Archive for the ‘Bad Science’ Category

Gas Turbines in Cars: The seemingly promising engine that never was

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

icewikidiagranToday nearly all cars are powered with a conventional, reciprocating internal combustion engine.

In such an engine, pistons (usually at least four) move up and down and are connected to a crank shaft that translates this into rotational motion.  As they move up and down, fuel vapor enters the combustion chamber and is ignited by a spark plug.   Then the exhaust must be expelled and the cycle repeats.  All of this is controlled by mechanical valves, with each cylinder having at least two.   The valves are pushed open and closed rapidly by cams that are driven by the engine.  Each valve must make a very tight seal and then reopen in a fraction of a second.  All of this, the sparks, the cams and the piston strokes must be perfectly timed.

While all this is happening a separate system continuously pumps oil through the cylinders, keeping their walls coated with oil.  The pistons have rings which allow this lubrication to happen while maintaining a seal around the piston. In addition to the oil pump, most internal combustion engines require water cooling, with a separate pump circulating water around the engine and through a radiator.

If that is not complex enough, the torque curve of an internal combustion engine is far less than ideal.  Too much load on the engine will make it stall.  Too little will mean the engine is not operating efficiently and only slow speeds will be obtainable, despite there being enough power for much higher speeds.  Thus, for the engine to operate efficiently, provide good acceleration and for the vehicle to run in reverse, a complex mechanical transmission with multiple gear ratios and a reverse gear is required.

Given the mechanical complexity and the need for such precise timing, it’s amazing these engines operate as well as they do and are as reliable as they are.

A better way?

On its face, a gas turbine seems to be a better solution to the problem of generating rotational motion from the burning of fuel.   It natively produces smooth rotational power, with no need for a crank shaft.  There are no cams or valves.  Although gas turbines require lubrication, the system is simpler.   The torque curve is far more favorable.  A turbine will not stall in the same way a conventional engine will.  If torque load is reduced, it will spin faster, exactly as you would want it to.  The transmission is therefore much simpler.  It may not even require separate speeds and is only vital as a way of providing reverse capabilities.   Gas turbines also are self-cooling, using only the air that flows through them to maintain temperatures.

There are some other, perhaps less important, advantages of a gas turbine.   The hot exhaust gas can be used to provide vehicle heat that is nearly instantaneous, with no need to wait for the engine to warm up.   The same gas turbine can burn a variety of fuels.  So a vehicle powered by a turbine engine could run on diesel, kerosene, gasoline, alcohol or perfume.  This is one reason gas turbines are used on the M1 Abrams tank, simplifying the logistics of providing fuel.

It seems logical that an engine that is so mechanically simple, with far fewer moving parts and a near perfect torque curve would be the next big thing in automotive propulsion.

And many tried…

gmfirebirdThe big three US automakers all spent considerable amounts of money to try to adapt the gas turbine to automotive use, each building a number of prototypes of varying success.  GM built a number of futuristic concept cars in the 1950‘s that featured a gas turbine engine.

But no automaker put nearly as much time, money or effort into the gas turbine car as did Chrysler.  From the 1950′s until the 1970′s, Chrysler spent millions on programs to deploy gas turbines in cars.  They built numerous prototypes, including some which were placed in the hands of various test motorists, who drove them for over a year.  Overall, the response from test groups was positive, but there were a number of issues that were never really solved.

The image bellow is of Chrysler’s CR1, arguably the most successful gas turbine car.  Fifty five were built and, in 1963, they were given to a group of lucky motorists to evaluate over a year of driving.  Although reviews were generally good, the project did not go anywhere.  After taking back the cars, Chrysler ended up destroying all but nine of them.  Today they are in museums or in Jay Leno’s garage.

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Students Make Film About Vaccines – Get Harrassment

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

It’s always nice to see young people with a passion for science, reality, skepticism and advocacy.   In Carlsbad, CA, a group of highschool students in a journalism class made a film about vaccines and vaccine denialism.  (It’s on the correct side of it)

Via NBC San Diego

More than a dozen current and former Carlsbad High School students have found themselves in the middle of the long-running vaccination debate after they produced the film Invisible Threat.

The film debuted online August 1, more than a year after it was completed.

Students tell NBC 7 that’s largely due to the backlash they’ve faced, even during the production stage.

Brad Streicher worked on the film his junior year. The current USC student and NBC 7 intern said the idea came from the San Diego Rotary Club.

People there were impressed by two previous films they’d worked on and wanted the high school broadcast journalism class to do one on the immune system and immunizations.

“We ended up telling Rotary we’ll do the film but only on our terms, which means we were going to approach the film from a journalistic standpoint,” said Streicher. “We wanted to make sure whatever story we were telling, it would be unbiased and we would attack it from both sides of the argument.”

The Rotary gave the students $60,000 for the project with that understanding, according to Streicher.

Months into the film’s production, students say they started to received e-mails and online comments harshly criticizing their work.

People called the project “pro-vaccine” and “propaganda.” At one point the teacher and director of the film, Douglas Green, proposed the students stop the project. The students refuse.

Here’s a video about the production and the students behind it:


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One in Three Americans Implanted with RFID’s? Not really

Friday, August 8th, 2014

First, a basic primer on what RFID’s are:

An RFID is a small computer chip which holds a very small amount of information, typically just a string of numbers, letters or other symbols.  The chip has a tiny radio transmitter in it, and when a reader is brought near it, it will broadcast that data so it can be read by the reading device, which contains a radio receiver.

Importantly, RFID’s are not self-powered.  They are far too tiny for any kind of battery capacity.  Instead, the RFID reader energizes the RFID with an electromagnetic field.  When the RFID is placed in the field, it becomes activated and transmits the code it contains.   As a result, RFID’s can’t be read from any substansial distance.   But they can be read even if they are covered, such as if they are on the inside of a box or embedded in an object.

intermec-rfidThey also do not have any actual computing power.  They can’t receive GPS signals or transmit data, because they lack sensors and receivers.  They simply spit out their internal code when energized.

RFID’s are therefore analogous to bar codes.  The major difference is that a barcode needs to be visible, on the outside of an item and reading it requires finding it and directing a scanner at it.  RFID’s have the advantage of working when obscured and of being readable by running the reader over an item, even if the exact location of the RFID is unknown.   They can therefore be used to inventory merchandise while it is still on the shelf or to track multiple items as they move through a system.  They can also be embedded in things like credit cards or security passes, allowing them to be used by just holding them near a reader.

VeriChip_Corp-fingerRFID’s can also be implanted.  A typical RFID implant is about the size and shape of a grain of rice.  It contains the chip inside a biologically inert material which is shaped to allow it to be inserted through a very small incision or even injected with a thick needle.  A few individuals have chosen to have an RFID implanted as a way of accessing secure systems.  This works a lot like biometrics, but may be more robust.  When implanted with an RFID, an individual can do things like open locks and sign onto secure computers by just waving their hand infr0nt of a reader.  (Presuming, of course, that their hand is where it is implanted.)

This is rare, however.  Only a few people have RFID’s in their body and it’s largely just a way of being a super early-adopted.  It will earn you some definite nerd points.

Implantable RFID’s are common for pets, however.  The RFID acts as a tag that cannot be easily removed or lost.  Once implanted, the pet can be tracked back to its owner if it ever gets lost and is picked up by an animal shelter.  Animal shelters typically have RFID readers on site and will scan a dog or cat when they are found without identification.  If the animal has an RFID, then the unique code it carries is displayed on the reader.  This code can be used to find the owners in a database.

But what about mass implantation in people without their consent?

This is a common thread in conspiracy theories.  Some have claimed that the government (or some other evil organization) is planning on or has already begun putting RFID’s in the bodies of unsuspecting citizens.  Allegedly this is to track their movements and keep tabs on them.  Others claim it is part of a mind-control system.

Of course, despite claims that they can be used for realtime tracking, an RFID cannot be used for this at all.  As mentioned, it is only energized when it comes in close proximity to the receiver.  It could, however, be used to identify individuals when they entered certain areas which are equipped with readers for the RFID’s.

Arguably this could be done without RFID readers at all.  A simple fingerprint scanner and identify and individual from a database of fingerprints.  However, RFID’s would have the advantage of allowing it to be done more covertly, perhaps without the subjects knowledge.

There is no evidence that this has ever been done, however… or is there?

Via National Report:

Study Finds 1 in 3 Americans Have Been Implanted With RFID Chips: Most Unaware
Scientists at the Wyoming Institute of Technology (WIT) have determined that a shocking 1 in 3 Americans has been implanted with an RFID microchip. In an article published this week, they detail a study of nearly 3000 individuals, in which they identified nearly 1000 individuals that had been implanted with an RFID chip. Most were unaware that they had been implanted with such a chip. This finding comes amongst increasing predictions that RFID chip implantation will become common place in the next decade.

Lead scientist on the study, John Brugle, Ph.D. offered the following:

We were motivated to perform this study by all of the public interest in RFID implantation and fears that it would be common place. It turns out, in fact, that it is already common place. We found that a shockingly high number of Americans are carrying RFID implants in their body. The overwhelming majority of these individuals were completely unaware that they had been implanted. I hope that this study causes us to take pause as a society and truly consider the ramifications and implications of human RFID implantation.

The study looked both at the prevalence of RFID implantation, as well as the common implantation locations. In addition to commonly known implantation sites, such as the back of the hand, they also identified many RFID chips that had been implanted in dental fillings. The function of the chips varied, but the authors of the study indicated that many revealed personal identities, including social security numbers, as well as medical records. The best way to determine if you have been implanted with an RFID chip is to consult a qualified medical professional to administer a full body scan with an RFID reader. Concerned citizens can also attempt a self scan, but civilian grade scanners are not always sensitive enough to detect implanted RFID chips.

 

Sounds scary! Especially considering that they have some kind of amazing and previously unknown type of RFID that requires an ultra-sensitive scanner that you and I can’t get our hands on. It begs the question of what their plans are and who is doing it.

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It had to happen: The Ebola Conspiracy Theories

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

It happens periodically:  Ebola, a highly contagious and very deadly virus with horrific symptoms known as “flesh eating” has flared up in Africa.   This recent outbreak has been especially bad.   The virus is native to Africa and appears to survive in natural reservoirs such as bats or gorillas.  Periodically, it makes the jump to humans and that is where an outbreak occurs.

The only good news is that these outbreaks tend to be short-lived and the lives lost never total more than the hundreds.  Granted that’s a tragedy for everyone who loses their life, but the scale is small.   There are a number of reasons for this, including the generally rapid response to contain it.  But also, the nature of the virus makes it prone to brief outbreaks.   It does not have an extended incubation period and often kills its host quickly.  This makes it an inefficient virus when it comes to transmission, because it is the fact that many viruses have a long period when the host is apparently healthy that they are able to infect so many.

Well, it had to happen.   The conspiracy theories have started:  It was produced by the government, to depopulate the world or just out of evil.  It was caused by HAARP or chemtrails.  Yes, they are all out there and the anti-vaccine groups are getting in on the action.

Here is what the Australian Vaccination Network has to say:

With the current epidemic of Ebola, it is instructive to remember that
the first outbreaks of a Filovirus (Marburg which is nearly identical to Ebola and which causes clinically indistinguishable hemorrhagic disease) took place simultaneously in laboratories in Frankfurt, Marburg and Belgrade in 1967. These labs were all producing vaccines using (amongst other animals) African green monkeys.

Interestingly, though the outbreak was associated with the monkeys,
there is no known animal reservoir for either of these viruses -
humans appear to be their only victims. It seems that fruit bats can
spread the virus but they are not affected by it.

The Filoviruses also appear to be a strange combination of viruses
which have never before been seen in nature – much like the 2009 ‘swine-flu’ which the well-respected scientist, Adrian Gibb, said had to have been man-made. These viruses have strong structural & genetic similarities to both Rhabdoviruses & the Paramyxoviruses (both measles and mumps are paramyxoviruses) – and are novel or new – never having been seen before.

And again, the index cases were not in Africa but instead, were in European vaccine laboratories.

These facts have to lead a thinking person to ask the question – are these viruses man-made or do we believe that their sudden emergence simultaneously in three European vaccine labs is a mere coincidence?

People in parts of Africa affected by this outbreak are avoiding doctors like (pun intended) the plague and you have to think – do they know something that we don’t know?

There are so many conspiracy theory websites out there, it’s hard to even pick one to use as an example. But here’s a good one.

Via the Sky Alert:



Click here if your browser does not support embedded videos

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British MP Seeks to Incorporate Astrology Into National Healthcare System

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Well at least the US is not alone in having idiots for elected leaders.

Via the BBC:

Astrology-loving MP seeks health answers in the stars
A Conservative MP has spoken of his belief in astrology and his desire to incorporate it into medicine.

David Tredinnick said he had spent 20 years studying astrology and healthcare and was convinced it could work.

The MP for Bosworth, a member of the health committee and the science and technology committee, said he was not afraid of ridicule or abuse.

“There is no logic in attacking something that has a proven track record,” he told BBC News.

He said he had studied the Indian astrological system Iahiri and the way it was used by that country’s government and recalled how Chris Patten, Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong, had an official astrologer, whom Mr Tredinnick had consulted while on a parliamentary delegation there.

The MP recently spoke about his beliefs at the Glastonbury Festival, sharing a platform with Daily Mail astrologer Jonathan Cainer.

Recalling the experience in the House of Commons, he said he had been invited to take part because of his “radical agenda” on complementary medicine – he is vice-chairman of the government’s herbals working group.

He said he had been the subject of much ridicule for his beliefs over the years, including a fake Twitter account entitled “Inside the head of David Tredinnick”, but many of the sceptics who had attacked him were “bullies” who had “never studied the subjects”.

“I am absolutely convinced that those who look at the map of the sky for the day that they were born and receive some professional guidance will find out a lot about themselves and it will make their lives easier,” he told MPs.

Explaining his beliefs to BBC News, Mr Tredinnick said he had been right about herbal remedies and healing, which he said were now becoming accepted in parts of the NHS, and he now wanted to promote astrology, which was not just predicting the future but gaining an insight into personal problems.

I don’t have much more to say to this. I have, however, studied the subject. No, I have not studied the mechanics of astronomical prediction, but I have studied the accuracy, repeatability and social acceptance of astrology. I can say that science undoubtedly shows it does not work. This is no surprise, of course. The basis is arbitrary animals, characters and objects that ancient people say in the patterns of stars, which are themselves many light-years apart in space.

The fact that herbal and “natural” medicine is becoming accepted by NHS is not proof that it works. It’s proof that politicians and the public are ignorant of the subject and demand it. We have the same problem of alternative medicine creeping into the mainstream in the US. In fact, most countries seem to have that issue these days.

It’s also not a huge surprise that the former governor of Hong Kong had an astrologer. Many politicians are prone to believing in astrology or other superstitions.

Of course, when they use these superstitions to govern, that can be a problem. Thankfully for the UK, this one member of parliament is unlikely to be able to do much about getting astrology officially recognized or making it part of the medical system.

It is still unfortunate that this MP sits on science and health committees. Isn’t there someplace else they can put him? What about the Ministry of Silly Walks?

Weather Modification Methods That May Actually Work

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

There is much said about modifying weather by various conspiracy theorists and alike.  Often said to be the result of chemtrails or RF weapons, the fact is that the weather is very hard to modify.  It can be modified, but only under certain conditions and in a very localized area.

The best known method of weather modification is cloud seeding.  While data is sparse on the total effectiveness, especially in different conditions, it does seem to work, at least when applied to favorable clouds.   There are some other methods of weather modification.  I’ve listed them to show just how difficult really is.

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Ivanpah Solar Power Facility Is Incinerating Birds

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility is a very large solar thermal power facility.  And by “very large,” I mean very large.  In fact, it is so enormous it’s hard to even wrap your mind around how large it is.   It also cost about 2.2 billion dollars, which is quite a lot of money.   A reasonably sized nuclear power plant could be built for the same cost.  In the US, this would be difficult, given the regulatory costs, but other countries have built modern Generation III+ reactors for two billion dollars per unit or less.

 solarfacility

Of course, that’s just the capital cost.  It’s harder to pin down the operational cost.  As many will point out, it doesn’t use any fuel in the conventional sense.  But it does employ 86 full time workers, plus an even larger number of contractors.  It also has a lot of sensitive equipment baking in the sun, which is likely to need frequent replacement.   It’s hard to know exactly what it costs to operate the plant and what the cost per kilowatt hour comes out to be, because the operators have kept much of the relevant financial data confidential.

What is known is that the agreed price per wholesale kilowatt hour is “at or below” 12.5 cents per kwh, before time and demand adjustments.  That would seem to imply it is more expensive than other methods of power generation.   Published data indicates the cost of operating a solar thermal power plant is more than 2.5 times that of a coal or nuclear facility.  The Ivanpah facility may benefit from economics of scale to bring that down a bit, but it’s still clear that the plant has a much higher cost per megawatt-hour than a fossil fuel power station.

None the less, plants like Ivanpah are financially viable, at least for the time being.  They receive massive tax credits and other

But in terms of power output, it’s not actually that big…

The total nameplate capacity of the Ivanpah facility is anticipated to be 377 megawatts, when complete.  That’s not small, but it’s not really that large either.  In utility terms, if it were a standard thermal power plant, it would be considered medium sized.  By comparison, a modern nuclear facility with two generation III+ reactors might have an output of between 2.5 and 3.5 gigawatts.  Large coal and gas plants can be equally large and occasionally larger.

floatingpowersystem377 megawatts, however, would be enough to power the New York City subway system, but not during rush hour.  It would power a medium sized aluminum smelter.  It would not be enough to power a city of any size, but could provide the power used by a medium sized town on a summer day.

Of course, 377 MW is the anticipated nameplate capacity of the plant.  The capacity factor is only about 30%, meaning that the plant could be thought of as the equivalent of a continuously operating base-load power plant that produces about 110-120 megawatts.  Most nuclear and coal plants operate at near full capacity most of the time.  There are also many hydroelectric plants that crank out a continuous 120 megawatts night and day.

In utility terms, that’s hardly a lot of power.  It’s more than enough to power everything in many homes, but a power plant with this capacity would not be considered very large at all. It’s more in line with the kind of “distributed” power plants that might be used to provide local peaking and load-following.  It’s less power than a large ship produces.  Even a single 747 can produce more power when cruising.  It is, however, enough to power a few dozen small to medium sized locomotives.

So it is not tiny but not that big, and comes at a huge financial cost.

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Some Are Up In Arms Over Bodies Being Used For Crash Experiments

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Cars have never been safer.  That fact is largely due to the use of crash tests and destructive experiments conducted on car designs.   Similar tests have improved the safety of everything from airline seats to passenger rail cars.

To do these tests, sophisticated crash test dummies have been developed.  These dummies have improved vastly over the years.  They are reusable, packed with sensors and designed to accurately mimic the human body’s response to crashes.

However, to make these dummies and to validate their response, there must be something to compare them to.  Ideally, that would be real, living, breathing, healthy, humans.  Unfortunately, ethics boards tend to have a problem with using humans for anything other than the most benign of crash tests.  Living human volunteers are still used for some things, like range of motion measurements or determining things like tissue density.  When it comes to actual crash tests, however, it’s dead humans, cadavers, that are used to conduct the tests.

The overwhelming majority of crash tests don’t use cadavers, but they remain an important part of research.  The bodies are treated with respect and are generally wrapped in materials that cover parts like the face and hands.  But, in the end, they are hurled against things and beaten to a pulp before being x-rayed or autopsied to determine the injuries sustained.

This really bothers some people a lot…


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Most of the bodies used are from those who never granted specific permission to use their remains in crash tests, but did donate their bodies to science.  There is no requirement that those who agreed to have their bodies used for scientific purposes are given more details about what kind of research that might be.  In fact, it’s often not until after they die that it is determined how the body will be used.

I find the distaste for this to be misplaced.  If one donates their body to science, it is to be expected that things will happen to it that might not be pretty.  If it doesn’t get hurled against a wall, it will be chopped up in pathology studies or anatomy classes or it might be left out to rot in decay studies.  No, it’s not pleasant to think of, especially with loved ones, but it’s not much worse than the alternative.  If not donated to science, the body will either be put into the ground to rot or burned.   Neither of these are really something many of us want to look forward to.  But that’s death, which is something I am trying to put off for as long as reasonably possible.

If nothing else, this use of cadavers could be considered the most important, at least in so far as its impact on the living.  Few other experiments represent a more direct means of saving human lives.

Personally, I do not find it deceptive to not tell donors or their families about the possibilities of crash tests.  The best way of dealing with a grieving family, in my opinion, is to provide some basic information.  For example, one could say “Your relative has decided to donate their body to science.  Their remains will be used in a manner that will advance scientific and medical knowledge.   There are a number of ways this might happen.  We could give you the details about the kind of experiments carried out, but to be honest, you would probably wouldn’t want to hear all the details.”

It’s no different than most funeral arrangements.  Families may know their loved one will be embalmed and prepared for display and burial.  However, they aren’t normally given the full details about how the deceased will have their blood drained, their eyes glued shut and cotton balls stuffed up their anus.  That’s just not a picture most would want to have.

 

 

People Panicing Over Military Equipment Shipped By Rail

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Imagine this:  you see a train pass you by and rather than just having nondescript boxcars or inter-modal containers, it has *gasp* military vehicles on it.  It’s as if the military sometimes has to ship vehicles from one place to another!   Well, this has been happening, in fact, it seems that this activity is increasing and the result is about what you might have expected.  Youtubers and conspiracy theorists are posting videos like crazy saying it is a sure sign of impending marshal law/genocide/mass imprisonment or something similar.


The simple answer as to why you might see tanks and large trucks on trains:  they burn a lot of fuel.  Trains tend to be more efficient as a means of transporting military hardware.

Also, treaded vehicles can’t be driven on US roadways, and even if they could, they are too slow to keep up with traffic on highways.  They therefore must be transported by flat bed trucks or railroad.  Rail is the preferred method when moving more than a small number.

There are a number of reasons why tanks and other equipment might be shipped in mass on rail:

  1. There is some kind of realignment or transition in the location of forces which results in it being sent between installations.
  2. It is required for a training exercise or some other temporary function.
  3. The equipment is new and being deployed to the location where it is to be kept.
  4. It is traveling to or from a facility where it has been refurbished or had other major maintenance preformed.
  5. It has recently returned from deployment overseas.
  6. It is on its way to deployment overseas.
  7. It is surplus equipment which is being disposed of, which could include any number of ultimate fates, including scrapping, sales to other armed forces, sales to private entities etc.
  8. It is being placed in long term storage in a location where it will be in “mothballs.”  Typically this is at one of a few large installations located in the Western US.

Transition of equipment by train is quite common and routine.  It’s also nothing new.  During the Second World War and into the height of the Cold War, military equipment trains were a very common site.  Though the practice never really went away, it is not surprising that the practice would have recently increased in frequency.

The United States has withdrawn from Iraq and is currently drawing down troop levels in Afghanistan.  The result of this is that huge numbers of military vehicles have been brought back to the US.  These are likely to be shipped on trains to the facilities where they will be stored.  It has been pointed out that many of the vehicles have been seen in green forest camouflage color schemes, leading to the claim that they must not be related to the activities in the middle-east.  However, these vehicles may simply be those which have been displaced by the return of other vehicles, which has resulted in a huge realignment of assets.

One of the biggest realignments of vehicles is occurring with the MRAP or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. Thousands of vehicles of this type were purchased in huge numbers by the US military during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are designed to be highly survivable when attacked by IED’s, landmines, rocket propelled grenades and other such weapons. This was a direct response to the tactics used against the US by insurgents.

The vehicles worked very well and resulted in a reduction in the deaths of soldiers from ambushes on convoys. However, the military now has thousands more MRAP’s than it requires. Although several thousand will be retained, more than 13,000 are in the process of being declared surplus. Some are being given to law enforcement agencies (which does present some concerns of the militarization of police forces) while others are behind sold to allied nations. Still others are off to the scrap heap or the bone-yard.

Transporting all these vehicles to reprocessing facilities and then to their ultimate fate represents yet another huge logistical challenge.

A few other things to consider (if we are to play devils advocate):

  1. Tanks are not very good for urban warfare.  They might work for breaking down some of the initial barriers, but they are too big to go through narrow allies or streets, too heavy for many bridges and overpasses and pavement causes a great deal of wear on the treads (and the treads cause a lot of wear on the pavement).  They’re better for warfare in more open and unsettled areas.   Also, the sheer armor of tanks would not be necessary for war against the population, where they would likely only face small arms fire.
  2. Those big heavy vehicles use a huge amount of fuel, so if they are planning on actually driving them around, they would also be transporting an equal number of tanker trucks.  In modern military activities, the logistics of fuel delivery turns out to be a huge issue.  Raiding the local gas stations won’t keep them moving very long.  The fuel tanks might be large enough to ferry the vehicles off the train cars, but sustained combat means huge fuel requirements.
  3. When military vehicles need to be brought to an area for something urgent, like combat, trains are not generally the best method for transportation.  Trains are cheap, but they are slow, vulnerable, subject to delays etc.  If they wanted to quickly deploy urban combat vehicles, they would airlift them in.  That way, it could be done rapidly, before anyone even knew what was happening.  Tanks can be brought in on large cargo planes.  It’s fast and effective, but expensive.
  4. A train full of tanks is not going to do much good in declaring marshal law unless you can get the tanks off the train.  That is more involved than you might think.  It requires parking the train, separating the cars, with switching engines, rolling the tanks down ramps and removing any equipment used to secure them during transport.  For a large train, this is not a trivial task.  It requires a rail yard with the proper equipment, which exist on military bases, but not generally in random city locations.
  5. If they really wanted to hide them, it would not be that hard to put them in large boxes or just cover them with tarps to make it more discrete.  Do you really think they would be doing this in broad daylight?
  6. Many of these videos are months old.  A few are years old.  This has been going on for a while.  Granted, the government is slow, but that slow?  How long do you think they are going do be doing this evil transportation before they pounce on you?

Why do enviornmental groups hate desalination?

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Water is one of the most important resources to society.  The availability of water has dictated the locations of some cities and limited the growth of others.  It is also one of the major necessities for agriculture.

Many areas have limited supplies of water and others are prone to shortages or droughts.  Still others do have sufficient water supplies, but in securing necessary water, huge quantities had to be diverted, resulting in ecological disasters such as the shrinking of the Aral Sea.

kennedyquoteOf course, there is an effectively limitless supply of water in the world’s oceans, and many of the most arid regions are located near the coast.  However, ocean water is far too salty for consumption by humans, for irrigation and for most other uses.   Thus, it is not that the world lacks water – we have plenty of it, but that many areas lack fresh water.

Therefore, assuming it could be made economical, desalination would seem like an ideal solution to this persistent problem.  Desalination is the only source of water that can be considered to be, for all intents and purposes, unlimited.  After all, all nearly all water ends up back in the ocean anyway.  With desalination, there are no concerns over droughts or of overdrawing an aquifer.  There are no seasonal shortages or reduction in the availability of water.

It could also be argued that desalination, in and of itself, has virtually no negative ecological consequences.  The need for water has lead to aquifers being depleted, rivers being diverted, lakes running dry and to the construction of massive dams and canals, sometimes with severe environmental consequences.   Therefore, even in areas where adequate fresh water is available, using desalination for basic water needs could greatly reduce the impacts of water sourced from rivers, lakes and aquifers.

The only negative environmental consequence associated with desalination is the need to dispose of the highly concentrated brine that is produced.  Separating the water from the sale of seawater means that salt must be disposed of.  It is usually in the form of a highly concentrated brine, much more salty than the water that was taken in.  This brine is not itself toxic, but the salinity levels are too high for most marine life.   If it were to be discharged directly into the ocean, it would result in the area around the discharge becoming too salty for most marine life.

This is certainly not an unmanageable problem.  The most obvious solution is to dilute and disperse the waste bring back into the ocean.  This is possible, but it can be a major task for large facilities.  Other options include recycling the brine into a useful product.  For example, it can be used to produce saltcrete.  Or, it can be further concentrated and then dried into salt, which can be sold commercially.

desalplantoperationalwThe one major downside of desalination is that it is energy intensive, far more energy intensive than more conventional means of obtaining freshwater. In addition to energy usage, desalination plants can be complicated, and the handling of saltwater requires the use of corrosion-resistant materials.  The water produced often requires additives for PH adjustment and the addition of trace minerals.  All of this adds to the expense of desalination as a water source.

For this reason, it is not generally used if other alternatives exist.  Many parts of the world, including much of the middle east and numerous islands are dependent on desalination to provide for their basic water needs.  While it does work for this, it remains the option of last resort, due to the economics.

That said, the economics of desalination have been improving steadily over the years.  With increasing demand for water, a great deal has been invested in desalination research and development.  New plants are constantly being built with ever-increasing efficiency and improved economics.  In recent years, major improvements have been made to reverse osmosis-based water desalination systems, which are now being deployed on an industrial scale.  The efficiency of distillation systems have also improved with the introduction of better heat recovery and multiple-effect distillation.

Modern desalination plants can now get a large portion of their energy requirements from the waste heat produced by power generation.  The use of co-generation for desalination further improves economics and reduce energy requirements.  Nuclear desalination is an especially appealing option, since nuclear reactors can produce ample process heat without emissions.  The Soviet Union built a highly successful plant to produce water from the Caspian Sea and today, India and China are exploring the use of nuclear reactors to run large desalination plants.

So, desalination is a good thing and we would like to see it continue to improve and become more economical, so it could be put to greater use….right?

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