A number of methods for predicting the rate of technological development have been developed. The most famous of these is Moore's Law, named after Intel's co-founder Gordon E. Moore who in 1965, wrote that the number of components in integrated circuits had doubled every year and predicted that the trend would continue. The prediction has proved accurate ever since. Moore's Law has been applied to other forms of digital technology, which have been found to develop exponentially but at different rates. For example, hard disk storage has been found to half in cost every 1.1 years whereas RAM halves in … Continue Reading
A group of 29 scientists have published an article in the prestigious Science journal arguing for the development of perennial grain crops which have been described as potentially "the biggest agricultural revolution for 10,000 years". Currently, most grain grown around the world has to be replanted after every crop. 70% of all cropland is used for annual cereals, oilseeds and legumes. Thia consumes a lot of resources and is hard on the land. The scientists argue that perennial grain, in addition to not needing replanting – saving farm machinery passing over and compacting the ground and reducing fuel consumption – … Continue Reading
It’s an old joke – If we have more daylight then we have more sunshine so, naturally, the world will get warmer. It seems obvious that, in reality, daylight saving will reduce our need for lighting and, therefore, our electricity consumption. So obvious, in fact, that until now it seems that nobody had bothered to test it. Now a study by the University of California Energy Institute has thrown new light on the subject. The study examined the electricity consumption residents of southern Indiana over a period of three years by analysing some seven million monthly electricity bills. The result: … Continue Reading
The stock market crash of 1929 is generally taken beginning of the Great Depression. In fact, the stock market significantly recovered within a few months. The real problems started when consumer confidence failed in the early 1930s, leading to a downward spiral in consumption, production and employment. There have been comparisons between 1929 and the current situation but there are very significant differences – particularly in Australia. When there is a decline in confidence, three things need to happen to boost economic activity.
How much of the world’s energy consumption could be produced from agricultural biomass? Currently about 14 million square kilometres of land is being cultivated. There is about another 4 million square kilometres of crop and pasture land which is not being used. If energy crops were planted on the abandoned land they could produce about 27 exajoules of energy a year – equivalent to 172 million barrels of oil or 5% of the world’s current energy use of around 500 exajoules a year. Even if all of the current agricultural land was user for energy crops, the total energy production … Continue Reading
For over 100 years up to 1970, the price of a barrel of oil was remarkably stable at between about $us21 and $us25 (adjusted for inflation). Contrary to general belief, the formation of OPEC in 1960 did not lead to an immediate increase in oil prices – in fact, prices declined throughout the sixties. What actually changed things was peak oil in Texas which occurred in about 1970. Up to that time, the Railroad Commission of Texas, which (despite its name) regulates the Texas oil and gas industry, had limited the amount of oil that was produced in order to … Continue Reading
Before the modern era, life expectancy was no more than 35 years and as low as 20 years in some places. By 1900, life expectancy in the United States had increased to 47 years (which is the current life expectancy in Nigeria). By 2000, it was about 77 years in the United States and more than 80 years in several countries, including Australia.. Life expectancy has increased because of better sanitation and nutrition and through medical advances. If these continue to improve, presumably life expectancy will continue to increase. As people live longer, more advances will occur in their lifetime … Continue Reading
So this is the twenty-first century! It doesn’t seem to be quite what we were promised. We were supposed to have unlimited atom-powered energy – not to be running out of oil. We were supposed to be cruising about in flying cars – not getting gridlocked in traffic. And they told us that all sorts of diseases were being eliminated – nobody mentioned aids or ebola or sars or bird flu. And what about those nasty antibiotic-resistant viruses. We were the ones supposed to be getting resistant – not the bloody germs! And why can’t I take a trip to … Continue Reading