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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Et touque?

EV World has a tutorial on getting by with less, from the perspective of a Canadian sustainable energy advocate. The author, Guy Dauncey, categorizes several potential ways that individuals can make a dent in their gasoline consumption through changes in mobility behavior.
  1. Stay Home

  2. Walk

  3. Cycle

  4. Share Rides

  5. Mass Transit

  6. Share Cars

  7. Electric Cars

  8. Hybrid Cars

  9. Smart Cars

  10. Biofuels

  11. Electricity

  12. Smart Policy

What's interesting is that Dauncey keeps a running tally of percentage energy savings as he steps through each behavioral adaptation. By the time he gets to the end of the list, he achieves a signicant savings. Probably a bit too optimistic for those not able to stay physically fit and agile, but still surprising.

Update: Check out WorkBike.org for modern-day rickshaws and other contraptions.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Short Hairs

Suspicion is, that after October, Oil Companies Have Consumers in Cross Hairs.

But, not to be outdone, Terrorists Have Oil Industry in Cross Hairs.

Fear not, in the USA, Consumers have Terrorists in Cross Hairs

Is mutually assured destruction, assured?


How's this for solving our energy problem:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

For more brilliant ideas, check out the source:
All Meat Looks Like South America: The World of Bruce McCall

Not to be outdone, Fafnir says:

"They say they might make flyin cars," says me. "It might solve the problem of ground-based traffic accidents by relocatin them to the sky!"

<-- Boeing scientists thinkin!

Thumbing through McCall's book (while witnessing some of the outlandish schemes being concocted in the real world) you begin to realize that we inhabit a period of time that longs for the 50's vision of the future, one of unlimited growth and potential, but strapped by our current resource constraints, with the cutting edge technology coming in a tad too late.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Forgery exposed!

Based on a tip from assmissile on the powerboatblog.com site, we have learned that parts of the notorious Windsurfing attack-ad created by the Bush for President campaign, have been premeditatively forged through high-tech digital electronic means.

To back up a little, the fraudulent advertisement purports to show Kerry windsurfing on some unnamed large body of water. The theme of the ad ostensibly works to sway the viewer into believing that "Kerry tilts in any direction the wind blows", an extension of the flip-flopping tag given to Kerry by his opponents. The clip further accentuates the flip-flopping by showing him sailing in one direction and then clearly in the opposite direction, repeated several times.

Given the point the Bush ad-men apparently tried to convey, they unfortunately relied on high-tech, yet crude and amateurish, forgery techniques to create the video. As a case in point, look carefully at the following two frames snapped from the ad:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The first frame, which we call "flip", shows Kerry skillfully sailing in one direction. The second frame, "flop" shows Kerry elegantly keeping the exact same form while traveling in the opposite direction. On first glance, many people know that this can happen through a technique called tacking; which cleverly enables the seasoned sailor to travel upwind. However, upon further reflection, the populace who has watched enough Flintstone cartoons during their childhood and early adulthood, will recognize some sleight-of-hand performed on the video mixing board.

Hollywood rears it's ugly head when we take one of those clips and flip the image orientation using GIMP:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

How odd that the two images appear identical apart from the ad narrative text superimposed on the frames. The odds that one of these two images is a forgery approaches 100%, if we statistically consider that the odds of all the landmarks coincidentally lining up in the field of view, at the exact same locations but in the opposite sense, is vanishingly small. Much like the DNA or fingerprints of any two people matching is vanishingly small.

And here is an animated GIF of the two images superimposed:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

So what we have here is a forgery, frequently defined as "the false making or material alteration of or addition to a written instrument for the purpose of deceit and fraud". The fact that this was a digital deception does not make it any less a forgery. And in a strange political twist, the analogy of flip-flopping no longer holds water; Kerry obviously is sailing in one direction, clear in his ideology and true to his character.

The psychology behind the technical deception

Ordinarily, the average person can't tell the difference between a real and forged mirror image, due to the lack of extra visual cues.
Case in point, consider the following images:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.us

Next, consider the following two images with a strong visual contextualization:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted
<br />by ImageShack.us

Psychologically, the average person would have been immediately yanked out of their inadvertant hypnosis if the video ad had contained strong visual cues, such as the name of the passenger boat passing by. Or if the writing on Kerry's shirt had been more visible. Unfortunately, the quality of the video was poor enough, blurred enough, or altered enough to prevent the fraud from immediately being exposed.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Everything is expendable

Whitson posts a WaPo article on pillaging of the west for oil interests.
"It is our obligation to use the land wisely, and sometimes not to use it at all," said James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
According to the obvious code words, it appears that a wise-use cretin is in charge.

Ward Wise, who serves as the Pinedale mayor's assistant, said the economic boost from gas production in the past was often short-lived.
Listen to the true Wise-man, on the reality of the situation.

Overall, a fascinating article, in particular, I learned that wild horses have become a nuisance. After learning that prairie dogs have also recently become a nuisance, you have to wonder what the next excuse will be.

We come in peace, we mean no harm. Bzzt.

Add a new human popcorn weapon to the list of devices to fall into the directed energy category.

Anxiety provokes snarky comments:

If the military starts using this weapon, they will have to watch out for saboteurs able to sneak up from behind and pull out the power cords from the wall socket.

I am also waiting for the first story of a soldier using this to cook a serving of MRE.

Friday, September 24, 2004


Working a current project in scientific visualization, I can confirm that the oil companies are one of the main investors in high-end computer graphics technology. This MSNBC article briefly touches on what's required in predicting the locations of the last drops of oil.

I contemplated this quote by Ken Deffeyes (referring to oil depletion):
“It’s like catching bass in a pond,” he said. “After you catch most of the fish, it gets harder to catch the rest.”

Regrettably, the Deffeyes quote neglected to hammer home the point that the average outdoors sportsman would relate to even more: It's like catching fish in a pond, where no restocking is possible. Remember that oil, unlike fish, is a non-replenishable resource.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Fresh Air

The NPR program Fresh Air has had a track record of listening to and discussing issues with oil industry observers. Earlier this year, Paul Roberts was interviewed on the program, while last week Michael Klare, author of Blood and Oil was on. Check out the audio archives.

Update: Fresh Air's Terry Gross does not back down in a showdown with BO'R.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Term Oil

Why oh why would anyone read the latest Bush celebrity expose book by Ms. KK. This guy has, so I don't have to; he relays the nugget on Peak Oil buried in its 700 pages:
George Bush is being told that the national budget and trade deficits are not sustainable and (by advisor Matt Simmons) that the world is running out of energy. Bush knows when world oil production will peak.. He's just not telling. As the energy goes, so goes the economy. It won't be long until "Bushvilles" join the national lexicon alongside "Hoovervilles." It won't happen until after the election of 2004 -- Bush can manage that.

So if Matt Simmons is telling Bush the "secret" info on depletion, is it really any different than what Mr. Simmons has been telling the public all along?

And then there's the old saying that "oil politics is local" (tip of the hat to Tip). An interesting bipartisan bid to let Colorado voters decide on use of renewables as an electricity source.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Stunted Mile Age

I wonder if chronic speeders ever wonder why they get such poor gas mileage?
The number of drivers caught speeding more than 100 mph has quadrupled over the last decade to nearly 400 last year, according to a St. Paul Pioneer Press analysis of more than 3 million speeding tickets written by the State Patrol.

This interactive map shows that most tickets for super-fast speeding over the last decade were written along Minnesota's three interstate highways.

For the curious, the How Stuff Works website has a fairly good discussion on the sweet spot for obtaining good mileage. The eye-opener is that doubling the speed of an SUV from 50 to 100 mph, requires a 5-fold increase in horsepower. The implication is that, even though doubling your speed gets you there in half-the-time, you end up using 2.5 times the gas as you would going slower.

Still, actually spotting a speeder going over 100 is pretty rare. According to the Minnesota statistics, you will see only 1 in 500 potentially ticketed cars going over 100.

Suggestion: Stay away from Montana

Update: Something is in the water as the Mpls Strib reports a mortorcyclist ticketed for going 205 MPH last Saturday.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Spoil the Oil Plan, Man

Interview by Greg Palast with Jay Garner, who was the original point man in "post-war" Iraq:
Oil fields on fire: Garner indicated that his desire for quick elections conflicted with the Bush Administration's economic timetable. Even as they battle to put out oil field fires, Washington pushed a timetable for privatising oil and other industries.

General Garner: I think we as Americans, and this isn't CPA, this is just we as Americans, we tend to like to put our template on things. And our template's good, but it's not necessarily good for everybody else, you know. TE Lawrence has a great saying, I wish I could repeat it exactly, I can't, but it goes something like this: says "it's better for them to do it imperfectly than for us to do it for them perfectly, because in the end, this is their country and you won't be here very long". And I think that's good advice.

While Iraqi's worried about power and water, Washington's concern was that Garner impose an elaborate plan to redesign Iraq's economy on a radical free-market model.

General Garner: I just think that you... again, that we're better by establishing Government and re-establishing basic services and getting things picked up and letting that Government, and through their own electoral process, decide what's good for their country.

Palast BBC: Let them decide whether to privatise the oil fields?

General Garner: Yes.

Palast was on Majority Report Radio today, and stated he had in his posession a 101 page paper written in March 2001 by the Bush administration which served as Garner's initial marching orders for reconstruction. The paper basically elaborated the takeover plan, nominally designed to create an experimental free-market situation in Iraq, but in reality described how to slice and dice assets and capitalize on the oil resources located there. Palast has released a few excerpts from the report but it sounded as if was saving most of it for a future report and to publicize his new documentary Bush Family Fortunes

Coverup? You decide!

I have a feeling the Detroit automakers are behind the Kryptonite lock "expose". Having never had a bike stolen, and using the U-shaped locks (or lock, as these things last) exclusively for over 20 years, I am a bit incredulous over the spread of the lock-picking news. I tried the technique on my own trusty lock, and discovered the recommended BIC pen was not even a close fit.

I claim this story is a forgery of a coverup of a whitewash of a fraud, sponsored by automakers and the oil industry, who are quaking in their boots over the rapid spread of oil-independent grass-roots organizations such as Critical Mass and the longevity of loose-knit coalitions comprised of school-children bicycle commuters.

Either that or the "lock backdoor" is a slimy part of the Patriot Act. Realizing that Kryptonite locks have long been a part of non-violent protests over the years, finally The Man has found a clever way to subdue their adversaries quickly and painlessly. A group of environmentalists locked to fences is no match against an army of bureaucrats armed with BIC pens.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Virtual Gold Rush

Using the term "gold rush" used to imply the mad dash to recover a valuable resource from some rugged or unchartered area.

Apparently, the term now indicates speculation in financial markets, in that the early investors stake their claim and make out like bandits. Unfortunately, having the gold rush refer to oil futures does not portend well for our own future.

The underlying implication, not well understood by the vast majority reading this news, leads to the potential for never achieving a concrete gold rush in any non-renewable resource, ever again. So we are left with the virtual gold rushes that, in essence, are nothing more than houses of cards.

Ponzi schemes.

Pyramid frauds.

A gold rush to mine the gullibility from the neverending source of marks and dupes.

Saturday, September 18, 2004


This shouldn't necessarily be something to mock but:

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 121: September 13, 2004


The report continues, “At the root of the opportunities provided by nanoscience to impact our energy security is the fact that all the elementary steps of energy conversion (charge transfer, molecular rearrangement, chemical reactions, etc.) take place on the nanoscale. Thus, the development of new nanoscale materials, as well as the methods to characterize, manipulate and assemble them, creates an entirely new paradigm for developing new and revolutionary energy technologies. Our workshop has identified nine key areas of energy technology in which nanoscience can have the greatest impact.”

The part that I highlighted in bold is akin to saying that the current problems with international conflicts among humans can be solved by investigating cell biology. Since cell biology is at the root of all human development, we need more research money to be applied to the cellular-scale.

Of course everything happens at the nanoscale. The fact that trendy terminology is used to market the well established fields of physics, chemistry, and material science drives me a bit batty.

On a related note, Bernie Meyerson, chief technologist at IBM, says Moore's Law is nearing its end. Basically, his prediction is based on the inability to physically scale conventional semiconductors any smaller. Thus, speed increases and density increases will tail off.

I interviewed with Meyerson at IBM several years ago, and although I did not join his specific group, my impressions of his work while there were top notch, and he was a brilliant chemist, with an artisan's feel for crystal growth. Suffice to say, that when someone at the top of his game with the backing of the preeminent technology research corporation says something as thought-provoking as predicting the end of Moore's law, you bet people will think somethings up.

Friday, September 17, 2004

We would rather sulk than switch

From Digby, showing how and why, in issues of politics, environment, economy, and maybe even technology, people won't switch until its too late.

Consider the following as the conventional wisdom, ostensibly practiced among observant folks, worried about the environment and our energy future:
Democrats are panicking because they aren't thinking about how this election looks to the median voter. A partisan Democrat looks at Bush and sees: 1) upcoming disaster on Iraq and Al-Qaeda (latter brought about by former); 2) upcoming disaster on climate change and the environment; 3) upcoming disaster on the economy; 4) upcoming disaster on the Supreme Court. Then he or she wonders, "how in the world could anyone vote for this man? We're going to hell in a handbasket! The fact that Kerry isn't miles ahead shows that he's an abysmal candidate, and can never win!" And then Kerry becomes Gore-ified, with the potential of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But this is the way things are:
The problem with this model is that all these disasters are UPCOMING. Policy wonks, politically educated and motivated Democrats can see them (or at least they think they can). But there is absolutely no reason for the median voter to look at the situation that way. The voter is rationally ignorant. He or she is not going to spend time digging into policy details, considering potential budget models, etc. What does this voter see? The economy isn't fabulous, but it isn't terrible. Maybe there will be environmental problems, maybe not, but at this point, there isn't anything in front of his or her face. Newsweek might say that Iraq is a disaster, but I don't see it: maybe it's just tough. I'm not comfortable with it; we probably made a mistake, but it's not clear what we do now. Besides--in Vietnam, we were losing 2,000 soldiers A MONTH. We were told that Reagan's deficits would kill us, but they didn't: every economist has some model. I'm not real satisfied with the way things are going, but things could definitely be worse, and it's tough out there. 9/11 taught us that.

So I sees a middle-aged guy pedalling down the main avenue's sidewalk, looking pretty comfortable leaning back on his 3-wheel recumbent. But the effect was pretty much ruined, as I noticed a cigarette providing the cyclist with an extra calming influence.

What was that famous cigarette line? I would rather fight, than switch.

In my opinion, it will be almost impossible to achieve a forward-looking culture, burning smartly on all cylinders, doing the right thing on all fronts. Instead, it might be enough to pick 'em off one at a time, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Mission To Suck Seed

A PeakOil article check, Exxon-Mobil says restrictions need removed on drilling or face oil shortage, prompts me to come up with some new ideas on where to find oil in previously restricted areas:
  1. Oil rags in the alley behind Jiffy Lube franchises
  2. Scrape coating from the floor of Loew's Cineplex theaters
  3. Collect hamburger wrapper residue from Limbaugh's home office
  4. Recycle plastic from Tom Delay's plastic planter wig

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Boiled Frogs

The toughest job in the world, and something impossible to frame correctly is talking technical to someone with no interest in technology or science. Sure, the occasional NASA spokesperson can go on TV and totally embarass themselves with the feigned excitement of the Beaver catching a prized bullfrog, but true wisdom seldom gets transferred effectively. Instead, people are transfixed by the spokes-person's excitement, much like an infomercial huckster can captivate an audience with some lame product.

On occasion, I have tried talking to some new acquaintance about some technical detail (as hit-or-miss as trying a cold-call in direct marketing). I recall one incident, where I was trying to convey the idea of variability in some physical effect. But instead of using the term variability, I used the term "fluctuation". I swear the person looked at me as if I was cursing at them in Cajun. End of conversation.

It occurs to me that if, and most likely when, the facts of energy depletion have to be imparted to the majority of the laypeople, the reaction will be like the frog slowly being boiled to death. Most will only start to catch on after it's too late.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

See Change

Put this :

Goldman Sachs calculates that for the first time this year demand for oil will outstrip the world's capacity to refine and distribute it. Benoit de Vitry, head of commodities at Barclays Capital, said: "The oil system has cracked. There is a lack of refinery and distribution capacity. The spare capacity is now down to 1 million barrels a day. People are not worried about having their meal on the table today, but fears are growing about the future."

Together with this:

According to UN-Habitat, 60% of the world's population will be living in cities by 2030.

Humans are on the brink of a historic turning point - changing from being a rural to an urban species, a new United Nations report says.

Why do the two of these reports, taken together, immediately conjure up pictures of laid-off suits huddling together around burning garbage cans to try to stay warm?

Hurri Cane Whipping

Friend of MOBJ, ~DarkSyde~ relates the reality of Nature in this fascinating blow-by-blow account.


A couple of watch items concerning the latest huricanes, and how things could play out in our long-range as well as immediate future.
  1. Global climate change causing warming of the gulf waters leading to a "super octane" fuel source to drive the circulation hard.

  2. High winds could damage many oil and natural gas rigs as hurricane #3 passes through.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Dis Gust

For people who want to make a statement while driving in luxury, try a customized black International CXT... So you get all the attributes of a commercial truck - but you don't need a commercial driver's license to drive it.*
The legendary International®DT 466 diesel engine provides up to 6 tons of hauling power.**The air-ride cab and seats provide an exceptionally smooth ride. And aspacious and well-appointed interior ensures automotive-like comfort and convenience.

Has Mattel taken over Detroit? Either that or somebody was using focus groups consisting of a bunch of 6-year old kids.

It just occurred to me, tax breaks.

Extreme Oil

PBS FrontLine will present a multi-part series called Extreme Oil starting tonight.

Can't tell for sure if they use extreme in the sense of "Extreme Programming", that is, doing just enough to get by; or as in "Extreme Sports", taking unnecessary risks. Could be the latter as the program synopsis describes following a pipeline through the Afghanistan hinterlands.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Science of the Weird

A couple of stupid comments realating to "science" have crossed my path recently. The first was from an article in the computer trade rag InfoWorld where the columnist complimented a company called Savvysoft for adding interesting features to the Excel spreadsheet program:
My briefing with Savvysoft went about the same way, and just before we ended the call, I told then, "Good Science".

The term science has just been diluted to a new low, that of hacking bureaucratic productivity devices.

The second case involves the calm dispassionate Judeo-Christian religious wingnut radio host Dennis Prager, who thought either Sigmund Freud or Adolph Hitler would have been a better choice for Time magazine's Man of the Century than Albert Einstein. He concluded by saying the staff of Time goes overboard in their worship of science. Classic framing technique, denigrate something you don't like by projecting the opposition's blasphemous use of a word; in this case "worship", while being dumb enough not to know that Freud was actually also a scientist.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Maximum Madness

Apparently other parts of the world sees the USA involved in a Mad Max oil scenario. And we are the villain (gulp).
The two books vary in their approaches. Klare's, the more satisfying of the two, is a steady poli-sci elaboration of U.S. foreign policy of the past 60 years as viewed through the lens of oil. "Slowly but surely," Klare writes, "the U.S. military is being converted into a global oil-protection service." His book is elaborately sourced and -- if you accept his premise -- dismayingly convincing. (With it you will be amply equipped to lead the conversation at the most strenuous Bay Area cocktail party.)

And the Mad Max intellectual summed it up:
"We have inhibitions about thinking about oil," he said. "Maybe because we're afraid of thinking about the sources of our lives."

And now go back to the previous blog entry and read the two quotes.

Friday, September 10, 2004

CNN to World Terrorism

Stirling Newberry writes:
"In news the rule is that liberals will watch the news, and conservatives will watch conservative news. A liberal will watch to see what you think, the conservative will watch to see how much you agree with him. This is why the headline world is so far to the right even of the content."

This basically explains the difference between "true believers" and "true skeptics". Any news report showing a shred of skepticism will typically get weighed against other reports that support held beliefs, with the ratings winner getting the nod.

In essence there are two facets explaining why a skeptic enjoys his hobby:
  1. Proving something faulty through logic and reason
  2. Observing the strange, bizzare world of the human condition

So, it is equally likely that the skeptic will watch and listen to, for example, a Peak Oil denier operate as he would the Peak Oil doom-saying prognosticator armed with convincing numbers. On the other hand, the true believer will tune out alternate voices and reflexively listen to only what they already know.
"Tell people something they know already and they will thank you for it. Tell them something new and they will hate you for it." - George Monbiot

And why does this happen? The linguist George Lakoff has been cooking up a theory over the last few years. Thanks to Seeing The Forest for hammering home this point.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Nu Clear Realism

The Monbiot treatise du jour covers nuclear energy. Pretty fair and balanced and realistic from the POV that radical but common-sense changes in human behavior outshine any technical changes for the foreseeable future.

I emphasize the change aspect in light of some battles I have with a certain J-Mo at the Peak Oil message board. It's kind of silly to get petty about this stuff, but the ideas that J presents are all red-herrings. Lately, in the context of a green scooter thread I have started to respond with aburdities.

Case 1

WebHubbleTelescope wrote:
What's with the talk of bio-diesel and ethanol all the time? This stuff gets subsidized by petrochemical dollars, and does not have a net benefit. It probably has a worse MPG in real-world terms.

JayHMorrison wrote:
Biodiesel plants that are specifically designed for it, and that are continuous production (not batch), have been shown to have an EROEI of 6.7 so far.

WebHubbleTelescope wrote:
Typically, more energy from non-renewables goes into making ethanol than comes out. As for bio-diesel, think of this analogy. I have got a material called leadgold, which is much more valuable than the plentiful lead. Of course leadgold contains nuggets of gold, which the clever person will determine is the reason it is more valuable. So replace lead with waste vegetable oil and gold with diesel and you have the wonder fuel called biodiesel. The emperor has no clothes.

Case 2

JayHMorrison wrote:
Read this article, then re-compute your math for the amount of gasoline a day per person using this. http://world.honda.com/news/2004/2040824_01.html

WebHubbleTelescope wrote:
Whoopee, It can go up a 12 degree incline! I suppose at 13 degrees, it just gives up and you are forced to walk it up the hill. Or maybe you can just circumnavigate the hill. I guess that's entirely feasible, unless you happen to live in the Rockies. In which case you might have to look for some mountain pass. I would recommend avoiding Donner Pass however; word is that if you get stuck there on your little electric trike and don't have snow chains for the long hard winter, you might be cannibalized, or worse, mistaken for cord wood and recycled by the folks at the NREL or, heaven forbid, the Lovins clan at RMI.

Wait Till Next Year

We got seriously pummelled in the past, things have looked bleak, but ...
"HERE’S what happens next. The oil companies are now going to go on the rampage to find new oil sources. A decade from now, gallons of the black stuff will be coming out of our ears, and the price will plummet. Meantime, things may get a little rocky and economic belts will be tightened, but hopefully not quite so tightly as in the 1970s."
Unsigned opinion in The Scotsman

This actually has as much substance as a football coach's pep talk.
HERE’S what happens next. You guys are now going to go on a rampage to get in shape for next year. In no time at all, strength, speed, quickness, and endurance are going to start coming out of your ears, and our team's confidence will skyrocket. Meantime, things may get a little rocky and you're going to feel like quitting, but hopefully we will not get as depressed as when we were losing.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

F. William Engdahl

Recommended article from Peak Oil forum via Carlhole:
"A New American Century: Iraq and the hidden euro-dollar wars "

Then read:
"Iraq and the Problem of Peak Oil"

Monday, September 06, 2004

Path, which to follow, blindly

I know that Smalley had a big role in advising congressional committees on energy policy, but the following indicates that they may be following the nanotech trail too exclusively.
The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 115: August 26, 2004

Basic Energy Sciences Meeting Looks To The Future

DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) staff and members of the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC) spent a day and a half this month looking ahe ad at the future of BES facilities and fields. They discussed how to ensure that new facilities get started off on the right foot and that the office stays on top of trends, changes and advances in science and in the conduct of research. At the August 5-6 meeting, BES Director Pat Dehmer called on the committee to take a broad look at what grand challenges lie ahead for the energy sciences. She described how the BES program earned a major role in supporting the basic research to underpin President Bush's initiative for a hydrogen economy, and she is now turning her attention to how it could play a similar role in exploring the future of solar energy. She also reported that several new BES facilities are underway; construction continues on the Spallation Neutron Source and the Linac Coherent Light Source, and most of the five planned Nanoscale Science Research Centers are now also under construction. A number of speakers described the opportunities posed by these centers, and how creating new models of operation for them might have an impact on other scientific user facilities.

Dehmer began by discussing the role BESAC has played in helping guide the past activities of the BES program. In particular, she cited the impact of a 2002 BESAC report, "Basic Research Needs to Assure a Secure Energy Future" (which can be found on the BES web site at http://www.sc.doe.gov/bes/BESAC/reports.html) and follow-on workshops in ensuring that basic research played an important role in Bush's hydrogen initiative. Dehmer said that even though basic research was not originally envisioned as a significant part of the initiative, BES and BESAC were able to "change minds." She urged the committee to contribute suggestions for a workshop that might address the prospects for solar energy, which she said has "huge potential and huge basic research needs." Such workshops, she said, "tend to have a lot of impact."

In addition to efforts on solar energy, Dehmer asked the committee
to consider "What's next?" for BES. She decried the perception, from both within and outside the department, that while high energy physics was "pushing the boundaries of our understanding," the chemical, biological and materials sciences were "looked upon as making incremental improvements." She reminded the committee that BESAC is "almost unique" in the federal advisory system by having such a broad scientific purview. "What's happening in our disciplines...is equally profound," she declared, and "could have equal...impact on the way we think." In chemistry in particular, she said, "we are no longer bounded by what nature has given us."

(code words for man-made atomically scaled structures)
Dehmer also gave an overview of the FY 2005 appropriations process for BES, noting that the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill would provide $13 million over the President's request for BES, but that the Senate has not yet acted. She is expecting a continuing resolution that would last for some time after the start of the 2005 fiscal year, which she said would be "very hard on our construction projects in particular; some could be very severely impacted."

Several speakers talked about how the nanoscience centers would
require new thinking, new definitions of the user community, new
models for coupling theory with experiment, and new mechanisms for
cooperation within and across facilities. J. Michael Rowe of NIST
(retired) discussed a "Committee of Visitors" (CoV) assessment of
the new BES Scientific User Facilities Division and the processes
for monitoring, reviewing and making decisions on facility operations, construction, and upgrades. In general, he said, the CoV, while urging care in the setting of metrics, found that the facility review process was "fair and was seen to be so." It also found that the new division was "well-launched" and "good for all involved." Rowe pointed out that with more remote users, and researchers spending less time at facilities, users' needs and even the definition of facility users were changing, and the nanoscience centers would accelerate those trends. "We have an opportunity to get a little ahead of the curve" in considering how to set up the centers, he stated. The CoV recommended that the centers involve users in the early stages of the planning process, establish agreements with other laboratory activities and facilities, carefully plan integration with BES science programs, and facilitate coordination between centers to ensure they served as a national, rather than just local, resource.

Bruce Harmon of Iowa State University also referred to the
nanoscience centers while addressing the issue of "connecting theory with experiment." Noting that many BES facilities have "little or no associated theory program," he asserted that more strongly coupling the new facilities with theory programs would promote "asking the right questions" and "understanding the answers," thus enhancing the scientific productivity of the facilities. Bill McCurdy of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory added that a BESAC subcommittee on theory and computation was "struggling with" developing the right overall model for the nanoscience centers, including how to strengthen the connection between theory and experiment. "Everyone agrees that theory and computation needs to be a part" of the facilities programs, Dehmer said, but as they had not previously been coordinated within the BES program, "no one knows how to do it" yet. Saying that she expected this coupling to eventually "spill over" into all other scientific user facilities, she asked for the subcommittee to come up with "a range of models that might be appropriate."

An overview of the entire Office of Science (SC) was provided by
James Decker, SC's Principal Deputy Director. Referring to the FY
2005 budget, he said, "I can't find anybody who knows" how this
year's appropriations process will turn out. He reported that SC
Director Ray Orbach had committed to producing, by this fall, a
document highlighting the department's view of the contributions and future directions of its national laboratories. He said that
producing a document that incorporated budget projections would be a difficult task: because the labs would be competing to host
facilities proposed in the office's 20-year facilities roadmap,
there were "significant uncertainties" in the labs' future budgets.
Decker also commented that several different groups, including SC
and a panel of the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board, were
looking at laboratory management, contracting, performance, and
appraisal issues.

I have downloaded the highlighted report (400+ pages of slides and notes) and it does describe many interesting research areas, including some academic pork (interesting but still pork). A quick glance for novel oil-exploration initiatives found little.

And the non-technical angle from the same time frame on where we are heading. Curiously, no evidence of the original Baker report can be found.

Watch This Space

Strangely, the rumor from an otherwise gossipy guaranteed NY Times bestseller book:

It reveals how Bush plans additional wars for oil, under the pretense of fighting terrorism and defending Israel -- these are just pretenses, the real reason is we are running out of oil.

Considering all the other sordid rumors from the book, this nugget would likely get buried under the scandalous bits. If the assertion does actually appear in the book.
And can I possibly add any more qualifiers to this entry?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Brazen Bullies and Dope Smoking Morons

In certains areas, neocons have forthright opinions and don't hold anything back. For example, this letter, sent to Clinton in 1998, by the PNAC neocon group states plainly that the reason to confront Iraq was to protect our interests in oil. You would think they might want to eliminate this from their website after all these years, but no, they have righteousness on their side. Newt Gingrich said essentially the same thing on Meet the Press today; essentially repeating that we went into Iraq to protect oil interests. And further that we should henceforth prevent all global oil resources from falling into the hands of terrorists.

The list of 18 authors on the PNAC letter has an interesting entry (at least to me) -- one Vin Weber. A former Republican congressman from out-state Minnesota, and Gingrich confidante, Weber left congress after the check-kiting scandal from a few years back and then became a big-time consultant. My own personal knowledge of Weber, comes through a colleague in graduate school who grew up in roughly the same area of extreme southwestern Minnesota as "Cousin Vinny". All I remember from my office-mate is his insistence that Weber was just a slightly older dope that smoked marijuana in the backwaters. I recall that he only knew of Weber via mutual acquaintances.

This whole story in real terms is pretty meaningless, except for the route he took. From rural hick to a neocon dick, in a few doctrine-spewing steps. As we were warned in our youth, get involved with the "bad crowd" and it might drag you down. Luckily, he managed to eventually escape the rural "bad influences" of his rebellious years, but the neocons are a whole different breed of gangster cult.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

How Smearing Started

Possibly with antagonism against President Carter and his energy policies?
One of Carter's areas of major legislative accomplishments was his comprehensive energy policy, and getting the Crude Oil Windfall Profits Tax passed to finance it. This made him some serious and wealthy enemies.

... who had operatives that schemed to ridicule him.

Dave Johnson recalls that before the Carter years, "This kind of mean-spirited, harsh, extreme, cruel, mocking, ridiculing partisan attack that we're so familiar with today was not something that the public had been exposed to on such a scale in the 1970's."

And if you scroll down to the bottom of this late 2002 blog archive:

John Kerry is running for President. Character assasination begins.

From Seeing The Forest.


I recently heard mention of links between illicit diamond suppliers in Africa with terrorist organizations. Typical story here, showing how diamonds sold on the black market can help fund terrorists.

Now, I have no idea whether any of this is true (debate is on at AllAfrica blog), but the fact the first mention I heard was through a Right-wing radio talk outlet, made me think the talking-point may eventually get some traction.

If this story does pan out, and the US retaliates against African evil-doers in some way, let me make a suggestion that has a longer-term impact on under-the-table diamond dealing.

Proposal: Start manufacturing artificial diamonds

I know this will put "reputable" companies, like DeBeers, out of whack, and it won't appease diamond snobs that look for minute impurities in their gems to set them apart, but it will do the trick in a pinch.

This technology has been available for quite awhile, and although it is used quite often for industrial diamond applications, too many political issues have got in the way for it to be used for retail jewelry. The politics actually have been so heated that word was that South African hit squads would use threats and fear to keep this technology off the market. I recall 60 Minutes broadcasting a story on this long ago, and they have periodically repeated it:
May 12 2004:
Scientist Bob Linares runs a small secretive start-up company called Apollo, whose exact location 60 Minutes II is not allowed to reveal. Linares recently received a patent for his method of manufacturing diamonds, using hydrogen and methane gas.

His plan is to create diamonds that can be used – not only for jewelry, but also as semi-conductors for computing. For now, he is producing very pure, nearly colorless gemstones which have been called “too perfect to be natural.”

“It is because we can program the computer to make these more perfect,” says Linares. “In a batch of diamonds, every one will be identical.”

What is the difference between this and a stone that was grown in the earth?

“There is no difference. A diamond is pure carbon,” says Clarke. “This is pure carbon. A natural diamond is pure carbon -- all the same characteristics, all the same features, all the same chemical composition, so it’s a diamond. A diamond is a diamond.”

Having worked in semiconductor labs growing all types of ultra-pure crystals, this is not a pie-in-the-sky proposal. If the current admin wants to get serious about severing funding to terrorist organizations one by one, this is a strategy that may work. Wearing artificial diamond jewelry will become the patriotic thing to do.

Like helping us out of our energy predicament, it just takes a bit of courage and incremental change of mindset to get started down the right road.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Cold Suckers

The News
The Rewind

And what a bunch of programmers have to say about the news, mixed in with some voices of experience at SlashDot.

The bottom-line of the Cold Fusion resurgence is that:
  1. Technology Review, Physics Today, and IEEE Spectrum are not reviewed or refereed science journals
  2. Funding by the military does not mean anything, other than the administration may use this to their political advantage for the upcoming election

Lying drips

The bottom line from this story, is not surprisingly buried near the bottom line of the article.

The new oil production coming on line is eerily similar to the pronouncements of new US jobs every month. If you look at what's balanced against the creation of new jobs, you will find that the number of fresh-meat workers into the workforce grows just as fast, if not faster.

So to does the decline of existing oil fields need to be balance against the new ones coming on-line. Given the penchant of Republicans for skewing the numbers constantly (see Krugman or DeLong), it may be years before any politician owes up to the net oil production decline, just like they will never mention the dismal net job growth conditions.

Falklands Junior

Margaret T: Mark, Isn't it quite about time that you tried invading a smallish country? I myself have had resounding success overtaking miniscule properties in the Atlantic.

Mark T: Mums the word, mum ... and now don't tell a soul, but I have adopted a secret code name "Scratcher", and I shall soon be awash in riches bought from such an endeavor. Whilst you have had grand goals of a renewed rise of British Sea Power showcased by your masterful intervention, I have different visions of the future. The key to it all lies in oil ...


Thursday, September 02, 2004

And This Guy's a Standup Comic

Bob Harris reports this from his travels in Turkey:
And finally, you just open your eyes and look at the amazing mound of human residue before you, whatever the hell it was: this "Troy" wasn't just one city, but 9 different major settlements (and dozens of smaller yet discernible redevelopments) constructed, destroyed or abandoned, and then rebuilt over thousands of years.

Think about that. Thousands of years.

People built entire civilizations on the spot. They flourished. They rose. They were pretty sure they knew what the hell they were doing. And then they were gone.

And a few hundred years went by. And somebody else got things together, and rebuilt right on top of what came before. And they flourished. They were sure they were the real deal. And then... poof.

Over and over and over again.

and then
Someday there will be people speaking languages vaguely resembling our own but indecipherable if we could eavesdrop. Their maps will not be our maps. And they will look at our wars over half-forgotten gods the same way you and I look at the struggles between the tribes of Ur, very possibly while killing each other in the name of gods which do not yet exist.

They will dig and puzzle and speak of the Oil Age and how its brevity stunned humankind toward the end.

UPDATE: As part of a visit to Normandy recently, we did a bit of shell and fossil collecting along the beach. We discovered lots and lots of exposed cookie-sized bivalve shell fossils. Later, we took a trip to the local fossil museum and noted that the age of these particular artifacts was around 200 million years plus or minus a couple dozen million years. At the time I thought the time range seemed narrow, as if the creatures and their progeny lived a fleeting existence. But then later, upon reflecting on it a bit more, I realized that, given any two fossils, found within a separation of a few feet, that they probably lived millions of years apart. And then two hundred million years later, they happened to wash up on the beach at roughly the same time.

Our fossil oil will get used up in a scant 100 years. Will there be any evidence that this mysterious substance even existed 200 million years from now?

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


National Public Radio remains something of an enigma to a majority of the news hounds out there. I only like to listen to short durations of a fraction of the national programs, and stay most committed to the locally produced syndicated shows like Le Show with Harry Shearer, TTBOOK with Jim Fleming, et al, Whad'ya Know with Michael Feldman, and Prairie Home Companion. Shearer actually does the best takedown of the flagship NPR shows with his Continental Public Radio (CPR) parodies.

NPR actually sucks at science news, political news, and whatever because they play it safe while strangely garnering a reputation as a liberal media outlet. Their own media criticism show, On The Media, though interesting is also watered down, even though one OTM story explained all the radio editing gimmicks available. A CounterPunch story called NPR Leads the Charge to War articulates the problem well:
"Liberal NPR?"

How could anyone call themselves a journalist and use three right wing loonies as their sourcing for a report on a topic as hyper-sensitive as Iran?

So with that, this Morning Show transcript came across the PeakOil message board. It actually presents the Hubbert side and as I was reading it, I reminded myself that the clarity improves not to have to hear all the too-annoying background noises and pretentious fades typical of the broadcast. ... But then the transcriber stuck this bit in to the transcript as the reporter interviewed an oil business anal-optimist: "(Noisy office environment in the background)".

Please, someone put NPR out of its misery.