THE SELF-WINDING CELL PHONE

After a long day of cell phone use you may not be sweaty, exactly, but you’ve expended finger power.  Why waste it?  Reader George Mokray links us to technology that may allow you to charge your cell phone by typing and swiping.

THE SELF-PROPELLING SOLAR PANEL

George links us as well to this update on solar roads — filled with enthusiasm, which I share, but devoid of numbers, which I would love to see.  Like: what would it cost to make, install, and maintain these things?

(One of many costs would be transporting the panels from factory to road bed.  Some people imagine stacking them on rail cars designed to expose them to the sun as they travel, helping to propel the train.  This strikes me as a little silly, adding potentially just a few days of power generation — and then only from those panels exposed to sunlight on the journey — when the panels themselves are meant to generate power for, I hope, decades.)

(Another fun but I assume silly idea is that, once installed, the road ways would even generate power at night — not from moonlight, but from headlights.  Yes, okay, sure: but a meaningful amount?)

Here’s one attempt at some numbers, with each 12-foot square costing $10,000 (so $17.6 million per mile for each four-lane roadway), and lasting 20 years.  (But will they?)  The authors — who are in the solar roadway business — conclude that solar roadways will make sense.  I found their FAQ fascinating but not entirely compelling.  (They calculate that the aforementioned $17.6 million mile would produce enough electricity to power 428 homes — $41,000 per home.)   But completely intriguing.  Especially starting out with new roads being built in sunny climes.  The solar roadway replaces power plants, replaces transmission lines (they are transmission lines, running right up to your driveway), replaces the not inconsiderable cost of traditional pavement, and eliminates the cost of fossil fuel that might otherwise have been burned to produce the same power.

To say I am no expert in any of this would barely begin to describe my inadequacy.  But I love it anyway.

THE RUSSIANS

Ken Doran:  “I commend your effort to spotlight how the Ukraine situation looks from the Russian side; I don’t think very many in the West are doing that as much as we should.  I commend also this Peter Beinart article from the Atlantic for valuable perspective.  I would add a point that Beinart does not emphasize: Russia has large and crucial military assets in Crimea, and the potential of that becoming part of a western-oriented, NATO-friendly Ukraine must be terrifying from that side.  I believe of course that Ukraine would be wise to attach itself to Western Europe, with democratic and economic systems to match, and should be able to do so.  However, what we are seeing here is less a recklessly aggressive Russia than a wounded and frightened one.  We need to be smart about this dangerous situation; I am optimistic that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are sound on this, but they need more help.”

 

 

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