Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bat bloodstreams blown-out by blades?

OK, this is truly sad/strange. Calgary researcher seem to have found that an inordinate seeming number of bats are being killed by wind turbines not from outright collisions but due to the pressure drop near the lifting surfaces damaging the capillaries in their little batty lungs...

Sigh. Ain't nothin' simple.

Friday, September 05, 2008

A love not offered lightly

Please go to, read and sign this petition.

If you don't know of Rick Rescorla yet, you'll feel like a better person once you do.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

QOTD: In Tenebris

I recall that people have been asking me to tell more about myself. Herewith, the motto of my house, as rendered by me with some assistance from an unnamed classicist: In tenebris omnia vexilli glaucus sunt. In serviceable English: In the dark all flags are gray.

Latin doesn't actually have one word that means exactly "gray". "Glaucus" also means cloudy. "In tenebris" can also be translated as "in doubt".

Sometimes it gets to me

[Original draft date: 2008.06.20, approximately]
Yes, long time no blog. Today I want to talk briefly about innumeracy and incompetence. Two examples follow.

1. Recently on Winds of Change a visitor reactivated an old thread to tell the readers it's implausible (/impossible) a plane with an over-100-foot wingspan could only make a roughly round hole less than 20 feet in diameter in the Pentagon. I'm afraid we following posters were not kind to that person.

2. Lately, someone I know who sells electronic parts and tools has been being deluged with customers who want to build "hydrogen generators" for their cars, to "double their gas mileage". These people are not, it appears, able to respond numerately to my exploration: if they could double their gas mileage, it would probably mean that they are (at present efficiency) blowing enough hydrocarbons out their tailpipe to blind the drivers behind them: assuming 20 mpg, taking 3800 cc/gal, that's a specific fuel consumption of 190 cc per mile. Half that is about three fluid ounces of unburned fuel out the tailpipe every mile. Hmm. I don't think that's anywhere near the numbers I get when they smog my car, either standing still or on the dyno. I wonder why?

Yes, I know there are probably all sorts of "analyses" available for why that approach is wrong-headed, some even involving *gasp* math stuff -- work diagrams and stuff about how vigorously steam expands. But my point is that these guys who come in to the store are just Pumpkin-Eaters, as far as he or I can tell. They Want To Believe.

Folks, I don't have the time to grab each one of you and tell you "No. No, that's not happening." And you don't even want to hear it. What you want is to build your hydrogen generator, or spout your conspiracy theory, because that way it feels like you're not just some sort of passive spectator.

I understand the urge. It is being misdirected.

What's wrong with this picture?

Behold, I bring you The Immaculate Sol. Spotless, just the way the Holy Roman Church and countless scholastic authorities envisioned it before that pesky Galileo got up to his naughty antics with optics and revealed that usually, the sun has acne.

NOAA has changed their minds about whether our sun had 0 spots or one really tiny little zit when this picture was taken. Either way, we are at a stark solar minimum.

Why does this matter? Quoting from the Daily Tech:
Solar physicist Ilya Usoskin of the University of Oulu, Finland, tells DailyTech the correlation between cosmic rays and terrestrial cloud cover is more complex than "more rays equals more clouds". Usoskin, who notes the sun has been more active since 1940 than at any point in the past 11 centuries, says the effects are most important at certain latitudes and altitudes which control climate. He says the relationship needs more study before we can understand it fully.
See, solar activity affects the solar magnetosphere which affects the Earth's magnetosphere which changes how many and powerful are the cosmic rays that get through. Which might change the nucleation of clouds, which would change cloud cover, which would change net insolation at the ground and in the troposphere. Got all that?

More from the Daily Tech:
Normally sunspots return very quickly, as a new cycle begins.

But this year -- which corresponds to the start of Solar Cycle 24 -- has been extraordinarily long and quiet, with the first seven months averaging a sunspot number of only 3. August followed with none at all. The astonishing rapid drop of the past year has defied predictions, and caught nearly all astronomers by surprise.

In 2005, a pair of astronomers from the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson attempted to publish a paper in the journal Science. The pair looked at minute spectroscopic and magnetic changes in the sun. By extrapolating forward, they reached the startling result that, within 10 years, sunspots would vanish entirely. At the time, the sun was very active. Most of their peers laughed at what they considered an unsubstantiated conclusion.

The journal ultimately rejected the paper as being too controversial.
I bet they did. See, protracted solar somnolence is correlated with Ice Ages (see: Maunder Minimum), and we all know that fad died out with Peter Gabriel's fan base, right? (His "Here Comes the Flood" was inspired by the idea that an ice age was upon us, with a side order of Nuclear Winter. I like the song, as a meditation on folly and fate... but.)

Zany madcap environmentalismist hijinks will doubtless ensue.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Phlat: the new phat?

1) Constant Readers will recall I wrote a post a while ago about the imminent death knell for the incandescent lamp. Another hurdle seems to have been crossed: LEDs are starting to become practical for use as rear-projection light sources to replace halogens. I give you the Luminus Technologies Phlatlight. "Phlat" is not just 'hood-speak, it's a contraction of "Photon Lattice". Wizzy tech/consumer article here.

2) Another thing with "flatness" in its name: There's an open-online-content textbook company starting up. Flat World Knowledge LLC. They hope to sell hard copies at a profit. Me, I want the fast feedback for corrigenda that this sort of thing could, and morally ought to, provide. Man, I hate spending $70 on a textbook and then finding out the author can't be bothered to publish fixes. Such as a certain de Anza College professor who wrote one of the the most popular college-course networking fundamentals texts extant. Ahem.

3) Then there's the new info about the Antikythera Machine, most of the works of which were probably cut from a single sheet of metal 2 mm thick. Permit me to direct you to this Winds of Change post where you'll find links in the original entry and in the follow-on comments. Show Joe Katzman some love, why don't you?