mercredi 31 décembre 2014

Post your 2015 Predictions here

Be specific.

On July 16, 2015, at 1857 Eastern daylight saving time, (6:57 pm), the title of #1 bestselling nonfiction book on the New York Times bestsellers list will contain a vowel. I will double down and also predict that the author's family name contains two or more letters, and that at least one of them differs from the rest.

via International Skeptics Forum

Psychic Predictions for 2014

By my rough estimation, a coin toss would be around 49% more reliable than the guesses of the "leading psychics."

via International Skeptics Forum

Red Meat Generates Toxic Reaction?

Has anybody found any more information on this?

The report claims that researchers in California have found that red meat generates a toxic reaction in humans and that's why red meat is associated with increased rates of cancer.

One aspect that interested me was that pork was classed as a red meat. I always thought it was a white meat...

Article here:

via International Skeptics Forum

Drones as terrorist tools.

It seems remote controlled drones (quadcopters mostly) were among the most popular Christmas gifts this year.

I got one myself- albeit one the size of a sparrow that I've only played with indoors.

There have been various recent incidences of people flying them thoughtlessly- near airports for instance. Today, a power firm in Scotland has issued a warning about the hazards of flying them near substations and transformers.

The emphasis so far is on careless misuse causing accidental damage, but the potential to do deliberate damage seems real. Models like DJI's Phantom 2 can carry a GoPro camera , which suggests they could easily hoist a small explosive or incendiary device. The drone itself, at around a kilogram, could cause serious injury.

There are regulations governing use, which it seems many non-malicious users ignore.

I expect to see heavier regulation of these in future and a few big fines handed down to discourage users.


via International Skeptics Forum

What is "gun culture"

What is meant by “gun culture” in reference to America?

I have seen this term used frequently in threads here, and am seriously curious what people mean by it, but did not want to side track threads with complex issues with topic drift.

I hope this does not sound like some kind of “gotch ya” question. I believe that part of the issue with the USA and its problems with guns is that there are at least three very distinct groups of USAsians when it comes to this topic, rural gun owners who grew up around guns and see them as important tools or instruments for hobbies like deer hunting or pest extermination and really no different than a machete or a four-wheeler. Then there are suburban people who may not have grown up with guns as closely as rural people, and see them as weapons of self-defense (the thing that they are defending themselves from encompasses many things from gangs, hopped up/crazy people, to tyranny or other less likely events), and urban people who see firearms as tools of criminality without legitimate use except in the hands of law enforcement.

I’ve set these three different groups based on anecdotal experiences, my friends all fall into one of these categories, and have such different viewpoints on guns that they cannot relate to the others' view point at all. Each group assumes that the others' view point is irrational and motivated by some sinister agenda or psychosis (i.e. pseudo-fascists that want to make people dependent on the state, red-necks with a gun fetishism who just like to kill things for a sense of power, or rich guys who want to be able to intimidate the poor). Oddly I’ve witnessed the suburban and rural “gun groups” have a go at each other behind closed doors just as much as I’ve witnessed the urban “gun control” group go after the other two.

If people are actually interested in changing gun laws in the USA, some kind of compromise needs to be reached that will be acceptable to at least two of these three.

For an example the Assault-Rifle bill that was proposed but failed in 2013. People in the urban group have expressed to me that magazine fed semi-automatic rifles are overpowered death machines that only the military should have. People in the in the rural group have told me that “assault rifles” are underpowered toys for rich people and not really useful, but note that since the bolt action .30-06 that they use for deer hunting is significantly more powerful than any .223/5.56 rifle (the caliber of the AR-15) this must be a wedge issue that if passes will lead to a “sniper rifle” ban next year to take away their hunting rifles. While the suburban gun owners have told me that “assault rifles” (although they prefer the term "personal defense rifles") are the tool of the modern “minute man” and almost never used for crimes. Their ban is the work of an overbearing Federal government/local law enforcement agencies that want people unarmed and compliant.

Neither of the three sides understands or respects the other much in this arena, but as the rural and the suburban tend to unite when it comes to legislation, and because the US Senate tends to magnify the political power of lower population rural states in the face of more populous urban areas, USAians seem to be at a political stalemate where very little of anything useful is ever done, except for posturing and pandering by politicians to their respective voting bloc.

So I am curious what people here see as “gun culture” in the USA. Is this a uniform thing, or do others see distinct sub groups? Am I missing other major groups? Or am I making this too complicated and altogether wrong?

(Full discloser since I am more of a lurker here, I grew up in a very urban environment and still have friends there, although many moved out to the ‘burbs. I moved out to the sticks myself, and have well respected uncles from WV with two names for a first name and the ability to sense a deer in a holler by smell I think. I think that I straddle these three groups, although am currently lightly in the “rural” camp myself.)

via International Skeptics Forum

Interesting Results from NDE Study

NDE research gets stranger and stranger:

"One case was validated and timed using auditory stimuli during cardiac arrest. Dr Parnia concluded: "This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions, occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted, but not an experience corresponding with 'real' events when the heart isn't beating. In this case, consciousness and awareness appeared to occur during a three-minute period when there was no heartbeat. This is paradoxical, since the brain typically ceases functioning within 20-30 seconds of the heart stopping and doesn't resume again until the heart has been restarted. Furthermore, the detailed recollections of visual awareness in this case were consistent with verified events."

"This supports other recent studies that have indicated consciousness may be present despite clinically undetectable consciousness. "

From the PDF file:

"a 57 year old man described the perception of observing events from

the top corner of the room and continued to experience a sensation

of looking down from above. He accurately described people,

sounds, and activities from his resuscitation (Table 2 provides

quotes from this interview). His medical records corroborated his

accounts and specifically supported his descriptions and the use of

an automated external defibrillator (AED).

"Thus, within a model that assumes a causative relationship

between cortical activity and consciousness the occurrence

of mental processes and the ability to accurately describe events

during CA as occurred in our verified case of VA when cerebral

function is ordinarily absent or at best severely impaired is

. This is particularly the case as reductions in CBF

typically lead to delirium followed by coma, rather than an accurate

and lucid mental state.

Too bad no one could see the little pictures they placed on the shelves in the ER. Their bad luck was that 78% of the cardiac arrests they studied took place in rooms without pictures on the shelves. The one really good case they got was, of course, in a room with no picture on the shelf.

via International Skeptics Forum

Blacks Should STFU About Racism

I don't think they should but from what I've been reading some people here do think they should, especially as it relates to law enforcement.

via International Skeptics Forum

CIA Fesses Up On UFOs


"Reports of unusual activity in the skies in the '50s? It was us," the CIA tweeted from its official Twitter account Monday.

By way of explanation, the intelligence agency linked to a lengthy 1998 report on U-2 spy plane activities from the 1950s and 1960s.

HuffPost's Lee Spiegel wrote about the U-2 project's links to Area 51 when the document was declassified in 2013.

The history, which is redacted in parts, mainly discusses the plane's development, test flights, and reconnaissance missions. An analysis of the report by British U-2 historian Chris Pocock is available at George Washington University's National Security Archive.

The 272-page document also notes the increase in reports of UFOs that coincided with the spy plane's testing:

High-altitude testing of the U-2 soon led to an unexpected side effect -- a tremendous increase in reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs). In the mid-1950s, most commercial airliners flew at altitudes between 10,000 and 20,000 feet ... Consequently, once U-2s started flying at altitudes above 60,000 feet, air-traffic controllers began receiving increasing numbers of UFO reports.

According to the report, U-2 flights "accounted for more than one-half of all UFO reports during the late 1950s and most of the 1960s."

Commercial airline pilots flying east to west reported the planes as "fiery objects" in the sky shortly after sundown, but report says the glow was due to the spy planes catching the sun's rays in a darkening sky. Other reports were made by ground-based witnesses in broad daylight, who thought it was unusual to see an object flying more than 60,000 feet high.

via International Skeptics Forum

If you have chronic nightmares is that a sign of mental illness?

For the last several days I've been having nightmares. The nightmares are about getting lost and not being able to find your car etc. To one extent or the other this seems to be happening more and more.

I've been retired four years and my 92 year old mother lives with me. I know its inevitable that shes going to die but my philosophy concerning death seem to be failing me. My overall health issues are not that great either. At age 68 I could easily die before my mother.

via International Skeptics Forum

Computer Sci majors, what does this mean?

In the comments following a news story alleging an increased statistical likelihood that someone will die on his birthday, there is this:


"Um... you know that's a mathematical issue which is a part of the core curriculum of every Computer Science major in America: everyone is born on the same day and will die on the same day.

The "trick" is to understand why that is true. A now-venerable Doerr & Levasseur text (Applied Discrete Structures for Computer Science) has some background material which might be both useful & entertaining. If anyone actually reads textbooks, April Fools (and today, apparently) is the day to do so."

What does this mean? I don't want to buy (and try to understand) the textbook. Is this a too-clever way of saying everybody is born on his first day and dies on his last day? Or what?

via International Skeptics Forum

Another fascinating but frightening TED talk

As above. A talk about "Deep Learning" , an algorithm with the potential to make most of us redundant.

via International Skeptics Forum

What is the Chemical reaction that created the molten yellow metal?

Just for fun because I believe I already know the answer,

What do you think it was?

I believe the yellow flow was caused by Aluminum,

Plus a gas given off by plastics,

That is the only clue I will give.

via International Skeptics Forum

What would it take to change gun culture?


Originally Posted by Samson (Post 10395646)

Port Arthur changed Australia, but nothing changes America it seems.

Got me thinking. What would it take to turn public opinion solidly against gun ownership? Samson's right in that a mass shooting did that for Australia, but America tends to shrug those off for the most part.

So lets speculate on what couldn't be shrugged off. I'll take what I think is a fairly safe position and see if someone doesn't want to argue a leaner case.

I say it has to be a big-scale, violent, Bundy Ranch scenario that spreads.

Start off with a group doing something obviously illegal that normal people have to follow the law on. Being a deadbeat for cattle-grazing is unsympathetic, but it doesn't mirror popular experience closely enough.

So: Maybe a tax dodger like the Browns back in 2007 or a freeman-on-the-land who insists on driving without a license.

They'd need to get a little movement going like Bundy did, with a bunch of people taking their legal weapons to protect the illegal activity. But that's not going to be enough to get mass notice.

So: It needs to spur a few copy-cats across the country so that it seems like something that could spread, that could happen in your town. People need to get scared that the gun nuts could be actually making good on the rhetoric about the 2nd amendment as a reset button for a democratic government they see as 'tyrannical'.

Then they have to get aggressive. The Bundy milita brandished and pointed weapons at federal agents, but they didn't shoot. Not enough.

So: People would have to die. At least cops. Probably have to kill some women/children to get the enough emotional outrage going. People need to get outraged at the violence and mix it with the previously mentioned fear that it's not an isolated occurrence.

Then the movement needs to be connected somehow to the overall popular right-wing gun culture. Bundy was all about the militias, but that's fringe and out-of-touch.

So: I think he has to be a prominent player in the Tea Party movement. That connects it to the bigger political scene, gives the other GOP factions a stick to beat the tea-partiers with and divert public blame away from their universal pro-gun position.

In a nutshell:
I think it would take a large-scale organized horrific abuse of the second amendment that happened to fall along a political faultline before public opinion turns against gun ownership as a societal norm.

Anyone want to say it would take less? More?

via International Skeptics Forum

mardi 30 décembre 2014

Strangest DDOS Attack in NZ

To me, this seems unprecedented - an enormous and ongoing DDOS attack is being carried out against the NZ betting agency, TAB.

The TAB stated that they had it covered yesterday, but their success was short-lived, with the attack continuing today, and appearing to have been ramped up further.

I just don't get it. Every other DDOS attack I'm aware of has had a motive - but I can't tie one to this attack. The only result is a small loss to the TAB, with no gain to the attacker.

Opportunity is the other problem. A disgruntled person would be a possibility, except the scope and length of the attack screams out that a massive botnet is involved, which in turn suggests a cyber-criminal organisation rather than some guy in his mother's basement. The scope is well beyond the capacity of even groups like Anonymous, so the lone wolf idea is either silly, or using some means unknown to me.

The TAB has invested jillions of dollars in its web services and the site is extremely well-run, being managed by a mix of company and consulting staff who are mostly people at the top of the game. I know there has been a large number of TAB, isp and consulting staff race back off holiday to try to stop the rot, and they're still losing.

Anyone like to speculate?

via International Skeptics Forum

Will GOP Whip Step Down?

"Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise is in full damage control mode and has publicly apologized for a 2002 speech to a white supremacist group.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders also issued statements of support for Scalise in an organized effort to limit the political fallout from the scandal and keep the Louisiana Republican in his job as House majority whip.

Read more:

I don't think he's going to survive this (politically). At the least, he's going to be replaced as whip.

via International Skeptics Forum

Play-Doh Comes Under Fire For Penis-Looking Toy

I sat there looking at the top photo for a few seconds wondering how ridiculously long of a stretch that was (pun kind of intended). Then scrolled down...and ohhhh, okay, I get it now.

via International Skeptics Forum

Thug shoots and kills young mother in Walmart


A woman was shot and killed at a Walmart store in northern Idaho on Tuesday and local media reported that the gun went off when a toddler pulled a handgun from her purse and discharged it accidentally.

Lieutenant Stu Miller of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter that a woman in her late 20s was killed in a shooting at the Walmart in Hayden.

"Prelim investigation shows shooting was accidental," Lieutenant Miller said in a tweet.

Hayden is located in Kootenai County, north of Coeur d'Alene.

Lieutenant Miller did not say on Twitter who fired the gun and could not immediately be reached by phone.

Local KREM-TV reported that the woman had been shopping with four children when one of them, who was believed to be about two years old, reached into her purse and grabbed the gun.

Just another isolated incident. Or perhaps it's case of young children believing that the purpose of a gun is to be pointed at other people and the trigger pulled.

via International Skeptics Forum

How do We Measure How Fast We're Going?

Probably stupid question.

If there's nothing stationary to compare our speed to, how do we determine how fast we're moving through the universe? Isn't it all relative to everything else? Could we be going 80% speed of light and not know it?

via International Skeptics Forum

Another Bubble?

I moved my kid's college money out of the market (he's 14, so I was going to play it safe anyway, but I ended up moving more out of his index fund than I planned on).

I just get the feeling there's too much loose money sloshing around, and there are no decent investment options other than the market or real estate, and we're due for a correction. Anyone else think so?

via International Skeptics Forum

How to fossilise yourself

A fascinating diversion from another thread. Not only does it need a thread of its own, but it is my solemn duty to start it so that fossilise is spelt correctly. (Oh, and spelt is correct too, before you start to get picky..... :) )

How would you arrange for your bones to become fossilised? Being as there are laws about not leaving bodies around, what would you do to ensure that your corpse fulfilled both the law and your wishes? I got as far as buying a limestone cave, and getting a licence to have your coffin buried in it. You then organise for your relatives to leave it underneath a dripping stalagtite, with maybe a few holes drilled in the lid for good luck.

via International Skeptics Forum

Watching video vs. reading on news websites

Does anyone who goes to CNN's website routinely watch the videos? I do so fairly rarely - don't want someone babbling (even if they are hot) when there are words I can read. There are exceptions, if something entertaining happens but mostly I skip the video.

via International Skeptics Forum

Gender not set until puberty? (Speculation thread)

How would our societies be different if nobody knew what gender they would be until they reached puberty? I think there would be less "pre-loading" expectations for a child as there would be a 50% chance they would be slightly or wildly wrong (if such pre-loading even existed in that society.)

Still wandering around this one, poking it with a long stick.

via International Skeptics Forum

Finally, proof Obama hates both the military and marriage!

Long has it been the wish of the right to prove their long held suspicion that Obama hates the military and wants all of America's enemies to win. Like a late Christmas gift this fell into their laps.

You see, Obama The Accursed decided to play some golf while loafing around on something called a "holiday" which I'm pretty sure no non-black president has ever done and by playing a round of golf the Secret Service shut down other things going on around the golf course which included a wedding.


Naturally one can assume that numerous people pleaded with Obama to play golf another day and spare the wedding the indignity of being relocated to a picturesque lawn overlooking the ocean. But Obama The Accursed spit on the idea and swore he would never let Army officers get married or enjoy life. He had plans to first attempt to ruin their wedding then maybe show up after their first child is born to mooch out of the refrigerator and talk endlessly about his new clay modeling hobby until they kick him out in frustration.

Anyways. Obama clearly hates the military and marriage. So, there.


I highly recommend the comments from The Blaze story.

via International Skeptics Forum

Free Our Schools

Free Our Schools

Almost all children now believe they go to school to pass exams. The idea that they may be there for an education is irrelevant. State schools have become exam factories, interested only in A to C Grades. They do not educate children. Exam results do not reflect a candidate’s innate ability. Employers have moaned for years that too many employees cannot read or write properly. According to a survey, school-leavers and even graduates lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. More and more companies are having to provide remedial training to new staff, who can’t write clear instructions, do simple maths, or solve problems. Both graduates and school-leavers were also criticised for their sloppy time-keeping, ignorance of basic customer service and lack of self-discipline.

Bilingual Muslims children have a right, as much as any other faith group, to be taught their culture, languages and faith alongside a mainstream curriculum. More faith schools will be opened under sweeping reforms of the education system in England. There is a dire need for the growth of state funded Muslim schools to meet the growing needs and demands of the Muslim parents and children. Now the time has come that parents and community should take over the running of their local schools. Parent-run schools will give the diversity, the choice and the competition that the wealthy have in the private sector. Parents can perform a better job than the Local Authority because parents have a genuine vested interest. The Local Authority simply cannot be trusted.

The British Government is planning to make it easier to schools to “opt out” from the Local Authorities. Muslim children in state schools feel isolated and confused about who they are. This can cause dissatisfaction and lead them into criminality, and the lack of a true understanding of Islam can ultimately make them more susceptible to the teachings of fundamentalists like Christians during the middle ages and Jews in recent times in Palestine. Fundamentalism is nothing to do with Islam and Muslim; you are either a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This mean the Muslim children will get a decent education. Muslim schools turned out balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to criminality or extremism. Muslim schools give young people confidence in who they are and an understanding of Islam’s teaching of tolerance and respect which prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society. Muslim schools are attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching Islamic values. Children like discipline, structure and boundaries. Bilingual Muslim children need Bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods, who understand their needs and demands.

Indiscipline, incivility, binge drinking, drug addiction, gun and knife crimes, teenage pregnancies and abortion are part and parcel of British schooling. These are the reasons why majority of Muslim parents would like to send their children to Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. Only less than 5% attend Muslim schools and more than 95% keep on attending state and church schools to be mis-educated and de-educated by non-Muslim monolingual teachers.

None of the British Muslims convicted following the riots in Bradford and Oldham in 2001 or any of those linked to the London bombings had been to Islamic schools. An American Think Tank studied the educational back ground of 300 Jihadists; none of them were educated in Pakistani Madrasas. They were all Western educated by non-Muslim teachers. Bilingual Muslim children need bilingual Muslim teachers as role models. A Cambridge University study found that single-sex classes could make a big difference for boys. They perform better in single-sex classes. The research is promising because male students in the study saw noticeable gains in the grades. The study confirms the Islamic notion that academic achievement is better in single-sex classes.

None of 7/7 bombers and British Muslim youths who are in Syria and Iraq are the product of Muslim schools. They are the product of British schooling which is the home of institutional racism with chicken racist native teachers. It is absurd to believe that Muslim schools, Imams and Masajid teach Muslim children anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-western views. It is dangerously deceptive and misleading to address text books and discuss them out of their historical, cultural and linguistic context. It is not wrong to teach children that Jews are committing the same cruelty in Palestine what German did to them before or during Second World War. It is not wrong to teach children that anti-social behaviour, drinking, drugs, homosexuality, sex before marriage, teenage pregnancies and abortions are western values and Islam is against all such sins. This does not mean that Muslim schools teach children to hate westerners, Jews and homosexuals.

The demand for Muslim schools comes from parents who want their children a safe environment with an Islamic ethos. Parents see Muslim schools where children can develop their Islamic Identity where they won't feel stigmatised for being Muslims and they can feel confident about their faith. Muslim schools are working to try to create a bridge between communities. There is a belief among ethnic minority parents that the British schooling does not adequately address their cultural needs. Failing to meet this need could result in feeling resentment among a group who already feel excluded. Setting up Muslim school is a defensive response. State schools with monolingual teachers are not capable to teach English to bilingual Muslim children. Bilingual teachers are needed to teach English to such children along with their mother tongue. According to a number of studies, a child will not learn a second language if his first language is ignored.

The West has never been at ease with Islam since the Crusades. It is unfortunate that huge oil supplies lie under the Arabian Deserts. It is the West that stirred the trouble that led to 9/11. That attack was a desperate act of by men prepared to lose their life. We need to get to grips on who is the terrorist? On 24 November 1963, Lyndon Johnson said, “the battle against communism… must be joined… with strength and determination. Some three million lives were lost in the consequential battles. The US had to pull out due to Public Opinion. Communism lived on. So who was the terrorist?

The British establishment is wrong in thinking that Imams are to blame for extremism. Imams are not solution to the problem for extremism. Extremism is nothing to do with Imams. Extremism is not created from abroad, it is coming from within. Britain fails to help Muslim communities feel part of British society. Race trouble is being predicted by the Daily Express, because of an ethnic boom in UK major cities. Muslim communities need imams for the solutions of their needs and demands in their own native languages. Muslim parents would like to see their children well versed in Standard English and to go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. The fact is that majority of Muslim children leave schools with low grades because monolingual teachers are not capable to teach Standard English to bilingual Muslim children. A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit.

Terrorism and sexual grooming is nothing to do with Masajid, Imams and Muslim schools. Those Muslim youths who have been involved in terrorism and sexual grooming are the product of western education system which makes a man stupid, selfish and corrupt. They find themselves cut off from their cultural heritage, literature and poetry. They suffer from identity crises and I blame British schooling.

The shocking level of targeting of the Muslim community of Birmingham is indicative of the normalisation of the dehumanisation of the Muslims of Britain. Under the pretext of "extremism", criminal undemocratic and unethical abuse of public institutions and the Muslims of the UK can occur without much accountability. This pervasive attitude, especially amongst officials like Michael Gove needs to change. Our schools are truly trying to develop our children to do well at schools so later in life they are able to stand on their own two feet, but if we stop our schools from doing this than our country will have up rise of unemployment, benefit issues, crime levels high, I think its time for you apologize and allow practitioners to do their job right.


via International Skeptics Forum

Pixel-to-point conversion issue in Outlook

A couple of my colleagues who wish to be special snowflakes insist on using Macbooks for their work computers when the rest are on Windows notebooks. For most purposes, that isn't much of an issue, except when it comes to emails. Their emails arrive in teeny-tiny font sizes that challenge my failing eyesight.

I know it has something to do with the pixel-to-point conversion between Mac and Windows. Is there a way to configure from my end to automatically convert their email fonts to a more readable size without blowing up everything else on my screen to gigantic proportions?

Thank you.

via International Skeptics Forum

lundi 29 décembre 2014

Tell me about credit-monitoring services...

Lifelock is probably the best-known and most heavily advertised, but there are several enterprises that promise -- for a monthly fee -- to monitor credit reports and other accounts and flag suspicious activity. Who has had experience with them? Any recommendations or must-avoids? Anybody saved from catastrophe?

via International Skeptics Forum

What to do when sent a Jesus book

So I am awaiting the third book from a Christian relative sent to me since becoming an Atheist six years ago. I have been unfailingly open and read both previous books cover to cover. I plan to do so with the third. I responded to the previous two with the basic message that they were unconvincing and perhaps they should consider that what they believe is false and should be rejected (never get a response to that last bit)

Has this happened to anyone here and if so, what did you do?

via International Skeptics Forum

Good Resource for debunking 'Giants In America' claims

I have found a very interesting blog that is looking into the origins of the claims that lots of 'giant skeletons' were found all over the United States during the 19th Century.

The author is collating a database of original source material, which could be useful since cable TV has started to promote these ideas again.

via International Skeptics Forum

Ever Google Your Own Name?

Sure you have. Unless you have an unusual name, you'll find lots of people with the same first and last name as you.

My real topic, though, is privacy. The last time I googled my name I found an address that I used as a mail drop for a few months last year. It was not a Mail Boxes R-US type place but a non-commercial address and the only place that info could have come from is USPS.

Should the post office be selling information like that to commercial internet companies?

via International Skeptics Forum

Rational Beliefs in an Infinite Multiverse.

Assume a multiverse of infinite different universes.

In some of those universes, fantastical luck will be the norm. Examples: mediums will always guess correctly, psychics will accurately predict the future, erosion patterns will spell out scientific truths like germ theory, people walk through walls via quantum tunneling*, monkeys typing randomly on typewriters are bestselling authors, random number generators often produce coded messages that accurately predict the future, etc.

Imagine you lived in such a world. What would be more reasonable to believe: that there exists an infinite amount of universes and you live in the one where extreme odds happen all the time, or that something other than chance is at work? What if multiverse theory was mostly speculation, with little (or no) evidence to support it?

Supposed you plucked someone from this world and the "lucky" world and had them debate why the worlds are the way they are. Suppose both agree that a multiverse exists, but neither person has direct evidence of its existence. Who would win the debate? Would whipping out monkey-authored Macbeth and Hamlet be devastating evidence against the person from this world? What evidence could the person from our world produce?

* that one might not be theoretically possible

via International Skeptics Forum

What is the best way to improve posture?

I'm roughly middle aged, pretty healthy and fit, but unless I am making a conscious effort I slouch. If I catch myself and try to straighten out, it feels somewhat unnatural to be telling myself, "Chin up, shoulders back, etc."

I want to improve my posture for several reasons. The physical effort involved helps tone core muscles and I'd like to be stronger. Also, I want to project more confidence and authority.

Meanwhile I habitually have a clenched jaw and I'd like to lose that habit. Again, if I'm conscious of it I can counteract it, but it's easy to forget.

In my old career being cynical and brusque was fine, even an asset. But now I work with kids, who respond to a calm, in-charge persona.

For about 7 years I couldn't stand looking at pictures of myself. I feel better about my face after a procedure this summer. That also forced me to stop smoking. And, my voice is milder. Could be I'm on a roll.

So: posture. Has anyone tried to alter their own? Does anyone have any tips? Should I walk around with a book on my head?

via International Skeptics Forum

Is my cousin greedy, or nuts?

First, something about Facebook. Some people's Facebook activity will also generate an email to me to go check out the site. I don't know why it happens with some people and not others.

Anyway, my cousin keeps sharing links and I keep getting tons of email notifications. She's doing it like 20 times a day. She has a mix of politics. She doesn't like Monsanto, is into alternative energy, is pretty much an immigration hawk, is into grass-fed beef.

My question, is this just compulsive sharing or do people get paid to do this?

My email bin is a big enough mess without having 10 to 20 of these notifications showing up every day. I hardly ever go to Facebook, and it's sometimes useful to get email notifications. There must be a way to turn it off, yeh?

via International Skeptics Forum

Sodomy for Terrorists

To be honest, I'm not sure if this is going to help or hurt the cause of the jihadi terrorists... but either way, they might chance the demographics of their movement.

...cleric Abu al-Dema al-Qasab's instructions include details on how to carry out a successful suicide bombing mission by hiding explosives in the bomber's anus."However, to undertake this jihadi approach you must agree to be sodomized for a while to widen your anus so it can hold the explosives," al-Dema al-Qasab tells followers in the video.


Sodomy is forbidden in Islam but according to al-Dema al-Qasab's video, everything is permissible if the objective is in the best interests of the jihad.

Note: Not sure if this was posted before. The article is from over a year ago, but I don't remember seeing any mention of it on here. My apologies if someone beat me too it.

via International Skeptics Forum

Charles Koch on the Justice System

In the "Did Not See That One Coming" category, Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers responsible for influencing a lot of government policy (mainly through Republicans) wants to do things like ease sentencing on non-violent offenders and put more money into public defenders in order to make things more fair for underprivileged defendants.

And look who he is allying with


The Eagle reports that Koch has unofficially teamed up with progressive mega-donor George Soros and the American Civil Liberties Union to address prison reform. Koch has also earned praise from outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who told The Marshall Project that Koch's donation to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which funds training for attorneys who represent those in need, was a positive force. According to reports, Koch has been a supporter of the organization since 2004.

Along with the greater attention to how police deal with citizens, does this look like we're going to see some changes to a justice system that has been heavily criticized for its inequality and harshness to disadvantaged people?

Does Koch have a side game going on here? Does he benefit from this materially? Or is this real altruism from someone accused of manipulating the government for his own gain?

via International Skeptics Forum

Teaching Technology to Primitives

If you found yourself among primitive people, how much advanced technology could you teach them?

The origin of this (purely useless) thread started with a couple of novels involving time travel that I read. Suddenly, a modern person finds himself in an ancient civilization. Could you bring them up to speed? How do you start?

Well that led to some other thoughts about "standing on the shoulders of giants". In other words, I know lots of stuff about high technology, but if I can't get electricity from a wall socket, I'm practically useless. Well, thinking about it led to this thought experiment.

You have stumbled on the secret to time travel and thrown together a time machine. Unfortunately, you were drunk one night, stumbled into it, and the controls were set to someplace you didn't actually want to go. The time machine will send you back, but none of your belongings. Also, it's more of a "time teleporter". The machine doesn't go with you, so it's a one way trip.

You find yourself just outside of Cahokia, Illinois, in the year 1000 of the common era. At this point, Cahokia is a major city, somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000 people, where they build mounds and worship something or another. They are illiterate. Copper tools have been found there, but no evidence of copper mining, so they were probably acquired through trade. You have no possessions, not even clothing. You have whatever color skin you happen to have, which almost certainly doesn't match theirs. You don't speak the language. Let's make you 25 years old, knowing whatever you knew at that time (plus time travel, but that's pretty useless without the machine.) If you aren't yet 25, speculate. In other words, you have completed most if not all of your formal education, and have at least some ability to get along in the 21st century.

Let's assume that they don't just kill you on the spot for being an obvious foreigner. Your first problem is to convince them that you know something worth knowing. Is there something you could do that would impress them to the point where they might not shove you into a pit? Or better yet, impress them so much that they would make an effort to learn to communicate with you? In the original "Planet of the Apes", one of the astronauts makes a paper airplane, but these people don't have paper. What could you do rapidly?

Then, if you manage to succeed, let's imagine that you want to live a good, comfortable life, as best you can, for the rest of your days, which, for the sake of argument, let's say are not cut short by infectious diseases or malnutrition. You intend to live to be seventy. How far can you get? Could you ever manage to live in a world with a flush toilet, for example?

For my part, I can't think of what I would do that would demonstrate my advanced technology rapidly. If I could get them to take me seriously I could teach them writing, algebra, and basic calculus and convince them to use it. I could probably even teach them the printing press, maybe, but that would take a long time. I'm a software/computer engineer, but I can't remember Maxwell's equations. I understand some basics about electricity and magnetism, but even if I could come up with wire, I don't know if I could recreate the original experiments involving generating an electric current and moving magnetized needles. I could explain how a rifle works, but I don't know if I could make gunpowder.

If I was stuck in the middle ages in Europe, instead of North America, I might be able to do a little bit better, except that I would probably be burned as a witch, but starting from absolutely nothing but my college education and the 20th century version of "common sense", I'm not sure what I could accomplish.

So, thoughts? How would you first get their attention, and then how far do you think you could get them? In the remainder of your life, could you come up with a telegraph? Flush toilet? Antibiotics? Rifles? Paper? Pens or pencils?

via International Skeptics Forum

"Dysrationalia", agree or disagree?

Rational and Irrational Thought: The Thinking that IQ Tests Miss

Why smart people do dumb things.

Jan 1, 2015 |By Keith E. Stanovich


No doubt you know several folks with perfectly respectable IQs who repeatedly make poor decisions. The behavior of such people tells us that we are missing something important by treating intelligence as if it encompassed all cognitive abilities. I coined the term “dysrationalia” (analogous to “dyslexia”), meaning the inability to think and behave rationally despite having adequate intelligence, to draw attention to a large domain of cognitive life that intelligence tests fail to assess. Although most people recognize that IQ tests do not measure every important mental faculty, we behave as if they do. We have an implicit assumption that intelligence and rationality go together—or else why would we be so surprised when smart people do foolish things.

It is useful to get a handle on dysrationalia and its causes because we are beset by problems that require increasingly more accurate, rational responses. In the 21st century, shallow processing can lead physicians to choose less effective medical treatments, can cause people to fail to adequately assess risks in their environment, can lead to the misuse of information in legal proceedings, and can make parents resist vaccinating their children. Millions of dollars are spent on unneeded projects by government and private industry when decision makers are dysrationalic, billions are wasted on quack remedies, unnecessary surgery is performed and costly financial misjudgments are made.


via International Skeptics Forum

Even other cops get racially profiled by the NYPD

Even other cops feel threatened by their colleagues' behaviour - it's hard do deny that the NYPD is infected with institutionalised racism.


Reuters interviewed 25 African American male officers on the NYPD, 15 of whom are retired and 10 of whom are still serving. All but one said that, when off duty and out of uniform, they had been victims of racial profiling, which refers to using race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed a crime.

The officers said this included being pulled over for no reason, having their heads slammed against their cars, getting guns brandished in their faces, being thrown into prison vans and experiencing stop and frisks while shopping. The majority of the officers said they had been pulled over multiple times while driving. Five had had guns pulled on them.

And when officers try to remedy the injustice, this is the kind of response they face


The black officers interviewed said they had been racially profiled by white officers exclusively, and about one third said they made some form of complaint to a supervisor.

All but one said their supervisors either dismissed the complaints or retaliated against them by denying them overtime, choice assignments, or promotions. The remaining officers who made no complaints said they refrained from doing so either because they feared retribution or because they saw racial profiling as part of the system.

In declining to comment to Reuters, the NYPD did not respond to a specific request for data showing the racial breakdown of officers who made complaints and how such cases were handled.

When police officers are subject to such random humiliations then what hope do young, black men have when dealing with the NYPD?

via International Skeptics Forum

Russia's Gazprom Oil Wars. Why does the left let them trade blood for oil?

This is subset from the Syria and Ukraine thread with a specific focus on the primary reason that Russia is involved in those wars. Oil.

So why if Russia has so blatantly caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands in a bloody quest to line Putin's pockets with blood oil money from his corrupt State owned oil monopoly Gazprom, does hardly anyone on the left raise any objections?

From the Syrian thread:


Originally Posted by HoverBoarder (Post 10389503)

While this is an old article from 2012, it gets to the heart of the issue:

Syria's Pipelineistan war


More than a year ago, a $10 billion Pipelineistan deal was clinched between Iran, Iraq and Syria for a natural gas pipeline to be built by 2016 from Iran's giant South Pars field, traversing Iraq and Syria, with a possible extension to Lebanon. Key export target market: Europe.

During the past 12 months, with Syria plunged into civil war, there was no pipeline talk. Up until now. The European Union's supreme paranoia is to become a hostage of Russia's Gazprom. The Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline would be essential to diversify Europe's energy supplies away from Russia.

It gets more complicated. Turkey happens to be Gazprom's second-largest customer. The whole Turkish energy security architecture depends on gas from Russia - and Iran. Turkey dreams of becoming the new China, configuring Anatolia as the ultimate Pipelineistan strategic crossroads for the export of Russian, Caspian-Central Asian, Iraqi and Iranian oil and gas to Europe.

Try to bypass Ankara in this game, and you're in trouble. Until virtually yesterday, Ankara was advising Damascus to reform - and fast. Turkey did not want chaos in Syria. Now Turkey is feeding chaos in Syria. Let's examine one of the key possible reasons...

And more specifically from May 2013:

Why Russia is in Syria: Lawrence Solomon


Is Russian President Vladimir Putin supporting the murderous regime in Syria to restore Russia’s influence in the Middle East, lost during the Cold War? Is he flexing Russia’s military might to demonstrate it remains a Superpower? To maintain Russia’s arms sales to Syria, one of its biggest clients? Or is Putin merely acting out of spite, to get back at the U.S...

Russia’s importance on the world stage today rests overwhelmingly on energy, its main source of foreign exchange and — because much of Europe utterly depends on Russian gas — a dominant source of its political influence. The gas is delivered by monopoly exporter Gazprom, until this year the world’s most profitable company. According to unofficial sources, Putin, who has placed his cronies in control of Gazprom and personally makes all of its strategic decisions, uses this company to further his foreign policy, to cement his domestic control by delivering patronage, and to enrich himself — Putin is believed to own 4.5% of Gazprom’s shares, today worth roughly $4-billion.

To maintain Gazprom’s dominance in the European market, Putin has been fighting off competitors on numerous fronts. First, to prevent Europe from acquiring gas from a proposed gas pipeline from Turkey, Putin directed Gazprom to pre-empt it by building an economically dubious rival pipeline to Europe. Then, when it became apparent that Europe had immense shale gas potential, Putin supported Europe’s anti-shale movement, to keep Europe’s gas in the ground on green rationales. Now a new threat to Gazprom’s hegemony has emerged – ever-larger discoveries of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean’s Levant Basin, much of which would ordinarily be destined for Europe....

Step One in Putin’s Mediterranean gambit involves Israel, by tying down its nine-trillion-cubic-foot Tamar field. Under terms of a 20-year deal completed earlier this year, Gazprom will now be the exclusive seller of Tamar gas. Very likely, Gazprom will soon also secure rights to Israel’s even larger Levianthan field. Step Two involves Cyprus, by securing rights to its gas. This Gazprom seems set to do, largely by acquiring the Greek gas distribution company...

Steps Three and Four involve two other Levant Basin countries, Syria and its client state, Lebanon. By maintaining Assad in power — not least since Syria hosts Russia’s only naval base in the Mediterranean — Putin will have outsized influence over Levant Basin gas, and the plausible means to continue to keep Europe dependent on him. Gazprom’s dismal performance of late makes his success in the Mediterranean that much more crucial.

From Ukraine:

Showdown in Ukraine: Putin’s Quest for Ports, Oil, Pipelines and Gas


There is also another reason for Putin’s intervention in Ukraine and that has to do with Russia elbowing for dominance of the very lucrative and strategically important “energy corridors.”

That is very likely to be the major reason why Putin is willing to risk going to war with the West over Crimea, the pipelines that traverses the Caucasus and the oil and natural gas these pipelines carry westwards to Europe.

Given the geography of the region there are only so many lanes where the pipelines can be laid; and most of them transit through Ukraine. Others travel across Azerbaijan and Turkey. Most of Western Europe’s gas and much of Eastern Europe’s gas travels through Ukraine.


It’s Not Just Ukraine

The real problem is that Putin has the whole region cornered. And no one seems to notice.

via International Skeptics Forum

dimanche 28 décembre 2014

Did Ewen Macdonald murder Scott Guy?

Here are a couple of links, a book review, and the reaction to the book by the deceased's sister in law.

As usual, the wikipedia entry is a good introduction.

Defence lawyer Greg King regarded the case publicly as very easy to defend before the trial, as he analysed the evidence carefully.

The New Zealand public knew then and still know Ewen Macdonald is guilty as sin, but just a minute, he was disarming an alarm as is brother in law was being shot 1.5km distant.

A typical flawed and wrongful prosecution.

via International Skeptics Forum

The Papers of Stephen J. Crothers

Mr. Crothers IMO is a badass.

Debunking black holes, big bang and other pseudoscience and woo. Good job Mr. Crothers!

via International Skeptics Forum

Would you believe Tennessee is worse than West Virginia?

Forget fire water. A sip of water here will literally blow your mind.


Lawsuit filed over explosive chemicals found in Holston River.

The Tennessee Clean Water Network claims the Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HSAAP) in Kingsport, Tenn., which is owned by the U.S. Department of the Army and operated by BAE Systems Ordnance Systems, Inc., has been polluting the Holston River with a highly explosive chemical, RDX, since 2004. RDX is used in military ammunition and bombs.

We don’t dynamite fish here anymore. The fish bump into a log or a rock and the whole river goes up in a WHUMP! Easy pickings.

via International Skeptics Forum

Near Death and Out of Body Experiences

Wikipedia------ A near-death experience (NDE) refers to personal experiences associated with impending death, encompassing multiple possible sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light. These phenomena are usually reported after an individual has been pronounced clinically dead or very close to death. --------According to a Gallup poll, approximately eight million Americans claim to have had a near-death experience.[13] Some commentators, such as Simpson,[14] claim that the number of near-death experiencers may be underestimated.------The earliest accounts of NDE can be traced to the Myth of Er, recorded in the 4th century BC by Plato's The Republic (10.614-10.621), wherein Plato describes a soldier telling of his near-death experiences.-

via International Skeptics Forum

Suggestions for Math[s] book

I have a 13 year old niece who enjoys mathematics at school. Would any forum members have any suggestions for a book i could get her to gently encourage her further?

Any suggestions will be gratefully considered.

via International Skeptics Forum

Motion Microscope

I keep attempting to appreciate the implications of this sound breaking technology however, :boggled:

via International Skeptics Forum

Family begged Winston Churchill not to convert to Islam


This has all the makings of an awesome alternative history novel


The family of Sir Winston Churchill urged him to “fight against” the desire to convert to Islam, a newly discovered letter has revealed.

The Prime Minister who led Britain to victory in World War Two was apparently so taken with Islam and the culture of the Orient that his family wrote to try and persuade him not to become a Muslim.

In a letter dated August 1907 Churchill’s soon to be sister-in-law wrote to him: “Please don’t become converted to Islam; I have noticed in your disposition a tendency to orientalise, Pasha-like tendencies, I really have.

“If you come into contact with Islam your conversion might be effected with greater ease than you might have supposed, call of the blood, don’t you know what I mean, do fight against it.”

via International Skeptics Forum

samedi 27 décembre 2014

Thugs opens fire on people, points gun at officer, is arrested without injury

I wonder if anyone can spot the difference between this incident and the other incidences being discussed at great length over recent months:

"One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn't belong, Can you tell which thing is not like the others. By the time I finish my song?"

I sure would like for one of the resident Social Justice Haters to explain why in this case pointing a gun at an officer didn't result in an immediate death sentence. Because that's just how it is, isn't it? That's certainly what I read people on this forum assering with great confidence. So what makes this incident so different that police were able to arrest the perp without injury?

via International Skeptics Forum

Air Asia 8501 (A320) lost contact from Indonesia en route to Singapore

AirAsia flight from Indonesia to Singapore missing


An AirAsia flight travelling from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control, the company has said.

Indonesian media say 162 people were on board.

The aircraft, flight number QZ8501, lost contact with air traffic control just after 07:00am local time, AirAsia tweeted.

MYT is CST + 14 hours.

via International Skeptics Forum

Do the Global Elite Conceal Ancient Aliens?

This is the one to watch:

Do the Global Elite Conceal Ancient Aliens?

('watch' meaning observe, make note, rather than watch video.

via International Skeptics Forum

The lure of free energy

...In the 1950s we were assured by the best scientific minds that nuclear electricity would be free and it would not make sense to meter it. The Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty granted every country the right to enrich and the nuclear haves promised the nuclear havenots that they would help them develop nuclear electricity to increase their economic well being. It may not be clear what went wrong but it is still very difficult to determine the economics of nuclear electricity because the fuel is provided by the government and its price may not be indicative of its cost.

The U.S. government tried to get private industry to process nuclear fuel but had a difficult time finding takers. Union Carbide made an offer that required government guarantees and big upfront cash. Maybe Union Carbide knew something about nuclear fuel processing cost since they were operating a government nuclear fuel processing plant in Tennessee which happened to be the biggest electricity user in the U.S. Other concerns about nuclear electricity cost include the fact that much of the nuclear fuel available today is a result of a scaling back in nuclear weapons by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and of course the processing waste and the plant closure cost.

Bill Gates and other smart people are funding research on backyard nuclear power plants. Backyard nukes sound interesting and have a long history. In the late 1940s and early 1950s nuclear power was seen to be an attractive source even at very small scale, including for automobiles and aircraft, and a lot of money was spent on aircraft nuclear power (NB36, XB70). The world’s most esteemed nuclear physicists pronounced the practicability of nuclear reactors for these purposes, and the U.S. government gave encouragement and big dollars to these efforts. Oil companies were assured this was going to happen and were eager to participate. General Atomics was Gulf and Shell spending big on “Atoms for Peace” and hiring the best scientific minds to insure success.

After the small scale nuke bubble collapsed, nuclear industrial parks became all the rage and it was deemed that big electric users such as aluminum and fertilizer makers would colocate with nuclear power plants and this would result in great cost reductions which would improve our economic well being. It’s not clear what happened.

The Rasmussen report was used to insure us that a Three Mile Island type incident would only happen every 500,000 reactor years. Then there was Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Nuclear power plants transfer heat from fission to water and reject heat to the local environment and the heat exchangers can dominate the cost. The 4MeV neutrons produced by fission are rough on materials and greatly increase the plant cost relative to other heat sources. Imagine dealing with the 14Mev neutrons from fusion, another “free” energy hoax.

Solar electricity from photovoltaics is said to be free once you pay for the system but the overall cost is several times greater than the grid supplied cost of fossil fuel generated electricity and this means that to get an equivalent amount of electrical energy from photovoltaics that several times the fossil fuel energy is expended in the manufacture, installation, operation, and maintenance and as a consequence more pollutants are generated and our standard of living is reduced.

Photovoltaics are produced with low cost Chinese labor and coal fired electricity and installed on the homes of the wealthy in the West, where the governments force the utilities to purchase the electricity from the photovoltaic arrays at high rates and pass the costs on to the legitimate ratepayers, who are the victims of this scheme. Photovoltaic systems must also promise an unproven and unrealistic lifetime to complete the hoax.

It’s intriguing that the National Renewal Energy Laboratory, previously the Solar Energy Research Institute, with 37 years of solar research and development work can claim an inability to find reliable data on photovoltaic system operating and maintenance costs, since they have been monitoring photovoltaic systems for decades and have associations with other organizations that have been monitoring photovoltaic systems for decades. Photovoltaic electricity cost, including failures, whether absorbed by taxpayers, rate payers, insurers, installers, or investors, are part of the cost of solar electricity, just as failed wells are part of the price of gas and oil. Photovoltaic failures such as BP, Solar City, Abound, and Solyndra are part of the cost of PV electricity.

If the operating and maintenance costs associated with photovoltaic systems were anywhere near the rosy prediction of the advocates, that information would be available and deafening. We shouldn't have to depend on the New York Times and law journals to learn the real world problems associated with photovoltaic systems.

Intermittent/inconsistent energy sources such as solar and wind do not allow a reduction in the number or size of power plants and in fact there is a requirement for rapid response power plants which are much costlier and much less efficient and because they are often idled and they have longer payback periods. Solar and wind electric output produce shock loads on utility grids which are costly to accommodate.

If photovoltaic electricity were less costly than grid supplied electricity, photovoltaics would be used to make photovoltaics.

Much is forgotten and must be repeated. In the 1970s there was a Solarex Solar Breeder project and it got big government funding and a large number of adherents.

In the 1970s there was a large power tower project called Solar One and after several years it was revealed that the value of the electricity produced was less than the cost of cleaning the mirrors. How could smart people have deemed this a good way to generate electricity? In addition to sand accumulation, the windblown sand caused scratching of the mirrors glass surfaces and necessitated periodic replacement.

Siemens promoted photovoltaics in the late 19th century when they were 1% efficient and steam power plants were 3% efficient. Today photovoltaics are 20% efficient and combined cycle power plants are 60% efficient. Since the grid was much less prevalent in the late 19th century, photovoltaics might have represented a better investment in many areas.

Smart people in government agencies the 1970s and 1980s funded solar water heaters that cost more in electricity to run the pumps and controls than the potential savings in water heating costs and these people never seemed to have the time or interest to study the situation. The initial cost of these solar water heating systems could be more than 100 times the annual “potential” savings. In Southern California the average home spent ~$80.00/year on natural gas for water heating and the solar water heating systems might save half of this or ~$40.00/year. The government rebate for solar could be $5500.00 for the maximum allowed system cost ($11,000.00) and of course smart people learned to get the maximum rebate on all systems. The active systems required costly maintenance and rarely operated more than a few years.

Smart people in the U.S. government decided to fund corn to ethanol with a cost to the economy of hundreds of billions of dollars

U.S. corn and cellulose to ethanol conversion plants consume large amounts of low cost natural gas and coal fired electricity to produce a fuel for which the federal government generates a market thru mandates.

If corn to ethanol made sense, ethanol would be used to fuel the process.

U.S. government energy experts knew when oil was $2/barrel and synfuels were $8/barrel that synfuels would make economic sense when oil got to $8/barrel and when oil got to $8/barrel they funded synfuels and were surprised that synfuels cost $32/barrel but were never able to grasp the fact that it required 4 barrels of oil equivalent energy to manufacture a barrel of synfuels with 1 barrel of oil equivalent energy. The significance of this still cannot be grasped. It may be that the current energy secretary can grasp the situation but the purchase of corn state votes is deemed of greater importance. Nothing has to be real; it only has to be sold.

There is a studied unwillingness to see cost as the important metric-money is just a trading unit of energy.

Germany tries to create a pretty picture of their energy policy and has largely succeeded in fooling the public and pleasing the Greens. German electric costs have soared and are now more than twice U.S. electric cost and rising fast. The only help is that they are burning more coal. The ruler of Germany may have to please the Greens, buts it’s a fool’s play and will result in great economic harm.

If photovoltaic electricity was less costly than grid supplied electricity, photovoltaics would be used to make photovoltaics.

If corn to ethanol made sense, ethanol would be used to fuel the process.

If cellulose to ethanol made sense, cellulose would be used to fuel the process.

When you try to close the loop things become more obvious. Closing the loop is what might in the vernacular be called a “******** detector”. These schemes are adult analogs of the childhood idea of the motor powering the generator powering the motor in that they result in additional energy consumption rather that additional energy production, the difference is that they occur at great economic cost to society. These schemes often exploit price disparities in fuels and require huge subsidies and a studied ignorance to prevail.

It’s somehow very difficult to grasp the fact that a dollar is just a trading unit of energy and productivity is simply a measure of the ratio of human energy expended to useful energy returned.

I believe solar energy can and will be used to provide food, fuel, heat, and water at costs much lower than present solutions, but I believe that this will primarily be accomplished by exploiting biological processes. Farmers have learned to use solar energy profitably; we can learn something from them.

Current photovoltaic systems are often the most economical choice when the cost to connect to the grid is high. Many applications have low power requirements and high grid connection cost. In these instances photovoltaic systems are competing on capital cost. To force taxpayers and ratepayers to support photovoltaic systems in grid connected locations is to waste money and energy, because money is simply a trading unit of energy. If taxpayer or ratepayer funds are to be used to support solar energy, they should be used where it is most effective and not as currently used. Governments could encourage self-sufficient homes and businesses. In the book, “The End of the Suburbs”, the author, Leigh Gallagher tells us that many suburban communities have accumulated debt that will eventually cause them to declare bankruptcy because the cost of supplying and maintaining utilities (the grid) at typical suburban densities is much greater than the typical return, in other words, it may never have made economic sense to create utility grids at the densities typical of suburbia.

We need to develop comprehensive solutions for grid independence. We need to solve the “potty problem”, it may not make economic sense to send the poop and the water 50 miles to the river or the sea, and we need to solve the energy storage problem.

Edison pictured a world with very localized power production where the reject heat from electric power production could be used and in fact Pearl Street, his first installation utilized what today we call combined heat and power (CHP). Independent residences could also benefit from the direct current (DC) provided by photovoltaics, rather than the alternating current (AC) supplied by the grid. The arguments for AC in Edison’s time included: it was easier to change the voltage to current ratio via inductors and long travel distances would be more economical at high voltage to current ratios (not a concern for grid independence or short travel distance), it did not have to be polarized (now it has to be polarized, grounded and include ground fault circuit interrupters), and AC motors could be more efficient (brushless DC motors now offer very high efficiency and much higher power density. Additional benefits of DC power production include: fundamentally reduced electrocution hazard and lower voltages can be used, many appliances now use DC and must convert grid supplied AC to DC and the cost and efficiency of the convertors are significant issues, and there is a wide range of 12 VDC products due to its use in automobiles, motor homes, and boats.

It would be nice to think that there is careful study of the economics of energy conversion but it’s not clear where the evidence for that resides, instead there is ample evidence of the lack of careful study. An example that got worldwide attention and considerable funding was Google’s “Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal” Initiative (RE<C) and their focus on power towers. Maybe it was studiously forgotten that Solar One, the giant power tower at Barstow CA was found to cost more for mirror cleaning than the value of electricity delivered and yet Google promised to make electricity cheaper than coal in 5 years time and were a big funder in the Ivanpah power tower. Renewable Energy World picked the Ivanpah power tower as its “Project of the Year”. One has to wonder about the economic viability of the other candidates.

The diffuse nature of solar radiation requires that the cost per unit area for any system, including a 100% efficient system must be low.

Academics can be hired to measure all of the energy inputs and outputs and studiously miss the forest for the trees. It must be realized that cost is the measure of the energy consumed. If a solar energy system results in delivered electricity costs twice as much as a hydrocarbon energy system, it uses twice as much hydrocarbon energy to manufacture, install and operate and therefore is responsible for twice as much pollution. It’s a concept that hard to grasp by those whose income depends on pushing the idea that the expensive energy is clean rather than much dirtier.

When comparing PV electricity cost to grid supplied electricity cost, one can always resort to the miracle of the crossing lines. If one line heads toward the bottom the chart and the other line heads toward the top of the chart, they can be caused to cross. The charts today that show the crossing in 2020 look suspiciously like the PV electricity vs. grid supplied electricity cost charts showing the crossing in 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010, but those inculcated in the Free Energy Religion are not apt to question the “Gods” of clean and green. It's very much like "the war on drugs"; no one can say "it's not working".

It seems that the right knows that “alternative energy” isn’t profitable and the left doesn’t realize that it has to be, otherwise more energy is required than returned.

via International Skeptics Forum

Calling mechanics - what is this screw

I looked here

and it's not listed. It's "serrated" around the edges (like a gear) and the hole is round. I need to unscrew it to open my laptop.

via International Skeptics Forum

Short Guys Are In!

Finally a non-creepy guy topic. (1)


The 14 Absolute Best Things About Dating A Short Guy by Tess Koman

1. You will never again tear a neck muscle for love.

Kissing is better, eye contact is stronger, talking is easier.

One out of every four relationships is derailed by an easily preventable neck strain.

If you can say, “Follow the yellow brick road,” in the proper timbre, you’re golden.

(1) On those topics I think someone needs a hug. :hug8

via International Skeptics Forum

Christians upset over NdGTyson recognizing Newton's bday

Ok, I saw the tweet on Christmas from Neil deGrasse Tyson

"On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642"

Was surprised to see today that there is all this "controversy" about how Tyson is raising "ire" with his anti-christian tweets.

Once again, it's the perspective of privilege. This is like in the Honda thread, where someone complained about a person who thanked the makers of Honda instead of God, here the problem is that he set them up and then had the audacity to not praise Jesus. For pete's sake, it's not even like Newton was some pagan or anything!

The comments are a riot. Claiming that Tyson "mocks" christianity with his tweet, for example. I'm trying to figure out how it is "disrespectful" at all. What a big attack on religion - not mentioned Jesus in a tweet about someone born on Dec 25

There are some great responses. I like the one guy who thinks he makes a point by saying that Newton wasn't actually born on Dec 25 in the Gregorian calendar. Because, we know that Jesus was of course born right on Dec 25.

And I like the stories that describe the tweet as saying that people read it thinking it would be about Jesus but then it was about Isaac Newton. It was a total of 125 characters, so maybe 90 characters leading them to thinking it was Jesus.

via International Skeptics Forum

Pseudo-Lock Screen for Windows 7?

My previous remote desktop apps allowed a "curtained mode" (I think that was the name) wherein the host desktop only displayed a lock screen.

Steam streaming, however, won't let you work with a locked computer. It will take the audio, but the screen will go on as you play your game.

So now I am looking for something that will sort of "lock" it. Security isn't really a concern, just not having my computer randomly showing my games. My desktop is an all-in-one, so I can't just unplug the monitor.

via International Skeptics Forum

Mum banned from government school over God pledge

This piece of idiocy, sadly, has happened in my city:


A SINGLE mother and her son’s primary school are locked in a feud after she was issued a trespass notice banning her from setting foot in the school grounds until November.

The woman, who wants to be known only as Alex, cannot take her son, 6, to class and has been forced to wait for him outside school gates each day.

She also could not attend the prep concert and the school sports day at Burwood Heights Primary.

Alex told the Herald Sun she was being victimised for objecting to the recital of a pledge at the state school that begins with “I love God”.

She also said the ban related to her raising objections to the way the school ran its special religious instruction program.

Now I'm certain that there is more to this case and the mother may well have been abusive to teachers. But what the school has done is improper, possibly illegal (I'll look into this) and certainly against the spirit (at least) of government Education Acts which hold that education is to be universal, secular and free.

The Education Department response, no doubt provided by the janitor who is the only person not on leave, was pathetic:


Victorian Department of Education spokesman Stuart Teather said “all too often teachers and principals are exposed to unacceptable behaviour” from parents.

What about unacceptable behaviour from schools, you idiot. I'd show disregard and disrespect to teachers who allow this pledge to be part of school life.

I should point out that this is a primary (or elemental) school. Indoctrination needs to start early.

via International Skeptics Forum