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User Journal

Journal Journal: Idea: Gas Tax Feeds into Electric Vehicle Rebates

The Green Road Ownership Act of 2009
("GROW" Act)

1. Gas tax - 10% of price at the pump. Feeds into Electric Vehicle Subsidy Fund (EVSF) . Not a '10 cents per gallon' tax - a 10% of purchase price of gasoline tax. Thus indexes for rise and fall of gasoline prices.
a. Phase In Period Rates: Initial taxes rate would start at 2% and go up by 2% per year to a total of 10% in year 5.
b. Consumer visibility: Initially, average price goes from $4.00 to $4.08 per gallon. At 5 year timeframe, adjusted price is $4.40 per gallon.
c. Fund Income: 391 million gallons / day * 40 cents /gallon = $156M / day = $57B / year.

2. EVSF Rebates on purchase of new electric vehicles. Scaled by how many kilowatt-hours storage capacity are contained in the vehicle. So, hybrid carmakers get some subsity, all-electric or mostly-electric vehicles get more.
a. Fund Management: subsidies would be adjusted based on number of cars being sold and income, balancing income and outflow with a float of between 1 to 3 month's income.
b. Fund expenditures: 17 million cars purchased in the USA annually (2005 figures). $57B / 17M = $3,352 per car if everyone purchases all-electric vehicles.
c. Subsidy would be a one-time-only subsidy of purchase on a new vehicle or a conversion of an existing gasoline vehicle to electric drive. Vehicle VIN numbers would track already subsidized vehicles.
d. Vehicles purchased before enactment of this law would be eligible.
e. Subsidies can also be applied towards replacement of battery / electrical storage capacity, up to 50% of the purchase price of said capacity. Limit is one replacement per vehicle per every 3 years (most electric vehicle batteries apparently last at least 3 or 4 years).

1. All (or mostly-) electric vehicles are currently scarce but many are currently in pre-production phases.
2. Existing hybrid vehicle lines, with limited kilowatt-hour storage, would receive the first subsidies. Most of these are manufactured in the United States.
3. Current all-electric and hybrid owners would receive benefits for early adoption.
4. Since price to the consumer would significantly decrease, many existing cars would be replaced, creating high domestic demand for electric vehicles.
5. Global warming could be significantly helped by great reductions in number of gasoline powered vehicles.
6. As decreasing numbers of gasoline vehicles populate the roads, the tax would have less and less income, and the subsidy would effectively be automatically phased out.
7. No other country has such a program and it would encourage vast growth in US manufacturing capacity.
8. Many cars can be retrofitted with electric motors instead of gasoline at the expense of trunk space. This allows a cheaper alternative for low-income households.
9. Conversions generate another job for auto mechanics displaced by greater reliability of electric cars (no oil changes means fewer people needed for these low-end jobs).
10. Current 10-year lifetimes of gasoline powered cars implies phase out of gasoline powered vehicles in the space of the next 20 years.

National Policy Implications:
1. Reduction in petrochemical imports due to higher costs reducing demand.
2. Reduction in petrochemical imports due to greater electric use.
3. Cleaner air in crowded urban centers due to electric instead of gasoline use.
4. Overnight charging occurs during typically off-peak hours between 5 pm and 7 am, which is handled significantly by nuclear power generation capacity, which emits no CO2.
5. Larger production worldwide of electric storage capacity (may be battery or ultracapacitor, making no bets on technology) decreases cost per watt-hour to manufacture them (economics: "experience curve" effects).
6. Higher efficiency in economy at year 10+ due to decreased need to replace cars (cars depreciate slower due to electric motors having higher reliability and lower maintenance costs).
7. Reduced environmental damage caused by fewer retail gas stations having storage tanks.


Journal Journal: How To Stop Ocean Floor Trawling? 1

According to lots of environmental groups, the world's oceans are being cleaned out, made into deserts where no large edible fish swim (and I like to eat Fish, darnit!). According to Greenpeace.org, this is a direct result of massive (and frequently illegal) overfishing with drift net and bottom-dragging trawling. These operations depend on lax or nonexistent enforcement of fishing boundaries and the economies of scale of very cheap, cubic-mile-capacity nets. Stopping this illegal fishing is crucial to restoring the bounty of underwater life to sustainable levels. Public policy changes will happen as people start starving, but political inertia has its own rules. I'm asking for TECHNICAL, economic ideas to reduce illegal bottom trawling. I've thought of netcutting concrete-anchored (or chained-together) HOok-SCythes (HOSC's) to slash the nets (designs, anyone?). This could also work in the open ocean with neutrally bouyant net-slicers. Razor wire is also good, but ONLY on the bottom or it might entrap and kill whales (though this is hardly a new problem). Any other ideas out there? Remember, keep it inexpensive, there's tens of thousands of square miles of ocean bottom to protect!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Reply to Washington Post "End of the Leftists"

Liberalism is philosophy of openness to change. It is hopeful. It serves broad needs.

The left/right split is artificial. Sociology has a school of thought called spiral dynamics theory, which posits that mindsets fall into several broad categories: nature-worship, authoritarian, oligarchic, consensus-seeking, etc.

These mindsets permeat political thought, and merely putting authoritarians into a rightist camp gives no perspective on their strengths and weaknesses (there are both!).

The left has traditionally been consensus building, but has some nature-worship elements. These conflict! Sprial dynamics (whose greatest success was methodologies for South Africa's peaceful ending of apartheid) can give names for these groups.

The groups have not changed in millenia. A spectrum of modes of thought will always exist.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Difficult to Duplicate Great Pyramids in Iowa?

Let's say I have a big ego, a really, really, really BIG ego. I want people to know about me for thousands of years. I want to make a tomb for myself that will really stand out. What can I build? How about a duplicate of the Great Pyramids at Giza? Except, I live in Illinois, so instead I'm going to build the Great Pyramids of Mundelein.

They should duplicate the other pyramids, in size, orientation (to the pole and to each other), and perhaps some other ways. But, I'm thinking that I might build them out of concrete instead of quarried rock. I don't know. I'm not sure if I can create concrete that's stronger than rock. Perhaps another building material would be better. Steel? No, people would steal the steel and melt it down. It would have to be mostly useless. Ice? Great, but transitory to an extreme in Illinois.

I'm not sure if it would be cheaper to quarry the rock and cut it to size, or purchase and pour concrete. I'd want to build a good foundation so it wouldn't get frost heave and fall apart, or just sink into the dirt.

The original pyramids were covered (IIRC) in polished limestone that you could see for a huge number of miles out in the desert. But, Napoleon's army got a bunch of mules to break up the limestone sides, looking for a way inside.

I'd like to do the same; covering the outside with polished limestone would be nice, but might suffer under acid rain. Maybe marble would last longer, or granite.

What I'm really looking for is a cost estimate for the building process, counting the architectural details of a queen's chamber, and a set of stairs that go up the sides. I'm sure it would double as a sledding hill in Illinois Winters. For both stone (basalt, granite, or limestone) and concrete (normal concrete, reinforced concrete, or another kind of specialized high-strength advanced composition concrete).

A separate question:

Put yourself in the mindset of a person with the religious tradition of Ancient Egypt. When you die, you get to take it all with you. The trouble is, you have to keep it secure for some period of time before you get to can retrieve it from your tomb.

Security through obscurity, perhaps - hide your treasure, and hope no one finds it.

my original ideas was this:

I was just dreaming about the possibility of a 'thing to do if I win the lottery' and it occurred that it was worth blogging about. Specifically, the idea is that given modern technology, it should be fairly straightforward to recreate the set of 3 Great Pyramids at Cheops (near Cairo, Egypt)... Hey, maybe I could do it near Cairo, Illinois!?!?? Or something.

I'd use modern surveying techniques, 5+ sigma production techniques, reinforced (or not...?) high tech concrete composites to assembly-line produce the blocks, make them big enough to move with a medium sized Caterpillar, Inc. forklift/loader. Put some polished Italian marble on top, maybe? Gotta think on this one.



User Journal

Journal Journal: What's Needed: Technological Developments List 1

It occurs to me every once in a while that, "Hey, it'd be great if someone invented something to solve the problem of...". The trouble is, I'm not collecting this list of ideas that we need to solve, so I'm going to do it now.

1. NewHeart: Body parts regeneration. This should include regenerating any part of the body and only affect the local area (not have too many side effects like growing a 6th finger or an extra nose).
2. Widespread rejuvination of existing cells, a 'de-aging' process that returns cell function to teenage levels. Should be systemic. Should extend lifespan to 300 years at a functional age of 20. Should virtually eliminate old age as a cause of death except among those who choose not to participate or accept treatment.
3. "SoberUp Pill" Drug/chemical that bonds to ethyl alcohol to form an inert, easily excretable substance (prevents alcohol poisoning, allows people who have to drive to sober up quickly and easily).
4. Cheap Beta Decay Inducer: a device/method to induce beta decay in an atom. This could provide power and also remediate radioactive substances. Note, this process would have to be cheap and release more power than it consumes.
5. Photovoltaic plastic sheeting for less than $1 per kilowatt. This is half of allowing most people to produce their own homes' electric power.
6. Highly efficient and inexpensive inverter technology, to convert DC to AC efficiently and cheaply. This is the second requirement for people to self-generate power.
7. Electric storage (battery, ultracapacitor) that can store lots of energy in a very high density format, low weight, low cost.
8. Highly reliable, low cost space transportation; surface-to-orbit for $100/kg (approx. the same cost as airline travel).
9. VTOL vehicles suitable for and cheap enough for the majority of people to use them , reducing needs for ever-expanding road system capacity.
10. Technology (unknown) to quickly cure any viral or bacteriological infection of unknown origin (prevents bio-warfare).
11. Effective systems and methods to identify and cure antisocial behavior including drug addictions and reduce recitivism in criminals.

User Journal

Journal Journal: My Spaceflight Priorities

I had dreams when I was younger, of being involved in the space program. Of course, these extended to being an astronaut myself. Any kid could dream of that, it's glamourous, challenging, exciting, and has lots of 'gee whiz!' factors.

I outgrew that mentality gradually as I became aware that I did not have "The Right Stuff". I was not going to be a military pilot; I had good grades but not the constant A+'s that made for being an astronaut. But, I still dreamed of going to work for a company that made stuff for the space program, of participating in some way in what I believed (and do believe) is a noble endeavor.

I watch NASA now and cringe at the loss of vision that is so evident in the people fighting over its budget priorities.

When I dream of where we should be, in a world where I was the U.S. President, or a powerful senator, or some other position of great power over the space program, this is my dream of the future that should be:

- NASA commissions the purchase of 3 separate launch platforms, from different companies, specifying only payload size, and buying from the lowest bidder on a delivered-to-orbit cost basis. Bidders would be required to furnish an insurance surety bond covering the cost of the payload in case of loss.

- NASA would purchase berths-in-orbit from a contractor who would independently build and operate a space station there.

- NASA would purchase pictures and data of various extraterrestrial bodies (moon, other planets, sun, etc.) on a per-pixel cost basis, and would put out RFP's for such pictures, to be provided by companies willing to build devices to acquire this data.

- After we've purchased and acquired several dozen person-years of on-orbit research, we RFP (request for purchase) the Mars Direct plan for the on-mars delivery of a set of spacecraft, researchers, et al.

As a general observation, it seems that if we (as U.S. citizens) want something very complex that has never been done before, requiring loads of highly technical knowledge to do it, we can reliably call on NASA to provide such things. However, if we want something (or a set of somethings) that has to perform repeatedly over a wide range of conditions, requires a fair amount of maintenance, etc., this should be contracted out.

Our goals should be:
- A space station with 10+ crewmembers available to do experiments;
- A base, working towards self-sufficiency, on the Moon;
- A base, working towards self-sufficiency, on Mars;
- A set of probes, along an increasingly standardized design, with cameras and other scientific instruments, that we send to various destinations (Saturn, Jupiter, etc.);
- A set of tests of new engines using new propulsion techniques like VASIMIR, etc.
- A set of earth-orbiting observatories that monitoring earth for global warming and other data.

There's a lot of worthwhile science to be done, and we're not getting our money's worth, it seems.

My ultimate goal is to have a set of self-sufficient settlements on other worlds and in space. I believe that only by living among the stars can we best understand and preserve our own planet.

Of course, this is a wild-eyed dream. NASA is being funded in a way so as to carefully distribute pork to congress's most important districts, not so as to get the best results for the money. Changing NASA is profoundly dependent on changing the political funding problems first. As if I know how to do that... Ug.

User Journal

Journal Journal: IWILL DK8N Motherboard question

I asked a question of the IWILL people, makers of the DK8N motherboard ( see ars technica for a nice description of it in their 'god box' how-to section).

Wondering what maximum speed of processor it will handle, currently and in the future.

If I buy it today, I can plug in the Opteron 250. What about when there's a 252, 254, even 260, say 2 or 3 years down the line?

Also, i'm wondering if both processors have to run at the same speed. Can I buy a 246 and a 250 and run them at their respective maximum speeds, or do I need to run them both at the speed of the 246?

I don't know if you'll know this... But, if I decide to get a dual core when they come out, then it'll be a 4 processor box. Does that mean that 2 dual-core-opterons will run nicely together? If so, do they need to be 250 or do they have to be the 450 versions, since it's a 450 sort of thing? Can I have one dual core and one single core for a 3 processor box?


Journal Journal: What Makes a Good President

The divisiveness that characterizes the 2004 presidential race has challenged me to actually answer the question, What Makes a Good President?

Presidents are faced with various challenges:
- foreign, civil, and class warfare;
- minor economic downturns;
- intrusions into their personal life;
- religious extremists at home and abroad;
- threat of WMD annihiliation of all humans;
- policy decisions with impact for following decades;
- exploiting successes
- minimizing mistakes.

Presidents have disparate responsibilities:
- appointing the right people to the right jobs;
- making tough decisions on policy issues;
- deciding where to spend political captial;
- overcoming legislative resistance;
- inspiring people to think in new ways;
- managing people without micromanaging them;
- avoiding unsolvable problems and needless conflicts;

Presidents come to the job with different experiences and abilites:
- implimenting policy as an executive (Governor, etc.)
- creating laws (Senator, etc.)
- arguing laws (as a prosecutor or practicing lawyer)
- academic training in a field of expertise (doctor, dentist, professor, C.P.A., M.B.A., etc.);
- being a business owner (farmer, C.E.O., lawyer, etc.)
- visiting and living overseas, listening to foreigners;
- participating in the military;
- living in political families;
- knowing powerful people personally;
- achieving high schoolastic honors;
- speaking publically to large crowds, both friendly and not;
- speaking with the media (TV, radio, and movies);
- growing up either in very poor or very rich households;
- running in a number of previous elections, then winning or losing;

These experiences lead to skills as a political executive.

Politicians should be judged, in my view, by whether the society they govern ends up better or worse than when they started.

Appropriate presidential-candidate questions:
- Do they have a proved ability to solve problems?
- Is hindsight kind to their decisions?
- Is their experience appropriate to the problems at hand?
- What is their win/loss ratio for inspiring positive change?
- How smart are they? How much do I trust their brainpower?
- What were their grades in school?
- Can they talk about any policy matter intelligently?
- Have they insulted any foreign countries or populations?
- Are they respected by other world leaders and populations?
- How much do they know about just the policies that matter most?
- How many questions have they asked, in public, of experts, and listened to their answers?
- How wise are they?
- Do they listen to diverse viewpoints to ensure they understand the range of possible actions?
- Have they had any notable "failures of imagination"?
- Do they presume some people (by religion, race, creed, orientation, career choice, childcare choices, etc.) are "better", or "more moral", or "more correct" than others?
- Is their political base close in opinion to my opinions?
- If they say they are pro-something, do they prioritize funding for that something above the other things?
- Do they back up "pro-education" or "pro-environment" with specific policy changes that matter?

It seems that some radio talk shows presume that certain things are true, and I'm wondering if the candidates agree with these statements:
- "Less government is better",
- "Deficits don't matter",
- "Christianity is the de-facto national religion",
- "Americans are better than other people",
- "Some people are evil and ONLY want to hurt others"
- "Women belong in the home",
- "A quick war solves problems quickly".

Regardless of the truth or falsehood of these statements, they appeal to a broad range of Americans and ignore many, many complexities.
- Less government can mean (a) fewer idle bureaucrats, or (b) fewer SEC lawyers prosecuting corporate theives;
- Deficits don't matter if they're $4 billion, but if they're $400 billion per year, that's really $800 Billion that votors for the next 30 years will be paying off (think: Mortgage).
- Christianity has a place in the national dialogue as the majority religion, but our consitution aims to prevent domination of any religion; are we living up that ideal? Are we really protecting the total equality of Buddhists and Moslems among us? Why not?

The list goes on.

I'm thinking that what I'm witnessing in our current presidential race poses a significant question to all voting-age U.S. citizens: Who will be a better president - Bush or Kerry?

Perhaps a better question is, What does a president have to do to prove they are a bad president? Or, more personally, what would I have to do to prove I was a bad president?

1. What if I became the first U.S. President to declare a preemptive war? Okay, not true: We've been doing this in South America for 100 years since Monroe with "gunboat diplomacy". Look at Reagan in Grenada. But, the operative question is still on the table: This is the largest war we've ever started without being attacked first.

2. What if I spent 18 months building up to a war with a country I knew I would defeat, without building up to imeplement a transitional government with multilateral (many-nations and many-parties) support?

3. What if my policies were so bad in the countries I was administering that I forced nearly all of the charitable NGO's (Non-Governmental Organizations) to leave? True already in Afganistan, mostly true now in Iraq.

4. What if I allowed a defense secretary to make and keep a policy that led to very public, overt violations of the Geneva Conventions on the Rules of War, one of the best treaties our nation has signed in providing for ethical pracices in wartime, and preventing harm to our soldiers after capture?

5. What if I attempted to circumvent the spirit of the constitution by imprisoning many hundreds of foreign citizens without due process, without access to lawyers, incommunicado, in a prison outside U.S. borders, for many years? Then, once I was forced to bring them to trial, creating a military court system in which none of the judges or many of the prosecutors were lawyers at all, much less being experienced with the laws they are trying to enforce / adjudicate?

6. What if I appointed religious and political non-scientist zealots to all the most prestigious and important national and international scientific advisory panels? What if a huge, bipartisan group of scientists openly held me in contempt for having these people distort and mess up these most complex funding decisions? What if this policy was continued just to get more campaign funding from a small religious minority?

7. What if I created a energy policy without asking ANY environmental group for input? What if the policy was actually written by an industry lawyer? What if I fought tooth and nail with as many delaying tactics as possible, to have even the attendees, as well as notes of the meetings, held as completely secret?

8. What if I appealed to the worst instincts in voters, Fear of Foreign Attack, using terror myself as a campaigning tool? What if my administration's minions accused the challenger of treason by stating that he would collaborate with the enemy?

9. What if the cabinet-level Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge made a false alert of imminent attack purely for political gain? Shouldn't the official be fired? What if this vague, unsubstantiated, and very suspiciously timed announcement was later proved to have been based almost exclusively on 4-year old information, yet made immediately before the Democratic convention to dominate the news cycle?

10. What if my foreign policy has resulted in the citizens of most other countries in the world expressing to the U.S. their extreme anger, contempt, passionate repudiation and condemnation, and frequent accusations of illegal and immoral acts? What if those same citizens frequently made fun of me, calling me stupid and arrogant? Might they be looking at more diverse newscasts?

11. What if my stated policy was to blacklist any news organization that ran stories critical of my policies? Wouldn't that lead to major news corporations pressuring reporters to sugar-coat their reports?

12. What if I changed the basis of appointing U.S. Judges from rankings by the ABA (American Bar Association) to those of an arch-conservative think tank? Given that the ABA has ranked the judicial the experience and capability of judges for 200 years, should I be rewarded with the ability to continue appointing judges on this basis?

13. What if I made so many grammatical, subject-verb, and fragmented-thought errors when speaking that the entire world believes me to be an arrogant idiot? Shouldn't the most powerful job in the world be held by a person who can speak spontaneously and intelligently, in complete sentances? Should young students think grammar is irrelevent since a president ignores or is incapable of it?

14. What if I freely admitted to the world that "I don't read much", when I'm supposed to make intelligent decisions on the most important matters of our day?


In foreign policy, our ability to get what we want means LOWER TAXES. It means cooperating with other (usually nearby) countries to keep the peace, to monitor elections, to negotiate between warring parties, and many other things reduce our direct costs and add trading partners for us to sell our goods, services, and entertainments.

To get assistance from other nations, we need to have RESPECT as an AUTHORITY (control + power), not just a POWER.

INTERNATIONAL RESPECT (thus Lower U.S. Taxes) comes from other nation's citizens and rulers seeing that:
- our motives match our actions;
- our good acts of expert emergency assistance;
- we are on the moral high ground;
- where we can't be moral, the morality is very difficult;
- we are pushing for greater safety, productivity, and human rights;
- we are domonstrably impartial in negotiations between conflicted peoples;
- we use our military when all other peaceful means are exhausted;
- we repair our bad deeds and accidents with assistance and reparations;
- we respect the dignity and sovereignty of native populations and leave their nation alone when asked to do so as long as morality permits;
- we don't subject foreign governments to religious or cultural requirements as a condition for helping them;
- we know the game of diplomacy: talking calmly in small, measured steps to both avoid inflaming or offending local sensibilities;
- we have predictable policies that create calm business and political / security environments.

Doing the above results in the populations looking up to us and aspiring to live here (giving us the best of their smart, talented go-getters). It makes the populations willing to let their rulers help us, because helping us helps them. Cooperation means other governments do what we want/need because their people don't hate us. When they like us, they help us. Foreign respect means lower taxes: We spend less money spent on foreign aid because other countries pitch in. Frankly, foreign workers don't demand as high a salary, so we can both buy locally, and put more people on the ground and help more. This is good for everyone.

On the other hand, without power gained through deserved respect, we cannot impose our will except by military means and economic blackmail, which are very poor tools indeed, and expensive ones at that.

Without respect, other rulers hear their citizens complain about cooperating with a bully and keep their troops at home. We either do the job ourselves at great expense, or stay home. Either way, it means Americans and foreigners killed, maimed, raped, robbed, and all because of one vote, YOURS.


The current George W. Bush administration has proven in almost all of the above categories that it has failed the American people. Foreigners now see the administration's horrible foreign policy mistakes and churn hate about how wrong we are.

A second George W. Bush administration can do nothing but result in immense loss of prestige for the U.S., and here's why: If we elect GW again, we will go from being mistaken once, to approving of his mistakes and thus being despicable ourselves.


What specifically establishes this as a bad presidency?

I believe a simple look through the above list will show that we should demand better from our presidents.

- We need to acknowledge our mistakes by removing someone who has failed so badly and so visibly across the world and at home.
- We need to prevent further erosion of international respect, and thus cooperation.
- We need someone who has demonstrated foreign policy experience, as Kerry has on the senate intelligence committe for many years.
- We should elect someone who doesn't set policies that make it impossible for charitable agencies to do good works.
- We should elect someone who puts good science, and good public health, ahead of the interests of a vocal but unrepresentative religious minority.
- We should elect a president who can speak cogently and correctly.
- We should be elect the smarter candidate.
- We should expect our president to consider both sides of an argument before deciding, and have confidence that he understands the issues.
- We should expect that secular views dominate policy decisions, that religious fundamentalism, whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Seikh, or whatever, has no place in public policy.
- We should ask for the majority of our Federal Judges to be the best jurists we can find, and that they are impartial, with centrist or moderate political and moral views.

We should demand more.

We should demand change.

Ask yourself, who can create a better United States?

If you are upset by Bush, vote for Kerry.

If you're tempted to vote for Nader as a protest vote, remember that a vote for Nader is effectively a vote for Bush. Do you really want Bush?

If you are a lifelong conservative, ask yourself if a this neo-conservative administration really reflects your views?
- smaller government (vs. large Homeland Security dept.),
- intrusion into our private lives (vs. PATRIOT Act),
- fiscally irresponsible budgets (vs. large bugdet deficits),
- respect for the environment you like to hunt or fish in (vs. not eating PCB- and mercury-laden fish).

If you are a socially conservative person (pro-life, public acknowledgement of God, etc.), reject the neo-conservatives that distort what you want with 'returning' to some made-up version of an ideal past.

Vote for Kerry, vote for change. Please? YOUR VOTE DOES MATTER.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Cultural Literacy Scholarship Grant

I thought once of what I'd do if I had a billion dollars.

Of course, this is a lot of money, and I might be able to have some real fun with it as well as doing some good.

The idea occurred to me to find a local junior high 7th grade class and announce the following:

Anyone and everyone (in that school's 7th grade class as an enrolled student) who completes a 100 question test perfectly will win a college scholarship worth $50,000. I'd make the announcement in September-ish, and the test would be in May. I would call it a Rice Test (after my last name).

The questions and answers would be published ahead of time. All the students would have to do is memorize the answers.

The trouble is, each answer would take quite a while to complete - each of the 100 questions would ask for a set of answers, not just a single one (like, List the presidents of the U.S., in order, with first and last names, and years of office == 1 question).

* Only people enrolled at the time of the announcement would be eligible - not transfer students or the school would be deluged.
* The answers would be typed in a computer and administered by a neutral 3rd party (accounting firm).
* No credit for partial answers, they fail the test.
* Students would also have to pass the Iowa test of basic skills for their grade or they would fail the Rice Test too. This would prevent people from only studying the answers to my test.
* Capitalization would not matter for most of the test except where specified.
* Any time a name is requested, Both First and Last name must be supplied. Fully distinguishing middle initials are required if two people on the same list have the same name.

My questions would include the following:
1. List (numbered) all the presidents of the United States, including their first and last names, and the years of their terms in office.
2. List all the Vice Presidents of the United States, including their first and last names, and years of their terms in office.
3. List all the the Supreme Court Justices of the United States, including their first and last names and terms in office, indicating which were Associate Justices and which were Chief Justices.
4. List all the currently serving senators, the states they represent, who is senior senator, and their party affiliation.
5. List the 25 most senior members of the 2004 U.S. House of Representatives and their party affiliations (no ordering needed).
6. Name all 50 states, the year of their induction into the union, their capital city, their largest city, their postal abbreviation, and name the 15 United states territories and their postal abbreviations.
7. Create a periodic table of elements from a sheet of graph paper. Provide for each the full element name, abbreviation, atomic number, and approximate atomic mass (to 3 significant digits).
8. Name the Nobel Prize categories and the winners of each for the last 5 years (last names only).
9. Name the largest 9 planets the solar system in order, up to their largest 10 moons each; their distance from the Sun in AU's (to 3 sig. digits), their mass in kg to 3 significant digits; ordering is from innermost to outermost orbit.
10. Name 100 largest countries in the world in order by population, their capitals, their top 2 languages, top 2 religions, and top 2 exports by dollar value as of the year 2000.
11. Spell the English alphabet in reverse order.
12. Spell the ancient Greek alphabet (alpha, beta, gamma, etc.) in order and write the upper and lowercase characters for each letter.
13. Spell the Russian alphabet in order with upper and lowercase printed (not cursive) letters.
14. Spell the phonetic alphabet.
15. Using the phonetic alphabet, for each of the following languages, spell their words for the following: Hello, thank you, please, excuse me / sorry (for a common accident like stepping on on someone's toes), yes, no, and beautiful; the languages are: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Hindi, Egyptian Arabic, Swahili, Hebrew, Romanian, Dutch, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Farsi.
16. Name the counties in Illinois in alphabetic order and their county seats.
17. What are the the following mathmatical constants: Pi to 15 digits; e, sine, cosine and tangent of 30, 45, and 60 degrees, square roots of 2, 3, 5, and 7 (to 8 digits each).
18. Write a times table matrix for numbes 1 to 20.
19. Write the powers of 2 to 2^16th.
19. Name the bones in the body and what limb they are in (hand, arm, leg, torso, neck/head).
20. Name the teams in the NFL and which city they are from.
21. Name the teams in the MLB and which city they are from.
22. For Apollo Missions 1 to 16, name the members and their mission number, and each person's destination (test, orbit moon, orbit earth, moon landing).
23. Name the 10 most common equations in physics: F=ma, E=mc^2, y=.5at^2+v0t, vf^2=v0^2+2ad, Fg=2mm/r^2, PV=nRt, (etc.)
24. Draw the Ohm's law pie chart.
25. Name the quadratic equation and the equation for triangles (a^2 + b^2=c^2).
26. Name the books of the Bible, old and new testament, in order.
27. Name the rulers of England (Kings, Queens, and regents) from King John to the present.
28. Name Shakespere's plays (no order required).
29. Name the U.S. Great Lakes, the 5 biggest U.S. rivers, the Oceans and the 7 seas.
30. Name the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
31. Name the organs of the body: skin, brain, liver, kindeys, eyes.
32. Name the 10 most effective means of birth control and their effectiveness percentages as determined by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
33. Name the frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves to gamma rays.
34. Name the subatomic particles and their charges.
35. List the amendments to the U.S. Constitution in order, with a description (provided) of each amendment's protections.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Effects of Pandemic

I read an article on the possiblity of a SARS pandemic (epidemic of very large proportion). It was short and only kind of interesting; I wanted it to be longer and cover subjects like I've been considering...

1. What are the primary and secondary mechanisms for transmission of SARS? Examples:
Touch skin-skin
body-fluid 2-skin

2. Have there been any SARS infections of pregnant or nursing moms, and if so, what were the effects on the children?

3. It seems to me the more interesting question is what the large scale effects of SARS epidemic (or any epidemic) would be on U.S. society? How would people act differently?

4. What goods or services would be in short supply after the beginning of the epidemic? Food? Water? Gasoline (no mass transit usage due to contagion fears)? Electricity (transport of coal, etc.)? Lysol? Ammonia? Ammunition? (etc.)

5. It seems many people would begin to telecommute, and this would become much more popular and accepted. This would dictate towards falling housing prices in dense urban settings due to people fleeing contagion, shortages, and lack of need for them to be 'close' to work.

6. If the primary onset is in winter, do the above factors change vs. it being in summer?

7. If there is no treatment, and people mob the hospitals anyway, that causes lots of other deaths from normally treatable causes.

8. If the transmission rate changes over the course of the disease, have any models been created to understand how that effects treatment methodologies?

if the seriousness of the disease changes (from 10% mortality to 20% mortality) during the
run of the disease, does this reduce the transmission rate?

I suppose there are several time periods to consider

  1. EXP-INF: the delay between exposure and when the subject first becomes infectious,
  2. INF-AWR: the delay between infectiousness and awareness of being sick;
  3. AWR-TRT: the delay between awareness and treatment,
  4. TRT-END: the delay between treatment and recovery or death.

I'm thinking the most dangerous diseases are the ones that have a long INF-AWR timeframe.

if the EXP-INF time is short but the INF-AWR time is long, they still have time to infect a lot of others.

if the INF-AWR time is long, they infect before they know they're sick.

The disease has to work against the epidemiology of being able to just stay home for a couple of days. If a disease spreads instantly from person to person, and they become aware instantly, they can stop themselves. Further, someone tracking their movements backward can find everyone affected. Longer times make that impossible, methinks.

I can reliably remember where I was, pretty much every minute, for about 1 week back. Farther than that, I'm fuzzy but it's still possible. More than that, the trail is cold.

On the other hand, if the disease takes that long to spread, people can seek treatment before they die. So, any disease with a INF-AWR delay of about 1 week to 2 weeks will probably be the most widespread and therefore deadly.

Of all these questions, the most interesting ones to me are the effect of an epidemic on the social norms in the years following it.

Will shaking hands be less common?

Eating at restaurants would seem bad; lots of people would have touched your food before you, and that's not safe. So, people will be eating lots of packaged foods that are packed by machines and not ever touched by human hands. So, McDonald's stock will plummet.

The following are companies that would fare either very badly or very well in an epidemic situation:
- BAD: McDonalds, Pepsico (owners of Pizza Hut, KFC, etc.), and restaurant supply houses;
- GOOD: (Possibly) Peapod grocery delivery (eliminates going outside entirely, using gas, etc., but must be sanitary.
- GOOD: Del Monte - canned veggies and fruits can be disinfected before opening, these seem more safe.
- GOOD: Hospital supply and drug companies (obviously);
- BAD: Hospitals, HMO's, state governments: lots of indigent patients.
- BAD: Oil companies, unable to get their product to market due to shipping troubles, probably also loosing lots of money on existing contracts presuming a maximum price they'll get for various products;
- BAD: Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, OPEC, etc. - cannot get their product to market, but prices will be much higher.
- GOOD: telecoms. TV will be big business, people staying at home will want to do something with their time. Likewise phone companies, and internet companies, ISP's, since people will subsitute virtual meetings for real ones.
- BAD: The travel industry. No one wants to spend time on airplanes, trains, busses, etc. when the people around them could kill them by breathing on 'em.
- BAD: commodities and stock exchanges where the process is open-outcry instead of computer-traded. Highly paid traders won't set foot on an open floor where there's a huge crowd waiting to breathe on them, even if the disease vector is only touch.


Journal Journal: Photovoltaic prices & experience curves

I just read the Slashdot post about the integrated window glass / PV module. The photovoltaic plus window glass is a cool idea, but it is expensive. The price per square foot is $45, which generates 3.8 watts. This is $11.85 per watt. To be fair, the price includes the window itself, but I can't imagine that windows are that pricey!

Since this seemed expensive, I wanted to check on comparable prices. It turns out that industry prices (according to http://www.solarbuzz.com/Moduleprices.htm) are sitting at between $5 / watt averaged on all providers, down to about $3.50 per watt for the lowest priced units.

I then wanted to see when it would make sense to put in PV versus the electric grid. What's the payback time?

In Illinois, power is $0.08 per kilowatt-hour. That's 8 cents. It goes down to 6 cents if I buy enough (volume discount). That makes sense, they have the "overhead" of maintaining the power lines, regardless of how much I use.

So, what's the payback time? $4 per watt (averaging above) is $4000/kWh. Divided by 1 kWh/.08 cents, that's 50,000 hours payback time. At 8 hours usable sun per day (optimistic at this latitude), that's 6250 days = 17 years. Yuck.

And, that's just the cells. The inverter and associated stuff costs about the same as the PV cells. Payback just went to 34 years.

But, PV prices are declining. The above website said that in 10 years, they hope to have the price down to $1.50/watt ($1500/kW).

The payback time on that would be about 8 years including inverter and associated electronics. That's reasonable. I would invest $10k if I had a ROI of 8 years and product lifetime of 20 years (that's about triple my money back over product lifetime).

But, the stuff is too pricey still. I hope the price declines faster; I'm sure that if the Federal Government started buying en masse, the factory capacity and thus price per watt would dive much faster.

There's a great set of articles on Experience Curves with photovoltaics and their impact on system prices here: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&q=experience+curve+photovoltaic&btnG=Google+Search

User Journal

Journal Journal: Specifications for a eVoting system

This was in reference to the eVoting software story developed in Australia.

I see the following as requirements for voting software system:

1. An easily auditable paper trail of physical paper ballots, one per voter.

2. An audit of the vote should include the ability for an unaided human eye to quickly and easily determine:
a. each selection chosen for each race (be it a person or yes/no for ballot initiatives);
b. the number of the machine that produced the ballot

3. No machine-printed proof of who people voted for should be provided to or available to any voter upon leaving a polling place. Otherwise, people could be paid for their votes, or compelled to vote a specific way.

4. No method should be avaible to associate a specific person with which ballot selections they made.

5. No method of altering a completed ballot should be available to anyone in the polling station before, during, or after the election.

6. A method should exist to determine if a ballot was tampered with after it was cast.

7. A method should exist to prevent ballot-box-stuffing. This method should determine if an invalid ballot was introduced after voting was finished.

8. The voter should be able to easily verify if the ballot corresponds to their choices.

9. The machinery should be incapable of producing invalid ballots, such as ones where two selections are made for the same race.

10. The machinery should alert the voter of an 'UNDERVOTE': if they are about to cast a ballot that does not include choices for all the races. However, since an 'undervote' is legal and valid, it should be easy for a voter to approve of a ballot that is an undervote ballot. Not every voter wants to make a choice on every single race.

11. Voters should have the option to select 'all democratic candidates' or 'all republican candidates' (like wise for any party) as an initial option, and override this choice for any specific race. For instance, say republicans R1, R2, and R3 are running against democrats D1, D2, and D3. The voter can pick 'all democrats' and the machine notes they've chosen D1, D2, and D3. Then, the voter should be able override choice D2 with R2 and not affect the other D1 and D3 choices. This speeds the voting process for many people and allows fair choices in cases where they disagree with only one candidate from their party.

12. The machine should be able to present voters with only those races for which they are eligible to vote. This should present minimal hassle for the voter. Some voting locations serve multiple jurisdictions and thus those people who vote there should be able to easily know whether their dwelling place is in the are in the Nth state congressional district and Mth federal congressional district and X township school board districts.

13. The machinery and systems should allow hearing impaired people fully operate the systems relying only on visible signs.

14. The machinery and systems should allow visually impaired people to vote. Ideally, they would be able to do this without assistance. Also ideally, they would be able to verify their vote by using a Braille paper ballot.

15. Non-English speaking people should be able to chose their preferred language and see that language along with english on the ballots that are printed out for their review.

15. The system should be operable in the case of a power failure. By preference, this means that a backup voting system of normal paper ballots should be pre-printed and available for use by anyone and everyone should some the electrical supply to the polling station be interrupted during voting hours.

16. Any system (including a backup system) that includes the ability to make a mark on a piece of paper with a pen/pencil should not have as a requirement the differentiation between circles, stars, dots, slashies, etc., i.e., a person circling the name of their candidate instead of marking an X in the box next to their name should not be disenfranchised (denied the right to vote).

17. No balloting system should use the perforation of a piece of paper as an indication.

18. All text on a computer screen should appear between a minimum font size and a maximum font size, in a generally recognizable font (standardized) with a minimum amount of (preferabbly no) serifs.

19. No networking of voting booth computer terminals should be either required or allowed. If networking were permitted, someone would be able to modify or view the software before, during, and/or immediately after the vote. Further, if a clock was in the room and the voting area were videotaped, someone could use that to determine how a specific voter voted. Thus, no timestamps should be attached to a ballot before that ballot is counted/accepted into the ballot box.

20. The voting terminals should indicate at any point how many votes it has printed out.

User Journal

Journal Journal: OpenMosix, install script for Apache mod_perl mod_ssl

Having trouble installing Apache with Mod_ssl and mod_perl on solaris into a non-default directory.

I think I need to create an install script to better my reliability in doing it. I've been trying this at work and at home with varied results.

I'm also working on an openMosix cluster at home. Just getting a Linux kernel compile is difficult due to compiling in a directory other than /usr/local/src/linux. Ug.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Economics and Space

Golly. I read Scientific American and The Economist regularly, as well as slashdot and a couple of other news sources. Whenever there's a story about space, it's a story in one of several veins:

1. "Why don't they..." wishing for the government (or some large corporation) to spend more on space development.

2. "If Only We Had..." wishing for some technology to magically appear that would dramatically change the cost/benefit ratio of a space launch.

3. "Golly it's cool that..." hero worship of the braniacs that have done this or that new technological or scientific feat.

What I don't see is:

4. "A good revenue-neutral incentive would be..." Changing gov policy or funding allocation from one specific thing to another to encourage developent in that area.

We don't have enough of number four. Off-planet resources are obviously vast but uncharted, financially and personally risky, and costly to access. What kind of policies should we enact to change the equations here?

How do we encourage people to move anywhere? Given them an incentive. Make it economically beneficial to everyone and you've created a net increase in the GDP. That's a primary role of government, to make the bigger, longer term investments, to set up the economic laws and system to benefit everyone.

What if we treated space like a pacific Island? Hmmm. What do we want from space? What are our goals, long and short term? How much do we want to spend (monetary and political costs) to achieve those goals? What kind of risks are we willing to take?

What are the larger political winds blowing in our country? How would space development further those goals?

Hmmm. I ought to write a paper on this. But, I'm not in school any more. Alas.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Open letter to Congress

I've come up with a list of things that I would like congress to consider in their funding priorities. This is not complete, but will do for now. I tend to be centrist - a free market democrat. My dad used to call himself a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, and I like the notation. Here's my list:
  • Fund a set of X-prizes for astronautical feats. Include (a) first to 50 miles (300K feet) and return twice, the standard X prize, (b) first to orbit a human privately, (c) pictures over a certain resolution of any astronomical body except Earth, payable per picture up to a max dollar, (d) contract for delivery of bulk aluminum trusses & girders, liquid oxygen & hydrogen, etc. to a 200 km orbit, payable only on delivery to that location.
  • Biological weapons labs fully funded for defensive work (there's too many twisted people with access with bio weapons makings);
  • Energy tax that funds basic energy research. The tax would benefit green energy generation R & D.
  • Pollution taxes - permit but tax them a lot. Dedicate money gathered to pollution cleanup, national parks land acquisition / maintenance, research on pollution reduction R & D.
  • Remove agriculture subsidies and really implement the freedom to farm act of 1996 - passed but repealed gradually piece by piece.
  • Require federal government offices to prove that open source software will not work for what they are doing before allowing MS software to be purchased / installed.

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