Communion Of Dreams

Enter the vortex.
November 30, 2008, 10:33 am
Filed under: Climate Change, Daily Kos, Global Warming, Science, tech

Ever stand on the bank of a stream and watch a submerged stick oscillate up and down?  Or maybe seen something similar happen when you were fishing, and a cork/bobber got pulled underwater, the way it will swing back and forth?

That’s vortex induced vibration.  And it is a real problem for all kinds of engineering disciplines – just about any real world application which involves a fluid (or a gas, or even a plasma I suppose).

It could also be the thing which saves us from a carbon-based energy nightmare.  Vortex Hydro Energy is a new technology which could supply clean, renewable energy.  Professor Michael M. Bernitsas at the University of Michigan has helped pioneer this system.  From his University profile:

Current Energy Conversion: Invented, designed, and model-tested for the VIVACE (Vortex Induced Vibration Aquatic Clean Energy) energy converter (patent pending UofM#2973). VIVACE is an ocean/river current energy converter based on the idea of enhancing rather than spoiling vortex shedding, increasing rather than suppressing VIV under high damping, and harnessing rather than mitigating VIV energy. VIV was first observed by Leonardo daVinci in 1504AD in the form of “Aeolian Tones”. Since then, engineers have been trying to suppress VIV which damage aero, civil, mechanical, marine, offshore, nuclear engineering structures. The VIVACE Converter takes this destructive force in nature and utilizes for the benefit of mankind. The VIVACE Converter is designed to be in high damping VIV ? thus extracting energy at high efficiency – over the range of current velocity that is of practical interest: 0.25-2.5m/sec (0.5-5.0knots) [79-80]. Testing of the VIVACE Converter in the Low Turbulence Free Surface Water Channel of Ocean Renewable Energy Laboratory at the University of Michigan for high damping resulted in a power harnessing rate of PVIVACE=0.22pwDLU3 for current velocity of only 0.840m/sec (1.63 knots) [80-82].

News of this just broke, and the research is still very much in its early stages. So there is still a lot to be done to assess the potential power generation as well as the downsides of applying the technology. It is likely that placement of the VIVACE system would be critical, so as not to disrupt environmental conditions necessary to the maintenance of a healthy planet.  But it strikes me as a potentially elegant solution to the problem of safe power generation with minimal environmental impact, and would avoid many of the issues that such technologies as wind power have.


Jim Downey

(Via dKos. Cross posted to UTI.)

So far, . . .
November 30, 2008, 9:11 am
Filed under: 2nd Amendment, Ballistics, Guns, Predictions, Promotion, RKBA

Just a quick note: So far, the response to the ballistics project mentioned in my last post has been very positive.  It is already propagating beyond the first couple of contact points, as people cross-post the information.  We had almost 500 unique visitors to the site yesterday, some 3,000 page views.  So that’s exciting!

More (not firearms related) later.

Jim Downey


I’ve mentioned several times recently the ballistics project I’ve been involved with over the last year or so.  Well, last night we migrated the temporary site over to its own domain, and except for a few tweaks it is pretty much done.  Sometime probably this weekend I will post a comment promoting the site to a couple of the forums devoted to discussing firearms, and then all bets are off as to what happens next.  (I’d ask anyone reading this to not spread the word to such forums just yet – please let me do that when we’re ready.)

For those who are not interested or knowledgeable about firearms, this whole thing may seem a bit silly.  Actually, it is a huge project which will significantly add to the information base available to shooting enthusiasts, and as such will likely gain a great deal of attention both online and in the print media devoted to firearms.  I’ve cautioned my two cohorts in the project to be prepared for a bit of a whirlwind of interest.  I doubt that it will penetrate into the general media the way that my Paint the Moon art project did, but in the gun world it could very well be just as well known.

And the anticipation of that is kinda fun.  As private a person as I am by nature, I enjoy doing things which are interesting or innovative enough to gain some level of attention, to povoke people to think about something in a different way or to expand their awareness of what is possible.  I think that is a big part of the reason why I blog, and why I wrote Communion of Dreams – to help shape the world.  This new project will do that in a very tangible way.

So, we’ll see what happens.  Wish us luck with it.

Jim Downey

Getting even.
November 27, 2008, 8:36 am
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Ballistics, Flu, Guns, Health, Pandemic, Science, Society

Once again, I have a mild cold.  Been fighting it all week.  It is depressing how many times I have had such minor bugs over the last couple of years.  And an indication that my baseline health stats are compromised still from being a care provider.  It’s for the birds.

Actually, new evidence suggests that the cold virus is from the birds:

Common Cold Virus Came From Birds About 200 Years Ago, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Nov. 20, 2008) — A virus that causes cold-like symptoms in humans originated in birds and may have crossed the species barrier around 200 years ago, according to a new article published in the Journal of General Virology. Scientists hope their findings will help us understand how potentially deadly viruses emerge in humans.

* * *

Human metapneumovirus is related to the respiratory syncytial virus, measles, mumps and parainfluenza viruses. It infects people of all ages but is most common in children under five. Symptoms include runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever. Infection can also lead to more severe illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, which can result in hospitalisation, especially in infants and immunocompromised patients. HMPV infection is most common during the winter and it is believed to cause up to 10% of respiratory illnesses in children.

“HMPV was first discovered in 2001, but studies have shown that the virus has been circulating in humans for at least 50 years,” said Professor Dr Ron Fouchier from ErasmusMC in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. “HMPV is closely related to Avian metapneumovirus C (AMPV-C), which infects birds. Because of the similarity, scientists have suggested that HMPV emerged from a bird virus that crossed the species barrier to infect humans.”

A cautionary tale, and a reason why a lot of scientists and public health officials keep a close eye on Avian Flu (H5N1) around the world for evidence of a new pandemic.

Me, I plan on taking direct action along with my OTC meds.  I’m going to get even today, and enjoy eating a turkey.  It’s a simple matter of self defense.

Oh, the other thing that has kept me entirely too busy the last few days has been working on the new ballistics site mentioned earlier this month.  There are a couple of remaining tweaks to be done, but it is basically ready to go, complete with an associated blog, all the data, all the downloads, and over seventy pop-up graphs.  Sometime this weekend we’ll migrate it over to its own domain, but if you want an advanced look, feel free to poke around.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jim Downey

November 25, 2008, 8:19 am
Filed under: movies, Science Fiction, Star Trek

Happy birthday, Ricardo.

Jim Downey

*C’mon, you know this.

Your share: $24,000.
November 24, 2008, 1:36 pm
Filed under: Emergency, Failure, Government, Politics, Predictions, Preparedness, Society

Forget what I said two weeks ago – we’re now up to $7.7 Trillion:

Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $7.76 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers after guaranteeing $306 billion of Citigroup Inc. debt yesterday. The pledges, amounting to half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.

The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $3.18 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since the New Deal of the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The commitment dwarfs the plan approved by lawmakers, the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Federal Reserve lending last week was 1,900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis.

That comes out to something like $24,000 from every man, woman, and child in the country.

Wave bye-bye to your money.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to UTI.)

“For this worthless, wonderful world . . . “
November 24, 2008, 10:54 am
Filed under: Humor, Marketing, MetaFilter, movies, Science Fiction, Space, YouTube

Worn out from a weekend involving a huge bonfire, excellent scotch, and firearms (no, not all at once) – along with the onset of an annoying cold – so I’ll just pass along a little surreal something I stumbled across on MeFi:

There’s a whole series of these.  All are completely hilarious.  Or maybe it’s just the fever I have . . .

Jim Downey

Go figure.
November 20, 2008, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Expert systems, Humor

Plug this blog into Typealyzer and what do you get?

The analysis indicates that the author of is of the type:

INTJ – The Scientists

The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it – often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be pshysically hesitant to try new things.

The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communcating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use conrete examples. Since they are extremly good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.

Obviously, based on some version of the Myers-Briggs psychometrics, which I have always found interesting but a bit overly deterministic. In some 20 years of taking such tests (occasionally, not continuously), I have always been classified as an INTJ, but leaning to INTP.  And I do have to admit that the usual descriptions that go with these two classifications fit me very well.

Just a little bit of fun.

Jim Downey

You better watch out,*
November 20, 2008, 9:08 am
Filed under: Civil Rights, Humor, Music, Politics, Religion

You better watch out,
You better all cry,
You better all pout,
AFA is telling you why:
The evil gays are coming to town.

AFA‘s making a list,
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out
Who’s naughty and nice.
The evil gays are coming to town.

They’ll get you when you’re sleeping.
Or even when you’re awake.
Evil gays are bad, not good,
So be good for God’s own sake!

You better watch out,
You better all cry,
You better all pout,
AFA is telling you why:
The evil gays are coming to town.
The evil gays are coming to town!

Jim Downey

*with apologies to J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie.  HT to Sully. Cross posted to UTI and Daily Kos.

November 20, 2008, 8:18 am
Filed under: Humor

I can be a grumpy bastard.  Particularly before I’ve had my coffee.  Or if I’m otherwise tired due to work or having to put up with too many people (and “too many” usually means “more than four”), or too much bullshit (such as letters from an insurance company, the IRS, or charities spending the money I gave them in asking me for *more* money).  Unfortunately, this means that I am grumpy waaaay too much of the time.

And so it is that I usually growl at the computer when someone sends me a slew of links/articles/pictures/jokes/whatever.

Why is it that we bald monkeys do this?  We always assume that people are going to share our particular interests – to the same extent and at the same time as we do.

I’m guilty of this.  Hell, just blogging is bad enough, thinking that something I have to say will be of interest to others.  But at least in this forum people can shut off the RSS feed, and not bother to hit the site.  When I send links to others, or even worse, embed images/video in an otherwise normal message, I am imposing my aesthetic and opinions on the recipient.  And filling up their inboxes with my crap.

For the last few years I have been trying to impose more discipline on myself in this regard – really trying to ask myself before I send something out whether the recipient will really want to see it, and then only doing so in such a fashion as to minimize the impact and give my friends the biggest option of ignoring the message (by giving a brief explanation of why I think the specific recipient will want to look at the link or read an article).  Also, I’ve learned to just limit links/articles/pictures/jokes/whatever to one or two at a time – no one is going to want to plow through a dozen of anything just because I say it’s funny or insightful.  Just as I have almost no interest in plowing through a dozen of the “gr8test LOLCATs evah!!” – that stuff is just going to get ignored, and likely will annoy me because it loads up my inbox and slows down my computer.

Yeah, I know – bitch, bitch, bitch.  I guess I need another cup of coffee.

Jim Downey