CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 421 July 3 - 9, 2006
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July 3, 2006
Diane and I just returned from a four day course on the Arthurian myth. We visited South Cadbury, Glastonbury, Tintagel, and Slaughter Bridge. I'll post the story with some pictures to my weblog later in the week.
It was hot this weekend, especially in the south! <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article1155182.ece>
People here are beginning to be concerned with Scottish and Welsh MPs voting on local English issues. With devolution, English MPs no longer vote on internal issues in Scotland and Wales, but the reverse is not true. <http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,8210-2253992,00.html>
UK education problems similar to those in America: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/5141422.stm>
Bruce Schneier discusses a possible Windows kill switch: <http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/06/microsoft_windo_1.html>
Al Qaeda attempting to infiltrate MI5, and other stories. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5142908.stm> <http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/0,,1811828,00.html> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,200-2254183,00.html>
A band-aid for one of the NHS problems <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article1157573.ece>
-- Harry Erwin, PhD
Subject: Poodlemaster, Russia and Nukes
Poodlemaster should check a few references before barking:
Yet in Smirnov and Adamsky's own account ([Adamsky and Smirnov 1994])they state that this was a one-off test device, never weaponized:
In fact, the 50-MT bomb tested on 30 October 1961 was never a weapon. This was a one-of-a-kind device, whose design allowed it to achieve a yield of up to 100 megatons when fully loaded with nuclear fuel.
An additional strike against the belief that it was weaponized is that it did not fit in any existing Soviet bomber. Although the Tu-95 could lift it, the test delivery aircraft had to be specially modified, and had no bomb bay door. This would not have been acceptable on a combat aircraft, and a new bulged belly would have been required on designated delivery planes. No evidence has come to light that any such aircraft were ever observed or made. ~~~ And this:
http://www.nuclearweaponarchive.org/Russia/Sovwarhead.html "This single warhead missile is currently (late 1997) the only strategic nuclear delivery system in production in Russia." "The Topol has a range of 10,500 km, and a payload of 1000 kg. It is armed with a single 550 KT warhead with an accuracy (CEP - circular error probability) of 200 m." ~~~~
This is all apart from Russia's economy. I rather think we're not threats to each other anymore. They certainly lack the credible capability to "pound us flat," given their armament, its range and probable maintenance. No SS20s, no 50 megaton nukes, not even any MIRVs. So imagining such certainly is kinda boring.
On the other hand, Iran IS within mutual range of much of Russia...
-- Recent novels by Michael Z. Williamson available in bookstores worldwide:
TARGETS OF OPPORTUNITY, March 2005 from Avon THE WEAPON, August 2005 from Baen Books CONFIRMED KILL, September 2005 from Avon THE HERO with John Ringo, October 2005 from Baen Books (mass market edition)
Subject: Small universal plug adapter from APC
I came across this post on BoingBoing about a small univeral plug adapter made by APC. It looks like something you might be interested in.
I have one of those and I think it was in a previous column. Certainly recommended.
Here we see a shill...er... Opponent of net neutrality clearly state why he thinks the government should not enforce net neutrality on the internet, which is by-the-way in large part government subsidized and run by companies kept in business by government regulation.
By his argument, my ISP should chop bandwidth to your site unless you or your ISP coughs up extra money, because ones and zeroes to and from your site should somehow be more expensive than ones and zeros to and from sites on my ISP's subnets... That is, unless you pay EXTRA. See, paying for bandwidth only ONCE isn't enough, and to ensure that this senator's internets (I think he meant email but he could mean pRoN) isn't held up a few minutes by me browsing your site once or twice a day, ones and zeroes passing along the public funding subsidized internet should pass through various tollbooths, with each carrier charging whatever they can get on top of the network access and bandwidth fees I personally pay.
Most places call this extortion, and the mob made quite a living doing this. Apparently the mob has gotten to congress in a big way, since approx 50% of the senate commerce committee seems to have been bought off (plus/minus the ones who are simply ignorant). I'm not sure whether to send a letter to my congressman or stockpile .45 ammo and bottled water, but it's clear that the telecom mob is pulling strings here. Pay up or get cut off is the message, no different than the moonshiners back during prohibition, and congress is dancing like the drunken bought-off puppets they are.
Over the top? Maybe. But read the distinguished Senator's attempt to explain how the internet is made up of "tubes", and you'll realize why I'm convinced they're dipping at both the cash and booze troughs. A 2nd grader sopping full of Jack Daniels could come up with a better explanation of how the internet works...
He even claims that net neutrality has caused the DoD to create it's own "separate internet". What a load of crap. This guy is either stupid, amazingly ignorant, chemically imbalanced, flat-out-drunk, or, since we assume senators don't fit into those categories, bought off by someone. He's so wrong that as a citizen I'd like to believe that he's merely ignorant, but it's not POSSIBLE to be that wrong about the structure of the internet. What part of DARPAnet and the relationship between NIPR and SIPR nets, and the fact that the "internet" is merely ones and zeros running around wires and glass, is he unable to understand?
There is so much excess capacity laying around that Google is buying up so-called "dark fiber" (unused fiber optic cable) by the hundreds of miles. How long until these corrupt senators figure out a way to blackmail google into halting their purchases? I give it a year, because net neutrality is big money, the mob never backs off of money this big, and senators need their cut because it's going to be a tough election cycle and campaigns are expensive.
Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
July 4, 2006
Whoo-Wee!!! Take a look at this:
MIT research may spell end for the battery Supercapacitor could make electric car viable And almost instant "fillup"
Comment? Is this the breakthrough that I thought could never happen due to laws of phisics?
Anyone know more about this? It sounds feasible.
I had an interesting conversation 7 years ago with a friend who was engaged in battery/capacitor research for the French ministry of defence.
The real problem wasn't capacity, he told me, but stabilising the stuff. Simply put, if you concentrate a large amount of energy in a small volume, it has a tendency to go BANG if disturbed.
Jean-Louis Beaufils, Paris
Yes. It sounds like a mono-propellant. The other name for mono-propellant rocket fuels is "High explosives."
- Roland Dobbins
Hi Jerry, and Happy Independence Day.
Last night I went to a local convenience store here in the Detroit area for some fireworks. One of the huge multi-packs was factory labeled (in China, of course) as the "Guy Fawks" set. (with cariciture drawings of a pirate and a roman centurion?!) Found myself wondering if anyone who bought the set had any idea of who and what Guido Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot was.
I know it wasn't covered in the public schools I went to in the '70's. I read about Fawkes several years ago in a rather disturbing book called The History of Torture, and as I recall, one of your correspondents, or maybe it was Derbyshire, wrote of the Gunpowder Plot and celebrations of Guy Fawkes Day, complete with firecrackers and such, in England during his childhood.
There are some in the Education Establishment who don't think American children need learn US, much less British, history.
What can I say? We learned more history in Capleville consolidated, 2 grades to a room, 30 students to a grade, taught by farmer's wives with Normal School 2-year certificates, in 1939 than students learn in our terribly expensive public schools during their whole time there.
No one will mourn the Republic because they won't know what it was.
The teacher's unions have brought this upon us. If the teachers know no history, and insist they have a right to their ignorance and a right to be teachers regardless of the results of their efforts (I don't say work, because work produces results) then what is the remedy? And yes: I know there are many honorable exceptions. I had breakfast with three of them this morning after church services; alas two are retired (one being Mrs. Pournelle) and the third will retire shortly.
It is not too late to change all this but the hour is late indeed and not many seem to care. No Child Left Behind doesn't assure that any child gets ahead.
Jerry, there's a lot of talk about how there's a consensus on Global Warming, and that there's nothing more to debate. Either the people claiming this don't know, or if they know they're ignoring the simple fact that facts don't care what you think. I'm sure I don't need to list some of the cases where consensus was wrong in science, we can all think of any number of them, starting with the consensus that the world was flat and going on past the consensus that if you sailed west from Europe, you'd reach either China or Japan with no major land masses in between. Even if every qualified scientist in the world agreed (which they don't, of course) that Global Warming is true and mostly caused by human activities, that in and of itself wouldn't make it true. Facts are facts, and don't care what we believe. --
The only problem with trouble-shooting is that sometimes trouble shoots back. http://home.earthlink.net/~sidebrnz http://www.lasfs.org
Reality is what doesn't go away just because you don't believe in it.
Microsoft appears to be demoing Vista and Office 2007 on a MacBook Pro.
-- "The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened."
Harry Erwin, PhD http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her
Now that is interesting.
Origami fabrication of nanostructured, three-dimensional devices: Electrochemical capacitors with carbon electrodes
Procedural question: Is this sort of report -- the result of very shallow Googling -- "in order" as a candidate contribution to jerrypournelle.com? Or am I wasting Dr. Pournelle's time by sending such?
Notes calling attention to something of interest are always in order. I may or may not be able to get to them before they are buried so deep in other matters than they are gone...
Sorry Jerry, the MIT Super Capacitor is massively over-hyped...either by the scientist or the ignorant "journalist". You can do some easy back-of-the-envelope calculations and show that for a light-weight car like the Prius (or "Pious" for South Park fans):
1) Maintaining 60 MPH uses about 20 Hp.
2) If you want to run it for 2 hours at 60 MPH (a range of only 120 miles), you would need an energy storage of about 1E8 Joules.
3) If you could charge it to 100 Volts, you would need a capacitor of about 20,000 FARADS to store this energy. For some scale, a 150 MICRO-Farad, 200Volt electrolytic capacitor from my lab is 2 inches long and 0.8 inch in diameter...scaling this up to 20000 Farad, 200 Volts would have a volume of a cube 34 FEET on a side. The MIT guy is attempting to make this extremely large-value capacitor without being physically large. I would guess that it would not be possible to do this AND achieve a breakdown voltage large enough to store large amounts of energy (the energy stored goes as voltage squared).
4) If you attempt to charge such a capacitor to the 100 Volts and have 100 Amps to charge it with, it would take about SIX HOURS (not "instantly" like the article says). This is, of course, independent of the technology used to make the capacitor.
By the way:
5) At 7 cents/kilowatt-hour (low for most states) the electricity bill for the required 33 Kilowatt-hours would be about $2.31.
6) ONE gallon of gasoline (at 1.3E8 Joules/gallon) would accomplish the same thing for about the same cost.
Note: ALL calculations are approximate and neglect any efficiency losses (which can be substantial). If you wish to see the back-of-the-envelope calculations, let me know.
Subject: RE: Subject: De-Hyping the MIT SuperCapacitor
" If you want to run it for 2 hours at 60 MPH (a range of only 120 miles), you would need an energy storage of about 1E8 Joules." and
" At 7 cents/kilowatt-hour (low for most states) the electricity bill for the required 33 Kilowatt-hours would be about $2.31.
"ONE gallon of gasoline (at 1.3E8 Joules/gallon) would accomplish the same thing for about the same cost."
Taking your figures: A car that gets 40 mpg would take 120/40 = 3 gallons. Three gallons times $3.00 per gallon (what I paid last fill-up) is $9.00. Quite a bit more than $2.31. Last time I checked admittedly some time ago an internal combustion engine was only about 25% efficient at converting the energy of the gasoline into mechanical energy, so that comparison makes more sense then just comparing the two energies side by side..
"If you attempt to charge such a capacitor to the 100 Volts and have 100 Amps to charge it with, it would take about SIX HOURS (not "instantly" like the article says). This is, of course, independent of the technology used to make the capacitor"
I read the article it does not clearly address this point. Perhaps he is saying that given a high amperage and voltage charging center, like what might be installed at a gas station you can theoretically charge up this fast. For home recharging it might still take hours.
Subject: Tsar Bomba as an actual weapon
Happy Fourth! Though it's not exactly fireworks under discussion...
Read http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/pron8k82.htm alongside http://www.nuclearweaponarchive.org/Russia/TsarBomba.html and something becomes obvious: The arguments that the Soviet 1961 50 megaton (downrated) test device can never have been intended as a precursor to an actual weapon, citing the inability of available aircraft to deliver it to the few suitable targets (the biggest US metro areas) as proof, are naive at best, if not outright disingenuous. The delivery was to be via ICBM, not by aircraft - development of what is now the Proton heavy satellite booster began in exactly the same time-frame, mid-1961, explicitly as a dual-purpose rocket able to launch military satellites and also serve as a silo-storable ultra-heavy ICBM. Mind, even Khruschev who'd initiated the 100 megaton ICBM was getting unhappy about the expense of adequate silos a few years later (I expect you may have had something to do with that) and once Khruschev fell his successors cancelled the ICBM half of the rocket development.
Not quite the Doomsday Device of Dr. Strangelove, but not that far behind. A handful of those beasts could have rendered a good part of the US uninhabitable. Khruschev clearly thought possession of such a system had political utility, and I suspect were it not for the efforts on this side to make any such monster-missile vulnerable to preemption absent commitment of a large fraction of the USSR's total output of concrete and rebar to silos, we'd have seen some number of them deployed.
Me, I'm damn glad we made it through those days to be barbecuing with friends and heading out to watch fireworks tonight.
And as a fallout from Project 75, which identified a need for on-board ICBM guidance computers and thus stimulated R&D in LSIC, we got small computers, which is how we're communicating. When you set out to design the future you don't always know what you'll get.
Subject: Non-subscriber link for WSJ article
Hereís a free link for the ďDon't Believe the HypeĒ article you mentioned yesterday (free because it goes in through OpinionJournal):
I noticed that you tend to post articles which support your opinion on this subject. Once in a while, throw the other side a bone and post some of those, too. Youíll certainly have more articles to choose from.
I do not think it my responsibility to post articles supporting the "consensus"; those advocates have many outlets, and use them. It's not as if you can't find the others.
If I find data in contradiction to my conclusions I will publish that; but I don't think it much news to anyone that there are those who don't share my views in these matters. Or that I think they are wrong. Publishing more speculations opposed to my view is a work of supererogation at best.
July 5, 2006
Mr Longman shines a bad light on the Super-Capacitor concept.
I would suggest that (using his own figures) he needs three hours to re-charge (not six). He needs to replace some 30 KWH of power - not 60 - and he's planning to do it at 10 KWH per hour. This is not an extreme rate of transfer... my home's electric heating eats 23 KW.
As "Z" pointed out, petroleum fuel's cost for the same result is currently no better. Are these fuel costs on a equal-tax basis? Seven-cent KWHs may not pay much tax, three-dollar gas may.
A more careful comparison will also look at the simplification of the vehicle design. Get rid of the mass, noise & service-requirements of our old internal-combustion friend and there's a reasonable pot of money for capacitors (which also sound very 'green' at end-of-life).
If MIT can make it 'fly', I believe this sounds a strong contender to hydrogen - which is another explosive medium for the storage of electricity.
Best Regards Paul Hayward Auckland, NZ
My apologies to all; I haven't had time to work the numbers, and I have left this as a long discussion. When I get a chance I'll look into the technology. It's an intriguing idea. I do remind you that monopropellants are often called High Explosives. Safely containing large quantities of energy is a fairly tricky proposition. This has been the basic problem with flywheels: they store a lot of energy, but when things begin to dill they tend to release it in a dramatic fashion. Capacitors have a different failure mechanism, but the energy has to go somewhere in a crash.
Having said that, I confess I haven't given a lot of thought to just what would happen when a big charged capacitor is breached in an accident.
Actually, this is technology that's been around for quite awhile. Carbon-element electrolytic large-capacity("Super") capacitors are all over the place, with fractional-farad units doing service as backup power in all sorts of consumer goods, they keep the clocks going and retain the personalized settings while you change batteries. Farad units are present in other computer-related items to carry settings over power-outages. Latest use is for storage in the so-called "Faraday" flashlights that have a magnetic slug moving through a coil. They utilize carbon black mixed with sulphuric acid to form a paste between two metallic plates, they're non-polarized, unlike conventional electrolytic caps. The carbon black is the key here, it provides an enormous surface area. Large surface area = large capacity. Substituting nanotubes may provide more, in which case the capacity per unit volume would be greater. The downside to this type of capacitor is that it has significant internal resistance and the working voltage is very low, typically 2.5v-5v. Want your very own farad on the cheap? See here: http://www.allelectronics.com/cgi-bin/category/140910/Super.html.
Fully charged, they can run an LED for a fairly long time. The internal resistance and low voltage keeps it from being much of a hazard should something short it out. I suspect your other respondents are more familiar with high-voltage energy storage electrolytics, which WILL vaporize chunks of screwdriver, etc., should they be shorted. Those have a very different construction and a much lower internal resistance. Also, the energy held per unit volume is a whole lot lower.
So the trick would be to put together a large array, series and parallel, of these things so it would have sufficient capacity to give a vehicle sufficient range to be useful and cheaper than conventional secondary cells.
And on a related subject
This link is much more "pragmatic" in its approach to a workable electric car. It seems so straightforward I'm surprised it hasn't been tried commercially. It's also a very interesting site, generally. He also tries things so others don't have to.
Problems arise when you want more range. More range means more batteries, more batteries mean more weight, and more weight means more power consumption, so each new battery does less good. One day we'll have feather-light electron-buckets that charge in ten seconds, last for ten thousand cycles and cost close to nothing, but we're definitely not there yet. Just loading up on today's batteries, even today's best and lightest batteries, leads to diminishing returns.
The obvious solution is to slim down the battery, install an engine, and start making advertisements for your new hybrid vehicle that include a lot of peaceful greenery. But then you're burning petroleum for pretty much every trip again, and a hundred kilometre highway cruise now uses about as much fuel as it would if you were in an ordinary car.
The solution is simple, if strange: Make the engine optional. And put it in a little trailer.
Which sounds weird but in fact would work. Plug into the wall for day to day operations, and for trips attach the motor-trailer. Odd. When we were designing electric cars back in the 1960's (studies for the Engineering Academy) no one ever thought of that one...
Subject: Gripe Line Comments
Don't know whether you regularly follow Ed Foster's "Gripe Line", Dr. Pournelle. If not, I'll refer you to the comments concerning DRM, copyright, fair use, etc. at:
Most [all?] of the views expressed fall within the boundaries already depicted on Chaos Manor...
I haven't had much about the subject recently precisely because I am not sure there's much new to say...
Perhaps more impressive than the graphical size comparisons at rence.com.
An Atlas of the Universe:
"This web page is designed to give everyone an idea of what our universe actually looks like. There are nine main maps on this web page, each one approximately ten times the scale of the previous one. The first map shows the nearest stars and then the other maps slowly expand out until we have reached the scale of the entire visible universe."
Don -- Donald W. McArthur
We've had this in mail a couple of time before but it does no harm to remind people who haven't seen it. There's so much out there to see...
A great companion link to The Size of Our World <http://www.rense.com/general72/size.htm> is the Hydrogen Atom Scale Model. <http://www.phrenopolis.com/perspective/atom/index.html> It shows an amazing feature of the atomic world...its huge distances (relatively speaking). On the scale of the picture, the electron is 11 MILES away from the proton.
Also, do check out this mondo demonstration of the camouflage ability of the octopus: http://www.youtube.com/v/OQWxIrSRDQQ <http://www.youtube.com/v/OQWxIrSRDQQ> When they show it backwards and in slow motion it's even more impressive! You see it just "disappear" before your eyes.
Robin Juhl -- "The effect was rougly that of telling a room full of gay men that Judy Garland couldn't sing worth a damn." -- Ann Coulter, Godless, pg. 183
July 6, 2006
Neal Stephenson and William Gibson are starting to seem like psychics:
"Middle-class neighborhoods, long regarded as incubators for the American dream, are losing ground in cities across the country, shrinking at more than twice the rate of the middle class itself.
In their place, poor and rich neighborhoods are both on the rise, as cities and suburbs have become increasingly segregated by income, according to a Brookings Institution study released Thursday. It found that as a share of all urban and suburban neighborhoods, middle-income neighborhoods in the nation's 100 largest metro areas have declined from 58 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2000...
...Middle-income neighborhoods -- where families earn 80 to 120 percent of the local median income -- have plunged by more than 20 percent as a share of all neighborhoods in Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. They are down 10 percent in the Washington area.
It's happening, too, in this prosperous, mostly white middle-income Midwestern city where unemployment is low and a vibrant downtown has been preserved. As poor and rich neighborhoods proliferate, the share of middle-income neighborhoods in greater Indianapolis has dropped by 21 percent since 1970..."
Source: Washington Post
...this is actually a proxy for IQ distribution in a globalized economy. Absent genetic manipulation, there is no solution. You can but hope to be a winner in the Lucky Sperm Lottery, and end up on the right side of the gated community...
-- Donald W. McArthur
Actually, they merely took seriously data that have been available for fifty years. IQ and heredity have strong correlations; and IQ is a hefty predictor of success in a meritocracy. This is disturbing.
We say we have free speech, but in fact certain scientific publications can't be printed without the threat of prosecution for "hate crimes". As Fred tells us, most of us know what we can't say, and who we can't say it about.
You hope your children marry well.
Subject: Electric Cars
Hi Dr. Pournelle,
Speaking as a refugee from the electric vehicle business, allow me to make a small prediction. You will see no widespread support, infrastructure or commercial development by the large auto makers that does not in some way burn petroleum. That part of the problem is political and must include the enormous control the oil companies have over public poicies relating to energy production and usage. The situation will be thus until all the oil is gone. But perhaps I am too cynical.
The little guys (I was one) don't have the capitol to make the enterprise go. That said, most of the ideas being suggested have been tried at some level. For instance some years ago I helped with the mechanical design of a hybrid bus that used, in part, some NASA developed super capacitors for its peak shaving type of propulsion system. That particular bus used a Volvo diesel generator that charged the batteries and capacitors, said genset running at a constant speed.
Hybrids in general have this problem: they convert the energy several times, with losses at each conversion. The aim is to gain back some of the conversion loss and exceed the base distillate engine efficiency by optimizing the engine to turn a generator at constant speed. You end up with a kind of electric transmission actually turning the wheels. The batteries are used to peak shave by supplying temporary extra energy for accleration. It is hard to do. The Prius and its ilk are being successful because they work pretty well, but in reality don't do much better than a regular small car with the same power to weight ratio. It doesn't hurt anything to have Honda and Toyota doing the engineering, either.
The public has a wide spread perception that pure electric vehicles aren't any good because they won't go 300 miles between charges, so you can't go on a road trip at a moment's notice, or, heaven help us, you might actually have to plan around the energy state of the batteries. This mindset is ignorant generally of how far one drives on an average day. GM research in the late 70s had the US average drive as about 25 miles a day. Easily done by electric cars with old fashioned flooded lead-acid batteries. In fact, the vehicles I personally built had a range of 40-50 miles, running with power steering and air conditioning. The GM EV-1 would do about 90 miles with its more sophisticated systems and 0-60 mph in 8 seconds. The EV-1 test users generally had to have the cars pried away from them. It was very probably the best car GM ever built. It once held the EV speed record in the vicinity of 180 mph. No, it could not go 90 miles at 180 mph.
Electric vehicles are in fact quite successful, they just do not match public perceptions of what constitutes a car. Reason doesn't operate here, it's all perceptions, emotion and gut feels.
My personal choice would be a pure electric and a nearby nuclear power plant. I drive 14 miles to work. Easy.
As Trader Joe says, "Thanks for listening".
When back in the 1960's we were doing some work on electric cars, we never considered hybrids for exactly that reason: every energy conversion has a 50% or more loss. It's hard to make up for it. And we did the math on trips, concluding that nearly every 2-car family could easily have one electric car, if we had the kilowatts. In those days we were still hopeful about nuclear electric power as a source of the kilowatts.
There are many problems about an electric car with a range of over 80 miles or so, but an 80-mile car with a few hours to recharging, and a means of using small topping charges when available (fancy restaurants would I am sure be glad to charge your car while you have dinner, and many places of work would provide electric outlets, possibly with an energy charge) -- such cars could have been built in the 1960's and can certainly be built now. They have performance that will match the best internal combustion engine cars, too.
==And Mr. Longman answers his critics:
Wow. My little back-of-the-envelope calculation has stirred a lot of interest.
My purpose was to de-hype the claims made in the article by putting some approximate numbers to see how possible it would be to use a capacitor to power a vehicle with a reasonable range and re-charge it in a reasonable time.
The claim in the article that really piqued my interest is that the capacitor could be re-charged "instantly" (as opposed to the long, inconvenient re-charge time of conventional batteries). This claim is patently false as anyone who has taken an elementary physics or EE course will know (an infinite current would be required). The question then, is "how long would it take?". I calculated 6 Hours. Reader Hayward is absolutely right that it is only 3 hours. I claim stupidity...arithmetic is not my strong point. But this is certainly not "instantly", and is certainly much longer than anyone would tolerate in practice. Imagine driving for 2 hours and having to stop for 3 hours to re-fuel.
Of course, it and electric cars in general, would be useful for short trips and short commutes...but history says few buy such things (there have been a few commercially available electric cars that failed). I remember seeing charging posts in Swiss parking lots 20 years ago (They did not even have any sort of metering)...a great idea, but they are gone now.
Reader Z and to a less obvious extent, Reader Hayward, point out that one could charge the thing faster if one used more current. True. I used 100 Amps 'cause it is a large, but fairly practical value. Consider the size of the cables required to plug into your vehicle at the re-charging station that one would have to wrestle with. A pair of #2 wires (each about 1/2 inch in diameter, insulated) is not very easy to bend/move. Let alone the low-resistance connector (large) which would have to be mated. If we could use 1000 Amps (which would reduce the charging time to 'only' 18 minutes, the cable would be un-wrestle-able indeed.
Reader Schaefer is, of course, correct that ultra-high capacitance devices have been commercially available for several years...with very low (a few volts) breakdown voltage as he mentions. Unfortunately the massive amounts of energy storage required for a reasonable range demand both high capacitance (20,000 Farads in my estimate) AND high voltages (100 volts for my calculation). Perhaps most people do not realize how incredibly large (both electrically and physically) a 20,000 Farad capacitor would be. I thought my estimate of a 34 foot cube for sort-of-current technology) was fairly dramatic. The biggest capacitor in most systems, is in the power supply and is a couple of thousand MICRO-Farad...operating at a lot less than 100 volts. The work at MIT is apparently an effort to further reduce the size of these devices. This would be a Good Thing.
The article does not mention the maximum voltage, but it is axiomatic that increasing the voltage requires greater electrode spacing to keep the electric field below the breakdown value, which increases the size of the capacitor. I used 100 volts for my estimate because it is, again, a fairly practical value. Anything much higher would be quite lethal...anything much smaller would seriously reduce the energy which can be stored. For a capacitor, E= C*V*V/2. where E is the energy stored, C is the capacitance, and V is the voltage to which it is charged. Obviously the energy is very strongly dependent on the voltage (halving the voltage stores only a quarter of the energy).
Reader Z takes issue my calculations 5 and 6 which I included somewhat gratuitously (they are not really germane to the central argument) to give the reader some practical scale and to illustrate that the back-of-the-envelope calculation is not too far off from reality. Z points out that because a gasoline engine has an efficiency of only 25% my comparison to the electricity cost is faulty. I thought I covered that in the note: "calculations...neglect any efficiency losses (which can be substantial)". If pressed, I would have used a SWAG of ~30%...which would have resulted in my theoretical vehicle having a mileage of ~36 MPG. Not bad for a crude calculation from first principles.
At any rate, it seems unfair to apply efficiency reduction to statement 6...and NOT apply it to the other side of the "equality" (statement 5). If one would do so, one would have to include the efficiency of the electric motor (lets say 80%), the charging circuitry (80%), losses in the charging cables/connectors (how big/thick do you want to make them? Let's say 95% efficiency), and then there is the motor's power-control electronics (let's SWAG 80% for now). This gives an overall efficiency of 49%, which brings the cost of running my capacitor-powered car to ABOUT the same as running a gasoline-powered car.
If you think about it for a bit, you will find that the power-control electronics for a capacitor-powered car become very interesting. An electrochemical battery maintains its terminal voltage more or less constant until it is exhausted and then drops like a brick. The terminal voltage of a capacitor is directly proportional to the amount of charge left. So our 100 volt capacitor, when half-discharged puts out only 50 volts. When it is 90% discharged only puts out 10 volts, etc. So our power-control does not simply regulate the voltage DOWN (as in our electrochemical battery car) to whatever the motor needs (which is pretty easy to do). Over some portion of the capacitor discharge cycle (depending on lots of stuff), it must BOOST the voltage (which is considerably more difficult and hence more inefficient).
Several readers have brought up the subject of "what happens to the energy in an accident?". Good question. Because the energy stored is approximately the same as a gallon of gasoline (~1E8 Joules), the explosion could be equivalent to setting off a gallon of 'gas', which wouldn't be TOO spectacular. I suspect that it would be much worse, though, because the capacitor, if physically destroyed would discharge much quicker than gasoline would burn. A minute of web searching found the useful page http://home.earthlink.net/~jimlux/energies.htm which says, among other interesting things, that one pound of "high explosive" produces ~2MJ. If true, that means our capacitor catastrophic rapid discharge would produce the equivalent of exploding 50 POUNDS of high explosive. Hmmm.
And while I don't usually print press releases:
Subject: PODCAST: Mitsubishi Motors Exec. Slams Hybrids, Defends SUVs
We've just released an exclusive interview with Mitsubishi Motors Corporate Communications Director Dan Irvin in which he talks frankly about hybrids, SUVs and just how safe automobiles really are today.
You can download the interview as an MP3 or via RSS at the link below: http://www.ipressroom.com/cmp.asp?c=69594O484O4O468O954
Irvin also talks about the opportunities and threats of consumer blogs. If you have a chance to listen, I hope you find it interesting.
Jennifer Dekel Schwartzman & Associates, Inc.
Subject: Range Extending Trailer for Electric Autos
AC Propulsion has made them:
They also have an interesting, fairly long range electric vehicle:
It certainly makes sense once you think of them.
It's easy to find if people look for it, but you might post the link:
Not a lot of technical detail, as the articles said, but still interesting.
The weight of the vehicle is probably well under the 230,000-pound engine thrust rating. It carries only 120,000 pounds of fuel, and the structure presumably weighs much less than that.
I didn't realize the Blue Origin launch area was so close to the New Mexico spaceport and White Sands, only about 100 miles away. (And about 40 miles from Carlsbad Caverns.)
The way the site is arranged, the buildings and pads are not generally visible from the nearby highway, and Blue Origin says it will not provide facilities for public viewing of launches. There will be some visibility from the highway and other local roads several miles way, so people who really want to see a launch will have the chance.
I also did not know there was such a thing as "the Pecos County Aerospace Development Corporation-sponsored Pecos County West Texas Spaceport at Fort Stockton, Texas." This was an another launch site Blue Origin considered.
Much of this is covered at Henry Vanderbilt's annual Space Access Conference.
Subject: Why Johnny Can't Do Math
Mrs. Pournelle should be raking in the dough if Kentucky is any indication. She just needs to throw some cheap furniture in with the software. She can even have the program coded so badly it needs its own machine where it can run in isolation.
Subject: Re: Why Johnny Can't Do Math
Sweet holy ghost, thats more expensive then buying a copy of Maya Unlimited for every student AND Office Professional AND Windows Xp Professional AND a top of the line gaming PC AND a MacBook Pro laptop.
=David Em adds:
Especially if you need to buy a separate machine for each app.
Can I assume you were only touting the beautiful comparison pictures on this site, rather than endorsing the site as a whole?
I know nothing of the site other than the comparison pictures. Thanks.
Can't you give younger Kristol some sort of nickname like the Egregious Frum?
Even neoconservative hawks who have been generally supportive of the administration on Iraq and other issues said they are worried about the direction of American foreign policy, and hope for a muscular response from the Bush administration toward the latest North Korean provocation.
And all this after years of war in Iraq at his bidding. Some people do not learn much from history. Washington warned us to avoid entangling alliances, and not to become involved in territorial disputes in Europe; he'd have added Arabia and Mesopotamia if he'd been asked.
If we are to have Empire, can we not have COMPETENT Empire?
Liberty over security?
I had a troubling discussion last night with a male attorney I know casually. He resides in Ohio. It went along similar lines to other conversations I have had with other 30-something males in the last year or so. I am a tad older. A true blue Republican, he was willing to surrender most of our rights, except in monetary matters, in order to promote "safety" in the present "war on terror." I was reminded of Franklin's quip about those who would choose security over liberty deserving neither (my paraphrase).
He really didn't care about the goings on at Gitmo as long as we were teaching people "not to mess with the U.S.A." Any discussion of why we chose to invade the most secular satrapy in the "Muslim" world when we were supposed to be fighting radical Islam was also irrelevant as long as his personal safety risk could be somehow interjected into the issue.
I have been voting for Republican Party candidates since I reached voting age, although I have always considered myself a limited government conservative. My core concern is that we may be at a watershed in our nation when any discussion of the loss of our liberties is trumped immediately by grown men in our population making emotional appeals to safety.
Paul D. Perry
It strikes me that an electric car is an ambitious place to first install high energy density capacitors as a replacement for batteries. However, I would just love it if such a thing could replace the battery in my laptop. If the stored energy were just double a battery, if it would cycle 1,000+ times (or, really, just enough times to match the useful life of the laptop), and charge in a time that is short (compared with li-ion batteries), I would be very interested. Even some of those attributes would probably give the capacitor power-pack commercial viability.
Actually, I think there are lots of areas where relatively small batteries might be replaced with capacitors, _if_ the capacitors have the energy density. Electric cars, and other large battery devices should come later. However, the sudden all-at-once discharge remains a serious concern.
Since fuel-cell-powered laptops always seem to be "a couple of years away", it might be time to look at other options. Perhaps the capacitors?
Very good point. I think I'd carry a capacitor-charged laptop. I think I would. Assuming one can be made: see below.
While you're on the subject of alternate-energy cars, and their calculated efficiency, I wonder if someone has shown this to you:
Old computer hardware hacker Don Lancaster (still going strong) has written "Energy Fundamentals." A PDF just a few pages long, it has technical information comparing ALL the present and future energy sources, their costs and trade-offs, and it's completely readable to the layman.
By converting all costs to "petrodollars" and comparing, he shows just how tough any alterative to fossil fuels will be. (That hurts for me who's opposed to fossil fuels.) For instance, hydrogen does have much more energy, but storing it is horrible! As for solar cells, say to get the hydrogen, he says.
"Using photovoltaics [to get hydrogen from electrolysis] is the same as coverting 1-to-1 dollars to Mexican pesos."
It's fascinating. Sometimes frustrating. There's still hope, though.
Don Lancaster's site at http://www.tinaja.com/ is just full of fascinating and practical information. The real way to make a successful business on ebay, hardware information, and PDF and Postscript programming are all in there. (I'm pretty sure that he looked at new capacitors earlier-- apparently the small ones work but won't scale up.)
Subject: r.e. Don Lancaster on energy, alternate energy, and cars
>>Old computer hardware hacker Don Lancaster (still going strong) has written "Energy Fundamentals." A PDF just a few pages long, it has technical information comparing ALL the present and future energy sources<<
An "Energy Fundamentals PDF" that doesn't contain the words 'methanol', 'coal' or 'shale oil' as plug 'n play liquid fuel sources (i.e. no new science needed, just start building plants) is not comprehensive to me. Maybe this is because favorably cited Amory Lovins deems these substances to be satanic ectoplasm. Ethanol is disposed of by reference to everyone's favorite anti-ethanol researcher, David Pimentel of Cornell. There are other studies from UCD and DoE available to cite if one prefers to promote ethanol. I don't but this is for moral reasons.
Lancaster's discussion of hydrogen and solar PV is the strongest part of the work. Toss in Global Warming and this pdf is a good example of how the mirage of the irreplaceability of petroleum is inculcated in the public mind.
Here is the frontier between hard number falsifiable sciences like chemistry and fuzzy number social sciences like 'economics' and 'Paleoclimatology'. Just about anything can be proven to be 'economic' or 'uneconomic' depending on what assumptions about the future we choose to use.
ps. Lancaster's pdf did remind me to check up on Amory Lovins: http://www.rmi.org/ I cannot take people like Lovins seriously. Here is a man who predicates his entire energy strategy on conservation and then uses the word 'immigration' precisely once on the entire website.
I think of all the energy prophets Dr. Teller will have been closest. He said there would not be a single replacement for oil. This is another point where Lancaster's 'either or' analytical approach fails. If we accept Dr. Teller as having been correct, then it's past time to start thinking seriously about what that means for the future in implementation. 'Regional specialization' in alternates seems probable in a diverse energy future. What's most 'economic' will vary from region to region depending on climate, geography and available local resources. Institutions that grew up on the universal availability of 87 octane unleaded will have as much difficulty dealing with this diverse energy and fuels future as the Baldwin Locomotive Works and the Pennsylvania Railroad had adapting to the matured oil and internal combustion engine age.
Cheers, Frank D. Sauer
Now if they can explain why the Vikings had dairy farms in Greenland from 800 to 1300, then they were all frozen out...
The Pentagon discovers the joys of outsourced manufacturing.
I've only been pointing this out for a decade or so:
-- Roland Dobbins
July 7, 2006
This mail is the result of another email conversation that I have started with one of the Global Warming people - Mark Lynas ( http://www.marklynas.org/ <http://www.marklynas.org/> ). I sent him a long letter suggesting that consensus hadn't been reached on global warming . This letter was originally intended for the Anglican private school my oldest son attends (after it seemed they were trying to scare the students by showing the movie 'The Day After Tomorrow').
Anyway I had a selection of references to Global Warming dissenters - including Richard Lindzen. In Mark Lynas's reply he suggested ( a little rudely ) that all my references were right wing puppets (essentially). So I wrote a reply but after I got to the end of that document I decided to do a little checking on my references. What I find is distressing. In particular the chain of investigation for Richard Lindzen is as follows:
I have read a lot of the comments about Lindzen (on realclimate), not all are negative. I can find what seem to be learned and very negative comments about the other references I cited also.
I am confused about all of this and would welcome some more knowledgeable comments.
These are the group of people I cited: Bob Carter: http://www.jcu.edu.au/marine/staff%20profiles/Bob%20Carter.pdf <http://www.jcu.edu.au/marine/staff%20profiles/Bob%20Carter.pdf> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_M._Carter_%28Australian_marine_geophysicist%29 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_M._Carter_%28Australian_marine_geophysicist%29> Richard Lindzen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Lindzen
Patrick Michaels http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Michaels
Welcome to the world of "science," in which some people analyse data, but others spend time denouncing their opponents.
From the Wikipedia on Lindzen:
Which is essentially correct.
As I have said repeatedly: Simple Baysian analysis dictates that we spend on reducing uncertainties, not on embarking on "remedies".
The trouble with "remedies" is that they in essence have chosen what they believe will be the outcome and bet just about everything on that. Given the "peer review" process of science, once a "consensus" is reached, all the publicly funded grant money -- and it's a lot compared to private funding including energy companies -- goes to studies that assume the consensus. It has to. Almost by definition, spending money studying matters outside the consensus is a waste of time and money.
It gets worse: after a while so many people have invested their time, energy, and reputations on the "consensus" that the very notion that they could be wrong is threatening. Since the data don't really support their conclusions, and they feel attacked, they end up making ad hominem attacks. It's pretty hard to call Lindzen a crook or a fool, but they often come close. (And note that Duesberg, the discoverer of retroviruses and the Chief Virologist of the University of California has been thoroughly marginalized to the point that even conservative talk show hosts make fun of him without having the foggiest notion of what he has actually said. The odds are the Duesberg is wrong, but those odds are not zero.)
A proper scientific strategy tries to reduce uncertainties. That include allocating funds and effort to testing the "consensus" hypotheses before putting a ton of money into strategies that can only pay off if the "consensus" is correct. If a bunch of people are standing around a roulette wheel, and some say the wheel is rigged, and we have a system that will make sure you win money, while others are saying it's random and betting anything at all is likely to lose you money, the proper strategy is to take some more measurements (reduce the uncertainties). When a chi-square analysis shows a reasonable probability that the wheel is rigged, it's time to make some bets. But you may be sure that the advocates of the system will not take kindly to that suggestion.
There is a LOT of money at stake here. And the uncertainties are very real.
Today's LA Times has a story that purports to tell us that wildfires are increasing because of global warming. That may be, but the data are confusing, and conservationists including me have been writing articles critical of forest management for a very long time. Smokey the Bear stops small fires, but ensures that when there is a fire it will be a doozy. And of course more expensive homes are being built at the edges of public forests, so the costs of such fires is soaring.
The global warming discussion generates a lot of heat: but the data remain ambiguous. The hockey stick was big a year ago; it has nearly vanished now.
The important thing to note is that there is at least as large a motive for those funded with public money controlled by "peer reviews" to find results that support their own position as there is for the holder of an MIT chair founded by a deceased General Motors executive to question them.
Advantage" AntiPiracy Scheme
Just in case you haven't heard about this....
I've been wondering for quite a while when (not if, but when) someone was going to take advantage of Microsoft's own built-in back door.
This is an on-going story. I have an inquiry in to sources at Microsoft. I'll probably have some words on this in next week's Chaos Manor Reviews.
A variety of interesting developments:
The Decisive Weapon.
--- Roland Dobbins
Organlegging - the Falun Gong angle.
-- Roland Dobbins
Our friends, the Russians - part XXIV.
-- Roland Dobbins
- Roland Dobbins
Subject: science fiction - !fantasy
Do you alone or with Niven have any non-fantasy books as good as 'Footfall' and 'Lucifer's Hammer' -- which are two of THE best SF I've ever read. 'fiction' - humans in semi-scientific, but believable situations. 'fantasy' - made up beings doing something
MOTE IN GOD'S EYE and its sequel THE GRIPPING HAND would, I think, qualify.
Alas, even the best supercapacitors hold only a tiny fraction of the energy that a lithium battery does. You might get one-minute recharge times, but you'd be doing that every ten minutes.
There's a nice compromise available in some new high-current lithium batteries from Toshiba and others, e.g.:
These hold less energy than the batteries we're used to, but charge very quickly-- one minute to 80% of capacity for the Toshiba product. In practice you won't see that kind of charge rate; a 40 WH battery charged to 32WH in one minute requires a 2 kilowatt power supply! But a 200W brick would give you a ten-minute recharge every few hours, maybe not so bad.
July 8, 2006
--- Roland Dobbins
Before I comment at length I'd like to see what others think. I've been working on a short essay on intelligence for Republics and Empires for some time now.
Lenin's birthplace becomes stripper's den.
-- Roland Dobbins
Monticello was once sold at a raffle...
Paul Graham: The Power of the Marginal.
-- Roland Dobbins
One-Eyed Dragon, RIP.
--- Roland Dobbins
Indeed. Western Enterprises...
From paper-clip to house, in 14 trades.
--- Roland Dobbins
Good grief! He did it!
This is just cool:
Riverine warfare on the Euphrates.
----- Roland Dobbins
Brown Water Navy once more...
July 9, 2006
Greetings, sir. You've intrigued me with this:
"...I alternate writing with doing a set of Tibetan "Rituals" that Steve Barnes found for us. This is a set of five -- I suppose you could call them exercises, but they are more elaborate than that -- which do a wonderful job of stretching things out and getting my back in shape. Then I write some more."
As someone who drives a desk, I'd be interested to hear more about these "rituals," who long they take to perform, and how frequently you break to run through them.
I enjoy the peeks into the Monk's Cell and your writing process. Please keep them coming on occasion.
You will find those at:
http://eyeofrevelation.blogspot.com/ has a brief video demonstration
Steve Barnes, who hopes to keep Niven and me healthy for a long time (if you read Fallen Angels you have met Steve; he's definitely in that book) found these for us years ago. I am up to seven repetitions with a goal of 15; I was at 15 a few years ago and neglected doing them, to my regret and detriment. Niven, I believe, routinely does 15 or did the last time we went on a research trip and stayed in the same motel room.
I find that if I write until I am tired, then do these, I can write more; and they are great for reducing if not eliminating back problems.
For more on writing, see "How To Get My Job."
Any "industry" as dependent on "repeat customers" as the Prison-Industrial Complex will be hostile to innovations like the one discussed below.
Precisely. Pournelle's Iron Law works especially well in the incarceration industry. What use is a prison warder with no one to ward?
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for western civilization as it commits suicide. The end of Christianity is the end of a civilization; what will replace it is not clear. In particular it is not clear whence come "good" and "evil" in a civilization that has neither gods nor devils; or whence comes justice if there is no fountain of justice. If no one religion is better than another; if none are true; then why would not Satanism be acceptable?
By Satanism I don't mean wicca or some other variant of Kumbaya faith in sweetness and light, I mean devil worship complete with sacrifice of victims, blessing of theft and arson as virtues, and the like. If we reject all external sources of definitions of good and evil, so that "Man is the measure of all things", where do we go from there? Socrates answered that the dog-faced baboon is the measure of all things. (http://praxeology.net/theaetetus.htm; the Theaetetus is an inquiry into epistemology, a rather sadly neglected subject)
Best never let mere results get in the way of political correctness.
From another conference:
> A steeply progressive system of economic
redistribution through the
> > So quit your unseemly complaining about
high taxes; they need to be a
> I think you are confusing "tax rates" with "tax collections". It's a
> common mistake; Bill Clinton admitted publicly in my home town in
> Houston that the tax-rate increases that he pushed through early in
> his first term did not raise *nearly* the amount of revenue that was
> projected for them.
I watched Charles Murray make his argument for guaranteed income on C-Span and I was unpersuaded.
We'll still have people showing up at emergency wards with no medical insurance. Even those who'd receive the guaranteed incomes from government who buy medical insurance will have deductibles and wouldn't be able to afford to pay up to the point where the deductibles are exceeded.
Also, they won't suddenly find life more rewarding. They'll still feel inefficacious since they won't be able to earn much in paying work. They'll be less likely to work and therefore less likely to develop job skills.
We need to deport all the illegals and stop all low IQ immigration with a high threshold (say 120 IQ). We might want to enact tariffs on a few types of goods which would generate domestic demand for lower skilled labor.
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