Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Thought for Thanksgiving

On November 18 of this year, Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., was installed as the ninth archbishop of Chicago, America’s third-largest Roman Catholic diocese, with 2.3 million members.

In an interview given shortly before his installation, he said this: “The pope is saying some very challenging things for people. He’s not saying, this is the law and you follow it and you get to heaven. He’s saying we have to do something about our world today that’s suffering; people are being excluded, neglected. We have a responsibility, and he’s calling people to task.”

Finally, somebody gets it right.

Blase J. Cupich

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Harveys in the News

Giving credit where credit is due.  Report examines shared fire chief for New Salem and Wendell.  (And I always thought that MMA stood for Mixed Martial Arts)

The Card Game That Must Not Be Named

It turns out that for many years Bill Clinton's favorite card game was Hearts.  That all changed when he visited Steven Spielberg during the 1996 presidential campaign and was introduced to an even better game.  Spielberg Deals Bill Clinton Into a Beloved Card Game.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Barbie Does Daemons

Who says you can’t change the world…a little. Recently Mattel released a new children’s book titled “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer.” (Later, they claimed it was released in 2010.) Wow! Barbie’s coming into the late twentieth century…until one starts reading it. I’m not sure how it got started, but it may have been Pamela Ribon who discovered the book and wrote about it on her blog. She found the book beyond banal, to being breathtakingly abominable.

Shortly, it caused such popular persecution and parody on the web that Random House pulled the book and Amazon dropped it. Now Mattel has apologized.

Thus in our internet age, democracy (or pop culture) voting works in magical ways. Whimsically, someone hacked up a way to write alternate versions of the book. Here are some geeky examples.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Many of the better quality blogs are touting the relatively new show by This American Life, called Serial. If In Progress is not in the "better quality" realm, then it is probably I who is dragging it down. As reparations,  I'll recommend the show. Be sure to start with episode 1.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bigger Than Ebola

The U.S. panic over ebola is dwarfed by the Parisian tiger scare. Sure ebola may kill you, but so can a hungry tiger, and it is 155 pounds. For those living east of Paris, it is as mysterious as the killer virus, as no one knows where it came from. "The unbelievable tiger alert" dominates Parisian news. "It's been running for 48 hours and it hasn't eaten, so yes, I'm worried," said local resident, Jean-Francois Ameur.
Tiger expert Gilbert Edelstein, from the Pinder circus, said the best response to coming face-to-face with the stripy beast, thought to weigh around 70 kilogrammes (155 pounds), was to “scream as loud as possible.”
“Even better, scream in German. The guttural sounds could scare him away,” added Edelstein.
Leave it to the French to always come up with the appropriate use of German awareness. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How are you affected by Nightly News?

Here is a short, painless quiz about your perceptions of your country (if you click the U.S.). It's nothing earthshaking or traumatic, but just another reality check that we are often led slightly astray. I didn't do too badly except about the percentage of Americans over 65.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Annual Report from the Edge of Science, aka 'Cold Fusion'

Last year’s post on the state of “Cold Fusion” or “Low-Energy Nuclear Reaction” (LENR) ended with the lines, “for such possibly breakthrough technology, events are progressing rapidly. Hopefully we will soon see if this is a false positive or not.” That turned out to be enigmatically prescient. Two significant events happened last year.

1. Defkalion’s LENR device, the Hyperion, was tested in a public demonstration streamed on the internet. Apparently, when the results were in, the device failed to produce any excess heat at all, reminiscent of the original Pons-Fleischmann experiment. That was the conclusion of high energy physicist Luca Gamberale in a report on the demonstration. The company, as a result, seems to have all but collapsed.

2. Andrea Rossi’s device, the E-Cat, also had a demonstration. Six researchers from Italy and Sweden tested the device for 32 days. The extended time allowed more rigorous testing than previously, and would help determine the long termed stability of the device. The team concluded:
“The quantity of heat emitted constantly by the reactor and the length of time during which the reactor was operating rule out, beyond any reasonable doubt, a chemical reaction as underlying its operation.” 
“The isotope composition in Lithium and Nickel was found to agree with the natural composition before the run, while after the run it was found to have changed substantially. Nuclear reactions are therefore indicated to be present in the run process, which however is hard to reconcile with the fact that no radioactivity was detected outside the reactor during the run.” 
“In summary, the performance of the E-Cat reactor is remarkable. We have a device giving heat energy compatible with nuclear transformations, but it operates at low energy and gives neither nuclear radioactive waste nor emits radiation. From basic general knowledge in nuclear physics this should not be possible.”
The scientists, being trained in ‘known’ physics, are almost comically skeptical and at one point in the report say:
“However, as discussed above, it is of course very hard to comprehend how these fusion processes can take place in the fuel compound at low energies. Presently we should therefore restrict ourselves to merely state that an isotope shift has occurred in Lithium and Nickel. We refrain from speculations in any dynamic scenario making this reaction possible at low energies. The reaction speculation above should only be considered as an example of reasoning and not a serious conjecture.”
To repeat, their explanation is an “example of reasoning and not a serious conjecture.”
Here is a copy of the report.

You may purchase one of Rossi’s 1 mega-watt E-Cat plants for a reported $1.5 million.

There are many, many organizations working on this technology, but, as far as I can tell, all are very poorly funded with the exception of Rossi’s E-Cat. I continue to hold no belief (one way or another) in the practicality of the technology, but report what I find.

You are free to speculate on your own as to its practicality, and also as to why the press does not report on LENR activities.

Addendum: I probably should add that, as you would expect, the results of the report are not without controversy, which is a good thing (re: faster than light neutrinos). There are those who argue that the 6 scientists, though respected, did an inadequate job, especially in measuring input energy to the system.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lies About Aging

You know, they… they say that age kills the fire inside of a man.  That he hears death coming.  He opens the door and says, “Come in.  Give me rest.”
That is a pack of old damn lies!  I’ve got enough fight in me to devour the world.  So I fight.
                    -- Zorba the Greek

Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.
                    -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Dr. Ellen Langer is a social psychologist and a professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard University.   Interestingly enough, she studied under Philip Zimbardo, seen in this recent post about the power of authority to get people to do evil.  Anyway, she suggests that we may have more power to control aging than we think:  What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?

Yet Another Captivating Map

I recommend viewing on Full Screen.  Otherwiser it's difficult to see.