Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Geeking out midweek

😀 Via Watts Up With That, I learned that some mentally ill people in California are talking about secession from the rest of the US (which a lot of people in the rest of the US would support wholeheartedly). WUWT mentions the electrical problem of secession, which I decided to take a little further by computing the shortfall in dispatchable capacity:


(Click for larger, as usual.) Wind and solar are non-dispatchable, so their production needs to have a back-up of slack dispatchable power; given that California imported about 1/3 of its electricity last year, it's reasonable to assume that the required slack capacity isn't available in-state.

The rest is basic arithmetic, which hasn't stopped people from asking how to go from a yearly consumption of 126.4 TWh to a capacity shortfall of 15 GW (14.4 and change, but power plants tend to have 1 GW units; well, big, Rankine cycle-based power plants do).


😀 I like to wear sciency t-shirts to the gym and these are my two newest,

New gym t-shirts. Nerd, me?

but the one on the right is already outdated, as element 118, Oganesson has been added to the periodic table and is a noble gas (an element with a full complement of electrons in its outer orbital layer):



📗 Alton Brown has a new book, EveryDayCook, with some science in it as usual. I find that cooking is a very important skill to have and a great way to introduce kids to science. So, naturally, almost all families with children I know either don't cook at all or keep the kids out of the kitchen. Alas.

Just got the book, so can't say much about it, but if Alton Brown's previous books (and television show) are anything to go by, go buy it. Check out AB's podcast too.


📹 Destin "Smarter Every Day" Sandlin likes opals (a type of semi-precious stone) and takes his viewers to Australia to see how they are mined:



📺 The remake of MacGyver isn't as good as the original (no surprise there, I guess): while the science is as bad as it ever was (it was never good), there's a lot more stupidity (things happen that a 6-year-old would know to avoid), violence (Robert Dean Anderson's MacGyver was averse to solving problems with it), and preachiness (there was a bit in the old one, too).

I still like the general idea of MacGyver, that of solving problems with science (STEM, really) and creative thinking. That's why I give MacGyver a pass on most of the problems, because the attitude is right: thinking and STEM are what makes humans advance as a species.

Also, the self-description of the new MacGyver, when he met the hacker (I guess they needed one in 2016) was spot-on: "you hack computers, I hack everything else."


🚶I like to take long walks to think, so I took a 25 km one in San Francisco last weekend:

Walk in San Francisco


😠 Whomever does the social media for Los Alamos National Laboratory posted this shameful tweet (the image is the problem; see if you can figure it out before reading further):


And my comment (which, of course didn't get a response, since whomever does their social media probably doesn't understand science beyond the level of a kindergartener):
And that fireball, so far outside the atmosphere, what causes it, @LosAlamosNatLab? Seriously, I literally can't even! #facepalm 😱😡
The fireball heat is caused by compression of the atmosphere in front of the meteor, then air friction creates the tail by slowing some of the burning material. It's that $PV=nRT$ thingamaboyle, when the pressure $P$ gets very high too fast for the volume $V$ to change (particularly in front of objects traveling much faster than the speed of sound), the temperature $T$ has to get very high to balance out the equation, since number of moles $n$ doesn't change and $R$ is a constant. Science. It works.

It's not inconsistent behavior to upbraid the LANL and The Science Channel for their bad science in social media while giving MacGyver a pass. MacGyver is a fiction television show; the LANL and The Science Channel are (or should be) serious institutions with an educational mission.


🎱 Puzzle of the week (from a Twitter rathole so I have no way to credit): find "DOG"


(Yes, it's just a matter of exhaustive search, but this has been fiendishly well-designed, to maximize the need for searching. Such design effort just to thwart intelligent searches is worthy of mention.)