Carbon Capture Breakthrough? Nano Tech catalyzed CO2 to Ethanol

Carbon Capture Breakthrough? Nano Tech catalyzed CO2 to Ethanol

There’s a potentially monumental breakthrough in energy technology in the news. In a surprising development, researchers at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have turned carbon dioxide, the green house gas driving climate change, into ethanol, a useful fuel and chemical compound. What’s most exciting of all, the room temperature process appears to be quick, efficient, and economical, with yields of ethanol between 63 and 70 per cent.

The researchers used a wafer adapted with nanotechnology, using otherwise ordinary materials, to catalyze the reaction, to produce pure ethanol from CO2. They originally planned to make a catalyst based on graphene, which is a very interesting material made from a single layer of carbon just one atom thick. But they ended up making, for practical reasons, a wafer studded with tiny “nano spikes” culminating in points just a few atoms wide. The tips of these spikes can concentrate an electrical charge, where the desired chemical reaction, which includes a tiny droplet of nitrogen, takes place. They originally expected to produce methanol, but their wafer yielded its even more useful chemical cousin, ethanol.

So how might this help humanity? This technology could remove extra carbon dioxide from the air, where its excessive build-up is causing climate change due to the well-documented green house effect. In addition, and even more exciting, this method could be used as a storage mechanism for a completely renewable energy system, supplying the grid with power even when the sun doesn’t shine on solar panels, and the wind doesn’t blow across wind turbines.

During up times, when there’s ample renewable energy available, the system would generate extra electricity, above and beyond the needs of the electrical grid, and use this catalytic process to create ethanol. Then during down times, like at night, or when the winds aren’t blowing, the ethanol could fuel old-fashioned generators producing electricity to dump back into the grid.

This storage issue has been a major problem with scaling up alternative energy resources, so a cheap, efficient ethanol solution would be very workable. And creating ethanol in this manner, right from existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, would be a carbon neutral solution, unlike burning fossil fuels, which dumps enormous quantities of new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And let’s not forget that the internal combustion engines used in cars and trucks can also run on ethanol, so the possibilities are wide open for inserting this method into the energy economy.

Learn about this nanotech method to create ethanol from CO2 (engadget)



Photo: By Tony Webster from San Francisco, California (J.D. Irving Smoke Stacks) CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

President Obama deserves more respect

Obama town hall on race and reconciliation (picture: an earlier town hall discussion)

President Obama has been in office for almost eight years, and his administration is drawing to a close. But even after all this time, he’s still addressed with great disrespect by his critics, and many who are neutral about his leadership as well. Despite our differences, and there are many, we must maintain civility in public life. Unfortunately this ideal is sorely lacking in the current political environment.

President Obama has earned the right, as Head of State and the duly elected leader of the U.S. Government’s Executive Branch, to use the title “President.” For this reason, the media and other politicians should refer to him as “President Obama,” and address him directly as “Mr. President.” Unfortunately, many republicans, and ordinary Americans alike, refer to him as merely “Obama,” over and over again. It gets even worse, since many recite his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, with an emphasis on his middle name, as if to imply he isn’t really an American, but some foreign miscreant who isn’t worthy of true respect.

There’s no greater example of this disrespectful trend than the agonizingly arrogant birther movement, sadly championed by Donald Trump and embraced by millions of Americans. The level of disrespect, not only of President Obama as a leader, but of the truth, not to mention basic logic and accurate facts, is staggering. Their insistence, over and over again, that President Obama isn’t an American citizen, against all evidence, even when the state of Hawaii verifies and attests to his birth in that state, is absurd. Yet they persisted for years, regardless of the facts, and fairness.

President Obama’s mother was a highly educated American citizen, an anthropologist who’s job it was to study other cultures, specifically Indonesia. This is a noble calling, and living abroad for a time was a wonderful opportunity for learning and growth for a young Barack Obama, who went far, ultimately attending Harvard Law School. Sadly, though, it’s been twisted around by critics to trigger negative fear-based reactions, of xenophobia and islamophobia, that are used against him to this day.

And saddest of all, traditionally it’s long been anathema in many circles for white American women to marry African-descended men, so her marriage to an educated Kenyan triggered deep concerns and distrust among large segments of the American population, which lingers to this day. They express their fears and loathing with vitriolic comments, racist internet memes, and shameful attacks on the President’s family.

There can be no other explanation for the profound level disrespect shown to the President, and the entire First Family, other than racism. The First Lady Michelle Obama should be addressed as such. Just as with the President himself, it’s entirely appropriate to address her with her correct title, “First Lady,” not merely “Michelle Obama.” In addition, it’s clear that she is the victim of countless inappropriate and unfair jabs and comments, about her appearance, and many are racial.

What other President and First Lady have faced such open disrespect? Despite political and ideological differences the U.S. Congress has treated visiting Presidents, and their families, with basic courtesy for centuries. But even early on, during an address on health care, President Obama received that astoundingly shocking shout from the floor, “You lie!”

And what other President has faced such obstructionism from Congress throughout his term? Even though clear differences between the parties exist, surely there are many vital projects that cry out for bipartisan support, like improving the Veteran’s Administration, fixing roads and bridges and other much needed repairs to our crumbling infrastructure, and much more. But the President has been blocked and shunned at every turn.

It’s time for the nation to lay aside antiquated notions about race, and to step up to the plate. It’s time for the media, including Fox News, and the U.S. Congress to give the President what he deserves–respect. It is the patriotic thing to do. It is the right thing to do. It is the American thing to do.

What does Donald Trump need? Better advisors.

Donald Trump needs better advisors

Donald Trump appears, in some ways, to be struggling. His knowledge of foreign policy has been revealed, more and more of late, to be sorely lacking. He cherishes his family, and uses his children as de facto political advisors. To be sure, they are polished and well-educated–Ivanka Trump is practically a super star, and all his kids spoke remarkably well at the RNC the other week. They are assets. But are they enough? No!

To succeed politically, and project a lasting image of subject mastery, Trump needs truly excellent, highly accurate information, and quality advice from top-level experts in foreign relations, military strategy, economics and science. His background as a developer in Manhattan has not prepared him adequately for this arena. In contrast, Hillary Clinton’s extensive record of public service, including the U.S. Senate and her tenure as Secretary of State, has prepared her well for the Oval Office.

She demonstrates clear understanding and mastery of these critical subjects, and of the complex and subtle political system that gets work done in Washington. Trump may be a Washington outsider, but he can’t succeed with the knowledge-base of a Washington outsider. He must study up. And he needs help to do so.

Donald Trump is clearly riding a populist wave of rebellion, which catapulted him into his lofty but precarious position as Republican Presidential Nominee for 2016. Voters in a candidate’s base during populist elections are long on passion, but generally short on facts and reason. To win the swing voters and independents, who put more thought into their vote and who don’t vote based on party affiliations and loyalty, need to see understanding, skill and mastery in Trump’s platform, speeches, and demeanor. Skilled professional advisors can help him develop these attributes, quickly.

One of the most blatant Trump gaffs demonstrating his need for better advisors occurred during the DNC. Khizr Khan spoke that the convention, but his wife, overcome by grief over the death of her son, a military veteran, chose not to. Trump went on the attack, admonishing her, pointing to her status as a muslim woman as the reason why she didn’t speak. Here Trump missed the obvious human element, by missing the fact that she was overcome with grief, and with it a chance to demonstrate that he has a much needed sense of empathy and understanding for others. He also completely failed to characterize Islam accurately.

And yet, Muslim women do speak in public. They aren’t banned from such activities by their religion. Though they are greatly restricted in Saudi Arabia, the Muslim world is diverse, and policies vary widely. In fact, Muslim women have lead both Pakistan and Bangladesh, having won the highest political offices in those lands. Trump’s knowledge of Islam is lacking, and he relies on tired stereotypes rather than fresh, accurate information, and a broader understanding that comes with experience.

This is embarrassing for the Trump campaign, and could be devastating for the nation, since important political and military agreements and alliances must be made and strengthened in the muslim world during a Trump Presidency. The wrong decision, based on poor information, and a flawed understanding of the relevant regions, could prove very costly to the U.S., and could ultimately lead to loss of life, even open war. It’s clear in this case that quality advisors who know about Islam and the different regions of the world from whence Muslims emigrate, would have helped Trump immensely in this case. And this is just one example.

Though Donald Trump’s love of family and loyalty to his current team is admirable, it is ill-advised and he needs to shape up. He needs to hire the best political advisors and strategists, and subject experts, that money can buy, which he is of course in an excellent position to achieve. He needs to learn, study, and master they myriad policies, facts and theories relevant to the topics of importance to voters: the economy, terrorism, our allies and enemies around the world, and so much more. To do so will energize his campaign and strengthen his weaknesses in the eyes of voters. To fail will mean failure in the general election and a Clinton Presidency, or worse, during his Presidency, in light of a Trump victory.


Photo: CNN (screen capture)



Democratic National Convention (Thursday)

Hillary Clinton, DNC 2016 - Thursday

Wednesday is the closing day of the DNC, and Hillary Clinton will speak to the assembled delegates, and the Nation. Tonight the speakers include numerous politicians and human rights activists, including members of the LGBTQ community. For a complete list of the convention program and speakers, click here. 

Watch the DNC Live (


Photo: by Gm2587CC BY-SA 4.0 (wikimedia commons)

Speaker Paul Ryan to meet with Donald Trump Thursday


House Speaker Paul Ryan will meet with Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, on Thursday, to discuss party unification, and the possibility of supporting his nomination.

Today Speaker Ryan met with the press to discuss the meeting, and his current thinking on the Trump nomination. Ryan, who currently does not support Trump for the nomination, emphasized that the party has just been through a long, grueling primary process, and acknowledged that divisions are strong within the party.

He feels that the party must unify before he can give his support, and this unification process will take some time, under the current circumstances. He fears that if the process is rushed, then the Republican party will only be working at half-strength when they challenge the Democratic nominee for the White House in the fall.

Watch and read Speaker Ryan discuss Thursday’s meeting with Trump (NBC)


Photo: NBC (screen capture)

Tiger Whisperer Killed

Stacy Konwiser, a zoo professional and lead tiger keeper at Florida’s Palm Beach Zoo, died tragically on Friday in a tiger attack. Konwiser, 38, known respectfully as “The Tiger Whisperer,” was attacked by a 13-year-old male Malaysian tiger, as she worked inside the inclosure where the animals eat and sleep.

Emergency personnel weren’t able to reach Konwiser until the tiger was darted and sedated. She holds a master’s degree in conservation biology, and is known as a competent trainer with a great love of the animals she works with. She has worked at the Palm Beach zoo for the last three years. Her husband is also a trainer at the Palm Beach Zoo. (CNN)

Learn more about the tragic tiger attack in Palm Beach, FL

Photo: CNN



Stephen Hawking Plans to Launch Star Probe

Renowned theoretical physicist and Russian entrepreneur and scientist Yuri Milner are teaming up to promote a really exciting project: an interstellar probe to our nearest neighbor, the Alpha Centauri star system.

The pair are proposing to accelerate a tiny high powered electronic probe, about the size of a smart phone, to 20% the speed of light using an ultra high powered laser. The probe would take about 20 years to reach the neighboring star system, which is about 4.3 light-years away.

This is a proof of concept project, which could lay the groundwork for future, more elaborate star probes, going forward. It’s exciting to realize that the rudiments of star travel are within our technical grasp.


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