Here’s why your commute will be scary tomorrow morning

…A 1996 University of British Columbia study found that the “expected risk of accidents” on the Monday after the spring time change rose 17 percent, based an analysis of data from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other studies have found less extreme but still real traffic effects from the adjustment…researchers in Finland who wrote a 2010 paper in the Journal of Environmental & Public Health, noted, “Those who are especially sensitive to circadian rhythm disruptions, such as patients suffering from seasonal affective disorder or bipolar disorder, may be more vulnerable to sudden changes in timing.”

The University of Colorado study determined it was sleep deprivation, rather than a change in ambient light, that drove the increase. “Back of the envelope calculations suggest that over the 10-year study period, DST caused 302 deaths at a social cost of $2.75 billion,” wrote Austin C. Smith, the study’s author.

Both Schwartz and Steve Calandrillo, a professor of law at the University of Washington, advocate for extending daylight saving time to be year round. “Four hundred lives would be saved if we went to year-round daylight saving time,” Calandrillo said. “Darkness in the evening hours is much more deadly than in the morning hours—there are more drivers on the road and more children playing outdoors.” Smith’s study notes that crime rates fall during periods of more light in the evening…

David Gerard, a professor at economics at Lawrence University who studied traffic, said that if a large state, such as California, decided to do away with the time change, it could inspire other states to do the same. But he stops short of recommending a year-round daylight saving time solution.

“My prior thought was we should switch to year round and everyone will be happy. But then I found out not everyone would be happy when I got letters from the elderly and people with small children,” he explained.It’s just splitting the difference with who you’re irritating.”

I’ll second that emotion. I hate DST and I don’t mind getting up pre-dawn either. It’s just that the reasons for doing DST were dull a half-century ago and have disappeared since. A 21st Century solution for clocks doesn’t need seasonal changes.

Most productive size for wind turbines may be gigantic!


Click to enlarge

Efforts to increase wind power mean that turbine blades are getting bigger and bigger. But a new design in the works takes the idea to levels most people can barely imagine: Blades up to 656.2 feet long — more than two football fields.

Today’s longest blades are 262.5 feet. The blades at Imperial County’s Ocotillo wind farm, which sends electricity to San Diego, are 173.9 feet long.

“We call it the extreme scale,” Eric Loth, a University of Virginia professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said of the planned mega-blades. “There’s nothing like it.”

Loth is one of the leaders of a team, which includes four universities and two national laboratories, that has three years to build and test a scaled prototype in the hopes of making the blade a reality.

The early design would place two — rather than three — blades onto a tower. But to construct something of that size, the tower is estimated to rise 1,574 feet, nearly one-third of a mile.

To put that in perspective, that’s more than 100 feet higher than the Empire State Building.

The diameter of such a facility would be at least 1,312.3 feet, nearly a quarter of a mile…

The super-sized blades would generate up to 50 megawatts of electricity, 25 times more than today’s typical turbine…

The blades would look much different look from today’s wind turbines.

They wouldn’t face the wind but would go downwind, aligning the blades to flow with the wind instead of fighting it.

And instead of a single stiff blade, each blade would be broken into segments, allowing it to be more easily fabricated.

In addition, the concept would allow the blades to “morph” — spread out when the wind is blowing lightly to capture as much power as possible…

Conversely, when winds blow with hurricane force the blades would contract, almost like a claw.

If the technology works, Loth wants to avoid putting the big-blade facilities on land. Instead they would be put offshore — some 20 to 25 miles from the coast.

“I really want to focus on going far enough offshore that we’re away from the migratory patterns of the birds,” Loth said.

Wind power and solar pass and repass each other as the affordability of renewable energy becomes more and more efficient, the economies of scale kick in. In truth, we’re already at the point where the only questions remaining concern politicians and NIMBYs. Science and engineering are simpler to deal with than re-election campaigns and curb value.

King of Coal facing jail and fines, sued by new owners of his coal company for $28 million


Jeff Gentner/AP

Donald Blankenship, the former coal baron looking at up to a year in prison for flouting mine safety rules, may be facing an even bigger penalty: $28 million in restitution tied to a fatal explosion six years ago.

Alpha Natural Resources asked a federal judge in West Virginia to order Blankenship to pay legal expenses and fines stemming from the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine blast, which killed 29 workers.

At the time of the explosion, Blankenship was chief executive officer of Massey Energy, owner of the mine. Alpha bought Massey in 2011.

Jurors in Charleston, W.Va., convicted Blankenship in December of a misdemeanor conspiracy charge of ignoring safety standards.

While federal prosecutors are backing Alpha’s request, Blankenship is fighting it…

Jurors concluded that Blankenship orchestrated a conspiracy to ignore mine safety standards to speed up coal production. The verdict was a rare instance of the U.S. holding a chief executive accountable for fatalities in the workplace…

He’s slated to be sentenced April 6 by U.S. District Judge Irene Berger and faces a maximum sentence of a year in jail plus a fine. He contends the fine is capped at $250,000, but the government says Berger can rely on a law that sets the criminal penalty based on twice the financial gain or loss generated by the conspiracy.

Prosecutors said they support Alpha’s request to recoup more than $13 million for costs of its internal investigation of the Upper Big Branch disaster, $4.3 million to cover legal expenses rung up by employees who cooperated with a government probe and prosecution of Blankenship, and $10 million in fines paid by Alpha over the explosion.

Throw away the key.