Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Importance of Breeding.

In this month's Scientific American (pay per view unfortunately) there is a very interesting and educational article on the nuclear fuel cycle and what it was supposed to be vs what it is today. Here are some highlights:

The conventional thermal reactor (generation 1-3) used today only uses 5% of the available energy in the fuel, and leaves the fuel dangerously radioactive for 10,000 years.

Fast breeder reactors (generation 4) burn an additional 90% (95% total) of the energy in reprocessed fuel from thermal reactors and leave the waste dangerously radioactive for only 200 years.

Jimmy Carter banned fuel reprocessing in this country as part of his nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union (now defunct). Thereby killing any chance of building fast breeders commercially (one was built at oak ridge I believe as a engineering and research prototype, but it has since been decommissioned).

The storage technologies developed for high level waste have a design target of 10,000 years worth of containment. Containment for 200 years is therefore much easier to achieve.

So, the question in my mind is, "Why aren't we building Gen 4 plants?"

EDIT: NEI Nuclear Notes discusses this as well.

Monday, November 28, 2005

New Blood.... (Updated & Bumped)

This is a reminder to all Houston residents. You may find yourself the subject of a medical experiment without your consent. Sounds bad doesn't it? Well, maybe not. You see, there is a company that is conducting a Phase III trial of a synthetic blood substitute here in cooperation with over 18 sites around the country including Hermann Hospital's Life Flight. If Life Flight responds to an emergency where the victim has suffered massive blood loss, and has no contraindications for it's use (pregnant or may be so, massive head trauma, or any other injury that is not likely to allow the patient to survive), that patient may, by random lot, be given a product called PolyHeme. This product, made by Northfield Labs, is made from expired human blood. The red cells are separated out, chemically broken open and the hemoglobin is separated from the rest of the cellular material. The hemoglobin is then polymerized. This is a crucial step. Hemoglobin is a very small molecule, so small that it can leak through capillary walls and damage organs. But by polymerizing it, Northfield has found a way to link multiple hemoglobin "tetramers" into long chains which will not leak through capillary walls.

Conventional therapy for blood loss at an accident scene is to supply saline to attempt to dilute the remaining blood in the system. Saline can only do so much however, it cannot carry oxygen itself, if the remaining blood volume is too low, the diluted blood cannot carry enough oxygen to keep the brain and vital organs alive. In Phase I and II trials of PolyHeme some patients have had over twice thier blood volume replaced with PolyHeme with no adverse effects. This product has a shelf life of a full year, this after already expiring as whole blood. This product has no blood antigens in it, so it is universal and requires no typing. This product has been approved by the Jehova's Witnesses as suitable for use. As I type, over 250 patients have recieved this product at the scene of an accident and the goal of the trial is 750 patients. This trial is possble because the FDA has a stipulation that if sufficient local notification is made, and the patient is in serious risk of dying without the experimental treatment, the patient can be enrolled without providing informed consent.

Full disclosure: I own stock (admittedly less than I'd like to own, but my investment money is limited.) in this company. I do so because I believe this is a revolutionary product that can save thousands of lives a year. If you'd like to learn more you can go to Northfield Labs Website

UPDATE: 11/28/05

Northfield labs has announced the results of the fourth (and I believe final) interim review of the Phase III study with positive results. The independent review committee looked at the outcomes of the first 500 patients and concluded that no modification to the study needs to be made and the study can continue without interruption. A new day in acute trauma care steadily marches closer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Solar power about to become cheaper, maybe.

Here is the text of a news article in this month's Advanced Materials & Processes. Since this magazine is not sold in bookstores and is only available to ASM members, I will pass it on here in it's totality in the hope that the powers that be over at ASM view this as "fair use".

Cheap, low-grade silicon may reduce cost of solar cells
A new technique to handle metal defects in low-grade silicon has been announced by a research team at the University of California, Berkeley. The advance could dramatically reduce the cost of solar cells. Nearly 90% of solar, or photovoltaic, cells in the world are made from a refined, highly purified form of silicon, the same material in integrated circuits. The more abundant and cheaper form of silicon is laden with metal impurities and defects, and solar cells made from this material do not perform as well. Techniques that remove impurities are expensive, negating the cost benefits of the cheaper material.
The researchers found that they were able to manipulate the distribution of the metal impurities by varying the cooling rate of the silicon. When the material is cooled quickly, the metal defects are quickly locked in a scattered distribution. By simply slowing down the cooling rate, the metal impurities diffused into large clusters.
“Using this cooling technique, we were able to improve the distance electrons could travel by a factor of four compared with dirty silicon that had been left unaltered,” said Prof. Anthony Buonassisi. “Although this is still not as efficient as ultrapure silicon, it is the proof of principle that poor-quality silicon can be easily improved. We are now looking at other techniques that could further enhance the efficiency of dirty silicon.”

For more information: Prof. Anthony Buonassisi, University of
California Berkeley, CA 94720; e-mail: buonassi@berkeley.edu; Web site: www.berkeley.edu.

What this is saying is that there are two types of PV cells:
Crystalline (expensive but more efficient) and Amorphous (cheap, but very low efficiency)

This article was written by and for Materials Scientists/Metallurgists, so there are things that are left unsaid that most people won't pick up on. As Silicon cools, it naturally wants to form crystals. Since the impurities generally don't have the proper size or electron configuration to fit into the crystal lattice properly, they act to impede electron flow. Normally, the crystal building process, if allowed to continue slowly will tend to pick up atoms that fit in the lattice correctly, but in the processing of amorphous silicon, it is cooled too quickly for that to happen. If allowed to cool slowly, the impurites will naturally tend to be concentrated in the liquidus phase between the crystals as the silicon crystals grow. Eventually they will get trapped and freeze in the pockets between the crystals. By segregating the impurities, the reserchers are basically bypassing the bottlenecks that impede electron flow, raising efficiency. The big question to me is, is the added cost associated with this processing worth the efficiency gains? That is yet to be seen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More proof that PhD stands for "Piled High and Deep"

Kevin and Anne over at bH had a real run criticizing The Chronicle with thier "In the wake of Katrina" editorials. I've found another self serving and idiotic use of that same phrase in an editorial to espouse another pet idea, this time from InMFG magazine. The article is entitled "Survival of the Leanest" on page 52 of the November 2005 edition. The article touts "Lean Manufacturing" as the end-all be-all of supply chain management. It starts out by talking about how Katrina sent shock waves through the supply chain and the goes off to say the answer to those shock waves is lean manufacturing, but no where does it make the simple explanation of WHY. Well, I'll tell you why it doesn't make that conection. It does not do so because THERE IS NO CONNECTION! Katrina didn't send shock waves through the supply chain because there was a glut of product (unless you count mud and water), it sent shockwaves through the chain because there was a dearth of product. Keeping inventories low only EXACERBATES that problem.

The article is written by David F. Ross PhD CFPIM which just happens to be the education group manager of a company called Intentia Americas. Care to guess what they do? They are supply chain management consultants. They don't HAVE to make thier ideas work, all they have to do is convince some moron in management to pay them big bucks to spout this kind of drivel.

Inventory exists to act as a buffer to supply chain disruptions. Keeping a large amount of inventory brings on it's on costs, there are taxes to be paid on that inventory, there are stranded costs that cannot be realized until the inventory is used, and then there are costs associated with warehousing the inventory. I'm not saying the Lean Manufacturing is a bad idea, but it can be taken too far as well. If you don't keep enough inventory, you will shut down production while you wait for more inventory to be shipped. If due to a catastrophe, you cannot get inventory for some weeks, you're just SOL. Especially if you've gone the "Single Source" route that so many supply chain managers espouse as well. If your single source cannot deliver, you're sucking air.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Case of Parental Responsibility.

While perusing today's Houston Chronicle I ran across this Article and thought to myself "Now here is a parent that obviously cares about the welfare of her daughter enough to try to get across to her the importance of an education."
But then I read a bit further that some nutjob "Child Psychologist" thinks this is just horrible and that the Mother is "psychologically killing" this wayward kid.

Uh EXCUSE ME? What cracker jack box did your diploma come out of? Or did you attend the same school Shirley DeLibrio did?

Look, she's tried taking away privileges, she tried making her give up Basketball and Track. He claims "it is better to reward good behavior than punishing bad behavior" NO No No NO! It is important to do both! But in the absence of good behavior to reward, you have to work with what you have.

I have a 12 year old that if left to her own devices would be headed down the same track. She isn't disruptive in class, she is actually well behaved, but she forgets to do her work, or looses it or forgets to turn it in, and the work she does do is rushed through and only half-done most of the time. we've tried a number of things to get her to document what her homework is, and to have her get her teachers to initial her "tracker" (essentially a day planner issued by the school to all students) to ensure she is writing it all down correctly. we've tried many of the same methods with limited success. I'm afraid I may need to cobble up a sandwich board for her if things don't improve.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Has anyone heard from Beldar?

Tap Tap Tap, Is this thing on?

Yo! Beldar! What happened? Was the loss to the White Sox so traumatic that you felt the need to slit your wrists or something? Or have you been taking blogging lessons from James Campbell?

Seriously, has anyone heard from him lately? I'm kinda worried about the guy. Trial Law is pretty stressful, I hope he hasn't ended up in the hospital or worse.... I sent him an email asking if he was OK the other day, it didn't bounce but I haven't heard back either.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Day After.....

I feel like I just survived a Nuclear exchange.... I am so wasted today. The election judge's job is a long one. I expected it to be a long day, but it was fun none the less.

overall, our turnout was pretty high, well, higher than I expected at least. there was only a couple periods where we had no voters and they didn't last all that long, a few minutes at most. It was a pretty steady trickle all the way up to about 4pm. that is when things started hopping. Of course long around 2:30, one of the two booth controllers (JBC's) decided to take a holiday and crap out on us. which only left 5 functioning booths until we could replace it. That finally happened about 5PM just as the expected after work crush showed up. Relax, no votes were lost. The machine's display failed, but appeared to otherwise be functioning normally. We could probably have operated it by the braile method, but the chance that the wrong button would be pushed was too great, so they replaced it. long around 6:00pm, we actually had a line forming.

We were lucky in that we did not have to have any ballots cast provisionally, there were about three situations where a provisional ballot could have been done, but after the facts of life were explained to the voters in question (that it would essentially be an exercise in futility because they clearly were trying to vote in the wrong precinct which is not allowed. I didn't have any "grey area" voter problems, they were all pretty clear cut.) they decided that they should either try to get to the proper polling place, (or in the case of one voter that had driven across town 45 minutes to her old precinct (mine) only to arrive at 6:30 to discover that she should have gone to the polling place around the corner from her new residence) gave up and went home (after getting pretty bent out of shape, and then talking about how she could vote as her sister that still lived over here to which I told her no, that would NOT be allowed!). Sorry, rules are rules.

I had one family that came in, claiming thay had moved into the area 9 months ago from across town, the driver's lisences still showed the old address. her name did not come up in the database at all, after 3 or four different searches, the lady on the phone asked me if the voter had ever registered to vote. I asked her and she replied (with a deer in the headlights look, "no...." aha! I think I see the problem..... the Husband HAD registered, but was still showing to be in the old precinct. He had not changed addresses on his Voter registration. (assuming he really HAD moved, they had no documentation to that effect at all.) They left with a voter registration form and a change of address form.....but no vote cast.

I had another guy wander in, long dirty stringy hair, huge abcesses in his mouth dirty and ragged clothes and bare feet, hell he looked like a cross between a 60's hippie and a street bum with AIDS (at least he had bathed recently, the BO was not noticeable...) with no drivers license, photo ID, Voter Registration, or ANY form of ID at all. and expected us to let him vote. I explained to him that unless I had something to prove who he was and where he lived, I was unable to let him vote. end of story. he wandered off (on foot) never to be seen again.... I suspect he is a bum that lives in the woods near the school where we were voting. hey buddy, you want to live off the grid, fine by me, but you'll just have to accept that that means not participating in the democratic process that makes the grid possible in the first place.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

More evidence that Iran wants to join the Nuclear club.

just now I was going over my blog hits and ran across one that made my blood run cold. here is the log data:

Number of Entries: 1
Entry Page Time: November 5th 2005 06:44:12 AM
Visit Length: 0 seconds
Browser: Opera 8.50
OS: Windows XP
Resolution: 1024x768
Location: Iran, Islamic Republic Of
Returning Visits: 0
Hostname: ( (yes this is the real IP address, I WANT it known.)
Entry Page: redinktexas.blogspot.com/2005/09/who-says-cold-fusion-is-dead.html
Exit Page: redinktexas.blogspot.com/2005/09/who-says-cold-fusion-is-dead.html
Referring URL: www.google.com/search?q=%22compact neutron generator%22&hl=en&lr=&start=40&sa=N

Anybody care to guess what compact neutron generators can be used for? thermonuclear bombs that is what! Clearly they aren't interested in just fission bombs, they want the big daddies too, Fission/Fusion/Fission devices.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Finally an Immigration proposal I am happy to support!

Today the Chronicle did a story on a proposal by Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California that finally sounds like someone in DC woke up and smelled the refried beans. He's calling for a fence running from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, stepped up enforcement of hiring practices, stronger penalties for those who do hire illegals, faster deportations and nowhere does the words "guest worker" or "Amnesty" appear. There is only one problem, it tries to eliminate the anchor baby problem by denying automatic citizenship via birth, the problem is that THAT is codified in the 14th ammendment. to undo that (which I think is an excellent idea) it is going to take more than a federal law, it is going to take a constitutional ammendment. Sadly, I don't see that happening. But even if that wasn't part of the bill, the rest is a very good step in the right direction which is of course why congress will never EVER do this, it makes too much sense.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bleg update

As I posted a while back, my wife lost her job back in September (through no fault of her own I might add). She has yet to find a new one. Unemployment doesn't pay much and we've cut back every way we can think of, but there is only so much you can cut back. House payments and car payments are not the sort of things you can just blow off for a couple months with impunity. I'm still not asking for money. All I want is a job for my wife. If anybody has one that she might be qualified for, gimme a shout and I'll forward a resume.

Levee liabilities; What went wrong.

As I have posted here and in comments over at LST that levees in New Orleans were a disaster waiting to happen. It would appear that I wasn't the only one that thought that. Ed Morrisey over at Captain's Quarters posts that there had been more than one engineering team assessment that the design of the levee (permeable silt piled on top of more permeable silt) was a bad idea as well. Now, on top of that, in typical Louisianna fashion, he reports there was corruption, kickbacks, and corner cutting involved with thier contruction as well.

The solution is to use the silt that is dredged from the river combined with the rubble that needs to be disposed of anyway to fill in the lowest lying areas before rebuilding is allowed. A levee made of silt with a silt foundation will never be able to protect a city from flooding. As soon as the silt becomes waterlogged it will slough off and fail.