Fires in Utah this year...

..have been very few and far between. Particularly for a drought year. Fewer storms?

June was much hotter then normal, July and August much cooler. Somehow combined to make no fires. We've had three I think this year, all small. Usually we have 50-100 fires.

I'd like to say it's the wildlands management policy that's the reason. They have been working hard over the last decade to do prescribed burns in the early spring and late fall when fires are easy to control in the rangeland and forests because the trees are full of water and fires burn slowly. Get rid of the underbrush and keep the fire out of the canopy and you have a safe situation. Congratulations, planners! Here is their website: https://smokemgt.utah.gov/ They schedule these burns based on how quickly the smoke will dissipate, using a Smoke Clearing Index as a guide for each airshed in Utah.

The Clearing Index is a measure of how well smoke is cleared form the air. Below 500 means the smoke will remain; above 100 means smoke is cleared rapidly. Airsheds, topological air movement patterns, are part of the calculation: https://www.weather.gov/slc/ClearingIndex#tab-2

https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

https://utahfireinfo.gov/active-wildfires/

The Banner-waving Incompetent

Everyone is incompetent. I cannot lay a brick wall nor install an AC system. And I don't feel the least bit bad about that; it's not my job. I haven't pretended to be competent in those things, so I have no ego invested there. It just doesn't matter to me.

But in other things I do profess competence. Teaching chemistry is one of them. I worked very hard to be competent. And I feel good about my competence. Do I still make mistakes? Sure, on occasion, but I recognized the mistake when it happens and fix it as quick as I can. That, too, is part of being competent.

But what happens when we find we are not competent? In thinking this over I've come up with three responses:

  1. Internal, or private incompetence, left behind from our early childhood, we deal with by punishing or limiting ourselves.
  2. External, or public incompetence from promising beyond our means we deal with by deflection.
  3. Unadmitted incompetence we deal with by narcissism.

1. Private incompetence

The most difficult thing every human does is transition from being the center of the universe as an infant, where all our needs are met by our parents, to being independent. A lot of things can go wrong. We likely think we are not loved or cared for sufficiently. Our parents can see things from a very different viewpoint than can a one year old and the baby will take things in a far more personal way than any adult can realize. If they are not very aware of how we are experiencing the world they might not make an effort to love us thought it. Donald Winnicott said parents don't need to be perfect, just good enough.

How do we deal with these internal, mostly unconscious, feelings of rejection? We sometimes hate ourselves, sometimes isolate, many times distract via addiction.

Healing can be helped by talking about it to a therapist who understands, or if you are very fortunate, a spose who understands by having been through it themselves. Then by re-experiencing some of those core feelings, reprocessing them, dealing with them.

2. Public incompetence

How does a person deal with the discovery that they are being paid for a job they feel deep down they can't do properly? Especially those who have made big promises to get the job? Like celebrities, and politicians and YouTubers and Instagrammers and Tik Tokers?

They deflect. They might either blame someone else in a way that doesn't make them look too petty (but which always leaves them looking too petty), like blaming it on another race, or how they were born, or politics, or The Man, whatever. As long as someone else is to blame, they are okay feeling incompetent.

Or they might take up a cause in a very public way. We see this in many societies, particularly in the socialist countries. Incompetent Germans waved the red Nazi banner; incompetent Cambodians wore a red sash about their waists; incompetent Chinese carried a red book. All red, all very visible to others.

In the U.S. today the banner is "Woksim." Wave that as a CEO and nobody cares that you have 6-hour customer service wait times. Wave that in sports and no one cares that you lose more than you win. Wave that in your job and no one cares that your accomplishments are very small and short of expectation. Wave that as a teacher and no one notices your class A+ average grade and that you won't give your students a standardized exam so they know what sort of education they just got.

Wokeism is the current banner of the incompetent.

What did the incompetent have before Wokeism? They have UFOs, conspiracy theories, essential oils, mysticism, the worship of the almighty dollar, binge-watching, stereophilia, transgenderism, wannabes, pet rocks, hippies, following a band, the list goes on and on. Anything you tie yourself to which isn't your own accomplishment.

Do I want these things to go away? By no means! I love when the incompetent fly their banners! What better way to know them from a safe distance?

3. The Narcissists

Narcissists won't recognize their incompetence by complete denial. The roots of narcissism are in private incompetence, but they have gone to a private extreme in denying their own inner, hidden identity and have adopted a public face of perfect competence in everything. To pull this off they lie to everyone on an as-needed basis. They don't need banners to wave, they wave their outward identity.

Narcissists are in more need of a good therapist than anyone, but are the last to seek one out.

Of the few narcissists I've known, I can only profess my own utter incompetence in helping them. They are to me beyond help because there is nothing I can do to shake their believe in their own perfection.

The trouble is they are devilishly difficult to spot from a distance. Some have even learned (most maybe, I only know three I can pin down) to mimic humility at first to draw you in thinking they are aware of their own limitations, only to later tire of that and let their narcissism run rampant. Alas, then I recognize I cannot help and only then seek to escape.

I'll watch for banners being waved. I'll watch when I wave my own.

Live and learn.

Afghanistan the Free?

What the heck! Ten days for Afghanistan to fall utterly into the hands of the Taliban. The US said it would take at least 60 days, probably 80. It took ten. How did the military and the intelligence communities get that so wrong?

I hate seeing the Afghans chase the departing planes and try to get on board. They know how dangerous the Taliban are! Some climbed up in the wheel wells and when they opened to retract the landing gear, fell out to their deaths. Maybe Biden just didn't care about the Afghans.

Biden's news conference was short, clueless, and he took no questions. He blamed it all on the Afghans, took no responsibility for abandoning them. What morons voted him into office?

 

Why you should never believe anything which includes the phrase, "science tells us...."

I've become more aware of late of news articles, mainstream, NPR, all of them, using the phrase, "Science says..." or "Science tells us..." followed by a point the author wants to make. I want to tell you why you should never believe what follows that phrase. Ever.

Here's why:

Appeal to Authority One very common logical fallacy is an appeal to authority as a means of proving that what you said is correct. An example: "Einstein said that matter and energy of interconvertible, so he backs up my idea of harnessing dark energy." No, he didn't. Einstein had a mathematical equation to explain the energy produced in a nuclear reaction. Period. He never knew of your "dark energy harness" and thus is silent on the matter. Unless a scientist said exactly what you mean, he didn't say it, and your claim is then a lie. If you want to use a scientist as your authority, it has to be a real quote, in context, saying something pertinent, and you must include your citation.

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Appeals to authority usually happen when the author is too weak or lazy to find out what a scientist actually said, and instead attribute the information to a nebulous and undefined group of ideas called "Science." This is an astounding body of knowledge, providing fully-tested theories on any topic an author chooses, and always in agreement with the author's ideas.

But here is where it gets really bad.

Personification of a Method Science is mute on all subjects always. "Science" can't say anything. Science is a method of finding things out, and it's never finished. Here is the short version of what scientists should do:

  1. make an observation which has no explanation using known theories
  2. postulate a possible explanation
  3. test the hypothesis formed above in a way that exposes its weaknesses
  4. go back to step one and refine your hypothesis
  5. eventually you will have enough evidence to be believed. It takes many different groups and a lot of published papers, but in time you can say, "Congratulations hypothesis, now you're a theory!"
  6. All it takes is one counter-observation to nullify the theory. They just don't last all that long before a new theory is needed.

That's science. Nowhere in that process is there a place for science to speak. Only scientists can speak, and then it should be only about what they can prove. So you can quote a scientists, but never "science." 

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Scientists are Humans And there's something more here: not all scientists can use the scientific method. There are entire fields, the "soft sciences" (biology, cosmology, astrochemistry, social science, political science, economics, baseball stats, etc.), which deal with observations which can't be tested and thus can't be proven. What they are trying to do is explain a mechanism (how something happened in the past) and no mechanism is testable. One-shot events (non-repeatable and non-testable observations), remote observations which limit the amount of data needed to fully understand what was observed, complex systems poorly understood, which all prevent the testing of the hypothesis. And the soft scientists naturally get used to speaking of the untested hypothesis as though it were tested, imparting more significance to their work than it deserves under the stricter application of the scientific method. In short, some scientists talk out of the sides of their mouths. "We know that the active site of acetyl-CoA synthase contains nickel and iron atoms" is something I heard for years in my PhD work in bioinorganic chemistry. And then the crystal structure showed, pretty clearly, that copper and zinc were there as well. Oops. We should have been saying, "EPR, Mossbauer, and some good metal extraction chemistry lead us to think that only nickel and iron are in the active site," but that would have been too many words. So we simplified, and spoke with greater surety than we possessed. And you non-scientists need to know something, every scientist does this. We're only human. We all overstate, in conversation, what we think as though it were what we had proven.

The Untestable Hypothesis as Science. The "Soft Sciences" are the realm of the untestable hypothesis. Social science, political science, economics (mostly), history, paleontology, cosmic physics, all try to explain what happened, but really all they can do is make a guess which is hard to challenge, because the data is thin, and the hypothesis is utterly untestable. All arguments are those of opinion. The phrase, "All science is physics. The rest is stamp collecting," applies very much to the soft science. The hard sciences, physics, chemistry, some biology, very little geology, can be examined in detail in a lab, and experiments constructed to eliminate bad hypothesis and refine the theory. No controversy.

P-hacking. The "p" value is a statistical variable which is supposed to represent how likely the result came from chance. A value of 0.05 (5%) is considered by many to the the value you must attain before the data you measured is a real effect. I'm happy at p=0.00, but I'm in a hard science, and I can afford the certainty. The thing about a p-value: it continually changes as you gather data. For a real effect you measure, it should get smaller as you gather more data. But what if the effect isn't real? The p-value bounces around. Gather enough data,and the value will, by chance, drop below 0.05. That's when the "scientist" stops collecting data and publishes. A "scientist" can also lower the value by simply cheating in some way that's difficult to detect, like selecting the test group and the control group to emphasize the effect being examined. Or setting data rules after examining the data to eliminate extreme data which point the wrong way.

The Press Conference. This is my surest method: any time a "scientific discovery" is trumpeted in a press conference before it has been through peer review and published, it's fake. Or it's so overblown that reality doesn't match at all. What has happened is that a university PR flunky got his grubby, depraved hands and the discovery is blown all out of proportion, and the poor scientist is dragged along and later has all kinds of cause to regret every starting the work.

The Science Reporter. I've only twice read a news report on a scientific discovery that got it right. Philip Ball wrote them both. All the rest have things wrong, things which tell me they don't understand what was going on. You can safely ignore them. "Science" isn't telling this to you, an English Major is.

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.

http://www.visualcapitalist.com/u-s-energy-consumption-one-giant-diagram/

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.

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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.