Archive for October, 2017

32 kWh

October 20, 2017

32 kWh is how much energy is stored in a single gallon of gasoline.

If you think electric cars are happening anytime soon, that is the number you should be worried about. In order to get the equivalent of what happens when I pull up to a gas station and fill my tank, you’d need something like 30,000 Amps. That’s a whole lot of Amps, something that anyone who knows the first thing about electricity would be terrified of.

An alternative is to switch a dead (or low) battery for a new one, but we’re talking about moving 250 lbs of material, which is no small feat. If you can imagine a way to do that safely under 5 minutes, then you’ve only solved part of the problem.

The next part is storing and charging enough of these batteries. One of the 250 lb battery packs would take up far more space and weight than the 10 or so gallons of gasoline. Liquids are nice: You fill up a reservoir, you pump it out, and you can load and unload the reservoir at the same time. Warehouses don’t work that way, and require careful management as you manipulate each item into a specific spot, and then retrieve it. You can’t achieve anything close to what you’d get with the typical gas station. Remember, a typical gas station stores approximately 20,000 or more gallons of gas. That is the rough equivalent of 2,000 of these 250 lb batter packs. Stack them 100 high into 20 stacks, or 10 high in 200 stacks, which could be arranged in a nice square of roughly 14×14 stacks.

If you charged the batteries offsite (which is really wise, since that kind of current is way beyond anything our electric infrastructure can handle), how many trucks would be lined up and loading and unloading to match tempo with the cars? What about the charging hubs where these batteries are brought in, charged, and then sent off? Again, gasoline, because it’s a liquid, and because it’s so dense, wins the day. I have a refinery down the street from my house, and it’s pretty rare to catch a truck loading up on gas. Perhaps I’m just looking at the wrong time of day, but I’ve lived here for nearly a decade and I’ve never seen a long line of gas trucks running up and down the road that accesses the refinery.

The refinery down the street produces no pollution, none that I can see or smell. The conversion of raw petroleum to gasoline is nearly complete. Whatever waste is produced is converted into gasoline or sold occasionally. How about a battery pack charging hub? They’d likely need to generate their own electricity, since transferring that kind of power is expensive. If you’re not near a nuclear power plant, a hydroelectric plant, or an industrial scale coal, gas, or whatever plant, it’s likely to be expensive.

Gasoline is a miracle material, safe, mostly harmless, and packed with energy that is readily accessible while not dangerously so. Beating it, even with batteries, is not really something that is feasible yet.

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The Opioid Crisis

October 17, 2017

My city of Tacoma is joining the lawsuits against drug companies that manufacture opioids. Talking with my sister, who is involved in the medical industry, here’s what I gather happened.

The medical industry has known, for a long time, that opioids are dangerous stuff. Sure, they kill pain, but they are also highly addictive. Typically, they were only used on people who were going to die anyway, cancer patients and the like. The rest of us were given other, less effective painkillers because the opioids are simply too addictive.

The drug companies, in an effort to make more money, would experiment with all sorts of opioids. Oxycontin was discovered to be just as effective as any other opioid and slightly less addictive. By “slightly”, we’re talking tiny percentages that most mortal human beings wouldn’t even be able to detect. Initially, the FDA approved it for use for end-of-life care, but due to lobbying and the fact that regulatory agencies are run by the corporations they are supposed to regulate, it got approved for the rest of us. The next thing you know, doctors are prescribing it because they were told it isn’t as addictive.

Would doctors have prescribed it if they knew it was dangerous? My sister says no, they wouldn’t have. I believe this. I can’t believe that doctors would join the medical industry with the intention to do harm. The FDA told the doctors that it wasn’t addictive, and so they prescribed it, tried to monitor its usage, but it got out of hand rather quickly, and doctors figure this out so they don’t prescribe it anymore.

The problem is that the opioids are on the street, and doctors can’t control it. Now that China and Mexico are manufacturing and smuggling them into our country, no one is ever going to control these drugs anymore. The problem with opioids is they are so highly addictive that really, the only way to handle the crisis is to not get people hooked in the first place.

What caused the opioid crisis? Some would say greed. The problem with blaming a trait of human nature is humans don’t change. We are always going to be greedy. It’s part of who we are. You can’t fix problems caused by greed by making humans less greedy.

So taking greed off the table, what caused the crisis? Assuming that humans will always be greedy, the key factor is the FDA. Statists simply don’t understand that when you form a government, it’s going to attract people who want power. The more power it has, the more people it attracts. Like mosquitoes to a bug zapper, certain kinds of people are attracted to it.

When it comes to regulatory agencies in the United States, inevitably, the corporations that those agencies were intended to regulate dominate those agencies. No matter how hard you try to eliminate corruption, it’s going to exist, and the more valuable the corruption, the more difficult it is to identify let alone eliminate.

The Opioid crisis we face today was caused by the FDA, or rather, the misguided belief that regulatory agencies can regulate industry. No, all they really end up doing is stamping bad behavior with the seal of government approval. Had there never been an FDA, doctors would each have to figure out whether this particular drug would be a fit for their particular patients.

Inevitably, doctors would form associations, and those associations, run by the doctors, would determine which drugs were good for what cases and which were not. Given the fact that getting your drug approved by these associations would be very profitable, it is inevitable that drug companies would try to get their drugs approved, perhaps by deception. The key difference between private, independent associations and the government is that when the association is corrupted, it loses its reputation and no longer becomes a valuable entity to corrupt. That is, it is in the association’s interests to not allow itself to be deceived.

Some ways they can do so is demand subscription fees from their members. These fees, and nothing else, would be used to compensate the officials in the organization. Losing members due to trust issues would mean they would lose their jobs, while maintaining the highest levels of professionalism and science would mean they get more subscribers and thus fatter paychecks.

In the future, I propose we do the following.

  1. Abolish the FDA.
  2. Allow the medical industry to form its own standards and such, privately, without the influence or color of government.
  3. Let the doctors and patients decide which organizations they will listen to. If there are bad organizations, people will figure that out pretty quickly, and they will be held to account.

Under this system, individual doctors will have to convince the community that they are good at their job. Organizations will have to convince doctors and patients that they are good at their job. And drug companies will have to tell the truth about their drugs or risk being humiliated.

Regarding the lawsuit, I hope it ends up where it belongs: At the FDA. The drug companies and the FDA should be humiliated and punished for what they have done. They should be forced to bear the cost of the opioid crisis.

On the Big Bang

October 16, 2017

The Big Bang is one of those theories that everyone seems to believe is accepted as hard science, when it is really on a shaky foundation. Any science that has to do with “predicting” what happened millions or billions of years ago is on a shaky foundation. All it takes is new evidence and observations for the entire theory to disappear.

The Big Bang theory suffers one of the fatal flaws that Evolution suffers: It seems to evolve just fast enough to keep up with the latest observations. How many times have you read, “New fossil suggests entirely new ordering of Humanity’s ancestors, surprising scientists!” In Physics, when our theory predicts something contrary to what we see, we throw the old theory away and then create new ones, complete with new names so we don’t confuse ourselves. The evolution of Darwin is entirely different than modern evolution.

So it is with the Big Bang. It seems the harder we look into it, the more problems we see. Lately I’ve been looking into the “Young-Old Galaxy” problem. It seems that the most distant galaxies we see, which shouldn’t even exist, because they were from such a short time after the universe was created, not only appear old, but appear just as old as the Milky Way, leaving no time for stars to form, die, and form again.

At first, they added in Dark Matter, then Dark Energy. I have no idea what they are going to try to add to the Big Bang to make these contradictory observations fit! Maybe they’ll call it “Dark Time”, but I shouldn’t give them any ideas.

Regardless, materialists point to the Big Bang as the beginning of the universe. Aquinas’ First Cause argument shows why this is plain silly. You can’t be a materialist and believe that the Big Bang was the beginning of the universe. At best, you have to believe in an infinite series of causes.

Let me walk you through it. Aquinas argued that all things have a cause. That is, there is nothing that spontaneously is created in and of itself, but all things were created by something else. If you don’t accept an infinite series of creations, then you have to have the source of all creations, the First Cause, which cannot have a cause (except itself). This is God.

The nature of this First Cause is either that it exists beyond the universe, or if it were to exist in the universe, then the universe would be able to contain things that cause themselves (since the First Cause is the cause of the universe itself.)

For materialists, who believe that nothing exists except the material universe, the Big Bang cannot be the First Cause since the Big Bang, or rather, the conditions that existed before it came into existence, doesn’t exist. Thus, to believe in the Big Bang is to contradict materialism. You must reach beyond the universe to find a cause for the Big Bang, whether that is random chance in nothingness or something else. And if you accept this, then you’re joining the realm of the Platonic Realists, and thus opening yourself up to obvious proofs of God.

Ultimately, I don’t see any theory of a non-infinite universe standing the observations we have. What we see not only contradicts all of our understanding of how physics works, but calls into question what we think we see altogether. Like Descartes, we need to struggle with the fact that what we see in the sky could simply be an image, a projection, an illusion. Yes, we can measure the distance to the nearest stars with parallax (and I need to expose who difficult it is to measure how big the sun is and thus how wide our orbit is in another post), but the vast majority of stars lie far beyond this range and cannot be detected to move even the slightest and so only offer us a minimum range with parallax.

The problem of an infinite universe is an entirely new one. Why isn’t the sky filled with light? Why does anything exist at all given dS >= 0? What is really going on up there?

There are simply too many questions, and I am lead to believe that the supposed answers we have are not obviously correct. More investigation is needed.

On Family

October 4, 2017

Some sacred cows are so sacred that tipping them really, really makes people angry.

Here’s one that lately ticked off some internet commentators: If you’re not spending your life trying to make babies in families, you’re wasting your time on useless things.

That is, the highest ideal anyone can achieve in life is to become a father or mother, raise a large family, and see their children become fathers and mothers and continue on. Anything less than this is sub-optimal. Those who are perfectly capable of doing this but choose to do something else are thus wrong and I say even evil.

When you consider economics, you quickly learn about opportunity costs. That is, the cost of doing something is not just the cost of doing that thing, but the cost of not doing other things. IE, if I spend my money to buy a new car, then that means I didn’t spend my money buying stock. If my car wouldn’t have made as much money as the stock would’ve, then I lost money, overall.

Let’s consider morality, or the economics of morality. In moral systems, good is, well, good, and evil is the opposite, which is not good. If you are going to make the best decision, then that means you have considered all the possibilities and made the decision that has the best difference between good and evil. To do any less is really not as good, and since it is not good, you can consider it evil. Some evils aren’t that big of a deal, but some are really severe.

Let’s take life. If murder is wrong (and I hope we all agree that killing the innocent is wrong!) then not murdering is better than murdering. Is there something even better than not murdering? Why, bringing new life into this world. Under what circumstances? It shouldn’t be a surprise that the best circumstances for new life, for children, is to be raised in a healthy family with a mother and a father. Thus, if you think murder is wrong, then you also think the best thing you can do is get married, stay married, and raise kids.

Let’s suppose you’re one of those new-fangled atheist types who think you’ve figured out how the human mind and spirit works and want to impose your new value system on the world. You believe that life is good (I hope) and you also believe in evolution, survival of the fittest, as being the optimal strategy to preserve, prolong, even improve life. Then the logical conclusion here is that you should also procreate and bring your children into the world in the system that is most likely to have them procreate. And you’ll do this as often as possible. This is just basic common sense.

Society tells us that we should place our own needs above the needs of our spouse and our children and grandchildren. Society is wrong. Just a simple examination of the arguments I made should make clear why this is. In fact, our highest priority should be family. If we aren’t married, we should get married. Until then, we should support our family, which will form an essential fabric on which the married couples can fall back on. When it comes to child-rearing, it doesn’t matter if we’re not the father or mother, we can still do our best to be a good example and encourage others to get married and raise as many kids as possible.

Some people might try to argue that even though they aren’t actively supporting their family, getting married, encouraging others to get married, and having lots of kids while encouraging others to do so, that they are still “good”. Sure, not murdering is better than murder, but on the spectrum of goodness, it is about as distant from murder as it is from building families. Murder takes a life, not murdering doesn’t do anything, and raising children creates lives. But whereas a murder might take a single life, bringing even a single child into this world creates the possibility of millions and millions of people in future generations.

But ask yourself: So you pay taxes, keep the laws, and leave people alone. Maybe you’ve accumulated some degree of wealth, or done something nice for the community, like served in some charitable role in society. But ask yourself: Are those things really more important than bringing more life into this world?

As with any ideal, you strive to obtain it, getting as close as possible if it is not achievable. It is in the striving that we grow, not necessarily the obtaining of the goal.