Vandalism or Art?

I was out for a walk to day and came across this stencil in Lion's Park, Grandview neighborhood, in Provo. I liked finding it here.

But I recognize it's a form of vandalism. I once found a chalk picture of van Gogh's Starry Night on a bridge next to Provo River. I liked that, too. I think I'm struggling with the difference between vandalism, which I really don't like, and these sorts of honest efforts to add beauty to the urban landscape. undefined

With the stencil, I should say that if the stencil were created by the one who applied it, I think of it as art. If it was purchased, then it's graffiti. Strange, what a small difference might mean.


What is Your Real Risk Level?

I hear and read this all the time: "I read what pesticides can do to you. I'll only eat organic." It doesn't have to be pesticides. It could be the plastic of your drinking cup, or your chicken, or anything at all, really. Anything found "too risky for me."

I'm challenging that way of thinking. I'll do it using an example. Let's say I engage in two behaviors, one is high risk and one is low risk. I become obese, risking heart disease, and I'll drive a car. The high risk activity, in my age group (see for details) kills 184 people out of every 100,000 people, and the low-risk activity kills only 43. So does driving a car make me any more liable to die than the heart disease did already? The answer is no, it doesn't. Here's why: the two are not tied to each other; a small risk does not make the bigger risk bigger. They are not tied to each other in any way. In any given day I might have a heart attack, or I might get in a car crash, but I'll never do both at the same time. I can't die of a heart-attack-caused car crash, I can only die of a heart attack; the subsequent car crash is just where by body lands. Because they aren't tied, any risk smaller than my greatest risk doesn't matter any more; it doesn't add to the greater risk to make it even bigger, it's smaller and the larger risk already covers it. The only risk that matters is the single greatest risk. 

It's hard math to get your mind around, I know. I'll make it even clearer, if I can. Compare a car crash and drinking lead-laced water from Flint Michigan. The risk of lead in your system is very low. So if I drink leaded water, I'll still likely die in a car crash.

So all I need to know is, what is my greatest risk? Any risk lower than that isn't a risk to me any more; the big risk is the one most likely to get me.

Do pesticides to bad things? Maybe, but until they become my greatest risk, it doesn't matter; that's not what's going to kill me.

This sort of risk assessment has a significant bonus: if you only worry about lowering the one big risk, you don't have to fret over all the small risks anymore. And that will create a more relaxed view of the world, and that by itself will lower your big risk.

So without further ado, here is how you will die. This comes from the link above.

Age Risk Rate/100,000
1-14 Accident 5
15-24 Accident 23
25-34 Accident 38
35-44 Accident 38
45-54 Cancer 106
55-64 Cancer 288
65-74 Heart disease 1092
75-84 Cancer 1139
85+ Heart disease 4014

That's all you need to worry about. Lower that rate in your life and you will live longer. Everything else is less likely.

And enjoy life!

Wasted Energy? Really?

There is a graphic going around, which people are trying to demonstrate how wasteful we are:

I want to talk about this a bit, and show why that "Rejected Energy" box has to be there.

On the left you see the energy contained in the fuels used to power our economy. These are measured in a unit of heat called "∆H" or Heat of Reaction. Heats of reaction is the measure of how much heat the combustion of that fuel (or how much heat is produced by the process for wind and nuclear). 

But the units on the right, the "Energy Services" and "Rejected Energy" boxes, they are measured differently. The "energy Services" box is measured as Gibbs Free Energy, ∆G, but the "Rejected Energy" is measured as Entropy, ∆S.

∆G: Gibbs Free Energy, the maximum amount of work which a process, like burning coal, can produce.

∆H: Heat of Reaction, the total amount of heat generated by a process, like burning coal, when no work is done.

∆S: Entropy, the amount of disorder created by the process. Turning a cold solid coal into a hot gas increases disorder.

All the heat energy of the fuels on the left need to be converted to a form of work. Lighting a bulb, or running a motor, or driving a car, all require work to be done. Heat, ∆H, does not do work. It can only warn things up. Here is the conversion:

∆G = ∆H - T∆S

This is Gibbs Law. What this means is, the maximum amount of work when can be done is found by finding the heat (left side of graph) and subtract the amount of disorder created multiplied by the temperature.

The "Rejected Energy" box is the entropy box, the ∆S box. Most is entropy, but some entropy is created in a way which does no good, so it is energy truly lost. Like delivering electricity heats the wires a bit. Or your car dumps a lot of heat through the radiator and brakes.

The "Energy Services" box is the ∆G box. Useful energy doing work.

Here is what that graph really means: Thick likes can make power rapidly; thin likes cannot. if the ∆S box didn't exist, the ∆G box wouldn't either. All you would have is one huge ∆H box, and heat is all you could enjoy but made at such a low rate that it could not deliver power, only heat. No electricity, no transportation, no manufacturing.

That graph looks exactly as it should, and trying to change it would pretty much send us back to the stone age.

First post!

I want to use this blog to express the occasional thought I have, though I can't guarantee it will be calm, or popular, or that you, my reader, will come off looking all the good.

Topics I plan to address:

  1. Driving as though we are operating a locomotive
  2. Child sacrifice is alive in well in the USA, and the world link
  3. Global Warming and the Progressive Luddites: Sir, may I have more, please? link
  4. First row effect and solvent system why aren't these in chemistry books?
  5. Risks that are small mean more to us than far larger risks link
  6. Science by the Press isn't really science link
  7. Walking is more than getting back to where you started
  8. Fossil fuels are the most awesome thing EVER!
  9. Bifenthryn and the undoing of the Rachel Carson DDT legislation
  10. Molecular Orbital Theory is not the Adamic science
  11. The Wilderness Act stopped acting but the corpse is still draped across the landscape of the West
  12. The Internet is like the street in front of your house, and always has been
  13. Self Esteem is the most important thing you can teach your kids, and your friends link
  14. Open Carry your opinion says a lot about your role in society

These will get me going, at least. I hope you have noticed that I'm doing a lot with formatting. This is a test post to see how the wysiwyg editor works in the final display of what I write post.



Koyaanisquatsi (1982) is a film. It's also an experience, and an album, and a study in photography.

I watched Koyaanisquatsi again yesterday. It is as fresh an experience as when I first saw it on PBS back in 1984 or so. It was shown on American Experience, I think. I only saw the last half of the movie, but the effect on me was profound and mesmerizing. My mind lit up. It met some need in me to see the world differently.

The film is images and music. Nothing else. There is no narration, no plot (other than the ebb and flow of nature and humanity). The beauty of nature. The destruction of nature by man, which is also beautiful.  The magnificent beauty of man. It's all there for you to find. You won't be told what to think. Even in the editing there is no poltical statement or meaning. It presents mankind to you. To admire, or to despise, as you wish.

During production Francis Ford Coppola asked to see the film. The producers showed it to him, and he said it was a film which needed to be made. I saw it the same way that day. It needed to be made. Nothing like it was attempted since Charles and Ray Eames film work in the 1960's and 1970's, but this was done perfectly, It was done right. The Eames work, like "Powers of Ten" hints at the greatness which is possible on film, but doesn't quite deliver. In Koyaanisquatsi the director, Godfrey Reggio, and the cinematographer/cameraman, Ron Fricke, pull it off. The feeling is right, and the footage is interesting, astounding (United Boeing 747's anyone?), meaningful. Seriously, I still cheer during the film. At many spots. The tilt shot of the keystoned glass wall of a building as clouds roll by in its windows. The full moon moving behind a modern skyscraper. The tops of clouds rolling like waves through a mountain pass. All the wonderful nighttime footage of cities in motion.

And the music! Philip Glass writes minimalistic orchestrations, repeating phrases, simple melodies, which perfectly accent the images. I can listen to his music driving through the southwest and it's like I'm in a second version of the film. One of the most remarkable experiences I've had while driving the going south on US 666 to Gallup, New Mexico, driving past the barren desert last the lone and symmetric power lines, while listening to Glass' music as the afternoon sun brought a golden glow to the landscape. It was a perfect moment.

If you get a chance to watch Koyaanisquatsi on a quiet afternoon, please do. And invite me over. And if you want to see it, invite yourself over to my house. I'd love to watch it with you.








Why I Want Global Warming

Global Warming. 

A cause of some consternation for almost everyone. Except me, maybe.

You see, I'll all for it.

I grew up and live in a semi-arid region, where the only plants that grow naturally are few and work hard for anything they produce which is never enough to sustain even one person per square mile. So the lack of plant life around me as I grew up is a big influence on how I see what the future might be.

I want plants to grow. Everywhere. All the time.

Right now, they don't. They only grow in certain places. Places that are wet. Riverbanks. Coastlines. Irrigated land. 

Ever look at a vegetation map? Notice the vast yellow expanses where nothing is growing? That's a problem. A big problem.


It didn't used to be that way. There was a time when plants grew on the surface in sufficient abundance that it was difficult to find dirt. Plants grew on top of plants. It is called the caboniferous period, and existed about 360 - 300 million years ago. That's when the coal beds were deposited. The plants grew in such abundance that the dead plants were buried before they could decay back into carbon dioxide and water, and became coal. There is a lot of coal below ground, and it all used to be plants.

Here's what I want: to recreate, as best we can, the climate of the carboniferous period:

  • Average global temperature: 68 °F. Currently: 56 °F
  • Oxygen in the atmosphere: 35%. Currently 21%
  • Carbon dioxide levels: 1200 ppm. Currently 410 ppm

Carbon dioxide is the key. We need to put it into the atmosphere, which will let global warming heat the oceans, so water will evaporate and also warm the atmosphere (water is a very good greenhouse gas). Then the plants will grow, and oxygen levels will shoot up. The air will be warmer, so we will be wearing less. And that means we need to lose weight, but that will be easy will an abundance of oxygen to help us work out.

As I see it, global warming is a total win for mankind.