Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Kavanaugh Thing

What I'm about to tell you is my basic approach to stories like this one that has sucked all the oxygen out of the air to feed the fires of speculation.  As usual, Meme-Creator in Chief Aesop has a good summary of the story.  What follows is my whole philosophy of putting up with politicians and politics. 

My first rule: the closer to the critical moment in a political process that some news is released, the less attention I pay and the less I believe it.  Therefore, no October surprises and not even any September surprises.  If a candidate has some piece of evidence against an opponent they were holding onto for months to spring it at the last minute, it can't be worth listening to.  It's just a crappy tactic.  If it's after August for a November election, there's not enough time to do a real investigation.  Therefore, I don't believe you.

Feinstein had this letter for months and now makes a big deal about it, days before the vote?  Sorry, Babs, you violated rule #1.  Too close to the big vote to be real.  You're just trying to sow FUD - fear, uncertainty and doubt.

I don't believe any allegation that comes out at the last minute in any election, any hearing, any appointment, any sort of contentious event unless there's a solid verifiable history stretching back a long time.  Investigations take time.  This twit who's being used to attack Kavanaugh can't even get her story straight, so nothing about it is verifiable.  Nope.  Nope.  Nope. 

Know where you stand before the last month until the election, then studiously avoid the barrage of last minute negative ads.  And positive ones.  One of my favorite lies, although maybe it's a Florida thing, is that state representatives or senators may take part in a dozen tax increases, then turn around and reduce a few that they raised, so they can campaign saying, "I cut taxes".  

It's hard to get real information long before a primary, and I don't have any good tips on getting around that.  Long before the election, it's hard to get information.  As the election approaches, it's hard to get trustworthy information.

In the month before the election, or in this case before the confirmation vote, the signal to noise ratio goes negative. 

Politicians are the worst kind of attention whores in the world.  They demand you pay attention to them.  If you don't pay attention, though, they will destroy society faster than a plague of locusts crossbred with termites. 


 From somebody on Etsy, in a roundabout sorta way.  I think.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Psychologist Listens, Nods, and Simply Writes, "FN" in His Notebook.

Remember the story last week about the professor who shot himself in the arm at the College of Southern Nevada, left a $100 bill taped to the mirror as an apology to the janitor that had to clean up the bloody mess he left, and said it was all because of Trump?

It just got weirder.  This guy is FN.

Gary Larson, The Far Side.  Yeah, Gary didn't write it as "FN", it just seemed to work for me.

It comes out today just how much weirder it has gotten.  The professor, Mark Bird, emeritus (retired) professor of Sociology at CSN has a whole agenda, now that he has gotten the nation's attention (or thinks he has).   The guy who took a gun into a gun free zone, violating a handful of laws, and shot himself with that gun did it to argue for ... (wait for it)... gun control.  Oh, and to end world hunger.  Shooting yourself in the arm ought to do a lot for that, Skippy; um... Professor Skippy.

In a suicide note - no wait (can't call it a suicide note if there was no suicide) - in an explanatory letter, he said,
I sincerely apologize for my behavior today. I was motivated by multiple reasons. A major reason is, derivative of the following October 20, 2017 CBS news story, the Earth had roughly 100 million malnutrition and pollution deaths in the past decade — and the Earth is on a course for at least another 100 million such deaths in the next decade. One hundred million deaths are more than all the military and civilian deaths of [World War II].

A less significant motivation relates to the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting from the Mandalay Hotel that killed 58 people. Since this incident, there has been no national legislation banning bump stocks, banning civilian ownership of AR-15 type assault weapons, and the passage of universal gun background checks legislation. Apparently it is about as easy to buy an AR-15 as a 2-shot [D]erringer.

I have sent a longer essay on my motivations to Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson and others.
Professor Skippy is a Sociology professor but apparently not what I would consider particularly adept at math, or at the facts he cares about.  The reality is that yes, we all think people starving to death is bad and we'd like to prevent malnutrition deaths, but everything he talks about is already the best in history, or close to the best.  In particular, starvation due to poverty and lack of food has been in a decline for at least 30 years.  Yes, the last year or two has seen a small uptick in the Global number of People Who Are Malnourished, but my guess is that the population in some areas is increasing faster than the ability to get food into those places - primarily all in Africa.  Data thanks to Our World in Data.  

In what is often talked about as one of the most ironic problems in history, the world's leading nutrition problem is shifting from starvation to obesity

As for pollution, professor Skippy is old enough to remember the 1960s/1970s.  I can't imagine anyone alive thinking our pollution is worse now than it was then. 

I'm sure shooting yourself in the arm with a .22 derringer will get lots of folks to look at that, Skippy. 

Oh, and I don't need to remind this audience that one crime in human history involved a bump stock, and despite that the federal rule making process to outlaw them is going forward.  I expect that will happen.  Assuming he shot out his brachial artery and died, or damaged a nerve so that he lost use of that arm (or lost the arm), over what looks like a law that's being railroaded through, that's goes beyond plain FN to Stupid FN.  Banning ARs and "universal background checks" is just a Bloomberg/Demanding Mommies wet dream, and I bet the only reason he said any of that was it was some catchy words he could remember.   (This is where the next fight is shaping up to be, though.) 

Just remember professor (emeritus) Skippy as the new face of the rational gun control protestor.  Totally FN.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

And... It's Still Not Running

Just a note to update you on my progress with my flame eater engine; more correctly, the lack of progress.  It still doesn't run.  I know I've improved it, but still no joy. 

There's a well-known engine modeler in the community from the Netherlands: Jan Ridders.  Jan has his own design but has built several others like the one I've built.  He has a web page dedicated to them and talks about getting them running.  One of the observations I've seen somewhere is that it might take as long to get it running as it did to make all the parts, in which case I should be working on this until around Halloween. 

One of the many tests.

Among the things I've done is get some 3' lengths of music wire and wind springs, ordered a higher percentage ethanol version of denatured alcohol than I started with, and worked at minimizing friction.  As I've asked various forum members for help, I've ended up running several tests.  They all say it should be working. 

I can't say this is how I spent my weekend.  It's much more than that.  More like the last three weeks.

Still, it's late August (today is August 47th, after all), so there's no problem staying out of the heat to work on the engine. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

China's President For Life Xi Jinping Starts Cracking Down on Freedoms

Most Exalted President for Life Xi has begun to enact the classic communist policy of "No God Except the State" with a crackdown on churches nation wide.  Christian churches are being shut down, demolished, bibles are being burned and Christians being required to denounce their faith in order to remain in society.
Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, religious believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival. Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.

Fu also provided video footage of what appeared to be piles of burning bibles and forms stating that the signatories had renounced their Christian faith. He said that marked the first time since Mao’s radical 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution that Christians had been compelled to make such declarations, under pain of expulsion from school and the loss of welfare benefits.

A Christian pastor in the Henan city of Nanyang said crosses, bibles and furniture were burned during a raid on his church on Sept. 5. (AP)
Most of you have probably heard of the Surveillance State mechanisms in China, using omnipresent cameras and facial recognition software to track people everywhere and in every social or business transaction they make, so that a "Citizen Score" can be calculated.  
Your “citizen score” follows you wherever you go. A high score allows you access to faster internet service or a fast-tracked visa to Europe. If you make political posts online without a permit, or question or contradict the government’s official narrative on current events, however, your score decreases. To calculate the score, private companies working with your government constantly trawl through vast amounts of your social media and online shopping data.
Christians are being given a form to sign renouncing their faith and pledging worship to His Royal Exalted Presidential Dictator for Life.  If they refuse, the penalty doesn't appear to be physical death, at least not today.  It appears the Party sets their citizen score to a low value, making it so they can't keep a good job, and their children can't get into a good school. Your choice would appear to be to abandon your children or lie about your faith. 

They don't appear to be following the policy of sending Christians to internment camps for re-education, as has been reported about Chinese Muslims.  It may be they simply don't have enough space and are using the camps for what they regard as the bigger threat.  According to the Wiki, there's about 20.5 million Muslims in China.  In 2011, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life estimated over 67 million Christians  in China (pdf warning).   

My gut feeling is that this will drive churches underground, where they will survive or probably thrive  - which is the historical norm, after all.  The China.gov says they're simply trying to "sinicize" the faiths; making them more Chinese.  Faiths don't tend to go along with having their central tenets thrown out.  In particular, they don't like their God being replaced with a living politician. 

Chinese Christian bibles and church items being burned.  From the Twitter account of BobFu4China.

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Little Hurricane Talk for my Carolina Bros

Before I start, just a note to my readers in North or South Carolina bearing the brunt of this storm.  I hope you're doing OK - if you've got the power on to read this, you are.  Glad it didn't turn out to be as big a problem as was forecast in terms of wind and storm surge, but the biggest problem may well be yet to come in the form of the massive predicted rainfall.  Aside from the winds of a strong Cat 4 or stonger storm, moving water is the main killer in these storms.  Whether storm surge or floods coming down mountain slopes, moving water is the most dangerous problem.

Here's a little pop quiz.  This is the National Hurricane Center overall situation map from yesterday morning.  

There are two hurricanes (solid red), two tropical storms (red with open center), a large area with low chance of development (yellow) and one with a higher chance of development (orange), but less time to develop before going ashore.

Now the quiz: does this tell you:  (A) - Al gore was right, hurricanes are getting more numerous and mankind has to do something to fix the climate? Or (B) - September 13th is virtually the peak of the season, looks pretty normal to me?

If you said (B), you and I are in agreement.  I long for the days when weather was just weather and not a political cause.  On 9/11, the Washington Post said, "another hurricane is going to batter our shores and Trump is complicit" (paywall or nagware wall - I couldn't read it).  Using the quote that Watts Up With That used:
President Trump issued several warnings on his Twitter feed Monday, counseling those in Florence’s projected path to prepare and listen to local officials. That was good advice.

Yet when it comes to extreme weather, Mr. Trump is complicit. He plays down humans’ role in increasing the risks, and he continues to dismantle efforts to address those risks. It is hard to attribute any single weather event to climate change. But there is no reasonable doubt that humans are priming the Earth’s systems to produce disasters.
There's two main things wrong in that paragraph.  First, they did what they themselves said not to do: they blamed "any single weather event on climate change".  They're mixing climate with weather.  Any given day of any given year could produce just about any kind of weather and it wouldn't reflect climate.  It could snow here tomorrow, and if I didn't die from the novelty of it, I sure wouldn't expect it every year.  Second, the statement "there is no reasonable doubt that humans are priming the Earth’s systems to produce disasters" is just plain wrong.  There's far more dispute about what's going on than this 'droid seems to think.

In the '90s and early 2000s, I read some papers by scientists at the National Hurricane Center.  I could find no support for the Al Gore version of hurricane predictions.  It was far from the unanimous opinion among scientists that study hurricanes to think that they're getting worse.  WeatherBELL's Joe Bastardi says that hurricanes in the last 50 years hitting the US are down by a third from the 50 years before that.   This source is a bit dated (published 2012) but brings some numbers based on NOAA's archives:
During the past 5 decades [1960-2010], an average of 5.6 major hurricanes struck the United States. During the preceding 5 decades[1910-1960], an average of 8.4 major hurricanes struck the United States.  [Note - dates in brackets by me, SiG]
The century long average was 7 major hurricanes per year.  We all recall that last year broke an almost-12 year interval in which not one major hurricane hit the mainland US, right?  That's well below the average. 

If global CO2 has been growing steadily all during the 20th century, why would the number and intensity of storms go down and not up?  If there is warming, it appears to be acting backwards from their predictions.

In our hyper-politicized, outrage-driven society, it seems everything has to be politically contentious.  Because only about a third of Americans can name the three branches of government and another third can't name even one of them, it puts an aura on the president as being "in charge of everything", instead of being the leader of one branch of the three.  The nation polarizes into two camps that blame the weather on the president or not.  So we get news reporters or editorial writers who probably never took an actual science class in college disparaging scientists and engineers who took far more and far more relevant classes as being stupid deplorables. 

It's dysfunctional and there's no difference between blaming the weather on the president and blaming it on the witches, like in Salem.  The Salem witch trials were probably a result of conditions from the Little Ice Age, which was an actual global cooling.  Caused by the Sun and not CO2. 

(Found this on some web-wander this week.  Don't recall where, or who did it.  I'll gladly credit you if it's yours.)

Look; it's summer in the northern hemisphere.  Hurricanes happen.  As far back as records go, hurricanes happen.  It isn't a particularly active season, but even if it was, long term trends are never defined by one year or one storm.  The area is known for strong storms.  The Outer Banks of North Carolina are known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.  There's a type of rapidly strengthening low pressure storm system named after this area (a Hatteras Low).  Storms aren't unusual here. 

It's just freakin' weather.  With no intent to diminish the real suffering going on there, it's just weather.  It's not a political headline.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Third Generation GPS Satellite Arrives at Cape Canaveral AFS

The first of the new generation of Global Positioning System satellites has arrived at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station from its factory at Lockheed Martin near Denver, Colorado.  The satellites are intended to eventually replace the existing second generation GPS constellation, which is now widely used in commercial and military applications.
Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has become such a part of daily life, for civilian as well as military users, that next-generation GPS satellites are being built to be more accurate and harder to jam than ever before. In fact, Lockheed Martin is clearing the way for the use of third-generation GPS satellites. On August 20, the company shipped the first of the U.S. Air Force’s GPS III space vehicles (GPS III SV01) to Cape Canaveral, Fla. for its expected launch in December of this year. This third-generation GPS satellite will provide the most powerful version of the positioning system technology ever placed into orbit.
Known more technically as GPS Block IIIA, the 10 satellites are the first segment of what will eventually replace the current constellation of 24 GPS satellites.  Microwaves & RF Magazine reports a bit on the technical advances coming in Block IIIA.
The satellite features a new design, with three times greater accuracy than earlier versions of GPS satellites and eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities compared to earlier, second-generation GPS II satellites (which form the current constellation of GPS satellites).

The GPS III satellite will also be the first space vehicle to broadcast the new L1C civilian signals. The L1C signals, which are shared by other international global navigation satellite systems such as Galileo, is expected to improve connectivity for commercial and civilian users.
Wikipedia has more technical details on the new satellites than the technical trade magazine does, at least in the article linked to above.  Wiki says that the last of the 10 Block IIIA satellites is currently scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2023, five years from now.  Finally, they say the new L1C signal (and presumably the others) won't be fully operational until all 24 GPS Block III satellites are operational, currently projected for the late 2020s.  The companies that produce the single chip GPS receivers (such as...) embedded in phones and so much more have a little while to start producing receivers capable of these newer modes.   

(The first of the block III satellites, GPS III SV01, and a C-17.  Is it being loaded or unloaded?  Arriving CCAFS or departing Colorado?  You decide.  Lock Mart photo).


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

On 9/11

It seems to me that my interpretation of and reaction to 9/11 changes every year.  Like everyone, I will always remember where I was and what I was doing the Day the World Changed. Some years ago, I wrote:
On that bright Tuesday morning, I was out of the office at a small company that we contracted to do some testing on our radios.  As the technician and I were setting up the test, the company's secretary/receptionist came in and said the local radio station had a bulletin that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center.  My first reaction, perhaps strangely, was that radio navigation systems can't be that wrong, it must have been a terrible accident.  Act of war did not enter my mind.  As the morning went on, a TV set was put in place and large antenna hooked up outside (there are no local over the air TV channels).  We watched the second plane hit and quickly realized this was no accident.  That's when the thoughts of Pearl Harbor and other acts of war started.  I've heard it credited to Ian Fleming as his character Auric Goldfinger, but the saying goes, "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action".  And so it appeared that day. 

In the days that followed, I learned that friends were affected by the events of 9-11, but weren't involved.  A co-worker was on business at Boeing, and had to rent a car to drive home.  A very close friend was waiting at JFK airport to fly home, and saw the attacks in real time.  He also had to rent a car and drive home.  A cousin lives within viewing distance and watched it. And now I have friends who have sons in the armed forces in Afghanistan, and others who have been in Iraq.  We need to remember we are at war, even if our enemy isn't a convenient nation-state.  You can pretend we're not at war if you'd like, but if someone swears to destroy you, it's prudent to believe them.
In all, I'm a mix of responses.   The first group of feelz is "remember the fallen", "remember the first responders who ran into the buildings", "remember the dead and wounded servicemen, the ones who came back with missing limbs, or injuries that can't be seen" and "remember their families".  The second group of feelz is along the lines expressed best by Aesop at Raconteur Report in his excellent post: "Every Day is 9/11. That's Exactly the Problem".

Despite successes on various battlefields, and serious reductions in the capability of the other side, the fact remains that this is not a fight that's over.  It doesn't even appear to be a fight with a prospect of going away, at least as it's being conducted.  Perhaps the right response should have been MIRVs taking out Mecca, Medina and more - turning much of the muslim world to radioactive glass.  As others have said, the other side in this war is determined to play the long game and to destroy Western Civilization.  Proof?  Look at pretty much all of western Europe, with the one or two exceptions that aren't allowing "refugees".  The west, mostly led by the postmodernists determined to destroy western civilization themselves, don't seem particularly interested in trying to stop the muslims.  Proof?  Look at pretty much all of the west. 

Much like the joke about lawyers, the bad Muslims give the other 1% a bad name.

But we know where talking about carrying out a genocide leads; we have the history of the times it has been tried.  Heck, there are calls now for killing all the whites, and I'm sure if you listened more than I care to you you'd find calls for the genocide of all sorts of folks.  Without an effort to drastically curtail their efforts to destroy western civilization, this low level crap will go on for the next 1400 years as it has for the last 1400 - or until they win.  The only times it has slowed in the last 1400 years was when someone ("Charles Martel, Ferdinand of Spain, Vlad The Hero, and the entire interred Knights of Malta" as Aesop put it) responded brutally to brutal attacks.

Imagine you were in those buildings.  It's a normal workday, maybe you had the usual morning rush, getting your kids off to school.  All normal.  You get to work, get settled into your place, start digging into whatever sort of problems your job has you solving.  Just like every other day.  Suddenly, because of a 7th century mandate, as interpreted by a nutjob in a cave half a world away, your building shakes.  Pretty soon it's on fire.  You try for the stairs but can't get there, the stairwell is choked with flames and smoke.  You're trapped.  The fire is getting worse.  There's nobody coming to help you that can give a tiny bit of hope.  The only way out is death.  But staying where you are is being burned to death.  Which way do you take?  Do you burn to death, slowly, agonizingly, or jump and get it over with in one moment, after a long fall to think about it? 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Passing the Ketchup

As in passing on some details so you can "ketchup" on some things I've been working on. 

First off, rev. 1 of the chair repair failed.  As commenter Raven suggested, the epoxy didn't bond well to the plastic.  I mentioned possibly making a small steel or aluminum plate in the original description, so I went with that approach and it's in now place.  I'm working from this chair.

The glue broke pretty much as soon as I applied any pressure to the arm, so this got put into place yesterday.  In addition to the metal plate, I put some superglue (cyanoacrylate) gel into the crack.  That didn't seem to bond well, either.  This fix probably isn't the best way to do it.  There probably should be two holes on each side of the crack, which would make the metal a bit longer. 

The other thing I've been working on has been my engine.  It still just won't turn over and keep running on its own.  One of the suggestions last week was to get a higher purity alcohol fuel, with people recommending as close to pure ethanol as I can get without buying 200 proof vodka.  In the US, this is called denatured alcohol, while in much of the English speaking world, it's referred to as methylated spirits

I was using a brand from the local Home Despot that was branded as "Denatured alcohol", which comes from adding methyl alchohol to the ethyl alcohol to poison it (or "make it undrinkable")   Research showed what I was using to be about a 50/50 mix of ethanol and methanol.  We have four major hardware store chains in town: Home Depot, Lowe's, Ace and True Value; none of them showed they carried anything with higher percentage ethanol.  Although guitar polishing frequently uses lacquer, neither of my usual sources had anything specified.  A bottle from Amazon arrived yesterday. 

The bottom line is that the engine tries to turn over but doesn't.  I've put together several troubleshooting videos (such as) in attempt to get comments from other engine modelers, and no one has pointed out anything obviously wrong.  Yet.  Something is causing just enough extra drag to keep this from running.   Flame eaters are kind of notoriously fickle to get run running.   This is the website of a rather "famous modeler" in the Netherlands, who says (autotranslated),
It is my experience that one needs just as much time for well adjusting all the parameters than to build the motor itself. There are several critical parameters that must be adjusted one by one and at the same time to their optimum. The problem is that this adjustments can only be done successfully if the engine motor already tends to go running properly and that is only the case if all these parameters are reasonably close to their optimum; so a somewhat "chicken and egg" story. It may happen that you are changing something, while another parameter is not properly adjusted or created. Then you hit sometimes further afield and that makes you desperate sometimes. But it is also my experience that in situations like this persistence always wins, so one should not be discouraged by all this. With enough patience and systematical approach adjusting the engine is very well possible. Once all parameters are set to their optimum they run merrily and fairly reliable and will amaze especially modellers of steam engines that usually build more "manlike" models like steam engines.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Wait!... What Time Is It?

Time for a cartoon.  Since I'm "Florida man", this view of Burning Man caught my eye.  Just reading across the top, Florida being the intersection of "Almost Unlivable Environment" and "Naked Old People" just has the ring of truth to it. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The "Making Cars Noisier Act of 2010" Moves Toward Implementation

In 2010, the US Congress acted on a problem that very few of us knew existed: electric cars are too quiet, especially at low speeds, and therefore pedestrians and bicyclists are more likely to get hit by an electric car.  The answer?  Make electric cars noisier.  That raises the questions of exactly how noisy and exactly what kinds of noise.  After years of study, it appears they've started ruling on just how to fix this. 
A 2009 study by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists have higher incidence rates for EVs than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in low-speed vehicle maneuvers, such as reversing or leaving a parking zone. These accidents commonly occurred in zones with low speed limits, during daytime and in clear weather.

The study revealed that an EV is two times more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash than a conventional ICE vehicle when it’s slowing or stopping, backing up, or entering or leaving a parking space. Vehicle maneuvers were grouped in one category considering those maneuvers that might have occurred at very low speeds where the difference between the sound levels produced by the EV versus ICE vehicle is the greatest.
To be honest, the law wasn't called the "Make Cars Noisier Act of 2010", I made that up.  It sounds more truthful to me than the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act (PSEA) of 2010, enacted into law in January 2011.

Stop and think about this for a second.  Something virtually every engineer learns deep into the core of their being is engineering is all about optimizing solutions for problems.  There's very rarely a single "best" way to solve any given problem.  If there was, it wouldn't be a design decision: everybody would do it the best way.  Instead, engineering is the art of optimization, or negotiation, if you will.  In this case, the cars were optimized for technical goals that electric car buyers shop for, such as being "greener" than their neighbors' cars or how many miles on a battery charge.  The EV designers optimized those and it allowed the cars to get quiet.  "Too" quiet (to quote too many movies).
The NHTSA found that sound produced by an EV is from its tires, the air, and sometimes the whine of its electronics. If the car was going fast enough, tire noise was usually enough to warn pedestrians and bicyclists of possible danger. When an EV moves slowly, its generated noise is barely noticeable, posing a danger to anyone nearby. To be safe, a slow-moving EV should produce a sound that indicates:
  • Its presence
  • Its approximate location
  • Whether it’s moving toward or away from the listener
  • Roughly how fast it’s moving
The generated sounds would be heard frequently even in light traffic and continually in heavy traffic, so they must not be annoying. Also, the generated sound should be different from sirens, horns, and backup signals, all of which are intended as aggressive warnings. The challenge for EVs is to make sounds that alert and orient, but not annoy.
This sounds like a job for The Federal Government!  In this case, as embodied by NHTSA.  NHTSA (by the way, that's pronounced "nits-a", short a) spent years studying the sounds electric cars should make and issued Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 141: Minimum sound for hybrid and electric vehicles over a year and half ago in December 2016.   They followed the standard government "Administrative Procedures Act" with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, a comment period, a review of comments, a revision that accepted some proposed changes and rejected others, eventually resulting in the final version. 
Effective April 27, 2018, all hybrid and electric vehicle regulations were amended and will be applicable beginning on September 1, 2020. The initial compliance date for newly manufactured vehicles under the 50% phase-in as specified in FMVSS No. 141 is delayed by one year to September 1, 2019. Petitions for reconsideration of this final action were due by April 12, 2018.
I can't tell you how much I'd like to include samples of all the possible sounds cars will be required to produce, but the original source article didn't include any sound samples.  It does, however, include some of the minutia that makes government standards organizations fun. 

The whole detailed section is too long to excerpt here, but I really recommend you read it if you find this stuff at least half as funny as I do.  I'll just drop a couple of paragraphs here about how Nissan addressed making their cars noisier.  
Nissan unveiled the IMx, its newest electric concept that sings. It emits a noise like a demonic string quartet tuning its instruments. Nissan calls the feature Canto—which literally means “I sing” in Italian—and it’s built to alert pedestrians that the very quiet electric vehicle is coming, even at low speeds. 

Nissan released its first pedestrian warning with the 2011 Leaf. The Canto concept improves on the model, adapting its tone and pitch to the car’s actions—accelerating, decelerating, or backing up. The carmaker's designers of course wanted to create noises that put pedestrians on high alert, but were careful to design sounds that “enrich the aural environment of the typical city street,” according to a statement. If a city street naturally sounds like the warm-up room at an ‘80s synth rock convention, this Nissan crossover concept should fit right in.

Nissan's IMx. "...a demonic string quartet tuning its instruments..."

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Endless Fight Against Entropy

As the house and contents around me age every day, sometimes relatively new things break, not just older things.  Last night, one arm on my computer desk chair fell apart.  I don't recall exactly when I got this, but it's a "few year old" nice chair from Staples.  I'll WAG that I got it in '14.  The problem is that it has some sort of plastic arms and one snapped at a screw that holds the arm to the sides of the seat and back.  It had broken part of the way a few months ago, but I never got around to trying to fix it.  Today I had no choice.

It's hard to see, but the plastic cracked from top to bottom across that hole.  Probably a defect in the plastic molding, since the other side is fine and has never had any issues. 

My plan was to pull the pieces apart, coat as much of the broken surfaces as I could with some epoxy paste I have from fishing rod-making, and then clamp it until the epoxy sets.  It went pretty well and the chair is remaining with the long clamp in place overnight.  I may make a small aluminum or steel plate to go over both sides of the repair, held in place with a self tapping screw.  I think it would need either that roughly 30 degree angle or a shape that blended more with the odd curvature of the arm than a little 1x2 rectangular plate.  

Didn't realize I cut off the bar of the bar clamp in the picture until editing this photo for size, but you can see both of the long clamp's ends.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Strange Story of the Space Station Air Leak

Last Friday, the International Space Station had an air leak.  Not a serious, "put on your suits or we have minutes to live" kind of leak, but one that would have drained the air out of the station in 14 or 15 days.  Although that article says that a hole was found in the Russian Soyuz capsule that recently docked with the station, the authors speculate that the leak was caused by a micrometeorite.  The leak was fixed with epoxy soaked gauze.  You can call that fiber reinforced plastic if you prefer. 

Since then, the Russian space agency Roscosmos has determined that it was a drill hole made while the capsule was being worked on, and have launched a search to identify the person who drilled the hole and find out why they did so.

The hole is the small one being pointed out here.  It has been described as 2mm diameter, and that looks about right.  See those scratches to the right of the hole?  Those are being taken as evidence that the drill "skated" before digging in.  Clearly they wanted to put a hole there, but we're left to speculate why.  Were they working on something else and drilled through it? 

“We are able to narrow down the cause to a technological mistake of a technician. We can see the mark where the drill bit slid along the surface of the hull,” Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, told RIA Novosti. (A translation of the Russian articles in this story was provided to Ars by Robinson Mitchell). “We want to find out the full name of who is at fault—and we will.”
Over the weekend there were initial reports that Rogozin or someone thought this was sabotage, and even talked about it being "the crew" (translation, "those Americans") and how they get burned out being in space so long.  If it was deliberate, it was laughably incompetent sabotage.  The problem was found and fixed rather quickly.  This looks more like someone made a mistake and tried to hide it rather than report it for a proper fix.  The only thing that doesn't go is just why there's any hole there at all. 
“I have conducted investigations of all kinds of spacecraft, and after landing, we discovered a hole drilled completely through the hull of a re-entry module," the former Energia employee, Viktor Minenko, said in Gazeta.RU. "But the technician didn't report the defect to anyone but sealed up the hole with epoxy. We found the person, and after a commotion he was terminated,” said Minenko.

In this case, the technician used glue instead of epoxy. As the Soyuz hull is made from an aluminum alloy, it could have been properly repaired on Earth by welding, had the technician reported the mistake.
Someone in the Soyuz facility is going to be nervous about their continued employment.   From the bigger picture, if workers who make mistakes on manned spacecraft are afraid to report a mistake and do this sort of amateurish fix, that's a seriously broken company and you don't want them working on manned spacecraft. 

I have no idea where this hole is located on the Soyuz capsule, but marks like that don't come from drilling with a drill press, they come from a handheld drill and poor shop practices.  Even a portable drill should be able to drill without the skate marks if the tech started with a center drill and then moved to the 2mm bit. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Year After the "Great Eclipse", A Feel Good Story

There's a line from a Dilbert cartoon about web "surfing" being less like surfing and more like bouncing from place to place like a ping pong ball in a clothes drier, and so I ended up at Inc. Magazine, running into a feel-good story about last August's Great American Eclipse and a photographer determined to photograph it from a plane.
(Jon) Carmichael, 32, is a professional photographer whose clients have included Twitter, Elton John, and even the Dalai Lama. He's also a self-described "big space nerd" who first realized during seventh grade that he'd have the chance to live through a total solar eclipse. 
Jon's specialty is taking tons of pictures and combining them into a really big, special image.  Like all photographers, Jon instinctively knew that the angle and the situation was everything, and quickly realized that a wide angle shot from a high altitude would bring out the ethereal, soul-touching nature of the eclipse.  
He started scouring other flight times and paths, and saw that Southwest flight 1368 from Portland to St. Louis might just be perfect. He flew out from New York to take it, but then realized he had a problem.

He needed a window seat, but his boarding pass on the open seating flight put him in Group C. Solution: He brought $600 in cash, to pay off other passengers.

Fortunately, no bribes were needed. Carmichael told me he introduced himself at the gate to the Southwest employees, and they immediately bought into his plan. They bumped him up to first in the boarding line, and the captain, Jeffry Jackson, even cleaned the outside of the window at Seat 1A so that Carmichael would have a clear view.  [Emphasis added - SiG]
I've never flown Southwest, but have heard that they work differently than most airlines.  First off, they seem to allow their employees more latitude in working with customers.  A story about going out of their way to please a customer is how I bounced into this one.  Second, seating is first come, first served; this is the reason he was bringing $600 to buy a window seat from someone - an attempt to buy a window seat.

Still, Carmichael wasn't quite set.
The only way I can do this, shooting through a little 8-inch window," Carmichael told the captain, "I need a 180-degree view. So, can you possibly turn the plane around when we're in totality?"

"Don't get your hopes up," Jackson replied. But he did get approval, and the plane wound up doing five 180 degree turns at full totality. (A video at the end of this article includes the flight path.)  [Note: any sort of change from a normal flight path would require air traffic control approval - SiG]

"Within a matter of seconds, it goes from broad daylight to completely nighttime," Carmichael recalled. "Everybody just kind of gasped and went silent. And I'm just focusing on getting these shots. I'm utilizing everything I've ever learned with photography in my career, in these two minutes of time...I took over 1,200 photos."

It took Carmichael most of the year to combine those photos into the one image he was striving for; the final image shows the eclipse just as the plane passes over the Snake River, separating Oregon from Idaho.   You'll note in the first paragraph I excerpted that he has worked for Twitter, and when the company learned about the project, they used their infrastructure to unveil the photo to all of their offices first 

And without further delay...

I can't get a version bigger than that, but I suspect he's selling them.  SW made a little promotional video about the story, which is, well promotional, but still worth a look.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Kalashnikov Enters the Electric Car Market

Kalashnikov Concern, the Russian manufacturer best known for AK rifles, has entered the electric car market with the wholly-Russian built CV-1 electric car.

Hold the jokes about making one from a shovel, or wondering if they keep running after being submerged in mud.  They're being serious.
Design of the CV-1 is said to be inspired by a Soviet-era hatchback model IZh 2125 “Kombi” developed in the 1970s , which itself resembled a vintage Italian Fiat 124, the model used as the reference design to create Russia's Lada.

According to the holding company Kalashnikov Concern, the car has a range of 350 kilometers (217 miles) between battery pack recharges and can accelerate from 0-100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in six seconds.
Those numbers are pretty impressive.  A Nissan Leaf (fully electric) claims a range of 150 miles, while the Chevy Bolt claims 238 miles.  The CV-1 at 217 is clearly right there in leading edge of the pack (assuming they're rated with the same tests).  Acceleration from 0-60 in six seconds is good for a family sedan but that's where an electric car should shine.  The car shows it's Fiat 124 heritage, but is also obviously updated:

No word on why an electric car needs a front grill like that.  It shouldn't need cooling like an I/C engine.  Perhaps they have a coal fired heater for those famously harsh Russian winters?  An electric heater is probably a really bad idea - it would drastically reduce range. 
While engineers generally know better than to make sweeping generalizations and engage in hyperbole, the same does not necessarily apply to press relations departments. To wit:  “This technology will let us stand in the ranks of global electric car producers such as Tesla and be their competitor,” said news agency RIA-Novosti, quoting Kalashnikov's press office. Kalashnikov further said it has developed some cutting-edge elements for its "electric supercar", including a "revolutionary" inverter. No further details on the inverter were provided.
I was surprised to learn that Kalashnikov Concern has been involved with electric vehicles for a while.  Kalashnikov built the electric "Ovum" vehicles that were used by Russian police at the World Cup this summer. The Ovum EV has a modular design and the ability to vary the number of passenger seats depending on the purpose.

The CV-1 looks like something I can picture Leonid Breshnev getting out of; the Ovum is more modern looking, definitely different.   But, hey, maybe they focus-grouped the heck out of it and the Russians want a car that looks like the CV-1.  

Monday, September 3, 2018

Florida's Governor's Race Goes Full Retard

It's not fair to say it went full retard today; it went full retard when Evil Party candidate Andrew Gillum was announcing his platform.  Courtesy of Gun Free Zone watching the Twitter feed, we find:

That's full retard.  Of course he'd raise taxes on Floridians.  If you're not nodding in agreement, repeat after me: corporations do not pay taxes - their customers do.  Corporations don't have a penny that doesn't come from their customers.  If the costs go up due to new taxes they can do only a couple of things: make less money or raise prices are at the top of that short list.  Most will raise prices to pass on the cost and their customers pay the tax. 

Divemedic over at Confessions of a Street Pharmacist did the kind of number crunching a real reporter should do (but apparently none will) and showed this is the worst kind of deliberate lying.  If the state did exactly what he's saying, we'd run a $64.2 billion deficit.  The state can't.  Medicare for all would bankrupt the state. 

Of course, raising everyone's taxes and bankrupting the state might be a feature, not a bug to someone Bernie Sanders endorsed.

You know, I've never seen this movie, but I think I will. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Ugly, Wrong, and Unusable, But Somehow Successful

I made a spring out of a discarded guitar string.  It works.  It's actually a spring. 

Crooked, ugly and inconsistent spacing, but you can pull it and it springs back.  Unfortunately it's all wrong, because I need it to work in compression, not under tension.  If it was a compression spring, I would have tried it by now. 

Let me back up a minute.  As you may have gathered by now, my little engine doesn't run.  Won't turn over and run on its own.  Some troubleshooting on the various fora I belong to said look at that spring (I mentioned it last week) as the source of trouble. 

Springs are typically made of what's called music wire.  I ordered a few 3' lengths of wire from an eBay seller last week.  A couple of days later, Mrs. Graybeard says, "what's music wire?" and I launched into a web search.  "Oh, it's a standard type of wire with an ASTM number for it; high carbon and manganese...".  To which she replied, "and how is that different from musical wire used for guitar strings?"  I'm dumbfounded.  Like anyone with a few guitars, I also have a few sets of strings for replacements, and I can "harvest" a used string anytime I feel like it.

Cut to the chase, that's an .013" diameter guitar string.  Bright due to being nickel steel, not black like the music wire will be.  I followed the step by step instructions on Dean's Photographica, and it works, despite the ugly.  I'm still on hold while I wait for the wire I ordered, which is apparently being carried by someone walking from a thousand miles away and won't be here for a while.  And then I'll make it as a compression spring, like it should be. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Strangest Science Story of the Week

A story I got in today's emails that leads with the line that researchers show sharks prefer jazz over other genres.  This website links to Phys.org, the online physics research hub.
Researchers trained baby Port Jackson sharks to associate music with a food reward. When played a jazz song, the sharks learnt to go to a feeding station for a tasty treat.

"Sound is really important for aquatic animals, it travels well under water and fish use it to find food, hiding places and even to communicate," said lead author Catarina Vila-Pouca from the Department of Biological Sciences.

Anecdotal reports have suggested that sharks can learn to associate the sounds of boat engines with food, for example as part of shark cage-diving activities. The study published this week in Animal Cognition provides evidence that sharks can learn the association relatively quickly.
All of which gets off to a good start, but then deals a serious blow to the title in the next line:
Associate Professor Culum Brown of the Department of Biological Sciences and the leader of The Fish Lab said when it came to differentiating between jazz and classical music, the sharks struggled.

"It was obvious that the sharks knew that they had to do something when the classical music was played, but they couldn't figure out that they had to go to a different location," said Associate Professor Brown.

"The task is harder than it sounds, because the sharks had to learn that different locations were associated with a particular genre of music, which was then paired with a food reward. Perhaps with more training they would have figured it out."
The researchers offered a potential reason for a preference for jazz among sharks. When prey is wounded and dying, it gives off a kind-of staccato beat as it flops around. The syncopated rhythms of jazz music actually makes jazz the perfect music for sharks, who relatively easily associated the music with food.  Similarly, in a 2015 study it was found that sharks liked heavy metal, and researchers attributed the rhythms of heavy metal to those sharks liking that form of music.  Heavy metal is unpredictable by design, and largely non-repetitive. 
A documentary film crew found that blasting death metal tunes into the water can actually help attract great white sharks. Filming for the Shark Week show “Bride of Jaws,” the Discovery Channel film crew used a military underwater speaker to pump out heavy metal in the sea to try to attract a 4.8 meter (16 foot) shark, awesomely known as “Joan of Shark.” They didn’t attract Joan, however they did entice two others to come up to the boat, one of which was over 4.2 meters (14 feet) long.
No explanation is given for why they chose to pump out "death metal" to attract a female great white shark as opposed to say, Michael Buble' (they are female sharks, after all).   Well, they mention that a few years ago, an Australian shark tour operator, found out AC/DC songs had a similar effect, but that just pushes the questions back one.  Why did they choose AC/DC instead of something mellower?

I find it easier to envision white sharks head-banging in a concert somewhere than sitting around in a smoking robe, swirling a brandy snifter while listening to Thelonious Monk.  

Somehow all I can think to wrap this up with is:  Play That Funky Music, Shark Boy.

A great white shark.  Travelbag Ltd./Flickr

Friday, August 31, 2018

Troubleshooting as an Away Game

As regular readers know, I'm a retired engineer.  Electrical engineering is a broad field so people tend to develop specialties.  Mine was radio frequency circuit design, more specifically receivers, phase locked loop frequency synthesizers, the automatic control loops commonly used in receivers and transmitters, and electronic filter design, from DC to about 14 GHz.  This is what I consider my home field; fixing broken radios, both transmitters and receivers, is my home field advantage.

For the past couple of months I've been playing an away game, troubleshooting in a specialty of electricity and electronics is so far from my specialty that virtually nothing I learned in my career is useful here, except the big picture aspects.

I'm troubleshooting an intermittent failure in my house's electrical power distribution.  Finding a ghost, if you will.

When we had the addition built onto our house for the shop back in 2014, the general contractor subcontracted to some electricians who wired the entire shop.  The AC outlets were divided into two branches largely along the west and east walls.  Each circuit is on a 20A breaker and each side had a ground fault interrupter.  Once or twice in the intervening four years, the west wall breaker would trip.  In the last few months, that started becoming more common and started to become a problem.  The east wall breaker has tripped much less often.  I can only really recall once, which was on a night a couple of months ago when both GFIs tripped. 

To be clear, nothing is completely broken, in the sense of not working.   I'm not completely sure, but I think the most often it has ever reset in a single 24 hour day has been twice.  Most of what I'm trying to troubleshoot is something that happens at random times no more than once a day.  It has gone weeks without tripping.

While I have general electronics troubleshooting tools; a few digital multimeters, and an oscilloscope, most of the rest is more specialized for radio testing.  I don't have any specialized tools that an electrician might carry.

I do have a lot of hours troubleshooting intermittent problems and know the general method is to try to make the rare failure happen more often.  Failing often would be good.  Breaking it permanently, for once and for all, would be better.  As a general rule, you try to figure out what's causing it to fail and do it more often.  If a radio or computer fails when it's cold, you spray it with freeze mist to find out which sections are sensitive to cold.  If it fails when it has been running a while and gets warm, you use a hot air gun.  If a radio fails during vibration testing, you tap it with a rubber mallet.

I've been unable to find something that causes it to fail.  The GFI has tripped most often overnight when no one is watching. It has tripped in the early evening during or after nearby thunderstorms.  It has tripped on a day with no storms.  It has tripped while I was making a part for my engine, thankfully when the mill was off and the cutting was done.  At one point, I thought it was fixed.  I went outside to check out the ground rod for the house, where the power comes into the house (we have underground utilities) and found the ground rod corroded away - if you look in front of the yellow tag, you can see the point on the ground rod. I had the ground rod replaced and the GFI stopped tripping for two whole weeks.

What I've ended up doing is spending time looking for stories about things that cause GFIs to act strangely and do things like this.  Someplace I read said that refrigerators or freezers shouldn't be plugged in a GFI circuit because ... some reason that sounded plausible.  So last Sunday I removed the east side GFI outlet and replaced it with a conventional outlet.  Then I took the east side GFI and replaced the west GFI with it.  Comparatively, the east side GFI was much less likely to trip.  It took two days for it to trip on the west side. 

One difference between the west side and east side of the shop is that the west side has three surge protected AC outlet strips.  A search for reports that combining surge protection and GFI might cause the GFI to trip more often said that the surge protected strips might be a problem.  They theorized that when the surge protector dumps current from one side the AC line or the other over to ground, it looks like an imbalance between hot and neutral, which is what the GFI is detecting.  In other words, when the surge protector does what it's there for.  I took one of the surge protection strips out of place and just plugged in only the things I was using.  Today is the second day and it hasn't tripped. 

I have basic knowledge of how these things work, and nowhere near enough experience to look at something that's bad and know where to start looking.   "Away game" is probably too lame a comparison.  AC house power follows the laws of current and voltage I'm familiar with, but everything else is its own language.

All suggestions will be appreciated.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Cody Wilson Sticks A Finger in the Judge's Eye

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Upon rereading the judgement against Defense Distributed for the 29 Godzillionth time, they had a realization.  The judge ruled he couldn't give the files away.  So he'll sell them.  For whatever you want to pay.
Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson crushed their short-lived happiness during a Tuesday press conference where he revealed that he actually won't be stopped from sharing technical data; he will simply sell the files via his website, defcad.com. (Yes, he can do this.)

"This judge's order, stopping us from simply giving things away, was only an authorization that we could sell it, that we could mail it, that we could email it, that we could provide it by secure transfer. I will be doing all of those things, now," announced Wilson.

"A lot of this to me was about principle," he continued. "For many years, I just chose not to sell these files, because I'm an open-source activist. I believed in demonstrating that there was a right to commit this information to the public domain."

"But, this is my opportunity to correct the media all in one place. To read headline after headline about how you can no longer 3D-print a gun, you can no longer have these files, this is not true. This has never been true. I now have to demonstrate this to you, forcefully, to deliver the point."

There is no set price for the material; patrons are asked to give whatever they'd like in exchange. Wilson said the money would be used for further legal fees.

"Everyone who wants these files in America can get them," he said. "They're allowed to name their own price at our website. Making money is not important to me."

The 30-year-old said he's "happy now to become the iTunes of downloadable guns if I can't be the Napster," but added that it was somewhat "regrettable" that state attorneys general drove him into the commercial space.

"The only person who was hurt by the [Seattle ruling] is the common man," Wilson noted later in the presser, again adding that he will not be stopped.
Defcad will also allow the public to sell their own files via the site.
Allow me to remind you again of the DefCad fundraiser.  Yet another interesting thing about Defense Distributed is this promise.
"What are we? We call ourselves Defense Distributed," Wilson said in the video. "We're a defense contractor. We don't contract with the state. We contract with the public. So, I'd like to come to terms. If you will fund this fight for me, I will offer two new contracts to you."
The two dollar amounts that trigger the two new contracts were 200 and $400,000.  As of now, the $200,000 goal has been met.  When (if) it hits $400,000, they'll commit to the other new contract.

Cody with one of the Liberator pistols, of course. Photo by Kelly West/AFP/Getty Images.

If you go to the DefCad Fundraiser you can contribute.  Or you can go to the top level site, pick out the designs you want and get something for your bucks.  Either way, every time someone downloads a file, a gun grabber cries. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

An End to the Sliming

Today was the Florida primary election, meaning the last week has been almost back-to-back telephone calls.  We've actually had opponents of each other call back-to-back, and the snail mail for most of the last week has brought six to 10 large photo postcards every day.  The primary being over will bring with it a blessed end to the non-stop, neck-deep slime we've been assaulted by for months.  For a few weeks. 

This election season has been negative, vitriolic, and slimy.  There might have been worse, but this one has been among the worst I can recall.  It started early, too.  Today's primary (or for the last 10 days for those who do early voting) is for our local state representatives, senator, judges, and then for US senator.

It's hard to peg the most vicious race.  The big name race has been the competition for our liberal senator's opposition, and features soon to be ex-governor Rick Scott against a joke candidate.  Seriously, remember Pat Paulsen?  He has nothing on Scott's opponent "Rocky" De La Fuente.  Our state representative is a "career politician" type who has bounced between jobs up in Tele-hassle, taking one term limit and moving to the next two term job on his name recognition.  He's one of the Stupid Party insiders who sold us out after Parkland and needs to go.  His opponent has run before as a Libertarian, but moved to the mainstream party this time.

The most surprisingly bitter and slimy race was for our county commissioner.  The incumbent was challenged by a former commissioner who used to live in a different district and has now moved to the one I live in.  She was well known for fiscal restraint, sanity and discipline, and I would think she has a good enough reputation to just get her name out, but aside from a brief but pleasant chat when she knocked on the door, I've heard virtually nothing pleasant or positive out of her campaign.  I wouldn't doubt that we got a stack of the glossy mailers over a foot tall between her and her opponent. 

Long ago, like 35 years or so, I decided that a good rule of thumb was to not vote for the first candidate to sling mud.  Like all "zero tolerance policies" or rules of thumb, it's not right all the time, and should be used with some commonsense, but it's a pretty good indicator.  In this case, with both of them being negative 99% of the time, it basically came down to picking the least disgusting candidate - truly trying to pick up a turd by the clean end - holding our noses and vote.

I know no political consultants will ever read a blog like this, much less listen to what I say, but how about you tell me why I should vote for you not why I should vote against your opponent?

The candidates all act like there's a template they're filling out.  They all act like if they just say the same handful of buzzwords, or buzz phrases, they win.  This year's buzz phrases include:
  • I'm pro-Second amendment (having the NRA ratings to back it up adds cred)
  • I'm pro-life
  • My opponent is a career politician
  • I'll save the Indian River 
With a surprising amount of
  • My opponent is anti-Trump
The coveted endorsements seemed to come from our departing Attorney General turning into TV personality, Pam Bondi, and the "Republican Sheriffs".  Whoever the campaign consultants are this year, they've apparently convinced everyone this is the winning formula because they all say the same things.  Not that there's anything wrong with any of these, but if you're trying to distinguish yourself from other candidates, it's not working. 

I'm looking forward to the slime going away for a while.  Of course, we transition to the mud slinging for the November general election, and it'll resume a few weeks.  I'm going to move the recycling bin right next to the mailbox so that campaign literature can just be directly dumped from the mailbox into the recycling can.

(The famous Indonesian mud volcano has nothing on the mud these candidates are slinging).

Sigh... a check of the county election results shows the candidates I most wanted to go away won their races..

Monday, August 27, 2018

US Patent Granted for Way to Look Out of Radar Cloaking

A US high tech company called Fractenna announced it had received a US patent for an ability to turn cloaking on and off, allowing a vessel that's in a radar cloak to see out of it.
The firm pioneered and invented invisibility cloaks and holds both the ‘source’ patent (8,253,639) and the related comprehensive IP portfolio.

Recently issued patent 10,027,033 is a continuation of that state of the art innovation. It discloses a novel means of turning invisibility cloaks on and off, by changing the characteristics of a boundary layer. Notes inventor Nathan Cohen: “The person or sensor inside the cloak is thus no longer blind.” Cohen asserts that not being able to sense the outside has previously been the number one impediment to the use of invisibility cloaks.
So Star Trek had it right - the Romulans had to drop their cloaks to see out and use sensors.  The fact that the cloaking technology has worked both ways (keeping the cloaked from looking out as well as keeping an outsider from looking into the cloak) has been an impediment to the development of cloaking technology, which has tremendous military potential, as well as civilian uses.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find a description of how the cloak is turned off.

The hams in the audience might recognize Factenna, because Nathan Cohen is better known as W1YW, and known on the bands as 'Chip'.  Chip was an early adopter of fractal antenna technology and an advocate of the technology when most other hams were dismissing them as obvious derivatives of existing antennas.  The best write up on the technology isn't on that "Business Wire" link at the top, it's on the forum section of ham radio callsign lookup site, QRZ.
The newest patent, 10,030,917, describes related technology where electromagnetic energy is absorbed by fractal-based metamaterials. Called ‘fractal absorbers’, the innovation uses evanescent waves to divert such impinging energy off to the sides, where it is absorbed in a resistive layer. Previously, absorbers relied on the thickness, not the width, of materials to accomplish this. Now these very thin fractal absorbers accomplish the same result with dramatic thickness and weight reductions.

Fractal absorbers have been known and recognized as important for many years. Explains Cohen: “It is outrageous and bizarre to see teams from PRC (China) claiming invention of fractal absorbers. They have received unusual attention for their alleged invention, under the premise of so-called ‘supermaterials’. Fractal absorbers were discovered many years ago, at this firm, and the new patent conclusively establishes fractal absorbers as an American invention that pre-dates others’ alleged invention: we didn’t give it to them. We held it under wraps, waiting for this patent issuance. The patent application was withheld from publication. Ironic for them, the Chinese have unwittingly established credibility for our invention and its American uses. And, in my opinion, they are now very far behind in the game.”

Cohen sees a variety of commercial applications for fractal absorbers, whose broad bandwidths and ultra-thinness are especially sought.
Fractal absorber with some material sanded away so that the some of the fractal pattern can be seen.  Fractenna photo.

If you really want to read a fun piece, Chip was awarded a Technical Achievement Award at the Dayton Hamvention this year, and talks a lot about his background on his callsign lookup page.   Go to https://www.qrz.com/lookup and enter W1YW in the box on the top left of the page.  For hams using RTTY (Radio TeleType) communications, there was a tradition of writing a few things about themselves to send to everyone they contacted as an introduction.  It was saved on a tape that was fed into a paper tape reader (then cassette audio reader, then a text file on the computer) that's known as a "brag tape".  This is the first few paragraphs of Chip's brag tape.
Well, I was the kid who stuck his finger in the light socket. Some of you may think that explains a lot. I made my first invention at age 6.  At 11,  I got my license. There was no holding me back, immersed in a friendly wireless world fabulously unlike my limiting hometown. 

Human nature being what it is, not everyone is friendly. Some of you are aware of the tortuous 30 year path of the innovation of fractal antennas, fractal resonators and electronics,  the invisibility cloak, and so on.  You can’t not see the very verbal resistance to that amongst some of our ranks. But this is typical territory for innovators who understand the outrageous realities of Darwinism with its die-offs and resurrection.

I was allowing none of that on fractal antennas. I became champion for the technology I created and took more than my share of arrows. I shot quite a few of them back. The pioneer didn’t die and the technology, today, is exploding on a global scale across wireless and telecom. Kids get taught it in math class.College students get graded on it at universities. DIY’ers praise me for bringing in Green Acres reruns from 150 miles away.

 Bottom line: I did it, from the beginning, with ham radio. I haunted flea markets. I had a love-hate relationship with Radio Shack and MFJ. I built my own antenna range . I  used crystal controlled 2M rigs.  I funded it from slim earnings, and unlike this first-class meal here, cornflakes and ramen noodles. I hate  ramen noodles.

Bottom line: Fractal antennas are ham-grown. I am proud to be a ham. You should be too.
So what's a fractal antenna?
Here's an example from Fractenna literature.  First off, notice that there's a large number of identical, repeating elements called tiles (one is highlighted in white).  Think of each element's largest overall length as a full-wavelength loop.  (If you're not comfortable with the idea that radio waves have physical size, I do a little explanation here).  Each of the bends turns an electrical length into smaller pieces.  Start with the smallest little square you can see near the inside center of one of those tiles.  The smallest sections resonate on frequencies where they're close to 1/4 wave long,  if we include the next short section, it gets longer, lowering the resonant frequency.  We continue to include more and more of the square squiggles, and eventually the biggest pieces resonate where all of those lines, and the interactions between them, add up to be 1/4 wave.  The combination of all those squiggles gives the pattern a wide frequency response, from the lowest frequency that fits around the entire perimeter of the tile to the highest frequencies of the smallest little lengths, and the art of the design is creating all those lengths so that wide bandwidths are covered. 

How do they cloak a device?  We've talked about it before here, in particular, we talked about the technique of evanescent surface waves, or ESW.  Chip links to a video showing their system working. 
Evanescent surface waves going around an object, so that it doesn't interrupt the signal.  Similarly, radar hitting an aircraft's body will go around the plane as an ESW and not reflecting a return signal to the ground that reveals the aircraft to a radar looking for it. 

As I've said before, optical cloaking is probably still somewhat off in the future, but I think the same idea would work. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

And ... No Cigar

Busy day without a running engine to show for it. 

So a cartoon that struck me as quite a bit deeper than an average cartoon - from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Let's see - $17,000 per semester, I'll swag 15 semester hours or $1133 per semester hour, probably $3400 per class (3 hr class) with 30 students in class, or $102,000 paid in tuition for one class.  The adjunct professor makes median $3000 for the semester.  We'll double that to cover overhead and estimate that to host the class costs the college $6000.  In return, they get paid $102,000.   For one class.

Nice racket if you can get it.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Very Close - But Not Yet

What 's close?

My engine. Very close to being able to try to run it, but not tonight. 

Not finished.  Some of the hardware isn't quite right, and the base plate mounts to an oak piece I haven't even started on yet. 

I could run it without the wooden base.  More importantly, it doesn't spin freely enough yet.  It should spin freely with everything moving properly and no flame applied.  In the middle of the picture, a thin rod is visible with a spring wrapped around it.  That rod doesn't move freely.  That's supposed to be a spring that I wound, instead it's a pen spring I found around the house and abused - I stretched it out so that it wasn't loose and rattling in there.  Didn't feel like buying a hundred feet of spring wire to use a few inches.

At best, I just tweak the positions of some parts, maybe replace that spring with another that I have.  At worst, the flywheel and it's mounting brackets might have to be moved slightly away from your point of view in this picture and that will require a bit of effort.