Links for 2nd December 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. Controversy Flares Over Space-Based Solar Power Plans

    "Solaren has not provided details on just how its technology works, citing intellectual property concerns. But it expects that its space solar power can convert to RF energy with greater than 80 percent efficiency, and expects similar conversion efficiency for converting the RF energy back to DC electricity on the ground in California. The company also anticipates minimal transmission losses from the space to the ground.

    Hoffert remains unconvinced without knowing the details of Solaren's technology. He frets that "premature optimism" over unproven and perhaps scientifically implausible concepts could end up ruining the reputation of space solar power, even as advocates desperately want to see their vision come true.

    "Too many space power guys have been silent, perhaps to not give comfort to opponents," Hoffert noted in a recent e-mail to colleagues. "But scientists should not do this.""

    Tagged with: sciencetechnologyspacesolarpowersecrecyefficiencypublic-image

  2. Somali sea gangs lure investors at pirate lair

    "The gangs have made tens of millions of dollars from ransoms and a deployment by foreign navies in the area has only appeared to drive the attackers to hunt further from shore.

    It is a lucrative business that has drawn financiers from the Somali diaspora and other nations — and now the gangs in Haradheere have set up an exchange to manage their investments.

    One wealthy former pirate named Mohammed took Reuters around the small facility and said it had proved to be an important way for the pirates to win support from the local community for their operations, despite the dangers involved.

    "Four months ago, during the monsoon rains, we decided to set up this stock exchange. We started with 15 'maritime companies' and now we are hosting 72. Ten of them have so far been successful at hijacking," Mohammed said."

    Tagged with: economicspoliticsterrorismpiracySomaliacollaborationmarkets

  3. All men watch porn, scientists find – Telegraph

    "Researchers were conducting a study comparing the views of men in their 20s who had never been exposed to pornography with regular users.

    But their project stumbled at the first hurdle when they failed to find a single man who had not been seen it." Well, they never asked *me*. Ahem.

    Tagged with: researchsexualitypornographyconsumptionubiquity

  4. How Robber Barons hijacked the "Victorian Internet"

    "It was no secret why Western Union sided with Republicans. By the 1870s, the Party of Lincoln (Abe himself being a former railroad lawyer) had given away massive quantities of land for the construction of railroads and telegraphs: almost 130 million acres (about seven percent of the continental United States) was granted to eighty enterprises. Although the telegraph had been pioneered by Samuel Morse in the 1840s, the innovation didn't really take off, economically speaking, until it partnered with the railroads, at which point it became the Victorian era's version of our information superhighway.

    The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 sped up the construction of a coast-to-coast railroad system, and it further subsidized telegraph growth as well. But Congress provided very little regulation or oversight for the largesse."

    Tagged with: historybusinesstelegraphUSeconomicspoliticsregulation

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