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 28 November 2014

“Anti-Radiaton” Mobile Phone Device TV Ads

November 23rd, 2014

I might be a little out of he loop when it comes to what is on television.  I don’t really watch it all that often, and when I do, I usually am watching a DVR recording, so I don’t really sit through commercials.

Yet the other day I caught this on TV.  Seeing it really annoyed me a lot.  There’s nothing new in terms of the claims being made.  The product is certainly not the first of its type, but seeing these false claims being fed to the public through mainstream mass marketing is all the more infuriating.  The public becomes that much more indoctrinated with falsehoods and the producers of this product laugh all the way to the bank, as members of the public buy something that they don’t need and serves no purpose.

(Direct link to youtube video)

It’s a slick ad campaign. I have to admit it.

It starts off with a common, but completely inaccurate comparison. Yes, tobacco company executives did say that they didn’t think smoking caused cancer. But when it comes to evaluating the health risks of something, corporate executives are not really regarded as the most credible source of information, anyway. That is what scientific studies are for. In the case of tobacco smoking, the evidence that smoking increased the risk of cancer began to accumulate in the early 20th century, not that long after mass produced cigarettes made heavy daily smoking commonplace. By the 1930′s, the data was pretty solid. But even before tobacco smoking was linked to lung cancer, the mainstream medical establishment agreed that smoking was not a healthy habit and that it had negative impacts on respiratory health. (More info on this here)

In the case of RF radiation, we have some pretty conclusive data that would seem to indicate that, no, it does not cause cancer. RF radiation is non-ionizing and does not directly effect the chemistry of molecules like DNA. It therefore does not cause the kind of damage that could result in cancer. The subject of RF energy and health has been one of interest since at least the 1920′s. There have been numerous studies on mobile phones and potential health impacts, but even before they existed, we had decades worth of scientific data on the biological effects of microwaves.

That’s probably why they don’t do much in the way of citing studies. They do show a few snippets of statements of supposed harm from mobile phones. But that’s it.

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Posted in Bad Science, inverse square, media, Obfuscation

First Solar Roadway Built – And Worse Than You Would Have Thought

November 13th, 2014

A few years ago, I touched on the subject of solar roadways.  The concept has gotten quite a bit of attention from the general public, mostly due to slick marketing.   It’s actually a terrible idea.  There’s really no more expensive way to pave a road, and, if you are going to have solar cells, you won’t find a much worse place for them than on the ground, potentially shaded and not tilted toward the sun.  Beyond that, the solar cells are exposed to moisture, dirt, grime, vibration and pressure.   The surface needs to be covered with some kind of super-durable transparent material, but aside from possibly synthetic diamond, all potential transparent substances will scratch and scuff with time.
Despite all these issues, one has finally been built.  Technically, it’s not a road but a bike path.  It is however, a start.  A start to what, I’m not sure.

Via the BBC:

Netherlands unveils world’s first solar bike lane

The world’s first cycle lane made from solar cells produces enough energy to power three households.

Installed in Krommenie, 25 kilometres from Amsterdam, the pilot project is 70 metres long, and will be extended to 100 metres by 2016.

The bike path is made from rectangular concrete modules that contain solar cells, and is encased in a one-inch thick layer of glass strong enough to withstand a truck.

It is capable of producing enough energy to power three homes, though is 30% less efficient than roof-mounted solar panels, as these can be aligned to the sun.

Due to be officially launched on 12 November, the project has so far cost €1.5 million euros, though will ultimately cost up to €3 million once finalised.

Dr Sten de Wit from SolaRoad, the consortium behind the project, envisages that solar roads could eventually be used to power the electric vehicles that use them.

“Electric vehicles are on the rise, but are not really a substitute until the electricity they use is generated in a sustainable way. Roads can generate power right where it is needed,” de Wit explains in a publication for the contract research organisation TNO.

“Sensors gathering information about traffic circulation can help improve traffic management, or even allow automatic vehicle guidance,” de Wit added.

A couple in the United States is currently raising funds for a solar-powered road project. Julie and Scott Brusaw predict that if every US highway incorporated solar technology, the country would generate three times as much electricity as it currently consumes.

The catch? The technology is also three times more expensive to install.

Only there times the cost? Standard solar power may be expensive, but it is not *that* expensive.

The article states that the path can power three households. That’s a terrible way of benchmarking power output, because a “household” can consume anywhere from almost zero watts to several kilowatts, depending on what is being operated. From what I have seen, however, it is often used to mean kilowatts, where one kilowatt is presumed to be the approximate electricity consumption of a household.

If that is the case, this has a peak output of three kilowatts. That, of course, would be nameplate capacity, and almost never reached. The path might come close to three kilowatts, but it will often be much less and at night will be approximately zero kilowatts. For comparison, this is about the power output of the engine on a riding lawnmower. It’s enough to operate a singe laundromat dryer.

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Posted in Bad Science, Enviornment, Politics

HAARP Being Retired

November 2nd, 2014

In 1993, a facility was established in Alaska known as HAARP or High Frequency Auroral Research Program.  It is operated as a joint project by the US Air Force, US Navy, University of Alaska and DARPA.   HAARP was built by BAE Advanced Technologies on a site owned by the US Air Force.  Much of the administration is handled by the University of Alaska.  In it’s two decade history, the facility has cost tax payers roughly half a billion dollars in both construction cost and annual operating expenses.  This is not a huge sum of money for a military research program, given the number of years it is spread out over.

HAARP has a number of different scientific instruments and systems on site.  These include UHF and VHF radars, geomagnetic sensors and radio receivers.  However, the heart of HAARP is a very powerful HF transmitting system, connected to a phased array of upward-pointing high gain antennas.  It directs a beam of up to 3.6 megawatts of RF energy upward at the ionosphere.  The operating frequency is between 2.8 and 10 MHz.

HAARP is an ionospheric heater.  It uses this energy to excite the ionosphere over the site.  The heating and excitement of the ionosphere allows measurements to be taken of the general state of the ionosphere.  Some of the energy is reflected back to the ground and can be received and analyzed. Pumping the ionosphere with RF energy can also produce a temporary controlled plasma turbulence effect.   The overall effect, however, is relatively modest and highly localized.  The 3.6 megawatts of RF energy a facility like HAARP can produce is quite small compared to the effects of geomagnetic fluctuation and solar wind particles on the ionosphere.

haarpimage

HAARP is basically a research facility.  There are a number of types of research conducted at HAARP.  Much of it is public, although some of the activities are military related and classified.

 Some of the classified military-related research that is either being conducted at HAARP or which has been credibly speculated to be conducted at HAARP include:

  • General purpose ionospheric science
  • Measurements of ionospheric bending of radio waves in order to improve HF direction finding
  • The effects of ionospheric disturbances on GPS reliability
  • HF communications jamming and countermeasures to jamming
  • Next generation over the horizon radar
  • Improved understanding of how ionospheric events, such as solar storms or nuclear weapon detonations can impact communications
  • The use of ionospheric stimulation as a means of generating ultra low frequency radio waves, which are vital to submarine communication and typically require very large antennas to transmit

Most of the science that goes on at HAARP is public, but even the potentially classified activities are, by most accounts, pretty innocuous, as far as classified research goes.  After all, it’s really nothing more than a big radio transmitter.  There’s nothing on site that has any real potential to be used as an offensive weapon.

That has not stopped conspiracy theorists.  HAARP is one of their favorite facilities.  It’s been linked to every other bogus claim from chemtrails to mind control.  It’s been said that HAARP can control the world’s weather, that it is responsible for earthquakes or major weather events.  Others have claimed that it is the cause of everything from chronic fatigue syndrome to the downing of aircraft and the 2003 loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

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Posted in Bad Science, Conspiracy Theories, Just LAME, Misc, Not Even Wrong

Wisconsin Girl Did Not Die Because of HPV Vaccine

October 22nd, 2014

On July 30 of this year, twelve year old Meredith Prohaska visited her doctor. She was suffering from a sore throat, but aside from that she seemed to be in good health and had no history of major health problems. While at the doctor, she received the HPV vaccine. After returning home she took a nap. A few hours later, her mother found her dead.

It’s an understatement to say that this story is tragic. One cannot even imagine the shock and grief suffered by her parents and family and the pain of her absence, which they will endure for the rest of their lives. By all accounts Meredith was a vibrant girl with a promising future.

Her death was covered extensively in the news media, always reported as having died shortly after getting the HPV vaccine. Her mother and father both suspected that the vaccine was to blame. It’s not surprising that they would, seeing as no other explanation seemed to be available for her death.

Reporting in the mainstream media has had the usual sensational undertones. But other sites have done far worse. The story was taken up by nearly every anti-vaccine group around, with claims that the HPV vaccine certainly killed this young woman. This has been held up as proof of vaccine injury and that the HPV vaccine is dangerous or deadly.

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Posted in Bad Science, Good Science, Quackery

Attempt to Use Solar Power At Protest Fails When Power Proves Inadiquate

October 16th, 2014

I have little else to say about this. However, it goes to show why there is an electrical grid that feeds reliable power to homes and businesses. Power which is generated by fossil fuels, nuclear or hydroelectric energy sources. If we tried to run things on solar panels like this, similar results would occur.

Perhaps they should have used larger batteries to power the fans. Apparently it’s usually powered with gas-driven generators, which are somewhat cleaner than coal, but still produce emissions and consume fossil fuels.




Posted in Bad Science, Enviornment, Just LAME, media, Nuclear

No, Vaccines Do Not Contain Aborted Fetuses

October 13th, 2014

Yet another claim about vaccines and autism has been making the rounds.  It claims that autism may be the result of human fetus tissue, which is present in vaccines and is incorporated into the DNA of the individual vaccinated.

The implications beyond autism are disturbing to many, especially those who oppose abortion.  In any case, it seems very offputting to think about being injected with the cells of a dead fetus.

Via CBS News:

Vaccines and autism: a new scientific review
Most people will find it hard to believe that human DNA is contained in up to 23 different vaccines due to the fact a lot of the viruses are grown on aborted fetal tissue. As a result of the viruses being grown on aborted fetal tissue it is nearly impossible to separate residue from the fetuses completely from the vaccines. This adds a whole new element to the vaccination debate for those who are pro life. I don’t think many people would knowingly inject aborted fetal tissue into their children. Would you?

In a recent study by the Journal of Immunotoxicology entitled Theoretical aspects of autism: Causes–A review, the report even goes so far as to say that this can be linked to the spike in rates of autism. The basic reason the Journal points out the immune system is tricked into associating harmful viruses with human DNA. Then the immune system starts attacking human tissue in your own body. The scientist Helen Ratajczak who did the study and wrote the report says,

“Because it’s human DNA and recipients are humans, there’s homologous recombinaltion tiniker. That DNA is incorporated into the host DNA. Now it’s changed, altered self and body kills it. Where is this most expressed? The neurons of the brain. Now you have body killing the brain cells and it’s an ongoing inflammation. It doesn’t stop, it continues through the life of that individual.”

This is absolutely not a scientific review. This is just banter from a known anti-vaccine activist who likes to get media attention. Such unscientific claims are not uncommon and often are inflammatory or gut-wrenching.

There is absolutely no human tissue present in vaccines. However, even if there was, it would not cause the recipient to somehow absorb the genetic material.
Rather, the body would quickly mount an immune response to the foreign cells, which can be dramatic and, in extreme cases, even result in death. This is why powerful immune-suppresant drugs are require for organ donation.

Of course, we are exposed to the DNA of other individuals all the time. Kissing someone is likely to transfer skin cells from inside the mouth and result in ingesting some of the cells, along with their DNA. Sex involves the exchange of body fluids that are teaming with human DNA. DNA is also present in blood transfusions. Studies have found that the DNA of a blood donor can be detected in a recipient up to a week after the transfusion. However, the DNA never incorporates into the other cells of the body.

There’s also plenty of DNA and genetic material in the animal and plant material we constantly eat. Despite what many anti-gmo activists say, this DNA doesn’t affect the body of anyone who eats it. It’s mostly broken down in the digestive tract anyway, but regardless, it is not absorbed directly into living cells.

If any of this were true, it would have vast implications. It would also mean that handling blood or bodily fluids would carry additional hazards, beyond viruses or bacterial pathogens. The blood could actually modify your own genetic code. Criminals who are afraid they may have left DNA at a crime scene could just expose themselves to human tissue samples, altering their DNA and assuring that any DNA tests come up negative.

On the bright side, It would make it easy to alter the DNA of any individual, offering new treatments for genetic disease. Those who receive donated organs could have their DNA changed to that of the donor and thus avoid rejection. But, of course, none of this is real and human tissue can’t do that.

Where this seems to have come from:

Many viruses require human cells to grow in. When these viruses are needed to produce vaccines, it is common to use human sell cultures.  These are simply cells that are alive in the laboratory but not part of any person.  Human cells are obtained from certified cell banks.

These cultures come from a number of “lines,” meaning they are clones of a given group of cells.  Many of these cell lines date back to the 1960′s and have been used to produce vaccines up to the present day.  Of course, the original cells need to come from somewhere.  These cells could be sourced from any number of specimens.  It would be possible, for example, to draw cells from a biopsy of a healthy person and create a culture from them.

All adult cells have what is known as the Hayflick limit.  It’s  limit to the number of times  a cell can reproduce.  If adult cells were used for tissue cultures, they would have to be reharvested and new tissue cultures made on a frequent basis.  Fetal cells can survive for many more generations, making them ideal for producing tissue cultures.

Some of these cell lines originated with electively aborted fetuses.  Others did not.  However, in no case are actual fetal cells, from the original fetus used in the production of vaccines.  These are many generations away from the original cultured cells.

In fact, even the Vatican, which is strongly opposed to abortion has issued a statement saying that these vaccines are perfectly fine to use.

One should also remember that there are no human cells in the final product.  The viruses are extracted from the cell culture and processed, leaving very little residual matter from the tissue culture in the final vaccine.


Posted in Bad Science, media, Quackery

A Look At Russian Nuclear Icebreakers

October 13th, 2014

Given that Russian territorial waters include large areas of the far north, it’s no surprise that Russia has some of the world’s largest and most capable icebreakers.  A few of these are of the nuclear-powered variety.

Nuclear power is ideally suited to icebreakers, because it provides nearly limitless energy for propulsion and on board needs like heating and electricity.   Icebreakers tend to consume a lot of fuel, both because of their need for heat and because of the resistance posed by the ice, which requires large and powerful engines.  Nuclear power assures the ships will never be stranded in ice with low fuel and gives them the ability to run at full power without concern for fuel burned.

Russia’s fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers are the most capable ice-breaking ships in the world.  The icebreaker Artika was the first non-submarine to make it all the way to the North Pole, something few other ships could do.

In recent years, the icebreakers have been used in antarctic and arctic cruises, bringing passengers places few other ships could.  It’s not entirely clear if the contract for cruises on these ships will be renewed in future years, but at present, for the price of about nineteen thousand Euro, you can visit the antarctic from the comfort of a huge nuclear icebreaker.  Accommodations  on board are extremely comfortable, but because these ships were not built to be cruise liners, there’s only room for about one hundred guests.

A look inside really illustrates just what can be done with nuclear energy.  When you have limitless power at your disposal, anything is possible, including providing the creature comforts of home in an extremely harsh environment, with subzero temperatures while easily breaking through the toughest pack ice.

And yes, that is a swimming pool.  A small one, but a swimming pool none the less.  Why did they decide to put a pool on an icebreaker?  My guess is just to show off the fact that these icebreakers are such engineering masterpieces that nothing, not even swimming, needs to be omitted in the arctic and antarctic.   There are also saunas, libraries, gym areas and small theaters on the icebreakers.

Such recreational facilities also provide the crews of such icebreakers with much needed rest and relaxation during deployments in that can last several months.  For an escape from the dark and cold of the poles, they also have conservatory-like rooms with plants bathed in artificial sunlight.

The comforts, however, should not detract from appreciating the extreme capabilities of these ships.  They can cruise at more than twenty knots and break through some of the thickest ice in the world.  Their twin nuclear reactors are capable of delivering more than 350 megawatts of thermal power and providing 75,000 or more horsepower to the ship’s propellors.

These photos are not all of the same icebreaker

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The US Coast Guard operates a fleet of large icebreakers.  They’re very capable by any standard, but they are nothing compared to these nuclear-powered ships.  Like most of the world’s icebreakers, the Coast Guard uses conventional oil-fired propulsion.

One can only imagine the possibilities if nuclear power of this type were more widely embraced and deployed for marine propulsion.  Building a large number would undoubtedly bring the cost down, due to economics of scale.

Sources of Photos:

Natural Habitat
Eformable Nuclear NewsMoby Nova
English Russia
Poseidon Expiditions
Arctic Centre On Flicr


Posted in Good Science, History, Misc, Nuclear

Excellent Article On the Origin of Chemtrail Conspiracy Theories

October 8th, 2014

Of all the conspiracy theories out there, it’s one of the strangest and dumbest.  The idea that contrails, which have been a common site since aircraft started flying at high altitudes in the 1940′s, are, in fact, chemicals designed for something evil.  Depending on who you ask, it could be mind control, depopulation, weather modification or something else.  Those who subscribe to the conspiracy theory take it very seriously and think those who don’t must be blind “sheeple.”

But where on earth did this whole concept come from?

IO9 has an excellent article on the history of the chemtrail conspiracy theory, tracking it back to the 1990′s, when a combination of sensational reporting and speculation on weather modification resulted in the first claims that aircraft were actively spraying chemicals in some kind of conspiracy by the government. There is a grain of truth in the original claims – namely, that the military did investigate cloud seeding and other forms of weather modification and even employed them during the Vietnam war.  However, the conspiracy theories quickly went far past that.

Documentaries came later, along with online communities.  There were some “investigations,” if you can call them that, which are cited as evidence of chemtrails.  Among these are analysis reports that found aluminum in rainwater.  This is not surprising, because aluminum is one of the most common elements in the earth’s crust and rain typically picks up some dust, such as soil blown into the wind.

The article is worth a read as a case study in how a wacky conspiracy theory is born and eventually becomes populare.

 


Posted in Bad Science, Conspiracy Theories, Culture, Just LAME, Links

Trying out ads again

September 29th, 2014

Apologies in advance, but I could use some extra cash.  Feel free to use your favorite ad-blocker if you really don’t want to see them.

We’ll see how this works out.  If they’re just too obtrusive, I’ll get rid of them.


Posted in Announcements, Website

Where Humans Can go in the Solar System

September 29th, 2014

In recent years there has been much discussion about human space exploration venturing beyond the earth-moon system to take on Mars and possibly other planets.  In light of this, I decided to do a little research to determine exactly what celestial bodies are suitable for human exploration.  Certainly, humans can fly by most any part of the solar system, should they have an advanced enough spacecraft.  But there are a limited number of places where surface exploration is possible.  What qualifies these places is the ability to survive in any current or foreseeable space suite or any kind of reasonable habitation module.

Since we are far from having any kind of faster than light travel (which, if possible at all, requires warping space or using some kind of artificial wormhole) and we are not ready for multi-generational spacecraft, the solar system is pretty much what we are stuck with.

It seems the places we can actually send humans are pretty limited.  There is definitely Mars, but after that, what comes next?   Possibly some of the moons of Jupiter, assuming its worth our while to send humans there in the future.   Mars appears to be the best candidate for any kind of permanent or semi-permanent colonization or station.

Places humans could visit with reasonable habitat modules and/or spacesuits:

Mercury - Possibly on the side that faces away from the sun, but it’s questionable whether it would be worth visiting.

Venus - The temperature and pressure on the surface are far too high for a spacesuit.  Manned flybys, however, have been considered in the past.

Earth’s Moon - Yes, obviously, since it has been done.  The environment is certainly harsh, but well within the capabilities of a spacesuit.

Ceres - A dwarf planet that is the largest member of the asteroid belt.  It could be visited by humans in spacesuits for surface study, but it is so small that it would be possible to jump off it into space.  The gravity is not sufficient to allow walking around on it.  Therefore, it would be more like clinging to the surface and floating around it than it would be “landing” on it in the normal sense.

Other asteroids - Again, lack of gravity makes surface exploration in the sense of walking impossible.  It’s possible human exploration of an asteroid would be worthwhile.  Some asteroids may have orbits that make them easier to get to than mars or other planets.  The scientific value of this may be questionable.  An asteroid does not seem like a good place to position any kind of manned outpost or colony.

Mars - The environment on mars is certainly within the capabilities of a spacesuit.  The gravity is more than sufficient for relatively normal movement.  Mars is also close enough to earth to make a trip to and from Mars practical for a crew.  This is probably the best place for exploration beyond the earth-moon system, although asteroids have been suggested as well.

Phobos - The largest moon of mars, but still much smaller than our own moon and more similar to Ceres in size.  There is no atmosphere and it should be within the capabilities of spacesuits, but again, hard to really walk around on because of the small size and lack of strong gravity.  It has the advantage of being easier to take off from than the surface of mars, due to such little gravity.

Jupiter - No.  The gas giants are out of the question.  Not only is it a massive ball of gas, with nothing to stand on, but the pressure is far too high for survival, not to mention the crushing gravity.  Probes that visited the area around Jupiter discovered that it has powerful radiation belts, which could be a problem for even a manned flyby.

 Io (Moon of Jupiter) - Quite possible.  It is only slightly larger than our own moon, so it has a fair amount of gravity.  Radiation might or might not be an issue.  The distance from the sun would make it very cold, necessitating heated space suits.

Europe (Moon of Jupiter) - Also possible.  Good size, but the surface characteristics are less well known.  It is believed to be covered with either ice or a cold brittle rock.  The surface therefore may or may not be suitable for exploration.  Again, radiation and cold are issues.

Ganymede (Moon of Jupiter) - Similar to Io, but larger and thus more gravity on the surface, but still much smaller than earth.  Possible, but cold and radiation are concerns.

Callisto - Possible, rocky moon similar to Io and Ganymede

Saturn - No.  Again, as with Jupiter, the gas giant has massive gravity and no place to stand.

Titan (moon of Saturn) - It’s hard to say but it might be possible.  It’s larger than our own moon.  It has its own dense atmosphere, which is unusual for a moon.  It would be very cold and harsh, but maybe within the capabilities of future space suits and habitats.   With Saturn and its moons, the distance of the travel and thus the time exposed to cosmic radiation and weightlessness become an issue, although this could be overcome with a powerful enough rocket, such as a nuclear pulsed propulsion system.

Other moons of Saturn - Saturn has dozens of moons, with Titan being the largest.  Most of the moons are small and unappealing for manned exploration.

Uranus - No. It is a gas giant, though smaller than Jupiter and Saturn.

Moons of Uranus - Some might be possible, but the extreme distance becomes a concern.  None appear especially appealing.

Neptune – As with the others, no landing on this gas giant.

Moons of Neptune - Only one moon is of substantial size, Triton.  It might be possible, but cold, distance and radiation are issues.

Pluto and Satellites - Though no longer considered a planet, it could be a target worth investigating.  Probably not worth human exploration.  Not only is it far enough from the sun to be super cold, but the distance would necessitate many years in transit to and from it.   The same is true with other Kuiper belt objects.


Posted in Good Science, Misc, Space