July 30, 2008

Meat week

As mentioned in the previous post, I'm going to try an experiment.  For the next week, I'm going all-carnivore.  Nothing but meat from 12am tomorrow until 12am next Thursday.  Since I'm not partial to (nor do I think I could find) any adrenal glands to eat, I'll be adding lemon juice to my drinking water and tea to avoid scurvy.  I've had plenty of mostly-meat days in the past, but I'm curious what a week of only meat will feel like.

As of today, I'm congested, had an afternoon headache and mental fuzziness -- to the point that I decided to bug out of the office early, and I feel bloated and puffy. 
I weigh 209lb.

As the week progresses, I'll be recording my weight and any change in symptoms, along with what I've eaten.  Since this isn't the primary purpose of the blog (and I don't want this to become a dieting blog), I'll be hiding meat-week content behind a jump for the most part, though the conclusion post will be public.

Time to go eat my last apple for a little while, and start the crock pot.

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Prior to a planned, one-week dietary experiment, I'm going to write a short history.
Twice upon a time, I was in pretty damn good shape.

The first time was eons ago while still pursuing my BSE. I was taking aikido classes three times a week, lifting 4 times a week, doing cardio of some form another 3 times a week. I ate very high protein, very low fat, and very low sugar. At my colossal height of 5'5", I weighed in at about 127 (I'd started at about 210). As a natural endomorph, I was gaunt at this weight, but I carried a fair amount of muscle. I was as fit as any good gymnast, not for a sport or a job, but just because I wanted to be. I was also an insufferable jackass. I was better than you, and I'd let you know. Probably while smirking.

It didn't last. School got harder as I progressed into my senior and super-senior years, and in stress I slowly dropped every behavior that had made me fit. My gut came back, my pants didn't fit, and I hated myself for it. I was, at least, much more sufferable.

Graduation, my first job, and marriage added every pound back on. I coasted, in mediocre shape, for a few years. My divorce was a shock. It woke me up and scared the crap out of me. I needed my health back for a lot of reasons. It was at about this time that I read Neanderthin, the best, hokiest-titled diet book I'd ever read.

Neanderthin has a simple premise: your body is the result of untold millenia of evolution, and many of the foods we eat today didn't exist for the vast majority of history. Fire's only been under human control for about 100,000 years, and grains and farming have only been around for 10,000-20,000 years. The prescription to go along with this premise is that -- for optimal health -- you should only eat things that man could have acquired prior to agriculture, and preferably prior to fire (though you should still cook meat for safety).

So, for 6 straight months, without a single cheat, I did just that.

I ate: meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Nothing else. No booze, no diet soda, and not one cracker. I lost 50lbs. I wasn't hungry once. I had energy I hadn't had since college. My occasional migraines vanished. My perpetual sinus congestion was gone. I joined a gym and actually used it. I felt fantastic. But I really, really wanted a brownie.

After 6 months without a single cheat, I planned a single day of "nutritional adventure". I gorged, I had unbelievable sugar highs. I got high on milk, for crying out loud. The next day... I didn't crash. I expected to, but I felt fine. I wish to God I'd felt a hangover, horrible pain, something. No such luck. Between the lack of consequences for my cheat day and starting to date again (disastrously), the dam was broken. I haven't exercised regularly or eaten right since.

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July 29, 2008

Zinc just keeps coming up in my posts

Al Fin Energy has a great article on a Zinc/Bromine battery that purports 5 times the energy density of a Lithium ion battery of similar size. Even if they end up being the same energy density, it's still a great step. Zinc is dirt cheap and safe to mine. If we went whole-hog using it for transportation, though, we might finally have to ditch pennies.

As ever, listen to the "end is near" crowd only with a large grain of NaCl. Better electric/energy storage and an expanded electrical grid are coming, and a post-oil future with them. In the meanwhile, we should be drilling everywhere we can.

In the short term, we can burn our own oil and save some cash. In the medium term (after we don't need it), we can sell it to the OPEC nations after they run out. Cackling madly while we do this is, of course, optional.

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Cool images I found today

M. K. Freeberg posted this awesome image over at Cassy's place as part of his guest blogger intro.

Found this one at Speculist. Makes me nostalgic, I'd have been a subscriber for sure. (PG-13)

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July 24, 2008

The AMV that introduced me to Scooter, and thus my favorite song ever

Scooter, One (Always Hardcore)

I've categorized this post as Math.  I feel it adds something without being derivative.

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July 23, 2008

I'm on the Senate Banking Committee

Ok, that's not true. Unlike certain presumptive democratic nominees however, I readily admit it.  Also, I owe an apology to T. Boone Pickens. I really thought he was just shilling for fedbucks for his windmill plan. Even if he is, he at least had the balls to say drill it all.  HotAir rocks, by the way. Okay, Ed Morrissey rocks. Allahpundit is so emo he cries hoodies.

In local news, every local office up for election will be decided in the August democratic party primary. All of them. No republicans or libertarian candidates are even running, and the "independant" mayoral challenger from the '06 race switched to dem this time 'round.  So I'm writing myself in for mayor of Ann Arbor. I've persuaded my wife to do the same, so that's 2 votes right there.  If I have any actual readers in Ann Arbor, I'll happily give out my real name if you'll write me in.  I mostly just want to see if I can get like 10 signatures and show up on the evening news.

Aspiring Mad Scientist for Mayor!

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July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight

Not gonna spoil it, but it's everything that's been said.  It is flat out awesome.  The message is spot-on and timely, and the acting is phenomenal.

One quibble: Bale talking from the deepest part of his throat got a little hard to take at times.

OTOH, operation skyhook was full of so much win that I cannot begin to construct an appropriate metaphor.  In the future, I will see awesome things and judge them against operation skyhook, and I shall likely find them wanting.

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July 20, 2008

How much methanol?

From NewEnergyAndFuel

To give some feel for this potential, a ton of wood would make between 165 to 185 gallons of methanol. The U.S. alone generates 240 million tons of wood waste each year, which would yield at least 39.6 billion gallons of methanol. U.S. paper mills could add another 9.3 billion gallons. The uncounted tons of trash and garbage would add still more. Methanol can be made from oil, natural, gas, coal and there remains more than half of the U.S. farm acreage that isn’t in production now that could add hundreds of millions of tons annually. Methanol can even be made from CO or CO2 with a hydrogen source made available.

I had thought that the yield was far lower, based on some other articles I'd read, but I was specifically looking at the Fischer-Tropsch process. I need to ask/look around and see how the author might have got to "1 ton of wood = 165 to 185 gallons of methanol".

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July 18, 2008

Answering Al Gore

If you aren't reading NextBigFuture you really ought to be. Brian Wang thoroughly answers Al Gore's absurd "no fossil fuels in 10 years" and does him about 100 better, offering an actual plan for doing so in a reasonable time frame, with an emphasis on reducing air pollution rather than CO2 emmissions.

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July 17, 2008

Nuclear Gas

This is old, but I promised myself an entry a day, so if you have haven't seen the Green Freedom plan, and you have a quarter hour to read an overview, have a look.

The idea is pretty simple: take normal octane combustion (qualitative equations, not balanced)
C8H18 + O2 => CO2 + O2 + Energy
and flip it on its head to get:
H2O + CO2 + Energy => C8H18 + O2

In the latter, you're basically storing the energy -- with some amount of inefficiency -- as C-H chemical bonds. So the plan is to build a buttload of new nuke plants and attach what amounts to an octane factory, using the output from the power plant to push the chemistry. Result: Air + Nuclear Power = Gasoline. No drilling, no change to our current autos, just good ol' gas. Downside? Getting the chemistry to work with proven methods puts a gallon produced this way at $4.60. Not much worse than a few places in CA these days, but basically not worth doing unless gas from petroleum stays as high as it's been for as long as it takes to build the power plants.

So why is this interesting? If any of the chemical steps in the process gets an upgrade -- a better catalyst, a shortcut across one or more steps -- the price could become more competitive. Further, building up something like this is probably a very good hedge against supply difficulties with OPEC or others. It also means that we aren't totally boned if non-food-feedstock biofuels don't pan out.

Though it's not nearly as fun as my idea for using a fleet of nuclear submarines to farm whales for their tasty meat and sweet, sweet whale oil.

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July 16, 2008

This could power my hometown... and its neighbors

Mini Nukes. The dimensions in the article put it at about the size of a large house. How cool is that?

At the same time Nebel and company are preparing to build the 1.5m diameter Bussard IEC fusion reactor, which would have about the same footprint, but is obviously more awesome, what with not needing uranium (I think it can actually run on Borax and water).

Either way, I'm cautiously optimistic about our electricity supply in the mid-term.

h/t Instapundit, NextBigFuture

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July 15, 2008

Chuck Schumer, destroyer of worlds

Week before last, he literally talked IndyMac to death, but he's also partially responsible for blocking reforms to the Fannie and Freddie that might have mitigated the current poopstorm.

Don't worry, though, I'm sure it's still somehow Bush's fault.  Maybe even GHWB at that, since nothing went wrong in the golden years of Clinton other than that awful Ken Starr witch hunt.

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July 14, 2008

The Black Arrow, The Third Revolution

The Black Arrow is easily the weirdest book I've ever read. Penned by libertarian author Vin Suprynowicz, it occupies a sort of twilight zone between action/adventure, harlequin romance, revenge fantasy, and incitement to domestic terrorism.

The titular character (The Black Arrow, aka Andrew Fletcher) is basically John Galt as a superhero. He's Ayn Rand's throbbing wet dream: rich, brilliant, utterly lacking in angst, and perfectly ethical, all while trapped in an increasingly unethical world. The setting is NYC in the bleak near future, where citizens are randomly searched on the street, and dissidents frequently vanish without a trace. The narration lays blame on decades of rule by both Democrats and Republicans for the near-absence of civil liberties,up to and including the right to property.

Our (extra)ordinary man, finally pushed too far, decides to fight back... by murdering corrupt politicians (i.e. pretty much all of them). He gathers followers, nails super-hot chicks, and rocks out with his band in a huge concert. If Buckaroo Banzai were 250lbs of hypertrophic beef and had a serious hardon for Freedom with a capital F, he might be within a stone's throw of how absurdly over-the-top this guy is.

In case it wasn't obvious, the writing is pure pulp (the character names will make your eyes roll... a lot). Parts of it I enjoyed so much I felt stupidly embarrassed. Other parts made me cringe. Read as escapist fiction, it's amusing and occasionally gratifying. The bad guys are really bad, the good guys are really good. It almost cannot be read seriously, but the message -- if there is one -- is that it's almost time to "shoot the bastards" as Claire Wolf puts it, and that when "we" do, it will rock. On toast.

Paulbots will likely have to read this book entirely in their bunks.

The Third Revolution by Anthony F. Lewis, is a very different book, but I read it immediately following The Black Arrow, so I always think of one when I think of the other (for good or for ill).  The premise is simultaneously much more and much less radical: a freshly elected Libertarian governor of Montana, strongly supported by his state legislature and state residents, signs legislation nullifying Montana's contract with the federal government.

The setup for that is pretty good, a particularly invasive federal education mandate which has single-digit support in Montana, so it's a lot easier to side with the Montanans in this case than it might have been with, say, South Carolina last time this happened.

There is plenty of good, episodic content from here, detailing the back-and-forth between Montana and FedGov, with decent characterization.  What really stood out to me was that there weren't any "bad" guys here.  All the elected officials have their hearts in the right place, they just have different priorities and philosophies.  Lewis does a fantastic job of painting a strong, adversarial relationship without taking the easy road of making the president or any in his camp into a soulless cretin.

Both of these books hit a lot of really good, pro-freedom themes, but there's a mile-wide gulf between them in how they articulate those themes.   I'm not sure I recommend The Black Arrow, but it's a nice antidote to the ultimately hollow V  for Vendetta.  I do recommend The Third Revolution, though I'm not sure I'll ever bother to read the sequel(s).

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July 13, 2008

I want what this mouse has, and I want it last Thursday

It's sorta old now, but there's a story here about a particularly cool genetically altered mouse.

They bred a colony of mice lacking the gene that causes lactic acid buildup in skeletal muscles. From the article:

The mouse can run up to six kilometres (3.7 miles) at a speed of 20 metres per minute for five hours or more without stopping. Scientists said that this was equivalent of a man cycling at speed up an Alpine mountain without a break. Although it eats up to 60 per cent more food than an ordinary mouse, the modified mouse does not put on weight. It also lives longer and enjoys an active sex life well into old age – being capable of breeding at three times the normal maximum age.

Side effects? Increases in appetite and aggression. I'll cope.
So yeah, last Thursday.

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Pennies = power? (reposted from LJ)

Bare with me, because this is either the worst or best idea I've had this week. It definitely gave me giggles when I thought of it. Sadly, it was not quite mad scientist cackling. I'm saving that for something bigger.

US penny = Copper clad zinc ingot (97.5% Zn, 2.5% Cu).

The Zinc-air battery (or Fuel Cell) uses zinc and atmospheric oxygen as a fuel, generating current through the oxidation of zinc. It would require some amount of copper wire to create conducting leads at the anode and cathode.

Copper and zinc have different reactivities, and this difference could be exploited to remove the copper jacket from the zinc ingot. This link shows a method for using 6M HCl to dissolve the copper and recover the zinc, but doesn't suggest a good way to recover the copper. That will take some looking around, but it's not critical to the project.

How many pennies would it take to build a Zn-ZnO battery that equaled the power output of a AA battery? Is there any chance that it's fewer pennies than such a battery would cost? It's not likely, by any means, but this is government we're talking about. Even if it isn't cost-effective, I've got loads of pennies to try this with just as an experiment in fabricating a simple battery (it's not technically a fuel cell in this case unless you can reverse the Zn-ZnO reaction and store new energy).

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DCFC links and thoughts, reposted from my LJ

Warning: Science content.

Fuel Cell basics
Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) basics
Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell (MCFC) basics
SARA DCFC research (MCFC approach)
CellTech DCFC research (SOFC with a twist)

In all cases, DCFCs operate at between 700 and 850 degrees centigrade (reaction temperature). A reasonably sized residential cell would be intended for combined heat and power (CHP). Because there's no thermal cycle, per se, just direct chemical conversion, you can pretty much sneer arrogantly at the Carnot limit. In all cases, theoretical efficiency is ~70% for the overall system (compare to conventional coal at ~25-40%). The input fuel can vary from graphite powder to carbon black to methanol (ground diamond could theoretically work). The waste product is CO2, but it's easily captured if you care about that (I don't). The listed temperature suggests that these might be excellent candidates for thermoelectric conversion if electricity is more greatly desired than heat, and partial thermoelectric conversion might improve the overall efficiency in any case. Most of the papers I've read were written prior to the recent revolution in thermoelectrics, so that's worth looking into. Further, I can easily envision a situation utilizing all the waste from such a cell to heat simultaneously heat a greenhouse and supply it with extra CO2 to stimulate plant growth -- nearly ideal for an arctic or antarctic enclosed farm. Or Michigan in Winter, say.

This sort of cell could be scaled for use in a car, but the high temperature might be a very serious issue, which is likely why Honda went with the methanol-reforming cells for their super-expensive fuel cell concept car. They run at a much lower operating temperature (250-300 degrees centigrade, comparable to an internal combustion engine), and the waste from them is H2O rather than CO2 (H2O is actually the stronger greenhouse gas, but it can be caught and condensed at some cost to efficiency). However, you have to carry around a cell full of methanol as a hydrogen source, and the efficiency of such cells is much lower (25-40%). This is another area where thermoelectric insulation could make a very serious difference in the utility of such a cell for this very desirable application.

I shall continue to ponder. Both the companies I listed above did literally start as garage shops. I'm not likely to beat them to commercialization, but it would be fun to build a cell as a project. Wouldn't mind heating my house with graphite or carbon black, for that matter.

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July 12, 2008

Starter post

Very first post for my mee.nu blog.  I've been half-assedly blogging over at livejournal, but nearly all the blogs I read these days are at mee.nu anyhow.  Moving here is the only logical step.

Most of the posts are going to suck while I learn the ropes of the posting doohickeys, but that ought to improve in time.

In the meanwhile, an intro:

I'm an American.  I'm a mathematician by training, a software developer by trade, and I work proudly within the grand military-industrial complex, doing my small part to keep the homeland safe and help our military kick ass and not get killed doing it.  I believe that an armed man is a citizen, and that an unarmed man is a peasant at best, a slave at worst.

I'm a Republican more often than not, but I lean libertarian on a lot of issues.  I'm a (very) lapsed Catholic but I've got nothing against faith or people of faith.  I'm not a creationist but I won't sit to see them denigrated.  I'm also pretty sure catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is a hoax perpetuated by those seeking to control others.

I'm fascinated by new technology, and I'll frequently be blogging about new developments I've heard about, along with a few of my own hare-brained ideas.  As I was born in the year of the Hare, that's more than appropriate.  I'm most interested in IEC fusion, biofuels, synthetic biology, life extension, computing, nanotech, and "upgrades".  I've described myself as a transhumanist on occasion, but I'm not nearly so enthusiastic as some in that movement.  I'm apprehensive about taking any position on the "Singularity", though I've read Kurzweil's book and I see some reasons for optimism.

That's probably enough for now.  More tomorrow.

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