Category Archives: General

Pondering a Future with Natural and Cheap Electricity

Given the current state of the economy and our increasing needs for energy, one may wonder how we are going to be able to meet our energy needs in the future. It would seem that we will need to find a source of abundant, cheap electricity if we are going to continue to grow as a technological society. So, where is this electricity going to come from?

It is almost certainly not going to come from fossil fuels like oil and coal. While these remain among the lowest cost sources of electricity today, and coal in particular may be the cheapest electricity supplier at present, the problem is that all fossil fuels must be extracted from the earth. As the easy to reach reserves are used up, it will become more and more expensive to extract what is left. This is without even mentioning the expense of cleaning up oil spills and other disasters that may be caused by the extraction of fossil fuels. In any case, fossil fuels will only become more expensive, and there is little chance that they will provide the cheap electricity that we will need to power a prosperous society in the future.

As a result, it makes sense to look to natural sources of electricity as a potential source of inexpensive power in the future. The atmosphere and ocean contain huge amounts of energy in the form of wind, waves, and tides, and wind is already a relatively cheap source of electricity in regions where strong, steady wind blow. Much research is currently being done on extracting energy from waves and tides, and we can look forward to much progress on these sources of energy in the coming decades. The sun provides an even more vast source of energy, as all of the motion in the atmosphere and ocean owes its existence to heating from the sun. While the photovoltaic technologies that are currently in existence to produce electricity from solar power are quite expensive, much research is also being done to make solar electricity cheaper.

Because of the existence of so much energy in the natural world, and this energy is constantly being replenished by the input of solar energy, it makes sense to look to this natural energy as a source of cheap electricity to allow our technological society to grow in the future. We need to continue to fund the research into renewable energy generation that will make this future a reality.

Share This

Wallpaper history

By Rita

Like many words in the English language, technology and popular usage have given alternate meanings to common words. For example, wallpaper used to be used simply as a noun–paper to cover a wall. In the most modern usage it can refer to the digital background of a computer screen. Wallpaper can also be a verb, as in to spread over a large surface or area.

Nature wallpaper is popular both as a wall covering and for computer desktops. People have for many years decorated their private environments to personalize their space, and to create a “homey” feel, whether that is the walls of your room, or the screen you look at hours a day. I thought it might be of interest to get a little history of wallpaper, in the old use of the term.

Wallpaper actually began in ancient China. The Chinese first invented paper and they are the first to glue rice paper onto their walls in about 200 B.C.

As the evolution of paper occurred, so did the evolution of wallpaper. The materials use to make paper changed and the use of wallpaper spread throughout the Middle East and into Europe. Early wallpapers had to be painted by artists and were more expensive than the common household could afford. With the advent of the printing press, multi-color printing machines, and ready-to-use wallpaper paste, wallpaper became less expensive and available to more households.

Plunket Fleeson began printing wallpaper in Philadelphia in 1739. Most of the early designs were a copy of the European fashions but by 1800, by using hand carved blocks, scenic prints were introduced.

It was in the roaring ‘20s that wallpaper really took the spotlight. This time became known as the Golden Age of Wallpaper—400 million rolls were sold. Wallpaper fell into disfavor during the “Modernism” era. The blandness of homes and the sterile work environment have led to the rediscovery of patterned walls and nature wallpaper.

Now instead of wallpaper we should think in terms of wall coverings. Technology has given us a host of products that are washable, long lasting, pre-pasted, works of art that are beautiful, interesting and very affordable.

Share This

What is paleontology

What questions fall within the purview of “Paleontology”?

Quite a wide variety, it turns out, because paleontology is the study of prehistoric life – the exploration of the entire history of life. Since 99.9% of all species that existed are now extinct, that is a lot of biodiversity. The science is multifaceted and diverse because the topic is equally diverse.

Because of the connections with geologic time and rock formations as the context of fossils, most paleontology classes are offered through geology programs at universities. I LIKE teaching introductory courses in geology because I find that people frequently end up taking geology in college as a last resort. Students generally are required to take a science class with a laboratory and they too frequently review their options without much enthusiasm. They took biology in high school and did not like it then, so want to stay away from that now. Chemistry and physics sound like a lot of math, so that leaves geology, they reason.

Fossil collecting in western Kansas. A partial mosasaur skeleton is visable in the middle foreground.

Fossil collecting in western Kansas. A partial mosasaur skeleton is visible in the middle foreground.

On the first day of geology class I like to point out that the study of the Earth and its history involves biology, chemistry, and physics, so we will cover them all. There is usually a little moan from the class at this, and I enjoy my moment of sadism. Paleontology in particular incorporates biology and geology to a very high degree, because to study fossils you have to fully understand the animals as well as the history that you can read from the rock record.

So could we come up with a classification, not of fossils, but of paleontologists?

Since the topic is so multifaceted the science falls naturally into several key areas. For example, individual paleontologists tend to be more oriented toward either geology or biology. The first group might be more interested in the animals themselves: how did they live; how did they move and capture prey; how did they relate to other organisms in their environment.

The second group might be more interested in what the animals can tell them about the Earth’s history: what do the fossils tell us about the movement of plates over the Earth’s surface through time; when did different animals live in geologic time so we can estimate the age of rocks; that sort of thing.

Of course, this is an over simplification.

Paleontologists can also be classified by which group of organisms they work with. Is it plants (maybe fossil forests made of ferns), or invertebrates animals — marine or terrestrial – ranging from the largest squid ever known to fossil spiders, or maybe vertebrate animals.

A lot of the people I know are paleontologists, and they tend to be people with diverse interests, often ending up doing a bit of all of it. For example, many years ago I worked on a fossil locality in southwestern Kansas that included plant, invertebrate, and vertebrate fossils. Having all the groups of organisms was critical to interpreting a much fuller picture of the ancient environment there than any one of the groups alone could have provided.

As a paleontologists I must be a “jack of all trades,” and that is one of the things I love most about it.

Other interesting facts can be found here at Boneblogger. Enjoy.

Share This

Welcome to

Welcome to the wonderful world of vertebrate paleontology and natural science. At this site I plan to write about interesting current events in vert paleo and the other natural sciences, and basically anything that catches my eye as being interesting. I hope you find something here to interest you.

If you have a request or a comment, please don’t be shy. All are welcome. Together we can explore the world!

Share This