Category: Uncategorized

Urban Astronomy – Mars in October

October 19, 2020

The night sky is pretty much a mystery to most City Dwellers.  The glare of city light drowns out all but the brightest stars – and planets don’t do much better.  If you are interested, I can tell you where to look to see these far-off worlds.  If you were not interested, you would have stopped reading after the first sentence.  So, at this point, I know my audience.  😉

Urban Astronomy

    I used the moon as a pointer for Saturn and Jupiter last time.  On October 29, the moon will be over by Mars in the evening sky.  I include a sky map for that date at 20:00 (8 PM) – from Heavens-Above.com” – below. 

Skymap from Heavens-Above.com  

 The moon will be near full at the time.  Mars happens to be near its closest to the Earth right now, as well.  The sky map can be used by printing it out and holding it (or your phone, with the chart displayed) over your head.  You need to orient the chart with the sky, of course.  If you know where the North Star is, use that – or there are more than one compass apps for your phone to be downloaded for free.

    When this reporter was young (an era also referred to as the Cretaceous Period), it was thought that Mars must certainly harbor life – at the very least, plant life – since it showed seasonal changes that were attributed to vegetation.  After a fly-by passage of the space probe Mariner 4 past Mars, it became apparent that Mars more closely resembled the crater-covered surface of our own moon.  Measurements of the atmospheric pressure on the Red Planet also made it quite unlikely that life as we know it – could survive on Mars.  Subsequent orbiters and landers have all failed to produce evidence of life on Mars.  The seasonal changes are now known to be dust patterns.  While the seasonal ice caps at the poles do contain water ice, they also are composed of carbon dioxide ice frozen out from the mostly CO2 (and extremely low-pressure) atmosphere.  Despite what many ill-informed Mars enthusiasts think, a human would need – for a walk on Mars – a space suit just like those used by Moonwalkers of the 1960’s/70’s.  Still, Mars would be “A Nice Place to Visit”

   Mars is where the moon is and about as bright as it ever gets.  Ya’ can’t miss it!

   Notice that Jupiter and Saturn are still hanging around at 8 PM – both are not far from where they were previously.  You should be able to spot them unaided,  but use the skymap, if not.

   Mars and the moon will be up all night, not just at 8 PM, so don’t try to use that as an excuse! 😉

Uber Alley – Art Cars and Signs of the Apoplexy

8/04/2020 The red Ford Explorer is back in service and driving near 200 miles per day.  It had been 150 miles, but now we are struggling to make up for the time and expense involved with the previously discussed Imbecilic Design of the Ford engine that cost so dearly.  Below are some points of interest around the city, captured in the last few weeks.

Art Car Museum

I pass a lot of places that stand out as quite unique.  This one is the Art Car Museum at 140 Heights Boulevard (77007). 

Figure 1: The Art Car Museum. The website seems to overrule the hours posted on the sign – “Now open by appointment only”. We assume that admission is still free. There was – at one point in time – an “Annual Art Car Parade”. We assume that has been canceled, like everything else.
Figure 2: An example of an “Art Car”. What on normal cars is “collision damage” becomes just another eruption of fruit, in this case.

Signs of the Apoplexy

Public notices and labels or roads and structures can be quite mysterious and or/or amusing:

Figure 3: Bean dip is an ancient product that pre-dates grocery-store tortilla chips by many decades. In the stone age, when I was young – it came in cans and was consumed with Frito brand corn chips – rectangular in shape and curled by the cooking process.
Figure 4: I had occasions to walk by this Hindu Temple and found out three things. 1. The Hindus attending left their shoes out front. 2. The local homeless population did not “walk off” with the Hindus’ shoes, because it would have been a step down. This is because Hindus are clever enough to not wear their best shoes where the have to be left at the doorstep. 3) Hindus are not intimidated by seven syllable words. This is an archival photo. The sign, today is faded to the point of illegibility and the Temple, closed and abandoned.
Figure 5: Just why this building is labeled “SICK” is still a mystery. It seems to be empty and unused, as are the neighboring offices. Could it be one of those asbestos-laden “sick buildings”? I doubt it. That’s entirely too obvious. On the Westbound Beltway 8 feeder, just East of the Highway 249 junction,

Hasta Luego,

Steve      

NEO 2020 JJ 5/04/20

Another Near Earth Object encounter.  This time with a unique announcement:

Figure 1.

Notice that 2020 JJ has an anomalous distance of encounter of zero AU.  It is rounded off, of course.  The managers of this source will be contacted to encourage more decimal places!  By other sources, I find the “miss” distance to be about 16,200 miles which is indeed less than 0.1 Lunar Distances.

This, again is worthy of a more detailed diagram with a better picture of the Earth (Thanks, NASA!).

The approaching asteroid did not pass across the celestial equator – where all the geosynchronous communication satellites are – but further to the South.

The JPL Small Body Database Browser, which is also the source for the “circle and arrows” diagrams you have seen on these pages, has undoubtedly given us a more accurate figure.  However, it does have some limitations, which are clearly explained in the website:

“This orbit viewer was implemented using two-body methods, and hence should not be used for determining accurate long-term trajectories (over several years or decades) or planetary encounter circumstances.”

https://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=2000%20CH59;old=0;orb=1;cov=0;log=0;cad=0#orb

The alert readers (most of you) will point out that “planetary encounter circumstances” is exactly what I am talking about.  That statement means that when asteroids get close to a planet, their mutual gravity has a significant effect that is not calculated in this utility.  So, that 16,200 miss distance is not keenly accurate and almost certainly too large.  Not only that, but it also means that the orbit after the near encounter will have been altered.  It will need to be recalculated and replaced in the database.

JPL has a utility for that, called the “Horizons system” and NASA has an organization to keep track of these things (and studies methods to avoid collisions) called the Planetary Defense Coordination Office.  That said, rocks this small (about 13 feet across) are not easily detected far in advance.  They are also less destructive should they fall to Earth.  This one was small compared to the Chelyabinsk meteor.

Comet Update 4/20

   Comets are particularly unpredictable phenomena.  The current case is C/2019 Y4, which has apparently broken up into at least three pieces – which at last sight were drifting away from each other.  It’s visual magnitude has gone from a sudden brightening to 7.8, but then dropped to 8.8 after the break-up and shows no sign of recovering.  This, despite the fact that is nearer to the Sun and the Earth than before.  It is not visible to the naked eye, even in clear, dark skies.  You might find it with a medium amateur telescope.

There is another, more recently discovered comet in the Solar System called C/2020 F8.  It, too has undergone a sudden brightening, but is still a bit to dim to see – even in that theoretical dark, clear sky.  Since it is in the Southern sky right now, you could not see it anyway.

I have made some diagrams of both comets with the JPL Small-Body Database Browser and added some explanatory text.  The planets are all in the same orientations and positions in both.

Figure 1

Figure 2

“So, what next? “, you may ask.  Well, as these comets approach the Earth and Sun – at different rates since the Earth and  Sun are 1 AU apart – they will brighten.  We cam predict the change due to distance alone.  Below is a graph of distances predicted over time for C/2019 Y4 (refer to figure 1).  The data are from the aforementioned JPL Small-Body Database Browser  The graph  was generated by your humble narrator in Excel.

Figure 3

The increase of brightness to be expected (if nothing about the comet itself changes) can be predicted by the total distance involved.  Keep in mind that light spreads out such that a reduction of ½ the distance will result in 4 times the brightness.  Remember that on this stellar Magnitude scale a reduction  of 1 magnitude is the equivalent of more  than a doubling (about 2.5 times) in brightness.  I don’t make these rules, OK? 

This needs some calibration since it calculates only differences.  That calibration is taken from a recent observation as noted on the graph (also Excel) that follows.

Figure 4

The conclusion is that the peak brightness will be still below naked-eye visibility – around May 28th.  Having said that, you will remember that this exercise assumes that the comet itself will not change.  But that’s silly! We just saw it increase suddenly in brightness (far in excess of expectation) and then dim again!  That was from eruptions of  vaporizing ices, that apparently broke this comet into pieces.  I told you these things are unpredictable, did I not?

So, why do this calculation of brightness due to proximity?  Because it is all we can do!  Keep that in mind the next time someone tells you they can predict the climate. 😉

C/2020 F8

The same sort of calculation can be done for this Johnie-come-lately comet that just showed up.  I will skip all the intermediate explanations and go straight to the prediction chart.

Figure 5

You see that the new comet is likely to be brighter than poor old C/2019 Y4.  It will probably become magnitude 6.3 – bright enough to see without binoculars or a telescope – out of city lights, in a dark clear sky -but just barely! 

And, just now we have news of an observation from the Comet Observation Database .  For April 19th (late in the day) the brightness was measured at magnitude 6.8.  You can see the red cross on the graph.  That is, however, one of four observations on that day – the other three were all magnitude 7.5.  To change the whole prediction on a single observation would not be reasonable, so I will wait to do so until a few more observations are made.  Did I mention that these things are unpredictable?

You may ask, “Steve, why did you choose such an uncertain occupation?”

  I did not choose Astronomy. Astronomy chose me. It is actually a hobby because, while I wanted to be Carl Sagan, I found out they already had one.  So, I wound up looking down through the Earth instead, because someone would pay me for that.  Now I have nothing better to do.  Well, I have other things to do – yes.  But, who wants to mow the yard again?

Hasta Luego,

Steve

Albuquerque

stevetrucker2Sign123_Lone

Time Runs Out     October 17, 2016   (Reprinted from WordPress – Sept 2,  2019)

You may recall the explanation of the Federal regulations on truck driving that I explained partially in The Unforgiving Clock.  There is yet another onerous burden placed on the driver’s time called the 70 Hour or Eight Day Clock.  That says that I cannot accumulate more than 70 hours of “on duty” time in any eight day period.  That includes not only driving, but also the vehicle inspections, time at shipper or receiver and fueling times.  All of those are watched over by a department back in Purgatory (NTSR) called “Compliance”.  That  organization is exactly as forgiving as its name implies.;-).

If drive times are moderate and on-duty-not-driving is limited, one can expect to spread 70 hours over days one through eight and then gain the hours of the ninth day back.  That would let you continue to earn a pittance for all your time away from home.  If, however, there are some long distance assignments that leave not much spare time,  the day comes that your Eight Day Clock is down to five hours or so and you still have two hour’s worth of driving (and mucking about at the receiver) for the day and exactly zero hours to be regained tomorrow.  Restoring the “fresh 70 hours” is a matter of abstaining from driving for 34 hours.  The result of which is a forced “weekend” of poverty in a place you don’t want to be, when you would rather be earning a living,.  Thanks a bundle, Federal Department of Transportation!

And that is why this post is originating in Albuquerque.

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Above:  The Flying J Truck Stop parking at Albuquerque – whose lights are seen in the distance.

I am once again “Marooned” as in Thirty Four Hours in Ripon  or again in Mostly Wisconsin.  I know from those experiences and others that it is advisable to find some meaningful activity, thus to avoid being dragged down into the swirling maelstrom of desperate depression.  Thus, this narrative becomes Queequeg’s Coffin to my Ishmael.  If that metaphor escapes you, I am afraid you will have to read “Moby Dick” by Hermann Melville.  You will learn more about whales than you ever wanted to know.  The novel will also explain to you the origin of the name of a well-known chain of over-priced coffee houses.

I was obligated to read this in college.  It was a burden at the time, as are most college assignments, but I re-read that same book I had bought for the course years later and actually found it fascinating and interesting.  That was the exact same paperback edition that can be seen (on a shelf as Chekov discovers the “Botany Bay” belt buckle) in Star Trek II – the Wrath of Khan, which was heavily laced with Moby Dick references. The plot involved more than one “Marooning” as well, making it doubly appropriate.  Ricardo Montalban played what I consider to be his greatest role ever.

mobydickbotanybay
Above:  Moby Dick Edition in a library of literary references in Star Trek  II

If you don’t have time to read a bulky classic of literature, you can “cheat” and see the 1956 movie of the same name.  It starred Gregory Peck, who thought himself too young for the “old man” role of Captain Ahab and Richard Basehart who (older than Peck) was too old for the role of “young man” Ishmael.  There was also a well-played supporting role by Orson Wells as Father Maple.  If you view the trailer, Queequeg is the shirtless gent with the elaborate body and facial tattoos.  While I was researching how exactly to spell “Queequeg”, I discovered a restaurant by that name.  While naming establishments after characters in Moby Dick has proven wildly successful in at least one case, I feel I must point out that Queequeg was a cannibal – albeit a fictional one.

Breaking the Seal

When delivering a cargo, it is typical that the Receiver tells the Driver to break the seal, open the trailer doors and back into a warehouse cargo door.  Usually the seals are plastic bands that can be broken with bare hands.  Coca-Cola, however, has seen fit to make their seals with stainless steel cables.  Not with a crow bar and hacksaw could I manage to sever the cable and trucks with impatient drivers were accumulating behind me while I struggled with it.  The yard tractor -atypically – at least twice passed me as I struggled, without stopping. One driver loaned me a pair of wire cutters that made short work of it all.  Her motives were entirely selfless since I was not blocking her rig. I returned the cutters with thanks and resolved to buy a pair before the next load.

The truck stop sells a line of tools and I found a pair of tin snips – the only candidate that might do the job.  I tried them out on the remains of the Coke seal.  You see the results.  Not to worry, I was able to gnaw away at the cable with the pretend-tool until it finally surrendered – in a minute or two. The second photo shows what I knew that I would find on the label.

Above:  It is a shame that the Company has to pay for such substandard tools.

Watch Out for That Next Wave

I reckon all of you receive unsolicited ads and promotions.  I got one from LinkedIn that makes me a bit paranoid.  A jackass who wants to replace truck drivers with robots.

Someone at LinkedIn figures that a 61 year-old man who took up truck driving when he was forced out of a professional position to be replaced by thirty-somethings would be interested in this neophyte who wants to drive him out of that occupation as well?

Let me think…NoThankYouVeryMuch!

The Answer is 42

My life has become my job.

Like most sweeping, unqualified statements, that one is full of unexplained circumstances and unexamined definitions of the very words that make up the sentence.

I reckon I had better start with the thoughts in my head when I first typed the words.

I spend all of my physical presence in or around this vehicle.  I sleep in it, eat meals in it and I am mostly never more than a few hours away from it.

When you think about it, that – in itself – is not much more than saying that it is my home.  I don’t own it, but most people do not own their own homes – at least not outright.  This particular home is unusual  in that it moves around the country, which is why its owners let me live in it.  The “rent” I pay is by guiding it around and hauling big trailers (also theirs) that carry stuff to different places for profit.  There is enough value in that pastime that they also pay me a commission based on how far I make this home travel.

My family live in other homes which circumstances allow that I visit occasionally.  Most recently I visited my younger son in Dallas at his home on the University Campus there.   It is unfortunate that there are few opportunities to visit Houston where my wife and older son live in the place I previously could claim was my home.  We own that one!  I will make it home – that particular home – around Thanksgiving for five days.

So, you see that whatever interaction I have now with my family is just something I work into the small gaps in my job.  I can speak to them most any time.  Using Skype or other such facility, we could actually see each other.  I have not done that yet and I am not sure why.

I have noticed that the trip from shipper to receiver is the most pleasant and satisfying part of my life as it has become.  The beginning and end of the trip are fraught with confusion and misspent energy.  The third part is these interludes wherein I am neither loading, unloading nor traveling and that segment is the hardest to endure.  It is made less onerous when I write, so you may expect more of that activity.

I have discovered that I keep writing because it hurts when I don’t.

Deep Thought (see The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

A destination is just an excuse for a journey.  It is the journey that gives meaning to existence.  If you doubt me, then:

Will you accept the metaphor that life is a journey?

If so, then what is the destination?

No matter what your answer to that last question, are you in a hurry to get there?

Over The Road,

Steve

truckstopalbuquerqueday

Burning Food

Steve Campbell    August 12, 2019

This article was originally published on September 1, 2018 in American Thinker, under a very different title

Mixing ethanol with gasoline is a bad idea – for many reasons. But there is one reason in particular that should worry you.

A recent AT article by S. Fred Singer,  Trump and the end of the ‘Oil Crisis’  reasoned that it might be time to remove the ethanol mandate:

My hope is that Congress, at some point, will remove the requirements for gasoline additives, especially for the corn-based bio-fuel ethanol.

This is long overdue and Singer lists some very good reasons to remove that mandatory blending.  In researching an article years ago, this reporter stumbled over a shattering revelation that makes the use of ethanol seem completely unacceptable.  The question was posed,  “Just how much food value are we burning up for the sake of  this federally-imposed silliness?”

The answer was found in a paper by D.K. Albino[1],  published by the New England Complex Systems Institute

The total amount of ethanol produced in the US in 2011 was 13.95 billion gallons, enough to feed 570 million people that year.”

Now that number is so large that it does not seem real. So, your humble narrator made his own research to find “the real number”.  (Don’t worry — multiplication and division is as tough as the math gets — and we will not “show our work”)

Begin with the final product — ethanol.  While it is not your typical staple food, its caloric content is well known – being 20,607 calories per gallon.  A warning is appropriate here that even pure ethanol produced for fuel is “denatured” to avoid taxation as liquor. That is just another way of saying “poisoned”.  So, nobody is actually going to live on ethanol alone.

We know that about 1500 calories are a daily minimum for the average man (1200 for women) allowance. We will average those to at 1350 calories/day.  In that 13.95 billion gallons are enough calories to feed 583 Million people for that year. Thus, we have confirmed the number from Albino, et al. to within 2.2 percent!

The point can be made that alcohol is not food – especially when denatured.  So, shall we look at the corn before it is brewed and distilled?  Each gallon of ethanol requires 2.8 bushels of corn.  Each bushel provides 86,800 calories. The corn used to make those same 13.95 billion gallons — in 2011 — of ethanol would feed 878 million people – again, for that entire year!

Obviously, the process of distillation is far from perfect and one would expect a loss.  The process also has a left-over (about 10% by weight), called distiller’s grain – which is used for cattle feed.

In conversations on this subject, objections are brought up about the type grain used for ethanol.  It is called “field corn” and is, indeed different the ears of corn that you find in the stores.  Nevertheless, field corn is used to make corn meal, corn oil and corn sugar – which people also consume. To quote Mr. Spock, “A difference that makes no difference is no difference.”

There is no way around this conclusion – burning that much food is simply not acceptable and it should stop.  By the way, in 2017 there were sixteen billion gallons of ethanol produced for fuel and those numbers are 669 Million people for ethanol itself and One Billion people for the corn.  Remember, this does not include any other fuels. Biodiesel is made from a variety of other foods – 11.6 billion gallons in 2017.

Destroying food is never a good idea.  Is this reporter the only one whose mother told him (long, long go) “Eat all your food!  People are starving in Europe!”?  This is a horrible statistic!  We are burning (in the U.S. alone) enough food to feed one of every eight people in the world! How can even the “environmentalists” let this go on?

Update – August 2019 – We calculated that food for one billion people was burned – only for US ethanol usage. What is the total of ethanol production worldwide?

Ethanol_Worldwide_Table.png
World Production of Ethanol [2}
The total seems to be about 29 billion US gallons.  By all the same formulas above, this is the enough food to feed 1.8 Billion People.  That is about one out of every four people on Earth!

Green politicians are saying that Global Warming is reducing crop yields and expanding deserts.  Their solution includes burning massive amounts of food.  In other words, we should burn food so people won’t starve!

Fortunately, the climate is not warming and even if it did, that would mean greening deserts and longer growing seasons. And, by the way, commercial greenhouses use enhanced CO2 to reduce water use and accelerate growth.

  1. K. Albino, K.Z. Bertrand, Y. Bar-Yam, Food for fuel: The price of ethanolarXiv:1210.6080(October 4, 2012). http://necsi.edu/research/social/foodprices/foodforfuel/ 
  1. https://ethanolrfa.org/statistics/annual-ethanol-production/

The Truth About Hiroshima

Steve Campbell    August 6, 2019

Hiroshima has a secret.  While it was well known at the time of the city’s sudden rise to fame, it is all but lost in modern times.

Hiroshima is a grim lesson in the nature of war.  The truth of that city has been suppressed from the history of the definitive conflict to salvage world freedom.  A conflict that was fought by our progenitors – in your humble narrator’s case, only a single generation removed – who have been slandered by revisionists as war criminals.

 Atomic vs. Conventional

First, the revisionists pretend that the war could have been won without the atomic bomb.  That concept is proven to be a fallacy simply by the fact that the atomic bomb was indeed used and victory was not forthcoming.  It took two bombs before surrender was attained.

It is certain that the war could have been continued with conventional weapons.  There was already a campaign of firebombing military targets, which were mostly in 67 crowded cities (the Japanese freely intermingled military and civilian activity) ongoing before the atomic bombs became available.  A single such raid on Tokyo was thought to have killed 100,000 and made 375,000 homeless.   Civilian and military deaths and injuries had already exceeded that of the ultimate atomic casualties and further conventional warfare would undoubtedly have sent those numbers far higher had that continued.  A ground invasion would have been next. It is left to the reader to imagine the toll on both Japanese and US personnel.

And suppose that it was discovered — after the carnage — that Harry Truman had been in command of a weapon that could have ended that extended conflict with only two single-bomber missions – and did not use it?  Can we imagine the outrage of the population of the US when that little tidbit came to public light?  Why, they would have had called for Truman’s execution!

Military vs. Civilian Targets

Second, there is a contention that Hiroshima, et al, were civilian targets.  Truth is, Hiroshima was home to a munitions factory, an aircraft parts factory and one of the largest military bases in the Japanese Empire.  Hiroshima was also a staging port for moving troops by sea.  The garrison there was forty thousand and at any given time there were perhaps thousands more in transit to deployment.  Nevertheless, civilians (including women and children) were mandated employees at the war factories.

Quoting:

From:  August 6, 2005, The Asahi Shimbun Newspaper Morning Edition:

 “The population of Hiroshima at the time was about 310,000, plus 40,000 military and 20,000 daytime workers…The entire Second Japanese Army was destroyed to a man…”

“Sixteen hours ago, an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base”.  – Quoting U.S. President Harry Truman  – August 7, 1945

“About 150 eighth graders of Hiroshima Prefectural Daiichi Junior High School (present-day Prefectural Kokutaiji High School), who were contributing to the war effort by working in an aircraft parts manufacturing factory…”

“Kiyoko Yoshida was in fourth year at a girl’s high school when she was exposed to the A-bomb while working at a munitions factory.”

Nagasaki was similarly a military target as was Kokura, the secondary target in the first bombing and the primary — but cloud-covered — target in the second).

Warnings

Also in the arsenal of the revisionists is the accusation that the Japanese people were not warned of their pending fate.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Shortly before the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, the United Stated showered the Japanese cities of Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki and 33 other potential targets with over 5 million leaflets warning civilians of the impending attack.

In Japanese, the leaflet read:


“Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America’s humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives. America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war. We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately. “

An American-controlled radio station on Saipan was broadcasting a similar message to the Japanese people every 15 minutes. Five days after the fliers were distributed, Hiroshima was destroyed by the “Little Boy” atomic device. Following the first attack, the U.S. Army Air Forces dropped even more leaflets:

“America asks that you take immediate heed of what we say on this leaflet.
We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man. A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate.
We have just begun to use this weapon against your homeland. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry as to what happened to Hiroshima when just one atomic bomb fell on that city.
Before using this bomb to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, we ask that you now petition the Emperor to end the war. Our president has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender. We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better and peace-loving Japan.
You should take steps now to cease military resistance. Otherwise, we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.”

Conclusions

  • The Japanese were not prepared to surrender – before or after the first atomic bomb.
  • Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Kokura, et al. were home to military targets of great strategic value. The sad fact is that the Japanese had placed military installations in cities and “drafted” women and children to work in war plants in those cities.
  • The Japanese were warned repeatedly — clearly and simply in their own language — that the US had mighty weapons and intended to use them to end the war.

Bibliography:

Hiroshima, garrison and war industry:    http://www.ww2pacific.com/hiroshima.html

August 6, 2005, The Asahi Shimbun Newspaper Morning Edition:  http://www.asahi.com/hibakusha/english/shimen/happened/happened-01-2.html

 

 

 

The Grim Lessons of Charles Whitman

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This article was first published in American Thinker on March 15, 2018

By Steve Campbell

The era of mass public shootings began with Charles Whitman in 1966.  He taught us all we need to know to prevent or minimize such events.  We ignored his lessons.

On August first of that year, Whitman rode the elevator to the top of the Clock Tower at the University of Texas at Austin.  He rolled a hand truck along with him that carried a footlocker full of guns and ammunition.  Soon after ensued the first mass murder in a public place in modern America.

Texas Monthly Magazine published an in-depth story for the 40th anniversary of this episode in American history.  It is entitled “96 Minutes” – you know why.  It contains many quotes from individuals who were there or were immediately affected by those events. If, after you read that, Whitman’s Lessons are not then apparent, then come back and read on, because those lessons are here named and explained.  Unless otherwise indicated the quotes in this article are from 96 Minutes.

I. There will be warnings.

Whitman sought out psychiatric help.  He mentioned that the Tower would be a great place from which to shoot people.

From the note he left behind:

“I have been fighting my mental turmoil alone, and seemingly to no avail.  After my death I wish that an autopsy would be performed on me to see if there is any visible physical disorder[.] … Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type.”

II. There are reasons.

This type of behavior does not occur at random.  People see trouble coming, but they don’t imagine the magnitude of consequences.

“Was it his abusive childhood?  His overwhelming anger?  The amphetamines he consumed, observed one friend, “like popcorn”?”

This reporter has seen his type a few times before.  There are tales of more.  They go along, these amphetamine addicts, energetic and good-natured, until they explode.  To reinforce that anecdotal information, the reader is encouraged to research the term “amphetamine psychosis.”

Charles Whitman was:

“… a good son, a top Boy Scout, an excellent Marine, an honor student, a hard worker, a loving husband, a fine scout master, a handsome man, a wonderful friend to all who knew him – and an expert sniper.”

He himself recognized the symptoms (but not the cause) and asked for help that never arrived.  One might doubt that the danger was known at the time.  A bit of research turned this up:

… a letter by P.H. Connell published in the British Medical Journal on March 9, 1957 …

“[a] common result of amphetamine intoxication is the development of a paranoid psychosis indistinguishable from schizophrenia, during which the patient may be a serious social danger,” he wrote.

III. Help will not be in time to save you.

“In the absence of any visible police presence, students decided to defend themselves.”

The police were armed with revolvers and shotguns.  Neither was effective against an enemy atop a 300-foot tower shooting over a chest-high wall.

The populace of U.T. and Austin in 1966 was an armed society.  These people felt every right to defend themselves, and they did so in numbers.  Among civilians, students and police were those who owned high-powered rifles, many with scopes for long-range targeting.  Within 20 minutes, they began to return fire on Whitman, who was forced to give up his place shooting over the wall and from then on shot only through the drain holes at the base of the deck.

In the seventy-odd minutes after that, only one more fatality occurred.  When the Tower deck was “stormed” by two police officers, backed up by a volunteer, Whitman was on the deck, with his rifle’s barrel through a drain hole.  While he was furiously reversing the rifle out to shoot these “intruders,” officers responded with a revolver and a shotgun.  Those turned out to be effective after all – at close range.

Had Whitman been standing to shoot over the wall and undistracted by return fire, it might have been a very different story.  Thanks, armed society!

IV. Do not dwell on the tragedy.

This one is not immediately obvious.

In the aftermath, don’t glorify or name the shooter.  Don’t dwell on the event.  It might be best to just shut up about it – perhaps for many years.  Excess attention to the event makes it, in some twisted minds, an exaltation of the actions of the maniac, and that seems to promote similar events.  It is known that the publication of suicide stories is a stimulus for more suicides.  That once kept people from publishing such stories.  The incident was not spoken of much.

A similar event did not occur until 1984 in San Ysidro, California.  Another disturbed individual went on a rampage in a fast food restaurant.  Among civilians, nobody shot back at all.  The police did have a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, which arrived only after the majority of deaths had occurred.  Whitman’s Third Lesson had been ignored, and the shooter had managed to kill 21 and wound 19 others.

The San Ysidro perpetrator had called a mental health clinic and said he had a problem on the day before the event.  He made an “offhand” comment about hunting humans on the morning of the incident.  Whitman’s First Lesson was ignored as well.

Was the 18-year gap a result of the reluctance to talk about Whitman?  Perhaps.  Whitman’s Fourth Lesson could be said to have been postulated that day.  Ensuing years seem to have confirmed it – in a negative and tragic way – as the rhetoric about shooting incidents increased and the gaps between such incidents shortened.

The current state of affairs: Paralysis

There have been more and more arms restrictions and regulation.  The role of defenders has been taken away from the people and deposited with SWAT teams.  Has it improved the situation?  Not at all!

Perpetrators are being spotted in advance, but their actions and words are ignored by the very authorities charged with defending the public.  Schools are institutionally disarmed and advertised as such.  Crimes that would disqualify perpetrators from purchasing weapons under existing laws are not being prosecuted.  And some of these shooters seem to have been taking drugs with dangerous side-effects.

So how would we solve these problems?

Let’s take the first two together.

The warning and the reason

The answer would have been to take Whitman’s Warning seriously and help him to give up his speed habit.  Medical science knew the reason, even if Whitman himself did not.  If someone had described the problem to him, he might have cooperated with the solution – he wanted to get better!

Don’t wait for help

They didn’t.  How many were saved by the return fire is uncertain, but it is unquestionably “many.”  The armed society also – albeit unknowingly – paved the way for the final assault on Whitman’s “fortress.”

Your defense is your responsibility. Blaming others is denial.  That you were unprepared is tragic, regrettable, forgivable, even understandable – but not correctable.

The stark reality of Whitman’s Third Lesson is this: the best way to deal with a mass shooter is to aim your own gun and shoot back.  Even if you miss, you may save lives.

That last thing

What shall we call it?  Forbearance?  Discretion?  Responsibility?  Don’t talk so much?  If mere chronology is any indicator, keeping quiet about Whitman perhaps delayed for 18 years a repeat of the situation.  These days, not a year seems to pass without one, while the media analyze and accuse for as long as ratings persist.

Perhaps there is a time to shut up about the subject?

Steve Campbell attended the University of Texas at Austin some years after the Whitman Event.  See his writings at Goingwalkabout.blog.

Hydrogen

 

 

 

Occasionally, hydrogen comes up in conversations about energy.  There are a myriad of misconceptions about that subject and I will explain some:

I was only made aware of this misunderstanding recently, but I see what happened.  The term “Hydrogen” is not a contraction for “Hydro-electrical Generation”. 

Hydrogen is an element, like carbon, oxygen or nitrogen.  Hydrogen burns with pale blue flame that is almost invisible in daylight.  You may have seen a blue tint to the flame of your natural gas stove.  That is hydrogen from the mostly methane (CH4) that is natural gas (the part that is yellow or red is from carbon).  It is widely used as rocket fuel because hydrogen packs the most energy for its weight.

Burnt hydrogen “surrounds us and penetrates us”.  It is water.  Hydrogen being burnt creates nothing else.  No mystery then, why the “environmental” cabal wants to use hydrogen as automotive fuel, either burning it directly or in a fuel cell.  Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe.  Stars are made mostly of hydrogen and helium[1].     

  Why not turn to hydrogen for every sort of use since it is so blessed?   

Here’s the deal:  That burnt hydrogen (water) is obviously abundant.  Hydrogen is also in compounds making up plants, animals and life in general.  Hydrogen is in every fuel currently in use, even in coal, which is mostly carbon.  However, free, pure hydrogen is not generally available.  It is all tied up with other molecules and has to be separated from same. 

That takes energy.  To get it out of water takes just as much energy as was liberated in the burning that made the water in the first place.  Practically, it takes much more energy than you can get back because no separation process is 100% efficient. 

For example, water can be split by an electric reaction.  But,  burning that hydrogen to make electricity – even in an efficient fuel cell – will return only a fraction of the electricity used to get the hydrogen in the first place.

Now, some might say that since it is electricity, the hydrogen was “cleanly” produced.  Those are folks who don’t know:

  1. The meaning of the word “clean”.
  2.  Whence Electricity?   (Spoiler: 85% from Coal, Natural Gas and Nuclear)

Hydrogen is industrially produced by “reforming” natural gas (mostly methane (CH4)) that is reacted with water (Steam, actually) and the resulting “synthesis gas” [2] (hydrogen and carbon monoxide) is reacted with some more water to make hydrogen and carbon dioxide.  So, there is a lot of energy input in the process, but you might come out ahead barely, in the energy sense.  That’s because a lot of the energy comes from the chemical reactions themselves.

 As Colombo would say, “There is…just…one more thing, sir.”  Why were you wanting to make pure hydrogen?  If you just want some rocket fuel, then you’re done.  If you wanted to avoid making carbon dioxide, go back and read the products of natural gas reforming.  That’s right, kids, “hydrogen and carbon dioxide.”  You would still be using “fossil fuels” and still be emitting carbon dioxide.  Capture the CO2?  Yes, you can, at great expense and further energy use.

And, when all is said and done:

Let’s say you have some way to produce hydrogen without making CO2 and you are very proud that you are not emitting “greenhouse gas”.  Well get ready for a shock.  Your burnt hydrogen is water vapor, which is the most abundant “greenhouse gas” in the world.  You have not changed much of anything, after all.

Let me say in closing that there is nothing wrong with carbon dioxide, petroleum, natural gas, coal or water vapor, for that matter.  Also, the Globe is not Warming

Ex Sientia, Veritas

______________________

[1] Helium, was first discovered as a spectral signature in sunlight.  Its name comes from “Helios”  (the  Sun – Greek).

[2]  A while back  in South America there was no helium available at anything like reasonable prices to fill toy balloons.  And yet, my brother-in-law would sell balloons with his grandfather in Peru, 50- odd years ago.  Bro-in-law assures me these were synthesis gas balloons which floated because both hydrogen and carbon monoxide are lighter than air (CO, just barely).  They are also, however, both flammable, hydrogen especially so.  Synthesis gas can be used as automobile fuel.  On this one, my own father told of a taxi driver in Southeast  Asia (circa 1950) who heated chicken droppings and piped the output directly to the engine.  I’m thinking this might have been a tuk-tuk (three-wheel motorcycle) as I saw while in that part of the world.

[3]  Water Vapor