An Answer to Slick Roads

After weeks of snow and ice cover, I am glad to say that an end is near. An inventor has an idea to keep that ice and snow off our roads. Fox News has a fine article on this potential marvel of science at http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2011/02/02/solar-powered-glass-road-melt-snow-automatically/ .

There may be one fly in the ointment. Our intrepid inventor needs a little public cash to work out the feasibility of his road warming, solar-powered, glass road cover. He wants a $750,000 grant to build a prototype and see if it works.

Now this is the kind of project the government can get behind. First, it is exorbitantly expensive; according to Watts Up With That http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/06/at-4-4-million-per-mile-a-road-to-snow-where/, up to $4.4 million a mile.

And what could go wrong. Glass solar panels are strong enough for truck traffic aren’t they? High temperature summer expansion and winter frost buckling might not affect it. The solar panels contain photoelectric cells (they are cheap), which do not work well when dirty (we can give the homeless squeegees and pay them a few bucks), and batteries will have to be used to store the electricity to warm the road (luckily they are cheap and last forever). Water lines under roads never break. Glass is a wonderful product, which never gets slick when wet. Stopping distances will be shorter. It never gets cold enough or snows hard enough to overpower those feeble heating elements. In the off-chance that snow should overpower it, enough light will certainly get through to keep the system charged. Even then, those last-ditch effort snowplows will not mar its surface. It never snows at night when the system cannot recharge itself. No trees, buildings or roadway cuts ever cast shadows on the road. Fallen leaves, trash or road debris will not be a problem. The gouge in the roadway from a loaded truck losing a wheel will not cut deep enough damage the cells. I believe that we can all agree that maintenance costs will be effectively zero. The fact that even the best solar cells, placed in ideal locations, only last about twenty years, should not be a problem. At $4.4 million a mile, we can just rip them up and replace them. Think of all the jobs.

Yep, this is something the government can sink its teeth into. Any idiot can see that this is an idea whose time has come.

Published in: on February 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Let the Buyer Beware

Let the Buyer Beware.

I have a definite talent for convincing people to try something new. I am a good salesman. When I’m on form, I can sell anything.
Brian Eno-musician

There is a small article in the Winnipeg Free Press, http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/around-canada-113127009.html (it is the second article), about a man suing the maker of a penis enlarger. After using it for 500 hours, he said it did not work. It was probably made in China; just cannot trust that stuff.

Published in: on January 19, 2011 at 12:09 am  Comments (1)  

Hi Ho Silver, Away

It is better to travel well than to arrive.
Buddha

For those a little dubious on the practicality of electric cars, there is no longer any need to be dubious. They suck. A British journalist took it upon himself to prove that battery-powered cars are practical. He felt his result while driving from London to Edinburgh proved that they are: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12189321.

Not everyone felt that way: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/8262095/London-to-Edinburgh-by-electric-car-it-was-quicker-by-stagecoach.html and http://dailybayonet.com/?p=7785.

The above Telegraph’s article comparing it to a stagecoach caught my eye. When it takes four battery-powered days to go 400 miles at the posted speed limit on sleek highways, and it only took two days to make the trip by stagecoach over dirt roads, it does not exactly seem like the battery-powered car is the ideal vacation vehicle.

A battery-powered car might be an okay for a second vehicle for a large upper-class family with no financial problems; it would be a dismal failure for a one-car family. By the way, the speed of the good, old American Pony Express was much faster, but still slow compared to fossil fuel vehicles.

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm  Comments (1)  

Reading Becomes Too Easy

In reading, a lonely quiet concert is given to our minds; all our mental faculties will be present in this symphonic exaltation.
Stephane Mallarme-poet

I have been thinking about getting an e-reader. So far it has not progressed past the research stage. Because of the research, anything having to do with e-readers catches my eye. In an article in today’s Mail Online http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1347058/Why-ugly-fonts-messy-handwriting-make-easier-remember-youve-read.html, was research information on e-readers making it harder to remember what one reads because the print is so clear.

My first reaction was that it was a load of crap, but after reading the entire article . . . I wonder. I found the article interesting because it postulates that the easier the reading, the faster the eye and mind pass over it. The study used harder to read fonts and found retention was higher. Apparently, when the eyes slow down the brain figures the information coming in is important and places it in a better storage area.

As a compulsive reader, I tend to read very fast. That is okay when reading for pleasure, but for details, statistics, names or dates I may want to remember and blog about later, I find I pass over them too quickly to truly commit them to memory. It would it be interesting if publishers (in e-book or paper format) changed up the fonts on the critical, you-may-be-tested-on-this, information. It would appear to be a win/win situation. If it works, more information is retained, if not, no harm done. I would volunteer to be a test subject.

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  

The Not-So-Thin Line

There’s a big difference between sanity and insanity.
Megan Gallagher-actress

There is a raging debate going on about the mass killing in Arizona. It can be found in the papers and the blogs. The debate revolves around how much the conservative rhetoric, leading up to and since the November elections, influenced Jared Loughner in his savage act. Many are trying to define the issue at to whether Jared is a bona fide right-wing nut, or if he is just a right-leaning dupe who fell for that rhetoric. Many are wrong.

First, Jared posted on his Facebook page that his favorite books were Mien Kamph and the Communist Manifesto; hardly sources sought out by right-wing scholars. Second, Jared’s irrational outbursts were getting him kicked out of class years ago.

Finally, as a cop, I met many psychotics on disturbance calls. While some of them kept a TV or radio playing in the background, to drown out the voices in their heads, the electronic messages meant nothing to them. They lived in the bubble world of their own minds. The voices they heard, telling them to harm someone else, could not be controlled by a TV or radio volume knob. Perhaps they could be controlled by medication, but universally, at least on the cases I handled, they did not like the way the medicines made them feel, so they quit taking them.

Insanity is insanity. By definition, it does not conform to the rules of society. To try to blame, or excuse, the actions of Jared Loughner, on what anyone else said, would at the very least be a lesser form of insanity.

The United States, and perhaps the world, does not know what to do with the insane. No one wants to face the problem. Keeping them locked away in mental institutions is too expensive, medications also are too expensive, and do not work unless there is a way to insure they are taken. Their existence varied from the shameful family secret, kept locked in the attic, to the homeless, panhandling on the corner. Over the centuries, they have been cast out, imprisoned, and killed. Mostly, they are just harmless shadowy figures, lurking in the background . . . until a Jared Loughner comes along. Then, for as long as the press cycle lasts, they are monsters to be feared and used for political gain.

Published in: on January 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Michael Vick, Roll Model

One shouldn’t be afraid of the humans. Well, I am not afraid of the humans, but of what is inhuman in them.
Ivo Andric-writer

I enjoyed watching Michel Vick lose to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs the other night. I only hope he keeps losing until the NFL can no longer find a place for him.

In case you haven’t noticed, I have a problem with Michael Vick: I’m a dog person. Oh, I know, he has done his time and the law says he can go on with his life. Sorry, I don’t feel that way. In my world, there are some things that can’t be made right . . . can’t be forgiven. Child molestation and cruelty to animals are two of the more flagrant examples of the unforgivable. Vick hasn’t molested any children, but his training of dogs to fight to the death, or simply killing any surviving losers, falls well below the humanity index, making Vick more of an animal than his victims.

Vick was graced with a God-given athletic ability. He was accepted as a top-tier quarterback in the NFL and is paid mega bucks for that ability. He had the wherewithal to set an example, to be the ultimate role model, but he squandered all that to stoop to the lowest level of human debauchery. Just because he has been released from prison and gone back to his multimillion-dollar salary, nothing has changed to erase the stain on his soul. He can never be a role model, and he is only an example of what is ugly and evil on this earth. If I had my way, Vick would spend the rest of his life in some obscure alcove of Hell, too ashamed to show his face to anyone in full possession of a heart, but that is just me.

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Another Civilization Gone

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Robert A. Heinlein-writer

A once-prosperous metropolis of over a million inhabitants came to end recently, allegedly due to global warming. It was a sad demise for a well-organized center of civilization, which started out very, very small in a corner of the Serengeti desert.

During its genesis, there was adequate water for a large population, so the population grew. Thousands of farmers collected the crops for a hungry population, a standing army protected the city and employment was near 100%. No one could have predicted the disaster ahead.

Everything seemed fine until a few years ago. Atmospheric testing was done around the city, testing revealing extremely high CO2 levels, but CO2 had no meaning to the uneducated masses. They ignored it—at their own peril.

As time went on, the water supply began to dry up. Even then the residents stuck stubbornly to the only city they had ever known, but as the water level went down, the effects became apparent. The birth rate dropped off. Lower food availability placed a stress on the weakest. Workers would go out into the countryside and not come back. It quickly became an empty pile of mud, just like many of the other termite mounds in the Serengeti.

The saddest part is that the rains came after the last termite had died. Even the Serengeti gets occasional rain. It is a normal cycle of the climate. The CO2 the mound gave off had nothing to do with it.

There is a lesson that can be learned from this loss in the insect world: adapt or die. If it gets hot, find a way to get cool. If it gets cold, find a way to get warm. If it gets dry, drill for water or move to where it is. The one constant is that all survival strategies require the expenditure of energy, and when speaking of billions of people, massive amounts of energy. Without the energy, we become the insects, waiting to die because we do not control our destiny. With the energy, we shape the earth to our needs. Adapt or die.

Now tell me why we are working so hard to avoid using the cheapest, most abundant forms of energy available; instead favoring the most expensive, ineffective, intermittent forms. At best, the alternative forms of energy will allow the prosperity of a small fraction of humanity.

As it says in the song, “Something’s happening here.”

Published in: on January 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Mother Ship Awaits

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.
Richard Bach-novelist

For some, the countdown to the end of the earth is underway. The Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012, and many believe that the Mayans knew something we do not, but an old calendar is not the only doom to be found.

The U. K. Telegraph printed a recent article http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/ufo/8217001/French-village-which-will-survive-2012-Armageddon-plagued-by-visitors.html about a French mountain village being inundated with human visitors. They are coming to await the outpouring of the interstellar aliens who will be leaving before Armageddon. The aliens have been hiding in their spaceship hidden in a cavity beneath the mountain. Just why they have been hiding and waiting is open to speculation.

History is rife with predictions of the end of the world. Everything from Nostradamus (July 1, 1999, he was wrong), to Y2K (it was wrong too), to Astronomers’ predictions of doom on the Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Earth alignment on May 5, 2000 (oops, wrong again).

There have been several cults in the past, which felt strongly enough about astrological signs, numerology, psychic revelations, alien encounters and ancient calendars that they went the extra mile to meet their demise, or their salvation, on their terms. In researching for this blog, I found literally hundreds of doomsday predictions. Most of them are benign, but some caused a lot of misery.

In many of them, a charismatic cult founder was considered a god, but the god usually had feet of clay. Sexual favors or drugs prompted most of the attraction to the cult: Charles Manson comes to mind. In many cases however, when the god came under the scrutiny of the law, the best answer was suicide—for everyone. This was the case on November 18, 1978, in Jonestown, Guyana, and on February, 28, 1993, at the Branch Dividian compound in Waco, Texas.

Some cults are just nuts without running afoul of the law. They pick a date of doom, like March of 1997 in the case of the Heaven’s Gate cult, and commit suicide so the spaceship they believed was following the Hale-Bopp comet would scoop up their souls and take them to a higher plane. Perhaps they achieved their goal. Those who stayed behind will forever wonder.

As I said, most are benign. The only harm in climbing a mountain to meet the rapture is in having to climb back down the next day. Sometimes a failed doom date it is enough to destroy the cult, sometimes they simply recalculate and set a future date for the world to end. One thing that is sure, setting a hard date, occurring in one’s lifetime, for Earth’s doom, has so far shown the imperfect logic of man. At least Nostradamus had the good sense to set the date a few centuries after his death.

Perhaps I will update this blog in the future . . . if the world does not end before I get around to it.

Published in: on December 27, 2010 at 12:07 pm  Comments (2)  

Which is the biggest scientific fraud in history?

There are some circles in America where it seems to be more socially acceptable to carry a hand-gun than a packet of cigarettes.
Katherine Whitehorn–journalist

I study global warming to the point of immersion (hours every day). It has long been my belief that global warming, and the resultant push for cap-and-trade, is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the world. Maybe I am wrong, not in the fraud, but in it being the greatest scientific fraud.

In my curiosity-induced wanderings of the internet, I stumbled over the resurrection of another scientific issue I had not read about lately: secondhand smoke—or passive smoking if one is more politically correct.

A recent article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11844169 in the BBC News reports on the first global study on passive smoking. My first alarm bell rang when the article said 600,000 people a year die of passive smoking. The second alarm was when I saw the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted the study.

The WHO is the same organization that brought us the swine flu pandemic, which they said would directly result in millions of children and young adults dying if they were not immunized. Some well-positioned pharmaceutical companies (WHO contributors perhaps) made millions of dollars on their vaccine, even though millions of doses ended up in the trash due to lack of interest. The total loss of life WORLD WIDE from the swine flu was less than 15,000, and most of them were of people with their health previously compromised through asthma or other lung diseases. The normal death toll, to our regular, garden-variety flu in the United States, is around 30,000.

Now, when I see the WHO quoted, I turn on my crap detector. When I see something like this:

The global health body said it was particularly concerned about the estimated 165,000 children who die of smoke-related respiratory infections, mostly in South East Asia and in Africa.

my crap detector jumps off the scale. Excuse me, most of them in South East Asia and in Africa? Is that not where the average income is about $2.00 a day? Who knew they were spending it on Chesterfield menthol lights? A better guess might be that those children are living in unventilated huts that use dried dung for cooking and heating. While I suppose one could call that passive smoking, tobacco has nothing to do with it.

While wondering just how the WHO came up with the 600,000 number, I went back to an old Numbers Watch blog http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/2003%20April.htm. That particular article had to do with the statistical convolutions the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA) had to go through to show a 1.9 risk ratio in secondhand smoke. A risk ratio of less than three is within the margin of error and considered meaningless. The 600,000 passive smoke deaths, without any verifying information showing any of those who died were ever in a tobacco smoke environment, is an example of a PDOOMA number, see https://stlouisooz.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/pdooma-and-error-bars/.

In science, the poison is in the dosage. Massive doses of almost anything can become poisonous. Sucking smoke directly into the lungs from the filter of a cigarette is a near perfect delivery system, and the results show up on the death index; however, it is much different from picking up the much-reduced concentrations of smoke released into the air by a smoker. Most of the passive smoke inhaled is immediately exhaled, leaving only a harmless trace dose actually absorbed.

While there is a small percentage of the population who has an adverse effect to passive smoke, there is a similar percentage of the population allergic to shellfish, chicken feathers, peanuts and other substances. These people are expected to avoid the things they are allergic to, but for some reason there is no push to keep the rest of the population from ingesting them. Actual science, not meta-analysis of hundreds of studies involving different, conflicting factors, indicates that damage of passive smoking is in the mind, not in the lungs, of the average person.

Please do not read any personal bias into my doubts of the dangers of secondhand smoke. I have no axe to grind. I do not smoke and never have; in fact, I believe smoking it probably the worst single thing people can do to their own bodies short of suicide. Still, science is science, and if one has to cook the books to garner support for a particular position, in global warming or secondhand smoke, it is wrong.

Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Where is the outrage?

However, don’t let these statistics mislead you, gang violence is not limited to California and or big urban areas – that might have been true a while ago but it is no longer the case today.
Bob Filner-politician

There is an interesting parallel between Islamic violence, on a world level, and black and Hispanic violence, on a local level. No, the motivation is not the same; the parallel is in the reaction of the good people in the local ethnic groups.

The solution in both cases would seem to be simple. With the involvement of the good people, those opposed and appalled by what their brethren are doing, the violence would soon be eliminated. There are no secrets in tight knit communities, be they Islamic, black or Hispanic. Someone always knows who had done, is doing, or is going to do, something. Who planted the bomb or who shot the kid down the street: someone in the good community always knows the truth. Why do they not speak up? Why do they not stop the slaughter?

Only within the last few months, have I heard anyone comment on this truth relative to Islam, and it had to be from Bill O’Reilly. Several times since the Juan Williams firing, he has asked where the good Islamists are, the ones protesting radical Islam. Where are the good Islamists who are pointing out the terrorists? The answer is, we do not know. While it is a mathematical certainty such people exist, and are working with anti-terrorist organizations, where is the public outcry? Is it fear that stays them? Is it apathy? Is it a “let someone else do it” attitude?

In the black and Hispanic communities, there are only the preachers speaking out. They are tired of the slaughter in their neighborhoods, tired of presiding at the funerals and tired of comforting the bereaved. Where is the community outrage? The only show of force is usually in the form of a candle light vigil at the site of another drive-by shooting. There is no outrage. There are no masses calling the police with tips and clues. Instead, there is silence. It is more politically correct to protect the gangsters from the white police than stop the killing. The default position is, “let the gangbangers kill each other off.” It doesn’t matter . . . until their son or daughter is caught in the crossfire. Then they want to know why the police did not stop it before it came to their door.

Perhaps, some day in the future, this protect-your-own mentality will be overwhelmed by the reality of the horror these evil groups cause. Until that day, the whites will stay in their comfortable neighborhoods, keep their guns close, remain vigilant and demand police action every time graffiti appears on a wall near their house. Their Neighborhood Watches will call in every suspicious car or person. They will sleep without being awakened by gunfire.

For some, there is still hope.

Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm  Leave a Comment