Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Plug For Navy Power - Beat Air Force

Blowing in the wind
A recent U.S. Navy post highlighted the dependance of naval power on innovation, listing the progression from sail power, to coal power, to oil power, to nuclear, and now renewable energy - it is a nice advertisement narrated by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. Another advertisement of Naval power, this time Navy Football, showed up on a Facebook posting that a company mate of my son posted. It is a nice blend of a contemporary technology platform with making the point that Naval Academy Football has dominated the Air Force Academy for more than a decade. It seems that the iPhone Siri feature has been co-opted for a rival academy Spirit Spot.

Note - September 30, 2014: The media fall-out on advanced biofuel opponents has begun from the success from the Phase 2 of the Defense Production Act (DPA) supported by Navy, Energy, and Agriculture Departments. See the CleanTechnica report here. A good exposition of the DPA effort is given in Biobased Digest here. Another sign of institutionalization of an industry is when the debate is no longer about the value of advanced biofuels and whether the emissions off-sets are of value, but concerns about whether their manufacture will cause air pollution.

Navy leads the way in power. 
Note - October 1, 2014: Another Navy video for National Energy Action Month - click here.

It Started For Me Here - TI SR-10

Texas Instruments SR-10
It started here, my first piece of digital horsepower in my hand: a Texas Instruments TI SR-10 electronic slide rule - a piece of gadget history. My undergraduate physics class (1) in 1973 was the first to be able to use a calculator rather than a slide rule. I learned how to use a slide rule in Boy Scouts as part of an Engineering Merit Badge requirement - I had learned how to do simple math functions, but nothing very exotic - nothing like what engineers would do to design missiles or other complicated hardware. When I bought my calculator, it's price had just dropped from $160 to $120, so that seemed like a good price for a tool that could easily add, subtract, divide, multiply, do squares and square roots, along with exponentials and logs - what a deal. The funny thing was I bought it at the Gottschalk's department store in town - this predated the 2001 start-up of Apple Stores (2). I keep the burned out hulk of its body in a frame that sits in my office - an honored relic of times past, and many gadgets since. The calculator has traveled from Visalia to Davis to Fresno to Corvallis to Fresno to Corvallis to Beltsville and now to Fort Collins.
(1) It is still listed under the same course listing:
PSCI 020 Physical Science
Hours: 3 Lecture/Discussion 3 Lab
A laboratory course in physical science designed to meet the labora­tory science requirement for transfer students who are not science majors. Topics include concepts, theories and principles of physics, chemistry, astronomy and earth science. The course provides op­portunities for students to learn reasoning skills and a new way of thinking about their environment. Course will present applications of concepts and theories to topics of current interest. Advisory on Recommended Preparation: MATH 200 or equivalent college course with a “C” or better or eligibility for MATH 230 as determined by COS Placement Procedures; and ENGL 251 or equivalent college course with “C” or better or eligibility for ENGL 1 determined by COS Placement Procedures.
(2) The Radio Shack specialty store supporting amateur ham radio operators was founded in 1921.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Navy News - Cheap Biofuels Around The Corner

This past week, a next big step was taken towards bringing cost- competitive aviation biofuels from a vision to reality. There was a White House press announcement, Department of Defense postings (also pasted below), Navy news release, other news reports, and a
The next era of naval innovation
knowledgeable industry blog posting. The latter gives a great chronology of events that have led up to this point. The video news announcement is found here on the White House Website, at 31 minutes into the recording. This is a continuing story of purpose that has had a consistent ring: it began in 2010 with a commitment to  develop advanced biofuels, with a modest plan for how to get there with Growing America's Fuel report. There were follow-up announcements that provided a pathway, including the research and programs that were needed to create the feedstocks that would be turned into those fuels - eventually at a price of $3.45 per gallon which is where things are now. There is nothing like being a little part of what turns into something big (1). From sail, to coal, to oil, to nuclear, and now biofuels - the Navy has led the way with power through innovation.

Navy Joins Energy, Agriculture Departments in Biofuel Effort

Ray Mabus speaks with Tom Vilsack
WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2014 – As part of a 2011 presidential directive, the Departments of Navy, Energy, and Agriculture announced today that three companies have been awarded contracts to construct and commission biorefineries capable of producing “drop-in” biofuels to meet the transportation needs of the military and private sector.

“The contracts being announced today will help expand the operational capability of our Navy and Marine Corps around the world,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said. “In today’s complex fiscal environment, we are balancing our mission with our resources and we must be innovative and forward-thinking. Programs like these help keep our operational capabilities on the cutting edge. This is how sailors and Marines defend our great nation.”

Quality Surveillance Fuel Shop
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that any time the U.S. military can use more American-grown fuels instead of relying on foreign sources, it makes the armed forces more energy secure. “And the expansion of our advanced biofuel sector means the creation of good jobs across the country, especially in many of our rural communities," he added.

A reliable, cost-effective alternative

Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said advanced biomass-based transportation fuels have the potential to provide a reliable and cost-effective alternative to traditional fuel sources. “By advancing technologies that reduce our carbon emissions,” he explained, “this multi-agency partnership is demonstrating that by protecting our energy and environmental security, we will enhance our national security as well.”

Navy F/A-18 "Green Hornet"
In total, these projects will produce more than 100 million gallons of military grade fuel beginning in 2016 and 2017 at a price competitive with their petroleum counterparts, officials said. The drop-in alternative fuels can be blended at a 50/50 ratio with traditional fossil fuels. This blend was successfully demonstrated for ships and planes during the 2012 Rim of the Pacific exercise (2), showing that this fuel can be used in the Navy’s warfighting platforms with no degradation to performance or mission.

As these fuels become more available, officials said, the Navy will make advanced drop-in biofuel a regular part of its bulk fuel procurement.
(1) The three agency partners are working together under the authority of the Defense Production Act. A good report on this prepared by the Congressional Research Office is found here.
(2) A very good article of the issues that were being debated around the time of RIMPAC 2012 is found in Mother Jones. It is easy to find the arguments against the Navy's pursuit of alternative energy, including advanced aviation and diesel - this article sums it all up.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Red Wine Blush - Western Tanager

Pirango ludoviciana
The southwest corner of Colorado is a part of the Four Corners region where the states of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico butt into one another. Long before there were states, the Anasazi lived and farmed in this area - a bit of a cornucopia in what would eventually be North America. Even though this area has an arid climate, modern irrigation projects now allow farming of hay and grain crops. In addition to the larger scaled features of the landscape, the natural flora and fauna found here are likely much the same today, as a millennia ago.

A vineyard near Cortez, Colorado
Apart from these that are produced, some newer venturesome entrepreneurs are planting grapes - in the present, red grapes begin to blush as they mature, a color that resembles the blushing face of the Western Tanager that seeks out the berries before they are picked. Even with protective nets covering the rows of vines, the wise bird can find a way to the fruit. The new era of farmers near Cortez are looking for ways to support themselves - more technology savy, but needing to know the lay of the land just as much today, as the Anasazi who inhabited the are more than two thousand years ago. Hopefully the land will be more resilient, so the farmers today will last as many generations.

Morphological similarity among species of Piranga as determined by UPGMA and neighbor joining analyses. Branch lengths are not proportional. The Auk 115(3):621-634, 1998 MOLECULAR PHYLOGENETICS OF THE GENUS PIRANGA: IMPLICATIONS FOR BIOGEOGRAPHY AND THE EVOLUTION OF MORPHOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR KEVIN J. BURNS

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Baseball Text Haiku

Note - September 30, 2014: This game turned out to be the difference between making the one-game playoff for the wildcard slot. Oakland needed to lose, and Seattle win on the last day of the season. Seattle did it's part and win, but unfortunately Oakland won as well, ending a losing streak and making it into the playoff's. When I asked my son which team he was going to root for now that Seattle was out until next season, he said, "No one, just wait for the Blazers."

My son Mike and I often text about the Seattle Mariners game that is playing - he watching it on a regional coverage station, me via my MLB application on my iPhone. Tonight, things were going fine until the bottom of the seventh inning, when I noted a late-game surge by the Los Angeles Angels - four runs, eventually five for the inning. I noted the score in a text, and then noticed a near-perfect haiku structure in the three lines, and with a little cheating,  jotted down the poem:

Too bad, maybe come
Back, in the bott'm of the ninth
Baseball heroics
Tough loss, they need to keep moving forward to make the American League Wildcard slot. I hadn't written a haiku in at least a couple of years - I was thinking about that just a few days ago.
Here is the dialogue: going back and forth this evening, between my blue-colored call-out text boxes - his gray:

0-0 tie so far.

Some good pitching.


Bunch of runs scored against them.


Too bad. Maybe come back, bottom of the ninth - heroics.

If we can pull out some of that last night stuff.

***The point of epiphany, that last text from me looks like it could have a haiku structure - inspired, I write back***

Haiku poem in 5-7-5:

Too bad, maybe come
Back, in the bottom of the ninth
Baseball heroics

I hadn't written a haiku in two years.

Last time I wr[o]te one was when I learned of them many moons ago.

Inspired by the game - I hope they win.

Hobbes was laying on my lap with his back leg kinked back.  Just got up and limped around confused by a leg that went to sleep.

That's pretty good.

It was funny.