January 2008

A fair number of people I know have a great deal of trouble keeping track of small personal effects: wallets, sunglasses, keys, and the like. When they encounter someone who does not have this problem, they assume it’s because of some inherent superiority of memory. In my experience, this is not the case. What differs […]


Nabokov’s book is a cruel one: a love story without love, and a mystery with the ending announced in the opening lines. It lacks everything that saves Lolita from being a hopelessly ugly story, notably the sense that there is something of value in what transpires, if only for the descriptions it evokes. When the […]


The American Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that it is cancelling funding for the $1.8 billion FutureGen project: a demonstration ‘clean coal‘ power plant to be built in Illinois. The reason cited for the change of position is “ballooning costs.” This makes it pretty unlikely the 275 megawatt plant will be built. Previously, the […]


For a country using 83% coal to power an economy that produces 25.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per person, Australia’s Innamincka desert could prove a blessing. This is not because of the sunshine hitting it, but because of the way geothermal energy has suffused the granite under it. Initial tests have found that the […]


For nearly a month now, I have been walking around without a decent camera (the one on my phone is too low quality to count). At the outset, I was wondering if it would change the way I looked at the world. It seems plausible that a person carrying a camera might become overly concerned […]


For a collection of reasons, the world is experiencing a commodity boom. Oil is hovering around $100 a barrel, while gold and platinum are setting new records. That said, it is still questionable whether commodities are a good long-term investment. While they boom sometimes, there will also be times when a glut or changes in […]


After being endorsed by Charlie Crist – the governor of Florida – John McCain said something rather unintelligent today: We’ve got to provide home insurance for every person who lives in the path of a hurricane. We are going to have to work together to save the Everglades and other great environmental treasures of this […]


With existing technology, it is entirely possible to build houses that allow their owners to be dramatically more energy aware. For instance, it would be relatively easy to build electrical sockets connected to a house network. It could then be possible to see graphically or numerically how much power is being drawn by each socket. […]


The European Union is in the midst of a big internal fight about how to divide climate change mitigation obligations between members. The poorer states that joined recently say they should have easier targets so their economies will be able to grow more rapidly. States that have already made big investments in renewable technology think […]


Google.org – the philanthropic arm of the internet search giant – is seeking to use the cognitive and financial resources of its parent to improve the world. Google has promised to eventually fund the organization using 1% of its equity, profit, and employee time. The real question is whether they will prove able to leverage […]