Friday, May 31, 2002

Power alert in California

Heh heh...

May the lights go out in Sacramento first, so Gray-out Davis and his coconspirators in California govt can simmer from their own folly.

Well that's not fair, is it? What about the rest of the town - what did they do to deserve this?

Only this - they had a perfectly good nuclear power plant in Sacramento, and the locals voted to shut it down.

So let them sweat in the dark.

Enron - environmental darling?

Paul Georgia has the story.

Unsupportable claims?

Godless Capitalist and untold others are jumping on Eugene Volokh's acknowledgement that "Nor can one argue that intelligent design is unproven, but evolution is proven.".

Among the complaints is that, as opposed to ID, the theory of evolution has "predictive value". What's more, GC put evolution in the same class as the theory of gravity in terms of predictive value.

OK, let's take GC back to Mesozoic times. We'll give him perfect knowledge of the genomes and distribution of all organisms alive at that time and all technology available today except the historic records (for obvious reasons). We'll warn him about all the earthquakes, Ice Ages, tectonic plate motions, volcanoes, meteorite strikes, or any other large-scale external phenomena from then until today. His challenge is to derive the distribution and genomes of the species of today.

How would you go about that even in principle? And if you can't do it, then where is the predictive value that we're told is "on par with gravity"? Based on what you could have known then, but with today's technology available, would you even have predicted the passing of the dinosaurs?

Now suppose you had made some predictions based on our current knowledge of gravitation. Would you have done better?

One more thing. GC says
Redo history from the Big Bang with a video camera? Impossible - so why is this even asked? It's not asked for ANY other theory.
That's because it's not needed to prove any other theory - that's the load you picked up when you ruled out creationism. You say there was a Big Bang but you can't show us one?

I'm agnostic - I don't claim to know if either of the groups discussed above has the right answers. But for all this talk of science, why don't the atheists ever come out and admit that they can't prove that there is/are no god(s)?

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Where is Jane Galt?

Hyper-prolific blogger Jane Galt hasn't posted anything new for over 48 hours. Send out a search party.

There's no such thing as race?

That's the politically correct answer. Then there's this.


From the liner notes of John H. McWhorter's Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America: "Is school a "white" thing? If not, then why do African-American students from comfortable middle-class backgrounds perform so badly in the classroom?" The theory is that blacks are held back in academic achievement by other blacks, who disdain excellence in schoolwork as "acting white".

This is an interesting phenomenon, but IMO it's not unique to blacks. Doing exceptionally well in school didn't score us white guys any social points either.

IMO it's not just academic performance that is inhibited by peers. You couldn't be too "arty" either, unless you had some offsetting virtue (probably athletics).


Genetics questions free-for-all

Given an arbitrary DNA sequence, can you determine whether there could be a corresponding organism, ie, could it live at all?

Given an arbitrary DNA sequence from existing organisms, can you determine their species?

Given two arbitrary DNA sequences from existing organisms, can you tell whether they can interbreed?

Because I said so

Don't miss Ipse Dixit's Caption of the Day contest.

It's the only possible explanation...

Dawn Olsen is holding the quarterfinals of the Sexiest Male Blogger contest. The winners face Tony Woodlief and me in the semis.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Town Hall has a blog

It's the C-log, and looks to be a terrific resource for conservatives.

How to cheat at Minesweeper

From the ScreenSavers.

Tech TV's Call for Help had an interesting segment on data recovery today. They showed several unfortunate PCs, including laptop that allegedly had been in the Amazon River since 1993. The presenter claimed to have recovered all the data from the laptop's hard drive. They also included some .wav files demonstrating sounds made by failing hard drives.

Monday, May 27, 2002

On Decoration Day

Thank you Andrew Olmsted. Via Hawspipe.

I finally scooped Instapundit...

Jonah Goldberg has a post about blogs in Town Hall today. Unaccountably he failed to mention this one.

He does mention this:
It's horse-and-sparrow journalism. The horse blazes the trail and eats the hay. The sparrows feed on what the horse leaves behind in steamy piles on the road.

UPDATE: I should have known better. I had just received the email from Town Hall mentioning this about 2:30AM, when even Glenn Reynolds sleeps. It looked like it was dated on the 27th. But this originally was published on the 24th in the WashTimes. Maybe next time...

I must say, I like his characterization of what the horses of the media produce. Especially the Horse - take it away, folks.

Hot teen sex!

I have plenty of opinions on this topic, which seems to be going around like wildfire. Particularly with reference to this US News article.

What I found interesting was the part about the girl with gonorrhea in her throat. Where did it come from?

Implicit in the arguments for sex education is that it's the teen boys that are knocking up or infecting the teen girls. Well, kids are generally born "clean" - if one of them gets a dose of clap, there are adults involved somewhere.

Well, of course there are. Older guys have been after young girls forever, and older women aren't innocents either. Why?

Because they're better in bed? How can that be? - they don't know anything.

Ah, that's it - because they don't know anything. They're easier to impress. Buy 'em a burger, tell them they're pretty, pass them a joint and you're in the saddle. You can't stop them, you know - teens will have sex.

Or will they? Is it possible that the real problem is older predators?

So what if it is? If the kid is legal, anything goes. We wouldn't dream of passing any laws against it, and increasingly it seems that we're even losing the will to condemn this.

Maybe we should. We might not want to lock somebody up for robbing the cradle, but we can discourage it. We can treat these people as beneath contempt. We can publicize them.

And if they start suffering misfortunes at the hands of strangers unknown, well...sometimes you just can't stop people from doing things.

Sunday, May 26, 2002

For entertainment purposes only

Glenn Reynolds links us to this, about defeating Sony's CD copy protection with a magic marker. I'm all for protection of intellectual property, but I'm having a hard time crying about this one.

That gave me an idea for another way to use your CD burner. Throw away your batteries - just plug the inputs straight into the wall and copy electricity! Then you could play it back any time you needed the power, just like a perpetual motion machine. If you needed more power in the same space, use a DVD burner instead. Right?

I would hope that most people from civilized societies nowadays would find a problem or two with the above scenario, even if they don't know exactly what it is. The ones who try it anyway, well, let's hope a breaker trips before you start a fire or get burned or electrocuted. Nah, we'd better not spread that one - there are enough strange ideas already.

For instance, legend has it that when telephones were new, scamsters would call people to tell them that the phone company was going to blow out the lines, and they should take their phone off the hook and put a pillowcase over it to catch the dust. And this nearly rendered the phone systems inoperable.

Yesterday I got a call from a relative asking about an email she had received. It told her to delete jdbgmgr.exe from her Windows system because it was a virus. This is only the latest in a series of similar scams going around - here is a list.

If they're going to do that, the least they could do is have people delete something really malicious. Like AOL.

A grounding in basic electricity

A while back I posted an item about static electricity. The idea was to lay some basic groundwork leading up to a discussion of power generation and distribution for nontechnical people. In what follows I'll assume that the material in that earlier post is familiar.

Static electricity is comparatively simple to analyze - it's about electric charges that are not moving. Start moving those charges around and entirely new phenomena emerge.

A faucet provides a familiar analogy for these phenomena. It provides a connection to a supply of water that is under pressure, in what for our purposes is a limitless quantity. The electrical analogy for this pressure is the potential, or voltage. And just as water flows from where the pressure is higher to where it is lower, electric current flows from higher voltages to lower voltages.

Alright, go find a sink with a working faucet, and open the drain. You want to make sure that that water has some place to go once you turn it on. The electrical analogy for this is a "ground" - either way you are establishing a place where the flow can go without accumulating or "charging up".

Now turn the water on very slowly. Does water come out immediately? No, it takes some time to fill the spout before the water comes out. In an electric circuit, we have an analogous phenomenon called "capacitance" - you have to charge up the wires before you can deliver any power.

Now turn the faucet more wide open. You get more flow. That's because the faucet internals are positioned to ease the flow of water, which is analogous to electric current. Electric current is measured in units of charge passing through per second - the most commonly used unit is the "ampere" or "amp".

Now turn the faucet wide open. You're delivering as much flow as you can. That's because you have minimized the amount of flow resistance in your water "circuit". In an electric circuit the corresponding phenomenon is called "resistance".

The water flowing through the faucet is at a higher pressure (say 40 pounds per square inch, or psi) on the inlet of your faucet. Where it leaves the faucet it is at the same pressure as the rest of the room, or 0 psi. What happened to the pressure? The relevant energy was consumed by fluid flow friction inside your faucet, or its "resistance". In electric circuits the resistance of a device tells you the ratio of how much your voltage will drop across it to the amount of current that is flowing at the time.

Now shut off the faucet as quickly as you can. Depending on how your plumbing is designed, you might have felt a "water hammer" caused by forcing the water moving in your pipes to come to a sudden stop. There is an analogous phenomenon in electric circuits called "inductance".

Hmm, that's strange. Electricity is a bunch of moving charges which are almost massless, and I never see wires jump when I flip off a switch. So where is this inductance crap coming from?

Well, this post is getting king of long, so I guess I'll cut it off here. So you'll just have to sit on pins and needles for the next thrilling installment...

Post abortion stress syndrome?

Fortunately the closest I have come to an abortion (to my knowledge) was once when I was the designated driver.

I know several women who have had abortions, and I don't know a one who wants to talk about it. And it's not like they're not out there - allegedly 43% of all women in the US have had an abortion by age 45.

So I stumbled upon this site which speaks of "post abortion stress syndrome". It seems consistent with my observations - that this is a bigger deal than militant feminists would have us believe.

Feminists have been quoted as saying that this condition does not exist, and the site acknowledges that there is no formal recognition in medical literature. Maybe it was created by anti-abortion activists, whether by outright fabrication or by establishing an environment where women who get abortions are driven to it by their activities.

I don't think so. IMO abortion has been trivialized medically and psychologically. You can give the kid up for adoption and be through in 9 months. You can raise it and be through in 20 odd years. Or you can abort it and deal with it forever.

Make your money greener

It's been a while since I've heard anything about George Washington Carver. IMO he can't be mentioned often enough.

Why? Because we could use thousands of others like Carver in any color we can find them in. He showed farmers in the South how to rotate their crops with peanuts and sweet potatoes to enrich the land, and then created the products that created the demand for these crops. The resulting bounty to Southern agriculture was incalculable, and it was all from a man born a slave.

Our new Carvers could work on industrial processes that cause pollution, such as burning of fossil fuels, production of chemicals, disposal of solid waste, or handling of vast quantities of livestock waste from factory farming. Today a landfill, tomorrow a mine.

Or they could develop more products from corn or cane sugar, giving us hope of ending the ethanol boondoggle and ridiculous price supports.

The way to deal with pollution is to create new products, processes and markets. That means educating more engineers and managers to create and implement the industrial and other changes needed to make things cleaner.

You'd think Big Green would be right on board with this. But does anyone think we'll ever see the "Greenpeace School of Engineering", or "Sierra Club School of Business", or "Working Assets Venture Capital Fund"?

Hell no. They're too busy buying lunches in Washington, mugging for photographers, blowing smoke for journalists, exploiting cheap labor by college students, cutting trees for fundraising letters or hassling working people trying to make a living.

They're social pollution. And they don't deserve a dime of your money.

Field guide to the North American watermelon

As noted before, the name of this blog is a reference to people who cloak their political goals with environmental initiatives (they look green, but they're really red on the inside. Or else they're what Lenin called "useful idiots"). So how do we know who the watermelons are?

For one, they speak of "anti-environmentalists". No, there's no such thing. We all live on the same planet, drink the same water, breathe the same air, eat the same food...we're all in this together. Everybody wants a good environment - we just disagree about what one is, and how much we'll put up with in exchange for other benefits. And we have these people to thank for the fact that many of us now are conditioned to be suspicious of environmental initiatives - they've created divisions where none need exist.

They want you to give money to professional bitchers like Greenpox Greenpeace or the Sierra Club. Have these groups ever done anything besides pushing for bigger govt to solve problems? Would you rather spend your money on, say, developing a more efficient engine, or on buying enough Congressmen to raise CAFE standards?

They object to capitalism and private property, preferring govt control. There are problems to be addressed with resources subject to "the tragedy of the commons". But they should note that for truly deadly pollution, it's hard to top places with huge govts and/or nonexistent property rights, like Mexico or the former Soviet Union. Obviously neither capitalism nor private property are necessary.

They object to local control. If a community is satisfied with, say, the level of arsenic in their water, then why should anyone butt in? Why should automotive exhaust in Nebraska be regulated the same way as it is in Los Angeles? Why should some New Yorker who wants to see wolves in Yellowstone National Park on his vacation be able to force locals to live with them all year?

They demonize their opposition, presenting issues in terms of good vs. evil rather than your values and interests vs. mine. You cannot oppose them without having your motives questioned, and nothing is more questionable than being wealthy.

And further environmental progress in large measure will depend on kicking these people out of the leadership of environmental groups.