Friday, February 15, 2008

Popular Science's.... interesting articles

One on a "green" Mach 5 transport.

I'm amused because it uses hydrogen (not a novel fuel for Hypersonic engines) which they kept bleating about as how carbon neutral it is. Which sure the plane isn't releasing anything other than water vapor, but how is the hydrogen being made?

That little problem was mentioned once and quickly pushed aside. It's a real shame, as it's a very interesting plane and the article could have given more points on the other problems of supersonic-transports. Like how to carry enough cargo and passengers to make it profitable?

Despite their implications Hydrogen isn't some magical perfectly clean and free fuel. It's gotta be made somehow, and unless you use nuclear power to provide energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, the fuel generation will pollute.

Depending on the engine efficiency, H2 production method, and power source, it could pollute less than burring a conventional jet fuel, but selling it as a "clean fuel" is misleading.

Shame, it's an interesting technology, but the article itself was not as informative as I would have liked. The information on the engine was pretty good. The variable configuration was neat giving it two stages of efficient running (Mach 0.9 for overland and Mach 5 for over ocean).

Again this follows into my theory about being a skeptical consumer. One has to consider what the article is saying and check it against the tools the reader has available.

An earlier article Fly the Eco-Friendly Skies has similar... problems.

It lauds a European Union system of carbon credits as a viable way for the guilty airlines to make up for their polluting. In gross terms a carbon credit system could make things even out.

That's assuming that the carbon release can actually be "offset". Accounting is also a major hassle. How does one balance high altitude release of hydrocarbons with say-planting trees or making poor people in developing countries use giant treadmills instead of electric generators to get their water.

This question of accounting is a major problem with Carbon Offsets and is what allows for so much corruption and weaseling in them. That doesn't even mention that they're modern indulgences for the wealthy.

Wealthy people, like celebrities, can buy off their "environmental burden" and go around in private jets (the article didn't mention thus but given how few people such planes transport pollute much more than airliners) lecturing the little people to use less.

And here's a quote from that article that is just... bad. "All those extra miles in the air translate into more jet fuel, and every pound of jet fuel releases three pounds of carbon into the upper atmosphere."

This confuses me. Obviously jet fuel is not some hypermaterial that somehow consists of 300% carbon, and even if the combustion reaction burned a carbon containing oxidizer that wouldn't add to the carbon release.

So the question is... where does this extra carbon come from? Maybe the writer is talking about the full production cycle of the fuel.

It would be nice to have this information. To know what the writer meant. Without it, I can only assume the writer is incapable of basic logic or at best is sloppy and has a careless editor.

It's not all bad. They had a neat if bland and short article on future Navy ships
With a handful or pretty pictures.

Never-mind that Defense Industry Daily and Defense News and Strategypage have more information on these ships and came out with their articles months ago.

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