Sunday, October 29, 2006 INTERESTING ENGINE TECHNOLOGY
Three MIT researchers have developed an approach which they believe could reduce the fuel consumption of gasoline engines by 30%, while simultaneously reducing the size of the engines.
The idea is to aggressively turbocharge the engine and run it at a very high compression ratio, while using carefully-timed ethanol injection to suppress the knock which would otherwise occur under these operating conditions. The ethanol acts in two ways: it has inherent anti-knock properties, and it exercises a cooling effect on the mixture as it vaporizes. Only a relatively small amount of ethanol would be used: about 1 gallon for each 20 gallons of gasoline. The engines would be somewhat more expensive than today's equivalent gasoline engines, but less so than hybrids, and the researchers estimate the payback at only 2 years.
In large piston engines for aircraft, such as those used in WWII, water injection was used at takeoff to suppress knock and to allow the engines to run at a higher power than they would have otherwise been able to. If I'm not mistaken, ethanol injection is sometimes used in racing cars. I'm guessing that the MIT technology differs principally in the methodology used for control of the injection timing.
The ethanol boost technology can be viewed as a way to improve the energy balance of ethanol: when ethanol is used directly as a fuel, its energy input/output ratio (energy available from the ethanol divided by energy used to produce it) has been estimated at 1.67, whereas ethanol used in an ethanol-boost engine would improve the combustion efficiency of the gasoline, as well as yielding its own energy, for an estimated effective ratio of 7.5. (I should note that the 1.67 ratio is at the optimistic end of the ethanol debate.)
Ethanol Boosting Systems, LLC is the company that the MIT researchers have formed to develop and commercialize this idea. They've also been working with Ford.
If the engine size for a particular output is reduced by half, I wonder what happens to the weight? I doubt if it goes down in the same proportion--parts need to be strengthened for the higher compression ratio--but I'd guess it's still substantially reduced. If this is indeed the case, I'd think that the technology would also hold promise for light-airplane and helicopter engines.
I'd be curious to know the degree to which the numbers on this technology are based on running actual engines on test stands, versus pure computer modelling.
Javier Solana, foreigh policy chief of the European Union, said that Hamas wants to "liberate the Palestinians," not to destroy Israel.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Solana insisted that it was "not impossible" for Hamas to change and "recognize the existence of Israel." History had shown that people and nations "adapt to reality," he said. "I don't want to lose hope." Pressed as to whether he was underestimating the fundamentalist religious imperative at the heart of the Hamas ideology, Solana said, "I cannot imagine that the religious imperative, the real religious imperative, can make anybody destroy another country... Therefore that is an abuse of religion..."I don't think the essence of Hamas is the destruction of Israel. The essence of Hamas is the liberation of the Palestinians," he added. "The liberation of their people, not the destruction of Israel."
Unbelievably, Solana says he considers himself as "a good friend of Israel."
LGF has excerpted the Hamas Charter--see for yourself just how disconnected Solana is from reality.
Is Solana not familiar with the history of the 20th century, especially the 20th century in Europe? Does he really not understand that people have used religion--and nationalism, and economic theory, and just about anything else you can name--as excuses for killing people in large numbers? His position seems to me to be an especially malign form of wilful stupidity: apparently, he's willing to put the lives of Israelis at risk in order to avoid losing his especially naive form of "hope."
When Democrats state that American foreign policy should be more submissive toward "international opinion"--it's the opinions of people like Solana that they have in mind.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006 FRANKLY, MY DEAR, I DO NEED A DAM
Roll on, Columbia, roll on Roll on, Columbia, roll on Your power is turning our darkness to dawn So roll on, Columbia, roll on
--Woody Guthrie (1941)
Companies that run large server farms--like Google, Microsoft, and Ask.com--are finding the cost of electricity to be such a significant economic factor that the local price of power is becoming a major factor in decisions about where to put these facilities. Google, for example, is building a 30-acre facility in The Dalles, Oregon--although the site no doubt has many attractions, one of the most important is clearly The Dalles Dam, an 1800 megawatt plant located on the Columbia River. Microsoft and Yahoo are also building data centers to take advantage of the cheap power generated by the Columbia.
George Gilder has an interesting article on power consumption by large server farms; there's also a discussion at Rich Karlgaard's blog. The proposition is that computer power and communications will continue to decline in unit cost, meaning that electricity cost will become ever more important in relative terms. Gilder also has thoughts on "core" versus "edge" computing.
I've noticed that articles on electrical energy sources almost never include hydropower under the "renewables" category, preferring to restrict this term to things like wind and solar. This suggests that the perception of "renewability" is as much a construct of the political fashions of the moment as a matter of science and economics. Certainly, the lefties of Woody Guthrie's time loved hydropower; now, lots of them would like to tear the dams down.
Monday, October 23, 2006 SPEAKING OF THE MISUSE OF LANGUAGE...
At many schools, 6-year-olds don't compare books anymore -- they make "text-to-text connections." Misbehaving students face not detention but the "alternative instruction room," or "reinforcement room," or "reflection room." Children who once read now practice "SSR," or "sustained silent reading."
And in Maryland, high schoolers write "extended constructed responses" -- the essay, in a simpler time.
The above is from a Washington Post article--Talking the Edutalk. Here's more dreariness from the educational-language front:
A second-grade teacher announces "modeling efficient subtraction strategies" as the task of the day, while "selected response" has taken the place of "multiple choice."
At Laytonsville Elementary School in Gaithersburg, a bulletin board that might have once announced "Our Students' Work" instead says, "Evidence of Student Learning." One recent morning, first-graders were told after a math exercise, "That was a good warm-up for showing our enduring understanding that a number represents a quantity." A teacher told fifth-graders doing a social studies activity, "You will have a formative assessment when this is over."
This tidal wave of jargon reminds me of a passage in The Jaws of Victory, by Charles Fair, a study of military incompetence through the ages.
The root of their difficulty was not, as in Ye Olden Time, simple ignorance, but the sort of university-trained doctrainaire backwardness which seems to result when men with no natural aptitude for ideas are nevertheless obliged to stuff their heads with them.
He’s talking about World War I generals and why so many of them were so appallingly bad--but I think his analysis also applies to many of today’s “educators” and "educational experts."
(See post immediately below this one for more thoughts on the misuse of language.)
Sunday, October 22, 2006 LIGHTHOUSE TECHNOLOGY FOR SOLAR POWER
Sharp Electronics, a major manufacturer of solar cells, is showing off some new product concepts. One of these uses a Fresnel lens to concentrate light on an underlying solar cell made of an exotic material such as gallium arsenide. (Fresnel lenses were originally developed for use in lighthouses.) The idea is that the lens is relatively large (a few inches across in the prototype) but made of inexpensive materials, while the solar cell itself is made of expensive materials, but kept small (1/4 inch on a side). Light is concentrated "as if 700 suns are pointing at the solar cell," in the words of Ron Kenedi, who runs Sharp's solar group. The overall conversion efficiency of the system is said to be significantly higher than today's silicon-based systems. This particular product is intended for large power plants, not for individual homes. The individual cell assemblies are to be mounted in arrays about 12 by 16 feet, rotating with the sun for maximum efficiency and generating about 2.9 kilowatts per panel.
Sharp is also talking up several other prospective solar products, one of these made of a material which is almost transparent, so that it could potentially be used in windows.
Thursday, October 19, 2006 TERRORISTS, ISRAEL, AND DEMOCRATS
In a recent speech, former Democratic Presidential candidate Wesley Clark referred to US support for Israel in the recent air campaign against Hizballah a "serious mistake."
As Charles says, the real mistake would have been if Clark had been elected President.
It's increasingly obvious that the Democratic Party, taken as a whole, is very much an anti-Israel institution. Anyone who values Israel's continued existence, but votes for Democratic candidates, is letting themselves be played for a sucker.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006 CARNIVAL TIME: BEST BUSINESS POSTS
In honor of the third anniversary of the Carnival of the Capitalists, Rob and Jay asked participants to submit their best posts from prior carnivals, to be rerun for today's edition. Here is is. Here are the results. In choosing my own submission, I went through a lot of my old business posts and thought I might as well organize them a bit. Here are some of the ones I thought were most worthwhile, grouped by subject.
Monday, October 16, 2006 MISSILES, BOMBS, AND DEMOCRATS, CTD
John Kerry, speaking at a fund raiser, rejected the idea that North Korea's nuclear capability might have something to do with Clinton administration policy:
That is a lie. North Korea's nuclear program was frozen under Bill Clinton. When George W. Bush turned his back on diplomacy, Kim Jong Il turned back to making bombs, and the world is less safe because a madman has the Bush bomb."
"The Bush bomb?" That makes about as much sense as referring to the V-2 rockets that struck London during WWII as "the Roosevelt rockets." This is politics by catch-phrase rather than by coherent thought.
It seems impossible for leading Democrats to understand that bad things can happen in the world that weren't caused by Americans (or Israelis). We can't afford this kind of "leadership" at this dangerous point in history.
Saturday, October 14, 2006 GOON SQUAD: THE DAWNING AGE OF THE THUG?
At Columbia University, on Oct 4, left-wing students distrupted a speech hosted by the College Republicans. Angry students stormed the stage, shouting and knocking over chairs and tables and succeeding in their intent to prevent Jim Gilchrist (founder of the anti-illegal-immigration group known as the Minuteman) from delivering his talk. Columbia Public Safety did nothing to prevent the disruption. (Story and video here, see also this) Afterwards:
Christopher Kulawik, the College Republican president, told The New York Sun he was berated afterward by Columbia University administrators for allowing the speakers to say anything that would infuriate the crowd. If this is correct, it is a pretty clear sign that Columbia administrators have caved in to the "thug's veto."
A week later, Columbia administrators interfered with another event planned by the College Republicans. The scheduled speaker was Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist who saw the error of his ways and is now a supporter of Israel and the U.S. Just 3 hours before the event was to take place, a Columbia administrator sent an e-mail uninviting many of those who had already RSVP'd for the event--some of whom were already in transit. Apparently, Columbia was afraid of a repetition of the earlier disruption, and preferred to deny legitimate attendees their right to hear Mr Shoebat speak, rather than to take effective action against thuggishness by beefing up security and expelling disrupters.
Thuggish behavior, and the toleration thereof, is of course nothing new at American universities. For example, here's a report from 2002 about an incident at San Francisco State University:
Yesterday's Peace In The Middle East Rally was completely organized by the Hillel students, mostly 18 and 19 years old. They spoke about their lives at SFSU and of their support for Israel, and they sang of peace...As soon as the community supporters left, the 50 students who remained praying in a minyan for the traditional afternoon prayers, or chatting, or cleaning up after the rally, talking — were surrounded by a large, angry crowd of Palestinians and their supporters.
But they were not calling for peace. They screamed at us to "go back to Russia" and they screamed that they would kill us all, and other terrible things. They surrounded the praying students, and the elderly women who are our elder college participants, who survived the Shoah, who helped shape the Bay Area peace movement, only to watch as a threatening crowd shoved the Hillel students against the wall of the plaza...
As the counter demonstrators poured into the plaza, screaming at the Jews to "Get out or we will kill you" and "Hitler did not finish the job," I turned to the police and to every administrator I could find and asked them to remove the counter demonstrators from the Plaza, to maintain the separation of 100 feet that we had been promised.
The police told me that they had been told not to arrest anyone, and that if they did, "it would start a riot." I told them that it already was a riot.
See more examples in intimidation at American and Canadian universities here. Laurie Zoloth, a Jewish leader at Berkeley, summed up the campus situation in these words: This is the Weimar republic with Brownshirts it cannot control.
The growing climate of intimidation is not restricted to universities and their environs. Already in the U.S., we have seen media organizations--magazines, newspapers, a TV network and a major bookstore chain--cave in to intimidation, real or imagined, by Islamic Fascists. How long until people of other political and religious persuasions learn the lesson--"intimidation works"--and begin using smilar tactics? In Europe, of course, some people have already been murdered for their political opinions, and others have had to go into hiding to protect their lives. In several locales in Europe, Jews have been advised to hide their religious identities in public in order to avoid attacks.
One growing source of intimidation is "animal rights activists." Both in Britain and in the United States, scientists and companies involved in medical research have been the targets of violence and threats of violence--sometimes, the intimidation has gone beyond the individuals and companies concerned and has targeted secondary parties, such as banks doing business with a biotech company.
Not all intimidation attempts are politically, religiously, or philosophically motivated. Some Wall Street investment analysts have been the targets of death threats by investors enraged by negative opinions expresssed about particular companies.
Mainstream liberals are always very concerned about threats to free speech on the part of government, and we should of course always be alert to such threats. Too many liberals, though, fail to understand that free speech can also be destroyed by violent intimidation exercised by private parties. The climate of intimidation brought about by Hitler's Brownshirts during the time of the Weimar Republic was effective in suppressing effective action by people of other political persuasions and paving the way for the Nazi takeover of Germany.
Here's an interesting video on a possible path for automotive propulsion and fuel supply. The speaker, Reed Benet, is a graduate student at UC Davis who has previously worked in venture capital. He is advocating a biomass-to-liquid process to produce diesel fuel, along with plug-in hybrids which would combine a diesel engine with batteries and electric motors. He doesn't much like either hydrogen or ethanol. The talk is to a group of Google employees, and questions and answers are included.
I'm dubious about a some of the political/environmental stuff at the beginning, but the overall video, which is about an hour long, is well worth watching.
The United States does not need a multi-billion-dollar national missile defense against the possibility of a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile.
Sounds pretty irresponsible, doesn't it, now that we are facing a not-too-distant future in which North Korea will likely have missiles with nuclear warheads?
Nancy Pelosi is, of course, the individual who stands to become House Majority Leader if the Democrats should take control of Congress. Failure to comprehend the threat from regimes like that in North Korea is common among the Democratic leadership, past and present. In 1994, Jimmy Carter referred to Kim Jong Il as "an intelligent and vigorous man," and of North Korea itself: "I don't see that they are an outlaw nation." (quoted in IBD, 10/10)
THAAD--the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system--is now deployed in Hawaii and is ready for use in shooting down a North Korean missile. The system isn't slated to complete development until 2009, and certainly isn't perfect in its current form, but if you live on the West Coast--and if the madman in Pyongnang gives the launch order, then THAAD has a fighting chance of protecting you, your familiy, and your friends from incineration. If Democrats like Pelosi had their way, THAAD wouldn't exist at all, and there would be no antimissile technology base on which to build.
UPDATE: Bizarrely but not surprisingly, Jimmy Carter apparently thinks he did all the right things with regard to North Korea--and that everything would have been just fine if GWB hadn't said such mean things about the North Korean regime. Sister Toldjah takes his position apart.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006 NORTH KOREA'S BOMB: NUCLEAR OR NOT?
Seismic data indicates that North Korea's test was of a fairly small weapon, equivalent to about 800 tons of TNT. (For comparison, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were in the 15000-20000 ton range.) This has led to some speculation that the NK bomb may have not actually been nuclear, but rather conventional explosives detonated for purposes of deception.
Don Sensing, who was trained as a nuclear target analyst in the U.S. Army, advises against feeling too comfortable with any such conclusion. He thinks the bomb may have been either a fizzle of a large weapon, or a bomb deliberately designed to be small for tactical reasons.
The "UTLA Human Rights Committee" is hosting a meeting for purposes of "launching a local boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign in support of the Palestinian people." The announcement goes on to talk about "Israeli aggression, dispossession and oppression."
UTLA stands for United Teachers of Los Angeles, which is the largest union representing teachers in the LA public schools.
Right on the Left Coast has more information. The UTLA website links to the UTLA Human Rights Committee website, which has a link called Upcoming Events. When I clicked the link, I was directed to something called cafe intifada, which contained the text of the meeting announcement.
I would think Jewish parents in LA would be very uncomfortable in sending their children to a public school system in which teachers have allowed their professional affiliations to be used for in this way. Indeed, I would think that patriotic and rational parents of whatever religious affiliation or non-affiliation would be very concerned about sending their kids to the LA public schools if they were aware of the above activity.
Michelle Malkin has additional information related to the UTLA and the politicization of the public schools.
Sunday, October 01, 2006 MORAL IDIOCY WAS NOT INVENTED YESTERDAY
In a letter to The New York Times Book Review, Laurel Leff says:
In fact, American journalists reporting from Germany in the 1930s worried about providing balance in news stories about German Jews. A 1935 journalism textbook actually used "the Jewish persecution by the German Nazi government" to illustrate the need for "both sides in a controversial matter" to be "given a chance to have their position stated." Balance was necessary, the text explained, because the story is about a struggle "between rival groups, each of which is strong in its own right, and each of which is anxious to get as much propaganda across to newspaper readers as is possible."
Clearly, mindless forms of relativism are much more prevalent in journalism now than they were in the 1930s and 1940s--but it sounds like some of the roots were present in the profession even then.
(Laurel Leff is the author of Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper.}