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Hometown: Alabama
Member since: Fri Sep 9, 2005, 07:39 PM
Number of posts: 32,081

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*Simple* carbon compounds are widespread, but have nothing to do with life.

This is rather like finding sand and calling it "the rudiments of semiconductor manufacture". It might be, but chances are overwhelmingly against it.

Carbon is not a particularly rare element. It is a reactive element, so it's usually found in combination with other elements, and **ALMOST ANY COMPOUND CONTAINING CARBON IS LABELED AN 'ORGANIC COMPOUND'*** by convention. "Organic" in colloquial usage means "associated with a living organism"; in scientific usage it means "contains carbon", with only very simple compounds like CO2, CO, and metal carbides being excluded. Simple organic compounds like methane, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, even methanol, are not evidence of life or even the probability of life. It just means that carbon reacted with whatever was present, and that usually includes hydrogen (the most abundant element in the universe) and oxygen (which forms particularly strong bonds with carbon).

I've never understood the attraction of the hypothesis that life originated elsewhere. If such a thing had occurred, it would be fundamentally impossible to prove. And it only "begs the question" -- if you ask "where did life come from ?" and the answer is "somewhere else", then you have to ask, "well, how did it originate *there*?" and you can't answer that, because you can't investigate "there". Frankly, it seems like more of a hopelessly romantic -- even magical -- notion than a testable scientific hypothesis, but for some reason, it's become en vogue (again -- *sigh*) among so-called science journalists and won't go away, despite a paucity of evidence and a complete absence of even remotely unambiguous evidence. Frankly, it just seems to pander to a public appetite for romance over reason.
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Tue Nov 18, 2014, 10:38 AM (1 replies)

The car that runs on sunshine and sweat (BBC)

Ken Wysocky

In a perfect world, someone would invent a small personal vehicle that runs on nothing but sunshine and calories – and carries a week's worth of groceries, for good measure.

Don’t look now, but it’s already here. The Elf, manufactured by Organic Transit, based in the US state of North Carolina, is the brainchild of inventor Rob Cotter, Organic Transit’s founder and chief executive officer. And it evokes nothing less than the love child of a recumbent tricycle and a Messerschmitt bubble car.

The Elf’s car DNA is visible in features such as its tadpole-like polycarbonate shell, which shields riders from the elements and – abetted by LED headlamps, taillamps and turn indicators – makes the impish vehicle more visible on roads than a traditional two-wheeler. Its bike pedigree shows up in its control scheme; its narrow front wheels, equipped with disc brakes, are steered and stopped by hand grips rather than a car-style steering wheel and brake pedal.

Equipped with a standard three-speed internal-hub transmission or an optional NuVinci continuously variable planetary transmission, the Elf moves by pedal and/or electric power; its one-horsepower electric motor is powered by a lithium iron phosphate battery pack, which is fed by a 100-watt rooftop solar panel. The pack takes seven hours to charge by sunlight or 1˝ hours when plugged into a standard household outlet.

Speeding tickets likely won’t be an issue. The Elf tops out at 20mph on electric power alone, 30mph with pedals pumping. Ideally suited to quick urban jaunts, the Elf is less useful for long-range travel, unless you happen to be an ultra-marathoner. Its motor-only cruising range is a modest 18 miles, although pedalling can bump range to as much as 40 miles.
more: http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20140609-bike-to-the-future

An enclosed electric moped, more or less ...
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Tue Jun 10, 2014, 01:28 PM (2 replies)

Well, you're indirectly "burning" steel as fuel, and it takes coal to produce steel ...

you're getting less energy out of the hydrogen than you would have gotten from the coal. This is basically a roundabout way of burning coal less efficiently. Economically, this makes no sense at all.

One last time, folks -- (1) It takes energy to produce metals from the metal compounds in their ores (except for rare cases like gold and silver which occur as the metal); (2) Converting the metal back to a metal compound releases energy (in this case stored as H[sub]2[/sub]); (3) Metals thus serve as a means of storing energy; (4) Neither step 1 nor step 2 is particularly energy-efficient, so the two-step process loses a lot of energy; (5) The price of metals in the market is strongly dependent on the amount of metals recycled as the metal; thus using metals as fuels or battery components will drive up the price of the metal, rendering the practice uneconomical, and raising the cost of the metal for other uses as well.

This is a cute trick, not a practical solution to anything.
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Tue Apr 29, 2014, 10:03 AM (2 replies)

Wow, talk about jumping to conclusions from minimal evidence.

These are both MUCH simpler molecules than any nucleic acid heterocycles, or all but the simplest amino acid (glycine). The first is just the dimer of hydrogen cyanide, found pretty much wherever HCN is found. This fad of reporting "MOLECULES OF LIFE FOUND IN SPACE!" has gotten really old. There is a very long and improbable path between such spaceborne molecules and all but the simplest amino acids or nuclear bases. In contrast, the formation of these molecules under planetary conditions is well documented. The main difference is simply concentration -- the probability of two molecules reacting with each other is proportional to the concentration of each of the molecules involved, which is much, much lower in instellar space than in planetary atmospheres/hydrospheres. I wish these scientists would try harder to formulate plausible hypotheses, rather than going for the most spectacular hypothesis in the hopes of greater fame -- which is evidently what is driving this fad.

Posted by eppur_se_muova | Thu Feb 28, 2013, 10:50 PM (0 replies)

An H. L. Mencken quote to start your week ...

"The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair."
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Mon Nov 26, 2012, 12:04 PM (3 replies)

LOL -- there's a whole wiki entry in the works on this ...


Posted by eppur_se_muova | Fri Oct 19, 2012, 08:55 PM (1 replies)

Several Presidents tried for a third term. Only FDR succeeded.

And that was largely because the country didn't want to change leaders in the middle of a war, which was a good decision.

Voters don't need to be "protected" from their decisions. They have chosen well enough without the 22nd Amendment. The only President who could have been elected to a third term since was Clinton -- and wouldn't that have been BETTER than W? Even if Clinton had lost, he could have run again in 2004 -- how do you think THAT would have turned out? Think how different our recent history would have been without the 22nd Amendment -- maybe no 9/11, certainly no Iraq War, maybe warning signs on Wall Street would have registered in time. No, I don't think Presidential term limits have done us any good at all, and quite a bit of harm.
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Sun Sep 30, 2012, 11:46 AM (0 replies)

I'm actually against them.

Given the population turnover in any given district, the people who vote for a candidate the third time are not all the same people who elected him/her the first time. Should the new voters be denied the right to choose the representative they want just because someone else -- who may no longer reside in the district -- voted for them before ?

Remember, the limit on Presidential terms was legislated by vengeful R's after FDR's fourth victory. GOP presidents get to be too old (or too incriminated) for a third term; without the 22nd Amendment, only Clinton could have won a third term since, and we weren't better off with his successor. Most Presidents who sought a third term failed; no further "protection" is really needed. FDR probably won a fourth term largely because it was a wartime election. Personally, I'd love to see the 22A repealed just to get Obama (at least) one more term. The 22A seems to say that you can't give the voters what they want. I'd rather trust the voters to make the right decision.
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Sat Sep 29, 2012, 01:43 AM (0 replies)

Ancient forest lies 10 miles off the Alabama coast (video, gallery) (al.com)

Published: Sunday, September 02, 2012, 5:34 AM
By Ben Raines, Press-Register

Sixty feet beneath the green waves of the Gulf of Mexico, ten miles from the nearest land, stands an ancient forest of giant trees.

Covered in dense carpets of sea anemones, crawling with spidery arrow crabs and toadfish, the sprawling stumps of massive cypress trees spread across the seafloor.

Unmistakable to eyes that have seen the cypress growing today in the swamps of the Gulf Coast, the trunks bear the jagged, craggy outline that is the hallmark of the species. Away from each stump lies another clue, a telltale ring of cypress knees, the knobby wood outgrowths believed to help the trees survive in the soupy mud of the south’s river deltas.

The trees run along a small drop off along the Gulf’s bottom south of the Fort Morgan peninsula. For hundreds of yards, the stumps follow the lazy meanders of what appears to be an ancient river channel that runs to the north, toward the modern day Mobile-Tensaw Delta, which drains Alabama and portions of Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi.

Drifting along the river channel, floating over the edge of a sunken forest rendered in the blues and greens of the deep sea is enchanting.

more: http://blog.al.com/live/2012/09/ancient_forest_lies_10_miles_o.html

Please pardon the hyperbolic title seen in the video ...
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Sun Sep 9, 2012, 05:48 PM (10 replies)

I haven't seen a movie in years ...

ironically, one of the signs I was having problems (though I didn't realize it at the time) came when I went to see an old 50's 3D movie. I had to watch the movie for a long time -- say half an hour? -- before the 3D effect worked for me. That was a sign my binocular vision was failing, but I didn't realize it.

The main therapy consisted of viewing red/green or polarized anaglyphs (trademarked as Tranaglyphs ™), while the therapist adjusted the separation between them. Since my left eye was turning outward, at first I could only fuse the two images when they were widely separated. With repeated exercises, over several weeks, I was finally able to fuse the images at normal separation. After each session, I could tell that my vision was taking on a little added depth -- and an hour or two later I would get a real hammer-between-the-eyes headache. After the whole therapy sequence was finished, it still took some time to re-adapt to full binocular vision, and my eyes tended to tire easily.

A big prerequisite to successful therapy, in my case, was having my lens prescription reduced by a doctor who was very careful not to over-prescribe the lens strength. Many ophthalmologists tend to over prescribe, and if you are young and nearsighted, your eyes will adapt to the overcorrection. Over a period of many years, I had accumulated quite a lot of overcorrection in one eye, causing that eye to suffer so much fatigue that it would stop focusing properly and my brain would simply suppress the image from that eye. It was a real shock to discover one day that I could cover my left eye and leave my vision almost unaffected -- the image from that eye was not being processed much at all. Some doctors routinely check for overcorrection, others -- not so much.

Sue Barry's book describes some of the other treatments used. She had been stereoblind her whole life, unlike me, so her doctor started her off with more basic therapy than I needed. I thought the bead-on-two-strings would have been a good home exercise for me, but I didn't learn about it until after I no longer needed therapy.

Surprisingly, it is not ophthalmologists, but optometrists who are the leaders in diagnosing and treating problems with stereovision, especially in children. See http://www.covd.org and http://optometrists.org/public_eye_care.html
Posted by eppur_se_muova | Fri Jul 20, 2012, 01:48 PM (1 replies)
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