Saturday, October 30, 2010

Misconception Junction

I've long felt that if something is a well known fact that it is probably wrong.  This site debunks a lot of these common wives tales, with sources of course.

Some more or less random examples:
Viking Warriors Didn’t Wear Horned or Winged Helmets
Microwaves Don’t Cook From the Inside Out
Being Close to the TV Doesn’t Hurt Your Eyes
The Red Juice in Raw Red Meat Isn’t Blood
Gyroscopic Effects Have Almost Nothing to Do With Your Ability to Ride a Bike

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You're Rich

I often like reminding people that they are in the top 10% of the world in terms of wealth, just by living in the US.  Of course, like everything I say, that is just something I made up.  So I decided to get around to doing a search to back it up.  Median income for highschool grad > 25 years old working full time in the US is $31,539.  According the the global rich list site that income would put them at the "375,759,196 richest person in the world" or "TOP 6.26%".  Median income for a BA degree of $50k, puts you in the top 0.98%.  The magic income to put you in the top 10% is $25k.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Atlantic Wind Connection
Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) is an electrical transmission backbone proposed by Trans-Elect Development Company that could be constructed starting in 2013 off the East Coast of the United States to service off-shore wind farms. Google, the investment firm Good Energies, and Japanese trading firm Marubeni are investing "tens of millions of dollars" in the initial development stage of what could become a $5 billion dollar project.
I stumbled upon this while reading Wikipedia during my English Comp class in a computer lab (I was reading the English Wikipedia though so it's ok).  The article is somewhat interesting, although brief.  However, there is a 10 page paper published in 2006 about offshore wind power in the mid Atlantic area that I found pretty interesting.

On the off chance that any of my readers know me personally, you probably already know I do not view wind power favorably.  Specifically, I think the cost per watt (that is actual average produced watt, not nameplate capacity) is simply too high.  Particularly when you factor in nuclear.

I will say though that this paper has made me reevaluate the specific case of off shore wind farms over a very large geographical area.  I still think wind is more expensive than nuclear, but at least it's feasible.  Unlike photovoltaics, which are still obscenely expensive.

I'll summarize what I found interesting, or feel warrants a response for the small percentage of you that won't be reading the original paper.

The study is from 2006, and covers the states from Mass to NC and the adjacent water up to a depth of 100m (which they term the "Middle-Atlantic Bight (MAB)").

They claim that the energy needs and potential energy from wind of that area are:
"We find that the MAB wind resource can produce 330 GW average electrical power, a resource exceeding the region’s current summed demand for 73 GW of electricity, 29 GW of light vehicle fuels (now gasoline), and 83 GW of building fuels (now distillate fuel oil and natural gas)."

They get wind speed data from a handful of NOAA buoys that have recorded hourly wind data for 21 years.  They found that:
"Wind speeds at all nine NOAA buoys in or near the MAB show a mean of 8.3 m/s ([extrapolated] at 80 m height) with [standard deviation] across buoys of only 0.8 m/s."

They take into account areas that would be unavailable for use for a wide variety of reasons.  They also include 10x5 blade-diameter spacing around each turbine to ensure they don't affect each other.

Using the published wind speed to energy curves, as well as their wind history data they calculate an average of 39% nameplate capacity over the long term.

They address the variable output of wind by suggesting multiple sites over a large geographical distance with high voltage transmission lines connecting them.  Specifically, they look at 1, 3, or 6 generation sites in the MAB, and calculate the percent of the year when the combined generation would be at x percent of capacity.
"for the single site, 13% of hours are at maximum output but 15% of hours are off (below cut-in speed of 3.5 m/s). For 3 and 6 connected sites, the power is off only 2% and 0.3% of the hours, respectively."
They conclude that this means wind power is not "intermediate" but rather that its generation fluctuations don't match up to the demand fluctuations.  They propose one possible solution to storing this excess power.  Convert 66% of cars to plug in electrics with individual capacities of 30 kWh (Tesla Roadster is 53 kWh, Chevy Volt is 16 kWh).  Assume that at any given time half these vehicles could provide half their storage to the grid.  That capacity would be adequate to supply the average electrical demand for two hours.  They claim this would be sufficient all but five times a year.  In order to guarantee supply during those periods fossil fuel backups would have to be maintained.

Overall an interesting read.  However, they do not address cost, and that is where wind really suffers.  In a table they give figures for number of turbines that would fill the MAB.  It would take 166 thousand 5 MW turbines to cover the MAB.  That would give an average output of 330 GW.  Pinning down a cost per turbine is difficult, but this very topical article gives a hint:
150 turbines for an estimated $1.6 billion.  That gives a per turbine cost of about $10.6 million.  To cover the MAB would cost about $1.77 trillion.  Using a rather high estimate for new nuclear construction of $5,000 per kW getting the same 330 GW capacity would cost $1.65 trillion.

This however, still ignores the variable nature of wind power.  Additional costs would arise from long distance transmission lines, as well as mass electric vehicle conversions.  Or, more realistically from backup natural gas plants.

So, it would appear that large scale off shore wind is at least within the realm of possibilities.  That being said, given that nuclear is still cheaper, even given a high estimate, and excluding the hidden costs of wind, what reason is there not to just go with nuclear?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Beer-Every-Mile SF Half Marathon: 13 Beers in 13 Miles
Several of you told me that I was “going to die” if I drank 13 beers while running the San Francisco Half Marathon. I did not die.
I puked three times, blacked out for miles 11 and 12, and needed five hours to finish. This is my story.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

'Officer Bubbles' Sues YouTube Commenters Over Mockery
"'Officer Bubbles' — the Toronto Police Constable who was videotaped threatening a G20 protester with arrest for assault over the crime of blowing bubbles at a police officer has had enough of mocking videos and comments on YouTube. He has decided to sue everyone involved (commenters included) for more than a million dollars each. The complaint is detailed in his statement of claim — most of the comments seem fairly tame by internet standards; if this goes anywhere, everyone is going to have to watch what they say pretty carefully. The lawsuit appears to have been successful in intimidating the author of the mocking cartoons into taking them down."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Justices to Hear Suit of Ashcroft Over Detention
Abdullah al-Kidd, born in Kansas and once a star running back at the University of Idaho, spent 16 days in federal detention in three states in 2003, sometimes naked and sometimes shackled hand and foot, but was never charged with a crime.

The Obama administration had urged the justices to reverse a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, that had allowed Mr. Kidd’s lawsuit to proceed. “If permitted to stand,” Acting Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal wrote, “the decision below would seriously limit the circumstances in which prosecutors could invoke the material witness statute without fear of personal liability.” 
That's the whole point.

Monday, October 11, 2010

8-Bit Metallica

So, I really liked the 8-bit Metallica covers from last week.  I've been messing around with other songs.  The main problem is that unless it's a very popular song there isn't a tab file with vocals included.  Without vocals the midi versions get pretty repetitive.

For the time being I finished the rest of Metallica's first four albums.  They are uploaded to mediafire.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

College Student Finds GPS On Car, FBI Retrieve
"A California student got a visit from the FBI this week after he found a secret GPS tracking device on his car, and a friend posted photos of it online. The post prompted wide speculation about whether the device was real, whether the young Arab-American was being targeted in a terrorism investigation and what the authorities would do. It took just 48 hours to find out: The device was real, the student was being secretly tracked and the FBI wanted their expensive device back ... His discovery comes in the wake of a recent ruling by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals saying it's legal for law enforcement to secretly place a tracking device on a suspect's car without getting a warrant, even if the car is parked in a private driveway. ... 'We have all the information we needed,' they told him. 'You don't need to call your lawyer. Don't worry, you're boring.'"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Most People Don't Use IE
"Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which has dominated the Web browser market since blowing by Netscape in the late 1990s, last month fell below the 50% market share level for the first time in years. IE's share of the worldwide market fell to 49.87% in September, down from 51.3% in August and 58.4% a year ago. It is followed by Firefox, which increased its share slightly from 30.09% to 31.5% and Google Chrome, which grabbed 11.54% share, more than triple its September 2009 share, according to market watcher StatCounter."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

8-Bit Covers of Metallica, Led Zeppelin and Any Other Band

Last night, I was reading through an info thread, where people post images that contain info on various subjects.  One of these explained how to turn any song into an 8-bit cover.  I followed the process, and much to my suprise it produced some pretty good results.  You can see the orginal image with instructions to the right.  Here is my overview of the process (slightly modified by me).

1. Go to Ultimate Guitar and get the tabs for the song you want.  The instructions recommend you get either 'guitar pro' or 'power guitar' type tabs.  There are often multiple versions of the same song uploaded.  Get the one with the best rating.  Where it lists instruments in the tab make sure it has vocals included.

2. Once you have your .gp4 tab file, open it up in Tux Guitar.  Export it as a midi file.  File > Export > Export Midi.  Tux Guitar is pretty easy to use, so you shouldn't have any problem.

3. Now download GXSCC and just drag your midi file into it.  It should start playing.  If you click on Config near the top you will be able to choose the instrument set.  It defaults to the SCC full set, and you can change it to a famicon set.  Famicon is the NES, so if you're aiming for NES like songs choose that.  I do think SCC sounds slightly better as it seems to have a greater range.  I went with Famicon for all the ones I made.

4. To export the song just click the Authoring button.  It will export the song exactly as it sounded in GXSCC to a wav file.  Since wav files are way too big you should convert them to FLAC.  Use whatever program you want.  I use foobar2000 for conversions.  Since wav and FLAC are both lossless you won't lose any quality.  From there convert again to your lossy format of choice (e.g. mp3, ogg).

I made some songs last night and uploaded them to mediafire.  They are all in ogg format, and zipped with 7zip.

Led Zeppelin:
Achilles Last Stand; Black Dog; Immigrant Song; Misty Mountain Hop; Moby Dick; Over The Hills And Far Away; Ramble On; Rock And Roll; Stairway To Heaven; Ten Years Gone; The Ocean; When The Levee Breaks

...And Justice For All; Battery; Blackened; Creeping Death; Dyers Eve; Enter Sandman; For Whom The Bell Tolls; Master Of Puppets; Metal Militia; Nothing Else Matters; One; Orion; Phantom Lord; Ride The Lightning; Seek And Destroy; The Four Horsemen; Welcome Home Sanitarium

All Good People; Close To The Edge; Roundabout; Siberian Khatru; South Side Of The Sky; Yours Is No Disgrace

Hallowed Be Thy Name; Money; Another One Bites The Dust; Bohemian Rhapsody; We Will Rock You; Raining Blood; Super Mario Bros Theme; Snow Owl

I think the results turned out pretty well.  Just for reference the end of One was where I decided this was awesome.  I did Money as a comparison to Brad Smith's wonderful 8-bit Dark Side of the Moon.  Unsurprisingly, his is better.  Although, it took him 100 hours to do the album, where-as it took me a few hours to do 40 songs.  Quantity vs quality.

Did the rest of Metallica's first four albums.