Thursday, May 28, 2015

Time Passages

Pitch Black

No, this is NOT about the Pitch Black flick that could have been REALLY Scary but not so much, but rather about black solar cells and the potential of said tech regarding cloudy days and high energy efficiency quotients.

A team of European researchers has just announced that they've set a new record by creating black silicon solar cells that can convert 22.1 percent of the Sun's light into electricity - an increase of almost four percent on their previous record. While this doesn't compare to the record of 40 percent efficiency in traditional silicon solar cells, it shows that black silicon solar cells are now real contenders that could help greatly reduce the cost of solar power in the future.

Even more impressively, the team compared their new black silicon solar cells with traditional solar cells of the same efficiency, and showed that their cells increased daily energy production by 3 percent, thanks to their ability to suck up light even when the Sun was low in the sky.

It gets better.

Publishing in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers report that their resulting cells are the most efficient black silicon solar cells to date, capable of turning 22.1 percent of available light into electricity. "This means that the surface recombination issue has truly been solved and black silicon solar cells have real potential for industrial production," the authors write.

What's even more exciting about this research is the fact that the team hasn't optimised the new cells as yet, so there's potential for them to easily become more efficient, as well as cheaper. "Our record cells were fabricated using p-type silicon, which is known to suffer from impurity-related degradation. There is no reason why even higher efficiencies could not be reached using n-type silicon or more advanced cell structures," said Savin.

& better yet again regarding infrared.

Blasting a specially tuned laser in the presence of sulfur gas alters the texture of solar cells to absorb infrared light. 

& last but not least, cheaper.

A simple chemical treatment could replace expensive antireflective solar cell coatings, bringing down the cost of crystalline silicon panels. The treatment, a one-step dip in a chemical bath, creates a highly antireflective layer of black silicon on the surface of silicon wafers, and it would cost just pennies per watt, say researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). They’ve used it to create black silicon solar cells that match the efficiency of conventional silicon cells on the market.

Click here to get info on the flick. The beginning sequence is amazing. :)

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Methane, lots & lots of methane, generated by a nickel loving organism called methanosarcina, may have caused the Permian Extinction, AKA The Great Dying with assistance from the nickel producing volcanic Siberian Traps.

End result.

250,000,000 years later, circa the 21st century, an ongoing 6th extinction is happening before our very eyes  but this time, it's happening 1000 times faster than the original, a notion disquieting to say the least.

In the same way, and for many of the same reasons, many today find it inconceivable that we could possibly be responsible for destroying the integrity of our planet’s ecology. There are psychological barriers to even imagining that what we love so much could be lost — could be destroyed forever. As a result, many of us refuse to contemplate it. Like an audience entertained by a magician, we allow ourselves to be deceived by those with a stake in persuading us to ignore reality.

For example, we continue to use the world’s atmosphere as an open sewer for the daily dumping of more than 90 million tons of gaseous waste. If trends continue, the global temperature will keep rising, triggering “world-altering events,” Kolbert writes. According to a conservative and unchallenged calculation by the climatologist James Hansen, the man-made pollution already in the atmosphere traps as much extra heat energy every 24 hours as would be released by the explosion of 400,000 Hiroshima-class nuclear bombs. The resulting rapid warming of both the atmosphere and the ocean, which Kolbert notes has absorbed about one-third of the carbon dioxide we have produced, is wreaking havoc on earth’s delicately balanced ecosystems. It threatens both the web of living species with which we share the planet and the future viability of civilization. “By disrupting these systems,” Kolbert writes, “we’re putting our own survival in danger.”

To read more, click Something to Consider, a blurb done back in November of 2011 talking about the same thing with phase transitions added in for good measure.

Corporate Larceny

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics, has ethics and finance in mind when talking about the TPP, the larcenous gambit of big corporations gaming the system at the expense of nations, a trade agreement Obama is pushing to the max while ignoring the national interest of America.

Perhaps the most invidious - and most dishonest - part of such agreements concerns investor protection. Of course, investors have to be protected against the risk that rogue governments will seize their property. But that is not what these provisions are about. There have been very few expropriations in recent decades, and investors who want to protect themselves can buy insurance from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, a World Bank affiliate (the US and other governments provide similar insurance). Nonetheless, the US is demanding such provisions in the TPP, even though many of its "partners" have property protections and judicial systems that are as good as its own.

The real intent of these provisions is to impede health, environmental, safety, and, yes, even financial regulations meant to protect America's own economy and citizens. Companies can sue governments for full compensation for any reduction in their future expected profits resulting from regulatory changes.

This is not just a theoretical possibility. Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia for requiring warning labels on cigarettes. Admittedly, both countries went a little further than the US, mandating the inclusion of graphic images showing the consequences of cigarette smoking.

The labeling is working. It is discouraging smoking. So now Philip Morris is demanding to be compensated for lost profits.

In the future, if we discover that some other product causes health problems (think of asbestos), rather than facing lawsuits for the costs imposed on us, the manufacturer could sue governments for restraining them from killing more people. The same thing could happen if our governments impose more stringent regulations to protect us from the impact of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Channeling 1984 gives a detailed look into why the TPP is a disaster in the making.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Plot twists & then some

Not only Seymour Hersh but now Frontline questions the killing of Bin Laden from the perspective of CIA propaganda used as storyline in Zero Dark Thirty. Interesting to say the least.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Only 5%

Only 5% of the oceans has been explored. Something to think about without question.

In the fast lane :)

Experts Exchange's infographic is telling in terms of just how fast systems have become and we haven't even discussed the Quantum Computer, hardware that will change everything regarding tech and the ability to crunch numbers. :)

Friday, May 15, 2015


Creepy says it all regarding this invasive tech, something Homeland Security will snatch up in a heartbeat.


This is a device that interests yours truly without question.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Before our very eyes

Acceleration 2 Step on GW. 

"These are warning signs that the remnant is disintegrating," Khazendar said. "Although it’s fascinating scientifically to have a front-row seat to watch the ice shelf becoming unstable and breaking up, it’s bad news for our planet. This ice shelf has existed for at least 10,000 years, and soon it will be gone."

Antarctica's Larsen B Ice Shelf is likely to shatter into hundreds of icebergs before the end of the decade, according to a new NASA study.

Ice shelves are the gatekeepers for glaciers flowing from Antarctica toward the ocean. Without them, glacial ice enters the ocean faster and accelerates the pace of global sea level rise. This study, the first to look comprehensively at the health of the Larsen B remnant and the glaciers that flow into it, has been published online in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Any questions?

Wherever It Lurks

V for Vendetta, an intense film dealing with violence, vengeance, government malfeasance and public acquiescence, appears prescient in regards to the UK proposing some rather interesting laws designed to fight terrorism wherever it lurks.

Cameron will tell the NSC: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.

“This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.

“Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

“We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.”

The home secretary, Theresa May, will say: “The twisted narrative of extremism cannot be ignored or wished away. This government will challenge those who seek to spread hatred and intolerance by forming a new partnership of every person and organisation in this country that wants to defeat the extremists.”

Said laws will do the following:

They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.

It will also contain new powers to close premises including mosques where extremists seek to influence others. The powers of the Charity Commission to root out charities that misappropriate funds towards extremism and terrorism will also be strengthened.

In essence, advocating any ideas or working for any political outcomes regarded by British politicians as “extremist” will not only be a crime, but can be physically banned in advance.

It gets better.

A separate bill will be introduced later in the parliament to revive and extend the so-called snoopers charter, which would include the retention of records of phone calls, emails and other data.

The watchword here is "promoting certain values", the question here is, whose?

In conclusion:

 “Cruelty and injustice…intolerance and oppression.  And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have sensors and systems of surveillance, coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.  How did this happen?  Who’s to blame?  Well certainly there are those who are more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable.  But again, truth be told…if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror." - V

And this:

“You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being.” — Malcolm X

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hierarchy of Needs :)

The Andrew Cunningham Tech Hierarchy of Needs.
Note the Mickey Mouse watch face at the very, very top.

The best "Where does the iWatch reside in the cosmic scheme of things?" post - courtesy Ars Techinca.

Any questions? :)

The Killing of Bin Laden

Seymour M. Hersh is a reporter with incredible contacts to black ops, high end military and senior government officials willing to talk to someone who gets it right before posting it for the world to see so when Hersh says something, it matters, with the latest dealing with The Killing of Bin Laden.

It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

Read this piece closely, it matters.

Theoretical Crime

On the cosmic scheme of things, deflategate doesn't amount to a hill of beans in terms of impacting world peace, ameliorating global warming or eliminating rampant congressional corruption but what is does do is show how shoddy and weak the report was in condemning Brady of "possibly" being aware of what was going on regarding the deflation of footballs that did not impact the wax job the Pats did to the Colts in the AFC title game.

It gets better.

Summing it up, is there undeniable guilt here? Would this Deflategate report finding stand in a court of law? I think not and, for the money Wells got for something that took three months to finish, wouldn't you think this document would be more definitive in determining quilt rather than depending on hearsay, innuendo and the "more probable than not" weasel words that permeate the entire document along with a lack of scientific rigor to truly determine that the Pat's balls were indeed truly deflated when some of the Colt's balls proved to be also, something just not kosher when penalizing a player and team on evidence as flimsy as this. 

The last question to ask it, would Pete Rozelle, the former head of the NFL, pull the trigger on this? For some reason, I rather doubt it.

Monday, May 11, 2015


Mimicking nature via neural nets has become the prime driver for enabling AI to work in similar fashion to how the brain processes information, something able to be simulated in code without issue but not in practical fashion in hardware, until now.

Where it gets interesting.

The image above show how neural nets work, the part that get interesting is how Google, Facebook, IBM, among significant others, are mining enormous amounts of data from the net to train NNs to become smarter, a thought that makes yours truly quietly uneasy as it does Musk, Hawking, Rees and Joy, guys that know a little bit about tech, science and the potent unknowns that AI brings to the table.

As often stated in BRT, AI is going to happen whether we like it or not, the question to ask now is, are we ready for it?

"No one knows, do one?" - Fat Waller

Lovingly Maintained

BRT has waxed poetic about the problems of infrastructure and why it's so important to the wellbeing of the country for infrastructure to be ongoing and not left for dead, something that's becoming a national scandal/crisis as we watch an inept congress vote for never ending war at the expense of this once great nation. With this rant in mind, there is at least one exception to the rule, the 59th Street bridge in Manhattan, a favorite of yours truly as the bridge is a wonder of mechanical engineering writ large as seen by the pictures taken last year during travels on the East Side in Oct of '14. If only other bridges were treated with as much respect and affection as this one is something often thought of every time I see these images of tech done right to the max. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 09, 2015


Elon Musk is a player. Visionary, relentless and prescient, he get it and it's not the cars he builds, it's the upcoming Powerwall, a device that, in time, will change everything regarding clean power and its relationship with fossil fuels and the utilities.

Without question, the infrastructure's not there yet as thin film solar's still in the lab and the transition to graphene supercapacitors is still in it's infancy but the end is coming for fossil fuel whether big oil and coal producers like it or not, and it's about time.

Thursday, May 07, 2015


To yours truly, Red Auerbach was the best basketball coach in history as he not only coached but also was the general manager who had to wheel and deal to get the players he wanted for the Celtics. Guile, loyalty to players and innovation to the max regarding how basketball should be played was Auerbach's genius, something I see reflected in how Geno Auriemma's CT women's team plays, fast, selfless and above all else, ruthlessly efficient ball.

Guile was also a factor.

Golden State and the Atlanta Hawks are channeling Red along with Pop's San Antonio Spurs. :)

Lastly, read the ESPN piece in it's entirety. It's great sports writing at it's best. 

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Don't Bogart that Joint my Friend.

Morgan Freeman's cool and well grounded and his take on pot is stellar. :)

His take on Woodstock's spot on because yours truly was there, along with 400.000+ other stoners and nary a problem ever arose in 4 days where weather conditions were simply horrendous to say the least. Imagine the carnage if booze was part of the equation. Legalizing pot makes eminent sense as the cops, courts and prison guards could deal with people who should be locked up and not us rubes smoking a doobie on our own time. 

Another cool dude, Willie Nelson also does the deed with weed.

Works for me and remember ... Don't Bogart that joint my friend. :)

Course Correction

Perhaps this can happen in America as well as the time is now to change the course of the US before it's too late.

The Deepwater Horizon legacy

Why clean energy must replace dirty before it's too late.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Lake Mead

Between GW and the drought, the south west and Vegas are in trouble and it's going to get worse.

But that's not all.

What's really disconcerting is the fact GW's just starting to ramp up. Something to consider when it comes to climate conditions on this planet that's conducive to our continued survival on this planet.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Baltimore & then some

Sounds like the US doesn't it save that infrastructure woes are national, the cops militarized, the suburbs crapping out, good jobs disappearing/shipped overseas and public schools declining while at the same time, the military, industrial & congressional complex continues neverending war and unjust taxation policies to the detriment of this once great nation known as America.

Something to think about don't you think?

Saturday, May 02, 2015

What is ... space?

Quanta Magazine, a new, online pub, delves into science in ways lay people like myself can understand. Well written, well researched and above all else, current, this looks like a keeper big time. Interactive, What is Space? is the topic of this post and the graphic seen above is but a small part of an amazing sequence showing how entanglement may give rise to space, something BRT has discussed in part but not in such a beautiful and elegant way like Quanta's

In 1915, Albert Einstein’s field equations of gravitation revolutionized our understanding of space, time and gravity. Better known as general relativity, Einstein’s theory defined gravity as curves in the geometry of space-time, overturning Isaac Newton’s classic theory and correctly predicting the existence of black holes and gravity’s ability to bend light. But a century later, the fundamental nature of space-time remains shrouded in mystery: Where does its structure come from? What do space-time and gravity look like in the subatomic quantum realm?

"And so it goes." - K Vonnegut


Tech never sleeps, especially if you want a "self steering" 50 Cal bullet enabling crappy shooters to be an American Sniper without the need to have the skill set needed to do the job.

Well, this is terrifying. As if the U.S. Department of Defense’s research into robotic pack animals wasn’t scary enough, it’s been revealed that a series of tests in February have made unnerving progress with ‘self-steering’ bullets.

The team behind the project, known as EXACTO and developed by America's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has released a video showing the smart bullets in action, successfully changing their course in order to hit a moving target. It’s thought that they work by using small fins on the sides of the bullet to guide it to the target, which is tracked by lasers, although DARPA are being understandably quiet about its exact inner workings.

The military often has to face unfavorable conditions—such as harsh weather, wind, and moving targets—that reduce the accuracy of soldiers, and it would normally be the preserve of specially trained snipers to hit difficult targets. However, the video shows how the weapon can be used, not just by trained sharpshooters, but by absolute novices—with no drop in accuracy. The smart bullets don’t just increase a squaddies accuracy either, it can also increase their range.

This is EXACTLY what the police need in their arsenal when this tech becomes commonplace and made available courtesy Homeland Security's surplus military hardware program, AKA Program 1033, something the cops in Baltimore and Ferguson might want to get when this weaponry hits the marketplace around 2018 or so.