Tough Love from Indian PM Modi

What will it take to get India to where it should be in the world? A well-educated, well-traveled Indian I know recently answered that question for me thus: “Benevolent dictatorship.”

Maybe, though I hope not.  I’ve got to say, however, that I was really pleased to read in the Washington Post about what the new Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said during his Independence Day speech.

The full text of the speech is available here. Notably, Modi was not behind bullet-proof glass, and he spoke confidently without notes for an hour. Here are some of the important points: Continue reading

Fighting Corruption – the McDonnell Case

Bob McDonnell

Bob McDonnell in 2010 (photo by Gage Skidmore)

I hope the developing world has been reading the Washington Post every morning over the last couple of weeks. Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen have had all their dirty laundry hung out for everyone to see. They are being tried for 14 counts of public corruption. It’s like a train wreck – you just can’t take your eyes away from it. Continue reading

EPA’s Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a new plan that aims to reduce carbon pollution from the biggest source in the United States: existing power plants. These plants release about a third of the nation’s greenhouse gases, and although there were already limits to other environmental pollutants emitted by the plants (such as mercury and sulfur dioxide), there are still no limits to the amount of carbon that can be released. Continue reading

Clean Energy Tourism

Wind Energy TourismAbout a month ago my family and I visited the Wind Energy Test Center at Østerild, Denmark. I’ve written about it several times before, but this time I want to focus on the tourism potential.

And right now it is all – 100% – potential.

It’s a 4 km long gravel strip with 7 pads. Right now Siemens has 2 of the pads and Vestas has 2. Visitors are not allowed to drive along the strip. so they park at one end and can walk or bike (I suppose, though my kids were the only ones on bikes) down to the end to see what may be the highlight of the visit: an 8 megawatt offshore windmill from Vestas. Continue reading

Expansion of Space

NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Photo by NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

I’ve been thinking about the expansion of the universe – about whether if I’ve been thinking about it wrong, and if so, why I’ve never read a better explanation of the phenomenon.

I’ve always thought about the expansion of the universe as something that happens at the edges, outwards, and I’ve thought of the Big Bang as something like an explosion. That’s why I’ve never understood why we can’t figure out where the center is – why can’t we see where we’ve come from? Why does the observable universe look more or less the same in every direction instead of having a giant hole in the middle?

But I’ve just started thinking about it not as an outward expansion, but as the creation of new space everywhere, or almost everywhere, all the time. Continue reading

First Detailed Model of the Universe

Congratulations to Mark Vogelsberger of MIT and the rest of the team at the Illustris Project, who succeeded in creating the first detailed model of the evolution of the universe. This is an amazing accomplishment that will inevitably help human understanding of physics, cosmology, and where we came from.

The simulation begins 300,000 years after the Big Bang and continues up until the present, over 13.7 billion years later. It includes dark matter and dark energy, which make up 25% and 70% of the universe respectively, even though no one knows what they are. It also includes the movement of cosmic gases, the effects of gravity, the formation of black holes and supernovae, etc. Here is one of the videos from the Illustris team:

Continue reading

Ocean Trash

Plastic junk on a beachOver the weekend I was walking along a beach in northwest Denmark and came across this interesting ball of trash.  It’s almost pretty, I thought. I stopped to take a couple of pictures, all the while aware that this is the kind of thing that seriously messes up aquatic environments. Plastic never goes away, and these old nets and ropes catch and kill aquatic life. Continue reading

Urban Design Meets Big Data

Hudson Yards looks like it’s going to be amazing. It’s in Manhattan, between 30th and 34th Streets on the West Side. It will be 28 acres, built over the old rail yard near Penn Station. It reminds me of Tokyo Midtown or Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, as a fully integrated living and work space. According to the website,

“Hudson Yards is the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States and the largest development in New York City since Rockefeller Center. It is anticipated that more than 24 million people will visit Hudson Yards every year. The site will ultimately include more than 17 million square feet of commercial and residential space, Continue reading

The Moon was HUGE – nothing to do with sustainability


“Moon” by Hadley Paul Garland, Flickr, some rights reserved

Remember those old movies when the Moon looked enormous? As a child I thought maybe it looked bigger at the equator or something. Nope, just creative license of Hollywood. But I recently found out that the Moon used to be gigantic. Not physically bigger, but it would have looked much, much bigger to anyone around on Earth. Not that anyone was around, or even could have been, 4.5 billion years ago.

This is one of those amazing facts that I couldn’t believe I didn’t know before: the Moon used to look bigger from the Earth because it is moving away from the Earth – slowly from our perspective, but significantly from a history of the Earth perspective. Every year, we are about 3.82 cm farther away from each other. Continue reading

Methane Policy

Only about 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are methane. However, as a climate warmer, methane is about 20 percent more powerful than carbon dioxide. Reducing methane emissions should be an easy win for U.S. compliance with its climate change pledges – reduce even a little and you get a high payoff.

Methane is also the main component of natural gas and can be used for home heating, power production and other uses. In the era of increased fracking, it would be irresponsible to allow methane to leak into the environment. Continue reading

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