Archive | May 2013

McCain in Syria

Over Memorial Day weekend, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) relived past glory by flying a classic A1 bomber under Syrian power lines, interrupting the already sporadic electrical service for millions of ordinary citizens, and crashing into a petroleum storage facility. McCain was unhurt.

McCain, who advocates arming the Syrian opposition, hoped to provide an example of the support the US could be giving to rebel groups within Syria. Not coincidentally, commanders from rebel battalions requested that the US enforce a no-fly zone and asked McCain to fly to Lebanon, headquarters of Hezbollah, which has provided fighters in support of Assad.

According to a Syrian Emergency Task Force spokeswoman, rebel commanders told McCain, “Hezbollah has some really wicked power lines. You gotta try that, man.”

Dunham objects to This Ain’t Girls

After hearing reports that a porn version of HBO’s Girls is being released, Lena Dunham observed, “Why don’t they just make a British version of Downton Abbey? Or a geeky version of The Big Bang Theory?”

“Girls is already a porn version – of all the relationship shows I ever watched. Instead of just kissing and talking about having sex, on Girls we take our clothes off and get down to it. We show you what you’d actually see if you were there; we just leave out the rote sex and clinical closeups of private parts characteristic of a cheap porno. Who wants to see all that?”

Casual Friday

When I woke up the house was cold so I turned up the juice to the E-Cat. That reminded me that I had a stack of dunning notices from LeonardoElectric demanding payment. For a self-sustaining energy source, it sure has jacked up my electrical bills.

I put on my gas mask to take a shower. I wished I could use the gas from the water for basic heat, but it would be illegal to harvest my own fossil fuel and not pay taxes. I dried myself and checked to see whether it was still legal to wear my Dhaka-made shorts and tee shirt. No buildings had collapsed overnight, so I didn’t have to throw them away and buy newer, certified-safe-worker garments – again.

After signing the Monsanto licensing rider, I ate a bowl of genetically-modified corn flakes, genetically-modified soy milk and hybrid bananas. I had to promise to dispose of my bowel movements in special bags to be stored in case they wanted to verify that no actual organic matter was in my system.

I walked outside trying not to look at the hydraulic fracturing rig in the neighbor’s yard. The new Gas Gag bill made it an act of terrorism to notice anything awry at any fossil fuel site. I hoped it wasn’t on fire.

I got in my self-driving Tesla, and focused on my iPad as the EV sideswiped the neighbor’s mailbox and ran over a dog. I managed only a few sessions of Angry Birds before a peremptory voice announced arrival. The door opened, hitting a cyclist, and I got out, but as the car pulled away I realized I wasn’t at the office. I texted my boss. Abercrombie & Fitch must have sent out another shopping virus because half the office had been, accidentally, driven to the mall.

We held an impromptu meeting while we hoped for one of our vehicles to respond and take us to work. I assumed most of our cars were waiting in line at the supercharger station. “Jeez, I never made it to the mall this often when I was telecommuting,” one woman whispered, “too bad it’s illegal now.”

A man dressed in Army-Navy combat gear approached. “Is there a problem, citizens?” he asked. “No, Captain Suburb,” I said, “just another mixup with the cars.” “Do you have your weapons?” Naturally we were all in compliance with the new Must Carry statute – I had a Rick Perry in my pocket, my boss wore a Judge down his pants leg and the women had hot pink Raven Arms .32s – good for at least three shots – in their backpacks.

“Carry On!”, Captain Suburb chirped as his colleague, Lady MallRat, snapped a candid. We gave them a tip, and they scampered away as if they were flying – but they weren’t.

Swim Stuff

Rumor has it both that Michael Phelps is returning to competition – and that he isn’t. French speedster Yannick Agnel is rumored to begin training here in Baltimore with Bob Bowman. Former Curl-Burke coach Rick Curl has been sentenced to seven years, and several prominent coaches are under investigation. There seems to be a lot of pedophilia in swimming, though it is hardly unknown in any sport.

I was lucky to get a swim in today between the storms. The NBAC team had all the 50m lanes, so I took a 25 yard lane. Nearby a very pretty young woman was teaching her boyfriend the butterfly. No distractions.

600 Crawl Warmup – dropped thirty seconds from last week

4 x 100 IM – On the last one I broke two minutes.

3 x (100 Back + 100 Breast + 100 Crawl) – Back feels rhythmic but is still terribly slow.

2 x 50 Back,

2 x 50 Breast,

2 x 50 Crawl

50 Body Dolphin – My dolphining is very rusty.

Firearm Flix

I’m reading that these are the NRA’s top-rated films:

1. Red Dawn – Sad ending, but I liked it
2. The Terminator – Never saw it all the way through
3. The Alamo – a classic
4. Die Hard – a great action flick
5. The Godfather – a classic
6. Zombieland – haven’t seen it
7. The Matrix – Good, but I didn’t like as much as I was told I would
8. The Delta Force – haven’t seen it
9. The Road Warrior – I’m on a low budget!
10. Tremors – Amusing

I can’t believe there are no Clint Eastwood flicks in that list. Go ahead, make his day …

In general, three of the films above, Red Dawn, The Alamo and The Godfather probably depict realistic use of firearms. Die Hard, Road Warrior (and probably Delta Force) are films in which even using automatic weapons which they never have to reload, the bad guys just can’t take down the hero. The Terminator and The Matrix are science fiction and Tremors shows that for giant worms, you really need explosives more than guns.

Excess Heat

Most electrical plants burn coal, oil or natural gas to produce a great deal of heat, which powers steam or gas turbines, which then generate electricity. Nuclear plants create heat through a fission reaction kept from going critical, but the heat is also used to run a turbine.

Since we’re running low on cheap fossil fuels, and since fission reactors have proven to be both costly and frightening, people have wondered if motorized transportation and household electricity will slowly become luxuries. Indeed, those worried about climate change may hope that we will run out of ways to heat the Earth sooner rather than later.

After many years of playing cat and mouse, Andrea Rossi has finally staged a test of the E-Cat, a device variously claimed to harness cold fusion, or low energy nuclear reactions (LENR) or chemically-assisted nuclear reactions (CANR) to produce excess heat.

A team of scientists involved did release a paper, Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device containing hydrogen loaded nickel powder, which was released with moderation but without peer review. A PDF is available on Cornell’s ArXiv site, and includes a version of the chart above, which claims that only plutonium rivals the power and energy density of the E-Cat reaction.

At Forbes, Mark Gibbs writes, Finally! Independent Testing Of Rossi’s E-Cat Cold Fusion Device: Maybe The World Will Change After All:

The paper was authored by Giuseppe Levi of Bologna University, Bologna, Italy; Evelyn Foschi, Bologna, Italy; Torbjörn Hartman, Bo Höistad, Roland Pettersson and Lars Tegnér of Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden; and Hanno Essén, of the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. While some of these people have previously been public in their support of Rossi and the E-Cat they are all serious academics with reputations to lose and the paper is detailed and thorough.

Actually, Levi is known to be a longtime collaborator of Rossi and Focardi. In, Rossi Manipulates Academics to Create Illusion of Independent Test, Steven Krivit of New Energy Times has quoted coauthor Hanno Essén to imply that Levi and Foschi actually ran the experiment and that the others more or less observed, using unusual techniques to measure the energy output.

The authors of the paper lack full knowledge of the type and preparation of the materials used in the reactor and the modulation of input power, which, according to the paper, were industrial trade secrets.

The authors didn’t perform any calorimetry and used a method to measure temperature to extrapolate output power that neither they nor anyone in the field of low-energy nuclear reaction research has ever used to analyze for heat power or energy.

SBK: Who set up the experiment?
HE: Giuseppe Levi and Evelyn Foschi – within the constraints set by Rossi.

Measuring the energy is of course, critical in an experiment on a machine designed to supply energy. What caught my eye were the charts – Plot 7, 8, 9 – that show the supplied energy at about the same level as energy produced for 150 seconds before each surge of produced energy, then falling down to zero for 300 seconds. While the paper claimed that 360W were supplied continuously, the chart resembles a single cylinder ignition cycle more than the start of a continuous, self-sustaining reaction.

It will be interesting to see if any peer review occurs.

Update: At ScienceBlogs, Ethan at Starts With A Bang notes that on-off circuits can be easily faked, and calls bullshit:

So… it wasn’t a continuous 360 Watts, but rather there was a switching between on/off states, where it was drew over 900 W of power for about a third of the time, and then far less for the other two-thirds. They also only approximate, rather than measure (or provide data for) the amount of power drawn. …

I’m done pretending that this is science, or that the “data” presented here is scientifically valid. If this were an undergraduate science experiment, I’d give the kids an F, and have them see me. There’s no valid information contained here, just the assumption of success, the reliance on supplied data, and ballpark estimates that appear to be supplied “from the manufacturer.”

Eat, Bike, Swim

My weight is back to minus 35 – where I was at the end of last summer.

After reading about Dr Terry Wahls’ diet, I started eating greens with every meal instead of just lunch. I stopped bringing yogurt with lunch, substituting three carrot sticks instead. I haven’t given up cow milk, but breakfast is now shredded wheat instead of corn or wheat flakes. I’m eating less, and wanting less.

Today is Baltimore’s bike-to-work day. I stopped at the bike-to-work tent near the Occupy Baltimore site in McKeldin Square. A pretty woman took my name and gave me a choice of a black or white cap. I took black. They also offer coffee and tire pressure checks for all comers, but no, “Earl Grey, hot.” She asked about my commute. I told her I averaged about three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and that I swim on the other days. I had a great 12 mile ride from a meeting in Cockeysville on Wednesday. Four lane West Padonia Road was a bit hair-raising as there isn’t much room for cyclists, but eventually I reached a stretch with an empty sidewalk. Falls Road was great.

On Tuesday I swam a 600 yard warmup, then noticed a ‘racer’ in the next lane. While I try to do my own workout, some swimmers race the person in the next lane, always starting when they start, doing the same strokes, etc. I flummoxed her a bit by doing 4 x 100 IM. She wasn’t doing Fly and Back, but she hit the wall as I finished the Breast, and I swam Crawl just fast enough to keep her from passing me. I’ve developed a fake-out start, too. I submerge ten seconds before I’m really ready, then watch the racer take off. Sometimes they figure out that it’s too much trouble; sometimes they don’t.

On Thursday I swam in the 50 meter lane, and started while the guy on one side was 15 meters out. Some swimmers are way faster, and some are way slower, but the guy didn’t pass me up, and I forgot about him. After about 600m, I started to notice that we were passing closer to the wall – a clear sign that he was speeding up or I was slowing down, or both. I decided I might as well try to hold him off, and put in a bit more effort on quick turns and coming off the wall faster. I managed to increase the distance slightly. But I noticed that I was holding more breath – a bad old habit. So I tried to strike a balance between full exhalation and spending too much time not stroking while while exhaling. At about 1200m, he disappeared, and I finished my 1600 in a time I was doing before last Fall’s bike accident.