Driven by the wind

Driving into the future by Kevin Dooley

Wind Map says:

An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future.

This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US.

It’s a windy day all across the nation today. The U.S. has really increased wind power generation over the last decade. Wikipedia sez wind is over 3% of our total power mix now. While we lag Denmark  at 26%, Portugal (17%), Spain (15%) or Ireland at 14%, with almost 50,000 megawatts of capacity, we are second in the world to China’s 62,733 MW.

This photo (Wind farm and greenhouse gas farm, together) is by Kevin Dooley, a leader in Creative Commons photography. See it bigger in his 100 most interesting slideshow. Kevin writes:

Hey look! Here on Interstate 10 near Palm Springs, California, we can see a wind farm that is saving the planet and a greenhouse gas farm that is destroying it.

What are we going to farm in our future? Millennia dead, dead end fossils or the invisible and ancient wind?

Looking up with NASA

Mt Shasta by NASA

I told someone about the amazement of the stars over Mt. Shasta and found this photo. I figured I probably better look up something about the Milky Way to justify it. What I found was NASA’s current missions page.

It includes a surprising number of diverse “missions” – satellites, probes and expeditions – that I found to be very reassuring and in several cases, very timely and each delivering some very cool data!

I hope that we can please continue to find funding as a nation explore our universe … I’m sure that we can look at our priorities or maybe even some of us can afford a little more in taxes to pay for this.

Let me also say: “Well done NASA, you definitely know how to name a mission.”

The photo is Mt Shasta by NASA. It was posted by Viktor Reinhart, and he has a bunch more shots in his Mt. Shasta slideshow.

The Information Age is growing up

7 billion people

“If you want to understand life, don’t think about vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes, think about information technology.”
~author James Gleick

The photo is 7 billion people by Kevin Dooley who writes:

7 billion people in the world now, going on 9. Then what happens? Or will even get there?

I was reading “The Information” by James Gleick and was really reminded what a staggering shift the world has undergone in the last 60 years. Strap yourselves in because the next 60 are going to be some ride.

Indeed. You can listen to an interview by Tom Ashbrook on On Point about The Information and also visit author James Gleick’s page about the book.

Kevin is one of my favorite photographers on Flickr (or anywhere), and he posts all his photos with a liberal Creative Commons license. Here’s his Flickriver.

March (Mercury) Madness: It’s almost like science fiction at this point

Bud Fun

Jeff Masters of Michigan-based Weather Underground is hands-down writing some of the best articles on the March Madness that we probably should be paying the most attention to, what he calls Summer in March:

A spring heat wave like no other in U.S. and Canadian history peaked in intensity yesterday, during its tenth day. Since record keeping began in the late 1800s, there have never been so many temperature records broken for spring warmth in a one-week period–and the margins by which some of the records were broken yesterday were truly astonishing. Wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, commented to me yesterday, “it’s almost like science fiction at this point.” A few of the more remarkable records from yesterday:

Pellston, MI: record high broken by 32°F
Pellston, Michigan in the Northern Lower Peninsula is called “Michigan’s Icebox”, since it frequently records the coldest temperatures in the state, and in the entire nation. But the past five days, Pellston has set five consecutive records for hottest March day. Yesterday’s 85° reading broke the previous record for the date (53° in 2007) by a ridiculous 32°, and was an absurd 48°F above average.

Low temperatures beat the previous record high for the date at two stations
The low temperature at Marquette, Michigan was 52° yesterday, which was 3° warmer than the previous record high for the date!

Read on for much more including Canadian cities breaking all-time records for March and April. Also definitely see his thoughts on the statistical likelihood of breaking 100+ year-old record highs this many days in a row. Hint: the answer sounds a lot like “climate change.”

The photo is Bud Fun by LadyDragonflyCC. She’s got some great stuff.

Warren Buffett calls his own bluff … by not bluffing I guess

Warren Buffett with Fisher College of Business Student

“I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions.”
~Warren Buffett

Late last summer, Warren Buffett broke ranks with most of the other dedicated men and women of Occupy the Top 1% and called for more taxes for top earners. Senator Mitch McConnell, a millionaire in his own right and champion of the uptrodden, said that if Buffett was feeling guilty about his tax bill, he should send in a check. Senator John Thune rushed to the rescue with the cynical Buffett Rule Act, placing an option on tax forms allowing people to donate more in taxes to help pay down the national debt. In an interesting new TIME interview with Rana Foroohar, Buffett says:

“It restores my faith in human nature to think that there are people who have been around Washington all this time and are not yet so cynical as to think that [the deficit] can’t be solved by voluntary contributions,” he says with a chuckle. So Buffett has pledged to match 1 for 1 all such voluntary contributions made by Republican members of Congress. “And I’ll even go 3 for 1 for McConnell,” he says. That could be quite a bill if McConnell takes the challenge; after all, the Senator is worth at least $10 million. As Buffett put it to me, “I’m not worried.”

I wouldn’t be worried for my money if I were Buffett either.

The photo is by Aaron Friedman.

Sun Monster

This video is from the Flickr stream of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. They write:

So how BIG was that 'Monster Prominence'?

When a rather large-sized (M 3.6 class) flare occurred near the edge of the Sun, it blew out a gorgeous, waving mass of erupting plasma that swirled and twisted over a 90-minute period (Feb. 24, 2011). This event was captured in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft . Some of the material blew out into space and other portions fell back to the surface. Because SDO images are super-HD, we can zoom in on the action and still see exquisite details. And using a cadence of a frame taken every 24 seconds, the sense of motion is, by all appearances, seamless.

The photo to the right shows the relative size of the flare using the Earth, and you can click to see a hi-res still from the event.

Yes In My Backyard … Vote for the good guys (and gals)

Idiot brigade

Election day is tomorrow. Here in Traverse City, it’s pretty much a local affair, and if the stats that Gary Howe lists in Occupy This! Local Politics Need a Jolt of YIMBYism are any guide, voters will likely honor their amazing opportunity to shape their community by staying far away from the polls. Gary suggests that to counter the dominant “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) mentality, we need a younger YIMBY (Yes-in-my-backyard) electorate that is engaged in the most basic aspect of community democracy – voting. He highlights a telling stat:

The under 40 crowd represent 42% of the potential voters and only 6% of the 40 and under crowd cast a vote in 2009.

Put graphically:

That’s an absolutely ridiculous state of affairs that simply must change if we are to work our way out of the dark corners of climate change and vanished prosperity we find ourselves in globally, and also the challenges of re-designing our communities to meet the needs of the modern world locally. He explains that the under 40 bloc is critical because:

The under forty crowd is more enthused about collaboration over competition. They don’t start with “no” or by asking “how much?”. Instead, they are wired to find amicable solutions that make our community more inclusive and connected. The mantra is, “yes! Great idea, how do we make it better? Wouldn’t this be a great addition?” We trend towards the YIMBY. We need a touch of NIMBYism to balance that, but the current climate is out of balance.

In organizations/communities where negativity, or worse, indifference, is strongly perceived, YIMBYs lose enthusiasm and retreat. The otherwise neutral activity of politics is then tarnished and becomes something to avoid. Saved for a time, or age, when we simply want to protect something. The younger demographics, seeking a positive experience, are thus more prone to becoming disillusioned and disengaged. This is unfortunate because politics isn’t bad– bad politics is bad. And, it can be changed with numbers.

Here is a civic lesson: when you don’t like how something is proceeding, increase your numbers.

I’m a YIMBY and I vote. I will vote next Tuesday for the most immediate representation I have– City Commissioners. Please, do the same regardless of your age, but particularly if you are under forty in human years, dog years or simply in heart and mind. As a friend likes to respond to questions of age and voting, “I believe not enough people vote within any age bracket.” I appreciate her optimism that, “more people voting can only help the good guys.”

The photo is Idiot brigade by protohiro. He works at Flickr and you can see his most interesting photos on Flickriver.