Show & Tell at Dragon Con

As I was pointing out to a fellow scientist – this isn’t a “Mad Science Project” it is a “Creative Resource Redistribution Device.” Yeah, it is part of my mad science street-CRReD. Give me your money or I’ll … destroy the world? Perhaps, at least the tri-state area. hey, Dr. Doofensmirts is my hero. (I want a nemesis.)

Ok, so the Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow are thinking on some CRRDs. Something unique for D*Con. There was a concept for a real Science Faire, but … well… there are too many weirdos who show up. I’ll not have someone torturing puppies and calling it a science project for my show. I may discuss some real work, but I’ve got a lot of limitations on that. I can talk in broad terms about some associated particle detection devices, neutron generation and detection, real science.

So I guess I have a couple questions for the audience. Mainly: What do you want to see? I think Dr. DNA, Granade, and myself can talk about “Failures in science” a bit. I’d like to rain on some billion dollar budget failures that we have lauded in the past. (No, I won’t go on a Global Warming rant, there is a difference between science failures and fraud.) Solar power, wind power, wave power – those aren’t science failures. The attempts to model the future of temperature is laudable…if poorly done. Sucking a billion dollars out of public coffers and giving it to your friends is fraud. 

A great example is the National Ignition Facility, which I love, but which does not produce what it was designed to do. Of course, neither does the Princeton Tokamak or frankly any other fusion facility. Heck, funny story. A young cadet performed a huge study of a neutron detector to get it properly calibrated to measure output at a fusion facility I shall not name. Afterwards, (as the second half of her senior thesis) she compared her calibration to actual results at the fusion facility.  Weirdly enough, the very carefully calibrated detector showed a whole lot of ZERO at the facility. (Much less than their internal and apparently badly uncalibrated system.) Apparently, their system detected the presence of electricity in the detector circuits, not neutrons in the lab. She had no idea why her detector “decided not to measure” that day. … Yeah. Poor kid. At least one of the fusion experiments the government is pouring money into is producing less neutrons than the average banana.  

You know what is really sad? I was trying to get my PhD in fusion. Can you imagine spending your life in that field? That is like a PhD in Bigfoot spotting and UFO analysis, only it doesn’t play as well for Reality TV.

Ya know, I think that is what we’ll do this year. Science Track, the reality TV Show!!! (I’m sure I’m crazy now.)

The Engineer’s Baby – Emotions

I’d like to talk about emotions today, because a lot of people don’t understand them. As a scientist and engineer (yes, both) I study everything. What the heck are these “emotions.” First off, let me tell you what they are not. There is no background environment for emotion. In other words, if the tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it… nobody cares either. If you feel happy, it isn’t because the background level of H+ is high, it is because your mind/body interaction decided on happy.

But not to focus on “simples.” If you feel that you should wear a nice outfit to work you have made a decision. It is actually an intellectual decision. You have weighed factors such as Dress Code, Peer Approval, Comfort, Desire to Display Status, and built a matrix. Then you weighted each of the factors – dress code is important, so x2, Peer approval is about the same as comfort, maybe status gets a X3 when you know you will see the boss… I don’t control your weighting factors, but maybe you don’t either. In the end, you build a matrix with these values, for each of your outfits on the bottom, and the ranking of each outfit depending on the weight factors across the top. Then you EMOTIONALLY adjust each of the weight factors. In the end, you chose an outfit. You FELT like wearing the suit on Tuesday. You FELT like wearing jeans on Friday.

Ok, so picking out clothing is actually a complicated intellectual endeavor, but so is everything. Emotions are how we determine our responses to complex inputs. Which is why Geeks exist. Why are geeks poor at social interaction when they have the same ability to use emotions as everyone else? Because most of us in the science fields have a “better” use for our emotions.

You have seen me make a number of predictions and discussions on the blog. I have spend my life applying the emotional matrix to scientific problems. Our minds walk down the mathematical paths, but figuring out which path to travel is a guess. Our history, thousands of hours of research, tens of thousands of hours of experience, and our specific knowledge from the problem at hand suggests multiple solutions. I am rarely given a problem with only one solution, often the problem has dozens, but I can usually FEEL which solution is going to give the better answer. I can feel when a project is doomed, because people are choosing low probability of success options. I can feel when a project is BS because the science/politics ratio crosses 1. It basically feels (to me) like a bad relationship. One side is doing all the romancing, the other side is reading porn on the internet.

Yes, any scientist could cure his lack of social skills with a bit of study, but frankly the insanity of the “normal” people make it hard. People make all sorts of decisions with … poor … understanding of the reasons they are making them. People are frequently irrational, showing out, uneducated, or simply unintelligent. Trusting people usually ends up biting you in the ass. It is easier to satisfy your emotional needs with an interesting scientific problem than to deal with people.

So, I’ve been married – twice – and still trying to make the second one work. The strains of kids in college, high school, and diapers doesn’t help. (Or the fact that I tend to marry crazy women, something I’ve had to come to grips with.) I’m still trying to raise my current baby right. How much should she depend on those weird “social” emotions, that women speak so highly of. (And then weirdly complain about, as if society was stuffing those emotions down their throats.) My older daughter appears to have escaped, I may ask her advice. Despite the fact that she is an artist, she appears to be sane. Maybe some level of geeky-ness helps.

In any case, here is a picture of my bundle of joy. She decided to get up at 3 am last night, she looks none the worse for wear. I think I do: wide staring eyes, exhausted. (oh, thats Pinky Bear, not me laying there dead on the floor, I guess I’m not that stylishly dressed.)


The Recent Coronal Mass Ejection (Solar Storm)

Dr. Woozley warned me Friday that there was a high probability for a huge CME – thats a coronal mass ejection – over the weekend. A CME is when the sun throws off a chunk of hot gas, possibly weighing more than a planet, and the temperature is enough to blow out electronics in space and mess up the magnetic field enough blow out electronics on the ground. This really is in my job description, so I went to work. I didn’t report anything on here for various reasons, but after some research, I didn’t worry as much as he did.

Why? Well, lets take a look at I recommend everyone take a look at the sun everyday, and since I like my eyeballs, I use the web instead. Right off the top their x-class flare warning was 15%. (big worry) I looked at it and guessed about half that, but since the CME was hiding behind the sun, I went ahead and took their numbers. Ok, better than 1 in 10 of a big event. So, How big? I looked at the previous events, some previous years, and compared some magnetic field strengths, and decided that an X-class wasn’t going to top 3 on my scale. (A Carrington event is an 11, but the usual number we use for comparison is the October 89 event, a solid 9.)

Ok, so a 3 on my scale can shift the Kp index pretty solidly a few points, if we can get Kp above 5, then we are set for a badass geomagnetic storm. Something we would need to be very concerned about. I checked the current Kp… and it was 1. Well, a 3 storm and a 1 Kp … might make it to 4 Kp. One storm just doesn’t really affect the Kp very much, usually a set of storms, a week of bad space weather… it just didn’t look like it. Ok, so no geomagnetic storm.

How about a solar storm? Below is a picture of the sun during the Bastille Day solar event. A classic 3 on the Hawk-scale.

Image from the SOHO spacecraft of the intense solar activity on the sun taken Oct. 27, 2003, at 9:24 a.m. EDT.

Next is a picture of the sun today.

Now, I’ll agree that the sun’s magnetogram LOOKS like a butterfly chart. With a couple high-density regions (1723) which could produce a particle-rich event. But it just doesn’t have the “feel” of the hot sun of the 89 or 2001-2003 time period.

Current sun magnetic field diagram:

This is a butterfly chart:

AND, since solar maximum is ON NOW, any major solar storm this cycle produces will be produced in the next two or three years.  But… the sun isn’t selling me on a major storm. I decided that while there was a possibility, I’d say it wasn’t going to happen at sufficient energies to cause a major worry.

Now, there was a solar event which did produce a good amount of protons and Kp in the 4 region. There is evidence on the far side that we could see more of these and the geomagnetic field could get a good charge. If it keeps up or gets worse, I’ll be in touch.

However, the aurora in Alaska is lovely, I wish I were up there this week.

Serious Times

Hard to be light-hearted when a tyrant is threatening to send a nuclear weapon. There are a lot of places he could send it, I suppose I’m personally safe, but I like Japan, Seattle, … I don’t particularly like LA, but I don’t think it deserves to be blown away.

Picture: A view of Hiroshima, one month after the US dropped an atomic bomb on it.

Frankly, there is a lot of damage a small fission weapon could do in knowledgable hands. I guess we are lucky that the losers in NK don’t have any of those hands. I also suspect that this is all a ploy to get the Venerable Senator and Secretary of State J. F. Kerry to send them more money. Kerry doesn’t really care about solutions, he isn’t that type. He just wants to make sure that nothing interesting happens on his watch. If that costs a billion or so, it isn’t important to him.

Sen. John F. Kerry testifies before longtime colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing to become the next secretary of State.

Picture: JFK testifying before the Senate that we need a “less militaristic foreign policy.”

Understand that no doing something today is worse than making the wrong choice. NK, today, has one or more nukes that probably can’t be missile launched and a handful of missiles capable of reaching our shores. In four years, maybe five, they will have a dozen weapons and twice that many missiles. How many will we have to stop? All of them, of course. A dozen weapons could devastate the West Coast, Japan, and possibly strategic locations. If four years of negotiations get China on their side, we might face a retaliatory strike of over a hundred weapons. What if Iran manages to improve its rockets and NK, China, and Iran become the new Axis, reaching into South America for further allies. Kerry could be the man who decides the shape of WW III. It isn’t a comforting thought.

Given that today is Euler’s birthday, we should celebrate with a Venn Diagram of some sort. I can’t think of one but it should show that WW III would be caused by the intersection of US weakness in response to threats and the ever growing desire of failed regimes to steal more money from us in order to prop up their power for a few more years.

Summer Convention Schedule

Phoenix LogoAlabama Phoenix Festival – May 24 – 26 – Birmingham Alabama.

I know some of my friends will be here, so I may go ahead and show up. I originally was going to be in Alaska, but once that trip was canceled, I was happy to help out. They got me signed up for all sorts of things -some panels, some games, maybe a show, but now I’m apparently down to running one game when the schedule permits, probably not Saturday. Lets be honest, at this point I’d rather not go. If I wasn’t going to be hanging out with Zen… I might not bother. There is an SCA event that weekend and I’d rather cook breakfast for 200 people than be bored in a hotel.

If somebody is going and has a decent reason I should be there, ping me or something. Otherwise I think I’ll make other plans. I had a good time at SCI FI SUMMER CON Atlanta, so maybe I’ll try them again. Worth thinking about.

Peace Through Superior Firepower

Lasers on Ships – This is lovely.

Now as I, or any self-respecting engineer, would tell you. This laser isn’t very powerful. I mean, i can take a purple hand-held laser and cook a hole in a paper airplane, light a cigarette, or set gasoline on fire. This laser is … 100,000 times more powerful than that. (but still pretty wussy.)

The biggest sea – danger these days are runabout boats. Basically 1000 Horsepower diesel engines strapped to a plywood gun platform. Their safety was that people have a hard time drawing a bead on a bouncing target moving at 70 knots at an angle to their bouncing platform moving at 30 knots. A rough shot, but a laser has – in computer time – roughly a million years to line up a shot at a gas line. Five seconds later the liabilities of stacking 1/2 a ton of flammable items on your boat becomes apparent.

Drones are a lot tougher than paper airplanes and puppies are cuter than zombies … ya know … Is this is the lowest hurdle you’ve soared over today? Drones catch fire… this indicates that they are not made out of titanium. Modern aircraft are frequently made out of such things as titanium, steel, carbon fiber composites, and rarely aluminum. All of which aren’t catching fire anytime soon with a 100 kwatt laser. (But 20 years ago, 100 kwatt would have been a big improvement over what we could get into the lab.)

The fact is, this is a spiral development. The problems with fielding a laser are being tested … even if the laser doesn’t really fulfill the mission we want it for. The bigger lasers are in development. They may be 20 years away, but someday we will have them, on ships, poking holes in missiles and fighter jets. It really is a game changer…but not soon.

In the next decade, ships that throw shells 100 km at 7 kps will be common. Spare nuclear reactors will be put into future ships, so that they can install rail guns and lasers. Ships will, of necessity, harden themselves to incoming missiles and aircraft; killing their opponents from far over the horizon. Year after year, war advances to the drumbeat of technology. Alfred Nobel knew as much 100 years ago. Luckily, the drum is in our hands. Sleep well and dream of a safer tomorrow.

Evil Geniuses for a Better Tommorrow (EGBT) – Dragon Con 2013

Dr. DNA has suggested an Evil Projects… sort of a science fair for the EGBT inclined. I’m going to spend some time working on a brain in a jar.

Also may help him produce his DNA mixer – and margaritta maker. I think it produces a Pandagator if used properly…and an alcoholic beverage. My Brain in a Jar will show how good life after the de-body process can be. I hope I still have my artist on this, some latex work will be necessary that might be beyond my simple skills.  I can make some awards for the best evil project.

Global Warming in the Economist

The Economist “A sensitive matter

I would suggest, that any reasonable person looking at the heating rate would say something like. “Perhaps we should wait ten years to see how this temperature excursion is going before making any huge changes.” It is clear that the trends do not favor the models. Note that the models look a lot better than they are. The actual “prediction” stage begins after 2005-ish. All the “good fit” areas are from Post-diction, predicting the future when you already know it. The honest truth is, after the models were started, the warming trends ended. Between 1975 and 2005 the Earth appears to have net warmed about 0.5 degrees Celsius. I don’t know why this occurred, but I suspect that CO2 may have contributed. The predicted feedbacks did not occur.

People have gone to a lot of effort to convince me/others that the science of warming was good, but frankly CO2 was only good for a limited amount of warming. A nigh-infinite amount of CO2 added to the atmosphere only adds about 0.1 to 0.2 degrees of heating. Some of the warming is due to “bad math.” Which is increasing the effective area represented by some measurements while reducing the area of others. Given the huge areas represented by only a handful of thermometer, especially in the arctic regions, this can bias results significantly. Between bad math and bad siting of temperature measurement devices, almost half of the heating might be dismissed. Some heating must also be attributed to the sun. The extremely active sun from the late 80’s through 2001 might have had some warming effect. I’m not certain the extent, but 0.1 to 0.2 degrees is very reasonable.

So, where are we? Why would anyone want to fake global warming?

Governments need money. That is the raw measurement of power. Power to improve people’s lives, but the power to control them. Good or bad, this is true about all governments. All of history is about the government’s efforts to find more ways of taking money away from people, partly so that they can be the heroes and give a percentage of that money back. Taxes on Carbon, Taxes on fuel, regulations – a double tax, the government must hire people to oversee each regulation as well as receiving a fee for forms/license/etc. There is always a reason for more taxes, more regulations, more government employees to protect us.

The university professors back these government agendas because there are millions of dollars spent at their universities on these kinds of studies. Columbia (just as an example) is a huge government studies aggregate. They are making millions studying global warming. Of course, they are making a lot of money studying all kinds of things, but Global warming is “Hot” right now. In the past it was DDT, Ozone Holes, Global Cooling, whatever. Just another business I wish the government would get out of.

Just remember, it is an emergency right now to “fix” global warming for ONE reason. In ten years, they are just as sure as I am that there won’t be a recognizable problem. They will take your money now and in ten years they won’t be giving it back. They’ll just hem and haw and find a new distraction to run you after. “Look, bison are 20% less fertile, this probably means the end of civilization in just 50 years!”

(Yes, i stole that from Fermilabs April Fools Page.) Look, the government is going to be the government. You can’t expect them to grow a moral code that requires them to actually do their jobs and stop trying to steal your money. Governments have been behaving that way since Sumerian times, sooner or later there will be a revolt and we’ll just have to start over. Till then, just don’t get stampeded like a herd of bison. Use your heads. If it sounds like a ready-made case for government intervention… then expect that it is a scam. It usually is.

Zoo Pictures as Promised

Not sure how many pictures you will see without clicking the MORE link. This is my trip to the Memphis Zoo. Plus a lot of pictures of animals…my wife won’t let me take a picture of her.

I am rocking the camel rides.
 I make this look good.

Baby D was deeply unimpressed by the elephants. “from what Pooh said, I thought they’d be bigger.”
(note the “daddy-proof shirt” It has markings for Head goes here, arms go here, snap this closed. I really appreciate it.)

In the Chinese exhibit, I re-enact a scene from Fat Ninja.

Baby D raises her pinky finger when drinking from a bottle, she is so delicate.