Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Grid based access vs grid independent systems

I started thinking about this entry ages ago when I had an epiphany and I felt that it could be proven that a speed/price/throughput advantage would exist for "fibre" over "wireless". (Conversely, a flexibility and ability to function when the grid is "down", advantage would always exist the other way).

The basis of the proof is basically that any imaginable technology that improves speed over wireless electromagnetic radiation, would be applicable to wired electromagnetic radiation in the same proportion of improvement.

In the case of broadband, at one extreme is Fibre to the Home and the other extreme is Satellite broadband. Wi-Fi is closer to the FTTH side, then there is 3G style wireless broadband that relies on the mobile network which is connected via mainly fibre, and satellite, which can work even if the whole countries internet is down, theoretically. This doesn't really prove that FTTH is worth pursuing, because it is a tenable argument (although I would dispute it) that wireless will improve to the point that it is fast and cheap enough for everything we find important.

Back in Uni, it was proposed that solid state storage improvements were happening faster than hard drive improvements and could overtake them, and although a USB stick is enough for most things, portable hard drives still hold more and are used a lot, the storage advantage of hard drives is constant, due to the solid state improvements being equally applicable to hard drive storage.

Similar grid vs grid independent comparisons are common - road vs helicopter, grid power vs home generators, rail vs aeroplane, piped gas vs cylinders, water tanks vs dam & pipes, private dam storages vs large scale dams for irrigation.

With this in mind, simple goal based arithmetic could decide the balance between grid based and grid independent systems.

For Photo Voltaic electricity generation, I think we have got it backwards, which is why grid parity is not served well with thousands (or millions) of individual installations. If a household is after energy independence, a PV system with a significant amount of battery storage (batteries suitable for an electric car?) is actually very useful and would be a boon for extended power outages (like after Yasi). Because home PV installations are optimised to feed power back into the grid, they are quite useless as independent power sources, compared to diesel generators.

However, if we want PV power to compete with Coal or Gas, we need economies of scale of large scale PV based power stations.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Dick Smith living up to his name

(re Dick Smith's opinion that Australians should be limited, Chinese style, to two children)

Dick smith has got a point. If we want to limit population to any amount at all, we may want to have a target no of children per family. However, putting an individual limit and fines analogously to what the Chinese (RMP) do, risks overshooting considerably and also sets a fuse for a deadly demographic time bomb, as well as relying heavily on abortion as a means of enforcement of these policies. What is required is a target for an average(say 2) children per family, and a way to trade fertility allocations with those that do not want any children, analogously to water trading. Personally, I would find it easy to trawl my FB friends to find enough who would be willing to sell theirs to me. At any rate, our average in Aus is already at about 2, so further limiting people's reproductive rights would dangerously undershoot, eventually, when it is too late to rectify. 

However, as good as this (fertility cap and trade) sounds, it is not quite ambitious enough. There is still the dual issues of many children being unwanted to the point of being aborted, while many that want to adopt a child are thwarted by a lack of children to adopt and a heap of red tape - which leads to most adoptions being "soft immigration" ie. from other countries.

I am not suggesting the prepurchase of babies from females pregnant with unwanted babies by couples desperate to adopt, mediated and encouraged by the government. That would be the barbaric purchase of children akin to the economics of slavery and other barbaric uses of people trade and smuggling.

What I am suggesting will be viewed as a legitimate alternative to abortion - At a family planning clinic, pregnant teenagers (or other age groups) would be given the option of the fetus being carried to be made a ward of the state while in utero. The medical costs, as well as the loss of employment opportunities, stress and a range of other emotional and actual "costs" current and future, would be reimbursed financially by the state (including the fertility right trade).

At birth a pre-arranged adoption would take place. Rather than a prospective Adopter being limbo (and the baby being in limbo in foster care), there have been at least 6 months to arrange the details and documentation for the adoption to take place.

For the prospective adopter it will be a legitimate alternative to overseas adoption. Of course they would have to reimburse the Government for costs associated with the transfer of care, but this would likely be less than the costs associated with overseas adoption.

A couple of questions remain. Would a prospective birth parent rather get a whole heap of money for letting their baby live, albeit with someone else than making it die and it costing her? Would a prospective adopter prefer to live in the same country as the birth parents rather than on the other side of the world?

I don't know - I guess only people in that position could answer surveys to get a feel for whether this whole idea is bunkim or not.