Science and Technology links (June 1st 2019)

  1. The DeepMind engineers built an artificial intelligence (a software program) that can learn to play 3D shooter games at super-human levels.
  2. Researchers have found a way to grow large quantities of cells that can generate blood; it works for mice.
  3. Europe passed a law to protect privacy online (GDPR). It comes with annoying warnings regarding cookies. This law had a significant negative effect on emerging European technology firms (startups). It has also increased Google’s monopoly power at the expense of smaller players.
  4. When adjusting for the unreliability of solar and wind, existing coal will be cheaper than new solar and wind in all the major regions until at least 2040“.
  5. There has a been a massive drop in the number of books borrowed from libraries by college students. Myself, I switched to ebooks a decade ago and my office contains a single book: Knuth’s book.
  6. Even old people suffering from Alzheimer’s make new neurons (brain cells).

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

4 thoughts on “Science and Technology links (June 1st 2019)”

  1. “When adjusting for the unreliability of solar and wind, existing coal will be cheaper than new solar and wind in all the major regions until at least 2040“.

    The source (IEA) doesn’t seem to be very good at estimating energy developments when following the links back.

  2. Thanks for the link to:
    “When adjusting for the unreliability of solar and wind, existing coal will be cheaper than new solar and wind in all the major regions until at least 2040“. I wasn’t aware of this report and will read it in detail.

    However, I would not let that stand by itself, as a few things of context are relevant:

    The report considers the levelized cost of energy. As far as I can see, this excludes health and environmental costs. How does this analysis change with e.g. a carbon tax?
    Excluding storage from this equation (which is what the report has done) is like excluding charging infrastructure from electric cars. Sure, they are already nice without it, but only become a global force if you have such a network in place. The same goes for storage. It is clear to everybody in the industry that storage is one of the last great hurdles renewables have to clear. And between batteries, hydrogen, salt, hydroelectric power etc., I am pretty sure we’ll get a good solution up and running before 2040.

    So while I appreciate the analysis of the data and the critical look at renewables (which definitely has to happen), this context is in my opinion very important.

    Disclaimer: I work for the world leader in offshore wind energy, Ørsted.

  3. The link “When adjusting for the unreliability of solar and wind, existing coal will be cheaper than new solar and wind in all the major regions until at least 2040″ was to a report about the report. Following the links back, I discovered the “international energy agency” was created in 1974 to help deal with the first Arab Oil Embargo.

    This does not seem like an unbiased source.

    Further, most studies fail to include the externalised costs of fossil fuel use. Environment costs lead to water pollution and air pollution. Fisheries die and people get sick and die. Since the US hides it’s health care costs behind its byzatine insurance system, it has even less idea than most about the impact of fossil fuel pollution.

    That said, the sources I can find suggest that the answer is very dependent on your location. For example, in the UK coal is very expensive (all imported), so Wind and Solar beat it handily. I have found a study co-authored by the same organization (IEA) that suggests a quite close comparison between Green vs. “baseload” technology https://www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/ElecCost2015SUM.pdf.

  4. Of course in Quebec and Ontario (where you and I live respectively), a lot of our baseload is Hydro and Nuclear, so we only need a little green energy to make our whole mix pretty green. The variability of these sources is much less relevant when you have large hydro and nuclear readily available, so the LCOE of green energy will be to the low end of the cost curve for us.

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