Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Losses of Winning


Coming into Money
Can Carry a Very Big Price

Suddenly coming into big money or having a large lottery win may be more of a curse than a blessing. Winnings, for many, have extracted a heavy price. 

Some interesting research projects suggest that we are better off generally staying on even ground. A large upward surge in your finances can give a spike on the happiness scale initially, but over time that effect fades and in fact leaves you much worse off.

Adaptation Level Theory.

The reason the happiness spike fades is because of a psychological phenomenon known as “adaptation level theory.” When something new and exciting happens to us, we feel a surge of pleasure. Our brains release a chemical called serotonin, which is a happy drug, and we feel a glow for a while until the drug fades.

The transient and relative nature of happiness.


Adaptation Level Theory also defines the transient and relative nature of happiness. For instance, with the passage of time, the loss of the use of say an arm generally tends NOT to make you significantly unhappier, once you have had sufficient time to adjust to the new norm.

For Better or for Worse - in the end much the same.

Two interesting studies carried out back in1978 looked at this factor. The studies took 22 lottery winners, 29 people paralysed in accidents, and measured against controls. The experiments in both cases clearly showed that people were not significantly worse off or better off than the controls. When either a positive or negative event begins to fade into the past, the levels of happiness or unhappiness that were initially created tend to go back to a general norm.

Among other interesting factors that emerged from various studies are the following;

(1) The Erosion of Satisfaction.

This one is what I would describe as a sort of Monday-itis or post-holiday-blues, or maybe it is more like drug adaptation? The studies showed that lottery winners, with the passage of time, not only were they no happier than the controls, but they took an additional and negative hit. I call this "the erosion of satisfaction". Ordinary everyday events, activities and chores etc. that previously gave a sense of satisfaction or pleasure no longer gave them that effect.

(2) The Losses of Winning.

This one I would describe as “The Losses of Winning”. A research project in 2009 at Vanderbilt University and the University of Kentucky showed two interesting trends: (a) Individuals who won between $50,000 and $150,000 failed to pay off debts that they had from before the winnings. (b) Lottery winners are twice as likely to go bankrupt.

(3) Sudden Money Shortens Life.


Another bit of research has shown that many individuals who have big wins, or otherwise come into big money, tend to smoke a lot more and increase their social drinking, so they are more likely to die younger and suffer more illness. These findings come from a 2010 study done by Bénédicte Apouey and Andrew E. Clark, who are economists at the Paris School of Economics.

So perhaps you are better off not buying that lottery ticket.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Atonement Redress and Justice




Atonement Redress and Justice

The recent news items about the high level of hidden slavery in the EU and UK has made me very very angry. One item outlined the case of women in the UK have been virtual slaves to very rich families who, in many cases, did not pay them, and did not even provide them with the most basic of necessities.

This news has re-triggered thoughts that have bothered me for some time about how our justice systems operated.

As it exists, our legal and justice systems would appear to be stuck back in time some hundreds of year in the past. The archaic use of wigs and gowns in court, and the sometimes obtuse language of the trade, attest to this fact alone. However, it is not lawyers and judges in fancy dress that concerns me here, it is how the law addresses serious crime.

Our Justice Systems = Punishment not Redress.

The current system of law focusses on PUNISHING the guilty parties, but does little or nothing to compensates the victims and make atonement. Over the centuries, the punishments meted out have become less and less. Prison to some is a holiday, and a time to catch up on their trade from more skilled fellow trades-people. They can get a free education in prison and do not have to worry, like the rest of us, about providing accommodation, food, heating, medical care, etc. etc.

Fine Fines.

When a fine is imposed it usually is not linked to the resources of the guilty party. If a person on £10,000 a year is fined £5,000. By all justice and fairness, a person on £2,000,000 a year should receive a fine of £1,000,000. The funds from these fines should go, at least partially, into victim redress and compensation funds. It should be possible nowadays to operate such a system by linking with the taxation system etc.

Victims and the Law.

Meanwhile our justice systems generally leave the victims of crime to fend for themselves, except maybe in cases where the victims have their own resources to take actions, or where some agency or charity initiates a civil action on their behalf. This part of the law is at best ad-hoc and in most cases not successful in redressing the injury or loss.

I believe that the justice system should first and foremost redress the harm done or loss sustained, and put punishment into second place. The State or justice system should, without being requested initiate a civil action, using all the Justice Department and the States resources, including tax and revenue systems, to secure redress.

In the case of rape, redress should include payment for full medical and psychological treatment over a period of at least 5 years, a lump sum, and a pension to the victim.

In addition to the Law seeing to redress and atonement on behalf of victims, IMHO individuals guilty of serious crimes, who own resources, should be made to pay the full cost of their own prison upkeep in addition to the costs of redress and atonement. Those on welfare should at least have a deduction made from their future welfare payments to pay back some of their prison upkeep.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Return of Medieval Feudalism

Reset your Calendar 2015 to 1015 
The Immanent Return of Medieval Feudalism
or if you like, you can call it Economic Apartheid

There was a time when more than half of the world's wealth was owned by a tiny percentage of super-rich kings, dukes and lords etc. 1000 years on, and history is about to repeat itself!

Oxfam has projected figures which show that the wealthiest 1% will by next year own more than the rest of the world's population put together.

The figures show a clear rapidly rising trend - indicating that we are heading back into Medieval times.

The Figures.

In 2009 the very rich, who represent just 1% of the world's population, owned 44% of the entire wealth. By 2013 that figure had inflated to their owning 48% of everything. On that trend any forecaster would easily pitch the figure at 50%+ by 2016.

In 2014 the global elite had average personal wealth of $2.7m per adult.

Davos Talking Shop.


No doubt the talk shops like Davos will table some well meaning spin-doctored stuff, and no doubt the well meaning projections will most probably never be reached - going on past performance.

Bono, an Irish musician, didn't put a tooth in it when he told the assembled Davos elite “Some of the criminals around here are not wearing ski masks, they are wearing skis.”

Warnings.

Oxfam have warned that this virtual explosive widening of the gap between rich and poor is "holding back the fight against global poverty at a time when 1 in 9 people do not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25-a-day".

* Allowing extremes of wealth and poverty to exist is simply morally wrong.
* The imbalance undermines economic growth,
* It threatens the national security as well as economic stability.
* It leads to revolt and revolution and promotes extremism.

Oxfam is advocating 7 point plan to tackle inequality:
(1) Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and the rich,
(2) invest in universal, free public services health, education etc.,
(3) Fair tax laws to shift taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth,
(4) Enforcing minimum wages and a living wage for all workers,
(5) Equal pay and conditions for women,
(6) Adequate safety-nets for the poorest,
(7) And a global goal to tackle inequality.


Some Interesting Quotes.

In 2013 Economics Nobel prize winner Robert J. Shiller said that the economic stratification of society into "elites" and "masses", is a major danger to world stability. And that it played a central role in the collapse of other advanced civilizations such as the Roman, Han and Gupta empires.

Oxfam made a bold assertion in 2013. It stated that worsening inequality is impeding the fight against global poverty. The 2013 report stated that the $240 billion added to the fortunes of the world's richest billionaires in 2012 was enough to end extreme poverty four times over.

Oxfam Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs said that "We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true."

Jared Bernstein and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute suggest that poverty in the United States could have been significantly mitigated if inequality had not increased over the last few decades.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Assault and Batteries

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Assault and Batteries
An Update 
on the development of the Battery


"The storage battery is, in my opinion, a catchpenny, a sensation, a mechanism for swindling the public by stock companies. The storage battery is one of those peculiar things which appeals to the imagination, and no more perfect thing could be desired by stock swindlers than that very selfsame thing. ... Just as soon as a man gets working on the secondary battery it brings out his latent capacity for lying."  Thomas Edison 1883

The Dual Carbon Battery

A Japanese company called Power Japan Plus has announced a completely new type of battery. The battery, they say, can be used in just about any application including in electric cars.

Called the Ryden or dual carbon battery. The claims being made for this new battery include:
  • charges 20 times faster than current lithium ion batteries,
  • doesn't heat up, so it doesn't require cooling and is safer in aeroplanes etc
  • cheaper than other current batteries used in cars and trucks.

Reports suggest that this battery is completely new technology.
  • The major component is carbon rather than nickel, manganese etc.
  • It produces little or no heat unlike Lithium Ion batteries, which can cause fires.
  • It is easily 100% recycled.
  • It can be fully discharged without damage.100% deep cycle.
  • It has a reported lifespan of 3,000+ charge/ discharge cycles.
  • Current Nissan Leaf batteries take about 4 hours to charge, with this battery 20 minutes.
What is not made clear in the hype is the actual energy density of this new cell. How does the electrical storage capacity (W/h) compare on both size and weight with the latest Lithium Ion batteries? This question does not appear to have any answer - at least none that I can find.

The major hype is rife with how far an EV (Electric Vehicle) can travel with this new battery and other nice things it can do, but actual scientific test figures are thin on the ground, if there at all.

It is again a wait and see what happens game. Hopefully, sooner or later the hype will hold the truth.

Elon Musk's Giga-factory

Meanwhile Elon Musk is going ahead with massive investment in his giga-factory to produce at low cost and in high quantities current standard Lithium Ion batteries.


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Thursday, May 01, 2014

In Memory of Charles Cros

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Charles Cros

In memory of Charles Cros a sad genius, inventor and poet. 1842 - 1888 died at 45 years old. Inventor of the gramophone, colour photography etc. He never received credit for his most important inventions.

I have written previously about Charles Cros, a sad man who's genius was ignored in his time. He became a victim of absinthe and died in poverty.

Charles Cros somehow touches something in me, He is the kind of bloke, given the right chance in life, could have contributed so much to the world. I admire his genius, and am saddened by his ignominious and untimely end. By way of a small tribute to this man I have attempted, through some enhancement techniques on an old photograph, to let him gaze, with a little more clarity, through the mist of some 142 years into a world which might have appreciated more his genius, and punished less his failings. May he rest in peace.



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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Graphene Battery Development

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The young Edison posing for the camera

Battery Development
The Lies and the Reality!!

By looking through the content of this blog, you will find extensive writings on battery development going back several years. 

Almost all of the projects that I have written about to date have come to naught. So much hype and so many of the breakthroughs and inventions have proved to be nothing more than mist in the morning air, that I decided to stop covering news of these so-called battery breakthroughs.

On Batteries Thomas Edison in 1883 says it all:


I will let Edison say what I, and many others think:

"The storage battery is, in my opinion, a catchpenny, a sensation, a mechanism for swindling the public by stock companies. The storage battery is one of those peculiar things which appeals to the imagination, and no more perfect thing could be desired by stock swindlers than that very selfsame thing. ... Just as soon as a man gets working on the secondary battery it brings out his latent capacity for lying."

So why am I writing about battery breakthroughs again? Because a brand new super material, almost magical in its qualities, is becoming readily available. This new super material is Graphene.

Go make some in your kitchen:

 Crann Research Centre Dublin Ireland 
(Crann meaning Tree in Irish and pronounced - crown)

Major breakthrough in graphene production techniques in Dublin Ireland Crann research centre.

(My interpretation) Take the leads from some nice soft 4b pencils and crush them into a fine powder. Add some water and "Fairy Liquid" dish washer fluid. Place in a blender and set to high. Then blend for 30 minutes or longer. You will have some graphene in the blender. 

Not that you will be able to identify it or use it, unless you have some really high-tech equipment and a fair bit of scientific knowledge.

The outcome is that graphene will become many times less expensive to produce, and large quantities can quickly become available.

One of the Graphene 
based Developments

Lithium - Graphene - battery breakthrough?

The word is out in the news agencies that there are several new batteries currently in development. One in particular is at a testing stage and appears to hold a promise of being able to hold twice as much as the best current batteries can hold and thus be able to power an electric vehicle for more than 480 Km about 300 miles before recharging. The defining name of this new battery is Lithium Sulphur Graphene.

Current lithium ion batteries achieve 200 Wh/kg. The century plus old lead acid type battery can hold about 40 Wh/kg. Another key factor is how the battery performs as it goes through cycles of charging and discharging, and for an electric car you would want more than 1,000 cycles without serious deterioration. It's also good if the batteries don't catch fire when being charged!

Recent breakthroughs.

One battery that showed some promise was the lithium sulphur battery. This battery started life as one of several modifications of the common lithium ion battery. The development was soon shelved because the chemical process rapidly deteriorated after only 15 to 20 charge cycles.

Now add some Graphene


Very recently a research team at the Lawrence Berkeley Labs California found what was causing the breakdown in the Lithium Sulphur cells, and were able to add a graphene based layer to prevent the deterioration. They also adopted a different electrolyte and modified the cathode of the cells.

This resulted in a re-born battery which has more than double the capacity of a standard Li ion battery. Tests to date have shown that it can achieve in excess of 1,500 charge cycles without deterioration.

Will this battery make it to the shops for Christmas, or join the ranks of the dozens of others in semi-permanent development? Who knows. But with the Fairy Dust of Graphene in the frame - who knows what might emerge.

Another Graphene Energy Development

The Super Capacitor is another very exciting energy storage device. Up till now, it has not made any quantum leaps in its evolution. But with out new super material Graphene becoming available in many new forms and in quantity, this exciting storage device will also take a big dive forward.




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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day

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Happy Earth Day

"The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens" - "Let your vision be world embracing".

"Only a comprehensive vision of a global society, supported by universal values and principles, can inspire individuals to take responsibility for the long-term care and protection of the natural environment."

Our planet is a fragile beautiful thing - we have raped it over and over through our greed and ignorance. If we are to preserve it, we need a new way of looking at our planet and at humanity. 

We need to see natures laws of co-operation and reciprocity fully functional in society. We need our institutions, our legal systems, our governments, our financial and business systems to function on principles of trustworthiness, equity, truthfulness, and cooperation, instead of the aggressive, adversarial, and greed driven present day systems.

Perhaps we first need to glimpse hell - in order to be properly motivated?




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Monday, April 21, 2014

Graphene Made Easy

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So Easy 
When You Know How

Graphene is nothing short of a magical material in terms of it's physical and electrical characteristics. 

It is the strongest material known - it is the best electrical conductor known etc. etc. It promises to totally change electronics design and manufacture, and the same for many other technologies.

Graphene was invented / discovered using ordinary sticky tape to separate out the layers of graphene in a piece of graphite - the same stuff in the middle of your pencil.

But there were difficulties in making it. Huge technical problems existed in trying to produce industrial quantities of Graphene - that is until NOW.

Graphene Recipe

Take some fine graphite powder, add some Fairy Liquid, and I presume some water, and stick it in your kitchen blender. Blend for one hour - and hope the blender doesn't burn out. You will have some graphene in your blender - WOW.

Sounds too easy to be true. It is true go and check the news items. The clever people who came on the method say it is fairly simple to scale it up to industrial size and produce large quantities of the magic material at very low cost.

Ireland the Leader in Graphene development 

http://wood-pellet-ireland.blogspot.ie/2013/01/graphene-research-project-for-trinity.html


I am very proud that Ireland is taking a major role in this amazing material science. Good on you guys at Trinity. I hope the development phase is rapid and highly successful.

http://wood-pellet-ireland.blogspot.ie/2013/01/graphene-research-project-for-trinity.html

Roll on the graphene revolution.



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Thursday, April 10, 2014

SSE Airtricity a User Warning

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TWO 2 Reasons 
to WARN Customers


Reason ONE:

Some years ago I published a blog praising Airtricity for its efforts in moving towards wind energy, as the business name strongly suggests. I was a customer for some time and I then moved to Board Gais for a better deal.

I was with Bord Gais for approximately 15 months when an Airtricity representative called to my door offering 16% discount on that standard rate for domestic electricity. This sounded very good indeed. I was assured by the rep that it was the best deal available, even though there was a slightly higher standing charge, so I went for it.

What was not made completely clear to me at the time was - just how much an impact the higher standing charge could and would make on the unit cost of my electricity.

Let me explain that statement. I have seriously reduced my electricity usage over the last several years.

(1) I have installed LED and CFL lighting throughout my house.
(2) I have switched to solid fuel heating on a 24/7 basis, this means I no longer use an immersion heater for hot water, and also means less electricity running an oil boiler.
(3) I have increased the insulation level of the house.
(4) I have bought a low power TV set using the latest LED technology.
(5) I use gas cooking for the most part.

These factors mean I now have a very small electricity usage. This in turn means that the 16% Airtricity discount deal was seriously eroded by the added extra standing charge because the extra cost involved was divided over fewer units of electricity.

The end result is that the deal is no where as sweet as I was led to believe.

Prospective Airtricity customers should be wary of the pricing structure, and especially they not listen to their spin-doctors and sales people.

Reason TWO:


BEWARE of your Energy or Phone company, because in many cases, their ethics don't always match the image their spin-doctors and advertising agencies would have you believe.

When it comes to ethics, I have discovered a major BLACK HOLE. It is situated in the area of accumulated credits. At the end of a contract period when you leave to get, what you hope is, a better deal elsewhere, you will terminate with the current company and move over. What do you leave behind you ? ? ? ?

My Catholic background taught me there were basically two types of sin. (1) Sins of commission, i.e. actively lying etc. and (2) Sins of omission, not fulfilling your moral duty, not paying back a debs, not stepping up to the line to tell the full truth.

Dirty Tricks Departments employ Sins of Omission
 
To get the best deal with Airtricity several years ago I signed up for a budget-plan and for on-line billing. The budget plan took a fixed amount each month from my bank account which went to build up a credit against my next bill.

Because I was using less and less electricity due to my Energy Efficiency drives, I had a fairly major credit at the end of my contract. The amount was in excess of €99.00.

The money was only resting in my account - Dougal.

I was unaware of this sum of my money "resting in Airtricity's account" Not until I very recently went back to them did I discover - by accident - that they held my money.

  • They held almost €100 of my money for some 15 months. 
  • They made no attempt to return my money. 
  • They made no attempt to properly notify me the money was there in the first place.

Did Airtricity lie to me - no - they didn't actually lie - but they certainly were not moral or ethical in the way they acted.

Final Insult,

I got very angry with Airtricity for holding onto my money resting in their account and making interest for them. When I asked for my money back - Airtricity took weeks to get a cheque to me. They dragged their feet and held onto my money like a drowning man to a straw.

WARNING

If you have a similar situation to me with Airtricity or any other Power or Phone company double check and treble check to make sure they are not holding credit belonging to you. If you have any influence with law makers, please lobby to have the law change so mean and nasty companies cannot get away with holding onto peoples money.


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Friday, March 21, 2014

One Big Switch or Two Big Switches




Big Switch
One Big Switch
or
Two Big Switches?


"One Big Switch", a group energy purchasing business, opened it's doors on 16th February last. It is a private enterprise AFAIK and its aim is to gather "members" with a view to taking advantage of group or bulk discounts for electricity, gas etc. It sounds a great idea on the surface of it, and it is one I have previously exercised the old brain over.

The general idea in this case seems to be for the business to gather "members" and use the numbers game to barter for discounts. It would use a similar system pioneered by "One Big Switch" with some success in other countries, Australia in particular. It would seem that it was quite successful in Australia with a quoted 500,000 members - I must check that quoted fact out with my contacts in Auz. It is also said that One Big Switch is now one of the largest consumer organisations in the world?

The business is co-founded by Oliver Tattan, who also co-founded health insurer GloHealth, and has several other additional business interests.

So what will One Big Switch actually do? My understanding is that it will try to gather numbers / members and use bargaining power to obtain discounts. It will then pass on part of the discount to the customers while keeping part as it's means of income. It appears to be a privately owned business, and to operate as any other private business. How will the company develop and evolve? I would think much as any other private business, it's success will depend on how many customers it can get and on how much discount it can offers those customers.

There is no charge to sign up as a "member", and the advertising states that there is no obligation on the consumer to accept the negotiated deal. Whether or not there are any other obligation or liabilities to "members" is one of the questions I posed in writing to the company, without a response to date. I also rang and asked to talk to someone but I am still waiting a reply.



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