Saturday, November 28, 2015

The new new job

Just as I was about to give up, I've been hired on a project to improve the safety of the local roads.   Many aspects of this are super complicated.   Hopefully this will save some lives.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Eggbeater boats

While helping cook for a bake sale, I noticed something while whipping cream.   The eggbeater that I was using had induced a current into the cream.   This current continued even if I withdrew the eggbeater.

Coastal waters suffer an issue in which between the nutrients leeching from farms, and the nutrients in the nearby sediment, develop harmful algae blooms, choking all of the life out of them.

What if we got a large fleet of boats with underwater paddles.  At a coordinated time, all of the boats activate their paddles, causing a massive wave of outgoing water.  The coast is drained, then re-flooded with deep water as the wave comes back.   This "flushes" the coastal water, removing the harmful algae and sending the nutrition to the deep ocean, where it can do more good.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Now I'm 35

When did that happen?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Solar Concentration

When I was a small child, I loved the game Simcity 2000.  This game, by Maxis, posits you as the mayor of a city, who is tasked with designing the city and helping it grow.  One major factor, which also applies to real life, is energy use, as your city is not satisfied to live in primitive times, and expects electrical service in all structures.   The use over time is also simulated, as a city in 1900 only wants to light up the night, then power grows as radio, television, personal computers, and other things get developed.  Power use tapers off in later years, as the various gadgets get more efficient.
Simulated mayors had multiple options for electricity, just as actual cities do, and each had their advantages and drawbacks.  For example, coal was very cheap, but polluted your city with thick black smoke, and people thought it was sort of ugly, so it was bad for nearby property values.  Nuclear power worried people.  Solar and wind were environmentally friendly, but had low output that sometimes didn't work at all, plunging the entire city into darkness.   Fusion power was the ultimate, but the most interesting option was orbital solar, which the game called "microwave" for some reason.
As described in the flavor text, "microwave" power consisted of having an orbital satellite, which orbited the earth, gathering power in giant solar panels, and firing a power-transmitting laser into a collection dish in your city.  The power plant mostly existed as a place to fire the laser, and convert that laser into power that your city could use.  It was kind of expensive, and the flavor text warned you that the laser could possibly misfire, resulting in some random building (typically near the plant itself, the laser is trying to hit the right spot after all) being baked until it exploded.
 What if we powered cities this way in real life?   The satellite would have to be orbiting the equator, in a geostationary orbit, in order to be in range of the city at all times.  The alternative is to have a large number of satellites, and a complicated schedule establishing a duty cycle, in which the satellite closet to the city is charging the plant, while the others are storing up additional power.  Of course, the satellite would have to store up enough power to fire for 12 hours with no sunlight, because half of the earth is by definition experiencing nighttime.
 It would be green, and fascinating, but also difficult, cumbersome, and with some nasty consequence if anything went wrong whatsoever.  Still a better idea than half the things we're currently doing for power, though.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Our Hollow Earth

It's been brought to my attention that 11 years ago, an architect made a mad plan to give us more space.  To be specific, seven Earths of space, using the materials of the earth itself.  Just one problem -- the original earth would be completely destroyed.
Specifically, the plan was to drill into four spots in the equator, and have it pumped up four space elevators, producing an ever-growing ring around the earth, which would be expanded over time into a giant hollow shell. As this worked, the sky would darken, gravity would shrink (due to more of the earth being above you than below you), and everything would slowly get moved up. Halfway through the process, all of our nature and civilization would have to be moved up to the hollow surface up top. Finally, the shriveled up earth collapses, raining down on the inner surface, providing it with the atmosphere and water it needs to survive.
 Other engineers have pointed out just a minor rub in the plan.  Namely, the nickle-iron substance of the mantle that he was planning to use as the primary framework could not withstand the strain of an object that big, and would collapse.   With some slight reenforcement from asteroid-iron, it could survive that, only to get ripped apart by the lunar and solar tides.   Ultimately, a stable lattice would require materials that have not yet been invented.
It's clear to me that eventually, we will need more space than the earth has.  Every idea, even the completely crazy ones, will help.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Antilogic Gates

Computers operate through a very large number of very tiny electrical gates.  There are six types, though we currently have a proof that shows how if you have a particular one of them, NAND, you can simulate all the others.  (This makes manufacturing much easier.)  The six types are:

* AND gate
Take two inputs.  If both of them are true, then return true.  Otherwise, return false.

* OR gate
Take two inputs.  If at least one of them is true, return true.   If both of them are false, return false.

* NOT gate
Take one input.  Return whatever the opposite is.  So if the input is true, then the result is false, and if the input is false. then the result is true.

* XOR gate.
Take two inputs.  If one of them is true, and one of them is false, then return true, or else false.   This stands for "Exclusive or," so one or the other ,but not both.

* NAND gate
Like an AND gate immediately followed by a not gate.  If both inputs are false, then return true, otherwise return false.   NAND stands for "Not And."

*XNOR gate.
Like an XOR gate immediately followed by a not gate.  If the inputs are different then return false, but if the inputs are the same, return true.  XNOR stands for "Not Exclusive Or," in a rather roundabout fashion.

Using these six gates, all computer instructions are encoded, as an example, the half adder, which gets chained together to do all basic arithmetic.

However, I notice that much reasoning in the world isn't based on logic, I've decided to reverse this principle.   With much tinkering, I have created sixteen antilogic gates, to better simulate the spontaneous arguments that pass for reasoning in our courts and government buildings.  I have the following:

* Red herring gate
Take two inputs.  Return ad-hoc conclusion that has absolutely nothing to do with either input.

* Excluded middle gate
Take two inputs.  Conclude that the output somehow caused the second input.  Handwave away all complaints that this makes no sense whatsoever.

* Ad homenim gate
Take one input.  Return massive rant blaming all the problems on the world on some aspect of that input.

* Petito Principii gate
Take two inputs.  Return an argument at length that the first input is the cause of the second, and vice versa.   Handwave away all complaints about this.

* Middle ground gate
Take two extremely different inputs.   Argue that the position between the two is the actual correct way that the universe should be.

* Ad hiterlium gate
Take one input.   Return a comparison between the input and a wildly despised public figure.

* Strawman gate
Take one input.  Return a massive rant that first wildly distorts the input, then mocks it as stupid.

* Tu quoque gate
Take one input.  Return rant accusing the input of being somehow hypocritical.

* Bandwageon gate
Take one input.  Return argument claiming that the obviously false parts are popularly believed, and conclude that the popularity somehow makes them true.   Other parts of the input are then reported without further adjustment.

* Cherry picking gate.
Take two inputs, the first one representing a desired conclusion, and the second one being a body of evidence.   Discard all parts of the evidence that don't support the conclusion, and return only the parts that do.

* Single cause gate
Take multiple inputs.  Return rant claiming all inputs to be connected through single massive conspiracy.

* Incredulity gate
Take one input.  Return rant insisting input to be false.  Rant tends to be especially absurd when input is obviously true.

* Assertion gate
No inputs are required, but this can be connected to up to two inputs.  Return rant making wild (and possibly absurd) conclusions.  If any input challenges any arguments previously made, return that argument again, this time with an added note insisting that it is true.

* Appeal gate
Accept two inputs, the first must be from a mood ring, and the second from another logical gate.   Return passionate argument about the second input, asking for special consideration for, depending on the state of the mood ring, fear, wishful thinking, flattery, ridicule, spite, novelty (or in opposition, tradition and nature), wealth or the lack thereof, or even speculation into the motivation of the second input.

Starting with two incredulity gates chained together with a switch to form the antilogic equivalent of RAM, I had a genetic evolution system design an full fledged computer, capable of text output to a monitor, and input through a keyboard.  While the most interesting  results would be from a computer that was primarily composed of traditional logic gates and had a few antilogic based operations, as a proof of concept that this worked at all, I would first have to construct a pure antilogic computer.

Based on the results of the genetic evolution, I etched a circuit board, and 27 ICs, which I arranged according to the instructions.  It accepted an ATX power supply, a USB keyboard, and a VGA monitor.  I then switched it on.

The computer operated slowly, first examining the RAM, and writing a short rant claiming the RAM to be made entirely out of sheep.   It then ended with the claim that this was still acceptable, on the grounds that the moon is made of cheese.

It then displayed the word "Loading," and paused for a minute.  Then a large rant appeared, at about one character per second.   The computer started off claiming that the color purple represents evil, then concluded that itself (which it called "The Antilogic Computer") was the cause of the world's problems, starting with the creation of the Illuminati. Attempts to type in that the Illuminati were disbanded for over 200 years before the computer was created caused a pause in the argument, only to be summarily dismissed..   It reported that pants were in fact leaves, and these should be returned to our streets posthaste.   Then it vitriolically insulted itself for about ten minutes before exploding.

While I managed to extinguish the fire before it caused too much damage to my lab, my notes have tragically gone up in flames, and the insurance company has asked me to discontinue all future research into this topic.

Friday, September 4, 2015


Teleportation, the idea of moving from point A to point C without traveling through the space between, has been around for thousands of years, the first recorded claim of teleportation coming from Buddhist history, in which the Buddha was reported as teleporting between his home in India and Sri Lanka, and later back.
Two kinds of teleportation have been identified in fiction.  In one, the item to be teleported is broken down into its component atoms, typically to translate it into energy or a fast moving signal, and reassembled on the other end.   People have pointed out that this means that teleportation of a person is killing them to replace them with an identical clone that has the same set of memories.   If this kind ever exists, I think that I will not teleport myself, but that it will become routine to teleport objects.   If I buy something at the hardware store, rather than put it into my car and drive it home, I will teleport it directly home, and then drive there alone.   Vehicles will only be required for the transportation of living things.  This would be a big advantage to me, since sometimes I buy things at home improvement stores that are very difficult to fit in my smallish car.
In the other, space is bent, causing an extreme shortcut between point A and point C, the item to be teleported is pushed through this shortcut, thus bypassing all the point B that is in between the two.  The space is then un-bent.  Since the item remains intact at all times, it would be safe to teleport people using this system.   This may have some strange energy requirements, and repeatedly bending and un-bending space can't be good for it.
In any case, either of these teleportation systems would revolutionize the world forever if done reliably.  For one, transportation is now obsolete for anything not alive.  Sure, your factory could pay a truck to haul it to the store, as is done now, but it will almost assuredly be cheaper to just teleport the widgets over.   The transportation industry's loss will be the rest of our gains, as this will mean lower costs, which could lead to lower prices if the extra money is not simply absorbed as extra profits.
But more noticeably, space travel.   The international space station was painstakingly built over years, with many rockets each hauling up one additional part until today's current structure, the size of a football field, was in place.  With teleportation, the entire structure could be built on earth and then teleported into orbit.  Even if the teleporter had to supply the difference in potential energy, which seems like a certainty if there's anything realistic about this at all, this would cost far, far less than all the rockets that were required.   If you're using the reassembling type, the astronauts would then have to travel up by rocket, but when they arrive, all of their food, tools, scientific equipment, and computers are all already in place.   If you're using the portal method, the astronauts could just directly teleport to the station, and rockets would be obsolete.
And space colonies could be constructed on earth's most brutal deserts, like the Atacama desert on the Peruvian/Chilean border.  When we verify that the station is able to sustain human life, it's then teleported to a distant planet, such as Mars.   Humans arrive there, either by rocket or portal, and teleporters allow the exchange of goods between earth and the colony.  Even if energy can't be directly teleported, fuel or charged batteries could, and if signals can't be teleported, then UUCP commands over a small, say, USB stick, could.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Easy come, difficult go

Lost the factory automation job yesterday when I accidentally mis-measured something , causing a very large, very expensive thing to wreck itself. 

If you need me, I'll be back home.  Trying to dismantle space-time itself.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Light and Heavy

I've been thinking about two things that commonly have the adjectives "Light" and "heavy" attached to them.  Specifically, rail, and industry.

While light and heavy rail have disputes on the border between these two, both are transportation systems involving a track, and a train that rides upon them.   The light rail systems typically involve fewer cars, are more passenger oriented, and stop more frequently.  The heavy systems are more cargo-oriented, have many more cars, and stop less frequently. Industry, meanwhile, comes from the Latin word industria, meaning "productivity."    Light industry tends to be companies that require less capital to start up, produce more consumer goods than industrial ones, and use the results of heavy industry as its primary feedstock. Heavy industry tends to be more expensive to set up, starts with raw ores, and produces primarily industrial goods. As examples, steel is heavy industry, whereas soap dispensers made of steel are light industry.

A national economy requires all four of these things. A lack of heavy rail means that all goods transportation are made with relatively inefficient means, be it muscle-based transportation (by humans in the poorest of economies, by animals in slightly richer ones), or by massive trucks that cause massive smog. A lack of light rail hinders the movement of human beings. Even the car-based transportation in my part of the world is inefficient, as the downtown region inevitably clogs on a daily basis, resulting in transport taking an extra hour, or in particular aggravating times, two. A lack of heavy industry means that all goods are based on things you can farm or import. A lack of light industry took down the communist economies, as at first, the nearly starving peasants were happy to be working at all, but eventually, the inability to buy things other than food and shelter started to grate on people. The economy resorted to military keynesian policies, meaning that lots of people were making tanks, who then had basically nothing they could buy with those wages.

Clearly, a good economy is, among other things, diverse.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Will Wheaton's Laser Jackhammer

A while ago on July 13th, Will Wheaton proposed that the jackhammer that was annoying him at the time be replaced with a new system, that would, instead of using a vibrating hammer to break apart the rocks and concrete of the urban jungle, vaporize it with lasers. Mr. Wheaton feels that this would be quieter, which would disturb his work significantly less.

An interesting idea for sure, and it would certainly change urban renewal forever. Unfortunately, it would come with some strange side effects. For one, lasers do not remove the rock so much as heat it to about 1200 degrees, at which time it chemically changes to carbon dioxide and a fine mist of glowing orange chunks of calcium oxide that will instantly ignite everything they touch. Elaborate safety systems will be required to ensure that your construction workers do not routinely set either themselves, or passing pedestrians, on fire. In order to prevent this, a vacuum system will suck the molten rock into sealed containers for later re-use.

The energy use of this system will be somewhat extreme. Just like water, most rocks resist being heated up and cooled down, especially the limestone that a typical city like the kind Mr. Wheaton lives in is made of. A power plant capable of putting out some 50 megawatts, the energy used by an entire block of Mr. Wheaton's city, would be required to keep the lasers firing, the vacuum pulling, and the other safety systems containing the mess. If we just plugged this in, brownouts would be likely, and portable power systems are unlikely to keep up with the load. At least, not without being louder than the original jackhammers were.

Lastly, this system might not be quieter. While the sound would likely be less irritating than the repetitive, machine-gun-esque thumping of a jackhammer, it would almost certainly make a loud whirring noise while in operation. The vacuum pump that pulls the heated rock away makes noise. The power use makes a loud hum. The rock makes sounds as it heats up, and chemically disintegrates, plus if any water hits the rock, it vaporizes with a loud hiss. The noise would be continuous, and almost certainly distracting.

As irritating as the construction is, the jackhammer is unfortunately a better solution for the moment. As one possible improvement though, many jackhammers are gasoline fired, making them unnecessarily loud. Instead, we will replace the gas motor with an electric one, which makes no sound by itself. The jackhammer's only sound is now the metal hammer striking the rock, making a tapping sound as it does so. If we then insulate the office buildings a little better, the sound will become unnoticeable to the people working above.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

On Geoengineering

Cartoonist Stephanie McMillian of the strip Code Green has a criticism of the effort that I and others have put into geoengineering the earth: Geoengineering?  Why not cut emissions instead?
Well, I highly doubt that I'd see millions for geoengineering, or for that matter, turn a profit at all. As for mastery over the earth, I'd argue that we've had that since we managed to figure out fire. I do agree that reducing emissions in the first place is the most ideal solution, but there's a catch.
Specifically, reducing emissions would require an unprecedented amount of cooperation, which is unlikely to be forthcoming, given what people believe. I live in a region not only riddled with global warming denial, but the belief in abiotic oil -- the belief that oil doesn't come from the fossilized remains of things dead for eons, but instead is generated in the mantle and bubbles up, due to handwave handwave god handwave handwave.
Since these people do not believe that global warming is even happening, they are unwilling to make any changes to their lifestyle, energy use, or anything else, in order to resolve what they regard as a non-issue. I have tried to convince them, but they have largely been unwilling to listen. Psychology studies suggest that they are basically un-convincable as they have made this a tribalist issue, in which they have largely defined themselves as not the kind of person who believes. And as for the facts, the facts be damned. If chemistry and physics shows that this is happening, then by jingo, chemistry and physics must clearly be socialist plots.
Since they can't be convinced, the next step would be to try and organize to defeat them politically, which would also be insanely difficult, as they are a very entrenched interest group with the backing of at least 40% of the electorate. We couldn't force it without effectively having a brutal second American civil war, likely to pull in and destabilize other countries as well.
Video blogger Hank Green once lamented that the copyright solution that Youtube, the company that he must work with on a daily basis, does not use the best possible solution for the conflict between people wanting to upload videos that may contain additional copyrighted work (such as someone else's music in the soundtrack), but instead the most possible solution. Similarly, I think that geoengineering is, at this point, the most possible solution, as I do not require universal cooperation to make it happen. It does not challenge the deniers, who are unlikely to even notice.
However, one thing that emission efficiency that she advocates would give us is that it would enable us to geoengineer less. The more carbon we have to yank out of the atmosphere, the more extreme the measures that we will have to resort to in order to actually make it happen. The more trees you can plant, the less I have to feed the ocean. The more you can reduce your use of gas-burning cars, coal-derived electricity, and cement, the less I have to dim the atmosphere to protect against the most catastrophic effects. The more you can use organically farmed produce instead of factory farmed meat, the fewer artificial trees I will have to plant in the desert.
Ultimately, I'm interested in geoengineering to give us a better world than the one nature gave us. A world that has space for both the cities that help us get what we want and need, and the nature that we admire so much. And with practice, I'd like to use what we learn from doing this to turn Mars from a frozen dried rock into a lush world with many human cities, and Venus from a scorching hellish world into a new paradise. And someday when the sun dies, I'd like us to be able to move out into the universe, carrying with us the gifts of the earth, who will continue to live on in a new world, perhaps one not yet born.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Reactionless EM drive

Recently, a Chinese physicist claimed to have invented something that was previously only science fiction. I'm going to have to explain. Most of our motion is thanks to Newton's 3rd law, which states that for every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction. In other words, to move forward, something else must be pushed backwards. When I walk, or drive, or take a train, my shoes or the vehicle are pushing the earth backward, to push me forward. The earth is pushed back a negligible amount. This is bad news for rocketry, as there is now a tyranny of fuel requirements. In order for the rocket to move, it must eject fuel. The fuel has weight. More weight means less thrust for any particular expenditure of fuel. The rocket must be super powerful to move both itself, and the fuel required to move it, which requires still more fuel (because the additional fuel has mass, causing additional inertia). So science fiction writers proposed the reactionless drive, in which no fuel is ejected. Instead, energy is inputted into the system, and somehow directly transferred into motion. This way any energy, such as solar power, nuclear power, or other systems that don't involve a constant stream of exhaust, could keep the rocket moving. The rocket would be much lighter, and thus easier to launch, maneuver, and power. The EM drive is, if the reporting about it is correct, exactly that reactionless drive. Microwaves are bounced around in a container, imparting their energy in the desired direction of motion. Microwaves have essentially zero mass, and can be produced by electrical activity. Since electricity can be generated by all kinds of systems, any of these systems can power the rocket. The drive as described now is not very efficient. Only 2% of the inputted energy becomes motion, the rest becomes heat, noise, and other wasted energy. This drive could not launch a rocket from the earth's surface, and would only really be useful for a rocket that is already in space. However, we can expect refinement of the device as time goes on. And someday, in the distant future, a spacecraft will launch, unfurl its solar panels, and use a reactionless drive like the EM drive to speed it on its way to a distant star. A laser system in solar orbit is tracking the system and providing a steady steam of power. The craft accelerates, going faster and faster until it is traveling at a large percentage of the speed of light. After years of accelerating, it then reverses the process, slowing down until it arrives at a planet, orbiting the distant star. It then deploys its payload. Perhaps this is a scientific probe, to bring data of this distant world to scientists on earth. Perhaps this is a colony constructor, bringing a human colony to a distant world. Perhaps it is something that I can't even conceive of yet. But whatever it is, it will be glorious.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The new job

After a long and grueling search, I have a new job, automating industrial production. It's still new to me, but it's saved me in just the brink of time. I was almost bankrupt.

It's also extremely tangential to all my previous experience.

While I hope that this will free up enough time to resume blogging properly, at this time, only time will tell.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


I got busy, then I got busier.   Then I no longer work for the ISP.  And then my workload increased even more.

 Sorry about the schedule slip.  :(

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...