Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Positively Against Positive Feedback
It is the vital secret ingredient that is difficult for most people to understand. It is therefore more valuable to the computer-aided conjurer than all the smoke. mirrors and props are to the stage magician.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Glasgow Helicopter Crash - Did People Die Because They Weren't Rescued - Again
"John McGarrigle has been waiting since Friday for news of his father, also called John, who was inside the Clutha pub when the police helicopter crashed into it.
He told Sky News: "I'm extremely angry my dad is lying in there.
"I was told last night that (the building) would not be getting touched (and that) no bodies were being taken out.....
"What about the dignity for the human beings underneath that police helicopter? If they've got one out, they can get the rest out."
Mark O'Prey was last seen in the Clutha bar on Friday night by a friend who went outside for a cigarette moments before the tragedy.
His worried family told Sky News they are frustrated at the inability to get information about their loved one.....
"Here we are two days later and he's still inside.
"I would hope he would do the same for me if I was lying in that pub. I'd like some answers, not (to be) fobbed off."
David Goodhew, of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said ......"We have got to dig slowly. The building is in such an unstable condition."
Has the delay in searching for survivors cost lives. Nobody can say for sure but it is certainly possible.
Nor is this the first time. Alison Hume died from a survivable fall purely because the fire service not only refused to get her out but even orevented a civilian rescue - "‘Some people have said to me that if the same thing happened again, they wouldn’t even phone 999 – they would get a rope and do the rescue themselves".
Some years ago I denounced this behaviour in a case even closer to this crash.
In May 2004 the Stockline plastics factory blew up a few hundred yards in the other direction (busy neighbourhood) & again on seeing it I was surprised how slowly the work of searching for people know to be buried was going. ( bodies were recovered over the next few days & it was known that several of them were alive after the explosion because they called for help on their mobile phones. The search went slowly because the authorities were unwilling to risk killing people if the debris moved. Would more people have survived if the authorities had been willing to take a few more risks to save lives?
I don't know for sure but I do know it is a question that does not get asked & it should be.
That explosion was a couple of hundred yards from where I live and I can confirm seeing the site and being horrified at the total lack of movement when there were known to be living people under the rubble.
At the time I wrote to a number of newspapers & broadcasters but, the Scottish media being what it is, neither letters nor news on the subject was allowed. If it had been things might have improved.
I will be sending a letter closely based on this. We will see if it is something the media allow this time.
Monday, December 02, 2013
UKIP Scotland & The Herald
The journalistic integrity of the Herald can be determined by their attitude to censorship. The article has a long string of online comments by LabNatConDems but none by UKIPers. For balance I put this post:
Sunday, December 01, 2013
The disease of ‘public health’
An abridged list of policies that have been proposed in the name of ‘public health’ in recent months includes: minimum pricing for alcohol, plain packaging for tobacco, a 20 per cent tax on fizzy drinks, a fat tax, a sugar tax, a fine for not being a member of a gym, graphic warnings on bottles of alcohol, a tax on some foods, subsidies on other foods, a ban on the sale of hot food to children before 5pm, a ban on anyone born after the year 2000 ever buying tobacco, a ban on multi-bag packs of crisps, a ban on packed lunches, a complete ban on alcohol advertising, a ban on electronic cigarettes, a ban on menthol cigarettes, a ban on large servings of fizzy drinks, a ban on parents taking their kids to school by car, and a ban on advertising any product whatsoever to children.
Doubtless many of the proponents of these policies identify themselves as ‘liberals’. We must hope they never lurch towards authoritarianism.....
The issue of risk should also be viewed from the right end of the telescope. In a society in which almost everybody willingly puts themselves at risk, those who attempt to lead lives of ascetic self-denial should be regarded as curious outliers. They have every right to pursue extreme longevity if that is their wish, but they have no right to bully and cajole those of us who prefer the good life into emulating them. Whether they are well-intentioned do-gooders, sly charlatans or malevolent bigots, they must be tolerated in a civilised society, but they do not have to be suffered gladly and they should never be given the reins of power. It is time to denormalise the demagogues of ‘public health’.
My belief is that it is not that we live in a society that particularly believes in puritanism or totalitarianism or is particularly cowardly but that it is caused by the need of empire building bureaucracy to find something more for government to do or regulate. Unfortunately while welfare needs are now small compared to national gdp and even welfarists desires are only substantial the amount to be spent on regulating unquantifiable "risks" is infinite. I have tried to say this in my comment on the article:
" An interesting article. Christopher turns over a rock exposing a number of current political parasitism issues.
Programmes like these have no failure (or success) standards. They are thus ideal if "the purpose of government programmes is to pay government employees and their friends, the nominal purpose is secondary, at best" - Pournelle. With no failure standards such programmes may be expanded without limit.
That it gives gainful employment to hordes of congenitally fascistic busybodies is, from the standpoint of bureaucratic empire builders, including politicians, a bonus.
The adoption of the term "public health" is itself interesting. In the 19thC genuine public health - epidemic disease hitting rich and poor alike in newly created mass urban living, was a major cause of the rise of socialism. Preventing the poor going down with typhus was sensible self interest for the rich. The conquest of epidemics is being followed by the disappearance of ideological socialism (there are other reasons but this is 1).
The misuse of the term "epidemic" he refers to is also typical of modern political corruption.
Even on "failure standards" these programmes are failing. The NHS is spending £5 bn a year on morbid obesity (eg 30 stoners who need their walls knocked down so they can be carried to hospital) so "anti-obesity campaigns" are clearly not working (this is not a call for more to be spent on having a more expensive failure).
Moreover if longevity is the result it is inexplicable that more money is being spent on each of the symptoms than on research into slowing, stopping or reversing aging despite numbers of lines of inquiry.
If the purpose is merely to pay and empower politically active fascist idiots the present system could not have been better designed.
If it had been to maximise lifespan or happiness no element of it would have been produced."
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Satirising Green's Complaint The BBC Doesn't Give Them Coverage - The BBC That Gives Them 40 Timnes UKIP's Caoverage
On Thursday there was a Question Time from Scotland from which UKIP 4th or 5th party depending on polls, some of which put us ahead of the Tories. The 6th party, the Greens, getting 1/3rd of our vote according to polls, was there.
This is taken, closely, from the Green letter:
“Thursday’s Question Time line up is particularly bizarre, and following a telephone discussion with the editor it is clear to me that this programme has been contrived to censor, rather than produce serious debate. The lack of balance is staggering and I know from comments we’ve received it’s not just UKIP supporters who are alarmed. “This situation is particularly unacceptable with another by election coming up, which should require particular attention to political balance. The BBC has shown serious misjudgement in allowing Thursday’s programme to go ahead and UKIP should look forward to meeting senior managers to discuss how they intend to rectify a situation that will have harmed the broadcaster’s reputation for fairness.” The complaint from me to the BBC’s Executive Editor Hayley valentine and Phil Abrams of the Editorial Policy Unit is as follows…
Dear Ms Valentine,
We wish to object in the strongest possible terms to the choice of panellists for BBC Question Time on Thursday (28th November). This follows our consistent raising of concern over a number of years about the UKIP's lack of representation on the programme; in 14 years of continuous Parliamentary representation in the EU, UKIP Scotland have been invited to participate on not 1 single occasion. Thursday’s programme came from Falkirk, debating independence – this is specifically billed on the BBC website. with voters 2:1 against separation the panel chosen, and even more the audience, was extremely skewed on the independence question. UKIP Scotland is campaigning against separation and is the only party committed to Scotland not being in the EU (membership questions and their costs for us a, possibly the, major issue) yet we have been totally censored from all BBC broadcasting on the subject despite polling and recent electoral results showing us 3 times more popular than the ever present Greens,
I can see no basis for the censoring of UKIP from the panel. A recent Conservative poll shows UKIP can expect 11% of the list votes compared to their 10% and the Green's far lower total, despite blanket media coverage by the BBC of both the other parties and almost total censorship of UKIP here. This failure even to attempt balance in party political terms, or in terms of the referendum debate is surely a breach of the BBC’s duty to impartiality. It is particularly disgraceful following the recent faux-racist Fascist attack on UKIP in Edinburgh, publicly supported by the SNP Duce and the BBC's subsequent disgusting interview aping the Fascist slogans. I am deeply disturbed that the BBC’s flagship political debate programme gives greater attention to censoring debate than to fair balance. I seek an urgent meeting to discuss how you intend to redress this situation, not only in the short term but in the run-up to the referendum in 2014 and to the EU election in which UKIP is widely forecast to prove the most popular party. As the BBC, properly, give more coverage to larger parties (though it should be proportionate not merely an excuse to censor dissent) the BBC should, the the election year, be interviewing UKIP spokespersons at least as often as those of parties expected to place 2nd or 3rd.
I note that the Greens have, successfully complained in similar terms. The BBC gives 40 times more coverage per vote to them than UKIP all of it supportive whereas coverage of UKIP involves airbrushing on a Hitler moustache. Clearly this is incompatible with any suggestion that the BBC is less than 97.5% a censoring totalitarian propagandist and I would like to know what action the BBC intends to take to comply with the law.
- See original at: http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/news/scottish-greens-lodge-official-complaint-with-bbc-question-time/#sthash.V3xGVmH6.dpuf
Will be interesting to see if the BBC even answer it. Or if any of the papers which reportedthe original report this.
Friday, November 29, 2013
The magnificent Orion ship of the 1960s would have cruised the solar system with a crew of hundreds of scientists living and working in large and luxurious rooms. On the first tour there would be a two-year stop at Mars before reaching Saturn in 1970. It was all so close.
Orion was space travel as imagined in the expansive 1950s. A big ship, with a crew of hundreds, exploring the entire solar system. Weight and size were not particularly pressing issues, miniaturization was not needed. In all the crew compartment designs there was always room for a dedicated barber’s chair – it was the designers way of indicating luxury. No one was going to be bolted into a chair and have to urinate in their spacesuit. Orion had all the comforts. Instead the issues were heavy engineering and nuclear science.
In George Dyson’s excellent 2002 book “Project Orion” he quotes Brian Dunne, the team’s lead experimentalist: “It was a crazy era. All our values were tweaked because of the cold war. It was a closed society and all kinds of strange ideas were able to grow.” (The author, George Dyson, is the son of the team’s leader, Freeman Dyson).
The idea of the Orion ship was fundamentally simple: Explode an atomic bomb behind a spaceship and the force of the explosion will push the ship forward. The idea was first proposed by Los Alamos mathematician Stanislaw Ulam at the end of World War II. Small scale tests were carried out using regular explosives to prove the concept.
The Orion project was started by a young colleague of Ulam, Ted Taylor, who was also the designer of both the smallest and largest fission bombs in the US atomic arsenal. It was calculated that it would take about 600 detonations, totalling 100 megatonnes, to boost a generous 20-story spaceship into a 300-mile Earth orbit. Said Taylor: “I used to have a lot of dreams about watching the flight, the vertical flight. The first flight of that thing doing its full mission would be the most spectacular thing that humans had ever seen.”
......to get the ship into orbit would still require detonating 100 megatonnes in Earth’s atmosphere. That was a drawback of course, although supporters pointed out that it was no more than was already been detonated every year in routine above-ground nuclear testing,
......The scientists imagined a new Darwin-like “Beagle voyage” through the solar system with a two-year stop on Mars and visits to the moons of Saturn in 1970. General Thomas Power, head of Strategic Air Command saw a slightly different mission, the ability to deliver massive bombs on any target from orbit: “Whoever controls Orion will control the world.”
The team then began talking with Von Braun about putting a very small Orion atop a Saturn V rocket. The new plan would mean a 125-tonne Orion spaceship would be used only when lifted to orbit by the Saturn V. A crew of eight astronauts could reach the Moon in 1964. Never daunted by issues of scale, the team then calculated that a much larger conventional booster, such as a 4000-tonne “Super Nova”, might still get their beloved original 4000-tonne Orion into orbit as originally planned.
It was all getting too big and too challenging for the newly created NASA. Officials were daunted by its scale and worried how the system could ever be tested. NASA declined to fund the project. Only the Air Force remained in support. Their representative to NASA, Don Prickett, told the review committee: “There are always two philosophies encountered during the research phase of new concepts. One which says that if the concept has potential for a significant step forward it is worth a considerable effort to solve the problems even if this effort involves high risks. There is the other philosophy which approves only of research in which there are no real fundamental problems to be solved but rather improvement of established technology. What we need is more people working on novel ideas to solve some of the problems rather than viewing the problems as unsolvable.”
The outstanding engineering problems included the issue of how to get a bomb behind the pusher plate at exactly the right place, then a moment later another, and another, and another. While it might seem simple to send them straight out the back of the ship, that means creating a hole in the massive pusher plate which in turn leads to obvious safety concerns if the hatch was open when a bomb detonated on the plate. The there was the question of the pusher plate itself and whether the proposed ablative coatings would survive repeated atomic detonations.
Despite all this it was generally recognized that only the Orion program had the needed specifications for crewed missions in the solar system. The project was finally terminated in 1965 because, according Orion’s James Nance, NASA had “…no requirement for manned planetary missions.”
Freeman Dyson wrote the final report wrapping up the Orion Project in 1965. In it he wrote: “The men who began the project in 1958 aimed to create a propulsion system commensurate with the real size of the task of exploring the solar system, at a cost which would be politically acceptable, and they believe they have demonstrated the way to do it.” he went on to note that: “there was no more brave talk of Mars by 1965 and of sampling the rings of Saturn by 1970. What would have happened to us if the government had given full support to us in 1959, as it did to a similar bunch of amateurs in Los Alamos in 1943?”
Finally, Dyson told Ulam (Orion’s founder) that: “My concern is to make sure that the public knows what has happened, so that they will be ready to come back to these ideas when the time is ripe.”
I have written of this before.
With modern technology (ie neutron bombs) we can launch with far less radioactivity. The LNT theory that low level radiation has been as thoroughly disproven as is possible (the opposite, hormesis, that low level radiation improves health is clearly at least often true). Moreover launched from South Georgia or the South Sandwich Islands, with wind patterns circling the Antarctic almost no radiation would reach land. Taken all together radiation risk would be at least 3 orders of magnitude, and probably more, less than thought at the time.
Bombs are certainly a quick and practical way to provide the massive power to get to orbit. I suspect that something more sophisticated, like an atomic powered ion engine, would be better for travelling across the solar system - though its thrust is far lower it can produce a steady thrust and a steady acceleration, even when it is very small, can cover a lot of space in a surprisingly short time. And acceleration on such an ion jet would be easily controllable, allowing it to match orbits with asteroids or even dock with other craft - something impossible for a craft powered by bombs.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Big Engineering 56 Thorium Reactors
On the other hand thorium is 4 times more common than uranium and reactors produce less plutonium, a matter of importance in a world where proliferation is a fear and appears to be considerably easier to design passive safety systems for.
"Thorium reactors would be cheap. The primary cost in nuclear reactors traditionally is the huge safety requirements. Regarding meltdown in a thorium reactor, Rubbia writes, “Both the EA and MF can be effectively protected against military diversions and exhibit an extreme robustness against any conceivable accident, always with benign consequences. In particular the [beta]-decay heat is comparable in both cases and such that it can be passively dissipated in the environment, thus eliminating the risks of “melt-down”. Thorium reactors can breed uranium-233, which can theoretically be used for nuclear weapons. However, denaturing thorium with its isotope, ionium, eliminates the proliferation threat.
Like any nuclear reactor, thorium reactors will be hot and radioactive, necessitating shielding. The amount of radioactivity scales with the size of the plant. It so happens that thorium itself is an excellent radiation shield, but lead and depleted uranium are also suitable. Smaller plants (100 megawatts), such as the Department of Energy’s small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor (SSTAR) will be 15 meters tall, 3 meters wide and weigh 500 tonnes, using only a few cm of shielding."
Note the admission that most nuclear costs are regulatory rather than engineering.
I am actively not saying that we should hold back deployment of the reactors we can currently build by one day to push these on but we don't have to.
Designing thorium reactors should pose no insuperable difficulties, after all
"The liquid-fluoride thorium reactor, developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee during the late 1960s, ran successfully for five years before being axed by the Nixon administration. The reason for its cancellation: it produced too little plutonium for making nuclear weapons. Today, that would be seen as a distinct advantage. Without the Cold War, the thorium reactor might well have been the power plant of choice for utilities everywhere."
If it could be done 50 years ago when world computer capacity was less than one good laptop today, it can easily be done now.
I have previously suggested building a factory to mass produce small reactors. Such could easily be retooled to build thorium ones when available (or perhaps better, a second assembly line built alongside). Reactors described above as 3m wide (width of a shipping container) and 15m long are road transportable (or by airship) and could be sold for immediate turnkey operation. If they do not produce plutonium they could be sold to virtually anybody which would help make the entire world wealthy (and the country churning out such reactors on a production line, distinctly rich).
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
White Paper: Okay, we've got the wish list, where's the price list?
The SNP have made these formal promises of what we will get if we vote Yes for separation. I have inserted my comments:
- Thirty hours of childcare per week in term time for all three and four-year-olds, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds.
- Trident nuclear weapons, currently based on the Clyde, removed within the first parliament.
- Housing benefit reforms, described by critics as the "bedroom tax", to be abolished, and a halt to the rollout of Universal Credit.
- It would be in Scotland's interest to keep the pound, while the Bank of England would continue as "lender of last resort".
- BBC Scotland replaced at the start of 2017 with a new Scottish broadcasting service, continuing a formal relationship with the rest of the BBC.
- Basic rate tax allowances and tax credits to rise at least in line with inflation.
- A safe, "triple-locked" pension system.
- Minimum wage to "rise alongside the cost of living".
This looks like about £2 billion in extra taxes immediately (6p on income tax or some unspecified alternative) with more to come, which along with a far higher electricity prices here because we are 100% renewable (not to mention blackouts for the same reason) seems an improbable launching pad for the growth which is the only way the IFS predictions of us being smothered in higher pensioner costs and lower oil revenue would be prevented.
I do not dispute that Scotland could grow faster than the UK, if it adopted sane free market economic and energy policies and quit the only zone of the world in recession, the EU (or indeed that the UK
could grow faster than the UK is doing currently by the same method). But their is no sign of any such sanity in any part of the Holyrood consensus.
*Ghandi's description of the British WW2 offer of post war independence to India.
Another of couple of points since:
1 - Nicola Sturgeon told Holyrood that the "only" threat to our membership of the organisation responsible for 75% of our laws, the EU was the promised 2017 referendum. That means there is no possibility of the SNP allowing us a referendum on EU membership, whatever the terms. It must be unique in the world for a nominally "independent nationalist" movement to oppose the right of the people to decide they want independence.
2 - Last night Alex Salmond assured Newsnight that there was no possibility that an independent remaining EU would ever decline to pay over the odds (currently about 3 times over normal prices) for Scottish windmill power. He also said that Scotland normally supplies 8 Gigawatts of power to England which is simply a lie. Bearing in mind that wind only produces 1/4 of its rated capacity that is would be all the power stations in Scotland working full out and us using none of it. Actually even if that were possible the cross border interconnectors would blow.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Requirements To Work For The BBC
THE BBC is “dumbing down” science programmes because it is staffed with humanities graduates who are ignorant about the subject, a leading academic and presenter has claimed.
Prof Lisa Jardine, who presents BBC Radio Four’s ‘Seven Ages of Science’ series, said producers assume that their audience is as clueless about science as they are.
As a result, presenters are told to avoid using technical terms for fear of alienating people, while arts presenters can reference obscure cultural figures without,any further explanation, she said.
Prof Jardine is a professor of Renaissance Studies at University College London and is also chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and president of the British Science Association.
Speaking before the British Science Festival which takes place in Newcastle next week, she claimed the idea that presenters must “mash up the difficult stuff, and particularly science, because people are not able to understand, is a complete fallacy”.
The myth arose because “everybody in the BBC is trained in the humanities”, she said, and although BBC Radio 4 is now introducing more scientific content, its science department is still dwarfed by the arts unit.
“Anyone who has done broadcasting on science for the BBC will know that whereas you are never asked to explain who (actor) John Carlisle is, if I say ‘mitochondria’ (energy-producing components of cells), they say, ‘Can’t you say it in ordinary language because people won’t understand’.
The BBC Trust consists of 12 Trustees and is headed by Lord Patten.
Lord Chris Patten is a conservative peer and former governor of Hong Kong; he also happens to have 13 others jobs besides chief of the BBC. These include an £80,000 year role as an advisor for oil company BP, and £40,000 a year from EDF Energy. Some might well be surprised that the Chairman of the BBC Trust is receiving more pay from just these two advisory roles than the £110,000 a year he receives for his chairmanship of the BBC Trust....
The recently appointed Director of News and Current Affairs at the BBC, James Harding, is a former employee of the Murdoch Press. While Editor of The Times newspaper, he was responsible for exposing the identity of police blogger NightJack by hacking the bloggers email accounts – which his legal team then covered up during a court case against the action.
Monday, November 25, 2013
China is not planning to be a low wage economy in the future - they are pouring $80 bn into automation and robots.
This links to James Delingpole's articles at the Spectator http://www.spectator.co.uk/author/james-delingpole/
Confirmation of Labour's dishonesty and contempt for its own supporters
"Labour sent out ‘search parties’ for immigrants to get them to come to the UK, Lord Mandelson has admitted.
In a stunning confirmation that the Blair and Brown governments deliberately engineered mass immigration, the former Cabinet Minister and spin doctor said New Labour sought out foreign workers.
He also conceded that the influx of arrivals meant the party’s traditional supporters are now unable to find work.
By contrast, Labour leader Ed Miliband has said his party got it wrong on immigration but has refused to admit it was too high under Labour."
Planning rules governing the extraction of shale gas and onshore oil in Scotland will be made tougher, the Scottish government has said. http://www.thegwpf.org/scotlands-climate-minister-puts-hurdles-shale-development/
"Over here in the Czech Republic they've got some EU money to throw at innovation. Mixed industry and academic sorta stuff and we've a couple of projects that fit into their desired categories well enough. So I had a pint with someone who knows how to apply for these funds: heck, if there's free money out there why not? The first deadline for applying is 22 of this month. The actual cash would be available, assuming we passed all the hurdles and tests, in May 2015.
Yes, 2015: and no, this is not how innovation or start ups work. 18 months is in fact the entire lifecycle of an innovative start up these days: Instagram was bought for a billion dollars in about half that time from starting to purchase."
I commented in support of the one way government can successfully promote innovation
"The only way for the state to promote innovation is through X-Prizes - the money then goes to the inventors not the politically connected not those who spend time formfilling.
Technically it would not prevent agreement to offer the prize being reached only too late, because the invention had been made but if so (A) somebody would notice & (B) the prize would not then be awarded and the money wold be available for a new prize."
Mid Staffordshire Hospital - 1400 dead, nobody to blame. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24204177
We are the SNP, we don't need to stick to no steekin' law:
Lady Clark of Calton last month said she was not satisfied ministers complied with their obligations under European nature legislation.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said ministers did not agree that the application was incompetent.
John Brignall article on why government much prefers large useless projects to small useless, or indeed useful ones:
4. Search for the guilty
5. Punishment of the innocent
6. Rewards for the non-participants"
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Look Ma, UK Nearly Top Of The World In Science
"This map shows the growth in scientific research of territories between 1990 and 2001. If there was no increase in scientific publications that territory has no area on the map.
In 1990, 80 scientific papers were published per million people living in the world, this increased to 106 per million by 2001. This increase was experienced primarily in territories with strong existing scientific research. However, the United States, with the highest total publications in 2001,
experienced a smaller increase since 1990 than that in Japan, China, Germany and the Republic of Korea. Singapore had the greatest per person increase in scientific publications."
In almost every other case where the UK does well the US does better. I have previously written of how, on citations of scientific papers, the UK comes 3rd after the US & China but does better, per capita than either or indeed all but a small number of small countries like Switzerland.
Mind you the map is for 1990-2001 and I doubt if our position at least as regards China, Singapore etc, has held place.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
X-Prize - McKinsey Report
However the graphs are valuable.
This is the recent increase in prizes in recent years. However it includes more conventional prizes like the Booker and other arts prizes which have barely risen so it considerably understates the rise in technology prizes.
Friday, November 22, 2013
The Return Of the Airship
It appears that the world's first rigid airship since the 1930s will soon take to the skies for flight trials: and better still, this ship has a new piece of technology which could actually change the existing landscape and permit the leviathans of the skies to return.
From the Register some time ago.
The great advantage of this sort of airship is that it can pump in its helium, and by becoming heavier than air, land vertically. That means it can compete in transportation, at least to remote areas and islands. Also that it can transport units to large for road or rail - the Register article mentions a 600 man battalion with heavy weapons but I am thinking, less extravagantly, of prefabricated houses or nuclear reactors.
Latest news is that the testing has been successful and that they expect to have it commercially available by 2016.
"Though the initial fleet will have 22 vehicles, he says there is a market for 2,500. NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Department of Defense are betting on the Aeroscraft’s success, having given development funding to Aeros. “The demand’s so huge, and if we’ll be able to build today or bring to the market today 22 vehicles, it will be not enough,” Pasternak says. “It will be just not enough because people are so struggling with logistical issues.”
and its beautiful.
I wrote previously of how the R100 (the "capitalist airship") and therefore the future of airships was scrapped not because it was a failure but because it was a success which had worked perfectly. The 101 (the British government's "socialist airship") was a failure despite, or because of the ministry's total support whereas the R100 worked fine. This could not be allowed to be understood by the public so the R100 was sold for scrap.
Glad to see this technology has only been held up for 80 years by government parasites.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
The Most Powerful Thing A Genuine Lobby Group Could Do Is Something a Government Sock Puppet Couldn't
A few years back, candidates wanting to stand as Labour/Co-operative Party joint candidates ran into a legal problem, despite the tradition of such joint candidates stretching back many decades. The Electoral Commission decided that, on close reading of election law, it was not legal for such joint candidates to have a logo appear next to their name on the party ballot.
Cue a flurry of election law changes to remedy the situation .....But in that mis-reporting is a germ of an idea which a pressure group could adopt.
A candidate for a political party could stand as a joint candidate, with a joint description and special logo on the ballot paper,* reminding voters at the most crucial key final moment before voting that this candidate is the one which gets their approval.
This idea of pressure group acting as minor political party in order to win coverage on the ballot paper and hence increase its electoral leverage – both to get candidates to agree to its policies and then to win votes for those candidates who do – is something aficionados of American politics may
It is what US political parties such as the Working Families Party do, with a few wrinkles due to the different electoral law their but the same underlying purpose and method.
Imagine, for example, a group of environmental lobby groups setting up their minor political party and offering its ballot paper endorsement to candidates who back its policy.
Agree with them and you’re Labour? Fine, you get to stand as the Labour Party / Green Coalition joint candidate, so described on the ballot paper. Agree with them and you’re Lib Dem? Then it’s the Liberal Democrats / Green Coalition you appear as and so on.
This would simply extend the existing tactic of a pressure group asking candidates in a constituency their views on some set questions and then publicising the answers back to a relatively small number of voters signed up to the organisation in that constituency. Extend however in a crucial way.
Because by getting the answer as to who is most favoured on every printed ballot paper, it would take their message not to a small audience, but to the whole electorate.
Now that really would be a pressure group putting on the pressure.
I think that is a pretty good idea, but not particularly for the LDs for reasons I explained in a comment I placed. It is clear from the way he describes it he is thinking of lots of right on politically approved pressure groups could pile on to the LDs forming a band wagon.
The main one, mentioned in another comment, is the Electoral Reform Society, which has long been the LDs in academia. However as I commented the LDs are no longer the most electable supporters of proportional representation. I would be quite comfortable with an ERS logo added to LDs or Greens in those areas where the Electoral Calculus said they were the main contenders and added to the UKIP logo where we are (& conceivably also a few Labour and Tories who had a genuine record of rejecting the whip to support PR).
With public support for PR running at about 70%:20% that could indeed be enough to make PR supporting parties a majority. I trust Mark would still support this, as a matter of principle, even though the main beneficiary would be UKIP.
The other advantage for opponents of overweening government (but disadvantage for LDs) would be that the Electoral Commission could never legally allow a government financed sock puppet to thus register itself as a party.
With almost every "Green" charity except Greenpeace, funded 70% by the EU and most of the rest by the British state no "group of environmental lobby groups setting up their minor political party and offering its ballot paper endorsement to" LibDems would be lawful.
But real organisations which aren't government funded fakecharities could. Who would the Migrationwatch Party or the Taxpayer's Alliance Party be likely to endorse? That's what I thought too,
Incidentally, with the typical commitment to free speech of the Pseudoliberal party my comment, when, after a undue delay, my comment appeared, mention of the government sock puppet problem had been removed ;-)
Another commenter had, quite independently, mentioned the Electoral Reform Society, which is not surprising.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Big Engineering 55 Rail Braking
The previous arguments that it made economic sense were ludicrous and have had to be dropped. At about £80 bn, if it had to make a 10% return on capital as is normally expected that would cost £300 per ticket plus the natural running cost - this clearly does not make economic sense.
So back to overcrowding.
Rail's problem is that while road vehicles only have to stay a couple of car lengths apart, trains have to be about a mile apart. This is because the stopping distances are so much longer - rails being slipier than tarmac and carriages much heavier. For a long time John Redwood has been saying rail should learn from bus technology and build much lighter vehicles. This is also obviously far more fuel efficient. He is right on that . I also think we should be building automated rail which, by allowing single carriage units running 24/7 would increase capacity.
But here is another idea. A new magnetic braking system:
Here is a summary of the changes needed:
The minimum safe time interval between high speed trains using the same length of track is about 3 minutes, but for a car travelling at the same speed it is only a few seconds.
They offer several advantages: Wear on the track is minimal and acceleration, braking and fuel economy all improve,
but these benefits are outweighed by the high track building costs.
The braking and acceleration benefits of Maglev are maintained, but Magtrc’s levitation effect is not sufficient to support the weight of the train.
A. Iron rails are better at amplifying the strength of the electromagnets but they rapidly lose their magnetism when the train passes. This eliminates the problem of steel cans and other ferromagnetic junk sticking to the rails.
We will build the Magtrac principle up in stages
1.1 The key concept
First we consider what happens when an electric current is passed through two solenoids resting on a soft iron bar.
[A solenoid is a cylindrical coil of wire that acts as a magnet when an electric current passes through it. The magnetic effect is weak if the interior of the solenoid is filled with air, but strong if the air is replaced by iron.]
We can't cheat nature by switching the magnets off and then moving them apart because when we switch the magnets back on again work has to be done against the back EMFs as the magnetic fields are rebuilt.
(ii) “Half solenoids” that can “jump” from one iron bar to the next are used.
The up thrust is a useful bonus but it cannot be relied upon to support the weight of the train because it varies with the current passing through the half solenoids.
The up thrust on the train produces an equal and opposite down thrust on the iron rails. This improves the friction grip between the rails and underlying sleepers.
When an iron rail goes through a magnetisation-demagnetisation cycle, a small amount of heat is generated. (Hysteresis loss.) This will help to melt any ice or snow in winter.
2.1 Superconducting shieldsFor superconducting systems the runners are lodged in cold chambers. Magnetic flux cannot penetrate a sheet of superconducting material, so by lining the out facing walls of the cold chambers with superconducting material, magnetic flux shields can be created.
To prevent the outer faces of the Dewar flasks icing up in winter they can be fitted with heating elements to keep their temperature just above 0oC.
New designs of cryocoolers (low temperature refrigerators) created for use with rolling stock are published on our superconductors and cryocoolers web page.
Copper is easy to handle when manufacturing the half solenoids and has the safety bonus that it can still be used for effective braking, even if the hydrogen cooling system fails.
Braking solenoid on: Axle mounted N repelled by Magtrac rail mounted N. Braking power is generated.
The elimination of friction as the primary source of braking, combined with the reduced wheel on track loading, thanks to the Magtrac up-thrust, will significantly reduce train noise.
Magtrac eliminates the squealing of friction brakes and the vibrations caused by uneven wear on the steel tyres resulting from friction braking.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Why Scotland is Not Like Scandinavia
In that the SNP are absolutely right. If we had non-EU world average growth (6%) we would be twice as well off by 2025.
And if the SNP were going to do it I would be for them. Indeed back when Jim Mather was their intellectual light I thought they at least intended to do so.
The SNP have had a term and a half to produce growth and sweet absolutely nothing. Well nothing positive. They have wasted billions on windmills and committed us to be "100% renewable by 2020" which is a commitment to economic collapse and deaths. When their Green partner in the Yes campaign promised that separation would mean the joys of recession for at least 10 years and hopefully forever, they said not one word in disagreement. They still haven't. Their numerous promises of lower taxes and higher government spending do not suggest that economic competence is anywhere on their radar.
The latest SNP spokescritter wheeze is to say that high taxes and government interference works in Scandanavia. Lesley Riddoch was squeaking this line last night. Well no they have a wrinkle our government doesn't. Their governments spend relatively effectively on doing things and don't regulate wealth creation out of existence,
Why does Sweden have so many billionaires ?
Billionaires per capita.
Here's the top 10 (number of billionaires/estimated population):
1. Monaco (3/35,427)
2. St. Kitts and Nevis (1/53,051)
3. Guernsey (1/65,573)
4. Hong Kong (39/7.1 million)
5. Belize (1/356,600)
6. Cyprus (3/1.1 million)
7. Israel (17/7.8 million)
8. Singapore (10/5.2 million)
9. Kuwait (5/2.8 million)
10. Switzerland (13/7.9 million)
12. Sweden (14 billionaires, population 9.56 million)
But one country stands out on the list: Sweden.
How does a famously socialist and left-wing country like Sweden get so many billionaires ?
Why are billionaries a good sign ? Because usually they created a great company.....The good news about Sweden is that it’s exactly that kind of place. High taxes go to finance cheap health care and education, an excellent system of public transportation, and relatively generous subsidies to low-income households that keep the poverty rate and inequality low. But they haven’t stopped Swedish entrepreneurs from building giant firms like H&M, Ikea, and Tetra Pak.
The Scandinavian success stories show that great companies can be born and innovate amid generous welfare states, they do have some cautionary tales for left-wing thinking. The Swedish tax code was substantially reformed in 1990 to be friendlier toward capital accumulation, with a flat rate on investment income. Sweden has no taxes on inheritance or residential property, and its 22 percent corporate income tax rate is far lower than America’s 35 percent. Even after spending cuts by the current center-right government, the Swedish public sector is still about half the total economy (much higher than here), but the taxes that finance it fall more heavily on consumption and less on business investment than in the U.S.
Sweden also has a relatively lightly regulated economy. There are rules about public health and environmental protection, of course. But Sweden is arguably further down the neoliberal path of dismantling purely economic regulations than the U.S. In Stockholm, for example, taxi fares are completely unregulated and for-profit charter schools are common. All things considered, international surveys rank Sweden as a place where it’s easy to do business. Within the U.S., surveys show that licensing rules rather than tax rates are the main driver of local business-friendliness.
If you have a high income tax rate but low corporate, property and capital gains taxes and light regulations for other aspects of business then you can still generate a lot of billionaires.
Norway cuts hundreds of km of tunnels at £4m per km whereas the SNP, with support from the other useless Holyrood parties, spent £2,300m on a new Forth bridge (8 times more than it should have been) and said that a £30m tunnel would have cost £6,600m if built by them.
Finland, as well as Sweden, are willing to use nuclear power.
Iceland, in proper free enterprise style, let their banks go bust.
Norway and Iceland refuse to be part of the EU zero growth zone.
Yes the Scandinavian countries prove that with only a bit of common sense and very little free marketism it is possible to do rather well. Estonia, which started much poorer because it had been in the USSR went ideologically free market and is thus doing remarkably well.
But none of the current Holyrood parties have any commitment to Scandinavian common sense. All are committed to massive state parasitism. Worse than that, our media institutions are also committed to it. Not one paper or broadcaster was willing, at any time, to report that the 7/8th of the cost of the Forth Bridge is either state parasitism or simple theft.
Government economic parasitism (ie taxes) is important (it costs 50% of our gdp, possibly 55% in Scotland) but regulatory parasitism is worse in that it costs at least another 100% of current gdp, and the latter is the bit the Swedes have beaten.
We wouldn't have to be run that well to achieve growth that would end all our problems (Zimbabwe recently managed 9.3%) either in Holyrood or Westminster, but it is absolutely certain that the Holyrood parties have neither the competence nor desire to do so.