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Member since: Fri Sep 9, 2005, 06:39 PM
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Stewart's response to this was absolutely epic -- watch the video !

Posted by eppur_se_muova | Fri Jul 31, 2015, 10:00 AM (0 replies)

*Simple* carbon compounds are widespread, but have nothing to do with life.

This is rather like finding sand and calling it "the rudiments of semiconductor manufacture". It might be, but chances are overwhelmingly against it.

Carbon is not a particularly rare element. It is a reactive element, so it's usually found in combination with other elements, and **ALMOST ANY COMPOUND CONTAINING CARBON IS LABELED AN 'ORGANIC COMPOUND'*** by convention. "Organic" in colloquial usage means "associated with a living organism"; in scientific usage it means "contains carbon", with only very simple compounds like CO2, CO, and metal carbides being excluded. Simple organic compounds like methane, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, even methanol, are not evidence of life or even the probability of life. It just means that carbon reacted with whatever was present, and that usually includes hydrogen (the most abundant element in the universe) and oxygen (which forms particularly strong bonds with carbon).

I've never understood the attraction of the hypothesis that life originated elsewhere. If such a thing had occurred, it would be fundamentally impossible to prove. And it only "begs the question" -- if you ask "where did life come from ?" and the answer is "somewhere else", then you have to ask, "well, how did it originate *there*?" and you can't answer that, because you can't investigate "there". Frankly, it seems like more of a hopelessly romantic -- even magical -- notion than a testable scientific hypothesis, but for some reason, it's become en vogue (again -- *sigh*) among so-called science journalists and won't go away, despite a paucity of evidence and a complete absence of even remotely unambiguous evidence. Frankly, it just seems to pander to a public appetite for romance over reason.
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Tue Nov 18, 2014, 09:38 AM (1 replies)

The car that runs on sunshine and sweat (BBC)

Ken Wysocky

In a perfect world, someone would invent a small personal vehicle that runs on nothing but sunshine and calories and carries a week's worth of groceries, for good measure.

Dont look now, but its already here. The Elf, manufactured by Organic Transit, based in the US state of North Carolina, is the brainchild of inventor Rob Cotter, Organic Transits founder and chief executive officer. And it evokes nothing less than the love child of a recumbent tricycle and a Messerschmitt bubble car.

The Elfs car DNA is visible in features such as its tadpole-like polycarbonate shell, which shields riders from the elements and abetted by LED headlamps, taillamps and turn indicators makes the impish vehicle more visible on roads than a traditional two-wheeler. Its bike pedigree shows up in its control scheme; its narrow front wheels, equipped with disc brakes, are steered and stopped by hand grips rather than a car-style steering wheel and brake pedal.

Equipped with a standard three-speed internal-hub transmission or an optional NuVinci continuously variable planetary transmission, the Elf moves by pedal and/or electric power; its one-horsepower electric motor is powered by a lithium iron phosphate battery pack, which is fed by a 100-watt rooftop solar panel. The pack takes seven hours to charge by sunlight or 1 hours when plugged into a standard household outlet.

Speeding tickets likely wont be an issue. The Elf tops out at 20mph on electric power alone, 30mph with pedals pumping. Ideally suited to quick urban jaunts, the Elf is less useful for long-range travel, unless you happen to be an ultra-marathoner. Its motor-only cruising range is a modest 18 miles, although pedalling can bump range to as much as 40 miles.
more: http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20140609-bike-to-the-future

An enclosed electric moped, more or less ...
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Tue Jun 10, 2014, 12:28 PM (2 replies)

Well, you're indirectly "burning" steel as fuel, and it takes coal to produce steel ...

you're getting less energy out of the hydrogen than you would have gotten from the coal. This is basically a roundabout way of burning coal less efficiently. Economically, this makes no sense at all.

One last time, folks -- (1) It takes energy to produce metals from the metal compounds in their ores (except for rare cases like gold and silver which occur as the metal); (2) Converting the metal back to a metal compound releases energy (in this case stored as H2); (3) Metals thus serve as a means of storing energy; (4) Neither step 1 nor step 2 is particularly energy-efficient, so the two-step process loses a lot of energy; (5) The price of metals in the market is strongly dependent on the amount of metals recycled as the metal; thus using metals as fuels or battery components will drive up the price of the metal, rendering the practice uneconomical, and raising the cost of the metal for other uses as well.

This is a cute trick, not a practical solution to anything.
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Tue Apr 29, 2014, 09:03 AM (1 replies)

Wow, talk about jumping to conclusions from minimal evidence.

These are both MUCH simpler molecules than any nucleic acid heterocycles, or all but the simplest amino acid (glycine). The first is just the dimer of hydrogen cyanide, found pretty much wherever HCN is found. This fad of reporting "MOLECULES OF LIFE FOUND IN SPACE!" has gotten really old. There is a very long and improbable path between such spaceborne molecules and all but the simplest amino acids or nuclear bases. In contrast, the formation of these molecules under planetary conditions is well documented. The main difference is simply concentration -- the probability of two molecules reacting with each other is proportional to the concentration of each of the molecules involved, which is much, much lower in instellar space than in planetary atmospheres/hydrospheres. I wish these scientists would try harder to formulate plausible hypotheses, rather than going for the most spectacular hypothesis in the hopes of greater fame -- which is evidently what is driving this fad.

Posted by eppur_se_muova | Thu Feb 28, 2013, 09:50 PM (0 replies)
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