Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Oddities of the day

My file of assorted science-and-tech news is once again bulging. A smattering:

1585 map
Archeology isn't a science that I often touch upon in this blog, but that's not for any lack of personal interest. I'll start today with a mystery that has fascinated me since I was a boy (in not quite Colonial times): the Lost Colony. Maybe it's no longer quite so lost. See "New clue to mystery of lost Roanoke colony."

The short version: "A patch on White's 425-year-old "Virginea Pars" map may indicate where the colony went."

Next up: a contrarian view of Google (host, as it happens, of this blog). "Peter Thiel Says Google’s Not Really a Tech Company." No stranger to technology companies, Thiel (a cofounder of Paypal) argues that:  

... Google is no longer a technology company, it's basically a search engine.  The search technology was developed a decade ago.  It's a bet that there will be no one else who will come up with a better search technology.  So, you invest in Google, because you're betting against technological innovation in search.  And it's like a bank that generates enormous cash flows every year, but you can't issue a dividend, because the day you take that $30 billion and send it back to people you're admitting that you're no longer a technology company.  That's why Microsoft can't return its money.  That's why all these companies are building up hoards of cash, because they don't know what to do with it, but they don't want to admit they're no longer tech companies.

Remember the recent collapse of the Northern India power grid? As Milli Vanilli (who'd have thought I could ever bring them into this blog?) would have put it, blame it on the rain. Or lack thereof. See "Lack of Rain a Leading Cause of Indian Grid Collapse."

Remaining eclectic, consider this opinion piece by technologist and venture capitalist William H. Davidow. Though I prefer the more thoughtful title of the print version ("Our Tools Are Using Us"), see "Virtual Reality Is Addictive and Unhealthy."

For a bit of whimsy, check out the video at "Scientists create most disgusting robot yet."

From a combination of the revolution in natural gas "fracking" technology (IMO, good) and a crummy economy (not!), "CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low." 

What's the news about (ground-based) solar power? The word there is less encouraging. See "Argument Over the Value of Solar Focuses on Spain." The short form is: "Analysts disagree on whether the energy returned from solar is worth the energy invested." The underlying study purports to be the first data-based (vs. model-based) look at the "energy return on investment" from building massive solar-farming (photo-voltaic) projects.

Low voltage
To wrap up for the day:"Nearly two years after the introduction of the path-breaking plug-in hybrid, GM is still losing as much as $49,000 on each Volt it builds, according to estimates provided to Reuters by industry analysts and manufacturing experts. GM on Monday issued a statement disputing the estimates."

For more, see "GM's Volt: The ugly math of low sales, high costs."

No comments: