Thursday, January 19, 2006

misc technical... plus only a LITTLE politics...

(I promise! ;-)

While I’m finding time to do other things... accept these items from the Arlington Institute... followed by a couple more with the political lamp lit...

* Japan Puts Its Money on E-Cash -- (Washington Post -- December 28, 2005)  A cashless society? Japan seems to be nearing this, as experts cite the rise of e-cash as a reason for a drop last July in the circulation of yen coins, the first decline since 1971. Using cell phones that transmit infrared signals, Japanese consumers are whisking through checkout lines, buying everything from sushi to furniture without ever yanking out their wallets. Similar electronic money concepts are being tried in North America and Europe. Analysts say the Japanese version requires some fine-tuning before it can be exported.

* Is 7-Million-Year-Old Skull Really Human? -- (Harvard Gazette -- January 10, 2006)  Who or what was Toumai? Those who found his skull in 2001 insist he is the oldest human ancestor, a small fellow who lived by an African lake some 7 million years ago.

*Farming the Monsters -- (The Australian -- December 28, 2005) About 20 million people around the world are spending time in so-called massively multiplayer online role-playing games. These online spaces are not only adding users, but are growing economies that interact with the real world. One game, Second Life, has its own currency, convertible to US dollars at a fluctuating exchange rate, and users can buy the virtual currency with credit cards or sell it for real dollars by check or PayPal transfers. Its 60,000 users trade $US2 million monthly, making its economy about the same size as that of South Pacific island nation Tuvalu.

* Navy Tests Look-to-Talk Device -- (Wired -- January 11, 2006)  The U.S. Navy is field-testing a new short-range communications device called LightSpeed that could soon let sailors talk securely up to two miles away, just by looking at each other. The device uses infrared, similar to that of a television remote control, to transmit audio and visual information. To overcome range limits, LightSpeed connects to ordinary binoculars and uses the optical lenses to amplify the signals. Then soldiers on either end can simply plug headphones and a microphone into their binoculars to talk to one another.

* Broken Ice Dam Blamed for 300 Year Chill -- (New Scientist -- January 10, 2006)  A three-century-long cold spell that chilled Europe 8200 years ago was probably caused by the bursting of a Canadian ice dam, which released a colossal flood of glacial meltwater into the Atlantic Ocean. Two new papers, using different computer models, show that the massive freshwater flood accounts for evidence of the sudden climate change, which cooled Greenland by an average of 7.4C, and Europe by about 1C. It was the most abrupt and widespread cool spell in the last 10,000 years.

* The Hydrogen Gold Rush is On -- (Wired -- December 28, 2005) Todd Livingstone has a plan to solve the energy crisis by capturing huge amounts of energy from lightning. The idea itself is not new. But Livingstone has added a unique twist. Using lasers to capture lightning bolts, he wants to channel them through a large tank of water, producing near-limitless amounts of hydrogen. The implications, says Livingstone, are "mind-boggling." Put up a network of lasers in a lightning-prone area like Florida, he says, convert that energy into hydrogen, "and we could create more energy than the world needs."

And now, something so outrageous you will not believe your eyes. Actual notes in the handwriting of Philip Cooney, then chief of staff for the Ehite House Council on Environmental Quality, meddling in scientific reports in order to alter their meaning for political purposes. (Where is Cooney now? Oh, working for Exxon; why do you ask?)

Finally, the most important item...

One of you wrote in to say that there are signs, at long last, of a rising by decent American conservatives, against the monsters who have taken over their movement. The best sign so far is not (alas) coming from those “200 prominent conservatives” who I have yearned to come forward, and who could save this country, but from the heartland, where all true solutions must arise.

See Republicans for Humility by Dr. William Frey.

If more Republicans step up like this, there may even be a GOP worth salvaging, when it all comes crashing down. But now if people like George F. Will keep clinging desperately to illusions. Using mealy-mouthed euphemisms, e.g. “regretable,” “foolish” and “tragically flawed“... instead of vastly more apropos phrases like “treacherous,” “loony,” “demented-out-the-wazoo.”

I like, especially, the following quotation:

"....It really depends upon how our nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us.....but if we're a humble nation they'll respect us."
. . . - George W. Bush, October 11, 2000

for another, less explicit take on this theme see:

...finally-finally (for real this time...)...

. . . "You agree that this president is one of the top two or three most incompetent in history?" - Right wing financial talk show host Larry Kudlow, to a guest, last Tuesday, on MSNBC. Unheard of?



Anonymous said...

I got my undergraduate degree from SUNY Stony Brook. The school's then-president was physicist John Marburger. He was a nice guy. He supported the campus SF convention I used to help run, and even gave a lecture about lasers for us one year.

Now he's the White House Science Advisor, hired in the summer of 2001, when Bush was under fire for loading his cabinet with conservatives.

Marburger essentially disappeared for three years. Hardly a peep was heard from him. He "surfaced" briefly in 2004, to humiliate himself in a round of press interviews where he tried to gloss over the administration's inanities vis-a-vis science.

Where was Marburger when this industry shill Cooney was butchering scientific studies?

What a cowardly shmuck.


"6 EPA ex-chiefs urge Bush to limit carbon emissions

Michael Janofsky, New York Times

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Washington -- Six former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, including five who served Republican presidents, said Wednesday that the Bush administration needs to act more aggressively to limit the emission of greenhouse gases linked to climate change. "

The rest of it:


Tony Fisk said...

Oh, I've hopes.

But keep at it. You can't smell the coffee if no one's grinding beans.

palliard said...

On two unrelated topics:

1) Any successful MMOG that has an in-game currency has, thanks to the miracle of eBay, an exchange rate that eclipses the economy of Tuvalu. That's the not surprising.

What's surprising is that virtual property has real value. That people will voluntarily take US dollars and exchange them for virtual gold pieces or simoleons in someone else's wholly-owned and entire-made-up world.

Those of you skeptical about how real gaming is to people should check out Raph Koster's MMOG essays.

2) I hadn't heard anything about people harnessing lightning to make hyrdrogen, but on one level it isn't conceptually different from harnessing the tides to make electricity. Very promising.

Steve said...

palliard said...
What's surprising is that virtual property has real value. That people will voluntarily take US dollars and exchange them for virtual gold pieces or simoleons in someone else's wholly-owned and entire-made-up world.

Hmm, any more surprising than the fact we use fiat dollars and use fractional lending and trade pieces of paper for real estate, food, etc? :D Real Life(TM) uses the inverse system: virtual money for real goods and services. Just like the MMOG, it will work as long as people believe in it. Pity those who get stiffed at the end.

I'm not saying, "Buy gold!" or anything, it is just that every time I think about it, it is so weird that a mutual game using pretend money has worked well so far.

What implications will this have in the future? Will we be able to pretend we have an economy once we realize almost all of our GNP growth was in housing, and actual manufacturing (a.k.a. real wealth creation) has been flat or negative? It seems to me that at some point, trading stuff with each other and sending our wealth to China has got to come up against reality, doesn't it? Or will we be able to find a "soft landing" to wean us off of cheap money?

Anonymous said...

1. I am amused (but not surprised) by the concept that people would spend real money to acquire virtual money...

2. Using electricity to get hydrogen (and oxygen) from water isn't new, nuclear submarines have been doing it for a long time now (well, they get oxygen and dump the hydrogen). Using lightning doesn't sound too cost effective (not enough lightning)... but using solar/tidal/wind/nuclear to generate electricity and using the electricity to produce hydrogen... that sounds useful.

all 'money' is worth what you can trade it for (and how much you had to trade to get it)... one ounce of Gold is worth a lot because people will trade things for it, but the gold itself is pretty useless except for decoration... just like the lesser value coins and peices of printed paper we use as money.


Steve said...


That was actually part of my point. (Though if you want to build electronics or adorn yourself or mate, gold has at least some intrinsic value over paper.)

Hmm, what would a modern "gold standard" be? Something infinitely divisible, portable, non-perishable and intrinsically valuable. Energy maybe? CO2 shares?

There are, of course, many arguments for fiat money, but still it is an interesting question.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, didn't mean to imply that. Just 'driving the point home'.

"Something infinitely divisible, portable, non-perishable and intrinsically valuable"

Hmmmm.... is anything infinitely divisible?