Author Archive | Raymond

Will Shale Gas Rock the World?

Will the recent discovery of untapped shale gas resources be a boon for the world, or another cancer on the environment? WSJ reports, with perhaps too much optimism:

from Ruhrfisch at Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Ruhrfisch (CC)

There’s an energy revolution brewing right under our feet.

Over the past decade, a wave of drilling around the world has uncovered giant supplies of natural gas in shale rock. By some estimates, there’s 1,000 trillion cubic feet recoverable in North America alone—enough to supply the nation’s natural-gas needs for the next 45 years. Europe may have nearly 200 trillion cubic feet of its own.

We’ve always known the potential of shale; we just didn’t have the technology to get to it at a low enough cost. Now new techniques have driven down the price tag—and set the stage for shale gas to become what will be the game-changing resource of the decade.

I have been studying the energy markets for 30 years, and I am convinced that shale gas will revolutionize the industry—and change the world—in the coming decades.

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Did Religion Have an Evolutionary Value?

Even Dawkins sees some value in religion, just not in the present. ScienceBlogs reports:
Richard Dawkins argues that humanity's historical predisposition towards religion and supernatural beliefs may have held an evolutionary utility. "The rule of thumb: 'Believe whatever your parents tell you,' quite clearly could have survival value," says Dawkins.
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“Democratic War Room” Unleashed For Kagan Supreme Court Nomination

The political venom never flows more strongly than during the confirmation process. Will the Democrats run the table during this process, or is The Huffington Post just playing politics?

from Doc Searls at Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Doc Searls (CC)

In the hours following the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, the predominant feature of the debate has been the swift, campaign-like operation of Washington’s Democratic establishment.

Since President Obama introduced his Solicitor General as the choice to replace retired Justice John Paul Stevens, national airwaves and DC inboxes have been littered with a steady stream of material from Kagan backers.

One party official compared it (favorably) to a presidential campaign war room, with caffeine-aided staffers shooting out “rapid response” messages to Republican attacks and driving narratives either supportive of Kagan or mocking of the GOP.

It has been by design. At the White House, a team of aides overseen by Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and run out of the office of the President’s Counsel had already outlined many of the key arguments they want to dominate the Kagan conversation: her eminent scholarly qualifications, her consensus-driven leadership qualities, and her bipartisan support.

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Ash Cloud Disrupts Travel for 2nd Day

Just when you thought air traffic was back to normal …  I’m headed for Europe this week, and I hope Vulcan will hold his wrath long enough for me to get across. CBC News Reports:

from C.G. Newhall at Wikimedia Commons

Air traffic to and from European destinations was disrupted by a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland for a second consecutive day Sunday.

The cloud is lingering over northwestern Scotland and a finger stretches into the airspace over northwestern Spain and Portugal.

An isolated cloud is affecting southern France and northern Switzerland, while another hangs over southern Switzerland, northern Italy, southern Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria.

Roughly 1,000 fewer flights took place in European airspace on Sunday, a drop of four per cent from the usual number for this time of year.

Hundreds of flights were canceled Saturday as plumes of ash again blew toward western Europe.

Spain closed 19 airports, while dozens of flights were also canceled in Portugal.

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Legalize Pot? Get Mom Onboard

Pot usage amongst young and middle-aged moms isn’t new and it isn’t a fad.  The legalization lobby is smart to target these ladies to help get out the vote. MSNBC reports:

from Wikimedia Commons

Moms got tougher drunk-driving laws on the books and were directly responsible for passing and then repealing alcohol Prohibition. Now marijuana activists are trying to enlist the nation’s mothers in legalization efforts with a sales pitch that pot is safer than booze.

The nation’s largest marijuana legalization lobby recently started a women’s group. The Moms4Marijuana website draws thousands. And just in time for Mother’s Day, a pot legalization group in Denver has created a pink-carnation web card asking moms to support legalization.

These marijuana moms argue that pot is no worse than alcohol, that teens shouldn’t face jail time for experimenting with it and that marijuana can even help new mothers treat postpartum depression.  “I know so many mothers who support this but aren’t willing to come out and say it,” said Sabrina Fendrick, head of the Women’s Alliance at the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.

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FCC Gives Hollywood The Right To Break Your TV/DVR … Just ‘Cause

It is always disheartening when something is made illegal because you could do something naughty with it. Techdirt reports:

Mattl (CC) via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Mattl (CC)

For a couple years now, the MPAA has been asking the FCC to break your TV/DVR, and let them effectively put a type of DRM (by enabling “Selectable Output Control” or SOC) on video content, such that you will not be able to access the content via third party devices, such as your DVR or your Slingbox. Effectively, they want to break the ability of your equipment to work. You wouldn’t be able to legally record the movie that was playing on your TV. The MPAA’s argument here makes absolutely no sense at all — and when they’re called on it, the doubletalk comes out.

The MPAA’s argument is that if it could block people from recording movies, they could release the movies on things like PPV before they release them on DVD, adding yet another window to the long list of windows that Hollywood uses.

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Herschel Captures the Birth of a Giant Star

The Universe is so large that you can look around and see events so rare that they only happen once in the course of millions of years. TG Daily reports:

Photo: European Space Agency

ESA’s Herschel telescope has snapped an embryonic star likely to turn into one of the biggest and brightest in our galaxy within the next few hundred thousand years.

The star-forming cloud RCW 120 already contains eight to ten times the mass of the Sun, and is still surrounded by an additional 2,000 solar masses of gas and dust from which it can feed further.

“This star can only grow bigger,” says Annie Zavagno of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille. But, she says, “According to our current understanding, you should not be able to form stars larger than eight solar masses.”

This is because the fierce light emitted by such large stars should blast away their birth clouds.

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MIT Researchers Print Solar Cell on Paper

What if everyday objects where constantly soaking up the power of the sun? This breakthrough from the folks at MIT could make that possible.  Green Technology Daily reports:

Photo: Martin LaMonica, CNET

Photo: Martin LaMonica, CNET

Scientists at the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Research Center have successfully printed thin-film solar on paper. By coating white sheets of paper with organic semiconductors, the researchers are, in effect, able to turn an everyday object into a current-producing device.

MIT President Susan Hockfield and Paolo Scaroni, CEO of the Italian oil company Eni, officially dedicated the new research center last week. Vladimir Bulovic, the center’s director, took the opportunity to unveil the paper solar panel.

The process is said to be similar to an inkjet printer. Just as an inkjet deposits ink onto paper fairly quickly and cheaply, the MIT scientists are depositing carbon-based dyes, used as organic semiconductors, to absorb the sunlight and then convert it into solar electricity.

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British Taxpayers Ordered to Bail Out Euro

Looks like it’s Europe’s turn for a round of taxpayer funded bailouts. The Telegraph reports:

Photo: Julien Jorge (CC)

Photo: Julien Jorge (CC)

All 27 EU finance ministers have been summoned to Brussels on Sunday to sign up to a “European stabilisation mechanism. Britain will be unable to veto this as it will be put through under the “qualified majority voting” system.

The deal, effectively to shore up the euro, was denounced as a “stitch-up” last night after it emerged Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, had devised it behind closed doors and were attempting to push it through at a time when there is no clear government in Britain.

It was declared a “done deal” by the 16 euro zone leaders who met in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The decision was taken as David Cameron was locked in talks with the Liberal Democrats to try to form a government.

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Congress Members Bet on Fall in Stocks

This can’t possibly be a good sign. WSJ reports:

from Asy arch at Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Asy arch (CC)

Some members of Congress made risky bets with their own money that U.S. stocks or bonds would fall during the financial crisis, a Wall Street Journal analysis of congressional disclosures shows.

Senators have criticized Goldman Sachs Group Inc. for profiting from the housing collapse. And Congress is considering legislation to curb Wall Street risk-taking, including the use of financial instruments known as derivatives and of leverage, or methods that amplify returns.

According to The Journal’s analysis of congressional disclosures, investment accounts of 13 members of Congress or their spouses show bearish bets made in 2008 via exchange-traded funds — portfolios that trade like stocks and mirror an index. These funds were leveraged; they used derivatives and other techniques to magnify the daily moves of the index they track.

There’s no evidence the legislators and their spouses used privileged information or failed to follow rules on disclosure.

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