Friday, April 19, 2002

Infrared Imaging for Boobs

You look radiant tonight. You always do, as long as your body temperature is above absolute zero. You're radioactive too, but that's another post.

You are radiant because your body emits electromagnetic energy. Now bear with me as I start speaking in tongues for a few lines.

The amount of electromagnetic radiation you emit varies with the fourth power of your absolute temperature. This in large measure determines how "luminous" you are. The frequency of light which is strongest also varies with absolute temperature, and it determines your "color". The quotes are there because this radiation isn't bright enough to see nor at a frequency you can see, but otherwise it is analogous to the electromagnetic radiation we call visible light.

Of visible light, the color that corresponds to the lowest temperature and frequency is red. Light of still lower frequency is thus termed "infrared" ("beneath red").

Alright, so why do you care? Because there are devices that can detect this light, perceive color differences, and map the resulting distribution in color. Because these colors imply certain temperatures, we can use the instruments to detect both absolute temperatures and temperature differences, and at a distance to boot. How cool is that?

This technology has many applications. Consider your house, for instance. You can point a properly designed device at it and see slight temperature variations on the surface. Let's say it's winter - the spots that show as warmer might need more insulation or sealing to prevent the heat loss.

For other applications, consider the electric power generation business. This commonly involves work near very high voltages. Yet the transformers that manipulate these voltages need to be monitored for various conditions that can be detected by abnormal temperature distributions. Using infrared imaging, an engineer can see whether a transformer is working properly from a safe distance.

That's one of the reasons why we had a fancy infrared imaging device at a nuclear power plant where I once worked. We had just received it and were testing it in the office when a certain admin walked by. She was known for her light clothes and lack of undergarments, and she happened to position herself right where the device was pointed (honest!). Some of us happened to notice the resulting display and snickered as it displayed her, uh, temperature distribution. Just as we had thought...

A few years ago Sony introduced a camcorder which was designed to be sensitive to infrared rays, to permit using it under low-light conditions. It so happens that this feature can be used during the day too. And when it is, people wearing light enough clothes appear nude.

Of course the pervs hopped on this right away, and there are entire websites devoted to the resulting images. TechTV just got through warning us about this, and showed some images vivid enough that they felt the need to blur them.

In the interest of science, I went looking for some images to share. Durst you doubt my noble intentions? Check this out. This should be tame enough for any audience (but who knows what kind of bluenoses are out there).

What do you know? It turns out that cancers tend to run hotter than the surrounding tissue, and certain breast cancers can be detected through such infrared imaging. This might be especially effective for smaller-breasted women who have trouble with traditional mammograms.

Wasn't that just a huge steaming pile of enlightenment? Stay abreast of technology here on NWA...

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Beneath trivia

You remember Leisure Suit Larry, right? He went on a number of adventures seeking women, with many misfortunes. Don't give up ladies, he's still on the market - Sierra is now packaging the whole Larry product line on 4 cds for about $40.

If you're a Larry geek, you know that his full name is Larry Laffer. Originally he was named for an employee of the company, but then that guy left. Creator Al Lowe figured he' d better rename Larry, so he went looking for a name. Who did he come across but economist Arthur Laffer...


You'll note that this blog bears the inspired (?!) name "No Watermelons Allowed". It's a cryptic reference to the late Warren Brookes' characterization of certain environmentalists as "watermelons", because they were green on the outside and red on the inside.

Race hustlers often use similar constructs. If you're black on the outside and white on the inside, you're an "Oreo" or a "coconut". For Asians it's "bananas", and for Indians it's "apples". I guess the albinos are just out of luck.

Anyway, I note all of this because it occurred to me some time back that eventually some idiot might interpret the name of the blog as some sort of crypto-racism - that somehow the "watermelons" was a reference to blacks. I was reminded of this a day or so ago when this blog got a hit from a Google for "no blacks allowed".

Once upon a time I might have thought this far fetched, but then we have a couple of bloggers from Penn who could tell us stories about an incident that happened there in the early 1990's.

If anyone does show up looking for trouble, well, I'll write about what I want to write about, and that includes race and ethnic issues. If you're offended you probably deserve it. Neither racists nor race hustlers will find comfort here, and I like it like that.

Enough - we return to our previously scheduled rants.


Somewhere in blogland someone was writing about road rage. What is it about driving that makes all the rest of you behave that way? (Moi?)

That made me think of an old Gallagher routine. He proposed that we all be issued little dart guns that we could use to shoot other cars when they cut us off, slowed us down or otherwise acted obnoxious. Then when a state trooper saw a car with few of these stuck to it, he could pull them over and give them a ticket for being a jerk.

Oh come on, you must have heard of Gallagher. Well, now you have. And you can see why he's this blog's Official Comedian.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Politicized science

Peter Huber has written a number of excellent books. One of them is Galileo's Revenge - Junk Science in the Courtroom. This is where I first heard of N-rays.

You haven't heard of N rays? That's a good thing, because there aren't any. We've known that for close to 100 years now, but they were a hot research topic once. Even then it did seem awfully funny that the only people who seemed able to detect them were French.

Then there's Trofim Lysenko. His theories of genetics dovetailed well with Marxist thought. Too bad they held back Russian genetic science for decades.

But we Americans wouldn't politicize science, would we? Unfortunately, yes we would...

Busting the big bang

Here's an example of politics creeping into the classroom in the name of science.

There are various theories of the origin of the universe. Of course there is creationism, which is not scientific because it is not falsifiable. That doesn't mean that it isn't what actually happened, but it does mean that there is a case for not presenting it in science classes.

What is usually taught is the "big bang" theory. There are problems with this theory too - experiments must be repeatable. If we can't create new universes, we can't buy off the "big bang" theory as scientific, though thousands of scientists might prefer it to creationism.

So it would seem that the appropriate thing to do in primary and secondary schools' science classes would be to confine instruction to scientific theories alone, which basically means leaving the origin of the universe as an unanswered question. This also provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that science cannot explain everything, even in principle. IMO science cannot be properly understood without noting its limitations, and failing to note them introduces the risk of turning science into a religion itself.

Unfortunately, this opportunity is usually squandered. Instead the big bang theory is taught, and efforts to give equal time to another non-scientific theory, creationism, are treated as the work of cranks.

This is not science, it is politics. I'll leave the issue of whether religion ought to be taught in public schools to the Supreme Court. But it's fair to say that if neither creationism nor alternative theories of the origin of the universe are scientific, then neither should be taught in science class. Under such circumstances teaching the big bang as if it negates religious claims is an unjustifiable affront to religious people.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Progress with non-embryonic stem cells

Can they develop into functioning brain cells?

Via Science Daily.

Just because

Steven Den Beste says he is an atheist. And in this post he notes that he has arrived at some moral principles that are consistent with religious teachings, but via his own path. He questions a post of Amy Welborn's about moral instruction.

I would probably be better described as agnostic than atheist, but my own path is probably much like SDB's. I don't like the idea of someone handing me stone tablets and being told to believe. But the longer I live I find that I keep winding up in the same places those stone tablets pointed me to all along.

A "because I said so" approach to teaching morality won't appeal to a lot of us. We insist on finding our own ways. We might even think ourselves sophisticated for questioning what we might dismiss as dogma. And later, many of us find as I do that accepting what we were taught would have saved us much grief.

Arguably those most in need of moral instruction are children. I contend that they must be taught morality dogmatically. What's the alternative? Raising moral imbeciles.

If you don't believe me, ask why we teach math the way we do. We could show kids the numbers and wait for them to derive addition and multiplication tables, or let them figure out long division on their own. But we know the kids are not equally talented in the relevant reasoning, and are likely to need the results of such reasoning long before they're capable of the reasoning themselves.

The morally unsophisticated among us, such as children, must be prepared to treat certain moral conclusions as settled fact until they have the intellectual tools and experience needed to finish deriving them on their own. They must understand that the adults aren't kidding when they say "some day you'll understand".

And those who object to dogmas must understand that others need it to get jumpstarted. Newbies need rules, and they shouldn't be encouraged to break them until they know them and why they're there. Only then are they prepared to give or receive the kinds of explanations SDB writes of in his post.

So for early instruction, there's nothing wrong with what SDB would call dogma. As he notes, the elders of a healthy faith ought to be able to explain their beliefs articulately. But for kids, dogma is desirable and necessary.

And I think it's sad that some will find this controversial.


Turbo Tax accepted my electric return at 11:59. I'll try to beat that record next year.

Or maybe I should beat this individual instead. He says his $91K in taxes were a bargain. Compared to what? - my bet is that the same amount of money would have bought far more from the private sector, if in fact they were allowed to compete with the government. Our govt might not screw us as badly as it could, but that's true only because we keep an eye on it.

Meanwhile I saw "Mohr Sports", a show on ESPN with Jay Mohr. He had billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on. Cuban said he paid $200M in taxes. I don't know if that's true or not, but it's obscene by any measure. Nobody, but nobody, ought to pay anything even within a couple orders of magnitude of that.

If you don't agree, or think you are undertaxed, I have just the ticket for you. Send a gift to the feds.


Techie types like me can fall in love with technology all out of proportion to its usefulness. I know I have to combat it. Otherwise I find myself building some fancy database app when what I really need is a box of index cards.

There's always someone to sell you a million dollar solution to a nickel problem, and some of the most egregious offenders are in medical sales. I recall reading about a 'penile turgidity monitor', used on impotent men to determine if they had erections while they slept - this could help determine if the problem was physical or mental. But you could replace it for most purposes with a piece of toilet paper and some tape. Check in the morning to see if it's broken so you know if the problem is in his head.

And then there's this from Science Daily by way of Poor Man:
"simple, cost effective method for extracting carbon dioxide directly from the air — which could allow sustained use of fossil fuels while avoiding potential global climate change."
We already have this - it's called a "tree". This technology might well have practical use somewhere, but if it's CO2 reduction you want, we can go simpler and cheaper in most places.

Did I mention that I have this little app that turns my PC into an alarm clock that speaks several languages?

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Keep 'em smiling...

A warped take on propaganda posters.

The blue meanies?

What's up with this?

If it feels good, do it

Was anything major left out of the Bill of Rights? I sometimes think that if it were rewritten, we'd wind up with an amendment that said "No law shall impact the right to have sex any time, any where, with any number of persons, beings and objects." There'd probably be another guaranteeing every woman from here to Alaska the means to have an abortion on her lunch hour within walking distance, but that's another rant.

Alright, what set this off? I read something that Dr. Paul Orwin wrote about AIDS in Africa. Dr. Charles Murtaugh had dared to suggest that promiscuity had something to do with the problem, and PO had noted immune suppression effects that might apply to make things worse.

OK so far. Then came something that probably was intended to be evenhanded but I still found remarkable:
This explanation, of course, is not great news for social conservatives, who would like to believe that promiscuity or other societal factors are to blame, and therefore the solution lies there. It's also not great news for liberal activists, who would like to cure AIDS by handing out condoms or by ending poverty (that last bit would certainly help, although I think clean water is much more important. In effect, though, the primary responsibility for curbing or curing HIV/AIDS must be in the scientific community, and the research, both primary and drug and vaccine development, is of paramount importance.
Before I start, do we agree that he has accurately characterized likely approaches of social conservatives and those of liberals?

OK, let's get down to basics - what spreads AIDS? In Africa health spending is minute, so you can forget about tainted blood products. That leaves needles and sex.

As for the needles, well, health spending in Africa is so low that they get reused. Thus what little medical care they get can be the source of AIDS itself. Michael Fumento writes about this in "The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS". So here's where a liberal approach could help, but no - political correctness says that they must ship condoms instead, with the inherent storage, distribution, education, shelf life and failure rate problems. I guess they want to save the needles for junkies rather than innocents with diseases. Never mind effectiveness, as long as it makes them feel good.

Then there's sex. Let's suppose we stipulate that despite the poverty and lack of alternative amusement, the Africans aren't getting any more than the rest of us. That still leaves a practice that the women might get sore about: "dry sex". Don't try this at home, you selfish bastard. And realize that this practice will result in even higher condom failure rates if they are used.

And if they like it dry, well...never mind.

Now for an even more sacred cow: gay sex. In case you haven't read Fumento's book linked above, you can look at this instead, where a Ugandan politician claimed that his country had no gays. Fumento notes that there are plenty of gays in Africa, and they don't appear to be any more sexually continent there than they are here. And if you want to read about real excess, try "And the Band Played On", by the late Randy Shilts (he died of AIDS).

Why can't the liberals admit that indiscriminate sex has something to do with these problems? Knock 'em up, clap 'em up, kill 'em off, but nothing shall so much as discourage that inalienable unwritten right to get laid.

Only his mother was a wreck

An 8 year old drives to school.

Well, it worked for phones...

I haven't posted anything about electric power lately, and I didn't do anything special for April Fool's Day. Maybe this will make amends.

Useful life of institutions

Maybe we can't be immortal, but we can set up institutions to maintain continuity.

However, it seems to me that institutions themselves ought to die at some point. Like humans, they lose their vitality, eventually merely existing out of nothing but inertia. And this life span might well be close to that of human beings.

One example would be the Tennessee Valley Authority. It was "born" during the New Deal, and I understand that it was very effective in those days. The bosses had vision and a sense of mission, and they hired people who fit that mold.

But by the time I showed up there in the early 80's, the place was a morgue. Any entrepreneurial spirit was gone from the organization through retirement or transfers. Civil service limitations compressed salaries to the point that nobody with any talent would stay even at the lower levels, and at higher levels it was ridiculous. The joke at headquarters was that they painted white stripes down the middle of the hallways so the people who left early wouldn't run into the ones who came in late.

The final insult was Jimmy Carter's inspired appointment of S. David Freeman to be one member of the three man board that managed TVA - Freeman was an antinuker, and TVA had 5 plants running and 12 under construction. Of those 12 (4 at Hartsville, TN; 2 at Surgoinsville, TN; 2 at Corinth, MS; 2 at Hollywood, AL; and 2 near Dayton, TN) only the last 2 listed were completed, and not until fairly recently.

Should TVA continue to exist? I lean toward privatization as much as possible. At least sell off the electrical generation and distribution assets to better managed nearby companies like Duke Power, the Southern Company, or American Electric Power.

TVA may have changed their ways by now - maybe Instapundit or Rich Hailey can tell us. But I suspect it's beyond redemption.

I have other nominations. NASA. The NAACP. The International Red Cross. The UN. The Nobel Prize committee. K mart.

Any other nominees?