Ockham's Razor and Slime

A while ago I came across the transcript of Robyn Williams’ 2005 interview with Dr Geoffrey Chia. Robyn Williams presents a science program Ockham’s Razor on ABC’s Radio National in Australia. When I was a kid my dad listened to this and I got to know the term Ockham’s Razor. Throughout my childhood I never knew what it meant (I doubt there’s many children that do, perhaps Einstein when he was a little one). It was only a couple of years ago that I came to a vague understanding of what it meant, thanks to a friend who I’d always thought was pretty brainless – good thing I kept that opinion to myself. It was when I decided to call this blog Ockham’s Razor that I found out its exact meaning. It must have been the radio show that led to my liking of the words Ockham’s Razor. And I still don’t know why it’s a razor and not Ockham’s Idea/Theory/etc.

Enough of reminiscing. Dr Geoffrey Chia talked about renewable fuels that are greenhouse gas neutral. The first part of the interview is Science versus Pseudoscience, Truth versus Lies and the second part is There’s no fuel like an old fuel.

Part one is about our (specifically the US’s) dependence on fossil fuel and the politics of this. It’s important to understand this when discussing renewable sources of energy and why we don’t currently utilize many. It helps to know our history.

Part two is about some renewable fuel options including, ‘phytofuels’ eg. scum/slime/algae. When I first read the transcript I thought this idea was just too weird, but it’s not totally out there. Co-render blogged about Colorado based Solix Biofuels, a promising algae-based energy start up. His info came from Popular Mechanics. The article was published in March 2007, so hopefully things have been progressing well for them since then. Solix Biofuels’

initial target is to be competitive with biodiesel, which historically sells for about $2 per gallon, wholesale. They believe they can reach this goal within a few years, and are ultimately aiming to compete with petroleum.

Dr Chia also discussed artificial photosynthesis and solar energy and he thinks,

It is likely that nuclear fission, hydroelectricity, wind power and direct solar power will be important sources for future electricity generation.

I hope he’s correct about the last two, but I’d prefer we keep away from nuclear fission. And I don’t like huge dams drowning everything in site, although I might agree with smaller ventures.

In relation to the US history Dr Chia mentioned, the Popular Mechanics article said,

the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado…[had an] algae program before it was shut down by the Department of Energy.

Dr Chia ends with a parable, which would be funny if it weren’t so true.
can we avoid the iceberg

We are rapidly steaming ahead through dense fog on board a ship very much like the Titanic…Our Captain (who represents America) used to be a benevolent and helpful fellow, but has recently been gripped by an aggressive madness…Australia is a lowly midshipman who has always been loyal to the Captain…

Aye Aye Cap’n! And happy Talk Like A Pirate Day.


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