Sunday, January 31, 2021

Kyle Explains #5: Cryptocurrency

Kyle Explains: Cryptocurrency

I attempt to explain complicated things

Cryptocurrency is a currency created by solving algorithms. The currency is produced by an algorithm that gets more complicated each time it gets solved. The more people who solve the algorithm, or more technology used, the faster the problem is solved. Once an algorithm is created, it becomes slowly harder to obtain a currency, making the currency stable due to limits in technology and workers. 

The process of solving these algorithms is called mining. An algorithm is split into chunks and then reassembled to solve the equation. This is called blockchain mining, each user solved a percentage of the chunk or block or the algorithm, and then receives equal payment for their work. The work is simply a computer running a program that solves the algorithm. As the algorithms become harder to solve, the more computer power it takes to solve the algorithm. 

Companies have begun to use warehouses full of computers simply for mining cryptocurrency. These warehouses are usually located in sunny and/ or cold places to use solar power and natural cooling to their advantage. Computers usually consist mainly of multiple graphics cards that are all wired to one computer. These graphics cards are high powered and eliminate the need for multiple computers, it simply uses the power from all of the cards. Some specially developed mining rigs have emerged that are specifically engineered for mining cryptocurrency as well. 

There are multiple thousands of cryptocurrencies. Some currencies fail and without enough people solving the algorithm, are not used or lost. Other currencies are sought after, like Bitcoin, which has been known to sell for over $30,000 USD per coin. Cryptocurrencies are seen as an investment that will never decrease in value as long as people continue to trade them, and their value is solely based on investors, not in any form of physical value besides how much of the currency is traded and its value based on that. 

I cannot give financial advice, given I don’t have any qualifications in the financial or investment industry to do so. But I will note that cryptocurrencies are not backed by anything, and are seen as an unstable investment. While many claim to have made lots of money from cryptocurrency trading, there are also stories of people who have lost lots of money, and all traders should acknowledge that since cryptocurrencies value is based solely on how much is traded, there will be losers and winners, unlike the stock market which shares can be held and go up in value as a company goes up in value. 

Cryptocurrency offers a unique and anonymous way to hold and give money, but volatility in the market is a huge downside. Not to mention the fact that they are not backed by anything feasible besides a computer program whose value is determined by the technology used to solve it. While my personal opinion is ‘buyer beware’, cryptocurrency is still a neat new way to manage money and will remain popular as a way to generate income and invest in the online community.  


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Kyle Explains #4: Hydrogen Power

Kyle Explains: Hydrogen Power

I attempt to explain complicated things

Hydrogen power is newer technology. While introduced only recently to the car world, this alternative fuel may be the future. There isn’t a lot of hydrogen readily available on earth, but the process of extracting energy from it produces water which is a huge difference from what generally comes out of cars' tailpipes. Not to mention large quantities of hydrogen are not hard to create, while hydrogen is not readily available, it is the most common element on earth. This means that we can use more of it at a time and have a lower effect on the planet. 

A hydrogen fuel cell is a pretty neat piece of engineering. It uses hydrogen and oxygen to create water, electricity, and heat. The hydrogen is pushed out of a pressurized tank into a platinum screen which strips the hydrogen of its energy. When the hydrogen tries to grab the energy from the oxygen atoms they bond together and create H2O, yes, water. The energy produced from this process can be captured and used to power an electric motor. 

Hydrogen isn’t something we can just stockpile, we have to find things that have hydrogen in them and take the hydrogen from them. This process can actually be done without hurting the earth. The process of taking hydrogen from water is called electrolysis. Electrolysis is done by adding energy to water, which splits the hydrogen and oxygen from each other. The electricity can be gained from solar power, and the results of the process are hydrogen (which we capture) and oxygen, which is good for the environment.  

Safety is another factor that can be at play. Luckily hydrogen is lighter than air and, unlike car fuels, does not pool up on the ground and take hours or days to evaporate while part of it seeps into the ground. Burning gasoline is a major factor in car accidents, while a small accident can cause minor injuries, a burning engine or car can send someone to the hospital. One of the benefits of hydrogen is that, while flammable, it floats away from the car. The pressurized tank means that the hydrogen will shoot out potentially faster than it can burn, and most likely leave an accident scene safer than a scene where gasoline is involved. 

You might wonder how you fill a pressurized tank at the gas pump. That’s not something to fear at all, there are already several hydrogen refueling stations and several hydrogen cars on the market today. It’s the same as filling a gas tank, except with an actual gas as opposed to gasoline. 

Hydrogen power has come a long way and will continue to grow. While California is leading in hydrogen-powered vehicles and hydrogen pumps, many manufacturers are pushing for the technology due to its safety and feasibility. Electric cars may have not reached their peak, but hydrogen cars have been outperforming them in their beginning and will only continue to improve as they gain popularity and become a more connected network. 

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Kyle Explains #3: Solar Panels

 Kyle Explains: Solar Panels

I attempt to explain complicated things

Technology is a huge part of our lives. Sustainable electricity is one of the largest concerns today and solar panels offer individuals a way to help the environment while lowering their electricity costs, in some cases eliminating it altogether. Solar panels come in different ranges of sizes, from small panels that are made to charge your phone, to multiple large panels that are made to power a house. 

Many places in the world offer energy buyback programs, where the agencies that supply power will credit users the power they generate. This program incentivizes sustainability and helping environmental concerns. Solar power also comes from large solar farms that add power to the grid, these are similar to house panels but are not mounted on houses and cover large amounts of property, usually in sunny, dry areas. 

Solar power is created by the sun when rays of sunlight hit cells called photovoltaic cells. These cells are activated by the photons and create an electric charge which is converted through an inverter. The electricity is then used by a house, stored in a battery, or sent to the power grid. Photovoltaic cells are only centimeters in size and hundreds or thousands are required to make a solar panel depending on its use. 

There are two main types of solar panels, monocrystalline and polycrystalline. All solar cells are made from silicon. Monocrystalline cells are made from cutting one large silicon block and are more efficient. Polycrystalline are made by melting silicon into individual cells, and is less efficient. Silicon comes in many forms and so do solar panels. One other form is amorphous silicon which is flexible, unlike the other two, and can be made into sheets similar to metal or plastic. It is worth noting that amorphous silicon cells are much less efficient than the other two types of cells.

The average solar panel will last between 20 and 30 years. Wear from storms or use will damage the panels over time, or the chemicals will begin to fall apart, rendering them useless. All electronic devices have a lifespan, 20 to 30 years is a long time, considering most phones, TVs, and computers are replaced in less than five years.

Solar panels are a good investment for nearly any individual who lives in a place where it is sunny more than half of the year. A house usually doesn’t use all of the electricity generated during sunny months, and the credits can be applied during the dark seasons. 

Smaller solar panels for cell phones and other devices have been on the market for years, and to my knowledge, none have been so effective as to be picked up by any major companies. Some cellphone companies have released cellphones with solar panels behind the screen, but those phones have not sold well or have been recalled. Solar panels will be a huge part of our future and are a cornerstone for changing the way we produce energy. If you have a solar battery that you like taking camping, hiking, or carry with you be sure to leave a comment! 


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Kyle Explains #2: Aquaponics

Kyle Explains: Aquaponics

I attempt to explain complicated things

Typical farming drains the soil of nutrients unless the soil is constantly being replenished with nutrients or fertilizer. Aquaponics is farming without soil. The plant sits in water with nutrients in it, sort of like Gatorade for plants. The plants are able to soak up the nutrients and water without needing soil to grow into. Nearly all plants are able to be grown in an aquaponics system. 

Aquaponics systems utilize three major components: the water cycle, the nutrient cycle, and photosynthesis. A tank is filled with water and a pump is added to the water to circulate the tank. Plant roots are submerged in the tank and nutrients are added by either adding fish and feeding them, or by simply adding nutrient or fertilizer liquid mixes. There are many different ways to set up an aquaponic system. 

Water is soaked up by the roots of the plant and carries the nutrients to the plant, which helps the plant perform photosynthesis and grow. The plant returns filtered water back to the system, if fish are in the system the plants are purifying the water by growing. The system can be composed of baskets that the plants are in or rocks that the plants grow into where the roots reach down and absorb the water. 

Having a pump in the system is crucial, it keeps the water circulated and gets air in the water. Adding air or oxygen to the water is a process called aeration and is done through waterfall type flow in the system or by adding an oxygen pump or bubbler. To help dissolve nutrients into the water, the water must be circulated in some way since plants only absorb the smallest nutrients and nutrients will keep dissolving until they are absorbed by the plants. 

Aquaponics, Hydroponics, and Aeroponics are all very similar. There are only small differences between the three. Aquaponics is often nutrients that come from fish living in the environment and no nutrients are added, only fish food. Hydroponics is when there are only plants in the system, and no other animals. Aeroponics differs from both of these in the way that it is hydroponics, meaning there’s no fish in the system, but there’s no tank the plants sit in. Instead plant roots are sprayed with nutrient-rich water through misting nozzles, which lets them breathe and grow.

There are all sorts of builds and forms being created, Wick, Ebb and Flow, NFT, Water Culture, Drip. At the end of the day, all of the systems are very similar and are based around plants growing without planting them straight into the dirt. It’s arguable which system is the best, or which is the most likely to replace dropping plants right into the ground. Regardless, all of the systems are more sustainable than traditional farming and require less or no GMOs. None require massive amounts of farmland while offering larger plants due to being able to force more nutrients into the plants. 


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Kyle Explains #1: Overnight Shipping

Kyle Explains: Overnight Shipping 

I attempt to explain complicated things

Shopping has been ultimately changed by two things: ordering online and overnight shipping. But how do these work? And at what cost? Let’s look into how your money turns into an item in less than 24-hours. 

Of course, the first step is to make a purchase. Once that purchase is made, the seller is notified, the shipping label is printed, and the product is labelled and either picked up or dropped off at a shipping center. 

The shipping center will give an estimate on how long it will take for the item to ship based on routes available and typical shipping times. Once the item has been processed and loaded onto the truck, the product is ready to be shipped.  

Depending on the distance, the truck may take more than 24 hours, but generally shipping from one shipping center to the other is less than 24 hours. The item is then processed at the second or third delivery center and then dispersed onto a delivery van. Delivery can also add time, if your stop is at the end of a route the driver may not make it to your house until the next day. This is the basics of how an item is shipped.


For an item to make it within 24 hours the routine must be much smoother and some criteria must be met. First, a route must be known to exist that will be able to get your item to the desired destination within 24 hours. Second, shipping centers must be able to process the item within 24 hours to get it on the truck. Finally, delivery in your area must be able to get to your house with a package tomorrow if one arrives. 

To have all of these criteria met is not an easy task, that’s why companies like Amazon and eBay have a * next to overnight shipping. Yes, they will ship you your item overnight, but within 24 hours is nearly impossible, and 3-day shipping has become the new standard. Currently, Amazon has figured out that if they have warehouses full of stuff that can be shipped by their vans to local residences, they can ship you items today. This technology is incredible, but the cost is having thousands of warehouses full of products simply sitting around waiting to be purchased. 

There’s a good side and a bad side to this. The good thing is that goods are more available and it’s easier to get what you need today as well as more people are employed locally and earning wages working near their house. The bad side is that so many of the items that are shipped are made cheap, so if they break in shipping it’s less cost lost by the manufacturer. This means that most of the items are thrown away in less than five years, and more trash piles up and infects the planet. 


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Monday, January 11, 2021

Fish of 2020

2020 was my first year going after fish frequently and I caught quite a few. I've learned a lot and am excited to get back to fishing with more information learned as well as better suited gear! Here's close to an accurate list of fish (and stuff) I caught in 2020:

10 Rainbow Trout

4 Coho Jack

1 whitefish

1 Sturgeon (assisted)

8 Mottled Sculpin

1 Red Tailed Surfperch

1 Shiner Perch

11 Flounder

2 Crabs

1 Crab Trap

1 Boat anchor

5 fishing lures recovered