Thursday, January 25, 2007

Energy sources and polutions

The comment by Krimpoff yesterday about hydroelectricity and nuclear fusion made me think that it might be a good idea to do a post about the polluting effect of each sources of energy we use or plan to use. Some of the "clean" sources are actually polluting and some of the "dirty" one are not that bad. So without further delay here is a little about the polluting effect of our energy sources.

Burning stuff (wood, coal, petroleum, ethanol, natural gas or anything else organic based you want to burn): produce green house gas: CO2 and H2O. The incomplete combustion of these products also release toxic volatile substance like carbon monoxide and nitrate oxide. And we must not forget to pollution brought about by the exploitation of these resources.

Hydrogen burning: Produce mainly H2O, which is a very efficient green house gas. The production of hydrogen requires great quantity of electricity, which might (depending on how the electricity is produced) further pollute the atmosphere.

Wind power: From what I know the only pollution wind power bring is in the form of the production of the turbine and the use of toxic lubricant to keep everything turning smoothly. It also requires a large flat windy place and to produce large amounts of energy from it we might have to destroy ecosystems and/or forest.

Solar power: Producing the solar panel imply very polluting reaction, to produce meaning full amongst of power require VERY large surfaces. The main problem with solar power is that even if we could extract every ounce of energy coming from the sun their is actually very little by cm^2 here on Earth. Because of that it suffer from the same problem as wind power in term of it impact on ecosystems, in fact it might even be worse since a "perfect" system would block sunlight from the ground and prevent plant life from growing under the panel.

Wave or tidal power: Producing the turbine and structure require a lot of energy, which implies pollution. The effect of placing a turbine in a wave heavy ocean or in a strong tidal area might impact the ecosystem by forcing water into the turbine.

Nuclear Fission: Producing the central require a lot of power, extracting and refining the fissionable material require polluting chemical. The exploitation of the power produces H2O and nuclear waste. However new models of reactor produce very little waste (recycling most of their nuclear fuel), another thing is that while most of the wastes are quite bad for our health, they are natural element and will eventually decompose into stable non-radioactive safe element.

Hydroelectricity: Like everything producing the dam requires lots of power and produce pollution, then producing the reservoir is an ecological disaster. Further more the decomposition of organic matter trapped under the reservoir and the organic matter brought into the reservoir by the rivers filling it produce a lot of methane. Then the production of electricity and expulsion of water release that methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a toxic gas and his also a green house gas, the good news (for Quebec at least) is that less methane is produced in the north (colder climate since less organic matter is brought in by the rivers.)

Nuclear Fusion: I'm going to skip the mention of producing the infrastructure problem. The first thing about nuclear fusion is that it produces hard radiation, which bring about the same problem as nuclear fission. While there is no direct radioactive nuclear waste (the product is harmless helium) the whole structure will become radioactive quite rapidly. Also we aren't able to produce electricity directly from nuclear fusion so we needs heat water and that produce H2O vapor.

So you see no energy production method is completely safe for the environment, some are better then other but there is no completely clean energy. We will need to find ways to make them as clean as possible, but we probably will never be able to produce electricity without having any impact on the environnement.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Diversity

We are often talking about how the rapidly decreasing biodiversity of the world is a grave problem, and I for one I believe that we are (at least in part) justified. We do not however talk how our society lack of diversity (wait I will explain what I mean) is a big problem. I do not mean diversity of people, (even if we could have a greater) but more like the diversity of our base technology. I find that most of our civilization is based on very few principles: petroleum combustion and electricity (to name two).

Our reliance on these might be one of the reason we have a pollution problem. A single petroleum car (or even an hundred) isn't much problem (if any) however a hundred millions or a billion car all spitting CO2 in the atmosphere is a great problem for the equilibrium. The "solution" would seem to be replacing all those car with something else that is less polluting. However, that probably wouldn't work, none of the propose solution when applied to the scale we need them would be ecologically friendly: Hydrogen car produce water vapor which is a greater green house gas then CO2, Ethanol production produce more green house gas then petroleum burning and production, Electricity... well very little electricity is produced with eco-friendly methods (and our hydroelectricity production isn't that ecological). Apply any of those solution on the scale needed to replace petroleum and you create a similar problem (maybe even a worse problem).

A better alternative might be to diversify our technological base, it would still be a problem since the large number of human and the large use we makes of our technology will produce a lot of pollution. However a larger technological base would reduce the quantity of each poluant, perhaps to a manageable level. It does have a problem tho, everything would probably cost more, since our level of price depend on mass production. Reduce the number you produce of something and you will drive the cost up, but it might be the only way to reduce our pollution production.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Why ask the French?

Why ask French what they think about Quebec independence? Well more exactly why ask French presidency candidate to be for the Quebec independence? While I do understand that an hypothetical sovereign Quebec would need to be recognized by other country to have any legitimacy their is a big difference between asking a candidate what they think about it and securing support. Also, lets remember that politician will tell visiting dignitary (particularly no bodies like Boisclair presently (leader of the opposition isn't really a job with power you know)) just about everything they want to hear to make them happy. And also remember we are asking the French those that surrender faster than their shadow (sorry couldn't resist).

Well I can imagine it as something to do with our being a former French colony (that has been abandoned I might add) who fears to be assimilate by the "evil" English (not exactly the place to talk about this since I am posting in English). It's like we need the French approval on everything we do, I wonder if the other candidate tells Boisclair, your sovereignty idea is stupid if we will abandon it... Probably not but maybe we could dream.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Militarisation of space

A few days ago (according to the US intelligence agency then 11 of January, but who is going to believe them) China, always the pacifist country, tested an anti-satellite weapon. After claiming a few months ago claiming that it would not militarize space. Probably part of the change of mind from China came from another event a few months ago... a statement by the US of A that it would not adhere to it's own statement about not militarizing space (and restarting the anti-satellite weapon research, which it had abandoned in the 1980 for fear of damaging the civilian satellite infrastructure). Now, I believe that unfortunately militarization of space is inevitable (baring dramatic change in society, lets not forget then even hyper peaceful Star Trek has war), at least with the colonization of other worlds and star system and logic dictate that you want it as far as possible from inhabited world.

The problem, at least I think, is the ever-raising tension that this creates. China is on its way to become a super power to dwarf the USA (no not just rivalries) and it is determined to be a military super power as well as an economical one. While in a "peaceful" situation the transition between an American dominance to a Chinese dominance will be a peaceful one. If stress is high and "hatred' of the former super power is high, their might be a war, a great big ugly war with probably a few nuclear (or nucular) exchange. On the other hand, considering the US position and its capability I can't really fault China for trying to match them. Another complex and potentially volatile situation in the world, nice isn't it? Its not like we will be able to complain that our times where not interesting.

Going from men to state...

I don't usually read anything published into the Journal de Québec (or any of the other of Quebecor's publication) but I was recently pointed to an editorial by Nathalie Elgrably that I found very interesting. I had heard the name Elgrably quite a few times before from friends and radio programs, but I never had the opportunity to read her (I'm not about to buy a journal just to read one article). Her editorial is about the recent CROP survey that claims that Quebecers (particularly young 20-30) did not subscribe to the vision brought forth by the "Lucid" group. It is quite interesting and raises an interesting point, so I recommend reading it.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

5 minutes to midnight

You might remember my prediction that the doomsday clock would be moving closer to midnight after North Korea's nuclear and missile test. Well yesterday the Bulletin of Atomic scientist has moved the clock two minutes closer to midnight. In itself it is not surprising considering the current world situation, what is surprising however is the inclusion of a new possible cause for Armageddon in the clock's track: Global climate change. This is very interesting as it means that the catastrophes brought forth by global climate change would be as destructive as nuclear war.

Now people might say that those scientists are alarmist and going too far, the world isn't that close to destruction. The doomsday clock isn't a absolute measure of the time left until Armageddon, it is a symbol saying that hey remember just because we are not talking about the nukes right now they are still there and might someday be used to destroy civilization (and probably all life.) Sure it might be interpreted as just a way to scare people but in my opinion it is only a way for scientist to show they are concerned with the states of affairs in the world without behind burdened by political agendas.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bad messenger!

Somehow I am surprised at the reaction Mario Dumon's letter to the people of Quebec received. He is basically asking for what should be the separatist wet dream, a Quebec constitution where they could show the people what a independent Quebec laws would look like. What values we believe strongly enough that we are willing to put them in writing and as a foundation for our laws.
Wouldn't it be the best idea in the world if it came from Brokeback Boisclair? Is this a case of every idea from the ADQ is a bad idea? I really wonder at the moment.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Demonization

No this will not be a post about a new process in my next RPG game that will transform people into demons (or devils) for some obscure plot arc that my players will probably never figure out correctly. Instead it will be about something much more human and real, our tendency to demonize people that do not think as we do. Example from the last few month/years should illustrate what I means quite rapidly: George W.Bush, Stephen Harper, Jean Charest, Jeff Fillion, André Arthur, Mario Dumon, the syndicates (to be fair I have to name some I have demonized myself) and the separatist.

To illustrate a point or to galvanize opinion we try to simplify the debate by saying they are evil, the devil, and/or that they aren't human. A typical war tactic, make your enemies into less then human that makes fighting them much easier (and in actual war killing something less then human is a lot easier then killing someone). The problem is that it is not a war, its a society, we are trying to build something together (even if some ideas and philosophies are competing) not trying to demonstrate an ideological superiority. We often use this method to dismiss an argument without really addressing the argument (come on the argument comes from the Devil (or his closest incarnation on Earth) it has to be false) closing ourselves to ideas that could potentially better then ours.

Now, where am I going with this? Well not really anywhere it is simply a statement of state of society (and myself), hopefully so that I can become better. Maybe I also want to explain why I tend to try to play the devil's advocate so often... well that might also be because I like an argument.

Monday, January 15, 2007

My political profile

let's just say I find the result interesting...

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 55% Conservative, 45% Liberal
Social Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

Sunday, January 14, 2007

L'illusion tranquille

Yesterday I went to see the propaganda documentary L'illusion Tranquille. I use the terms propaganda documentary for a simple reason it is a documentary that shows only one side of the equation, like most documentaries in the world to be honest. This one is about Quebec and it's society, it's future, it's present and it's past from the point of view of economist, lawyer, and generally people that would be associated with the "evil right" in Quebec society.

The documentary present what they think is wrong with our society and what the solution might be. They present argument on how and why the current system is actually failing to do everything it claims to be doing. For example, the documentary speaks on how the freezing of tuition fees in Quebec is much more interesting (and profitable) for rich families then for poor families.

All in all it is a very interesting documentary, it offers a very different view (then that of the "mainstream media") of our society while keeping its argument rational. I invite you to go and watch it as it is now playing in Quebec, Montreal and Sherbrooke. You might not agree with their conclusion and their view but might make you think. Personally I agree with most of their view and even on what I wasn't sure about they made me think.

Recycling, the other side of the medail

Those of you who watched babylon 5 will reconside these two guys. They makde a show called Bullshit! that debunnk modern bullshit basically. Yesterday on memoir of a skepchick I hear that they made a show about recycling where they basically debunked recycling. So here is the show for your viewing pleasure.

Personally i do not agree with all their argument some (most notably the save landfill space rebuke) are plain wrong. However I think they still make enough of a point for me to investigate and try to learn more about the real economical and environnemental cost of the mesures, parctiullarily since I recycle.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Well the game that didn't happen.

Yesterday I was supposed to have my first GURPS WWII game of 2007. It didn't happen we started talking about Canadian and Quebec politics (mainly saying that we should change a lot of things), the economy, Canadia place in the world (why, and how are we member of the G8 for exemple), religion and religious fanatism, war (mostly WWII) and of course humor and jokes. We though to start the game around 9 pm but then remembered something, mister George W. Bush the president of the United State of America would be doing his first state of the Union address to his country, outlining his plan for Iraq. We where curious to see what plan he might try to pass or if he would decide to abandon Iraq, reconise it as a new vietnam, or something else entirely, so we listened to the whole address and discussed it afterward.

Basically if you did not listen to it, Mister Bush said that they will be deploying more then 20 000 new troops to Iraq, most of them in Baghdad. He said that his plan included a change of the mandate of the troop, giving them more autonomy and power on the group as well as increasing the number of iraqis troop to the anti-terrorist job. He just about implied that they would be targeting arm supplies in Syria and Iran that might help the forces in Iraq. He said that it was going to be bloody, hard, messy and probably a long term endeavor (but hinted that one or two year might be enough...) which in itself is a good thing since it is the truth.

Of couse that is not what many people wanted to hear they wanted to hear that the US would be pulling out, admiting defeat and seeing Iraq as another vietnam. Personally I don't think that would have been a good idea globally speaking (while the invasion of Iraq wasn't a good idea either, we cannot change the past, we can only try to fix the mistake), the abandonnement of Iraq to the civil war (because their is a civil war in Iraq, and not all of it is against the american, in fact most of it seems to be sect-to-sect) would only lead to more dead, more violence and probably another country "falling" to religious fanatism as a government. Will mister Bush plan work? I don't know, their are some elements in it that might in the relatively long term actually solve the problem, but internationally speaking it will not be pretty. This plan will involve bloody battle, house to house fighting and the unfortunate dead of many, to work this plan means that the US will have to actually wage a war against the Iraqis that are fighting each other (both shiite and Sunite even if one of the other is an ally of the US) and an actual war is not a clean war, you cannot fight it "cleanly". And even then, it might not work, Iraq is a big bloody mess and it's rebuilding cannot happen while their is fighting to keep the people from killing each other and the people of Iraq might not want the US to fight to "pacify" the country for them.

One thing I did notice and like about the address, not once did mister Bush refere to god, or claim that god was on either side of the conflict. Making the war a war of religion is the last thing the US and the Western world wants, and the previous addresses made me think that part of mister Bush strategy was to oppose his belief in his god to theirs. A sort of pissing contest going: My god is bigger then your god. Not a good idea, not against any one but particullary not people that already define themself as god warrior in an holy crusade against the heaten force of the devil.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple i line of product

Well if you follow the news you know that Apple just release the product that many of their fan (mac fan boy are a growing phenomenan, which I might have been a slight victim in the past) the iPhone! Now Scott Krutz of PvPonline best summed their reaction (I'm far less enthousiast on that just to tell you) with today's comic: Jesus has come back and he's a phone now.

While I do agree that the phone look impressive and that it's function are intriguing, I'm far from rushing to buy one. For one it's a cell phone, which I don't need yet (I don't want to be always reachable by everyone, I think I need this "freedom"), another reason is that the small version of the phone is 500$ US.

But to get back to the title of this post we see that Apple seems to have decided to make an i line of product. the ibook, iMac, iPod, iPhone, iTv(well now Apple Tv) and probably many other. I wonder if their marketing departement had the same idea I had... call this line of product the iWant product line... Don't you think that would make a good publicity?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Progress?

Last night just before my Monday role-playing game (a nWoD game where we play mortals "supernatural" investigators/consultant) we had an interesting discussion about Wall-mart and other large surface shop. Two conflicting opinions were supported by my friends, one that Wal-Mart is just progress in shopping and that we shouldn't worry about it and another that Wal-Mart were dangerous for the economy.

For the first side, my friend argued that in the past people were scared of supermarket saying that supermarket where dangerous for the economy and were killing the small neighborhood grocery store. While many (probably most) small grocery story close down it was not catastrophic economically speaking. Just like the vanishing of ice merchant and coal door-to-door seller, economical progress (some might call it evolution) marched on and society was not the worse to wear.

On the other side, my other friends argued that Wal-Mart destroy the market in a area, removing not only the small store but also the specialty store by underselling the newest, most fashionable item. They also argued that these stores offered services targeted to the upper middle class (I'm recounting that argument even if I don't see how or why that is a bad thing) by their location and "style". They offered example of small shops that couldn't survive this competition whose services will be sorely missed.

Now unlike most of the time I stood on the sideline for this argument (yeah I know unbelievable) because I do not really know where I stand. On one hand I hate shopping at Wal-Mart, I feel like I'm in some kind of low quality cheap-ass "temple" to the lowest denominator in society. The only thing I feel while I'm in a Wal-Mart is that I should buy the first product that I find and not ask question about how it his or how it is made. But on the other hand I can understand how the low price and easy access to the latest/most popular item would be interesting to families or people for which money is tight. It is a big dilemma and some of those store business practice are questionable so we might review this "progress" and think about how it might affect us on the long term.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Final Fantasy XII

Like many nerds of my age I acquired on the release date the game Final Fantasy XII. I must say that unlike Krimpoff I wasn't too warm at the "real time" system nor the look of the character (look it up, the main character Vaan really wear something weird and their is the usual male oriented game problem of inpractical woman clothing).

Now, after playing for quite a while (78 hours according to the game clock) I must say that I quite enjoy the game. The combat system is really dynamic and while it you could theorically let the game play itself it is much more enjoyable if you customise your battle script when needed. Also the story is one of the best in the Final Fantasy so far without being too constrictive (it is of course very linear but you do have the freedom to move about quite a lot so it is not so bad.) Now I haven't finished yet, but unlike just about every other game in the world I find myself playing just for the sake of increasing my level and license it is quite fun... and the side quest are intriguing.

All in all it is a great game and if you have a a PS2, go buy it's worth it.. and if you don't have a PS2 well it almost worth buying the machine for the game... that or a PS3. An contrary to rumors on anyflower's blog I have not vanished into thin air. (nor into thin hair... but that would be a bad pun)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Distribution of Wealth

One argument I hear very often about the bad economical health of Quebec is that the people having a revenue over 100 000$/years pays more then 50% of the taxes while being far from 50% of the population (close to 8% if I remember correctly but don't quote me on that it's probably a wrong figure). Now on first look that seem dangerously wrong, if around 10% of the people pay more then 50% of the taxes there is something wrong and our economy will go badly. But there is something we must consider before going unto the CHANGE EVERYTHING mode, just what percentage of the total wealth of Quebec does those people earn? Cause if they earn more then 50% of the wealth it not illogical that they should pay 50% of the taxes no?

Now, I do not believe that it is the case in Quebec, however just because it might not be the case does not mean that on it own it is a good argument to change our economical model. It would be a good idea to look at exactly how wealth is distributated, you do not want to overtax the poor, but you do not want to overtax the rich either. It is simply fairness; no one should be paying more then his share.

Jehova Witness

I was visited, again, by Jehova witness, unfortunatly (or most probably fortunatly) it wasn't Jenova witness (cue Final Fantasy VII music). Once again they want to convince me that the apocalyspe is coming (or even already started). Well, as you can guess I'm not really warm at the idea of the apocalyspe, kinda annoying with the rapture, the four horseman and the thousan year of reign by the devil. Now of course they don't say right up that they want to recruit you, but they invite you to their bible "discussion" and also they ask you question like: do you belive that sometimes in the futur all disease will vanish? and whatever your answer they point you to the bible where apparently such a thing is said.

A few minutes into the discussion they handed me a propaganda panflet with "proof" of the existance of their definition of god. Which basically is the usuall Intelligent Design/Creationism idea: see look the bible says so! Of course they go on saying: the bible is true , look historical fact fits with the bible... but they fail to provide a single fact that actually fits. They go so far as to interview a ID proponent and pull the usual Evolution is a theory not a fact argument. Really not impressive, oh well they'll be back again I am sur and I will enjoy discussing with them.....