Friday, May 13, 2016

Changes in Transportation

And speaking of unexpected changes, could the future of transportation be something completely different than what we expect? How might the transportation landscape change with autonomous cars, full electrification, and distributed sources of energy?

New Model for Evolution

A new model for evolution hypothesizes that cooperation and niche expansion could be another driver for speciation rather than the classical assumption of competition as the driver. This could be an interesting expansion into studying natural systems.

It also raises an interesting idea in my mind. In what other areas should we rethink our assumptions about the role of competition in driving innovation and change? Could this be a different way to think about economic systems? What about studying how enterprises thrive by finding untapped demands and actually creating new markets rather than fighting for a bigger share of an existing market?

Trump Quality

To get an idea of the quality of expertise upon which Trump relies, look at who he enlists as his economic advisers

Larry Kudlow
Kudlow is to economics what William Kristol is to political strategy: if he says something, you know it’s wrong. When he ridiculed “bubbleheads” who thought overvalued real estate could bring down the economy, you should have rushed for the bomb shelters; when he proclaimed Bush a huge success, because a rising stock market is the ultimate verdict on a presidency (unless the president is a Democrat), you should have known that the Bush era would end with epochal collapse. 
Stephen Moore.
In a bid to preserve its journalistic integrity, one newspaper will no longer use him as a resource.

Beyond the empty bombast, don't count on Mr. Trump to be able to build a qualified staff on much of anythin.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Stopping The Outbreak Of Anti-LGBT Laws

A simple act of Congress could stop all these state-by-state anti-LGBT laws. It would save us all the bother of suits and counter-suits to take the issue to the Supreme Court. The Court has already ruled in favor of same-sex marriage for all 50 states based on the equal protection guaranteed in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Based on Obergefell v. Hodges, I can't see how any court should have to go through the exercise of striking down all 100 or more discriminatory statutes which are currently being considered by various state legislatures.

The Abortion Myth

Abortion is much safer than giving birth. It’s also safer than a colonoscopy or getting wisdom teeth removed. When Texas and other throw-back states start requiring clinics and oral surgeons to have hospital-grade facilities, we might begin to think that they have some sense in their heads. But until then...well, here's your sign.

Five Pacific Islands Are Victims of Global Warming

Five of the Solomon Islands are harbingers of the things to come as they vanish beneath the waves. Sadly, the rest of the world moves to do something about far too slowly. Will we be in time for the major cities along our coasts or will they share the same fate?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mercedes Boots Robots From the Production Line

Bloomberg Business reports that Mercedes has found with the many options that go into today's automobiles, automation can't keep up. The flexibility of a well-trained human work force is going to reduce the time it takes to assemble a car from 60 days to 30. It seems possible that eventually a normal customer might be able to have a car built from the tires up to his unique specifications. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

What the 2016 elections mean to the Supreme Court.

Exxon's Amazing Hypocrisy

While denying climate science, Exxon took steps to cope with the coming climate change that they very well knew was coming. And this was back in the 80’s!
Exxon and its affiliates set about “raising the decks of offshore platforms, protecting pipelines from increasing coastal erosion, and designing helipads, pipelines, and roads in a warming and buckling Arctic.” In other words, the company started climate-proofing its facilities to head off a future its own scientists knew was inevitable.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Ultimate in Clean Fuel

Researchers have successfully generated methanol from atmospheric CO2 at a fairly low temperature. Previous method have required high CO2 concentrations and high temperatures. They expect to be able to scale the demonstration up to industrial levels in 5 to 10 years. It can't compete with $30 per barrel oil, but it would be a way to produce a carbon-neutral fuel cycle.

Mama Dragons

Mothers of gay Mormons combat the institutional discrimination of the Church.  Not only are homosexuals not welcome in the Church, but neither are their families. It stuns me that the leadership could think that this is a good thing.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Gun Non-safety.

Some myths die hard.

...statistically, it's more likely that someone with a concealed carry permit will set out to commit mass murder than prevent it. 
a 2014 study from the University of California–San Francisco found that people who owned a gun were three times as likely to kill themselves as non-firearm owners; by comparison, the annual per capita risk of death during a home invasion is 0.0000002 percent. Hell, even toddlers killed more people than terrorists in 2015. Guns are used far more often for killing than for self-defense, despite the fact that some 63 percent of Americans think guns make them safer
Only seven of the 160 of the mass shootings that took place between 2000 and 2013 ended because of some would-be Rambo came to the rescue
More than half (56 percent) were terminated by the shooter who either took his or her own life, simply stopped shooting or fled the scene. Another 26 percent ended in the traditional Hollywood-like fashion with the shooter and law enforcement personnel exchanging gunfire and in nearly all of those situations the shooter ended up either wounded or dead. In 13 percent of the shooting situations, the shooter was successfully disarmed and restrained by unarmed civilians, and in 3 percent of the incidents the shooter was confronted by armed civilians, of whom four were on-duty security guards and one person was just your average "good guy" who happened to be carrying a gun.

Gun Deaths Are Now Outpacing Traffic Deaths In 21 States

I'm glad to know that driving a car is safer than having a firearm. Maybe we need to license gun owners and require them to have appropriate insurance and registration. Just a thought.

Anti-GMO Research and Data

In one's zeal to protect public health, one should be really careful about using bad science. The short-term publicity rarely outweighs the damage done to the credibility of one's position when one plays fast-and-loose with the data.

'BPA-free' plastic has problems

A common substitute for BPA has problems. Given the complex chemical reactions possible with long-chain polymers, we should be cautious about using plastics in our food processing equipment and packaging. Well-behaved things like stainless steel and glass seem so much more attractive.

Boost C-section Babies

It's long been said that C-section babies suffer because they lose out on a good inoculation of gut bacteria. It's amazing how long it's taken for someone to be serious about providing them what they miss. This seems like such an obvious solution.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Key To Halting Alzheimer's?

Brain inflammation has been found to be an accompanying factor of Alzheimer's. A recent study seems to show that the inflammation may be causing the disease.
An overactive immune system can result in chronic inflammation, which previous research has linked to Alzheimer's. These new findings makes it increasingly apparent that inflammation is not a result of Alzheimer's s much as a key driver of the disease.
This could explain why non-medical changes can produce improvements in mental functioning.
The findings also suggest that a diet and lifestyle focused on fighting inflammation could be important in preventing Alzheimer's. The researchers noted, however, that it's too early to make recommendations.
Other members of the scientific community are buzzing about the research, calling it "an exciting discovery" and "encouraging."  

Clays and Bacteria

Certain naturally-occurring clays have antibiotic properties. Certain metallic compounds in them work together to open up the cell wall and then flood in an excess of nutrients that poisons the bacteria. They even work well against antibiotic-resistant strains. This is leading to research into new ways to attack germs that resist our current arsenal of treatments.

More Solar Jobs Than Oil Jobs

We like to think of oil as the job-making behemoth industry in the U.S. Recently,
solar passed oil as a job-making industry.   Note that solar is bigger than oil and gas extraction. When you add in processing and refining, solar is only 2/3 as big. Nonetheless, it is a major player in the energy job picture.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Air Travel and Nuclear Energy

This article compares the mysteries and track record of air travel and nuclear energy. It's an interesting demonstration of the risks we accept as normal and risks we hyperventilate about.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Practical Learning

This article lists 9 things that should be included in a good practical education.

1. How to file your taxes.
2. How to navigate the world of office politics. 
3. How to build credit. 
4. How to be confident in yourself. 
5. How to maintain your car. 
6. How to manage your money. 
7. How to cook. 
8. How to deal with breakups.
9. How to clean. 

SpaceX's Successful Landing

Earlier I reported on the success of Jeff Bezos' Blue Origins booster stage landing and said it was a pretty big deal. I want to make note that now Space-X has done it with a completed orbital launch. This is a bigger deal. In the not too distant future, such booster returns will be routine and the high cost of orbital missions will drop dramatically. Many opportunities and potential problems can be expected with the exponentially cheaper access to space.

Evidence That Strong Gun Laws Work

A new study finds that states with stricter regulations on firearms see a lower rate of shooting deaths. While the CDC is prohibited from studying gun violence statistics in terms of public health and safety, other organizations have been gathering data. States were scored on the strength of their gun laws and instances of accidental shooting, homicides, and suicides involving firearms were counted. This is just a correlation, not a causation. Other factors like poverty and education were not considered.

But the fact of it is that there are variations in the shooting death rates. It certainly makes sense to look into what work to reduce the rate and what can be eliminated that increases that rate.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Future Exploration

Perhaps my grandchildren will live to see a mission to this destination. It's a potential earth-like planet only 14 light-years away. Imagine the possibilities.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Reversing Age-related Damage

A common substance that has been used to stain bacteria in microscope slides appears to 
reverse cellular aging. In studies on progeria, methylene blue seems to return affected cells to normal function.

Plant Compound Increases Brain Connections

You can keep the parsley, thyme, and chamomile but bring on the red pepper. A compound found in these herbs improves neuron formation and strengthens the connections between brain cells, new lab research demonstrates. It has the potential to treat schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's.

How India’s Nuclear Industry Created A River Of Death

India's nuclear industry operates under the arm of their military. As in the US, the military demands have generated such major problems that it makes it very difficult for the nuclear power industry to thrive.

Crazy Things in China

China is having to do some strange acts to keep its economy going. It can't afford to have the value of its currency rise nor can it afford it to inflate. So what is the solution?

China has been printing money to prevent its currency from going up, and then telling banks they have to sit on this new money to prevent inflation from going up. 
Just crazy. And how long can it last?

Parity for Guns and Abortions

This would be nice to see, but not bloody likely to happen. But it makes sense to me to force gun purchasers to wait a while before they can buy and to require them to watch some good propaganda films. Oh, and don't forget to have only one place in the state where gun can be obtained.

Thinking about ISIS

ISIS is not unique. We have seen groups like this before. And we should be using some of those lessons from the past to deal with the current threat.The territorial occupation is not strongly connected to the clandestine group embedded in the West. Actions in the territorial realm will not have a significant effect on the clandestine activities, regardless of how good it makes us feel. The fighting on the ground is governed by local circumstances and counter-insurgent tactics are what works there. But stopping the clandestine stuff has to be done with good intelligence and police work. Let's not think that either of these approaches affects the other target.

Interesting Tool

It is designed to make it easy for drones to pick up objects, but I think it would be a cool tool to have around even without a drone.

Friday, December 04, 2015

How IUDs Really Work

No, they don't terminate pregnancies. Just like spermicide in a diaphragm, they inhibit the activity of sperm. Perhaps a new day in the prevention of unwanted pregnancy can dawn. 

After all, Planned Parenthood facilities prevent hundreds of thousands more abortions than so-called pro-life activists.

Richland Areva In the Small Reactor Business

Work on small modular reactors comes to Richland. The local AREVA nuclear fuels plant has signed a contract to provide fuel assemblies for Nuscale's SMR. Regardless of the lack of specific government incentives, Richland is on the map as participating in the future of nuclear power.

New Science About Radiation

The regulatory world has always assumed that radiation was bad at any level. Years of studies have failed to prove that. In some cases we found that some low levels of radiation may, in fact, be beneficial. There has been a demand that regulators ease radiation restrictions. With a saner standard we could avoid things like the Fukushima evacuation that led to an estimated 1,600 deaths in an area where there were no immediate deaths and the likelihood of additional cancers will be undetectable. 

In fact radiation from coal ash is much more a hazard that a nuclear power plant.

Reinventing the Wheel

File this under appropriate technology. In developing countries which have poor roads, lives could be greatly enriched if people could get their more of their goods to market than they can carry on their heads. This young man has come up with a promising design for a wheel system than dynamically changes its footprint. It can get wide and fat for the rough, uneven spots or go narrow and tall for the smooth parts.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

It's A Conspiracy!

Paul Krugman points out that when the Republican wring their hands about how tin hat looney Donald Trump someone needs to remind them that he is a monster they have created by acting as if all allegations have validity as long as they promote the desired agenda. Truthfulness is immaterial.

That Mysterious Star Again

 Following up on a previous post about a mysterious star, it turns out that there is a much more likely possibility, a family of comets. At the sound of hooves think horses, not zebras.

It's a Brave New World

I'm reminded of the Ender series of books by Orson Scott Card or the movie Gattaca. Those were stories and speculations but this is real. With CRISPR we now have gene splicing that can be exact, quick, and easy. While it may open up a whole new front on cures for scores of diseases, it could also become an ethical horror story. Where do you hope such power can lead? What do you fear about it? Could CRISPR be responsible for many future headlines?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Energy From Fossil Fuel Without Carbon Dioxide

This process extracts hydrogen from methane (natural gas) in a clean and efficient manner. It's a form of catalytic cracking similar to what is done when crude oil is refined into things like kerosene, diesel fuel, gasoline, and feedstocks for the chemical industry. Unlike previous methods, there is no carbon dioxide by-product. The by-product instead is solid black carbon which is chemically useful. Rather than catalysts, the method bubble methane through a liquid metal. When the bubbles pop on the surface, carbon is left on the surface of the liquid and hydrogen escapes into the reactor.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Real Story Of Thanksgiving

It seems the history of Thanksgiving involves plague, human trafficking, and assassination. About par for the course when it comes to European settlers and the indigenous inhabitants.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

This Is a Big Deal

The Blue Origins booster rocket just demonstrated a soft landing. After so many worthy efforts by so many different enterprises, Blue Origins gets it first. And it is a beautiful sight!

Inconvenient Truths for the Environmental Movement

While Republicans and conservatives deny climate change and build energy policy around fossil fuels, environmentalists have their own form of denial going on. Renewables need a reliable backup power so the question should always be wind and what, solar and what, etc. The most environmentally friendly backup power is nuclear.

Rotary Engine Delivers 75 Percent Thermal efficiency

A new rotary engine design delivers amazing efficiency. By going back to basic thermodynamics, LiquidPiston has developed an engine with a very high compression ratio that lets the fuel-air mixture burn completely at a constant volume. Then it is allowed to expand to near-atmospheric pressure. The result is a quiet diesel engine that does not need a muffler. And it doesn't need elaborate cooling because there isn't a great deal of waste heat.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hordes of Mexican Illegals? Not So Much

This makes the Southern border fence look all the more silly. It seems that 
more Mexicans have returned to Mexico in the last few years than have come to into the U.S.

Unintended Consequences

Sometimes it's better to do nothing. It seems the products used to disperse oil after the Deep Horizon blowout made it more difficult for microbes to clean it all up. All the oil dropped to the bottom and is just sitting there. It will sit there for a really long time.

Predicting Learning Capacity

For parents with young children, try this raisin test. Children who pass it successfully at 20-months-old will do well in school. Those who don't will have a bigger struggle.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Where Laws Really Come From

New software called Legislative Influence Detector has been developed which can analyze the language of a congressional bill and determine the origins of the text. 
To get the real story behind a bill, the software digs through 500,000 state bills, as well as thousands of pieces of text drafted by lobbyist groups that were saved into a database. An algorithm then calculates the top 100 documents most relevant to the bill in question before examining each one more closely, searching for passages the two have in common.
We can use this like the ads on NASCAR car drivers uniforms to see who has purchased the legislation in question. Unfortunately, we can't tell how much they paid for it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ted Cruz For President

Michael Brown gives his reasons for endorsing Ted Cruz.

  1. He is a man of unshakable, conservative moral convictions; 
  2. He is willing to take on the Washington establishment; 
  3. We need a radical shift in the direction of our country, and his team has asked me to help get out the evangelical vote.
Of course, no candidate can do it all.  A good candidate is dependent on God's help. Even scripture says that when good people lead, the nation prospers and when bad people lead, the nation suffers.

Michael says,
But in looking for the leader who most strongly fits my criteria – being unshakably pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro-Israel; having a good handle on economic issues, immigration, and national security; and not being part of the political establishment – Senator Cruz comes out on top, and I genuinely believe he has a real possibility of making it all the way.
So if you value Mr Brown's opinion, Cruz is your guy.

But if you, on the other hand, think the likes of Michael Brown represents some of the most destructive ideas which would be just terrible for this country and the people who live in it, Cruz needs to be laughed out of public life.

Poor State Integrity

The Center for Public Integrity has scored all states on their legal structures in place to avoid political corruption. It turns out that no state performs well.  Most just suck, but some have some serious problems. It sounds like there are some real opportunities for improvement.