I rode my bicycle to work today for the first time in 2008, and it felt good. I like getting a little exercise before work and to feel the cool wind on my face. Besides helping to keep me healthy, riding the bike keeps my wallet fat. It is the time of year that I ride by the gas station and smile, being happy that I am not paying $3.40 per gallon. With the price of a barrel of oil hitting 113 in overnight trading recently, the price of gas will probably rise even more. It sure would be nice to have cheap gas again someday in the future, but if you read this blog you know the high (and higher) prices are here to stay until a new cheap energy source is developed (some sort of fusion or high efficiency solar). Is there any silver lining to the high gas prices? Well, if people drive less or drive more fuel efficient vehicles, then there is less pollution. That’s good. Also, according to a recent computer simulation higher prices might save lives by reducing deaths from air pollution and traffic accidents.
Speaking of more fuel efficient vehicles like electric cars and hybrids, one problem that is preventing widespread adoption is heating and cooling. How will people efficiently heat the inside of their hybrid during the winter? The major automakers are looking toward thermoelectric devices to solve the problem. Not only are thermoelectric devices very efficient heaters, they are also simple – not many parts to worry about. The parts aspect is one of those hidden benefits that electric vehicles have over internal combustion vehicles. I was reminded of this when the tail pipe on my gas car broke last week. Now I have a loud car and a problem that will cost hundreds of dollars to fix. If I owned an electric car I would never have to pay for a new muffler, tailpipe, radiator, oxygen sensor, spark plugs, wires, oil filter, starter, and on and on and on. Staying on the subject of electric cars, remember the story I brought to the blog about "Project Better Place", an electric vehicle program being initiated in Israel and Denmark. Here is an article with more in depth details and pictures. It appears the plan is to offer cars in the same manner that people sign up for cell phone service. You would pay a certain amount per month to use the electric car. All the charging and maintenance would be taken care of by the car company. Initial estimates on cost is $550 per month. I know this is out of most people’s monetary range, however, you have to factor in the amount of money you spend on gas. If you spend 200 on gas every month, then the price of the electric car would be more in the range of $350.
Besides riding a bike, another way to save money is by monitoring your energy usage at home. If you know how much energy you are using at any one moment, then perhaps you could find better ways to reduce consumption without sacrificing comfort. Good news, at least one company is producing a constant energy monitor – no more need for the old meters. With the new monitor you can get a glimpse of your energy consumption in real time. I am not sure when these will be for sale around here.
Having solar cells on your house would also help save energy costs (in the long run). Speaking of solar cells, recent discoveries are making cheap dye-sensitized solar cells more efficient. Read about it here. Current dye-sensitized titanium cells capture about 11% of the sun’s energy, while regular commercial silicon cells convert about 20%. With the new technique of using nanospheres, it is hoped the cheaper dye-sensitized cells will get closer to the industry standard 20%.
As far as the current weather goes, the main thing to be concerned about is a very gusty south wind today and tomorrow. It will gust up to 35 mph at times. By Wednesday evening a cold front will move from the the west and produce a chance of light showers. It still looks like the front will stall out in the Midwest on Thursday and Friday and this means a continued chance of light showers, however, the greatest chance will be in the southern and eastern part of the area – south and east of Marathon county. After high temps in the 60s today and tomorrow, temps will fall back into the low 50s on Thursday and Friday. So far the weekend is looking dry with temps in the mid 50s on Saturday and around 60 on Sunday.
Last year, JAXA promised beautiful high definition videos from their Kaguya probe when it was launched. They have provided some pictures and video in the last couple of months but nothing too spectacular. Now we have the ‘glamour shot’ – a full earth rise above the lunar horizon. Read about the probe and its mission here. Take a look at cool high-def video here.
Meteorologist Justin Loew