Saturday, August 01, 2015

Solar panels and butterflies

Cabbage White butterfly Photo: Alamy

UKTelegraph story about how the cabbage white butterfly help scientist figure how to position solar panels.

A team of experts from the University of Exeter have shown that mimicking the v-shaped posture adopted by Cabbage Whites to heat up their flight muscles before take-off, can raise the amount of solar power by nearly 50 per cent.
The secret appears to be the angle that the butterflies hold their wings, approximately 17 degrees from horizontal. It could even improve the effectiveness of sunbathing.

simple solar panels are cheap: We used them to heat our daytime water in our hospital in Africa 40 years ago. And many Okies had them on their roofs, and the poor would put black barrels inside their solar porches (porches that were enclosed but had large windows and screens, often on the south side of the house) that got hot in the day and helped keep that part of the house warm at night.

But electricity spouting panels are too expensive for poor countries. and they require the use of rare earth metals, of which China has a monopoly, and often are toxic, and spread pollution that harm locals where they are mined, used in manufacturing, or where they are thrown away.

one underreported story in the west is the anti pollution riots in China. On the other hand, would they prefer to be poor, with periodic famines?

The answer is neither. You can find ways to dispose of these toxins. But that takes money, which is lacking in poorer countries (and/or stolen by corrupt officials, but that is another story).

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