Category Archives: Totty

Who doesn’t love pretty girls?

Rule Five Good Times Friday

It’s a popular claim, mostly (but not exclusively) made by folks on the Left, to claim that wage stagnation has made people worse off than they were thirty or forty years ago.  There’s a problem, though:  It’s not even remotely true.  Excerpt:

Back in May, a young American called Akki caused a minor twitterstorm by seemingly showing what many pundits in the U.S. media frequently assert—that ordinary Americans are worse off today than they were in the late 1970s. A number of better-educated twitterati soon pointed out that Akki, a self-declared member of #TheResistance, engaged in what former U.S. President George W. Bush once referred to as “fuzzy math.”

In the meantime, Akki’s misleading claim scored over 197,000 likes on Twitter. It seems that in addition to the U.S. dollar, Americans have come to crave a new kind of currency: victimhood. Many Americans of all political persuasions relish the feeling of aggrievement and the accompanying sense of moral superiority, and if that means that they have to pretend that their lives are worse than those of their ancestors, so be it.

Per Akki, a loaf of bread in 1977 cost $0.32. In May 2019, it cost $1.98. In the meantime, the median income per person, Akki also claimed, remained the same. Ergo, Americans were worse off in 2019 than they were in 1977. The data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the most authoritative of sources, tells a somewhat different story. The real median income per person in 1977 came to $23,202. It stood at $31,099 in 2016 (the last year for which data are available). Both figures are in 2017 dollars. So, an American in the middle of the income spectrum was about $7,897 (or 34 percent) better off in 2016 than he or she would have been in 1977. And that’s not counting the increase in non-wage benefits that, due to the quirks of the U.S. tax code, continue to expand. As for the price of bread, Akki’s $0.32 would amount to $1.36 today. Target sells a loaf of bread for $1.09.

Read author Marian L. Tupy’s article Free Markets Dramatically Reduce the Cost of Living as well.

Here’s the thumbnail; people in general and American in particular are better off today than they have been at any time in history.  They spend less of their income by percentage on food.  They spend more on housing, but our housing is typically larger and has more amenities; when I was a kid, few homes boasted central air conditioning, now it’s ubiquitous.

In that second article, Tupy quotes Joseph Schumpeter, the famous economist who served as Austrian minister of finance in 1919, who observed that the “capitalist engine is first and last an engine of mass production which unavoidably also means production for the masses … It is the cheap cloth, the cheap cotton and rayon fabric, boots, motorcars and so on that are the typical achievements of capitalist production, and not as a rule improvements that would mean much to the rich man. Queen Elizabeth owned silk stockings. The capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within reach of factory girls.

America is bringing not only silk stockings within the reach of factory girls, but also smart-phones, microwave ovens, air conditioning, automobiles with features unimaginable only thirty year ago; and all of these new things were brought about only because of what remains of a capitalist system.  Major innovation comes from the profit motive; no Steve Jobs ever dreamed up an iPod to “serve the common good.”

That’s a fundamental truth that escapes much of the population.  That’s probably a good explanation for the makeup (and lack of intelligence) of Congress these days.

Rule Five Those Pesky Physics Friday

Building on our Hump Day post on nuclear power; now the new Governor of our own Colorado, Jared Polis, is on record as a proponent of turning our state’s power grid over to 100% renewables.   But there’s a problem:  It won’t work.  Not even close.  Excerpt:

America operates on 60 cycles per second, or 60 Hz. That grid frequency can vary only about 2 Hz in either direction, says Griffey. “These are small variations, but if it drops below that you start kicking off loads,” he said. “Bad things happen and your system crashes.”

The grid is so sensitive to these variations that power producers must provide both reserve capacity to deal with sudden load increases and “grid inertia” to keep the frequency stable.

“You have to have inertia on the system that helps buffer load changes, and inertia is provided by turbines that spin. Renewables don’t have inertia,” said Griffey.

Without the electrical inertia available from fuel-powered, constantly-spinning generators, the entire grid can crash unexpectedly if the wind stops blowing while the sun isn’t shining.

This means that renewables like wind and solar will always require backup generators to provide both inertia and reliable power to take up unexpected loads.

And how much backup is required increases with the amount of renewables in the system.

“The more intermittent capacity you have, or the more unreliable capacity you have, you actually have to increase that reserve margin to carry more backup,” Griffey said.

“In the case of an all-wind system you’re going to be carrying 90 percent, give or take, to back it up because [windmills] only provide 5 to 15% of equivalent capacity,” said Griffey.

By equivalent capacity Griffey means that the advertised theoretical capacity of a wind farm of say 30 megawatts, called the “nameplate capacity,” only ever actually produces a fraction of that amount, called the “efficiency factor.”

Other sources place the efficiency factor of wind generators between 25% and 40%.

The efficiency of a wind farm of course varies from minute to minute depending on wind speed. Too little wind and they stop turning, too much wind and they have to be shut down to prevent destructive over-speeding that can rip a windmill to pieces.

“In terms of setting reserve margins, you can’t count on non-firm energy availability under the standards that are in place across the United States, you have to have firm deliverable power,” said Griffey.

This is also called “base load capacity,” which means constant-power sources that can deliver the usual amount of electricity the grid needs. There are three kinds of reliable base load sources: Fossil fuel, hydroelectric and nuclear generators.

Fossil fuel-driven sources provide the vast majority of base load capacity not just in the U.S., but worldwide.

Physics are pesky, aren’t they?

Here’s the thing that’s left out of these calculations:  Nuclear power.  Nuclear power using modern reactors is safe, it’s reliable, it’s clean, the amount of waste produced with modern systems is small, and we have adequate storage for it.  We went over this on Wednesday.

So why is nuclear power never included in the fever dreams of those like Alexandria Occasional Cortex and her fever-dream Green New Deal?

Because nuclear power still, for some insane reason, causes no small amount of pants-shitting among the watermelon crowd.  Perhaps it brings images of Chernobyl, that failure of 1980s-vintage Soviet technology (and we all know how great Cold War-era Soviet tech was), which is completely irrelevant given the design of modern reactors; or perhaps they are worried about Fukushima, which event can be prevented by simply avoiding building reactors in tsunami zones.

Upshot:  Proponents of clean energy will keep running into these problems of elementary physics, until nuclear power becomes part of the picture.

Rule Five Tech Obsession Friday

Here’s an article on how the use of personal technology like cellular phones and tablets may physically change humankind.  One problem:  It’s absolute horseshit.  Excerpts with my comments follow:

Creating a 3D model of a future human called “Mindy”, scientists said people living in 2100 may have hunched backs from hours of sitting over computers and looking at smartphones.

2100?  That’s eighty-one years from now.  Evolutionary changes in populations of large mammals, like humans, take spans of many generations; they don’t happen in that short a time.  Also, a hunched back is an acquired trait, and those can’t be inherited; this is Lamarckism, and it’s bullshit.

Mindy also has bigger neck muscles to compensate for her poor posture, a thicker skull to protect from radiation and a smaller brain that has shrunk from leading a largely sedentary lifestyle.

There’s nothing about a sedentary lifestyle that will necessarily lead to a smaller brain.

Humans in fewer than 100 years may also have claw-like hands from gripping their phones.

Again, an acquired trait if even that.  There is not, to our knowledge, an allele or set of alleles in human geneology that produces “clawed” hands as described in this article.

Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, said: “Spending hours looking down at your phone strains your neck and throws your spine off balance.

A “health and wellness expert?”  Why not talk to an evolutionary biologist?  You know, someone who actually knows what the hell they are talking about?

“Consequently, the muscles in your neck have to expend extra effort to support your head.

Explain to me how this affects your genome.  Hint:  It doesn’t.

“Sitting in front of the computer at the office for hours on end also means that your torso is pulled out in front of your hips rather than being stacked straight and aligned.”

See above.  But this next bit is where we really cross into the absurd.

Kasun Ratnayake, of the University of Toledo, also said the human body could change to limit the amount of damaging light eyes are expose to – possibly resulting in a second eyelid.

“Humans may develop a larger inner eyelid to prevent exposure to excessive light, or the lens of the eye may be evolutionary developed such that it blocks incoming blue light but not other high wavelength lights like green, yellow or red,” he said.

He’s referring to a nictating membrane.  Birds, fish, reptiles and some amphibians have them.  Some mammals do, but primates do not, and therefore humans do not.  To find and activate an allele or (more likely) a set of alleles that would produce a structure that has not existed in millions of years, since humanity’s last common ancestor with, say, camels, or polar bears, or seals; that would take many generations of conditions in which a nictating membrane confers some reproductive advantage, and it would be wildly unlikely at this distance in time that those alleles still even exist in our population.

This sack-o-crap article demonstrates one thing very plainly:  The people who wrote it and the people they interviewed don’t know their asses from their faces where evolution is concerned.  Evolution is the change in allele frequencies in a population over time; individuals do not evolve, and allele frequencies change primarily when conditions favor one allele over another, thus producing differential reproductive success.

None of the acquired traits they describe could produce differential reproductive success.  None of the acquired traits they describe could magically be encoded into the genome.  This article is absolute and utter horseshit, fit only for enriching lawns.