Saturday, August 31, 2019

Temporary Reprieve - Latest on Dorian

I've long had a saying while keeping track of hurricane forecasts, "the models giveth and the models taketh away".  For about a day, the forecast landfall moved south of us from the location plotted Wednesday, down to south Florida - somewhere around Palm Beach to Jupiter.  Then the models reeled that back and started moving the path closer to us, went past us and is now well offshore.  The models gave, took it back, then gave something different.

So I don't want to say we don't need to pay attention, but the models and forecasts have been bringing the turn to the north earlier in time by about a day, with the result that the storm appears to be passing us well to sea.  The latest forecast plot.

We're still in the Cone of Doom, just south of the bump on the East Coast - Cape Canaveral.  A tropical storm watch comes within 25 miles south of the house and it's reasonable to expect it to extend farther north tomorrow, but I don't bother with shutters for a tropical storm.  My current plan is to get a good look at the morning plots and decide if the shutters go up in the morning.  What I'll be looking for is if the cone shifts left tomorrow.  The path has been looking like this since this morning, and the various models almost all reflect it staying offshore and perhaps offshore the entire US. 

This is when we say, "you don't let your guard down until it's about a thousand miles past your location".  It has been hard to forecast so far, and that doesn't fill me with confidence. 

The plot of arrival time of tropical storm winds looks to be Monday morning, perhaps as early as 8AM, so any time tomorrow would be good to put up the shutters.  Being August, it's pretty hot when you don't get a cloud, so either up early or late in the day. 

Today, I took down my antennas.  The entire installation needs to be examined and a handful of problems from the lightning strike need to be troubleshot and fixed.  My antenna projects always begin with the phrase "when it cools down", which is typically by early November (but can be earlier), and that had been my plan.  Only one antenna was unusable and looked bad with my network (antenna) analyzer (current model) and since I have other antennas, I'm not completely off the air, I already found a problem I didn't even know I had. 

So here we are, in the midst of a temporary reprieve, hoping it becomes a permanent reprieve.  Over in the Bahamas, they're preparing for up to 24 hours of category 4 winds.  Honestly, pray for folks there.  From what I know, I'd be surprised to see much standing there by the time the storm clears out. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Generating Electricity With Rust

I have to admit I've never heard of this, and the potential is mind-boggling.  Maybe because I come from a state where humidity is one of our major exports, and humidity brings rust.  Maybe because I live in an area where the salt air corrodes away almost anything left outdoors, like aluminum window and screen frames.

Machine Design had short feature piece at the end of last month, about utilizing rust covered iron to generate electricity.
New research conducted by chemists at Caltech and Northwestern University shows that thin films of rust (iron oxide) can generate electricity when saltwater flows over them. These films represent an entirely new way of generating electricity and could be used to develop new forms of sustainable power production.

Interactions between metal compounds and saltwater often generate electricity, but this is usually the result of a chemical reaction in which one or more compounds are converted to new compounds. These reactions are like those at work inside batteries.

In contrast, the new phenomenon discovered by Tom Miller, a chemistry professor at Caltech, and Franz Geiger, a chemistry professor at Northwestern, does not involve chemical reactions. Instead it converts the kinetic energy of flowing saltwater into electricity.
The phenomenon is called the electrokinetic effect, and has been observed before in thin films of graphene.  Briefly, the mechanism involves ions sticking to the surface of the rusty iron (adsorption) and then detaching from that surface (desorption).  Saltwater is pumped across the panel.  Positive (sodium) ions in the saltwater are attracted to electrons in the iron beneath the layer of rust. As the saltwater flows, so do those ions, and through the electric attraction, they drag the electrons in the iron along with them, generating an electrical current.

It's about 30% efficient at converting kinetic energy into electricity.  That's more efficient than photovoltaic cells, which practically seem to be around 25%, but I don't know if you can directly compare those.  The article, however gives us a direct comparison to bear in mind. 
“For perspective, plates measuring 10 square meters each would generate a few kilowatts per hour, enough for a standard U.S. home,” says Miller. “Of course, less demanding applications, including low-power devices in remote locations, are better candidates for this power source in the near term.” 
Recall that the power from solar radiation hitting a solar cell is typically 1.2 kW per square meter, and 25% (1/4) efficiency says to get that 1.2 kW we need four square meters.  10 square meters of photovoltaics (PV) could be budgeted for 3 kW, so those areas aren't really that different.  From what I can tell, the electrokinetic power isn't limited to daylight hours on clear days, so they could generate electricity on rainy days or all night, which is a clear advantage over photovoltaics.

Naturally, there's more to this.  The rust covered panels aren't made by sticking sheet steel in the backyard to rust, they need to be manufactured.  This is not a bad thing, and still compares to the silicon PV cells which need manufacturing of the cells and manufacturing of the cells into panels.
Though rust forms on iron alloys on its own, the team needed to ensure it formed in a consistently thin layer. To do that, they used physical vapor deposition (PVD), which turns normally solid materials (in this case, iron) into a vapor that condenses on a desired surface. PVD let the team create an iron layer 10 nanometers thick. After taking the metal film out of the PVD machine, rust formed spontaneously in air to a thickness of about 2 nanometers.

When the researchers flowed saltwater solutions of varying concentrations over the rust-coated iron, they found that it generated several tens of millivolts and several microamps per square centimeter.
The article doesn't quote any figures on the costs of systems.  A system seems like it would need a pump, a way to get it all started, and some electronics.  For the moment, they're emphasizing off-grid applications.  Some of them very off grid.  Like say, our bodies.  Our bloodstream is largely saltwater with some lumpy stuff (blood cells) in it; what if that saltwater could be used to power an implant? 

The paper describing their findings, titled "Energy Conversion via Metal Nanolayers," appears in the July 29 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A rusty old ship on the Aran Islands, Co. Galway (source).  Don't think that all ya gotta do is drag it in the ocean to generate electricity. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Well That Got Ugly In a Hurry

In the space of a few hours, Dorian went from being forecast to be overhead at 2PM on Sunday as a tropical storm to being a Major Hurricane a little north of here and making landfall Sunday night.  Right now, they're forecasting it as a major hurricane, which means category 3 or above, passing overhead early on Labor Day.  Some of the models have it reaching category 4.

So far the models have gotten a lot wrong.  Here's yesterday's 5PM Atlantic Standard Time forecast.  The red line is where I drew in the actual path (as I can tell from Puerto Rico's NOAA weather radar).  The forecast was to pass over the SW corner of PR; in real life it went to the NE of the island and never made landfall - out of the white cone of uncertainty.  Epic fail.  Which is not what you want to see when you're planning your life based on their predictions.

We're still in the stippled area at five days and if it's not accurate one day in advance, five days is pretty hopeless.  The progression of uncertainty is ordinarily quoted at 100 miles per day, so that by five days, the total is 500 miles.  Which is pretty much what the map shows.  From the upper keys to South Georgia is in the uncertainty area.

For contrast, here's the 8PM update of that prediction, just posted moments ago.

You'll notice no real difference in where it crosses the coast, just the symbol going from S for tropical storm to M for major hurricane.  The models are updated two or three times a day, depending on who's running the models.  Many update at midnight and noon UTC, which correspond to 7PM and 7AM.  The trend in the models has been drifting south, and if that continues, we could be off the hook, but the official forecast isn't showing it. 

We're essentially ready to put up shutters and prepare, but we'll be watching the updates until it's apparent we need to do that, Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.  I think I've spent a couple of years of my life watching storms like this and trying to see what they're going to do. 

Let me close with a meme that I stole from Miguel down at Gun Free Zone, because it's truth.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Another Obama-era EPA Ruling Shut Down

Back in 2015, Obama's EPA issued a rewrite of the Clean Waters Act of 1986 to give the agency more control over our lives.  The Clean Waters Act initially limited the federal government to regulating the “navigable waters of the United States”; waters like the Ohio, Mississippi or Colorado Rivers, or the Great Lakes.  In 1986 the EPA expanded that definition to seize control over tributaries and adjacent wetlands. They've now expanded the law to introduce the concept of a “significant nexus to a navigable waterway”.

The concept behind this is an example of the worst kind of junk science that agency detractors despise.  In a 2013 article on the New American, they talk about the paper the EPA was using as justification.  The paper, which was not peer reviewed at the time, said all the waters in the world are connected.  This gave them the authority to say a puddle on your property or a stream that only carries water for a short period in a year can eventually end up in the "navigable waters of the United States".
In September, the EPA issued a draft scientific study purporting to find that virtually all wetlands and streams are “physically, chemically, and biologically connected” to downstream waters over which the EPA already claims authority. Moreover, says the EPA study, even many “ephemeral streams” and “prairie potholes, vernal pools and playa lakes” that are dry most of the year can be found to have some connectivity to downstream waters.
According to Legal Insurrection blog, the so-called Waters of the US ruling was shelved by US District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood last week.
More than nine months after the last hearing in the case, and nearly nine months to the day of the briefing deadline for that hearing, U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood handed a victory to the state of Georgia and nine other states that sued the federal government over the Obama administration’s 2015 Waters of the United States Rule.

Wood stated that the rule, which was intended to provide better protection of the nation’s water, violated the Clean Water Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, and she remanded it back to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers for further work.

She wrote that while the agencies have authority to interpret the phrase “waters of the United States,” that authority isn’t limitless, and therefore their decisions in doing so do not fall under what’s called Chevron deference, a matter of case law in which — for lack of a better phrase — the tie goes to the agency.
Readers may recall hearing that implementation of the rule led to a Wyoming farmer being fined $37,500 a day for constructing a stock pond on his own property.  The farmer eventually won his case against the EPA in 2016.

So while Judge Wood ruled sensibly, the EPA act is still alive just bleeding out.  To begin with, the ruling only affects the states that are parties to the case she ruled on — Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. (Wisconsin was a party to the suit but dropped out in April.)  There are other cases going through other courts that may use this precedent but may not.  Second, as it says above, she sent the law back to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to define things better.  The ultimate answer is this needs to go back to congress to give a better definition for the Clean Waters Act.
Interestingly, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) recently introduced the “Define WOTUS Act,” which reasserts Congressional responsibility to define what the term, “Waters of the United States,” actually means.
“The Obama-era WOTUS rule threatened Iowa’s farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses by giving the federal government authority to regulate water on 97 percent of land in our state,” said U.S. Senator Joni Ernst. “President Trump and his administration have taken tremendous steps to roll back this far-reaching regulation and provide for more certainty with a new, clearer definition of WOTUS. But it’s the job of Congress to make a new, reasonable definition permanent, and that’s what this bill does—it ensures more predictability and workability for Iowans for years to come.”

Dry river bed in Arizona, from Shutterstock. According to the EPA, this is "the waters of the US" and subject to their regulation. The scary part is this makes more sense than other waters they claim.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Monitoring the House

We don't have a smart house in the sense that term is used these days.  No self-bugging features like Alexa or the Nest thermostat.  We do, monitor though.  We have some simple wireless thermometers that we use to keep track of the spare refrigerator (which is old and barely still cooling), and the big freezer.  We can read those temperatures from the kitchen.  We have several of the so-called Atomic Clocks which include a temperature sensor in them, so we can look at the temperature in every room if we walk into the room.  We have a digital thermometer that can monitor the temperature where it's positioned.  Plus we have some of the ubiquitous cameras, a smart doorbell and so on.

When we had our lightning strike back on August 1st, among the very first things we found was blown was our central air conditioning thermostat, and it was the first thing we called in to get fixed.  It was repaired within a few hours on the 1st.  It wasn't long after getting that repaired that I started to notice I wasn't as comfortable as I had been in the house.  I felt like it was damper and that I was sweating more than I had been.

The new thermostat is different from our old one in some ways I don't like.  The first thing is that my old thermostat had a setpoint that behaved in a way that I'd gotten used to: the cooling would come on when the temperature reached two degrees higher than its setpoint, the air would cool until it returned to the setpoint and then would turn off.  By contrast the new thermostat triggers as soon as it senses the temperature has gone up one degree - the controls theory term for that is less hysteresis.  The other thing is an annoyance: I could tell by looking at the old thermostat from a few rooms a way that the unit was on by a green LED, and the temperature display had a low level illumination so I could read it at night without turning on a light.  The new one has no indicator light and the panel won't even light to read the temperature without pushing a button.

I spent several hours over the last couple of weeks reading the manual and searching online to see if the central air having a different On/Off hysteresis could make it feel more humid, or if I could change the hysteresis at the thermostat.  No results.  In addition to that we've been setting a temperature and checking it primarily on the clock in our bedroom.  With the old thermostat, we'd find that the temperature in our room was usually two degrees warmer than the thermostat setting.  Lately, the temperature was four degrees higher and some results said it didn't matter what we set the thermostat to achieve, it was always four or five degrees higher.

Around noon, Mrs. Graybeard concocted a brilliant impromptu experiment.  She took the digital thermometer and put it on top of the thermostat.  The thermostat was set to 76.  After a little while to acclimate, the second thermometer read 80.  We experimented with that by changing the thermostat several times.  The comparison thermometer always reads four degrees higher once the cooler turns off and the system fully shuts down.

We did this all day.  The main complication I can think of is embedded in the old proverb: a man with two watches never knows what time it is.  Which one is right?  Time for a double check with a completely independent sensor: an old model FLIR One infrared camera for my not-quite-as-old iPhone.  This evening with the thermostat set to 74 the FLIR read the temperature at that location at 78.3.  Case closed. 

The thermostat is not really controlling to the set temperature.  Is this another one of those EPA rules like water temperature in the washing machine or dishwasher? 

This would explain the difference in my comfort level.  I spent another half hour or hour today looking for settings to fix the thermostat with no success.  For now, I'll simply set the thermostat four degrees cooler than I otherwise would.  There's a possibility it's simply bad, so we'll contact the folks who put it in. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

ICYMI: Dick's Sporting Goods Continues to Be Their Namesake

In case you missed it, Dick's Sporting Goods is apparently considering ending all gun sales.  This isn't really surprising, after all.  Dick's ended sales of the AR-15 at all of their stores, including the much smaller Field and Stream chain, after finding the killer from the Parkland Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting legally bought a gun from a Dick's in November.  Many of you will remember they temporarily stopped sales of AR-15s after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.  This year, they started shutting down gun sales in some stores, saying they're ending all gun sales in 125 stores to start and apparently intend to get completely get out of the market.
“We did have a conversation about that [stopping all sales],” CEO Ed Stack told CNN Business earlier this year. “At the time we felt it was a part of our DNA and we should stay in it. So many people in the country are law-abiding citizens who use firearms to hunt, to use from a recreation standpoint. We didn’t think it was right to exit the business completely.”

That could be changing. Dick’s, one of the country’s biggest gun retailers, has been quietly testing the water on whether to pull out entirely from what it calls the “hunt” business, including firearms. An announcement with the results of the test is expected Thursday, when it is set to report quarterly results.
Dick's has been the poster child for "Get Woke, Go Broke" with earnings down since their decision to drop the AR-15.  They counter that with a story that dropping gun sales is turning out to be good for business.  According to The Hill:
The sports and outdoor retailer reported a sales increase of 3.2 percent nationwide, which the company attributed to solid performances in e-commerce, in-store sales and apparel sales while noting in a revenue report that the company was “continuing the strategic review of its hunt business."

The company reported that net sales for the second quarter of 2019 increased 3.8 percent and consolidated same-store sales increased 3.2 percent, compared to a drop of 4 percent for same-store sales during that quarter last year.
They claim stores that replaced firearms with locally targeted merchandise outperformed other locations.  It's conceivable that strong 2A supporters walked on Dick's and don't buy anything there while some people increased their shopping due to better deals or simply finding Dick's the only source for whatever that "locally targeted merchandise" is.

Retail sales of any kind is a rough business.  Margins aren't very big and the competition is intense.  It seems to me that companies should be trying to give shoppers a reason to come into their store, not a reason to avoid them.  They seem to be betting that they can grow new customers to replace the ones they've lost.  I'm sure there are people who will never go there again, I swore them off after Sandy Hook, but I also know a lot of people just buy wherever they find the best price.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Hurricane Season Starts to Ramp Up

Those keeping score will know that this hurricane season has been very slow - until this week.  It was off to the slowest start in at least 10 years, with tropical storm Chantal briefly forming August 20th.  This week we started seeing five day forecasts with something forming directly off the east coast of Florida, and it still might, although the rest of our weather forecasts have been stunningly inaccurate. 

The low pressure system or tropical wave that is marked by the red X was offshore south Florida yesterday, came ashore and went overhead earlier.  Our local forecast for yesterday was 60% chance of rain.  We didn't even cloud over - the independent forecasters at Weather Underground had our chance of rain at 30% and lowered the number as the day developed. 

This storm is unlikely to affect any land as steering currents will push it in that narrow red region paralleling the eastern seaboard up to the outer banks and continuing out to sea.

Miguel at Gun Free Zone posts a reminder that today is the anniversary of Hurricane Andrew hitting south Miami in 1992 - and Andrew was obviously the first hurricane of that season.  It's still the worst hurricane in Florida history 27 years later. 

Let me draw your attention to the open red circle at lower right in that map above.  That's Tropical Storm Dorian, just named in the 5PM update from the NHC.  The five day forecast cone is keeping it    slightly south of the track Maria took in 2017, but Puerto Rico is well within the cone and close enough to the centerline that they'd better be paying attention.  At least the few Puerto Ricans who didn't move up to Florida.  Maria was a major hurricane, and Dorian is not forecast to get that strong, yet.   

Here on the Space Coast, we don't need to start watching closely until the end of this chart on Thursday, and by that time, it would still be five or more days away.  It looks like Dorian will go through the southern end of Hebert's Box which correlates with strong storms hitting south Florida.  Still, most storms get pushed to the east as they approach Florida, due to upper level winds from an approaching front.

The peak of hurricane season is September 10th and it's just getting cranked up out there.  Time to start paying attention.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Because of Global Warming We Need Zepplelins! Or Something Like That

A friend sent me this story from NBC Mach.  It's actually a pretty amazing story; I went from bemusement to confusion to asking "WTAF?" all in the space of the few screens of text.

Let me sum it up for you.  Container ships now carry a large amount of cargo around the world, but they burn diesel fuel and carbon is bad!   So we need to build floating airships - a mile and a half long - to carry that cargo around the world.  Because west to east travel is "free" and low pollution, "all we gotta do" is get those floating cargo ships into the jet stream, somewhere between 20,000 and 42,000 feet up (or between four and eight miles if you prefer).
As proposed in a recent scientific paper, the new airships would be 10 times bigger than the 800-foot Hindenburg — more than five times as long as the Empire State Building is tall — and soar high in the atmosphere. They’d do the work of traditional oceangoing cargo ships but would take less time and generate only a fraction of the pollution.

“We are trying to reduce as much as possible emissions of carbon dioxide because of global warming,” said Julian Hunt, a postdoctoral fellow at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, and the paper’s lead author.
(Note, I do hate to be pedantic, but when they say, "generate only a fraction of the pollution", 2/2 is a fraction.  So is 4/2.  They don't mean what the author implies, but they are fractions)

The jet streams are a permanent part of the atmosphere but they aren't fixed in a geographic place or in their exact route.  They move north and south with the seasons, and move around with weather systems, sometimes taking huge omega shapes, sometimes being relatively straight; sometimes blowing several hundred mph, sometimes under 100.  Sometimes they can be relatively smooth flow, but at other times can be turbulent, swirling winds.  They're often referred to as rivers in the air, and their behavior can be similar to rivers in how the flow rate changes with the season and conditions. 

If you're like me, you might well be saying, "Wait!  Zeppelins a mile and a half long?  How much cargo are they talking about carrying?  I want to see neat 'artist's concept' drawings of an 8000 foot long air ship."  I went to the article linked in that first indented paragraph, but there were no drawings, just a table that shows they envision an airship 10x the size of the Hindenburg: 2453 meters (8048 feet) long and 412 meters (1352 feet) in diameter.  Such a ship would be expected to carry:
Cargo useful lift (tons) 21,000
Empty weight (tons) 14,000
Total weight (tons) 35,000
That 21,000 ton cargo lift is 625 standard 20 foot cargo containers.  The earliest generation cargo ships would handle 500 to 800 of those 20 foot units (the industry abbreviation is TEUs).  Later generation ships carry 5000 or more, up to 8000 TEUs, so while 625 sounds good, compared to the oceanic freighter fleet, many more zeppelins would be required. There are container ships that can carry ten and twenty thousand TEUs. 

Now the references to the Hindenburg might be something you'd expect them to avoid, since there's that unfortunate, almost universal memory of the ship crashing and burning on its final flight, but that's not where Dr. Hunt is going.  See the Hindenburg's explosion prompted the abandonment of the hydrogen system that the Hindenburg used for buoyancy and replaced it with helium as used in today's lighter-than-air craft like the Goodyear blimp and others that are in service today.  But Dr. Hunt proposes these mile and a half long, 35,000 ton craft be run on hydrogen!
But for all their high-tech advances, Hunt said, the new airships would still get their buoyancy from hydrogen, a highly flammable gas that is 14 times lighter than air. It’s the same gas the Hindenburg and the other big zeppelins used in the 1930s.

The possibility of another giant explosion has some pushing back against an airship renaissance.

“There is a resistance — because of the Hindenburg — to big bags of hydrogen,” said Eric Lanteigne, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Ottawa in Canada, who was not affiliated with the new research. He said that’s why the Goodyear blimp and other small airships now operating are filled with helium, the harmless gas found in party balloons.

But if helium offers a greater margin of safety, it’s expensive and hard to come by. It’s found only in pockets of natural gas deep underground, with its extraction usually a byproduct of highly polluting drilling. Hydrogen, on the other hand, can be extracted from water and so would much cheaper.
Did you catch the insult of "highly polluting drilling"?  The article is peppered with things like that and it gave me the impression that this Dr. Hunt believes he will be the one to Save the World.  So yes, they can electrolyze water to produce hydrogen and liberate oxygen (or store it for other use), but that's not a "free" process and I'd like to see numbers for their "would be much cheaper" claim.  It takes energy input to break water apart and that energy will come from somewhere.
To minimize the risks associated with hydrogen, Hunt envisions getting rid of the crew. The airships would operate autonomously — and would be loaded and unloaded by robots.

“The idea would be that the whole process would be automated so that in case you have an accident, no one will be injured — only the equipment and the cargo,” Hunt said, adding that some of the hydrogen in an airship could be used to power an on-board fuel cell that would spin the craft's propellers.

As an additional bonus, Hunt said, the fuel cell would generate as a byproduct water that could be released as the craft passed over regions hit by drought.
That last paragraph strikes me as salesmanship again.  "And if you're having a drought, we can make it rain!!"

The middle paragraph hints at what gets me.  Call me skeptical, but "what goes up must come down." They're talking about putting not one, but dozens or hundreds of these 35,000 ton behemoth aircraft and their cargo into the air 4 to 8 miles up, with minimal propulsion so they save emissions, bobbing along in a turbulent, swirling, "river in the sky" and they're worried about the hydrogen?  How about worrying about having a shipping container fall into a building?  Or having all of them fall into a city?  

The USS Macon over Manhattan - 1933.

My take on cargo container ships is that they've changed our world radically and are "unsung heroes" of modern life.  Considering it can take them over a mile to stop or accelerate to their traveling speed, they're not ocean-going hot rods.  They're ocean going long-haul trucks.  They're powered for what they need to do.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Final Launch of a Delta IV Medium Set for Tomorrow

The targeted time for launch of a Delta IV Medium is tomorrow morning at 0900 EDT on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  This will be the final launch of the Delta IV "single stick" configuration, which has had 29 successful launches in its 17 year history.  The Delta family name dates back to the earliest days of spaceflight with the first Delta launch in 1960.  The three-booster member of the family, the Delta IV Heavy will continue to fly at least into the mid-20s.  The National Reconnaissance Office, using the Air Force as a contracting agent, has contracts in place for at least five more Delta 4-Heavy missions through 2024.

United Launch Alliance, the company behind the Delta family as well as the Atlas family has said that the capabilities of the Medium match those of its Atlas 5 well enough that they are going to have  one launcher and will use the Atlas 5 for payloads that match its capabilities.  Only the Atlas V and the Delta IV Heavy will remain on ULA’s books until its Vulcan-Centaur heavylifter enters service in April 2021.

The payload is a Lockheed-Martin-built GPS 3 SV02 satellite nicknamed Magellan; as the SV02 implies, it's the second in a new series of GPS satellites.  The first was launched last December aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. 

Artistic view of a Delta IV Medium launch, March 2015. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

I couldn't tell you how many Delta launches I've watched from home.  I couldn't tell you how many launches I've watched.  I can only say I've seen all but a couple of the launches that weren't clouded out.  I'll be watching this one in the morning. 

Impressive closeup of the Delta-IV Medium rocket’s liquid-fueled RS-68A engine and the four GEM-60 solid-fueled motors sending WGS-10 to space from SLC-37B in March 2019. Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Kerfuffle Over Interest Rates is Telling Us Something

The popular story is just fodder for the news media to bash Trump about.  If you look deeper than the headlines, it's a perfect example of why we need to end the Federal Reserve.

I know I've written about this before, and a search shows I did a piece last July, almost exactly 13 months ago.  I understand why Trump thinks what he does.  The Fed practically gave Obama his second term by figuratively air dropping money as we always used to say about Helicopter Ben Bernanke.  The difference is that if money really were dropped from helicopters, it would have been more equitably distributed than the 6 to (as much as) $8 Trillion dollars created by quantitative easing; that money exclusively went to big banks, big Wall Street firms and the extremely well connected and rich.  About a third to a half of that went to banks in other countries to keep them afloat.  Where does the US Federal Reserve Bank get the authority to create money for foreign entities.

As Dr. Mark Thornton noted in "The Skyscraper Curse":
"A monetary system that is dominated by a central bank, such as the Federal Reserve, and uses fiat money, as in our current monetary system, can expect to benefit certain people, such as bankers, financiers, and people with debt. Likewise, because such a system is inflationary, it tends to hurt wage workers and savers. Such a system can be expected to hurt the lower-and middle-income classes and enrich those in the financial industry and the upper-income class.

A gold standard has historically had a tendency for prices to be stable or slightly deflationary. This means that wage rates, cash balances, savings, and bonds tend to gain purchasing power over time. This type of monetary system rewards the hard-working and frugal classes, which leads to an expansion of the middle-income class and the economy."
I understand where Trump is coming from.  He's naively thinking, "if the Fed did for me what they did for Obama, I'd win by a Yuge margin".  It's a truism that people generally vote their wallet and blame the president for the economy.  If things are good, they vote to reelect; if things are bad, they vote for a new guy.  The (supposedly not political) Federal Reserve helped Obama, why not him?

The ugly truth is that the Fed had expanded their balance sheet so much in the wake of the 2008 collapse that they had to "unwind" it from a practical standpoint.  They had to raise interest rates and do some quantitative tightening to reel some of that $8 Trillion worth of digitally created cash back in, and generally do the austerity program that they began when the economy started doing much better under Trump.  In reality, they barely started.

Nobody asks, "why are bankers doing anything for any president?"  Nobody is asking, "how does the Fed Open Market Committee know what the Prime Rate should be?  Shouldn't that be between buyers and sellers?"  The prime interest rate is among the most important pieces of information in the economy.  It sets the price of money which flows into an almost unlimited number of decisions.  Why should a group of unelected bankers have that much power?  In a country that allegedly promotes free markets, why is banking run like the Communist Party of China?  The mere fact that both the US and the People's Republic of China have the same structure with the Federal Reserve Bank here and the People's Bank of China there should be a shocking revelation, not the "ho-hum" it gets.

As I've said many times, the Federal Reserve Bank and all central banks are the worst bit of central planning that the entire world has fallen for and I believe they're not just unnecessary they're damaging.  The only things they add to the financial world are all the things wrong with the financial world: destructive levels of debt, countries engaged in constant currency manipulations to try to get an advantage over each other, the creation of money out of nothing, money as debt rather than asset, the destruction of the information channel in monetary transactions.   Everything that's wrong with the world's economies goes back to central banks. 

Fed chair Jerome Powell (Asia Times).

Monday, August 19, 2019

Red Flag Laws and Mistaken Identity - Happens in Florida

This story didn't make the two local papers or any other local source I see, so we go to the AmmoLand newsletter today.  A St. Cloud (Florida) man had his firearms confiscated and his rights revoked because he has the same name as someone else.
Last Wednesday, Jonathan Carpenter of Osceola County, Florida was sitting at home when a mail carrier knocked on his front door.

The postal carrier had Carpenter signed for a certified letter from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Carpenter signed for it, but he was confused because he was not expecting anything from the state. He quickly opened it and was floored.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was notifying him that they have suspended his concealed handgun permit.
“On or about August 12th, 2019 in Osceola County, Florida, an injunction was entered restraining you from acts of domestic violence or acts of repeat violations,” the notice read.
Carpenter was shocked and confused.  What seems to have happened next is he dove right into the hornet's nest.  An innocent man who believes in the goodness and fairness of the system would do that.
Figuring it was a mistake, Carpenter called the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to clear things up since he has never committed domestic violence against anyone. The representative told him he had to get a form from the Clerk of the Courts saying that there weren't any actions against him.
Of course they did.  When he went to the Clerk of the Courts, he was told there was an injunction against a Jonathon Edward Carpenter - a resident of a different address.  Carpenter told the agent he was not that person, had never lived at that address and had never been accused of any domestic violence.  That person directed him to the Osceola County Sheriff's office to clear things up.  Still thinking the state was just confused rather than malevolent, he went to the Sheriff's office.  He thought he could clear things up.

Not quite.
The Sheriff’s office supplied Carpenter with a copy of the injunction. In the statement, the plaintiff stated that she rented a room out to a “Jonathan Edward Carpenter” and his girlfriend. She alleged that this Carpenter was a drug dealer who broke her furniture and sold her belongings without her permission. He had a gun, and she feared for her life. She was not sure if the firearm was legal or not.

Carpenter had never met the woman in question and never lived at the address listed in the restraining order. Moreover, other than being white, he looked nothing like the man the terrorized the woman.

The man in question is 5'8. Carpenter is 5'11. The alleged drug dealer is 110lbs. Carpenter is over 200. The man has black hair. Carpenter is completely bald. Last but not least, the man in question is covered in tattoos, and Carpenter only has a few.

It was apparent that the police had the wrong man, but Carpenter was in for his biggest shock yet. The Sheriff’s office told Carpenter he had to surrender his guns. Carpenter never even had as much as a hearing, yet he was losing his rights.
And this is where the system springs its "trap"; more accurately, this is where the system shows it  doesn't care the least little bit that they have the right person, they just "got someone".   It's where the reputation for putting innocent people in jail (or worse) comes from.  The Osceola County Sheriff's Office doesn't think the obvious differences in appearances and histories between the man in front of them and the accused is enough for them to say, "oops, they sent the letter to the wrong dude.  Sorry.  No hard feelings."  They should be saying, "here's a few bucks for your trouble"; instead, this is going to cost Carpenter a lot of money to get back property and a life he should have never been deprived of.

And this is why we hate Red Flag Laws, aka Extreme Protection Orders. Guilty until proven innocent.  No due process.  No protections.  Just a stupid mistake causes innocent people financial ruin to put their lives back.

How did it come to be? According to the AmmoLand news,
A police officer I spoke to off the record thinks that the courts ran a check for a Jonathan Edward Carpenter with a concealed carry permit. Although he could not tell me for sure, he thinks that is what happened in this particular case. He did say that this is a common practice.
Seems very plausible that the abomination passed last year would automate this.  A warrant for someone on domestic abuse gets filed and it automatically generates a check to see if that name is associated with a CWFL; if it is, the Red Flag is automatically thrown.  

Meanwhile, Carpenter has to wait until August 27th to begin the legal proceedings to get his guns back. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Radio Sunday #9 Radio Safety

In a reaction to my post looking at 5G, there was a great deal of talk about the limits and whether or not they're realistic.  This ranged from the view that, “we don't know everything and I wouldn't be surprised if there are long term effects we don't know of” to the idea that saying heating is the only proven health impact is just bullshit.   

I thought it would be worthwhile to go over some data.

To begin with, the view I stated that the only recognized cause of injury from radio fields is heating isn't my conclusion, it's the conclusion of every national organization around the world that studies these effects.  If you think the regulatory agencies wouldn't be dying to inject themselves into your life and jump at the chance to regulate something else, I think you have an overly optimistic view of big government agencies. 

Let me start by presenting a summary page from a Canadian RF Safety document, which is managed by Health Canada under Safety Code 6.  Health Canada says they determine a radio frequency level at which effects are seen and then reduce the exposure limit by a factor of 50 for safety margin. 

It's important to recognize that they don't start these studies saying, “let's measure the heating effect”.  Studies are started out under many different protocols to measure anything they can find. The document this is from is called RF Toolkit–BCCDC/NCCEH from Health Canada, dated 2015.

• Studies using animals have historically proven useful for investigating health effects; a large number of such studies have recently been conducted (2005–2012) to evaluate whether exposure to radio frequency (RF) fields has adverse biological effects.
• Long-term bioassays, designed to determine whether RF exposure either alone or in conjunction with known mutagens can initiate or promote development of cancer in animals, have been uniformly negative.
• Studies of RF fields and toxicological effects such as DNA damage, micronucleus formation, apoptosis, reactive oxygen species, and gene expression changes have been inconsistent and the results contradictory. Positive studies have proven difficult to replicate. This lack of consistency reduces the likelihood that exposure to RF fields has toxicological effects in animals.
• There is no consistent evidence that exposure to RF fields produces biological effects in animal central nervous systems. Most recent investigations have been unable to confirm Swedish studies suggesting that RF exposure alters blood-brain barrier permeability; however, other aspects of brain physiology are less well studied. Behavioural investigations of the role of RF exposure on animal learning and cognitive function are mixed, with most being negative.
• Immune function studies have been mostly negative, although most of the studies to date have been conducted in adult animals. Earlier Soviet study results, indicating that serum taken from RF-exposed animals could increase embryo mortality when injected intraperitoneally into pregnant rats, have not been confirmed. Notwithstanding this, more studies are needed on RF effects in young animals.
• Effects of RF exposure on endocrine function, particularly on melatonin levels, have been negative, and studies of their effect on reproductive function in female animals have also been negative.
• Overall, studies have not shown convincing evidence that RF field exposure produces adverse biologic effects in animals. There are many negative results, and the relatively few positive results are rarely replicated in confirmatory studies. Most of the recent studies are characterized by good research protocols including appropriate control of thermal effects and excellent animal care along with appropriate use of reverberation chambers to ensure uniform specific absorption rates (SAR) in whole body RF dosimetry, or of animal restraints in the case of RF fields applied to specific organs such as the brain. These recent studies have generally shown no association of specific outcomes with exposure to RF.
There is no recognized biologic mechanism by which RF exposure might operate to cause adverse biological effects in animals.  [Bold added: SiG]

As I said in one of my responses, about the most stupid thing anyone could say is, "I'm sure we know everything".  The other side of that observation is we really do know some things.  It's possible entirely new fields of science will be discovered in the next hundred years, but it's not a high probability.  It's possible that some mechanism of damage from radio will be discovered in the next hundred years; I also view that as low probability.  Independent of that, the experimenters running these radio exposure experiments have learned much the last 50 years and gotten better at getting more consistent results.  It's possible they'll find effects that are smaller than what they can measure today.  As an RF designer, I can tell you getting radio energy into some place you want it, and getting it to do what you want it to do, isn't always trivial.  Just exposing the animals to a radio source doesn't mean they're going to get the dosage the researchers want.  The researchers need to be good at what they do.

The results of studies trying to find damage from radio exposure have generally not been statistically significant.  As the summary conveys, studies do sometimes show up that give a result that's concerning.   When those studies are redone by more experimenters, the results tend to not show up.  When effects come and go like that there are two reasonable conclusions: the first is that the result was random or due to something other than the RF energy and that other thing wasn't controlled properly between groups.  The other reasonable conclusion is that it's a weak effect. 

Most people act as if radio is a new thing in human experience.  It is not.  As a species, we've been bathed in radio waves for all of human history from natural sources, just not manmade sources.  Earth's atmospheric processes produce radio waves.  The sun produces radio waves.  Other planets produce radio waves.  We measure solar activity by the radio energy it puts out at 2800 MHz (the 10.7 cm solar flux).  That's a microwave frequency, higher frequency than many cellphone systems, that humans have been exposed to for as long as we've been on the planet. 

Radio is electromagnetic energy just like light, and the analogies to light hold over wide ranges of frequencies.  Modern physics teaches that energy is inversely proportional to wavelength; the shorter the wavelength the higher the energy.  The wavelengths of radio waves run from thousands of meters down to a millimeter.   That's a wide range of energy values, but the highest energy radio is still non-ionizing radiation, much weaker than UV or Gamma Rays.  Like light, if radio is intense enough to cause burns, it's harmful, but if no harm is detected, it's not doing anything that will show up in 10 or 20 years.

This should be good news!

A so-called Microwave Diathermy - heat therapy - machine (300 MHz is not microwaves, it's the low end of UHF radio, although 30,000 MHz - 30 GHz is microwave).  If you have gotten physical therapy with diathermy, you've used RF heating.  Source

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The DC Corruption Never Ends - Special "The Squad" Edition.

Thanks to a report from an online journal called FreePressers, we get a look at some facts and figures about The Squad that are a little interesting.  The Squad, if you've been ignoring the news, is the four freshmen congresscritters who have taken over media coverage wall to wall, Representatives AOC, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley. It starts with an interesting tidbit about Occasionally Coherent.
According to FEC data, for the period of Jan. 1 to July 30 of this year, Ocasio-Cortez raised a total of $1,607,957.22 in unitemized individual contributions and $334,401.45 in itemized contributions. 
I believe that those two are added, making her total contributions  $1,942,358 (and 67 cents if you want to be anal).  Nearly two million dollars is good for any representative, let alone a first year kid making far more "sound and fury" than legislative impact.  She received more money than all 87 other House newcomers.

There's another interesting aspect to this.  Contributions from donors in her New York City district 14 was $1,525.50, which is 0.08% of her total.  There was a grand total of 10 itemized contributions from her constituents.  She has the second lowest donations from her district in the entire congress.  Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas was the lowest. Garcia’s re-election campaign reported itemized contributions of $14,400 in total, 0.74% of AOCs total donations, and none of it came from people in her district.

With contributions from non-constituents 1272 times contributions from people she's representing, you have to wonder who exactly is giving her the money.  It adds credence to the idea that she's not popular in her own district but the big money globalist leftists love her.  It's worth reminding everyone that AOC's Chief of Staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, left her team recently and is under investigation for massive campaign finance violations.
[Rahsida] Tlaib reported receiving $470,430.11 in itemized contributions in the first half of 2019, but less than 2 percent came from individuals living within her district.

[Ilhan] Omar reported $717,831.22 in itemized contributions to her re-election campaign so far in 2019. Just over 4 percent came from her constituents.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley far outperformed the others. The Massachusetts Democrat received more than 30 percent of her $248,280.78 itemized contributions from her constituents.
Of the four "squad" members, it seems Rep Pressley has the most legitimate claim that her constituents support her.  She brought in the least amount of total contributions, but a much higher percentage from constituents and not global donors.

(Image source

Friday, August 16, 2019

Woodstock 50th Anniversary

As I mentioned in the start of my posts on Apollo 11, during virtually all of the mission I was with my parents on a trip to New York City on what would end up being our last major vacation together and their last trip to the city they grew up in.  Along some of the streets in the City, we saw signs for something called the Woodstock Music and Art Fair coming in mid-August.  I was 15, so of course I was interested, but I also wasn't old enough to drive alone let alone travel by myself between Miami and upstate New York.  Needless to say, I went home with my parents when their week with family was up and didn't know anything until a few weeks after the concert when stories started getting around.

It started 50 years ago yesterday.  As most of you know, I'm a student of guitar.  It has mostly been acoustic guitar lately, and I get a newsletter from a magazine I subscribed to for a while by that name: Acoustic Guitar.  In celebration of the anniversary, they put together an article on attempts to run down the acoustic guitar acts from Woodstock.
So many of the most indelible images from the quaintly named Woodstock Music and Art Fair, held 50 years ago this August, come from the epic concert film that came out in 1970 and featured electric guitars being wielded at full throttle: Alvin Lee of Ten Years After boogieing with his red Gibson ES-335, Pete Townshend alternately mauling and windmilling his Gibson SG Special, Carlos Santana squeezing out sparks from his SG Special, and of course Jimi Hendrix coaxing interplanetary magic from his gleaming white Fender Strat.

But there were also many important acoustic guitar moments in the film, and no doubt some of those are burned into your mind, as well: Richie Havens playing so hard it looks like his guitar might blow apart, Country Joe McDonald strumming a singalong, John Sebastian’s delightfully stoned-out solo reverie, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, in just their second performance, introducing their unique sound to 400,000 people sitting in the mud.
Author Blair Jackson then goes into the story about the surprising difficulty of finding out about those guitars in those specific performances, turning up an interesting history.  It's a story of real investigative work.
What I found, though, is that there are relatively few shots in the film or bonus footage that show acoustic guitars clearly—the performances are overwhelmingly dominated by close-ups on faces—and just about all of the night footage is fairly indistinct, even in the close-ups. I consulted colleagues to join me in trying to see if the headstock of this or that guitar in the film or photos suggested a specific brand; occasionally it did, mostly it didn’t. I went down dozens of rabbit holes trying to suss out the guitars played by the principals in the Incredible String Band, for example, until I found some folks in Europe via Facebook who could help me in my quest. I lucked out when I learned that the guitar Tim Hardin played was also used by John Sebastian. And, not surprisingly, Martin had an index of the artists who had played their guitars at Woodstock.
From there, Jackson goes day by day act by act, starting with Richie Havens:
Richie Havens was already a pretty big deal in 1969, though the Woodstock album and film are what truly launched his long career into the stratosphere. ... Havens was not scheduled to open the festival but did so after the producers begged him to—so many performers were having trouble getting to the concert site (including Havens’ bass player, who arrived right as he started his set), he reluctantly but graciously agreed to go on first. “I just saw color to the top of the hill and beyond,” he recalled in Joel Makower’s excellent 1989 book, Woodstock: The Oral History.
Richie Havens played a Guild D-40, a large body (Dreadnought) model still available today (example), opening the show with Freedom. Richie Havens was the first guitarist I ever saw who wrapped his thumb around the neck and would fret bass notes with it.  He passed away in 2013.

Jackson proceeds as the acts did, some names you'll know others you likely won't, unless you were very into folk or acoustic music then.  I listened to most.  Liked some a bit and some a bit less.  Some highlights were Melanie, with a different-sounding take on Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man.  Melanie was playing a Goya guitar and ended up as a celebrity endorser for the brand.  Goya guitars are still out there, but the company was bought by Martin in the '70s and doesn't appear to be selling new guitars under that name.
Melanie (Safka), another product of New York’s 1960s folk scene, was a virtual unknown with one album to her name when she was booked as a solo performer at Woodstock at the age of 22. ...  Melanie said she was “terrified out of my mind” to be playing at the massive event, and was actually happy when it started raining hard during the set that preceded hers: “Ravi Shankar went on and it started to rain and I thought, that’s it, I’ll be saved because people are gonna go home now, because it’s raining. Of course, they’re going to go home! I mean, they’re not gonna sit there in the rain.”

As if! She went on, armed just with her Goya nylon-string guitar, and she was ecstatically received for her seven-song set. One of the songs she played, “Beautiful People,” brought her considerable notice at the end of 1969, and then a song inspired by her Woodstock experience, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” became a worldwide smash hit in 1970.
Melanie is still with us, at 72.

I enjoyed Country Joe McDonald from Country Joe and the Fish  and John Sebastian, probably best known from the Lovin’ Spoonful.  The Band was there, playing probably their best known song, The Weight.  Robbie Robertson played his Martin D-28 which is beyond "still currently available" to more like "still considered one of the standards".  Country Joe, Barry "the Fish" Melton, and John Sebastian are still with us, presumably happily retired.  Finally, the concluding acoustic performance was from a new band that was already becoming a big attraction, Crosby Stills and Nash - before Neil Young joined the group!
The final and probably most significant acoustic performance of the Woodstock festival, this was just the supergroup’s second-ever gig. No wonder Stephen Stills told the crowd, “We’re scared shitless!” Crosby Stills & Nash’s eponymous debut album had just come out and was a national sensation—it would be one of the most influential albums of the late ’60s, with its exquisite harmonies, shimmering guitars, and accessible confessional songwriting. Neil Young, Stills’ bandmate from the earlier Buffalo Springfield, had recently launched his solo career, and became a sort of adjunct member of the group as the trio (augmented by bassist Greg Reeves and drummer Dallas Taylor) began working on their Déjà Vu album that summer.
But when is all is said and done, my favorite performance and favorite video from all of Woodstock is still this masterpiece of comedy based on Joe Cocker.  It's not acoustic.  You have to watch the whole thing.  I first posted this in 2015, and I still find it funny. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Technical Difficulties

Well, not really.  Technical difficulties are like my lightning strike stories, being knocked off line by the strike.  This is more like technically having difficulties.  Started a story and couldn't finish it. 

So humor.  Funnin' around. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Starting to Look at 5G Cellular

In the academic sense, I'm not physically looking at a 5G link.  Smallville here will probably not get 5G for years and years.  I don't even get a particularly good 4G/LTE signal here at home.  Still, I hear the buzz and it makes me want to understand what the story is.

There's lots of buzz about 5G for the new technologies it's going to bring, but those largely come down to higher bandwidths and faster downloads for the users.  Numbers like 10 Gigabits/second get thrown around - orders of magnitude faster than 4G.  To the network providers, the attraction is that the number of subscriber devices they can support (sell) jumps up dramatically.  Just as 4G is faster than 3G was and every generation before it.  Despite the fact that 5G services won't roll out anywhere until - maybe - the end of calendar 2019, the buzz seems to center on the idea that whoever controls the networks will know everything about every business and every person in the country.  Why wait?  Avoid the rush and just get one of those "OK Google" or Alexa monitors to bug your own house now.  This security seems more like an encryption issue rather than whose base station it goes to.  No, I don't trust Huawei and the Chinese, but I don't trust the US either. 

That part about security comes from what's actually a completely unrelated technology to 5G, the drive to use internet connectivity to improve services of all kinds, call the Internet of Things, usually referred to as the IOT, or (as I like to call it) the Internet of Things That Just Don't Quite Work Right (IOTTJDQWR - which doesn't quite roll off the tongue as easily).  The IOT and it's cousin, the Industrial IOT, will do simple things like put water pumps, flood gates, and all sorts of civic and utility infrastructure on the net.  The vast majority of these things are not high bandwidth users and don't need the faster data rates that 5G promises, although the lower latency/faster network might be useful.  They could be done today, and many are done over industrial radio links. 

The promise of higher data rates brings the inevitable trade that higher rates usually require higher bandwidths and higher bandwidths usually require higher operating frequencies.  This also scares a lot of people.  Back to that in a minute, but first, let me show you a list of frequencies that 5G can use - not all of these will be in any particular device.  The list is from a document from Keysight, the former Hewlett Packard test equipment group, and still arguably the industry leader in this sort of test equipment. 

It's a bit of an eye chart if you don't enlarge it, but two things to notice are that the new frequencies are all printed in a greenish/teal sort of color; and that frequencies currently used for other purposes that have been reassigned for 5G (or dual purpose, it's not completely clear) are in purple.  Those in black, in the second vertical block, remain for LTE of various flavors.  The only new frequencies capable of high bandwidth, that are higher than the existing LTE services (virtually all below 3 Gigahertz - 3 GHz) are in the top right block and are in a few bands from 24 to 40 GHz.  Why not 60 GHz, where WiGig is currently all alone?  This chart shows why:

This shows the attenuation (loss of signal) due to dry air (in red), water vapor (blue) or the sum of the two losses (in black). You will see a huge peak of attenuation centered right on 60 GHz, going from around 0.3 dB/kilometer up to (guessing) 15 dB.  That means a transmitter on that peak has to put out almost 16 dB more power, or 40 times more power, than the lower frequency transmitter.  That huge a power difference means much more expensive hardware.  It turns out that dip in attenuation you see between the huge peak at 60 and the much smaller peak at about 22 GHz covers the 24 to 40 GHz range for the 5G signals. 

One thing that people don't seem to understand is that it's hard to get radio frequency energy into places you want it.  Even in a controlled, lab environment, on well designed hardware, we regularly fight to get thousandths of a watt that we expect to get but that nature just doesn't want to give up.  Furthermore, the higher the frequency, the more struggles that come. 

In the case of the 5G network, those struggles will be because the signals don't penetrate walls and other things as well as the lower 4G frequencies do.  It's going to call for more towers more closely spaced and fancier antennas.  The buzzword is MIMO - Multiple Input Multiple Output - it's a way of combining antennas to get better performance out of the network.  If you have a WiFi router with two or more antennas on it, you have that now. 

Is 5G going to be dangerous for people carrying handsets or walking around the city?  The power density requirement in FCC-OET Bulletin 56 is the same as for frequencies we've talked about here before, 1 milliwatt per square centimeter.  Industry is experienced with designing for these levels and I don't see any reason why it should be any more dangerous than existing networks.  If anything, because 24 to 40 GHz doesn't penetrate as well as lower frequencies, it might be safer.

I've written many times on RF safety and can do so again.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Goodnight Hong Kong?

The protests in Hong Kong have been going on since the end of March, so over four months.  The protests initially were directed against a new extradition law that China wants to impose on the formerly sovereign Hong Kong.  Now it seems that those protests have extended to wanting to improve their government.  It seems that the root of the protests is that when China and Great Britain reached their agreement for the transfer of Hong Kong, it was agreed that Hong Kong would be autonomous; "one country, two systems" for 50 years.  Here, not quite halfway to 2047, the Chinese have been abandoning that. 

China has been staging units of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as a warning to the protesters.  Tuesday morning (last night US time), the PLA began a show of force of the preparations. Conservative member of the British Parliament Daniel Hannan tweeted an ominous video from the Chinese side of the border with Hong Kong:

The eight second video shows troop carriers and support vehicles as far as the eye can see in two directions from that vantage point.   The Chinese government released this video, showing the vehicles going to Shenzen, on the border.

From my standpoint, the protesters' chances are grim.  They're under a government that's pro-China (or else they wouldn't be allowed to be there) and are protesting the Chinese (mainland) government that killed 10,000 in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests for Democracy.  Communist governments don't have much history of listening to protests and thinking they might be wrong - like all leftists, the Chinese party leaders consider themselves better than the common people. 

Rick Moran, writing at PJ Media has this summary, with a quote from the South China Morning Post:
The protesters are demonstrating against a bill that would allow citizens of Hong Kong to be extradited to China for some crimes. This is a direct attack on Hong Kong's special status within China, and the Communist leadership fully realized it when they proposed it. Little by little, the protesters are seeing Beijing stifle the freedoms that citizens of Hong Kong were guaranteed when Great Britain returned the territory to China in 1997. Beijing underestimates their resolve at their peril. That much has been made clear by the protesters themselves.

South China Morning Post:
Today, this chant is heard everywhere on the streets: “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.” When Edward Leung  invented this rallying cry three years ago, the cause of “revolution” – whatever he meant it to mean – did not resonate. It gains traction now, not because the likelihood of its success is any greater or any less unrealistic, but because recent  responses by our government have made it clear that what protesters (and I believe the rest of Hong Kong) have demanded, namely democracy, autonomy, and above all, good government, will never come to be unless and until the current political order is turned on its head.
The problem for the protesters is that to "turn the political order on its head," there will almost certainly be a lot of blood in the streets before that happens.
A pundit on the news today said (approximately, from memory), "giving Hong Kong to China was like giving a Stradivarius to a chimp."  China, with their puppet Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has filled the protesters with resolve.  The protesters probably see they have no future if things continue the way China is pushing.  If they feel they have no future and nothing to live for, I don't expect this to be over very soon.  Unless the Chinese PLA kills them all.

There was talk when Great Britain and China agreed to transfer Hong Kong back to China that China would take the role model of Hong Kong and make China more like Hong Kong, improving the lives of over a billion people.  In reality, they're going to make Hong Kong into China. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

A Glimmer of Possible Hope

Since the triple header of mass murders from Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton, the anti-gun forces have been attacking like never before.  The president has made statements that make it seem like he's onboard with these useless policies.  (When even a left wing organization like CNN will honestly say it's doubtful these laws would do anything, even the progressives should admit they're useless)

Today a glimmer of hope in a news item from the National Shooting Sports Foundation reporting that the president and his staff have been talking with pro-2A groups like the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA to get their input on these proposals.
The Washington Post reported that the president spoke directly with National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, and the Washington Free Beacon subsequently reported that a “top White House staffer” had talked with Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation and chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Those conversations reportedly covered lots of ground, with Gottlieb stating, “We talked about everything from background checks to banning semi-automatic firearms and magazines to red flag laws.”
Gottlieb went on to say:
"It was a very good, positive conversation," Gottlieb said. "They wanted to address the problems of violence in our society and at the same time protect Second Amendment rights. And doing it not just lip service or symbolism over substance, but making proposals that could work and don't eradicate people's freedom."

"I was happy on two counts," he said. "One, they reached out. Which shows that, you know, their interest and concern for our positions. And their questions were really good. ‘Well, how do we address this and not do this? How do we really solve these kinds of problems? What can the gun rights community support and what can't it support?' They were definitely respecting our input."
According to the Washington Post story, an outright ban on so-called “assault weapons” is apparently a non-starter for the White House, but other options are said to remain on the table. Alan Gottlieb told the Free Beacon that he anticipates more discussions with the White House.

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham showed a bit of sense in dismissing the idea of an assault weapons ban.  According to the New York Post, a reporter hit him with the typical "why would anyone need an AR-15?" question, and he gave an honest reply that goes for millions of us in the Southeast.
“Here’s a scenario that I think is real: There’s a hurricane, a natural disaster, no power, no cops, no anything,” the Republican lawmaker told reporters aboard Air Force One.
The reporter asked if he meant looters and Senator Graham said the looters aren't going to be bothering the homes where they know the ARs are.

Taken individually, all of these are small stories.  Taken as a group, it's looking like vestiges of a spine are starting to grow back in DC and perhaps, just perhaps, the Stupid party isn't going to go full retard.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Secret of the People Living Past 100

Full disclosure: I make fun of junk science for a bunch of reasons, but one of the reasons is I'm one of the people harmed by junk science.  In a nutshell, I follow the same sort of ketogenic lifestyle that Karl Denninger talks about, except I don't talk about it, but it's not worth the column space to get into my story since that's not the point. 

Doubtless, though, if you pay attention to the "he-who" junk science health studies that we're bombarded with in the media, you've heard of the Mediterranean Diet.  You've heard the mythical stories of how people from that area live longer, have less heart disease and, well, the whole story.  Have you ever asked if there really is such a thing as one Mediterranean diet?  After all, the countries on the Mediterranean stretch from the ones you've probably read about - rural French, Italian and Greek - to Spain, Albania, Turkey, Slovenia, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria and more, a stretch of coastlines that must go over 8,000 miles.  Are their diets really identical or even all that similar?  How much do they have in common?  Are they really that much healthier and live that much longer?

One of the terms that gets buzz is Blue Zones.  There's a handful of these zones which produce the most per-capita supercentenarians—the oldest of the old, the longest lived of the longest lived—in the world.  A few are in the Mediterranean like Sardinia and Ikaria, but Okinawa also gets a lot of press.  They get celebrated for their diet and lifestyle, and used as examples for what we should all be doing. 

An interesting paper that is out in preview took a look at what the longest lived populations have in common.  I get the inline quotes here not from the study, but from a weekly email I get from a guy named Mark Sisson.  Mark is 64 these days but was formerly a very high level competitive athlete.  He devoted his second career to repairing the damage he did to his body trying to compete and is now best known as the owner of business that makes so-called paleo diet products. 
Red wine consumption didn't predict supercentenarianism.

Legume consumption didn't predict it.

The presence of hills didn't predict it.

It turns out that a strong predictor of super-longevity is the absence of detailed birth records.
That's right - the best predictor of super-longevity is living someplace where there's no records of when people were born!

Wait - it gets better.
In the United States, whenever a state introduced birth certificates, supercentenarianism miraculously dropped by 69-82%. A full 82% of all supercentenarians on record in the U.S. were "born" before birth certificates were used. Only 18% have birth certificates; only 18% of American supercentenarians can actually be verified. Oops.

In Okinawa, Sardinia, and Ikaria, the strongest predictor for regions with high reported supercentenarianism was high crime, low income, and low life expectancy relative to the national average. Ninety-nine percent of male Italian centenarians smoke. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese centenarians are actually dead or missing. These aren't what you'd expect. Oops again.
Gee, the strongest predictor of longevity is living in high crime, low income and low life expectancy areas compared to the rest of the nation?  That seems completely backwards from everything we know about poverty being a substantial health risk.  And that's not even touching 99% of Italian centenarians smoking.  Something very strange is going on here. 
The conclusion of the paper is that the primary causes of reported supercentenarianism in these countries are pension fraud and reporting error.
Sorry, but this literally made me laugh out loud.  They're not measuring longevity, they're measuring fraud.  This is the quality of science we get out the medical junk science world.  This is what diet advice is being based on.  

(Verified Italian supercentenarian Maria Giuseppa Robucci (20 March 1903-18 June 2019))