Category Archives: Tech

Animal’s Daily News

Smiling BearThanks as always to The Other McCain for our inclusion in the Sunday Rule Five index!

This morning, let’s look at some tidbits from the world of science.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Is a Fucking Idiot.  ‘Nuff said.

Check out the vehicle that people could drive on Mars.  I doubt you’ll see one at a showroom near you any time soon.  Too bad.

The Secret of Natural Sandstone Arches.  Sandstone arches, not Golden Arches; the only secret to the latter is how they manage to stay in business while serving such crappy food.

What Happened When A State Accidentally Legalized Prostitution.  Thumbnail:  Rape cases decreased.  Specifically:  “The statewide incidence of gonorrhea among women declined by 39 percent, and the number of rapes reported to police in the state declined by 31 percent, according to the paper.”

Finally, in answer to a question that nobody had ever asked until now:  Scientists Use MRI to Measure Precisely How Your Butt Deforms When You Sit Down.  Excerpt:

The complex deformation of buttocks tissue seen in this case study may help explain the inconsistent results reported in finite element models. 3D imaging of the seated buttocks provides a unique opportunity to study the actual buttocks response to sitting.”

Uh… OK?

And on that note, we return you to your Tuesday, already in progress.

Rule Five Friday

2014_05_16_Rule Five Friday (1)Let’s talk about energy, as though you might need an additional boost to go along with the refueling aspect of the Rule Five Friday totty.  The young lady pictured here has no connection to the story and to our knowledge is not connected with the energy industry in any way; her appearance here is purely gratuitous.

But who does have a connection to the energy industry in the U.S. today?  Harold Hamm does, and Forbes has his story.  Excerpt:

Two Scotches in, with seats on the floor of Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy CHK -2.7% Arena, Harold Hamm is feeling good. And why not? His hometown Thunder is spending the evening whupping the Philadelphia 76ers. Earlier Hamm announced big bonuses for 2014_05_16_Rule Five Friday (2)Continental Resources CLR +0.04% employees, courtesy of record oil production. And a judge’s ruling, revealed that morning, in Hamm’s divorce case suggested the energy tycoon would keep the Continental shares he already owned when he married soon-to-be-ex Sue Ann Hamm 26 years ago. With that chunk of stock, encompassing about $16 billion out of his $16.9 billion fortune, Hamm owns 70% of Continental.

As every wildcatter knows, such is life in the oil patch when you’re on a hot streak. And Hamm’s on perhaps the most epic one in domestic energy history, perhaps save for John D. Rockefeller’s. No one, aside from kings, dictators and post-Soviet kleptocrats, personally owns more black gold–Continental has proved reserves of 1 billion barrels, mostly locked underneath North Dakota. Hamm took the company public in 2007–and shares are up 600% since, as the revolution in horizontal drilling has given America a cheap energy 2014_05_16_Rule Five Friday (3)booster shot, fueling factories, keeping a lid on gas prices and adding millions of jobs.

Of course, there are many more barrels locked up under public lands, where our supposed employees in the Imperial City refuse to allow drilling.  But that’s another story.

Hamm seems a character straight out of an Ayn Rand novel; driven, innovative, passionate about his line of work.  He started in the industry at the age of 16, pumping gas in a service station; now he controls more oil than anyone outside of the Middle East.  A pioneer of horizontal drilling, he now has realized a net worth of $16.9 billion- and he’s earned every penny of it.

Why is a man like this not held up as a national hero?  A man to be admired and emulated?  Because he had a single-minded drive to 2014_05_16_Rule Five Friday (4)success?  Because he succeeded on his own merits, realized the rewards of hard work and enormous risks?

The Forbes article concludes:

Hubris–almost inevitable when you own 70% of a company–is also a concern. America’s richest oil baron has been catching flak recently for what appears to be self-dealing, including a $340 million purchase by Continental of another North Dakota oil company he co-owned and a five-year, $100 million contract Continental signed with a pipeline firm owned by Hamm and his family. (Hamm says both deals passed muster with the board and will boost Continental’s performance.)

But such headaches will prove ephemeral if Hamm wins his bet and delivers on his promise of unlimited oil and gas. Such results would surely make Hamm one of the 20 richest people in the world. And just as surely 2014_05_16_Rule Five Friday (5)reshape America in the process.

And he will probably be reviled for greed, instead of admired as a uniquely American success story.  Why?

Who is John Galt?

Hamm’s work has the potential to completely reshape the American economy for the better.  He has created thousands, maybe tens of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly.  He has made energy in the form of everything from gasoline to heating oil more abundant and therefore cheaper.  He’s a man worthy of admiration.

2014_05_16_Rule Five Friday (6)

Animal’s Science Tuesday News

Science!
Science!

A few science-y stories today.

White Holes Could Exists – But That Doesn’t Mean They Do.  Presumably a white hole is the other end of a black hole – not that anyone is anxious to go through a black hole to test that theory.

It seems the first Earthly colonists to Mars may be bacteria.  Only a few years ago everyone assumed that harsh conditions in space would kill any Earthly hitchhikers, but that’s no longer a safe assumption; discover and study of extremophiles has shown that some bugs can live damn near anywhere.

Lawrence Livermore has discovered element 117.  The new element has not been named; given the predilection for naming these super-heavy elements after Roman dieties, I would suggest the name Penianium after a minor Roman god of poverty.  Why?  Because it’s funny, in a mildly juvenile way.  Sound it out.  Right?

Science!While I’m on the topic of immaturity, it seems a certain protein can return aged brains (and bodies) to youthful vigor – in mice.  Still, an interesting find.  How long would it take to get this protein into mass production?

On that note, we return you to your Tuesday, already in progress.

Animal’s Daily News

brown-bear-1024x768Late night last night and a long day ahead, so here are a few quick tech tidbits from an abbreviated morning news crawl.  One of the big things in the tech world right now is the passing of Windows XP, or, at least, the passing of Microsoft’s support for that long-lasting OS.  A few stories:

Windows XP Support Ends:  Survival Tips to Stay Safe.

Why You Should Ditch Windows XP Now.

Why I Won’t Miss Windows XP.

Governments and Businesses Are Paying Millions to Cling Onto Windows XP.

And two related stories:

The Most Hated Browser in the World is Finally Dead.

The Windows 8.1 Update Finally Makes Microsoft’s Metro Future PC-friendly.

We started using Windows XP pretty much on its release, coming off of Windows 98 (a pretty solid, stable OS) and a brief flirtation with Windows ME (an unmitigated disaster.)  I liked XP, but there’s no doubt it’s pretty dated now.  It was a solid, reliable OS, and lasted a long time.

Smiling BearMy current travel laptop came with Windows Vista, which was dangerously close to being a Charlie-Fox like ME.  But shortly after that purchase I was able to take advantage of a free upgrade offer to Windows 7, which had the whiz-bang of Vista and the reliability of XP.  Now the laptop and the Frankenputor desktop both run 7, and it seems to be a fit replacement for XP – solid, reliable, easy to use.

So, goodbye, Windows XP.  With your grandchild Windows 7, I think we’re in good hands.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Energy policy rates an entire section in the Animal Manifesto, so it was with considerable interest that yr. obdt. noted this story in Forbes:  Fossil Fuels Still Rule But Don’t Worry — We Have Plenty Of Uranium.  Excerpt:

The 2014 Annual Report of the AAPG Energy Minerals Division Committee (Michael D. Campbell, Chair) just came out and its findings are quite interesting (EMD Uranium 2014). It’s a good read if you want to know the state of uranium in the world, but also covers a lot of material on all energy fronts. I have taken freely from it for this post. Full disclosure – I am on the Advisory Group to this committee.

Energy minerals focus on ores of uranium, thorium and helium-3 as materials useful for fission and fusion reactors. But rare earth elements (REE) and other energy-important or high-tech materials are also included (see figure below).  Although coal is the most developed of all energy minerals, it has its own category and is not included in EMD analyses. Oil and gas are not minerals as they do not have a defined three-dimensional arrangement of their atoms in space, the definition of a mineral.

The common wisdom, that limited uranium supplies will prevent a substantial increase in nuclear energy, is incorrect. We have plenty of uranium, enough for the next 10,000 years. But uranium supplies are governed by the same market forces as any other commodity, and projections only include what is cost-effective today. Like natural gas, unconventional sources of uranium abound.

Fishing BearWhat is interesting in the world nuclear power picture is the use of thorium as a reactor fuel – something both India and China are aggressively pursuing.  Thorium is more abundant than uranium, the by-products of the thorium fuel cycle are far less weaponizable (a serious consideration, when you consider nuclear rogue states like Iran and North Korea.)

So why isn’t the United States pursuing nuclear power?  There are some nuclear plants in the start-up or approval process right now, but that process is difficult and heavily regulated.  The newest generations of reactors are as close to baka-yoke as is possible.

CongressOne wonders what the holdup is.  But then, our energy policy for the last 30-40 years has generally been incomprehensibly stupid; the Keystone pipeline, for example, remains in limbo, and that tiny few miles of pipeline requiring the signoff of the Imperial Federal government is the sticking point.

Still, that’s Washington, where stupidity all too frequently abounds.

Animal’s Daily News

Harp BearThanks to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

This just in from the folks at Reason:  The 3D Economy – Forget Guns, What Happens When Everyone Prints Their Own Shoes?  Excerpt:

Imagine what will happen when millions of people start using the tools that produced The Liberator to make, copy, swap, barter, buy, and sell all the quotidian stuff with which they furnish their lives. Rest in peace, Bed, Bath & Beyond. Thanks for all the stuff, Foxconn, but we get our gadgets from Pirate Bay and MEGA now.

Once the retail and manufacturing carnage starts to scale, the government carnage will soon follow. How can it not, when only old people pay sales tax, fewer citizens obtain their incomes from traditional easy-to-tax jobs, and large corporate taxpayers start folding like daily newspapers? Without big business, big government can’t function.

Naysayers to this scenario point out that the typical 3D printer is still expensive (a canard; technology always drops in relative price as it becomes mainstreamed) and that users still have to buy raw materials and software (somewhat accurate; raw materials will also become cheaper, but software is effectively uncontrollable.)

This tech, Reason accurately points out, has the potential to set manufacturing on its ear.  However, world-changing new tech always does; the invention of the automobile and Henry Ford’s introduction of mass production in the automotive industry changed the world, and drove several competing industries into near-extinction almost overnight; buggy-whip makers, horse tack manufacturers, farriers and coachbuilders suddenly found themselves looking for other work.  This will do the same; it will be awfully hard for TV pitchmen to convince you to buy the new Whang-O One-Hand Bottle Opener for just $9.95 (Order NOW and we’ll double the offer!) when the typical consumer will be able to download a pattern and print their own.

Reason concludes:

Be prepared, however, to expect some pushback from your local regulators. Over the past decade or so, as newer technologies and fewer opportunities for traditional employment have prompted more people to act in entrepreneurially innovative ways, government’s response has been the same: Consumers must be protected against strawberry balsamic jam made in home kitchens. Tourists must be protected against immaculately maintained carriage houses that can be rented on a daily basis for below-hotel rates. Travelers must be protected from cheap rides from the airport.

Shy BearWhen government realizes that self-produced plastic shower curtain rings are far more potentially disruptive than self-produced plastic pistols, it’ll be more than libertarian entrepreneur-iconoclasts at risk.

3D printing gives consumers much, much more control over a wide range of consumer goods – how they will be produced, designed, bought and sold.  The down side:  Government at all levels in institutionally incapable of surrendering control.  This is a technology that threatens to place a vast swath of consumer goods outside the taxable, regulated grasp of industry and in the direct control of consumers.  Watch for the inevitable shouts of the need to control this – probably “for our own good.”

Goodbye, Blue Monday

2014_02_17_Goodbye Blue Monday
Goodbye, Blue Monday

This is interesting; 11 Features You No Longer See in Cars.  Excerpt:

It’s hard to picture what today’s teenagers will wax nostalgic about 30 years from now when they reminisce about their first car. (It still required gasoline, perhaps?) Who knows how automobiles will change in the future; what we do know is how different they are today from 30 or more years ago. If you fondly remember being surrounded by two or three tons of solid Detroit steel with a whip antenna on the front from which you could tie a raccoon tail or adorn with an orange Union 76 ball, and enough leg room that you didn’t suffer from phlebitis on long road trips, then you might also miss a few of these.

A few of these features were really great, and it’s a bit baffling why they are no longer offered.  Tail fins may be a matter of taste, but wing windows were great, as were audible turn signals and big, easy-to-hit horn rings.

Crank windows and manually locking doors aren’t mentioned, but they are highly desirable if you do a lot of banging around on jeep trails.  In a truck that sees hard use, power windows and locks have a way of breaking.  And anything that can break, will break at the

The original utility.
The original utility.

worst possible moment.  Maybe auto manufacturers will start offing these basic, no-frills options again if enough people complain?

Maybe someone (hopefully Ford) will even start making a real utility again.

Animal’s Daily News

Harp BearSome random notes:

A Pen, a Phone, and a Flailing President. 

The Obama Administration may well be characterized by one word: from the article:  “Uninformed.”  When the administration does admit to knowing about some screw-up or another, it invariably seems to be someone else’s fault.

Moving on to the world of tech, it seems Microsoft is looking for a recovery from the massive Charlie Foxtrot that is Windows 8.  Both of my machines are still running Windows 7, and they will stay that way until Microsoft unscrews this particular mess.   Mrs. A has a hybrid tablet/laptop that runs Windows 8, and she isn’t impressed.   PerfectAs pointed out in the article, Microsoft seems to go through this process about every other major OS release, so maybe there is some hope for Windows 9.

One more, this one from the sexy world of science:  Graphene Condoms.   Advantages?  The thinnest and strongest condoms ever made, which presumably would boost condom use.  An issue with which I have no personal interest, as a happily married man on the wrong side of fifty whose spouse is a frighteningly good shot, but interesting all the same.

Work beckons.  Stay tuned, True Believers; more to come.