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Friday, March 31, 2006

Critical Mass for Ignorant Republican Cabin Boys : reached

In a bizarre turn of events which neatly mirrors the Open Source Media fiasco, a group of highly touted enthusiastic wingnut frosh has decided to name their blog Critical Mass. I decided to warmly welcome them to the blogosphere.

I am glad you guys have decide to tackle one of the most pressing issues of the day, that of our over-reliance on the automobile.
I look forward to spoking the pavements in synergy with you once a month at your favorite urban center.

April 1, 2006 | Webster Hubble Telescope

I believe the 'minionists have finally reached a critical mass; as to what that entails, I don't think they even fathom. Neither do the nimrods at Powerline. Ha Ha.

Remember, these youngsters will turn into the Karl Roves, Jack Abramoffs, Grover Norquists, and Ralph Reeds of tomorrow. I wonder if David Gelernter home-schooled his highly observant son?

Connect the DOT

From an interesting connect-the-dots read, this post from Daily Kos titled "Is Neil the link between Bush crime cartel and Dubai ports deal?" lays out some of the players. I can easily get lost in following the relationships, so I decided to whip out the freely-available GraphViz/DOT directed-graph tool to make it visually (un)appealing. Click on the thumbnail to see the fully connected network of cartel members.
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
A net-list governs the components and edges in the layout (shown below); DOT does the rest of the rendering.

digraph BushCo {
EdRogers -> NewBridge;
EdRogers -> GeorgeHWBush;
EdRogers -> Diligence;
EdRogers -> BGR;
LannyGriffith -> BGR;
BGR -> RepublicanParty;
LannyGriffith -> NewBridge;
LannyGriffith -> GeorgeHWBush;
EdMathias -> Carlyle;
EdMathias -> Diligence;
DiligenceMiddleEast -> Diligence;
DiligenceMiddleEast -> NewBridge;
Diligence -> RichardBurt;
RichardBurt -> BGR;
RichardBurt -> Carlyle;
JoeAllbaugh -> NewBridge;
JoeAllbaugh -> Diligence;
JoeAllbaugh -> GeorgeWBush;
GeorgeHWBush -> Carlyle;
DubaiHoldings -> DubaiInternationalCapital;
DubaiHoldings -> DubaiInvestmentGroup;
DubaiInternationalCapital -> Carlyle;
JohnHowland -> NewBridge;
JamalDaniel -> NewBridge;
JohnHowland -> NeilBush;
JamalDaniel -> NeilBush;
NeilBush -> Crest;
Crest -> NewBridge;
NeilBush -> Ignite;
JamalDaniel -> Ignite;

DOT can create huge graphs, and BushCo weaves a tangled web, so I will keep adding linkages until the sucker breaks. I bet monkeygrinder appreciates this one.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Last gasp of a dying organization

General Motors has thrown their marketing campaign to the winds. Get a load of the submitted video found on the www.chevyapprentice.com site.

Update: I made my own submission right here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Raising Cane & Corn

I garuntee that makinfun of Bush gets easier every time. Bush certainly has an impediment in classifying ordinary objects. In the past he has talked about "human-animal hybrids". Lest we all get confused again, the "hybrid batteries" he refers to in his press conference today, have to do with batteries for hybrid vehicles and not some genetic experiment gone wild.

Read the following and it appears that the articulate Bush alternates with the non-sequitor Bush. The non-sequitor Bush perches on his shoulder , inserting inanities as soon as Bush starts to say something intelligent.
Q From Australia. I've got a question about global warming -- in the Australian Parliament, Tony Blair called for greater action. And this seems to be something that the U.S. President could make a major difference on. There's a virtual consensus that the planet is warming. If you addressed issues like emissions, fuel efficiency, issues to do with alternative energy in your last few years as President, it could make a significant difference I think to the --

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate you bringing that up.

Q -- and I suppose I want to know, what is your plan?

THE PRESIDENT: Good. We -- first of all, there is -- the globe is warming. The fundamental debate: Is it manmade or natural. Put that aside. It is in our interests that we use technologies that will not only clean the air, but make us less dependent on oil. That's what I said in my State of the Union the other day. I said, look -- and I know it came as quite a shock to -- for people to hear a Texan stand up and say, we've got a national problem, we're addicted to oil. But I meant what I said.

Being addicted to oil is a problem for our economy. In a global economy, when burgeoning economies like India and China use more fossil fuels, it affects the price of gasoline here in America. In a world in which sometimes people have got the oil we need, or don't like us -- it's kind of a undiplomatic way of putting it -- it means we've got a national security issue.

I have -- much of my position was defined early on in my presidency when I told the world I thought that Kyoto was a lousy deal for America. And I tell you why it was a lousy deal for America. It meant that we had to cut emissions below 1990 levels, which would have meant I would have presided over massive layoffs and economic destruction. I believe the best way to put technologies in place that will not only achieve national objectives like less addiction to oil, but also help clean the air, is to be wealthy enough to invest in technologies, and then to share those technologies with parts of the world that were excluded from the Kyoto Protocol.

And so I guess I should have started differently when I first became President, and said, we will invest in new technologies that will enable us to use fossil fuels in a much wiser way. And what does that mean? Well, it means that we've got to figure out how to use ethanol more in our cars. Ethanol is produced mainly by cane and corn. But we're near some breakthroughs that we can use sawgrass and biomass to be able to produce ethanol

That means we got to continue investing in hybrid batteries. Ours is a country where many people live in urban centers, like Washington, D.C., and it's possible to have a hybrid battery breakthrough which says that the first 40 miles of an automobile can be used by electricity alone. Right now the hybrid vehicles, as you know, switch between gasoline and electrical power. But that consumes gasoline, which means we're still reliant upon oil. The idea is to get off of oil.

On the electricity front, we need to be using nuclear power more in this country, in my judgment. It is a renewable source of energy that has zero gas emissions. We've got a great natural resource here in America called coal. We have 250-plus years of coal reserves. But we also recognize that by -- burning coal causes environmental problems, and so we're spending billions on research to come up with clean coal technologies. And we'd like to share those technologies with other nations of the world that are beginning to grow so that they are good stewards of the environment, as well.

And so I got a comprehensive plan that uses technologies to help this nation from a national and economic perspective, but also will help improve the global economy -- the environment from those new, burgeoning economies that are -- like China and India, to be exact.
Like a blanket of smog moving into the valley, I think I get the drift, kinda, in a way.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

UK Update

I have seen a particular style of production graph in only a few places, usually referencing natural gas. Jerome via TOD brought it to my attention again:

This plot shows the decline of individual fields on top of the overall production curve, which essentially provides a compact and instructive look at trends.

I asked a follow-up question at TOD referring to the possibility of similarly plotted graphs for oil fields. Sure enough, another commenter pointed out a UK study (PDF) which contained that kind of plot for North Sea oil. Apparently, the UK requires very detailed reporting of yearly production so the plot comes out quite clearly (click below for expanded view).

But another commenter pointed out that this data only extended to the year 2000, with only an extrapolation given for the ensuing years. So I offered up data to extend the profile to 2005.

Stepback then craftily combined the two sets of data, and voila:

The red line indicates the updated data trend (corresponding to the yellow dots). Click to expand.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

WaPo unrights itself, kind of

Coinciding with the embarassing blogging debacle with home-schooled wing-nut Ben Domenech (advice: the guy should sue his parents for not teaching him about the evils of plagiarism), the Washington Post hosted an on-line discussion with Noam Chomsky on Friday

First question out of the gate:
Arlington, Va.: Why do you think the US went to war against Iraq?

Noam Chomsky: Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world, it is right in the midst of the major energy reserves in the world. Its been a primary goal of US policy since World War II (like Britain before it) to control what the State Department called "a stupendous source of strategic power" and one of the greatest material prizes in history. Establishing a client state in Iraq would significantly enhance that strategic power, a matter of great significance for the future. As Zbigniew Brzezinski observed, it would provide the US with "critical leverage" of its European and Asian rivals, a conception with roots in early post-war planning. These are substantial reasons for aggression -- not unlike those of the British when they invaded and occupied Iraq over 80 years earlier, at the dawn of the oil age.
My advice to WaPo: Give Noam the vacant blog spot.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Germ Anium

Intriguing, yet frustrating in its lack of content, this press release disguised as an article in Red Herring raises more questions than it answers.
While the high-efficiency material is expensive, SolFocus' system uses so little of the germanium — 1 square centimeter per panel — that the company is able to cut the installed price of solar in half, compared to the average price today, and still make a healthy margin.
Gives us the size of the panel.

Describe the geometry of electrodes that the wafer uses.

You need a lot of current to overcome the low band-gap of germanium.

Update: For more info look at the comments below; PV-expert SW provides the needed clarification regarding the technology. As more info becomes available, I will try to summarize in full. In short, I may have to change this post's title from Germ Anium to Gallium Arsenide. GaAs has double the bandgap of Ge, so at least that question gets answered.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Imp Each

I do not read Kunstler regularly, perhaps because he rehashes a bit too much, but I never pass up James Wolcott, who we can always count on to synthesize the issues into entertaining rants. He does us a service by predigesting Richard Heinberg's modest proposal.

There are so many reasons that Bush's name should be dragged through the dust of his post-presidency for the harm and disgrace his administration has inflicted, and so impeachable offenses for which he would prosecuted today if we had a Congress worthy of the Founders. His malign indifference to Peak Oil and global warming may be the greatest of his crimes, because it will lead to the misery and deaths of untold millions of people, animals, and natural resources.

Given all this, how will impeachment help? While it would be justified as a punishment for ineptitude or criminality, impeachment will not materially assist the nation to deal with Peak Oil unless current officials are replaced with ones who understand the problem and who are prepared to implement policies that radically shift America's priorities in terms of energy, transportation, urban infrastructure, and agriculture. Looking out over the current political landscape in Washington, it is difficult to identify who those new officials might be. Nevertheless, it would help the nation to start now with a clean slate, and with a popular mandate for the new team of leaders to move rapidly to achieve energy security.
Thanks to TOD for picking up on Wolcott. I remember reading the Richard Rainwater piece while on travel, but promptly lost track of it. Well worth taking a look.

The two sporadically syndicated shows on Air America Radio, The Marc Maron Show and The Thom Hartmann Show have lately discussed a bunch of energy issues. I posted briefly on Jim Earl last Friday, but missed the big story reported more fully on Kos, Vegetables of Mass Destruction - Global Warming Edition.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mexico Oil Shock Model - Part 2

Leftover from a recent post on the Mexico Oil Shock Model, a few nagging questions remain. At the time I remarked on a curiosity within the oil discovery profile from ASPO. As you can see below, the peak discovery appears around 1979, yet all references point to the discovery of the massive Cantarell oil field in 1976 (including production start that year!).

As the oil shock model requires "fallow" and "construction" periods as parameters, and the discovery profile essentially squeezed this time frame to virtually nothing, I believe I goofed on choosing a typical value of 5 years for these two parameters. As a by-product of selecting these numbers, I had to make the oil extraction shocks in the early 1980's much too high to fit the historical oil production profile.

But, hey, what the hay, I have a running blog to set things straight. So I redid the model with a "fallow" time constant of 1 year and a "construction" time constant of a smidge higher at 1.25. The resulting fit showed shocks much lower in extent, dropping from peak extraction rates of 0.3 to a more acceptable 0.08 per year value. As you can see, extraction peaked from the late 70's into the 80's and then dropped to a low right around the 1990 recession before rebounding during the 90's

Monday, March 20, 2006

The New De Beers?

After reading Greg Palast's latest rant (with the expected snark on the side), I figure that the USA may intend on becoming the next De Beers, albeit not trading in diamonds -- if you know what I mean. It certainly makes sense; the BushCo government has earned the reputation of a corporatist heavy with shadowy thugs hanging around the periphery; they know the financial importance of a limited resource; they will quash any attempts to come up with cheaper alternatives; and they will do anything to keep their top-heavy lifestyle going.
It is a brilliant operation. Over the past 60 years the CSO has done for diamonds something that eluded the oil producers of OPEC and even the cocaine barons of the Medellin cartel. It had the muscle and the nerve to impose its own order on the market, and it built a syndicate not for weeks or months but for decades.
Link: After World War II that company even set up its own intelligence service. It also controlled the supply of diamonds from most of the other major producers through its Central Selling Organisation (CSO). The firm is De Beers. It was supported both by the White government of South Africa and the Soviet Union, yet it survived the ending of Apartheid and the collapse of Communism. At the start of the new millennium it faces its gravest challenges yet and has radically changed tactics to ensure its continued success and to prevent diamonds from financing civil wars.
As "the world's longest running monopoly" starts to decline, we might see the rise of a new corporate cartel destined to take the mantle away from De Beers. Who says a petro-military-industrial complex run by Halliburton Jr. can't assimilate OPEC and become De Borg?

Update: Thanks to Big Gav for an interesting link, as this CounterCurrents article independently matches Palast's statement, " But what if the real reason was to secure Iraq’s oil supplies, perhaps not for immediate use, and perhaps not even for use by the United States? Then the invasion of Iraq would have to be judged a success, a “mission accomplished,” so to speak.".

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Two big media presentations, and bonus phlegm

I thought 60 Minutes and reporter Scott Pelley did a very good job with their global warming story tonight. I did not see anything new in the report, but that does not matter considering the audience they can potentially reach and others that they can irritate (Matt Drudge appears hopping mad about it, he claims "more Bush bashing", tee hee). I only suggest that Pelley's trip to Greenland for a photo-op that lasted all of 10 seconds may add more to global warming than it achieves in raising awareness of melting glaciers.

On the other hand, CNN's report on oil depletion, called We Were Warned, added little and perhaps confused the issue a bit. As a commenter at TOD noted, and I did not catch initially, the report never formally mentioned the term "Peak Oil". Kind of odd, that. I listened only on satellite radio and thought the whole report sounded quite breathless. It reminded me a bit as if the hack at Dateline NBC, Keith Morrison, delivered the report.

To tie Bush and PeakOil together, hop aboard the SS Lietanic and read what Stirling Newberry has to say about the listing ship christened BushCo.
It's just they finally got their culminating President - the next Democrat may be like Nixon - someone who talks future while governing past. But it doesn't matter the narrative has shifted. The intellectual classes are finally all over peak oil - I see half a dozen books on the shelf which reference or rely on it in a NH Barnes and Noble's - with two more I know are coming out soon.

Even the "beer bash bush" meme is dying: 39% in an NBC Wall Street Journal poll gave Bush Very or Somewhat positive, while 50% said negative. The cable conservatives like tweety Matthews and Shill O'Reilly are parts of a dying Bush Oyster Cult. Their praerie oysters belong to Bush.

So why is the SS Lietanic going down? It isn't that peak oil has slammed us yet, even though inflation is coming, it is already working its way into the future's markets. It is that Bush was given a mandate to solve certain problems, get them out of the way. Snuff out the terrorists, snuff out Saddam and get the boys home by Christmas. Instead this Budget is the most massive bloatware since Windows 2000... A monument to innumeracy.

The Lietanic is going down because of its own lies. The military thinks we are in Iraq to avenge 911, that is why there is a huge attempt to "around the filter" a study that simply lies about the state of the intelligence in trying to connect Saddam with 911. There is already a right wing reporter sniffing around the story trying to find a way to mainstream the lie into the press. What I've heard about his efforts off the record wouldn't be printable in the newspaper he works for.
The "sniffing reporter" likely has support in the form of AssMissile at PowerLyinBlog.com exemplified by his post titled "Eureka, I Think". Egads, nothing beats including a disclaimer in the title when you write about a connection between 9/11 and Iraq! The guy works as a lawyer, you know.1

I will skip the disclaimer and just state "Iraq, The Failed Battle for Oil".

1If you need a reminder of how a corporate lawyer works his magic, listen to the podcast of the AssMissile speaking. Paraphrasing he says "The International Terrorist Surveillance Program is legal, so the whole premise of the censure (of Bush) is wrong." Oh my gawd, as I listen to the H-Man squeakily hyper-exaggerate, I constantly have images running through my mind of Mr. Haney from Green Acres trying to sell me some crackpot scheme. Don't believe me? Then listen here.

And another thing, anybody notice the striking resemblance between RNC chair Ken Mehlman (right) and the character named "Eb" (below) from Green Acres? As I recall, Eb constantly tried to get on the good side of Eddie Albert's Oliver character, hoping to latch on in some capacity.

Eb fixes Alice's "broken egg maker"

Mr. Haney tries to sell Oliver a "College Kit"

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Mexico Oil Shock Model

Khebab recently analyzed Mexico's oil production capacity. He provided the following curve courtesy of ASPO.

Since the chart overlays a discovery curve alongside the production curve, I figured I could try out the oil shock model on the discovery data. I initially didn't have much confidence in getting good results because the production seemed to start to ramp up much too quickly after the big discoveries of the late 1970's (note that even though Mexico discovered Canterell in 1976, the overall discovery peak remains closer to 1979, the year that production on Canterell started).

I used the common approximation, last used on the Norway data, of equal values for the fallow, construction, and maturation phases of 5 years each. Initially, I also chose the same depletion rate as Norway of 10% of remaining amount per year. The fit (dashed green curve below) looked adequate, matching the general rise and estimated fall of the ASPO data.

As the estimated fall lined up with ASPO's extrapolations exceedingly well, I reasoned that the rest of the production profile could fit rather well with judicious modulation of the extraction rate in the form of a series of oil shocks. I achieved a much better fit with the following oil shock perturbation.

Note that pre-1976, I selected an extraction rate of 0.04/year (an equivalent time constant of 25 years). Then, starting in 1976 and continuing until midway through 1983, I ramped up the extraction rate quite significantly, high enough that the effective extraction rate would drain about half of the reserves every 3 years. By 1990, the extraction rate flattened out to a steady state value 0.12.

Based on the dynamics of the curve, the late 1970's/early 80's perturbation impacted the reserves from pre-1976 as much or more than the Canterell-era discoveries.
The (Canterell) field reached an early peak in production of 1.1 million barrels per day in April of 1981 from 40 oil wells.
This amounted to less than half of total production. Maturation also had a continuing impact as additional platforms came online in the mid 1990's. Moreover, I have a feeling that the USA had as much to do with this ratcheting up of production as anything else. Remember this occurred as the lower-48 started its depletion downturn, instability happening in OPEC and the Middle East, and Alaskan oil had not quite hit a peak. As the world adjusted to the new oil economy during the 1980's, oil production from Mexico similarly stabilized.

I have to say that Mexico production looks quite strange in comparison to many other regions. It may have a lot to do with the single super-giant oil field in the mix. This does have an effect on a stochastic analysis as it adds a highly non-random and deterministic component to the dynamics. I'm rather glad I did not attack Mexico first. Remember the Alamo?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Jim's Wheel of Anger #2

The Wheel of Anger rant from last night popped a few gaskets in Jim Earl's cortex. It starts with "This may seem a little trivial, but:"
On a side note, stop putting unwanted pets in your local pond. Yesterday I saw some guy and his two kids put two turtles into Echo Park Lake. The local lake is not your unwanted reptile recycle station. Just because it's a big flat thing of water doesn't mean turtles can live in it, alright? If you don't have the intelligence to take care of two little turtles, then maybe you shouldn't have any kids. As a matter of fact, next time why don't you just keep the turtles and release the kids into the lake. They'd have a better chance of surviving, and if they make it to the other side where the rents are lower, they might even get sold into white slavery -- which is a considerable improvement over what they had with you.
The humorously strident vegetarian Earl earlier mentioned that 80% of all freshwater in California goes to producing meat. I could not verify that fact but did find this factoid from 1999:
Contrary to a prevously reported unpublished study that showed no effects from grazing on certain springs in the Central Valley, Belsky's paper surveyed virtually all the ecological aspects of livestock grazing in the western United States, from effects on ground-nesting birds to water quality. The news was overwhelmingly bad. Livestock grazing has damaged 80% of the streams and rivers west of the Mississippi, according to a U.S. Department of Interior report that Belsky unearthed. Another report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicated that riparian areas throughout much of the West are in "their worst condition in history."

Marc Maron Show podcast MP3 (Wheel of Anger at 33 minute mark)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Off by that | | much

Every so often, someone besides myself will chime in on the potential futility of URR analysis for estimating peak oil dates. I tend to side with these critics, but not for the reason they have in mind. As a case in point consider this recent post from the PealOil.com message board.
I see. Well, with that in mind, let me volunteer an interesting little article I recently saw in some volume or another of Natural resources Research or some such technical rag. Maybe any of the other people who actually read the research on this topic can chime in and correct me if I paraphrase it incorrectly. This guy fit all sorts of the Hubbert curve stuff to oil production, the standard curve fitter type stuff which have been used to depict the end of world, over and over again, except he measured the goodness of fit of ANY of these curves when using different ultimates. He used Hubberts ultimate, USGS ultimate, any other ultimate anyone had recently suggested, and he discovered that the same curve which fit one estimate of ultimate could fit darn near any others, even with these huge, and some would claim, meaningful differences. Apparently, these ultimate differences didn't matter much at all...literally. If you would enjoy a good read which quite reasonably dissembles the curve fitting approach, I'll go look it up as a reference for you.
I highlighted a portion that I agree with -- but for all the wrong reasons.

The commenter asserts that widely different parameterized curves, using a single parameter such as URR, can fit the same data equally well. Fair enough. But consider the case where we have a production curve that drops off as 1/t where t=Time. If we follow the progression of this curve it monotonically decreases each year -- in other words, year after year ad nauseum. Unfortunately, the ultimate cumulative (the URR) for this curve happens to equal infinity! Try as you might, you cannot argue this result, as this property comes as a mathematical given. Take a look at the curve below -- a simple hyperbola -- and you would perhaps imagine that the area under the curve, the cumulative production, had a finite value. Nice try, but wrong.

From this simple thought experiment, I find it not at all difficult to comprehend that a number of curves with vastly different URR's will fit the data equally well. After all, the difference between a finite URR and an infinite URR remains infinite, or at least some large number depending on how fast production falls off! Which is exactly the depletion dynamics the commenter complains about, give or take the unnamed article he refers to.

However, this should not obscure the fact that production indeed decreases each year after we have hit the peak for the 1/t curve. So whether or not we have an infinite URR does not matter when we have a decreasing yearly supply in the face of a yearly increasing demand for oil.

Which brings us to the real issue. I think that many oil depletion analysts over-rely on the URR approach and risk missing the forest for the trees. The usual heuristic applied, that the peak occurs when cumulative production has hit URR/2, will not work in many cases, and will actually likely fail in every case of an asymmetric production curve. So for a constant URR, if we do indeed have longer tails then the peak occurs at < URR/2 (i.e. earlier), while if the tail shortens up then peak occurs > URR/2 (i.e. later). In the former case, it becomes a case of a terminal foreboding, while in the latter you have optimism right until you get hit by a truck traveling 80 MPH.

If that doesn't strike you as pedantically convincing, I would suggest starting with the oil shock model, which does not use the questionable empiricism of the URR heuristic and work the model forwards. Becauses it instead uses historical discovery data, the impact of declining production rates doesn't get conflated with misguided assumptions related to the ad hoc URR/2 peak value.

Let's get smart about this.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Voodoo Science

More voodoo science here; like a bad hot dog, this fusion stuff keeps on coming back. Robert Park has fought this stuff for what seems years on end.

A guy that keeps regurgitating his scientific cud, one Dr. Randell Mills, has also suffered from Park's pointed skewers. I find Mills' work the ramblings of a lunatic. He essentially claims two major breakthroughs, one theoretical and one experimental.
  1. 'The Grand Unified Theory of Classical Quantum Mechanics'
  2. A new source of power, direct plasma-to-electricity-power -conversion systems, a new class of chemistry, new chemical processes, new light sources, and powerful new laser media.
Now, I could buy the fact that he made some discovery in one or the other area, but both? And in that second one, claiming multiple discoveries pushes him over-the-top. The guy suffers from grand delusions and has suckered a bunch of people along for the ride.

Mills puts on a fascinating game face; he actually composes lots of well structured derivations of physics. I often forget how hard you have to work to formally debunk an elliptically argued set of equations that don't differ much from the readily accepted math. I looked up his version of diffraction theory (PDF) on his website and it didn't look much different from what I have used, apart from the snaky argumentation with weird diversions into hand-wavy abstractions.
Furthermore, each electron only goes through one slit classically, but it is imprinted with the wave character of the photon that it creates across both slits due to its interaction with the slit. An electromagnetic wave exits.
The end result doesn't differ much from arguing with a wing-nut. The wing-nut complains of his opponent's hand-waving, where the reality shows that the wing-nut projects his own inadequacies into the discussion.
Quantum mechanics reproduces the mathematics that
corresponds to this physical electromagnetic wave by invoking a nonsensical waving probability. Thus, it is stuck with the unfortunate result that the "wave-particle duality is unlike anything in our common everyday experience". Physics can now be reinstated over mysticism for this simple experiment based on an understanding of the physical nature of fundamental particles.
Mills has published papers in reputable journals. I should note that just because something gets published in the bulletin of the American Physical Society doesn't mean it has any credibility. If you paid your dues, you could put your abstract with the 4-point typeface into the 2"-by-2" box and they would publish it. The yearly compendium of abstracts from the APS meeting gave lots of physics grad students amusement. I remember vividly one guy that would always submit his pet zany theory of plate tectonics; he would basically fill the box with a topographic map.

I dug around and found out the truth behind why the APS allowed the wackos in. From the alumni news of Winona State University (a cool campus, located below the bluffland banks of the Mississippi River):
At the 50th anniversary of the murder of his friend and co-worker, Winona State University alumnus Tom Baab, '48, of Park Ridge, Ill., established the Eileen Fahey Memorial Scholarship. Fahey, a secretary at Columbia University, was shot and killed at her desk on July 14, 1952.

While earning his master's degree in American letters at Columbia, Tom worked part-time for the American Physical Society (APS), headquartered at the Pupin Physics Laboratory on the Columbia campus in New York City. Fahey, a 20-year-old secretary, was sitting at her desk reading a letter from her fiance, a Marine serving in Korea, when Bayard Peakes entered the office and emptied a clip of .22 caliber pistol shots into Fahey, killing her. Peakes then fled the campus.

In the weeks that followed, Tom was among those questioned by police for possible leads and motives. Peakes was finally traced through a letter written to him by Karl K. Darrow, head of Bell Labs and secretary of the APS. Darrow had declined to accept a paper Peakes wanted to present at the next APS meeting. Peakes's paper proposed the non-existence of the electron and Darrow rejected it, suggesting that Peakes might ruin his career in physics with such a theory.

At his arrest, Peakes said he wanted to kill a man at the APS since his rejection letter had come from a male. Fahey was the only person in the office and the shots were directed at her instead. Peakes was tried and sentenced to the Rockland County Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
Boots: quaking.

Update: The latest Bob Park ruminations:
On March 23, 1989 in Salt Lake City, the University of Utah held a press conference to announce the discovery of cold fusion, but the story had already been leaked to the world's most influential financial dailies, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Both papers continued to print unfailingly optimistic reports for weeks. Among those lured into the swamp was Randell Mills, a 1986 graduate of Harvard Medical School. Two years later Mills held a press conference of his own to announce that it wasn't fusion. It was better! Hydrogen atoms can shrink into "hydrinos," releasing energy. With the 17th anniversary of cold fusion approaching, both papers are now running credulous stories about Mills and his company, BlackLight Power. BLP, which has never produced anything, is rumored to be preparing an IPO.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


As a very minor theme on this blog, I keep track of an obscure statistic: the cataloging of rock musicians who go on to achieve an advanced degree, particularly PhDs. Curiously, the data includes what I consider an inordinate fraction of punk practitioners. I love all kinds of music, including punk, so I don't really mind adding another musician to the list.

Voila, it looks as if singer Jennie Medin of the semi-dormant Swedish band Cloudberry Jam recently got her PhD in Public Health from Linkoping University. The band made two what I consider classic albums in the latter half of 1990's. I have catered to alternative and free-form stations for as long as I can remember and justify it as a search for the lost tune, something akin to a Razor's Edge quest. When I heard stuff from the C.J. records "Providing The Atmosphere" and "The Impossible Shuffle", I got hooked immediately and simply treasure these records, enlightenment or not. A beautiful voice, with the enchanting quality of someone singing non-native English, mixed with some retro yet unique pop music, and the most stunning cover song ever ("Water" by Dinosaur, Jr. !). Apparently most of their fan base resides in Sweden and Japan, so they never made it big here and eventually decided to break up so Medin could work on her doctorate.

Cut to eight years later, and still in search of enlightenment and the possibilty that the group has reformed, I find that, yes, Ms. Medin did complete her degree, with a very interesting PhD thesis and journal article to boot. Studying the statistical incidence of cardiac strokes on women in Sweden, her research showed alarming rises in the occurrences of strokes during the 1990's for younger women in particular.
"Something has occurred to cause an increase in stroke incidence among the population, especially among women, One hypothesis is that society and working life has changed in a way that affects women more than men," says Jennie Medin. "The study indicates links between organizational change, work-related stress, and stroke cases.

"It seems as though many of these patients have been through an organization shuffle in the workplace, often in conjunction with downsizing of employees. That was especially the case during the nineties in organizations where the majority of employees were women," she continues.
What an encore. Way cool, Dr. Jennie! And, to top it off, she has got a new record that I can get as an import from Japan for all of about $35.

Break from an uplifting story amidst some dismal health news, to a dismal health story buried in some strange politics. Around these parts, Hall-of-Fame baseball player Kirby Puckett rates as something of a hero and sports legend who displayed an infectious joy in playing the game. Basically, everyone liked the guy. When he recently died from a stroke, lots of people felt the connection. Not the most dedicated fan as I once was, I still became curious as to how it affected people, especially since Puckett was my age and perhaps I felt a bit of mortality creeping up on me. So tonight I attended the memorial service downtown. I got caught up in the emotion, but the reality of the situation became just, you know, weird.
  1. No one mentioned that Puckett had participated in cad-like behavior, culminating in lots of rumors and even charges for violent outbursts (understandable, I guess)
  2. Teammate Al Newman, Puckett's age exactly with a similar bowling ball build, gives a brief speech and doesn't mention that he too had a brain aneurysm recently (odd that).
  3. Former manager Tom Kelly blurts out that the bank-robbing relief pitcher Jeff Reardon (and angioplasty patient) was the last piece of the puzzle in one of Puckett's championship seasons, but couldn't attend (justifiable that he didn't mention the bank-robbing part I guess).
  4. Current manager Ron Gardenhire closes the proceedings by urging everyone to support the Twins this year, because they will show the same enthusiasm as Puckett (Win! Twins!).
  5. All the former players line up and everyone takes pictures, with Puckett's family obscured and huddled behind them (!)
I half anticipated this kind of weirdness. In the end it became the flip-side to the memorial of the late Senator Paul Wellstone, which I happened to catch as well. Unfortunately, whereas the right-wing pundits immediately classified Wellstone's memorial as politicized, I kind of doubt any of the commercialization of Puckett's memorial service (Win! Twins!) will get called to attention. Nor will anyone likely mention the statistically odd cardiac issues of a bunch of players in their mid and late 40's (steroids? who knows?). Dr. Jennie, care to investigate this one?

As I have grown older, my interests have changed from spectator sports to music. Call it enlightenment. No kidding.

50 years

It took monkeygrinder and khebab to remind me that 50 years have elapsed since Hubbert's prediction of peak oil for the lower-48 United States. If you read khebab's tribute in depth, they provide some new insight into the world's current status by looking at only the top four oil exporters and graphing their production data. The data from the top-4 Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, and Norway looks a bit lumpy, but with the latest data from Norway added in (we lost ~1/2 million barrels per day), we may have hit a downturn.

The post also discusses the possibility that these exporting countries will trend to keeping more of their oil supplies for domestic uses, and thus making less available for the rest of us. Since the population of Norway remains under 5 million, as of now I really don't think this amounts to that big an issue. However, I wouldn't hesitate to imagine that they would favor their closest (in terms of politics) neighboring countries for selective export. As for the others, I would certainly rank Russia as the big bear for increasing domestic uses amongst the top 4; the same goes for their natural gas supply.

Khebab also raises the possibility of increases in energy taxes, with Norway figuring prominently in the argument.
A high gasoline tax does not necessarily equate to a lower standard of living. Norway, with the highest gasoline tax in the world, has the highest standard of living in the world, perhaps partly because their car ownership per 1,000 people is about half of what it is in the US.
We all should find it disquieting that a nation in the top 4 of exporters would also have what amounts to such a stingy attitude toward use of their own private cache of natural resources. I would suggest that the Norwegians have long seen the hand-writing on the wall and have prepared for the long haul.

It will take a lot of hand-wringing for Americans to get past their hesitation over the prospects of yet another tax. The simple fact that improvements in energy conservation have the unintended, yet quite obvious, effect of reducing revenues will provoke more questions.
To support its December rate-increase request, the Connecticut utility Yankee Gas Services said it needs more money because too many of its customers have lowered their bills by heeding calls to conserve energy. ... And a November report commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (ed: gack!) included the proposal that Congress replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund by imposing a special tax on gas-saving hybrid cars (in that those cars consume less fuel than regular cars and therefore pay less in gasoline tax).
Somehow the market will need to find a way to close this feedback loop. I would imagine that some optimal minimum tax/maximum revenue value exists in the equation.

In practice, everyone pushes for revenues. Recently, I went on a business trip and I innocently asked the hotel clerk about walking back to the airport. Knowing full well that I could easily make the trip by foot, I thought he may have some additional advice to give. Surprisingly, he said that "nobody ever does that", "it might rain in the morning", "it's a long ways, maybe a mile and a half", and "a cab is only about $10". As I walked away, shaking my head, I said something to the effect that "you Californians don't like to walk anywhere", but in the back of my mind, I realized his rationalized, yet unspoken, philosophy ran counter to my own designs. He probably only wanted to funnel revenues to his colleagues, in effect scratching their back while they scratched his, while I basically wanted to conserve energy. Suffice to say, the nice relaxing stroll took me perhaps a half-hour, and a local cab driver lost a sliver of business. I say, get used to it.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fool Sells

Actually, scaling back fuel cell technology to power mobile appliances sounds like a smart path forward. From HuffPo, press releases tout fuel cell batteries geared for laptops.

How far can the scaling go? EE Times recently reported on construction of microscopic (for the buzzword infatuated -- nanotech1) fuel cells, potentially as a basis for on-chip power supplies. However, at this level, fuel cells resemble nothing more than conventional batteries, with the elemental hydrogen-based materials replacing the ionic constituents of today.

1 I listened to the asinine InstaPundit today on the radio, babbling incoherently about his interest in NanoTechnology (the NanoPundit, how fitting). When asked what he thought of current applications of nanotech, he responded "artificial diamonds". What a maroon, I thought -- the difficult yet well-understood synthetic diamond chemical vapor deposition technology had made its mark well before the "nanotech revolution". He said further that the digital revolution dealt with "bits" while the nanotech era starts with "atoms". How pedantically sad. When asked how he can blog so prolifically, he mentioned his abilities as a "fast reader, not quite a page at a time though". I think his ulterior goal remains to clone an army of nanoscale-assembled InstaPundit automatons (microGlenns or uGlenns, for short) who can reproduce billions (i.e. gigaHeh's) of URL links, thereby cementing his place as the ringmaster of the blogging universe.

Friday, March 10, 2006


I read this breathless account of scientists at Sandia achieving high temperatures in a plasma with a bit of incredulity. The press releases, with the scientists apparently egging them on, make it sound like these high temperatures have special significance -- "a temperature beyond that of a star's interior."
The plasma, caught in the grip of the very strong magnetic field accompanying the electrical current, is compressed to the thickness of a pencil lead. This happens very rapidly, at a velocity that would fly a plane from New York to San Francisco in several seconds.

At that point, the ions and electrons have nowhere further to go. Like a speeding car hitting a brick wall, they stop suddenly, releasing energy in the form of X-rays that reach temperatures of several million degrees -- the temperature of solar flares.

The new achievement -- temperatures of billions of degrees -- was obtained in part by substituting steel wires in cylindrical arrays 55 mm to 80 mm in diameter for the more typical tungsten wire arrays, approximately only 20 mm in diameter. The higher velocities achieved over these longer distances were part of the reason for the higher temperatures.
In fact, if the plasma emits radiation with a short enough wavelength, the equivalent "color" temperature can indeed get quite high. The statistical Boltzmann to Planck photon equivalence comes from the following relationship:
E ~ kT ~ hv
which gives Temperature ~ 0.01/wavelength. For visible blue light wavelength of 500 nm, this gives a temperature of about 20,000 K. To get temperatures in the "billions" range, you need short wavelength x-rays bordering on the gamma range territory -- i.e. wavelengths shorter than 0.01 nm.

So they have created what looks like a concentrated source of high-energy x-rays. I certainly hope they have invested in high quality lead liners. The photo below has a bit of marketing panache behind it; at least they didn't go so far as having a guy peering over the railing.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Norway Cliff ?

A couple of months ago I posted an oil shock model fit to the Norway production curve. Some very recent data coming in from the Petroleum Directorate of Norway reinforces the model's prediction of a rapid and steep decline in production.
OSLO - Norwegian crude production in February was down 18%, or 528,000 barrels a day, compared with February 2004, the Petroleum Directorate said Thursday.

February crude production totaled at 2.46 million b/d, compared with 2.988 million b/d in the same month of 2004.
When overlay plotted on the previous model, it looks grim, even if we account for any calibration offset.

Projections of 2.64 million b/d in the 2007 and 2008 forecasts probably won't deter the slide much.
It forecasts average production in 2006 at 2.43 million b/d rising to 2.64 million b/d in 2007.

Mathiesen said reserves grew by 975 million barrels of oil equivalent last year, with development of discoveries being approved and increased oil recovery projects.

A production average of 2.64 million b/d is also forecast for 2008.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Particles on the Brain

Khebab has recently explored using the concept of Particle Filtering to estimate peak oil dynamics in a post entitled How to Track an Oil Production Curve.

It took me a while to digest this post, and I still don't have a good appreciation for the initial premise in taking this approach, but, hey, any criticism rates better than silence.

I believe Khebab wants to predict the time series continuation of current oil prediction using a resampling of historical data on top of an assumed model, choosing a Stochastic Bass Model as the underlying dynamics (which like the logistic curve, I have yet to see little intuitive physical basis for). The resampling uses Monte Carlo simulation with weighting provided by a variant of recursive Bayesian estimation, ala Kalman filtering. Now, normally I would consider using these kinds of mathematical tools if we have a signal buried in a huge amount of noise. In that sense, we get utility out of predicting future values, in a similar fashion to such real-time applications as using a phase-locked loop to demodulate a noisy FM signal. However, oil production does not suffer from noise problems per se, and in particular, the noise does not necessarily show randomness and independence from the signal itself.

Khebab initially worked with USA oil production data.

Note that the curve fits the data very accurately, but I believe this has more to do with using the data itself as a source of simulated data, i.e. the bootstrap resampling technique. This leads me to further believe that the "noise" in the production curve has virtually no impact in the simulation results. All the stochastic variation instead goes to the parameters of the model. The large total number of bootstrapped particles used to generate profile trajectories do the job of fitting in the nooks and crannies in the curve.

I find it interesting how this approach can make URR estimates out of seemingly nothing; Khebab states:
Curve fitting is a maximum likelihood approach where (sic: when?) there is no prior on the curve parameters and will produce suboptimal results when the residuals are non gaussian.
Note how the PF-based Russia URR estimate totally bypasses the conventional URR straight line estimate. A distribution of priors (i.e. URR values) sampled by the Monte Carlo by itself generates the extrapolated line.

I think Khebab has made some good progress, independent on whether I have a complete grasp on what he has accomplished so far.

The particle filtering model for Russia

The oil shock model for Russia