June 30, 2007
Ignoring for a moment the resulting bloodbath that the NYT glosses over, abandoning those we have sworn to protect is very very poor foreign policy.
That it is ethically reprehensible certainly seems irrelevant to the Times.
The Brits, as always, seemed to handle it with stride. Mr. Clarkson, by his actions, may have not just saved lives, he may have helped provide an intelligence coup as this is the rare case of a suicide bomber survivor. Had he not punched the terrorist, the asshat might have blown himself up and killed people....or simply burned to death.
Of course now the BBC has reported this capture, (hardly something the public has a right/need to know), so not only do we know of Mr. Clarkson's heroics, the bad guys know of the capture of one of their number and can, flee/ make adjustments/ kill weak links....
The BBC, so impartial they're on the other side.
Of course they are hardly alone in this regard someone else would have likely leaked this info even if they'd been responsible.
More news here.
Send him a few kind words.
June 28, 2007
This happens just as Opportunity is set to attempt a fairly perilous descent into an impact crater.
Tangentially related, in that they involve Mars, dust, and weather is this cool clip of some dust devils taken by Spirit....courtesy of Space.com
At least I'm edgier than my old blog....which is rated G!
Colleen Doran gets an R rating
....as does ACE.
Instapundit is PG 13
Chizumatic rates an R...it seems because of the serious and edgy discussion that goes on there.
All the cool kids have darker and edgier ratings than me!
Well....there is only one thing for it......
No I have no idea what it is yet, but reading the comments, it seems this thing can actually extract the cases as they are fired!
That's unheard of in a revolver. If this were to work, it would make a good police or defensive firearm. One could top off ones cylinder like one can top off a weapon with a tube magazine, like a pump gun. This would be very good in a lot of tactical situations.
Of course...given the general lack of these things filling gun store shelves, there is likely something I'm missing.
June 27, 2007
June 26, 2007
I've no idea who did this...but I'm not entirely sure it's actually a "fan" piece.
The Brickmuppet's crack team of science geezers celebrate the construction of the first Algaeal oil plant...in Alabama.
Oil production from algae is highly promising for several reasons but gets not nearly the attention of other biofuel processes, in large part because it is incompatible with current farming methods. The Iowa corn Mafia is not going to plant algae next year.
In my admittedly undergraduate opinion, this would seem to be a feature rather than a bug. Algae will inherently not displace food production, nor will it use up "waste" portions of crops that are normally recycled into the soil, preserving soil quality.
For some years I've been a member of a Yahoo group dedicated to this sort of thing....which from watching the news one would think is about the level of support its been getting worldwide. However there are several companies actively pursuing this as can be seen at this biodiesel wiki.
Algae can in theory, be grown off of sewage and in generally un-suitable areas for other crops. Algae has a high oil content....in some species over 50% making refining rather straightforward. Algae grows fast multiple crops can be pulled in in months, but the mechanics of how to avoid diminishing returns require fairly complex geometries in the incubators that are still being learned. Few companies have approached theoretical levels of oil production but the potential is rather stunning.
Compared to other biofuel crops (excepting, curiously, sugarcane)
Gallons of Oil per
Acre per Year
Chart is shamelessly stolen from here where one Thomas F. Reising (PhD) reports on some successes by a company called Green Fuel Technologies and at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He estimates that biodiesel produced from 15,000 square miles (a drop in the bucket given the CONUS land area of over 3 million square miles) could produce all the fuel for our transportation needs. Note that efficiencies actually can be higher than this as it seems to be assuming ponds as opposed to the more efficient "watertube greenhouses" most of the focus is now on ....often as side units to various manufacturing operations eating the CO2 emissions. More on Green Fuel Technologies can be found here.
Between this and small scale (backyard) operations the potential for a highly robust, distributed, renewable energy source fairly resistant to monopolistic tendencies is really interesting.
A rather less sanguine take can be found in this Popular Science article, but at least some of the issues raised here seem to have been dealt with by other companies/ universities as related above.
The Wikipedia page on Algaculture, while fairly cursory is here.
Many hours of time can be wasted perusing this facinating Oil From algae Wiki..
Those numbers listed are concerned with oil production not total energy usage. The assumption is that power is added from somewhere to refine the oil.
Now algae is very easy to refine to oil, but it still must be refined and refining takes energy. Ignoring the solar energy the algae used to grow itself, Algael oil is one of the very few biofuels that can really fuel itself. It is very efficient. But to achieve its potential the power for the refining must come from elsewhere.
The highest density, least polluting energy source we have is nuclear...(I'm partial to thorium cycle reactors myself)
Again, there is no free lunch. We are (again )confronted with the simple fact that those who oppose nuclear power are not serious about the environment.
Oh...and one more thing....scarcely worth mentioning....
Regards the relative potential yield of various biofuels...take a look below the fold to grasp just what a boondoggle the corn to ethanol initiatives are......
If this pans out it's really cool!
Update: via the Blogfather....more here.
Commadore Peter Lockwood of The Royal Australian Navy has taken command of the coalition forces in the Northern Persian Gulf.
This may or may not be related to this story.
It seems that the Iranians first tried to capture the Aussies....but the Aussies were downright non congenial.
As a rather annoying aside: We don't even have Commodores any more! The hallowed and historic designation was replaced in the late 80's with the awe in spiring title of "Rear Admiral Lower Half"....How gimp is that?
It's all over the 'sphere of course but here are thoughts on the Rushdie Knighthood, the British Royal Family and Monty Python by Fred Thomson.
The efforts by the two princes, Harry and William, to fight in Iraq impressed me. I was also impressed by the knighthood of author Salman Rushdie and the British reaction to the predictable outrage that followed.
That's not to say I'm a big fan of the British-Indian novelist. I don't agree with a lot of his criticism he's made of America and the UK in the past. But that's the point, really. In the West, we can disagree strongly with someone without issuing fatwas and calling for his death. We can even honor someone with whom we disagree.
I kinda like Fred....
June 25, 2007
Over at Captains Quarters, Ed Morrisey points out that the measure of an effective candidate may be the worry he inspires in the opposition.
I some ways, Paprika may actually be Satoshi Kon's weakest film.
It is quite important to appreciate the context of that statement....as this is one of the best movies this year. This film is superbly disturbing and strangely inspiring. It is tightly paced and exactly the right length, a lesson many of todays filmmakers would do well to learn.
I highly recommend it, I also strongly suggest not blinking .
It's Machinegun Loli!
(Source of both art and .gif unknown)
Update: J Greely comes to the rescue in the comments. This look cute.
One of the challenges facing the USCG is replacing the medium endurance cutters. The Reliance class are decent ships that have served well beyond their anticipated life, but...they are thus quite old are slow, bad rollers and spares for their engines must be obtained from South Africa, or hand made here. The Bear class are only about 10 years younger, are bad rollers and slow, (though they are robust vessels still in good condition) that both classes have given such good service is, at this point, a testament to their crews rather than their design.
Replacing these is a daunting and expensive prospect, as is manning them. The new offshore patrol cutter currently under development has a crew of 91 plus an air group. Note that given the issues with the new high endurance cutters, the USCG may be going back to the drawing board with these vessels.
Ideally a medium endurance cutter should have a helicopter for fast transit to a SAR search area and to extend the ships horizon. It should be fast, have good endurance and excellent sensors. It should have a large capacity for rescuees. Aside from the last requirement, these criteria can be met by this old design. It is a 330 page pdf file of a 1980 study on airships by the USCG using the technology of the day.
In the late '80s the Coast Guard rented a Skyship from the UK for tests and it was considered quite succsessful. In the early 90s an improved version, the Sentinel 1000, was being tested for the Navy and Coast Guard, but it was destroyed when the airship hangar in Weeksville NC burned, ending the program.
An airship has several advantages, it has far greater endurance than a helicopter, it is almost as fast, ( 60-90kts depending on the design) it can carry a large surveillance radar, it can hover longer...( for days if needed) compared to a patrol boat or WMEC it is at least twice as fast. Airships actually can deal with storms fairly well, (the USNs K-class airships served in the north Atlantic, some of the worst weather on the planet, yet they only lost one...which was destroyed by gunfire from a U-boat).
Today there are several designs to choose from, the old Zeppelin company is back in the rigid airship business with their innovative Zeppelin NT design, that uses steerable thrust to lower ground crew to 3!
Skycat of the UK is offering an amphibious lifting body design specifically geared to costal patrol and surveillance, perhaps inspired by the recent US Army tests with another UK design, the Lightship. Heck, even Blackwater security is getting into the airship business! Thus this is NOT unproven technology.
Given that it can't carry hundreds of rescuees, is not going to break ice and is not going to carry buoys, it is not a replacement for all surface vessels, but for polar science research, general law enforcement , search and rescue, ice patrol and surveillance, these craft have awesome potential as force multipliers. It has the reach, horizon and very nearly the speed of a helicopter operated from a medium endurance cutter, with far more time on scene and the crew and fuel expenses of a patrol boat!
For Naval applications AEW and ASW airships have already proved their worth. Regards ASW in particular a larger design might well fill a niche that seems to have atrophied somewhat in the USN. The Army is already looking into them for surveillance and communications relays and Army and humanitarian organizations might find them useful for mine clearance in postwar theaters, especially if they're fitted with ground penetrating radar or other advanced sensors...
But as a coastie, my primary interest is as a cost effective asset to the Coast Guard, and I really think something of this type is an excellent and cost effective means of increasing reach and reducing response time at a limited cost.
I think it certainly bears further investigation.
June 24, 2007
Art by Glenn Andrian of Altiz Studios.
The US Coast Guard was very interested, it was EXACTLY the right size, speed and range for them, but the senior sea service could not afford enough to make production viable for Bell, they tried to interest the other services for a bulk buy....the other services decided that an enlarged version would be a perfect fit for them and the V22 was ordered....the prototype was spectacularly successful so makin' it bigger should be cheap right?
At least part of the problems stemmed from the fact that the mechanics of the thing did not scale up easily. The original plane, who's outstanding success had inspired its trouble plagued stepchild languished as investors shied away...put off by the V22s myriad problems and the single crash of an XV 15 around 1992.
Now, according to this Defense Tech article, Bell has entered into a joint production agreement with Augusta and a polished version of the XV 15 is entering production as the Bell Augusta 609.
Here is video from the DT Article...with really crappy music.
More on the Bell Augusta 609 from no less an impartial source that the Bell/Augusta marketing department here.
Global Security has a page on the currently apocryphal HV609 here.
An admittedly cursory Google search turns up little beyond marketing. The history of the Coast Guard and the XV15 was related to me by an officer who had previously been an airdale and participated in the program.
I would hope that the CG could get a lot of these as they would seem to fit their mission requirements quite well, but the fact that the first deliveries are not scheduled until 2011 may be a deal breaker, the USCG needs aircraft NOW as its current fleet is hard pressed.
Still one can hope.
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