Assorted links

by on October 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The world’s first commercial vertical farm opens in Singapore.

2. What is sort of an excerpt from the next Charles Mann book.

3. Are “green buildings” really that green?  Or is it just more welfare for the real estate sector?

4. Hans Werner Henze passes away at 86.

5. Is sculpture left abandoned in a digital world?

6. The life of an on-line poker player, and on Howard Raiffa.

Zephyrus October 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm

3) Huh. So the issue is that when aiming for LEED certification, builders go for the low-cost, economically feasible options instead of the expensive, everything powered-by-the-great-big-pie-in-the-sky ones?

ThomasH October 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Too bad about the tax break, but if it sped up the approval process there is some value added.

happyjuggler0 October 29, 2012 at 1:32 pm

1) So much for the idea that we are anywhere close to running out of space to grow food.

Stefan October 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I’m not sure that is an idea, although certainly there are legitimate concerns about agricultural productivity. It’s worth noting, though, that “vertical farming” is a completely bullshit idea, and one clear piece of evidence that it’s bullshit is that no one has actually built one. The farm highlighted in the story is a just a high-tech greenhouse. There’s nothing particularly vertical about it. Yes, it does put plants in stacked trellises which appear to rotate to even out exposure to sunlight, but it’s still just a single-story structure that uses movable plant beds to boost yield. Absolutely nothing wrong with this if the economics work out — there are some very fancy greenhouses in California successfully turning out high-margin speciality produce — but it’s not the farms-in-skyscrapers idea that shysters keep pushing.

Adrian Ratnapala October 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Err. Then surely the point is not that no one has built a vertical farm, it is that people build them all the time – but that’s no big deal and we call them greenhouses.

The real question is this: as demand for food grows and available land doesn’t, will that (a) shift more production into greenhouses, (b) cause greenhouses to become bigger and taller.

Rahul October 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Are we actually running out of land? Or merely fertile, irrigated land?

If so, wouldn’t a cheaper solution be to mine out topsoil layers and spread them out?

Horizontal expansion in thin layers…..

DocMerlin October 30, 2012 at 1:35 am

We can easily manufacture fertile, irrigated land where there wasn’t before. We have been doing it for centures.

Careless October 31, 2012 at 9:29 am

Then why aren’t we, docmerlin?

Brock October 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm

1) Very cool, but this will only make their dependence on imported water even worse. Nuclear-powered forward-osmosis technology can’t get here fast enough for Singapore. (Same would be true for Dubai)

5) No. See 3D Printing. Sculture is about to have a renaissance.

Explodicle October 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm

5) It’s already started. I went to a 3D printing conference a few years ago and they had the Phantom Desktop haptic device; we sculpted 3D shapes on the computer and then 3D printed them right there. You could zoom out for big stuff, zoom in for small stuff, and I’m sure there’s something better by now. Sculpture, now with Undo! You can even use 5-axis CNC machining on stone blocks to make a “real” sculpture if you don’t want crappy 3D printed plastic.

And _within_ the digital world, just look at the increasing quality of 3D rendered objects.

David W October 30, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Nitpick: forward osmosis requires no power. Forward osmosis is where you have freshwater on one side of a membrane, and saltwater on the other, and the freshwater migrates through to dilute the saltwater, a complicated expensive means of mixing. I’m sure you’re thinking of reverse osmosis, which can be used for purification.

I’ll also mention that multiple-effect distillation is quite efficient, and I believe it’s the method used for a large fraction of Saudi Arabia’s freshwater supply. It’s not clear which method will be more economical in the long run, even assuming too-cheap-to-meter nuclear power.

Roy October 29, 2012 at 1:43 pm

To me LEED certification just implied lousy cartridge urinals and bad ventillation, but now I can think of the waste of my tax money too.

Andrew' October 29, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I think those crappy urinals and the low-flow toilets were the government saying “Hey, the last place we could make people’s lives completely miserable is to make sure that indoor plumbing and evacuation of their own waste sucks too.”

Jason W. October 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm

It must be a drag to live in a world where the government actively conspires to ruin your life.

Mark Thorson October 29, 2012 at 8:27 pm

And charges you for it. And invades other countries to ruin their lives, though in different and harsher ways. And charges us for that, too.

derek October 30, 2012 at 7:13 am

You should run a business some day.

Andrew' October 30, 2012 at 7:40 am

“It must be a drag to live in a world where the government actively conspires to ruin your life.”

That getting shit out of your house is so mundane as to be utterly involuntary IS THE POINT.

Andrew' October 30, 2012 at 7:41 am

We are so out of even white people problems that all our government has left is to kill brown people and make us feel like third worlders where our own shit is suddenly a problem we have to think about again.

Andrew' October 30, 2012 at 7:44 am

As in, this could be the point where we transcend and get on with the flying cars and nuclear energy and escape Maslow’s hierarchy. But that is too hard, so our government chooses rather to make it hard to get shit out of our house.

(drops mic)

Brian Donohue October 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm

#6. I’m not as optimistic as Greg’s parents that the guy has straightened his shit out yet.

Claudia October 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm

I struggled some with the claim that online poker saved his life given the facts apparently to the contrary. While a bit counter-intuitive, it’s probably not that uncommon for the same thing to hold you down and lift you up.

john October 29, 2012 at 6:23 pm

There isn’t one addiction, or even a bad habit, that can’t be cured throwing up in a Las Vegas hotel room over a long weekend.

He says he’s cured. Why do you disbelieve him?

Finch October 29, 2012 at 7:35 pm

He’s an unfortunate face for poker given the trials and tribulations of Reid/Kyl (an attempt at federal regulation of internet poker, after Obama’s DOJ followed up on Bush and effectively killed it last year) in the lame duck session. It’s being attacked by social conservatives who paternalistically think their home game is okay, but the internet game is not, and by serious statists who’d rather have the state lotteries have monopolies on the internet casino thing rather than let it be open to competition. Maybe there’ll be enough congress folk who see the potential tax revenue, the civil liberty issues, and the obvious beneficial effects of market competition to pass it. Presumably as a rider on something that must pass. I believe there’s also a casino issue in Maryland, so the article is timely for the Post.

Merson seems like he’s trying, and he’s clearly very smart, but he’s obviously susceptible to addiction. Vegas and Toronto might not be the best places for him to be.

Finch November 2, 2012 at 10:51 am

I note that he won, and was pretty clearly the best player at the final table.

I thought about my comment after the fact and felt a little bad about it. Guys like Merson deserve the sort of respect Kasparov gets. Heck, they play a more complicated game, at least in a computational complexity sense. Computers kill at chess, and they’re pretty good a Go. They’re not-quite hopeless at poker, but they’re pretty bad despite a lot of effort. Poker is America’s chess, and Merson’s accomplishments are spectacular.

BullyWully October 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm

#4. Hans Werner Henze passes away at 86.
Sad, yet good to know.
Likewise, any thoughts on what seems to be a media blackout regarding the recent death of IQ-research superhero Arthur Jensen? Check Google News – not a single mention, even though he died more than a week ago.

oderhausen October 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Still nada…

Bill Harshaw October 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Hmm. 1,000 pounds of lettuce a day. Value it at a dollar a pound (doubt whether the grower could get that, but maybe.) Means gross income $365,000 a year, or roughly 60 years or so to pay off the $21 million investment, assuming there’s no operating costs. Not clear whether they use lights to supplement the sun. They do have the advantage of Singapore’s even temperatures all year round.

Why am I skeptical of its practicality?

Adrian Ratnapala October 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm

One ton is not 1000 pounds.

Cliff October 29, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Nor is two tons. Nor is the farm limited to lettuce. Also the article states that the produce sells for .10-.20/lb more than imported.

sort_of_knowledgeable October 29, 2012 at 10:22 pm

one ton produce / every OTHER day is 1000 pounds per day.

axa October 29, 2012 at 6:03 pm

#3 the data and the commentary makes sense, sadly the “intellectual” people is not going to appreciate it cause it was published on USA today.

the real incredible part is that LEED is selling a service that EPA gives for free (not extacly free, all taxpayers pay, ok?). and EPA certification is much better since it is based on measurements, not projections.

some people in goverment and suburban home owner have fallen in love with LEED, time to pop the bubble =)

John October 29, 2012 at 6:07 pm

It produces 1 ton every other day i.e. 1,000 lbs. of vegetables per day.

There are around 100 calories in a pound of vegetables. This thing produces around 100,000 calories per day.

2,000 calories per day is on the low end of what an adult male needs.

So this thing could feed 50 men per day.

Singapore’s population is 5 million.

philemon October 30, 2012 at 1:47 am

Assume now your 2,000 calories per day, which means the recommendation of 28grams of vegetables–let’s say 30grams–per day. The farm produces around 1,000 lbs of vegetables per day. So this one farm can provide 15,000+ adult males with their daily intake of vegetables per day. Doesn’t look quite so bad now, does it?

Careless October 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm

You have a diet that recommends 1 ounce of vegetables a day?

philemon October 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm

My bad–the numbers are for recommended daily dietary fiber intake, not vegetables. Question is, how much does 2.5 cups of vegetables weight?

Steve Sailer October 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm

“Is sculpture left abandoned in a digital world?”

This is a booming age for bronze sculptures of celebrities. UCLA just unveiled its coach John Wooden sculpture.

The Emmy Awards building in North Hollywood has a public courtyard with well over 100 bronze busts of early TV stars such as Dick Van Dyke and Carole Burnett. That plaza is quite frightening to stumble into unawares.

Andrew' October 30, 2012 at 7:48 am

I wonder why we don’t do art for children like we do sports. I think I’m going to encourage my kid’s Eagle Scout project to be to make a full-length movie.

kebko October 30, 2012 at 1:00 am

2. A vote for Charles Mann links. A good read, as usual.

Prakash October 30, 2012 at 1:57 am

He left out the demographic transition/ demographic winter idea from his listing of the positives. Especially surprising when it is even more relevant to the core of his essay than pinkerian reduction of violence. I wonder why that is.

DocMerlin October 30, 2012 at 1:32 am

“Is sculpture left abandoned in a digital world?”
I see more sculptures now than I have ever before. I suspect it is mostly a result of cities trying to find new ways to spend their federal money.

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