Category: Uncategorized

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 make 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

Escaping Newark

stevetrucker2
Sign123

October 6, 2016 (from the WordPress site)

The truck parking situation in the Northeast is now critical.  I am still avoiding much of the whole mess by traveling when most are sleeping and vice versa.  When I leave truck stops or even roadside parks, the mass of trucks is astounding.  They are parked not just in every space, but also in every space that is not a space.  They line the driveways and side streets and even the off ramps from and onramps to the Interstate.  The rest areas are so overflowing that I sometimes have to hop the trailer tires over a curb to get out to the road.  From there, it is smooth sailing because…why?  That’s right – most all the other trucks are off the road!  By the time I am ready for a break it is about six or seven in the morning and there are spaces left by the early risers who have departed.  Sometimes I can roll past the still sleeping trucks lining the on-ramps, avoid the side-liners in the driveway and find a nice vacant pull-through in the main parking lot at those hours.

If parking is crowded at a fuel stop, I can log my fuel stop for the first 10 minutes then go on “break” while I top off the reefer and add DEF (explained later). After that, I must pull forward if there is a truck behind me, but I can still buy some wiper fluid or oil, find the bathroom, get a cup of coffee, etc.  If by that time I don’t have the required 30 minutes, I will watch the mirrors while the guy behind me stalls around for the same reason.  If he gets through fueling, I have to move, but mostly, I manage to kill the 30 and drive on.  Jill stops saying “you have one hour and seven minutes of remaining drive time” to saying “you have four hours and 35 minutes of remaining drive time. The difference would be only three hours but she holds up your on-duty time (fueling, inspections, time at shippers or receivers) until you break, as well.

When I settle for the “night” it is about two or three in the afternoon.  Empty truck stop spaces abound.  Some rest areas are vacant except for my truck and two or three others.  All those empties and far, far more will be occupied when I leave again.  I have some photos of this phenomenon.

img_1926

Above:  Trucks parked on the Interstate ramp that leads to a rest area.  I see these by the hundreds on any given “midnight run”.  The law says you have to stop driving and park the truck after 11 hours of accumulated driving.  At times, there is no good choice for that location. The parking situation is critical in the Northeast and getting worse.  I avoid it – for the most part – by my “graveyard shift” driving hours.  By the way, notice the cool “spacecraft-like” appearance of my instrument panel

restareacongestion1

Above: This phenomenon is not limited to nighttime hours.  This is not long after dawn.

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Above:  Except for the truck in the fuel line (far right), all of those vehicles are in a “no parking” zone.  Nobody kicks them out because they have little choice.  The drivers will all quickly move their trucks when awakened if they block somebody in.  Those blocked in apologize for awakening them and are quite understanding in a “there but for the Grace of God go I” sort of way.  Ninety-nine percent of truck drivers are polite, thoughtful and helpful individuals.

Newark is a lot like a truck stop in the middle of the night.  There is no extra room to be found.  When there might be some, they start a construction area there.  This applies to warehouse areas and streets in industrial zones.  Where in small towns there are wide open spaces surrounding industrial zones, Newark has shops and houses that border them.  I went down a narrow residential streets to get to the new home for the half-million-dollars-worth of beef.  I had parked on the street to walk my papers to the guard to check in.  I parked right by a fire plug – see photo below

IMG_1930.JPG

Above:  I reckon I could talk my way out of this ticket.

They had a vendor parking area that was basically a trailer junk yard with a little extra space. Paved with gravel and diesel oil in a black organic ooze that gets tracked into the truck.  Driving out in the morning, Jill, the Virtual Navigation Girl told me to turn where rigs were parked on both sides, take narrow streets where cars lined the edges, use closed entrance ramps.  Nobody had told her about construction areas or detours.  I wore out my touch-screen finger pressing the “re-route” button.  I was hopping curbs and making sign-language pleas for cars to back up and let me avoid taking out road  signs on the corners.  I went around in circles until I finally worked up an escape velocity and left the orbit of Newark.  (…with apologies to Douglas Adams)

Not far out of town, I picked up a load of plastic bags to take to North Carolina.  This was at another of those obstacle-course yards where I had to back blind-side into a space with a fence in front making life difficult.

img_1932

Above:  The offending fence.  Its demise predated my arrival, but I rejoiced in its horizontality nevertheless.  The text at the top of the windshield lists truck stops and rest areas along the planned route.  Don’t worry – it’s dry-erase

I had to scale this load and found a Loves truck stop.  It was easily accessed by making an illegal right turn.  The scale was behind a powerline tower, necessitating a wait in the fuel line, then a diagonal approach to where I could wait for that one driver in a hundred who will leave his truck on the scale while he goes in to get his ticket.  The obstructed approach left me with one trailer wheel off the scale.  While I tried to pull up and back the trailer on to the scale, another one-in-a-hundred driver started pulling on to the scale behind me, thinking (being charitable, there;-) that I was through.  So, I gave it up and went back to the Interstate to the next windshield-noted stop.  It is possible to leave problems behind, occasionally.

While driving through Maryland, Jill told me about a new important message.  She won’t let me read these while I drive.  She does read them to me spontaneously, from time to time.  I sure would like to find out how that happens so I could ask that on demand – but I don’t know.  At a State-border weight checkpoint I stopped in the line long enough to read “Stop where you are! Call me when stopped.”  This panic-inspiring instruction is easier said than done.  The scale screen told me to exit to the Interstate, so I couldn’t stop there.  After 10 miles of no rest stops or obvious truck stops, I exited anyway and looked for big parking lots.  This happened to be a stretch of road with massive construction along both sides of ten more miles that left me no turns and no parking lots.  The road dead-ends into a checkpoint for the Aberdeen Proving Ground –  a Serious and Secure Army Installation.  They would not even let me on to their website to research them for this post, because I was using a WiFi connection.  The link below is Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberdeen_Proving_Ground

It took some explaining about how I was not here to deliver, but was a lost soul looking to turn around and go the other way without being fired.  They finally stopped traffic to let me make a (LEGAL and Company Acceptable) U-turn.

Finally, I found a Target and wove my way through the customer lot, only hopping one curb.  I found my required eight parking places (and the here-to-for-hidden easy back way in) beside the building and called in to find out that the load was to be delayed a week!

Now, I was to drag my trailer to a shop of the refrigeration unit manufacturer in Carlisle, PA (it has a lingering problem)  and drop it, pick up an empty and go to Lemoyne, Pennsylvania to pick up a load of “Freight, all kinds” and take it to Temple, Texas.  Before I left the yard in Carlisle, that load was cancelled and I was assigned to go to Howard, PA, pick up a Coca-Cola load and take it to Minnesota.

This sets my record for number of different destinations in one day.  The day was not over yet, but it ended before another destination could be flown in.

On the morning of the next day, I was reminded of the classic comedy routine by Abbot and Costello. Who’s on First?

  1. I show up at the shipper. He wants my empty trailer and I want a full one.
  2. I open the doors of the empty trailer and put it in a loading door. There, I drop it (uncouple  and drive the tractor away).
  3. I “hook” loaded trailer, i.e., I connect it to my tractor.
  4. I take it for inspection by the shipper.  We find out I have no load locks – extendable aluminum bars that keeps cargo from shifting.  At least one is required to be installed on the load before they seal it and I get my paperwork. My last two locks were in the previous load that I dropped yesterday. It is sealed, so I could not get them back.
  5. So, I drop loaded trailer and bobtail (verb – to drive a tractor-trailer truck with no trailer) to truck stop to buy load locks.
  6. I return to shipper and hook the loaded trailer again.
  7. I drag loaded trailer to the truck stop to scale load. It is heavy on the front, like all Coca-Cola loads.
  8. I shift trailer axles to balance load.
  9. The meat lock (a giant hasp and padlock that locks the trailer’s cargo bay – but good!) is installed.
  10. I go through the “Countdown” to depart. Meds, water, coffee, windshield, pre-trip inspection and so on.
  11. The Countdown is interrupted by message from the Company that Coca-Cola doesn’t like my empty trailer. It needs a wash out.  I had backed the open trailer into a door. They could have looked at it at their leisure while I went to buy load locks. But they waited until I had hooked the load and left.
  12. I return to shipper and drop loaded trailer.
  13. I hook empty trailer and take it 45 miles to wash shop.
  14. I return to shipper and drop the empty trailer.
  15. I hook loaded trailer and depart. No Countdown. It is time to put this town far behind me.

On the bright side, I am getting really good at dropping and hooking trailers.  Darn shame that I was paid exactly nothing for those 15 activities and had to shell  out my own money for the load locks and truck wash.

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Above:  On   the way to the wash shop.  The leaves are turning.

The Orion Nebula

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Some of you readers are aware that I have been working as a Telescope Operator at the George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park.  There are three domed instruments that are open to the public for viewing on Saturday nights – weather permitting.  I get to operate the smallest to these — a 14 inch Schmidt Cassegrain instrument.   For non-Astronomy Nerds, the 14 inch number refers to the diameter of the mirror that is inside the big, black tube.

BTW: Brazos Bend State Park, where the George Observatory is locate, has been closed for flooding until early July.  SO, this activity of mine is “on hold”.

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Fourteen inch Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope — George Observatory, West Dome

We might have forty or more visitors on an average night, but even so there are occasional intervals when I can make some photographs.  There was one night when the atmospheric conditions made the “seeing” miserable, but I still managed to catch some images of Saturn.  Most detail of the planet and rings was lost, but a couple of satellites were captured in one long time-exposure where the planet and rings were overexposed.  You might need to zoom to see the moons.

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Overexposed Saturn with two satellites

More recently,  on a night with better seeing, the Orion Nebula was captured in a series of different exposure times.  I include two below.

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Orion Nebula — 10 second exposure

Orion20s
Orion Nebula — 20 second exposure

There are methods, these days, to stack (combine) multiple images and get far more impressive results.  I am looking in to that.

Stay Tuned.

Steve

Planetary Defense

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Like many people, I have an interest in the idea that the Earth has been the victim of a multitude of asteroid impacts, over the Eons, and might become targeted again.  Unlike many people, I have looked up the orbital parameters and mass for some near-Earth asteroids and applied Kepler’s Laws to estimate what effort might be necessary to change the path of a potential Earth-impacting planetoid. 

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Figure 1:  There was a movie about this

 What I found was that it would be extremely expensive, but within the realm of possibility. Well, damn the expense!  If it can be done, we would do it or suffer the consequences.  I used the Cassini Saturn-orbiting probe as my example of “current technology”, which tells other Space Nerds how long ago that activity occurred.

 The scenario was that we should launch a mass the size of Cassini with that probe’s velocity to collide with the asteroid – not to blast it into pieces, because that would not be nearly enough.  Rather it would be to change the orbit – to delay (or advance, works either way) the arrival by one Earth radius.  The idea being that when the threatening asteroid got to its intercepting point, the Earth would not yet (or no longer) be there.

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Figure 2:  Cassini:  Now, I don’t mean to ram billion-dollar space probes into asteroids.  I just used this as an example of what mass has been launched before – at what velocity.

The truth is that I don’t remember* how many “Cassini masses” would be required, but I seem to remember that it was at least 20, so we will go with that.   After all (and as I pointed out at the time) Boeing would be happy to launch 20 measly rockets, just to have the “Boeing Saves the World” press coverage.  That choice of Boeing* is another indicator of the age of this calculation.  Today, I reckon SpaceX would be the contractor of choice.  Tell me Elon Musk wouldn’t be happy to get that media coverage! 

 There are a lot of details that make this far more complicated than I might have led you to believe.  For example, Cassini only got out to Saturn by making “slingshot” passes of Venus (twice), the Earth and Jupiter.  It is actually the velocity that is the critical element and a very great deal of that was gained by those encounters.  I have assumed that we learn of impending doom long before the pending event, since Cassini was launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. 

It also took a long time to engineer the craft and develop the mission but, we imagine that development of a simple impactor would be vigorously expedited, given the circumstances.  It might be better to just send a big bag of sand.  And one might entertain the idea of releasing the sand from the bag just before impact to spread it out some.  See, you don’t want to make a lot of fragments, since those will undoubtedly have a variety of orbits, some of which might still intersect the Earth.

 One complicating problem about all this was pointed out by Carl Sagan.  If I change the orbit of the asteroid and don’t do the job in “one fell swoop”, the effect is to move the location of impact, not into space, but to another location on Earth.  Sagan compared this to “walking” a very large Nuclear bomb across whatever countries are between the initial impact zone and the “edge of the planet”.  Carl had in mind some kind of rocket placed on the asteroid that would gradually move the impact zone.  I checked that idea and it requires a lot of “rocketry” and so lots of logistics and assembly and fueling.  My simple-minded “throwing rocks” (or sandbags) scenario was a lot less complicated but still not in the “one fell swoop” category.

Now, I told you all that so I could tell you this:

I am currently attending the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.  This is the 50th such conference and it is no coincidence that the moon landing was also 50 years ago.  The Conference “proper” has yet to start.  I have just finished the second of two sessions of  what is called the Microsymposium 60 – a “preliminary” event, like the no-name band that opens for Pink Floyd*.   

 *Shall I just put an asterisk on these “tells” for how old I am? LPSC

Figure 3:  Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

 Microsymposium 60 (Spellcheck fails miserably when they make up words like that, so I copy-and-paste these things) was all about how there is now a “Moon Rush” of private contractors and government effort to return to the moon.  That sort of news is usually hyperbole*, but this time it might be different.  Government will probably not come through anytime soon, but there is a moon lander by a private company that – if all goes well – will land on April 11…this year!  I just learned that in Microsymposium 60.

BeresheetOrbit

Figure 4:  Space IL Beresheet probe. This was a Lunar X-Prize entry, but the X-prize expired un-won.  They went on anyway.

Other private companies have been making moon landers, too.  They are ready to go and showing their wares (along with Instrument Makers) to eager planetary scientists today and throughout the Conference.  In case you think these are lightweights, among the presenters were Lockheed Martin and SpaceX. Some of the lesser known companies have made equipment and whole probes before.  A company called Masten has made over 600 flights, (many with landings) to date.

MASTEN

Figure 5:  Masten

Microsymposium 60 will be the subject of yet another post (or magazine article).  This post is to reveal where I am about to go listen to technical presentations for three hours this afternoon.  Notice (below) that this is for “the media”.  Yup, I am “credentialed” Working Press (it says so, right here on my plastic badge) for the entire Convention.

Workshop for the Media on Planetary Defense
at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

Everything you’ve always wanted to know about near-Earth objects and planetary defense: a workshop for journalists and science writers. (that’s  me! – Steve)

Sunday, March 17, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. EDT, GMT -5)
The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center
Indian Springs

The workshop is free but places are limited, so registration is required.

In this three-hour workshop, experts will report on the methods and status of finding, tracking, and characterizing near-Earth objects (NEOs) and planning for planetary defense. Plenty of time will be provided for questions and discussion.

Agenda

Journalists and science writers will have an opportunity to learn about such developments as:

  • Progress in ground-based optical and radar observations of near-Earth asteroids and comets.
  • Advances in modeling and understanding atmospheric, land, and water impacts of NEOs.
  • Current understanding of NEO characteristics.
  • NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test, the first mission that will demonstrate an asteroid deflection technique (the kinetic impactor).
  • Functions of the Minor Planet Center, the International Asteroid Warning System, and the Space Missions Planning Advisory Group.
  • The first test of the global asteroid-impact warning system and plans for a second test.
  • Interagency and international cooperation on planning for planetary defense.
  • The status of planning for a dedicated, space-based asteroid detection telescope.

Experts on hand will include:

  • NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson
  • NASA NEO Observations Program Manager Kelly Fast
  • NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office Program Executive Rob Landis
  • NASA NEO Observations Program Scientist Michael Kelley
  • University of Arizona Associate Professor, Small Bodies, Situational Awareness, Vishnu Reddy
  • Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCAM) Principal Investigator Amy Mainzer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Hasta Luego,

Steve