Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

Our friend Bookworm has great photos from her trip to the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan.

Speaking of photographs,  Nikon’s Small World has an extensive collection of images captured by the light microscope.

A mosaic depicting the Trojan War has been found in Syria.

The most precious resource is agency.  Excerpt:

Seizing opportunity requires opportunity to exist at all. And I suspect the downplaying of agency in childhood not only creates fewer opportunities for great people, it must also create more marginal people. Ushering everyone into an endless default script is disastrous when underlying conditions or assumptions change. Even when they don’t, some people exit academia almost terrified to leave (to interact with the “real world”), a kind of Stockholm syndrome. How could we celebrate a higher learning that creates something so pathetic, the opposite of a readiness for life?

What is going on in the world’s art museums?

Organizational cultures and product failures. (at Twitter)

A very interesting analysis of the embedded energy associated with various products.

This natural resources investment firm suggests that the reductions in the cost of wind and solar technologies has been driven not primarily by a Moore’s-law-like learning curve, but rather by reductions in energy and capital costs.

The energy transition of the last 700 years: trends in the share of economies consumed by acquiring food and fuel.

9 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading & Viewing”

  1. David, that last link was very interesting, especially the comments. The discussion about whether “fossil fuel” is biologic in origin has interested me for some time. There is also a mention of “Project Mohole.” The end of that project prompted my very first letter to the editor in 1966. Global Marine, an experienced deep seas drilling company, performed the first phase of the project successfully. Then Lyndon Johnson shifted the contract for phase 2 and 3 to Brown and Root, his favorite contractor and the source of his support in the years he was running for office in Texas. The project under Brown and Root failed as they had no experience at deep ocean drilling. The program was ended after Congress refused to appropriate more money. Brown and Root also did the big base projects in Vietnam at the time so they had other interests than science projects.

  2. In the embedded energy article, I’ll need more than just an assertion that a smart phone requires as much energy to produce as a refrigerator. The range of materials used to build them largely overlap. The electronics in the smart phone are more complex but that doesn’t increase the energy cost of production nearly enough to compensate for the huge difference in metals. It sounds like one of those “amazing facts” that’s so amazing because it’s BS.

  3. MCS…this paper was linked or referenced somewhere in the original linked article. It develops the energy intensities of various manufacturing processes and rolls them up into products. It doesn’t specifically show cell phones, but it does show refrigerators at 5900 MJ and PCs at 3140…not sure why it was linked in support of the cell phone energy estimate.

    5900 MJ equals 1666 , which depending on one’s electricity cost is maybe =$116 (assuming an industrial rate of .07 per kwh)…this seems like it might be correct for a refrigerator, but for a phone would be an awful high proportion of the total manufacturing cost.


  4. Still not buying it. Refrigerator: 200 lbs. of steel, copper, glass (just put in a new one) with maybe a couple of pounds of petrochemicals for insulation, refrigerant. PC: 2-20lbs of the same materials. These are the same super geniuses that told us if we installed enough windmills, the wind would always be blowing somewhere.

    In your cited paper, the first table pretends to account for energy of manufacturing. All in MJ/kg. First, they list Machining, Milling and Grinding, (Note that milling and grinding are machining.) and list various values. The problem is that the energy and power to perform a machining operation scales with the amount of material being removed, not the mass of the piece. By their reckoning, drilling a 1/4″ hole on a five ton piece of steel takes the same energy as machining a ten ton piece into a five ton piece, leaving five tons of chips.

    for the rest, iron is generally cast in sand molds so the distinction is meaningless. What they mean by “Finish Machining” and why it’s a special category is anybody’s guess. Waterjet cutting scales mostly to cross sectional area with some factor for depth of cut.

    A megajoule is 2.77 KWh. Keep that in mind in the chart where they say it takes 0.2 to 0.3 MJ (0.5 to 0.8 KWh) to place a chip on a board. Somebody needs to tell the board fabricators, how can they stay in business when they generally charge less than a penny at volume? Of course a CPU with more than 1,000 pins costs more than a resistor or capacitor with two but there are many times more of the small components on a board than the large ones. The number of finished chips from a wafer varies wildly as well depending on complexity and nobody buys them by the gram.

    I didn’t believe the bare assertion and I believe this crap even less.

  5. I sent an email to Mark Mills, who wrote the Manhattan Institute article, asking for clairification of his source on the smartphone estimate…suggested he drop by here and comment if he feels so inclined.

  6. Just to look at one datapoint on the refrigerator…steel made via electric arc furnace is estimated at 475kwh per ton. If the entire 200-lb refrigerator was made of steel, that would be 47.5kwh…which is indeed a long way from the 1666kwh I get when converting the MJ estimate from the MIT paper.


    Also just found this energy estimate for several different materials:


    If this is right, then copper is about 10X as energy-intensive as steel…I don’t think there’s all that much of it in a refrigerator, though…coils and wiring…anything else?

  7. The problem with trying to run these sorts of numbers to ground is that “energy intensity” includes not just the energy for production but claims to account for the energy consumed by the person that makes the sandwiches in the vending machine in the lunch room when she takes a shower.

    As a branch of the climate hysteria consortium, they’ll never be criticized by anyone they care about for counting things more than once.

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