Engineering Club Sensible

electoral-smallBy outlook, if not degree, I’m an engineer. My basic question is always, “Will it work, as designed, and can we build and run it on budget (or below)?” As far as I’m concerned, it’s what built the world we live in. It has nothing whatsoever to do with good intentions, it has much indeed to do with elegance. Maybe this is our year because it’s overwhelmingly a real world philosophy. It’s also overtly American, because America epitomizes the practical, yes, Americans are a very idealistic people, but down at bedrock, almost every American asks, “Does it work?”

Catherine Priestley wrote something about this the other day in The Spectator. Here’s some of it.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it is that the times are changing. When news of the Trump victory unfolded across the world, we watched from Sydney University’s Manning Bar. Never had it been so packed. Students piled in to watch history, all-consumed by the bright red map of America flashing on the screen.

My engineering friends bought me a beer and together we observed the room. On one side were slumped shoulders, ashen faces and tears from tragic left-wing students, whose world-view had suffered the rejection of the ballot box. The other side was a sea of red caps and raucous applause with each Trump gain; the unmistakable ecstasy of a formerly ostracised group, finally on the ascent.

The engineers are sensible people and don’t really belong to either extreme. Instead, they drink to democracy and are glad that a blow has at last been struck against political correctness. They talk excitedly of how they’d improve the data analysis of flawed polling and have a purely factual discussion about how the construction of the wall might be done. The upending of the status quo means the engineers, typically outsiders who stick to an isolated building on campus far away from frenzied student politics, are now invigorated to participate.

Leading up to Trump’s victory, one could sense change in the air. Doomsday articles threatening stock market crashes, polls that placed Trump firmly behind; all had a Brexit parallel about them. When Joe Hockey addressed the US Studies Centre the week before Trump’s election, he said that 70 per cent of Americans felt the country was heading in the wrong direction. ‘This is normally a game changer in politics,’ he remarked. […]

Although uncertainty is trending, one thing we can be sure of is that Outsiders everywhere are on the rise. In general, they are a broad alignment of people across all parties and factions who share a love of common sense and find themselves more consequential to politics now than they have been for some time. Perhaps they find themselves on the Left, but feel isolated due to the dogma of political correctness and identity politics. Or they are of the Right and have become angry with the authoritarian Insiders who appear to restrict personal freedoms. Either way, they are all members of what the late Christopher Pearson might have termed ‘Club Sensible’. While major parties appear to fragment and shrink in these changing times, Club Sensible’s membership base steadily grows.

via Engineering Club Sensible | The Spectator

I think she’s on to something here. That map at the top of the page, is about as red as I’ve ever seen, and overwhelmingly, the red parts are where people deal with the real world, you know the one where reality rules and good intentions don’t cut it.

Will Trump fix the world? No. But he may well drain at least some of the swamp, although that might anger some of the alligators that are up to our ass. We all know it out here, “No good deed goes unpunished,” we say. That’s all right, we also say, “What must be done, will be done.”

And so far, from the quality of the people he is picking, well, I’m very encouraged. It looks to me like he is picking some of the best of America, and that is the mark of the first-rate leader. That’s something that every grunt on a job site or enlisted soldier knows, but a whole lot of officers forget when they get stars in their eyes. But not all of them.

There’s a reason why 3d US Army had the fewest casualties while conquering the most ground back there in 1944. It was called “Lucky”. If I was an opponent of America’s, I would be praying very hard, because I think its new name may well be ‘Chaos’.

We’ve also been known to say with Jim Lovell, “There are people who make things happen, there are people who
watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen.”


The Beautiful Lie

Have you seen this, yet? It has about 600,000 views on YouTube.

Steven Heyward over at PowerLine comments, “Here you will take in a typically politicized student, at South Africa’s University of Cape Town, arguing that “Science as a whole is a product of western modernity, and the whole thing should be scratched off.” The audience laughs with approval at this apparent bold transgression, and when someone interjects, at about the one minute mark, that “It’s not true,” he is shouted down and demanded to make an apologize for having violated their “progressive safe space.” Chairman Mao would have been proud.”

Quite. As Steve says, then the nonsense resumes,

Steven Novella of the NeuroLogicaBlog summarizes it thus:

She gives as an example that Newton saw an apple fall, made up gravity, wrote down some equations, and now that is scientific truth imposed on the world forever (seriously, I am not exaggerating this one bit).

The other pillar of her position is that in Africa there are practitioners of black magic who can summon a lightening bolt at their enemy. This is not explainable by “Western” science, and yet this is African knowledge, and therefore is an example of Western colonialism suppressing indigenous wisdom.

via Academic Absurdity of the Week: Who’s Against Science Again? | Power Line

Wow! Just Wow!

But as Steve also says, it allows us to introduce Dan Sarewitz’s essay in The New Atlantis, “Saving Science,”

I’ll give you the opening, as Steve did, but while very important, this essay is long, it’s also wide ranging , well written, fascinating, and I think pretty much on the money, but make a pot of coffee, because you’ll be a while.

20160816_tna49sarewitzendlessfrontiercoverw300Science, pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble. Stoked by fifty years of growing public investments, scientists are more productive than ever, pouring out millions of articles in thousands of journals covering an ever-expanding array of fields and phenomena. But much of this supposed knowledge is turning out to be contestable, unreliable, unusable, or flat-out wrong. From metastatic cancer to climate change to growth economics to dietary standards, science that is supposed to yield clarity and solutions is in many instances leading instead to contradiction, controversy, and confusion. Along the way it is also undermining the four-hundred-year-old idea that wise human action can be built on a foundation of independently verifiable truths. Science is trapped in a self-destructive vortex; to escape, it will have to abdicate its protected political status and embrace both its limits and its accountability to the rest of society.

The story of how things got to this state is difficult to unravel, in no small part because the scientific enterprise is so well-defended by walls of hype, myth, and denial. But much of the problem can be traced back to a bald-faced but beautiful lie upon which rests the political and cultural power of science. This lie received its most compelling articulation just as America was about to embark on an extended period of extraordinary scientific, technological, and economic growth. It goes like this:

Scientific progress on a broad front results from the free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity for exploration of the unknown.

“The free play of free intellects…dictated by their curiosity”

So deeply embedded in our cultural psyche that it seems like an echo of common sense, this powerful vision of science comes from Vannevar Bush, the M.I.T. engineer who had been the architect of the nation’s World War II research enterprise, which delivered the atomic bomb and helped to advance microwave radar, mass production of antibiotics, and other technologies crucial to the Allied victory. He became justly famous in the process. Featured on thecover of Time magazine, he was dubbed the “General of Physics.” As the war drew to a close, Bush envisioned transitioning American science to a new era of peace, where top academic scientists would continue to receive the robust government funding they had grown accustomed to since Pearl Harbor but would no longer be shackled to the narrow dictates of military need and application, not to mention discipline and secrecy. Instead, as he put it in his July 1945 report Science, The Endless Frontier, by pursuing “research in the purest realms of science” scientists would build the foundation for “new products and new processes” to deliver health, full employment, and military security to the nation.

From this perspective, the lie as Bush told it was perhaps less a conscious effort to deceive than a seductive manipulation, for political aims, of widely held beliefs about the purity of science. Indeed, Bush’s efforts to establish the conditions for generous and long-term investments in science were extraordinarily successful, with U.S. federal funding for “basic research” rising from $265 million in 1953 to $38 billion in 2012, a twentyfold increase when adjusted for inflation. More impressive still was the increase for basic research at universities and colleges, which rose from $82 million to $24 billion, a more than fortyfold increase when adjusted for inflation. By contrast, government spending on more “applied research” at universities was much less generous, rising to just under $10 billion. The power of the lie was palpable: “the free play of free intellects” would provide the knowledge that the nation needed to confront the challenges of the future.

To go along with all that money, the beautiful lie provided a politically brilliant rationale for public spending with little public accountability. Politicians delivered taxpayer funding to scientists, but only scientists could evaluate the research they were doing. Outside efforts to guide the course of science would only interfere with its free and unpredictable advance.

We are, of course, free to agree or disagree with what he says. I’m inclined to agree, particularly since I have always found that unless you have some sort of a destination in mind for any endeavor, well, how will you know you’re making progress.

Steve also says that this sort of nonsense is even more prevalent in social science. I’ll easily forbear from arguing with that thesis.

The Politics of Energy

I try pretty hard not to write about politics overmuch, it angers and tires me, and I suspect it does the same to you, especially this year, when the noise level decidedly indicates hearing protection, much like an unmuffled chainsaw. Still, it matters, so let’s let Bill Whittle tell us why.

King Coal and Freezing in the Dark

michaelbaume_specaus-08-october_postWe talked about the South Australia blackout the other day, but I want to say a bit more. The Spectator AU tells us this:

State governments are sheltered workshops for mediocre politicians rarely good enough to make it in the Canberra big league. They have just one basic task in the Australian federation: to maintain basic public infrastructure that keeps communities going. Roads, rail, schools, hospitals, police, fire, emergency services. And electricity networks.

Last week, the South Australian Labor government of Jay Weatherill delivered an unenviable energy efficiency target: a 100 per cent reduction in the state’s electricity supply. The catastrophic failure of his state’s power grid forced Crow-Eater Mr Weatherill to eat a huge helping of crow.

To be sure, South Australia was hit by a huge weather event. Extremely high winds twisted steel electricity towers like flimsy tinfoil, bringing down key power lines interconnecting the South Australian grid with the Victorian network supplying the majority of its power, especially when demand surges.

True enough, but Andrew Bolt tells us the winds never exceeded 100 km/hr (about 62 mph for Americans). A distribution line that fails to stand up to sixty mph winds is defective, either in design, execution, or maintenance. I note that I once helped replace about 10 miles of heavy distribution after an ice storm because one clamp either wasn’t tightened properly or had vibrated loose. Details matter, and so does competence and honesty. Crony built infrastructure lacks both of the latter.

But South Australia’s internal power generation capacity failed to take the strain for one simple reason: its utter dependence on renewable energy. The irony of wind power is those landscape-dominating wind turbines have to be shut down for safety in high winds. And when there’s no sun and insufficient storage of solar energy, rooftop solar panels and newfangled solar farms are as useful as a tit on a bull.

Bizarrely, just this May the Weatherill government proudly shut down (and blew up) South Australia’s last coal-fired power station, making the state’s dependence on wind and solar for its home-grown energy almost absolute. Adelaide’s basket-weavers deliriously welcomed a new Green Age of progressive power generation and the banishment of Old King Coal.


via Stormy Weatherill | The Spectator

The Spectator also tells us that the Australian coal industry has a pretty good future, mostly in exporting to China and India, if the greenies don’t kill it, and several million Asians along the way.

I believe in progress devoutly, but I also believe in reality. And carbon-free energy is a drug induced dream. It can happen if government forces it, but it will force us back at least a century, more likely to the age before electricity, and if we can’t burn wood or coal, well, there always one option. Freezing in the dark.

I hear many of you saying, “So what, that’s Australia, nothing to do with us.” But it does, we’re the people that have bankrolled any number of pie-in-the-sky ideas without a hope in hell of them working, except, of course, to put taxpayers money into the the scammer’s pocket. Anybody remember Solyndra? I have no problem with renewable energy, as long as it is developed by private capital, and can compete on a level field with coal, and gas. It can’t, and I doubt it ever will.

Then there is this from The Weekly Standard:

Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard arguments challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. The Clean Power Plan, as it is called, is central to President Barack Obama’s overall Climate Action Plan. West Virginia and Texas are leading the 27 states and state agencies now in opposition to the CPP regulations, and some 120 companies and organizations have filed in support of the coalition’s complaint.

CPP is designed to bring about what the EPA calls an “aggressive transformation” of electricity generation throughout the country. It would do this by systematically “decarboniz[ing]” power generation and ushering in a new “clean energy” economy less reliant on carbon. CPP requires that, by 2030, power-plant carbon emissions be reduced by a third from what they were in 2005.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the plan would drive up electricity costs for businesses, consumers, and families, impose tens of billions of dollars in annual compliance costs, and reduce America’s global competitiveness—without any significant reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.

But whatever you might think of the rule as energy policy, the biggest problem with it is this: The rule is illegal, indeed unconstitutional.

Under the Constitution, Congress makes law, and the executive enforces it. Unfortunately, over the past 80 years Congress has delegated to executive agencies the power to regulate in many areas. But that is not a blank check to the executive: If Congress has not made a specific delegation, then regulations in that area created by the executive branch are not valid. And that is what has happened here.

As Chief Justice John Roberts said in his dissent in City of Arlington v. FCC (2013), “Agencies are creatures of Congress.” He then quoted what the Court said in an earlier case, Louisiana Public Service Commission v. FCC (1986): “an agency literally has no power to act .  .  . unless and until Congress confers power upon it.”

True enough, and hopefully The Court will recognize that it is so. But my read of it as energy policy is that it will put the United States in exactly the same place as South Australia visited last week. Given the other things that so-called environmentalists support (and oppose) these days, I’m not too sure that is not the goal.

Ideology > Engineeering and Logic

A couple of reports mixed here, because they go to the same point. First, South Australia had a power outage last week. Ordinarily, that’s not news, but in this case, I gather nearly the whole state was off. Why? Here’s Andrew Bolt to tell you.

South Australia ran to Canberra for subsidies to protect Arium Steel – which has now been shut down in part because of the state’s ruinously juvenile obsession with green power. Terry McCrann and Nick Cater expose how green power is killing South Australia.

Terry McCrann:

Clements Gap wind plant in South Australia

Clements Gap wind plant in South Australia

ABSOLUTE unmitigated, undiluted bullcrap: the desperate, indeed seriously panicked claim that South Australia going ‘all North Korea black’ last week had nothing to do with its embrace of useless wind ‘power’ (sic).

Now for the facts. Yes, the proximate cause of SA’s power failure was transmission towers being blown down in last week’s storm.

We’ll put aside the rather important question of whether they were blown down because they weren’t built robustly enough, because the scattered nature of wind turbines requires so many of them that it would cost too much to ‘gold plate them.’

That said, despite the additional lies told by the global warming fanatics, the winds in SA last Wednesday were neither unprecedented nor particularly violent. They didn’t top 100kmh; they didn’t even reach the speeds of the lowest level of cyclone.

The key question, the question that utterly damns the SA reliance on wind turbines, is what happened next — when SA ‘lost’ its wind generation.

As AEMO — the Australian Energy Market Operator, — explained in a press statement last Thursday, the damaged transmission lines supported supply and generation north of Adelaide.

But “the reason why a cascading failure of the remainder of the South Australia network occurred is still to be identified and is subject to further investigation.”

Without stating so, AEMO then gave precisely the answer.

About 1900 megawatts (MW) was being consumed in South Australia at the time of the power failure, AEMO said; the SA generation — mostly, my words, wind from the north — was “being supported” by a total of 610MW from Victoria.

What AEMO didn’t say, but is blindingly obvious, when wind ‘generation’ dropped from around 900MW to zero literally in an instant, SA just as instantly ‘asked’ Victoria for that 900MW.

So suddenly the long extension cord from the coal-fired stations in the Latrobe Valley was being asked to increase its supply from around 500MW to around 1500MW.

In effect, the ‘wind-powered state’ wanted to ‘borrow’ almost the entire output of one of Victoria’s coal-fired stations. And it wanted to borrow it immediately, at 4.18pm last Wednesday. The cord just ‘shorted out.’ …

There are two damning, utterly undeniable points that prove it was ‘all about wind.’

If you are going to rely on the unreliable power ‘sources’ of wind or solar, when the wind don’t blow and/ or the sun don’t shine, you have to have back-up from a reliable power source, either gas or coal.

Further, you have to keep that back-up turning over, because when the wind don’t blow or the sun don’t shine, it can go from 1000MW to zip pretty quickly — even without dodgy towers falling over.

Which of course makes the whole exercise a farce. Why have wind at all to replace coal or gas if you still have to keep the coal/gas?

Unless, and this is the critical second point, you try to do it on the cheap — both the real cheap and the ‘environmental’ cheap: by using that long extension cord to ‘someone else’s dirty power.’ Except Wednesday showed us exactly what can happen when you do that.

Nick Cater:

It is barely two months since Weatherill demanded $100 million from Canberra to keep Arrium Steel working. Yet it was the blackout, a consequence of Labor’s renewables policy, that ­finally shut the Whyalla plant down. Enforced idleness is costing Arrium about $4m a day.

Green politics really is shutting down Whyalla, after all.

South Australia is also running to other states to supply it with the kind of power it deems too dirty to produce itself – yet needs to keep on the lights:

The state’s capacity to produce its own baseload power from fossil fuels has rapidly diminished. The state’s four largest power stations — two at Port Augusta, Pelican Point and Torrens Island A — will have closed or will be in mothballs by this time next year, made unviable by unpredictable deluges of cheap wind power.

The combined lost capacity of 1250MW represents a third of the state’s generating potential. What has filled the gap? You’ve guessed it: imported power from Victoria, generated mostly by the same brown coal deemed unacceptable in oh-so-clean South Australia.

Upgrading the national grid to give South Australians the comfort of a reliable energy supply will be expensive. The costs inevitably will push up power prices, passed on as another hidden cost of Labor’s carbon fetish.

via Renewable Power Australia – Green Power Works When There’s A Daddy To Pay | PA Pundits – International

And that’s the thing if the sun don’t shine, or the wind don’t blow (or blows too hard) your solar and wind power don’t work. And no, nobody has an efficient means to store power. A lot of taxpayer’s money has been squandered on it though, with very limited results. And what South Australia has done is exactly what California is doing, for the same political reason. Eventually, it will have similar results.

And it diffuses the grid, which has other problems, such as security. I have wondered for years when I would write this story, because, to me, it’s the obvious way to disrupt life in the west, disrupt the power grid. From Weaponsman.

In 2014, we asked, “What can a mere rifle do?” in reference to a standoff attack on a Pacific Gas and Electric power substation in Metcalf, California.

The answer, in that case, was to blow the transformers to hell and gone, and bug out. To date, there has been no arrest in the case; at one time, a DHS official suggested it was an inside job. There have been subsequent attacks, despite attempts to upgrade security; indeed, once, criminals cut through a fence and made off with equipment that was on site — for security upgrades.

Now, there’s been a new rifle attack on a station, in rural Utah. It appears to have been less sophisticated and less persistent than the California attack, but more effective — the attacker or attackers blew the station off the grid with as few as three rifle shots.

On Sunday, somebody went to the remote substation located between Kanab and Page, Arizona, and fired at least three rounds with a high-powered rifle into the main transformer, knocking out power to an estimated 13,000 customers in Kanab, Big Water, Orderville, Glendale, Hatch and surrounding towns in Garfield County.

“Just from the looks of it, it looked more criminal than vandalism because they knew exactly where to shoot it and they shot it multiple times in the same spot,” Brown said. “For somebody to know exactly where that substation is and how to hit it exactly like he did, (it) seems like he’d have to have knowledge of that.”

Countermeasures that can be used in cases like this are limited. In California, the power company deployed cameras, but they’re investigative, not preventive, technology; and constructed blinds that block sight of the most vulnerable transformers, but they’re concealment, not cover. In Utah, the power company has asked for tips, and done something even less practical than the Californians:

Now you go and combine those stories, well if the bad guys do, we’re likely to go back a (or a few) hundred years. Substations are really hard to secure, and a rifle is the bottom level threat. There are others, and they would be more catastrophic.

Not sure there is really an answer, there’s not in this article, but it’s something we should be thinking about – at all levels.

And then there is the EMP threat attack, by the NORKs and others.

The Stupid: It Burns

Caveman_Cooking_Over_Fire_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_081102-131412-829050When I first read this, I simply didn’t believe it was real. Well, it is.

But there were downsides, too. Occasionally, the smoke burned their eyes and seared their lungs. Their food was likely coated with char, which might have increased their risk for certain cancers. With everyone congregated in one place, diseases could have been transmitted more easily.

Much research has focused on how fire gave an evolutionary advantage to early humans. Less examined are the negative byproducts that came with fire, and the ways in which humans may or may not have adapted to them. In other words, how did the harmful effects of fire shape our evolution?

from The New York Times, they must be so proud.

I mean really, the downside of fire? Undiscover fire and we simply go back, even beyond the hunter-gatherer, to the naked, hairless ape, trying not to get eaten by the faster, stronger animals. I imagine its Racist as well, because, no doubt those ancestors of ours who thought  that fire was the best thing since, well I was going to say meat, but they had never tried that, were no doubt black.

Next up the downside of the wheel, no doubt. I think Manhattan Island would be far more beautiful though without, I imagine it might support, oh maybe 100 people, at least til winter. These people are simply parasites, on the order of a tapeworm. Why we think they deserve to be paid the big bucks, is simply beyond me.

Hat tip to the HQ, there are far more honest companies who package their toilet paper on rolls, without ink smeared on it. Cheaper and softer too!

Then there is the British Daily Star, who shared with its readers, that the British MOD had spent £183 million on a new five-inch gun, which according to the paper is about the size of your toothbrush. Well, they got corrected, not too politely.

Obviously, the Iowa class battleships, with their 16 inch main batteries were no big deal, after all, most AR 15s, even those that don’t have the thing that goes up, have 20″ barrels.

From SOFREP News 

In case you missed it, The Green Party nominated Jill Stein for President last week, in Houston. Here’s an outline of what they want.

  • “Greens want to stop runaway climate change, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 40% by 2020 and 95% by 2050, over 1990 levels.”
  • “Enact a Fee & Dividend system on fossil fuels to enable the free market to include the environmental costs of their extraction and use…. The carbon fee will initially be small, a dime per kilogram of carbon, to avoid creating a shock to the economy. The fee will be increased by 10% each year that global atmospheric carbon dioxide content is greater than 350 ppm, decreased 10% each year it’s less than 300 ppm, and repealed entirely when it falls below 250 ppm.”
  • “The Green Party calls for elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, nuclear power, biomass and waste incineration and biofuels.”
  • “Move decisively to an energy system based on solar, wind, geo-thermal, marine, and other cleaner renewable energy sources.”
  • “We call for a ban on the construction of large-scale and inappropriately-located, hydroelectric dams.”
  • “The Green Party calls for a formal moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants, the early retirement of existing nuclear power reactors, and the phase-out of technologies that use or produce nuclear waste, such as nuclear waste incinerators, food irradiators, and all uses of depleted uranium.”
  • “We call for a ban on mountaintop removal coal mining. With limited supplies and in the absence of commercially viable ‘clean coal’ carbon sequestration, which may never be feasible, coal is neither an economically nor an environmentally sustainable solution.”
  • “We call for the cessation of development of fuels produced with polluting, energy-intensive processes or from unsustainable or toxic feed stocks, such as genetically-engineered crops, coal and waste streams contaminated with persistent toxics.”
  • “We oppose further oil and gas drilling or exploration on our nation’s outer continental shelf, on our public lands, in the Rocky Mountains, and under the Great Lakes.”
  • “Plan for decentralized, bioregional electricity generation and distribution.”
  • “De-carbonize and re-localize the food system.”
  • “Investment: Enormous amounts of investment capital will be needed to accomplish the energy transition, much more than the promise of $150 billion for renewable energy over ten years, and must now come from government.”
  • “The Green Party calls for the early retirement of nuclear power reactors as soon as possible (in no more than five years)….”
  • “The Green Party supports a transportation policy that emphasizes the use of mass transit and alternatives to the automobile and truck for transport.”

In other words, “Stop the world, I want to get off”. Not only that but also this

Create millions of jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, and conservation.

And this

Guarantee economic human rights, including access to food, water, housing, and utilities, with effective anti-poverty programs to ensure every American a life of dignity.

via: Green Party Energy: Front Door Cronyism, Back Door Poverty (convention concludes in Houston) The entire energy platform is there as well if you’re masochistic enough.

Like the source link, I think Milton Friedman summed up things quite well when he said:

One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.

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