Category Archives: Energy

Whalenado of Energy Savings from Biomimicry

This Winds-day’s Amazon product is a whale costume, Rasta Imposta Killer Whale, Black/White, One Size.

Perhaps you think this is nostalgia for Songs Of The Humpbacked Whale.

From Wikipedia: Songs of the Humpback Whale (album)

Songs of the Humpback Whale is a 1970 album produced by bio-acoustician Roger Payne. It publicly demonstrated for the first time the elaborate whale vocalizations of Humpbacks, and became the bestselling environmental album in history, selling over 100,000 copies. By raising awareness of the intelligence and culture of whales the album helped spawn a worldwide ”Save The Whales” movement, leading to the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment 10-year global moratorium on commercial whaling (observed by all but a few nations).

Holy Harpoon, Batman!

More importantly, the top selling album led to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

And maybe it led to the recent publication of this Think Like A Tree video, What Can a Humpback Whale Teach a Wind Turbine?, also embedded below. Word of the day: “Tubercles.”

The story may still be around, but the whalepower website is in disarray, with no sign of activity on the windpower generation front. What happened to that? [Update: Seems there is some activity from licensee TEG this year, The Energy Generators – Products.]

Other applications, such as fans using the design, have found a big market with Whale-Power mentioned but under the Whalenado name, Whalenado Product Features.

One of the earliest news articles (2007), from The Toronto Star, local to the Whalepower inventor, has a detailed description of the technology’s benefits and a good answer to why the concept hasn’t taken off for generating power, A Whale of a Tale.

But even if WhalePower can prove beyond a doubt that its blade design is better, it doesn’t necessarily ensure success. Wind-turbine manufacturers can’t keep up with demand for current product, so there’s little incentive to dramatically alter the design of their blades – at least not yet. There’s also no incentive for banks to lend money to wind-farm projects taking a risk on a new blade design.

… [comparison to semiconductor business] …

WhalePower’s hope of retrofitting existing turbine blades – an estimated $50 billion worth around the world – could also prove a tough sell. Adler says retrofitting a blade with tubercles would void the warranty. “Who’s going to take that chance?”

Think about the timing, McFly. 2007 is when Whalepower begins making the eco circuit as a windpower breakthrough. The next year, the global money system fell into chaos. It’s reasonable to assume that money for speculative enterprises blew away in the non-gentle financial breeze.

[Update: Again, seems like there is some recent commercial activity, based on this news item, TEG News about Whalepower license.]

Commercial Solar Oven Focus on Solavore

This Sun-day’s Amazon product is also demonstrated cooking chicken and apple crisp dessert and holding them at temperature until dinnertime in a video by LDSPrepper, embedded at the bottom of this post.

. Sold by etailz and Fulfilled by Amazon in easy-to-open packaging. Gift-wrap available.
. #1 customer rated Solar Oven on Amazon – easy to use, portable, and durable
. 100% Solar: point the solar oven at the sun and you’re ready to go
. Made in USA: from design to manufacture
. Easy to use – cook, slow cook, and bake year round with included all-season solar reflectors
. The perfect solar oven, whether you’re baking cookies in your backyard or slow cooking a batch of our Solavore Chili while camping

Solavore probably gets its name from a play on locavore, eater of local food instead of stuff with lots of travel miles, which is already a play on the traditional carnivore, herbivore and omnivore terms.

On a day with frost on the ground in the morning and wind, the “pre-heated” Solavore is already at 225F without the reflectors, which he only uses when it’s below freezing temp outside.

Pre-heated Solavore about to receive chicken and dessert pots for cooking
Solavore Sport Solar Oven – Portable Solar Cooking Package Complete with All Season Solar Reflectors, 2 Granite Ware Pots, Oven Thermometer, and Water Pasteurization Tool

Other popular solar ovens include the All American and GoSun designs at similar price points. They have their advocates and we’ll look at them in future posts. But for now, LDSPrepper puts the Solavore to good use in the video, EASY Shredded Chicken Solar Oven Recipe, and demonstrates some indispensable extra items available for the oven in another video, The Two Hottest Items Since Solar Ovens.

AMAZING FLAVOR, CHEAP & EASY! This is the way to make a delicious dinner. Put three ingredients in a pot, set it outside in the Solavore solar oven and go about your day with no worries. Because dinner is being cooked while you take care of business. But don’t forget dessert! I also made my favorite Apple Crisp recipe. Our dinner guest loved the food and we had plenty of leftovers for a week.

– $40 Discount Code: Code: Prepared
– Mom’s Apple Crisp Recipe:

The video is also embedded below.

Using LFTR to Clean Water, Cure Cancer, & Produce Energy

The Amazon product for this Thor’s-day, the 22nd (pulled the trigger early), which is usually Thirst-day around here, is a book that caused a stir in the environmentalist movement when it appeared, Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, RestoredWildlands, and Geoengineering Are Necessary.

This talk at the Long Now Foundation, Re-Thinking Green (MP3) describes some of the controversial positions advocated by the author and Whole Earth creator, Stewart Brand.

In English, Thursday actually originates with Thor’s Day.

Says Wikipedia, “The name is derived from Old English Þūnresdæg and Middle English Thuresday (with loss of -n-, first in northern dialects, from influence of Old Norse Þorsdagr) meaning “Thor’s Day”.It was named after the Norse god of Thunder.”

This Thor’s-day we’re looking at Thorium as the solution to several problems.

Might Thorium Humor Poster

Rusty Towell, if that is his real name, gave a sobering talk at TEDxACU about the conditions of life for impoverished third world people you’d expect from a Christian missionary man, except he also makes a compelling case for the safe use of Thorium nuclear energy to make power, clean water, and cure cancer.

See Why making energy from dirt might save the world | Rusty Towell | TEDxACU, also embedded below.

Trolls & Tribulations for Missouri Wind & Solar

There seems to be a lower price on the Thames & Kosmos Wind Power 2.0 Amazon product this Winds-day. From the description:

“Gift-wrap available.”
“Electricity generating turbines”
“Build wind powered generators to energize your electric vehicles and charge your rechargeable batteries (permakent: in theory)”
“Kit includes two styles of wind turbine blades and a gearbox with three different gear ratios for experimenting.”
“Explore this amazing free source of renewable energy”
“Kit comes with everything you need”

I bet Jeff Harmon at Missouri Wind and Solar, who has a popular YouTube channel for the topic, wishes it had a troll repeller. Some folks had been tormenting him on the Internet, perhaps because of foreign trade issues? See Jeff talk about it last December,

Click for related page at Atari Mania

Also see Jeff visit one of his suppliers, Missouri Wind and Solar visits Helios America Solar Panel Factory, a manufacturer in the United States.

For home windpower newbies, Jeff explains the basics, Wind turbines for the beginner How to part one by Missouri Wind and Solar (also embedded below):

Farmscrapers Stack Agriculture to the Sky

This Mound-day’s Amazon link is to a book by MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and professor of microbiology and public health in environmental health sciences at Columbia University, where he was a multiple Best Teacher award winner, Dr. Dickson Despommier.

It’s a Library Journal Best Book of 2010, with diverse endorsements ranging from The Huffington Post to Businessworld, even including Sting, who raved, “A world-changing innovation whose time has come. This visionary book provides a blueprint for securing the world’s food supply and at the same time solving one of the greatest environmental crises facing us today.”

The book is The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century

Popular “vlog bro,” Hank Green, posted an article at Eco Geek in 2009 about plans for a Manhattan high rise vertical farm, New Skyscraper Farm Mimics Nature.

Dystopian Farm vertical growth.
Inhabitat: Spiraling Skyscraper Farms for a Future Manhattan.

More recently, plans for a green skyfarm are being made in China, according to this video from Vidello Productions, Shenzen Farmscrapers Tower Concept Design, also embedded below.

Solar Crock Pot and Mirror Progress Report

Last Sun-day’s post, Cheap Concave Makeup Mirror Fire Starter, promised a video of the Amazon product on order.

It arrived, and the first test, still attached to the package, was successful. A water bottle I brought outside as a fire extinguisher with the makeup mirror became the target of a brief, but devastating attack of concentrated sunlight.

The result wasn’t very dramatic. I didn’t notice any smoke, but the label on the Arrowhead bottle had no paper covering the plastic where the sun’s image was focused, however briefly. A silent killer.

The magnifying mirror still attached to its packaging fit into regular size pockets better than the magnifying lens, normally used for reading, because of its lens handle.

Swissco suction cup mirror. 20x magnification, 3 1/2” diameter Colors May Vary

I work weekends, so during my days off I’ll do the video I promised to make fire and smoke, and you can go to the Academy next year. Wait, what? Never mind.

I’ve tried solar cooking with found junk at the compound, such as a space blanket, black travel coffee mug, meat thermometer in the water and sometimes got OK temperatures near 160 F after sealing the mug from cooling wind inside a gallon double seal plastic bag thingie. Which of course soon fogged up and blocked the sunlight. I would not judge it to be the most convenient or effective solar cooking setup ever.

supergokue1 found a better way after some experimentation, still using found common items, Solar oven from dollar store items. (also embedded below).

3D Printing Glass From Sand in Morocco

The Fry-day Amazon product is a low cost 3D printer that uses plant based bioplastic filament, PLA, to build objects by adding layers on top of layers.

The user interface to do this is simpler these days. It got a good review at Hackaday, Review: Monoprice MP Select Mini 3D Printer. The author was impressed that such a low priced 3D printer can use standard G-code and doesn’t require special filament.

It supports ABS and other materials as well.

From the description, “Ready to Print: Unlike most other low-cost 3D printers, this printer ships fully assembled and has already been calibrated at the factory. We even include sample PLA filament and a MicroSD card with preinstalled models, so you can start printing right out of the box!”

Back in 2011, a “Solar Sinter” was shown making 3D printed glass objects directly from sand in Egypt using a solar powered computer to focus sunlight as the process.

Here’s our blog post about it from that time,

An updated version of the Solar Sinter uses finer sand in Morocco and a new computer design to produce objects with more definition.

See the latest video, Solar Sinter – Image Studios, also embedded below.

EMP Resistant Wind and Solar Power System

The Winds-day product from Amazon to the left is an educational wind power demonstrator that will let the little scientists in your life experiment with energy from thin air, if it’s moving a bit.

The Solar Ark company has systems of varying sizes to keep most of your appliances going, even after an otherwise devastating EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack. A high altitude nuclear detonation wouldn’t cause much damage to buildings and people, but could take out your nation’s electrical grid.

Don’t expect the Solar Ark system to handle your washer/dryer, but it supports some heating and air conditioning. (As Paul Wheaton pointed out in the 2013 video from yesterday’s post, just using an old style incandescent light bulb can heat you up while it gives off light.) A fan uses a tenth of the energy compared to a window air conditioner.

These days an EMP attack could be accomplished by any number of adversaries, such as Iran, North Korea, or even ISIS. Here’s a dramatic, well produced video series about the electrical grid vulnerability in the U.S. from NRA News, “The Fight For Light.” It’s narrated by Lt Col Oliver North, well known energy expert (just kidding), but credible military fellow: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. This series has the most detail about the threats to the grid and attack aftermath scenario that I’ve seen. Physical attacks have taken place, multiple times at the same location, even after security was beefed up, leading analysts to assume that a disciplined group was at work, especially since they’ve never been caught.

In case you think a pro-gun-rights source is making it up, here’s a report from MSNBC and USA TODAY working together, advocates of gun restrictions, noting a similar threat, “The Threat Against America’s Power Grid.” They suggest getting prepped with information from FEMA.

Getting back to wind power, and on a big scale, the embedded video below, from The Daily Conversation, is described at YouTube, “Offshore wind farms can stop hurricanes, according to a recent study. We could also use them to power all of America.”

Paul Wheaton Preaches Permaculture (Explicit Language)

Paul Wheaton preaches it in this 2013 keynote talk to the S. California Permaculture Convergence (video also embedded below).

The Self Reliance Mastery book from Amazon here contains a contribution by Wheaton. He also has DVDs and books for sale at

The talk introduces dozens of permaculture related applications, presented to a good crowd in an actual church, where he nonetheless throws out expletives with abandon. (Some call him “The Bad Boy of Permaculture.”)

I’ve been a fan for years. He’s been a frequent guest on Jack Spirko’s The Survival Podcast. Paul’s own empire includes (information and forums) and (more media and products).

For libertarians, the talk includes how to build durable homes for hardly any money, which in itself avoids taxes, and avoiding “suck minimum wage jobs,” and if you don’t like Monsanto, frackers or other bad actors–he strongly suggests you don’t give them money!!! Forget idiotic protests. Wheaton gets a lot of hate comments for some of his controversial positions including his emphasis on permaculture techniques instead of the religious and political cult associated with it. He expresses the heretical hope permaculture farmers make more money than the ones that follow Monsanto.

Let Paul Wheaton’s sermon begin. Try not to laugh and amazingly, you might learn somethin’. Again, trigger warning! Explicit language and new ideas.

New Link Found for BBC’s “A Farm For The Future”

Organic gardening is often portrayed as an unproductive labor-intensive hobby for hippies. This Mound-day takes us to the UK.

A great BBC documentary with beautiful photography of wildlife and scenery, which I had linked to for years on my personal blog, had disappeared from YouTube. See it now on DailyMotion, or embedded below.

The documentary includes interesting methods of reducing labor while at the same time also reducing the need for petroleum, fertilizers, and pesticides.

A variety of grass species allows cattle to graze through the winter without baling hay, the most energy intensive part of ranching.

Most impressive and gratifying for me is the illustration of forest gardening with local examples and expert commentary by the likes of Patrick Whitefield on the subject, author of How to Make a Forest Garden

While the threat shown is “peak oil,” petroleum becoming scarce because of dwindling supplies (and a farming industry with many farmers past normal retirement age), my opinion is that we’re facing “peak money,” which would yield a similar result of shortages due to a busted economy. I also agree that someone will have to do the frickin’ farming! It better be a low labor activity if you expect a new generation to take up the slack.

A Farm For The Future. Hello, old friend!

A Farm For The Future – Documentary by ChannelHub

Cheap Concave Makeup Mirror Fire Starter

Today is the 15th anniversary of the 9-11 attack, so airplanes in trouble are on my mind. It’s also “Sun-day” for this blog. Before I get to the practical fire starting benefits of a cheap makeup mirror, here’s a video answer to a common question to GREENPOWERSCIENCE about parabolic mirrors melting airplanes or blinding pilots, “GIANT parabolic SATELLITE solar dish cannot blind a pilot.”

(Spoiler alert: You’ll cause more problems with a flat signal mirror, and probably go to jail messing around with a laser pointer, although in putting together yesterday’s post about getting rescued with updated PLB radios, I discovered that special laser flares are legal.)

Now to the title subject of starting a fire with a cheap makeup mirror. A fire in the wilderness is useful to survival. It can keep you warm, purify water (if done properly, see Does Boiling Always Make Water Safe To Drink?), or cook your food. Here’s David West, an expert in primitive fire starting techniques who nonetheless realizes that some regular EDC (every day carry) items make it more possible for n00bs like me to get a fire started. In the following video, he accomplishes it using a makeup mirror he found at WalMart, Solar Ignition With a Concave Mirror aka Makeup Mirror (embedded below).

I ordered the Swissco product from Amazon shown above. The Sun-day after it arrives I’ll post my own video reporting its success or failure for fire starting.

OC KHCTF Mon. Oct 29 New Sources of Power

Howard HinmanKarl Hess Community
Technology Forum

On the scariest Fifth Monday in a Month
The “Powers That Were” Face New Sources of Power

October 31, 2011

Pre-meeting: 6:00 p.m.
Dinner 7:00 p.m.
Announcements: 7:45 p.m. Master of Ceremonies
Presentation: 8:00 p.m. Howard Hinman:
“Discovering the Secrets of Energy: What the Powers that Were do not want you to Know”.

Questions: 8:45 p.m. Q&A via written cards for at least the first round of questions.
Close by 9:30 p.m.

Location: Asian Buffet (Oriental buffet)
23552 El Toro Rd., Lake Forest, CA 92630
At Raymond, behind a bank, near the public (gov’t) library branch.

View Larger Map
Tel: (949) 206-9988 – Fax: (949) 206-9098

The Master of Ceremonies for the event will offer a Toast to the evening’s festivities.

His talk will cover a few of the exciting developments in the energy field including the field formerly known as “cold fusion”, along with some potentially even more revolutionary developments.

Howard has addressed Libertarian clubs on many occasions, chiefly on economic and financial topics. Mr. Hinman is the Secretary/Treasurer and CFO of Resilient Freedom Foundation. He is a Mortgage Fraud Professional, the Presider of the International Property Title Alliance, and Chief Financial Officer, Senior Legal Researcher and Director of Communications of the California Legal Rights Fund, Inc. He also hosts the Karl Hess Community Technology Forum, an independent supperclub in Orange County devoted primarily to the topic of appropriate technology.

Howard is a graduate of California State University at Fullerton College of Business and Economics with a degree in Business Administration. Among his many associations and achievements, Howard is a member of Toastmasters International since 1983, and is a Distinguished Toastmaster. Howard resides in Orange County. Join him on Facebook and LinkedIn.

For the first round of questions, audience members are asked to submit their questions in writing to the Master of Ceremonies, so that they may be presented to the speaker most effectively.

Cost is dinner (approximately 15.00 FRNS) plus a 5.00 room charge per attendee. (Cash only for the room charge please.) MasterCard and Visa accepted by the restaurant. Beer and wine available at an additional charge.

Good food. Some vegetarian dishes available.

For this meeting, leave a reservation message with the subject “OC KHCTF” on the web at or email:

If you have additional questions contact Kent Hastings toll free at 1.877.867-8209 or leave a voice mail message.

Future dinner talks at the Karl Hess Community Technology Forum are still to be determined. We will keep you posted.

Resilient Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization, and has received its non-profit determination letter from the IRS. Its mission is to support a resilient community, including respect for personal rights and responsibilities. Please consider it for your tax-deductible donations.

For information about this event (other than reservations) and/or future events, please contact Howard Hinman, Director of Communications, Chief Financial Officer and Senior Legal Researcher, at (714) 244-2291. His email is:

Buckets of Life of Death

A Modern Honey Bucket.
I heard about food grade storage buckets and alcohol fermentation and distillation in buckets on The Survival Podcast, and got to thinking about The Bucket List after a recent memorial service.

You can kick the can down the road and achieve eternal youth, but not if you mistakenly kick the bucket.

Then I thought about how many of life’s needs can be met by the use of buckets until the final kick-off, including personal waste as reported in this Anchorage Daily News story, “Honey buckets remain a sanitation concern in Bethel.”

I found that story from Bethel, Alaska by chance. One resident, Tim Meyers, grows fresh vegetables in the permafrost there, and according to Mark Dowie, using heat from composting in a greenhouse. More info is linked from my post at PermaKent, “Better Than The Best Idea.”

The Meyers Farm website tells the story and has a link to an audio interview on the Press page.

Rainwater can be captured in buckets, and plants grown in them when full of soil and allowing for drainage.

There are even “bucketponics” combinations of fish and plants able to feed the fish and the fish in return able to feed and fertilize the plants. Only sun and water agitation and filtration might be needed to keep the system going. And perhaps some added compost as fish and plants are consumed.

Buckets might catch the wind or serve as part of a water wheel generator. A bucket brigade can deliver a steady amount of water if no hose or pressure is available to fight a fire.

Other writers on the web have explored the multiple uses of the typical 5-gallon bucket, including Wikipedia, “Buckets–Types and Uses.”

Other uses include as a musical instrument, seat, and trash can.

Mon., Aug. 29: “Kill Switch” @ O.C. KHCTF

J. Kent HastingsKarl Hess Community
Technology Forum

On a Fifth Monday in a Month

August 29, 2011

Pre-meeting: 6:00 p.m.
Dinner 7:00 p.m.
Announcements: 7:45 p.m. Howard Hinman, Master of Ceremonies
Presentation: 8:00 p.m. J. Kent Hastings:
“Surviving the Phone and Internet Kill Switch”

Questions: 8:45 p.m. Q&A via written cards for at least the first round of questions.
Close by 9:30 p.m.

Location: Asian Buffet (Oriental buffet)
23552 El Toro Rd., Lake Forest, CA 92630
At Raymond, behind a bank, near the public (gov’t) library branch.

View Larger Map
Tel: (949) 206-9988 – Fax: (949) 206-9098

Howard Hinman of Orange County, will serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the event and will offer a Toast to the evening’s festivities.

J. Kent Hastings is a writer, video editor, audio and film producer, computer programmer, agorist and ham radio hobbyist.

Hastings wrote columns about RSA encryption, spread-spectrum radio, and secure privacy-protected off-grid banking transactions in his regular “Techtics” column for SEK3’s Tactics of the Movement of the Libertarian Left during the 1980s.

Kent also wrote an article for the first issue of Agorist Quarterly, published in 1995, titled “The Information Underground Railroad,” after attending the RSA Data Security conference in 1994.

Kent has returned to an early interest in tinkering with homebrew electronic gear, partly because he finds it fun, and also thanks to recent threats that have resurfaced from government authorities worldwide to cut off private communications on the Internet and cell phones “for our safety.”

He will have equipment on hand to demonstrate various ways around the Internet and cellphone outages that have been imposed during protests (just when you might need rescue from violence the most).

If the power grid goes down, many would lose phone and Internet service because of their reliance on cable company devices. A portable battery with AC inverter will also be demonstrated at the meeting. Solar recharging in the field and other preparedness resources and activities in case of evacuation will be discussed.

Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are being more closely scrutinized by police with each passing year. Users have been jailed for organizing relatively harmless “flash mobs,” including celebrities simply inviting fans to the local mall.

Hastings will share his thoughts on how watchdog groups like Cop Block could avoid trouble by using stealthier recording devices and immediate streaming to remote undisclosed storage media, even if Internet access is being blocked.

For the first round of questions, audience members are asked to submit their questions in writing to the Master of Ceremonies, so that they may be presented to the speaker most effectively.

Cost is dinner (approximately 15.00 FRNS) plus a 5.00 room charge per attendee. (Cash only for the room charge please.) MasterCard and Visa accepted by the restaurant. Beer and wine available at an additional charge.

Good food. Some vegetarian dishes available.

For this meeting, leave a reservation message with the subject “OC KHCTF” on the web at or email:

If you have additional questions contact Kent Hastings toll free at 1.877.867-8209 or leave a voice mail message.

Future dinner talks at the Karl Hess Community Technology Forum are still to be determined. We will keep you posted.

Resilient Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization. Its mission is to support a resilient community, including respect for personal rights and responsibilities.

For information about this event (other than reservations) and/or future events, please contact Howard Hinman, Director of Communications, Chief Financial Officer and Senior Legal Researcher, at (714) 244-2291. His email is:

Wind Power Generation in Pahrump

See Pahrump with Andy
Andy and Bernie Show
This was just forwarded to me from J. Neil Schulman, a writer who made a feature film in Pahrump, Nevada with local Pahrump TV personality Andy Alberti in the cast.

Neil writes a blog at Rational Review.

The message from Andy Alberti has the subject line, “Finally a new maufacturing business is coming to Pahrump”:

“Wind Sail Receptor Company out of Henderson intends to open a manufacturing plant in Pahrump and employ about 90 workers by the end of the year, or so the news that is fit to print says.”

“The Company intends to make wind power turbine blades for use in homes and small businesses.”

“The Nevada commission on Economic development has authorized a $162,000 training grant for the company.”

“Nye county seems to have had no involvement nor has Pahrump since there was no mention of them in the news article announcing the move.”

Wind Sail Receptor video at YouTube.

Karl Hess Institute on Facebook

Link to the Karl Hess Institute on Facebook.

Excerpt of Karl’s organizational philosophy:

“I favor a world of neighborhoods in which all social organization is voluntary and the ways of life are established in small, consenting groups.”

According to the organizer, their website is coming soon.

Here’s an excerpt at YouTube from Toward Liberty, “a 1980 Academy Award-winner for Best Documentary Short Subject.”

Solar Disinfectant plus OSE Solar News

“Sterilize! Sterilize!” (Star Trek)
Nomad Slashdot item “Students Invent Revolutionary Sterilizer” links to the Houston based Rice University story, “Rice parlays sun’s saving grace into autoclave: Capteur Soleil may sterilize medical instruments in developing world.

“The Capteur Soleil, [links to story about its use in Haiti by Rice] a device designed decades ago by French inventor Jean Boubour, was modified at Rice two years ago for use as a solar-powered cookstove. . .This year, Team Sterilize modified it further. When a set of curved mirrors and an insulated box containing the autoclave are installed, the steel A-frame sitting outside Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen becomes something else entirely — a lifesaver.”

In other solar related news, the OSE team in Missouri announced the open source licensing of the Solar Fire solar designs. According to the article, “Solar Fire Breakthrough,” they announced their agreement:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a breakthrough on the Solar Turbine project. We are adopting the Solar Fire concentrator technology as our official solar energy platform. OSE and Solar Fire are entering into partnership – with a single purpose of creating a state-of-art, replicable, open source platform for solar concentrator power applied to electricity, space heating, and process heat.”

The Solar Fire concept is described in this YouTube video.

Advanced Economy in a Box

TED Talk post
Open Source Ecology
Marcin Jakubowski describes his “civilization starter kit” idea to an enthusiastic audience at the TED conference held in Long Beach earlier this year.

Marcin plans to create open source designs with clear documentation, 3D models, schematics, blueprints and how-to videos for all of the 50 key technologies he believes are necessary to have a sustainable advanced industrial economy with local resources.

He shows construction hardware (a CEB press) that uses the dirt beneath your feet to make 5,000 compressed earth bricks in a day, enough to build a house.

Also, the LifeTrac tractor is an example of agricultural machinery that “breaks new ground,” although he’s also interested in no till permaculture organic food production.

Combine all that with the computerized fabrication and Internet distribution of ideas you’d expect from Make Magazine type hackers and perhaps shortages can be eliminated for jobs, food, fuel, housing and consumer doodads which can be 3D printed.

Way to go, Open Source Ecology! See Marcin’s TED Talk at YouTube.

Amateur UAVs, Commercial Drones for Peace

DIYDrones sez FedEx wants UAVsFound a link to Wired Editor-in-Chief, Chris Anderson’s site from an online Wired article, “Build It. Share It. Profit. Can Open Source Hardware Work?.”

UAV stands for “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle,” with applications listed at Wikipedia including “remote sensing; oil, gas and mineral exploration and production; transport; scientific research; armed attacks; and search and rescue.”

If the dollar loses its purchasing power, perhaps unmanned aerial vehicles will also deliver goods without the energy and labor costs of transporting a human pilot. Perhaps a robot will load your grocery order into a parcel delivery blimp or model aircraft, which will then travel to your location via GPS, internal map and a radio beacon to guide the craft to its destination at your place, even if you’re off-grid with no roads like in some third world village.

The economics will make UAVs dominant, whether there’s a bigger crash to come or not. Military drone maker Insitu quotes an Aviation Week item on its website:

“It’s official: Boeing’s Insitu subsidiary has outstripped Boeing Commercial Airplanes in delivery rates for air vehicles.”

The April, 2011 issue of Mechanical Engineering features “Drones For Peace” artwork on the cover. The feature article is entitled “Airborne, Autonomous & Collaborative.”

One can imagine the legal hurdles for the operator of such a robotic fleet. Certainly the FAA would be involved at this point. Details of the amateur legal requirements may be found at DIYDrones’ “Regulatory FAQ.”

Facebook’s Open Source Data Center Design

According to this post at Ars Technica, “Why Facebook open-sourced its datacenters,” Facebook has gone completely open source in its server hardware choices in order to compete with Google.

A couple of quotes from Jon Stokes’ article:

“Despite Google’s professed love for all things open, details of its massive datacenters have always been a closely guarded secret.”


“Facebook’s new project, in contrast, takes the exact opposite approach.”

There are energy and development cost savings from using this “Bazaar” community supported method when compared to the closed “Cathedral” approach.

If you’re building a data center and want to avoid legal hassles and unnecessary operating expenses, it’s worth checking out Facebook’s new OpenCompute system.

Arduino Chip does Morse Code at 300 wpm

  Karl Hess, Sr. 1975 edition

Karl Hess, Jr. is the speaker scheduled for Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at the 200th meeting of the Karl Hess Club (named for his father, the late Karl Hess) at Dinah’s in Culver City. (UPDATE: Due to airline trouble, rescheduled to September 19, 2011.)

Karl Hess, Jr. encouraged me to buy shortwave ham gear when he spoke to our libertarian supper club at the 100th meeting a few years ago, citing its usefulness during an emergency when a colleague was injured in Africa, where he was working in the field.

Since then I’ve put together some kits in custom enclosures with more powerful ones on the way. Alternative communication methods to the phone and Internet grid are always in the news, most recently in Egypt.

See the complete meeting announcement at the club site for more information about Karl Hess, Jr.’s topic, “Wither Conservation in the 21st Century: More Government or More Liberty?.” Excerpt from site:

“The world changed in 1970. Although the first Earth Day called for more aggressive State involvement, over the past forty years conservation has evolved into a movement increasingly characterized by volunteerism, cooperation, network governance, and entrepreneurship.”

Karl Hess, Sr. mentioned ham radio in passing in his book, Community Technology, and even in his 1975 book, Dear America which followed his 1969 “Death of Politics” article in Playboy.

Karl Hess, Sr. was a speechwriter for Barry Goldwater, then later became an anarchist hippie proponent of alternative energy, off-grid food production and local industry who made a living as a welder for cash, famous for not paying taxes. Goldwater was a ham radio operator who promised to put an antenna farm on the White House if he got elected (he wasn’t). Hess’ autobiography was edited by his son and is titled, Mostly on the Edge: An Autobiography.

Okay, see you at the KHC if you’re in Southern California.

Now, this video from 2008 shows two Arduino boards sending and receiving Morse code to each other acoustically at the same time (full duplex) at 300 words per minute. You could get a 140 character tweetish message out in a few seconds at that rate. Even at just 30 wpm over the shortwave radio the same message would take less than a minute.

Beats walking if the phones or Internet are down.

Egypt ham radio beats Internet outage

The oldest radio signaling method was used to send messages between people in Egypt according to this article at the Huffington Post. The link was in a Democratic Underground post that J. Neil Schulman forwarded to me in email.

Quoting HuffPo:
“These messages weren’t coming from mobile phones or computers, but from an amateur radio sending out Morse Code somewhere amidst the chaos in Egypt.”

Hundreds of miles range with a few watts using a wire thrown over a tree branch for an antenna can beat the government kill switch.

Meanwhile, on the political right side of survivalist prepping, Alex Jones InfoWars published a credible list of alternative communication methods from Liberty News Online, “How to Communicate if the Government Shut Down the Internet” (also forwarded to me by J. Neil Schulman).

Just one point of clarification. During a political upheaval, checking the call sign of amateur radio operators won’t be the State’s top priority and effectively jamming all signals might not be possible, especially if one were to use spread spectrum techniques.

Let’s say for example you were to transmit thermal noise in one band and the noise mixed with the message in another (transmitted reference). It would appear to be noise as well.

Perhaps if you have some programming skills you could use the digital “direct sequence” method to mix several pseudo random “chip bits” with each bit of your message while you quickly hop the center frequency of your signal using a fast digital synthesis chip and a secure software spreading code.

And just to be safe you might use a stealthy hidden antenna that looks like a clothes line, basketball hoop, bird feeder, flag pole or other disguise so your neighbors don’t rat you out. Out of sight, out of mind. Morse code and texting can be done silently with earphones. QSL?

Victory over censorship!

Hot Temperature Shuts Down L.A. Power

Chromasun’s solar thermal process cools buildings
Chromasun solar thermal process cools buildings.

You wouldn’t know that there were power outages by listening to radio so-called news reports, but the L.A. Times admitted that thousands were without electricity all afternoon and into the evening: “Record heat brings power outages, fire and light-rail delays

“Southern California Edison reported 11,000 customers without power Monday evening in cities including Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Diamond Bar, Alhambra, Glendora and Rosemead.”

You can include parts of Culver City. No lights, no fan, no news report, not a watt of energy. Maybe the shutdown was a drill for survivalist preppers.

Air conditioning and refrigerators account for most electricity use, but in these lean times strapped utilities aren’t prepared to meet the heavy peak loads they’ve handled in the past.

Sometimes it seems that Valley Electric in my home town of Pahrump, NV has planned weekly power outages. I’m sure that’s an exaggeration. When I traveled to the Los Angeles area this week, Vegas style hot weather must have tagged along with me and overwhelmed L.A. DWP with record high temperatures.

Speaking of off-grid power, Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast published a timely video a couple of days ago, “Wagan 400-Watt Power Dome EX – Power Inverter Test One.” That would certainly keep a fan running for longer than the ten minutes the computer’s “uninterruptible” power supply lasted here. A similar outage happened to me a few L.A. visits ago, “Power and Water,” after a small earthquake, but it was transient and much less traumatic.

Ever since I watched the video of Adam Grosser giving a TED talk in 2007 about absorption cooling, I’ve wondered if a similar process could cool buildings without all that grid electricity used by our typical refrigerators and air conditioners.

A simpler, already deployed low tech “pot-in-pot” refrigerator is described at my blog with the headline “Non-Electric Zeer Refrigerator Transforming Life.”

There are several different kinds of absorption chillers, such as ammonia, lithium bromide (seen above), and silica gel.

There are also other recent advances in air conditioning efficiency, including the m-cycle indirect evaporative system, magnetocaloric refrigeration, and thermoacoustic cooling to name a few.

Autonomous Cars and Growbots

  Wikimedia Commons
Desert to City robot car
If there’s any life in the new car industry in the near future, it looks like any sales will come from the long anticipated finally maturing technological revolution of robotics.

Nobody seems as impressed as I am that several production cars and trucks you could actually buy at a dealer for the last couple of years can freakin’ parallel park themselves! (with some limitations).

Slashdot reports that on the same day a completely unmanned car successfully drove over tricky mountain terrain, a manned aircraft filming it for a commercial crashed. Read the story, “Helicopter Crashes While Filming Autonomous Audi” and the PopSci article it links to for all the details.

I remember reading a similar story a few years ago about the DARPA Urban Challenge in 2007. Here’s a link I just found to that description in the The Sunday Times in the UK, in a long article titled “What’s your place in the brave new future?.” Futurist Paul Saffo is quoted in this excerpt:

“The same morning as the Darpa challenge there was a 108-car pile-up on a California freeway. The simple fact is that people shouldn’t drive,” said Saffo.

The writing is on the wall. Human driving will be outlawed–robots only. Skynet said so. Check out Will Smith in I, Robot for another movie with an army of autonomous drivers. Here’s a Wikipedia entry about the DARPA Challenges, with the quite challenging goal for 2007.

“The Urban Challenge required designers to build vehicles able to obey all traffic laws while they detect and avoid other robots on the course.”

With everyone unemployed, cars will transport the aging Baby Boomers places and deliver the groceries right from the nearest Growbot Garden.

For you techies, it looks like an agriculture automation microcontroller project with lots of different sensors is available from Libelium. It has a solar power option. I’d like to see permaculture aware growbot networks providing our food. If we’re lucky, they will replace the current dumb mechanized systems.

We won’t have our biggest export being the topsoil lost by tilling, fewer toxic chemicals needed to handle weeds and pests targeted by growbots, and local gardens eliminating the need for energy hogging transportation. Or at least reducing delivery traffic injuries by using clean electric robot vehicles instead.