February 10th, 2008

#891: No surprises here.

Japan's space agency to test solar power satellite hardware.

The article should say "NASA" where it says "JAXA", but that's not going to happen. Not with NASA doing all sorts of idiotic navel-gazing crap. Maybe the Japanese will build a solar power satellite over the Americas and sell us power for a penny under domestic power costs, thus "dumping" electricity on us and driving all our producers out of business. *sigh*

This is the real solution to "greenhouse gas emissions", right here. Hopefully we can have the Japanese build one for us, someday.

'Cause if we wait for NASA to do it, we'll wait a long freaking time.

China can't handle criticism. If you want to compete at the Olympics in Beijing, you can't say anything critical about China. At least if you're from Britain or New Zealand--but expect similar gag orders to crop up for other countries' teams as well.

Oh well. The last time I even cared about the Olympics was when they were in Nagano, Japan, and that was just because I wanted to see the locations. Olympics:=sports and I generally couldn't care less about sports.

Via.

#892: Sunday comments, pretty much random.

I did seven pages of the PreCure RPG comic Saturday night. I managed to show what I wanted to show on page 13 with eight images, rather than 16, by getting creative with cropping and compositing. And it flows fairly well, too. I'm surprised I surged ahead so far, but I got past the point where Pissard summons Zakenna, so that'll do me until Monday.

One week after I came up with the idea, the thing stands at 19 pages. That's not too shabby.

* * *

I just discovered something interesting.

At work a couple of weeks ago I found a gift card in Receiving. It was one of the ones we have that light up. In a fit of curiosity I busted it open and took out the circuit board, which I still have; it's sitting on the desk. It's got three button cells, three white LEDs, and a simple timer circuit IC (potted in black epoxy) which keeps the lights on for about 8-10 seconds.

I reached over to press the button, and the LEDs went on as soon as I touched the button, without me even pressing it. I waited until they shut off, and did it again; then it stopped.

Thinking it was static electricity, I rubbed my feet on the carpet and tried again. No dice. Rubbed more, bingo.

Tried doing that again, no dice again. WTF?

Then I discovered that I was getting my static charge from the desk lamp.

The desk lamp is a typical cheap architect's lamp with a CF bulb in it. I held my hand under the bulb, maybe 2 inches away; then I was able to switch on the LEDs just by touching the button.

I'm solar-powered!

...actually it's because the CF bulb emits an EM field. It's not a very strong one. If I don't hold my arms away from my body the charge dissipates. I can't touch anything other than the button; otherwise it doesn't work. That's one sensitive circuit.

This reminds me of when I had my plasma globe and touch lamp Earth globe plugged into the same outlet. I could light up the touch lamp by touching the plasma globe, the same as if I'd touched the lamp itself. That was pretty cool. I even understood why it worked: the plasma globe provided an electrical link to the touch lamp; if you touched the plasma globe, you completed basically the same circuit as if you'd touched the lamp. It's like hooking a plant to a touch lamp and touching the plant.

* * *

Projected high for today: 5°F. I'm getting sick of the temperature roller coaster. (Literally. Though my cold is better than it was.)

When I lived in Cedar Rapids, at the end of every week the Sunday night weather forecast would include the "weather coaster". It featured a graph of the temperatures over the week, and a little graphic of the weatherman in a roller coaster car would follow the graph. I'm betting the "weather coaster" is a pretty interesting ride this winter.

* * *

Seagate got my broken 500 GB drive Friday. Hopefully I'll get my replacement soon.

* * *

Sitting on my shelf is a 1979 series Matchbox Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II, which I--for reasons lost to the mists of time--painted day-glow orange. I think I was going to paint it to look like the General Lee. Dukes of Hazzard was on then and I watched it, being about the age of that show's target audience. (12.) And the R-R was the closest thing I had to a 1970 Dodge Challenger.

Well, in 1979, the 1970 Challenger was just some old car; thanks to price controls gas was expensive and in limited supply (this was during the "energy crisis" and "economic malaise") so it was a gas guzzler and the mystique surrounding muscle cars had evaporated before the fall of Saigon. (In 1975, "for those of you in Rio Linda.")

There was no way Matchbox was going to bother with rustbucket used cars.

So one of my two R-Rs--the one that was scratched and gouged anyway--got painted orange; but I never got around to adding any other details. I didn't do any paint prep before painting it; the scratches and gouges show right through the orange.

I had managed to disassemble it before painting it, too. So when I was trying to find all my old model railroad stuff, I found this in a box with some of the old track, in pieces. I put it back together, and now it sits on my bookshelf.

But the intervening time has not been kind to its running gear. The wheels don't turn very well; so really it's more of a "Slides Royce" than a "Rolls Royce".

* * *

That was a long way to go for that joke. I shouldn't have bothered.

#893: No. Just no.

Steven Den Beste comments today on a thread he found on MetaFilter. The gist of the thread: amateur scientist thinks he's found an "over unity" device--a perpetual motion machine.

Problem: that's fricking impossible.

The basis of the "invention" is that the guy puts a magnet next to a motor running at a certain speed. The motor then speeds up, apparently turning faster for a given input of electricity.

Anyone who's ever studied motor theory--even casually--knows why this is BS: if you increase the strength of the magnetic field in which the rotor turns, the rotor will turn faster. It will also consume more power; there is no free lunch here. The voltage across the motor won't change--at least not once it regains homeostasis--but the current drawn by the motor will increase.

Several of the soi disant "intellectuals" commenting in the MeFi thread, however, seem to think that the laws of thermodynamics are a "construct" of "patriarchal Western civilization". But there's a reason why we call them the laws of thermodynamics, not the "hypotheses" or "theories" of thermodynamics.

Pretty much the same reason we call it the law of gravitation: it has never been wrong. EVER.

The laws of thermodynamics have never been wrong. Not ever, not once, not even a little bit. Physicists have used the laws of thermodynamics as building blocks for theories which have turned out to be correct (such as the theories surrounding nuclear decay, to cite an example cited by Steven).

It's pretty safe to say that when you think you've got a way around the laws of thermodynamics, you're wrong. In fact, I'd say it's damn certain you're wrong.

"But," you say, "what about a nuclear reactor? What about the Sun? Those are over-unity devices!"

No, they're not.

The energy output of the sun comes from E=mc2. Nuclear fusion ends up converting some of the mass of the fused atoms into energy.

The energy output of a nuclear reactor comes from E=mc2. Nuclear fission converts some of the mass of the U-235 in the core into energy. (The U-235 itself was generated in supernova explosions billions of years ago.)

Come to think of it, E=mc2 isn't even considered a law. Very few things in physics are considered laws, and most of those are centuries old.

The real irony of the comments in the MeFi thread is that the same people who are contending that we don't know everything about the laws of thermodynamics probably argue that man-made global warming is "proven". *sigh*