Random Memories No. 3 – Bloom, Violets, Bloom!!

This was one of the candidate cheers we came up with in the forties for the New York University Violets, the only team we knew of that had a flower as a “mascot!” And their uniforms were and are white and violet. I see now that they have chosen the overused bobcat as the game mascot – easier to make a bobcat costume than one for a violet.

We never got to see NYU play in those years, of course, because TV wasn’t available and most all of their games were played in and around NYC. Radio coverage of games was quite sparse in those days. We at UK could almost always count on our team’s games being broadcast on a Lexington station. Continue reading


A Nuclear Change of Heart by a Well Known English Environmentalist

George Monbiot has been an activist in the environment field for years. He is an Oxford graduate and writes a weekly column for the Guardian, a comprehensive but very left-leaning newspaper in England. In the article below he calls himself a “neutral-nuclear” person, although his past writings would indicate that he has, at least, been somewhat on the anti-nuclear side. However accurately he describes himself, I found this recent column to be surprisingly objective. I hope you will also find it interesting.

Why Fukushima made stop worrying and start loving nuclear power

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Europe Continues Cuts in Solar and Wind Subsidies

Here’s today’s update by Peter Gosselin on the status of support and subsidies by European governments for the alternate energy sources of solar and wind. Cuts by the US Congress shouldn’t be far behind. Good riddance, in that the systems cannot compete economically in the energy generation field. And the subsidies just line the pockets of investors slopping at the government trough while adding to the electric bill of all citizens.

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Useless Ethanol – But Iowa’s Primary “Rules”

Any thorough analysis of ethanol you can read arrives at the same conclusion; it is not good for cars, not good for the atmosphere, and not good for the price/availability of food. Yet I am pessimistic that any helpful change will be made by our government.  The farm lobbies are very strong and the Iowa primary will support the government subsidies. All candidates that hope to do well in the Iowa primary must go public with an “Ethanol is next to Godliness” pronouncement.

There is a glimmer of hope though in that the German people are seeing the light now and that Europe may follow. Perhaps our leaders will become more aware of ethanol’s impact.

Below is a post by Peter Gossilin, a German scientist and blogger I read most every day, about the subject that I found interesting. He does not cover the problems of shipping ethanol. Continue reading

Sea Ice References Links

Link to sea ice charts: http://wp.me/P7y4l-5Kc This links to the blog of Anthony Watts who gathered these ice charts in one place for easy reference. Here is enough data to answer just about any questions about the arctic and antarctic ice variations over time.

I will write on this soon, but the charts are interesting in themselves and I thought you might like to study them without my comment, which will come along in a few days.

может быть (Maybe)

The magic “maybe” bag – the more central government control, the more maybe bags will exist.

In September, 1979, I was in a fusion energy meeting at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow and, during a coffee break, I began to talk with one of the Russians about some research. He opened his brief case to get a paper for me that he had written and this net-type bag fell out. He explained what it was for and how often the central planning group in the Soviet Government would screw up in having the right amount of an item produced for a particular area or city. In particular, he said he was looking for a pair of his size of dress shoes and, since they didn’t provide a box or bag at the store, he needed something to carry them if he were lucky enough to find his size. He called it his “maybe” bag, as in maybe I’ll find what I want/need.   Continue reading

Random Memories No 2 – Saying Goodbye to the Solar System

The two Voyager spacecraft are about to say goodbye to the solar system and enter interstellar space after 33 years in flight. 

In the 1970s I was working at GE’s Space Division in Valley Forge as the energy engineering manager. One of my groups was responsible for the design of a radioisotope power supply that would supply DC power for the Voyager spacecraft. For details see http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/ We had won the contract to provide the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena the power supplies for the two spacecraft that were launched in 1977. A key reason for our selection was that we had supplied radioisotope power supplies before for Apollo Missions 13 and 14 experiments.

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Nuclear Power Slowly Gaining Acceptance


I was reminded of this subject recently when I was sent some information about the Libyan bombing on April 15, 1986 which happened when I was on a European trip which lasted through April 26, 1986 when the Chernobyl reactor exploded and killed 47 workers who were trying to put out the fire. It had no containment structure such as is common in the rest of world.

There was quite a scare in Europe when radiation began being detected in Sweden and then some other countries. We were watching the news each evening as the announcers showed maps with the latest extent of the radioactivity which was drifting west. But, after 24 years it seems to me, after scanning various reports, that the damage to humans, animals and plants has been much, much less than the original panic indicated.

Japan, WWII

Nuclear energy came to the awareness of the world through the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the first, and until now, the only atomic bombs used in war. It is understood that the use of nuclear energy started out under a terrifying cloud, literally and figuratively. And our biases, as would be expected, still tend to be negative and resistant to efforts to change them.

B-29 bombers practically obliterated 15 square miles of Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, 1945, resulting in an estimate by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police of 125,000 casualties, more than either A-bomb attack, but that information is just a footnote in history today. But over 300 B-29s flew on the night, not just the one as was over Hiroshima. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Tokyo#B-29_raids

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Electric Cars: Comments, No. 1

From time to time I will continue to post some comments on various energy subjects. Here are the first ones on electric cars that I think help put the enthusiasm of advocates and promoters in perspective. The common mistake by most electric car supporters is that they either do not appreciate that the bigger picture must be considered, or they choose to ignore it to advance their case. These come from the London Telegraph and the Washington Post. Before you read them consider the following: A lithium-ion battery, at its best, packs 110 watt-hours of energy per pound. Gasoline has 6,000 watt-hours per pound. Now, a gasoline motor is inefficient, discarding 85% of the fuel’s energy–losing it to the transmission, wasting it on idling and discharging it as heat. Electric motors waste just 10%, but it still leaves gas with a 9-to-1 weight advantage. (And the cost of the battery today is likely more than the cost of the gasoline saved by going electric!) Here’s the reference: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0628/energy-autos-electric-cars-ibm-nissan-running-on-air.html

London to Edinburgh by electric car: it was quicker by stagecoach.

The BBC’s stunt of taking an electric Mini to Edinburgh reveals just how impractical rechargeable cars are, writes Christopher Booker of the London Telegraph.

van Gogh Sketch

Stagecoach, depicted by Van Gogh in one of his letters, Photo: Paul Grover

In its obsessive desire to promote the virtues of electric cars, the BBC proudly showed us last week how its reporter Brian Milligan was able to drive an electric Mini from London to Edinburgh in a mere four days – with nine stops of up to 10 hours to recharge the batteries (with electricity from fossil fuels).

What the BBC omitted to tell us was that in the 1830s, a stagecoach was able to make the same journey in half the time, with two days and nights of continuous driving. This did require 50 stops to change horses, but each of these took only two minutes, giving a total stopping time of just over an hour and a half.

Considering that horse power was carbon-free, emitting only organic fertilizer along the way, isn’t it time the eco-conscious BBC became more technologically savvy? Continue reading

Periodic Table and Oliver Sacks

Here’s more on the periodic table.

I was listening to a podcast on my iPod while walking my dog Genji. I often do that, not only because he is deaf (he never was a good conversationalist even when he had his hearing), but there are so many interesting podcasts available, and free. I subscribe to a few and every few days they are automatically downloaded to my computer from which I copy (“sync”) them to my iPod.

The podcast I enjoy most, along with “Car Talk”, is “Radiolab” that is produced by WNYC and NPR. I was listening to it while walking Genji one day and the hosts were visiting Oliver Sacks in his apartment and he was showing them his bathroom which, to their surprise, had a large periodic table on the wall.  Then, with a “you ain’t seen nothing yet” type response, Sacks said, “Let me show you my bedroom.” And there on his bed was a coverlet, full bed size that was “quilted” as a periodic table!  Continue reading