Scientists turn CO2 Into ethanol easier than they ever thought

❝ Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal ChemistrySelect.

The researchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles…

“By using common materials, but arranging them with nanotechnology, we figured out how to limit the side reactions and end up with the one thing that we want,” said Adam Rondinone.

This process has several advantages when compared to other methods of converting CO2 into fuel. The reaction uses common materials like copper and carbon, and it converts the CO2 into ethanol, which is already widely used as a fuel.

Perhaps most importantly, it works at room temperature, which means that it can be started and stopped easily and with little energy cost. This means that this conversion process could be used as temporary energy storage during a lull in renewable energy generation, smoothing out fluctuations in a renewable energy grid.

“A process like this would allow you to consume extra electricity when it’s available to make and store as ethanol,” said Rondinone. “This could help to balance a grid supplied by intermittent renewable sources.”

More thought and considerations are at offer in a follow-up interview PM did with the lead scientist, Adam Rondinone. He’s a research scientist on the public payroll at the National Lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. You know – doing the kind of scientific work today’s conservatives from penny-ante Republicans to Tea Party know-nothings really want to halt.

Who is poor in the United States — An update

Recently, the Census Bureau released its annual report on poverty. The report showed that the official rate of poverty in 2015 was 13.5%, down 1.2 percentage points from 2014. Using the Current Population Survey March Supplement, the data used for the Census poverty report, we update our recent analysis to describe the characteristics of the poor in 2015 and changes in these characteristics over the last year.

The characteristics of individuals living in poverty did not change substantially from 2014 to 2015. Children still comprise more than a third of those living below poverty and students an additional 7 percent. A quarter of those living below the poverty threshold are in the labor force, either working or searching for work. Senior citizens, early retirees, the disabled, and caregivers constitute the remaining thirty percent of those living in poverty. Only 3 percent of those living in poverty fall outside of the groups just mentioned…

In order to address poverty, we must know who is poor and how the composition of who is poor is changing. This analysis describes who was living in poverty in 2015 and how that changed from the prior year. As with our analysis of poverty in 2014, this update suggests that when poor working-age adults are not employed full-time, they are often disabled, receiving education, or engaged in caregiving.

It takes a well-funded think tank like Brookings to roll out a PR piece like this without noting even though the United States is the wealthiest nation on the planet this is the best we come up with. Not a surprise for a nation which considers healthcare a privilege – instead of a right. But, then, that matches the opinion of many “important” opinion-makers predominant in our press.

Here’s a link to the Census Bureau report.

Borrowed Time by Pixar

❝ Pixar Animation Studios is known for making surprisingly dark, bold storytelling choices in its movies. For movies that are meant to be accessible to children, they can be sharply daring in the directions they take…

❝ The piece certainly is more adult, but it still has the familiar Pixar look, with marvelously expressive characters and a tremendous attention to environment and modeling…And like so many Pixar features, Borrowed Time is expressly about family bonds, and how they heighten emotions — in this case, guilt and disappointment. This is a short vignette, but it’s effective and powerful.

❝ Granted, an actual Pixar film would certainly make a point of relieving the tension and sorrow this short sets up, and would use it to some spectacular end…Hamou-Lhadj…and Coats…have set up what feels like the beginning to a terrific story. Here’s hoping they keep it going, past this tragic moment and on to the rest of the story of this man’s life.

I’ll second that emotion.

American support for legalizing marijuana reaches new highs — Har!

❝ A new Gallup poll released Wednesday shows 60 percent of American adults now say that marijuana should be legal, the highest level of support in nearly a half-century of polling on the question…The Gallup poll tracks closely with numbers from the Pew Research Center released last week showing 57 percent support for legalization…

❝ …Support for legalization has soared in the past decade among nearly every demographic group. Close to 80 percent of 18-to-34 year olds now favor legal weed, up from 44 percent in 2003 and 2005. Gallup finds that Americans age 55 and older are now the only age group with less than majority support for legalization.

❝ Support for legalization has more than doubled among Republicans in the past decade, to 42 percent today. With 70 percent support, independents are the political group most likely to favor legalization, just edging out Democrats at 67 percent.

❝ This fall, five states will decide whether to join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and DC in legalizing marijuana for personal use…The outcome of the November measures could have a transformative effect on the marijuana policy conversation going forward: “The percentage of Americans living in states where pot use is legal could rise from the current 5 percent to as much as 25 percent if all of these ballot measures pass.”

…The real prize for legalization proponents is California: “If recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California this year, many other states will likely follow, because the ‘Golden State’ often sets political trends for the rest of the U.S.”

The latest polling out of California suggest that the legalization measure is leading by a two-to-one margin.

Who wants to be the last state to board the train to the 21st Century?

An Arabic billboard in Michigan pokes fun at Donald Trump

❝ Over the weekend, a black billboard appeared alongside the highway heading into Dearborn, Michigan, the city that boasts the largest Arab population in the United States. The name “Donald Trump” is written in English, followed by Arabic script (which reads from right to left) that translates to “He can’t read this, but he is afraid of it.”

❝ The billboard is sponsored by a super PAC called Nuisance Committee, which was started by Max Tempkin, one of the creators of the racy Cards Against Humanity card game. The intent of the billboard is to spark conversation among non-Arabic speakers, encouraging them to ask their Arabic-speaking neighbors what the billboard means.

“We came up with it because we believe that Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric is not based on reality. It’s based in fear,” Nuisance Committee spokeswoman Melissa Harris told the Detroit Free Press. “And we think that irrational fear is what’s driving his anti-immigrant message.”

Idjits will avert their eyes to keep from being struck by lightning.

Police chiefs apologize for historical mistreatment of minorities

❝ The president of America’s largest police management organization on Monday issued a formal apology to the nation’s minority population “for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.”

❝ Terrence M. Cunningham, the chief of police in Wellesley, Mass., delivered his remarks at the convention in San Diego of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, whose membership includes 23,000 police officials in the United States. The statement was issued on behalf of the IACP, and comes as police executives continue to grapple with tense relationships between officers and minority groups in the wake of high-profile civilian deaths in New York, South Carolina, Minnesota and elsewhere, the sometimes violent citizen protests which have ensued as well as the ambush killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

…Cunningham’s comments are an acknowledgement of police departments’ past role in exacerbating tensions and a way to move forward and improve community relations nationwide. Two top civil rights groups on Monday commended Cunningham for taking an important first step in acknowledging the problem.

Click to enlarge

❝ “…If we are brave enough to collectively deliver this message, we will build a better and safer future for our communities and our law enforcement officers. Too many lives have been lost already, and this must end. It is my hope that many other law enforcement executives will deliver this same message to their local communities, particularly those segments of their communities that lack trust and feel disenfranchised.”

The IACP members present for Cunningham’s speech gave him a standing ovation, IACP spokeswoman Sarah Guy said. Cunningham made the remarks on behalf of the membership…

Overdue. Justly applauded.

Paddy Power paying off for a Hillary Clinton victory over Trump

❝ Paddy Power, an Irish betting market with a large presence in the UK, has already declared a winner of the US presidential election.

The market said Tuesday that it is paying out more than $1 million worth of bets on the Democratic nominee because it looks as though Clinton has sealed a win over Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“With national polls showing a healthy lead for the Democratic candidate and Donald Trump’s campaign running into scandal after scandal, Paddy Power believes it’s a done deal and that Hillary is a nailed-on certainty to occupy the Oval Office,” Paddy Power said in a statement.

The move by the betting market comes as Clinton’s odds have edged up in most models, including hitting 85% on the data site FiveThirtyEight’s polls-plus model and 91% on The New York Times’ Upshot model. She has also expanded her lead in national polls to an average of 6.9 points, according to RealClearPolitics.

❝ The betting market saw a similar decrease in probability for Trump.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of gamblers. If I could access them legally – even though I’ve rarely wagered more than a dollar on anything – I’d place occasional bets with Paddy Power.