Intel's Ronler Acres Plant


Silicon Forest

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Map of Stable Isotopes

Cool graph of the day.
Map of stable isotopes
The number of protons in an atom's nucleus determine what element it is, i.e. hydrogen, iron, oxygen, etc. The Z axis along the bottom on the graph indicates the number of protons.

The number of neutrons in an atom's nucleus determine what isotope you have of any particular element. The N axis along the left side of the graph indicates the number of neutrons.

Each colored dot plotted in the above graph represents a particular isotope of a particular element. 
Isotopes have different degrees of stability as measured by their half-life. This is indicated by the color of the dot. The key for the colors is listed in the vertical bar to the right of the graph. Black indicates that isotope is stable, white indicates it is unstable. Near the top we have 10 to the 14th power years, which is one hundred trillion years. Near the bottom we have 10 to the -8 power seconds, which is ten nanoseconds.

I suspect that half-lives are measured by the amount of radiation a given mass of an isotope produces. Even a relatively small chunk of matter is going to have trillions of atoms. If your chunk of matter is composed of an isotope with a very long half-life, then in any specific length of time very few atoms will break up, but those break ups will produce radiation which can be measured and so from that data we can estimate the half-life.

Via Detroit Steve

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Posthip Scott sent me a webpage about a UFO encounter. It mentions that some F-15's were scrambled out of PDX last October. Hey, wait a minute, didn't I see some F-15's taking off from PDX? I did, and when was it? It was the same date!
While we were waiting at the traffic light at the corner of 82nd and Air Cargo Road, four F-15's took off, one after another in quick succession. That was pretty cool. I've seen them parked at the airport before, but I've never seen them in motion. While we are marveling at seeing these aircraft take off, four F-16's take off in quick succession. That's the most jet fighters I have seen flying all at one time.
So that's what was happening. Cool. A visit to YouTube turns up video of the fighters taking off:

Four "US Air National Guard" F-15's takeoff from Portland International Airport PDX

4 USAF F-16 Fighting Falcons Takeoff (Afterburner) Portland International Airport (PDX)

I am not a big fan of UFO's. They make for some good entertainment, but nothing you can really hang your hat on. But sometimes I wonder if there isn't some kind of quantum neurological mass hypnosis phenomena going on. Like everyone is projecting very faint brainwaves, but occasionally enough of them sync up and reinforce each other and then they start causing observable effects, like inducing hallucinations or possibly even physical manifestations, like changing the refractive index of a ball of air so it looks like something.

This is one of the things some of the old time philosophers were going on about, how the world is an illusion and what we see and experience is only a shadow of the real world. The philosophers were talking about it ancient Greece, and Ibn Sina was talking about it more recently (about a thousand years ago). I don't buy it, mostly on account of the Arab world falling down into a rathole of philisophical debate which ignored much of what was going on in the 'real' world.

But we really don't know how the universe works. We have a much better idea now than we did in Ibn Cenna's time, but mostly what we've learned is that the world is infinitely more complicated that we ever imagined. So I am willing to allow that quantum neurological mass hypnosis phenomena might actually be a real thing. I am not going to try and hang my hat on it though.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lets Go Hypersonic

Hypersonic Missile Nonproliferation

I've been hearing 'hypersonic' for a few years now. I put up a post about it not too long ago. This is the first time I have heard it mentioned in the context of weapons. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. That's what the military does, try to come up with new weapons. Just because all the jabber was about hypersonic airliners and spaceship boosters doesn't mean the military wasn't planning all along to use this new technology to make a new weapon. Silly me for not realizing this.

The video is kind of interesting, the way they cut from one speaker to another. Makes me wonder if there is some kind of subconscious marketing technique at work here. I mean it all sounds very reasonable, or as reasonable as a discussion about crazy shit can be.

The video is from The Rand Corporation. They used to be a big, important think tank, but I haven't heard anything from them in a long time. Maybe because they were a little slow to adapt to the internet. Or maybe I just haven't been paying attention.

Operations Research is one of things The Rand Corporation does. I had a boss an Intel who had a degree in Operations Research. I never really understood what it was all about. It sounds like a mixture of math and common sense, which I never thought was very difficult and certainly nothing to write home about, but maybe the trick is being able to communicate your mathematical, common sensical ideas, and somebody saw some value in that.

Via World Affairs


Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
I'm poking around on GoodReads and I notice that I have Seveneves listed, but the status is wrong. I finished it months (years?) ago. So here's my chance to make an update to my bookshelf, and since we are here maybe I should post something from my blog. One thing led to another and now we have a story.

We start with something from a couple of years ago:
I like Daniel Silva's books, well, I liked both of the ones I've read. I finished this one in two days. It's not a great book, but it's pretty good. It is not totally smooth, the ride is a little rough, but there weren't any of those giant potholes that cause me to curse in disgust. For instance, I started reading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson a few months back and things were going along swimmingly until I got about half way through the book and the President of the United States shows up and we (by which I mean the characters in the story) start having some kind of bullshit discussion. I had to put the book aside it was so repulsive. Given Neal's skill as a writer, I presume that is the effect he was trying to achieve. It's just that in my case it worked too well. I still want to finish that book, but it is going to take some determination to wade through this section, which I am hoping is short. If it goes on for too much longer I will be forced to toss it on the reject pile.
I eventually finished Seveneves, but it took me several months to get over that hiccup. All in all it's a pretty great book. The one thing that bothered me was there was no discussion of where the projectile originated or how it came to be. I suspect a stellar event was the most likely source, you know, something like a star going nova or collapsing into a neutron star. Anything that extreme is going release a large quantity of energy, and given the right configuration of mass and timing, I can see a rock getting ejected at a high velocity. But nobody ever looked, and nobody said boo about how the projectile came to be going so fast.

The Star Destroyer Avenger chases the Millennium Falcon out of the asteroid field.
There might have been a Imperial Star Destroyer making pass through the solar system and thought they'd have a little target practice with our moon. Fuckers. Okay, unlikely, but we ought to be looking around. I mean just last week Rama came flying by.

And then there's the whole business of the moon breaking up. No explanation for that either. But then maybe it's obvious that even really a fast rock isn't going to crack the moon into pieces and Neal is just making this up to have something to base his story on. I certainly don't think it could happen. We might get some moon quakes, and maybe a little volcanic action, but I think gravity would eventually win out, things would settle down and people would mention it occasionally because it was kind of a big deal like a magnitude 27 earthquake. Devastating, but not the end of the world.

But is it obvious that even a fast, small rock couldn't really destroy the moon? I mean Neal bases his story on this premise, and Neal's stories are usually built on solid ground, so maybe such a thing is possible, theoretically speaking. Even if such a thing were possible, the odds of it happening to our moon are infinitesimal. Even so, it's a good reason to get some people off of this rock.

Let's look at this mathimagically. We can estimate the energy carried by the rock because we have estimate of its speed (a large fraction of the speed of light, is how I remember it) and it's size (there was a puff of dust when the rock impacted the moon, and this puff of dust was visible to an amateur astronomer on Earth). Okay, so very rough estimates, but still enough to draw some boundaries on the problem.

But how much energy would it take to break the moon into gravel? A heck of a lot. The Death Star and the planet Alderran might be a good place to start. I posted Scott Manley's exposition right around one year ago. Listening to Manley, I'm gonna stick with my original assessment that a rock, no matter how fast it was traveling, would not be able to destroy the moon.

And then there was the matter or all the men dying and the woman having to use lab work to get pregnant. I was kind of hoping for some sexual escapades. Okay, so I guess there were a couple of things that bothered me, but they were pretty small, except for that section about the president. That was almost a deal breaker.

Elk takes down chopper

Elk brings down helicopter in Utah. (Wasatch County Search and Rescue)
Not something that happens everyday.
The Australian flight crew was in the process of netting a cow elk, which jumped and hit the tail rotor of the helicopter. - KUTV

Bows and Arrows, Cross My Heart and Hope to Die

I found this on Quora and I thought it was so great I decided to steal it.

Question: Why were crossbows not used in the 19th century, even though they could be reloaded way faster than the infantry guns of that period?

Answer by Roger H Werner

At the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, an English army of 6000 soldiers led by Henry V, defeated a French army of 36,000. A crucial element in Henry’s victory was the longbow: He deployed C. 5000 longbowmen, WHILE the French used Italian crossbowman and their weapons have a shorter range. Largely because of this, the French lost by some accounts as many as 10,000 men to about 100 English. Yet, in spite of the clear deadliness of the longbow in war, it quickly became obsolete as firearms evolved. Within 200 years of Agincourt, it had fallen out of military use almost entirely.

In China, weaponry evolved in an entirely different way. Here, firearms were used much earlier. In 1232, the Mongol army used firearms as armor piercing weapons during the siege of modern Khai-Fun Fu, China. Firearms may also have been used much earlier: A picture dating from the 10th century CE depicts a demon wielding a form of gun. Nevertheless, Chinese armies used bows for another 800 years.

Timo Nieminen, a physicist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, described the evolution of the Asian composite war bow, a device he describes as “the best bow available before the advent of modern materials and the modern compound bow”. The compound bow helps explain why the bow remained an effective weapon in China for centuries after it was abandoned in Europe.

When a bow is drawn, the surface closest to the archer compresses, while the opposite surface is placed in tension, placing extreme demand on whatever material is used for the limb. Nieminen noted that it’s very difficult to find a single material that provides sufficient strength under both tension and compression, whilw permitting a high degree of deformation.

The solution that Asian bow makers settled upon was the composite bow in which the compression surface is made of horn and the tension surface from resin-sinew composite, both joined to a central portion of wood. These bows were extremely difficult to make; some report the resin-drying process required more than a year. When finished however, the sinew-backed bow vastly outperformed other bows and it was a military mainstay for 2,000 years. It was adopted by the Mongols who effectively used it to decimate the mounted knights of Europe.

One key factor in the performance of any bow is size to draw length ratio. The draw length is about as long as an archer’s arm. Because wood cannot be greatly deformed before it breaks, a wooden bow must be at least 2.3 times its draw length. English longbows were as long as the archer was tall and Japanese longbows were 200 cm long. By comparison, the composite bow was only 110 cm long, while achieving a similar performance as the long bow. The composite bow was lighter and easier to carry than its European cousins but it required a long time to create.

The Asian composite bow had a weakness that prevented it from spreading to Europe. Its composite materials did not survive humid conditions. For that reason, the weapons never spread south to India nor would they have survived land or sea crossings back to Europe. Nevertheless, both East and Western bow designs were much more accurate than early firearms, particularly over longer distances. They had a much higher rate of fire, and, they required fewer materials and logistics to manufacture and supply. Yet the bow had one big disadvantage over firearms: Bows require a high degree of skill to use proficiently.The typical Chinese army had a large pool of skilled archers, while European armies did not. Europeans armies therefore trained their soldiers to use firearms because that could be done relatively quickly. For this reason, firearms quickly eclipsed the bow in Europe. Therefore, military effectiveness was not the primary cause for the bows demise as a military weapon: Economic (cost/time) and social factors, especially training of musketeers as opposed to archers, were far more important influences in the replacement of the bow by the gun.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Babycham Promotional Poster
I'm reading Faithful Place by Tana French. The Mackey kids are having a drink at the pub and one of them asks for Babycham. Okay, I'll bite, what is it? Sparkling pear cider is what, or perry, depending on which side of the perry versus pear cider debate you stand. The animal mascot is a Chamois.