Category Archives: Science, Technology, & Economy

Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. White II, USAF (June 3, 1965)

white-eEdward Higgins White II was born on November 14, 1930 in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated with the United States Military Academy Class of 1952 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He was a fighter pilot and test pilot, and on September 17, 1962 was selected as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 2, the “New Nine”.

In the early days of the Space Race, NASA had been upstaged by our Soviet enemies regularly, including the first ever “extra-vehicular activity” – an EVA or “spacewalk” – by cosmonaut Alexey Leonov on March 18, 1965. NASA hadn’t planned to do an EVA for some time, but it then became a priority. The next flight – Gemini 4 – would feature the first free man walking in space. It would be Ed White.

Continue reading Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. White II, USAF (June 3, 1965)

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How capitalism works, plus a catchy new song!

I’m a big fan of capitalism – real capitalism – not the corporatist/statist crony construct that passes for and is assumed to be capitalism under present day memes.

In the last day, I found a great example of how capitalism works. It starts with a cup of coffee. Continue reading How capitalism works, plus a catchy new song!

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The Columbia Seven – Ten Years

At approximately 8:59:32AM EST on February 1, 2003 – 15 days, 22:20:32 into her mission – Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) was destroyed on reentry due to catastrophic damage suffered during the launch of STS-107 sixteen days before on January 16. All seven members of her crew perished.

Payload Commander/Mission Specialist 3
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force
Mission Specialist 1
Flight Engineer/Mission Specialist 2
Civilian
Mission Specialist 4
Captain, United States Navy
Commander
Colonel, United States Air Force
Pilot
Commander, United States Navy
Payload Specialist 1

 

The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on. 

In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” 

President George W. Bush, February 1, 2003

May His peace and grace be with the families of the Columbia Seven today, and may we all be thankful and in remembrance of all who have given their lives carrying mankind into the heavens.

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Switching off the lights

Today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contains an article about the planned closure of three power generation plants in western Pennsylvania, and eight overall, over the next several years. The three coal-fired plants in my area represent 1,387 megawatts of capacity. They are owned by GenOn Energy.

Yes, these are old facilities. Some of the generating units are as old as 60 years. According to GenOn’s own press release the closures of the eight generating stations is “because forecasted returns on investments needed to comply with environmental regulations are insufficient.” These regulations are ones enacted since the beginning of the Obama presidency.

Naturally, environmentalists are cheering. These “dirty” coal plants are going the way of the dodo. Their thick black belching smoke won’t be poisoning us anymore. As coincidence would have it, I had to drive past GenOn’s New Castle Generating Station today; it’s a 330MW capacity plant, and is on the closure list. What did I see?

New Castle Generating Station, West Pittsburg, PA, 3/1/2012
own work; may use with attribution & link back to Their  Finest Hour

Oh my gosh! Just look at that thick, black, poisonous smoke pouring out of the chimney…oh, never mind. Nothing to see here! Yes, the plant was in operation. Yes, you could hear machinery noise. Yes, if you looked very, very closely at the top of the chimney you could see the exhaust fumes against the overcast conditions, but only barely. It shows up as a hardly noticeable “heat blur” on the original 2592x1936px picture taken by my iPhone. This is the dirtiness of coal power generation? This is what environmentalists get their knickers in a twist over? Give. Me. A. Break.

40 people work at the station. They will lose their jobs – at least locally – when the plant closes. We will lose the electricity they produce. Yes, the Post-Gazette article does talk about how Pennsylvania has a generating surplus now, but isn’t that a sign of economic downturn? Isn’t reducing – and praising – a reduction in generating capacity an acknowledgement that demand will not come back?

And what of the effect on other businesses? While I stopped to take my picture, three large dump trucks carrying coal passed me on their way to deliver fuel to the station. I’m pretty sure that came from a local, nearby deep or strip mine. Are you listening, United Mine Workers? Your jobs are under attack too.

We need more energy production, not less. We need more coal-fired power plants, not fewer. We need government to take the regulatory burden off of business and industry.

Would GenOn continue to operate the New Castle station past 2015 regardless were stricter environmental regulations not imposed? Who knows, but that is not the point. GenOn is having the disposition of their private property and production seized from them because the cost of compliance with government dictates makes their continued investment worthless.

That is a loss of liberty, freedom, and economic opportunity – for all of us.

P.S.: It is with sorrow that I dedicate this post, containing my own original on-site reporting, to Andrew Breitbart. Mr. Breitbart, of course, passed away earlier today. His dedication to the conservative movement and the cause of liberty was unequaled. All patriots need to help fill the void left by this true pioneer of conservative new media. I will endeavor to meet the challenge and do my part in his memory.

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Apollo 1: 45 Years

 

18:31 EST – January 27, 1967
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Occupy Pittsburgh – Yurting for Winter

The economic miscreants at Occupy Pittsburgh are trying to settle in for the long haul over winter, assuming they don’t meet the same fate as the original occupiers in NYC. They apparently have realized that tents just won’t cut it for the long haul. Winter is going to hurt if they can’t have some heat to sleep with. To avoid the hurt, they’re going to yurt.

Yes, yurt. What is a yurt, you ask? According to a website linked by Occupy Pittsburgh, a yurt is “a circular portable shelter used by Central Asian nomads for over 2000 years, recently adapted for Western use.” Our local occupiers are asking for assistance building what they’re calling “hexayurts”. The occupiers want them because they are “wind proof, water proof, and safe for a heater installation.” They are also looking for “creative floor ideas.” Somebody evidently suggested that wooden pallets would be good, except that if they used pallets with spaces – i.e. most such items – “We may help the rats make a nest for winter.” Glad they’re worried about that. Plague and other rat-borne diseases can be a real bitch, particularly if you only have a tent and not a yurt to convalesce in. So then, what do our occupiers need to construct their yurts?

Before we get into materials, let’s take a look at the occupiers’ principles. The Occupy Pittsburgh General Assembly adopted the original Occupy Wall Street statement of purpose on October 12, 2011, no doubt with very fervent “up twinkles”. Here’s some of the things they stand against:

  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity…
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence…
  • They have spent millions of dollars…[to] look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance…
  • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil…
  • They continue to block generic forms of medicine…
  • They continue to create weapons of mass destruction…

You get the drift. I excerpted the above because they speak to hypocrisy of the occupiers, for, what does it take to build a yurt?

The first material they link on their page is “JVCC 762-BD Bi-Directional Filament Strapping Tape” (suggested for pre-order, about $21 a roll); heavy-duty polypropylene reinforced with fiberglass threads. Each yurt will require a minimum of 1-to-1 1/2 rolls of 4-inch wide tape. For the structure, they list 4×8-foot “Tuff-R” insulation boards; I’m assuming ones that are 1-inch or more thick. They then suggest “Go to home depot [sic]…and find the materials.”

So, off to Home Depot we go. According to the company’s annual report for their fiscal year ended January 30, 2011 the home improvement store king yanked nearly $68 billion out of the pockets of their customers, and showed a net profit when all was said and done of $3.338 billion – after they paid $1.935 billion in taxes to our government. Oh, and between their 2,248 stores, they also employ 321,000 people – around 142 jobs per store.

I’m a regular shopper at Home Depot; fact of life of being a homeowner. (Full disclosure: I actually pay my mortgage, and I actually read all the documents before I signed on the dotted line so I knew exactly what I was getting into.) Funny, it seems like every time I go there – at least once a week – they’re looking for new employees. Occupiers, take note: when you go to get your yurt materials, how about applying for a job?

Let’s say this week on my trip to HD, I’m going to buy materials so I can build the yurt of my heart’s content in my back yard, just in case I ever have to occupy somewhere. If I didn’t pre-order my tape as Occupy Pittsburgh suggested, I’ll probably find that the right tape at HD will be made by 3M. For 2010, 3M had revenues of $26.6 billion and a profit of almost $4.1 billion – after paying $1.59 billion in taxes.True, they employ 32,955 people in the United States – and 80,057 world-wide – but really, how can Occupy Pittsburgh justify helping this company gain revenue and make profits? Who really is 3M? Let’s look at their Board of Directors!

How about Edward M. Liddy? Mr. Liddy is a former Chairman of the Board and CEO of Allstate, an insurance company! The last year he was with Allstate (2008), the company lost money, but when you total up the preceding four years, they still came out almost $12.9 billion in the black. There’s more to Mr. Liddy though! He’s also on the board of Abbott Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company! In 2010, Abbott profited to the tune of $4.63 billion. And, to hit on the occupiers concerns about weapons manufacturers, he also sits on the board of Boeing! Boeing, maker of warplanes and weapons large and small, made 2010 profits of $3.3 billion on revenues of $64.3 billion – and they have the audacity to try and open a factory in a right-to-work state! The real kicker for Liddy’s credentials? He was appointed to be the interim CEO of AIG to oversee the bailout and dismantling of the company. A real OWS hero!!!

Mr. Liddy is a great example, but what of W. James Farrell? He sits on Abbott’s board with Liddy! He’s also connected to Allstate! Robert S. Morrison sits on the board of Aon, another insurance company. Vance D. Coffman sits on the board of Amgen (biotechnology/pharmaceuticals, 2010 income $4.627 billion), and is the retired (2005) Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, another large defense contractor (2005 profit: $1.825 billion). Michael E. Eskew, retired Chairman/CEO of United Parcel Service, is a board member for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Company (2010 profits: $5.07 billion).

Gosh! If I’m an occupier and want to be intellectually honest (doubtful!) there’s simply no way I can buy that 3M tape. I can’t just keep lining the pockets of those evil, corporate types! Ok, the tape is out, but what of the aforementioned “Tuff-R” insulation boards I’d use for my yurt’s structure?

It turns out that “Tuff-R” is a name-brand of Dow Building Solutions, a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company! In 2010, Dow pulled in $53.67 billion in revenues and turned a profit of $2.3 billion. They also paid $481 million in taxes. Worldwide, Dow employs 45,905 people. They paid those people a total of $5.711 billion in wages and $1.653 billion in benefits; $7.364 billion in total. That works out to an average of $148,767.67 per employee. I think they probably pay fairly. In benefits alone, they are paying $36,009 per employee – I bet they have pretty good health coverage and educational reimbursement for that kind of amount.

Now, Dow Chemical is a favorite target of environmentalists – just Google it. If that isn’t enough to dissuade a faithful occupier from buying Tuff-R panels for yurt construction, we could do the whole Board of Directors exercise again. I’m not going to go through all the details, but Dow’s directors are connected to Hess Corporation (oil, energy), H.J. Heinz (big food), Marathon Oil (oil, energy), Boeing (defense), Aetna (health insurance), Unilever (food & personal care products), and others.

No occupier who actually believes in the movement’s principles could build and live in a yurt constructed with the materials specified. Unless of course, they’re perfectly comfortable with the rank hypocrisy of continuing to enable the very corporate, capitalist system they so despise. Given the voluntary squalor they have chosen to live in they’re okay with rank smells…maybe it’s a sign of consistency after all!

In closing, let me make something abundantly clear. I am in no way disparaging or “calling out” the companies and individuals listed here. I love capitalism. The individuals listed are all hard working men and women of very high achievement and ability. Each and every one of them is solely entitled to all their own wealth and I reject the notion that anyone has a claim to their riches. I am glad that each and every one of the companies used as examples has been able to employ people, create and deliver high-quality products to customers – and accumulate as much profit as possible. Their profits would be higher were it not for the confiscatory taxation imposed by our government, as well as the crushing burden of regulatory compliance. I hope they all make greater profits each and every year. I hope all the executives and board members make the largest wages they can. I hope all these companies grow, and grow, and grow – and therefore employ more, enriching more.

You want to live in a yurt? Fine. Go do it. I’ll enjoy my mega-builder constructed house, with my global-megacorp produced roof shingles to keep me dry and furnace to keep me warm. When you break it down though, your yurt is every bit as corporate.

Now occupiers, please return to your alternate reality and the delusion that you are in the right.

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TFH 10/23: The Day Entertainment Changed Forever

On this day in 2001, Steve Jobs announced the original iPod. Apple’s iTunes is now the #1 music reseller. Mr. Jobs had many great moments in his all too short life, but 10 years ago when he revolutionized both entertainment delivery and playback, ranks among the top.

And for full disclosure, this post was authored on the Blogger app for iOS on my iPhone 4; a direct descendant of the original iPod. Thank you, Mr. Jobs.

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Science and Religion – Not Mutually Exclusive

I was very pleased to read the article from the Los Angeles Times “Science and religion: A false divide” by Dr. John H. Evans, sociology professor at UC San Diego. (Hat Tip: Hot Air)

I am an evangelical Christian. I believe that the Bible is true, but that it is also crucial to delineate in the text between what is taken as literal, word-for-word truth or fact and what is to be taken as allegory or apocalyptic text and literature, that is, “truth” that speaks to the nature of God but not to actual events. Such a delineation does not detract from the whole truth of the Biblical story, which after all is about God, not man.

It drives me nuts to hear Christians quibble over non-salvific points such as “creation happened in a literal six days” when whether or not it is literal time or allegory is 100% irrelevant to the Biblical truth of John 14:6.

I also believe in science, and do not view what I have learned from science and what I believe through faith to be mutually exclusive.

Example: I hold that the Big Bang Theory is supported by observation and experimentation and that it is describing in scientific terms the same beginning of creation as found in Genesis 1:1-5.

I also hold that a belief in creation does not preclude a belief in evolution, for “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26b) Who are we to say that God can not have established and uses evolution? If one believes that God is omnipotent, then one must logically concede that if God wants to have species evolve He can most certainly do that.

Do I believe evolution is a fact? Yes. The fossil record, dinosaurs-into-birds, etc. are enough evidence for me. Do I believe that evolution is used by God and evolutionary processes are part of God’s creation? Yes. Do I believe that evolution can explain the genesis of life and the rise of the human race? No.

Do I believe that science will one day be able to synthesize life by laboratory chemistry? No. While I don’t believe it will happen, an intellectually honest, pure evolutionist who does would have to admit that the belief in “evolution explains all” is rooted in faith, not science. In that, science and religion are identical. To sum up, I’ll quote Dr. Evans’ writing:

The greatest conflict between fundamentalists, evangelicals and science is not over facts but over values. While scientists like to say that their work is value-free, that is not how the public views it, and conservative Protestants especially have homed in on the moral message of science….

To move forward, we, as a country, need to lower the political conflict. Yes, the views found in fundamentalist churches are not exactly the same as those at the National Science Foundation. But we would see less of the polarizing “we real Americans” rhetoric from the religious right if its members were not ridiculed as know-nothings. Conservative Protestants are not fundamentally opposed to all science.

Hear, hear!

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“Settled” Science

Last night via Twitter, I was alerted to today’s Washington Post column by Charles Krauthammer, “Gone in 60 nanoseconds”.

Mr. Krauthammer calls to attention a surely under-reported story: “Scientists at CERN, the European high-energy physics consortium, have announced the discovery of a particle that can travel faster than light.” (Italics in original)

What? Now, I have to say that I’m skeptical about the claim – as are most theoretical physicists. Experimentation validating Einstein’s theory of relativity are numerous and easily understandable, but could it really be that Einstein was wrong about the speed of light being an absolute maximum?

Of course it could be. Scientific advances are often produced by completely unexpected observations and evidence. I really think this is a big deal, for as Mr. Krauthammer points out:

It cannot be. Yet, this is not a couple of guys in a garage peddling cold fusion. This is no crank wheeling a perpetual motion machine into the patent office. These are the best researchers in the world using the finest measuring instruments, having subjected their data to the highest levels of scrutiny, including six months of cross-checking by 160 scientists from 11 countries.

Many other researchers are attempting to duplicate CERN’s experiment to either confirm or invalidate the astonishing result.

Now, if true, does this change everything? Well…no, not really. Newtonian physics aren’t invalid, they just can’t explain everything. Einstein’s theories are just that – theories. Do they explain a lot? Yes, as experimentation has verified. Do they explain everything? Hardly.

Reading about this development reminded me of a quote I attribute to the great astrophysicist Carl Sagan. I’ve been unable to find an Internet attribution for this, so apologies in advance if I’ve gotten the speaker/author wrong. I’ll paraphrase it like this:

Let us say that we conclusively determine that there is life elsewhere in the universe. Wouldn’t that be the most amazing discovery ever? Conversely, let’s say that we conclusively determine that there is only life in the universe on Earth. Wouldn’t that be the most amazing discovery ever?

The science-as-religion crowd passionately wants us to believe that science can explain everything, while really they place theory – whether backed by “conclusive” research or not – in the place of fact.

So, consider that, and the possibility that something can exceed the speed of light, the next time you hear someone saying that the science on anthropogenic climate change is “settled”. I believe we understand far less about our universe then scientists would like to assert.

Postscript: The US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, “Fermilab”, outside Chicago is one of the experimental organizations trying to reproduce CERN’s experiment. Fermilab just retired what had been the most powerful particle accelerator, the Tevatron, on September 30th. Tevatron has been supplanted by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, which American physicists have contributed to and will conduct research on. What is Fermilab planning to do next? Project X. No, I am not starting some sort of government/science conspiracy theory, but as a fan of Atlas Shrugged, the name did sort of jump off the web page at me! 😉

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How Conservatives Need to Respond to Climate Change

Three Simple Points to combat Enviro-Statists:

SECOND – we are not arguing that climate change does not occur. During the last glacial maximum about 20,000 years ago, “essentially all of Canada and extended roughly to the Missouri River and Ohio Rivers [sic], and eastward to New York City” was covered by ice. It’s not now. Why? Climate change, stupid! We are only contending that the human race and human activity does not have a significant impact on global climate. This is a good point to get in a jab that Halliburton must be really destructive if they managed to change the climate 20,000 years ago.
THIRD – it is absurd and illogical to think that human activity is a large contributor to climate change because of the relative amounts of human energy expenditure into the environment and the amount of energy that we’re bombarded with by the SUN. In one year, the Sun delivers 3,850,000 exajoules (EJ) that is absorbed by the Earth. If you’re not familiar with the SI prefix “exa”, the entire joule count written out is 3,850,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. For debate purposes, that’s 385 with 22 zeros after it. In 2005, “Primary Energy Use” by the human race was a mere 487 EJ. What does this mean?
It takes the Sun a mere 66 MINUTES to deliver the same amount of energy to the Earth that the entire human race expended in ONE YEAR (2005).
In ONE YEAR, the Sun delivers more energy to the Earth than the human race will EVER EXTRACT from all non-renewable resources: coal, oil, natural gas, and mined uranium (i.e. nuclear power).
Those facts, naturally, will cause an Enviro-Statist to start screaming, “Solar power! Solar power!”. It is then time to mention Solyndra.

(Edit: 1:44 PM – cleaned up the lead in to point 3. Apologies for the poor sentence I originally wrote)

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