Monthly Archives: November 2013

We need a game to help people break free from unhealthy game addictions

We need a game to help people break free from unhealthy game addictions. This game would essentially be like nicotine for addicted gamers allowing themselves to be slowly weaned off of addictive games that are ruining their lives, their relationships and their fiances. Many video games are intentionally designed to get their users addicted and waste a lot of money on the game. Some even claim to be “Free” but in reality they make more money than traditional “buy once” games because they sell in-game items for money. Games like Candy Crush and Tap Fish first get users addicted with free game play then they use a tactic called coercive monetization to trick them into buying in-game items that unlock special features that help them advance further into the game. The game is designed in a way that as soon as the game sees the player as a spender they ramp of the difficulty level to get them to buy more items. Some people have drained their savings and are now living paycheck to paycheck. While this is obviously unethical is isn’t currently illegal or regulated in anyway. Greedy and unethical game companies have every incentive to continue using this model to make profits. Some games like Candy Crush are getting obscene amounts of revenue this way because they have so many victims.


Chasing the Whale: Examining the ethics of free-to-play games

Candy Crush Saga reaches 500m installations on mobile and Facebook


Free program for calculating Escape Velocity

This is something that I put together quickly today. After seeing some articles about comet ISON it gave me the idea to make this program. It is available on github.

It is free to use for educational purposes.


On That Methane Bomb Thing

I’ve had some chats with Guy MacPherson and his group of people(on Facebook) who think the end is near. The evidence that they put forward looks like the work of environmental enthusiast more than professional scientists. Some of it is still interesting, but nothing so compelling that I would suddenly switch from having hope of preventing catastrophic climate change to the fatalistic idea that it’s all in vain.

There just isn’t enough evidence that near term human extinction is about to happen. None of the people that I trust in the scientific community, that are still doing work and getting their worked published, are saying this. My own opinion is that that we should look at some form of geoengineering to reduce the risk of a large Methane release but don’t over-state it.

See my geoengineering idea here. The idea is still being worked on. I need to do more calculations and come up with additional ideas.

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

I’m on my way to take a dog to the vet, and, well, I need a stool sample. Not mine, his. Anyway, this is not a methane joke, just means, I’m in a rush.

Important: Everyone should know that the Guy MacPherson-imminent-global-doom scenarios are not real, and not helpful.
You should know that the scientists I find most credible and thoughtful are somewhat pissed at the methane-hair-on-fire crowd for overstating what is a real problem.
Methane is a problem, and as these  recent studies show, one that is being better quantified and studied now.
This has implications for livestock production, the fracking industry, and dreams of harvesting methane clathrates for energy production.


Emissions of the greenhouse gas methane due to human activity were roughly 1.5 times greater in the United States in the middle of the last decade than prevailing estimates, according to a new analysis by 15 climate…

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About Those German Energy Tariffs

It’s amazing what Germany has accomplished with their deployment of renewable energy. It’s not by accident either. It’s a system design to create rapid growth in renewable energy. That’s the type of thing more countries should adopt in order to get to zero emissions that much sooner.

Climate Denial Crock of the Week



This interesting and beautiful graph was recently published by the German Renewable Energy Agency (Agentur für Erneuerbare Energien). It shows the increases of energy costs per month for the average German household from 2000 on. The tiny, small, barely visible violet part at the top is the cost of the feed-in tariff surcharge.

We see an increase in surcharge costs of EUR 14 per month from 2000 to 2013. But at the same time, other costs of electricity increased even more (by EUR 25 a month).

And the cost of heating oil increased by EUR 66, the cost of gasoline by EUR 53 a month. In comparison, the cost of the surcharges is rather small.

In total, energy costs increased from EUR 198 a month to EUR 356, or by EUR 158. The surcharge costs are less than ten percent of that.

Most of the cost increases come from…

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How to build a planetary solar shield


The experts warn that if we don’t get carbon dioxide emissions under control and soon we could would face an catastrophic global warming event that could lead to a runaway green house effect. Once carbon dioxide is emitted it can stay in the atmosphere for a thousand years or more. International efforts to create a climate treaty have failed. It takes a lot of convincing to get people to give up the cheap energy source that is in fossil fuels and the wealth that they can generate. All indications are that the world intends to gamble on continuing to increase, not decrease the burning of fossil fuels.

 Planetary scale engineering

 Geoengineering may be the only way that can reduce the effects of increasing green house gases and prevent a runaway green house effect. One idea that has been put forward is solar radiation management. You find some way to reflect solar radiation before it can get to the surface. Some have said that the cheapest way to do this would be to spray large quantities of aerosol particles into the stratosphere in order to reflect sunlight. This might work to manage solar radiation but it could have a lot of other undesirable effects like interacting in unexpected ways with chemistry of the atmosphere. It would be difficult to get international support for this method. Another method for solar management that was put forward is to build a massive solar shield to reflect sunlight into space. So far no one has taken this seriously since the rough estimates of size and cost of such a project seem out of reach.


 The method that I have thought of to build a solar shield should be significantly cheaper and easier to build. The main components of this shield would be satellites and a thin reflective material. What you would do would be to build pairs of satellites. Each one would take a large roll of light-weight, but strong reflective material. This would be attached to a long bar like structure on the satellites. After the satellites reach their desired position they would then pull apart and unroll the reflective material so that it stretches-out between them. You should be able to have each pair covering a large area with this material, maybe a thousand km2 or more. They would also need to be smart enough to always be in a good position to block sunlight but also be able to avoid collisions. Small collisions by asteroids to the reflective material would only result in tearing a hole through it that could be repaired. Large collisions would be detected and avoided. You would want to position them in orbit over a polar region to have the most effect because the polar regions heat up faster and receive more solar radiation. You also wouldn’t want to block sunlight getting to solar energy locations.


Even with this cheap method of building a solar shield it would still have to cover a huge surface area. I have roughly estimated it to be somewhere from 3-5 million km2. At first glance then that makes the task seem impractical because it would require too much material to be launched into space and thus would be cost prohibitive. I believe that this problem could be overcome by gathering materials and fuel from near-earth asteroids and possibly the moon. We should probably use smart robotic craft like those sent on previous missions to asteroids.

 Time to build

 Do we have time? The carbon dioxide we emit today takes about 40 years to turn into future warming. We have currently warmed the planet about 1 degree C and are already seeing some changes to weather patterns and sea level rise. Some experts think that we have until about 2100 before we would get to a highly undesirable 2.5-3.5 C warming. So we have approximately 40-70 years to build the solar shield to manage solar radiation. I think that with enough effort it could be done over a 50 year span of time. Improvements in efficiently building could increase the surface area exponentially.

Environmental Impact

 Since most of the work and materials gathering would be done in space or on the moon, it should have a negligible impact on the Earth’s environment. It would not take the place of reducing carbon dioxide emissions or reducing pollution in general. That is still extremely important to accomplish for many reasons other than warming. What this does is buy more time to reach the desired goal of zero carbon emission by replacing fossil fuels with alternative clean energy sources.


IPCC 5th assessment

NASA New Imagery of Asteroid Missions

Asteroid Mining


If you use this idea I just ask that you give me some credit for originating it.