Monday, February 4, 2019

February 4th Links

  • Maybe you've heard of Buran, the Soviet space shuttle. But maybe you didn't know the story behind why it was built. NASA screwed up the space shuttle design process so completely that it was a bad match for pretty much all of its stated goals. The Soviets figured the Americans couldn't really be that stupid, and so the shuttle project must just be a cover story for some amazing secret military capability America expected from having a space plane. They decided to build an exact replica so that after the amazing secret military capability was revealed, they could do whatever it was too. [SSC]
  • Here is an anecdote about the genius Von Neumann: Neumann married twice. He married Mariette K√∂vesi in 1930. When he proposed to her, he was incapable of expressing anything beyond "You and I might be able to have some fun together, seeing as how we both like to drink." [GNXP]
  • The only explanation for this fact is that humans in societies with a long history of agriculture have developed genetic adaptations to digest alcohol, while people with shorter histories of agriculture have not. This doesn't mean that people slowly developed an adaptation while merrily drinking their wine. No, that means that every single alcoholic in France or Italy who couldn't hold their liquor died, while the few (at the beginning *very* few) who didn't become addicted were able to survive and leave descendants. I have no idea what percentage of the population of early farmers in Southern Europe had to die in order for widespread adaptation to wine to spread, but given how Amerindians hold their liquor, it may have been in the order of 80%. Legalizing drugs would start the process all over again. Sure, some people can get high on coke or meth and still be productive. The vast majority can't. If we legalized coke and meth, we would be basically killing off the 80% of the population who would get addicted and waste away. Is that a reasonable price to pay for "liberty"? [Shovel]
  • It is a bad day for any FBO when a piston-powered aircraft shows up and that's especially true at Teterboro (do you want to sell 15 gallons of 100LL to Joe CFI in the flight school Cessna or 2000 gallons of jet fuel to Gulfstream Al (Gore) or the Clinton Foundation?). Meridian has always been friendly and helpful, even keeping midget chocks around for those of us who fly Cirrus or similar. This was a business trip and my departure was set for Official Polar Vortex Panic Day. It was 3 degrees overnight on the ramp and warmed up only to about 12 by mid-day. Starting an aluminum aircraft engine after it has been cold-soaked does a lot of damage. Meridian kept the plane in their warm maintenance hangar overnight and until our 2 pm departure. It is ground-support folks like this that make personal aviation practical in the U.S. [Phil G]
  • Never buy cast iron anvils! Buy only steel anvils or anvils with a steel face and wrought iron body - do NOT buy cast iron anvils. Steel anvils are a solid homogenous block of steel which reflect nearly all of the force of the hammer blows back into the work being forged. Wrought iron anvils with steel faces work as well as steel anvils. Quick test for determining if an anvil is cast iron or steel. The hammer bounce test is the easiest way determine if an anvil is cast iron or steel. Bouncing a hammer off the center of the face of the steel anvils, the hammer will bounce back up almost as high as it was dropped. Bouncing a hammer off the middle of a cast iron anvil, the hammer will bounce only about half as high. Steel anvils reflect hammer blows in a way that cast iron cannot. [link]
  • Blacksmithing projects that use stock any larger than 1/4" will need a serious unit upon which to hammer... whatever you do, avoid the imported ones that experts derisively refer to as "anvil-shaped objects." They claim to be steel, but they almost never are, and when a real craftsman works with them for a while, it's an easy lie to debunk. [link]
  • Working out is another form of conspicuous consumption: Affluent people do it and, especially if muscular exertion is already part of their job, lower-class people tend to avoid it. There are exceptions like the working-class male body builders—"meatballs"— who can be found in places like Gold's Gym, as well as the lower-class women who attempt to shed pounds at Curves (a descendant of the women's-only gym where I started my workout career). By and large, though, working out is a reliable indicator of social status. [Phil G]
  • Our business may be adversely impacted by helium shortages. Although not used in the actual manufacture of our products, helium gas is currently used to inflate the majority of our metallic balloons. We rely upon the exploration and refining of natural gas to ensure adequate supplies of helium as helium is a by-product of the natural gas production process. Helium shortages can adversely impact our financial performance. [PRCY]
  • "To get more cobalt you have to mine more nickel and copper, and to get more helium, you need more big, conventional oil and gas projects that happen to have a helium component. But frankly, most of those mega oil and gas projects aren't economic anymore because of the advent of shale gas," says Nicholas Snyder, chairman, CEO and founder of privately held North American Helium. [Northern Miner]
  • Stanley Kubrick read an article Schelling wrote that included a description of the Peter George novel Red Alert, and conversations between Kubrick, Schelling, and George eventually led to the 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. [Wiki]
  • A couple of years ago, Jackie was telling me about a patient. In passing, she said something like, Of course he'd been smoking pot his whole life. Of course? I said. Yes, they all smoke. So marijuana causes schizophrenia? [link]

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