Pic of the Day

Click to enlarge
Photo credit: Rex Features.

With a scientific name of Psychotria Elata, this species also goes by the fitting names of the Hot Lips Plant, Flower of Lips or even Hooker’s Lips. The colourful red flowers have evolved to attract pollinators including hummingbirds and butterflies. The plant can be found in the forested areas of tropical America such as Costa Rica and Colombia.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Russia discovers how “Low Bid” process really works!

Two amphibious assault ships bought for the Russian Navy from France in a 1.2 billion euro deal will not be able to operate in temperatures below seven degrees centigrade, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin admitted…in critical comments about the contract.

“It’s very odd that ships for offloading a landing force, floating in our latitudes won’t work in temperatures below seven degrees,” said Rogozin, who has special responsibilities for the defense industry, in a meeting of the Academy of Military Science…”Maybe they thought we’re going to undertake special operations in Africa but I doubt that’s going to happen,” he added.

Russia signed the 1.2 billion euro deal in June 2011 for two of the Mistral ships, which will carry helicopters to support landings by marines. The first of the ships is due for delivery in 2014…

The first Mistral is due to be deployed in Russia’s Pacific Fleet, based in the port of Vladivostok, which is ice-free all year round but still experiences months of severe winter cold. The second is due to be deployed with the Northern Fleet, which also has ice-free bases, due to the Gulf Stream, but also experience very cold temperatures for several months a year.

I love beancounters who only think about the price of a deal – ignoring completely all other qualities which determine real value.

Like, how’s the quality of roads in your neck of the prairie? Most municipalities in the Anglophone world have been reducing the specification of road construction so any fly-by-night cousin of some state politician can afford to put in a low bid. And we get crap roads that start to disintegrate within three years.

Sounds like the same genes carry over into ship-building in France.

A quiet breakthrough in geothermal power tech

Not a lot of startups tackle the field of geothermal power, which entails tapping into hot rocks deep in the Earth to produce energy and electricity. That’s because it can be an expensive proposition, and can require extensive permits and environmental reports. But a rare startup called AltaRock Energy has recently delivered a promising breakthrough that it says can lead to the commercialization of its next-generation geothermal technology.

AltaRock Energy — which has backing from venture capitalists, as well as Google and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s investment firm — has been working on enhanced (sometimes called engineered) geothermal tech. This technology drills wells deep into the ground, injects them with cold water to fracture the hot rocks, and creates a geothermal source of power where none was naturally occurring. Traditional geothermal systems, in contrast, tap into naturally occurring geothermal reservoirs…

Geothermal power is also the holy grail of clean power because it’s not intermittent like solar or wind power. Geothermal power can produce electricity 24/7 — including at night — while wind power drops off when it isn’t windy, and solar power ends when the sun goes down. Constant power like this is called baseload power, and it’s one of the reasons why coal and natural gas are so widely-used.

AltaRock Energy said that it has reached a milestone at its demonstration site in Bend, Oregon, which it believes is a good sign that it’ll be able to commercialize its enhanced geothermal tech. AltaRock CEO and founder Susan Petty told me that the company has been able to create multiple, stimulated geothermal areas, from a single drilled well. “This has never been done before,” said Petty, who has been involved with geothermal stimulation since the 1970s.

Creating multiple geothermal zones from one well is important, because it means more geothermal power can be produced and the process becomes a lot cheaper in the long run…Being able to create multiple geothermal zones from one well brings down the overall cost of enhanced geothermal by 50 percent, Petty said.

AltaRock is still in the testing and research phase. Now that it’s stimulated multiple geothermal zones at the site, it still needs to run injection tests and test the heat exchange areas. It also needs to drill a production well in the stimulated zones, which could happen by the end of this year or early 2014. Enhanced geothermal sites need at least two wells, one for injecting and one for producing the power.

Go for it. There ain’t hardly anything cleaner than geothermal.

My only experience has been with the naturally occurring systems. I am surprised it’s taken until recently for folks to get round to dispersed boreholes from a single site. It’s been common in oil and natgas drilling for decades.

Garden step appears to be ancient Sri Lankan moonstone

A garden doorstep at a home in Devon in the UK has been identified as a rare Sri Lankan artefact expected to fetch more than £30,000 at auction.

The auctioneer Bonhams says the carved granite step is a Sandakada Pahana – or moonstone – similar to those found in temples dating from Sri Lanka’s Anuradhapura period (c400BC-1000AD).

Sri Lanka’s director of archaeology says it is unclear if it is authentic…But if so, he believes the authorities should take steps to acquire it.

The stone was found in the garden of a bungalow in Devon. Its owner said that it was originally in a home in Sussex that her family had bought in 1950.

Bonhams says the house had been purchased from a tea planter who had lived in Sri Lanka…

The stone will be put up for auction in Bonhams’ Indian and Islamic sale in London on 23 April.

This is why everyone in America watches ANTIQUES ROADSHOW on PBS. Those exciting moments when you discover something you’ve played with since you were a child is worth more than your car.