Some of these stories will only be found on this page. Others may have been written by me in a newsgroup or egroups. Some of the Egroups and newsgroups get so much spam that simple ideas get lost.
1 Save energy by clockwork
Big idea to save energy
2 Chickens in the compost Small idea to improve waste disposal
3 Cheap solar magnifiers for cooking?
4 An Alternative to pesticides is coming!
5 The bad effects of using wasting power
6 Bicycle wind tunnels as an alternative to car transport
7 A better voting system A response to the American presidential election fiasco
Time Zones Give us more day!!
Time is a complex subject, even without relativity. If 4 people
synchronize their watches, one goes north, one south, one east, one west
for just 100 km, the next day sunrise will arrive at slightly different
times for each of them.
Northern countries get lots of daylight in summer and little in the winter. Currently, countries deal with this situation by using summertime. They move the clocks forward by an hour in March and back an hour in (usually) October. The effect is to transport an hour of daylight from the morning hours to the evening. This enhances the lives of people.
At the moment Europe, from the northern tip of Norway to the toe of Italy and from eastern Germany to western Spain is one time zone. Sunrise time in that zone varies by up to 2 hours from west to east and Norway can get up to 24 hr of light per day in summer while southern Italy gets about 14 hrs.
One size doesn't fit all!
What change? The target should be to have daylight hours approximating human waking hours.
Why change? This would give a big reduction in fuel used to provide light and heat especially in summer and late spring and autumn. This means savings in greenhouse gas emissions. There is tremendous tourism and recreational potential in making the change. There is a significant road deaths reduction to be had too. Most people would benefit from extra evening sunlight, they could tan without burning. Skin cancer deaths would be reduced.
Who should change?
Small mid latitude countries. Ireland, Latvia, Scotland (if it has enough independence) and others.
What change specifically? Ireland should move
the clocks forward 1 hour throughout the year!
Their current time zone fits them that badly! Not only that, they should go to double summertime from probably May to August! The exact details would be up to the politicians.
Why has it not been done before? It has! In
part at least. My own experience relates to Ireland during the 70's oil
Britain and Ireland stayed on summertime during the winter for one year. It did stay dark late in the mornings, but of course the extended evenings compensated. Especially in late spring! Unfortunately they didn't change the time during the summer. That is where the greatest benefit lies.
I am not sure why they changed back; perhaps it didn't suit Britain. They claimed that the road death rate in the mornings increased too much. Studies showed that the overall road death rate decreased.
Every year, around the middle of March,
there are newspaper articles and economic reports in Britain and Ireland arguing for some change and citing the economic and energy saving advantages to making that change.
To no avail.
I do not understand exactly why changes with big plusses and minor
drawbacks do not automatically happen. Working in industry, I have often
seen fear, laziness and minds closing up at the mention of something new.
Many people grudgingly accept the value of the change after the event.
All the commitments to reduction of greenhouse gasses are hollow, when governments of small countries do not try or even examine simple things like customized time zones.
More information. I had at one stage, charts of sunrise, sunset, and total daylight hours for Switzerland and Ireland. This isn't a big part of the web site so it might be some time before I get them on line. The information can easily be found in almanacs.
You might also look up the archives of newspapers. If you chart out the information, you might really be surprised at how badly daylight hours coincide with waking hours!
2 Chickens in the compost We did this in 99 but moved to a smaller house in 00
WE live in Victoria B.C. Canada which gets long mild wet winters
and long hot dry summers.
We compost our scraps and there is a lot because my wife runs a day-care. When the weather suddenly heated up, I thought
"oh oh flies!"
Sure enough, they started. For health and safety reasons, I was about to abandon the compost when we were presented with 3 old hens. "Even worse!" I thought. I made a run for them beside the compost and as an afterthought made a small door into the compost box (wooden, 8 ft by 4 ft by 4 ft high).
It was unplanned but it worked perfectly! Fly maggots were scratched out, kitchen waste was eaten and the hens helped greatly with the decomposition process with their constant scratching and hen poops. A big arbutus tree near the house sheds its leaves all at one time in amounts too big for the compost heap. We simply put them in the hen run (about 10 ft X10 ft X 5 ft high). The hens crunch and scratch through them every day, breaking them to pieces and mixing them with soil. We have recently put almost finished compost there too. We sieve the mix and add it into our to our soil and vegetable garden as a mulch or dug in. (The topsoil here is really poor and thin). Initial results are really good. We get grass clippings from our neighbors now too so the compost system is really fired up! The day-care kids like watching the chickens and collecting eggs
There it is, hens and chickens can be of value to you as part of an integrated organic waste disposal set-up. Phew! Long description!! Of course this applies only if you have the time and the space and the energy!
mixed bag of goodies
3 Big cheap lenses for solar cooking?
I can go into my local dollar store and buy a magnifying piece of plastic for 1 or 2 dollars. 7" by 12". They just have concentric grooves cut in them. I do not know the process by which they are made but they certainly focus the suns rays well. Perhaps templates for them could be made from, say, 4 ft by 4 ft sheets of aluminium. You lay plastic sheet on the template and heat from under, the plastic melts to the grooves or is mashed into the grooves with a roller. The plastic cools into shape and you have
you giant magnifier. This would provide enough power to cook meals in your large solar cooker.
The lens needs to be of long focal length.
Perhaps 6 feet or more (otherwise it might melt in updrafts). One template could make thousands of magnifiers.
I do not know if this is feasible or not.
If it is not feasible from a small scale industry point of view like that, it might still be worthwhile as an outside help venture.
For instance when food parcels or development goods are being delivered,
they could be rapped in the sheet plastic lenses instead of the usual rapping material.
Large crude magnifiers could save the burning of lots of wood and dung and therefore help prevent environmental degradation. They can be quite crude. A good magnifier can focus the suns light to a point. This lens only needs to focus to an area 1 or 2 feet in diameter.
I know that solar cookers are already in existence. This should make them more powerful and viable. You do not need to worry about moving the mirror automatically. Remember that the people will be cooking and cooking generally doesn't take more than 2 hours and people are generally going to be there to check how it is cooking, moving the pot etc. You will get into a routine after a few days.
Brian White http://solarcooking.org has lots of solar cooking plans
4 Alternative to pesticides?
Before pesticides, grandma, the kiddies and all the family had to
spend all their time out in the fields hoeing weeding and removing
damaged produce. Experiments have started with small robots to do
The first experiments are aimed at slugs. Slugs damage wheat
crops to a significant degree, the usual remedy is very toxic (and
slugs are not particularly fast runners). I have not checked back
(the experiments are about 2 years old) but if and when it becomes
successful, there will be clear advantages for the eco system and
A The robots might be solar powered. If they can reliably tell the
differences between weeds and food plants, non chemical weeding will
become very attractive. It might end up as a system with relatively
static energy collector robots and smaller killer robots. The small
ones take their charge from the bigger ones.
B There need be no drift of chemicals to the wild places. The robots
might be fenced in with sensors like those used in undersoil dog
fences. This would be a giant step forward because most spray misses
C The robots would be programmable (using something like java, palm os
or symbian os). A different weed infestation, a late germinating
infestation or the need to clip off diseased leaves might require a
tweaked program. This can be done several times during the season as
the crop matures.
The things would be useful at the cat or mouse size or smaller.
The pesticide industry is a gigantic energy user. The energy savings
might be quite dramatic and food would be safer too!
Check out the slug surprise on my blurred borders page.
5 Producing and using power
Consider the light that you leave on in an empty room. How does it do harm?
My personal opinion is that the ecosystem suffers collateral damage
from wasted energy. A fire is usually burning somewhere to supply that
light. A few insects get fried by it. The light in the room attracts
moths who waste their fertile hours tapping on the window.
I have cycled on a narrow hill road in Germany where the stench of
squashed toads (migrating to breed) was overpowering. (Even though the
Germans make tunnels for them). Here in Canada, the toads have even
less chance because the roads here are a lot wider.
The damage to the web of life is everywhere and some of the effects
are really subtle. I think that there is a limit somewhere.
Natures limits are soft and elastic. You can push through them for a
while but when they push back, it can be devastating.
I try to turn off the light. By the way, there are "brown outs' in
California at the moment. So turn off that unused light!
mixed bag of goodies
6 Bicycle wind tunnels in cities?
I wonder what it might cost to construct and maintain covered pathways
for bikes in Cities? Instead of fully pedal powered bikes, these
covered bikeways would be wind tunnels. A constant 20 mph tailwind
would mean a trip from the suburbs to the center would be
considerably quicker than by car. It would require 2
tunnels (perhaps side by side for the most part) to work but overall
the energy consumption of such a system for commuters would probably
be a lot less than the current system. You have fans along the way
supplying the wind. More people in the tunnels would mean the fans
working harder. I am guessing the tunnels need only be 7 or 8 ft
across. Most of the time, people commute to work with only a few kg of
material anyway, so rather than sending a ton of metal with them,
why not deliver them on 15 kg of metal?
7 A better voting system
After the american presidential election fiasco, many people probably see the need for a better voting system.
The system underlined below can also be modified for elections when several people( up to about 8 ) get elected to a council. It can also be used for a group of people to chose a mutually acceptable course of action from a list of choices. It could well be useful in boardrooms to foster cooperation.
The single transferable vote is a way of insuring that the most
popular guy wins.
Consider this situation, (Under the US system first). There were 3
candidates, one guy got 39% of the vote mostly in a few big states.
another guy got 34% of the vote fairly evenly spread, and the 3rd guy
got 27% of the vote but he targeted states where winner takes all
electoral college seats.
That 3rd guy could easily become president!
But NONE of them have a clear mandate from the people!
Under the single transferable vote, people vote 1,2,3,4 in order of
their choice and the first guy to get over 50% of the votes wins.
Well, nobody got over 50%, so the last guy gets eliminated and his No.
2 votes are counted and added to the totals for the remaining
candidates. Let us say that they go 2 to 1 to the candidate in
second place. He gets an extra 18% to take his total
to 52% while the other guy only gets 9% extra to get a total of
This is a fair result because if there had been only 2 candidates,
that would have been the result anyway.
It is fair, it is simple, voter turnout increases and it builds
consensus. Brian White
mixed bag of goodies