Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fundraiser idea

Yeah, this one might be radioactive.  Once you get the idea that you are trying to raise money, that is almost guaranteed to send people running in the opposite direction.

Well, it would be for a good cause.  Meaning that I won't get any of the money myself.  Hmm, that sounds a little funny once you think of it a moment.

Let me restate that.  It would be a nonprofit idea.   Now that's something I'm good at.  This should be a cinch.

Here's the idea.  I have this page on Facebook called People for Space Colonization.   I even have a link to it from this page, imagine that.  Anyway, I would use that as a fund raising page in order to fund Dense Plasma Focus as a means of space propulsion.  Yes, but that would be a violation of that page's rules that I wouldn't ask for money.  Well, technically speaking this would be a violation of that pledge.  I could refer that page to this one, so that this page could do the actual collections.  Maybe I can keep that pledge by having the actual fund raising done here. 

It would then be a matter of legally setting this up as a nonprofit entity that raises money for this cause. 

As of this moment, I have only 5 other people who like that page and perhaps a comparable number of readers on this blog.  It would appear to be a hopeless cause, so I don't know if I will go plunging into it.  I need some feedback on that.  So, consider this as a trial balloon.

I would publicize it by a Facebook page that I used for this page a few months back.  This could get a lot of pageviews, but not necessarily anything else.   Well, folks.  Here's a chance to do something concrete and meaningful for a cause.  If you like it, give me some feedback.  If it looks good, I will put it into motion.  If not, then so much for that.

Why do I do it?  Because it pleases me.  Just like the Ricky Nelson song I mentioned awhile back.  You can't please everyone, so you just got to please yourself.  I'd be interested in doing it.  Let me know if you're interested.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bill Joy: Why the Future Doesn't Need Us

This goes into my sidebar for interesting reading.  It is a cautionary piece about how our technology may turn on us.  It isn't new.  There are plenty of such stories.

One of the more famous ones is Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton.  I read one of his other famous books, The Andromeda Strain.  One thought in that book stands out in my memory: should you do something just because you can?

The Terminator movies follow the same line of thought.

But there is another way of looking at it.  By denying ourselves the benefit of technology, might we also be inviting disaster?  The fact is, one does not always know the best way to proceed.  Doing nothing may be better or it may be worse.  You don't really know in advance.  Ascertaining future events is a very tricky business.   I know, I've tried it.

Political and market reporting

Gold and silver prices have been going up recently, so I took a look at Kitco commmentaries and see if I can get a handle on what's going on.

This essay was pretty downbeat and fits a mood that I've been having lately.  It confirms my opinion that the politicians are failing to come to grips with the problems and may even be making things worse.  I would call this a fundamentals type essay in that it covers the fundamentals for markets as opposed to technical analysis.  It makes the case for higher precious metals prices in the future on the basis of poor economic and political conditions, in which I tend to agree.

Another essay is of the technical variety.  I like to read this author as often as practical, as I think his commentaries are pretty well reasoned and tend to be useful.  To put it succinctly, he believes that the market is at a key point right now and could rise or fall from here, but the situation isn't clear yet.  This may appear to be saying nothing, but I think it does because the situation is always fluid.  Things may be bad, but maybe they are, or maybe they are even worse.  We don't know yet.  As far as I can tell, technical analysis is based upon crowd behavior and the so called wisdom of crowds.  The crowd may know ahead of time what may happen.  You can choose to believe that or not.  Not everybody thinks that technical analysis is any good.

I read recently that a deal may be in the works with respect to the current budget battle in Congress.  This is key.  If the Republicans fail to get a grip on spending, it will be downhill from here.  There shouldn't be any deal at all, unless the deal includes some very steep cuts in spending.  The whole reason that the Republicans are in power right now is for this very reason.  If they fail to do it, they may as well quit being a political party because they are totally useless.  According to the Constitution, the House has the power of the purse.  They don't have to increase the debt by a dollar unless they say so.  So, if they increase the debt, it will be all on them.  Anything that they do to avoid using their power, such as appears to be the case, will show them unable to meet the challenge.

This reminds me of the failure of Arnold Schwarzenegger in California.  He came into power with a lot of big talk, but he failed to deliver.  In the end, he was a complete failure.  The same could be happening to the Republicans now.  If they don't get truly steep cuts, they will have failed.  The Tea Party should split off and form a new party if at all feasible.  If not, there should be primary challenges even more ferocious than the last round.  This pressure cannot go away until they do what's necessary.  Making deals with the Democrats is not necessary.  It's the Democrats who need a deal.

Brian Wang

He writes for the blog NextBigFuture.   It is on my sidebar, and has been one of my favorite blogs for several years now.  One thing about this blog, if you like something, better bookmark it fast.  He is a prodigious writer, and the post can get lost in the crowd of posts.

It so happens that this post about catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells got my attention.  As anyone who has read this blog is aware, I've written about the topic on numerous occasions.   This particular concept looks very promising, but I think that fuel cells have reached the point of economic viability already, as I have written.  Something needs to happen in order for it to go mainstream.  This concept can help a lot, but I think something else is needed too.

I noticed that it took 40 years from the time of the first automobile to be produced before it went mainstream.   That is a very long time.  Hopefully, it won't take 40 years for fuel cells to catch on.  What would it take to make it catch on?  Economics would help.  But energy starvation that the environmentalists are attempting is not the ticket.  Pushing prices down enough might do it, but what if you reach a limit?

I was thinking of, but not completely serious about, making a prototype of a fuel celled powered vehicle.  It would be a conversion from a conventional gas powered vehicle to a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle.  I think that the risk is too high for me to take this on myself.  So, I won't be doing it.   It would cost a lot of money.  Maybe over 100,000 dollars.  Maybe not that much.  The fuel cell alone would cost about 40k.  Then you would need batteries and so forth.

I think in order for a conversion to work, the market has to be penetrated by manufacturers first.  This will get the fuel cell prices down to a manageable area.  At that point, it might make sense to do conversions.  But not yet.

Last of the Superhero videos

Here's the video that completes this story.  The playlist of all six are on YouTube.

A little more about who I am

Anybody reading this might wonder why I am interested in cars and the space program. 

It so happens that I have a little work in experience in both fields.  I have an older brother who is an accomplished auto mechanic, and when I was young, I thought I'd try it myself.  I worked in this field for about 3 years and discovered that it wasn't for me.

From that point, I went back to school and got my Bachelor's of Science in computer science at the University of Houston.  My grades were good actually, but it didn't translate into a computer programming job which was my goal.  I did have a brief stint with IBM NASA while the Space Shuttle software was still being developed.  It wasn't a permanent job, just what they called a "co-op".  Maybe it could have worked out on a permanent basis, but it didn't.

Not long after I graduated, and not finding any work, I began driving a truck.  And pretty much done that for a living for the balance of my adulthood.  I must have put on more than a million miles of driving.  So, I think I know something about driving, and little about auto repair, a little bit about computers and programming.  I think I've already mentioned my experience with trading, so that explains my interest in markets.

While in high school, I had some interest in music, but also found that I'm not so good at that either.  I like it though and would like to somehow incorporate that into what I do here.  So far, the only thing creative that I have managed is some Xtranormal videos.   I am something of a movie fan and I often think of alternative endings to movies.  Not that I want to try this someday, but it might be interesting.   I try to put some internet friends on this blog when I can.  An old high school friend has a link in my product page.  He has had a music career, but I don't think he exactly became the Beatles, but I think he produces good stuff.

As far as politics go, which rounds out the interests covered in this blog, I have become, shall we say, disillusioned.   When I go for something, I tend to be gung ho.  I've always been somewhat more conservative than average, but that turned far more conservative as I got older.  But these days, I don't know who to believe anymore.  It's not that I blame conservatism per se, but it seems that most conservatives don't match actions with the words.  They talk the talk, but won't walk the walk.  I could never be a Democrat, and especially, very especially, a liberal.  These people a morally, ethically, and mentally corrupt as far as I am concerned.  The only way to deal with them is to be firm, which is something that Republicans don't seem to be able, nor willing to do.

So there you have it, in case you are interested. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

NASA can't afford fusion propulsion research

But it is being forced into spending money for a project that is going nowhere.  Great job.

What I was looking at last night

The Nissan Leaf , that is looking at it on the Wikipedia.  The Leaf comes with a 24kwh battery pack.

I'm looking at what kind of combination of fuel cell and battery that you would need to make it an all electric vehicle.  It looks like if you were to fit it with a 20 kwh fuel cell, that would fill the bill for most scenarios that you may encounter while driving.  Here's a chart to illustrate it


The most challenging scenario was on the highway with the a/c running and outside temperatures in the nineties.  As you can see, I added some notes to the far left.  The discharge rate for that scenario is 19 kwh per hour.  With a fuel cell of that capacity, it should be able to keep the battery charged while driving under these conditions.  All other conditions are easily met.

Nissan believes it can reduce production costs of the battery in half.  That would put the battery cost at $8000 per car.  Given that Nissan is already absorbing this cost, then halving the cost of the battery would still allow it to be sold for the same price, presumably with a profit.  What about the fuel cell?

Here's an estimate of the cost per kwh of a fuel cell from a page that is undated.  The claim is $225 per kwh according to the DOE.  For a 20 kwh fuel cell, that would cost $4500.

If you used the Ford configuration, with only a 25 mile range ( 8 kwh battery), the cost of the battery goes down to about 2500 dollars.  A 20 kwh fuel cell could keep this battery charged as well.

If you were to meet Ballard's estimate of the mass produced cost of a fuel cell,  which was 73 dollars back in 2005, the price of the fuel cell drops to $1460.  The latest numbers for this estimate (50 dollars) are here.

These costs are not at all prohibitive.

The cost of the electrolyzer may not be possible to estimate here.  Let's assume that the electrolyzer is left out and the electrolysis takes place at the refueling station.  At that point, you can buy the hydrogen for $2 per kg plus the cost of compressing it or cryolyzing it.  Let's say that doubles the price.  It would then be $4 per kg.

If you get 60 mile per kg, the operating cost would be $4.00/60 mile per kg, yielding a cost per mile of 6.7 cents per mile.  That compares to 16 cents per mile at $4 gal gas for 25 mpg conventional car.  Every mile would save 9 cents in operating costs.  That means $9 thousand for every 100,000 miles.

Assuming the sale price could be held at 32000 dollars, which may be possible under mass production, the vehicle could be economically feasible.  Whatever the reason for it not being built, it probably doesn't have to be economic.


When you are going somewhere, does it make sense to go the longer way if a shorter way is available?  The shorter way is a shortcut, of course.  If you don't know a shortcut, you are out of luck.  But if you do know a shortcut, and you don't take it, why not?

It seems to me that shortcuts exist.  Either people don't know them, or if they do, insist upon taking the longer way.  What could explain the latter?  Mere stupidity?  Or some advantage or disadvantage not known about? 

I'd like to think ignorance or stupidity is the only obstacle in the way of discovering solutions.  Stupidity and ignorance can be overcome.  These can be overcome because they are passive adversaries.  Malice is not so easy.  Malice is active, always inventive, always cunning.

Politicians are full of it

I think this is universally true.  Doesn't matter what the politics are, that is, in terms of party affiliation, they are all full of it.

The trouble is that people in general don't know this, or if they do, don't care.

Even if you were to find a solution for this, it may not work because of indifference or apathy.  When those are not present, then stupidity takes over. 

I am violating the rules for popularity.  Don't tell people that they are rotten.  Then they will be offended, and won't love you for it.  lol

That's the answer for the lack of popularity of this blog.  It's not that I'm wrong.  It's the way of the world.  If you want to succeed, you better be as rotten, or more rotten than anybody else.  If you try to be good, you will get nowhere.

Having written this, it would be helpful to point out that a little good exists.  But it is a damned wonder that anything good exists at all.  If there was anything good, people would not be grateful for it.  Just look around.  With all the good that does exist, there exists a whole bunch of morons who are trying to undo it.  And still more who are trying to prevent anything else from happening that would improve the situation further.

But there are others who would swear up and down that they are trying to do good.  If you cut through all the bull, you might find some grains of truth in that.  But most, if not all of it, is baloney.

Why all the negativity?  After studying the issues that I cover here, I am convinced that solutions exist, but the powers that be don't want them.  And the people in general are too stupid, apathetic, or cowardly to do anything about it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I still think that Palin shouldn't run for President in 2012

I am a bit reminded of a scene from the movie "Little Big Man" where Gen. Custer asks the opinion of the "mule skinner" with respect to the enemy presence.  Custer outsmarts himself in a ridiculous fashion.  In a similar fashion, I think conservatives may be outsmarting themselves by deciding to run against the polls that don't favor Palin.  Here's a description of the scene from Wikipedia

Jack suddenly hears the faint chords of the traditional cavalry tune Garryowen echoing through a valley and spots Custer and his troops marching nearby. Jack decides to exact revenge. Custer, who remembers that Jack once tried to assassinate him, hires him him as a scout, believing anything he says will be a lie, thus serving as a reverse barometer.

Any attempt to look at the polls as anything other than what they are is reminiscent of this scene. If the polls are seen as a false barometer, the Republicans will be outsmarting themselves.

There was a writeup in USNews with respect to a potential Palin run.  In it, the author references Palin's debate with Biden in 2008.  I took a look at that again and it shows why she should not run.  Not that she was dumb, or performed badly, but that she pretty much had to follow a script because she was already damaged goods.  This is the same thing that happened to Quayle after the vice presidential debate in 1988.

Once damaged, it is hard to recover from it.  She really couldn't be on her own in this debate.  If she was on her own, then she did indeed perform badly, in my opinion.  She needed to put up a better defense of free market principles and not lay the blame for the housing crisis on Wall Street.  That played right into the hands of the Democrats and all but guaranteed their victory.  This is not to say that Wall Street behaved well in this financial meltdown, but that Washington had a lot to do with it too.   The Democrats were successful at shifting blame away from the government onto Wall Street.  That was a tactical blunder which was probably decisive.

A stronger candidate could have avoided this.  Some of this blame belongs to McCain as well.  For choosing her in the first place, and also not offering a more forceful defense of capitalism and a more forceful criticism of big government.  This was an especially weak ticket.

Freedom of Speech

This is tough to write because I don't like any infringement by government upon liberty.  But there are times when the media is harmful in the way they report events.  There's a write up about the nuclear troubles in Japan at NRO  which make me wonder sometimes about whether this freedom is always a good thing.

You see the media is a business enterprise.  They have to make money.  But people need information and it needs to be accurate.  There doesn't seem to be a way to get around the fact that the media can influence public opinion anyway they want.  If that power is abused, we all suffer for it.  In this case, when the media hypes a problem all out of proportion to what actually exists, they are not performing a public service, but instead, are performing a public disservice.  It's times like this that makes me wonder if the media should be regulated in some way.

The impossibility of that, regulating speech, prohibits that idea.  Short of that, what can you do?  Here is the media hyping the nuclear problems and they are going to make it difficult, or maybe even impossible to meet future energy needs because of this type of reporting.  It may be regrettable that we may have to depend upon rather imperfect ways of getting our energy, but to block all access to energy because of some risks involved in the means of getting it, is counterproductive to say the least.  At some point, the counterproductive reporting may have its consequences.  The consequences is that we may lose that which we take for granted, including the right to speak freely.  All could be lost if the times become desperate enough.  Better to avoid that scenario than to help bring it on by irresponsible reporting.

I remember the Chernobyl accident and the reporting of that time.  What struck me about it was the hype.  The initial reports were that thousands were dead.   We now know that number was highly inflated.  It may well be that whatever comes from this will likely be reported to be much worse than what it really is.  And that what makes it reprehensible.  Energy is such an important part of our lives.  It is vital that the public have accurate information about it.

What kind of storm are you?

These quizzes are fun, so I took this one.

You Are a Thunderstorm

You are a bit temperamental and unpredictable. You have a lot of pent up energy.

You don't strike often, but when you do it can be deadly. You can be extremely destructive.

People find you to be amazing and awesome. You can be a bit scary at times, but that just adds to your appeal.

You tend to get other people excited whenever you're riled up. You aren't usually the only storm in town.

The way to get rich

I like Walter Williams.  He has an article here, in which he explains the lunacy in seeing silver linings in disasters, such as Japan's recent earthquake and tsunami.

He discusses Bastiat's "Broken Window Fallacy", and how it can explain how people are not better off, because they are poorer after such an event.  For example, instead of having a window and a suit, the man having to replace a broken window now only has a window.  Someone else may be better off because of his misfortune, but he is clearly not.

Paul Krugman even thought some good would come from the rebuilding after the 911 attack.  This got me to thinking.  All we have to do is to destroy the entire country and that way we can all get rich from having to rebuild it.  I guess Rush Limbaugh would say that this last statement demonstrates absurdity by being absurd.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Water Scarcity

Did you know that today was World Water Day?  The map there distinguishes between physical scarcity and economic scarcity.  If it is economic scarcity, it means that adequate supply is not economically feasible.

The map is a bit odd in that it shows that all of Vietnam, water is economically infeasible.  How can that be?  Rice is grown there and it requires lots of water, if I am not mistaken.  How can it be economically feasible then and not be massive starvation?  Rice feeds those people, if no water, how do they eat?

Texas is seen as pretty dry.  Maybe they haven't been to this state often enough.  Parts of this state are in drought conditions, but that is more of a weather phenomenon.

What does this have to do with energy?  To my knowledge, Saudi Arabia uses it oil wealth to desalinate a lot of seawater so as to have a plentiful supply of water.  If energy supplies are abundant, so is water.

Hugo Chavez

Capitalism the reason for no life on Mars.  Very funny, Hugo.  It is rather funny once you consider that capitalism and socialism are cousins in one sense.  Both systems depend upon the rationing of scarce goods.  The difference is how the goods get rationed.

Under capitalism, the goods gets rationed under a market system.  The market system relies upon prices, which implies the ability to pay.  Socialism, on the other hand, depends upon the state to ration goods according to an arbitrary judgment of the few who get to make the decisions about who gets what.  Neither system challenges the basic notions of scarcity.  This is what makes them cousins, in my opinion.

If capitalists got there first, and ruined it, it would only be because they beat the socialists there.  If the socialists got there first, they would have ruined it first. Chavez is doing a good job of ruining Venezuela.  The capitalists hadn't ruined it yet when he took over.

Another small course correction

This is a bit of an announcement.  I am removing Instapundit and Memeorandum from my political blogs sidebar.  The reason for this is that they are really not that good, in my opinion.  If it is too political, it isn't any good.  I consider politics as a necessary evil, but the noise level doesn't have to get too excessive.  In the case of those two blogs, the noise level is higher than it need be and so I am dropping them.

After linking this post, maybe I shouldn't be too hard on Glenn Reynolds.   But he is political, and that makes him wrong sometimes.   Not that there's anything wrong with being political, just don't let it cloud your judgment.

Cheap source of gas

I've been thinking about that problem and it occurred to me that people throw away tons of waste all the time.  This waste can be used as an energy source, provided that someone finds a way to do it.  The same is true on the farm.  Inasmuch as there is plenty of hydrogen in this waste, it seems that there should be a way to harvest it and use it to make ammonia as described in an earlier post.

A short bit of history

The last post got me to thinking about the Model T Ford.  The thought occurred to me that if the Model T wasn't invented, the modern automobile's popularity may not have reached the level that it did.  The secret of the Model T was economy of scale, which drove down costs, and made the automobile affordable for the masses.

Just for my amusement, I looked up the history of the internal combustion engine.  This is really not new.  Some form of internal combustion engines have been around for a long, long time.  It is true, though, that innovations improved the basic design, but by 1908, when the first Model T rolled off the assembly line, automobiles were still not that popular.

The Oil industry had been around for decades.  Spindletop may have made a difference, because it was so productive.  Cheap, abundant oil couldn't hurt the enterprise.  The process had to become self sustaining.  Evidently one success builds upon another.  Other wells begin to come in and the oil industry boomed.  The oil industry combined with a cheap automobile, propelled the automotive industry into economic dominance.

Another element necessary for the mass market was the construction of roads.  Without good roads, the new autos had nowhere to go.  With mass production techniques mastered, a cheap and abundant source of energy, and with it, the rising popularity of automobiles, it became politically possible to get support for the construction of roads as a public enterprise.  Everything needed for the success of automobiles was in place.  And so it was.

So, in short review, it was an affordable machine and an abundant source of energy that made automobiles affordable for the masses.  Then political support became possible.  Without affordability, it couldn't have caught on the way it did.  If nobody used mass production techniques the way it was used in the Model T, the modern automobile may never have become what it did.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Things like this

Are what I'm talking about.  This is a four year old article which describes how to make hydrogen for a fuel cell. With respect to sewage treatment, that is.  How much is this method being used now?

If this method would be employed in a generalized way, it would increase demand for fuel cells and that would create a market for them.  The larger the market, the more that economies of scale can reduce their costs of manufacture.

To be or not to be

That is the question! Let's see how StrangeBrain figures this one out.

A small course correction

Just changed my header slightly.  I moved the description of the blog so that it appears below the picture of Houston with the caption, "Houston, we have a solution".  It is now below it instead of above it.  I added one more line to the description which states, "Proposed solutions to the Energy Problem."  I think these changes update what the blog is about right now.

I want to focus on energy solutions to the energy problem.  I think there is an energy problem, but I also realize that this is not necessarily universally agreed upon.  Maybe the problem is a political problem, not an energy problem.  At any rate, whether it is energy or political, the way it is going to be solved will have to involve politics on some level.

I left the rest of the description intact because I don't want to make too many big changes in the appearance of the blog or otherwise.  This is a small change, but it is significant enough for me to want to write about it.

Arts and sciences are the means to the end.  The end is towards solutions.  So these can stay.  I hope these changes can convey the message better.  But it doesn't mean that there will be interest in it.  That remains to be determined.

Hydrogen from sewage

Here's a source of hydrogen.  Let's say that hydrogen is converted into ammonia, which can be transported anywhere conveniently.  It can then be put into autos which can electrolyze it back into hydrogen for fuel cells.

Or, the ammonia could be used to power buses.  The idea is to avoid using a lot of energy to put it into a convenient form.  The in situ electrolyzer will convert it back into hydrogen for the fuel.

By using sewage, a cheaper form of hydrogen can be obtained which will "kill two birds with one stone".  First, clean up the sewage, and two, produce a clean fuel for transportation.  But there's an additional reason.  That is to provide a market for fuel cells which enable mass production, and thus lower costs.  The more this technology is adopted, the greater the possibility of mass acceptance in the market.  Hopefully, it can remove the obstacle of high costs for fuel cells and electrolyzers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Greatest Story Ever Told

I watched that movie last night.  It was the first time I saw it.  It seemed rather tame in comparison to Mel Gibson's version.

Wikipedia's discussion of it struck me.  It seemed to be more about controversy than the film iself.  That discussion seemed weird, frankly.

I don't get the anti semitism charge.

People's reactions seem to confirm to me that people just can't handle the truth.  The version just mentioned above was less about the crucifixion than about what led to the event.  Gibson's version was the opposite.  At any rate, the crucifixion itself had to be pretty brutal, after all, it was fatal.  The crucifixion is what made it all meaningful.  If it wasn't for that, the story would have been forgotten.  But this is what people don't want to see or deal with.