Pipe Dreams: A cheap solution to greenhouse gases or just blowing smoke

Whenever a new story like this appears it’s justified to be sceptical, but there’s nothing wrong with hoping stories like this are true.  Nobody thought ceramics were the solution to high temperature superconductors until they worked.

Scientists Accidentally Discover Efficient Process to Turn CO2 Into Ethanol

Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal ChemistrySelect.

The researchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles.

The tech involves a new combination of copper and carbon arranged into nanospikes on a silicon surface. The nanotechnology allows the reactions to be very precise, with very few contaminants.

Siam Silences: Lèse-majesté laws are for finks

Thailand’s king Bhumibol Adulyadej has died, age 88.  He had been a popular ruler who managed to hold the respect and get cooperation from all political sides in Thailand, from military juntas to the corrupt Thaksin Shinawatra, and even the muslim separatists in the south. He was the world’s longest reigning monarch at the time of his death.

Unfortunately, what actually needed to die didn’t.  There’s nothing less majestic than lèse-majesté laws.  Lèse-majesté laws are as obscene, pointless and cowardly as laws against blasphemy.  They serve no purpose other than to silence valid criticism or discussion.  (Simply discussing who will be named the next king of Thailand could be enough to get you arrested, never mind insulting the king or his family.

I have no issue with slander and libel laws protecting royal families the same way they protect the average citizen.  But it should never be illegal to talk members of a royal family or their actions (the 2001 mass murder of the Nepalese royal family by prince Dipendra, the British royals and their involvement with Jimmy Savile and Nazi Germany).  It should never be off limits to discuss the policies or decisions of monarchs (vis-a-vis Bhumibol’s political deals with Thailand’s military juntas).

The only difference between monarchs and gods is that monarchs exist.  Neither deserves special privileges and protections that lèse-majesté and blasphemy laws give them.  If they want to be respected, they should act in ways that will earn them respect, not require police, courts or governments to use brute force and violence to silence people.

Another reason to be annoyed with today’s new: the most popular member of the royal family is princess Sirindhorn.  However, Thai laws only allow for kings.  The Thai government isn’t likely to change the law quickly to let her become queen.

Whims Whimper: Left over ideas, episode 1

Two thoughts that don’t merit a separate post of the own:


October 4th marked the 434th year since the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar.  The system for adding leap years reduced errors in the calendar to within one day every thousand years, and will only be wrong if the Earth’s orbit speeds up or slows down.

I am not entirely a fan.  We still need another calendar reform, to get rid of this “Thirty days hath November” nonsense.  If I were in charge, January to May would thirty one days (155 days in total), and June to December would have thirty days (210, thus 365 in total).  Leap days would happen on December 31st.  It’s simpler, easy to remember, and makes the calendar more consistent.  The only problem then would be technology (e.g. watches, software) that would need adjusting to the new calendar.

On September 29th, the google doodle was for Ladislao José Biro’s birthday.  Biro invented what has become one of the most environmentally wasteful products ever made, the ballpoint pen. Ballpoints are usually not refillable, easily broken, and mostly plastic.

As a left handed person, I especially loathe the ball point pen because it was made to be pulled, not pushed.  The balls jam and ink does not flow properly when writing left handed – a fault of the pen design, not the writer. In the past three years, I have switched back to fountain pens for multiple reasons.  They are refillable and thus less wasteful.  It is far easier to write left handed with a fountain pen.  They add a sense of style and uniqueness, and often get a reaction from people when I take them out to write in banks, offices or even with my students and their parents.

I Remember: A few thoughts on Niki Massey

I would have liked to post this sooner, but life intrudes.

I didn’t meet Niki Massey until she joined The Orbit, and only knew her online (different continents and all that).  I regret not meeting her sooner and knowing her longer, especially knowing that she had been blogging for a few years.  In our conversations on her blog, by email and by facebook, I liked her immediately, and surprisingly she put up with me.

She was definitely not afraid to say what she thought, which is all too rare a trait.  Her opinions on and reactions to events gave me pause for thought, even if I didn’t entirely agree with her.  Learning to shut up and consider others’ POV is always a good thing.

My conversations with Niki weren’t as many as I would have liked, but I liked the ones we had.  She showed no quarter, and she will be missed in these quarters.  She was also a cosplayer, somthing I have never done but will be doing this Hallowe’en in tribute to her.

Hello Whirled: Things happened so quickly, I’m spinning

Hi all,

So this is what it looks like from the other side of the fence.

I applied for a spot on FtB in the second round of new (type)faces.  To my surprise, they said yes.  I was expecting “Thanks, but no thanks.”  But as the old missive goes, if you don’t ask the question, the answer is always “No.”

Who am I?  A Canadian who has lived abroad for fifteen years, never been home once, and still enjoy working as an ESL teacher. I’m a transgender woman who often identifies as both genders, and a lifelong atheist.  My chronological age is close to fifty, but I live like it’s my second twenties after transitioning in early 2015.

Currently I live in Taiwan but have lived in other countries. I’m worldly enough to admit the only thing I know for certain is that every country and people are pretty much the same.  “Exotic” should be considered a racist word.

Why did I apply to FtB?  For these and other reasons:

  • To raise topics no one else does or that interest me
  • To talk about events in Taiwan or Asia that get missed by the corporate media
  • To give a POV others might not want or allow on their blog
  • To provide a quieter blog for discussion (see below)

What are your blog’s policies?  I will start simple and evolve or expand it where or when necessary:

  1. Be nice.
  2. No heated arguments.
  3. No profanities.
  4. No insults.
  5. No misrepresentation or quotemining.
  6. No personal attacks upon myself or others.

Most FtB writers have…animated conversations, to put it politely.  I’m not making comment on other people’s blogs by saying or having those rules.  It’s more a stylistic choice than about controlling conversations.  Not allowing certain things doesn’t prevent anyone from saying or doing such things elsewhere, and it doesn’t tread on anyone’s rights or ability to speak here.

Where’s your old content?  Transferring my earlier blog posts will take a little time.  I have already tried transferring data from Blogger to WordPress, and they don’t want to play nice with each other.  I’ll keep a link to the old content until I figure things out.

My old Intransitive blog

In the meantime, questions and comments are welcome.