Sometimes a single letter changes the meaning of a word. A quadracycle (with an a in the middle) describes a small, human-powered, four wheel vehicle. In contrast, a quadricycle (with an i in the middle) is a small, motorized four wheel vehicle. This word with an i is the topic of this weblog post. A quadricycle was officially defined by the European Union in 1992, and refined and divided into two official types, in 2006: Light = L6e whose unladen mass < = 425 kg, not including the mass of the batteries in case of electric vehicles, with a maximum design speed < = 45 km/h, and a maximum power < = 6 kW; and, Heavy = L7e whose unladen mass excluding batteries < = 450 kg for passenger vehicles or < = 600 kg for freight vehicles, with a maximum design speed < = 90 km/h, and a maximum power < = 15 kW. Other rules also apply. In other parts of the world, especially North America, the term microcar is used instead of quadricycle.
The driving age limit for these vehicles varies with the jurisdiction. L6e can be driven in France by someone who is 14. In Finland the age limit is 15, but in general in Europe it is 16. For many secondary school students, a L6e quadricycle has replaced the bicycle, moped and/ or bus, for transport to school and leisure activities. For L7e vehicles, the general minimum age to drive is 18.
Yet, quadricycles can be dangerous. Locally, two girls (15 and 16 years old) were killed in Steinkjer 2023-07-13 when their L6e vehicle collided with a conventional passenger car at a hilltop with limited vision, on county road 6982.
Driving behind a quadricycle can be a frustrating experience. They are difficult to pass at the best of times on Norwegian roads. There are few places where they can pull in to allow other vehicles to pass, and some drivers of them have no intention of making it easier for others to pass them.
The name quadricycle is derived from Henry Ford’s (1863 – 1947) first vehicle design, the Quadricycle, made from 1896 – 1901. It ran on four bicycle wheels, with a mid-mounted engine using chains to drive the rear wheels. It had a maximum speed of 32 km/h. Various vehicles were handbuilt, until production of the model ceased.
LUVLY, the company, was founded in 2015 in Stockholm, Sweden. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find out what they have been doing between then and now. Surely, it doesn’t take eight years to design a quadricycle L7e, even one with innovative design and production features?
The company’s electric vehicle (EV), is the LUVLY 0. It has been designed to be small and light, in two different ways. First, to reduce shipping costs and emissions, by shipping what amounts to a flatpack of 20 vehicles in a single container, ready to assemble in an assembly plant at various locations throughout the world, particularly in Europe. Second, in terms of the assembled vehicle. It is light because it lacks features that others would regard as fundamental. Think fenders or a rear window or a dashboard or air bags or charging technology.
Instead of providing a screen to provide information to drivers, LUVLY relies on the driver coming equipped with a smartphone, to be used with the LUVLY app.
According to press reports, The LUVLY O quadricycle will be launched in 2023, in Stockholm, Paris and Madrid. There aren’t many days left for that to happen! LUV stands for light urban vehicle. It is 2.7 m long, 1.5 m wide, and 1.4 m tall. It has a curb weight of 380 kg. Its 6.4 kWh battery pack, it has a maximum range of 100 km, which is adequate for most commuting, but not much else.
It has a top speed of 90 km/h. Currently, that speed is the maximum allowed on any of the roads we commonly take in Norway. Other places, including a future Trøndelag, when the E6 highway is modernize, allow 110 km/h.
It comes with two portable batteries that weigh 15 kg each, and plug into ordinary wall sockets for charging. They cannot be charged using conventional EV chargers. This may be fine at a workplace or house, but I wonder what happens if one runs low on electricity at a shopping mall?
Quadricycles are not subject to the same safety rules as conventional cars, including EVs. Thus, they are not required to be physically crash tested or to have airbags installed.
Euro NCAP’s first tests in 2014 on heavy (L7e) quadricycles showed major shortcomings in safety. The organisation called for more realistic requirements from the regulators and for quadricycle manufacturers to take more responsibility for the safety of their products. Quadricycles still lack basic safety features found on small cars. Legislators fail to challenge manufacturers to do more and give a false impression to consumers that these vehicles are fit for purpose. They are not.
The LUVLY O has been crash tested using computer simulations. Having studied computer simulation, I admire this approach. Unfortunately, crashing vehicles gives insights that simulations cannot match.
I am intrigued by LUVLY’s unconventional approaches to manufacturing. Flat panels and connectors are used to construct strong, three-dimensional sandwich composite structures resulting in a strong but light chassis.
Currently, LUVLY claims its approach to manufacturing is unique. It may be suitable to have a factory for manufacturing components in one location in the world, and numerous assembly facilities elsewhere, but this approach to production may not be cost effective. LUVLY admits there won’t be a large rollout immediately. I am skeptical that they will be able to transfer this technology to others.
Most vehicles have production runs that number in thousands of vehicles, as a minimum. Exceptions exist. It may be possible to produce limited editions of exotic vehicles, but producing limited editions of an ultra-basic quadricycle in not one of them.
LUVLY will probably never be major manufacturer of vehicles, but may end up as a minor producer. There is a market for niche products. There may be a market for minimalist commuter vehicles and delivery vans. I am not totally convinced that a sports car will be viable.
Vehicles have to be appropriate for the roadways on which they are used, as well as the people using them. At this moment, there is insufficient data to either confirm or deny the safety characteristics of a LUVLY 0. It could well be a suitable city car if used at low speeds, in some environments. It is more difficult to imagine its use in more rural environments, where it could meet large vehicles travelling at high speeds on convoluted roads. While younger drivers have quicker reactions than older drivers with more sluggish movements, I would not encourage anyone (young or old) to drive a LUVLY 0 or any other quadricycle, until adequate safety equipment is in place.
The most popular EV among the members of my amateur radio group, is a Mitsubishi I-Miev. As a used vehicle it is cheap to buy and to run. More importantly, it has passenger car safety features, even if these are not top of the class. These are used almost exclusively as commuter vehicles. Another choice is the Renault Twizy, which has just stopped production 2023-09. It is a two-seater quadricycle that is equipped with an airbag. Its replacement, the Mobilize Duo quadricycle comes with three seats and an airbag. It can be configured as an L6e vehicle with a top speed of 45 km/h, or an L7e vehicle with a top speed of 80 km/h. This is made by Renault, but is only available on a subscription basis.
Note: Once again, I would like to thank Don Wong for bringing the LUVLY 0 to my attention. Thanks, Don!
Electricity for me has always meant hydroelectric power. Wikipedia tells us: In 1878, the world’s first hydroelectric power scheme was developed at Cragside in Northumberland, England, by William Armstrong. It was used to power a single arc lamp in his art gallery. The old Schoelkopf Power Station No. 1, US, near Niagara Falls, began to produce electricity in 1881. The first Edison hydroelectric power station, the Vulcan Street Plant, began operating September 30, 1882, in Appleton, Wisconsin, with an output of about 12.5 kilowatts. By 1886 there were 45 hydroelectric power stations in the United States and Canada; and by 1889 there were 200 in the United States alone.
In 1895 the Norwegian government purchased its first waterfall, Paulenfossen, to produce electricity for the Setesdalsbanen railway line. These are both located in the south of Norway, close to Kristiansand. In the early 20th century, the government purchased the rights to many more waterfalls to produce electricity for industrial use. In 1921, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) was setup to construct and operate state-owned power plants.
Over the next 70 years, a vast number of small, medium and large-scale hydropower installations were built. Svartisen power plant in Nordland, opened in 1993. It was the last major plant build. Today, Norway has about 1 200 hydroelectric generating stations.
This weblog post looks at the Norwegian electrical energy/ power market, after the start of the war in Ukrainian. The European electrical energy market has been disrupted since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. It has affected countries differently. Here, the challenges facing Norway will be discussed. There are many different ways to look at this situation, many aligned with that individual’s role. Most people are consumers. For them, the root of the problem is the Norwegian government’s failure to impose a maximum price. Then there are investors, who use an artificially constructed market to profit from a war induced shortage of energy. In addition, the Norwegian government, as a major investor, has failed to tax these windfall profits. Instead, they use general taxation (and their own massive energy windfall profits) to subsidize some consumers, while ignoring other equally worthy groups.
ACER = Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, can be regarded as the European Union’s energy agency. Its intention is to ensure the free flow of electricity across national borders to smooth out variations in wind and solar power. It is particularly concerned about solar power which has a diurnal rhythm. Wind energy is more varied but also has a diurnal component that partially compensates solar energy. In contrast to this, hydroelectricity in Northern regions, has an annual cycle. Norway produces around 140 terawatt hours (TWh) with hydropower. In a year with normal rainfall, there is a power surplus of around 10 per cent, that is approximately 14 TWh. For Norway with hydropower, the Acer agreement does not work well.
To explain the relatively high Norwegian prices for electricity, the Norwegian government refers to the energy crisis in Europe and the war in Ukraine as an explanation for these prices. In 2020, long before the gas crisis, electricity customers in Denmark and Germany paid around NOK 3 per kilowatt hour, about six times the price in Norway. Electrical consumers have traditionally paid a lot less, because Norway built out an inexpensive hydroelectric power system. After the elimination of gas from Russia by unknown forces, possibly associated with Ukraine, they pay around NOK 4.
The water reservoirs in Norway have a natural cycle. In the spring before the snow melts, they are almost empty. During the summer, they are filled up so that they can provide electricity through the winter. There is a shortage of water in the reservoirs towards the end of winter.
The Acer agreement does not take this cycle into account. Instead, all the water Norway has in its reservoirs is seen as available power for Europe. The agreement does not take into account that the reservoirs must be filled before winter.
In contrast, if there is a lot of wind in one place, the local electricity price goes down and the electricity will then flow freely to areas with little wind and higher electricity prices.
With Acer, it is differences in electricity prices that determine where the electricity will flow, not a “desire” to import or sell. As long as the electricity price is slightly lower in Norway than in England and the EU, electricity flows out of Norway. For electrical exports to stop, the price must be the same on both sides of the cable.
For the last several years, Norway has exported significantly more than it electrical power surplus. The Norwegian government along with its control organization, NVE, a directorate under the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, and its energy distributor blame low rainfall to explain the low degree of filling.
An awkward government and Statnett stand passively and watch power flow out of Norway at the same time as the reservoirs in southern Norway have a historically low level of filling. Statnett argues that the power cables used for export can also be used for import. In this way, delivery security is ensured. What they don’t want to discuss is if the price level will be significantly higher.
With the last two foreign cables, the export capacity from southern Norway was well over double the power surplus.
With new cables, Acer, the free flow of electricity, supply and demand in Norway no longer determines the price of electricity. Instead, it is determined in the EU and England, for the whole of southern Norway (NO1, NO2 and NO5). Central Norway (NO3) and Northern Norway (NO5) were initially shielded from European price levels, but this is gradually changing. A planned increase in transmission capacity between north and south will only contribute to higher prices in the north without lowering the price in the south.
More electricity to the south means more exports until the reservoirs in the north are also depleted and we get the same situation in the north as in the south.
Most Norwegians are willing to contribute electricity to Europe. However, the amount of power to be exported has to be determined by the Norwegian power surplus. The result of this export is an increasingly lower degree of filling in the water reservoirs. At some point, this draining of the magazines must stop.
Electricity prices in Europe will reach new heights in the winter and we will be forced to pay even higher electricity prices in Norway to get electricity back.
In a worst case situation, Norway will not have enough water in the reservoirs to get it through the winter. If that happens, the overseas cables do not have enough capacity to supply Norway with electricity, and one will end up with electricity rationing.
The Norwegian government is currently providing support mechanisms for consumers. It is perpetually investigating imposing maximum prices. Competition rules in the EU prevent electricity support mechanisms for business, although some exceptions have been made, especially for farmers. The result has been the elimination of power-intensive industry in the south of Norway.
The government says that investing in offshore wind and more renewable power will contribute to lower electricity prices. The development of more renewable electricity, in the form of wind or solar, in Norway is only intended to cover its own increased consumption. Norway will never have a power surplus corresponding to the transmission capacity of 35 TWh, which is what is needed for the market in southern Norway.
The EU has a colossal need for more renewable electricity in the coming years. Currently, only 10 percent of the EU’s energy needs are covered by renewable energy.
With the demand for a 50 percent CO₂ cut in the Paris Agreement, there is no reason to hope for lower electricity prices in the EU in the next 10 years. At the same time, there is no reasonable reason why southern Norway should have sky-high electricity prices. Most Norwegians are agreed that if lower electricity prices are to prevail in Norway, along with a stable power situation, the Acer agreement must be renegotiated or terminated.
Norway has voted twice against joining the EU, once in 1972 and then again in 1994.
Opposition to Norwegian membership in the EU is still strong, according to a survey carried out by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) in 2023-03. This indicated that if a referendum was held then, 52% of those who responded said they would vote against membership of the European block. Only 27% would vote yes, while more of the rest said they most likely wouldn’t participate in a new referendum. Most Norwegians do not wish to cede sovereignty to the EU.
Norway is still integrated into Europe through its European Economic Area Agreement membership, which gives it access to the EU internal market. Norwegians have a general skepticism not just to big business, but to their own government!
Overseas cables are then used for power exchange and the sale of excess power without giving us European price levels. Just as Statnett promised us before the cables were put into operation.
Norway’s power surplus and net exports over time will be roughly the same without Acer, and Statnett will still receive income from sales abroad. Norway can still help fulfill the intention of the Acer agreement, that is to say help to smooth out variations in wind power. If it is very windy in England or the EU, we can accept excess wind power and at the same time reduce our own power production. It is very easy to turn off hydroelectric turbines. When there is little wind, we can give back the same amount of electricity. The whole exercise becomes a zero-sum game, profiting all participants.
In Norway the population is skeptical to politicians. Politicians of all colours are seen as aligning themselves with foreign investors to prey upon the weak. In this Norway is not unique.
Most Norwegian consumers opt for spot prices. We choose a fixed price. If one looks at our electricity bill in 2021, the energy component of 1 kW of electricity cost about NOK 0.20, while the infrastructure component was about NOK 0.30. Altogether, slightly over NOK 0.50. In 2022, the infrastructure component was changed to take into account the maximum amount of electricity consumed. It was not directly comparable with the situation in 2021. With the War in Ukraine, and the difficulties faced by people in Continental Europe to access Russian gas, the energy component of electricity prices escalated, for those using spot prices. The government provided consumers with support which amounted to 80% (in summer) or 90% (in winter) of the amount that exceeded NOK 0.70 per kW/h.
Because of our fixed price agreement, we were spared price increases for most of 2022. On 2022-12-01, a new fixed price agreement took effect. Before the infrastructure component, and subsidies, the energy component of 1 kWh of electricity now cost NOK 1.00, five times the price the year before.
A year later, on 2023-11-07, Trish received her next annual SMS from our electrical company. They wanted to know if we wanted to renew our fixed price contract for another year, with a kWh price of NOK 1.0015, or go over to a spot price, they claimed was currently at NOK 0.42.
She replied to the SMS with a positive answer. There are two reasons for this. First, we don’t want to worry about choosing the correct hour to use electricity. Second, we are uncertain if the relatively cheap prices will continue. Some hours after answering, NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, could tell us that the spot prices in our region on that same date, were not NOK 0.42, but NOK 1.14 at their lowest at 02:00 in the morning, but had increased to NOK 2.77 by 18:00. They then fell to NOK 1.71 at 22:00.
As I write this ragged post, I read in 2023-07 the world has never been hotter for 120 000 years = 3.786912 Ts for SI addicts, or a very long time for the rest of us. Industrialization forced the world into a dependence on fossil fuels, coal initially then petroleum. Overcoming this dependency has not been easy. Nuclear power has been one proposed answer, but its waste products put demands on future generations that last thousands of years. Hydrogen has been proposed as an energy bearer, but its use increases energy consumption.
Each form of sustainable energy has its own individual challenges. Communities can choose their poison based on what is best for them. Among the choices are solar, wind, hydro and geothermal, or some combination.
In Europe, with a war waging in Ukraine, and the region still dependent on fossil fuels, there are countries, companies and individuals seeking profit maximization. Governments, possibly out of a fear of losing access to this energy, are unwilling to tax war profiteering. Indeed, one sees that they are in the pockets of international investors.
In democracies, as well as more autocratic countries, politics has become a career choice. This is wrong. I have nothing against a person working as a politician for, say, four/ five years. However, at the end of that time, they should return to other forms of earning a livelihood, and be quarantined from further political activity for at least twice the length of their political period. Just as there is a minimum age to vote, or be elected to office, there should be some maximum age. A start age of about 20, and an end age of about 65 would allow the most enthusiastic people to work as politicians for about 15 years, and in other occupations for a further 30.
In much the same way that there should be minimum wages, that should mirror living wages, it would be useful for the world to set a maximum income.
Reddy Kilowatt Update
Art Vaughan wrote: “The hydro plant in Appleton has been one of the things the city fathers … and mothers? … have long trumpeted. However, when I was in the fourth grade or so my class went through the “modern” hydro plant in Appleton. Much more impressive and I still have the Reddy Kilowatt pin they gave us!”
Reddy Kilowatt (see above) is drawn as a stick figure whose body, limbs, and hair are made of stylized lightning-bolts and whose bulbous head has a light bulb for a nose and wall outlets for ears. It was devised by Ashton Budd Collins Sr. (1885 – 1976), and first used in an advertisement for the Alabama Power Company on 1926-03-14. It was used as a spokesperson for electrical generation in the United States (and elsewhere, such as Canada) from 1926 to 1999, although usage started to sag in the 1980s.
This weblog post is about Beta Technologies, and especially its partnerships with companies in California and British Columbia.
Beta Technologies is a aerospace manufacturer based in Burlington, Vermont. Since its founding in 2017, it has been developing electric vertical take off and landing (eVTOL) as well as electric conventional take-off and landing (eCTOL) aircraft for the cargo, medical passenger, and military aviation applications. It has also developed a network of chargers which can supply power to aircraft. Training programs for future electric aircraft pilots and maintainers are also provided.
This weblog has covered electric aircraft previously including the ePlane, the Eviation Alice, the eCaravan, Heart Aerospace ES-19 in addition to draft content about other aircraft has been written, but not yet published. I am not surprised that established airplane manufacturers are not at the forefront of electric aviation. This is actually expected according to Clayton Christensen (1952 – 2020). He introduced disruption as an business concept in The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997). Steam shovel manufacturers went bankrupt, while their former market was won over by upstart innovators making hydraulic excavators. Battery based transportation has emerged for land based vehicles, ferries and other ship based transport, as well as aviation.
General Motors may have started the 21st century revitalization of the electric vehicle, with their EV1 in 1996 – 1999, but ended up crushing almost all of the 1 117 EVs produced. An estimated 40 survived, with deactivated powertrains. They claimed the EV was dead.
Tesla Motors was founded 2003-07 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, as a tribute to inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. In 2004-02, Elon Musk became the company’s largest shareholder with a $6.5 million investment. He became CEO in 2008. Tesla’s announced mission is to create products which help accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. The company began production of its first car model, the Roadster sports car, in 2008.
Tesla Superchargers are a major reason why the brand has become so dominant. A reliable, fast and accessible charging infrastructure has shown itself to be of critical importance in the adoption of EVs. The Tesla charger, known as NACS = North American Charging Standard, developed by Tesla has been used on all North American market Tesla vehicles since 2012 and was opened for use by other manufacturers in 2022.
Beta’s ALIA electric conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) aircraft completed a flight milestone of its own in 2023-10, traveling 1 700 nautical miles = 3060 km = from Vermont, across 12 states to Duke Field, a subsidiary of Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida, where the US Air Force is now validating the aircraft for vital use capabilities including critical resupply, cargo deliveries and personnel transport.
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) published a report in 2023-09 titled Interoperability of Electric Charging Infrastructure. This report concluded that shared charging infrastructure offers numerous benefits, in contrast to OEMs developing multiple proprietary protocols.
Beta Technologies has focused on building out an aviation charging network, not only for its own aircraft, but for the entire aviation sector by using an existing standard. Beta has been in developing electric aircraft charging technology since its founding, in anticipation of a new widespread mobility segment. It has 14 charging stations online in the US, with 55 additional sites already in development or under construction.
Meanwhile, in San Jose, California, Archer Aviation has been developing its own eVTOL aircraft. Archer is a publicly traded company. They have entered into a collaboration, where Archer intends to implement BETA’s electric aircraft charging technology to support its own eVTOL aircraft.
Geography may have been one reason why Beta and Archer found each other. Beta’s charging infrastructure is on the American east coast, while Archer is a west coast entity. Archer will begin by implement two of Beta’s Charge Cube systems at its test facilities in California. It will also deploy multiple Mini Cube mobile chargers. This could become the basis for aviation charging, much as NACS has become the de facto standard for land based EVs.
Archer’s focus is on eVTOL aircraft is to offer an aerial ridesharing service, also referred to as Urban Air Mobility (UAM). They are planned to transport people in and around cities in an air taxi service and are claimed to have a range of up to 160 km at speeds of up to 240 km/h. United Airlines is its first major corporate partner, having ordered two hundred Archer electric aircraft.
This Weblog post began because Don Wong sent me a link to an article about Helijet International.
Helijet International is a Richmond, British Columbia based helicopter airline and charter service. Scheduled passenger helicopter services operate flights between heliports at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), downtown Vancouver ( on a floating structure, adjacent to Waterfront Station on Burrard Inlet), downtown Nanaimo at the Cruise Ship Welcome Centre, and downtown Victoria. Helijet also has facilities at Seal Cove (CBF6) in Prince Rupert, and at Sandspit Airport (YZP) and Masset Airport (ZMT) both on Haida Gwai = an island group previously known as the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Helijet Charters serves the film, television, aerial tour, industrial and general charter markets. It is also British Columbia’s largest air medical service provider.
The Helijet fleet currently consists of 3 medevac equipped Aérospatiale AS350 helicopters, 15 Sikorsky S-76 12 passenger helicopters, and a Learjet 31 fixed wing aircraft.
Don’s link said that Helijet would work with Beta to build a five-passenger plus pilot Alia eVTOL aircraft for traveller and commercial transportation, to be used in southwestern B.C. and the Pacific Northwest region. A publicity event to announce this was held on 2023-10-31 at Helijet’s Victoria Harbour Heliport, attended by Skye Carapetyan, sales director of Beta, British Columbia Premier David Eby, and Danny Sitnam, CEO of Helijet.
According to the announcement, the aircraft are currently in advanced flight standards development toward commercial regulatory certification in 2026. These aircraft are quieter, cost less, and are more sustainable for air transportation. However, eVTOL aircraft are not identical with helicopters. This means that the ground and building infrastructure at existing heleports will have to be updated to vertiport standards, which includes integrating zero-emission capabilities, and vertical lift technologies.
The electric aircraft’s vertical take-off and landing ability will also improve emergency response, air ambulance and organ transfer services in the British Columbia, especially the Lower Mainland. It will helping rural/ remote communities gain access to affordable and convenient air services.
Eby commented that the provincial government recognizes the potential of advanced air mobility to decarbonize the aviation sector, improve regional connectivity, improve emergency response times and introduce new manufacturing opportunities.
This post was originally called Digital Power Transmission. It began with content about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to find faults in electrical power assets in Kansas and Missouri. That introduction became ancient history on 2023-10-26, when I read an article about pigeons using the same approach as AI to problem solving. I wondered if pigeons would make AI more understandable.
So, now this post begins with a scientific study of pigeons!
Columba livia domestica, has been found in records that are 5 000 years old. Its domestication is far older, possibly stretching back 10 000 years. Among pigeons that are bred specifically for particular attributes, homing pigeons are bred for navigation and speed.
Pigeons are able to acquire orthographic processing skills = the use of visually represented words/ symbols, and basic numerical skills equivalent to those shown in primates.
In Project Sea Hunt, a US coast guard search and rescue project in the 1970s/1980s, pigeons were shown to be more effective than humans in spotting shipwreck victims at sea.
A study was undertaken at the University of Iowa, by Brandon Turner, lead author, a professor of psychology, and Edward Wasserman, co-author and a professor of experimental psychology. 24 pigeons were given a variety of visual tasks, some of which they learned to categorize in a matter of days, and others in a matter of weeks. The researchers found evidence that the mechanism pigeons use to make correct choices is similar to that AI models use to make predictions. Using AI-speak, nature has created an algorithm that is highly effective in learning very challenging tasks, not necessarily fast, but with consistency.
On a screen, pigeons were shown different stimuli, like lines of different width, placement and orientation, as well as sectioned and concentric rings. Each bird had to peck a button on the right or left to decide which category they belonged to. If they got it correct, they got a food pellet; if they got it wrong, they got nothing.
Pigeons learn through trial and error. With simple tasks, pigeons improved their ability to make right choices from 55% to 95% of the time. With more complex challenges, accuracy increased from 55% to 68%.
In an AI model, the main goal is to recognize patterns and make decisions. Pigeons do the same. Learning from the consequences of being given a food pellet (or not), they show a remarkable ability to correct their errors. Similarity function is also at play for pigeons, by using their ability to find resemblance between two objects.
Those two mechanisms alone, can be used to define a neural network = an AI-machine that solves categorization problems.
Back to the original content, Digital Power Transmission
Now, this post will examine the use of AI, and other digital technologies, in electrical energy transmission. Sometimes one has to venture outside of one’s backyard, to gain new insights. Today, the focus is on the Kansas and Missouri. More than four percent of this blog’s readers have roots in Kansas, in Leavenworth and Riley counties, making it one of the “big six” American states. The others being (in alphabetical order) Arizona, California, Michigan, New Hampshire and Washington. Yes, this weblog does have American content, because – sometimes – Americans are at the forefront.
Much of the initial work into the use of AI in grid management was done by Argonne National Laboratory, of Lemont, Illinois. After conducting AI grid studies, they stated that: “In a region with 1 000 electric power assets, such as generators and transformers, an outage of just three assets can produce nearly a billion scenarios of potential failure.” The calculation actually being: 1 000 x 999 x 998 = 997 002 000, which is close enough to a billion, for most people.
The Norwegian company, eSmart Systems, with its headquarters in Halden, bordering Sweden, in south-eastern Norway, provides AI based solutions for the inspection and maintenance of critical infrastructure related to electrical power generation and distribution.
Note: the term, asset, as used here, generally refers to a large structure, such as a electrical power generating station, or a substation, that transforms voltages (and amperages). For me, an asset will always be an accounting term, associated with the credit (left) side of a balance sheet, in contrast to a liability on the debit (right) side. My preferred terminology would be structure, works or plant.
In this project eSmart will act as project management lead alongside engineering consultants EDM International, Inc. of Fort Collins, Colorado and GeoDigital, of Sandy Springs – near Atlanta – Georgia. Together, these will provide large-scale data acquisition and high-resolution image processing.
eSmart Systems is working with Evergy, a Topeka, Kansas based electric utility company that serves more than 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri, to digitize Evergy’s power transmission system. It is also working with Xcel Energy, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and an unnamed “major public utility in the Southeast” of the United States.
Grid Vision tracks the performance of ongoing inspection work, provides instant insight of the location and severity of verified high-priority defects, and provides utility managers and analysts a deep and flexible framework for further asset intelligence.
The three-and-a-half-year-long Evergy project will improve reliability and resiliency of over 14 000 km of Evergy’s power transmission system by using Grid Vision to create a digital inventory of its assets, accelerating image analysis capabilities, and improving inspection accuracy by using AI combined with virtual inspections. The expected result is a significant cost reduction for inspections, maintenance and repairs.
There is a need for a dynamic energy infrastructure to ensure efficient, safe and reliable operations. AI, and especially machine learning, are increasingly used as tools to improve the reliability of high-voltage transmission lines. In particular, they can allow a grid to transition away from fossil and nuclear sources to more variable sources, such as solar and wind. This will become increasingly more important for several reasons. Extreme weather will offer increasingly more challenging operations, and the grid will have to support an increasing number of electric vehicles.
The vast number of choices means that random choices cannot be relied upon to provide results when facing multiple failures. Some form of intelligence is needed, human or machine, real or artificial, if problems are to be resolved quickly.
Wind and solar generation
Kansas state senator Mike Thompson (R-Shawnee), is a former meteorologist, who is currently chair of the Kansas Senate Utilities Committee. He has introduced bill SB 279, “Establishing the wind generation permit and property protection act and imposing certain requirements on the siting of wind turbines.” This bill would require wind and solar farms to be built on land zoned for industrial use. The problem with this proposal is that half of Kansas’ 105 counties are unzoned. These counties that want wind or solar energy would have to be zoned as industrial.
The Annual Economic Impacts of Kansas Wind Energy Report 2020, reports that wind energy is the least expensive energy source, providing 22 000 jobs (directly and indirectly). After Iowa, Kansas ranks second in the US for wind power, contributing 44% of Kansas’s electricity net generation.
Typically, there are two reasons for objections to wind and solar power. First, some people have an economic connection with fossil fuels. Second, and especially for wind, they don’t like their visual and aural impact on the environment.
Another source of conflict is aboriginal rights. This topic will be covered in an upcoming but unscheduled post, Environmental Racism.
While the focus of this weblog post is a kitchen, information about the house provides some context.
We have lived in our house since 1989-03-01, almost thirty-five years. Officially, it is known as Fjellheim = Mountain Home, from a time when residences in a municipality all had a unique name. Later, it was given a street address, once streets were given names, and houses were assigned numbers. This system is specifically designed and imposed to help emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, find any location! It applies everywhere in Norway. So, convention ensures that there is a starting point for a street, with odd numbers on the right and even numbers on the left. The number shows the distance from the start point, with #100 located one kilometer from the start. Thus, Vangshylla 82, indicates that our house is about 820 meters from the start point, on the left side of the road leading to Vangshylla. The start point is where this road meets National Highway 755.
We refer to the house as Cliff Cottage, because it sits on bedrock, on a cliff about 35 meters above sea level, as shown in the satellite image.
The house was built in 1963, and had two previous owners. The first owner built it as a replacement for a house that had burned down at the same location. The main floor had an area of 90 m2, close to the maximum size allowed for residences built at the time, 100 m2. The second owner had bought it as a potential retirement house. After the rules were relaxed, an additional 15 m2 bedroom was added.
The house does not meet everyone’s 21st century expectations, with the possible exception of its servers and fibre-optic Internet cables. Some people regard it as small. We refer to it as a cottage. However, it is not a single-story dwelling. The main living area is upstairs from the entrance. However, on the entry level there are rooms suitable for various activities. There is a weaving studio, a library (for books made of paper), a bedroom, laundry room, bathroom and two storage rooms. The house was large enough to raise two children. It is still suitable for a retired couple, capable of using stairs. With mobility issues, it is also possible to add other measures, such as a chair lift/ elevator.
We have remodelled much of the house over the years, making it more appropriate for our specific needs. Changes include adding sliding doors to enter most rooms, hardwood floors in bedrooms, and ceiling tiles. In about 2010, the bathroom was transformed, but the people who did the remodelling did not put in pipe-in-pipe plumbing, despite it being required at the time. This has now been corrected.
Before and during the great pandemic, two outside walls were enhanced with increased insulation, along with the remodelling of the living room that included larger windows and a glass balcony door that opened onto a terrace, above a carport and shed for the gardener. These efforts allowed more light to enter the house, as well as providing residents with greater opportunity to see the land- and waterscape of Trondheim Fjord.
In 2023, it was time for the kitchen to be remodelled. Apart from some new floor coverings, the kitchen was the same as it started life in 1963. There were two main problems with the kitchen. A lack of usable counter space, and a lack of storage space. Relative to income, kitchen cabinets and counters were expensive in Norway in the 1960s.
I searched for some advice about kitchen remodelling in 2022. Google news continues to provide links to posts about kitchen trends in 2023 and, more recently, 2024. The general suggestions were that people wanted increasing convenience, comfort and personality, along with less grey and more green. The advice that I appreciated most was to construct less perfect kitchens, because perceived perfection was inhibiting use. A kitchen shouldn’t be a trophy on display 24/7. I interpreted this to mean that kitchens should be simple in design, yet sturdy in their construction.
Making a kitchen less perfect has not been difficult. The major supplier of building materials was Biltema = Car theme (literal translation), yet another Swedish chain that provides tools/ equipment/ supplies far beyond its automotive starting point in 1962. In most cases, its products are not great, but gudenuf. Take the oak countertops as an example. They are available in one size only: 25 x 600 x 2 400 mm/ 1″ x 2′ x 8′. They now cost about 2/3 the price of an equivalent IKEA product, and are of lower quality. When we first started buying them, before the pandemic, they were half that price. These were used not just for the countertops, but also for a folding kitchen table, allowing the two main residents to view wildlife events in the trees. In the future, some countertops will be cut into risers for the main stairway.
The cabinets all started life as 18 x 600 x 2 400 mm spruce shelving material, that were then cut to size. All of the hardware (think hinges, drawer slides and handles) were also supplied by Biltema, as was all of the ventilation material. Why Biltema? Perhaps the answer lies in its cafe, providing a good tasting, but inexpensive, chocolate milkshake. This encourages Biltema to be the last stop on shopping expeditions to Steinkjer.
12 mm birch plywood was also used, for doors and drawers. It was supplied by the Coop! Slides for the sliding doors were provided by a specialist company in nearby Verdal. We had used them before to make troughs to remove rainwater flowing from the terrace.
The workshop, a repurposed single car garage, has been used to transform the wood into kitchen fixtures. Much of this was painted or oiled in the carport, before it was fitted in place.
At one point, to save time, I decided to use a local company in Inderøy, to make ten kitchen drawers. These drawers were all to have the same depth and width, but in two heights, four short = 100 mm and six tall = 150 mm. This outsourcing had two negative results. First, there was no time saving because they used three months to make them. Second, two of the short drawers were made with 20 mm insufficient depth, so that the IKEA fittings would not fit in them. All of the other eight drawers were made the correct size.
A local plumber added pipe-in-pipe plumbing to the bathroom as well as the kitchen, during the remodelling process. The sink and tap/ faucet as well as the wastewater plumbing associated with the sink, were supplied by IKEA.
The electrical system was upgraded at the beginning of 2023, replacing old 10 A circuits, and adding a couple of new 16 A circuits as well as the 32 A charging robot for electric vehicles. Unlike most of Europe, about 70% of the Norwegian grid is without grounding, using an IT distribution system. Our house is grounded using a stake on our own property. It is unrealistic to assume that this system will change in our lifetime.
The kitchen has a nominal 240 V using one 20 A and two 16 A circuits. The 20 A circuit is used for the cooktop, and has circuit breakers with thermal = heat monitoring. There is also a dedicated 16 A circuit for the oven. The remaining 16 A circuit is used for everything else.
The first part of the kitchen to be constructed was the coffee and tea station. Then, dead storage space for kitchen related materials was added close to the ceiling. At this point, it was possible to put in ceiling lighting and ceiling tiles. Upper and lower cabinets could then be added.
A Beha ventilation fan was bought in 2011, but never installed until now. The microwave oven was bought in 2019, followed by a fridge and freezer in 2021. These were made by Samsung. They were bought in Steinkjer at the Power store. The cooktop has a Husqvarna label, but it along with the oven and dishwasher are made by Electrolux. These were purchased in 2023. We decided that we wanted to prioritize buying these from the Elon electrical appliance store located in Inderøy.
There is a lot of hype being written about smart technology in the kitchen. I am skeptical, because I see manufacturers trying to lock people into their own solutions. Despite this, there are two Ethernet connections at opposite ends of the kitchen, but neither are in use.
Both Samsung and Electrolux claim their appliances can be connected using wifi and controlled with a smartphone. Unfortunately, they want to use proprietary software to this. Recently, Matter has been developed as an open-source connectivity standard that can be used by all manufacturers. Manufacturers have not prioritized integrating their own products using this standard. Thus, smart kitchens are still inconvenient, and waste time.
After watching a documentary about linoleum, it was decided that the flooring should be made of this. Forbo Marmoleum Click tiles in Lemon Zest were chosen. Then the rather dull yellow base colour, as well as the yellow and green door and drawer colours were chosen, to support this initial choice. White splashboards were used to make sure that the kitchen remained bright and lively.
This kitchen is designed primarily to support a person who enjoys cooking and baking, and a couple – sometimes more – who enjoy eating the fruits of her labour.
I turn 75 years old today 2023-10-31. I am told, and periodically experience, that old age brings about frailty. Looking it up in an online dictionary, its definition sounds worse than I feel: as an aging-related syndrome of physiological decline, characterized by marked vulnerability to adverse health outcomes. Frail older patients often present with an increased burden of symptoms including weakness and fatigue, medical complexity, and reduced tolerance to medical and surgical interventions. My own definition is much simpler, frailty = reduced capabilities.
I notice that my renovation/ construction projects are taking longer to complete. It is not just because I have less energy in the day to work actively at them, but equally, there is less enthusiasm. The latest project involves the kitchen, with changes to the plumbing and electrical system that included some work by others. It took much longer than planned.
I have said that I will retire from construction projects starting 2024-01-01. I am aware that this will not be a complete stop. Additional work is needed in the attic to make it a suitable place to store things. This activity will continue, but only when I want to do it, and feel capable. I will accept no imposed deadlines.
Things can be a polite term for junk. Every time I think about storage, I recall Allied Van Lines, and their advertisements in the 1960s where they stated that they did not mix other people’s junk with your valuable possessions. In my dreams, I regularly see myself as a child peering into the back of a moving van, filled with increasingly irrelevant technology. The moving van gradually transforms into a dumpster.
Today, millennials are storing less junk because books, music, videos, games and more, are digital files stored on servers and distributed as needed to other devices.
In my old order universe, there were physical things: books were printed documents; music was long-play records or CDs or many other things; videos involved Betamax and VHS formats, DVDs and even laserdisks; games involved dice, pieces and folded cardboard sheets representing the game universe. In my preferred new order universe, things are files on a computer. I have not yet accepted that files should be kept on clouds = some stranger’s computer/ server. My solution is to encourage family members to cooperate, by storing encrypted backup data on each other’s servers.
Duolingo/ Sudoku/ Books
Duolingo and Sudoku are two activities I engage in on a daily basis, even though recent news reports tell me that these may not prevent dementia.
With Duolingo I regularly change languages. Within days of the start of the current war in Ukraine, I began to study Ukrainian. In 2023, I alternated between Ukrainian and Finnish. I used to change between these two languages, up to several times a week. Then, I stuck with each language for a month, before switching. For me, it was much easier than working with both languages every day.
After my son, Alasdair, asked for my company on a trip to the Outer Hebrides for five days in the summer of 2024, I decided to focus my attention exclusively on (Scottish) Gaelic. This does not mean that I am prepared to eat guga = salted gannet, on these travels. Fortunately, Is toil leam brocham gu mor! = I like porridge a lot!
Sudoku involves filling in squares in a printed book. Within each square I can code numbers using dots following the same numerical sequence used on touch-tone telephones, with 1-2-3 on the top and 7-8-9 on the bottom. There is no need for 0, or operation keys +,- x, / or =. I have decided that when the puzzles in my current book are used up, I will just use a Sudoku program found on my laptop or hand-held device. I say this every time…
Apart from Sudoku, I do not find games fun at all. I include crosswords as a type of game. My significant other plays card games on her laptop. I agree with Art Vaughan, that real-world challenges are more interesting problems to solve than constructed games.
Reading books in Norwegian
I attempt to read at least a chapter a day of books written in Norwegian. In part, this is to keep my Norwegian vocabulary active. This decision came about because of a conversation. I wanted to use the Norwegian word for jam, syltetøy. However, all that came out was French, confiture.
One newly read book was written by Norwegian author Geir Pollen (1953 – ), who lived in Russia from 2007 to 2020. Volga : En russisk reise (2021) = Volga : A Russian trip. It actually involved many trips over many years, but is organized geographically from the Volga headwaters north-west of Moscow, until the river enters the Caspian sea.
Reading about Russia is my attempt to understand the most extensive war in Europe since the second world war. I find that it helps to have it explained by someone from a culture where I have lived for over forty years. I am not so sure, I would be equally receptive to a book written by someone who has an American perspective. The book was written before the second Russian incursion into Ukraine.
The title of chapter 65, the last about the middle section of the Volga, can be translated as the world as a listening exercise. It is about Sofia Gubaidulina (1931 – ) born in Chistopol, in Tatarstan, Russia with Tatar and Russian heritage, a composer who has lived in Appen, a village near Hamburg, Germany, since 1991-02. Here is one shorter work: Vivente – Non vivente, for ANS Synthesizer (1970).
Pollen says that Gubaidulina describes her music as: a journey in a soundscape where the composer is just as exposed to the unknown as the musician and the listener. In the universe it sounds like: the things, the plants, the trees, the people, the animals, the earth, the stars. It is the starting point of music. If the people concentrated and did not surround themselves with so much noise, they would hear it. She compares modern life to a city where the artificial lights make it impossible to see the starry sky. The loss of the height dimension, the vertical in existence, is the greatest threat to mankind today, because we cannot live only in the horizontal, on the surface (p. 323).
I concur. The world is challenged by noise. I dislike noisy motorcycles. Yet, even more disturbing are subwoofers played inside assorted vehicles. They are especially annoying when I am walking through a natural environment. I may not be able to hear the sounds emanating from them, but I can feel them, and am looking forward to limits being placed on their noise levels.
The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory that states that individuals use up resources shared by many to benefit themselves. Because individuals generally act selfishly, shared resources are misused so that everyone ends up suffering in the end. I regard quiet and darkness as important shared resources. Other important shared resources include the atmosphere, the oceans, forests and wildlife. I am almost successful at unlearning the value of densely populated urban spaces. The British economic writer, William Forster Lloyd (1794 – 1852), introduced the concept in a pamphlet in 1833.
American ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin (1915 – 2003) wrote about the tragedy of the commons in a 1968 paper, calling attention to the damage that innocent actions by individuals can inflict on the environment. He is also known for Hardin’s First Law of Human Ecology: We can never do merely one thing. Any intrusion into nature has numerous effects, many of which are unpredictable. He is also regarded by many as a white supremacist/ racist. For example, he wrote: Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor, that appeared in Psychology Today, September 1974.
Global warming is another example of the tragedy of the commons theory. At least since the start of the industrial revolution, individuals, companies and societies around the world have been engaged in activities that have a serious impact on the atmosphere. In many cases, there is no disincentive for a company to stop releasing toxic chemicals into the air. Indeed, they have an incentive to do so because it allows them to increase their profits. They seem to have no obligation about how their actions will affect others. These actions can have a lasting effect on the planet, and everyone and everything on it, for generations.
I have already bought my next Norwegian language book by the same author, about a failed Swedish invasion of Trøndelag, aka the Carolean Death March, in the winter of 1718-19, led by Karl Gustav Armfeldt (1666 – 1736). Armfeldts Armé : historien om en katastrofe (2014) = Armfeldt’s Army : The history of a catastrophe.
Reading books in English
I regularly read books written by Obi Kaufmann (1973 – ): The California Field Atlas, The State of Water: Understanding California’s Most Precious Resource, The Coasts of California, The Forests of California. I am also looking to two forthcoming books, The Deserts of California, and The State of Fire: How, Where and Why California Burns.
I am also reading: Russia Against Modernity (2023), by Alexander Etkind (1955 – ): “Communism was modernity’s most devout, vigorous and gallant champion … It was under communist, not capitalist, auspices that the audacious dream of modernity … was pushed to its radical limits: grand designs, unlimited social engineering, huge and bulky technology, total transformation of nature.” Zygmunt Bauman (1925 – 2017), Intimations of Post-Modernity (1992) p. 179.
Modernity takes various forms. Etkind names a bureaucratic modernity, as proposed by Max Weber (1864 – 1920), in the 19th century, which was replaced by a paleomodernity, in the 20th century, with an emphasis on using nature for resources and energy. Now the world has encountered a gaiamodernity, from a theory proposed by James Lovelock (1919 – 2022) and developed in cooperation with Lynne Margulis (1938 – 2011) that is focused on using less resources and less energy. Small is beautiful, is a catchphrase for this era, as well as a book from 1973, written by Ernst Friedrich Schumacher (1911 – 1977).
In contrast, Russia is attempting to reverse modernity with its own special operation: stopmodernism. Anthony Giddens (1938 – ) expressed many of the ideas behind it, in his theory of structuration. Etkind views the 2022 war in Ukraine as structuration in practice (p. 8), and the war as a campaign against modernity. The major issue is trust.
My next work on Russia will be by Masha Karp (1956 – ) about George Orwell = Eric Arthur Blair (1903 – 1950). George Orwell and Russia (2023). She claims that Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty Four (1949) were not dystopias, but accurate fictional depictions of reality. Her book explores how Orwell’s work was received in Russia, and how it affects the totalitarian political reality today. It also why The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), Orwell’s exploration of British poverty, was never published in Russian. In this context, Vladimir Putin’s actions are simply the next transformation of totalitarianism, as predicted and described by Orwell.
Tony Judt’s (1948 – 2010) Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (2005), is also scheduled to be read. Judt decided to write this in 1989 while waiting for a train at Vienna central station, inspired at least in part by having witnessed the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. While the work has been highly praised, it has also been criticized.
Fiction has been missing in my diet. However, The Sycamore Gap Tree incident has inspired a change. On 2023-09-28, a sycamore tree standing next to Hadrian’s Wall near Crag Lough in Northumberland, England was felled, illegally. It was located in a dramatic dip in the landscape, which was created by glacial meltwater and was a popular photographic subject, described as one of the most photographed trees in the country and an emblem for the North East of England. As a steward to another sycamore tree, grown from a seed, I understand the loss.
Shortly afterwards, I discovered that Louise (LJ) Ross, had written a romantic crime novel taking place there. I am not quite sure what a romantic crime novel is, but decided I could experiment with it. Unfortunately, Sycamore Gap is the second book in the series, so I am first having to slog my way through her first book, Holy Island, about crime on Lindisfarne.
Sometimes I cannot appreciate the world without reflecting on local issues. Trust was eroded in Inderøy, this past summer, on the recreational hikes, as up to several people opted to drive between posts, rather than walking, using wheelchairs or kayaks to access them. Driving is not part of the social contract! As I write this, I think of Vic Leach, in New Westminster, encouraging people to walk more.
Trust is also being eroded in Norwegian political parties at the national level. There was a municipal/ county election in Norway on 2023-09-10. For the first time since 1924, the Labour Party was not the most popular party. In recent years there have been too many issues arising involving politicians, in this and other parties. For example, the leader of the political party I voted for in the national election in 2021, admitted to shoplifting a pair of sunglasses at a taxfree store at Oslo airport. I voted for another party in the municipal elections, and will probably continue to do so in the national elections to be held in 2025.
Meanwhile, some Norwegian government ministers have been criticized for their failure to follow rules, most often, recently about stock purchases, that could involve insider information. Sometimes, it is not the minister who is purchasing stocks, but their spouse.
Ulrich Bech (1944 – 2015) wrote that “social inequalities and climate change are two sides of the same coin”, Climate for Change, or How to Create a Green Modernity? in Theory, Culture & Society 27.2-3 (2010): 254-66, quoted from p. 257. Somewhere I read that members of the billionaire class use one million times more energy than the median earthling. Every time I read about energy inequality, I think of Technocracy, which aimed to give people an equal share of energy. Technocracy and light pollution are two topics that I intend to address in the next 99 upcoming weblog posts.
I Touch Myself
Time is different now, than it was in my childhood and long into adulthood. Before, others dictated the timing and sequence of events. It applied to most activities involving more than one person. In addition, people listened to radios, and allowed stations to determine what songs were played when. Television was similar. There was a schedule that had to be followed, if one wanted to watch, say, The Avengers, that British espionage series, created by Canadian Sydney Newman (1917 – 1997), one had to be available at a specific time each week. In the days before the internet, libraries provided a source of information, as well as entertainment. There were some places that allowed, even encouraged, a greater freedom. I was fortunate to live less than three blocks from New Westminster Public Library, that I could visit to increase my knowledge about various topics, even those of marginal interest to most other people. Yes, I would like to thank the librarians at New Westminster Public Library for their engagement, particularly in the period 1958 to 1979, when I was an active user there.
We have lived without radio and television for most of the current millennium, and have not missed it. The Norwegian government replaced FM (frequency modulation) radio with DAB+ (digital audio broadcasting) in 2017. This had no effect on my life. We purchased a DAB+ radio so that we could listen to emergency broadcasts, should that ever be necessary. The radio is tested about once a year, but otherwise remains silent. This technology is already outdated, as emergency conditions are now communicated with SMS (short messaging service) messages. I experienced this recently in Iceland, when I received an earthquake warning.
Today, the age of instant gratification is upon us. We have experienced three iterations of the internet, so far: dial up; ADSL (asymetic digital subscriber line); and, fibre optic cable. People are becoming increasingly dependent on assorted web engines and their algorithms to propose content. These engines seem to know a great deal about my interests. Sometimes, I am intrigued more by these algorithms, and their proposals, than the actual content.
At the beginning of October, at the top of my YouTube suggestions was I Touch Myself (1990) by the Divinyls. I later learned they were an Australian band from Sidney, active in the 1990s. I wondered why this particular song was proposed. I had never heard of the band, or the track. Of course, from the photo provided, I wondered if it has something to do with my interest in female vocalists. I decided to explore it, by viewing and listening to that proposed track from 1991.
Resetting the YouTube start menu, brought forward several versions of the same song, some by the Divinyls, as well as others. I then viewed two other versions, another from 1991 and one from 2006. Also among the content proposals was a short video version from the film, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). I viewed it, but unlike the music videos, it repulsed. Like so many things in life, my sense of humour has also evolved.
After consuming these four versions, I delved deeper into the song, to understand better why this particular track was at the top of my YouTube list. It is easy to discover context today, because information is so much easier to access. Wikipedia and other sources of information are as close as one’s smartphone or laptop. Thus, within a few minutes I had discovered that the I Touch Myself Project was launched in 2014, a year after the death of Divinyl singer, Chrissy Amphlett (1959 – 2013) from breast cancer. Wikipedia could tell me that Amphlett wanted I Touch Myself to be adopted as a global anthem for breast health. The project was created in her honour with its mission to create educational forums to promote self-examination. In another few seconds I learn that October (every year) is breast cancer awareness month.
This past year two of the websites I used regularly have closed down. For many years, my primary source of books was The Book Depository. I also used Ello, a social media platform, as a source of inspiration for various forms of artwork. Originally, there was a third, Kottke, but it came back to life, after its founder had returned from a sabbatical.
On 2014-02-20, Russia invaded Ukraine, and conducted a war that lasted until 2014-03-26. By 2014-03-16, Russia had succeeded in its stated aim, to annex the Crimean peninsula. Eight years later, almost to the day, on 2022-02-21 Russia officially recognized the two self-proclaimed separatist states in the Donbas, and openly sent troops into these territories. On 2022-02-24, Russia invaded Ukraine, the start of Putin’s war, or the second Russian invasion of the Ukraine this millennium.
Previously, I have written two post about this topic: In 2022 in a post titled Ukraine and in 2023, in a post about a democracy tax. This is a third weblog post that mentions Ukraine. I tried to use something resembling logic. This has proved illusive, and beyond my capabilities. My conclusion is that there can be no logical starting point, because war (and every other form of violence) is not a logical/ rational action. It cannot be understood logically.
Should I have to select one film that explains the current situation in Ukraine, I would choose Maidan (2014). It was directed by Sergei Loznitsa (1964 – ). I find Loznitsa an interesting director because of his background. He graduated from Kyiv Polytechnic Institute as a mathematician in 1987. Then he worked at the Institute of Cybernetics on expert systems. He also worked as a Japanese translator. Then he studied cinematography.
In the early 1960s, there were ample opportunities to reflect on violence. In October of 1962, there was the Cuban missile crisis. I lived about 165 km/ 103 miles from the American nuclear submarine base at Bangor, near Bremerton, in Washington State. If at the time I had known how close we lived to it, I probably would have been more worried. As it was, numerous people built bomb shelters adjacent to their houses, in New Westminster.
Perhaps I would have been more afraid if I had devoured On the Beach, either in the form of the novel (1957), written by Nevil Shute (1899 – 1960), or the film (1959), directed by Stanley Kramer (1913 – 2001). Both show the horror of nuclear war.
Discounting television comedies such as The Phil Silver’s Show aka (Sargeant) Bilko (1955 – 1959), McHale’s Navy (1962 – 1966) and Hogan’s Heroes (1965–1971), there have been few serious war series in the 1960s and 1970s. An exception was the The Gray Ghost (1957 – 1958), that portrayed the American Civil War from a Confederate perspective.
My first cinematic exposure to the violence of war, that had an impact on me, was probably Lawrence of Arabia (1962). I found it a disturbing film, not just because of the military actions it portrayed. It was morally vague, and depicted a person with psychic challenges, he is incapable of overcoming. I reflected on it, but not too much to keep my sanity. It was directed by David Lean (1908-1991), who had previously directed The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), although I only watched that film considerably later.
Deeper reflections on violence began 58 years, 3 months, 3 days = 3 040 weeks = 21 280 days > 500 000 hours > 30 million minutes > 1.8 billion seconds earlier than the start of this second invasion of Ukraine. On 1963-11-22, the day John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 – 1963), the American president, was assassinated. The date is etched permanently into my brain, and marks an event that started my radicalization. Less than a month before, I had celebrated my 15th birthday, I was in grade ten, the youngest person in my class, having been born on the cut-off date that allowed me to start school in 1954.
Prior to Kennedy’s assassination, I was conventional. For example, I would fire five rounds of 0.22 caliber bullets, at the rifle range in the basement of Vincent Massey junior secondary school, after finishing band practice. Since then, I have not fired a weapon.
At the time of that assassination, people just a few years younger may not have been aware of the significance of it. People, just a few years older, may have already made a commitment to a particular world view. For me, it called into question the use of violence to resolve disputes. Gradually, I began to question the Vietnam war, war more generally, then other forms of violence. In part, it comes from examining the brutality of many other wars, notably the American Civil War, the Crimean War, the Boar War, the First World War. In part, this was aided by a fellow student, Steve Scheving, who kept meticulous statistics about casualties in the battles of the American Civil War.
Of the American Civil War films, one of the most respected is Shenandoah (1965), directed by Andrew V. McLaglen (1920 – 2014). Admittedly, it is sentimental, but it does raise a number of humanitarian themes. Some regard it as an anti-war film, which made it appealing to many draft-dodgers and others, facing the Vietnam war.
Then there are novel/film combinations that offer a means of understanding war. An understanding of the first world war can come from Im Westen nichts Neues = Nothing New in the West (literal) = All Quiet on the Western Front, English translation title (1929) more a psychological study looking at physical and mental trauma, as well as social detachment. It was written by Erich Paul (later his middle name was replaced by Maria) Remarque (1898 – 1970). Several film versions have been made, including the first one released in 1930, directed by Lewis Milestone, born in Moldova as Leib Milstein = Лейб Мильштейн in its original Russian (1895 – 1980).
The anti-war novel and film, set in the first world war, that I cannot recommend to anyone because of the horrors it contains, is Johnny Got His Gun. Blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (1905 – 1976) wrote the novel in 1938, and directed the film version in 1971.
My timeline proceeds more cautiously through the Second World War because both of my parents served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, at that time. I find it impossible to condemn anyone fighting in a war defined by my parents as justified and necessary. I am too damaged to objectively reflect on this war, and find myself quoting, yet again, from The Go-Between (1953) by L. P. Hartley, (1895 – 1972): “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
I learned that romance and comedy could be used to hide the horrors of war. For example: James Michener (1907 – 1997) wrote a collection of short stories, Tales of the South Pacific (1947), from which the musical South Pacific (1949) theatrical production emerged, as well as the film version (1958), directed by Joshua Logan (1908 – 1988). Both of these featured music by composer Richard Rodgers (1902 – 1979) and lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II (1895 – 1960).
I have a greater appreciation of Catch-22 (1961), the satirical novel by Joseph Heller (1923 – 1999), and the black comedy film from 1970, directed by Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky, better known as Mike Nichols (1931 – 2014).
I have allowed myself to see Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998), both directed by Steven Spielberg (1946 – ).
Comedy also dominated the Korean war. The best example is M*A*S*H, subtitled, A novel about three army doctors (1968) by Robert Hooker, the pseudonym of Hiester Richard Hornberger Jr. (1924 – 1997), and the film (1970) directed by Robert Altman (1925 – 2006).
It is also easier to find fault with events in more distant places. It took me much longer to confront my own racism and other prejudices, and the genocide that took place in British Columbia. As an immigrant, it is easier for me to see contradictions in Norwegian society that Norwegians can’t admit to. Much of this has to do with religion. From my perspective, Norway only reluctantly allows freedom of religion, and has not fully recognized the violence sanctioned by its own state designated religion, particularly against the Sami people, but also others who did not think conventionally.
It was easier to condemn events in Algeria, Czechoslovakia, Chile and Korea, to name four countries on four continents, that people might suspect were randomly selected. They weren’t, for films have had a significant impact on my perception of the world, and of war. In these cases, respectively: The Battle of Algiers = La battaglia di Algeri, (1966) directed by Gillo Pontecorvo (1919 – 2006) ; Closely Watched Trains = Ostře sledované vlaky (1966) directed by Jiří Menzel (1938 – 2020); missing [sic](1982) directed by Costa-Gavras (1933 – ) although I am much more appreciative of Z (1969), which is about the assassination of democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis (1912 – 1963); The Manchurian Candidate (1962) described as a neo-noir psychological political thriller film, directed by John Frankenheimer (1930 – 2002).
There have been numerous films made about the Vietnam war, including: 1) Apocalypse Now (1979), directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1939 – ), loosely based on the novella Heart of Darkness (1899) by Joseph Conrad, born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski (1857 – 1924). Here, war is explored as an exercise in futility and as a catalyst for a descent into madness; 2) The Deer Hunter (1978), directed by Michael Cimino (1939 – 2016), focused on realism and the psychological destruction of individual participants. Many of these films are difficult to watch. This applies to most war films made after 1970. 3) First Blood (1982) was directed by Bulgarian-Canadian Ted Kotcheff (1932 -) and was filmed in and around Hope, British Columbia. Damaged Vietnam veteran John Rambo searches for an old friend in a small town but is harassed by the sheriff until he reaches his breaking point. Rambo reverts to his military mindset. 4) Kotcheff explored the Vietnam war very differently in Uncommon Valor (1983), with a focus on prisoners of war (POW), and people missing in action (MIA).
A Baha’i perspective on war.
A documentary about World War One, The Man Who Shot the Great War (2014), has had the greatest spiritual impact on me. I often reflect on the souls of men who have been conscripted, and ordered to kill other men. This war killed 37 million soldiers. George Hackney (? – 1977) was a Belfast sniper, and photographer. While unofficial photographs were illegal, his were allowed. George was also a Baha’i.
The Baha’i perspective is that no person is condemned to an eternity in hell or in heaven. Instead people continue their spiritual journey they began in their earthly life involving a greater spiritual understanding. I expect George found solace in this message.
In October, Baha’is celebrate the births of its twin profits, Bab (1819 – 1850) and Baha’u’llah (1817 – 1892). While its prophets may have their origins in Iran, Baha’u’llah was ultimately exiled to Akko/ Acre, in today’s Israel. This exile is why the Faith’s headquarters are located in nearby Haifa. I have been on pilgrimage to Haifa three times, but feel no need to visit a fourth time.
This month, the world has witnessed atrocities in Israel as well as the Gaza strip. Baha’u’llah has written on war, and come with recommendations for achieving world peace, in two documents, that are often quoted.
“Be united, O concourse of the sovereigns of the world, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your peoples find rest. Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice.” Gleanings, p. 254.
“The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquillity of the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among themselves. Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him.” Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 30-1.
Needless to say, I am not impressed with the various rulers of the world uniting to further peace. As I approach 75 years of living on this planet, I reflect once again, much as I did in the late 1960s, on how countries are willing to sacrifice their most important resource, young people, in needless wars.
I further reflect on how countries, especially the United States through the Marshall Plan, were willing to invest in the reconstruction of Europe, which provided the basis for Germany, and many other countries, to prosper. The US, Israel and the many oil-rich Middle Eastern countries have been unwilling to invest in the West Bank or the Gaza strip, to ensure its Palestinian residents could prosper.
Al-Nakba (1996) is a documentary film by Benny Brunner (1954 – ) and Alexandra Jansse (1956 – ). It presents insights into past events in Palestine/ Israel that continue to shape current events. It is based on the book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949 by Benny Morris (1948 – ), an Israeli historian. The film title refers to catastrophic events in 1948 forcing, an estimated seven hundred thousand Palestinians into exile and poverty, while Israelis, could create and prosper their own state.
This Israeli perspective is portrayed in the Leon Uris (1924 – 2003) novel, Exodus (1958), which was made into a film directed by Otto Preminger (1905 – 1986) in 1960.
Perhaps the most inspiring war film remains Philippe de Broca’s (1933 – 2004) King of Hearts = Le Roi de cœur (1966). The film is set in a set in a small French town towards the end of World War I. Retreating Germans have placed a bomb in the town square, and it is up to signaller/ pigeon keeper Charles Plumpkit to defuse the bomb. While normal residents flee, inmates from an asylum take over the town, and challenge conventional values. The film also questions the very notion of sanity.
A confession: I have never served in any military, and describe myself as a pacifist. In my youth, I have known people who have served in the sea cadets, based at the New Westminster Armory. Many of them were musicians. In Norway, I have worked with teachers who choose to leave the school system temporarily, to work as soldiers in peace-keeping missions, most often in the Middle East. I have never understood the appeal of being in the military.
Note: the next weblog post is scheduled for Tuesday, 2023-10-31.
Starting in the mid 2000s, I often introduced students in my science classes to sustainable energy by referring to Desertec, a non-profit foundation that focuses on the production of renewable energy in the desert regions of north Africa. Initially, the project relied on concentrated solar energy to produce thermal energy = heat that could be stored in salt. This thermal energy was then to be used to produce electricity. The aim was to create a global renewable energy plan based on the concept of harnessing sustainable powers, from sites in Africa and the Middle East where renewable sources of energy are more abundant, and transferring it through high-voltage direct current transmission lines to consumption centers, in Europe.
I lost interest when this proved to be uneconomic, and thus unworkable. The foundation’s next idea was to focus on meeting domestic demand. This also failed because of transportation and cost-inefficiency issues. The initiative was revived in 2020 with a focus on green hydrogen, catering to both domestic demand and exports to foreign markets. This failed to spark my interest, because I regard the transport of a product (in this case, hydrogen) to be more problematic than transporting electrical energy.
One of the main reasons why Desertec faces problems, is that since the early 2000s, solar cells and panels have become increasingly inexpensive, and provide some of the cheapest sources of electricity on the planet. They can be effectively used in most places where people live.
The solar cell was invented when Russell Shoemaker Ohl (1898 – 1987), a researcher at Bell Labs, noticed in 1940 that a cracked silicon sample produced a current when exposed to light. He patented the modern solar cell, described in US Patent 2402662, “Light sensitive device”, filed in 1941.
Martin Green (1948- ), was born in Brisbane, Australia, where he also received a B.Sc. degree from the University of Queensland, before and completed his PhD at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where he specialised in solar energy. In 1974. he returned to Australia, where he worked at the University of New South Wales. In 1975, he started a photovoltaic research group, using unwanted scrounged equipment.
Green and his students first worked to increase the voltage of solar cells. When this came up to a satisfactory level, focus was changed to quality improvement and energy efficiency. By 1989 the lab had built solar panels capable of running at 20% efficiency. In 2015, they achieved a 40.6% conversion rate using focused light reflected off a mirror.
Shi Zhengrong (1963 – ) was born in Yangzhong, Jiangsu, China. He completed his undergraduate studies at Changchun University of Science and Technology, and obtained his Master’s degree from the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Afterwards, Shi obtained a Ph.D. in solar power technology at the University of New South Wales. School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering. In 2001, Shi returned to China and set up Suntech Power in Wuxi with $6m in start-up funding from the municipal government.
Suntech made inexpensive, conventional PV solar panels with 17% efficiency. SunTech increased its production capacity from 60 megawatts (MW) to 1 gigawatt in 2009. This was possible because Germany, and other mainly European Union (EU) countries passed legislation encouraging solar power. This resulted in a massive global demand. By 2012, the world market faced excess solar panel supplies, which reduced prices to below cost. After an investment scandal, SunTech was bankrupt by 2013-03.
Other companies ensured continued production of low cost, highly efficient solar panels. The International Energy Agency reports that solar is providing the cheapest energy the world has ever seen.
The problem with solar energy is that it is available only half of the time. However, when that half occurs is largely dependent on latitude. Many producers of solar cells set 60°, as a northern (and southern) limit for their effective use.
63° 17′ 0″ N
49° 12′ 25″ N
37° 48′ 16″ N
Summer solstice sunrise
Summer solstice sunset
Summer solstice daylight
Winter solstice sunrise
Winter solstice sunset
Winter solstice daylight
PV out can be regarded as the photovoltaic power potential; that is, the relative potential of a location to produce electricity from a solar panel. In the table above, Oakland has twice the capability of Vangshylla, while New Westminster has an intermediate position.
DNI = Direct Normal Irradiation, and is measured in kWh/m2 per year. Here, Oakland can produce three times as much electricity as Vangshylla. GTI = Global tilted irradiation at optimum angle. By setting solar cells at an optimal angle, the amount of electricity produced can be enhanced, considerably in high latitudes. However, to make matters worse, high latitude locations have most of their production in the summer months (when it is needed the least), with very little production in the winter (when it is needed most). At Vangshylla the length of the day varies by 16h:37m:14s. In Oakland, that difference is only 05h:24m:21s.
Note: Most of the content was written on or before 2021-04-25. It was updated immediately prior to publication.
If people think that gaming is a marginal activity, they should reassess their world view. The revenue from computer games exceeds that of the music, film and television industries combined. The production of a game can employ 500 people, many of them engaged in providing different forms of artwork. People under the age of fifty, spend much of their free time gaming. Those over, not so much.
The ten countries with the largest consumption of computer games are, in ranked order: USA, China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, UK, France, Canada, Italy and Brazil. The source for this information provides revenue in USD, and the number of players. In terms of production, 2020, Swedish gaming companies ranked ninth in the world, and generated an annual net turnover of 20.8 billion SEK.
Every game involves a game-world with its own rules, that may differ significantly from the reality the player normally lives in. The better able the player is to adapt to these changes, the better able the player should be able to score, and ultimately to win the game. In many games, there is also an element of chance.
In some games, having control over the graphics (or at least better control than any opponents) is necessary for the player to win. In many games, winning simply means completing the game.
For the record, my list of favourite games has not changed much over the decades, and are not demanding with respect to graphics. In chronological order the ones I remember are: Oregon Trail (1971), Flight Simulator (1982), Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (1985), Sim City (1989), Postman Pat (1989), Street Rod (1989) and Minesweeper (1990). There was also a train simulator, with a forgotten name.
Of these, playing Postman Pat involved the most work. Since it was impossible to obtain an overview map while playing the game, our family visited the entire game world, and recreated the map on paper. For someone with a flawed sense of geography, this was very helpful, possibly allowing me to even beat children, as long as they were very young.
In my teaching career I have used Sim City to introduce the concept of simulation to younger students, most typically a three hour session provided to students at the three junior secondary schools in the Leksvik catchment area. My son tells me that traffic congestion makes it difficult for the game population to exceed about 10 000 people, on a first attempt. He must have inherited his game playing capability from his mother, since he managed to build a city of 150 000 people, on his first attempt.
Non-favourite games include Railroad Tycoon (1990) as well as programs that imitate board and card games, such as monopoly or chess. Railroad Tycoon is less about simulating a transport system, and more about building and managing a company that happens to be a railroad. This is done by investing in track and stations, and by buying and scheduling trains. To win the railroad must be built within a specified time.
To answer the most common question I have ever been asked about computer gaming. Yes, I am acquainted with, but have not played: Minecraft (2009), Pokémon (1996, in card format) or Donkey Kong (1991).
It should now be obvious that I am living in the past with respect to computer gaming. My relationship with board and card games is equally problematic non-existent.
There is one game that I have been considering, NIMBY Rails, which is an open-source transit simulation developed by Carlos Carrasco, from Barcelona, Spain. NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard, which is a common approach to anything requiring change. The game includes content from Open Street Maps, that contains a slightly simplified variant of the entire earth, so that players can construct a transit/ rail system anywhere on the planet. There are detailed rules built into the game that have to been discovered through trial and error. It was launched in 2021.
The first computers used by our family for gaming were an Amiga 1000, soon replaced with an Amiga 2000. Most of the games listed above were first played on it. After that we have owned Windows and Mac machines. With the children becoming adults and capable of making their own decisions, the oldsters use Acer Swift 3 laptops with assorted Asus machines running Linux Mint 21.2. We also have hand-held devices (Asus Zenfone 9) running Android 13.
One of the challenges gamers faced during the pandemic was the lack of GPUs = Graphical Processing Units, usually bought in the form of a graphics card that is inserted into large cases they would call their gaming rig. There are, of course, more portable computers that can be used for the same purpose.
During the pandemic, there was another group of people wanting GPUs: cryptocurrency miners: individuals, companies, organizations, (some criminal and evading paying taxes in any form), who want to use the equipment to produce bitcoins, and other types of cryptocurrency. This production requires enormous amounts of electricity, and these miners want to equip their mining rigs, which look more like servers, with large numbers of the fastest possible GPUs.
For GPU manufacturers this explosion of mining demand created a public relations challenge. The two dominant companies are Nvidia and AMD = Advanced Micro Devices, in previous incarnations, especially their Radeon GPUs. They are now restricting sales of GPUs as add-on products, and prioritize selling them to OEMs = Original Equipment Manufacturers, who put them in new, expensive computers most often designed and labelled as gaming rigs. This created a problem for some gamers, who could/ can no longer upgrade their rigs.
There are several areas where graphic content can provoke conflict. The first is internet throughput, usually measured in k- or M- or Gb/s. An ISP = Internet Service Provider, will provide a range of throughput at various price points, and it will be up to the consumer to decide which one. The current base rate from our ISP is 150 Mb/s, but both 500 and 1 000 Mb/s are available. We have a base rate subscription.
With the onset of Putin’s war in Ukraine, and especially after he stopped/ limited gas sales to Europe, it became economically unviable to mine cybercurrencies! This meant that there was a sudden increase in the number of GPUs on the used market. Unfortunately, not all of these GPUs have a configuration suitable for gamers. Fortunately, Inexpensive former mining-GPUs can be suitable for video-rendering. Unlike gaming machines, rendering machines do not need to connect to a screen. They do not even need to be quiet.
The two next areas involve screen characteristics. Every screen has a specific resolution. In 1988, screen resolution was typically 640×512i (PAL) with 16 colours. In North America, NTSC, the resolution was less. Today (2023), one common resolution is FHD (Full High Definition) = 1920 x 1020 pixels aka 1080p HDTV video format. It has a 16:9 aspect ratio and about 2 megapixels of content. The p stands for progressive scan, i.e. non-interlaced, and is the standard on computer screens. The other dominant standard is 4k UHD (Ultra High Definition) = 3840 × 2160 pixels is the dominant 4K standard, adopted in 2014, with the same 16:9 aspect ratio, and 8 megapixels of content. This, increasingly, is the dominant standard on television sized screens, typically between 40″ = 1 000 mm and 70 inches = 1 780 cm, diagonally.
Human vision varies. A person can process 10 to 12 images per second and perceive them individually. At higher frequency rates these images are perceived as motion. The most common preferred minimum frequency rate is 50 Hz, with that being a common frame rate in Europe or 60 Hz in North America, although some have no problems watching video at 30 Hz. Many gamers, however, are prepared to pay extra for a 144 Hz screen, although I personally don’t think they can improve their perception, by increasing the frequency. The highest frame rate currently available is 240 Hz. While there are some algorithms that can be used to reduce the amount of processing needed, a frame rate of 120 Hz, will require 4 times the processing as a 30 Hz frame rate. Compared to FHD at 50/ 60 Hz, 4k UHD at 120/ 144 Hz, will require 8 x the processing power.
This post is published on the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Marine Biological Association of San Diego on 1903-09-26. In 1912, the assets of this organization were transferred to the Regents of the University of California and renamed the Scripps Institution for Biological Research. In 1925-10, it was renamed the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Its mission statement reads, “To seek, teach, and communicate scientific understanding of the oceans, atmosphere, Earth, and other planets for the benefit of society and the environment.”
One of the more interesting vessels at Scripps was Research Vessel Flip = Floating Instrument Platform. It was in service from 1962-07-23 to 2023-08-04, but is now being scrapped. It is often described as an open ocean research platform designed to study various phenomena such as wave height, acoustic signals, water temperature and density, and to collect meteorological data. The vessel has no means of propulsion, because that could potentially interfere with acoustic instruments. Surprisingly, it is equipped with diesel generators. Flip has to be towed to open water sites where it will be used. Once it is in position it is sunk, reaching a depth of 91.4 m. Part of the vessel remains above the waterline, up to a height of about 17 m above the surface. It can then either be allowed to drift freely, or is anchored in place.
For the past sixty years, I have followed the adventures of Flip at irregular intervals, inspired by its ability to collect data. A cheaper way of collecting data is to use a smaller vessel equipped with sensors. Since 1962 there has been major developments in sensor technology. Sensors are now inexpensive, and can be attached to microprocessors. Data can be stored on equally inexpensive solid state devices, that can be fitted onto an underwater vessel.
In robotics, as elsewhere, language is used inconsistently. There are two types of underwater robots, that is, underwater vessels/ vehicles without human occupants, that use two different naming conventions. If the robot is tethered to the surface it is called a ROV = Remotely Operated Vehicle. If it isn’t, it is called an AUV = Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.
In a more ideal world, it should be possible to distinguish between surface watercraft and submersible watercraft. Both categories could be autonomous or in some way human controlled. Tethered craft are not crewed, but remotely controlled by humans. An alternative naming system could refer to two classes of robotic submersibles, the first referred to as tethered (RS-T), and the second as autonomous (RS-A) or even untethered (RS-U). A vessel crewed with humans could be given the name CS = crewed submersible.
My experience with RS-Ts started in 2008 teaching technology to students at Leksvik Upper Secondary School, and using both the community swimming pool and a local beach as launch sites. Build Your Own Underwater Robot and Other Wet Projects (1997) by Harry Bohm (1954 – ) and Vickie Jensen (1946- ), published by Westcoast Words, in Vancouver, provided the inspiration. A copy of this book was found at the Simon Fraser University bookstore, and purchased in the summer of 1997.
Experimentation with a diving bell, teaches the laws of physics as they apply to submersibles. Depending on the power of the airpump, a diving bell is able to rise, fall and even balance itself in a column of water. However, if the diving bell descends below a certain critical depth, the water pressure will be too great for the air pump to work, and the vessel will continue downward without any ability to stop. This surprises most students.
Three of their models, a Diving Bell (powered by an aquarium airpump), Seaperch (powered by thrusters = electric motors) and Seafox (powered by bilge pumps) were made, adapted and remade, repeatedly.
There are numerous commercial and organizational sites that use the Seaperch and/ or Seafox as the starting point for products, competitions and DIY construction. Unfortunately, some are disingenuous, most notably the Seaperch organization, that fails to acknowledge their indebtedness to Bohn/ Jensen. However, the Wikipedia article about the organization does acknowledge this debt. The Bohm/ Jensen RS-Ts have their limitations, particularly in terms of operational depth. Their main purpose is education, both in terms of construction and operation in a marine environment.
An infinite number of inmates at Verdal prison had, over the years, requested an opportunity to make drones. In particular, they were interested in using these to monitor prison guards. Fortunately/ unfortunately for the guards/ inmates, respectively, no drones were ever made at the prison, at least not when I was working there. When I did offer to teach them how to make underwater vehicles, there was no interest.
Thus, when OpenROV was proposed in 2012, it immediately attracted my attention. It took several years (2015), before OpenROV announced a Kickstarter project to build an underwater drone for everyone. They referred to it as Trident, with a purchase price of $1 200 each.
With a length of 300 mm, a width of 200 mm and a height of 150 mm, it is considerably smaller than either a Seaperch or Seafox. It is also lighter, with a mass of about 2.5 kg. However, it has several additional attributes that distinguish it. The first is an ability to reach a depth of 100 m. This makes it almost useful! The depth exceeds that of RV Flip.
A waterproof tube 180 mm long and 100 mm (outside) diameter houses all the electronics and other environmentally sensitive equipment. There are 3 x 800kv brushless motors to power the RS-T. Two horizontal thrusters allow the RS-T to move forward and aft as well as rotate, and a vertical thruster allows the (neutrally buoyant) vehicle to change depth.
The trident is the weapon of the gods of the Sea: Greek Poseidon, or Roman Neptune as well as Amphitrite, Greek queen of the sea and consort of Poseidon. In Roman mythology she is referred to as Salacia, with a reference to salt. In both sets of myths, Triton, another Greek as well as Roman god of the sea, is the son of Poseidon/ Neptune and Amphitrite/ Salacia. Triton is a merman with a human upper half, and a fish/ lobster/ crayfish lower half. In Hinduism, Shiva also uses a trident, referred to as a trishula.
Ægir (Æge in modern Norwegian) is the Norse god of the sea. He does not appear to have a weapon, but spends his time brewing beer. He is married to Rán (Rån in modern Norwegian), goddess of the sea. Together they have nine daughters, the waves.
One of my intentions when I worked at setting up a mechatronics workshop in Inderøy, was to provide an opportunity for the production of equipment to monitor the environment. At the time I was particularly interested in unmanned underwater vehicles, to discover local sources of pollution. Inderøy library has now taken over this workshop.
Thus, my own little workshop will have to become a local skunk works, producing not only vessels, but slower, lower altitude incarnations of a U-2 Dragon Lady or SR-71 Blackbird, in the form of a drone.
Lockheed took the name Skunk Works from Li’l Abner’s moonshine factory, where it was known as Skonk Works, found in the comics written and drawn by Al Capp (1909–1979), from 1934 to 1977. For those too young to be acquainted with the comic strip, Li’l Abner Yokum, was the son of Pansy Hunks aka Mammy Yokum and Lucifer Ornamental Yokum aka Pappy. They lived in a log cabin in Dogpatch, USA. The location of Dogpatch is disputed, but most place it in Kentucky. One of the wimmenfolk there was the beautiful Daisy Mae Scragg, who married Abner in 1952. Sadie Hawkins was another notorious resident, not quite so beautiful, but intent on marrying. Some of my fascination with names as well as fictitious geography comes from comic strips. In addition to Li’l Abner, Pogo by Walt Kelly (1913-1973) also provided some interesting geographical features in Okefenokee Swamp, located in southern Georgia and northern Florida.
Currently, I have a workshop that supports my construction activities by producing components in wood. While I have not given up the idea of producing wooden products entirely, especially geodesic dome greenhouses, I have also acquired a small computer numeric control (CNC) milling machine, for subtractive processes. One intended use of this machine is to make parts for a RS-T. I also have a 3D-printer for making parts using additive processes.
In the past, I have used the non-descriptive name, Unit One, for this workshop. My own name, Brock, means badger, so it is not inappropriate to rename this workshop the Badger Works, but also incorporating the Norwegian language equivalent, Grevlingverket. From 2024-01-01, I intend to spend time designing and making a RS-T and surface/ support unit, suitable for investigating pollution in Trondheim fjord. The names Ægir and Rán will probably be incorporated into the names of these vessels.