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cornellbox
I've gone through and whacked virtually all the external feeds for this account from my Friends List. There's no need to keep trying to use this as a half-assed RSS reader, and there's a lot of cruft that could be better dealt with elsewhere in a real reader.

Hopefully, this will make LJ more useful for me, and occasional posts from friends who still frequent this place won't be lost in the heaps of stuff I used to have to sort through. That will also keep friends from falling off the front page, even if I don't check in every day.

I'm no longer cross-posting any of my green blogging here. What articles I'm reposting are going on the business blog, but I'm not reposting them all, especially since there are three other blogs I'm starting to write for.
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cornellbox
I'm sure I don't understand a tenth of this, but this is fascinating stuff. In deferece to friends lists and people who aren't following me for physics, cosmology, quantum mechanics and suchlike stuff, I am putting this behind a cutCollapse )
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cornellbox
Someone went and took a TON of pictures of the only old, ex-Soviet LUN ekranoplane sitting and slowly rusting on the edge of the Caspian Sea (at least I think it's the Caspian where they built and tested these things, hence the old intelligence term "Caspian Sea Monster"); I didn't try to transliterate the Cyrillic to see if there's a reference to where this is.

The link is to igor113 and has a ton of large images, so it may take a while for everything to load. Well worth it if you like crazy cold-war era tech.

Came across this via @GreatDismal, William Gibson's Twitter account.
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cornellbox
Caught this commentary on Marketplace a few weeks ago. I think it lays out some good observations about aviation security, and how to do it.
There are two ways to do aviation security: either look for bombs or look for terrorists. Looking for terrorists is easier. Out of 100 passengers, there can be at most 100 terrorists. But among them, these hundred passengers offer thousands of possibilities for secreting a bomb.

In the wake of the pants-bomber, this makes all the more sense. As we see, someone can always dream up a new way to hide a bomb. Smuggling has been playing this game with authorities for years and years. Why, now that terrorists are the target, should anyone suspect that we're suddenly good at finding things people are trying to get past authorities? But instead, once again, security theater trumps reasonableness, and billions of dollars are wasted.
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cornellbox


via: BoingBoing
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cornellbox
Dreamwidth is an alternative to LiveJournal that is not as widely known, but may have some good features. I looked into it for a while, when I was considering whether or not to renew or to shift my account from LJ. Evidently, they are now "under attack by an organized troll group." I attach here a copy of the announcement I received from them a short while ago:
Yesterday, we let you know that we've come under attack by an organized troll group attempting to disrupt our business operations. The chief tactic that this group is using is posing as a fictional "concerned parents" organization to contact our merchant processor, our upstream provider; the employers, professors, and parents of our contributors; and anyone else whose contact information they can find, in an attempt to convince those people that Dreamwidth is hosting child pornography. We have a few updates for you today.

First, PayPal, our merchant processor, has requested that we remove entries on our service that contain nothing but constitutionally and legally protected speech that is not against our Terms of Service. We will not be complying with PayPal's demand that we remove these legal entries posted by our users: our Guiding Principles say that we won't, and we're sticking by them.

Because we refuse to do so, we will need to switch our merchant processors. Until we can get up and running with our new processor, paying by credit card will not be available. We'll let you know as soon as payments are back up, of course. If you'd like to pay for your account in the meantime, the check and money order options remain available, although obviously they'll be slower. Also, if you currently have a paid account that will be expiring in the next week or two and you intend on extending your paid service, we would be happy to give you a one month extension on your paid time until we sort this out. Just let us know and we'll get you taken care of so you don't have any lapses in coverage.

Second, our hosting service, ServerBeach, has been nothing but fantastic in all of this. They're aware that this campaign of harassment and intimidation is the work of an organized group of trolls, and they've pledged to work with us rather than shutting us off on a reactionary basis. We're extremely grateful to them for all of their help and support in dealing with all of this. If you are in the market for hosting service for a project of yours, I highly recommend the friendly staff and quality service provided by ServerBeach.

Third, people have been asking for more information, as well as asking what they can do to help. We're sharing as much information publicly as we can right now, and will continue to do so. Right now, the best thing that you can do to help is just to go about your regular use of the site and let us deal with things. We'll let you know if there's anything you can do.

They specifically say that they are not asking for financial help. They can weather the lull until they get a new merchant processor in place. In fact, they recommend donating to relief for Haiti if anyone feels an overwhelming need to donate to something. I think that's a noble and clear eyed thing to suggest at this time, and I applaud them for that. I'm not asking anyone to take to the streets, either. (I doubt the three of you still reading my LJ would accomplish much, in any case.)

I am impressed by what these guys are doing, and how they are handling a bad situation with class. I had been planning to dump my DW account, since I haven't been using it. There's not enough in it for me to go try to re-establish a second-tier personal account somewhere else. I'm concentrating on the new blog, and LJ is probably fine to continue with stuff that isn't appropriate for that. But maybe the best thing I can do is to stick with them for a while, and ask you all to take a look too, to help show that they can't be stifled by a box of trolls.
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cornellbox
Dead-tree newspaper

We have been subscribers to one or another (and sometimes more than one) dead-tree newspaper since I've been married. There have been some small lapses in service, but it's been more or less continuous for a decade and a half. We quit as subscribers to the local Ann Arbor News when it started becoming too thin and useless, and that paper went under less than a year later. We switched over to subscribing to the Detroit Free Press, but they cut back their service to just 3 days a week, and so we're cancelling that subscription.

Of course, there's still a once-a-week free newspaper (that we call the PennySaver, since its format looks like that old rag) that lands in our driveway, and once in a while (though not on any regular schedule), the print version of the Ann Arbor News' successor AnnArbor.com, which is really just a bunch of advertising circulars and a thin single page of alleged content, gets delivered. If they are trying to sell us on subscribing to the new service, that isn't doing it for us.

I don't know if we'll pick up a NYT subscription (at least that still has some substance as a real newspaper), or maybe go out and pick up a paper on occasional Sundays. N has just started more-or-less regularly reading the Sunday comics, and I feel bad for taking that away from him (and from myself, as well), so maybe I can find a way to make that up.

Don't need no steenkin' cable

I do like watching college football and the bowl games. With our limited TV reception, we only get a couple of over the air channels. But today, since my in-laws went north for the holiday, we're getting to take advantage of their cable and I'm in the middle of a football marathon.

Dialing back LJ

I haven't been doing enough with LiveJournal to merit continuing having a paid account. Since there's a free option, I had planned to keep on with the more basic account. I'm happy enough with basic LJ service, and I'm glad to have contributed a little bit to their support.

I was a little surprised, though, to find that my account ending on December 30 meant not that December 30 would be my last day with my paid level of service, but instead, as soon as the calendar turned over to 12/30, I was booted out. I had been planning to review things and perhaps back up some of the extra icons I had created, in case I decided to come back at some point.

I'm not sure, if I was running a web service like LJ with different tiers of service, if I would default to the same method of transition, or if I would let people hang on that last extra day in hope of them keeping up with the service. I think, in most cases, someone reaching that point has already decided not to renew, and there's not much benefit in stretching things one more day for a departing (soon-to-be-) ex-customer.

I have been doing more writing at my mostly-architecture blog, and I expect that to become my primary blog for most things. If you've been following me here because you're interested in the things I have to say about green and sustainable design and the like, then you ought to check out the blog over there.
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cornellbox
I'm using Google Voice as my business phone. This is not the Google OS cell phone (though I'm thinking about one of those next year), but a web-based system for call management and using multiple (physical) phones with a single phone number. So, I can set my GV number to ring either my home phone or my cell phone or both, depending on whether I'm at home or out and about. I think it's going to be an ideal solution for me as a business phone.

Google Voice is still in beta, but I have an invitition to pass along. Let me know if you're interested.
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cornellbox
Larry Sultan, another photographer I really liked when I was in grad school, has died.

"Larry Sultan, a highly influential California photographer whose 1977 collaboration, “Evidence” — a book made up solely of pictures culled from vast industrial and government archives — became a watershed in the history of art photography, died on Sunday at his home in Greenbrae, Calif. He was 63."
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cornellbox
I came across a post on BldgBlog about a photographer, Barry Underwood, some of whose work is very reminiscent of John Pfahl. More interestingly, he's an alumnus of Cranbrook, as well.


Underwood



Pfahl
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cornellbox
Yesterday Thor came up to hang out for the evening. We also discussed our respective unemployments and lots of other stuff. And, as is our wont when we get together, we also brewed a batch of beer. This one is kind of a kitchen sink beer; I cleared out the odd bits of malt in the freezer, as well as the basic ingredients in the recipe we stated from (Papazian's "Who's in the Garden Grand Cru" from New Complete Joy of Home Brewing). I had intended to put a couple other things (secret ingredients) in at the end, but we forgot them as we were finishing up, and they ended up not getting used. Rather than naming this one "Something Something Kitchen Sink" I thought we might instead call it something like "Santa's Bag" or "Santa's Sleigh" - with a similar connotation of a little bit of everything inside.

So, for future reference, here's the recipe:

1.5 gallons water for boiling
2 cans Munton's Extra Light Malt Extract (minus 1 cup set aside for madgallica's bread making)
2-1/2 pounds honey
2 pounds (or so) dry light malt
1/4 pound crushed chocolate malt (old leftovers)
1/2 pound crushed malted barley (old leftovers)
1 oz Fuggles hops

Boil for 45 minutes or so. Then add flavor hops & spices:

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground corriander
dash ground nutmeg
dash ground cardamom
1/4 tsp crystallized ginger
1/2 oz Hallertau hops

Boil for another 10 minutes. Then add aroma hops & spices:

1/2 oz orange peel (dried)
1/2 oz Hallertau hops
1/4 oz ground corriander

Boil 2 more minutes and then strain into 3-1/2 gallons water in fermenter and pitch with 1 packet of Danstar Nottingham yeast.

By morning, vigorous fermentation is underway with the airlock popping at a rate of more than once per second. O.G. 1.063
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cornellbox
I've been surprisingly busy the last couple weeks, since being laid off. It hasn't been productive in the sense of earning an income, but I'm getting a number of things set up and developing connections with a number of people in the area.

I have taken this opportunity to set up my own business, as well. The website is still deeply under construction, but I am trying to develop a new blog which will include my various architectural writings, as well as posts about architectural projects and other personal work.

Since I am not renewing my LJ account, and am going to fall back to freeloader status (or whatever they call it here), more of my writing will probably be focused at the new blog. I haven't decided whether or not to port over all the old entries from here, or not. Some stuff will fall away at the end of the year, so I need to archive it someplace.

If you are one of the handful of people still reading this and want to keep following what I'm up to, I suggest you start checking in at psproefrock.wordpress.com. I think eventually most of my updates will be shifting over there.
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cornellbox
Last week, the two guys I work for told me that they are going to have to lay me off. There hasn't been much new work coming in, and, while I should've been more on top of things in getting prepared, I can't say I am surprised by this. The economy is bad in this state, and it's finally caught up with me.

In may ways I am looking at this as a good thing. This was, at best, a lateral move for me from my previous job. Ironically enough, I just got my certificate from the AIA admitting me to full membership. So, now that I'm licensed, it looks like I am going to be on my own.

Now is the time to start looking at setting up my own solo practice, for one thing. I have a placeholder website, and that is one of the things I will be working on in the next few weeks. Even if I end up getting another job working for someone else, I will probably keep my own practice as well.

pittsfield-dec06-print I am also going to start marketing myself as an architectural photographer. I have been loaned a Nikon digital SLR (the same model, in fact, that I used to create this picture of the Pittsfield Branch library) so that I can do some exploration with a DSLR and build up a personal portfolio.

I'm on the lookout for other things, as well. I don't want to just go work for anyone, though in some ways it would be comfortable even just being a CAD monkey with a steady paycheck. But I'm going to find out what I can do on my own.

That said, I'm looking for work, and would appreciate leads you may be able to pass along. There are updates to come.
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cornellbox
Seeing this on BoingBoing makes me very, very happy, and want to share:




Business Reply Mail pamphlet encourages office workers to revolt


I've seen this before, and I think I would've commented on it earlier, but I don't think I actually did, so here: check it out!
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cornellbox
The Canton Public Library's website has completely adopted International Talk Like a Pirate Day this year. I'm not sure how long it will stay like this, but it's cool what they've done!
Canton residents who be physically unable t' come t' th' library, either due t' a permanent or long-term illness or be o'er th' age o' 65, can now have books mailed directly t' their home at no charge. The sharks will eat well tonight! For more information go t' Books by Mail.

Every three years on yer birthday, we renew yer library card an' update yer contact information, ensurin' that ye receive messages regardin' yer account.

If ye have a fine/fee on yer account, ye can:
* Pay in person with cash, check, or credit card
* Pay on the plank through yer Catalog "MyAccount"

Materials will be kept on th' hold shelf a maximum o' four days after notification o' availability is sent t' requestors. Fire the cannons! Only patrons with orange Canton Public Library cards can place holds.
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cornellbox

[This is an EcoGeek preview. I'm sending this piece to EcoGeek, as well, but I am really interested in this stuff, and want to have it here, too. ETA: I did a re-write, and that has now been posted to JetsonGreen.]

Wood Treatment Makes Alternative to Tropical Hardwoods

An alternative to tropical hardwoods, which are often unsustainably harvested and increasingly endangered, comes from Kebony, a Norwegian company who have developed a process for treating woods such as pine, ash, and maple to make them suitable for exterior uses in a more sustainable manner.

The process of kebonization is similar to pressure treating wood (which is another way to make soft woods usable for exterior use). But, instead of soaking the wood in toxic chemicals like chromated copper asrsenate (CCA, which is now banned for most uses in the US and the EU) or alkaline copper quaternary compounds (ACQ, the most widely used replacement for CCA after the ban), it is instead soaked in furfuryl alcohol, a waste byproduct from sugar cane which is also sometimes used as a food additive. There are no special handling requirements or precautions needed to deal with waste from this wood, and it can be disposed of just like any other untreated wood.

During the kebonization process, the alcohol becomes a resin that reinforces the cells of the wood. The result is a wood with excellent outdoor exposure tolerance like teak or mahogany, but with a harder surface than many of the tropical woods that it replaces. The wood also naturally fades to a silvery-grey color much like those tropical woods, as well.

The wood that is used in this process can be any of a number of non-tropical species that are already being produced in more sustainable manner. (Whether FSC certified or merely conventionally farmed, the wood does not need to be harvested out of rainforests.)

Kebony wood can also be used for building siding, and it is so water and weather resistant that it has even been used for building roofs and for boat decking. The process also makes the wood less prone to swelling due to moisture. There is no necessity to paint Kebony wood, and it can withstand decades of exposure to the weather before any maintenance is necessary.


via: The Economist and Thanks, Kat
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cornellbox
I haven't posted one of these for quite a while. (In fact, all my posting here has been tapering off. Sometimes Facebook or Twitter is enough.)

So the question this time is, "What is remarkable about the way this image was made?"

There are a couple of ways to answer that, so partial credit may be issued, especially if I get more than one person who reads/responds to this. Hint (which may or may not be useful): It's not a digital image.
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cornellbox
Put it this way: Which is more offensive, that [Sir Norman] Foster had -- for a time -- a stimulus-package commission, or that lonely stretches of road are being repaved or widened across rural America for the sake of political and economic expediency? -- LA Times


The article also ends with a sentence worth remembering: "[P]utting up a building, as opposed to designing one, remains the least digital act imaginable."
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cornellbox
The Canadians are having a big national debate over copyright issues. Another good, concise essay in support of reasonable copyright was cited at BoingBoing, and can be found in its entirety at the source, here.
Even within any one class of incentive, the effect of money on creativity is rarely a straight line. Mordechai Richler would not have written four times as many books if his advances had been four times larger. The Guess Who might be tempted to release more recycled compilations if you pay them enough money, but their songs would not have gotten 1% better for every 1% their revenues went up. Thus, while copyright may provide a financial incentive that enables many creators to create, stronger copyright that results in more money does not necessarily result in more creativity. (emphasis mine)
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cornellbox
I don't re-post enough about BLDG Blog. But this image is so striking it deserves sharing and explanation:
I watched conceptual designer Viktor Antonov explain how he had created a science-fictionalized Paris (for a now-cancelled videogame called The Crossing).

Antonov approached the problem by altering just a few parameters in the standard architectural model. For instance, Antonov had noticed a few fundamental details about how the mid-nineteenth century neo-classical core of Paris had been constructed: big street-level floors, smaller attic spaces, complex chimney stacks. By increasing the emphasis on the lower floors, and stretching them out—and by emphasizing the height and complexity of the chimneys—Antonov was able to create a thematically consistent science fiction Paris.

Simply by altering a few basic architectural parameters, he said, you were able to fictionalize the city, whilst at the same time retaining its fundamental identity. His designs were still recognizably—even mathematically—Parisian, in other words, but they were also otherworldly.

via BLDG Blog
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cornellbox
I came across the Twitter fiction 'Spies in Space' contest after reading the article on Scalzi's site with the author of 'Bitter Angels' (a copy of which is the prize). The deadline was a couple days away, but I thought about it.

I worked on my entry for a few minutes the other evening, and then forgot about it until yesterday afternoon, just before leaving work. I had saved a couple sentences on my flash drive, so I did a quick edit to get under the 126 character limit and posted it. I thought I might post a couple more last night before the 9pm deadline, but I ended up doing other things last night.

So I looked in this morning and didn't see mine in the honorable mentions, so I figured I was out. And then the last one listed, one of the two winners, was mine.
cornellbox: @bookviewcafe Sputnik watches from overhead. Realizes she's been left alone with no way home. So she sends messages to other side in code.


Winners page

So, I should be getting an autographed copy of C.L. Anderson's 'Bitter Angels' in the mail sometime soon.
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cornellbox
Two quotes from an essay by Eric Felten on the issue of copyright and reproductions of historical (and thus public domain) works:

"Copyright law exists for a purpose: to make creativity pay. Making accurate photographic copies of paintings is no doubt valuable and involves painstaking work. But it isn’t—and isn’t meant to be—creative. With all the digital assaults on the old copyright verities, the champions of intellectual property can’t afford to waste their energies trying to monopolize images that already properly belong to us all."

and

"It’s not hard to understand the museum’s frustration. It goes to all the trouble and expense of making accurate photographic copies—getting the lighting just so, ensuring the magentas are distinguishable from the scarlets and crimsons—and then someone comes along with a few clicks of a mouse and appropriates thousands of images. One rightly chafes at the techie assumption that anything you can get your digital mitts on is free game. But no better is the opposite extreme, the effort to seize public property and put it under monopoly control.

"Copyright law tries to balance two social goods, providing private ownership of intellectual property to reward creativity while eventually making creative works as widely accessible as possible by letting the copyright lapse decades after the work’s author is dead. If new copyrights can be attached to old works of art, the whole copyright system is thrown out of whack."

As much as anything, I think this particular example serves to illuminate the true purpose of copyright and to help identify where the overreach of current [ab]use of copyright law begins.
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cornellbox
If I end up eventually getting a job in Sudbury, I will probably have to get one of these to wear. Even if I don't, I would love to have one. It's over $100, and it just wouldn't be a practical purchase. I'd love to find the design on something I'd be more likely to wear more regularly (and less pricey).

I think this is one of the most attractive sports jerseys I have ever seen. I really like the subtlety and the symbolism of it. Symbolism happens all the time in sport, and all the more so in Olympics competition (while the Olympics themselves have become a travesty of corporate clownhood), but it's usually ostentatious. Most non-Canadians will probably never see the pattern and design incorporated into the maple leaf; it'll just be a red maple leaf to most people.

You can get a more flat, frontal view of it here. There are small maple leafs incorporated to commemorate previous Olympic gold medals in men's, women's, and sledge (paralympic) hockey.

When I show this to madgallica, she's gonna want one, too. And she's going to say it's another reason we have to move to Canada.
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cornellbox
I wrote this piece for EcoGeek, but Hank had his own pieces that he wrote about the Volt, instead. So this will probably never be posted anywhere else, but it's my take on the 230 MPG number Chevy is listing for the Volt.

I have been excited about the Volt for quite a while. I got a very close look at the mule that was used to first introduce the concept when I was at the GM driving event I attended a couple years ago, and I've been following developments as it has progressed. But I also recognize the 230 MPG number is just so off the charts that it (quite rightly so) makes people wonder if it's true. So this is my perspective on it. You can also see the EcoGeek articles (here and here) if you are interested.


Chevy Volt Gets 230 MPG*

GM has announced the estimated equivalent fuel economy rating for the forthcoming Chevy Volt: 230 miles per gallon. It's an impressive number, but we question how realistic it truly is (hence the asterisk). This is the city equivalent mileage, and this number is achieved based on using grid-supplied power for the batteries to travel the first 40 miles, before the gas engine kicks in to start recharging the vehicle.

Our friends at GM-volt.com laid out the math for this a few days ago in anticipation of this announcement: "Mike Duoba from Argonne National Lab devised a method to determine the MPG of an EREV; first the car is driven from a full battery until it reaches charge-sustaining mode, then one more cycle is driven. If we use the highway schedule, the first 40 miles are electric. One more cycle is 11 more miles. If the Volt gets 50 MPG in charge sustaining mode, it will use .22 gallons of gas for that 11 miles. Thus 51 miles/.22 gallons = 231.8 MPG."

This is a little incomplete, since it omits any mention of the electric portion of energy use and grid power cost. Calling it "230 MPG + 10 kWh electricity" would be a little closer to the mark. But with grid electricity prices around 11 cents per kWh, that 40 miles of travel using battery charge only costs a bit more than $1.

Gallons per 10,000 miles would be a much harder number to calculate, because so much of it will be based on driving habits of the individual driver. If you instead take this as a more appropriate figure of gallons per 100 miles, then you would instead come up with a value of 1.2 gallons per 100 miles (versus 2 gallons per 100 miles for a 50 MPG Prius or 3 gallons per 100 miles for a 33 MPG Chevy Cobalt doing similar calculations). That's still impressive in comparison with the others, but seems more reasonable in scale, versus an off-the-charts 230. But, as GM has been pointing out, a lot of people drive less than 40 miles a day, which will mean that the gas engine should rarely be needed at all, and with virtually no fuel consumption, the miles per gallon will be even higher.

From the GM press release:
The Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle is expected to achieve city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon, based on development testing using a draft EPA federal fuel economy methodology for labeling for plug-in electric vehicles.

The Volt, which is scheduled to start production in late 2010 as a 2011 model, is expected to travel up to 40 miles on electricity from a single battery charge and be able to extend its overall range to more than 300 miles with its flex fuel-powered engine-generator.


Links: Chevrolet Volt
GM-volt.com

image: via Adam Denison
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cornellbox
This article for EcoGeek was posted briefly before disappearing. I think that because another writer had an article on the same topic (and that article was posted shortly before my editor put this one up), it was subsequently taken down as a duplicate.

The story is still in the EcoGeek LJ feed (at least for now), so it did get published, but now this is the only place where it shows up.




Battery technology for transportation is being promoted by the US
government with a $2.4 billion grant program for research and
development. More than half of the federal funds are targeted at the
state of Michigan. Some of the biggest grant recipients include Johnson
Controls (which will be supplying batteries for Ford Motor Co.), LG
Chem/Compact Power (supplier of battery systems for General Motors), and
A123 Systems (the other finalist to supply batteries for the Chevy Volt,
as well as a battery supplier for Chrysler). All three of those
automakers are also recipients of millions of dollars in funding, as well.

Much of the funds will go towards developing and improving current
technologies for battery vehicles. Almost $1 billion is going toward
new battery manufacturing facilities, many of which are to be located in
Michigan. Within a few years, the cost of vehicle-scale battery systems
should be dramatically lower as these manufacturing facilities begin to
produce large numbers of battery systems.

Some of the other battery technologies we have reported on in past
months may also get further research to prove their viability or to
develop commercial versions of next-generation storage. It should also
be expected that offshoot technologies in both larger- and smaller-scale
applications will come out of this technological push, as well.
Improved consumer electronics batteries will doubtless follow on as new
battery systems are developed. And, at the larger-scale end,
applications of battery systems to help in utility level storage.

This should add to the push for improvements in the electrical
distribution grid. With more electrical demand coming from this
increase in electric vehicles, improvements in how electrical power is
generated (preferably renewably) and in how it is distributed will be
necessary in order for this investment in battery power to really pay off.

Image Credit: Volt battery pack via GM-Volt.com

via: Detroit Free Press
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