Wednesday, 21 September 2011

River Buffer Zones for Wildlife

River Itchen near Cheriton Mill - Mike Parsons at

An idea came to me a few days ago. I thought it would be a Good Thing if every watercourse in the country had a buffer zone around it where no fertilisers or pesticide could be used. Six metres on either side would be a good size, I decided, for no particular reason. Wetland - terrestrial transitions (ecotones) are particularly rich in wildlife, so this would be a good way to protect them. As well as prevent some of the dodgy chemicals ending up in the water. And it would create a widened wildlife corridor. It was what the uncouth would call a "no-brainer."

The idea came, was developed in a couple of minutes, and then I parked it under the heading "good ideas that will never happen."

Then, browsing the HMGov e-petitions site, I came across this petition: Create Wildlife River Buffer Zones. It amounts to the same thing, except promises compensation for farmers (I'm not sure about that). Anyway, I signed it, of course.

The threshold for petitions to generate a debate in Parliament is 100,000 signatories. When I signed up to the Create Wildlife River Buffer Zones petition, it had a grand total of 10 signatories. Presumably it now has 11.

Still, it doesn't close till next August...

Update 23.iv.2012: 27 signatories. It's not looking good.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Publishing for the Kindle - first steps

Right, well, you're going to need a few things before you can publish your opus to Amazon so your lovely audience can buy copies and download them to their Kindles.

i) A computer and an internet connection. You probably have one of those.

ii) A manuscript on said computer. Don't have one of those? If you start now, you should have one in six months, or, if you're working part-time, a year. As to the application you're using to create your masterpiece, that might be MS Word or it might be Open Office. Personally I use Open Office because it is free and good.

iii) Mobipocket Creator. Free.

iv) An Amazon account.

The first thing to do is to edit your manuscript in your word processor of choice to remove anything that won't format well on the Kindle. When you zoom in on a Kindle, it isn't like zooming in on a .pdf, where you zoom into a specific area on a page. When you zoom in on the Kindle, the page resizes itself. This means that if you have carefully formatted your manuscript so that you can print it out on A4 paper and send it out to be read in physical form, it will probably need an edit.

Get rid of page numbers - in fact all headers and footers. Any formatting you have done with soft returns, replace with section breaks. Lose tab stops and bullet points. There is a formatting guide here. Lose any bizarre fonts.

Next save your manuscript as html. Mobipocket won't read a standard Open Office (.odt) file. It will read an MS Word file (.doc), but not, it seems, if your copy of Word is as old as mine (1997). Import the resulting file into Mobipocket Creator, within which you can build and preview your ebook. If you happen to have a Kindle laying around, you can simply copy your new ebook onto your Kindle and check out how it looks there. Chances are there will be something that doesn't look quite right (remember to view at different scales).

Make a note of anything that needs changing, then go back and re-edit.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Publishing on Kindle

Knowing how astute you are, dear reader, you will have noticed that I have been quite quiet about Elsie Smith recently. I have hitherto had no luck with the MS, which could mean one of two things. Either the MS is BS, or else getting your MS off the slush pile is just plain hard even if it's actually quite good. The slush piles of the world would, after all, stacked on top of each other, probably be taller than the Petermann glacier (see above). They would then be frozen solid and buried for ever, or something, unless global warming slowly thaws them out, at which point a harrassed junior agent would run screaming for the hills.

Stubborn enough to highly rate my own work, I thought I'd float it out there on the Kindle.

This seems like a good idea, what with the Kindle being an all-round marvellous device, and with the mighty Amazon hosting your work gratis (they take a cut if you ever sell anything, of course).

Although the chance of significant sales is a small one, you never know. Too, this is an education, and one which, in the posts that follow (or precede, if you're reading this in the future), I'll be sharing.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Save the world - with 2.5 million wind turbines

Image from

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group III specialises in mitigation of climate change. On 9th May, they made a startling announcement.

Abu Dhabi, 9 May 2011 – Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.”

From the press release

The report on which this assertion is based was recently released, and considers 164 scenarios (of development of renewables, changes in energy use, etc). The relevant chapter can be found here.

The headline-grabbing figure was derived from a scenario in an article by Teske et al. in Energy Efficiency (2011) 4:409433. Energy [R]evolution 2010—a sustainable world energy outlook.

The Climate Auditor, Steve McIntyre, noticed that the lead author of the important article, a Greenpeace activist, was also involved in writing the IPCC’s report, calling into question their neutrality.

I was interested to know where the figure of “close to 80 percent” came from. Well, as you might expect, a large chunk of the energy comes from wind.

Now, based on Teske et al’s table 7 (p.422), they reckon wind (on- and off-shore) will have an installed generating capacity of 3754 GW by 2050. The number for 2008 was 120.3 GW, and this has of course increased since then.

The generating capacity in 2008 had a potential energy production of 1055 TWh and generated 219 TWh, for a capacity factor of about 21%. The modelled generating capacity in 2050 would have the potential to generate nearly 33,000 TWh if it could generate at nameplate level. If the present capacity factor was maintained, this would actually generate 6,800 TWh, or 24.6 EJ per year, which on their own figures would be <1/6th of demand. They assume that 39 EJ will be generated at a capacity factor of about 33%, and cover c.25% of total demand.

I was interested to know how many turbines these figures represented. A common nameplate capacity onshore is 1.5 MW, and most capacity is presently onshore (I think the scenario here assumes greater use of offshore, which has a higher capacity factor). Anyway, the 2008 capacity of 120.3 GW would therefore mean we had c. 80,000 turbines in 2008 (I don’t know how accurate this is). The 3754 GW in the 2050 prediction would, at the same nameplate capacity per turbine, require c. 2,500,000 turbines.

At a typical spacing of 10 turbines per hectare, that would require 2500km-sq of land, or a square 50 km on a side, which doesn’t sound too traumatic.

There are other questions to be asked about this article – about the contributions of solar power and biomass burning, for example... and the smart grid necessary for distributing the electricity. The big question is, though: how realistic is this scenario? Is it more like a fantasy?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Thomisus (onustus)

It pays to buy organic. This beast came in an organic Batavia lettuce from Spain. If it had been found in the wild, it would have been "new to Norfolk." Thomisus is found elsewhere in Britain, like the Surrey heaths.

Diaea dorsata

Diaea dorsata, a crab spider. Collected this beast last early June, snapped it indoors, then let it go.

Phanerozoic CO2

Source: Wikipedia.

The graph that made me wonder just how bad CO2-induced climate change can be.