April 25th, 2007



Technology Review on Making Gasoline from Carbon Dioxide:
A solar-powered reaction turns a greenhouse gas into a valuable raw material.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), recently demonstrated that light absorbed and converted into electricity by a silicon electrode can help drive a reaction that converts carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen. Carbon monoxide is a valuable commodity chemical that is widely used to make plastics and other products, says Clifford Kubiak, professor of chemistry at UCSD.

Is it just me, or is this story badly misrepresenting itself? There's nothing inherently "solar powered" about the carbon dioxide reaction they're describing. That electricity could just as easily come from fossil fuel, hydro power or me stroking my cat. Likewise, the carbon dioxide reaction doesn't create gasoline. It creates oxygen and carbon monoxide. The news to me is that carbon monoxide is a feedstock chemical for producing gasoline, which doesn't seem right to me, but I am not a chemist, so what do I know?

There seem to at least two big stretchers in this piece. Am I right? Or am I misunderstanding the story?

On behalf of the people and state of Oregon, I apologize

State Representative Dennis Richardson, an Oregon Republican, has this to say:

This past week has been like no other. On Monday the world witnessed the tragedy at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. On Tuesday Oregon witnessed the passage of Domestic Benefits for same-sex couples (HB 2007) and Civil Rights based on sexual orientation.

Are you still proud of your Republican party?

Fairy tales of future past

In an offline context, today I wrote:

"We tend to think of magic as part of history and technology as part of the future, but consider this: magic as projection of human desire, and technology as a projection of human will."

That got me thinking about the casual truism that fantasy is about the past, while science fiction is about the future. While I don't consider this a rigorously defensible proposition, this is sufficiently true that we want to sub-brand future fantasy as "science fantasy," for example, while past sf becomes "steampunk" or "retro."

I can draw other distinctions between the two genres -- for example my prior assertion that high fantasy virtually requires a moral axis, while Silver Age SF avoids the same --but I wonder if the temporal facing is the underlying appeal. I also find a lot more ambiguity in SF than in fantasy, which somewhat parallels the moral axis idea.

No real point here, just noodling. Feel free to noodle along in comments.