08 Jan 2013, 00:08
Hobbits! Everyone - but everyone - seems to be hopelessly enamoured with these small, friendly (and fictional) creatures, overlooking their devil-may-care attitude to foot hair.
How else to explain the positive reception to Kiwi propaganda epic The Hobbit? A rip-roaring, bladder-busting 169 minutes of walking, running, more walking - but over hills this time - a spot of fighting, a brief saunter under a mountain, plenty of picturesque shots of the New Zealand countryside, a bit more walking, oh, and some eagles, which to the Tank's mind could have cut the whole thing down by about - ooh - 160 minutes had they been involved from the get-go.
Anyway, Hobbits - endlessly entertaining. But would you want to be one?
Well, it turns out you may not have much choice, because according to scientists, we may have to shrink down to the size of Hobbits - which avid Tolkien fans will know is between two and four feet (0.61-1.22 m) tall - to survive in a rapidly warming world.
A US-UK research team reckons the alternative is mass extinctions, just as the world experienced some 55 million years ago - although then, the warming occurred over a timespan of between 10,000 and 20,000 years, which is an inconceivable amount of time for anyone who hasn't sat through The Hobbit.
Back then - in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, to be precise, not the CINECHAIN MULTIPLEX - a large range of species including horses and, erm, earthworms adopted "dwarfism" in a bid to reduce their need for scarce food and other resources.
Now, the Tank reckons this is going way beyond the slight weight loss we'd envisaged after an over-indulgent Christmas vacation. Frankly, we thought the whole global warming issue had got out of hand when it turned out Kentish vineyards could be churning out Chateauneuf-du-Pape within two decades.
But if, as some forecasters are predicting, global temperatures rise by up to 6°C over the next century, well - fur up our toes and call us Frodo. Oh, and don't forget to invest those savings in children's clothing and depilatory creams.
27 Dec 2012, 00:05
Well, here's something that should cheer up anyone who got a lump of coal in their stocking this year.
Yes, in a move that surely would have comfortably made it into that "ironic cos it's not ironic" Alanis Morissette classic (had said classic not been released 16 (!) years ago), Wales' national coal mining museum has installed solar panels - to save money.
The site at Big Pit, near Abergavenny in south Wales, now has 200 photovoltaic solar panels on the museum roof with another 200 installed on the National Collection Centre in Nantgarw.
According to Renewable Energy World, the £70,000 worth of solar panels should save the museum around £400,000 over the next 25 years, with surplus energy sold to the National Grid. You oughta know it makes sense.
"Coal is such an important part of Wales' heritage and yet green energy will play a major part in its future. A solar powered coal-mining museum is a fantastic way to celebrate this national journey," said Peter Walker, museum manager of Big Pit, who's fallen head over feet for solar.
"But it's far from just symbolic - the museum will benefit from huge reductions in energy bills and a solid return from the feed-in tariff."
So huzzah's all round at the triumph of green technology. I mean, it's not like coal is poised to become the dominant global energy source by 2017. What's that you say? Oh.
24 Dec 2012, 03:35
Wind power advocates have often been accused of talking turkey, but new figures should have critics eating humble pie - and a lot more besides.
It seems last Christmas Day there was enough energy produced by the nation's wind farms to cook 17 million turkeys - a whopping seven million more than the country actually eats.
The calculations were made by renewable energy developer RES group, which divided the amount of wind energy produced on 25 December 2011 by the amount of energy needed to cook a turkey.
It estimates that on an average day, wind power could cook 13 million turkeys in three and a half hours.
And with the Met Office forecasting another windy day this Christmas, cooks can rest assured the sprouts will not be the only green - or windy - part of a traditional turkey dinner.
"This statistic demonstrates that the arguments of the anti-wind lobby are gobbledygook," said David Handley, chief economist at RES, showing the kind of gentle comedy that should soon see him fronting Live at the Apollo.
"As a home grown energy source, costing just two pence a day, based on Ofgem's figures for 2011, wind is affordable, reliable and sustainable. It is a vital part of our energy mix, helping to power the country's homes and reduce our vulnerability to gas price hikes."
03 Dec 2012, 00:05
Here's some great news for anyone who thought the search for alien life ended when Michael Gove stepped into public life.
Yes, it seems extra terrestrial seekers all over the world are still beavering away. The Tank envisioned a team of beardy weirdos crammed into a bamboo hut in Hawaii sporting shirts so loud their co-workers need ear defenders – but sadly it seems most of the research is being done in California, Harvard and Pennsylvania.
But rather than abandon the search after finding the square-root of diddly-squat in more than 50 years of searching (so they say – Conspiracies Ed.), scientists have simply changed tack.
Now The Atlantic reports a team of Penn State researchers plan to spend the next two years scanning the heavens for enormous alien solar power stations known as Dyson spheres.
You see, in 1960 genius physicist Freeman Dyson predicted all civilisations would eventually run out of energy (assuming they were still going) and there was pretty much only one way to leap over this evolutionary hurdle: build a massive shell or ring of solar panels surrounding their home star and capturing its energy output.
So the theory goes that if you want to find alien civilisations, you should be looking for these rings, shells or swarms of solar panels. And to think energy minister John Hayes thinks a couple of wind turbines represent a blot on the landscape.
To the Tank's mind, the concept leaves the UK's target of building 22GW of solar capacity as a clear sign that we're not living in an advanced civilisation, but also, rather more reassuringly, that the government clearly isn't being ruled by a race of flying alien lizards as has been claimed in some quarters. Huzzahs all round.
22 Nov 2012, 13:20
As you might have guessed from the Sceptic Tank's weekly missives from the front line of sustainability (sorry, we mean Innovation and Resilience), our life is pretty awesome.
But there's always that sneaking feeling we could be living just a little bit more... awesomely (perhaps a thesaurus would help – Ed) – and that may just be where WoodBuds fit in.
Crafted from certified sustainable wood with bioplastic cables and packaging made from 100 per cent recyclable material, these headphones are most definitely green, while still coming in eye-catching red, yellow, blue, white, and black. In fact, we're really struggling to decide which goes best with the bra... SUIT. Of course, we mean suit.
And never fear: the highly rated sound quality means you shouldn't miss a single note of the latest world music and whale sounds.
The Yorkshire firm will even plant a tree for every 100 products sold, which is one of those admirable aims consumers seem to go for without questioning what type of trees and where. Imagine, for example, you wake up one day to find the cheeky chaps from WoodBuds have stuck a flipping great oak tree in the middle of your garden. Not cool guys, not cool.
Anyhoo, what with Christmas coming up and all, we thought WoodBuds would make an excellent gift for your family, colleagues, or even your favourite environmental journalists! And no, we don't mean George Monbiot – he's doing just fine already.
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