Category Archives: experiments

Jane McGonigal TED talk: Gaming can make a better world

Watch this TED talk on using gaming to “save the world”. I think it’s quite compelling. Maybe the logic falls apart if one thinks about it more than 18 minutes, but I think there is A LOT of truth to this based on what I see with my own kids and their gaming.

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Filed under alternative education, collaboration, community, contrarian, energy, evidence-based, experiments, gamification, green, health, motivation, screen-time, social media, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, technology influences, video games

Everything you learned might turn out to be wrong…

A few examples…
Allowances for kids A good idea? Or not? TV? Video games? Homework? Organized sports?
Greenest place to live…. VT? NYC? See also: Driving to Green Buildings: The Transportation Energy Intensity of Buildings
Moving bikes stay upright—but not for the reasons we thought
Ruby on Rails and the importance of being stupid
What is the *energy* payback for PV? (much lower than you probably think)
– Is the *money* payback for solar-hot-water faster or slower than for PV in New England? LINK
– True or false: Heating with electricity is more expensive/more environmentally damaging than heating with oil/natural gas/propane
Avoiding the Global Warming Impact of Insulation (I thought insulation was a good thing, you say? It is… but now we know XPS and spray foam are problematic)
A lot of what is taught in intro chemistry and biology and history classes are drastic oversimplifications
– Dispersant use in oil spills? A good idea? Or not?
– Financial derivatives? A good idea? Or not?
– Wildfires? A good idea? Or not? LINK
What do we know about teen suicide? (Lisa Pan/Brain “Neural Circuitry Underlying Early-Onset Suicide Attempt — an fMRI Study” — see 2:42 in this video — part 2 of “Losing Lambert”:
Language. Uniquely human? Tools? Fire? Music? Art? How smart ARE animals?
– What’s more important? Local or organic?
– Olive oil. Good or bad? or kinda OK?
Paper vs Plastic? Diapers: disposable vs cloth? Beans: canned vs dried? Cups/Plates: disposable vs washing?
– Soy milk vs Cow’s milk?
– Farming: to till or not to till?
– Margarine? A good idea? Or not? Vitamins? Vaccines? Farm subsidies?
– Dark chocolate? Wine? Aspirin? Some or none?

OK, so not everything is wrong obviously. But you get the idea. “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know” is so right! But I guess the point is that we can’t freeze in the headlights in the face of this uncertainty. We’ve got to be comfortable with experimenting and thinking out of the box. Let’s go!

Experimenting and sharing the results
“Max Planck’s theory was way out of line. Nobody had any idea what he was talking about. People thought he was crazy.”
“The prime cause of the unease most observers have about our schools is the gap between the incredible complexity of life in the post-industrial age, and the relative simplicity of current school curricula…. The standard response in a situation like that is to panic.”

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Filed under contrarian, erik-green, experiments, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, superinsulation, zero energy home

Experimenting and sharing the results

“I built a [solar thermal heating] system that I subsequently figured out didn’t make the most sense – why can’t others discuss the shortcomings of their experiments? People must like story-telling more than science.”
— Mark Sevier, PE (our “neighbor”)

From article:
Using Sand to Store Solar Energy
Assessing the controversial claim that solar thermal heat gathered in summer can be stored in sand for winter use

Go Mark! I think also, people are busy, and so after they have built a house, and perhaps it doesn’t work as well as hoped for — in terms of being 100% solar, or zero-energy, or meeting the passivhaus standard (or pick your criteria) — then people are loath to brag/blog about that. But I think it’s certainly useful and will help others learn from our experiments and/or mistakes.

Our house is *pretty much* working as expected I think, but I don’t think quite as well as the PHPP perhaps estimates, and certainly there are lots of things I would advise people to do differently, but that’s ok! (*”Pretty much” as in… our heating bills are VERY VERY low — like maybe 1/5th or a 1/10th of typical house of this size?) We are on target to use approximately 10,000Kwh total for all purposes for the year (june2010 thru may2011) I think. That’s heating, hot water, electricity, lawn mowing, etc). But that’s minus car use, buying stuff, food, etc. We could be living much greener! We’re working on it!

See also:
Mark’s House — a 14 HERS house in Sudbury, MA
Other comments from Mark at GBA — favorite Solar Homes section
Solar heated buildings of North America: 120 outstanding examples by William A. Shurcliff
Edision: The experimenter’s journal

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Filed under about the house, erik-green, experiments, heating with wood, simple, solar, zero energy home