Tuesday, March 30, 2010

We Hate You. Please Save Us

There is an episode of the Simpson's where Springfield unites against Lisa Simpson who questions the veracity of an angel skeleton. In a very short time, the citizens launch a mob attack against the town's scientific institutions, Moe decides to destroy the skeleton of a woolly mammoth at the Springfield Natural History Museum, yelling "Take that, science!" Predictably, the tusk falls off, crushing him. "Oof, I'm paralyzed," observes Moe. "I only hope medical science can cure me."

Ireland will be saved by science. Here is a document from the Taoiseach about the new smart economy.

One main idea is to "invest heavily in research and development, incentivise multinational companies to locate more R&D capacity in Ireland, and ensure the commercialisation and retaining of ideas that flow from that investment;"

So how does Ireland treat science? Well take the LHC launched fully today. There is a great article here about the disdain this project is meet with by our government. We won't spend the 10 million annually that would make us a part of the project.

Not that no Irish people are helping out but they have to work with foreign research groups if they want to help figure out how the universe works.
“Nobody knows what is going to happen, that is why we are doing it,” stated Dr Steve Myers, the Irish physicist in charge of the largest atom smasher ever built.

So no 10 million annually out of a total of 6.5 billion it will cost to work out how the nature of the universe.

Irish scientists are not valued either. There is a poll of the greatest Irishmen of all time. There is no scientist on the list. Dr Noel Browne is the closest but he is there as a politician. No Walton, Robert Boyle or William Rowan Hamilton.

But you do have Joe Dolan, Colin Farrell, Stephen Gately, Ronan Keating, Daniel O'Donnell and Louis Walsh.

We have space for Daniel O'Donnell but not Nobel prize winner Ernest Walton. We don't have 10 million for CERN but we do have 32000 million for the governments friends.

What can you say? I'll leave it to another Nobel prizewinner

What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone?
For men were born to pray and save:
Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,

September 1913
William Butler Yeats

Friday, March 19, 2010

Influential Books

Marginal revolution has an article on the 'books that influenced the me most'. There is a follow up article of others lists here.

No one in these lists seems to mention the Bible. And few the Odyssey and Iliad. Aesop and the brothers Grimm also seem to be ignored. Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, little red riding hood, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin all come from one book. They are pretty much ubiquitious in the lives of children of my age even if they did not read the original.

Is it naive to think that these stories we heard as children probably influence our thinking far more than books read after our teenage years?

I seriously doubt there are many westeners who don't consider the three little pigs as a moral lesson more often than those from anarchy the state and utopia.

The most embarassing book most of the list writers will admit to is something by Ayn Rand which they now disown. But why is Atlas Shrugged allowable on the road to where they are but Rip Van Winkle and the works of Hans Christian Andersen's are ignored?

By most influential do we mean the book your willing to admit to that you think about while debating people? Rather than the ones that are so ingrained in our lives that they serve as a backbone to how society operates.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How much land do you drink?

Say you drink 35 liters a year of alcohol. 14 liters is the rather high amount the average Irish person does. There is a podcast here where Saul Griffith describes how due to carbon rationing in the future you will have to decide between a shower and a glass of wine each day. So the question of how much effort goes into each brew is important for the future where the amount of land and energy we consume may be heavily taxed and rationed.

What area of land do you need of a crop of apples, barley, wheat, potatoes, grapes or sugar to keep someone in booze for a year? There is a table here of the yield in terms of (kcal/sq m/year) each crop produces

Cane sugar 3500
Beet sugar 1990
Potatoes 1600
Apples 1500
Wheat, cereal 810
Corn 250
Milk 420
Beef 130

So in terms of calories per square meter Cane sugar seems to win. You do have to calculate how efficiently the calories in the crop get into alcohol in the booze you drink.

This guy tries get the alcohol out of sugar beat. "so the theoretical yield of ethanol produced is around 50%alc per weight of sugar"

Each square meter is 2000 kcal according to the earlier table. A kilo of sugar is 4000 kcal. So for 14 liters of alcohol is 28 kilos of sugar. 14 liters is what the Irish person drinks annually. So that is 56 square meters of sugar beat to keep you in (bad) booze for the year.

Now for cider.Say scrumpy is 6.5% abv then one liter of scrumpy is 65 ml of alcohol. So 14 liters is 215 liters of cider. Is that right? Does the average Irish person really drink the equivalant of a pint of scrumpy every day?

Anyway I want about 200 liters of cider which is about 400 kilos of apples. How much area of orchard do I need to get that many apples?

cider and apple juice are both about 400 calories per liter . Growing apples is 1500 kcal per square meter. I estimate 1/2 of that makes it into the juice which is 750kcal. Each liter is 400kcal so 200 liters is 80000 kcal. If a meter is 750 kcal after pressing etc then that is 106 meters squared to keep you in good alcohol for the year.

So back of the envelope it would take about 100 square meters of orchard to keep you in booze for the year.

4.5% Beer seems about 400 kcal per liter. And all grain is to be generous 75% efficient at getting out the sugars from grain. So each liter requires 533 kcal of grain very roughly. Wheat, cereal 810 kcal per square meter per year that is 2/3 of a meter square per liter of beer.
So how many liters of 4.5% beer is 14 liters of alcohol? It is about 310 liters of beer (which is a huge amount!) or back of the envelope 250 square meters of land to keep you in beer if you include malting loses.

Now wine. Each square meter grows about a kilo of grapes. As 1 acre grows about 5 tonnes according to here.

So 112 liters of wine is about 14 liters of alcohol.
3 kilos of grapes produce about 2 liters of wine from looking at various recipes. So 112 liters is about 170 kilos of grapes. So 112 liters is about 170 sq meters of vineyard. So you need about 170 square meters of grapes to keep you in booze for the year.

So in Ireland you could keep you in booze for a year of square meters you would need 56 sugar beat, 100 orchard, 250 barley and in france 170 grapes, roughly.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Drug Delivery Service

I got a pamphlet in the door today offering a drug delivery service. The drugs are advertised as bath salts and plant food. Head shops selling these legal highs have been burned down in Dublin recently so this could be a way to avoid such attacks.