Family Planning 5x more effective at reducing CO2

WHAT’S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 11 Sep 09 Washington, DC


While the United States is focusing on reduction of greenhouse emissions by
technological means, the Optimum Population Trust in the UK issued a press
release this week comparing the cost of reducing CO2 emissions by
technological means to the cost of an equivalent CO2 reduction by investing
in family planning. It concluded that family planning is five times more


Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the
University of Maryland, but they should be.
Archives of What's New can be found at


English, Please

Submitted by cvining on

A friend in Saskatchewan recently bought a computer and called me for help. "How do I change the language of this thing to English?  Everything's in French on this new machine!"

Helpful as any tech support guy I reply without hesitation: "haven't a clue."

"Then why did I call you?"

After a bit of googling and some back and forth we determine several things.

First, it's easy enough to change the keyboard to another language.  This way you can type umlauts (ü) or accent marks (à) too your hearts delight.  But the menus and help messages are still in French.  Not what we want.

Finally we learn that with his operating system, Vista Home Premium, comes in a wide variety of languages, but only one at a time.  And you can't change it once installed.   There is a caveat here: hackware seems to exist that will allow you to void your warrentee, but it looked like a pain to boot (sic).

My friend opted to return his computer.

The most helpful fellow at the store explained "third time this month" and exchanged the thing.

Here comes the good part, if you've read this far.  It seems the fisrt time you boot up the machine, the operating system isn't even installed yet.  You are asked to choose from one of maybe 50 languages.

"English" is my friends choice.  Well enough.

Next screen: choose operating system.  He's presented a drop-down menu with two choices, something like this:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium - E
  • Windows Vista Home Premium - F

Mind you, no manual.  No other instructions.  You figure you've already chosen the language, so this must be different versions of Vista.  Right?

My friend is a mighty bright fellow.  He figures, well, versions A, B, C and D aren't there.  Must not be supporting those old versions.  He'd like the latest version, so he picks "F".


It's All In The Mind

Submitted by cvining on

True story.

In college I had a crush on a very beautiful woman who, at that time,
was having difficulty with her marriage. A mutual friend told this
joke to her to illustrate that sex is all in the mind.

Q: What's a four letter word for intercourse, ending in "k"?

My beautiful friend, petite and fair, instantly turned a very becoming
shade of crimson, but said nothing.

"Why are you blushing?" says our mutual friend. "The answer is
'talk', obviously!"

My beautiful friend was delighted and said she must try the joke on
her husband. Next day she tells this sad story.

Fear of Dictatorship Greets Alabama Congressman Over Health Care Reform

Submitted by cvining on

Fear of government control and dictatorship greeted local U.S. Representative Mike Rogers when he held a town hall style meeting yesterday at Monarch Estates, a retirement living community here in Auburn, Alabama.  The Opelika-Auburn News, the local paper here, sent reporter Brittany Whitley.  Click here for her full story, including some reader comments.

Not everyone shared these fears and a scuffle broke out.  Apparently no one was injured.

Quotes reported from the attendees:

  • "I didn’t come here to make nice."
  • "It’s not about health care. It’s about the federal government being out of control … Is everyone entitled to free health care from the cradle to the grave? Who’s going to pay for it?"
  • "It’s a basic human right."
  • A man in the audience said the U.S. was on its way to becoming a dictatorship.
  • A man from the back of the room disputed the notion, saying the U.S. would not become a dictatorship.

The fears expressed by these attendees are real.  Stupid, but they really are afraid.

An Inconvenient Truth About Thermoelectrics

From Nature Materials, February 2009, Volume 8 No 2


An inconvenient truth about thermoelectrics pp83 - 85

Cronin B. Vining

Despite recent advances, thermoelectric energy conversion will never be as efficient as steam engines. That means thermoelectrics will remain limited to applications served poorly or not at all by existing technology. Bad news for thermoelectricians, but the climate crisis requires that we face bad news head on.

Full Text  |   PDF (345 KB)


Solar Power

Submitted by cvining on

Science Newssn-solar-2007 has a nice introduction to the role solar power may play in fighting global climate change.  Some telling statistics:

  • Total World Energy Consumption (2001): 13 Terawatts (TW)
  • Total World Energy Consumption (2050): 26 Terawatts (TW)
  • Total World Energy Consumption (2100): 39 Terawatts (TW)
  • Derived from coal, oil & natural gas (2001): 86%
  • 1 gigawatt (GW) power plants needed to generate 10 TW: 10,000
  • Time to build 10 TW of power plants: one new 1 GW plant/day for 27 years
  • Exploitable hydroelectric power worldwide: 0.5 TW
  • Extractable wind power worldwide: 2-4 TW
  • Solar energy arriving at earth: 120,000 TW

Nathan Lewis of CalTech is a prominent proponent of the argument that solar may be the only primary power source sufficient to fight global climate change.  He has written some excellent, technically detailed articles on the subject [bib]lewis2006[/bib],[bib]lewis2007[/bib] and a nice overview-style article with George Crabtree of Argonne [bib]crabtree2007[/bib]


Sunni surge better than US surge

Submitted by cvining on

BBC is reporting the "Sunni extremist surge seems to be having more effect than the American one."

One more example that Iraq is a Dollar Auction: each time we up the ante, so does "the extremists". Bush keeps telling us we can't afford to lose.  Trouble is, neither can the other side(s). So the game will go on until one side wises up and walks away.

Nothing to win here.  Please move on. 


One Celled People

Submitted by cvining on

This has to be one of the best ever commentarys on those who oppose stem cell research:


WHAT'S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 13 Apr 07   Washington, DC

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act passed the Senate 63-34,
but President Bush promises a veto. He said the use of embryonic
stem cells in research "crosses a moral line." In case you're
wondering where this "moral line" is drawn, WN has looked into
it. George W. Bush and other conservative theologians believe a
"soul" is assigned to the fertilized egg at the instant of
conception. That makes it a person, even though it's not counted
in the census. In-vitro fertilization makes a lot more of these
one-celled people than it needs; leftovers are stacked in the
freezer until it starts filling up. President Bush cares deeply
about these helpless one-celled people and wants to ensure they
are properly flushed down the disposal rather than exploited by
godless scientists interested only the reduction of suffering.