Tech Tuesday – Firsts and Anniversaries Edition

The First – Yesterday was Bug’s first day of Kindergarten.
The Anniversary was Saturday, 22 years of marriage. My secret to a happy marriage? I argue with you people instead of my wife. ;-)

Tech Tuesday - Firsts and Anniversaries Edition

It’s been a crazy week and weekend.  I was supposed to be in Orlando, but that’s been cancelled (big storm, maybe you heard about it…), however, the window guys called yesterday and asked if they could get the new windows installed today.  Couple that with first and the anniversary…


Aero1 – The solar eclipse, as seen from the moon.

Aero2 – I can’t say that it’s aliens, but…  (it’s not aliens, probably…) (Also, Canada is ready to have a good hard look at it)

Aero3 – A box wing and a tilt rotor.  I have to admit, I like it.  It’s a functional aesthetic that appeals to me.

Aero4 – Testing rocket parts with a gas gun, instead of explosives.  Safer, and less toxic.

Aero5 – The Dream Chaser spacecraft.  It’s a lifting body that should be pretty flexible with regard to how it gets to space (put on a big rocket and launch from the ground, put it on a smaller rocket and launch from a high altitude carrier, etc.).  It’s neat, but so far it has failed to get me too excited.  Speaking of space planes


Arch1 – If you are going to live in an area prone to wildfires, it’s a good idea to not have a home built of flammable materials.  This is one of those things that insurance rates should capture.


Bio1 – FDA opens a can on BS Stem Cell treatments.  The libertarian in me wanted to be all indignant about this, but then I read that one company was mixing stem cells with small pox vaccines and injecting that into tumors to… I would assume trigger some kind of immune response to fight the cancer, but there is zero clinical evidence that this does anything (i.e. that isn’t how you get immunotherapies to work).  Fraud, even if well intentioned, is one of those areas where government is supposed to get involved.  Here’s hoping the FDA doesn’t crack down too hard, since there are a lot of treatments that do have clinical evidence supporting them.

Bio2 – Got diabetes?  Chocolate is good for you!  Well, cocoa is.  Sugar free cocoa, because sugar is still going to give you trouble.  Of course, so is gut bacteria (and I love how that graphic hear the top has the bacteria looking like sprinkles on a donut).

Bio3 – A single treatment that can target multiple neurological disorders.  It’s all about the folding proteins.

Bio4 – Speaking of the FDA, they approved a new gene therapy to fight childhood leukemia.  It ain’t cheap, but it’s the first of it’s kind, so that is to be expected.

Bio5 – Remember Zika?  How it deforms the brains of unborn babies.  Turns out that makes it a stone cold brain cancer assassin.  Hopefully…

Bio6 – Using a diamond to detect Alzheimer’s early.  The fingerprint spectra is pretty interesting.


Enrg1Sending heat back to space.

Enrg2 – Attention K-Mart shoppers, we are having a blue light special on hydrocarbons!

Enrg3 – Sometimes evolution finds the most efficient way to do things, and sometimes man does.

Enrg4 – And then nature says, not so fast, I’ve been doing this longer.


Phys1 – Look at that, science working as intended.

Phys2 – Coming soon to Flickr and YouTube, pics and vids of molecules in action.


Tech1 – A 360 camera that you can frame and re-frame.  Combine with a light field camera, and not only would you have a very cool camera, you’d have a great vision system for autonomous vehicles.

Tech2 – Using lasers to clean dirt.  Yeah, you read that right.

Tech3 – All those years of playing Operation will finally pay off!

Tech4 – As a parent, I appreciate the effort, but I swear the styling makes me think the kid belongs to Creche 5224 of the New Society of Man, or something.

Tech5 – Man, I remember talking about stuff like this back in the 80’s, when we were playing CyberPunk and figuring out how the various cybernetics were powered.


Trans1 – Looking at nature for new ideas for submersibles.

Wacky, Weird, and Wonderful

WWW1 -A small acknowledgement in a pretty unremarkable paper has caused quite a stir.

WWW2 – Oh, wow, look at that, we are still evolving.  This is my surprised face…

WWW3 – Yeah, no way that turns into a happy ending.


The Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories creates tremendous bursts of energy using less power than it would take to light 100 homes for a few minutes(Credit: Randy Montoya/Sandia Labs, CC2.0)


A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget. ...more →

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36 thoughts on “Tech Tuesday – Firsts and Anniversaries Edition

  1. Aero1: That was cool, but way cooler is the video that appears in the same page called “NASA’s EPIC View of 2017 Eclipse Across America”. You can see the eclipse like a shadow fleeting over the USA

    It’s a very Silmarillion image. It’s like disembodieded Sauron fleeing from Tol-in-Gaurhoth, or Trump arriving to D.C., or something else the Valar would have an issue with.

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    The Atlantic looks at the financial success of GOOP and what it says about the death of fact checking and our brains despite more doctors and journalists than you can imagine jumping up and down and shouting bullshit at the top of their lungs.

    My personal hobby horse is that the success of GOOP comes because we don’t teach enough critical thinking and independent thought in education and too much of “education reform” seems to be about connecting education to commercial/money-making skills and abilities.

    Something I have been thinking about with intelligence lately is that you can have intelligent people who learn to question the system and powers that be and you have intelligent people who just work with whatever systems and powers that be are in place for financial success. The second group might know that GOOP is bullshit but they also know that it makes a lot of money and are not adverse to promoting GOOP or working with GOOP to get a lot of cash.

    Education loses its truth function if all of our politicians and education “reformers” talk about how education needs to be connected to helping students thrive in the modern economic world.

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    • Sagan was bemoaning this 20 some odd years ago. It hasn’t gotten any better.

      Thing is, there’s no reason not to teach such skills as part of any education reform, since being able to spot a swindle is pretty important when one is concerned with have good skills for any org. So the question is, are the skills not seen as important, or do schools simply assume parents are teaching such skills, or is the reason more sinister (TPTB don’t want a population that can spot BS)?

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      • I think it depends.

        FWIW, I think people like Paltrow, Amanda Chantal Bacon, and Alex Jones are true believers in their woo. There is also a sexist angle in how Paltrow and Bacon get treated compared to Dr. Oz. Dr. Oz seems to be a true conman though, there was a profile of him in the New Yorker a few years ago and he basically just eats healthy and does exercise like taking the stairs instead of an elevator when he can.

        The article mentions that Conde Nast is teaming up with GOOP for a quarterly publication. A high-end luxury magazine but for woo.

        In the above case, there is an economic justification for ignoring your BS detector because Conde Nast and their employees can look at the financial data and see that there are lots of people willing to spend cash on it. So anyone who says “we shouldn’t work with GOOP because it is bullshit” is probably making a career ending move because if not Conde Nast, it will be someone else.

        As to the sinister motive, it seems close to a conspiracy theory but it is plausible. Something I’ve noticed is that intelligent people seem to either learn to question things or the system and/or they learn to work with the system.

        You can still be economically successful as a questioner but it is harder to do so and takes longer because you are usually in dissent. But lots of people in my generation (and previous ones) did well in school to get into a good university and then get into a good grad school or brass ring job (and then a good MBA, JD, or other professional program) and join the ranks of upper-management.

        My inner socialist wonders if economic incentives cause people to ignore woo basically.

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        • When it comes to medical/nutrition woo, part of the problem is that the worlds of medical/nutrition science & research cooperate with mainstream media in an unhealthy way.

          When the news is constantly telling you about this or that bit of research, and after a while you start getting contradictory messages, your ability to actually know what is useful information is hampered.

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          • It has been a while since I studied it but I don’t think publisher liability goes that far.

            The famous case is that Hustler was not found liable when a teenage boy killed himself after reading a Hustler article on how suffocating yourself (I forgot the term) can lead to erotic heights and organisms.

            On the other hand, the publisher of a “How to Be a Hitman” graphic novel was found liable when someone tried to use it as a how-to guide to kill his wife and disabled child.

            There is plenty of woo out there that gets published without liability.

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        • Vox had a similar article about GOOP today. One reason why GOOP is popular despite the war waged against it is ideological. GOOP is seen as being in alignment with a certain sort of feminism and any criticism of it can be targeted as anti-feminist. There is also a secret knowledge aspect to its popularity.

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      • Or, fourth conclusion, people can spot the “woo” but have other reasons for purchasing/believing in the product. Indeed, it might not be “woo” to them for entirely different reasons then that found by the antiwooers.

        We all have objects/ideas/etc. that we loath, just as we all have those things that we love. Often, the love/loath is irrational, especially to others. And unless it is doing real, identifiable harm that is greater than the perceived gain, there is nothing for anyone to do about the issue.

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        • Magical reasoning has had a powerful draw on humans forever. They want quick and easy solutions to their health problems and the snake oil salesman are more than happy to provide them. Woo also has the advantage of sounding more romantic than the materialist answer to a lot of reasons.

          Interestingly enough, a lot of anti-Semitism in the mid-20th century was based on the idea that we Jews were rationalist killjoys intent on taking the joy and mysticism out of life with our Jewish materialism.

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          • My point, and I did have one, is that an outsider to any given idea will not and can not completely understand what is the attraction of any given idea. And if this idea gives some people a positive experience without causing undue harm (so, not antivacs) who are we/you/them to say it is “woo”. Science is a powerful draw and the percieved need to catalog and create a taxonomy for the world is strong. But, as someone around here is fond of saying about money and ecomomics, there are other things to take into account.

            I come from a whole family of scientists, from geneticists to nuclear physicists, and all of them practice or believe in something that others would call “woo”.

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      • I don’t remember Sagan being that outspoken against woo. He had a bone to pick with organized religion, true, blaming it (unfairly) for the loss of the Ptolemaic Hellenistic world & specifically the Library of Alexandria, plus (much more fairly) that whole thing with Galileo.

        There was however, a natural synergy, as one would say now, between the audience of Cosmos and the audience of Nimoy’s In Search Of, which I don’t recall Sagan ever trying to debunk at the time. I do think Sagan was one of many that through the BS flag on Chariots of the Gods though? Additionally, looking it up, there was this, just before his death.

        eta – Sagan was willing to buy the woo the Soviet Union was selling to Western peace activists until that was no longer a thing.

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        • The myth of Hypathia and the Library of Alexandria has been powerful one for secular intellectuals since the Enlightenment. The adoption of Christianity probably did more to prolong the Hellenistic world than destroy it. Rome was already crumbling when Constantine became Emperor and Christianity acted as a temporary shoring up of the Empire. Hellenistic culture lasted in the Christian East Roman Empire all the way to the war with the Persians or the Iconoclast conflict.

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  3. Arch1: To some extent, in some locations, premiums do reflect some of this. We replaced our old wooden roof with a new impact-resistant one last year (hail being a larger threat than fire here); our homeowners annual premium went down by almost a third. But there’s a lot of claims history on which the insurance companies base that pricing. In this case, the homeowners seem to be trying to substitute something that has little history — look, we’ve built with fire-resistant materials and shapes — rather than taking the action that has a history of being effective — clear-cutting trees and brush to a specified distance from the house.

    My dad spent some years working for an insurance company that covered a lot of one-off risks. To paraphrase him, you always pay a bunch more for trying something unusual because of the effort and uncertainty involved in underwriting.

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  4. www3 — heh. happy endings. I get it.

    But seriously, according to the article their algorithm works by distinguishing a known “str8 face” from a known “gay face.” From a probabilistic perspective, this is a very different problem from categorizing random faces as gay or str8. The reason is simple, given a random face, guessing str8 will give you a 95% success rate (assuming they punt the ball on bisexual people), so picking out the few gay faces is a more difficult problem.

    I’m begging the reader to let me get away with saying “gay face” versus “str8 face.” Whatever.

    Anyhow, the way they do it now, the algorithm has a nice 50/50 change of guessing right. This is a much easier problem from a data science perspective. So anyway.

    I’m curious what it’d do with my face. I bet it would easily peg me as a lesbian, if paired with a str8 woman. If they paired me with a gay man, it’d say I’m str8. If paired with a str8 dude, it would be even odds.

    I guess. I’d love to try it out.

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      • I do wonder how much it works based on grooming, clothes, and hairstyle. It’s one thing to notice a “gay bone structure.” It’s quite another to notice “gay hair.”

        Although, the str8s totally stole the undercut from the lesbians, and flannel used to mean something! Anyway. But still.

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        • Yeah, the composite faces were definitely made up / facial haired, etc very differently.

          I think the quote from Jim Halloran at the end of the article sums it up pretty well: “What their technology can recognize is a pattern that found a small subset of out white gay and lesbian people on dating sites who look similar. Those two findings [this one and the one they’re actually claiming] should not be conflated.”

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  5. Re www2: I assume the original paper explains this, but why would natural selection weed out predispositions to medical issues that don’t generally become problems until we’re past child-rearing ages?

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    • In case you’re still curious, you actually don’t have to dig down to the original paper. The article buried it pretty far down, but there is a quote from one of the coauthors citing the exact two reasons that I guessed at, based on what I learned back in my undergrad biologist days:

      “It may be that men who don’t carry these harmful mutations can have more children, or that men and women who live longer can help with their grandchildren, improving their chance of survival.”

      Or in other words, we’re kinda baffled as to why, but it’s definitely happening and there are plausible hypotheses that we can’t actually run controls on to test (nor should we!). Human evolution in a nutshell :P.

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    • It depends.

      Consider the larger two of the US power grids, the Eastern and Western Interconnects. The US national labs have done a number of studies about low-carbon powering for the Western, both with and without nuclear. It appears that it can be done in a straightforward fashion and the overbuilding isn’t nearly as bad as the article suggests. But the Western is small (about 70M people), the backbone network is simple (the large majority of those 70M live in seven or eight major metro areas, depending on how you count), the region is rich in renewable resources (large, and diverse both by type and geography), and has the terrain to implement a proven commercial-scale storage resource (pumped hydro, eg, the 1.2GW Helms power plant in California and 350MW Cabin Creek plant in Colorado). In 2016, ~40% of power generated in the Western Interconnect states was from renewable sources.

      The Eastern Interconnect is a much harder problem: bigger, more diffuse, not nearly so rich in renewables compared to its size, much iffier on storage. In 2016, ~10% of power generated in the Eastern Interconnect was from renewable sources. The few national labs’ low-carbon models for the Eastern lean heavily on nuclear, or transfers of power from the Western and Quebec. A pure renewable strategy for the Eastern would require overbuilding more on the scale described in the article.

      The Western Interconnect is already taking steps towards an integrated regional network. California is looking to expand Cal-ISO outside the state. The Transwest Express transmission link that will move wind power from Wyoming into SoCal/Phoenix/Las Vegas cleared its last environmental hurdle last December.

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        • Southern California has been showing them the way for decades: Path 65 HVDC brings Columbia River hydro power straight to SoCal; Path 27 HVDC brings coal-fired (soon to be natural gas) power straight from Delta, Utah to SoCal. The Transwest Express HVDC line I mentioned will bring wind power from the east side of the Continental Divide in Wyoming through the South Pass, then follow the Path 27 route to the southern tip of Nevada. If the Tres Amigas superstation ever gets built, everyone (but me) thinks it will allow western power to flow into Texas. I think it’s more likely to let West Texas wind power flow to California.

          HVDC to the Northeast or Southeast are just a bit longer.

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