Sunday, September 30, 2018

The SpaceX Falcon at 10

On September 28, SpaceX and industry watchers quietly commemorated the 10th anniversary of the first launch of the Falcon 1, the first version of the SpaceX booster that is quietly forcing the rest of the world to play catch up; even the Russians announced plans to develop a reusable booster to keep up with SpaceX.  Ars Technica passes on the story of the eight desperate weeks that saved SpaceX from ruin.
Three times, in 2006, 2007, and 2008, SpaceX tried to launch a Falcon 1 rocket from Omelek Island in the Pacific Ocean, a coral shelf perhaps a meter above sea level and the size of three soccer fields. Less than two months after the last failure, the money was running out. SpaceX had just one final rocket to launch, with only some spare components left over in its California factory.

“We all knew that the stakes were incredibly high,” Zach Dunn recalled of that feverish period in 2008. This time, the Falcon 1 had to work. And the kids knew it. Barely a year out of graduate school and just 26, Dunn nonetheless was a senior engineer over the rocket’s first stage. “It was tense. There was a lot of pressure.”
Omelek was a temporary facility; so small it's uninhabitable during a launch.  Omelek was a place where they lived dormitory style and worked tirelessly in preparation for the launch (as have generations of other folks at NASA, in Russia and the rest of the launch industry).  Before launch, everyone evacuated the smaller Omelek to go the control center on nearby Kwajalein - "Kwaj" - one of the best-known pieces of "downrange test facility" in the Pacific.

The pressure was intense. 
They bunked in a double-wide trailer, cramming inside on cots and sleeping bags, as many as a dozen at a time. In the mornings, they feasted on steaming plates of scrambled eggs. At night, beneath some of the darkest skies on Earth, they grilled steaks and wondered if the heavens above were beyond their reach. Kids, most of them, existed alone on a tiny speck of an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It was the middle of nowhere, really.

And they worked. They worked desperately—tinkering, testing, and fixing—hoping that nothing would go wrong this time. Already, their small rocket had failed three times. One more launch anomaly likely meant the end of Space Exploration Technologies.
Today, it is difficult to imagine the world of aerospace without SpaceX. United Launch Alliance, Arianespace, the Russians, and the Chinese likely would still dominate the launch industry, with their prices a closely guarded secret. A decade ago, these industry titans saw in Elon Musk just another gnat to be swatted aside like so many who had come before. The idea of reusing an orbital rocket to lower the cost of access to space? Laughable. Mars?!? This funny sounding guy from South Africa couldn't even put a small, single-engine rocket into orbit.

This, and more, lay on the line September 28, 2008, when SpaceX sought to finally become the first company to privately develop a rocket that successfully reached orbit.

“That's something that only nations had done before, because the barriers to entry were so high,” Chad Anderson, of the Space Angels investment group, said about privately developing an orbital rocket. “Going from zero to one is really, really difficult. And that’s what SpaceX did. That guy and that company have been swimming upstream, and fighting, for so long to get that ball rolling.”
The video of the first successful flight in SpaceX history is still on YouTube, along with videos of less successful flights, like the oh-so-close third launch.

Falcon 1, vehicle 4, just prior to the first launch, on the pad on Omelek island.

It's hard to overestimate the importance of this successful launch.  Every engineer on the team was literally betting their futures on being able to do it.  Even Musk says that if they hadn't succeeded, it probably would have been the end.  Instead, they got a contract to launch the Malaysian RazakSAT satellite into orbit on the Falcon 1 in 2009.  Chad Anderson, of the Space Angels investment group, says that turned the launch business, which he termed "essentially a cartel", upside down.
“To launch a satellite before SpaceX, money had to be no object,” Anderson said. “It could be $90 million, or $170 million, or whatever they happened to want that day. These are incredibly formidable barriers to entry for a new venture.”

Price transparency, and SpaceX’s introduction of the Falcon 9 rocket in 2010 at a price of $60 million, helped bring down these barriers to entry. Over time, this unleashed a wave of innovation in satellites and brought spaceflight into the realm of wider entrepreneurship.

Anderson said that, before SpaceX began flying the Falcon 1 rocket, there were a few dozen privately funded companies, globally, engaged in spaceflight activities. Today, there are 350, and they have raised $15 billion in private capital.
Today, SpaceX is flying the 5th version of the Falcon 9, so named because it uses 9 of the Merlin engines that carried the Falcon 1 into orbit.  Many, though not all, Falcon 9 boosters can be recovered - it depends on the launch energy requirements (essentially the weight of the payload to orbit and the exact orbit required).  Just as it took them a few tries to get their first successful launches, it took a few before they successfully landed boosters.  Now they're making the recovery of the booster seem pretty routine.  Flying a recovered booster is cheaper for the customer, so several have flown and been recovered more than once.   

Engineer Zach Dunn with the Merlin first stage engine that later carried the Falcon 1 into orbit.  At the time, Dunn was 26 and just out of graduate school.  Within a year, he was in charge of the first stage.  

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Do We Have Security in the Capital, or Kabuki?

My dominant thought when I saw Arizona Flake Jeff Senator cornered by a couple of left wing activists in an elevator is "why is there no security?"  "What did these twits have to do to get into the capital and harangue a senator? "  I can't visit a friend in the hospital without going through metal detectors, emptying my pockets, and getting photographed.  Did they? 
The women who confronted Flake were Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila, sexual assault survivors who are now being hailed as activists who may be “changing the course of history.”

Archila, a Queens resident, is the co-executive director at the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), an organization that works toward creating an “inclusive, equitable society” by advocating for “communities of colour, immigrants, working families, youth, women and the LGBTQ community.”

Gallagher, a New York resident, isn’t linked to the CPD directly, but is “just a passionate person,” the Miami Herald reported.

She had been in Washington for a week demonstrating against Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Both, of course, are funded by Dr. Evil, George Soros (H/T - 90 Miles from Tyranny)

I think these two are too self-centered to do it, but think to yourself what if one of them is wearing a suicide vest?  Get close to the senator and go in blaze of glory?  I always thought the capital was too well protected, but if someone can get that close there are lots of options without firearms or explosives.  Remember when Korean Fat Man Dear Leader Kim Jong Un had his brother assassinated by a girl walking up and wiping nerve agent on his face?  Unless they get body cavity searched, they can get enough VX into the building to do this. 

I don't know what kind of security they have, but I suspect it's not as much as they need.  They'll find that out in due time. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

This Just In

Best running ever.

The trick is that it only starts up at room temperature, and then runs until it heats up too much.  It will run about a minute and stop.  After that, it tries to turn over, where it will run for a few seconds at a time.  It might be that the best position for that alcohol lamp flame is moving, but knowing where to put the fire is not exactly documented.  Nor is there anyway I know to calculate it.  It's pure trial and error. 

I frankly don't know how much more can be learned out of this.  It's possible a slightly bigger piston would get it to the state I've seen other videos, where the cylinder has to be preheated with the lamp or a torch, and then it runs solidly.  It's also possible the issue is something else (that I don't see or understand).  It might be time to finish the hardwood base it's going to be mounted to and call it an engine.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Cody Wilson Replaced at Defense Distributed

Thanks to a link at Shall Not Be Questioned, I find from the Austin Statesman that Cody Wilson has resigned from Defense Distributed.  Wilson has been replaced by Paloma Heindorff, who had been the company’s vice president of operations.
“I am extremely proud to say that over the past few days the entire team a Defense Distributed has recommitted to enabling the sharing and publication of CAD and 3D-printed firearms,’ Heindorff said at a news conference Tuesday. “This resilience, I truly believe to not only been characteristic of our company as a whole, but also the ideas that we have worked so hard to promote.”
I've been following Wilson, his printed Liberator and Defense Distributed since the earliest days. For those who haven't been following the story, the designs for the Liberator were first released to the world in 2013, and then DD was sued by the US State Department for violating the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).  The case was winding (? winding is too fast... what's the word for how snails move?) through the courts. 

Three years later, it was 2016 and the Trump administration took over.  DD argued they weren't exporting guns, they were publishing software describing something and publishing software has been recognized as free speech.  The DOJ advised the State Department to settle with DD, saying that "software is free speech" is settled law and they'd lose the case, so they offered to settle.  The settlement was set to go into effect at the end of July.   

Cody Wilson, of course, has recently been arrested and quickly extradited to the US for paying an underaged hooker.  Count me among those who think that whole thing transpired a little too quickly, a little too cleanly and smoothly to be convinced it's legit, but Heindorff made it clear that Wilson is on his own as far as his defense costs go, and that DD would continue their operation.
Heindorff said the company would not be paying for any of his legal expenses but would use the $400,000 it had raised so far from donations to fight the federal court case against it.
Heindorff said the company would continue on the same track to make its 3D-printed gun plans publicly available online, despite Wilson’s leaving the company.

“He’s been an incredibly powerful figurehead,” Heindorff said. “But this is about an idea.”

She said Defense Distributed had received about 3,000 orders for its weapons plans since the court order and that her team has been “shipping them out like crazy.”

“I cannot be more proud of my team right now,” she said. “We didn’t miss a beat. No one blinked. No one has missed a day at work. We’ve all come in. We’re still shipping. We have no intention of stopping.”
It seems where they are in the process now is as I described it at the end of last month.   A group of states decided it was too dangerous to let mere deplorables have access to the plans and sued to block their release. A judge agreed that unwashed normal people were a danger and ruled DD couldn't give the plans away.  So DD said, "OK, if we can't give them away, we'll sell them - for whatever you'd like to pay". 

It appears the DefCad fundraiser is still fund raising, with $54k left to go to get them reveal their second "new contract".  And, as before, 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 or gets a file, a gun grabber cries.

Paloma Heindorff, new CEO of Defense Distributed.  The Austin Stateman says, "Heindorff previously worked in the creative industry in New York City before moving to Austin to work for the nonprofit Defense Distributed. She called its efforts to fight the federal government the “most elegant and effective activism” she had ever seen."  I noticed she has CEO-speak down in those statements from the press conference.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Can Blockchain Unscrew the Medical Records World?

Let me back up for a minute.  I may not know what I'm talking about, but my perspective as a patient is that the medical records associated with me are perpetually screwed up, so therefore I expect everyone's medical records are perpetually screwed up and by extension all medical records are screwed up to some degree.  Every doctor I see wants a complete list of everything I'm taking; easy peasy - there's not all that much.  Then they go through a list that they have, saying "are you still taking.. XXX" where XXX is prescription that I had for two weeks ten years ago, took them and never saw another one.  Or maybe it was one that a doctor said, "try this and see if it works for you"; it didn't and we tried another similar drug.  Repeat for maybe 20 entries in their list.

No matter what I say to the tech or person checking the list, it never seems to get fixed or get better.  I fully expect that if I end up in the hospital for some sort of emergency - like when I had my gall bladder out in June of '16 - they're going to read that I'm taking ... I don't know, something ... and treat whatever I have wrong because of that kind of lingering misinformation.

I'm not in that line of work, so maybe I'm talking out of my butt, but it's the case both for Mrs. Graybeard and I.  That sneaking suspicion that it's all wrong got my interest when I saw a headline, "Would You Trust an App to Protect Your Medical Records?" in Machine Design.  The emphasis, though, isn't unscrewing our records, it's securing their privacy.

Blockchain is most associated with cryptocurrencies; it's how they work.  Blockchain is an encrypted ledger of digital transactions, a group of these transactions is a block, distributed across a chain of multiple nodes through a peer-to-peer network.  Part of the distributed nature of the blockchain is that it leaves an auditable log trail of the events taking place.  Every entry in the ledger is irrevocable, tamper-proof, and shared among authorized parties in a transparent manner.  I can see the usefulness here, but in the case of my mangled history of prescriptions, the issue isn't things being added without authorization, it's inappropriate things being added - or appropriate things being added that shouldn't be permanent.

Machine Design adds this:
The technology allows every member that can submit information to have their own copy of the ledger, rather than having all the data hosted on one centralized location. Nevertheless, no new transaction can be input, or data committed, without the majority of nodes agreeing that it is indeed accurate.

This could impact the healthcare industry greatly, as often every such organization has its own version of a patient’s records, and it is common for these entities to have differences between each record without streamlined verification. Therefore it is often the case that if a patient visits several different healthcare providers, each and every record they have can be different from one another, which could create massive complications for their personal health. [Note: emphasis added - SiG]
Bingo!  Now you're talking.  This bold text is exactly what I'm talking about.  

The article then goes on to give a brief overview of a few companies trying to create this medical blockchain industry, MediBloc, Dentacoin and Medicalchain.
MediBloc aims at putting patients in charge of managing their own medical records, enabling them to exercise ownership and control over their data, as well as who has access to it. Users have full access to their data and can make a conscious choice over who is authorized to view and edit it—from individuals to research institutions and private corporations.
Dentacoin, as you might guess, is aimed at dental records. Dentacoin is a decentralized dental health database which stores patient data in a secure and reliable way. It is fully controlled by the users; only they can decide what to store in the database and who has access to it.
The database, developed by Medicalchain, allows users to give permission to medical professionals (doctors, hospitals, labs, pharmacists, insurers, and so on) to access the data they have entered on the platform. Each and every access of the data is logged—making it auditable, transparent, and secure—by having it recorded as a transaction on the Medicalchain’s distributed ledger. The patient’s privacy is protected throughout the entire duration of this process.

The article uses the rhetorical question, "would you trust an app to protect your medical records".  I can't say that I particularly trust the medical professionals that have custody of them now, but I don't know this is any better.  I also don't know if it's any worse (as always, the internet meme works here: "when I said 'how bad can it get', that wasn't meant as a challenge). 

The problem is that I don't see much in what they're talking about that specifically addresses the text I emphasized above
... if a patient visits several different healthcare providers, each and every record they have can be different from one another, which could create massive complications for their personal health.
The closest is Medicalchain allowing users to correct their records and allow the medical professionals to view their records.  The thing is, Blockchain and that whole system isn't needed for this.  We could do it now if the medical practices allowed patients to correct the information.  But the medical professionals always know more than you and won't allow you to modify your records. 

I'm going to swag that something like this might be coming.  If you have a personal issue with your medical records being on a computer on the network, that ship sailed long ago.  In principle, it's a really good idea that any doctor who sees you should get access to important things about you, especially should you be unconscious in an Emergency Room.  My biggest issue is that the information really needs to be right. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Remember "Paving Roads With Solar Cells"?

Remember a few years ago when people talked about using road and sidewalk surfaces for photovoltaic cells?  Well, a few experimental installations have been done and they really suck.

I know: what a surprise?  Who would have guessed? ... I mean besides the groups getting some gubmint money to install them.

A little thought by someone who has seen solar cells used properly will give a handful of reasons why it's a bad idea.   The most obvious one is dirt.  Roads get dirty, covered with snow drifts or wind driven sand, for example, and small amounts of light being cut off by dirt have large impacts on the efficiency of the cells.  Next most obvious is the mounting angle.  To be perpendicular to the light of the sun (max intensity and energy transfer), the cells should be mounted at the complement of the latitude.  In the areas where the sun is most intense, the cells would need to be 25, 30 or even 35 degrees from the vertical, or 55, 60 or 65 angles to the horizontal.  Cars can't drive on that.  Instead, they'll be at road grade, flat to within less than 20 degrees in most places.  Finally, they'll need to be mounted under glass strong enough to support the cars and trucks that travel that road.  Thick glass will further reduce the light converted to electricity. 

A study reported in the Herald Sun news from Australia goes over some results.  Warning for odd units ahead.
One of the first solar roads to be installed is in Tourouvre-au-Perche, northwest France. This has a maximum power output of 420kW, covers 2800sq m and cost €5 million ($8 million) to install. This implies a cost of €11,905 ($A19,230) per installed kW.

While the road is supposed to generate 800kWh/day (kilowatt hours per day), some recently released data indicates a yield closer to 409kWh/day, or 150,000kWh/yr.

....The road’s capacity factor — which measures the efficiency of the technology by dividing its average power output by its potential maximum power output — is just 4 per cent.
Oops.  For comparison, the Herald Sun reports on a solar panel installation in the Bordeaux region of France, in a place called Cestas.  This plant was designed with rows of solar panels carefully aligned at the proper angle towards the sun, not to be driven on.  It has a maximum power output of 300 Megawatts (300,000kW) and a capacity factor of 14 per cent.  At a cost of €360 million ($A581 million), or €1200 ($A1938) per installed kilowatt, one-tenth the cost of the solar roadway, it generates three times more power.

While it's not surprising that this insanity has spread to the US, it was a little surprising to me that a small pilot project was done in small town, Idaho, specifically Sandpoint, Idaho.
This is 13.9sq m in area, with an installed capacity of 1.529kW. The installation cost is given as $US48,734 (about $A67,000), which implies a cost per installed kilowatt of $A44,420 more than 20 times higher than the Cestas power plant. 
1.5 kW is a rather small project, so I'd have to guess some sort of "proof of concept", but at 20x the per-kW cost of the Cestas facility (and at a similar latitude as Cestas, 48N for Sandpoint vs. 45N for Cestas), clearly not a good use of funds.
And this is before we look at the actual data from the Sandpoint installation, which generated 52.397kWh in six months, or 104.8kWh over a year. From this we can estimate a capacity factor of just 0.782 per cent, which is 20 times less efficient than the Cestas power plant.
I should note that in the photo of the Sandpoint square road (and sidewalk!) you'll notice traffic lines, speed limits and other information from LEDs embedded in the roads.  While it's a nice touch, in the brutal reality of energy input/output they must be budgeted for.  It turns out the LEDs use 25% of the power the road generates. 

Final words to the Herald Sun:
That said, it should be pointed out that this panel is in a town square. If there is one thing we can conclude, it’s that a section of pavement surrounded by buildings in a snowy northern town is not the best place to locate a solar installation.

However, perhaps there’s a bigger point — solar roads on city streets are just not a great idea.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

It's a Running Story

It has been a week of continuous reading and experimenting on my little flame eater engine, since last Sunday's post about it not quite running.

A brief overview of things up to now.  I started out by researching how to make it sound like a "known good" engine sounds.  It didn't sound right and that seems to be caused by the piston itself.  I started coming to the conclusion my piston was too small and I wasn't getting enough compression.

Early in the week, I read comments to one of the many flame eater videos on YouTube.  One commenter said these engines either run hot or cold.  If they're running cold, they quickly warm up enough that the expansion of the cylinder due to the heat of the slurped up flame causes the cylinder to get too big to keep the compression.   If they're setup to run warm, they'll be so tight at room temperature that they just won't turn over.

That gave me the idea to get the cylinder cold, with  the idea that it would shrink up more than the graphite and give me better compression.   This would test the idea that the piston is too small.  It actually ran!  It got to running 10 seconds and I started fumbling with my phone to grab a video of it, whereupon it stopped running.

Now I decided to turn a new piston to be a tighter fit in the cylinder.  The first attempt at a new piston didn't work; I overshot the diameter I wanted.  This piston is the third one I've made for this engine.  All three have been graphite, but that's a suggestion from the forums.  The original book plans say cold rolled steel (CRS), bronze or cast iron.  I originally bought a bar of  CRS to turn the piston out of before going for the graphite.  Now I'm considering making a fourth piston, this time out of CRS.

A commenter on the forums tells me that the behavior I'm seeing is pretty common and it might really be OK now.  He says that if it's starting cold, the engine stops because as water from the combustion condenses inside the cylinder, and increases drag.  He says that once the temperature of the engine reaches its running temp, in 2-3 min, it will run indefinitely.

I will experiment more with that before I decide to make another piston.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Computer Difficulties

Not with this computer, but with my iPad that I use in place of a laptop for taking notes and light duty and light duty computing.  It lost all of my notes taken this year when I "upgraded" a few days ago.

While work on getting them back... something I saw that struck me funny. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

The King of Junk Food Science is Out

Last February, I ran a story about Brian Wansink, whom I called the King of Junk Food Science.  According to ARS Technica yesterday, Wansink is out at Cornell University.
Brian Wansink, the Cornell nutrition researcher who was world-renowned for his massively popular, commonsense-style dieting studies before ultimately going down in flames in a beefy statistics scandal, has now resigned—with a considerably slimmer publication record.

JAMA’s editorial board retracted six studies co-authored by Wansink from its network of prestigious publications on Wednesday, September 19. The latest retractions bring Wansink’s total retraction count to 13, [Note: that page shows 35 papers retracted at this time - SiG] according to a database compiled by watchdog publication Retraction Watch. Fifteen of Wansink’s other studies have also been formally corrected.

Amid this latest course in the scandal, Cornell reported today, September 20, that Wansink has resigned from his position, effective at the end of the current academic year. In a statement emailed to Ars, Cornell Provost Michael Kotlikoff said that an internal investigation by a faculty committee found that “Professor Wansink committed academic misconduct in his research and scholarship, including misreporting of research data, problematic statistical techniques, failure to properly document and preserve research results, and inappropriate authorship.”
The important part of the article last February is what ultimately got Wansink out of his job: he wasn't doing science, he was trying to find things that would catch public attention and go viral.  The way it's supposed to work is that a researcher comes up with a hypothesis and then does an experiment to determine if their hypothesis is true; more precisely, they evaluate the null hypothesis that the experimental results were random and not due to their hypothesis.  Wansink would collect gobs of data and then try to find hypotheses that are true based on that data.
But, in a November 2016 blog post, Wansink inadvertently sank his own fame by noting that he encouraged his graduate students to go on statistical fishing trips, pushing them to net unintended conclusions from otherwise null nutrition experiment results. This is a huge red flag to researchers because such statistical fishing is a well-established method for reeling in false positives and meaningless statistical blips, like finding a link between cabbage and innie belly buttons. Moreover, many researchers see the dubious approach as fueling a crisis in social sciences in which findings from key studies—like Wansink’s—are not reproducible by other researchers, calling into question their original validity.

The blogged confession led to several other researchers sifting through Wansink’s studies and stats. Prime among those researchers is education researcher and blogger Tim van der Zee of Leiden University in the Netherlands. By last year, van der Zee and colleagues had identified at least 42 Wansink studies with alleged issues ranging from minor to severe. Those studies had collectively been cited by other researchers 3,700 times, been published in over 25 journals and eight books, and spanned 20 years of research, van der Zee noted.
As I've talked about in these pages before, there are several serious crises going on in science these days.  The biggest is reflected in the August 2005 paper by John P. A. Ioannidis which has become one of the most downloaded papers ever, "Why Most Published Research Findings are False".  Ioannidis points out that the majority of scientific papers are wrong; as much as 70% of published science is wrong.  Not just biomedical but hard sciences like particle physics. 
But maximising a single figure of merit, such as statistical significance, is never enough: witness the “pentaquark” saga. Quarks are normally seen only two or three at a time, but in the mid-2000s various labs found evidence of bizarre five-quark composites. The analyses met the five-sigma test. But the data were not “blinded” properly; the analysts knew a lot about where the numbers were coming from. When an experiment is not blinded, the chances that the experimenters will see what they “should” see rise. This is why people analysing clinical-trials data should be blinded to whether data come from the “study group” or the control group. When looked for with proper blinding, the previously ubiquitous pentaquarks disappeared.
Simply, the peer review process is broken - perhaps irreparably.

Science itself, as it currently works, may well also be badly broken. In the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of the new journal The New Atlantis, some important points were brought up.  As I excerpted in August of 2016.
As WWII came to a close, there was an acknowledgement of how much that scientific teams had contributed to the victory and a deliberate effort to keep those teams together.  Vannevar Bush, the MIT engineer called the “General of Physics” by Time Magazine, was the public face behind this push.  He pushed a vision so appealing in its imagery that everyone bought into it.
Scientific progress on a broad front results from the free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity for exploration of the unknown.
Through example after example Sarewitz demonstrates that the progress of the late 20th century was virtually never, “free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice”, but instead was almost always science being managed, being driven on specific topics for specific applications.   Scientific knowledge advances most rapidly, and is of most value to society, when it is steered to solve problems — especially those related to technological innovation.  Could it be that the War on Cancer has floundered because there's nobody in charge; nobody driving toward a goal and asking specific people specific questions? 
The typical academic scientist in a university lab may bristle at the thought of being given an assignment by a boss somewhere, and being held accountable for results.  Nevertheless, a persuasive argument can be made that this might be the way to fix science.

Five Thirty Eight did an experiment to show the kinds of spurious correlations that arise from using the typical tools of dietary studies: food frequency questionnaires and recall studies.  Their study demonstrated that eating egg rolls was strongly associated with dog ownership, and that eating cabbage was strongly associated with having an "innie bellybutton".  That's some real Brian Wansink quality science there!

Brian Wansink in a publicity photo.  AP Photo by Mike Groll - from Buzz Feed 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

George Soros is Funding the Anti-Kavanaugh Circus

But you probably figured that was the case before now.

Glenn Beck's research team connects the dots.
Take for instance the Ford sexual assault allegation. Grassley has given Ford until tomorrow to commit to a testimony that would be conducted in the next 72 hours. He wants it complete by Monday so they can move on with a committee vote. But Ford and her lawyer are delaying. They want the FBI to do an investigation, but procedurally that's not how this works. Ford's lawyer, Debra Katz, knows this. So why delay?

Well, it's pretty obvious. Again, the Left isn't trying to hide what they're doing here. Democrats want this delayed as close to the November midterms as possible. They study history just like anyone else does. When this nearly identical scenario happened with Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill back in 1991, it triggered what is now known as "The Year of the Woman" in the 1992 elections. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, was a product of that Democrat surge.

But the Ford accusation reveals a lot more. Back in August, a large group of Left-leaning groups co-signed a letter to both Senator Feinstein and Senator Grassley demanding Kavanaugh records. It was basically the same narrative that Cory Booker and Kamala Harris were using during the opening day of the confirmation hearing. One of the groups that co-signed the letter was called the Project on Government Oversight, or POGO. The vice chair of POGO is a woman named Debra Katz - YES - the same Debra Katz that is now the lawyer for Kavanaugh's accuser. Don't worry, this gets even more ridiculous. POGO is directly funded by - guess who - George Soros and the Open Society Foundation.
As Glenn says, you have to respect them - in the same sense you'd respect a Great White Shark as a ruthless killer.  They've laid all their cards on the table in a constant barrage of theatrics from Booker's "I am Spartacus" moment to Kamala Harris' demanding documents she already had, to shouting down opponents, to shady plots involving big money donors advancing progressive agendas. This is truly a look inside the Left's political playbook. It's open for everyone to see, the sides have been chosen and they don't even really appear to care about hiding it.

Aesop has created this graphic based on a quote from Gun Free Zone, which then got picked up by Western Rifle Shooters Association:

The thing is, that first paragraph isn't a bug, it's the feature.  It's what they want.   They want to make the cost of opposing them so brutal that no one will take the job.  They're campaigning on maximum tyranny, biggest government, and taking away freedoms.  They've all but guaranteed they'll rescind the tax cuts.  They've all but guaranteed they will vote to impeach Trump if they win the House.  Over what?  They don't think it matters.  They think all they have to do is make the charge, like Dr. Ford's charge against Kavanaugh. 

George Soros is at the heart of funding most of the tyrannical movements in the world today; always with a name opposite of its goals, like the Open Societies Foundation.  He has open arrest warrants in several countries and has been banned from others.  Why do we allow him to fund so much crap in this country? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Los Alamos Develops Simple Sonar for Ground Pentrating Imaging

A group of researchers at Los Alamos National Labs has developed a simple new way to produce a tight sonar beam for imaging through soil, rock and pretty much anything.   Summary from Machine Design:
A research team at Los Alamos National Laboratory has developed an inexpensive method for generating a high-power, low-frequency, collimated sound beam. In addition to penetrating deeply, this beam can create high-resolution images for applications such as biomedical diagnosis, borehole monitoring, evaluating explosives threats, and underwater communications. The new technique, dubbed Acoustic Collimated Beam (ACCObeam), is a major advance over ultrasound imaging tools. These current tools cannot image deeply into cement, rock formations, or bone and the human body. That’s because high frequencies attenuate significantly in solids.
The trick ended up being fairly simple.  They put the piezoelectric disk that generates the sound into a fixture that clamps it along its circumference.

By simply clamping the circumference of a piezoelectric disc inside a hard material and exciting concentric ring-like ripples in the disc, the team determined that it could produce a highly collimated, powerful sound beam that also minimizes unwanted side lobes.

The resulting device, called ACCObeam, operates at a low frequency of 10–250 kHz, so the sound it produces does not attenuate significantly in any medium. In fact, ACCObeam is capable of imaging underground in almost any medium and has been shown to image two to three meters of rock without compromising image resolution.
10 kHz is going to be lower resolution than 250 kHz (higher frequencies are always shorter wavelengths, and resolution depends on the physical size of the waves - sound or radio), but the narrow 6 degree beamwidth and lower sidelobes help the performance as well.  For comparison, you may have heard of the sonar "fish finders" that have become essential equipment for most fishermen, and are on millions of recreational boats.  Those are ultrasonic sonars, too.  The fishing sonars work at twice the highest frequency of the ACCObeam as their low frequency ends, not quite 500 kHz, more like 450 kHz, 800 kHz for their narrow beams, and are now pushing above 1000 kHz for higher resolution imaging.

LANL produced a well done little video that shows some details about the ACCOBeam and how it could be used for oil wells, fracking, and other energy industry-related tasks, which is LANL's reason for being. 

Still, this isn't a fishing sonar, and while the commercial grade sonars have capabilities that ACCObeam doesn't, direct comparison isn't fair.  These are different tasks, and the LANL scientists are looking for applications where it fits better than existing technology.
Using mock material, the team has proven that ACCObeam can noninvasively establish the 3-D thermal field inside a closed container. ACCObeam’s portability could significantly change how emergency responders analyze explosive threats.
My only gripe about the story is they shared no images captured through rocks or ground.  The video is worth watching, though.


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 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.