December 30, 2008

Random Bits of Wrong

Christmas kept me away from most entertainment so this week I determined to  had been considering seeing The Day the Earth Stood Still, however the reviews were not good and amongst my messages from an Email list I'm on were these lucid comments on the film by those less fortunate than I.

Save your money for the cheap show, or PPV.
"Just saw a movie that happened to have a title card that read "Day the Earth Stood Still""...
...been lurking around for many years, but  I felt  I had to say
something ...and this new disaster makes me feel like somebody threw  a
ton of raw, fresh excrement onto me, in IMAX format, yet...what kind of
Hollywood dumbass wrote this thing?

I decided to go with Bobtm and see The Spirit instead.

Now I liked both Sin City and 300, the latter more than the former and this is the Spirit after all so I went i with high hopes.

I must confess that it was welcome to see that after all the fan service for the girls in 300 that this provided lots of fan service for the my demographic.
It was also nice to see Samuel L. Jackson having a completely batshit bonkers good time as the Octopus...or perhaps he simply went batshit bonkers during filming and the directors ran with it.
On the other hand...
What in the HELL!?
That was an ODD film....
I didn't exactly hate it but it was really strange and more than a bit unsatisfying...

Anyway this evening I went on the internet and started doing some work on some upcoming posts, in the process I did an image search....
...and encountered a picture where someone had perpetrated "Rule 34" on a

Shudder....not that Cadburry cream egg tan wasn't sort of..cute...but damn....that ain't right.

I need a soda....wait...what??? HOLY HELL!!!

Yes kids....It's the grape soda who's flavor really grabs $2.67 a bottle, it had damn well better.

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December 29, 2008

Paper Airplaines...FROM SPAAAACE!!!

How on Earth did I miss this?
The Pink Tentacle brings us this neat story from March on what is the ultimate egg drop ( but with no egg involved).

Japanese scientists and origami masters hope to launch a paper airplane from space and learn from its trip back to Earth.

This seems like it could be doable. The fact that these are made of paper should give them light enough wing loading. OTOH they will still be traveling at suborbital velocity when they begin to hit the sensible atmosphere, the light loading might not be enough.

Of course we won't know till we try! 

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December 28, 2008

A Quick Link Roundup Regards Todays Just Reciprocity

Breaking a "ceasefire" that involved around 3000 rockets landing in their towns and killing all manner of civilians ( the Palestinians particularly seemed to target schools)over the last year, Israel has hit back and hit back hard.

Very Surprising...Egypt condemned Hamas!,,and opened fire on them! (both via)

Meryl has had superb coverage all day...see here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Israellycool is liveblogging.

Richard Fernandez has more...and provides this helpful graph of the rocket attacks on Israel during the "ceasefire".

Jules Crittenden has some thoughts and analysis.

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Questions Answered

Some questions  recently appeared in the comments of these two posts, regarding energy policy.

"Fortunately" after a tragic lab mishap involving Mentos, one member of the Brickmuppet's crack team of science babes is now ideally equipped to deal with comment threads that have returned from the dead! She now shambles up to answer these questions.

First up, 'Alternate Energy' asks about the relative energy yields of sugar beets and switch grass.

That's a hard one to figure as there are several factors involved, but some ballpark assumptions can be made.

Here sugar beets are credited with providing even better yield than sugar cane at an experimental French farm.

For ethanol, the top yields per acre are 714 gallons from sugar beets in France and 662 gallons per acre for sugarcane in Brazil

This might well be misleading as sugar beets are hard on the soil and need to be rotated rather more than other crops. That site mentions that one sugar beet crop per field every 4 years is a good rule of thumb with one per 3 being rather risky, so the number probably would realistically be 1/4th of that given.

By comparison, according to this report, switchgrass yields a theoretical maximum of 1,150 gallons of ethanol per acer.

These numbers are also somewhat as the celulosic process mentioned in the post is not fully operational (though it is very promising). The big advantage of switchgrass is that it is a weed, a native species and can be grown very well on marginal land that isn't really suitable for other crops. This is not the case with sugar beets and is important because we don't want to be displacing food crops for fuel. That is a very bad thing!

I personally think that algael oil, about which more here, here and here is a better option in general with a yield of kerosene type hydrocarbons 50 times that of the best ethanol producing crops. However,  switchgrass certainly has potential to supplement that. (Ethanol also works fairly well in suitable Otto cycle engines, whereas algae produces what is fairly close to diesel fuel.)

A comparison of various crop yields can be found here. Note that most displace food and that Congressional favorite corn is by far the worst of the lot.

Alternate Energy also asks in this post why there has been so little buzz surrounding Thorium Cycle Reactors (first mentioned here, or rather at the old blog, in '06).

The reasons for that stem from in part from the anti nuclear hysteria found in so much of the green movement, but also from a policy decision made by the Carter administration in 1977 when we got out of the fuel reprocessing business. The idea was that plutonium should not become a commodity to be traded and that this would ease proliferation risks...In practice this meant the US ceded an entire industry to the Europeans, the Russians and the Japanese.

Additionally, the media has been very hostile to nuclear power in general over the years. It should be rembered too that this is a technology that was abandoned. This gives, to a casual observer, the mistaken impression that it failed....which can cause it to be further dismissed.

The most promising thorium reactors are liquid fluoride reactors which burn up the vast majority of their fuel, far more efficiently and with less ultimate waste than other types. However this cycle is a breeder cycle and that got it nixed from consideration. Other types of thorium plants  have the advantage of using thorium fuel instead of uranium of course. This vastly increases global fuel reserves but these other thorium reactors don't really minimize waste as far as I know.

A previous post on this blog regards nuclear power in general can be found here, and nuclear  scientist Kirk Soronsen...who actually KNOWS what he's talking about...has a blog as well as a very informative discussion forum where thorium fueled reactor related issues are discussed in great detail by a variety of people far more experienced in them than an undergraduate oceanography major.

Undead science babe has been identified as "Franken Fran" and is a creation of Manga artist Kigetsu Katsuhisa.

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The Coast Guard in 2008

The US Coast Guard has compiled a list of what they consider their top ten video clips of Coasties in action. My favorite is the first one...

Since the removal of the ASW equipment from cutters in the early '90s, Coasties new method for dealing with pesky submarines is, apparently... tackle them.

Hat tip: EagleSpeak

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Mirelurks and Deathclaws and Raiders...OH MY!

Good lord! The sun...It's up...It's like Noon!
 This game is more cracklike than the most cracktacular crack to have ever cracked out of a crackpipe!

I am learning all sorts of things though...Heretefore, I thought the term "Fire Ant" meant something less....literal. I would also have thought that after 200 years cars would no longer be combustible. This is actually using them for cover is not recommended.

I hope everyone had a great holiday!

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December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Brickmuppeteers! (Or Whatever You're Celebrating)

art by Simosi

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December 21, 2008

More on The Paths not Taken

Over at the Unwanted Blog, where Scott Lowther has a selection of pictures from Project Meteor, a hugely ambitious program from 1956 that was as Lowther puts it...

This was somewhat similar to the “Colliers” space program as envisioned by von Braun and others… just not so small and limited.*

Not so limited indeed...the station was half a mile long and the gravity deck (centrifuge) was 1500 feet in diameter. This was the size of an O'Neal 1956!

srrsly guys...manuver carefully!
I was familliar with the interesting and forward thinking Meteor ferry rocket, from Ron Millers, The Dream Machines. However I had NO idea that it was tied to such an ambitious project.

According to Lowther, the numbers largely work, this was a very serious proposal, but I suspect other 1950's station proposals, would have run afoul of the then unknown Van Allen problem
In theory, the optimum altitude for a station is around1050 miles up or so which is beyond all traces of the earths atmosphere, however what was not known prior to Explorer 1 is that that orbital sweet spot is smack blam in the middle of in the Van Allen Belts. Low earth orbit, though considered a hard vacuum, still has enough trace atmosphere to cause some over time drag, making satellites there non-permanent or high maintenance. However, given the investment in the thing and the plans concurrent project for reusable space launchers, this could have probably been made to work.

Lowther has a 59 page report describing the project in great detail for sale here along with several other forgotten chapters of aerospace history.

*Explanation of the irony in this statement can be found at this awesome site. dedicated to the "Colliers Space Program"

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Purple Squirrel

No really. A purple squirrel. (via)

Image via Daily Mail.

Obviously squirrels have adopted a unitary command structure.

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Sunday Funnies

Several people do a Sunday funnies bit where they pic a political cartoon for the week. Over at Flopping Aces, they've carried this to the next level.
Which political cartoons you ask?
As the great John Connor once said,"....all of them I think."

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