Author Archives: Wei Dai

The inaccuracy and fallacies of pick oil theory Part 2

Will there be peak oil? The answer is actually yes. However, it won’t be the same as the peak oil situation described in Hubbert’s peak oil theory. As my title said, the peak oil is inaccurate. One of the biggest reason for that is that it oversimplified the situations and elements associated with oil production. According to Gold Russell’s Why Peak-Oil Predictions Haven’t Come True, what will limits the oil production is not the natural limits but the economic limits: “When the oil industry overcomes an obstacle and boosts oil production, costs typically increase. That opens the door for a better and cheaper energy source that will eventually displace crude oil.” As Michael Shellenberger,president of the Breakthrough Institute, an energy and climate think tank in Oakland, Calif, said: “There will be peak oil, but it will be [because of] peak consumption…What we all want is to move to better, cheaper and cleaner sources of energy”, the end of the oil industry will be the result of other efficient clean energy forms’ pervasive appealing and the negative economic effect brought by the overdeveloped oil industry (which is not associated with the natural reserves of the oil). “No mineral, including oil, will ever be exhausted. If and when the cost of finding and extraction goes above the price consumers are willing to pay, the industry will begin to disappear,” wrote by Morris Adelman, a late petroleum economist and a professor emeritus of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in “The Genie out of the Bottle: World Oil Since 1970,”

peak oil 2

Why Peak-Oil Predictions Haven’t Come True


The inaccuracy and fallacies of pick oil theory Part 1

The peak oil theory was wild spread after the the U.S. oil production peaking in the 1970s and sank for decades since then. Just when everyone starts to believe in the peak oil theory because what Hubbert said in it did happened exactly in reality, something dramatic happened: the oil production starts rising rapidly again since 2009 till now. Some scholars enunciate that the peak oil theory may have some reasonable points but in general, it’s nothing but a fallacy. The “peak” in 1970s is just a coincidence. More and more people start to believe that the technology will keep unlocking the limits of the oil production in the future. According to the article “Why Peak-Oil Predictions Haven’t Come True”  written by Russell Gold, the mathematical model of peak oil theory is too simple because Hubbert oversimplify the problem and the situation we are in: “To the peak-oil adherents, this is just a respite, and decline is inevitable. But a growing tide of oil-industry experts argue that peak oil looks at the situation in the wrong way. The real constraints we face are technological and economic, they say. We’re limited not by the amount of oil in the ground, but by how inventive we are about reaching new sources of fuel and how much we’re willing to pay to get at it.”. “Technology moves so quickly today that any looming resource constraint will be nothing more than a blip,” says petroleum economist Phil Verleger. “We adjust.”. Arun Gupta explained the problem of peak oil theory more specifically in his article “Why the Crash in Oil Prices Should Bury “Peak Oil” Once and for All” punished this year.  He points out that the socio-economic system is the one determining the the actual production of oil. “the last decade of spiraling oil prices was caused by Middle East wars, Wall Street commodities speculation, and ecological disasters like Hurricane Katrina, not by natural limits.” said Arun Gupta. He also argued that even the term “peak oil” itself has problem. He described this name, “peak oil”, as “obscuring how the energy industry works”. According to his arguments, “We may imagine oil as gushing out of a steel derrick in a barren desert, but energy companies are after any form of hydrocarbons that can be profitably refined. ”

The peak oil seems to be unable to serve the contemporary global situations any more. Maybe just as some of these scholar said, it’s a theory only suit a certain time period which is already past for too long. Or maybe, it’s just oversimplify the situation and the complexity of the oil problem.


Why Peak-Oil Predictions Haven’t Come True


Why the Crash in Oil Prices Should Bury “Peak Oil” Once and for All




High-Speed Rail: more environmental efficient and energy saving trasportation

How environmental beneficial is the high-speed rails compared to cars and airplanes? According to a prediction study on american high-speed rail system, “Americans in 2025 are projected to take 112 million trips on high-speed rail, traveling more than 25 billion passenger miles, resulting in 29 million fewer automobile trips, nearly 500,000 fewer flights, and a potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.” Similar prediction result appears on the California High Speed Rail Authority: “In 2022, when the Initial Operating Section (Merced to the San Fernando Valley) is up and running, the resulting GHG reductions will be between 100,000 to 300,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2e) equivalent in the first year. That’s the equivalent of taking 17,700 to 53,000 personal vehicles off the road. Between 2022 and 2040, the cumulative reduction of CO2 is estimated to be between 5 and 10 million metric tons CO2e.” Also, train is actually more energy efficiency than cars and planes. “Trains are 3 times as energy efficient as cars and 6 times as efficient as planes on a per-passenger-mile basis.” (High-Speed Rail Works), one of the main reason is that a train can carry way more passengers (at least 100 people per trip) than a car can did (about 1.6 person per trip). And adding a passenger won’t do any increase on the original total carbon emission (of a train trip) while adding a car will double that (of a car trip). Also, the advantages of high-speed rail will become obvious in the long trip situation: According to the the article “How Big Are the Environmental Benefits of High-Speed Rail?” by EDWARD L. GLAESER, a 240-mile car trip produces approximately 157 pounds of carbon dioxide and a 240-mile plane trip produce approximately 133.7 pounds of carbon dioxide. However, on the other hand, a 240-mile train trip only produce approximately 32.1 pounds of carbon dioxide. Besides, the amazing speed of the high-speed rail can tremendously save our time and energy during a trip.

High-Speed Rail Environmental Benefits


Myths and Facts – High Speed Rail Works       



solar energy water heating system part 3

The higher the solar energy factor, the more efficient the water heater. On the contrary, the more efficient the water heater system, the higher the price for installing it. In my last post’s example we knew that the SEF of the electric auxiliary tank system, which is 2.0, is higher than that of the fuel auxiliary tank system, which is 1.1. That means installing the electric auxiliary tank system will cost more than installing the other less effective system. However, it is not enough to only have the difference of the price of installing two systems to estimate the eventual total payback per year. In addition to compare the installing price, we still need to add the annual operating cost of the two system we figured out last time into the whole calculation:

Additional cost of more efficient system = Price of System Model B (or A) – Price of System Model A (or B)

Estimated annual operating cost savings = System Model B (or A) Annual Operating Cost- System Model A (or B) Annual Operating Cost

And finally:

Payback period/years = $Additional Cost of Model B (or A) / $Model B’s (or A’s) Cost Savings Per Year

Based on your personal situation, calculating the payback period per year of the two system and comparing them. The shorter the payback period, the more economically efficient and appropriate for you.



Estimating the Cost and Energy Efficiency of a Solar Water Heater

solar energy water heating system part 2

There are two types of solar water heating system for us to choose. One is with a gas auxiliary tank system and the other one is with a electric auxiliary tan system. Whether one of these two system is more efficient and appropriate depends on the individual household’s own condition. We need to choose carefully before making a decision of which system should be installed because “This will help you determine the energy savings and payback period of investing in a more energy-efficient system, which will probably have a higher purchase price” (Estimating the cost and energy efficiency of solar water heating system). To compare the two systems, we need to know the way to calculate their annual operating cost to determine whether one system is more efficient in the long run.

* different system has different solar energy factor (SEF).

For the solar water heating system with gas auxiliary tank system:

According to the DOE test procedure for hot water heaters, the average energy usage os a three person households is about 0.4105 therm per day.

365 × 0.4105 ÷ SEF × Fuel Cost (therm) = estimated annual operating cost

The SEF of the gas auxiliary system is about 1.1 and the gas cost is about $1.10/therm

So we have: 365 × 0.4105 ÷ 1.1 × $1.10 = $149.83

For the solar water heating system with electric auxiliary tank system:

The average usage of electric energy of a household of three people per day is about 12.03 kWh

365 × 12.03 kWh/day ÷ SEF × Electricity Cost (kWh)= estimated annual operating cost

The SEF of the electric auxiliary system is about 2.0 and the cost on electricity is about $0.08/kWh

So we have: 365 X 12.03 ÷ 2.0 X $0.08 = $175.64

Of course, for different households the situation will be different as well, and so is the cost. The calculation above just shows one possible situation. They serves for telling us how to calculate the annual operating cost of different solar water heating system.



Estimating the Cost and Energy Efficiency of a Solar Water Heater


solar energy water heating system part 1

When talking about solar water heating system, people usually come up with words like “expensive”, “slow”  or “low-efficiency”. However, if you install a solar energy water heating system with fuel system as backup, you will save lot of money in long run. According to the statistic based on average households of 2.6 occupants, U.S. Census in 2006. By adding solar water heating system, every household’s annual water heating bill will drop about 50% up to 80% on average and do not need to panic on fuel shortages any more. In the article called “Estimating the Cost and Energy Efficiency of a Solar Water Heater”, the author mentioned that “If you’re building a new home or refinancing, the economics are even more attractive”, if your fuel saving is more than 15$/month. The reason of it is that because there is a thing called “federal income tax deduction for mortgage interest attributable to the solar system” and it can reduce your cost on a solar water heater in a new 30-year mortgage, witch is usually between 13$ to 20$ per month, about 3$ to 5$ per month. Assuming you solar water heater cast you 13$ this month, you have a deduction of 3$ on it and you have saved 15$ of fuel, you will not only save the money, but also got profit about:

+15$ – 13$ + 3$ = +5$


Estimating the Cost and Energy Efficiency of a Solar Water Heater



BPA-free food containers are still unhealthy

Because of the confirmation of the severe toxicity of Bisphenol-A contained in the plastic food container. Almost every big manufacturer around the world have shut the old plastic food container line down and opened a new line producing BFA-free food containers. However, this kind of plastic is not safe either. Instead of  Bisphenol-A, the new material contains a large amount of Bisphenol-S, which is as toxic as BPA to the human body. “once it enter the body,it can affect cells in ways that parallel BPA”. According to a study done by Cheryl Waston at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in 2013, “even picomolar concentrations (less than one part per trillion) of BPS can disrupt a cell’s normal functioning”, lead to hyperactivity, and hence may result in metabolic disorders such as birth defects, asthma, diabetes and obesity,  or even cancer. Another study published on Monday, Jan. 12 in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that a tiny little dose of Bisphenol-S will some how lead to the hyperactivity of brain cells. The experiment was using such low does of BPS on zebrafish that the researchers thought it won’t has any effect. However, “In the second trimester, brain cells become the specialized neurons that make up our brain. What we show is that the zebrafish exposed to BPA or BPS were getting twice as many neurons born too soon and about half as many neurons born later, so that will lead to problems in how the neurons connect and form circuits,” says Kurrasch, a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the department of medical genetics. “Here, we used zebrafish to link BPA mechanistically to disease etiology. Strikingly, treatment of embryonic zebrafish with very low-dose BPA (0.0068 μM, 1,000-fold lower than the accepted human daily exposure) and bisphenol S (BPS), a common analog used in BPA-free products, resulted in 180% and 240% increases, respectively, in neuronal birth (neurogenesis) within the hypothalamus, a highly conserved brain region involved in hyperactivity.” says the research article done by Cassandra D. Kincha, Kingsley Ibhazehiebo, Joo-Hyun Jeong, Hamid R. Habibia, and Deborah M. Kurrasch. Another research of comparing “BPA and 19 other related compounds for their ability to mimic the female hormone estrogen” done by a science group in Japanese shows that “the effects on human cells and found that bisphenol S was slightly less potent than BPA, but not by much: bisphenol S was active at 1.1 micromolar concentration, BPA at 0.63 micromolar”, which means:

micromolar concentration of BPA (which has been proved very toxic) = 0.63

micromolar concentration of BPS = 1.1

one micromolar ≈ a packet of sugar in 3,000 gallons of water

And now we know the micromolar concentration of BPS

= 1.1/ 0.63

≈ 1.75 times of that of BPA

“Other researchers have found that bisphenol S is much less biodegradable than BPA. In their study of eight bisphenol compounds, bisphenol S was the most persistent.” mentioned by this Japanese group.

In addition to that, According to Kurunthachalam Kannan and colleagues’ new study published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology,  BPS absorbs into the skin at much higher rates than BPA“. In the report, it says that:

The rate of being capable absorbing by human skin of BPS ≈ (1900% + 1) of that rate of BPA

Obviously, the toxicity of BPS is almost confirmed. Using plastic food container or water container containing BPS will gradually damage our health in unpleasant high rate.  Though we still need more research on more details about its toxicity, we can certain that it is correlative to a series of disease of human beings and thus we can certain that it is unsustainable. For the sake of our own health, I believe we should get rid of not only the BPA-contained food container, but these new kind of plastic food container as well. Instead, using harmless glass food container is more sustainable for our health.

Cassandra D. Kinch, Kingsley Ibhazehiebo, Joo-Hyun Jeong, Hamid R. Habibi, and Deborah M. Kurrasch
Low-dose exposure to bisphenol A and replacement bisphenol S induces precocious hypothalamic neurogenesis in embryonic zebrafish



BPA-Free Products Still Contain Bisphenols of Equal Toxicity


BPA-Free Plastic Containers May Be Just as Hazardous



Is BPS the New Mystery Chemical in BPA-free Cans, Dishes and Kitchen Appliances?



Bisphenol s, a new bisphenol analogue, in paper products and currency bills and its association with bisphenol a residues.



BPA and BPS (substitute for BPA) affect embryonic brain development in zebrafish: Low levels of chemicals linked to hyperactivity


BPA: What’s the alternative?


BPS is up to 19 times more absorbable in the skin than BPA

Rapidly growing game industry part1

After generations of development, video games now have already become one of the most important multi-medium format in our daily life and it’s still rapidly growing! According to the newest analysis in United State, “59 percent of Americans play video games. The average gamer is 31 years old, and 71 percent are age 18 or older. Nearly half (48 percent) of gamers are female, and women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (36 percent) than boys age 18 or younger (17 percent). A majority of parents (56 percent) also say video games are a positive part of their child’s life: 88 percent think that game play is fun for the whole family and 75 percent believe playing games offers a good opportunity to connect with their child” (copied from entertainment software association’s Industry fact ).

More and more people have realized that the video games will be or saying have already been the new age’s main media format and how they can help developing our brain in a highly efficient way.  It’s art; it’s culture; It’s a billions $ business that can last for generations; and it’s an idea, which called gamification, we can utilize in our daily lives to improve our mental and body development.

The success of video games is the result of several elements from different aspects. Firstly, it fits the current time period where information keeps exploding with an horrible high speed and acceleration. Along with other new fashionable media formats, games make it possible for us to absorb these information and knowledge with an much much higher efficiency than those old media can do.

Secondly, what makes the video game an highly efficient way to absorb information is it’s unique interactivity. Compared to reading, which contains a process of transferring abstract code into understandable visual images in mind, listening and non-interaction watching, video games make us to receive messages in an more simple, direct, clear and most memorable way: interaction (associate with all watching, listening and reading at the same time).

Thirdly, game fit our humans’ desire for challenges. The most common reason for us to play games for hours and forget about stopping is that the game is usually hard and we often get ourselves stuck. But our brains love challenge and that’s why we keep challenge ourselves and spend hours to figure out the problem. Thus, our ability of focusing, problem solving and toughness will get developed.

people who realized these features of video games and the huge benefit and sustainability inside them starts to separate the idea out of video games and apply them on other non-game events, and we call that “gamification”. The utilization of gamification has spread  to almost every region: education system, business, company faculty development, medical field, army… The world feels the constant benefit brought by gamification. As the growing of game industry, gamification will be applied more widely and commonly and in the near future, they will become one of the main supports of our human society.



Question about coffee’s temperature

I want to talk about a question on yesterday’s quiz. It’s the question about the temperature of a cup of coffee. I found it’s little bit tricky and difficult to think this question correctly. The following content is my way to solve it, I really hope that some one could come up with another way, that is simpler and more normal, to think about this question.

We know that the original temperature is 180°F and the temperature inside the office is 68°F. Saying that every minutes the temperature of coffee will drop r times (coffee temperature)-(office temperature), where r = 0.022. The question is what will the temperature of the coffee be after 10 minutes.

At first I cannot figure out how to calculate the answer because the I don’t know how to represent the “coffee temperature” for it keeps changing. My friend suggested me to see the change of the temperature, which is “(coffee temperature)-(office temperature)”, as one unit and that’s how I figure it out.

Assuming the original difference of the temperature between the coffee and the office as “D”, so we know that every minutes the coffee temperature will drop 0.022 × D (°F). Because when the coffee temperature drops, the temperature difference “D” will drop the same amount of degrees, so I decided to mainly focus on the changes of the temperature difference “D” rather than the changes of the coffee temperature. Thus, after one minutes, I have:

D – 0.022 × D = (1 – 0.022)¹ × D

It appears that some rules have shown up. Keep follow it. After ten minutes, we should have:

(1 – 0.022)¹⁰ × D

now bring the value of the original temperature difference in:

(1 – 0.022)¹⁰ × (180 – 68)

= (1 – 0.022)¹⁰ × 112

≈ 90°F

That is the temperature difference after 10 minutes. However, the number we need to calculate is the temperature of coffee after 10 minutes. For the reason that in this case, the temperature of the office won’t change, so the last step of us is use the “D” after 10 minutes plus 68 degrees, which is the temperature of the office.

90 + 68 = 158°F

Basically that is how I did on this question. The fact is that I realized that I’m quite insensitive on thinking this type of question. I am little bit unfamiliar and uncomfortable with this way of thinking. If you have simpler and more normal way to solve this one, please let me know.