Germany: Nuclear Switch-Off Spurns Green Explosion


Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Plant Cooling Towers

Nuclear Power Plants: A Dying Breed?

The radiation tormenting Fukushima struck a chord in Germany; amidst widespread protesting the government shut down the seven oldest nuclear reactors in Germany to placate the public.  While the general population was captivated by the celebrations of the protesters, apprehension filled the halls of government, and a window of opportunity was presented to green energy firms.  Nuclear power plants are an essential player in producing German electricity.  Unless the German’s would favor being dependent on Russian oil pipelines the only viable path left to them is a rapid adoption of green energy.

Germany needs a silver-bullet solution to answer the energy vacuum left behind by the absentee nuclear plants and the declarations that the ten remaining nuclear reactors would be shut down ahead of schedule.  It’s solution is as ambitious as it is green. By 2030 Germany plans to take a third of its power from green sources.  By 2050 Germany plans be on eighty percent green power the 205o.  the government will spearhead incentives in every field: biogas, biomass, solar, wind, and hydro.  In addition, the country is abandoning the production of new nuclear plants and is pledging to decommission those that remain in operation ahead of schedule.

This is nothing short of a dangerous gamble.  Germany will become the flagship for alternative energy production of the world, if they succeed.  If they fail, the rest of Europe will  have to sell power to the Germans to keep the country lit up.  The German people are coming to a hard ceiling; either they break through and prosper or they fail tragically and suffer a decline with cumbersome and unreliable energy fees.  When it comes to heating homes and power industry their is only a small margin of error for Germany.

It will be interesting to see what Germany will look like in thirty years: will it be a green paradise or a darkening backwater?


Lightbulbs Will Never Be the Same

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LED light bulb

Second Generation Lighting Finding a Home in Your Home

The average lightbulb lasts for two thousand hours before going *pop*.  In ten years yours lightbulbs will last fifty thousand hours [article].  How is this possible: LED Lightbulbs.  This next generation of lighting, distinguished by their use exciting electrons to create light with maximize efficiency, are poised to replace the incandescent lightbulbs which have remained  mechanically the same since the days of Edison.  They are set to change the world; over the next ten years the LED lightbulbs are projected to take over sixty percent of the world’s markets [article].  The future will be a little bit brighter.

LED lightbulbs are vastly superior to antique incandescent lightbulbs.  They have no filaments which can burn out, nor do they have toxic mercury.  In addition, LED lightbulbs produce almost heat.  This is a drastic improvement over current lightbulbs which are often too how to touch [article].  LED’s currently are not quite as bright as traditional bulbs; however innovators are pushing the envelope to close the gap and surpass incandescent lightbulbs.  Finally, the pricing difference is extraordinary.

One the surface, incandescent lightbulbs seem cheaper.  One traditional lightbulbs costs a mere $1.25 while LED’s are projected to cost $30 dollars.  With a deeper look we see that LED’s are twenty-five times more effective than incandescent lightbulbs.  With every LED lightbulbs you will save a $1.25, twenty-five lightbulb exchanges, and preventing incalculable amounts of damage to the environment from the toxic chemicals of the traditional lightbulbs.  This decision is a no-brainer.

General Electric began with building  incandescent lightbulbs; today, they are once again preparing to revolutionize the world of lighting.  Alongside Sylvania [lightbulbs] and Phillips [lightbulbs] these three American companies are preparing for the next generation of LED lighting.  These three companies will not only save consumers billions on lighting they will also secure a cutting edge market for the United States.

Chicago is ground zero for these three companies blooming LED bulb markets.  A recent think tank report claimed that the cities trifecta of engineering colleges, government support, and concentration of lightbulb manufactures has position this city to oversee an explosion of new lighting across the world [report].  This is one market for that the American economy has in the bag for the economic future.

Food From Wind

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The windmill

Windmills Revolutionize Agriculture in Medieval Europe

Spinning across the skyline since the late 1100’s, windmills were critical for the milling grain in medieval Europe.  Before the windmill, countless hours were fruitlessly in every home milling grain.  Autonomous milling from wind power mitigated this hardship   Windmills became a necessity in mountainous and swampy regions of Europe. Windmills were critical to agriculture in late medieval Europe and enabled the Industrial Revolution through creating idle time and technical aptitude.

During the early 12th century, before the invention of the windmill, large sections of Europe had to hand mill grain.  This was an major issue since the most important asset to the peasants across Europe was time and this chore wasted significant portions of it.  The majority of the serfs time was spent in agriculture activities: tending their own fields, tending the church’s fields, maintaining livestock, and milling grain. This labor intensive task required and hour for a scant two and a half cups of grain.  This was far too little because grain based foods, such as oatmeal and bread, were the main course staples at nearly every meal.  Far too much time was being spent on this task and too little grain would be produced to feed families efficiently.  European peasants could not build a better future for their families and a better history for Europe because they never had enough time.  The Europeans were forced to innovate in order to prosper.

Waterwheel mills were first used in the western world to mill grain.  Using power generated from falling water simple gear systems were erected anywhere safe to build.  In France and Germany denizens erected thousands of waterwheels only to be plagued by endless issues.  Most waterwheels would be inoperable during the winter due to the freezing water.  Floods often destroyed water in precarious positions.  Small changes in the course of the river could render who fleets of waterwheel inoperable.  Most waterwheels were forced dam streams to guarantee a controllable supply of water; the water from the standing lakes reeked of disease and swamped potential farmland.  For many regions of Europe, waterwheels were not the solution.

Communities in the Iberian Peninsula, the Netherlands, and England could not reliably mill grain using water wheels.  Each region was plagued by its unique geographical issues which suppressed the widespread production of water wheels.  The Iberian Peninsula was far too mountainous for stable windmill production and mountain creeks were generally too weak to supply significant power.  The Netherlands had surpluses of water; however, since the country is barely above sea level and peppered with swamps they did not have the speed to mill grain.  English waterwheels were plagued by unlevel and mountainous land and a shortage of streams with enough power to mill grain.  Additional innovations were needed.

It is speculated that the first European windmills were erected in England.  During throughout the early and mid 1100’s innovators slowly progress from blades affixed to stripped trees to small to free-standing huts affixed with blades.  By 1250 the post-mill was invented: the entire structure could rotate around a central post to face the wind.  A mill boy would use a long tail pole to rotate the entire structure to the optimal position while the mill man would oversee the grain milling. As the windmill evolved more ambitious planners further improved the design.  Technical windmills could automatically adjust to face the wind.  Some designs were streamlined until a whole windmill could be erected within a day.  Windmills became more unique as the art of building them evolved.

Each culture had its personnel preferences when it came to building windmills. Stationary tower windmills became popular with the Dutch and the Spanish due to their steady winds.  The post-mill continued to be used throughout the majority of Europe and many European colonies, From British Bermuda to Spanish Mexico windmills have been erected.  Windmills not only saved peasants lifetimes of labor, but also made a ascetic, culture impact.

Windmill’s outputs began the lifeblood of medieval Europe.  Windmills became essential for food processing in Europe and became buildings of significance throughout Europe.  Windmills were symbols of successful towns in Europe; rick monasteries and hamlets could have as many as three or four windmills.  In less affluent communities the windmills were important assets; in some places the windmill would be as much as one-fourth of the estate’s total value.  Mill men had stable and prosperous jobs with dependent profits and lots of free time to hone their technical abilities.  Unfortunately, it is speculated that mill men were plagued by respiratory problems caused by the ever-present flour dust.  Windmills were pillars of the medieval world, most were even given names.

By the eve of the industrial revolution there were as many as two hundred thousand windmills across Europe.  Serfs everywhere were wholly dependent upon the windmill for their staple grain-based foods.  A whole guild of laborers had even evolved up with the windmill; medieval Europe ran on wind power.  The golden age of wind power only ended once it was displaced by steam power.  The wisdom of the windmills still played an essential role after their decline.  Many of the first steam engine technicians were windmill mill men whose knowledge of gears and mechanical physics proved invaluable.  It is doubtful that without this technical ability and the time saved by the windmills that the Industrial Revolution would have happened as soon as it did.  Innovation takes time and windmills provided just that.

State of the Union: Afghanistan Edition

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Afghanistan bazaar

A Look at Afghanistan

With the looming 2014 deadline for NATO forces withdrawal from Afghanistan many officials are anxious about the state of affairs in the nation.  Two intertwined issues endanger the unstable fledgling state: drug crops and a president Taliban.  Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan and the Obama administration are working jointly to solve these problems and attempt to bring peace to the war-torn nation.

The economic lynch pin of the Afghanistan economy is the humble poppy.  Poppy’s are the plant which produces opium, an addictive drug which had killed millions.  Approximately forty percent [article] of the world’s opium production is grown in the mountains of Afghanistan.  In 2008 a British spearheaded campaign drove the Taliban and poppy sharecroppers out of prime growing land.  Ongoing campaigns to educate farmers, plant wheat and cotton, and enforcing security have reduced the poppy output signficantly.  However, these reforms are suffering from diminishing returns.  The Taliban and their poppy-sharecroppers have established new havens in semi-arable deserts and are reestablishing a profitable trade.  Corrupt officials are additionally undermining the efficiency the reform efforts by protecting drug growers for kick backs.  The food zone’s in Afghanistan are currently are largely secured; however, the drug problem is certainly not eradicated.

The Taliban are still a major player in Afghanistan and pose a threat to the unstable sovereign government.  Every year since the abrupt destruction of their government after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 the Taliban have been rebuilding more ruggedized networks and orchestrating the assassinations of more Allied troops.  Explosive suicide bombers, rouge gunman, and improvised explosive devices are the chief killers of the near 2800 allied casualties [article].  Countermeasures against this terrorism have been slow to mitigate the killings.  Peak levels of Allied casualties were suffered over the summer of 2010 and current levels of casualties are still nearly double what they were five years previously [article].  Many locals believe once the international forces leave then the killings and disruption will make a resurgence.

There are many different programs attempting to defeat this persistent enemy.  The Afghan military is focusing on building up its own air force to replace the American warplanes after 2014 [article].  These ambitious goals of this program are to have approximately 165 active aircraft online by 2016.  Just as importantly, the government is training in total 8,000 personal to keep these aircraft in fighting condition.  These planes will be able to supply isolated outposts, decimate Taliban patrols, and assure the Afghan people who their government can enforce the national security.  In addition, the Obama Administration is taking innovative steps to freeze this possibility and stabilize the region.  The American and Afghani governments have jointly begun to open dialogue with the Taliban [article].  While initial communications are still classified multiple officials have expressed optimistic first impressions.  Peace is a viable possibility.

I personally believe this silver-or-lead policy will stabilize Afghanistan.  Government supporters will be able to farm wheat and common in peace.  The firepower of the Afghan army and the dialogue will corner the Taliban into consenting to peace.  The country will doubtlessly be plagued by isolated extremists for at least the rest of the decade; however, peace will become de facto in Afghanistan.

Bringing (Martin Luther) King To China


Martin Luther King, Jr. 1964 (source: Library of Congress)

A Vision of Peace for a War-Torn World

“I am just realizing how much more I need to learn myself about Martin Luther King.  I mean after all, I’m twenty six year and I’m white girl in China talking about a black man who died in 1968 in the Untitled States,” says Caitrin McKiernan.  After graduating from Stanford in 2005 she launched a $200,000 dollar theater production in China about the life of Martin Luther King.  Throughout the two years she took to make the play Caitrin tangled with government censors, overbearing co-producers, and multitudes social intricacies to get her dream produced upon the national stage of the National Theater Hall of China.

Although the play was seen by perhaps only a thousand people its impact is still reverberating throughout the world.  Intellectuals, academics, and professors lined the audience and will sow seeds of the history of American non-violence in China.  A documentary, Bringing King to China, was made about the behind-the-scenes process and cultural differences which canonized the production.  It has played in colleges across the country, won several awards, and will play on the PBS in the near future.  The play itself lives on as productions of it are currently being held in the West Bank in Palestine.

My part of the story is a footnote at the MIT showing of Bringing King to China.  The documentary was magnificent.  After six stops on the T, a short two block jaunt, and meandering through the hodgepodge of MIT buildings myself and a friend arrived at the production with time to spare.  The documentary was better than we had expected it to be.  There was no large lesson trying to be imparted upon the viewer.  Instead, many small messages each spoke on another dimension of the project.

These little messages were simply profound.  After talking about a train-wreck that was hidden under piles of dirt by a government official Catirin firmly reminded the viewers that this one incident did not reflect all of China just as one pastor in Florida burning Qurans does not reflect America.  A new dimension of China, one filled with over fifty minorities, danced into my mind where a Chinese monolith had once stood.

In addition, the culture of China displayed itself in a human way vastly different from the radical government bureaucrats and angry students of the Cultural Revolution which dominate our collective image of China.   In many ways they are just the same as us.  They care more about consumerism than liberty.  There are plenty of good moral people.  There are some arrogant twits.  However, in some quirky ways we are worlds apart.  One prominent compliment to Catirin from one of her assistants was, “You are firm and capable.  You could be an executive.”  If an American were to give this same complement I believe they would substitute executive with something like statesmen, millionaire, or even just celebrity.  Another intricacy which drew my attention was that within China the play did not get much advertisement because Catirin was unwilling to pay journalist for interviews.  Americans, including her backers at Stanford, saw this as a bribe while the Chinese see it just like tipping a waiter.  We are worlds apart.

FED to Publish Market Predictions (and Save the Economy)

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Bernanke presents state of the economy

Ben Bernanke Makes Big Decisions About Economy

What is the Fed Doing?

The FED has announced their insider market predictions for the world’s markets would be published on January 25,2012 and periodically afterwards.  This landmark act would put the FED’s view on every field, from property sales to stock options, in the hands of the investors.  These projections are some of the most reliable in the world.  This publicizing of information is designed to prepare firms for future turns of the market and inject faith in the financial sector into the capricious investors.  Hopefully, this will kick-start a financial boom.

Why is the FED publishing its reports?

The Federal Reserve is hedging against financial busts.  Busts in the stock market rapidly dissolve trillions of dollars in just days.  The Federal Reserve System, the central banking for the United States, is designed to prevent such catastrophes.  In recent years they have been successful in mitigating busts; however, they have never been able to prevent them.  The FED is attempting to build a new, innovative barrier against sell offs with by posting their predictions: trust.

Why does trust matter?

Trust is essential.  Investor’s careers revolve around moving money.  They buy up capital, which is anything from stocks to beach condos, and sell it once it reaches peak value.  Then they repeat the process.  This simple cycle is the basis of Wall Street.  When inventors do not have faith in the market problems multiply.

Nervous investors sell off in droves at the least opportune times.  This can create market failure, instantly obliterating massive quantities of capital.  By selling off hastily these investors are wasting value and are actually hurting the value of their capital.  Investors that trust the market do not sell off capital until the time is right.  This builds up the market and has allowed the financial sector to prosper.

Through publishing its own facts and figures the FED is injecting trust into Wall Street.  By predicting the trends across the market the FED is allowing investors can acclimate to bends and dips in their projections before they arrive.  Before, capacious investors would be sent into widespread sell-offs at the slightest worry.  The FED hopes that their own figures will calm fears in tumultuous times and weaken the gravity of these sell offs.  The FED is coaxing the investors into a much more reliable rise-decline market cycle which is greatly preferable to the destructive boom-bust cycle we have at present.

Why has the Fed not published it’s predictions before?

They were afraid they could be wrong.

Predictions are never perfect.  Even in the best of times the finest analysts in the world can only make guesses about the state of the market in the near future.  The further out projections plan the less reliable they are.

Previous FED officials were concerned that unforeseeable fallacies in their predictions would disrupt the markets.  Black swans, events which are both highly unpredictable and highly destructive, could tear asunder all predictions and undermine the credibility of the FED.  A loss of trust in the FED, perhaps the single largest force in the world of investing, would result in financial armageddon.

Will this action jumpstart the economy?


The finicky investors need this trust to be prosperous.  Before the 2007-2008 Recession the market moved gracefully, positive trends of perhaps a few points per day provided good steady investments for everyone.  Today, it is unsurprising for the DOW to jump over a hundred points in any direction.  This is bad; it jeopardizes the market because with this capricious behavior no investment is safe.  Investors are damaging the market with short sell offs and ragged growth rather than cultivating it.

The FED is pushing the markets back towards the stable growth with their predictions.  Investors will have a baseline prediction to affirm their own predictions.  In addition, the projections of the FED will become self-fulfilling prophecies.  If investors are told the markets will get better they will prepare their own assets for just that eventuality, in doing so they will prepare the market for the FED’s plan of growth.  This move will propel the economy in the right direction.

An (Indomitable) Argument for Protectionism

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Seagate Wuxi China Factory Tour

Protectionism helps us at home and our friends abroad

The expired Multi-Fiber Arrangement left thirty million people across the world unemployed.  These workers were unfortunate victims of globalized free trade.  Free trade leads us to believe that goods should always be produced by the firms competing under pure capitalist conditions.  This idea is not wrong; it is only the dangers of free trade should be mitigated in emerging markets around the globe to give them the opportunity to succeed.  Protectionism, the antagonist of free trade, is the solution to best prepare infant industries and emerging economies anywhere in the world; this policy employees more denizens, produces stronger industries, and cultivates stronger markets than free trade ever could.

Inefficiency creates more jobs.  If the entire world can exploit a market then only those countries with the most efficient industries will be able to sell.  Protectionism erects a wall of tariffs that prevents foreign goods from ever contaminating domestic markets by driving prices up to an inclusive level for domestic products.  Under protectionism, small industries gain a foothold, bloom, and employ more denizens in every country across the world.  There are minor concessions; on a global level less of goods are produced and the cost is driven up slightly as well.  These negligible effects diffused throughout the consumer markets means the world to the now employed workers who can support their families.  Protectionism is more humane than free trade.

Stronger industries are built under the shield of protectionism.  Behind a wall of tariffs the United States built mighty firms of  industry that dominated the world for the second half of the twentieth century.  Preceding the Americans, the British had done the same when the pioneered the Industrial Revolution and built an empire upon which the sun never set.  Since the 1970’s China used numerous protectionist policies, notably keeping its currency artificially low.  It is predicted to have the world’s largest GDP by 2020.  Examples of booming economies that got their start in free trade are scare.  Columbus and Admiral Perry opened up trade to the Americas and East Asia respectively.  In both countries widespread exploitation of natives and complete sterilization of domestic industries ensued following the introduction of cheap free trade imports.  Free trade is a tool of the strong to stay in power and collect wealth; for weaker nations and industries free trade is a poison which cripples.

Stronger markets evolve under protectionism.  Protectionist policies protect infant industries and prevent exploitation of weak economies.  In an international market of free trade monopolies are certain to emerge.  Monopolies are established when there is not industrial competition.  This problem hurts everyone.  Consumers suffer from an inferior product; without the Darwinian survival of the fittest threat the producers have no incentive to innovate.  Marginal producers are harmed.  Any attempts to breach the market are squelched under the monopoly.  The monopoly hurts itself through stagnation.  Protectionism is the best means in a globalized economy to give marginal producers and infant industries the time to create a profitable industries despite the monopolies.  Consumers and marginal producers benefit from better products and pay checks while potential monopolies are broken out of self-defeating cycles of stagnation.  Protectionism helps everyone.

Protectionist protects countries.  It harbors citizens and gives them jobs.  It cultivates infant industries under a cocoon of tariffs.  Better products and firms are brought to market thanks to protectionism.  It seems almost silly to even think about introducing globalized free trade to emerging economies; it corrupts infant industries and kills jobs.  If it were not for multinational corporations, who preach fallacious free trade to all for a better profit margin, protectionism would indisputably hold in its rightful place as protector of firms, consumes, and employees.

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