From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Everyday Solar

There's a lot of solar street furniture that's appeared around town in the last few years.

Like this solar garbage can.

Or this bench with solar phone charger.

And this solar powered pay station for the local bike share.

There are even solar signs.

Increasingly, solar electric installations, big and small, are becoming everyday objects.

The renewables transition is well underway and gaining speed.  Solar is weaving itself into the fabric of this 21st century world.  Soon it will be almost invisible, ubiquitous, and available 24/7/365.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Zero Net Energy - January 19, 2018

Clovis, CA net zero energy development

The Zero House - Zero net energy, Zero carbon footprint, Zero toxins, Zero construction waste

Transforming the Real Estate Market: Scaling Net-Zero Energy Homes at No Additional Up-front Cost

REACT home produces its own energy and food

Net zero residence built out of recycled materials

Innenco says they can reduce existing buildings' energy use by 58-90% using the buildings’ own thermal mass, heat pumps, and chillers

Oxford, UK plans zero emissions zone for vehicles

Passivhaus for 6,500 people
from the Eco Architect blog about all things Passivhaus

Reversible tent design for homeless

Net zero building over-view 2018

More Than Housing in Zurich, Switzerland, with 13 buildings, nearly 400 housing units, 35 retail units and large shared community spaces built to 2000 Watt per person standard where 1,200 residents and 150 employees live and work

Maersk Tower in Copenhagen with "Denmark’s most energy-efficient laboratories"
Editorial Comment:  Living in Cambridge, MA, the energy-efficiency of laboratories is of increasing importance as we work towards becoming a zero emissions city

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

DIY Solar Systems for Puerto Rico and Other Emergencies or Disasters

Jehu Garcia is designing and explaining how to build DIY simple solar systems for Puerto Rico and other emergencies on Youtube: 

$400 solar system 

$500 solar system 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Checking in with the World's Winds

I like to see the maps of the Arctic Jet Stream every day or so (
They look like dragons and other creatures
chasing each other around the North Pole.

Then I look at the Global Map of Wind, Weather, and Ocean conditions (
which animates the winds and ocean currents in what seems like real-time
in full color
coded according to the speed.
I look for where the rare red winds are.

Usually, last, I pull up the World Cloud Cover map (
to see how it relates to the other two images
and make sure the equatorial rainforests are
still making rain.

Sometimes, late at night 
I look at the Northern Lights 
from the Churchill, Manitoba Northern Studies Centre live camera (
Even when the Northern Lights aren’t shining,
I’ll often just
listen to the sounds
of that distant wind.

It reminds me where I live.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Cost of Personal Solar Power

 I bought a solar hand crank radio flashlight with USB mini plug DC output about 5 years ago.  It cost around $30.  It provided in one package what we are supposed to have on hand in case of emergency or disaster - light,  cell phone or radio, extra batteries - in one package.  This is also entry level electricity for the over 1 billion people around the world who don't have access now.

A month or two ago, I bought a second solar hand crank flashlight.  No radio, no DC output.  It cost around $4.

Before the invasion of Afghanistan, NATO forces distributed solar/dynamo AM/FM/SW radios to the civilian population. After the invasion, they gave away more.  The NATO radios charge only the internal hardwired battery. A single additional circuit would allow them to charge external batteries. If the solar/dynamo could charge batteries, then you could use batteries in rotation, charging one set while using another. The solar/dynamo would be a source of electricity day or night, by sunlight or muscle power, at least for the lifetime of the batteries, crank, and PV panel. 

Combine this with bicycle generators that charge batteries in the course of daily riding and you have the possibility of providing survival level power to everyone in the world now.

In 2016, the world reportedly spent $4.61 billion per day on the military or $1686 billion, equivalent to 2.2% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and $227 per person. 


Solar electricity now costs from $4 to $30 AA survival or emergency and disaster power.

The image I have is of a

solar swadeshi, hand-made electricity.
Instead of turning the handle
of the charkha spinning wheel
making thread 
for khadi cloth
an hour a day as Gandhi did,
turning the crank of a dynamo 
or riding a bicycle a half hour a day,
the direct production of survival power
for yourself, your family, and your community,
swadeshi, local production.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Solar Backpack and Bicycle Back Up

My backpack became a solar backpack when I sewed a $5 solar tail light and a $10 solar headlight to it.  The plastic blister pack is the holder for the headlight.  I've been assembling my own solar backpacks from off the shelf materials for close to a decade and a half now and this is the third version.

This Solar headlight (links to sellers are from a search made on 11/26/17 and you should probably check others out even though these are now commodity products made in gross quantities)
costs about $10.  I've been using one for a year or two and it works fine.  The on/off button top came off during the first winter but it hasn't affected the switch's performance.

The solar light comes with a mini-USB to USB plug so I can supply battery power to another small device.  

This Solar tail light
costs about $5 and, again, I've been using two for a year or two, one on the rear fender of my bike and another sewn to my backpack, given one or two away, and they work fine. 

I have just ordered this bicycle chain charger with battery and USB connection for about $50 
I want to see how that works out.

The combination of solar and bicycle power gives anyone essential energy autonomy whatever the state of the grid.  Or the world.

The fact of the matter is, for less than $100 dollars you can have a 5, 10, or 20 year, depending upon the quality of the equipment and based upon my experience, supply of basic electricity:  light, phone, radio, batteries, possibly a computer....
Small solar and bicycle power can also be entry level electrical power for the more than 1 billion people who don't now, in 2017, have access to reliable and affordable electricity.

This is one reason why I say Solar IS Civil Defense.

It is also why I say a Solar Swadeshi ( is extremely practical and an entry into Gandhian economics, nonviolent economics, and a new sense of independence and self-reliance.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

4 Symmetrical Tetrahedra of 5 Platonic Solids

This is a video of a magnetic model of the Cube and the Tetrahedron broken down into its smallest symmetrical tetrahedra, what Buckminster Fuller called the A and B Quanta or mathematicians call Schläfli orthoschemes (I think).

The A and B Quanta make the equilateral triangle Tetrahedron (4 sided solid), square Cube or Hexahedron (6 sided), and equilateral triangle Octahedron (8 sided)

The A Quanta is 1/24th of a Tetrahedron, the smallest symmetrical tetrahedron to make up a Platonic solid.  Here is the net of the A Quanta which can be folded to make the left and right hand versions, both of which are needed.

The B Quanta plus the A Quanta makes the Cube or Hexahedron 
and the Octahedron,
two other Platonic solids
48 A Quanta + 24 B Quanta = 1 Cube
2 Cubes = 1 Octahedron


A third, the Dodeca Quanta, builds the Dodecahedron

120 Dodeca Quanta = 1 Dodecahedron

And a fourth,
120 Icosa Quanta = 1 Icosahedron

I've made magnetic models of the 5 Platonic solids with the magnets in the centers of the faces of the polyhedra.  The A and B Quanta have the same volumes and I suspect share that volume at the same scale, all four tetrahedra share one common right angle triangle, but I haven't tested that hypothesis.

Since I saw this video, I think the next model should be a set of these Quanta built as class 2 tensegrities with ball magnets at the vertices.  In fact, I'd commission someone to build it, for the right price.