Saturday, March 20, 2010

CO2 on Mars and Venus

It's easy to be fooled by CO2. Odorless, invisible, a benign part of every breath--what harm could possibly come of pouring more of it into the atmosphere?

According to my notes from a talk at Princeton University by Michael Oppenheimer, the extreme heat of Venus, and the extreme cold of Mars, are not so much a matter of their distance from the sun but of how much CO2 is in their atmospheres. Venus has a very high concentration of atmospheric CO2, while the concentration on Mars is very low. A quick check on the internet yielded the following: Venus has temperatures approaching 900 F, while the surface of Mars rarely gets above freezing.

In other words, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has everything to do with whether a planet is too hot, too cold, or just right.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Strategy for Efficiently Lighting Your Home

Recessed lighting can be a wasteful way of lighting rooms in your house. If they are on dimmer switches, and/or use halogen lights, they can be expensive to retrofit with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). A friend recommends the following approach to reducing dependence on recessed lighting, while still having a pleasing light.

"My solution at home is to keep the halogens dimmed and use large CFLs in torchiere style lamps for the primary lighting in those rooms."

Seek out the torchiere lamps that use compact fluorescent bulbs rather than the potentially dangerous and less efficient halogens 
(they get very hot and could start a fire if the lamp is knocked over).

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tennis Balls in the Laundry

One way to cut back on energy use is to air dry the laundry. This works for most clothing, and may actually reduce wear and tear, since the lint in the dryer is evidence of loss of fibers when clothes are machine-dried.

But the scratchiness of air-dried towels has not gone over well in our household. One trick I've heard of is to air-dry towels, then put them in a dryer with a tennis ball or two, using the unheated fluff cycle to soften them up. Worth a try.

One can actually buy specially designed balls to use in the dryer with wet clothes. They reportedly speed the drying.