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Comment The First

From Jay Lake jaylake I get this: artificial leaf is 10 times as efficient as nature. The article makes a radical claim: the chip [the size of a deck of cards] could produce enough electricity to power a house in a developing country for an entire day. Since the device works by generating hydrogen, it would allow the power to be stored for night-time use.

Obviously, the average house of the developing world uses less electricity than your house or mine, but still, this is a radical improvement. This device, if the claim is true, could make solar power even more competitive.

Comment The Second

Pirates in Somalia remain problematic - the Dutch amphibious ship HNLMS Rotterdam recently shot up a pirate mother ship (pictures at the link). Why the pirates elected to fire on a 12,000 ton warship with AK-47s is beyond me. They lost the election.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 25th, 2012 04:28 pm (UTC)

Though of course I wish Señor Nocera and his invention well, it is an odd but undeniable fact that the common folk of India and Africa have stubbornly refused to use ANYTHING solar-powered, to the despairing undoing of decades and generations of social planners. Inexpensive, mass-produced solar cookers, solar stills to produce fresh water - the benefits were obvious, the plans were ambitious, the results were dismal disaster.

The problem with post-colonialism, as almost every now-independent African nation shows, is that when you can no longer FORCE the beastly natives to improve their quality of life - they don't and won't.

[It's the same problem Western Europe faced a thousand years ago - all well and good to invent things like crop rotation and the moldboard plough, but “that warn't how me Gran'ther done it,” and that was (almost) that! It had to be forced on the peasants by their iron overlords, who knew they'd be bankrupted and overrun if they didn't keep their agrarian productivity up with the Sir Joneses…]

Oct. 25th, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)
They say racism is caused by ignorance, and this post is an example of that.

I am actively involved in Rotary, which has a large and active presence in India and Africa - an active presence of local people in local clubs. The Rotarians from those regions tell me that their people are desperate for this kind of development, and they provide me proof. I should also point out that households in developing countries already use electricity, for their (ubiquitous) cell phones, TVs (surprisingly common if frequently third-hand black and white sets) and radios. In short, the benefit of having electricity is clear and unmistakable.

Regarding crop rotation, et. al. - the reason this was resisted in Europe was because Sir Jones was using these tools to reduce his agricultural labor force. The now excess people were then driven from their homes (not infrequently at bayonet-point) to shift for themselves elsewhere.
Oct. 26th, 2012 04:31 am (UTC)

Racist, schmacist. Across three continents and a thousand years, what “race” am I favoring or disparaging? Never mind, it doesn't need to be true… I only know what I've read for decades; I've seen the tinfoil and cardboard solar cookers, the molded-Mylar parabolic mirrors, the glass passive-desalination greenhouses… all left in UNESCO's hands by the villagers whose women don't like to cook outdoors and who have always got their water from that stream, though it's fouler every year…

Intelligent people of every nationality know what needs to be done. It keeps not happening.

The good news about this artificial leaf is that no one has to DO anything to make it work, so it might end up being useful after all.



I realize what you meant - and that you maybe didn't see my use of the term “the beastly natives” as 'Colonel Flagg' lampoon. Nonetheless, even J Edgar Hoover (to my genuine surprise!) warned against tarring dissenting opinion with the label “Communist” - or its modern equivalent, “racist.”

I encounter this on the far Right also, and it's no more endearing.

Meanwhile, as to your comment about racism and ignorance, guess the race of the man who wrote this:

> African leaders are quick to blame the legacy of colonialism for their
> troubles. I'll never make an argument for colonialism but the fact of
> business is that the average African was better off under colonialism
> than he has been under independence. For example, when Zaire became in
> independent in 1960, it had 31,000 miles of main roads; today, less
> than 3,500 remain usable. Before independence, every African country
> was self-sufficient in food production; today most depend on imports
> and others stand at the brink of famine. At the time of independence,
> the average growth rate among African countries was three percent. By
> 1980, it had fallen to one percent and by 1990, a negative 2.8
> percent. By contrast, African countries with a greater measure of
> freedom and stability, Botswana, Mauritius, Cameroon and Senegal, have
> growth rates of 8, 4.4, 4.5 and 1 percent, respectively.
> People who think more foreign aid is the solution should know that the
> money either winds up in the hands of the elite and deposited in Swiss
> bank accounts or it's used to pay bribes to keep corrupt governments
> in power. Some African chiefs of states are among the world's richest
> men, such as Zaire's recently deposed Mobutu. If foreign aid doesn't
> fall into the hands of kleptocrats, it's used in ways that'd make a
> lunatic blush such as status symbols, factories and other projects of
> little or no use.
> The legacy of colonialism, used so often by Africans, is a sham excuse
> that can't hold water. After all some of the world's richest countries
> like the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong
> were colonies. What's true about those ex-colonies that's untrue about
> Africa? The answer is a no-brainer. There's a greater measure of
> personal liberty, more secure private property rights, more limited
> and honest government and rule of law…

Ignorance may produce racism - but sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

“[A] seething maelstrom of disease, famine and brutality... The viciousness,
the cruelty, the corruption, the duplicity, the savagery, and the
incompetence is endemic to the entire continent, and is so much of an
anathema to any right-thinking person that the civilized imagination simply
stalls when faced with its ubiquity, and with the enormity of trying to fix
it. The Western media shouldn’t even bother reporting on it. All that does
is arouse our feelings of horror, and the instinctive need to do something,
anything--but everything has been tried before, and failed…”

“Let Africa Sink,” an essay by an ex-pat South African who has seen it for himself - and got out.

I meant what I said - I wish this MIT gentleman luck in his endeavors. God knows, he'll need it!

Edited at 2012-10-26 07:04 am (UTC)
Oct. 26th, 2012 01:50 pm (UTC)
Gordon - I don't know what success or lack thereof UNESCO has had with solar ovens. Frankly, I didn't know they were using solar ovens. I *do* know what success Rotary has had with solar ovens, which is a lot. I also know that Rotary doesn't give money to governments - we give money to individuals and organizations on the ground. Rotary is very aware of the kleptocracies of some African countries.

But this is *not* a solar oven! This is a power source to power something that the locals want and *can't* power otherwise! In a lot of third-world countries, people sell time at an electrical outlet to charge portable electronics, and sell car batteries rigged to work as power for TVs.

Even more importantly, a 10-fold increase in solar efficiency tied to the ability to generate hydrogen means first-world solar becomes radically more efficient and useful.

Elon Musk (who I think is the source of your quote) is correct about *some* countries in Africa. He's silent about Asia. There's a lot of "wogs" in Asia too.
Oct. 28th, 2012 01:49 am (UTC)

Yes, it will be interesting to see how it turns out. Sometimes I miss Omni magazine - they could always be counted on to report things like this.

By the bye, the first quote there is from Walter Williams, who is an interesting guy: He started off as a radical black activist but then saw past the rhetoric and perceived what actually works and what doesn't.

The other is Kim du Toit, an expat South African who also saw what works and what doesn't.

“I lived in Africa for over thirty years. Growing up there, I was infused with several African traits--traits which are not common in Western civilization. The almost-casual attitude towards death was one. (Another is a morbid fear of snakes.)…”

If ever there was an example of how insects haver affected human civilization, Africa is it. Imagine what might have happened if there were no mosquitos in Africa. (Or anywhere, for that matter!)

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This is the personal blog of Chris Gerrib, and all opinions expressed here are solely his own. Commenters are welcome; however please be polite to me and my other readers. I reserve the right to delete comments that are rude, inappropriate or otherwise objectionable at my sole discretion. The opinions expressed in a comment are not necessarily mine, and if I do not delete a comment that should not be construed as my agreement with the commenter.

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