Submarines: cost effective?

Big data is making is possible for navies to approach anti-submarine warfare differently; will it soon become non-cost-effective to use submarines, or should they be used differently? Here is an interesting article on this subject:

In a piece for TNI, the report’s author, Bryan Clark, lays out the problem in more layman’s terms:

Since the Cold War submarines, particularly quiet American ones, have been considered largely immune to adversary A2/AD capabilities. But the ability of submarines to hide through quieting alone will decrease as each successive decibel of noise reduction becomes more expensive and as new detection methods mature that rely on phenomena other than sounds emanating from a submarine. These techniques include lower frequency active sonar and non-acoustic methods that detect submarine wakes or (at short ranges) bounce laser or light-emitting diode (LED) light off a submarine hull. The physics behind most of these alternative techniques has been known for decades, but was not exploited because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine. Today, “big data” processing enables advanced navies to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time to exploit these detection techniques. As they become more prevalent, they could make some coastal areas too hazardous for manned submarines.

Could modern attack subs soon face the same problem as surface combatants around the world, where some areas are simply too dangerous to enter, thanks to pressing A2/AD challenges?

One possible future use of submarines is interesting: use them as underwater drone carriers!

February 20, 2015 Posted by | science, technology | | Leave a comment

Putting a probe on a comet ..and a contrast…

There is an excellent account of the probe Philae landing on a comet. Some photos of the comet:



This is pretty amazing, huh? Yes, those who did the science, engineering and mathematics to make this happen ARE amazing; but they are outliers among us.

You see this at our university; in my advanced class I have some students who will look at the computer code (for a numerical method to solve a differential equation) and make some suggestions. But on the other level, you see attitudes like this one:


And to think: this young woman was displaying her ignorance via sophisticated technology that was created by, well, geniuses.

That is how it is right now: the smartest among us (does NOT include me by any stretch of the imagination) is further from the average than it has ever been, and the spread will continue to get wider.

November 13, 2014 Posted by | astronomy, science, space, technology | | Leave a comment

No. Partial. Credit.

Sometimes, partial credit isn’t good enough.

No one was injured.

October 28, 2014 Posted by | science, space, technology | | Leave a comment

Fracking, economics, Obamacare and religious freedom…

Fracking I’ve never been aboard the “fracking is terrible and should be banned” bandwagon. I’ve always been aboard the “energy companies should do it right” bandwagon, and when the companies get sloppy and take short cuts, accidents happen, often with terrible consequences.

So, this study which showed that water contamination near gas wells in Pennsylvania and Texas was NOT due to fracking but instead due to leaky gas wells did not surprise me at all. Yes, there is a problem and it should be fixed. But the technique of fracking isn’t the culprit in these instances.

Of course, this headline is wildly wrong: it should read “no water pollution due to fracking”: (from here)


Economics Textbook economics is working fine, but too many economists have let ideology trump economic theory:

The big problem with economic policy is not, however, that conventional economics doesn’t tell us what to do. In fact, the world would be in much better shape than it is if real-world policy had reflected the lessons of Econ 101. If we’ve made a hash of things — and we have — the fault lies not in our textbooks, but in ourselves.

Yes, Obamacare is working for many, but those who are benefiting from it will vote for those who want to repeal it anyway:

The Affordable Care Act allowed Robin Evans, an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour, to sign up for Medicaid this year. She is being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors.

“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”

But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”

Ms. Evans said she did not want the law repealed but had too many overall reservations about Democrats to switch her vote. “Born and raised Republican,” she said of herself. “I ain’t planning on changing now.”

So now you know why my sympathy for people is limited. I am for Obamacare as I think that it helps the economy. But as for the individuals helped by it: read the above.

I remember reacting with disgust when many who are on the public dole complain about President Obama and the liberals.

I suppose their cluelessness is a bit like this:

Separation of Church and state

Now, of course, what is said here is perfectly legal as a campaign rally is not a government sponsored event. And yes, Senator McCain had not yet arrived when this invocation was given (he was to arrive later via his “Straight Talk Express” bus:

But I’ll speak to my reaction (I was there): I bit my tongue and tried hard to not break out in laughter; to me this is “Zeus vs. Thor” stuff.

My point: while I believe in separation of church and State and believe that the government should not take sides on religion, I am NOT religiously offended at public prayers and the like. I see it as, well the way you might see an exotic (to you) culture going through some sort of ritual.

But the religious might be VERY offended; a prayer in one religion might be “blasphemy” to someone else.
Hence, religious people ought to be MORE in favor of “separation of church and State” than I am. Because if these aren’t separated:

The Satanic Temple is widely known for fighting to place a statue of Baphomet next to the Ten Commandments on the Oklahoma statehouse grounds. And now they’re bringing Satanic materials to kids in Florida, and it’s all thanks to “Christian” extremists.

Had Christian extremists let the school remain a secular place that honored the separation of church and state, the Satanic Temple would not have been able to introduce kids to The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities, which will be widely available in Orange County schools.

The activity book asks kids to find ways to be inclusive in order to solve problem. For instance, one set of instructions in the book says, “These bullies are mad and afraid of things they don’t understand. Help Damian use inclusive language to defuse the situation.” In addition to the activity book other materials will include “pamphlets related to the Temple’s tenets, philosophy and practice of Satanism, as well as information about the legal right to practice Satanism in school.”

A Louisiana state lawmaker learned this the hard way:

In Louisiana, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal pushed for a voucher program that would allow state funds to be used to pay for religious schools. It’s unconstitutional, it’s a way to use taxpayer money to fund someone’s faith, and it was a bad idea to begin with.
But it passed.
Now, one of the state legislators, Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Watson), just made a shocking discovery, though: Christianity isn’t the only religion!

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools.
“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” the District 64 Representative said Monday.

“Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” Hodges said. “We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

(of course, she appears to believe that our Founding Founders were Christians; some were but others were not).

September 17, 2014 Posted by | civil liberties, health care, morons, politics, religion, science, social/political, technology | , , | Leave a comment

Scientists figure out a bit about a toad’s brain (observation, hypothesis, experiment, model, predction)

First a bonus: Jerry Coyne’s website has a post about mayfly emergence showing up on radar!

Toad Brain Activity
A friend alerted me to this post, which is about how a toad reacts to stimuli which mimics prey in the wild. There was a bit of a “ha, ha, watch the stupid toad get “owned”” but the videos are quite interesting and illuminate how science works.

First, there is the observation (toad hunting a worm).


(photo: Heidi Carpenter)

Then some conjectures are made: “what type of stimuli elicits a “hunt” response”?
Then there is an series of “experiment followed by a refined conjecture”; here we see what “looks like” prey to the toad and what doesn’t, and what sort of response does the toad make? Then we look at the signals in the toad’s brain.

It turns out that there are a couple of receptors involved: one if the “predator” sensor is activated, it sends a signal which cancels the “hunt maneuver” response. How is this verified: one can disconnect the “canceling signal” pathway.

Then the whole lot is modeled by a neural network which elicits the predicted response. Yes, there is some mathematics that underlies this, which includes signal theory, neural networks, probability and possibly fuzzy set theory as the “predator/prey” sets appear to be fuzzy.

The videos total 30 minutes but are worth watching.

July 22, 2014 Posted by | frogs, mathematics, science, technology | , , , | Leave a comment

Ok, something other than whining…:-)

Humor: I don’t know if I’d call these “intellectual” but they are funny:


(Click for larger)

unintentional humor
A former Bradley basketball star and coach is now coaching the UC-Davis basketball team. It has been a rough year for them:


They finished 9’th out of 9 teams in their conference. Now of course, a basketball coach inherits a situation and only so much can change over a period of time.
So, this coach decided to post this on his Twitter account:


Hmmm, though I can appreciate the message (e. g., sometimes it is beneficial to be pushed beyond your self-perceived limits), I’d say that a college oriented message ought to be, well, better written? Isn’t being able to write beyond a grade school level part of being…employable? (at least for a college graduate) 🙂

Issues of the day
This isn’t good: a US Senator claims that the CIA is hacking into Congressional computers. IF true, this is very troubling.

A Republican won an open Republican seat in a special election (FL-13). The seat was open due to the death of the incumbent Bill Young, who was a Republican. But President Obama carried this Congressional district twice: 50.1 to 48.6 in 2012 and 51.3 to 47.5 in 2008. So the Democrats tried to flip it and came up short 48.5 to 46.7. The Democrats did make a special effort for this prize.

Now what to make of it? I’ll say this: I sure hope that my fellow liberals who just “know” that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren would just SWEEP the country realize that neither would win districts that President Obama carried. Too many of us live in a bubble and think that the rest of the country is ….well….JUST LIKE US.

Nuclear safety (weapons)
Though this article is about thermonuclear weapon incidents from the 1950’s, it is still worth reading.

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, politics, politics/social, republicans, social/political, technology | , , , , , | Leave a comment



Neodymium magnet in a thick copper tube:

Running gait and footstrike Which is best? It depends…on you. If you’ve been running a while, you’ve probably found it.

There is something to be said for keeping a cool head and taking advantages of opportunities where they are:


Of course, actual facts won’t convince anyone to change their position, at least right away.

Staying in a bubble doesn’t help: at Daily Kos, FisherOfRolando lampoons:

from wexwuther

Listen, pal. Let me explain something to you. What the Tea Party has
done is spawned some of the great Americans who are speaking truth to
the masses. People like Sarah Palin. Go read her Facebook updates and
try to tell me with a straight face that she isn’t winning hearts and
minds. She has millions of followers who look to her to articulate a
vision and provide clarity to a movement. This movement is going
places. Once we clear out the driftwood in the House and bring in more
people who share this vision, the old, dead, RINO GOP guard will be
gone. It may take time, but the winning of elections is coming. Mark my words

If we can convince more Republicans follow this advice then 2014 will be a year of rainbows and magic ponies for me and my fellow Democrats.

Why does this person believe this? Why it is COMMON SENSE:

Screen shot 2013-10-16 at 7.59.29 PM



Yeah, I know; liberals have bubbles too:


This ticket *might* win *most* of the Kerry states and probably little else.

October 17, 2013 Posted by | politics, politics/social, republicans, running, science, social/political, technology | | Leave a comment

United States: two ends of the intellectual spectrum.

A physics note: Englert and Higgs won the Nobel Prize for physics for their work on how particles acquire mass (by passing through a field).

Ying/Yang of living in the United States of America

On one hand: we have MIT. Here, scientists have developed a new type of self-assembling robot.

At Livermore Lab: scientists have gotten nuclear fusion past the break even point (more energy released than used to start the reaction to begin with.

So, on the coasts, some interesting science research.

But in the halls of Congress: we have a US Representative (Michele Bachmann) babbling about “end times”. Yes, there are millions of Americans who don’t find such talk “crazy”. Sigh.

October 8, 2013 Posted by | morons, physics, religion, science, technology | , , | Leave a comment

Science Sunday: both the high level and the s****y.

Sh**ty Science
Some time ago, I mentioned that some people can benefit from receiving the stool of others. The idea: some intestinal disorders are caused by “bad” bacteria and stool from a healthy person contains a fair amount of “good” bacteria. Hence a “stool” transplant into the lower digestive tract can sometimes be beneficial.

It isn’t easy to find doctors who do this kind of therapy, but some have had success with a “do it yourself” procedure (taken from a medical doctor). The New York Times offers a story of this.

High Science
Watch a rocket take off, hover, and then, in a controlled manner, land down in a “bad science fiction movie” way.

July 8, 2013 Posted by | science, technology | , , | Leave a comment

Intellectual narcissism, woos, whack jobs, protesters and reptilian corporations

These two internet “broadsides” made me chuckle:



Note: the upper picture is about the recent IRS scandal of targeting groups that had “conservative sounding names”. While what the IRS did was wrong, I think that no political group should have tax-exempt status, and that includes groups that I like (such as Priorities USA).

The lower photo lampoons the louder, more scientifically ignorant anti-GMO protesters by playing upon this true incident in which Christine O’Donnell said that US companies were “cross breeding humans and animals” and breeding mice with “fully functional human brains” (in reality, the companies grew a human “progenitor cell” into a mouse where it developed into a fully functional MOUSE BRAIN CELL.)

This reminded me of two incidents a long time ago.
The first occurred at a mathematics conference. Some mathematics professors asked me if I’d sign a petition protesting a female mathematics professor not geting tenure at the University of California, Berkeley. I declined to sign and gave the following reasons:
1. Her field of research was NOT mine and
2. I am in no way qualified to judge scholarship at such a level. Any objective search committee would throw out my CV well before any “short list” was made for a job opening at that institution.

So, absent some sort of evidence that said “she is qualified but she is getting turned down due to her sex”, I couldn’t sign such a petition. That does NOT mean that the petitioners weren’t right; they might have been!

The second incident occurred at a Unitarian Universalist church camp. Some teenager had a “clipboard” petition asking the government to devote “more money to….” (AIDS research, I think).

So I asked: “what is the current funding level, why would that be optimal, and what do you proposed be cut in its stead, or how would we raise the money?” The person holding the clipboard gave me a look of astonishment…as if “why would these be pertinent questions?” Frankly, I would have settled for an answer of the following type: “this was budgeted by the President but the House cut this and added X instead” or “Senator X proposed this but the GOP filibustered due to pressure from….” or even “I don’t know the details but Scientific American has a good article on why this research is currently underfunded…”. But of course, I got NONE of that.

And so it goes with Monsanto and anti-GMO protesters. I am NOT saying that there aren’t issues with Monsanto’s business practices (I’d like to educate myself on these). I am not saying that there aren’t GMO-crop related issues (such as such crops needing more pesticides due to their sending out stronger pollination signals, or due to the POSSIBLE rushing into new technologies before they’ve been conservatively tested).

But one has to be careful as to how one educates themselves. For one: mainstream outlets are notorious for being fooled (example) Yes, it sometimes happens that a non-renowned scientist/mathematician comes up with a genuine groundbreaking result (example) but in this case, the results were submitted to and verified by the editors and referees at Annals of Mathematics, the top journal in mathematics.

And frankly, much of the “science” that comes from the mouths of the loudest activists is either gibberish, or unfounded opinions or fears. It is almost as if people of this sort think that their confidence in their own opinion constitutes “evidence”.

I’ve seen this “from the other side”, so to speak.

Back in the early 1980’s, I was in the nuclear Navy. We did class room training, and then had training at prototype nuclear reactors. Outside of these reactor complexes, you had protestors (sometimes Catholic nuns) passing out leaflets which were designed to…well…I guess convince us that what we were doing was dangerous, wrong or harmful.

So I was polite and I took them. I read them. And they were hilariously wrong; it was clear that whoever wrote those had no understanding of science or engineering.

This is NOT to say there aren’t legitimate issues concerning nuclear power (storage of waste, mining, possibility of natural disasters (Fukushima), antiquated plants and designs (Fukushima again), industries taking money saving safety shortcuts, regulation (those who know most about nuclear power and are most qualified to oversee it are those who worked in it…huge potential for conflict of interest).

But I have no interest in listening to someone who has no better qualifications than confidence in their own opinions and in their own abilities to digest pop-level science.

This is why I followed the Fukushima incident via Scientific American and via the MIT nuclear science and engineering sites.

The same applies to the GMO stuff. There are science issues, and I don’t trust large corporations to properly balance public safety with the pursuit of maximum profit. I am for educating myself, but listening to some “activist” website or listening to some woo rant, rave and make bad analogies isn’t education. It is an irritating waste of time.

There are times when I grumble about there being “no difference between liberals and conservatives” when it comes to uninformed people trying to obtain a captive audience for their quackery and being offended when they are blown off.

But there is one difference: on the whole, liberals have a bit more freedom to say “ok, in this instance, most conservatives are saying X and they are right on this issue”; conservatives who do the same tend to be labeled as “no longer being conservative” (e. g., think of a conservative who admits that there is human caused or human aggravated climate change; how do other conservatives react to that person?)

May 25, 2013 Posted by | energy, environment, political humor, politics/social, science, social/political, technology | , , | Leave a comment