6:30 am Never Looked So Good

Taking the same exact photograph each day would get boring, right? HELL NO, thanks to that most spectacular lighting designer–nature. Robert Weingarten did just that, and the results are something to marvel at. It is SO important to appreciate the root of all lighting design, our sun, and these photographs prove that that star’s still got it!

Each exposure would be made at precisely the same time of day – 6:30 am – measured by one quartz clock. All exposures would be made with the lens focused on infinity and at the same aperture of f/22. Just two variables were allowed into this disciplined scheme: the shutter speed of the lens, which would be adjusted faster or slower depending on the quantity and quality of light available at 6:30 a.m. each day; and, the most variable element of all, changes in the scene that were introduced by the forces of nature.

– Weston Naef, Curator of Photographs, The J. Paul Getty Museum.

6:30 am from Malibu, CA looking across the Pacific Ocean to Santa Monica:

Pay As You Go Solar in South Kenya

I saw an interesting article this weekend from CNN World’s website.  A company called Eight19 has created a pay-as-you-go solar technology called IndiGo that is being deployed right now in Kenya.  Check this out, this is Simon Bransfield Garth, the CEO of Eight19.  I knew I would like this company as soon as I realized what “Eight19″ meant – it’s the time that a ray of light from the sun reaches Earth.  Here’s Simon:

Here now is a quick video of a man named Samuel talking about the benefits of his Pay-As-You-Go Solar installation:

This is some pretty cool stuff.  The solar technology that Eight19 prides themselves on is a low-manufacturing-cost solar cell printed on a plastic film.  The reason that they can have products that are so low cost is that the printing method benefits from being able to use the high-speed roll printing technology that exists in the solar printing industry.  From the Eight19 website on the benefits of printed solar technology:

So, when the customer purchases the IndiGo package for installation, they get an Eight19 solar panel that connects into the IndiGo device.  The gist of the system is this:  without the customer “topping up” their IndiGo device via their cell phone, the device doesn’t charge the battery inside the device.  From the IndiGo website:

IndiGo is an affordable solar lighting and battery charging system that brings low cost energy to off-grid communities. With IndiGo, users put credit on their solar cell, just as they would on a mobile phone. Power from the cell then charges the  battery in the IndiGo box, making electricity available for lighting or charging other devices, such as mobile phones. The top-up codes are sent securely to owners’ mobile phones as text messages. Without the codes, the system does not generate electricity.  The IndiGo 2.5W solar home lighting and charging system includes: A solar panel and IndiGo box with a charge controller and battery; an LED lamp; an adapter lead for most popular mobile phones; connecting cables; and two, one-day top-up cards.

For most Americans who haven’t been overseas or in Canada, with pre-paid cell phones, you buy minutes on what’s commonly called a Top-Up card.  No different than the ones in the USA, they’re based on minutes, all that.

So the idea here is that people in South Kenya will not have to use kerosene lamps inside their places at night to do what they have to do needing illumination.  This is a tremendous thing; one of the biggest increases of our technological development has been increasing the CRI of the light we use to do things like read and develop.  With this implementation, the people in South Kenya will be getting  some seriously higher CRI than kerosene-powered sources.  This cannot be a bad thing, right?  Hell no.  People that live in kenya are no different than people who go to Yale.  They have the same potential as all of the rest of us, especially when given the opportunity to grow with the rest of the world.  No matter where you grow up, as long as you are given the opportunity to develop, you will succeed, especially if you apply yourself.

Something that I found interesting was found in the comments of the excellent CleanTechnica article on the IndiGo system.  A user named Bob_Wallace (THE Bob Wallace? Or the Shareware guy? I kid, I have no idea) posted some email exchanges he had with Simon from Eight19.  The bolded markings are things I’d like you to pay close attention to in the paragraph:

“The cost and payoff time varies a little by country as you would expect (for example there are variations in transport costs, distribution costs and local taxes between locations). In Kenya the weekly fee is 100KSH (approx $1.10) for our “duo” product with 2 lights and phone charging.

After a period of time, the product is deemed to be paid up and the customer has the option to buy the product out for a small fee or upgrade to a larger system. Again, this period varies a little between country but is normally between 18 and 24 months.

Our initial estimates suggest that typical users save in excess of $2/week with the kerosene and phone charging costs they save, with some users saving much more than this.”

In reply to a question about how upgrades work…

“People return the old system and get a new one (with the exception of the lights/wiring unless it needs replacement, as it is pointless to take down old one only to put the same thing back). We then refurbish and reintroduce the old systems. The weekly fee for the new larger systems takes into account the fact that we have recovered some value from the old system so they pay less than if we had to cover the full cost of the new system.”

Rough math says that Eight19 is able to get people in ownership of a basic lighting/phone charging system for somewhere just above $100US.

($1.10 x 52 weeks x 2 years = $114.40)

After two years they should have free power for a few years. The battery will need to be replaced after a few years and the LEDs after several. The panel should last a lifetime or more.

This is something to check out – basically a person using the IndiGo system uses it for about two years before they’ve paid it off, at the tune of about $114.40 USD.  The figure is for their “duo” product with two lights and a phone charger that has several charger tips for different phones.  After two years they have a few years of free solar electricity conversion.  Now granted it’s only at about two watts, but it’s free where before they’d have to pay to get kerosene to charge their stuff and see in the dark.  I think this is a pretty cool idea, as does the organization SolarAid, who has partnered with Eight19 to do this project in South Kenya.  From the SolarAid press release on the subject:

Thanks to the work of SolarAid and other players in the sector over the last few years, solar lights and phone chargers have been available for some time across Africa, but the initial cost is beyond the reach of many potential customers. By offering solar power as a service, without high purchase costs, these customers can now access clean electricity for less than their current spend on kerosene. But more than this, the availability of affordable electricity stimulates social and economic development too.

I think this is a pretty cool thing that’s happening.  When you think of the costs though, I think you should just remember that the Kenyans aren’t paying in USD.  One Kenyan Shilling (KES) is worth about 1.2 pennies USD.  Consider that when you consider the cost.  For example, right now a watt of solar if you just buy the photovoltaic panel is between $2.19 USD/W (for a 60W panel) up to $5.44 USD/W (for a 130W panel).  With the rest of the gear you’ll have to buy (cables, batteries, control), you’re looking at about $8.00 USD per watt of generated electricity.  I mean, come on though – after about the first six months, collecting solar using a device and a PV panel rather than taking it from a grid situation is going to pay for itself.  The sun is free, kids.  When some company or some government starts saying hey dummies!  we’re going to charge you for solar power by making you pay us for collecting it, then I am going to freak out and be really loud about it to the world, and then the world needs to kick some corporate or government tail.  Right now, no matter where you are, you’re paying for the devices that help you collect and store electricity, not for the solar energy itself  A lot of people make cracks online about how “solar should be free,” and they are totally right.  There is nothing that stops you from inventing your own solar collecting system for your own usage; money perhaps, but as long as we’re Capitalists, money will always be an issue.  Eight19 is a company, and they’re doing what a company does, and their particular skill is making and selling solar power collecting systems.  The power companies have done the same thing essentially, you’re just paying for them to make the power, and using their lines for them to get it to you.  In the US, we pay for this power from them by the kilowatt-hour, at an average of $0.118 per 1000W/h.

What do you think?  Do the costs add up?  The prices in Kenya are about comparable to American prices according to Numbeo, if not maybe a bit cheaper overall on average.

Thanks to USEIA, IndiGo Off-the-Grid, The Times, Triple Pundit, and Numbeo!

Canadians Also Get Skin Cancer in Tanning Beds

It’s a not-so-funny thing, this whole skin cancer and tanning beds thing that’s been going on since the advent of tanning beds and human vanity.  Actually, way way way before that – we humans have been sunbathing for millennia, too, to satisfy our vanity.  I always found it amazing to ask the question, “how many of you use tanning beds?” in my Stage Lighting classes.  Showing research in class about the dangers of tanning beds was always a wide-eye-opening experience for some of my students, but there are some who don’t really give a sh*t what you say about it because Vanity Fair is too deeply engrained in their young dancer brains.

I digress.  Not even the initial point of the article, really, but that I Can Has Cheezburger photo was too, too funny.  Oh well I suppose, when chickens can’t come in out of the rain, what are we really supposed to do?

So in Canada right now there is a conservative member of Canadian Parliament who is pushing to ban the use of tanning beds by people under 18, and to add warning labels to the beds.  Canadian MP James Bezan introduced the bill this week – from the press release at James Bezan’s website:

Ottawa, ON – James Bezan, Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake, today tabled a Private Member’s Bill (PMB) in the House of Commons to combat harmful radiation from tanning beds. The bill is designed to promote consumer awareness about the cancer risks of tanning especially for youth under 18 years of age.

“Too many Canadians remain unaware of the cancer risks from tanning and artificial tanning,” said Mr. Bezan. “My bill will help protect Canadians against this hidden health risk by introducing tougher labelling requirements on tanning beds and by prohibiting youth under18 years of age from using tanning beds.”

The bill requires that current radiation warning labels on tanning beds explicitly state that tanning equipment can cause cancer and may be carcinogenic.   In addition to having warning labels affixed to the tanning equipment this bill will require that large warning labels also to be placed in all commercial establishment providing artificial tanning.

Mr. Bezan stated there is good evidence to suggest that tougher labeling is needed.

“According to a 2007 study, 87% of tanning salons radiation warning labels could not be seen,” said Mr. Bezan. “Canadians need to know that the cancer risks are too high from using tanning beds.”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization has classified tanning beds in their highest cancer risk category, calling tanning beds “carcinogenic to humans.”  They recommended that youth under 18 years of age avoid use of tanning equipment.

Both the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) and Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) recommend that persons under the age of 18 be prohibited from using indoor tanning salons. 

In 2011, approximately 5,500 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer and 950 will die of it.  Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common form of cancer among Canadians, with 74,000 cases expected to be diagnosed during 2011.

Mr. Bezan said the inspiration for this bill came from a personal experience with his wife, who was diagnosed with two melanomas over several years.

I’m sorry to hear that repeated experiences with the MP’s wife and her diagnosed melanomas had to catalyze this attempt to throw the kibosh on underage tanning, but frankly and honestly no I’m not if it stopped her and other people from tanning in a tanning bed.  If it was tanning beds that caused the MP’s wife’s melanomas, then she’s lucky that her poor choices didn’t end up in her death from cancer.  I’ve reported on the dangers of tanning/sun beds a good handful of times on JimOnLight.com, and each and every time I get a mix of emails from readers and surfers about how either A) we’re totally right on because tanning beds are bad; B) we’re totally wrong about tanning beds and I should keep my #$%^$%^& mouth to myself.  I even got an email back in 2009 from an advocate for a tanning bed manufacturer asking me to take down my opinions on the subject.  Yeah, I’m not doing that.

Mr. Bezan is a lucky guy.  He has a beautiful wife and three beautiful daughters.  None of the four of them look like they need a tan.  Here’s why – because you don’t need a tan from a tanning bed or hours in the sun to be sexy.  Ladies (and many men too, I aspire to be thin and awesome soon!), you have beautiful bodies and there is no need to put yourself into cancer jeopardy in order to impress some douche who won’t pay attention to you unless you’re the color of a decorative autumn squash.  This is fundamentally flawed.  Our visions of ourselves cannot be so occluded that we will do this to ourselves, people.  This is crazy – the obsession with vanity, it’s gonna lead to your death.

Right now in Nova Scotia, you have to be 19 to tan, and 18 in Victoria, BC.  In Nova Scotia, for example, there is something called the Tanning Bed Act which curbs the use of such equipment and regulates their usage.  From the Doctors of Nova Scotia website on the Tanning Bed Ban:

The Tanning Bed Act [a PDF link, only 3 pages, check it out] which governs the use of artificial tanning devices, went into effect on June 1, 2011.  Doctors Nova Scotia, along with partners such as the Canadian Cancer Society, Cancer Care Nova Scotia and Sun Safe Nova Scotia Coalition, lobbied government to ban tanning beds for use by youth.

Doctors Nova Scotia made its stand on artificial tanning during its 2010 annual conference when doctors voted to lobby government to ban the use of artificial tanning devices for youth.

Banning tanning beds for youth is an important step in reducing rates of skin cancer in the province.  Overexposure to solar ultraviolet radiation has long been known to increase the risk of skin cancer. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer reclassified artificial UV radiation (tanning beds) to a Group 1 category (carcinogenic to humans). This is the same categorization used for tobacco.

One in three cancers worldwide is skin-related. The highest rates are found in countries with fair-skinned populations with strong tanning cultures. Canada falls into this category.

The known consequences of excessive UV exposure include:

  • skin cancers
  • eye damage
  • premature skin aging
  • reduced effectiveness of the immune system, possibly leading to a greater risk of infectious diseases

Several organizations around the world have established position statements discouraging the use of artificial UC tanning equipment by everyone and youth in particular. These include the World Health Organization, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Dermatology Association. 

The Tanning Bed Act received royal assent on Dec. 10, 2010.

OK – now let’s go over this one more time, for now at least:

  1. Tanning beds cause cancer.
  2. You are beautiful and don’t need to put yourself at such reckless risk of skin cancer
Here’s some melanomas for the road for you!

Where’s YOUR Fibonacci-Based Solar Collecting Array?

Back a while ago I got some info about a kid named Aidan Dwyer doing some work with solar power collection. Do you remember that article? The kid, a 13 year old kid, was testing whether a flat solar panel array was as efficient in collecting solar power as a tree-based Fibonacci-sequence-spaced “tree” array that Aidan had designed. The results that were posted all over the freaking Internet were that Aidan had figured out there was something to the Fibonacci sequence and Aidan’s solar arrays based on it. Gizmodo posted, the American Museum of Natural History gave the kid an award, and it was generally pretty awesome. How could you NOT be proud of it?! When I was 13 I was just a big ball of emotions who was good at whining.

Then this guy posted on his blog that Aidan’s experiment was a no-go, and that there was no real way that any of it could be plausible. Oh whoa, Nellie. As you would expect, when the Internet finds a crack in something, the vultures come out and they start to pick. People tore the research apart, hellfire and brimstone and treacle, and yes, there were even some people who acted dickishly in comment threads. I suppose we should expect nothing but the best, but that’s not good enough in this situation. There were even arguments of religious flare.  Gimme a break.

In the beginning before the “debunking,” a pretty good quorum of blogs and magazines (and the American Museum of Natural History, no doubt, who gave Aiden an award and a provisional patent on his design) posted about Aidan’s discovery. They reposted. And reposted. And reposted. But what happens when the debunking took place? It got reposted. And reposted. And reposted.

Did anyone think to check the findings in the beginning before rushing the news out the door?  No, as is the way sometimes in journalism. Maybe we’re just so stressed and in need of some uplifting news about our young people that it didn’t get fact checked.  People called this poor kid out on his shoddy research et al, and generally acted in a pretty demeaning/discouraging manner. Not everyone, not a large percentage, but enough to make me think to myself – “how dare you discourage a young man who took an initiative to improve upon a design he discovered in observation. who do you think you are?”

What happened was the media reposted what they discovered without fact checking. Then they slammed Aidan for posting wrong information. That’s stupid. There were some very nice articles though – people were also pointing out the flaws in the research and data collection, and the data as measured. It’s ok, everybody – Aidan’s experiment was flawed. Now he knows it, we know it, and now he can get to figuring out the next connection between Fibonacci-derived structures and solar arrays. Edison, the entrepreneur that he was, said that he did NOT fail at inventing the light bulb, he discovered 2,000 ways NOT to make a light bulb. Aidan, you keep looking for the connection, even if you discover it’s not there. We’ll only know if you keep looking.

Some additional reading, mostly articles about how Aiden was mistaken:

This is Where Bad Science Starts @ Optimiskeptic
This is here Bad Science Starts @ Optimiskeptic
Was Our 13 Year Old Beloved Genius Just Proved Wrong? @ Gizmodo
Aidan’s Solar Tree Gets A Reality Check @ EarthTechling

Let me point out that there are a few things we need to keep in mind here about this whole situation before I write any further:

  1. Aidan, you are one smart dude. Way to go for having an idea and charging after it like a champ.
  2. Aidan’s a 13 year old kid who’s in 7th Grade. Cut him some slack, where’s YOUR Fibonacci-based solar collector array?
  3. Aidan drew some conclusions about data that might not have been really connectable connections, but this happens when you’re 13 and still learning about science. I gotta believe that there are kids who still think that science projects about how farts are fart-smelling are acceptable science, and teachers give them a grade to shut them up and pass them on. I’d also be interested in seeing statistics on how many 7th graders even know what the Scientific Method is and how many of them think it’s a Matt Damon movie. Aidan’s experiment had real zeal, which is a lot more than I can say for an unfortunately large number of “science” I have read lately.
  4. Our teenagers rank 17th in the world for science, and we rank 25th of 30 countries in math. Aidan wasn’t glued to The Jersey Shore, he was out there trying to make sense of the actual world around him.

Yeah, Aidan was perhaps misguided for whatever reason, he is learning science, and he is a 13 year old kid, albeit a pretty sharp one. But he’s applying as he goes. I am so proud of him for that. Instead of talking about how wrong he was, let’s do what real teachers do and help the world understand how Aidan is a pioneer. Make a mistake loudly, and the world will see it as beautiful music someday. Let me know how I can help you keep a solid interest in what you’re learning, it’s of the world’s most vital importance. And don’t forget – there is a huge consortium of people out there who are equally proud of you as I am!

There is something I have noticed over the last five years that makes me really sad, and I keep hoping that my enthusiasm for science and light will rub off on the planet. Every single time someone discovers something – an idea, a design, a way to improve something – a fundamental flaw is discovered, usually very negatively, and then the media has a field day proving how wrong the thing discovered is on all levels. When you criticize instead of thinking constructively about a problem or challenge, you shut people’s enthusiasm down. This leads to a lot of really potentially amazing solutions gone forever because the world was too interested in proving how right they were that someone else was wrong. We need to stop this, and post haste.  People, we need to get excited about science and math again.  Being wrong can no longer be a punishment, our mistakes need to be celebrated so that we can remember that mistakes are stepping stones to achievement (thanks for that by the way, Dad).  There is a very, very large margin between the number of the world’s children I’ve seen do absolutely amazing things and the number of the world’s children I’ve seen do completely detrimental things. We have to teach by example. Ideas can be wrong, designs can be improved, but we can only improve when we all come at a problem with an honest intent for improvement.

Again, congratulations for the initiative, Aiden. Let us know what else you discover. Now that we know you can, we need you to keep doing it.

Interesting bit of news on where the US ranks in some of the STEM fields here, get ready for depression though.

A Solar Condensation Water Filter – Totally Random.

I have been working so much and so frequently on a multi-float Halloween parade entry I’ve designed with so much help from co-designer Ashley Bellet (who is an outstanding costume designer, by the way).  All I can think about in my non-work-time is going camping with two good friends, Roger and Ru, so I have been thinking a lot lately about camping and the kind of nerd stuff that I like to try when camping.  It’s almost as if camping represents some kind of peaceful non-work place where there are magic bottles of Shiner Bock just begging me to drink them, and the breeze coming off of the lake is as good as zoning out in front of the TV.

Solar water condensation filters – have you seen anything like this before?  This is the kind of stuff I dreamed in my head as a kid – my folks gave me this awesome little 18X24 drafting set when I was 8 or 9, I don’t remember.  I used to draw this kind of stuff in my room with my little t-square and 30-60-90 triangle.  I also came up with a flying ninja space wagon, a large rocket that could drive my GI Joes around the house, and for some reason, plan views of my little imaginary mountain towns… OF THE FUTURE.

Do you have any idea what it is I’m rambling about here?  From Len McDougall’s The Self-Reliance Manifesto: How to Survive Anything Anywhere:

 

Another way to go about this is by taking a large container and a small container and some plastic wrap to make a sort-of crock-pot style water catcher – like this:

Nothing major, imagine a black aluminum pan or a bucket, even – and inside, a smaller jar that will collect the condensate.  Over the top of the large container should be a piece of clear (or at least very translucent) plastic wrap that acts as the “airtight” barrier between the water environment and the outside air, and a little rock.  Like, a rock – not like Lynyrd Skynyrd.  When you put the rock in the center of the plastic wrap, you’ve created a little funnel that pretty much directs the water right into the collecting container!  Now how simple and awesome is that?!

Ok.  Back to your breakfast.  Just a total random bit of my brain, interjecting itself onto the world.

 

Hot, Steamy, Sexy Solar Power – ALL NIGHT LONG!

Doesn’t that just sound like the biggest nerd pr0n video of all time?!

I just saw an article over at ThinkProgress.org about a solar power plant in Spain that is using reflected solar thermal power to heat salts that stay molten for a long time, and then using that heat during the evening hours to maintain a constant stream of collected energy to electricity for customer demand.  The idea of using hundreds of heliostats to focus daytime sun onto essentially a bucket of something to collect solar energy is not new, we’ve been doing it for a long time.  It’s always interesting, however, exactly what stories get peoples’ attention.  I’m always grateful whenever cool tech makes regular news.

PS, a heliostat is the combination of a very, very specular mirror of the planar variety (usually) that is attached to something that makes it continually point so that it is focusing its reflected beam of light onto a target.  When you put several hundred of these things together in a field shining at something like they use in solar thermal collection, you get beams of light that create some of the most intense melting heat we know on Earth.  Like this:

Here’s the video from CNN:

Thanks for the image, Wikipedia!

How Much Solar Surface Area Would It Take to Power the World? [infographic]

If you understand the panel surface area (or even the general collector surface area) needed to power something with solar, you will look at this and say to yourself, “well DUH, self!”

If you have no idea, however, which is going to be most of the people on the planet, I hope you are surprised at how little area it really takes to power the world on ZERO CARBON EMISSIONS, and on JUST SOLAR ALONE.  Doesn’t it make sense that Big Oil and Big Coal should latch onto this like white on rice, a glass of milk, and a paper plate, all in a snowstorm?!

Check out the infographic:

See the full-sized version here – it’s pretty awesome.

I Knew If I Dreamed Long Enough, Solar Bikinis Would Be Born

Custom clothing maker Solar Coterie is now taking orders for a line of custom solar bikinis.  That’s right ladies, not only can you be hot, but you can also use your hotness to generate and collect small amounts of energy powerful enough to sustain your iPhone or iPod while you’re out there making us all talk like a bunch of bumbling idiots.  Here, let me show you what I mean:

Ok.  So there we go.  A suit made of solar thinfilm, terminating into a female USB connector allowing you to juice up that iDevice in the summer, or anywhere that the sun is shining that you won’t freeze your dumps off.  My only question is – if you’ve ever felt a solar collecting fil;m while it’s collecting, they do tend to get pretty hot to the touch.  Is the Solar Bikini going to get ridiculously hot while the wearer is sporting it?

Now I gotta believe the men’s version of this is coming, too.  A little less appealing is the only thing I can say about using my own junk to power my iPod.

Thanks, CleanTechnica!

Melting, Burning, and Generally Obliterating Stuff with the Power of the Sun

I always find that I discover cool stuff when I am teaching about it – right now, for example, I’m lecturing to my introductory Stage Lighting classes about reflection, refraction, the Index of Refraction, reflectance, normal angles, and all of that kind of stuff.  I love it, I’m a nerd to the Nth degree.  I’m also lucky that my research karma is good!

Something I find quite sexy is capturing solar rays for the purpose of just destroying stuff in a non-military way.  Yes, I’m one of those campers who loves campfires for the sheer awesome power of them.  I came across a few videos of people harnessing the awesome power of our Sun into a small few centimeter-square area for the purposes of, well, burning stuff.  I have two examples – one is an expensive solar capture device that focuses a few square meters of sun into an area of an inch, and the other is a homemade solar reflector made from a satellite dish.  Even though the cheaper one is cheaply made (I mean comparatively, not offensively), it harnesses some amazing solar power!

Check out this first video – a lab environment, a huge mirror, and thousands of degrees of sunlight:

Here’s the second video, a homemade SOLAR DEATH RAY!

Awesome.

Thanks Hack-N-Mod!