Nobel Physicist Chosen To Be Energy Secretary

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By Steven Mufson and Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 11, 2008; A01

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be the next energy secretary, and he has picked veteran regulators from diverse backgrounds to fill three other key jobs on his environmental and climate-change team, Democratic sources said yesterday.

Obama plans to name Carol M. Browner, Environmental Protection Agency administrator for eight years under President Bill Clinton, to fill a new White House post overseeing energy, environmental and climate policies, the sources said. Browner, a member of Obama’s transition team, is a principal at the Albright Group.

Obama has also settled on Lisa P. Jackson, recently appointed chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) and former head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, to head the EPA. Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor of Los Angeles for energy and environment, will chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The appointments suggest that Obama plans to make a strong push for measures to combat global warming and programs to support energy innovation. “I think it’s a great team,” said Daniel A. Lashof, director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “On policy, it’s a dramatic contrast based on what I know about the policy direction that all these folks will be bringing to these positions.”

Obama has not yet settled on his choice to head the Interior Department, another key environmental post, and sources close to the transition indicated that several candidates remain under consideration. Barring any last-minute glitches, Obama plans to announce the appointments next week.

Chu, the son of Chinese immigrants, won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997 for his work in the “development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.” But, in an interview last year with The Washington Post, Chu said he began to turn his attention to energy and climate change several years ago. “I was following it just as a citizen and getting increasingly alarmed,” he said. “Many of our best basic scientists [now] realize that this is getting down to a crisis situation.”

He sought and won the top job at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2004, leaving the Stanford University faculty to focus on energy issues. Chu was in London last night and unavailable for comment, but the physicist has been, in the words of his Web site, on a “mission” to make the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory “the world leader in alternative and renewable energy research, particularly the development of carbon-neutral sources of energy.”

The national laboratories fall under the Energy Department, whose budget is devoted largely to dealing with nuclear waste and materials from deactivated nuclear weapons, nuclear submarines and other reactors. But the department is also the conduit for funds that go to innovative energy technologies, including those designed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas.

Browner, a lawyer and native of Florida, was legislative director for then-Sen. Al Gore (D-Tenn.) and later head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection under then-Gov. Lawton Chiles (D). As the top administrator at the EPA under Clinton, she pushed for tough air-pollution standards that the agency defended against industry lawsuits all the way to the Supreme Court, where the EPA prevailed. In her new role, Browner will need her legislative and administrative experience in a job that will cover everything from climate change to energy policy.

The Obama administration faces an unusually big agenda in this area. The president-elect is expected to tackle cap-and-trade legislation that would put a lid on and then lower greenhouse gas emissions. European governments are expecting him to do that before a crucial climate-change summit a year from now. Meanwhile, energy industries and environmental groups are lobbying on issues such as offshore drilling restrictions, permits for coal plant construction and expansion, nuclear reactor permits and loan guarantees, and tax breaks for renewable energy.

In addition, the new administration has to figure out how to wield the power given to the EPA last year by a Supreme Court ruling that said carbon dioxide emissions should be considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. How the EPA uses that power could determine the fate of all sorts of energy-intensive projects. Yesterday, the EPA said it would not finalize rules on new electricity-generating units, disappointing industry lobbyists and punting the issue to the Obama administration.

An African American native of New Orleans, Jackson grew up in the Ninth Ward, the poor and largely black neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Jackson’s mother, stepfather and godmother fled the city as the 2005 storm approached. A few months later, in her swearing-in speech as New Jersey’s environmental chief, Jackson said the devastation wrought by Katrina put her environmental work in a new perspective.

“My family escaped with their lives, but everything else — their homes and possessions, even the family Bible — was lost,” Jackson said. “We were among the lucky ones.”

“The shameful failures of government that the world witnessed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have given me a special appreciation for the importance of public service,” Jackson added. “Those failures have galvanized my commitment to working tirelessly to protect the health and safety of the people of New Jersey and to enhancing our quality of life.”

Environmentalists in New Jersey describe Jackson as a pragmatic but consistent ally who has pushed Corzine to adopt a greener stance during his time in office. In the summer of 2007, Corzine signed the Global Warming Response Act, an ambitious climate measure that pledges to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

“Lisa Jackson played a very large role ensuring passage of that legislation, and helping ensure it was a priority of Governor Corzine,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, executive director of Environment New Jersey. “She’s capable of making the case . . . that deep reductions are possible.”

Democrats familiar with the incoming administration’s thinking say Jackson’s administrative skills were considered important for an agency they see as in “disarray” because of the Bush administration’s record on environmental issues. Before moving to New Jersey, Jackson worked for the EPA in Washington.

Sutley, who has a long record on environmental and natural resources policy, will head a group that has a very limited regulatory role and a small staff. But from its offices on Lafayette Square near the White House, Sutley could be a player in shaping the new administration’s policies on climate change and the environment.

Sutley, a top aide to Browner at the EPA dealing with air-pollution issues, supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries. She previously served in California as an energy adviser to then-Gov. Gray Davis (D) and as a member of the State Water Resources Control Board, where she was responsible for protecting water quality and resources throughout the nation’s most populous state.

Sutley, whose mother is from Argentina, identifies herself as a Latina. She was a member of the California Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender steering committee of Clinton’s campaign and is the first openly gay nominee for a top job in the Obama administration.

Staff writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.

Superstruct, the world’s first massively multiplayer forecasting game

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Developed by the Institute for the Future, Superstruct, the world’s first massively multiplayer forecasting game, goes live today and will last for six weeks, played on forums, blogs, videos, wikis, and other online spaces.

“By playing the game, you’ll help us chronicle the world of 2019–and imagine how we might solve the problems we’ll face,” the Web site says. “Because this is about more than just envisioning the future. It’s about making the future, inventing new ways to organize the human race and augment our collective human potential.”

The Ten Year Forecast team at the Institute for the Future will analyze the player-created game content and prepare an official Superstruct Report featuring the top collective insights about the year 2019, and the best tactics for “superstructing” society.

Gas Zappers- solo show at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

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Please come to Gas Zappers solo show at BAM/PFA! We are gonna debut the long anticipating Gas Zappers’s online game. I will be there on Oct 30 giving talk to Prof. Richard Rinehart‘s class.

October 22, 2008 – February 8, 2009

Gas Zappers, by artist Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, is an interactive online art game that tackles global warming. Hung is among the contemporary artists and educators who have adopted video games as a new platform for social debate and aesthetic experience by developing “serious games.” In Gas Zappers, the idiom of the video game is exploited to challenge and illuminate the simplistic notion of quick fixes to environmental issues.

Berkeley and the Bay Area have been at the center of the cultural debate around alternative energy sources and global warming, due in no small part to developments like the $500 million joint project between UC Berkeley and British Petroleum to develop alternative biofuels. Gas Zappers furthers this discourse in a serious game that is also at times fantastical and wry.

Like much of the artist’s work, Gas Zappers is visually frenetic and colorful, referencing numerous popular and political sources. The animation style of Gas Zappers reinforces and goes beyond the game’s subject of global warming, caricaturing the exasperating and vulgar noise of the political media engine itself. In adopting the artistic strategies of photomontage, political satire, humor, and surrealism, Hung is an artistic descendent of Dadaist John Heartfield, whose photomontages lampooned Hitler and Mussolini. Ken Johnson wrote for the New York Times, “Looking at Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung’s art is like peeking into the fever dream of an overworked political blogger. Mr. Hung, 31, is a fierce, funny and inventive political satirist.”

Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung received a New Media Fellowship, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, to develop Gas Zappers. A video version of the work was shown in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. BAM/PFA’s exhibition, on view starting October 22 at bampfa.berkeley.edu/exhibition/gaszappers and in the museum’s Bancroft Lobby, is the world premiere of the fully realized work, including the interactive game.

Richard Rinehart
Digital Media Director and Adjunct Curator

The Cryosphere Today

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The Cryosphere Today is a website by University of Illinois devoted to the current state of our cryosphere. It gathers and re-represent the snow and ice data from the National Center for Environmental Prediction/NOAA. One can download the Sea Ice Animations from 1978-2006 and a custom apps for iPhone.

From Wikipedia:

“The cryosphere, derived from the Greek word kryo for “cold” or “too cold”, is the term which collectively describes the portions of the Earth’s surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets, and frozen ground (which includes permafrost). The cryosphere is an integral part of the global climate system with important linkages and feedbacks generated through its influence on surface energy and moisture fluxes, clouds, precipitation, hydrology, and atmospheric and oceanic circulation. Through these feedback processes, the cryosphere plays a significant role in global climate and in climate model response to global change.”

Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest

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Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest is a real-time strategy game in which players use the Touch Screen to control units of woodland creatures—named Ecolis, Ecoby and Ecomon—to protect the naturally beautiful Mana Woods and recover the polluted land. All creature types have unique skills that must be strategically managed. With proper nurturing, they can evolve to learn new abilities that help complete the game’s more than 40 environmental missions. As players grow their woodland army, they must plant new trees to revitalize the woodlands and prevent deforestation.

The Price of Biofuels

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Technology Review has a great 3-part article about the economy downturn and science of the biofuels in U.S.A.

“Now ethanol producers are struggling, and many are losing money. The price of a bushel of corn rose to record highs during the year, exceeding $4.00 last winter before falling back to around $3.50 in the summer, then rebounding this fall to near $4.00 again. At the same time, ethanol prices plummeted as the market for the alternative fuel, which is still used mainly as an additive to gasoline, became saturated. In the face of these two trends, profit margins vanished.”

Gas Zappers in Sundance 2008!

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Ok, this is the story. My friend Gemma advises me to make a video to create the game characters of Gas Zappers so I did it. Originally, right after I finish I want to release it here to let you guys see it but Sundance contacted me and say it got in the Short Films program, along with my other video “Because Washington Is Hollywood For Ugly People”. Here I would like to give my million Thanks and Kisses to Noah Vawter, Gemma Shusterman, John Blue, MC Paul Barman and Noah Reinhertz for all the support and hardwork.

This is crazy, I got two short films in the 2008 Sundance! This year the Festival Short Film Program comprises 83 short films representing 17 countries from 5,107 submissions, from U.S. and international filmmakers. Submissions grew by more than 15% over last year. We will be there from Jan 17 to 23, 2008, so if any of you wanna hang please email me! Also my friend Eddo Stern will be showing his works in the New Frontier On Main program too. Here are more info on my two shorts:

“Gas Zappers”
2007
directed by Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung
music by Noah Vawter

Synopsis:
Gas Zappers is a short animation about climate change. The main character, the ironically overappropriated and fuzzy polar bear, abruptly finds itself in a position to save its home living environment through dextrous maneuvers in an Al-e Gore-ical world. The idiom of the video game is exploited to challenge and illuminate the simplistic notion of quick fixes to environmental issues. Aesthetically, graphical and musical styles from the glory days of video games conjure the triumph and delight of virtual success. As the bear progresses with celebrity companions through different climate change scenarios such as Venice underwater, confrontations with bulldozers, and anthropomorphized killer oil derricks, it narrowly succeeds each time thanks to its renewable energy defenses. A narrative unfolds that, like the artists’ previous works, waggishly interrogates the spectacular mode of ecological policy.

“Because Washington Is Hollywood For Ugly People”
2007
directed by Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung
narration written and performed by MC Paul Barman
music by John Blue

Synopsis:
“Because Washington Is Hollywood For Ugly People” is a video/ animation that employs images from popular culture, political figures and imagery found in the internet. The piece adopts the form of viral advertising in a reduction of contemporary events to a cartoon like mythology while touching on issues such as identity politics, U.S. foreign policy, sexuality and power.

Both films will be playing in the Frontier Shorts Program. The confirmed schedule is:

Gas Zappers (New Frontier Short Program):
Fri. Jan 18, 1:00pm, Holiday IV
Fri. Jan 18, 11:30pm, Prospector
Sat. Jan 19, 6:00pm, Tower
Tue. Jan 22, 3:15pm, Holiday III
Sat. Jan 26, 8:30pm, Holiday II

Because Washington is Hollywood for Ugly People (New Frontier Short Program):
Fri. Jan 18, 1:00pm, Holiday IV
Fri. Jan 18, 11:30pm, Prospector
Sat. Jan 19, 6:00pm, Tower
Tue. Jan 22, 3:15pm, Holiday III
Sat. Jan 26, 8:30pm, Holiday II

For the complete film guide you can download it here

new works by EDDO STERN at Postmasters

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EDDO STERN is one of my favorite artisist. He specifically deals with gaming culture. Don’t miss this new show he has at the Postmasters, reception Sept 8, 2007 from 6-8pm.

Postmasters is pleased to announce the exhibition of new works by EDDO STERN opening on September 8. This is the artist’s third solo show with the gallery. It will be on view until October 13 with the reception scheduled for Saturday, September 8, between 6 and 8 pm.

Los Angeles based Stern has been involved in video gaming culture as a practitioner and theorist for many years. He is presently on the faculty at California Institute of the Arts. The works in the show are a result of the artist’s obsessive participation in online fantasy games, most recently a yearlong immersion (2000 hours played) in World of Warcraft, the most popular MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) with more than 10 million players worldwide.

His new works – kinetic shadow sculptures and 3D computer animation videos – use a mash-up of documentary material from online forums, clip art, YouTube videos, midi music, electronics, and hand made puppets. They mine the online gaming world at its paradoxical extremes: on one hand, an untenable perversity of life spent slaying an endless stream of virtual monsters, on the other, an ultimate mirroring of the most familiar social dynamics. The struggles with masculinity, honor, aggression, faith, love and self worth are embroiled with the gameworld’s vernacular aesthetics.

In “Man, Woman, Dragon” (kinetic sculpture), World of Warcraft is reduced to its core elements: the cult of Chuck Norris, female elves, and a slain dragon.

“Best Flame War Ever (King of Bards vs. Squire Rex, June 2004)” is a two channel 3D computer animation diptych recreating an online flame war about degrees of expertise around the computer fantasy game Everquest, as followed by the artist in June 2004. The specific points of contention may appear recondite at first glance, but gradually the unfolding narrative acquires an unexpected pathos and reveals a glimpse into the shifting codes of masculinity.

In “Level sounds like Devil (BabyInChrist vs. His Father, May 2006)” (computer animation), a teenager living with an adoptive Christian family posts the question to the online Christian forums: “Is World of Warcraft Evil ?” The Community helps him reckon with the moral and spiritual dilemmas of reconciling his life in World of Warcraft, with the strict edits of his father and the challenges of following his new faith. As a new synthetic fantasy world encroaches on the territory of an established religion, the inner workings of faith, truth and the boundaries of reality begin to unravel.

In Postmasters’ second gallery a monumental portal structure is erected. It houses a central projection sequence: found 3D animations of tunnels, wormholes, voids, and flythroughs – the iconic abstractions of computer gaming’s spatial aesthetics, a clichéd metaphor for timeless and endless transcendence.

Brilliant TV Packaging

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Designer Tom Ballhatchet create this brilliant TV packaging.

via  Giz Modo

A Black Google Could Save 750 Megawatt per hours a Year?

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“Blackle saves energy because the screen is predominantly black. “Image displayed is primarily a function of the user’s color settings and desktop graphics, as well as the color and size of open application windows; a given monitor requires more power to display a white (or light) screen than a black (or dark) screen.” Roberson et al, 2002

In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages.”

Citysol Festival, July 12-15, 2007

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Solar One presents Citysol 2007, a clean-energy-powered festival that aims to inspire interest and support for local sustainability intiatives through, music, interactive art installations, games and workshops, and numerous other elements meant to both entertain and educate.

The music you hear at Citysol is 100% powered by Solar One’s 3.5 kW rooftop photovoltaic array and a 13 kW generator fueled with biodiesel provided by NYC’s own Tristate Biodiesel. Artists were also encouraged to pursue independent power methods for their installations and projects. Native Energy Carbon offsets are being purchased to account for extra energy expenditures.

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Among the performers, a must see is the DJ Mistakes’ bicycle-powered turntablism.

Not your 90’s Thigh Master

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image courtesy of Thigh Master

Thigh Master is a servo-controlled ring of thorns worn around the thigh which pierces the user when she consumes too much electricity! I would love to see Suzanne Somers wearing it! Watch the video here.

From the official site:

While technologists scramble to develop technologies for the production and storage of environmentally friendly electricity, it is also important to address our personal role in conserving energy.

Indeed, thermodynamics shows that we can’t get energy without spending it, and while great efficiencies may be found in energy generation, it is clear that the most substantial way to solve the energy crisis is by reducing demand.

While reformulating lifestyle and habits is usually thought to be the job of media, public relations, and activism, there is no reason that technology should not be central to how we understand, consider, and change our own energy usage.

Project Thighmaster is a system that alleviates this condition by assuring that reminders to save electricity will not go unnoticed, increasing its owner’s peace of mind by setting a penalty for environmental waste.

The system consists of a personal techno-garter — inspired by the Opus Dei cilice popularized in Dan Brown’s Davinci Code — worn on the thigh, communicating wirelessly to a set of low-power sensors measuring the wearer’s personal energy consumption. If the wearer’s electricity use exceeds a certain limit, the device plunges stainless-steel thorns into the wearer’s thigh, a reminder of their complicity in the planet’s demise, and perhaps their own mortality.

Thighmaster aims to balance comfort and discomfort in a meaningful way in order to achieve sustainable change. Packaged in the form of yet another personal electronic device, the system helps people to break out of inefficient consumption patterns. But in addition to decreasing a user’s energy use, Thigh Master can also provide relief for the less easily measured — but no less real — feeling of individual powerlessness in the face of accelerated climate change.

John Doerr: Seeking salvation and profit in greentech

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John Doerr, one of the most influential venture capitalist of his generation who made upwards of $1 billion picking dot-com stars like Amazon, Google, Compaq and Netscapes, returns and warn us the carbon-dioxide-sputtering, gas-powered capitalism will destroy us all, and that going green may be the “biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century.”

“I don’t think we’re going to make it,” John Doerr proclaims, in an emotional talk about climate change and investment. Spurred on by his daughter, who demanded he fix the mess the world is heading for, he and his partners at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers embarked on a greentech world tour — surveying the state of the art, from the ethanol revolution in Brazil to Wal-mart’s (!) eco-concept store in Bentonville, Arkansas. KPCB is investing $200 million in green technologies to save the planet and make a profit to boot. But, Doerr fears, it may not be enough.

Watch the original video from TED.

Janine Benyus: 12 sustainable design ideas from nature

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With 3.8 billion years of research and development on its side, nature has already solved problems that human designers and engineers still struggle with. In this inspiring talk, Janine Benyus provides fascinating examples of biomimicry — the way humans mimic nature in the products we build and the systems we implement. And because the champion adapters in the natural world are, by definition, those that can survive without destroying the environment that sustains them, biomimicry can contribute to the long-term health of our planet.

Noah’s Ark rebuilt to show climate change threat

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MOUNT ARARAT, Turkey, May 23 (Reuters) – Noah’s Ark, built to save humanity and the animal kingdom in the face of a great flood, is being reconstructed in model form on Mount Ararat as a warning to mankind to act now to prevent global warming.

Environmental activists are behind the initiative in the lush green foothills of the snow-capped mountain in eastern Turkey, where the Bible says the vessel came to rest after a flood had wiped out corrupt humanity.

Volunteers are racing to complete the wooden vessel under bright sunshine by end-May, to coincide with a summit of leading countries next month in Germany where climate change will be high on the agenda.

Original Article via Reuters

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