Solar as a Social Network

Solar power installer, Sungevity, announced today that Patrick Crane, former VP at the social networking giant LinkedIn, has joined the California-based company as its chief marketing officer (CMO).

“We are excited to have someone with Patrick’s track-record of success building social networks,” said Sungevity co-founder Danny Kennedy in a statement released today. “He is the right person to help us spread Sungevity’s easy, online process for going solar.”

Crane was in charge of marketing at LinkedIn over the last four years, a period of phenomenal growth for the professional site that AdAge recently called “the social network that will never die.

Kennedy is clearly hoping that Crane can bring some of that social magic to Sungevity, which is already known for a strong Web presence, as it spreads out of its western base and heads into the lucrative east-coast market. (Cali-competitor SolarCity also recently “went east” as I wrote about here.)

Read the full post at Forbes, here.

Sunscape Video | The Sun As You’ve Never Seen It Before

Engraving of the Foucault/Fitzeau daguerreotype of the sun (1845)

Engraving of the Foucault/Fitzeau daguerreotype of the sun (1845)

It looks rather drab now, but the first photograph showing details of the Sun’s surface was a spectacular achievement when it was made — in 1845 — by French physicists Jean Foucault and Armand Fizeau.

Today, there are several satellites relaying images of the Sun from space, including NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) which was launched February 11, 2010, and now streams high-def video of our closest star. (The SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living With a Star program.)

Some of the most spectacular views of the Sun, however, still come from terrestrial observatories, like the Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), 80 miles west of Los Angeles.

Built on the shore of Big Bear Lake (elevation, 6,750 feet) in the San Bernadino Mountains of California, BBSO houses the New Solar Telescope (NST), a 1.6-meter solar telescope — the largest of its kind in the world. The NST became operational in 2009 and is operated by the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The Sun from BBSO showing granules

In the image above, captured last summer by the NST, we’ve highlighted a ubiquitous solar feature — granules. A granule is the top of a column made of hot matter (called plasma) streaming from within the Sun. As the plasma cools, it sinks into the dark lanes between the granules. Individual granules last only a few minutes, giving the Sun’s surface a churning or boiling appearance.

Without any familiar landmarks (or land, for that matter), it’s hard to grasp the size of these solar features. To help, we’ve taken an image of the Earth at the same scale and superimposed it over the picture of the Sun.

Sun and Earth at the same scale

When the massive size of these granule is combined with how quickly they form and dissolve, another solar characteristic is evident. Plasma flows across the granule at supersonic speeds of up to 15,000 mph producing sonic booms and sending waves racing across the surface of the sun.

Here’s a video taken by the NST last August, showing the granules in motion.

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[Thanks to the NJIT and the BBSO for granting permission to show this video on our site.]

Librarians and the Pope: Both Devoted to Net Neutrality

The battle in Congress over access to the Internet is heating up.

On Wednesday, Republican leaders in the House and Senate introduced a resolution that would effectively end any semblance of net neutrality. In theory, net neutrality means that Internet Service Providers (ISP) could not restrict a paying customer’s access to the Internet. A new rule proposed by the FCC was meant to strike a balance between some ISP’s desire to control access as much as possible and and most users’ preference for unfettered access.

At the same time, California Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman, ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, released letters from a variety Net-Neutral supporters.

Here are a few clips.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

The USCCB is committed to the concept that the Internet continue as it has developed, that is, as an open Internet. The Internet is an indispensable medium for Catholics – and others with principled values – to convey views on matters of public concern and religious teachings. USCCB is concerned that Congress is contemplating eliminating the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to regulate how the companies controlling the infrastructure connecting people to the Internet will offer those connections.

Pope Benedict XVI, recently stated, “Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the web from becoming an instrument which …… allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others.”

The American Library Association

We rely upon the public availability of open, affordable Internet access for school homework assignments, distance learning classes, e-government services, licensed databases, job-training videos, medical and scientific research, and many other essential services. It is essential that the Internet remains a network neutral environment so that libraries and higher education institutions have the freedom to create and provide innovative information services that are central to the growth and development of our democratic culture.

Small Internet companies (including Happy Mutants, LLC, owner of the popular website, Boing Boing)

The Open Internet allowed our businesses to open. As we grow we rely on the Internet as an open platform to expand. Each one of us is proof that the Open Internet increases opportunities for businesses large and small to compete and grow regardless of origin, location, or corporate affiliation. An Open Internet allows us to reach our customers at any place and at any time, and to grow rapidly as demand increases. We can do all of this without asking permission from gatekeepers or incumbent competitors. An Open Internet is an engine for economic growth, innovation, and job creation.

(You can read these and other letters supporting net neutrality on Waxman’s website.)

A trio of Republican Congressmen are set to wipe net neutrality off the regulatory map with a rarely-used maneuver, the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The three are Representatives Lee Terry (NB), Greg Walden (OR) and Fred Upton (MI). Upton is the incoming chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which began hearings on the issue yesterday.

Here’s Upton on his reasons for opposing the FCC’s recent attempt to uphold partial net neutrality:

The FCC’s hostile actions toward innovation, investment and job creation cannot be allowed to stand. We must use every resource available, including the Congressional Review Act, to strike down the FCC’s brazen effort to regulate the Internet. Today’s vote is a sad commentary that this administration and the FCC continue to ignore the will of the American people – our new majority is committed to protecting personal liberty and reducing the size and scope of the government.

More by net-neutral opponents, here.

The CRA allows Congress to overturn rules created by federal agencies, using a joint resolution made under an expedited process and requiring a simple majority.

Waxman’s office released a statement this afternoon citing broad support for net neutrality: “The FCC received more than 100,000 comments from more than 2 million people during its rulemaking process—90 percent of whom were in favor of open Internet rules.”

With billions of dollars and the future of the Internet at stake, the battle will grow more intense in the coming weeks.

(This post first appeared in