Monday, September 22, 2014

Correlation is not Causation

Therefore, mozzarella cheese makes you smarter!

Next time you hear about some correlation of, well, anything! from which is drawn a conclusion about causation - - - - make sure you have fresh batteries in your skept-o-meter!

Sunday, June 08, 2014


On a single day last week year (forgot to publish this), St. Nicholas' feast day in fact, we were awed by getting close looks at some originals...

We had a little homeschool viewing of a handful of items from Marquette University's J.R.R. Tolkien collection. Then we headed over to the Milwaukee Art museum and were pleasantly surprised by their temporary exhibit of paintings on loan from Kenwood House. That includes Gainsborough's, Rembrants, and more. In fact, so much of the day running to my tastes that I can't find the right words.

They wouldn't let us photograph either of them so these web results will have to suffice while I describe the experiences.
Chapter 1 - An Unexpected Party. <-- We saw this!!! Typwritten by J himself. Did you know Thorin Oakenshield was originally called Gandalf?
Chapter 5 - Riddles in the Dark <-- We saw this too! This one in his own handwritting. His writing, with a fountain pen, was oddly elegant and hard to read at the same time. Actually, looking around you could see his frame of mind... when he was being precise he would slow down and the script was beautiful. And when the muse was pelting his mind he would scrawl.

We also saw the original of the map that would eventually appear in the Hobbit.
And then we saw the Gainsboroughs, Sir Thomas Lawrences and Sir Joshua Reynolds ... and more!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Energy in Gasoline, Batteries, Ultracapacitors and more

Energy is important. When energy becomes "free" imagination takes over about what is possible... 

  • Fresh water from salt water? - no problem!                   Water
  • Continuous food growing season? - no problem!           Food
  • Heat in winter and cool in summer? - no problem!         Shelter
  • Recycling junk into new shelters, roads, anything? - possible!              Green
  • Reducing toxic waste (or any waste) into benign elements? - possible! Green
  • Making diamonds out of coal? - possible!  
  • Alchemy - making gold from lead? - possible!   
                    (you might be surprised at how many non-luxury uses diamonds and gold have!)
Heck we could even MAKE gasoline and then recycle it if we choose to.

But it isn't free. yet.

And even when it is free we probably need a way to store it (if we get it from the sun... we will want to use it at night too... and so forth)

Even now we need a good way to store it so we can use it in our cars, so we can use it in our gadgets and to make better use of the sources we have when we can distribute over peak and non-peak hours of the day. As a matter of fact energy storage is really at the root of the same dream. Isn't it just energy that's STORED in batteries, gasoline, Uranium etc.? How we extract it, how we replace it for later use ... well THAT'S where the differences get bigger.

So I got to wondering how much energy is actually stored in our common energy sources. Thanks to Wiki I got some numbers and graphed them to make it easier to picture. 
I found a few things kind of interesting... 
- Uranium is amazing!! No wonder we go to such great, huge, expensive lengths to "burn" it.
- Gasoline is pretty amazing too. 50x the power of the best of those state of the art Lithium batteries in your laptop.
- But a hydrogen powered car would be 3x better than that! And would be exceedingly environmentally friendly - outputting fresh water instead of smoke and smog. Sweet.
- I was disappointed by the SuperCapacitor - not really earning it's "super" designation in this chart. It's all the rage in the electronics magazines and it certainly has it's unique virtues (easy/fast energy in, easy/fast energy out) but at 1/10th the density of an old lead acid battery it seems doomed to be used as a supplementary or targeted source of energy.
- And for that matter Lead Acid is pretty respectable for an old technology.