Blogroll Review: CO, Surveys, & Phones

Conservation of energy
Carbon monoxide or CO is not your friend. It binds to your hemoglobin and your brain starves from a lack of oxygen. But like all molecules out there, it’s not really good or evil. It’s just trying to maximize its entropy.

With biofuels now in the spotlight, some have proposed converting CO into ethanol. Not all are convinced. Robert Rapier at R-squared says the fermentation methods are inefficient. He discusses the thermodynamics:

“Let’s say 340 BTUs of CO get fermented to 340 BTUs of ethanol, and then it takes 340 BTUs of natural gas to purify the ethanol. In effect, what we have is an input of 680 BTUs of CO plus natural gas to produce 340 BTUs of ethanol.”

Looks like someone is trying to make the world’s most expensive drink. 🙂

Acting locally
Earth day, as far as I can tell, is not yet a Hallmark Holiday. It’s interesting to look at how attitudes are changing with regard to the environment. Or are they?

On his blog, Joel Makower writes about recent surveys on America’s perception of the environment. The results are fascinating but perhaps not so surprising:

“Hope or Hypocrisy? An ABC news poll found most Americans consider global warming the world’s biggest environmental problem and that an whopping 94% say they are willing to make personal changes to help the environment. However, 8 in 10 Americans say they oppose increasing taxes on electricity to encourage energy conservation, and about two-thirds are against raising gasoline taxes and prices at the pumps.”

Can we breathe now?
Mobile phones have come a long ways. Not only do they come with a whole array of applications, they are becoming socially enabling devices. One company makes software that helps you find dates. Another even claims they have the best mp3 player in the world.

But who would have thought they could tell you if the air you breathe is good or bad? Ecogeek reports on an app that gives you air quality reports:

“The ecogeeks at NearBio.com have created a cell phone widget that will provide live air quality reports that update automatically as the cell phone (and its breathing owner) moves about. Using data from Environmental Protection Agency air monitoring stations, the cell program will harness GPS technologies available through uLocate Communications’ WHERE Platform. That means no more sending textys offering up your current city or zip code – your phone will know where it is – and it will know if you should be wearing a SARS mask.”

Now if only these devices could tell me where I left my keys. 🙂

Frank Ling is a postdoctoral fellow at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley. He is also a producer of the Berkeley Groks Science Show.

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