Archive for the ‘Science and Technology’ Category

The Budget, Shale Gas, and Persecution

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Congressman Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget proposal has been released.  It is one of the first serious proposals as to what we would have to do if we were serious about ending America’s debt crisis.  Hint: it’s more than a $38 billion one time cut.  He proposes changing Medicare to a privatized insurance system with capped government subsidies, and turning Medicaid into a block grant to states.  He does not touch Social Security.

 

The most important under-reported story of the last few years is the emergence of Shale Gas as an energy source for America.  We have always known shale formations far underground held enormous amounts of natural gas, but recovering it was uneconomic.  Recently, Texas entrepreneurs have figured out how to tap it, resulting in an increase in our natural gas reserve of perhaps five fold.  Cheap and plentiful natural gas may color our future for a century.  It may also impact Europe by providing the West with its own gas supplies, reducing their dependence on Russia.

It also will likely delay a nuclear renaissance in America by making the easy to build and run gas plants cheaper than any nuke.  Gas plants already produce electricity cheaper than coal owing to the high capital cost of coal plants.

Environmentalists, having killed off nuclear and coal are in a panic as to how to shut down this source of energy and speed the economic demise of that Great Satan, America.

Christian persecution hit a new spike in China where Beijing cracked down on the unofficial Church.  Over there, Christians are not afraid to stand up for their faith.  This is in contrast with the American Church which seems concerned mostly with making the enemies of Christ like them, and which never speaks up on behalf of their suffering brothers in China or Moslem lands, or even the handful of American Christians willing to confront evil at home.  Witness the cases of Michael Marcavage in Philadelphia or Pastor Hoye in Oakland .

An amusing (if it wasn’t so depressing) commentary on the shallow people pleasing American Church is found on the Youtube video Sunday Morning.

Miscellaneous News

Friday, April 8th, 2011

As the nuclear disaster in Japan unfolds we are being given an opportunity to see just what a worst case accident at a nuclear reactor looks like when essentially all of the protective features fail.  Bad as it is, it pales in comparison to the initiating damage from the earthquake and tsunami.  If this nuclear disaster is an argument for no more nukes, isn’t the tsunami an argument for no more buildings less than thirty fet above sea level?

Here is an interesting confession by a well known British global warming advocate to the effect that the fears of the health effects of radiation exposure have been wildly overblown.  He points out that except for some of the workers on site, no one was killed by radiation from Chernobyl and that even at Hiroshima and Nagasaki radiation exposure resulted in no increases in birth defects.

 Now he tells us.  Former federal judge Vaughn Walker who struck down Proposition 8 and claimed to find a mandate for gay marriage in the U.S. Constitution without bothering to addressing previous Supreme Court rulings to the contrary has confirmed rumors that he is gay.  He naturally asserts that this had nothing to do with his ruling, but unlike a straight judge, Walker was positioned to potentially benefit from his own ruling, creating an appearance of impropriety.  He exhibited bias at every stage of the proceeding, including having cameras in the proceeding to facilitate witness intimidation by Prop 8 opponents (a decision overruled by the ninth circuit).  He should have recused himself, but enemies of God’s moral law have no concept of right and wrong behavior at any level.

 A member of the Orthodox Church in America complains about corruption of his church at the highest levels and compares it to the situation in the Roman Catholic Church which contributed to the Protestant Reformation.  For my part I often despair looking at our Evangelical and Catholic Church leadership and their abject unwillingness to address the moral collapse going on in this nation.  Sometimes it seems the number of major leaders willing to stick their necks out to oppose child killing, theft, the queering of our schools and our military, and many other evils can be counted on the fingers of one hand with fingers left over.  Most young people reared in our Churches leave them as soon as they can, judging them to be worthless or irrelevant.  The overall Church, like our nation and the world seem ripe for convulsive change.

 This Professor of Religion at Boston University opines at CNN’s religion blog that the budget deadlock and government shutdown are not being driven by the Tea Party’s supposed financial focus, since the dollar differences are so small, but by abortion, since defunding Planned Parenthood is the deal breaker.  He sees this as horrible, but I see it as encouraging.  It means the Republicans don’t totally see us social conservatives as potted plants, which is nice for a change.

Japanese Nuclear Situation

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

The post tsunami reactor problems at the Fukushima group of four GE designed Boiling Water Reactors is much in the news.  The best source for accurate up to date information I have found is nei.org.    Good diagrams are available at this NRC site.

  Apparently, after surviving the earthquate which was seven times more energetic than that for which they were designed, the operating units shut down, there was a loss of offsite power, and the emergency diesels started properly.  Then the tsunami arived and went over the tsunami wall, flooding the site and disabling the diesels.  This left the site with no electical power.  Like all nuclear plants of the current generation (Generation II) the Fukushima plants require electricity to remove decay heat from shut down reactors to prevent fuel damage.

After operating at power, the Uranium oxide fuel in reactors fissions, building up an inventory of highly radioactive fission products.  Some of these fission products are gases like Xenon while most is solid material like Cesium and Iodine.  All of it is first contained in the fuel by a metallic cladding made of Zircolly. and assembled in a cylindrical core made of may vertical fuel rods.  This is covered with water.  In the case of BWRs, boiling takes place in the core and steam rises to the top of the reactor vessel where it goes to the steam turbine to make electricity.  So the highly radioactive fission products are contained first by the cladding, then, if this fails, by the reactor vessel, and finally by the containment structure.  Spent fuel assemblies containing large quantities of fission products are also stored in pools of water outside of the containment structure.

Without electricity, pressure builds in the reactor vessel until relief valves open and the water blows out as steam until the fuel assmblies in the core are uncovered.  (With electricity they would just pump in more water.)  When uncovered, the Zircolly cladding heats to 2200F and reacts with the steam forming Zirc oxide and Hydrogen, and allowing all of the gaseous and some of the solid fission products to escape the fuel into the reactor vessel.

In an effort to recover the fuel the Japanese are apparently using fire trucks to pump sea water into the reactor vessels.  To get the water in they must vent steam (now containing lots of gaseous and some solid fission products, and hydrogen) into the atmosphere.  At first they vented it into the normal square building that covers the containment building, where the hydrogen mixed with oxygen and exloded, destroying the top part of the square building.

So most of the fission products are still in the core.  The gaseous fission products are being released to the atmosphere every time they have to vent the reactor vessel to reduce pressure enough to be able to pump in more sea water.  This accounts for the periodic increases in radiation and periodic short term evacuation of workers.  These gaseous fission products “shine” radiation on people as it passes them but being inert gases are not absorbed by the body, and eventually just blow away and are diluted to safe levels in the air.  This is why they tell people nearby to stay in doors and let it pass.  At Chernobyl, there was a fire in the graphite matrix of the core which propelled massive quantities of solid fission products into the air as smoke.  There is no graphite and no similar mechanism in this Japanese case.

The spent fuel pool in Unit 4 is variously said to be either empty of water or not empty of water in conflicting reports.  If the spent fuel rods in the pool are uncovered they can also fail, releasing fission products directly into the air.  This is where they are having helicopters try and drop water into the pool.

It is reported that they are trying to  bring an electrical cable into the plant to resore electrical power which would allow some normal safety equipment to placed in service.  This has to be done to get control of this situation.

The political fallout of this should be interesting.  We are about to see a major multi-reactor accident in a country with standards like ours where essentially all of the redundant safety features fail.  They failed of course because they were subjected to an event far beyond that for which they were designed, but we will see what really happens if all that stuff doesn’t work.  I predict that the answer will be “not as much as you think.”  They just had a major earthquake and tsunami that wiped out entire cities and killed at least 10,000 people.  even more are dying from cold, thirst, and starvation right now.  Yet when all is said and done, there will likely be no one in the civillian population killed or noticably injured by the radiation.  So if the worst case nuclear accident comes to pass and kills no one outside the plant, is nuclear power really so much more dangerous than everything else we do in modern society?  Is it more dangerous than building cities near the coast?

A tale of Two Dogmas

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Energy consumption defines our present standard of living.  The average American today has the energy equivalent of ninety slaves working for him.  Half of the world lives on a small fraction of this, and they want to catch up.

Split that energy consumption roughly in half.  Half goes to transportation and is essentially petroleum.  Commerce itself runs on diesels and gas turbines for all practical purposes.  The other half is for electricity and industrial processes.  This is powered by coal, natural gas, hydro-electric, and nuclear, with so-called renewables (wind and solar) bringing up the rear.  Keep this picture in mind when you see artful pictures of an idyllic future of happy citizens riding bicycles under windmills with rolling green hills in the background.

Decisions concerning the energy future of the world are some of the most important decisions being made in our time.  Unfortunately, they are being made by people whose minds are the prisoners of two dogmas.

The first dogma is that of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).  This dogma holds that (a) world climate is warming significantly, (b) this is due to human activity, principally CO2 emissions from burning hydrocarbon, and (c) the consequences of this warming will be so bad that it is worth serious economic disruption to avoid.  All of these points are debatable, and I do not personally pretend to know where the truth lies.  I do think there is reason to question whether continued high levels of CO2 emission is a wise course for mankind.  I also think the economic disruptions needed to achieve the needed reductions if the AGW people are right would themselves be cataclysmic and would likely lead to political upheaval and war.  That many of the AGW proponents have a not-so-hidden agenda to ride AGW fears to establish some kind of global tyranny is, in my opinion, also true.  (But however evil their motives may be, this tells us nothing about the truth or falsity of AGW theory.)   My final observation is that their proposed solution of windmills, solar cells, and conservation, even if fully implemented, would at best slow and not prevent the arrival of the future of their fears.

This brings me to the second dogma that controls our decision makers’ minds, absolute and unshakeable opposition to nuclear power.  This opposition is based on things like Chernobyl and TMI, and features endless recital of problems with nuclear power as if the alternatives were problem free.  It often sounds like people opposing the Goodyear Blimp because of the Hindenburg disaster.  Emerging nuclear technology, especially in what are called Generation IV nuclear plants, promise practical solutions waste disposal, proliferation, and accidents, while promising reasonably priced power for a growing world for the next thousand years, all with no CO2.  The so-called “traveling wave” reactor design is especially interesting and has attracted impressive private backing.

In my opinion, many of the people pushing the AGW dogma oppose nuclear for no other reason than that they won their political spurs shutting down the nuclear industry in the 1980s.  They cannot admit they were wrong then and still argue they are the only people who know anything now.

With the EPA and now FERC asserting unconstitutional powers to crush the economy with their ill-conceived AGW rules (which will only move carbon emitters from America to China) I fear we are in for a rough time.

 Note:  Here is a page of excerpts from my book EMPIRE to give you a taste of what’s in it.


 

Atheism in Science

Monday, December 13th, 2010

This article wonders why only 6% of scientists are Republicans.  This other article explains it.

The prevalence of atheism or near atheism in the scientific community is one of the unhappy but important features of our time.  Many or most of the pioneers of the scientific revolution where Christians who saw the scientific endeavor as closely tied to their belief in the Creator.   However, since the time of Darwin this has changed until most scientists now see belief in God as disqualifying one from being a scientist.  Any scientist who even suggests that Darwin’s materialistic view of the universe can be questioned is excommunicated.  This is known as a “scientific consensus,” and is enforced by “peer review,” denial of tenure, and defunding.  Some might call it group-think.

You can sort of see an innocent way that things got to this point.  Obviously, a scientific approach can only consider naturalistic causes.  A scientist has to assume experimental results are caused by impersonal mechanistic laws even if supernatural agents were actually involved.  This assumption is called methodological naturalism.  However, to go further than this and say that the supernatural does not exist is philosophical naturalism.  It may be easy for people steeped in methodological naturalism to think that science has disproved the existence of the supernatural, but when they do, they are confusing their assumption with a finding.  If in your science God is ruled out as a ground rule, you cannot at the same time claim that your science has disproved God.

But even though it is easy for the philosophically challenged to make this mistake, our scientist friends are not completely innocent.  It is also attractive to man’s fallen nature to believe we have a means of gaining God-like knowledge that makes us little gods, far superior to those little non-scientists with whom we must unfairly share the road.  As Satan said to Adam and Eve, “You shall be as God, knowing good and evil.”

The recovery of science from the corruption of atheism is one of many tasks before the Church.

Wow

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

I have been skeptical of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming but have not taken a real strong position on it.  After all, just because proponents of the theory have corrupt personal, political, and financial reasons for pushing it doesn’t make it incorrect.  It would take me years of study to come to an independent conclusion on such a complex matter.  But the recent resignation letter of Harold Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of California Santa Barbara, from the American Physical Society has hit the internet like a bombshell.  Here is the blog I copied it from, and here is the letter:

Dear Curt:
When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago). Indeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence—it was World War II that changed all that. The prospect of worldly gain drove few physicists. As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time. We were further enabled by the presence of an oversight committee consisting of Pief Panofsky, Vicki Weisskopf, and Hans Bethe, all towering physicists beyond reproach. I was proud of what we did in a charged atmosphere. In the end the oversight committee, in its report to the APS President, noted the complete independence in which we did the job, and predicted that the report would be attacked from both sides. What greater tribute could there be?

How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:

1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate

2. The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer “explanatory” screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is. This is not fun and games, these are serious matters involving vast fractions of our national substance, and the reputation of the Society as a scientific society is at stake.

3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.

4. So a few of us tried to bring science into the act (that is, after all, the alleged and historic purpose of APS), and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. I might note that it was not easy to collect the signatures, since you denied us the use of the APS membership list. We conformed in every way with the requirements of the APS Constitution, and described in great detail what we had in mind—simply to bring the subject into the open.<

5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members’ interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. You did ask the members if they would sign a petition to form a TG on your yet-to-be-defined subject, but provided no petition, and got lots of affirmative responses. (If you had asked about sex you would have gotten more expressions of interest.) There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. (Any lawyer will tell you that you cannot collect signatures on a vague petition, and then fill in whatever you like.) The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council.

6. As of now you have formed still another secret and stacked committee to organize your own TG, simply ignoring our lawful petition.

APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?

I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people’s motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.
Hal

Gulf Oil Leak Just Beginning?

Monday, June 28th, 2010

This article in Petroleum World contains informed speculation that the BP oil leak may get much much worse.  (Other experts apparently disagree, and I have no way of knowing.)  The writer suggests the massive methane pocket could explode like an underseas Mt. St. Hellens, spewing toxic gas and sending tsunami destruction around the gulf.  You may wish to put off any plans to visit the area.


 

Two Science Articles of Note

Monday, June 14th, 2010

1.)  Asked by ABC’s Diane Sawyer if science and religion could be reconciled, famed physicist Steven Hawking stated “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”  By “science” Hawking means atheistic materialism and by “religion” he means belief in God.  But wasn’t the whole point of this interview to invoke Steven Hawking’s authority on this question?  So who is relying on authority now?

2.)  “Just as Einstein’s ideas would baffle a chimpanzee,” said President of the Royal Society Lord Martin Rees, gaining a full understanding of how the universe works might not be possible “simply because they’re beyond human brains.”  Lord Rees points out that a fish swimming in the water lacks the ability to understand what water is, and speculates that man may be similarly limited in his ability to understand the universe.  Brilliant scientists have been trying to reconcile the theories of Special Relativity (dealing with really big things) and Quantum Theory (dealing with really small things) for decades with zero progress.  Extrapolating, we might expect to solve this riddle…never.

The quest for God-like knowledge and a “theory of everything” is folly.  As God’s creature, man is granted limited but real understanding and knowledge of the world sufficient to do good things and in so doing, honor his Creator.  Efforts to “be as God, knowing good and evil” lead only to mischief.