Re: [asa] Renewable energy

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Thu Mar 26 2009 - 15:16:33 EDT

Thanks for the link!

Now there's a name I haven't heard for a while.

It may be of interest to list members to know that David J C MacKay is
the son of Donald MacKay, of "The Clockwork Image" fame.

I knew his elder sister Janet quite well, as she was contemporary with
me at Cambridge and a member of the college Christian Union.

David is some years younger - he is also one of the brightest leading
lights in my field of neural networks and machine learning. His PhD,
on Bayesian methods for regression with neural network was literally
published in five consecutive papers in one of the leading journals in
the field, Neural Computation.


On Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 6:32 PM, John Burgeson (ASA member)
<> wrote:
> A FREE book on renewables!
> No Hot Air Renewable Energy
> Want a refreshing take on the role of renewable energy in our future?
> Then you’ll want to download David MacKay's free book, Sustainable
> Energy - without hot air. Using wry British wit and mathematics,
> MacKay examines the realistic potential of solar, offshore wind,
> hydroelectricity, geothermal and wave energy to meet the energy needs
> of the planet.
> Recognizing the wide divergence of opinions -- and hype -- on both
> sides of this vitally important question, he writes in his
> introduction...
> This heated debate is fundamentally about numbers. How much energy
> could each source deliver, at what economic and social cost, and with
> what risks? But actual numbers are rarely mentioned. In public
> debates, people just say “Nuclear is a money pit” or “We have a huge
> amount of wave and wind.” The trouble with this sort of language is
> that it’s not sufficient to know that something is huge; we need to
> know how the one “huge” compares with another “huge,” namely our huge
> energy consumption. To make this comparison, we need numbers, not
> adjectives."
> Appropriately, he takes up the question of global climate change right
> off the blocks, starting with castigating Independent reporter and
> climate change skeptic Dominic Lawson for "irresponsible journalism"
> that "deserves a good flushing" (page 21). But his is not just another
> shoot-from-the-hip, knee-jerk reaction of an Al Gore acolyte, but is
> one based on sound reason, science and "numbers, not adjectives."
> MacKay, who is the professor of natural philosophy in the department
> of Physics at the University of Cambridge, uses a very simple analogy
> to demonstrate the problem: the passport control arrival area at an
> international airport.
> One thousand passengers arrive per hour, and there are exactly enough
> clockwork officials to process one thousand passengers per hour.
> There’s a modest queue, but because of the match of arrival rate to
> service rate, the queue isn’t getting any longer. Now imagine that
> owing to fog an extra stream of flights is diverted here from a
> smaller airport. This stream adds an extra 50 passengers per hour to
> the arrivals lobby – a small addition compared to the original arrival
> rate of one thousand per hour. Initially at least, the authorities
> don’t increase the number of officials, and the officials carry on
> processing just one thousand passengers per hour. So what happens?
> Slowly but surely, the queue grows. Burning fossil fuels is undeniably
> increasing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and in the surface
> oceans. No climate scientist disputes this fact. When it comes to CO2
> concentrations, man is significant.
> Of course, there are still lots of folks out there who think all this
> climate change, global warming business is just a crock, and I am not
> going to waste time and words arguing with them. Download the book,
> look at the numbers, not the adjectives. And to the central question,
> "Can we live on renewable energy?" you'll have to read the book; it's
> an eye opener and it's free.
> --
> Burgy
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Received on Thu Mar 26 15:16:56 2009

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