Mar 282011

Every few years, the Mississippi River gets all pissy and decides to overflow its banks. The city of Davenport, Iowa, has had its share of floods as a result, but has steadfastly refused to build a flood wall for aesthetic reasons ( cars floating down the streets are, apparently, much more picturesque). Well, it looks like it’s about to flood again, so the locals are doing what they tend to do: building temporary flood barriers with sandbags.

A recent news story about it:

Will sandbag for beer, pizza, music

The story here is that the volunteers sandbagging are being given free beer, pizza and live musical entertainment while they work.

Now, at one level you could see this as a “triumph of collectivism:” people working together on common cause without tarnishing the effort with filhty lucre. But on a better level, you can see this as a triumph of the capitalist spirit. The beer? Provided by the Great River Brewery. The Pizza? Provided by Antonella’s Pizza. The music? provided by Just Chords. These companies are, apparently, providing their product for free, thus seemingly bolstering the claims of socialism. But in reality… they are also putting their company names right out there. The news story comes right out and tells you who’s providing what. This is known as “free advertising.”

It may be that the pizza and beer companies are located somewhere where if the river floods over, they will suffer either direct losses due to the Mississippi wandering onto their property; they may be located further away, but would still suffer business losses as traffic is diverted, power is lost or customers are distracted and impoverished by flood waters. The band Just Chords? I’ve never heard of ’em. If you do a Google seach on “Charity Smith of Just Chords,” you’ll find that their Myspace page is the first link… and this very news story is the second. Thus they are getting free press, something entertainers seem to have a passion for. All those people doing the work are, essentially, a captive audience for all of the companies involved, and are all now probably aware of them, if they weren’t before.

And how about the people actually sandbagging? Some, I’m sure, are doing it for purely “selfish” reasons, like if the river floods they’ll lose money. Others, I’m sure, are doing it for altruistic “to help their fellow man” reasons. And it’s possible some are there for the beer and pizza. But in any event, no matter what the breakdown of motivations is, it remains a triumph of capitalism over socialism. Why? Becuase those doing the sandbagging are doing the sandbagging because they want to do it… not because there’s some thug forcing them to do it.

 Posted by at 7:42 pm
Mar 272011

Continuing with the theme of “Nukes Я Awesome,” here’s a NASA sketch from 1963 of the “Reactor in-Flight Test” stage. This was to be launched atop a Saturn V and was straight out of the greenpissers worst nightmares. The S-II stage of the Saturn V, as it turned out, was a dummy stage… so RIFT was supposed to fire up the nuclear rocket while still sub-orbital. Even better, it was supposed to *stay* sub-orbital, splashing down in the Atlantic some 1300 miles downrange where the reactor could safely sink straight to the bottom (and, in the fevered imaginations of the anti-nuclear crowd, wake up the Old Ones).

Note, this is the Reactor In-Flight Test, not the Reactor In-Orbit Test.

 Posted by at 7:04 pm
Mar 272011

Take a gander at these articles and try to keep in mind that the Obama administration is the Most Transparentest Administration EVAR.

Vice President’s staff lock journalist in a closet for hours during a fundraiser to stop him talking to guests

 Posted by at 12:37 pm
Mar 262011

In 1952, Fairchild Aircraft was hard at work on the NEPA program (Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft), designing a range of airframes for nuclear powerplants. One such study was the N-14 configuration… an all-nuclear modification of the Boeing XB-52. (See APR issue V2N5 for info on the N-22 configuration).

The design was seen to be possible, but not ideal. The engines were very far away from the reactor (located in the middle of the fuselage, aft of the wings), requiring very long, vary large diameter and very well insulated pipes to carry coolant from the reactor to the engines. The number and scope of changes to the airframe that would be required would make this virtually a whole new aircraft, largely negating the value of using an existing aircraft.

Gross weight was 340,000 pounds. Max speed at sea level was 280 knots; 480 knots at altitude. Payload was an anemic 2000 pounds.

 Posted by at 12:47 am
Mar 252011

As I mentioned HERE, NPR ran an article describing the last moments/last words of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov as presented in the forthcoming book Starman by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony. Well… as it turns out (and as was noted in the comments section of my earlier posting), it seems that the information may not be exactly… well, anywhere near accurate. Noted and respected space historian James Oberg chimed in a number of times on the original NPR site, pointing out the flaws… and pointing towards angry Russian discussions on the topic. One such Russian article (via google translation):

British book about Gagarin was criticized in Russia

The author of the NPR piece has posted again, this time with *something* of a mea culpa, since the author of the post didn’t bother to read any other works on the subject (or do enough research to find that the claims made, when the books was originally published in the 1990’s, have been torn to shreds by other space historians). Now, since I just got done saying that Aviation Week is not wholly to blame for publishing a dead-wrong article about a Soviet nuclear powered bomber, I can’t really jump up and down too hard on NPR for reporting on what’s in a book, especially since the posting was one of their official blogs rather than an on-air piece. But still… while I get stuff wrong here at the Unwanted Blog, nobody is paying me a dime to do it and I don’t call myself a journalist. And I sure as hell don’t get funding from the US FedGuv or claim to be a vital new source.

 Posted by at 8:08 pm
Mar 252011

Publisher Harper-Collins is pissing off libraries:

Open Letter to HarperCollins & Readers of eBooks

Starting March 7, the “total number of permitted checkouts” for any HarperCollins eBook will be 26, after which point, libraries will have to purchase the eBook again. This figure does not account for people renewing an eBook to finish reading it and no accommodations are made for eBooks which never checkout. There is no option for the library to remove the title from their virtual collection; instead it will remain listed and unavailable for customers and library staff to access.  The eBook is essentially locked until a re-entrance fee is paid by the library for the next 26 checkouts.

The rationale offered by the publisher is since paper books wear out and need to be replaced if they are to remain in a library’s collection, the same should be true of their electronic formats. The publisher argues that it should not be denied revenues that come from reselling replacement books and resources. Because the publisher assumes digital resources never deteriorate, they have set an arbitrary limit to the number of times an electronic resource can be accessed. Not planned obsolescence. Forced obsolescence.

Wow. That’s kinda… dickish.

 Posted by at 9:51 am
Mar 242011

No, really.

From back in the days when  the atom was your friend and Americans took a whole different view on the topic of radioactive Japanese, in 1961 General Electric started pushing their concept of a compact refractory-metal reactor at the heart of a closed “pod” for marine propulsion. The powerplant was based on work then ongoing for nuclear powered aircraft… a nuclear reactor taking the place of the combustors in the middle of a turbojet. In the case of the 601 power package, the complete system was encased in a submerged watertight pod. It obviously could not use outside air, so instead it simply recycled neon. The pod was ringed with heat exchangers to cool the neon before ducting it back to the inlet. The turbojet was transformed into a turbohaft engine; the back of the pod was filled with gears to step down the RPMs of the shaft into something that could be used by a conventional marine propeller.

Two versions were described, a large (60 inch diameter) and a small (45 inch diameter) version. The illustration of the 601B probably shows the smaller version, based on the L/D. General Electric claimed that these units would make dandy propulsion systems for cargo vessels… basically, since all of the propulsion system was in outboard pods, the ship could be nothing but a big empty cargo hold. Also, they could be used to make hydrofoils and smaller submarines, down to four-man units. Entertainingly, nuclear powered torpedoes were also suggested.

 Posted by at 1:40 pm
Mar 242011

Or at least, not about Western nukes:

China’s nuclear energy policy: ‘Build, baby, build!’

China has 13 operating nuclear reactors producing nearly 2 percent of its total power output, but there are another 27 reactors under construction, 50 more planned and more than 100 proposed. With new reactors coming every year, China is aiming for a tenfold increase in its nuclear generating capacity by 2020, with rapid growth projected to continue until 2050.

China has 10,234 megawatts of installed nuclear power, has another 29,7940 MW under construction, another 57,830 MW planned and another 108,000 MW proposed. The US currently has about 101,000 MW of installed capability, and very little on the horizon.

So even if the western world goes *completely* insane and stops building nuclear reactors, the Chinese show no sign of stopping. In 20 years, China may well be the sole source for expertise in nuclear power, nuclear engineering and possibly nuclear physics. Additionally, China is the country that put lead paint on toys, cadmium in other toys, plastic filler in pet food, antifreeze in toothpaste,  oversulfated chondroitin sulfate in blood thinners, and, for all I know, ebola in antibiotics. So for all the worrying on the west coast about fallout from a Japanese nuclear plant… just *imagine* the fun clouds of radioactive Red Chinese Communism that may well come floating down in a few years.

A western (American, Japanese, European, etc.) nuclear reactor is sure to be a far safer device than any Chinese reactor. If we do not build nuclear plants, we are, realistically, stuck with building coal and gas burners (wind and solar are nice, but niche markets). Gas is an increasingly rare and expensive commodity. Coal (which emits *far* more radiation than nuclear plants) is something of an environmental nightmare, both in the digging and the burning.

So cutting own own nads off for bullcrap reasons of “safety,” while the Chinese continue to crank out nuclear plants and coal-fired plants, is not only wrong-headed, it’s dangerous lunacy. If you are going to nget irradiated from failed-reactor-fallout, almost certainly it’ll be commie failed-reactor-fallout. So why force yourself into a 19th-century level of existence?

 Posted by at 11:49 am