Top-killing, crisp spam and cooling the Tube
A random selection
Andrew's Mailbag Dave asks:
I was kind of surprised to see nothing about the BP oil spill, or least nothing I could find.
That's a good idea. Anyone working in the field want to step forward? To whet your appetite, Steve McIntyre unearthed with some interesting remarks from David Eyton BP's former Vice President, Deepwater Developments Gulf of Mexico, where he wrote:
We find ourselves designing floating systems for 10 000 ft of water depth before the lessons of working in 6000 ft have been fully identified. And these new challenges are not just depth-related. Failure mechanisms, such as fatigue, driven by vortex-induced vibration (VIV) and vessel motion, are time-dependent and may take years to become apparent. The same is true of equipment reliability. We know the premium associated with hardware reliability is high, but at this stage, operators still have a limited failure database for forecasting the required levels of intervention in ever-deeper and more remote environments.
Meanwhile, I now seem to be getting context-related spam. After mentioning Seabrook crisps in passing the other day, this arrived:
My Name is Shawn White and I am interested in purchasing some crisps from your company.and i will really appreciate if you email me with the prices or the types you do carry Instock and are available .also let me know your terms of payment.
Thank you and reply at your earliest convenient.
Maybe it's a coincidence. But I have never got snack-related spam before.
Regular correspondent (and commenter) Sean Timarco Baggaley offers:
But why isn't there more joined-up thinking on energy? Why must all the proposed solutions be so disjointed and separate, with each having its fanatical, pseudo-religious following?
The 19th Century was the last heyday of the generalist. The 20th Century saw the inexorable rise of the specialist, but the result is that design and planning is now done in splendid isolation, with everything compartmentalised, separate from everything else. Heaven forfend that people should speak unto others.
Our society has lost the ability to see problems holistically, and this is arguably the biggest problem facing our planet today. A more joined-up approach to everything
Consider the Tube in London. TfL have been trying to find ways to cool it down, but the solutions invariably see this as a waste-disposal issue and revolve around just throwing that heat away. They see the heat as a cost, not a *resource*.
Heat is energy! There are buildings above those tunnels which need a ready supply of hot water: why not send the heat from the tunnels into these buildings and give them that hot water at cost, reducing their energy bills and relieving some of the pressure on London's energy suppliers? Battersea Power Station did something very similar to this back in the day; why not now?
The same lack of joined-up thinking can be found in our own homes: we throw away all the heat from the heat exchangers on our fridges and freezers. These things are on every hour of every day of every year, yet we treat that energy as if it were a nuisance rather than—again—a source of energy. Why can't these heat exchangers be linked to our water heaters?
In other words: why is "recycling" a term limited mainly to plastic bottles and paper?
Pollution isn't just a problem for the planet, it's also a *problem for businesses*. Every molecule that ends up being blown out of a chimney is a waste of shareholders' money. It's a clear symbol of *inefficiency* in the process. This hits businesses smack bang in their bottom line, so *of course* it is in their interests to try and reduce such inefficiency. Eco-freaks should be banging this point home as loudly as they can, not chaining themselves to fences.
One reason they're not is offered by another reader, who points us all to a radio analysis about suspending democracy.
The question being put by the Beeb was whether climate change can be addressed effectively by a democratic society and they got several leading greens to come out and say "no - given a choice we'd rather reduce carbon emissions and if that means democracy has to go then (reluctantly) that will have to happen".
You can find the program on the National Euthanasia Channel (aka Radio 4), here.®
With regards to the comments over heat, there is a large difference in how useful large amounts of low-level heat (e.g. just above room temperature) and the sort of heat levels used to heat water, or generate steam for electricity generation.
With regards to using the heat from tube tunnels to warm local buildings, I can assure you it's not something that has passed the Cooling the Tube team by. Unfortunately there are a number of fairly serious reasons against it. Such as running however many miles of pipework about from tunnels underground, with buildings covering them, to somewhere useful. Then there's also the heating systems used in modern buildings, I believe they are more distributed now rather than a single boiler room in a basement, which means the complexity of piping the heat about the buildings also becomes massively more complicated and expensive. Heat re-use solutions simply haven't stood up to the analysis, being impractical or far too expensive.
Saving £2 a week on the radiator bills doesn't justify the hundreds of millions (if not more) widespread adoption of such a scheme would cost to implement.
London Underground are serious about climate change, as well as making the temperature of the network more bearable in summer. The Cooling the Tube team have been investing serious time and money assessing real-world solutions, unfortunately so many of the 'ideal' suggestions simply collapse upon scratching the surface.
One of the best things being done to cool the tube is by reducing the amount heat being generated, the traction system (friction braking and traction rail losses) is a major heat-source (passenger body heat is fairly negligible by comparison) - so they're looking at reducing this heat generation by increasing the use of regenerative braking and lower-loss conductor rails. Better to stop making the heat in the first place than then have to try and get rid of it.
Obviously Obama is an oil engineering specialist
and now The Government is selfishly hiding their knowledge.
You, AC, sound like a manager. You think that someone in a position of power shouting at underlings will speed up any process, especially when that person doesn't know anything about the process in question, even when the engineers themselves are struggling.
The second law of thermodynamics unfortunately limits the amount of useful work that can be extracted from a given temperature difference. This is the fundamental reason why waste heat is wasted rather than recycled indefinitely. But before you write to your local MP to have it repealed, I should mention that the second law is also the only thing in modern physics which gives time a direction. Without the second law, nothing would ever happen on a macroscopic scale, and so The Reg would have infinitely less news to report. This, I think we would all have to admit, would be a bad thing.