What Happens If Fossil Fuels Are No Longer Feasible

I should have made the topic of this meditation explicit yesterday. What effect would the absence of fossil fuels have on major sectors of our society? Some people think society would collapse other people think it would mutate. I think it would slow down but not change much. So I started thinking about the transportation sector. Yesterday the topic was walking, and today’s topic is water transport. It maybe academic but walking may have happened after swimming. That is the true upright bipedal walking. Some monkeys love to swim and swimming is the original transportation system. Going back to our talks about Abraham Lincoln. Two of the most important events in Abe’s life were boat rides. The first barge he took to New Orleans got stuck on the dam at New Salem and the people there helped him get the boat free. When his family decided to move to a farm in Southern Illinois he paddled to New Salem to start his adult life. Finally he took another barge to New Orleans where he bought his first horse. Now this next “history” believes that travel by boat started much later in man’s evolution than I do. I believe that boating could be as old as 20,000 or 40,000 years old. Nonetheless it is a good discussion of the sequence.


As man overcame the boundaries of land travel, his curiosity about the world around him increased. To his aid, man had developed a means of traveling on water even before he had domesticated the horse. The origin of the dugout boat is one of history’s great mysteries. Historians are unable to pinpoint when or where the very first water vessel was set afloat, and even speculate that it might have been purely an accident the first time. But, however it happened, the addition of the boat changed the face of transportation. Boats allowed man to, for the first time ever, cross bodies of water without getting wet.

Over time, the simple boat evolved to include a large square of cloth mounted on a central pole. This cloth, called a sail, would turn the boat into a sail-propelled ship. This new addition gave man the ability to use waterways as a means of swift travel from one place to another, and even to travel against the current of rivers. However, the evolution of water travel didn’t stop with the sail. Ships would eventually take on a sleekness as they increased in size. Before long, they would add oars and rudders, then deck covers. By Greek and Roman times, ships had grown clunky shipboard towers, as well, which developed, over time, into the Medieval stern- and forecastles. By the late Medieval era, these castles were built solid, as a part of the ship’s basic structure. Then, by the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration which followed, ships had gained tiers of rigging and sails, becoming sleek and speedy.

Then, in the 1800s, ships began to shed their sails on the rivers once again. The advent of automation was changing transportation forever. The very first automation in ships was the cumbersome paddlewheel. Due to their bulky form and inability to turn easily, paddlewheel boats were confined to river travel, where they would experience calmer currents and need less manueverablity.

After the paddlewheel came the steamship. These vessels used coal or wood, burned to heat water, which in turn created the steam pressure used to work the pistons which moved the ship. The steamship was to enjoy a long and trusted run on both rivers and seas. Then, in 1912, the first diesel-powered ship, the Danish Selandia, was launched. That diesel engine design was to become the industrial and military standard until after World War II.

Then, in 1958, the first nuclear powered ship was launched. However, nuclear power was soon discarded by industry as too expensive and risky, though it would continue to find use in the military community.


More tomorrow.


Traipsing, Ambulation, Or Walk About – It is the way humans travel for 100s of thousands of years

People today do not understand walking as transportation at all. When anthropoligists say that humans “spread” from South Africa to Asian and Europe what they really mean is walked. I love Abraham Lincoln stories. The legends have it that Abe used to walk to Springfield to borrow law books from his friend and mentor Tod Stuart whose office in Springfield he walked to. As the crow flies or as humans walk this was a 20 mile trip but he probably did not make this trip in one day, though he probably could have if he took off at first light or before. He likely walked in one day, partied the night away and walked back the next day. There were several since abandoned communities along the way that he probably stopped at as well including the twice revived Clayville stage coach stop.  People would have thought nothing of it. He would not been alone on the trail. There would have been fresh fruit to eat on the way in season. At noon he may have swam in the Sangamon. Abe was no stranger to walking. The year before he moved to New Salem he rode a river boat barge loaded with goods from Decatur Il. to New Orleans and walked back.



This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. Please improve this article if you can. The talk page may contain suggestions. (February 2009)

Simple Walk-Cycle

Walking (also known as ambulation) is one of the main gaits of locomotion among legged animals, and is typically slower than running and other gaits. Walking is defined by an ‘inverted pendulum’ gait in which the body vaults over the stiff limb or limbs with each step. This applies regardless of the number of limbs – even arthropods with six, eight or more limbs.

In humans and other bipeds, walking is generally distinguished from running in that only one foot at a time leaves contact with the ground and there is a period of double-support. In contrast, running begins when both feet are off the ground with each step. This distinction has the status of a formal requirement in competitive walking events. For quadrupedal species, there are numerous gaits which may be termed walking or running, and distinctions based upon the presence or absence of a suspended phase or the number of feet in contact any time do not yield mechanically correct classification[1]. The most effective method to distinguish walking from running is measurement via a force plate, but definitions based on the percent of the stride in which a foot is in contact with the ground (averaged across all feet) of greater than 50% contact corresponds well with identification of ‘inverted pendulum’ mechanics via force plate measurements for animals with any number of limbs[1].

An average human child achieves independent walking ability around 11 months old.[2] The word walk is descended from the Old English wealcan “to roll”.

Although walking speeds can vary greatly depending on factors such as height, weight, age, terrain, surface, load, culture, effort, and fitness, the average human walking speed is about 5 kilometres per hour (km/h), or about 3.1 miles per hour (mph). Specific studies have found pedestrian walking speeds ranging from 4.51 km/h to 4.75 km/h for older individuals to 5.32 km/h to 5.43 km/h for younger individuals.[3][4] A pedestrian is a person who is walking on a road, pavement or path.



The Mechanics Of Foot Travel: With So Many Silly Gaits To Choose From, Why Have We Adopted So Few?

ScienceDaily (Sep. 16, 2005) — Despite having the bones and muscles to perform a variety of gaits, human beings have developed an overwhelming preference for just two: walking and running. Now, computer analysis that allows simulation of infinite two-legged locomotions has shown our favored modes of bi-pedal travel use the least amount of energy.

Indeed, in an article published in the current online edition of the British journal Nature, Cornell engineers Andy Ruina and Manoj Srinivasan compare the mechanics of walking and running with “many other strange and unpractised gaits.” They used a set of computer models that simulated physical measurements such as leg length, force, body velocity and trajectory, forward speed and work.

“We wish to find how a person can get from one place to another with the least muscle work,” they report. “Why do people not walk or even run with a smooth level gait, like a waiter holding two cups brim-full of boiling coffee?”

The engineers’ computer simulations conclude that walking is simply most energy efficient for travel at low speeds, and running is best at higher speeds. And, they report, a third walk-run gait is optimal for intermediate speeds, even though humans do not appear to take advantage of it.

The findings help to explain why the possible–but preposterous–gaits in the Monty Python sketch, “Ministry of the Silly Walks,” have never caught on in human locomotion. The researchers add that extensions of this work might improve the design of prosthetic devices and energy-efficient bipedal robots.



More horsing around tomorrow.


Paul Krugman And Energy Policy – California and what can be accomplished

It is so basic – save money on energy and there is more to spend on other things.



Friday, February 23, 2007

Paul Krugman: Colorless Green Ideas

Now that the scientific debate over global warming is all but over, Paul Krugman looks at what we can do limit greenhouse gas emissions:

Colorless Green Ideas, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: The factual debate about whether global warming is real is, or at least should be, over. The question now is what to do about it.

Aside from a few dead-enders on the political right, climate change skeptics seem to be making a seamless transition from denial to fatalism. In the past, they rejected the science. Now, with the scientific evidence pretty much irrefutable, they insist that it doesn’t matter because any serious attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions is politically and economically impossible.

Behind this claim lies the assumption, … that any substantial cut in energy use would require a drastic change in the way we live. To be fair, some people in the conservation movement seem to share that assumption.

But the assumption is false. Let me tell you about … an advanced economy that has managed to combine rising living standards with a substantial decline in per capita energy consumption, and managed to keep total carbon dioxide emissions more or less flat for two decades, even as both its economy and its population grew rapidly. And it achieved all this without fundamentally changing a lifestyle centered on automobiles and single-family houses.

The name of the economy? California.

There’s nothing heroic about California’s energy policy… [T]he state has adopted … conservation measures that are … the kind of drab, colorless stuff that excites only real policy wonks. Yet the cumulative effect has been impressive…

The energy divergence between California and the rest of the United States dates from the 1970s. Both the nation and the state initially engaged in significant energy conservation after that decade’s energy crisis. But conservation in most of America soon stalled…

In California, by contrast, the state continued to push policies designed to encourage conservation, especially of electricity. And these policies worked.

People in California have always used a bit less energy … because of the mild climate. But the difference has grown much larger since the 1970s. Today, the average Californian uses about a third less total energy than the average American, uses less than 60 percent as much electricity, and … emit[s] only about 55 percent as much carbon dioxide.

How did the state do it? In some cases conservation was mandated directly, through energy efficiency standards for appliances and rules governing new construction. Also, regulated power companies were given new incentives to promote conservation…


More tomorrow.


Robert Samuelson And Energy Policy – It is just pork

That is right, spending public money to make public transport via trains more effective and competitive is just government waste and fraud. Kinda like the 500 billion $$$ we spend on the military every year or the billion $$$ we just waste on the high tech wall for the Mexican Border.

From here:

http://reason.com/blog/2010/11/01/robert-samuelson-on-high-speedTo here:

To here:




Monday, November 1, 2010

Somehow, it’s become fashionable to think that high-speed trains connecting major cities will help “save the planet.” They won’t. They’re a perfect example of wasteful spending masquerading as a respectable social cause. They would further burden already overburdened governments and drain dollars from worthier programs – schools, defense, research.

Let’s suppose that the Obama administration gets its wish to build high-speed rail systems in 13 urban corridors. The administration has already committed $10.5 billion, and that’s just a token down payment. California wants about $19 billion for an 800-mile track from Anaheim to San Francisco. Constructing all 13 corridors could easily approach $200 billion. Most (or all) of that would have to come from government at some level. What would we get for this huge investment?

Not much. Here’s what we wouldn’t get: any meaningful reduction in traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, air travel, oil consumption or imports. Nada, zip. If you can do fourth-grade math, you can understand why.

High-speed inter-city trains (not commuter lines) travel at up to 250 miles per hour and are most competitive with planes and cars over distances of fewer than 500 miles. In a report on high-speed rail, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service examined the 12 corridors of 500 miles or fewer with the most daily air traffic in 2007. Los Angeles to San Francisco led the list with 13,838 passengers; altogether, daily air passengers in these 12 corridors totaled 52,934. If all of them switched to trains, the total number of daily airline passengers, about 2 million, would drop only 2.5 percent. Any fuel savings would be less than that; even trains need energy.


More tomorrow.