Visit to the National Museum of the Air Force (among other things)

Workout notes: 4 mile run on the treadmill (42:25). I started out slowly and did .5 mile segments at elevations 0, .5, and 1. then every .25 miles, I went 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 3.5, 3, 2.5, 2. It was enough and though I felt it a bit on the first step.

It is good that I didn’t do much as we did a LOT of walking at the Air Force Museum.


Barbara teased that this plane was named after her. 😉

In all honesty, the Air Force buff could well take all day; real fans might make an entire weekend of it. There is just so much to see; of course the airplane displays stole the show for me.

I liked the big bombers (B-52, B-36, B-17, B-24) the best, but there were many different types of Air Force planes along with histories and details about, for example, aircraft engine development and the challenges that were faced and solved. It was also kind of awe inspiring seeing pre-WWII aircraft (say the P-26, B-18) and then seeing the end (B-29, and yes, a German Me-262 jet fighter).

If it weren’t for the realization that these planes were, in effect, killing machines, well, it would have been a joy to see. Still….I can’t help it….interesting.

The B-36 had to be seen to be believed.

Other topics

Paul Krugman had this to say:

Consider the following thought experiment: you are driving on a road — let’s arbitrarily call it Interstate 91 — and must choose a lane. Traffic is so heavy that you can’t really change lanes thereafter. But there are many bad patches along the road; half of the distance can be covered at 60 miles an hour, but the other half only at 15.

You might imagine that your average speed is halfway between 15 and 60, but a little thought shows that this isn’t true: your average speed is only 24 miles an hour. Also, the lanes aren’t perfectly correlated: sometimes your lane is going 60 while the next is going 15, sometimes it’s the reverse. Again, you might think that this means you spend equal amounts of time watching the other lane whiz by and whizzing by yourself, but not so: you spend four times as much time watching the other guys race past.

And this creates intense frustration and anger, a sense that it’s grossly unfair that you are in the wrong lane. This sense persists even though (a) you have worked out the analysis above, and realize that in principle the lanes are equally good or bad and (b) you have in fact been playing leapfrog with the same Boltbus the whole way, so that you know that in fact neither lane is better. No matter; you are angry, frazzled, and late for your family event. (Which you make up for by having a good time, and drinking enough wine that it’s past 9 when you realize that you didn’t post Friday Night Music).

You might read the comments; some people tried to tell Paul Krugman that he was wrong (about the bolded fact).

This cracks me up about many people. If someone this smart says something that doesn’t immediately make sense to them, they figure that Krugman (Nobel laureate economist) must have made some elementary mistake that THEY were capable of catching. 🙂

Funny, but when this happens to me (a very smart, accomplished person says something mathematical or scientific that strikes me at strange) my FIRST reaction is “ok, what am *I* missing here”. But, I’ve had the experience of being around very smart people and I know enough to know that, while they are imperfect and sometimes make mistakes, if we disagree on something technical, more often than not, *I* am missing something.

Now if you STILL think that Krugman is wrong and don’t want to take the time to see why he is right, he gives a slower explanation here.

Note: his assumption is that the lanes are always going at different speeds; 15 mph is never with 15 mph and 60 is never with 60.

Trade: believe it or not, those large metal shipping containers have made a HUGE difference in trade; shipping costs are way down, BUT a disaster that takes a port out of commission can have a bigger shock effect. Here is why.

July 28, 2013 Posted by | aircraft, mathematics, running, social/political, travel, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Science, Knowledge (and lack thereof)

Cool Video Dr. Tyson talks for about 12 minutes here. Topics: we (humans) really are a part of the universe….it is possible that earthly life originated on another planet…and for the conclusion: are we (humans) just too intellectually limited to discover how our universe works? Perhaps there are other sentient beings that sees our intellectual level as we, say, see the intellectual level of chimps?

Evolution: This is a type of honest skepticism.
Some top of the line scientists have sequenced the coelacanth genome. The coelacanth is a type of fish that is sometimes misleading referred to as a “living fossil” as its outward features haven’t changed much over millions of years, though perhaps its genome has. The thought is that this fish has had fewer evolutionary changes even at the genome level than other animals. But at least one accomplished biochemist is skeptical though he hasn’t launched an intellectual scientific attack as yet.

The larger point: scientists ARE skeptical people; most (all?) require quite a bit of solid evidence to accept a conjecture or to accept a theory.

Interesting resources for topics
I’ll have to read the rest of these. I’ve finished the first 10 posts about the Higgs boson; now Mano Singham has posted 5 more. You can find a link to all of them here. Singham is a physics professor who knows how to write.

Daily Kos user Major Kong (a former pilot) has a nice series about how airliners work. I’ve read a few; now I want to complete the series.

The United States
We know that the Boston bombers originally came from Chechnya, which is currently a Republic within Russia. But enough Americans thought that they came from the Czech Republic that the Czech embassy had to issue a statement that the Czech Republic is not Chechnya. 🙂

The charge of Islamophobia aimed at New Atheists
I’ll be clear from the start: of course Muslims in the United States should have full equality before the law: their schools, mosques, etc. should be treated the same way as Jewish, Christian or Hindu ones. If they want to build a mosque and have the permits, then build it. I decry the protests against these things.

But on the other hand, the behavior of the Islamic republics and the behavior of large groups of Muslims abroad richly deserves criticism and I won’t be deterred by cries of “ISLAMOPHOBIA”. Here is a prime example of what I am talking about: large demonstrations in Bangladesh asking for atheists bloggers to be executed by the state.

Thousands of Islamist protesters marched the streets of Bangladesh’s capital, calling for the death penalty for bloggers who insult Islam. The city ground to a halt as demonstrators demanded the government change the law to punish blasphemers.

The activists gathered in their thousands at Dhaka’s commercial hub on Friday night in protest over blasphemous bloggers who offend Islamist sensibilities on social networks. In a demonstration that lasted well into Saturday, they urged the government to introduce a new law with the provision of the death penalty for those who defame Islam.

As the protesters advanced they chanted: “God is great, hang the atheist bloggers!”

“I’ve come here to fight for Islam. We won’t allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed,” Shahidul Islam, an imam at a mosque outside Dhaka who walked 20km, told AAP […]

To deny that this is disgusting, backward and barbaric is to be dishonest. And to say that it is somehow atypical in certain parts of the world is also dishonest. From Pew Research:

At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion. Majorities of Muslims in Jordan and Nigeria also favor these harsh punishments.

The Pew article does contain some hopeful news though:

Eight-in-ten Muslims in Pakistan say suicide bombing and other acts of violence against civilian targets in order to defend Islam from its enemies are never justified; majorities in Turkey (77%), Indonesia (69%) and Jordan (54%) share this view. Support for suicide bombing has declined considerably over the years. For example, while 74% of Muslims in Lebanon said these violent acts were at least sometimes justified in 2002, just 39% say that is the case now; double-digit declines have also occurred in Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia.

This is an improvement. So maybe there is hope.

April 21, 2013 Posted by | aircraft, biology, evolution, physics, religion, science, social/political, technology, world events | , , | Leave a comment

Science: taxonomies, grasping it and the insufficiency of “common sense”

Is there a new addition to the tree of life?
Via Jennifer Welsh from MSNBC:

Talk about extended family: A single-celled organism in Norway has been called “mankind’s furthest relative.” It is so far removed from the organisms we know that researchers claim it belongs to a new base group, called a kingdom, on the tree of life.

“We have found an unknown branch of the tree of life that lives in this lake. It is unique! So far we know of no other group of organisms that descend from closer to the roots of the tree of life than this species,” study researcher Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi, of the University of Oslo, in Norway, said in a statement.

The primordial animal from As lake, 30 km south of Oslo, does not fit on any of the main branches of the tree of life. Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi had to create a new main branch, called Collodictyon.

The organism, a type of protozoan, was found by researchers in a lake near Oslo. Protozoans have been known to science since 1865, but because they are difficult to culture in the lab, researchers haven’t been able to get a grip on their genetic makeup. They were placed in the protist kingdom on the tree of life mostly based on observations of their size and shape.

In this study, published March 21 in the journal Molecular Biology Evolution, the researchers were able to grow enough of the protozoans, called Collodictyon, in the lab to analyze its genome. They found it doesn’t genetically fit into any of the previously discovered kingdoms of life. It’s an organism with membrane-bound internal structures, called a eukaryote, but genetically it isn’t an animal, plant, fungus, alga or protist (the five main groups of eukaryotes).

Particle Physics Taxonomy
From Sean Carroll in Cosmic Variance:

(click to see the large picture, or go to the blog post)

Of course, figuring out the mysteries of science is, well, hard…and many…even educated people don’t understand how it all works.

Though this talk is long, there is a point in which Ricard Dawkins points out that “common sense” is insufficient to understand science:

This might sound arrogant. But let me try to explain it this way: “common sense” is what many use to get through their lives on a day to day basis. For example: if someone in your day-to-day life is trying to sell you on something that seems strange to you (e. g., “doesn’t pass the smell test”), then you are probably wise to reject it. However, in science, many of the strange sounding things happen to be true!

I still remember one of my college physics classes: we were studying how light is polarized and the effects of filters. There was some positing of filters such that when two of these filters were in series, no light got through. But if you put a third polarizing filter in front of those two, light appeared to get through….I said something and my physics professor said “it doesn’t make sense, does it Mr. Nanyes?” 🙂

But…it worked, just as the mathematics said it would.

I’ll give another example of how “what makes sense in our day-to-day lives” is nonsense; this one is very concrete. This comes from General Curtis LeMay’s book: Mission with LeMay.

Then Colonel LeMay was in charge of a B-17 unit in Germany; the B-17 was a bomber which carried several 50 caliber machine guns for defense against fighter attacks.

The guns were operated in turrets, blisters or windows, and the gunners were in charge of their guns. The gunners were told to NOT oil their guns because the oil would freeze at the altitudes at which the B-17 flew and fought. They were told to clean their guns with gasoline. But, as LeMay said “everyone knows that oil is good for gun” and though that they knew better (many hunted prior to the war or were skilled with other guns). And much to their sorrow and horror…the oiled guns….froze up when they had to shoot at attacking fighters.

“Common sense” (thought that worked well in day-to-day life) was nonsense in this foreign environment!

So what about Jon Stewart’s point about “faith”? Well, it is true that scientists are VERY reluctant to overturn a long established theory that has worked very well for a long time. It does happen (quantum mechanics and relativity theory superseded classical mechanics….in a way) but only after a great deal of checking and rechecking.

Here is an example of what typically happens: way back when, people used classical mechanics to predict the orbits of planets. But the predictions for Uranus were a bit off; one possibility was that classical mechanics was wrong (unlikely…and classical mechanics works very well for planetary orbit predictions). The other possibility: something out there had a large mass and was throwing things off. That lead to the discovery of Neptune. Click the link to Greg Mayer’s article at Why Evolution is True for the detailed story; it is fascinating.

May 1, 2012 Posted by | aircraft, astronomy, biology, books, cosmology, education, evolution, physics, science, technology | Leave a comment

20 May 2011

Workout notes Walked 6.5 miles; 4.1 with Lynn. I started at 6 in the morning and we had GREAT weather. That will end this weekend.
I want to swim and lift over lunch but will force myself to moderate. I want to go long tomorrow and need to save some energy for it; I can swim and lift on Sunday.

General: if you like funny military sayings and cool photos of aircraft, check this out. It is a slide show of photos with pithy sayings.


No, I mean the one that this article is talking about:

The Haddad children of Middletown, Md., have a lot on their minds: school projects, SATs, weekend parties. And parents who believe the earth will begin to self-destruct on Saturday.

The three teenagers have been struggling to make sense of their shifting world, which started changing nearly two years ago when their mother, Abby Haddad Carson, left her job as a nurse to “sound the trumpet” on mission trips with her husband, Robert, handing out tracts. They stopped working on their house and saving for college.

Last weekend, the family traveled to New York, the parents dragging their reluctant children through a Manhattan street fair in a final effort to spread the word.

“My mom has told me directly that I’m not going to get into heaven,” Grace Haddad, 16, said. “At first it was really upsetting, but it’s what she honestly believes.”

Thousands of people around the country have spent the last few days taking to the streets and saying final goodbyes before Saturday, Judgment Day, when they expect to be absorbed into heaven in a process known as the rapture. Nonbelievers, they hold, will be left behind to perish along with the world over the next five months. […]

It is easy to laugh at these deluded idiots. But I have some pity too:

While Ms. Haddad Carson has quit her job, her husband still works as an engineer for the federal Energy Department. But the children worry that there may not be enough money for college. They also have typical teenage angst — embarrassing parents — only amplified.

“People look at my family and think I’m like that,” said Joseph, their 14-year-old, as his parents walked through the street fair on Ninth Avenue, giving out Bibles. “I keep my friends as far away from them as possible.”

“I don’t really have any motivation to try to figure out what I want to do anymore,” he said, “because my main support line, my parents, don’t care.”

Bottom line: “respecting religious beliefs” just because they are religious beliefs is just plain stupid.

Speaking of religion, here is an interesting critique of a The Good Delusion critique. (hat tip: Jerry Coyne). I’ll go a bit further: Dawkins’ book is on target because it attacks religion as it is practiced by the vast majority of believers. Very few believe in the word salad gods of the philosophers and theologians; they want a god that will cure their uncle’s cancer, keep their country from being attacked and get them a raise (or job). What kind of deity demands worship anyway?


President Obama and Israel
President Obama’s Middle East proposal is interesting:

President Obama has told aides and allies that he does not believe that Mr. Netanyahu will ever be willing to make the kind of big concessions that will lead to a peace deal.

For his part, Mr. Netanyahu has complained that Mr. Obama has pushed Israel too far — a point driven home during a furious phone call with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday morning, just hours before Mr. Obama’s speech, during which the prime minister reacted angrily to the president’s plan to endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders for a future Palestinian state.

Mr. Obama did not back down. But the last-minute furor highlights the discord as they head into what one Israeli official described as a “train wreck” coming their way: a United Nations General Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood in September.

Mr. Netanyahu, his close associates say, desperately wants Mr. Obama to use the diplomatic muscle of the United States to protect Israel from the vote, not only by vetoing it in the Security Council, but also by leaning hard on America’s European allies to get them to reject it as well.

The thing to remember is that our proposing something puts less pressure on Europe to act, and Israel will ALWAYS get a better deal from us. What we have: lots of foreign aid to Israel and a veto in the U. N. Security council.

This is a complex issue; here is an interesting take on it. There is more here than meets the eye.

May 20, 2011 Posted by | aircraft, economy, injury, Middle East, moron, morons, political humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, training, walking, world events | 2 Comments

On Getting Older…

Seeing this photo makes me a bit nostalgic. I grew up on air force bases and as a little boy, I loved books about military aircraft. I thought that this was the coolest photo: I loved the glass nose, the gun turrets and just the whole plane in general. I also found war movies to be exciting.

Now when I see this, I think of the horror: I think of the statistics: a B-17 tour was between 25 to 35 missions (depending on when the tour was). Loss rates were between 2 and 5 percent. Even at 3 percent: the probability of finishing 25 missions was 46.7 percent and the probability of finishing 35 missions was 34 percent. But it is worse than that: sometimes a plane would return with wounded or dead crew members: a German fighter might not shoot down the plane but still kill some of the crew.

I think of crew members burning to death as the plane caught fire or being ripped to pieces by machine guns or 20 mm cannon shells.

Of course, there is the horror of those who are under the bombs and the fighter pilots who had to fly into massed gunfire. But being that my dad served 23 years in the Air Force and that I served in the Navy, my thoughts immediately turn to the bomber crews.

Ironically, I spent several years in Japan (and was born there!); as a young teenager I lived in Tachikawa Air Force base, which was a Japanese fighter base in World War II (to protect Tokyo); I also lived in Green Park, which was made from the old Musashino aircraft engine factory:

Here is the view from the B-29s which bombed the factory in World War II

At the top of the photo is the entrance to the plant…which was turned into this housing area:

Note: the building was very heavily constructed, though the B-29’s did manage to blow off one wing. The rest were more or less intact.

And yes, I thought that the B-29 was cool too. I even built a model of one:


In fact, the B-50 (a heavily upgraded B-29) was still in service when I was in early grade school.

Nevertheless, as an older person, I tend to associate the B-29 with the horrors they caused on the ground:

You are seeing about 1.8 square miles being burned; about 2100 people died in that attack. The Tokyo raid (the March 9 raid) was much worse; 15.8 square miles were burned and about 80,000 people died.

So when I see the cool looking bombers, I cannot divorce my thoughts from the horror in the planes and the horrors going on beneath the planes.

Note: this is NOT a “Japan was a victim” type of post. Not in the least.

It is just that when I was young, I could see the “cool machinery” of war and not automatically think about what the machinery was used for.
And yes, I still have a soft spot for the large military planes; for example I enjoyed this video of the Russian “Bear” Bomber:

(I’ll bet that those fuel efficient turboprops don’t look so silly these-a-days)

And don’t forget the B-52 (I once lived on Ellsworth Air Force Base, which housed SAC B-52’s)

As awesome as these aircraft are, they are still…..well…killing machines.

May 13, 2011 Posted by | aircraft, Navel Staring, technology | 3 Comments

Time For President Obama to Renege on a Campaign Promise?

I admit that I backed then Senator Obama from the beginning, when he announced in Springfield. In fact, I was there.

I loved the fact that he is intellectual and doesn’t try to hide it. I still think that he is a brilliant, classy man of excellent deportment. But I have to admit that he has struggled with some of the “high profile” items in his agenda and that I share some of the frustration that other liberals have, though I am not close to giving up on him. (Now if you talk about the Senate…I am very close to giving up on that stupid institution).

But one of the things that gave Obama the most popularity bothered me:

When I head this, I found myself saying “BS”; I have nothing in common with a large swath of “red America”; those people live in a different universe than I do.

Obama flat out said that we could work with Republicans:

(see about 1:00 to 1:20)

Well, the fact is that some differences are so great that they cannot be bridged; for example, you can’t work with a creationist to design a competent science class!

E. J. Dionne weighs in on this:

Washington will remain the object of scorn as a dysfunctional capital, and absent a new Obama approach, the GOP can act with the confidence that only Democrats will pay a price for the failure of comity.

This problem goes directly to the tensions in Obamaism. As a candidate, Obama pledged to change the tone in Washington and restore amicable relations between the parties. But he also promised to accomplish large things, including a substantial reform of the health-care system, major action to ease global warming and a reshaped and more responsible financial system.

At some point, Obama’s ambitions were destined to collide with the views of a Republican Party fundamentally opposed to almost everything he wants to do. Obama could try to get big things done or he could work easily with Republicans, but he could not do both.

As a result, he found himself leaning entirely on support from his own party, forcing a strategy of inside deal-making. This alienated the many rank-and-file Americans who don’t like the looks of such arrangements, however necessary they are.

A related contradiction was between Obama’s commitment to sweeping change and his soothing pragmatism that disdains public fights. In the campaign, this allowed him to unite a left that believed in his promises of transformation with a center that appreciated his conciliatory style.

You know, some things are impossible to do; it is almost as if I made a commitment this year to both get back up to 300 pounds in the bench press (which would require that I gain muscle) AND to walk 100 miles in 24 hours (which would require that I remain light or even get lighter).

Today’s daily address:

Special notes

Watch airline pilots tackle cross winds on landings (from 3 quarks daily)

January 23, 2010 Posted by | aircraft, Barack Obama, Democrats, republicans | Leave a comment

Airbus A380 – Behind the Scenes with Video – Jumbo Trouble – Popular Mechanics

This is the Airbus A380 Jumbo Jet. It is HUGE!I admit that I have always had a soft spot for very large airplanes.

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This plane is finally starting service soon.

The world’s largest jumbo jet will arrive at Queens’s JFK Airport next week.

The double-decker A380 Airbus will fly from New York to Dubai three times a week starting next Friday.

The super-jumbo jet has a wingspan as long as a football field, an onboard lounge and bar, seats that lie flat and bathrooms with showers.

The Port Authority spent almost $180 million upgrading a terminal in order to accommodate bigger and heavier aircraft.

How big is it?

Mind you, a 747 is HUGE.

Of course, this was quite an engineering feat. To see some of the many challenges that had to be overcome, read this Popular Mechanics article.

August 2, 2008 Posted by | aircraft, science, Uncategorized | 2 Comments