Tag Archives: university

Australian invention for the micro-grid

“In distributed power generation, rather than having a massive centralized grid, you’re talking about much smaller micro-grids,” says Moghtaderi. “This system, in the Energy on Demand mode, has been designed for a micro-grid application. So essentially, if you deploy to a retirement village, and you hook it up to natural gas, that retirement village would be entirely independent of the national electricity network, and they can produce their own power and other utilities, 24/7.”

That quote comes from an exciting article I read in New Atlas today. Essentially, an Australian university – the University of Newcastle – and an Australian company called Infratech Industries have together developed ‘…a Chemical Looping Energy-on-Demand System (CLES)’ which not only generates electricity, but can store it as well.

CLES is the brainchild of Professor Behdad Moghtaderi of the University of Newcastle, and could well be the answer to Australia’s energy woes. Despite being a major exporter of natural gas, Australia has somehow mismanaged things so badly that now we are the ones likely to run out of power. It’s happened already in South Australia and is likely to happen in other states as well in the near future.

Tesla has offered to create a battery-powered fail-safe for us before next summer, but I’d much rather see Australia embrace a homegrown product, especially as it could lead to a rapid uptake of distributed power generation. If we get that right, we could export the technology to the rest of the world instead of continuing to rely on the export of resources. We have so much inventive talent here, let’s celebrate if for once instead of forcing it off-shore through lack of interest.

You can find the New Atlas article here:

http://newatlas.com/energy-on-demand-redox-home-electricity-generation-storage-system/49568/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=127a37fcfe-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-127a37fcfe-92416841

And now an apology. I’ve been missing in action a bit lately, and it’s due to a number of things. First, my teaching schedule exploded unexpectedly. Second, I’ve been trying to complete the print version of Innerscape, and that has required upgrading some of my most critical software to ensure that the finished product is commercially ‘legal’. [For ebooks I use Storybox, which is fine, but for print I have to use a commercial version of Word, and I only had a ‘Home and Student’ version before]. Finally, I haven’t been well. Since about June last year, I’ve had recurring infections in my teeth which have resulted in having one tooth pulled and root canal treatments on three others.

Despite all the treatments, and the associated cost, I developed another infection last week, and I now have to go see an endodontist. Endodontists are dentists who specialise in root canal treatments [amongst other things]. My first appointment is next week. Until then I’m on antibiotics that hurt my stomach and anti-inflammatories that also hurt my stomach. Not sleeping very well either so…those creative juices just aren’t flowing. I will try to catch up with your creativeness though. đŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks


#gene editing vs #GMOs

I just read an article about a scientist at Umea university in Sweden who was given permission to grow ‘gene edited’ cabbage in his own garden because…gene editing is not the same as genetic modification.

The regulations around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products have been tricky to navigate, and plants that fall within the definition of a GMO effectively can’t be grown in the field in Europe.

To overcome this, the team at Umea University appealed to the Swedish Board of Agriculture to allow its particular strain of cabbage to fall outside the definition of a GMO. And it worked: since the mutation that causes a lack of the PsbS protein is naturally occurring in some cases, simply intervening to deliberately switch it off is acceptable, as long as no foreign DNA is introduced.

And therein lies the supposed difference between edited and modified genes:

  • modified genes have something added,
  • edited genes merely have something turned off.

The fact that both techniques produce a change in the DNA of the organism is, apparently, ‘a mere technicality, Mr dear Watson’.

I am no geneticist, but I am interested in the field and I can remember when it was thought that genes were all that mattered. In fact, large sections of DNA were considered to be ‘junk’ because they did not ‘do’ anything. Then, as years went by, scientists discovered that this ‘junk’ DNA wasn’t junk at all. They also discovered that genes can be turned on and off and that it is this malleability that is important. Then they discovered that groups of genes, turned on and off, had an effect in combination…

My point in all of this is that genetics is still an evolving science. Geneticists do not know all there is to know about DNA. At best, given the current state of knowledge, they can make educated guesses, but following through with those guesses involves an element of risk. That risk is recognized in the creation of new medicines which must go through years of clinical trials to reduce the likelihood of adverse reactions amongst those who will take those medicines.

With food plants, however, slippery language has allowed geneticists to alter the DNA of plants without having to subject them to the same rigorous testing as medicines. Monsanto began the ‘spin’ by convincing the FDA that genetically altered plants were ‘substantially equivalent’ to their commercially grown cousins, and therefore did not require the same degree of testing.

The argument behind ‘substantial equivalence’ is that farmers have been breeding – i.e. changing the DNA of – plants for millenia and genetic modication is no different, just a bit…faster. The fact that back then, genetic modification was a shotgun approach, literally, by scientists who knew a whole lot less than they do now, did not seem to bother anyone, least of all the FDA. And the fact that US consumers were given no choice in the matter still doesn’t bother the US authorities.

Now, Umea university is playing fast and loose with language again. Why? In order to get around the law as it stands in Europe. New tool, new language, same old spin, same old lie.

The following is an email I sent off just before writing this post:

genetic-editing-email

I don’t expect to receive a response, other than perhaps something derogatory, but I had to make the effort because we in the West are dying of spin, dying of lies, dying of hypocrisy.

Is it really so much to ask that our leaders, and the most emminent minds of our scientists act with integrity?

We are not children, and we are not stupid. If the only way you can get what you want is by trying to fool us, then what you want is not worth having.

Meeks

 


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