Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sprites, lightning, and other foggy things

Just watched Nova 'Above space' or something like that, it was about lightning and 'sprites' which usually means 'must see tv' for me.

Sprites are these blasts of lightning from the clouds up to the ionosphere that, prior to the 80s, scientists believed were completely impossible, according to consensus.

The bolts only occurred when storms were incredibly powerful, 'ordinary' thunder storms simply wouldn't do and almost never came with them.

In two of my books (Houdini Scientist and Patent Mine) I talk about lightning some and talk around it a little more. I firmly believe that a good deal of what science knows about lightning is wrong. No, not about it being electricity, I'm talking about its origins. What powers lightning, science believes, is friction between ice crystals in the storms, which is obviously wrong because if it was true then blizzards would have more lightning than snow.

In the Nova special, they said that these super bolts from the cloud to the ground CAUSE the sprites to flash from the cloud to space.

Again, I have issues with this.

I've grown up with old cars all my life, and I remember going out on foggy mornings and looking under the hood and watching 'lightning' crackle across the warn wiring on the high voltage ignition system (10,000 volts).

Now, I'm not a scientist, mind you, but I never looked under the hood and thought "this has to be the work of friction and ice crystals", I've always thought that, "Hey, fog (clouds on the ground) sure is more conductive than dry air." We lived near high voltage transmission lines, and whenever it was foggy, they would hummm and crackle louder than on dry days, louder ever than in the rain.

To me, lightning has always been solar powered. The sun blasts the planet with a stream of charged particles. One side of the earth's atmosphere rubs against the stream and the other side rubs with it. One side of the earth's magnetic shield rubs against it and the other side rubs with it. On one side of the planet there is a massive surplus of electrons from the sun and on the other side there is a stark absence. Between these massive charges is a conductive planet made of dirt and aluminum and iron. But keeping these charges from that aluminum and dirt is a hundred miles of the best insulators ever invented, dry air. Its what allows power lines to work, but instead of just a few feat of air the planet uses dozens of miles to keep this massive charge from shorting out.

Along comes clouds, or fog that it high in the air. My contention has always been that the highly conductive nature of clouds, in addition to their massive surface area, is what allows this shorting to take place. Electrons flow from the ionosphere to the top of the cloud, usually so dispersed that sprites are not observed, until the cloud burns a bolt from the cloud to the ground.

Did you know rockets and the space shuttle routinely get hit by lightning? They do, or did. The hot gas coming out the back is more conductive than a cloud (depending on what fuel they use), and this causes them to get hit by lightning on a regular basis. Of course, it doesn't help that so many of them are launched from Florida, the lightning capital of the USA.

Back to my books.

Houdini Scientist and Patent Mine both feature a powerplant that harvests lightning, right out of cloudless skies, by firing a 'comet' of frozen super conducting 'dust' into the air, leaving miles of that conductor in their wake. Because its only a super conductor because of its frozen nature, it thaws into common dust within seconds of use and becomes inert when it falls back to the ground. The miles of super conductor also increase the yield by lowering the resistance -- most of a bolt's energy is consumed by vaporizing miles of air -- with the superconductor to ride it's like taking an ten lane interstate instead of a windy gravel back road.

Rockets reformulated their fuel to try to avoid being hit by lightning, I propose the opposite and suspect that triggering sprites on a cloudless day could be achieved with a mere ten or twenty miles of comet trail, fired from something much like a rail gun firing a dirty snowball into the sky.

Fifty years from now, children will laugh when they are told about our backward beliefs of lightning being powered by ice crystals rubbing together, and it will be accepted that lighting and sprites are interconnected with the solar winds and the ionosphere shorting their way to ground through conductive clouds.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Taking too long to finish 8th hummingbird series

God is still laughing.

My plans to finish the eighth book in my hummingbird series hits another series of roadblocks. First, my three year old 'smart phone' is automatically rebooting itself two times a day, and when it does work right it can only hold a 3G data connection for about two minutes.

The good news is I have one of those long floaties (originally about 5' x 2") and I have found that it allows me to beat the daylights out of my phone without actually hurting it in any way. It's actually very therapeutic but since my only link to the outside world is a glitchy Google phone, it doesn't actually solve anything.

I plan on doing a hard reset that should turn it back to its manufacturer's settings, but that path is wrought with problems too. I'll have to download updates, synch address books and calendars and countless crap I dread... and even after I do all that, assuming I do it right, it still might not fix the problem.

But that's only a hint of what's been bogging me down.

Laptop hard drive, now over 11 years old, keeps crashing. Fortunately, I backup everything, keep copies of my work on compact flash, USB drives, and DVDs when needed so I can never lose more than 20 minutes of work at any time. But re-installing the operating system and all the programs and drivers is an all-day royal pain that I've done three times last month and once this one.

11 years is a very long time for a laptop. I should be happy it has lasted this long, but I have to scrounge the carpet for loose change every time I want to mail a letter. This might be my most profitable year yet as an author, but most of my books are free in an attempt to be heard through all the noise, an even so it's barely enough to pay my $27.39 phone bill and my $35-40 a month electric bill. The good news in that is that I officially am a writer according to S King, because, as he said, you really haven't made it until you can pay at least one bill every month with it.

I've been using my sister's old Gateway as a backup for when my laptop eventually crosses the line where it can no longer be saved, but it has a backlit screen and, after just 30 minutes of trying to read it, it gives me a splitting headache.

I have very bad eyes, they can't stand normal computer screens because of the backlight. At first I thought it might be the flicker (most older screens used fluorescent tubes) but even the flicker-free LED ones give me headaches (even faster).

The transflective (Think old Kindle and Nook with the E-Ink that was black and white but had no backlight at all and could be used in direct sunlight, the Daylite did that in color) screen on My NEC laptop has proven to be the only way I can tolerate the eight to ten hours of typing and staring at a screen I have to do to write a book.

Unfortunately, even if I do manage to keep it running indefinitely, my eyes are getting worse in other ways too. I'm having problems reading the 10" screen (about the size of an iPad) I'm already working off of memory to know what icons are what.

I had planned on finishing it by December of last year at the latest, but since then I've come down with the flu twice, diarrhea and two fevers, bruised three ribs, twisted my ankle and knee, and thrown out my back.

I think all my bad luck that I've managed to avoid for so long has finally caught up with me, and mercy doesn't seem to be anywhere on the table.

I expect my first IRS audit by November : )

Sunday, June 1, 2014

CO2 is irrelevant to the global warming equation.

I cringe when I hear news reports about global warming.

I actually cringe.

When I entered highschool, our science book was all about "the coming of the next ice age". Our science teacher was so whipped up about it she actually got our class to sign a petition to president Reagan pleading with him to do what a consensus of scientists wanted to do. . . and that was to spread black soot all over the north pole in an effort to melt it so we could avert the new ice age that was "Just a decade away" and we had to act NOW because we were months away from "The tipping point."

For thirty years I had to listen to "if we don't close all power-plants and stop fishing, our oceans would be dead in five years."

For me, this is too much crying wolf.

As an author, global warming is the goldmine that never stops giving, like 'the triad', or any of a dozen other conspiracy theories.

It's sad, though, because it's such a serious issue that should never have been politicized like it has. But sadly it has been politicized all my life.

What makes me cringe the most is when 'consensus' is invariably used in the same sentence as 'scientific'.

Science has never -- EVER -- been decided by consensus. The ONLY thing consensus -- by definition -- ever decides is politics. Consensus requires the taking of a vote. Votes are NEVER the way you prove or disprove a theory. And history proves that almost every theory that has ever been disproved had once enjoyed a 'consensus'. The coming ice-age was consensus, and it was so highly politicized back then that it has obliterated any good will it could have earned today.

And that's a shame.

Because we have a real opportunity to control the weather in a meaningful way.

No, I'm not talking about CO2. CO2 is the most over-hyped gas ever discovered, and its effects on the weather are at the center of a political divide far more contentious than abortion.

But banning or taxing CO2 is not the only way to change the weather. Irregardless of what its effects on the globe really is, the world simply is never going to stop burning fuels.

So employing other options for effecting the desired change is the right path to follow. And controlling the weather IS of global importance, for agriculture if for nothing else.

But there are ways, and very inexpensive ones too, to change the weather on a global scale.

Most power-plants are thermal and use steam turbines, all of which employ cooling systems. And the choices these companies make on their cooling systems are capable of affecting the weather.

First, let me take a sidetrack for a moment and say that every power-plant that uses or could use ocean water as their coolant is wasting a huge opportunity to make millions of gallons of distilled water a day. The typical cooling system is just a few tweaks away from a distillery. In fact, all closed loop systems first boil the water, pipe the steam through the turbines, then condense them back to distilled water before piping it back into the boiler again.

One of the biggest complaints about power-plants is that the cooling towers waste a lot of 'municipal' water, usually vented to the environment as steam. With a condenser on the top of any such towers, you can capture most of that steam as distilled water, an expensive addition ONLY IF you're not allowed to sell that distilled water (which is currently the LAW in most states).

Atmospheric water content controls both the amount of rain and the number of reflective clouds in the sky. Reflective clouds have 1,000 times more control over the greenhouse effect than CO2, and we can, and should, control clouds.

Increasing the rain over Texas could be easily accomplished by increasing the amount of humidity put into the air over California. Decreasing the amount of floods along the Mississippi could be done by ending the added humidity over California... in California's perpetual-drought case, this should be done by condensing that steam and selling the added water to farmers if needed (the price would be low).

All power-plants, with the exception of windmills and solar, can be used in such a way. Additionally, sea water can be piped to any power-plant for use as a coolant, with distilled water piped away or vented as humidity to the atmosphere, whichever is needed most.

Adding to cloud cover at night, as anyone knows, traps the heat in. Adding to clouds during the day, increases the shade and keeps the heat down.

We can control the weather, to some degree. We can add fuel for the rain several states away, or distill millions of gallons of sea water (essentially for free) for use locally.

But what the politicians do, instead, is talk about CO2, banning coal, and banning oil, none of which will ever happen in my lifetime, all because the same 'consensus' that wanted to spread soot all over the poles now wants to limit CO2.

Maybe they have it right this time.

Maybe not.

For 30,000 years man burned wood and plants for fuel. Then, for a few hundred years, we burned coal. For a little over 100 years, we've burned oil and natural gas.

A school near my house still has a basement for COAL DEPOSITS that they burned to heat the place every year. When was the last time you heard of someone burning coal for winter heat?

We didn't need laws or a CO2 tax to stop burning coal, we found something better, and, more importantly, CHEAPER, like gas and oil.

Uranium, thorium, and deuterium will easily be able to meet all the world's energy needs within the next 150 years. They will all be cheaper and CO2 free, and every one of them will come with cooling systems capable of controlling the weather as I've described. We will, without any prodding from the government, eventually drop oil just as we stopped burning coal in our home stoves for heat, not because it was environmentally right but because it was cheaper and easier to do it with something else. Uranium, thorium, and deuterium are all cheaper than dirt, and in a sane political/regulatory world, we'll naturally be using them long before any 'theoretical' CO2 damage can really occur.

The 'looming catastrophe' was never real, except as a political weapon. The way you can tell it was political is by the repeated misuse of the word 'scientific' with 'consensus'... as if science had ever been subject to a vote.