Saturday, January 22, 2011

Goodfellas

Did you know that Henry Hill- the main character portrayed in the movie by Ray Liotta- has his own website?  If you want, you can buy stuff there.

Maybe I'm in the wrong racket.

Danger: Passing Gas Hazardous to Your Health

No.  Not really.  But making jokes about someone's flatulence may get you stabbed to death.

What a Super Nova looks like

A thousand years later.  This is a picture of one that happened in 1006.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c7/SN1006.jpg/600px-SN1006.jpg

Combinations

There are times when a thing just won't stand on it own.  It needs to be combined with something in order to make it work.  Like a BLT sandwich.  Bacon alone just won't do.  You've got to add something to it in order to make it work.  Naturally you want bread for your sandwich.  But bacon and bread is too plain.  You need to add something.  Here's where the tomato comes in.  Slice up your tomatoes and now you've got a sandwich.  No, you forgot the lettuce.  It is BLT, remember?  You need to add lettuce to make it Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato.  How about a condiment for that concoction?  I would prefer mustard, what would you have?  Mayonaisse, perhaps?

This seems like a silly post until you consider that this is a principle.  A thing doesn't stand on it own.  It needs to be combined with something to make it work.  Any other examples?  Nah!  I think it is self evident.  I won't waste the time.  It's true and everyone knows it.

What the heck did I just say?

Update:  1/22/11 approx 10:45

Actually, the above is in reference to using a combination of launch strategies in order to get something into position in space.  For example, to get stuff into LEO so that it can be launched on a mission to wherever.


Let's say use an airship to get crew to space, use Quicklaunch to get bulk materials and use VASIMR to tug it all to someplace far away.  Each strategy would be allowed to play to its strengths so as to minimize cost and maximize capability.

Again:  What the heck did I just say?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hidden Inflation

I noticed this in my bar soap.  It seems to be a lot less of it than there used to be.  Price increases are hidden in this way and then later, they will be more overt.  (Hat tip: Instapundit)

Makes you wonder what's up with gold.  If inflation is rising, why is gold falling?  Something is wrong here, boss.

Don't let the light blogging fool ya

It may not look like it, but I stay pretty busy working at this blog.  For instance, I've been reading and studying "Floating to Space" by John Powell of JP Aerospace.  Also, I've been working on a parody song that I may put to music and video via Xtranormal.  This stuff takes effort to do and a lot of time.  In the meantime, blogging suffers a bit because this is a one man operation and I'm it.  I can only do one thing at a time.

If JPA (JP Aerospace) is successful in their concept, it will have big ramifications.  The chief of which is that space will then become commercialized and more than likely, colonized.  Think of what that could mean if it were to happen.  It will change human history in ways we can't even imagine now.

If Bussard's Polywell device works, same thing.  It might well be useful to review what I've posted on the next big thing.  I believe that it will be energy related because if the energy problem isn't solved, nothing else will likely be either.  It is my opinion that the entire economy going forward will depend on solving this problem.  If a solution isn't found, it won't be good.  The solution could come from nanotech or biotech- but there is a definite solution that doesn't require an entirely new order of technological advances.

That is, space exploration.  It is not considered to be the case, but that is only because of conventional wisdom getting in the way.  Space can be conquered if the will exists.  At present, there isn't any.  Not from the population at large, nor the politicians.  There are entrepreneurs working on the problem though.

It is also my opinion that if we rely on the government to do this, we may have a long wait.  It has been an essentially government run operation for the last 50 years, yet here we are still stuck in low earth orbit.  If we wait for these guys, we may never get there.  The best we can hope for from the government is if they don't get in the way.  That prospect is anything but guaranteed.  To the contrary, that is the big hurdle: getting the government out of the way.

Update:

I hereby explain my use of PHD in my label PHD an attempt at erudition or wittiiness.  It means Piled higher and deeper.  It is poking fun at excess cerebral nonsense.  It is also an attempt at being honest.  Even though I think I am a pretty smart guy, I know I'm not nearly as smart as I think.  But at least I am humble. lol

See also conventional wisdom.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mining Asteroids Too Hard?

In a post that I'm studying a bit, I have come to a few preliminary conclusions that it is too hard now, but perhaps not later.  Launch costs have to be reduced eventually, or we all stay grounded indefinitely until it does.

He uses a mission cost of 600 million dollars in his example.  But he doesn't break it down into its various components.  How much for the mining equipment and launch costs separately?  What can realistically be reduced?  What can be improved upon?  The yields for the mission seem low.  You don't want to go all the way out to an asteroid and only mine 43 million dollars worth of the stuff.  You have to have higher yields or it doesn't make sense.  That would be true even if you got launch costs way down.

It may be hard to mine asteroids profitably at these assumptions.  Maybe the assumptions are all realistic.  If so, even in the best cases, and with launch costs much reduced, we still may not see much mining of asteroids.

The yield is too low.  Can you do any mission like this for 43 million?  Even with lower launch costs?  I was thinking of a yield of half a billion and launch costs much lower.  That would leave plenty of room for profit.

Catepillar drives

Remember the movie "The Hunt for Red October"?   It was about a new submarine with an advanced propulsion system that was so quiet, it couldn't be detected.  This made it a great military threat, so the good guys, meaning US, had to figure out a way to deal with the threat.

Well, I was perusing JP Aerospace's blog and they appear to be working on an MHD, which means a magnetohydrodynamic drive or catepillar.  This is going to be their rocket motor that takes them to space. Well, I am only guessing that this is the case.  What I read is a number of posts on the subject of testing an MHD.  The name seemed to ring a bell, so I did a bit of digging around and found this site that explains what it is.

I don't know how this will turn out, but it should be interesting.

Obama's rise in the polls

At least that is what they tell us.  As you see, I am somewhat doubtful of this.  But on another level, it may make some sense.  He appears to be tacking right, which seems like towards the middle.  This may satisfy enough people on a superficial level to convince themselves that things are going to get better.

But are they?  I think it is all a part of the shell game that the politicians play.  They just have to fool you long enough to get your vote.  Then they are home free.  But you can't "fool all the people all of the time", so eventually this strategy will run out of time.

People are too easily fooled.  Until enough people wise up, this stuff will continue to work.  Things won't get better until enough politicians feet get put to the fire long enough that they will really have to do something that improve matters.  I don't think that has happened yet.  Nor will it if people allow themselves to be gulled into believing what the politicians want you to believe.  We have a political system of the politicians by the politicians and for the politicians.  "We the people" are asleep, while our masters rule over us.

Gold moving to the downside

This puzzles me a bit.  Bloomberg is attributing it to improving economic conditions, but I am doubtful of that. Even if conditions are improving, inflation will soon rear its ugly head.  The Fed has put way, way too much money into the system to do anything but create inflationary conditions at some point.  It's baked into the cake, so to speak.  The only way to avoid inflation is to have a slow economy for a long time.

But that would support the idea of deflation, which I think isn't going to happen either.  There's this tug of war going on between the inflationists and deflationists and maybe that is what moves the market in the short term.

The long term trend is intact and until the underlying circumstances of that change, there is no reason for me to believe that anything fundamental has changed that will affect the trend, which is upward.

There are those who believe that the Republicans will control spending.  That may be true, but look what happened in the lame duck.  A budget busting stimulus is what happened.  As long as we have a government which is selling the idea that "stimulus" is going to do anything but add to debt, which is what the real problem is, then nothing has changed.  That's true regardless of who controls Congress.

By the way, this has nothing to do with this post- I use "cheat you fair" in the labels because I saw that in the movie "The Blues Brothers".  Like everything, I am skeptical about everything, including markets.  It's kinda of a joke, but like all humor, it has something of truth behind it.  Besides, I like music.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The future and China

This article on Kitco is pretty much the typical thing these days.  But I remember when such talk focused upon Japan.  It's not as if the USA doesn't have it problems, which it does.  But it assumes that other nations don't have their own set of problems.  I don't believe you can extrapolate too far into the future based upon current trends.

The future is a tricky thing.  Anybody remember the budget surplus back around the year 2000?  At the time, the surplus was being extrapolated for many years forward.  But it lasted only another year or two.  Things can change rapidly and trends can change.  If predicting the future based upon current trends was all that you needed to do, everybody would get rich.  It doesn't work that way.

It may well be that China will be the next superpower and the USA will become just another country.  But I think that this kind of talk may be premature.  It looks that way from current trends, but something could be getting overlooked.  Let's wait and see before we bury the USA.

Carbon nanotubes

Development of carbon nanotubes is often linked to the construction of a space elevator.  But you need tons of the stuff for a space elevator.  Now if you were to use this material in order to construct a really strong airship, you just might have something.  In his Space Show broadcast in 2008, which I have referenced here, John Powell of JP Aerospace says he isn't counting on the development of carbon nanotubes for his airships.  

It would appear to me that he is probably correct.  His airships just won't need much material in terms of weight. Graphene can be used to strengthen plastics.  If you have enough graphene in plastic, you have a really strong lightweight material that just might make it to space.

I will be writing more about JP Aerospace in the future.

Update: 1/19/11, approx 11:45am cst

I got the book referenced above.  It has a DVD which I've played, or played most of it.  Haven't had time to read the book yet.   Just to give an idea of the kind of strength in the materials mentioned above, check out this quote (if you haven't done that already):

"It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap."

Strong stuff.
 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hurdy Gurdy Man

It was a song by Donovan recorded in the sixties.  I've spent the last hour or so obsessing on it.  Great song, by the way.  It's meaning went over my head at that time back then.  It is a very psychedelic sound, very sixties-ish.

Rather than post it here, I faved it on my youtube page.  No point in doing it here.

Well that about sums up today.  It was an artsy type of day.  You never know what spirit will move you on any given day.  Perhaps tomorrow I will get back to science.  Or business.

Blade Runner

A favorite movie of mine.  Well, actually, there are a lot of movies that I like, but this one is one of the ones I like the most.  If I had to give a reason why, I couldn't say.  The music is good too.

Japanese Candlesticks

This is a trading system which some people believe in a lot.  As for me, I have not had all that much luck with it.  I'm not saying that it is a bad system.  Perhaps there are merits in any system.  There's a way of putting it: either it's a bum territory or you're the bum in the territory.  When it comes to Japanese Candlesticks, it could go either way as far as I'm concerned.

I'm not conceited as to think that I am without faults, nor so brilliant as to think that the system isn't any good even though I may be using the system incorrectly.

Here's an interesting post at Kitco which discusses using candlesticks.  The author, Gary Wagner, believes he sees a bullish pattern.  Gold prices are up today and the news is about inflation.  This post was written several days ago, so did he accurately predict a rally with the candlesticks?  One day doesn't make a rally, but if inflation does come into the picture, a rally should be expected.  We'll see.

Quantum Leap revisited

Being a shameless promoter, I want to revisit what I wrote previously so that it may be useful to me in some way.


How so?  Why, to look smart, and to gain "brownie points" of some kind.  Frankly, I think I would prefer some greenbacks even if they aren't backed by gold.

NextBigFuture has a post covering the subject of teleportation in time via quantum entanglement.  Here's a paradox, can you be your own grandpa if you go back in time?

Paradoxes

The first paradox that I remember hearing about was in high school physics class.  I'm recalling from memory that it went something like this: In a race with a tortoise and the tortoise is given a head start, the runner can never catch up to the tortoise.  Why?  Consider this: at each point in the race, the runner will make up half the distance between himself and the tortoise.  Then afterwards, he will again make up half of the remaining distance.  Subsequently, as the race continues -he at a certain point between himself and the tortoise -will continue making up half of the remaining distance between himself and the tortoise.  But since half of the remaining distance is equal to a certain distance which is always greater than zero, he can never catch up because 1/2 of something always yields something remaining.

A solution to this paradox was invented.   (I think)  It became known as the concept of a mathematical limit. For example, as the denominator of a fraction gets bigger, the number gets smaller.  As the denominator tends toward infinity, the fraction tends toward zero.  Voila!  The concept of a mathematical limit is born, and the paradox is solved.  With the concept of a limit, the runner will catch the tortoise because distance remaining will tend toward zero.

I don't know if there is a moral to this story.  Maybe if someone gives you an impossible riddle as paradox, you can solve it if you invent something.  But your adversary who gave you the riddle in order to vex you may not accept your invention.  Then what?  A punch in the nose, perhaps?

What brought this thought on?  There seem to be paradoxes all around.  Solutions to problems seem to exist, yet the problems remain.  Is this not a paradox?  That is, if a solution seems to exist, but the problem remains, is this not a paradox?  What accounts for the lack of a solution?

Update: a few minutes later

Now these poll results mentioned in the National Review article by Jim Geraghty seem like a paradox.  How is the Tea Party responsible for what the madman does or what the Democrats say?  Yet that is my take on the poll.  Those participants in the poll are holding the Tea Party responsible for these things.  How could this poll be interpreted any other way?  Yet, I would reject that interpretation.  That would appear to be a paradox.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rocket Science for Dummies

Sounds kinda funny, yes?  They always say "it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out."  Rocket science for dummies sounds funny.  I thought it may make a good joke.  Anyway, I've been fooling around with the rocket equation and I figure I could use one of those books.  It might be easier just to defer to a rocket scientist after all and not try to figure certain things out.

I've been trying to figure out how an airship can get to orbit.  Even though I don't understand it, just fooling around with these equations and numbers gives you some ideas.  I'm too old to go back to school and learn how to be a rocket scientist though.

Fuel Cells

When looking at alternative fuels, such as hydrogen fuel cells, there exists the challenge of how to do it so as to be competitive with existing technologies.  The trick is to gain the advantages while overcoming the disadvantages in order to reach the goal of a competitive new transportation technology.

Hydrogen is the simplest, commonest element in existence.  That's good and that's bad.  The good thing is that it can be clean and plentiful.  The bad thing is that it takes a lot of volume to contain any of the stuff.  The result is that you have to compress it or cryogenically store it if you want to use it.  Whatever your gain was gets lost in transport or storage of the gas.  How to overcome the disadvantage and gain the advantage sought for?

There was this demonstration program called the NECAR which demonstrated one way of overcoming the storage problem.  The solution was to not store hydrogen at all, but to produce it on demand.  This method used a reforming technique to produce the hydrogen.  There may be a better way.  Here's another way to produce hydrogen from methanol:

NPO19948 methanol hydrolysis.pdf

 This is from a NASA produced pdf which I downloaded several years ago.  It may already be in commercial use, but I am not sure about that.  What its capabilities are, I don't know.  Some questions that I would have, if I could get it, would be this:  could this thing be an improvement upon the reformer method used on the NECAR?  In other words, could you put one of these on a car and drive it across country?  How would it perform?  Would it be economical?  Has anybody tried it?

In an attempt to answer this question, I didn't get very far when I went to the NREL site.  But one thing I did notice is that this method wasn't tested.  Why not?  I don't know.  It may have been tested in terms of producing hydrogen to be distributed to FCV's, but not actually on an FCV itself.  By putting one of these on an FCV, you can get around the problem of hydrogen storage.  This could solve the problem, but at what cost?  Could it be done and if so, what would it cost?  Would it be economical?  The NREL doesn't mention that as far as I can tell.

I noticed on the Ballard Fuel Cell Site awhile back that they may use this technique of extracting hydrogen from methanol by hydrolysis, but my casual perusal this time didn't yield quick results.  So, I don't know as of this writing whether or not they use this.

A possible experiment could be to see if you could power a Chevy Volt with a Ballard Fuel Cell combined with a methanol hydrolyzer (assuming one exists) that would reproduce the NECAR results.  It would be interesting to see if the results would be better or not.

Update:  1/17/11, approx 1:00pm cst

This 2006 article in Technology review shows the problem with direct methanol fuel cells.  The problem is the cost of the catalysts such as platinum and ruthenium.  These catalysts may be available in large quantities from asteroids or perhaps the Moon.

The above mentioned hydrolysis is a slightly different process, yet the result is pretty much the same as direct methanol fuel cells.

At any rate, you would only have to fill up at the pump as you would now.  Instead of gasoline, you would fill up with methanol instead.

One advantage of fuel cells is that they are much more efficient than an internal combustion engine.  It would require less fuel to achieve the same result.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Battle of videos

Wishbone's been putting up videos. Thinking I'll put this one up.  They play it every day on Houston's classic country western station.

The difference between success and failure

It's playoff time in the NFL, and the time to study a phenomenon which is elusive, but vital.  That is this: what makes some teams victorious and others not?  It is not necessarily so easy to determine.

Look at the Atlanta Falcons, who were the number one seed.  But this didn't guarantee success as they got eliminated in their first game.  Now compare that to the Seattle Seahawks, who didn't even have a winning record this year.  They won their first playoff game and may be able to win again.  If they do, they will be a first.  In fact, they are already a first, if I am not mistaken.  I don't recall any team with a losing record that has won a division.  Nor, is it likely that a losing team ever won a playoff game.  Yet win they did.  The point is prior success does not guarantee future success.  The opposite situation appears to be true as well.

The difference must be small indeed to allow for such an outcome.  If there is a moral to the story, it could be that you can't rest on your laurels.  Success is fragile.  But failure is too, come to think of it.

Could that be why some people believe in luck?  If the difference between success and failure is so slight, maybe its just a matter of luck.  I think luck can play a part in it.  But not all of it.  Some people can be lucky and still not be able to take advantage of it.  Some other people can have nothing but bad luck, but somehow they overcome it anyway.  Maybe the Seahawks just got lucky this one time.  Or perhaps there is some other explanation.  But whatever the explanation is, they have to play the games in order to find out who will be the champions.  The record up to now doesn't seem to matter.