Archive for August, 2009
Weed is a drug. Drugs are bad. Wine is alcohol. Politicians drink alcohol. Therefore, alcohol is ok and weed is not. Say WHAT? This is how most people function when it comes to issues of right and wrong. And while maybe it’s not as simple as caveman grunting, the way we’re wired to think is actually as a result of systemic beliefs created by institutions. Government is an institution. We live under government. Government creates drug laws. Drug laws are institutional. See what I mean?
Basically, if we don’t question what’s created by institutions, then we are products of that institution, and created by that institution for the sake of its perpetuation. This doesn’t really sound like LIFE, to me. It sounds like Alias, or Twilight, or some other fictionalized scary story. And so, we must question.
That’s what marijuana legalization advocate Steve Fox is doing, in the new book  Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? And he’s not a Judd Apatow character, ripping bong hits. This ish is for real–marijuana is a perfect symbol for how we’ve been institutionalized in this country to believe something harmless is bad.
From  LasVegasCityLife:
For a plant that’s never caused a single human death in the tens of thousands of years it’s been with us, marijuana still faces a gargantuan social stigma.
Government propagandists and some social conservatives, in their quest to proscribe our behavior, and consumption, are quick to cite anecdotal evidence and piles of bogus liquor- and prescription-drug-industry-funded studies that warn of the dangers of firing up even that first joint.
Yet these crusaders invariably fail to cite a little thing we call the truth: That alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs kill or maim hundreds of thousands of Americans each year while marijuana kills, oh, no one; that marijuana – still this nation’s leading cash crop, with estimated sales of $35.8 billion in 2006 – was legal in this country until almost 1940 (long after Prohibition had come and gone); that legalizing, and taxing, the sale of a plant that’s been legal for most of our history could help pull state governments, including Nevada’s, out of recent budgetary sink holes; that’s it not the government’s (or anyone else’s) business to tell Americans what they can and cannot put into their own bodies.
Luckily, a growing number of legal, medical and policy experts are changing perceptions through the intellectual and logical force of their arguments that the time has come to re-examine and change our failed drug policies. Policies which will cost us more than $15 billion this fiscal year alone.
Steve Fox, director of State Campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project (the nation’s largest organization dedicated to reforming marijuana laws) is one such expert. A former congressional lobbyist and a longtime proponent of sanity in public policy, Fox recently spent some time with CityLife talking about his new book Marijuana is Safer and to hash out and contrast the relative harms, and legal status, of this nation’s two most popular recreational substances: alcohol and marijuana.
CityLife: Considering the growth of the medical marijuana movement, especially here in the American West, and an increasing number of government and university studies that show alcohol to be far more dangerous that marijuana, do you think the United States will join other civilized nations such as The Netherlands and Portugal in re-legalizing cannabis?
Fox: It’s seeming like the writing is on the wall, but that doesn’t mean we’re as close as we’d like to be. There are, obviously, decades of propaganda and myth out there that have the ability to stall reform. It will be a battle, in the end, to change things.
Phoebus Energy, founded in 2007 with $2 million in seed funding from Terra Venture Partners, has developed a hybrid heat pump system that integrates with existing oil-based systems to make them more efficient. Newly appointed CEO Yaron Tal told The Jerusalem Post says that Phoebus Energy’s system saves between 50 and 70 percent of oil and reduces pollution by 80 to 90% compared to a traditional heat pump system.
“The Phoebus system is based on a complex algorithm that we developed which governs when to use the oil-based system and when to use the heat pump. It constantly monitors many parameters to decide which way is most efficient to generate heat,” Tal said.
“The system measures such parameters as the temperature outside, the temperature of the water, and the price of the oil. Several of the parameters change a number of times throughout the day,” he continued.
Phoebus Energy has already installed its system in eight locations in Israel, from kibbutzim to community centers to hotels, according to The Jerusalem Post. Phoebus Energy’s solution targets medium and large water heating systems, such as those found in hospitals, hotels, factories and large apartment buildings. The company is also already in negotiations with potential clients abroad, Tal told the Post.
Heat pumps had been around for a long time as a means to heat water, Tal said. Phoebus Energy heat pumps take an ecologically safe version of freon to transfer energy to water. The freon flows at high pressure at a temperature of 5º Celsius. Air is then pushed into the freon, which heats the freon. At 12º, the freon turns from a liquid into a gas. The gas is then mixed with the water, which heats the water, Tal said. The company managed to get the pumps to heat water to 55-60º Celsius, as opposed to other models that only reached 30-40º, he said.
The use of heat pumps cut oil use tremendously, thus reducing costs and pollution, he said.
Shalom Turgeman, who runs the Gilo community center, said in a statement, “The expected savings run into the hundreds of thousands of shekels, but the real point is that we are taking a step for a greener Earth and fighting the air pollution in the Gilo neighborhood.”
Until now, the community center, one of the largest in the country, burned more than 100,000 liters of oil per year to heat the swimming pool, water for the showers and bathrooms, and the gym.
Yaron Tal, previously the President & CEO of TopSpin Medical, was appointed CEO of Phoebus Energy earlier this month. Yoav Ben Yaacov, the Founder and former CEO of Phoebus Energy, is now the company’s VP Marketing & Sales.
It was reported last month that Phoebus Energy recently completed a financing round of $1 million from Galilaea Fund.
These days it seems there are plenty of reasons for homeowners to consider the switch to solar power, not the least of which is a pretty attractive tax rebate from the good ‘ole federal government. But for those who also take aesthetics into consideration in their home improvement decisions, there has always been the pesky issue of plunking the somewhat bulky panels on top of your roof for all the world to see…until now.
Thanks to the work of SRS Energy, a Philadephia-based company that develops and manufactures premium solar roofing tiles designed to seamlessly integrate with traditional roofing products. (See image above where blue solar tiles have been added to a traditional mission-style tiled roof). Marketed as the Solé Power Tile™, these SRS Energy roofing tiles are designed to capture and convert sunlight into cost-saving electricity without compromising aesthetics. The tiles are offered as an integrated upgrade to a traditional roofing purchase. Added to the protection and curb appeal expected from a premium roofing system, homeowners are able to capitalize on solar electricity as sustainable value
This lightweight, recyclable-plastic tile is the first solar roofing system designed for traditional California architecture. Its tough, molded-plastic body is fused with a sheet of flexible solar chips from Uni Solar that give it its distinctive blue color. And although its noncrystalline silicone cells gather less energy than conventional tilt-up panels with stiff crystalline cells, they react to a broader spectrum of light even on foggy, cloudy days. (Zahid Sardar, SF Chronicle)
Another huge advantage of the Solé Power Tile is that it is far less sensitive to sunlight than traditional solar cells, and thanks to the unique design that allows each tile to connect to its neighbor almost like Legos, homeowners can be confident that the power transfer will continue, even if one tile in the chain becomes damaged or stops working.
(Image Credit: SRS Energy)
Eco Tech: Energy-producing microbes generate electricity from mud
Anupam | 5 hr. ago
Eco Factor: Energy scavenging microbes use mud for electricity, ready for use in microbial fuel cells.
The latest research conducted at the University of Massachusetts could herald new fuel cell designs that generate electricity from mud. Geobacter, a microbe that generates when placed in mud and wastewater, is about 20,000 times finer than a human hair and according these researchers it has a unique ability to transfer electrons which enables it to extract energy from biomass.
by Lloyd Alter, Toronto 08. 6.09
Houses in North America all look alike; you can find the same gablegablegable or faux chateau style from Calgary to Tuscon. But before thermostats, people designed to suit the climate, and did a damn fine job of it. Justin at Materialicious points us to a wonderful site , eartharchitecture.org, where I learned about Syrian beehive houses.
Designed for the desert climate, the beehive homes keep the heat out in a few ways. Their thick mud brick walls trap in the cool and keep the sun out as well (beehive homes have very few, if any, windows). The high domes of the beehive houses also collect the hot air, moving it away from the residents sleeping at the bottom of the house.
Inside, its high dome serves to collect the hotter air, and outside to shed rainfall instantly, before the brick can absorb it and crumble. Its thick roof-cum-wall is an excellent low-velocity heat-exchanger, and keeps interior temperatures between 85° and 75° F. while outside noon-to-midnight extremes range from 140° to 60°.
Clearly, we have to start building these in Phoenix. Saudi Aramco World provides more detail:
Restricted choice of building methods and materials left the north Syrians few alternatives, mostly painful. Their houses had to resist the mechanical stresses of wind pressure and the minor shocks of the frequent earthquakes which afflict the region. Door and window openings had to be few and small to minimize the sun’s glare and the entry of hot air during the day as well as cold air at night. And they had to have a high-heat-capacity roof to absorb the sun’s rays during the day, and slowly reradiate it toward the interior during the cool night; the roof, furthermore, should have a continuous surface to provide a maximum of shade with a minimum of area exposed to the sun, and it should slope steeply to shed the occasional but torrential rains. All this—and it had to built of the only abundant material locally available: adobe brick.
The beehive house was the answer, and one that a computer could scarcely improve upon. Its conical shape presents almost no structural difficulties, requires no high-tensile-strength reinforcements, and can be built quickly by unskilled labor. Inside, its high dome serves to collect the hotter air, and outside to shed rainfall instantly, before the brick can absorb it and crumble. Its thick roof-cum-wall is an excellent low-velocity heat-exchanger, and keeps interior temperatures between 85° and 75° F. while outside noon-to-midnight extremes range from 140° to 60°. Nothing cheaper—nor more rugged, more efficient, and easily serviced—can, be built at the same site from local materials. The beehive house, moreover, attains that ideal that architects eternally seek but so seldom find: it combines functionalism with simplicity, elegance and beauty.