Dragon Con 2014

Look, it absolutely stinks that two months before D*Con my website fails.

I am not forgetting Dragon Con, the Space Pirate Amazon Ninja Catgirl party, or anything else.

Updates will occur, this page will soldier on, etc, etc, etc.

(Dr. DNA is bringing tequilla, its gonna be an exciting day.)meow

Space and Science Party – Dragon Con 2014


Space Pirate Amazon Ninja Catgirls.
1) It is a fun game
2) Its gonna be a great party.

Folks, I’m awesome, but I could use some help. If you are at Dragon Con 2014, if you are working Space & Science in particular, I could use some stuff:
Food, Booze, A good music list (on a good interface, God knows I don’t want to run it from my laptop.), some tails and ears, an appropriate handstamp, appropriate games and prizes.

I’ve got a lot of plans and I’d like it if you felt you could contribute. We can shift this to a private facebook page if it works better, but contact me.

Global Warming – Status Update

Just to avoid the usual Straw Man, I believe that the world is warmer today than it was in the late 1800′s. Heck, it may be warmer today than in the 1200′s, though that is unproven. I do believe that CO2 has environmental effects, however, I see no link between increasing CO2 content and increased temperature. Further, given that the global and local temperatures have changed several times in the past, I see no link between human activity and increasing temperature. (AGW) Finally, there is zero evidence of a “tipping point,” after which the rate of global warming will jump and the feedback will lead to a 5 – 9 degree C increase in temperature. (ACGW)


But hey, it really isn’t just about a bad theory, it is about a bad theory that dug itself into the political might of the UN, USA, and Europe. The political elite can buy themselves votes by spending other people’s money on their friends projects. Millions flow into other people’s pockets and everyone feels morally superior.

As a friend of mine said, “Green projects are ones they should be doing anyway, so what is the harm in calling it global warming?”

1) It hurts science. The review boards of scientific journals are filled with political hacks who know very little about the field they are supposed to be reviewing. They approve crap into the knowledge base which will take decades to scrub out, they deny good papers which advance science because it doesn’t fit their limited world view.

2) It hurts people. Many people have trouble paying their power bills, many people are hurt by the increased costs on fuel. It increases costs on food and goods. Look, the economy isn’t going up and the costs are increasing. Every year it squeezes us tighter and tighter. The Money Isn’t Free

3) It funds the wrong projects. Good scientists compete for funding. Their work shows solid, repeatable, results. They make predictions and provide evidence. The limited funds should go to real science and real improvements. 

    Political Funding often goes to “showpiece” projects that waste a few millions of dollars and are usually embarrassments – corrected after some boondoggle trips and goofy “demonstration of concept” shows. The politicians behind them are shamed and lose votes, often their office in the wake. People get fired, learning occurs.
    When these Green projects are revealed to be hundred million dollar mistakes, the morality police say something like “They meant well, it needed to be done anyway, no real harm was done.” 
    Harm was done and those who did it should be shamed out of the house. Since they are blessed by the morality police, they continue with their bad choices and continue wasting our money, our science.

4) Green morality needs to be exposed as a fraud. It lets small countries feel morally superior to the bigger countries while taking their money. It lets small men feel superior to their betters while demeaning their science for political reasons they call Truth. It protects those men when they perform immoral and occasionally criminal acts. It isn’t scientific, it is a B grade religion with delusions of Greater Good. The delusional followers are responsible for the harm done in its name. So far, no one has forced them to see the lives ruined by their horrible little god.

Physics is Hard – or you don’t know what you think you know.

I got pinged on three interesting Physics Today articles this week.

1)   Focus: Electrons Not the Cause of Charged Grains
2)   Synopsis: Unexpected Impact from Medium-Sized Solar Flare
3)   Synopsis: Asymmetric Reconnections

There are actually interesting connections between these three papers, which only shows how weird my brain works.

1) We don’t actually know why rubbing a balloon on your head makes it charge up. SERIOUSLY. I’d assumed, as most people did, that it was something to do with electrons being pushed around… somehow. Ok, I gave it some serious thought some years ago when I was working lightning and found the theory lacking, but never had a good reason to push back. Raindrops do gather electricity, there are some good experiments to generate a charge.

The Kelvin Water dropper will generate a spark gap  – Wikipedia
 Drawing of a typical setup for the Kelvin Water Dropper

But water itself responds to positive and negative charge.

Seriously, the real effect in a thunderstorm isn’t a bunch of electrons jumping from raindrop to raindrop, but large electric fields generated by alignment of water molecules. So, in general, when talking about climate and 100 year models – people didn’t even have a good model for lightning.

2) Since we’re on the subject of Global Warming. The Human-Caused folks haven’t really dealt with how much influence the sun’s cycles have on the atmosphere. Major increases in ionization from even a relatively small event. I was expecting – around the auroral oval – that we’d see higher levels of heating and ionizing, but this paper seems to indicate strong charging as far south as England (I’d like better numbers here) as well as a significant influence in cloud formation. (At 20 km?) Well, I’ll take their word for it until I see their data.

Source – Solarham.com – gallery of images

3) What it the connection between the two papers? Electron Dynamics

The real problem with electrons is that they interact with everything, so they’re a buggar to study. One long-standing problem is assuming that they are tiny. Electrons are as large as their interaction width, which (according the the scientist at TRIUMF) he’s gotten to a mile wide in a superconductor.

This lets them do all kind of “spooky action at a distance” things, when we assume they can’t be in two places at once. They also generate magnetic fields, which influences group actions. Looking at electrons in space, we can start to see how they interact with magnetic fields, how groups of them interact with each other, etc. Seems easy enough, but it turns out we had it wrong all the time.

SO: In conclusion, Physics is hard. We learn a lot each year, but the hardest part is un-learning what we’re sure we knew last year.

Popular Science – Solar Freaking Roadways

So there has been a ton of discussion lately about Solar Roadways (I’ll ping a friend who has a blog The Non-Working Cat if you haven’t heard this Meme)- and oddly enough – the Fermi Paradox. I think I’ll link the two together, ’cause thats the kind of weird thinking you expect from me.

Lets look at Oklahoma, I used to drive there all the time. I40 kinda sucks, huge blocks of Portland cement which aren’t level anymore, cracked all over the place, the drive goes “THUMP thump THUMP thump” for 200 miles. Portland Cement is probably the only thing ever developed which may potentially last forever. It is essentially a man-made rock. Nearly identical to the locally found rocks placed by the Romans to build their roads which have lasted (though not through cars) for a thousand years.  Cement, placed in blocks of sufficient thickness, can withstand 50 years of heavy driving conditions. For its cost, best road ever.

They put in an asphalt road to my old house in Normandy, Tn. It lasted a year before it washed out. Tractors ruin the heck out of mountain roads, really hard to build a 5′ drainage substrate and support structure on the side of a mountain. Turns out that a little damage and boom, the natural environment takes it away. 50,000 bucks down the drain. Should have used cement I guess.

Solar Freaking Roadway…

Solar Freakin Roadways !

1) There isn’t a clear substance anything like cement.
2) Light absorbtion during the day isn’t enough to glow all night – Hell, buy a garden light and test it yourself.
3) Light absorbed can’t melt snow. (Hilarious to even think about. Why isn’t this on roofs? Oh, because it doesn’t work. Snow – oddly enough – is opaque and solar cells get no juice.)
4) Well, the road heating… would get people killed. They don’t heat roofs because it causes ice-sheets which can float on water (like river ice) this is really dangerous stuff to drive on, and if the roof-line breaks they slide off of houses killing people.

The list of reasons the solar road breaks physics is lengthy and silly. But who cares, really. If you want to spend your money on a glowy brick, you do that. Beats minecraft.

Here is the rub. Good ideas don’t always work. Just saying, “science will solve these problems” doesn’t make it possible. Sometimes Physics is a bitch. 

The (Enrico) Fermi Paradox can be stated as “Where is everybody?”
Basically, if you figure there is life some percentage of the time, then the sky should be full of life. Got it? They also postulate some levels of tech, where people build Dyson Spheres and finally take over their whole galaxy turning it into a private dynamo for their civilization.

So, why haven’t the Evil Robots come to take our sun, build a mirror array around it, and point it at some distant star?

‘Cause Physics is a bitch.

Here is the real answer to Fermi’s Paradox. Tech level 1 (taking the whole value of energy on your planet) may exist, Tech Level 2 (taking the whole energy of your sun) probably doesn’t exist. Tech Level 3 is magic and does not survive applications of physics.

There is no real energy-efficient way to move power over light years. We could bang on it all night, and your only real answer would be “magic” or “Black Holes” – which, given our lack of understanding of them right now, is really a scientific word for Magic.

1) 1000 light years is all we really see.
    Like an astronaut looking down at Europe, it all looks green to me. (Hit google map, knock off the drawn-in lines, run out to 50 miles to the inch… hard to spot us, ain’t it.) Of course, at night it is easier, so we’re looking for what amounts to light polution at light-years distance.

If something interesting is happening 2000 light years away, we don’t know about it. I don’t mean that we’ll see it in 2000 years, I mean that the light from those stars doesn’t get to us. The scale of stellar activity is too small. In some cases, the Light/Noise ratio might let us detect a planet, but … the local 1000 light years is a mess. That is our neighborhood and we should get used to it.

2) There is nothing – NOTHING that they could do to a galaxy that we could determine was caused by intelligent life. “Oh, they wrote the alphabet with stars.” (only a close galaxy and then I hope Spiral isn’t one of their letters.) If a Tech 3 exists Somewhere out there, (obviously not locally) it probably can’t do anything we’d know wasn’t natural.

3) The speed of light, the distance of a light year. Real Physics.

A light year is far away. Our solar system is only light minutes across. (Oort cloud… well, technicalities) We’re not talking Light days here, or even light hours.

Assume we had “perfect engine.” I put in enough fuel to move me to 99% light speed. (Whee) and travel to something interesting, say Sigma Draconis. So, 40 years later, I’m there and back. I’ve met strange new creatures and travelled new places. I’ve still spent so much energy that I could have built gold bars in a cyclotron for less.

Yes, information will then flow, but how long would it take to hit all 2500 local stars? More importantly “How much additional information comes from each star?” After a few thousand, we’d pretty much be tired of that shit and moving on to black hole basketball with cyclotron gold balls.

And out of 400 billion stars in the galaxy, we wouldn’t have hit many of them. To be on someone’s “to see” list, we have to assume Millions of advanced civilizations. millions. Using the usual calculations, there are probably thousands of advanced civilizations in this galaxy. we just ain’t neighbors.  

3) The big wrap-up

I was watching TV last night and an alien invasion used designer viruses to program humans. The amount of crazy pants here is overwhelming, but this was their best infinite replication machine. (I’ve designed better during a stomach bug.)

Physics (and Biology) are hard and don’t actually let you make an “Existential Conflict-O-Mat” Just because you want one. Just because our Sci-Fi writers believe super tech should be possible, it might not be. Probably isn’t. Heck, half the things our physicists believe today HAVE to be false, as they contradict each other. Dark Side of Higgs

4) I love Physics, but it is definitely different than magic. Engineering is hard, requires a ton of work and shows that everything breaks down: in ways you don’t expect and faster than expected. Only stars and planets appear everlasting and that just shows how little we know about them.

Let me check my notes