Links for the week of December 3rd, 2010

If you want to follow my shared links in real time instead of as a weekly digest, head over to Delicious. You can search them there easily too.

  • Energy Use and Pollution of Travel Modes – A look at the total lifecycle energy required per passenger distance traveled for many different modes of transportation. Based on the UC Berkeley PhD Dissertation “Life-cycle Environmental Inventory of Passenger Transportation in the United States” by Mikhail V. Chester (2008). They point out that for intra-urban transportation, compact development ends up being comparable to mode of travel in importance. Sure… trams use less energy per passenger-km, but people taking trams also tend to go many fewer miles than those driving, since they’re generally in much denser communities.  Trains use about half the energy per passenger mile traveled as planes (also at high ridership). Not nearly as large a difference as I’d have thought. It implies that one can travel thousands of miles a year via motorized transportation and still have a good chance of living a 2000 W life, but even by rail you can’t travel tens of thousands of miles a year.
  • Passive House Concept – A Guide to Ultra Low Energy Buildings – A talk giving a decent introduction to the Passive House standard and the building techniques which are necessary to achieve it.
  • Four Degrees and Beyond – The Royal Society has dedicated an issue of its philosophical transactions to exploring what a 4°C warmer world looks like, since despite all the blabbering about 450ppm and 2°C of warming, it looks much more like we’re planning to get to 650-1000ppm and 4°C or more. Understanding what that world looks like, and how we might make the best of living in it is a disheartening exercise, but nobody said survival would be fun. I mean, we made it through the K/T impact, and the Mt. Toba supervolcano 70,000 years ago. I’m sure those times sucked too.
  • Attack on Iranian nuclear scientists prompts hit squad claims – It’s a great time to be a spook. The spy novels of the early 21st century will also be science fiction, and they won’t make sense to anybody. Iranian physicists are being assassinated. A computer worm attacks an air-gapped network so that it can make motors run faster and then slower, on a one month schedule, simulating mysteriously crappy engineering.
  • Climate change protesters’ anger was justifiable – 114 activists were pre-emptively arrested for conspiracy to shut down E.ON’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal fired power plant. 20 are standing trial for criminal trespass, using the same defense that got the Kingsnorth Six successfully acquitted in 2008: that their crime would have prevented the greater harm of the emissions being released. It’s a weird case, since everyone has already admitted to the conspiracy, leaving the prosecution little to demonstrate. They’ve taken to suggesting perhaps they ought to have simply held a rally, or talked to some MPs, or used the 15,000 pounds they spent on the operation to secure a celebrity endorsement instead. Those things and more have all been done. They’ve had less than no effect. Somebody has to get serious. I’d rather it was our leadership, but failing that, coal fired power plants just aren’t that difficult to unplug. Just ask T.E. Lawrence.
  • An Interview With WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange – I’m in favor of the kind of transparency WikiLeaks advocates, but I have to hope that the organization doesn’t entirely revolve around Assange. Centralization is fragile, and he will eventually be personally destroyed by slander, lawsuit, or a bullet to the head. Their mission is too important to let it hinge on a single individual.

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