Thursday, March 23, 2006

Free Energy

Via Tex, at WD:

The Lutec 1000 is the first free energy machine to be developed to commercial stage anywhere in the world.

The Lutec 1000 generator will produce up to 1000 watts of DC electricity twenty four hours a day, every day, which will be stored in a battery bank and then inverted to AC power and connected directly into the home or business.

The Lutec 1000 draws the power it requires to run itself from the same battery bank. The average house in Cairns, Queensland, uses only fourteen of the twenty four kilowatt hours able to be stored in twenty four hours by this method.

The batteries will last ten years. The generator is expected to come with a conditional ten year warranty.

The magnets that are responsible for the generation have an effective life of one thousand three hundred years.


Someone buy one, please. If the batteries only had an effective life of one thousand years, it would be a ripoff. But the extra 300 years make it a bargain. So why don't they call it the "Lutec 1300"?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

An excellent photo essay....

If this kid gets his way, and the Iraqi resistance wins, his girlfriend is going to need some new outfits. The whole "rainbow bikini top" look is going to need rethinking, come the victory of Iraqi jihad.

This photo is an excerpt from a photo essay on a protest by ANSWER. I feel terrible making fun of people whose painfully inflated self-importance makes them march like this, but these pictures are really excellent. And they are just pictures, telling it like it is.

Here's another, from zombie's archive:

Good on ya, zombietime.

Nod to Peaktalk, which is a righteous, righteous blog.

And thanks to MM, my high school baseball pal, for pointing out the possibilities.

UPDATE: In comments, Frank Bi offers this counterpoint. Don't know if it was staged, but it is funny.

UPDATE II: Maybe not so funny, and maybe *I* am the one who is not so bright. From comments:

"Morans" is a reference to supporters of Jim Moran, Democratic congressman from the 8th District of Virginia. He is a real piece of work.

UPDATE III: Several commenters (bless 'em; don't let the terrorists win!) have quarreled with my characterization of the result of the victory of "Iraqi resistance"
1. Look up "civil war," and "resistance." Different things. And it was the putz in the picture who called it "resistance." If you want to say, "I sympathize with the Iraqi civilians who are caught in a civil war that didn't have to happen," then that is something else. But "Iraqi resistance" is the guys shooting at our soldiers. Do this actually work for you? Changing the subject like that, and defending against charges not made? Sad, really.
2. On the young lady's look: If you support the values of the "resistance" (and "jihad" means something closer to defense, or resistance, than to fight in a civil war, which is why I used the word "jihad," when I had many, many other words to choose from if I had meant THOSE things)...anyway, if you support the values of the "Iraqi resistance," then you believe that the young lady needs to get a different outfit, lest she be killed by her brothers and father for shaming the family. If you DON'T share the values of the Iraqi resistance, but just like to jabber about how much you hate America, and would like for Americans to be killed, then you and I may not share values, either.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Younger Younger Munger--Bats 3rd in Sci-Fair

The younger younger Munger came in third in the district science fair with the stuffed-bat / distance project.

I include the picture to prove the following proposition:
It is NOT a perm.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Why Men are not Really Necessary I

So my sons and I are wondering, does a corked bat actually help? Can you hit further, better, more often? The rules of baseball make a pretty big deal of this.

My wife's reaction: "It's against the rules. Why don't you mow the lawn?"

My reaction: "Wow. This beats mowing the lawn."

So, we buy three bats, each of which look like this:

Just for the record, they are 32 inch, 1 drop bats. Identical, as far as specifications and inspection could reveal.

We want to compare three bats:
1. A pristine, wood bat. No doctoring. Our "control" bat.
2. A drilled out bat, with superballs inserted. Our "superball" bat.
3. A drilled out bat, with cork inserted. Our "Sammy Sosa" bat.

The bat innards we wanted to add looked like this:

And the drilled out bats looked like this:

So...we take the bats out to a baseball field on a nice day (which is nearly any day here in NC), and let fly off a tee. Three different batters, different size and strength. We hit 5 balls each, for each of the three, so that each bat gets 15 trials with identical (as far as we could) variance of inputs.

And the answer?

The undoctored bat is the best, in terms of overall average. But the difference is not statistically significant.

Now, some possibilities:
1. Bettering doctoring might produce better results. But we drilled the hole just big enough to accept the relevant stuffing materials, packed them in with silicone glue, and sealed the ends with silicone and a cork plug.
2. Force = Mass x Acceleration. So, though it was true (or so it felt) that we could swing FASTER with the doctored bats, it would appear that this speed difference was approximately offset by the reduced mass of the bat on its end.
3. My son Brian has a hypothesis: Take a bat longer and heavier than you normally use. Doctor this bat, in one of the ways we tried. It will feel, in terms of weight, like your normal bat. But it will perform like a longer bat, because it is longer. And that's the thing: the acceleration relevant here is the movement of the bat head, and of course a longer bat gives the bat more acceleration. Our experiment, by holding length constant, misses this effect, which Brian claims is the real reason some people use corked bats.
4. On the other hand, others (using more serious methods) have found basically the same thing.

I should say: all the actual work, except the drilling part, was done by my son Brian Munger and his partner Drew Chandler.

Whoops! It's getting late. I better go mow the lawn. Or it will be a cold, cold night here at the End. I don't want my wife to remember just how unnecessary I am, and this whole batting thing could have that effect.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Frank Bi

Frank Bi deserves some credit.

His proposal is the highest concentration of wisdom and dangerous derangement I have seen in...well, ever.

If you realize that J.S. Mill was a Stalinist, you have some idea of how he calibrates the "classical liberal" pantheon of heroes.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Liberals need to be gettin' busy

This is a remarkable article


The liberal baby bust
By Phillip Longman
What's the difference between Seattle and Salt Lake City? There are many differences, of course, but here's one you might not know. In Seattle, there are nearly 45% more dogs than children. In Salt Lake City, there are nearly 19% more kids than dogs.
This curious fact might at first seem trivial, but it reflects a much broader and little-noticed demographic trend that has deep implications for the future of global culture and politics. It's not that people in a progressive city such as Seattle are so much fonder of dogs than are people in a conservative city such as Salt Lake City. It's that progressives are so much less likely to have children.

It's a pattern found throughout the world, and it augers a far more conservative future — one in which patriarchy and other traditional values make a comeback, if only by default. Childlessness and small families are increasingly the norm today among progressive secularists. As a consequence, an increasing share of all children born into the world are descended from a share of the population whose conservative values have led them to raise large families.

Today, fertility correlates strongly with a wide range of political, cultural and religious attitudes. In the USA, for example, 47% of people who attend church weekly say their ideal family size is three or more children. By contrast, 27% of those who seldom attend church want that many kids.

In Utah, where more than two-thirds of residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 92 children are born each year for every 1,000 women, the highest fertility rate in the nation. By contrast Vermont — the first to embrace gay unions — has the nation's lowest rate, producing 51 children per 1,000 women.

A fascinating problem: The proportions in even an otherwise stable polymorphic population might be responsive to changes in institutions. If a society adopts majority rule, in particular, there can be a tipping point. And, if it is true that conservatives are reproducing (much) faster than liberals....Well, you know. You liberals need to get out there and get busy.

Otherwise? More conservative education, more emphasis on religion, perhaps teaching creation in some states with particularly high proportions of religious right voters.

What does this say about democracy? Does the will of the majority contain moral force? Or does it just reflect different rates of reproduction, rather than persuasion?

Shoe-in is a shoo-in in the Google horse race

So, my good friend and across-the-Duke-hallway interlocutor, Geoff Brennan, pokes his head in my door. He asks, "How do you spell (and then pronounces the phrase "shoo in").

I reply, confidently, because my confidence greatly exceeds my knowledge, "Oh, that is spelled 's-h-o-e dash i-n'." Geoff says he has a paper he is looking at, and it spells it wrong. In other words, Geoff agrees with me.

Bad idea. "Shoo-in" is clearly correct.

In terms of etymology, it's pretty obvious why: it's from horse racing. . For example, see here. An excerpt:

[Q] ...I was wondering if you could possibly find out the origin of the term shoe in, meaning someone will win for sure.”
[A] This one is spelled wrongly so often that it’s likely it will eventually end up that way. The correct form is shoo-in, usually with a hyphen. It has been known in that spelling and with the meaning of a certain winner from the 1930s. It came from horse racing, where a shoo-in was the winner of a rigged race.
In turn that seems to have come from the verb shoo, meaning to drive a person or an animal in a given direction by making noises or gestures, which in turn comes from the noise people often make when they do it.
The shift to the horse racing sense seems to have occurred sometime in the early 1900s. C E Smith made it clear how it came about in his Racing Maxims and Methods of Pittsburgh Phil in 1908: “There were many times presumably that ‘Tod’ would win through such manipulations, being ‘shooed in’, as it were”.
(Emphasis added)

"Spelled wrongly so often that it's likely it will eventually end up that way..." Like when your mom said, "If you make that ugly look, your face will get stuck that way!"?

No, more like this:
Google search for "shoe-in" reveals 1.73 million usages

Google search for "shoo-in" reveals fewer than half a million usages.

So, shoe-in is a shoo-in, by more than a 3-1 ratio.

Follow-up on L.I.Veto

A piece I had in the Boston Globe this morning, with help from Keith Lawrence and Kelly Gilmer at Duke News Services.

A brief excerpt:

BULKED UP beyond all recognition. Clearly operating outside the usual guidelines of acceptability, even if they are not violating the law. Scorned by most fans and pundits, and yet we can't help but watch to see what new record they might set this year.

I wish I were talking about hormone-laced sluggers swinging for baseball's fences. But the description describes the budget situation in Washington. The size of the federal budget has gone from $1.8 trillion in 2000 to more than $2.5 trillion in 2006, with even conservative estimates placing total outlays at well over $3 trillion by the end of the decade. The current Congress is Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays all wrapped into one muscle-bound package.

Who is supposed to be managing these guys? By tradition, and the Constitution, that would be the president. Public embarrassment and the threat of a veto -- followed at least occasionally by a real veto -- would provide a check on the burgeoning budget.

I wrote this over the weekend. But some of the points I make were echoed in comments or emails I received. Thanks for the comments. And, remember: if you don't comment, the terrorists win.

UPDATE: V from Badlands just sent me a very polite note, pointing out that JQ Adams had in fact served only ONE term. Well....darn. That's right. I had even checked, but had just misread the list.

Whether one should believe anything ELSE in an article that makes such an obvious mistake...well, not my finest moment, this.

UPDATE II: And a note on what society values. I checked the "most emailed" list for today's Globe. My op-ed had 6 forwards. That puts it....about 120th for the day.

Top Ten: "Woman gets beer from her faucet"


Woman gets beer from her kitchen faucet
March 13, 2006

OSLO, Norway --It almost seemed like a miracle to Haldis Gundersen when she turned on her kitchen faucet this weekend and found the water had turned into beer.

Two flights down, employees and customers at the Big Tower Bar were horrified when water poured out of the beer taps.

By an improbable feat of clumsy plumbing, someone at the bar in Kristiandsund, western Norway, had accidentally hooked the beer hoses to the water pipes for Gundersen's apartment.

"We had settled down for a cozy Saturday evening, had a nice dinner, and I was just going to clean up a little," Gundersen, 50, told The Associated Press by telephone Monday. "I turned on the kitchen faucet and beer came out."

I emailed it to two people myself, just to join the wave. ATSRTWT

Friday, March 10, 2006

And the Second WaPo Editorial: Unroll Your Own Logs

Second interesting editorial in WaPo today.

A Good Line-Item Veto Friday, March 10, 2006; A18(Excerpt)

WE HAVE repeatedly opposed the idea of a line-item veto. So it may seem inconsistent to warmly endorse -- as we do -- President Bush's proposal this week for what he terms the Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006. In fact, though, Mr. Bush is embracing a responsible alternative to the line-item veto, which the Supreme Court struck down in 1998. His bill raises none of the constitutional problems of the earlier law; nor does it raise the same concerns about concentrating power in presidential hands. While it will do much less than is often pretended to diminish the deficit, it would be a useful open-government tool to combat the gross proliferation of congressional earmarks...

Mr. Bush's idea does not so alter the checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches. Under his proposal, the president could not nix part of a spending bill; he could, however, temporarily freeze a spending item and request that Congress rescind it. Congress would be obliged to act on such requests quickly, without amendment and with no possibility of filibuster. If a majority of both houses of Congress stood by the provision, the president's action would have no consequence. If, on the other hand, the spending were a single member's pet project -- a bridge in Alaska, say -- Congress as a whole might not stand by it. The bill, in other words, gives the president not a line-item veto but a device for forcing individual votes on line items buried within larger spending packages.

This makes sense. It might not do much to control the budget, both because pork makes up a small component of the deficit and because the president may be as reluctant to offend congressional appropriations barons as are other legislators. But the bill could spotlight earmarks and the corruption that can come with them. Mr. Bush is, to put it mildly, an imperfect champion of any measure to discipline out-of-control spending; he hasn't once used the veto he already has, while signing into law plenty of pork-filled spending bills. Yet the messenger's flaws should not prejudice the message. This bill deserves consideration on its very significant merits.

I had not heard of this proposal. Very clever, political sciency. Force vote on single item. Breaking a log roll means that you can pick out some of the most rotten toothpicks from the bundle and throw them away.

No single element of an omnibus bill would pass on its own, almost by definition. An interesting proposal, and good on the WaPo folks to support the President in this instance, because: They are right, he's right.


Remarkable WaPo Editorials

This morning, sitting on the seventh floor of the Sheraton at 12th and K in DC, I read two editorials in the WaPo that I find truly remarkable. (I had been at this conference, which was a blast. Made Tom Mann of Brookings so mad he sputtered. SPUTTERED, I tell you).

I will post an excerpt from each, separately, as they make different points. But if the WaPo is saying stuff like this....well, BOTH the Repubs and the Dems are looking at the world through rose-colored shot glasses.

Happy Now? Friday, March 10, 2006; A18 (Excerpt)

THEY SPEND drunkenly, they fail at oversight and they can't stop the administration from abusing detainees or tapping phones. But never call the members of Congress powerless: Yesterday, in the exalted name of anti-terrorism, the Senate rebelled against its Republican leadership and joined the House in a vote to prevent a company based in a moderate, friendly Arab country from making a minor investment in the United States. When it became clear that some such blocking measure would pass, Dubai Ports World threw in the towel, announcing that it would sell all of its U.S. operations, including the management operations of six U.S. ports it recently acquired, and do business elsewhere...

...The result: Dubai Ports World will now run only ports where cargo is packed and sent to the United States, instead of managing ports where that same cargo is unloaded.

But our brave new Congress has achieved more than the irrational spiking of one business deal. It has also sent a clear message to the Arab world: No matter how far you move along the path of modernization and cooperation, Americans may be unable to distinguish you from al-Qaeda....

No one should underestimate the potential damage. Any government in a Muslim-majority country will have to ask itself: Why take the risk of friendship? If governments find no good answer to that question, the fight against radical Islamic terrorism will suffer. ...With the price of oil so high, Arabs are rapidly becoming a major supplier of foreign capital. This isn't a good moment for Americans to discourage foreign investment, given the nation's dependence on foreign capital (see: Congress, drunken spending by). Nor will the message -- that foreign ownership was unobjectionable when it was British but intolerable when it was Arab -- do much to advance U.S. efforts to promote equitable investment rules for its own companies abroad....

Some, meanwhile, will blame the public, because opinion polls showed overwhelming objections to this deal. But it was Congress that brought this matter to public attention; here we think, for example, of the cynical actions of two Democratic senators from New York: Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, who heads his party's effort to win back control of the Senate in this year's elections. Congress falsely portrayed the deal as the "purchase" of U.S. ports. Congress failed to tell the public that port security is run by the U.S. Coast Guard, not the men who pay the salaries of the (overwhelmingly American) longshoremen. Congress created this storm, in other words, and then toppled in its wind.

Yikes. Craven...cynical....HILLARY? From the WaPo? Nicely done. ATSRTWT

The Poets Down Here Don't Write Nothin' At All.....

...They Just Stand Back and Let It All Be, II

Improbably, but reliably, Chris at SigNot reports
an event that I'm glad happened somewhere else. Here is a news video of the story.

What would I say to the guy? "Careful that when you
watch porn during class you toggle the display setting
so it only appears on your monitor, and not the projector!"?

And how could it be that the room was not filled with
laughter? How could the prof not notice? Oh, my.

Apparently, the prof believed the message of this video
(which is NOT work safe, by the way, though it is cute):
The internet is for porn. Having never actually viewed porn myself,
either on the internet or elsewhere, I'll just leave to loyal readers
to decide.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

No Rules, Just....OMIGOD!

Story quoted here from DoL, about Australian toilet seat regulations. It seems that toilet seat rules down under do not support the biggest customers sufficiently (notice how delicately I put that).

The new rule would require that toilet seats be able withstand the enthronement of a 145 kg king or queen. That's just over 330 pounds. Relatively few NFL linemen are that big.

For some reason, this makes me think of a joke:

Guy buys a new luxury toilet seat, pure mahogany. Beautiful. Needs to be finished, though. Wife has in a painter, who uses a very high quality varnish. Varnish takes about 24 hours to dry, and is very sticky until it does dry.

Guy doesn't know wife has had painter in; shows very obese friend new toilet seat. Lots of pride in new possession. Big friend says, "Actually, if you'll forgive me, I need to be alone with that toilet seat for a few minutes. I had a big lunch, and my stomach is acting up."

Guy lets friend use the bathroom. Big guy sits on the seat for about ten minutes, by which time an breakable seal has formed between cheeks and varnish. After a few more minutes everyone hears shrieking coming from the loo. "Help! Help! I can't get it off!" Big butt stuck to wet varnish; guy tries to stand up, and not getting anywhere.

So, they carefully unscrew the toilet seat from its hinges, so as not to damage the mohagony. Go to emergency room, to get unstuck.

ER doctor gravely tells big guy to lie on his stomach, while doc tries to get an idea of what he's got here. Trying to put everyone at ease, the toilet seat owner says, "Doc, have you ever seen anything like this before?"

Doc looks at him over his glasses. "Actually, yes. I see twenty or more of these a day. But I have to say I have never seen one that was so tastefully framed."

And, now, the frames will be sturdy, too! At least in the outback: no rules, just....OMIGOD!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

You've seen this, but....

Who Reads What

* The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run
the country.
* The Washington Post is read by people who think they
run the country.
* The New York Times is read by people who think they
should run the country and who are very good at
crossword puzzles.!
* USA Today is read by people who think they ought to
run the country but don't really understand The New
York Times. They do, however, like their statistics
shown in pie charts.
* The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't
mind running the country -- if they could find the
time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern
California to do it.
* The Boston Globe is read by pe! ople whose parents used
to run the country and did a far superior job of it,
thank you very much.
* The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't
too sure who's running the country and don't really
care as long as they can get a seat on the train.
* The New York Post is read by people who don't care
who's running the country as long as they do something
really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.
* The Miami Herald is read by people who are running
another country but need the baseball scores.
* The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who
aren't sure there is a country ... or that anyone is
running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand
for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders
are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who
also happen to be illegal aliens from any other
country or galaxy pro! vided, of course, that they are
not Republicans.
* The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in
line at the grocery store.
(yes, I know this has been around for more than three years. I read it again, and laughed, and so there)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Species Preservation Instinct

An interesting post, from Prettier than Napoleon.

Money quote:

I mentioned to a friend last night that I had been underwhelmed by Battlestar Galactica and quit watching after the first few discs.

"I bet I know exactly when you started to lose interest. The part just after most of humanity is destroyed, when we zoom in on a couple and Adama says, 'They better start having babies.'"

"Not true, although I don't understand why they can't just float around in space until they die of old age. Why should the people who are still alive rearrange their own lives for the sake of people who aren't even born?"

"See, this is what I mean. The show is uninteresting to you because you don't find the central conflict compelling. You have no species preservation instinct."

"Species preservation instinct"? Wow. NONE of us have species preservation instinct. Group selection "instincts" at that level are just fabrications of fevered brains.

You go, PTN. Don't back down.

March 15: "Kill an animal and eat it" Day

March 15 is, as it is every year, "Eat an animal for PETA day" or (a variant) "Kill and eat an animal day." (I prefer the second, for reasons I'll let Coturnix explain below).

On the reasons why PETA is worth protesting....

An interesting archive, now defunct in terms of new posts.

And, the classic "People Eating Tasty Animals."

This one is rather fun. And the subtlety and style of Yobbo is always worth savoring.

Thanks, as always, to my Triangle homey Coturnix, who though he is deeply confused about many things, is a shining light of reason on this question (and also on the problem of lateness).

From last year, about this time, my rumination:

At the Mungowitz house, we snack high on the food chain. I don't know if God gave man dominion over the beasts of the field, but She certainly gave me an ATM card and big-ass cart to drive along the Kroger meat aisle. That may be even better than dominion.

A lot of the beasts of the field, and the forest, and the oceans, and the air.... they all smack my plate, and they are soon sacrificed to my enjoyment. And nutrition. Meat is GOOD for you, and the reason it tastes good is that thousands and thousands of years of evolution have selected for taste buds that are pleasurably stimulated by the taste and texture of meat. No other way to get that many calories, AND that much iron and protein, so quickly. MMMMmmmm...burgers.

And, the view from Coturnix:

Nobody knows, understands, and loves nature, animals and ecosystems as well as hunters do. Carnivores require large territories. Urban growth has eliminated carnivores from many areas of the country. In a few places, it is possible to re-introduce them, as has been recently done with wolves. In most places, that is not possible. In the absence of predators, the herbivore populations have a huge growth in numbers and densities, stripping their habitats of food and ending up starving to death. In such case, it is our moral duty to step into the role of the top predator and carefully and selectively reduce the herbivore numbers. Hunters really know how to do it right, often better than ecologists do. It is a tough life. No lion sleeping with the lamb. In such a situation the herbivore has three choices: a) to die a slow painful death of starvation, disease and parasites; b) to die after a short and brutal chase by a pack of wolves that starts eating it before it is even dead, or c) to die instantly of a bullet. For a) death is inevitable. For b) there are some slim chances of escaping. For c) only very few animals are killed, thus chances for every animal to survive and reproduce are much greater. If you were a doe, and these were your choices, what would you choose? "Bambi" has ruined the reputation of hunters among city-dwellers who are alienated from nature - folks who tend to join PETA and ALF out of ignorance of how nature works and under the influence of 100 years of Disneyfication (that is actually a technical term for this) of nature.

I include this last because I was rather flip at the top of this post. I like animals; I am happy to work to prevent cruelty to animals, or prevent their suffering. One can oppose the terrorists at PETA, and still be a big fan of animals. Both of our dogs are "rescue" animals, from the shelter, rather than purebreds purchased from a puppy mill.

But on March 15, I am going to eat fresh game. And still-living plant flesh. Because I'm a plant-killer, too.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Good Stuff

Vegreville posts several very nice thoughts, and links.

Academic AWOL

Why being an academic is pretty great

I agree most, perhaps, with these reasons why being an academic is fun:

3. It's great to see a student suddenly understand something new.
4. It's great to understand something new myself. Learning is fun, and that is what I mainly do.

I almost always teach at least one overload class. If you don't like teaching, what are you doing?

Does it hurt my research output? Probably not. Being a chairman is a lot like a full lobotomy (except the scars last forever), so my research output is hardly impressive anyway.

Price Discrimination

Revealing that, when price discrimination is possible, talk is NOT cheap.

Duke Dinner Dance

There really is a Duke Faculty Dinner Dance, every December.

Very fun. From this year's dance, my lovely wife and I having big times.