Saturday, July 27, 2013

LLNL Energy Flow Charts: Energy Services vs. Useful Work

Each year the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory publishes data on the flow of energy throughout the economy. Below is the latest graph. In general, it's a pretty useful graph and it conveys a lot of information. However, the goal of this post is highlight the underlying problem with LLNL's concept of "Energy Services."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Jigsaw pieces are falling to place: Neutrino Minimal Standard Model

It seems that the jigsaw pieces are really starting to fall into place, as far as proving the Neutrino Minimal Standard Model and as far as disproving supersymmetry and string theory.

For example, some data presented at the EPS-HEP Conference in Stockholm this week, is lending more evidence towards the Neutrino Minimal Standard Model and against supersymmetry (and hence against string theory as well.)

Discovery at LHC leaves less room for new particles by Symmetry Magazine
(This article discusses how the Standard Model passed an experimental test with flying colors. For more information, you can go directly to the LHCb website. There are other results on the b→sγ  transition on their website they recently presented at the same conference, but which hasn't received as much media attention, but could potentially be extremely important in constraining modification to the Standard Model.)

T2K experiment catches neutrinos in the act by Symmetry Magazine
(This article discusses the publication of an improved data set showing tau neutrinos converting into   electron neutrinos. This data now completes the experiments required to calculate the values inside of the PMNS matrix...i.e. the neutrino mixing matrix.)

Why is neutrino mixing important?  I'll answer this questions throughout the rest of this post.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Can you build a self-replicating coal power plant that doesn't emit CO2?

The question posed in the title of this post is yet unanswered. We still do not know if we can build a fossil fuel power plant whose emission of greenhouse gases is zero across its entire life cycle (i.e. construction, operation, and deconstruction.)
But with that having been said, we still don't know if we can build a solar PV or a wind turbine with zero life cycle greenhouse gas emissions. Nobody yet has proven that a solar PV panel or a wind turbine can self-replicate without replying on the existing fossil fuel based economy. (For example, today's solar PV technologies and wind turbines rely on relatively cheap gasoline and fossil fuel based electricity during the construction phase of operations.)
This is a problem because we need to limit the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. (While there is still uncertainty on what should be the maximum allowable concentration in the atmosphere, the likely maximum should probably be in the range of 400-800 ppm.) Given that we are currently increasing the concentration of CO2 at a yearly rate of ~3 ppm and given that we have yet to demonstrate a single 'modern' technology that has a zero lifecycle emission of greenhouse gases, we need to get out acts together and start demonstrating technologies that can self-replicate without reliance on an economy that emits greenhouse gases. This means that solar PV projects can't count as truly self-replicating and truly zero GHG-emitting until the electricity from the solar panel and only from the solar panel is used power the factory and build the factory that makes the solar panels.

So, let me know get to the main point of this post: I think that there are ways to design self-replicating coal power plants that don't emit greenhouse gases and that have positive growth rates. While there are a lot of people researching the topic of carbon capture and sequestration at coal power plants, most people in this field stop short at the power plant and don't address the question of how to limit CO2 emissions from factories and steel mills that make products used to construct the power plant. In other words, who cares if you can design a coal power plant that doesn't emit CO2 during operation if there are significant amounts of CO2 emissions during the construction and deconstruction phases of the lifecycle? You can't determine if the system can self-replicate without CO2 emissions until you design and model the whole system (not just the power plant.) This means including the cars that the workers drive into your model of the system.

Therefore, we must start thinking about designing self-replicating power plants cycles that don't emit CO2 emissions. As such, I think that there is one type of coal power plant that is more likely to be able to self-replicate without CO2 emissions than other types of coal power plant. This type of coal power plant goes by the acronym IGCC-CCS. The acronym stands for Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle with Carbon dioxide Capture and Sequestration. (Note: Sequestration here refers to storing CO2 under the ground. It should also be noted that there are a number of natural CO2 reservoirs in the U.S and there are plenty of locations to safely store CO2 in the U.S.)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Is Dark Matter 2 keV Sterile Neutrinos?

In various previous posts, I've been summarizing the recent evidence for dark matter particles in the keV range. Last month, there was a conference in Paris (Chalonge Meudon Workshop 2013) devoted specifically to the question of whether "warm" dark matter could explain all of the current data collected by astronomers on the distribution of dark matter in the universe. The presentations from the conference can be found online here.

Here's my summary of the presentations from the conference:
(1) The evidence for dark matter particles with a rest mass of 2 keV is getting stronger by each day. The leading candidate particle that matches this rest mass would be a right-handed (sterile) neutrino. However, there are still many unanswered questions, such as how a right-handed, sterile neutrino has a rest mass that is heavier than left-handed neutrinos and how there are so many sterile neutrinos.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Socrates vs. JayZ: Are we awake or just sleeping?

JayZ's Answer:  Hustlers, we don't sleep, we rest one eye up

Socrates's Answer:  I, Socrates, don't have the answer, but I will gladly help you ask the question and help you determine whether your answers make sense logically. But when we ask the question, we should make sure to use a language of absolutes (such as mathematics) rather than a natural language (like English, in which it is easy for Sophists to confuse us.)

I've been re-reading the Theaetetus by Plato (one of my favorite Socratic dialogues). In this dialogue, Socrates is helping a young geometry student (Theaetetus) answer the question "What is knowledge?" and is helping him see the problem with his first answer "Knowledge is perception." To help see the problem with this answer, Socrates asks a series of questions, one of which is the question of how we know we are awake or dreaming: 

Soc. But then, Theaetetus, how can any one contend that knowledge is perception, or that to every man what appears is?