Archive for the ‘Just LAME’ Category

Former Canadian Defense Minister on UFO’s

Friday, June 28th, 2013

When it comes to militarily important nations of the world, Canada ranks pretty highly. For one thing, it’s one of the closest (if not THE closest) allies of the US, frequently conducting joint training and exercises with the US military and given privileged access to US military data.  Canada is also a core member of NATO and to a tripartied mutual defense pact with the US and the UK.

Canada and the US both operate the North American Aerospace Defense Command, one of the largest air and space monitoring systems on earth. Canada hosts many of the advanced radar systems used by NORAD. These systems are integrated into a global air and space monitoring system which is responsible for other purposes, including being called upon to track civilian aircraft that go off course and tracking and cataloging orbital debris.

During the Cold War (and to some extent after) it was presumed that any air strike by the Soviet Union or Russia would include attacks on North America, flying over Canada’s airspace. As the second largest nation by area, Canada has enormous airspace and controls a very large portion of the North Atlantic and Pacific as territorial waters.

Although not as large as that of the US, Russia or China, the military of Canada is a very formidable fighting force and has been called upon for combat operations Afghanistan and in support of numerous relief operations and disaster responses around the world.

As a result, the Minister of National Defense of Canada is a pretty damn important job.

Paul Hellyer served briefly in that position.  He was a Canadian Member of Parliament from 1949 to 1974, making him one of the longest serving members of Parliament.  After leaving Parliament, Hellyer served in a number of advisory rolls on affairs related to the Canadian military.  After becoming less active in politics, Hellyer attempted to return to elected office through the formation of the Canadian Action Party in 1997. However, he was defeated in the election.

All things considered, Hellyer has served in some very important positions in a very important country. It might seem odd that he would be intrusted with such posts given that he has had a very strong interest in UFO’s and aliens since at least the late 1960′s. He began making extremely strong statements in the early 2000′s and became a fixture at North American UFO conferences.

Apparently the revival of his interest in UFO’s was the result of reading some conspiracy theorist books on UFO’s. Prior to this, it seems that Hellyer had only a passing interest in the topic and never took a strong stand on the issue. Hellyer has since gone on to claim to claim that UFO’s are absolutely real and demanded that the government’s of the world disclose what they know about alien technology.

In 2005, he stated:

Hellyer warned, “The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, “The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide.”

And here is a video of what he had to say about UFO’s more recently:

Just another reminder: This may was once the highest ranking minister overseeing a military force that was equipped with nuclear weapons, loaned from the United States, was responsible for some of the most important radar installations in the world and was a core founding member of NATO.


One of the stupidest things I have ever seen…

Monday, June 24th, 2013

While I am not one to pull punches, I have to admit there is something a bit unsavory about simply calling someone an idiot.   It’s a bit of an ad hominem kind of attack. It’s personal, a little immature and comes across as name calling. It does not really have the kind of logical basis or sophisticated analysis that one wants on a science blog. Yes, I have a lot of fun and joke around here quite a bit, but when it comes down to it, I prefer to at least ground things in something more sophisticated than just pointing at someone and calling them stupid.

Sadly, I can’t really come up with any other way of summing up this news story about none other than Jessica Ainscough. This is certainly a little sensitive as well, given that her extreme stupidity is literally killing her, and clueless though she may be, it’s a shame that it would be a capital crime.


Jess Ainscough claims ‘organic’ cafe misled with veggie burger

‘Wellness warrior’ Jessica Ainscough vented on her blog after eating a burger she believed was 100 per cent organic, only to later discover it was ‘not totally’ chemical-free.

Well, no, it’s full of glucose, dihydrogen monoxide, sodium chloride, polysaccharide and all kinds of other chemicals. I’m not sure what she would expect to eat that is not chemical free. Perhaps she could eat free electrons? That might be difficult.


How Arthur Firstenberg Made His Neighbor’s Life A Living Hell

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

You may remember Arthur Fishtenberg.   Back in 2008, I described him as “The Jackass in the foil hat” for his various antics against various municipalities who dared to allow wireless devices to be used in their buildings.   According to Fishtenberg, a dental X-ray in 1982 somehow transformed him into an elector-hypersensitive and perpetually tortured victim of all things wireless.   Apparently he bounced around various communities in the US pulling this claim out to anyone who would listen.

Firstenberg has written several articles and a book about the dangers of wireless devices.  He has founded groups and is cited on a number of websites as a crusader for the rights of those who supposedly are harmed by these devices.  He has also filed many many lawsuits.

Apparently, in more recent years, Firstenberg has decided to take his battle directly to the individuals who dare to use RF-emitting devices in their own homes.  That’s what happened in 2010 when Raphaela Monribot had the misfortune of renting a home next to Arthur Firstenberg.   Miss Monribot, a graphic artist, didn’t do anything to cause conflict with her new neighbor other than daring to own a cell phone and a laptop computer.


The Saddest Protest I Have Ever Seen

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

This is not really a story of any significance, although that is what makes it so sad.   A woman in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania decided she was going to hold a protest against “chemtrails.”   I’m not sure what she hoped to acomplish.  Perhaps she just wanted to show the powers that be that the people were aware of their evil plans and didn’t like them.   Maybe she wanted to inspire others to join the movement.

Whatever the case, nobody else showed up for the protest, so it was just her in a gas mask, holding a sign.  The only other person there was the guy filming, who seems to be her significant other, based on the way she addresses him at the end.   Remarkably, she also decided it was a good idea to post it on Youtube and that doing so would look like something other than a pitiful display of isolation.

(click here if your browser does not support embedded video)

It’s not that I want to just laugh at people, but sometimes it’s hard to avoid it.

“Smart Meters” – No, they do not make people sick

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Much to do has been made of the s0-called “smart meters” – electric meters that monitor the times electricity is used and transmit the data back to the utility company in order to bill customers based on the time they use electricity – charging higher rates for peak demand time and lower rates for electricity used during times of low demand.  The idea is that by doing so, they could encourage customers to better manage their electricity use and schedule energy intensive tasks for times of low demand – for example, washing and drying clothes.  This could help balance demand and lead to less need for more expensive peaking and load-following generation.   It also can supposedly save the customer money, but it often does not.

There are some valid reasons to oppose having a smart meter:

  • They could be considered part of an effort to shift the burden for reliable power and grid stability to the end customer.
  • Depending on your usage, they may not save you money and could result in your costs going up.
  • Life is complicated enough without having to worry about scheduling your tasks around the electric price schedule.
  • Once you get one installed, it’s likely to be impossible to get it removed, so if your electric company is asking for customers to volunteer for the new meters, it might be worth waiting to see if they really do end up saving money before taking the plunge.
  • You can tell a lot about someone from the times they use electricity (what days of the week they work, when they get up, when they leave for work, when they get home, when they go to sleep, when they are away from home etc)  Not all utilities have been very forthcoming about how they treat the information and whether they consider it private.  A telemarketer would definitely like to know what time would be good to call and bother you.   Even if the utility company does not sell the information, the government could certainly get it, and these days, at least in the US, the authorities have been acting like search warrants are obsolete.
  • The utility company may charge you a fee to install or for rental of the unit.  Not all utilities have been forthcoming about this, and it would be especially irritating if it turns out that the meter does not save you any money, AND you had to pay for it.

For all of these reasons, if my utility company were to offer the option of having a smart meter or opting out, I would opt out, at least until the meters had been installed for a few months and it was possible to find out whether other customers really did experience savings and did not end up getting targeted advertisements for insomnia medication or to have pizza delivered right at the time they have dinner.

But there is also a completely bogus reason to oppose smart meters: fears of radiation.   It’s ridiculous, not only unproven but completely out of line with decades of understanding of non-ionizing radiation.   Despite this, claims that smart meters are causing everything from cancer to headaches have become rampant.


Liquid Air for Energy Storage? No, it’s not a joke

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Thought that compressed air energy storage was ridiculously inefficient?   Well, it looks like they’ve managed to best it with a new concept in energy storage:  liquid air.

Yes, liquid air, as in cryonic liquid air.  In other words, this is a combination of liquid nitrogen, liquid oxygen and little bit of liquid argon.

Via Discovery News:

Frozen Air ‘Battery’ Stores Wind Turbine Energy

Liquid air, which can be frozen, stored and warmed later, could work better than batteries or fuel cells to store energy from wind turbines or other renewables.

The technology was originally developed by Peter Dearman, a garage inventor in Hertfordshire, U.K., to power vehicles. For the past several years, U.K. tech firm Highview Power Storage has been working to transfer Dearman’s innovation to a system that can store energy for power grids.

Dearman’s idea works like this: electricity generated by wind farms at night is used to chill air to -310 Farenheit — its cryogenic state — turning it into a liquid. The liquid air is then stored in a giant vacuum flask until it time to be used again. This is done at night when demand for electricity is low and the energy from wind would otherwise go wasted

When demand increases during the day, the air can be warmed to ambient temperature. As it vaporizes, it drives a turbine to produce electricity, according to the BBC’s Roger Harrabin.

In July, Highview Power Storage signed a commercial agreement with a German firm to develop “frozen air” plants in Sub-Saharan and South Africa. And it now has a pilot facility near a traditional gas-powered plant outside London. That way it takes advantage of the plant’s waste heat to warm the liquid air, making the entire process more efficient and less costly. Company officials say their energy-storage system is best designed to help smooth out the peaks and valleys of energy production that often occur with wind, solar and other renewable energy project.

And the video…

Liquifying air is a common industrial process.  It is most often used as the first step in certain types of air separation techniques.   Partial liquification of air can be used as the first step for the separation of nitrogen and oxygen, followed by additional liquification to separate out argon, or it can be used to produce liquid air which is then boiled in a series of distillation columns.    Occasionally, air is liquified and used in its mixed state as an ultra-low temperature refrigerant.


Rocket Launchers At LA Gun Buyback? Give me a break!

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

This may be going a bit off topic for a science blog, but this kind of thing really drives me crazy and it seems to be happening more and more.  Police and other officials are using extremely scary-sounding items discovered to pat themselves on the back for another victory against terrorism.   It could be “chemicals,” “an unidentified white powder,” “radioactive materials” or just about anything else.  The problem has become so bad that now nearly every police report of potential weapons or dangerous goods seized must be scrutinized with extreme skepticism.

In this case it’s rocket launchers showing up at a gun buyback program.  There is much less to this than it seems.

(For those who might not know, a “Gun Buyback” is an event run by local police with the aim of collecting firearms that are no longer in use or may slip into the wrong hands. They may offer money, gift cards or something else to have the guns turned in. The idea is to reduce the number of guns floating around in the population and potentially available for misuse)

Via NBC News:

Rocket launchers surface during Los Angeles guns buyback
When Los Angeles police moved up their annual Citywide Gun Buyback program to this week, they collected an arsenal that included 75 assault weapons, 698 rifles, 363 shotguns, 901 handguns and — more surprisingly — two rocket launchers.

The weapons, essentially long metal tubes once capable of firing rockets, lacked the projectiles and parts needed to fire them, but even so had no place on the streets, police said.

“Those are weapons of war, weapons of death,” said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, according to the Los Angeles Times. “These are not hunting guns. These are not target guns. … they have no place in our great city.”

Police said the people who brought in the weapons told police that they came from family members who served in the military and no longer wanted rocket launchers in their homes, the Times reported.

LAPD was planning to check with the military to determine the origins of the launchers, police said.

As it turns out, these were not the first launchers to turn up at a gun buyback. Last May, when the event was timed for Mother’s Day, one of these large firearms surfaced in Los Angeles.

I love the way that they say ” they have no place in our great city.” It almost sounds heroic, as if a great evil has been vanquished.

There are two things left out of most of the reports. The first is that it’s completely legal to own these and the second is that if you wanted to kill someone with them, the only way you might be able to do it is by whacking them over the head.


Residents Shocked About Uranium Facility – Demand Closure

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

For decades, a nuclear fuel fabrication facility has operated on the outskirts of Toronto, Ontario.  Here, in a small industrial area, natural uranium oxide is brought to be compressed into small pellets, which are used for fuel in Canadian nuclear reactors.  The uranium is not enriched, as Canadian nuclear reactors use natural uranium with .7% uranium-235.   The material is identical to what is found in rocks and soil around the world, although it is purified and concentrated.  It’s about as common in the crust of the earth as tin, and, on rare occasions, may be found in a nearly pure oxide form in nature, as the result of geological forces.

No nuclear activities actually go on at the facility and the material does not result in any more radiation than would be found in many rock quarries.  The material is not a radiation hazard and only slightly toxic, considerably less toxic than substances like cadmium or mercury.

The plant also has never been a secret.  Granted, there are no big signs displaying the fact that the product produced on site happens to be uranium, but its operated completely in the open.  Copies of relevant licenses and permits can be obtained from the Canadian government.  Workers at the plant are free to discuss the nature of their employment openly.  If you knocked on the door of the plant and asked whoever came to open it what happens there, they would surely tell you that they make uranium fuel pellets.   There’s absolutely nothing hidden about it.

However, it seems that most in the community were simply unaware that the plant existed or that in this normal looking building uranium was being made into pellets.  They just went about their every day lives presuming that thenondescript building must be doing some non-scary industrial process, like storing large amounts of chlorine gas or hydrofluoric acid.

Until one day someone found out the horrible truth, that had never even been hidden to begin with…

Man Arrested At Airport for Unusual Watch

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Every time I start to question whether I should be in politics or not, something like this happens, which is so outrageous that it reaffirms my commitment to change the system…

This is Geoffery McGann…


Mr. McGann is an artist.  Notice that Mr. McGann is wearing an unusual shirt with an Asian-style buttoned collar.   You don’t see much of that in the US, but being an artist, one might well expect Mr. McGann would express himself by choosing non-conventional styles.

Yesterday, Mr McGann went to the airport to get on a plane.   He was wearing a watch, which he had modified for an art project.  Part of the modification included adding wires and switches to the watch.  He didn’t try to hide it.  He was wearing it out in the open.  One could certainly say that may have not been a great idea, given the hypersensitivity to anything unusual in an airport, but certainly nothing criminal about it.

The watch was noticed by the TSA, and who responded with characteristic idiocy.   After being told by the guy that it was just an art project, they could have responded any number of rational ways.   They could have told him that the watch might look unsettling to some passengers and suggest he have it sent back to himself in the mail.  They could have told him that, given the unusual nature of the watch, they would like to subject him to some further scrutiny.

That’s not what happened.

Via ABC 7:

McGann reportedly took off his watch and put it in the bin along with his carry on. Investigators say he covered it with his coat. An alert TSA officer didn’t like what he saw.”The watch had on it a toggle switch, a series of fuses, a series of wires protruding from it, a circuit board,” Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. JD Nelson said. Even though the TSA found no explosives, Nelson says the bomb squad determined that McGann had all the ingredients to make a timing device for a bomb.

Additionally, Nelson says there were other strange things about McGann; his boots were two sizes too big and they were stuffed with layers of insoles, something the shoe bomber Richard Reed did, “They also had what appeared to be a homemade cavity in them,” Nelson said.

It’s a place where he could have hidden something. Nelson says his attire was also strange, “He was wearing a military style shirt which has a built-in tourniquet in the sleeves.” Soldiers learn how to tighten the tourniquet to stop bleeding if they receive an arm injury.

Nelson says it was the totality of everything they found that made them suspicious, and that led to his arrest.

Passengers we spoke with on this day, one of the busiest travel times of the year, applauded the TSA, ”

“You never know who’s going to try to pull whatever off and it’s good we have these measures in place if they do catch them,” passenger Debbie Johnson said.

Chicago resident Glaydis Rice added that she’s always vigilant anyway when she travels, “You see something and don’t report it, that makes them just as guilty as the person doing it.”

The burning question — what was McGann up to? Nelson gave one possible answer, “That’s always a concern, is that somebody’s making a dry run, exactly.”

McGann told investigators he is an artist and what he was carrying was artwork. ABC7 News did find a website for a Geoffrey McGann. If it is the same person, he is indeed an artist and a photographer.

He’s being held at Santa Rita Jail, charged with possession of materials to make a destructive device

There is a lot here that really bothers me a lot.   The first thing is the way the TSA is reporting this and the way some media outlets are carrying the story.   Clearly they are trying to scare people as a way of justifying the existence of the agency and its conduct.  Statements like “all the ingredients to make a timing device for a bomb” are just the kind of thing that is intended to make people feel as if the TSA heroically stopped a very dangerous incident.


28 Years Since the Best Today Show Interview Ever

Monday, November 12th, 2012

What more is there to add to this?   It’s via Gawker.   I really think the woman thinks she is being serious and people are really believing her.