I think I can, I think I can

Here's an idea. Use electric trains to pull very heavy loads uphill during periods of low electricity use. Then, when you need it, let gravity pull the mass back downhill generating electricity. Will it scale to the power levels actually needed? I dunno, but it's an interesting (and apparently old) idea.

Read about it in the March 25, 2014 issue of Scientific American.

cvining
Commentary
The Morals of Chess by Ben Franklin

The Morals of Chess
by Benjamin Franklin
originally appeared in The Columbian Magazine in December 1786​

 

See the Wikipedia article for image credits

 

The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions, for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess, then, we may learn:

1st: Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action, for it is continually occurring to the player, “If I move this Piece, what will be the advantage or disadvantage of my new situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me? What other moves can I make to support it, and to defend myself from his attacks?”

2nd: Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action, the relation of the several Pieces, their situations, and the dangers they are repeatedly exposed to, the several possibilities of their aiding each other, the probabilities that the adversary may make this or that move, and attack this or that Piece, and what different means can be used to avoid his stroke, or turn its consequences against him.

cvining
Commentary
The Original Website

The very first website ever was created at CERN in 1989. Here is their official recreation of that original site:

http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html

and, for the record, a CNN article about the website

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/30/tech/web/first-website-cern

cvining
Commentary
The Bigfoot Prize

Everyone talks about Bigfoot, but nobody ever does anything about them. Until now.

The Olympia Beer, the brewing company is offering a very generous $1,000,000 for "irrefutable evidence" for the existence of Bigfoot. They've set the bar pretty high. You need DNA and visual proof of a live physical body. Basically hair and a photo.

I'll post again if I hear about an award being made. Here's the full story:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/10/olympia-beer-bigfoot-idUSnPnS…

cvining
Commentary

Sam Harris's 'Riddle of the Gun'

Submitted by cvining on

On his blog, Sam Harris has posted a powerful commentary on guns. His position is not readily pigeon-holed as pro or anti gun, but rather he concedes certain realities and necessities with his customary rationality, logic and clarity. I find myself not always comfortable with his conclusions and positions, but I am nevertheless in essentially complete agreement.

I've chosen one paragraph from his commentary which seems to me right to the point:

"We could do many things to ensure that only fully vetted people could get a licensed firearm. The fact that 40 percent of all guns in the U.S. are legally purchased from private sellers without background checks on the buyers (the so-called “gun show loophole”) is terrifying. Getting a gun license could be made as difficult as getting a license to fly an airplane, requiring dozens of hours of training. I would certainly be happy to see policy changes like this. In that respect, I support much stricter gun laws. But I am under no illusions that such restrictions would make it difficult for bad people to acquire guns illegally.  Given the level of violence in our society, the ubiquity of guns, and the fact that our penitentiaries function like graduate schools for violent criminals, I think sane, law-abiding people should have access to guns. In that respect, I support the rights of gun owners."

Better screening, background checks and training. But many perfectly decent sane people will still feel a need to own guns. I think I can live with that.

Commentary

Wounded Veterans

Submitted by cvining on

This is the actual lead sentence from a USAToday story today:

Train crashes into Texas veterans parade; 4 dead

 
MIDLAND, Texas (AP) — An event organizer says there are four dead and 17 hospitalized after a train crashed into a trailer carrying veterans during a West Texas parade.
 

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/11/15/texas-train-crash/…

 
 
Now, doesn't that sentence imply the "event organizer" arranged for the train crash? The event was intended to honor wounded veterans, but I couldn't help but wonder if that's how we GET wounded veterans in the first place.

Commentary
On the origin of 'Nature is perverse'

origins diverse
from throughout the universe
there is no better verse
than 'nature is perverse'

cvining
Commentary
A Better World for nothing.

Joel Pett, a cartoonist with the Lexington-Herald Leader, has brilliantly captured the silliness of opposition to climate friendly policies with the caption:

"What if it's all a hoax and we create a better world for nothing?"

The cartoon itself is widely reproduced on the internet, but I haven't paid the fees to reproduce it here. Still, you should be able to find it at one of these links:

cvining
Commentary
Bad Netflix Picks

OK, I do mostly like Netflix. Even though they often won't stream the film I'd really like to watch, usually I can find something I haven't seen. But their "Suggestions For You" are, often as not, just silly.

Here are two examples Netflix thought I'd like, and why:

cvining
Commentary