Pricing electricity by demand saves consumers money and encourages more efficient usage:
Sacramento Metropolitan Utilities District (SMUD) has decided that time-varying pricing makes sense. It saves the utility money because it doesn’t have to buy as much expensive wholesale power during peak periods. And, it can pass these savings on to customers. It thus has charted a plan to move most customers onto time-varying pricing as the default rate by 2018.
Naturally, this being California, there’s a regulatory problem:
But California’s investor-owned utilities are blocked by recent legislation from introducing default dynamic pricing until 2018. This is foolishness masquerading as consumer protection. Flat-rate pricing creates economic waste and hurts consumers. Plus, as I’ve blogged about earlier, adopting time-varying pricing could help integrate renewables onto the electric grid.
Pricing according to supply and demand is just common sense, so it’s not entirely surprising that legislators would have a problem with it. As opposed to Xcel’s ill-fated Boulder Smart Grid, this one is less ambitious, and more focused on outcomes than coolness.
Posted in Business, Economics.
– December 3, 2013 08:15
Practically nothing about quantum mechanics surprises me any more:
In their proposed experimental set-up, the physicists show that a photon will travel through the left arm of an interferometer with 100% certainty, yet its polarization can be detected in the right arm, where there is 0% probability of the photon traveling. That is, the photon is in one place while its polarization is in another.
This doesn’t seem to be a measurement-disturbance issue, either, as they set up another experiment to control for that.
Posted in SciTech.
– December 3, 2013 08:06
It’s not what you think:
Billionaire Tom Steyer plans to renew his fight against Keystone XL in Washington on Monday.
NextGen Climate Action, founded by Steyer, will host a summit where participants will argue the Keystone XL pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. cannot pass President Obama’s climate test….
Steyer is opposed to the pipeline project — which would carry oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico — and wants to stay engaged in the issue, Casey said.
Steyer made his money as an asset manager in San Francisco, i.e., Wall Street West, and gave tens of millions of dollars to raise corporate taxes in California, at the same time his for-profit bank lends to “underserved communities.” Maybe the reason they’re having a hard time raising capital, Tom, is because you’re busy chasing it out of the state. And now you want to keep energy prices high for the proles.
All in a day’s work for the new Green Gentry.
Posted in Climate, Economics, Politics.
– December 3, 2013 07:30
A cool interactive info-graphic from Visualizing.org. In Colorado’s case, pretty partisan.
If you’ve been listening to feminist propaganda about what the world would look like if women ran it, filter by Sex.
Posted in Design, Politics.
– December 3, 2013 05:02
First, Roger Pielke, Jr. notes the relatively constant rate of US hurricane landfalls over the last century, which has culminated in a record time between Category 3+ landfalls:
The red line in the graph above shows a decrease in the number of US landfalls of more than 25% since (which given variability, may just be an artifact and not reflecting a secular change). There is no evidence to support more or more intense US hurricanes. The data actually suggests much the opposite.
Then, it turns out that the oceans have been rising for a long time. Since the Maunder Minimum, actually:
Since the Little Ice Age ended about 160 years ago, tide gages show that sea level has risen at a steady rate – with no correlation to the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
Sea level is a dynamic property in our planet’s climate cycles, which are closely linked to changes in solar energy output and other natural factors.
It’s almost as though the climate is just way too complicated to be reduced to one number, or something.
Posted in Climate.
– December 2, 2013 22:12
Posted in Photography.
– December 2, 2013 20:00
The paper that gave so much hope to anti-GMO luddites is being retracted by the journal in which it appeared:
All of these criticisms of the study could have been incorporated into the original press coverage, except for the fact that the people behind the study manipulated journalists to ensure that they were unable to obtain any outside evaluations of the paper. Nevertheless, even as the criticisms rolled in, the researchers remained defiant, and anti-GMO activists continued to promote the paper as evidence of the dangers posed by genetically modified crops.
Now, the editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology, the journal in which this study was published, has decided its flaws are so severe that including multiple Letters to the Editor with the study just won’t cut it. In response to the initial complaints, he had set up a panel that looked over the paper and the additional data provided by Séralini. According to one letter from the editor, obtained by an anti-GMO activist group, “The panel had many concerns about the quality of the data and ultimately recommended that the article should be withdrawn.” The editor has agreed with this recommendation, and has already written a statement that will replace it.
Science by press-conference and press-manipulation is nothing new; Ron Bailey wrote about it extensively in Eco-Scam decades ago. It was bad science then, and it’s bad science now.
Posted in SciTech.
– December 2, 2013 17:00
The Solar Neighborhood, with locations, temperatures, and sizes of the nearest stars.
Posted in Design.
– December 2, 2013 15:00
So says a study showing a sales boost from removing DRM from music:
According to Zhang, the 30% sales increase for lower-selling albums can be explained by the fact that DRM-free music makes it easier for consumers to share files and discover new music. The finding that removing DRM from top-selling albums has no effect on sales makes sense in this regard, since the discovery element is less important for well promoted musicians.
This should surprise nobody except the record company executives, who never seem to learn. They’ve made this mistake with radio, with records, with cassettes, with CDs. So why should digital be any different?
Posted in SciTech.
– December 2, 2013 12:00
From a little over a year ago, some beautiful pictures of the Babbage Difference Engine #2:
For some reason, we’ve been conditioned to think of old technology as clunky or ugly. Often, it was anything but. The clean lines and repetition, lend even things like power stations, telephone exchanges, and pneumatic tube centers elegance and beauty. It’s not necessarily better or worse than today’s Apple stuff, just different and lovely in its own way. No wonder steampunk is so popular.
Posted in Design, SciTech.
– December 2, 2013 09:00
The Capitol Dome was topped off:
On December 2, 1863, the last section of the Statue of Freedom was put in place on top of the dome amid a great celebration with military salutes. The interior of the dome was finished in January 1866 when the scaffolding was removed from below Constantino Brumidi’s great fresco, the Apotheosis of Washington, 180 feet above the Rotunda floor. Walter resigned on May 26, 1865, and was succeeded by Edward Clark, who completed the last details of the dome.
It was completed in the middle of the Civil War. Lincoln didn’t insist that the work go forward – that was the main contractor who didn’t want to see the iron go to waste – but he was happy for the symbolism.
Posted in History.
– December 2, 2013 08:00
A great infographic explaining everyone’s favorite alternative currency:
Posted in Business, Design, SciTech.
– December 2, 2013 05:00
Posted in Photography.
– December 1, 2013 20:00
For those of you not watching 60 Minutes tonight:
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took to 60 Minutes to reveal the company’s latest delivery method: drones. In what is likely a cunning reminder of the e-tailer’s upcoming Cyber Monday sales, these bots will apparently be capable of delivering packages up to five pounds (86 percent of orders are apparently under that), with the aim of getting them to your house in under half an hour.
Yes, there are obvious technical issues here. But I wonder how Bezos plans to handle the huge increase in inventory needed to make it work.
Posted in Business, SciTech.
– December 1, 2013 19:51
Rumblings of rational reform of our corporate tax code, including how we handle foreign earnings:
As the Senate Finance Committee’s draft proposals suggest, the US should jettison its worldwide approach to corporate taxation and adopt a territorial system for taxing US MNCs’ foreign earnings. Such a system would provide a level playing field that supports US MNCs’ global competitiveness. It would also eliminate the efficiency costs of deferral and boost US MNCs’ repatriation of foreign earnings, with significant benefits for output and employment.
As Rep. Davd Camp points out, the worldwide tax system may have made sense when we were 50% of the world’s GDP and had no serious competitors. Now, it’s just hurting everyone.
Posted in Economics.
– December 1, 2013 11:18
We were always worried that the Soviets would use ‘salami tactics,’ pushing us far enough to provoke a crisis that needed to be resolved, and not far enough to provoke a war. We put an effective end to that in Europe by standing by Berlin, eventually. But China seems to have perfected the method:
Here, as elsewhere, China has painted its rival as the obstructionist party. As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi put it, “Japan needs to recognize that there is such a dispute. The whole world knows that there is a dispute.” But there is a dispute only because China has succeeded in shaking the status quo in recent years by popularizing the islands’ Chinese name (“Diaoyu”) and staging incursions into their territorial waters and airspace.
As always, the trick is to push hard enough to get something, without raising the asking price beyond what people are willing to pay without fighting. You may be able to do that for a while, but when other countries see what’s going on, their price may change without your being aware of it. And when the threat changes from tactical to strategic, it’s a whole new calculus altogether.
Posted in Foreign Policy.
– December 1, 2013 09:57
Via Standpoint‘s Tom Gross:
Which is one reason why one of the more remarkable stories coming out of the Middle East over the last two and a half years has been largely overlooked: the bravery of Israeli doctors and civilians who have gone into war-ravaged neighbouring Syria to treat the injured, and feed and clothe refugees from all ethnic backgrounds
Posted in Culture.
– December 1, 2013 07:19
Posted in Architecture, Sports.
– December 1, 2013 05:00
Posted in Art, Culture.
– November 30, 2013 05:00
Courtesy of the Off The Map Challenge:
Following the development of the environment on the team’s blog you can see some of the gaps between what data was deemed noteworthy or worth recording in the seventeenth century and the level of detail we now expect in maps and other infographics. For example, the team struggled to pinpoint the exact location on Pudding Lane of the bakery where the Great Fire of London is thought to have originated and so just ended up placing it halfway along.
If students, who presumably didn’t have the time to look up the latest archaeological research, can do this well for London 350 years ago, I would think we could do something like this for American cities, and be pretty accurate with it.
Posted in Architecture, Culture, Demographics, SciTech, Urban.
– November 29, 2013 10:00
Posted in Architecture, Design.
– November 29, 2013 05:00
On Thanksgiving, Turner Classic Movies plays a “Family Favorites” Marathon, which includes “Lassie, Come Home.”
James Thurber expands on the theme, in his “Look Homeward, Jeannie:”
The homing dog reached apotheosis a few years ago when “Lassie Come Home” portrayed a collie returning to its young master over miles of wild and unfamiliar terrain in darkness and in storm. This million-dollar testament of faith, a kind of unconscious memorial to the late Albert Payson Terhune [author of Lad: A Dog and countless other collie chronicles -- Ed.], may possibly be what inspired Bergen Evans’ slighting remarks.
I suspect that Professor Evans has not owned a dog since Brownie was run over by the Chalmers. In the presence of the “lost” dog in the next block, he is clearly on insecure ground. He assumes that the dog does not come back from the next block because it can’t find its way. If this reasoning were applied to the thousands of men who disappear from their homes every year, it would exonerate them of every flaw except disorientation, and this is too facile an explanation for man or beast. Prince, the dog, has just as many reasons for getting and staying the hell out as George, the husband: an attractive female, merry companions, change of routine, words of praise, small attentions, new horizons, an easing of discipline. The dog that does not come home is too large a field of research for one investigator, and so I will confine myself to the case history of Jeannie.
I am told that Keith Olbermann read much of this essay on the air one night. In spite of that, it’s a fine piece of writing, so don’t be dissuaded.
Posted in Culture.
– November 28, 2013 17:38
The European Delegated Act on Copernicus data and information policy will enter into force in the coming days. This Act provides free, full and open access to users of environmental data from the Copernicus programme, including data from the Sentinel satellites.
As always, the question is who the gatekeepers consider to be a user of environmental data. But with NASA’s and others’ histories of “adjusting” data, this could be a significant step towards accountability.
Posted in Climate, SciTech, Space.
– November 28, 2013 15:00
Kids adapt, toys adapt to help kids adapt:
All of Primo’s electronics are concealed inside wooden boxes, so from the child’s point of view they’re playing with blocks, a board and a cute little robot. But as they snap the coloured pieces (instruction blocks) into the board (the physical programming interface) they are building up a set of instructions that the wheeled bot will execute when they push the big red button. So they get to see their program come to life as the bot moves around the room and navigates around household objects.
They’re not going to turn kids into professionals, but between Primo and Play-I, it will mean a generation of kids habituated to thinking like programmers from a very early age. This should be useful in just about any career, not just programming. And I can see the toys evolving further to incorporate functional programming and other techniques as they become current.
Of course, I can also see playground fights breaking out over programming style, too.
Posted in SciTech.
– November 28, 2013 10:58
Asks the Guardian:
But let’s pause there for a moment. As worthy as all the past winners of the Grand Master award undoubtedly are … what of the next generation? Is it feasible to now cast the grand master net wider, perhaps consider those writers born in the 1950s, or the 1960s? Even someone born as relatively recently as the 1970s could now be in their 40s. Who from that crop would be worthy of the honour?
This is like trying to identify Hall of Famers in their 20s. Some stand out, but they still have to play their whole careers. In addition to John Scalzi, I’d like to see Neal Stephenson on some lists.
On the other hand, we should know where writers in their 60s stand.
Posted in Books, Culture.
– November 28, 2013 10:15