Category Archives: Tech

Rule Five Climate Rule Friday

Well, sometimes there’s cause for hope.

In Kentucky, a judge, one Benjamin Beaton of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, slapped down the Biden administration’s rule clamping down (again) on emissions from motor vehicles.

In a sweeping judgment late Monday, Judge Benjamin Beaton of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky ordered the Federal Highway Administration to stand down on the rules, which the agency finalized in November. The ruling represents a major victory for the State of Kentucky, which challenged the regulations alongside 21 other states.

“President Biden’s radical environmental agenda has lost touch with reality, and Kentucky families, farmers and workers are paying the price,” Republican state Attorney General Russell Coleman said on Tuesday. “Like all Americans, Kentuckians love our trucks, cars and vans. With this victory in court, we’re slamming the brakes on the Biden administration’s politics that make no sense in the commonwealth.”

It’s a start.  And the basis of the suit is that the Biden administration’s rule exceeds statutory authority, nothing new for this administration.

Kentucky filed the lawsuit in December, one month after the FHWA finalized the regulations. According to the lawsuit, the FHWA overstepped its legal authority in attempting to regulate vehicle emissions since it attempted to force states to implement federal regulations.

Beaton agreed in his ruling, declaring that the regulations exceed the FHWA’s statutory authority and are “arbitrary and capricious.” Instead of granting plaintiff states’ motion for preliminary injunction – which would have blocked the rule during litigation – he granted their motion for summary judgment, vacating the rule immediately.

OK, that’s great, and it’s a step in the right direction; the Biden(‘s handlers) administration has been ignoring any statutory limitations since, well, the day they took office.  But there’s a bigger issue: What about the constitutional issues?  Why is nobody talking about those?

Here.  Show me anywhere in there where the federal government is authorized to pass laws or make regulations governing the emissions of privately owned vehicles.  Go ahead, have a look; I’ll wait right here.

Back already?  OK.  You didn’t find it, did you? That’s because it’s not there.  Now, square that lack with the 10th Amendment:

Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Why is nobody bringing this up?  Why is nobody – well, almost nobody, since obviously here I am talking about it – talking about this callous disregard for the Constitution, which is supposed to be the highest law in the land?  We can amend it, but we cannot ignore it – and yet the federal government has been ignoring it since at least 1860.

This ruling is a good start.  But at some point, it has to come back to the Constitution.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to The Other McCain, Bacon Time, Pirate’s Cove, The Daley Gator, and Flappr for the Rule Five links!

I’ve often found the idea of a “generation ship” interesting, at least from a sci-fi standpoint.  While in my own work, I tend to lean on the likely-impossible idea of superluminal travel (see: Device, Plot, 1 each) an enormous ship capable of sustaining a population for several generations is a more likely way of scattering human populations among the stars.

The idea of having multiple generations of humans live and die on the same spacecraft is actually an old one, first described by rocket engineer Robert Goddard in 1918 in his essay “The Last Migration.” As he began to create rockets that could travel into space, he naturally thought of a craft that would keep going, onward, farther, and eventually reach a new star. More recently, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA launched a project called the 100 Year Starship, with the goal of fostering the research and technology needed for interstellar travel by 2100.

Here’s where I see a problem: By the time our population of humans gets to their destination, they will have changed, culturally, maybe even physically.  Maintaining a one-gee simulated gravity wouldn’t be easy; one would think that the best a ship could do would be some fraction of one-gee, which would result in later generations being taller, slimmer, and more lightly built.  And consider our own society a hundred years ago; things were quite a bit different than they are now.

The result of this, if it succeeds, would be populations of… well, humans, but not humans like the ones that live on Earth.  The result would more likely be planets, separated by decades of radio or laser signal, likely by centuries of travel, and those populations would be so widely spaced that they would gradually become unrecognizable to one another.  Languages would diverge, and humans physically may even diverge due to differing conditions on other planets, to the point that there are far-flung speciation events.  The people on those planets would still be human – but not H. sapiens anymore. Maybe they would be H. taucetiensis, maybe something else.

It’s an interesting problem.

 

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Flappr, The Other McCain, The Daley Gator, Pirate’s Cove, and Bacon Time for the Rule Five links!

Now then: It sure seems like folks are trying to avoid Boeing airliners lately.

Some fliers nervous to travel aboard Boeing aircraft following a stream of flight problems in the last three months say they try to book flights on other planes while others say they’ve turned to prayer or medications to get through their trips.

The shift in response toward Boeing took off in January after a panel plugging the space reserved for an unused emergency door blew off an Alaska Airlines jetliner 16,000 feet above Oregon. While pilots landed the Boeing 737 Max 9 safely, the incident has left a mark on many travelers.

“I just can’t step on that plane,” Leila Amineddoleh told NBC News, referring to Boeing aircraft. “Even if the chance of getting hurt on a Boeing flight, even with all these incidents, is slim.”

The last deadly crash involving a U.S. airliner occurred in February 2009 in an industry that saw 9.6 million flights last year. More Americans die in motor-vehicle crashes each year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Yeah, air travel is, statistically, pretty safe.  In my previous, non-journalism career, I traveled a lot – lots of it international travel – and never was involved in an incident where I felt I was in any danger.

The problem with air-travel events is that they are pretty spectacular.  When an airliner goes down hard, typically everyone dies, and that’s hard to swallow.  It makes people nervous, just as it’s making people nervous right now, with stuff happening like emergency doors blowing off in flight and tires dropping off the landing gear.

In the end, it probably won’t make a great deal of difference.  Take us – if Mrs. Animal and I want to see our kids and grandkids, who are all down in the lower 48, we have to fly to go see them.  Not seeing them is inconceivable.  So fly we will.  We may feel a little nervous about it, but we’ll fly.  And, I imagine, so will plenty of other folks.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove, Bacon Time, The Other McCain, The Daley Gator, and Whores and Ale for the Rule Five links!

Now, to answer what appears to be a rhetorical question: No, it’s not only suckers that buy electrical vehicles (EVs) but a large number of suckers do buy electrical vehicles.

The latest evidence that electric vehicles are nothing more than environmental snake oil can be found in a recent Wall Street Journal article pointing out that these “clean” cars are actually more polluting than their gasoline-powered brethren.

By polluting, we mean actual pollution, not carbon dioxide emissions – which is not pollution but plant food.

The Journal was highlighting a study from 2022 that, naturally, was ignored by the mainstream press at the time. What the study found was that “brakes and tires on EVs release 1,850 times more particle pollution compared to modern tailpipes.”

Why? Because EVs are as much as 30% heavier than gas-powered cars, which means more stress on their “regenerative” brakes and much faster tire wear.

Sure, that’s a problem. I have and still do maintain that there are circumstances in which an EV may make sense – for instance, someone who has an urban/suburban commute of, oh, 10-12 miles and who can charge their vehicle overnight.  Wouldn’t be my choice, but for that person, an EV may make sense – or at least, for them, the choice isn’t downright stupid.

The pollution problem remains, though:

Car buyers expect their tires to last 40,000 miles. But EV owners are finding that they last only 13,000 miles. Not only does that significantly increase the cost of ownership of an EV, but it also adds to air pollution.

That’s because tire wear, in case you didn’t know, is a major source of “fine particulate matter” – often called soot – which the Environmental Protection Agency, in case you didn’t know, considers “one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution and it’s linked to a range of serious and potentially deadly illnesses, including asthma and heart attacks.”

This, True Believers, is known as “unintended consequences.”  Of course, the people who design these cars, presumably being, you know, automotive engineers, should have known this and disseminated this information long before now.

Feature, not bug.  When embarking on an agenda like this, there are always one or two facts best suppressed until the agenda is at least partly accomplished – and that sure as hell looks like that is what happened here.

Animal’s Daily Superconductor News

Before I start on today’s tech stuff, check out the final chapter of Barrett’s Privateers – Plague Ship over at Glibertarians, and stay tuned over there next week for another tale of the adventures of Captain Jean Barrett and her crew.

Now then: A superconductor breakthrough at MIT may have implications for the development of practical fusion power. Wait – where have we heard that before?

More than two years since MIT claimed its scientists achieved a breakthrough in fusion energy, the university is claiming that new research “confirms” that the magnet-based design used in those tests isn’t just impressive in a lab setting, but is practical and economically viable, too.

These findings come from a comprehensive report which features six separate studies published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity this month, assessing the feasibility of the superconductor magnets used by MIT scientists in their landmark test conducted in September 2021.

“Overnight, it basically changed the cost per watt of a fusion reactor by a factor of almost 40 in one day,” Dennis Whyte, former director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center and a professor of engineering, said in a release. “Now fusion has a chance.”

Uh-huh.

Fusion has had a chance for quite a while now, and yet it hasn’t been used for anything other than bombs yet; it seems that industrial-scale fusion power is and always has been ‘thirty years away.’  Granted my scientific background is in biology, not physics, but I’m skeptical that this breakthrough in superconductors, interesting though it may be, is going to result in an explosion in fusion power plants dotting the landscape and providing abundant, cheap, clean energy.

Now that I’m in my sixties, I’m pretty resigned to the idea that I won’t live to see a working, production-scale fusion reactor. My grandkids might. I hope they do.  But in my lifetime?  Best to keep those fission plants running, along with coal and gas, because no matter what MIT may be working on, we still need electricity now.

 

Rule Five Hydrogen Boondoggle Friday

It seems the bottom has dropped out of the hydrogen-car market. This should, of course, come as a surprise to no one. MasterResource’s Robert Bradley Jr. has the details:

EVs compete against hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles–at least in California where some one hundred hydrogen dispensing stations are. The range and fill-time of HFCVs is quite competitive with EVs. But it is downhill from there–and a major mess for sellers and buyers. The California Energy Commission (remember Methanol?) has failed again.

Consultant James Carter on LinkedIn summarized a recent article in Jalopnik, by Logan Carter, Toyota Offers $40,000 Discount On A Car Most People Can’t Fuel Up.” His autopsy (verbatim): 

  • Toyota’s innovative Mirai might just be the best deal on the car market right now, but access to hydrogen fuel is getting harder.
  • Even with ~$60,000 in total discounts, Mirai is still a BAD deal.
  • “The $40,000 cash incentive deal is limited to 2023 model year Mirai Limited models, and includes zero percent financing for qualifying buyers. All new Mirais include $15,000 in complimentary fuel at the time of sale.”
  • I’ve been around automotive for a long time, but I’ve NEVER seen incentives that represent 90% of new vehicle price. For a Toyota, 10% is the most I’ve seen. Yet, this is exactly what’s happening for the Toyota Mirai.

The incentives – taxpayer money, in most cases – are there because nobody would look twice at these cars without them.  Free markets are a great thing, but when it comes to these green boondoggles, of which hydrogen cars are but one example, the market is anything but free.

But wait! There’s more!  Here are the details of the costs of operation:

Vehicle: $66,000, less $40,000 discount

Finance: $6,500 interest, less $6,500 discount

Fuel for 5 years /15,000 miles annually: $45,000, less $15,000

So, in total, this car will cost you $56,000 over 5 years, which is roughly the same as a Model Y Performance mostly charged from home. Perhaps add $5k for interest payments for the Y.

Here’s the rub: At the end of 5 years, that Model Y will be worth about $25,000. The Mirai? Likely $2,000 to $3,000, based on history. In other words, that hugely discounted Mirai is still a BAD DEAL.

Why is it still bad? Because the only Hydrogen stations are in California, and all suffer very irregular supply. In other words, there’s no guarantee you’ll get fuel when you need it. Which, unfortunately, is rule #1….

The reason to have a private auto is so that it will be available when you need to use it, and so that you can go where you need to go.  In this, the various hydrogen autos fall short.  Not only are they prohibitively expensive without subsidies, they don’t age well.

What’s not mentioned here is the production of hydrogen: That takes electricity, and plenty of it, and sufficient power won’t be supplied by windmills and solar panels; meanwhile, the same people pushing these green boondoggles are opposing nuclear power.

Granted, new technology always gets cheaper and more efficient over time.  But this seems like a stretch, to try to lay in an entirely new infrastructure when we already have an established infrastructure, mature and efficient, that delivers gasoline and Diesel fuel when and where we need it.

Maybe someday there will be an unsubsidized market for hydrogen-powered vehicles. But that day is not today, and it won’t be tomorrow.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

I can’t believe this is already the last Hump Day post of 2023!  Watch, though, for Friday’s Rule Five post, as we will be announcing some changes and some fun new stuff for the sight.  Rest assured our Blue Monday, Hump Day, Rule Five Friday and Saturday Gingermageddon displays of toothsome totty will continue, as well as me bringing you my take on the events of the day.

And so…

Continue reading Animal’s Hump Day News

Rule Five Nuclear Deterrent News

America’s nuclear arsenal is considerable, but parts of it are also pretty old.  Our silo-launched missiles are old, and so our their Cold-War era control systems.

But we may be seeing some upgrades, both in the birds and in their controls.

The control stations for America’s nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles have a sort of 1980s retro look, with computing panels in sea foam green, bad lighting and chunky control switches, including a critical one that says “launch.”

Those underground capsules are about to be demolished and the missile silos they control will be completely overhauled. A new nuclear missile is coming, a gigantic ICBM called the Sentinel. It’s the largest cultural shift in the land leg of the Air Force’s nuclear missile mission in 60 years.

But there are questions as to whether some of the Cold War-era aspects of the Minuteman missiles that the Sentinel will replace should be changed.

Making the silo-launched missile more modern, with complex software and 21st-century connectivity across a vast network, may also mean it’s more vulnerable. The Sentinel will need to be well protected from cyberattacks, while its technology will have to cope with frigid winter temperatures in the Western states where the silos are located.

That’s a fair point. Because the current control systems are old, they are also secure, connected by cable, and air-gapped away from any possible interference. But old, yes, and that presents its own problems.

For the Pentagon, there are expectations the modern Sentinel will meet threats from rapidly evolving Chinese and Russian missile systems. The Sentinel is expected to stay in service through 2075, so designers are taking an approach that will make it easier to upgrade with new technologies in the coming years. But that’s not without risk.

“Sentinel is a software-intensive program with a compressed schedule,” the Government Accountability Office reported this summer. “Software development is a high risk due to its scale and complexity and unique requirements of the nuclear deterrence mission.”

Security is always the key in these sorts of things, and that’s where cables and air gaps are essential. Imagine the horrific consequences were someone able to hack the United States’ strategic missile systems; silly ’80s movies aside, that could enable someone to actually initiate a global nuclear war.

Of course, they’d have to get by the Air Force as well, who not only man those siloes but who also have to manually initiate launches.

“Today, everything is connected to the internet of things. And you might have a back door in there you don’t even know” said Lt. Col. Todd Yehle, the 741st maintenance squadron commander. “With the old analog systems, you’re not hacking those systems.”

What it means is that even though technology could automate the whole operations process, one critical aspect of missile launch will remain the same. If the day comes that another nuclear weapon must be fired, it will still be teams of missileers validating the orders and activating a launch.

“It’s the human in the loop,” said Col. Johnny Galbert, commander of the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren. “I think what it comes down to is we want to rely on our airmen, our young officers out there, to make that decision, to be able to interpret what higher headquarters is telling them or directing them to do.”

You always need people in the loop for something like this.

That’s why movies like War Games and Terminator, fun though they may be, are essentially bullshit.  The launch of nuclear missiles has to not only be approved by the National Command Authority (a rather terrifying thought given the fecklessness and senility in NCA at the moment) but also must be, in effect, approved by the Air Force officers and NCOs on the scene.

These missiles won’t fly until people turn the keys. That’s a pretty good safeguard.

If we’re going to keep weapons like this, it’s certainly best to make sure they’ll work as intended. Sometimes that means a ground-up replacement for older systems. National defense is, after all, one of the few legitimate purposes of our Imperial government, and if the thing were to be done, t’were best done quickly.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

No extra notes this morning. A red-eye to Denver and then an early flight to Des Moines beckons, and I’ve other work to get to before heading to the airport.  So stand ready!  Here comes the Wednesday usual.

Now then…

Continue reading Animal’s Hump Day News

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Some housekeeping notes: Last night I caught a red-eye to Denver, in order to recover enough (which takes longer every year) to leave Friday for Grand County, where loyal sidekick Rat and I will be sallying forth to do battle with antlered ungulates.  More news on that when/if anything happens; in the meantime, there will be some placeholder totty on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.  Barring some catastrophe regular posts should resume on Thursday, the 2nd.

Now then…

Continue reading Animal’s Hump Day News