Category Archives: Science and Technology

Quotes by Victor Stenger – One of my Heroes

Victor Stenger was a physicist, author, philosopher and a religious skeptic. He wrote several books, including “God: The Failed Hypothesis” Subtitle: “How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist.” I have read most of his books, and had a few conversations with Vic via Email. I found him very approachable and friendly…just like his books, which are written in a direct, no-nonsense style. Sadly, he died in 2014, suddenly and unexpectedly. Here are some quotes from his books and writings. “In Read more [...]

The Future of Electric Vehicles

Since I acquired an electric vehicle (EV), I have thought about the future of these things.  They are too expensive now, and too heavy, because of the huge and costly lithium-ion battery that provides limited range, making the car useful only for commuting and local errands.  Even so, my car is a joy to drive, quick and silent with virtually no maintenance other than checking the tires.  Even the disk brake pads will probably never need replacement because it employs regenerative braking, converting Read more [...]

Hydrogen – Fuel for Cars?

When hydrogen burns, the primary product of combustion is water.  Compared to fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, it seems like a perfect “fuel” to power our vehicles.  No greenhouse gases like CO2 are produced to heat up the planet, nor are the other toxic gases like hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide that cause the acid rain that is destroying forests all over the planet.  Some small quantities of nitrogen oxides result from burning hydrogen, but much less than from fossil fuels. Hydrogen Read more [...]

Creation vs. Big Bang

I have been reading a lot of Thomas Paine recently. I just finished "Age of Reason." I know that Robert Ingersoll , "The Great Agnostic" of the 19th Century,  admired Paine, and it is clear that many of his ideas came from Paine's writings, especially "Age of Reason." The phrasing that Ingersoll uses to describe the absurdity and immorality of the Bible is right out of "Age of Reason." Paine was a Deist.  He believed in a god who created everything.  Ingersoll disagreed with him, but when you Read more [...]

Computers, Brains and Accountability

I spent a good part of my working life programming computers. I started in the late 60’s, almost fifty years ago. Back then, computers were the size of houses, and the programs were punched on cards. Data storage was on magnetic tape. Processors were slow and memory was small. But in the early 70’s when the microelectronics explosion happened, memories grew from kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes to terabytes. Processor speed accelerated from kilohertz to megahertz to gigahertz. And of course Read more [...]

Entering the Solar Power World

This was written in March 2013 when the installation was completed. Today was an auspicious day.  A truck labeled “Real Goods Solar, Inc.” pulled up in front of our house at 8:00 AM, and a trio of young guys got out and started unloading tools and equipment.  Ladders went up, and soon the sounds of cordless drills and hammers filled the house, scaring the bejeezus out of the cat who thought the world was coming to an end.  I took him on my lap and assured him that we had safely passed the Read more [...]

Take a Drive With Me

I published this piece in 2007 and sent a copy of it to Mazda's west coast design center.  They are now making a very similar car to the one I describe here. It is a pleasant fantasy to think that I might have had some influence on their design. Take a drive with me in my new hybrid vehicle.  Well, this vehicle doesn’t exist yet, except in my imagination.  Before we jump in and take off on this imaginary ride, let me describe my vision. This car is built by Mazda.  It has a rotary (Wankel) Read more [...]

Cars, Computers, Cameras and the Wright Brothers

Note:  I first published this in 2009.  Since then, the march of technological progress has continued...but sadly the problems I describe are still awaiting a solution. I went to my local electronics store to buy an SD card for my wife’s camera.  After browsing around, I ended up buying a 4-gigabyte card for about eight bucks.  That works out to 0.2 cents per megabyte of storage.  I thought about the memory card that I bought back in 2000.  We were about to leave on a cruise to Alaska, Read more [...]

Will Battery-Powered Cars Ever Be Practical?

I read an article recently about a new development in "battery technology" by a research group in Singapore.  I put that in quotes because what they have developed is not a battery in the conventional sense.  It is a capacitor.  A capacitor with really immense storage capabilities, if you believe their press release. For electric vehicle (EV) applications, a capacitor is far superior to a battery.  Batteries store energy electrochemically.  Capacitors store it electrostatically.  What’s Read more [...]

The Trouble With Green Cars

This was written a few years ago but sadly, not much has changed. When the Toyota Prius first came out, I was really happy to see it.  At last, a major automaker was trying to address the problems of dwindling world petroleum supplies and environmental pollution.  True, GM had introduced the EV-1 battery-powered car back in 1996, but it was soon obvious that it was a token effort, quickly withdrawn from the market.  Other hybrids like the Honda Insight also appeared, but did not achieve widespread Read more [...]

Some Thoughts on Automotive Safety

I have grown increasingly exasperated with the constant escalation of automotive safety requirements which have resulted in “economy” cars with hundreds of pounds of structural strengtheners added to protect the occupants in a collision. While the safety measures, on the surface, are laudable, they are penalizing the consumer by mandating heavy, inefficient vehicles.  And still, a Honda Civic…which is nearly twice the size and weight of the Civic of ten years ago…would be a dangerous, Read more [...]

Science vs. Politics

I wrote this piece back during the Bush administration, but with the huge forest fires we had this summer, and the logging industry's lust for all those dead trees, it is still relevant. Today’s LA Times had an article about a graduate student at Oregon State University who is learning what happens when a scientist publishes something that the “establishment” doesn’t like. Daniel Donato and his colleagues conducted a study on reforestation of areas burned by forest fires.  What they Read more [...]

Thinking About Numbers

‘Numbers’ is a challenging word.  Especially for people who don’t like to deal with them.  Numbers can live up to the meaning of the root word, and be numbing.  I like numbers.  Let’s see if I can make numbers interesting to those of you who are ‘numerically challenged.’ Let’s start with the age of the earth:  Four or five billion years, according to geologists.   Some Christian believers would say around six thousand years.  That difference of opinion is a factor of almost Read more [...]

Flashback…and Forward

This was written in 2008, but I think that its message is even more appropriate today. In a few months, I will attend my 54th high school reunion.  I graduated from high school in 1954, barely past the midpoint of the 20th Century.  The Second World War had concluded only 9 years earlier.  It was so long ago that my brain hurts just thinking about it.  But every time one of these reunions approaches, I find my mind doing “flashbacks,” recalling what life was like in that far distant past. Life Read more [...]

The Energy Storage Problem

An extraterrestrial approaching Earth on the dark side would be astounded. What life form, she would think, is capable of concentrating so much energy? Surely, this planet contains some highly intelligent beings.  If she had approached the earth two hundred years ago, the view would have been quite different. Lighting then was by candles and whale oil lamps. Not much chance of seeing them from a few thousand miles. The industrial revolution was made possible by harnessing the massive and readily Read more [...]

Driving an Electric Vehicle

I leased a Honda Fit EV on January 28th, 2013.  When I drove it off the lot at the Honda dealer, it was the first time in my life that I have ever driven a battery-powered electric vehicle. (EV) I could say that it was electrifying experience, or that I got a charge out of it…but that would be really terrible punsterism. The first time you push on the accelerator in an EV (can't say "step on the gas") is a revelation…totally silent, smooth and surprisingly strong acceleration.  Being Read more [...]