Priorities

The last economic reports tell us that eighty-five (85) people own as much wealth as half the entire population of the world. I’m not against anyone being wealthy, but such disparity is inexcusable. At some point, everyone, no matter their nationality, needs to come to grips with the idea that we’re all in this thing together. But it seems as if the super-rich will not rest until they own everything.

Our world is in dire straits. The middle class gets smaller every year. Minimum (and close to it) wage earners don’t make enough to live without public aid while the CEOs of the companies that hire them pull in such obscene salaries and benefits that paying 140 million dollars for one cheesy painting becomes acceptable.

I live in a state where the governor thinks it funny to make unemployment insurance difficult or even impossible to obtain.  He’s a good businessman and multinational corporations are more powerful than governments; the man knows who he needs to please to get reelected.

One real scientist after another assures us the global climate is heating up to dangerous levels and there’s no coherent plan to do anything beyond changing out a few light bulbs and having cars get an extra MPG.

And yet my local paper’s front page news is about some second-rate entertainer getting a DUI in another city.  Andrea Mitchel of MSNBC cut off a congresswoman, who was trying to explain why the NSA can spy on Americans, to show that same entertainer getting out on bail.

As our world fights against these society-destroying disasters, we need the fourth estate to accept the responsibilities given to them under the constitution and go beyond the banal.

 

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Moore City and Failed Aircraft

Our unstable climate sends another string of deadly tornadoes across the Midwest. The cost, in lives and property, made all the more poignant by knowing it’s not over yet, staggers the mind. Sea levels inch up in concert with the increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and coastal cities across the world prepare to spend multi-billions in an effort to hold back the deluge for a few more years.

Burning coal, oil and gas costs us far more than its per-unit price. But as much of that price and suffering will be passed on to our children, we accept the lies of the energy conglomerates and the shiny-toothed politicians they own. When will this generation accept its responsibility for protecting the next?

Our apathy can’t be attributed to financial constraints; the country has more than enough money to end Global Warming and the energy crisis. Corporate profits have risen to an all-time high. Companies now make more than they ever have before. Yet Wages, as a percent of the economy, have hit an all-time low. Mega billionaires like the Wal-Mart heirs rely on taxpayers to provide their employees with food stamps and healthcare to make up for the wages they’re not paying them. Our current political overseers see no problem with that.

We’re blundering into an economic and climate crisis and expect the shallowest among us to display some backbone.

So what does climate change and devastated towns have to do with a non-functional aircraft from World War Two?

The Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes giant wooden aircraft with a wingspan greater than a football field, was only one of many ‘didn’t pan-out’ ideas the country’s leaders invested money in when they were desperate to save democracy.

Even from the plane’s first conception, few thought it would fly or help the war effort. But, with so much at stake, the go-ahead was given and the money allocated. Only seven decades ago, politicians and scientists cared enough about the country to put time and money into even the most questionable ideas.

The ferromagnetic generator is today’s high risk concept. It might work, or it might totally flop. Only money and effort will reveal the answer. But if it does work, solar energy could be converted into hydrogen cheaply enough to compete with oil and gas. Burning hydrogen doesn’t add greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.  In time, the current unstable climate might mitigate, making events like the Moore City disaster more rare. Just a small percentage of the recovery costs of this year’s tornadoes, devoted to some of these less obvious alternative energy concepts might save billions and countless lives.

But today, this country seems unwilling to put money and effort into risky projects with no track record. Without any guarantee of success, off-the-wall concepts can’t find backers or even politicians willing to respond to letters.  Especially for an idea that threatens the incomes of the powerful coal and oil oligarchy.

Gone are the days of risking money on many ideas hoping to find one that might pay-off. This is the era of the quarterly bottom line and golden parachutes.

Maybe next year’s spate of hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and floods will be the ones that trigger serious research—instead of our current assumption that the one mile per gallon increase provided by developing a ten-speed automatic transmission for future cars will save the planet.

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Making slow progress

I haven’t posted in some time as I’ve not made much progress on finishing the electronic system for the new prototype. Life, with all its complications, has interfered and between maintaining my house and property added to some health issues that involved a hospital stay, I haven’t spent much time in my shop. To be honest, as that the last prototype didn’t show even the smallest hint of working, it made it hard for me to maintain my enthusiasm.

However, it setting up the new system I’ve re-examined everything and made more careful measurements. There is a real possibility I didn’t have the phasing correct in my last attempt, and as it blew up after running for less than a minute, I never did get the chance to do anything beyond one quick look.

Phasing is critical, but it’s very hard to get right. Remember, I need to make sure the field coil’s expanding magnetic field is in phase with the increasing current flow in the core. And the only way I have of achieving this is with an oscilloscope looking at voltage changes at various points in the wiring. If I measure the voltage at wrong point or the wrong way, then it can look in phase but isn’t.

When I duplicated my previous wiring, but changed the way I measured things, I got this:

Scope

If these two signals were in phase, their peaks and valleys would appear lined up vertically. As you can see the top signal is following the bottom waveform by almost 90°.  Which means the magnetic field and the current weren’t working together.

I’m not sure this was happening in the prototype that blew up, but as I never got a chance to experiment, it remains a possibility. Getting the phasing right makes all the difference, so I’ll take my time before heating up the new prototype.

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Jacob Hacker writes what the President should say in the state of the union.

I’ve copied this directly from Jacob Hacker: (One smart guy! His books are really worth reading.)

My fellow Americans, we cannot tackle our nation’s deepest problems until we tackle its biggest current problem. And that problem is that too many men and women who want to work cannot.

When Americans are out of work, they cannot support their families or invest in their futures. Young people move home and struggle under student debt. Older Americans leave the workforce for good, often without health care or adequate savings for retirement. The longer workers are out of a job, the harder it is for them to get back on their feet. And the harder it is for our nation to get back on its feet. When jobs are plentiful, wages rise. When jobs are plentiful, people invest in skills. When jobs are plentiful, the ladder of advancement is scalable. When jobs are plentiful, we are able to honor the sacred commitments we have made to the security and advancement of the American people.

Some say we cannot afford to get Americans back to work. They are wrong. If our economy were running at full speed, we wouldn’t have a budget problem. As the experience of our great ally across the Atlantic, Britain shows, trying to slash the budget now will only make the jobs problem — and our budget challenges — worse. We know this, experience has shown it. The United States has recovered more quickly than Europe because we have understood that the budget isn’t just a line of numbers. It is a set of priorities, for today and for the future. And our top priority must be getting Americans back to work.

That is why I am calling on Congress to spur job creation through large-scale investment in our nation’s productive capacity. This is not just about helping those who are struggling; it is about our future, our children’s future, our planet’s future. In a global knowledge economy, we need more than ever to bolster our competitive standing. We need to invest in roads and bridges, in broadband available to all, in our elementary and high schools and community colleges. We need to invest in clean energy and green technology to head off the threat of global warming. (Emphasis mine.) And we need to step up our investments in research and development and science — to provide the seed corn for the next entrepreneurial harvest.

The road back from the crisis that Wall Street helped create is a long one. And yes, we are moving down that road at last. Last year, our economy added over 2 million jobs. But we must speed up our pace. At the current rate of job creation, it will be almost a decade before we return to the employment levels that prevailed before the crisis.

We cannot wait that long.

This essay sums up my feelings well—john (I love that part about investing in clean energy, wouldn’t it be great if someone took the Ferromagnetic Generator seriously?)

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