcase could recreate dread diseases of the past that are mostly extinct now (such as smallpox), but I'm going to explain the awesome part.
The awesome part is that we could also recreate plants and animals. Now, while we have the chance, we should sequence the genes of every endangered animal we can, and what's left of some extinct ones. (There are taxidermied examples of some extinct animals that may have usable DNA.) We should store these for later, with redundant copies.
Later, when we have the funding and environment, we would dig up the records, resequence them, and recreate the animals, gestating in a similar animal, injected in a similar egg, or having an artificial seed to plant.
Any sequenced animal would never truly go extinct, so long as we kept the records safe....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Music for the Job

A number of studies have shown that music can increase productivity. Starting with a study done when I was a young boy suggesting that listening to Classical music could boost your intelligence for about 15 minutes, a useful thing to exploit before a test.
However, in some people, this has no effect. So how can I use this effect to best results?
I think the best solution, as most offices already do most of their works on computers, to offer headphones and a collection of productivity-enhancing music. This way, those that like music will benefit from it, but it won't disturb or bother those that gain no benefit.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Underground water treatment

In an age where fresh, potable water is in short supply in many many parts of the world, a water-purification plant is a clear benefit to any area. It cleans pollution from water until it's drinkable again, and provides it back to the water system. If not the human-use system directly, then to the rivers and lakes that feed the human-use system. The lakes and rivers don't care where their water comes from, so long as it doesn't have noxious chemicals, bacteria-infested sewage, or anything like that.
However, people do not like having water-purification plants near them. Water purification plants often smell bad. They have stinky pollution, sewage, and bad smelling treatment chemicals. They might, depending on their pump technology, be loud. This causes the "Not In My Backyard" principle to block most water-purification construction.
Of course, being the maniac that I am, I'm thinking of ways to build it in ways that don't make people complain. I'm thinking, deep underground. The odor likely won't reach the surface, and the sound will be muted by the soil above. The only way you'd know it was there would be cheaper water bills.
Unfortunately, this would also mean greater energy use, as the purified water would have to be pumped back to the surface. That's a drag.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Orbital Habitat

Long ago, the mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange found that for any three-body orbit (that is, three large objects, a la a solar system), There are five points where you could introduce a new object and its orbit would remain stable. The next paragraph will review this idea -- feel free to skip it if you are a mathematician, physicist, or computer scientist.
The points are numbered, L1 through L5. There are two existing bodies, one larger and one smaller. For the purpose of this exercise, we will call the larger body "the sun" and the smaller one "the earth," although this could easily be adapted to any solar system. L1 is directly between "the earth" at a short distance past where the moon orbits. A solar probe is in fact maintained at this position, because it's really useful for studying the sun. (It stays with the earth's orbit, has a direct, unobstructed view of the sun, and so on.) L2 is on the other, night side of the earth, and would be a great place for a deep-space telescope. It would move with the earth, and remain forever in the earth's shadow, seeing deep into the darkness for a great resolution. (Apparently, someone else beat me to that idea, because two probes are already there, and three more are planned.) L3, L4, and L5 are the most interesting ones for this. L3 is on the opposite side of the sun from the earth, in the earth's orbit. L4 is 60 degrees "ahead" of the earth, L5 is 60 degrees "behind." The Lagrangian points are maintained by gravitational balance, and will stay in relative position until pushed out by some other force. Math, it works.
I think we should build habitats in L3, L4 and L5. They could have polluting factories, dangerous crops, or just people who we don't want anywhere near the earth. (Like say, the chronically annoying.) The platforms wouldn't touch Earth, would have an excellent supply of solar energy to power industrial or agricultural activity, and would survive events that would destroy the human ecosystem. (Oops, we nuked ourselves out of existence? L4 can reseed....)
This would be insanely expensive. Cheaper than terraforming mars or venus, but still in the multiple billions, and up to trillions, especially if we make it a large, human habitable habitat, and not just a simple lightweight probe.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Improved Money Order

I often hear about an urge to switch from checks, credit cards, and physical cash, to E-Cash, to prove an important number of benefits. For one, less overhead. Financial people tell me that writing a check can cost up to $2.00, which really puts some of those $0.90 or so checks into perspective.
Cash can be bulky for large purchases, which is more a problem in countries with major issues with inflation. (In the US, a million dollars would fit into a suitcase.) Cash also is easily stolen. If you lose your wallet, count on kissing all the cash in it goodbye, while a credit card or check could be canceled to limit liability.
Checks and credit cards require certain infrastructure to accept. Credit cards charge to a merchant account, which must be set up ahead of time and at a certain fee. Accepting credit cards also means that the merchant doesn't get paid the entire amount, but this loss is accepted because it means a greater volume of business. The merchant may not charge a fee for accepting a credit card, but may offer a "cash discount." Worse for the merchant, credit cards do not actually pay until the end of the month, putting the merchant at a considerable float. Checks are the most frustrating because of the possibility of "bounced" checks, in which the funds to pay it are unavailable, and so cashing the check results in no funds at all. (Paying with a defective check deliberately is a crime, a crime people have gotten away with for years.)
So, the usual solution posited is e-cash, in which a credit-card like device would transfer money, and encryption would make it difficult to steal or subvert. This would remove the need of the merchant to have an account with the credit card company, and the merchant would receive the full charge, instantly. The buyer would have the anonymity advantage of cash, would know in an instant if the transaction succeeded or failed, and if the e-cash card were lost or stolen, it could be canceled in an instant to halt liability, just like a credit card.
As a further precaution, I think that the processing should be centralized so that the seller need only have a communications system, like a telephone line, to provide a sale. I don't want this system to fail if local power fails, since that's often a critical time to be selling stuff. (Like, say, immediately after a hurricane.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Psychology Insurance

A popular joke proclaims that one in four Americans has a mental illness. The joke tells you to examine the mental health of three of your friends, and if they're all okay, then you're the crazy one.
All jokes aside, one in four Americans really do have a mental illness, most commonly depression. Although a recent article proclaims that depression does serve an advantage in the wild, it is bad for both the sufferer and their productivity. It's hard to get stuff done when you're a moping, exhausted, joyless sack of unhappy.
There are psychological treatments. One can talk about your problem, or try various medications, but they're not free. I propose a fund that would allow people in need to see psychologists -- the national productivity would improve if people had fewer problems.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Auto Learning

Remember those scenes in The Matrix where the heroes could learn anything in a few seconds by having it directly injected into their head? That was awesome.
To actually do that, we would have to understand completely how the human brain stores procedural memories, and modify that to obey the new set of skills. Perhaps we would do this by "patching," having someone have a complete brain scan, learning the skill, and then having a brain scan again. Noting how the neurons changed their configuration may explain how the brain "learned" that skill. Especially if we observe a particular pattern in doing that, and we try applying that pattern to someone who has not learned that skill. If that makes them learn the skill, then we have it.
This would drastically speed up education and training. Everyone could have a PhD level education in multiple fields, and very very exciting things would happen. Also, with such a high level of expertise going around, people would tend to be wealthy. If you want a new job, retraining yourself for an insanely high paying position takes minutes.
Now, this is very unlikely to happen with our knowledge the way it is. We know next to nothing about how the brain works. Almost any experiment we could do to find out more would be infinitely creepy and unacceptable. (Mess around with people's brains?!) Also, any change we do is more likely to make a person brain-damaged instead of smarter. Neurosurgeons in fact consider any modification they make to be brain damage of some kind, since it's as difficult to do as fixing a butterfly's wings with a hammer. While blindfolded. We only get one brain each, and not wanting it destroyed for the sake of science (or anything else) is reasonable and sane.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Remote Strangulation Protocol

There's been a long running joke on the internet that if there was some way to throttle, punch, or otherwise cause harm or pain to people who act like twits, that fewer people would act like twits. After all, many studies have shown that anonymity plus an audience removes most of the social cues that we need to not act like a deranged chimpanzee. There's a reason why Lord of the Flies was mandatory reading way back in junior high school.
While I concede that that is true, and that the internet does suffer from the occasional person whose primary interest is a "freedom from being punched," there are also jerks who would abuse any given system.
Let us say we have a system whereby all computers have a large stick on a rotating pole attached to them, and a universal command to activate this stick so that it strikes the user of the computer. Let us also say that accessing the internet first requires a proof that such a device is active. People at first use this against spammers, trolls, and other obnoxious jerks of the internet. When someone posts "buy viagra" a billion times on your blog's comments, you thump them. When someone posts "F1RST LOLOLOLOL!" on every topic, whack goes the stick. Someone hijacks an interesting topic to whine about how "lame" and "gay" something unrelated is, they get slapped out of it.
Trolls, of course, deploy this against random people, snickering with glee all the while. Others note with horror that people, gasp, disagree with them! On things they like! There are religious haters who whack everyone of a different religion, political haters who whack everyone with different politics, fanboys (and girls) who whack everyone who dislikes their favorite media, haters who whack everyone who likes their most hated media. Also, I suspect anyone who gets thumped will probably feel that it is unjust and whack back. And some people are whacked by mistake due to a misclick, misspelling, or other kind of error.
Pretty soon, everyone gets attacked at least once an hour. People stop using computers because it is too painful, and because their noses are broken and they have two black eyes. A rash plague of offline player killing ensues. The authorities step in and order it to stop, but hurt feelings continue to nonsensically fester.
Another invention ruined by the dark side of human nature.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Artificial Spine

Spinal injuries are the worst. Your ability to move your body depends on the nerves in your spine having an uninterrupted line to the muscle you want to move. If you injure your spine bones, you'll likely break this nerve and be paralyzed from that point down. The very idea of this scares the bejeebers out of me. (I thankfully am in a field that would allow me to work even if nearly totally paralyzed, but it would be much much harder.)
Thankfully, research has shown that a certain blue dye is helpful in reconnecting the nerves, so injury based paralysis may be a thing of the past. (As reported by biology student and generally awesome Blag Hag.)
But, there are other things that can go wrong. Someone in my family had a condition where the bones in his spine had their nerve-hole slowly close up until it pinched the nerve. In his later years, he moved very slowly, and had a bit of a hunch. This was hard on him, as before he was strong and athletic, with great posture.
For this condition, the usual treatment now is to cut open the spine bones and replace them with other, non-growing bones, typically a cadaver-donated thigh section. Eep. I'm going to try an artificial solution.
The spine needs rigid parts to shield the nerves from trauma, but also flexible parts in case the spine needs to move slightly. (Like if you're bowing, bending down to reach something on the floor, nodding, or the like.) The natural spine uses bone for the rigid part, and cartilage disks for the flexible part. Artificial replacements for the disks already exist. The 1337 MD would know better than me, but I think I would use titanium cylinders to replace the bone section. Titanium is very rigid, hard to bend, and should provide great protection to the spinal cord. If need be we can also attach fins to make it more like the natural spine. The ribs must also attach to this, probably pinned in place the way that a weak knee is often reinforced.
This artificial spine would be structurally stronger than the natural kind, but might have other disadvantages. I am not a medical doctor, so am unaware of what those disadvantages might be.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Power Saving

One of my readers tells me that food is the ultimate form of energy. I have to disagree -- food is great for powering humans and animals, but the ultimate form of energy is electricity. I can generate electricity from almost any kind of other energy, and I can power pretty much any mechanical system with it. Electricity is the ultimate flexibility. I can even make food with it, via a lamp-powered greenhouse. (Yes, for the moment it's better to use the sun. Sunlight is free. Plants only need light for half the day, and there's currently enough space on the surface to grow our food. This will change if we move because of overcrowding to the deep ocean, the underground, or deep space.)
However, there are losses. Grid electricity is brought to homes and businesses via high voltage lines to minimize losses, but only 1/3rd of it makes it through on average. Power plants must make 3 watts for every watt used.
So a big advantage of generating your own power is reducing these losses. When I generate 100 watts via a solar panel on my roof, not only does this spare the local power plant the need to generate these 100 watts, but also the 200 watts that would have been lost to heat via resistance. If I generate more than I need, I can also power my neighbor's house, and there will be some lost, but less than if the power came from the power plant. (Because I'm closer. Less lines, less resistance.)
The ultimate grid would be very distributed, with many sources of power near the users of power, and the ability to move excesses about until they are all used.
It also pays to use less power in the first place. Replace old appliances with newer ones that are more efficient. Replace appliances with "phantom draw." (Old appliances often use power if plugged in, even if off. Newer ones have minimized or even eliminated this.)
Less power used can also mean greener sources. All the humans on the earth now use 15TW of power, which pretty much guarantees we have to use either fossil fuels (which smoke and are full of carbon), or nuclear (which immensely frightens people.) If we, through greater device efficiency, reduced this to 10TW, and built a solar panel on every building, we could probably do this with entirely solar, wind, hydroelectric and tidal power. No more coal, no more nuclear waste. Much more batteries, though, which has their own problems.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Carbon Credit

Carbon Credits is a plan to use capitalistic systems to encourage the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Under such a system, all people and companies would have a limited amount of pollution they could create, represented by certificates. When such people or organizations create a certain amount of carbon pollution, they use up a certificate. If one runs out of certificates, you may not produce any more carbon pollution. However, the certificates are trade-able, so one may buy more certificates if one runs out. One may also produce more certificates by engaging in activities that absorb carbon-pollution.
This would make it more expensive to pollute, giving economic incentive to increase efficiency. It would also decrease the externality of pollution. (Externality is the economic idea of side effects for people who have nothing to do with a transaction. Like a village with a paper mill, and the paper mill smells bad. The air in the village smells bad, damaging property values, even for villagers who buy no paper.) Companies would seek out the cheapest way to keep up their production, which might be greater carbon efficiency, or might be buying credits from someone else who can offset more efficiently.
This plan is favored by environmentalists, who figure that this is the cheapest way to reduce carbon emissions, and opposed by businesses, which demand the cheapest possible production, environment be damned.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fistfull of Beans

I lost five pounds this month using a strange technique. Instead of my usual snack of a peanut butter sandwich, I instead ate three pounds of raw string beans. Just as filling, and with 1/50th the calories. Also, made me way more regular, which was nice.
Okay, I can already hear the complaints. "But that's rabbit food! What about the flavor?"
Well, to misquote an internet meme, "It has a flavor." Yeah, it's not going to taste like the peanut butter, but I can appreciate its subtle notes. And if the beans get boring, carrots work great for this too, and if you stick to it for a week, reward yourself with some fruit.
This kind of weight loss is important to me because my hobbies, job training, and such are completely sedentary. I don't use a kazillion calories doing hard labor, heat loss, or any of the other big sources. I'm not a soldier, carpenter, or Michael Phelps, so if I eat too many calories, I will be fat.
Of course, I still need to exercise, because at 186 pounds, only my largest pants fit.
If you need additional help, try eating off a smaller plate. It'll make you feel like you have more food.
EDIT: Since I've written this, I've had a setback in which I crammed beans until 2am, but kept feeling hungry. Took a can of chili to get me to finally be unhungry enough to sleep. Apparently you need a certain amount of protein or the hunger never shuts up.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Battery Backup

When I make my own house, I want to tie a grid of 110V marine batteries into it, with a 3-way shutoff switch. And solar panels. So if the grid ever shuts down, the house can still run on power I generate. And during maintence of the grid, the lights stay on, the fridge keeps running, and I can pretend it never happened. If I overgenerate, I keep a store of it for emergencies, and any past that I sell.
And the ultimate benefit is that if I ever don't like what the power company is doing, I can disconnect and run on my own power.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Auto Mail Retriever

A big problem for people on vacation is having to get their mail collected. A big pile of mail in the box strongly suggests that the house is vacant, and thus ripe picking for theft. The usual solution is to have a friend pick up your mail.
But let's say your friends are all busy. Now what?
Okay, let's build, inside the mailbox, a trap door, which leads a ramp, that slides the mail down to a small container in the basement. (Or, for slab houses, under the house. A chain lifts this container up to the main house, where it empties onto a desk.) The trap door is triggered by a certain weight in the box, so mail never builds up past a certain point.
Also, if I make the weight threshold low enough, no one can ever steal your mail again. Even if you are home.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Energy Drink Experiment

So blogger Joe the Peacock, a 31 year-old athlete and humor writer, decided to overdose on stimulant drinks and document the experiment. He combined several of his favorite energy drinks into one horrible concoction, which he drank. He said it was like drinking a "fruit-flavored battery" and went stranger from there.
Apparently, this stimulant binge gave him superhuman stamina, the shakes, megalomania, illogical cheerfulness, severe ADD, and chronic insomnia. Which is pretty impressive, considering that the active ingredients in these drinks are caffeine, nicotine, and lots of sugar. All cheaply available.
I've long said that if I could induce the hyperactivity that young children supposedly experience when given sugar in adults, that diet companies would break down my door hungry to sign billion dollar contracts with me, so I'm interested as to if Joe will repeat this, and if so, if he experiences the same effects. I am also curious as to the effects of these substances in older people (40-65), many of whom could benefit from hyperactivity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Speed Wire

I have a vision for the future of driving. Right now, every road in the united states, except for highways in rural Montana, has a speed limit of some kind. This limit is communicated with bright white signs with black letters, explaining the speed in miles per hour. (The US is really stubborn about metric.) Drivers are expected to obey the signs. Where there is no sign, the limit is 25MPH (~40KPH) near any business or residential area.
Now generally the drivers can see the signs, so this isn't a problem. This is a deterrent against automated driving, though, because visual recognition is extremely poor with computers. They literally cannot tell what they are looking at.
So I think we should embed a wire in all lanes of the road, and the section of wire will emit a weak signal, which the car can pick up, and the signal shall tell the car how fast it may go. The car should indicate this in the speedometer, which will make it instantly clear if one is speeding.
This has the advantage of, if conditions suddenly change, the speed limit can quickly change too. Decrease all speed limits by 20MPH instantly when fog rolls in.
This will be more helpful, though, for automatic driving cars. When the car can detect nearby obstacles, and also has a good idea of what the speed limit is, it can confidently move forward. I don't want the car going 70MPH, just because there are no immediate obstacles.
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