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Posts posted by OldChemE

  1. Somewhat off topic-- but I find it interesting how the concentration of population (cities and such) by necessity makes topics like this important.  We are very rural, high desert, and do rainwater conservation and recycling without even giving it thought,  Our land is flat, unpaved, porous, and the soil is dry on the surface.  When it rains there is no stream for the water to flow into.  Instead, the water soaks into the ground fairly quickly (with some evaporation loss, of course).  This feeds our groundwater, and we pump it out with a well.  After we use it it goes into the septic system, from which it percolates back to the groundwater system.

  2. Not only does social media allow reality to be distorted, it also removes some of the historical limitations.  Historically, it took effort to get anything published.  This tended to limit the influence of nut cases.  That is no longer the case.

  3. Having worked on Nuclear plant design in the past I agree the steam idea would be neat.  Diesel generators are used because regulatory agencies require protection against multiple failures.  Typically this means two or three separate systems separated so that no single accident can prevent all from working (unless, of course the designers totally underestimate the potential of a tsunami).  I think steam would be great for one of the systems-- provide the steam is not radioactive.  I do not know if the Ukraine plant has radioactive steam.  Typically, Pressurized water reactors have clean steam-- at the expense of the complex pressurization system that has its own drawbacks.  Boiling water reactors, being simpler, derive their steam directly from the reactor-- at the expense of having radioactive steam.

  4. Yes we have freewill.  Our internal brain structure and brain chemistry drive what we do, as well as our environment.  But-- ultimately, the things happening inside our brains leads to the decisions we make.  We could argue about how inevitable our decisions are, and how much they are influenced by things we are not consciously aware of. and how much we are manipulated by outside forces, but in my opinion anything that ultimately arises from the functions within our brains constitutes free will.

  5.  "How can so many numbers of nature, the constants and relationships of physics, be so spot-on perfect for humans to exist?

    Because they provide the boundary conditions that happened (by chance) to allow humans to exist.  If nature were different, likely any life that evolved would also be different-- and some of those living beings would likewise be amazed that nature just happened to be perfect for them to exist.

  6. On 2/7/2022 at 3:25 PM, Peterkin said:

    When a bridge or tunnel started at two end fails to match up in the middle as planned, the discrepancy is not due to verbal misunderstanding but mathematical miscalculation.

    Mostly-- but I know of a minor overpass (over the railroad) in rural Pennsylvania that was mis-aligned because the two construction companies building the road from two opposite directions both agreed that the left edge of the road should be on the reference line for the overpass.

  7. 13 hours ago, joigus said:

    What I'm interested in here is meaning. Does anyone among you share this preoccupation with language that, if you're serious about it, it has the potential to send you into an infinite loop of ultimately un-discernible layers of meaning? Like a monumental chess game played backwards: What was the meaning of the previous sentence?

    Oh my!! Definitely.  I'm glad to find out I am not the only one.

    When I drive on US highways I am constantly reminded of the question of meaning because of the road sign that says "lane ends merge left."  I cannot decide if this means that the lane I am in is ending and I am instructed to merge to the left, or if it simply means that the two lanes are merging in a leftward direction.  This bothers me!

    More significantly, I once had a job of helping my boss prepare for quarterly meetings with a very volatile leader.  I would spend days struggling to 'spin' the presentation in a way that would assure that the volatile leader would receive the meaning we wished to convey.

  8. Not intending to be particularly contrary-- but in the past 15 years or so the math books and science books I used for teaching at the high school level have seen a huge increase in pretty color pictures and large diagrams, etc-- and that is a GOOD thing.  Older textbooks with printing only tended to overlook the variations in learning style of different individuals.  Not everyone learns well by reading only the printed word.  Textbook publishers have gotten very good at creating textbooks that are educational for a wider range of learning styles.

  9. The bells and whistles are a consumer expectation maybe??  I am reminded of 2001 when I bought a b rand new 2001 Camaro for only $16,000.  For some reason the factory built a model with no bells and whistles.  Nice 5 speed manual transmission, 3.8 liter high output V6 that could go like ____ (0-70 mph and still only in third gear).  But, no remote locks (manual only), manual windows, only a cassette tape radio, manual antenna, manual adjusting seats.  It was just sitting on the lot because nobody wanted to buy it.

  10. To some extent I would classify religion under the heading of Philosophy as well.  It brings to mind when, after retiring from Engineering, I taught Science at a small Christian High School.  There were two factions in the school-- one (including me) who wanted the students taught using secular science books, and another wanting to teach "Science" using religious "science" books from Bob Jones University.  After much debate the school board of directors decided to use University of California approved secular books.  Their reasoning was that Science should teach the students how the world works, and Religion classes (philosophy?) should focus on the moral issues-- including the rights and wrongs of the application of science.

    Going beyond religion, I believe the role of philosophy includes looking at the implications of science.  I would even go so far as to argue that Science Fiction frequently becomes philosophy, as when authors postulate a scientific development and then examine its effects on society via the story.

  11. There is some genetic effect.  The following is from my own genetic report on the site "23andme":  "Our muscles are made up of two main types of fibers, called slow-twitch and fast-twitch. Fast-twitch fibers allow rapid, forceful muscle contraction — the sort of contraction required for sprinting. Slow-twitch fibers contract more slowly, but they also tire less easily. Endurance athletes tend to have more slow-twitch fibers, while power athletes (including sprinters, throwers, and jumpers) tend to have more fast-twitch fibers — a difference that may reflect both their genetics and their training habits."

    My genetics favor slow-twitch--and, while I am a horrible sprinter, in my youth I was a competitive long distance runner.

    Obviously there is more to this than genetics (training etc).

  12. 7 hours ago, Hans de Vries said:

    Do people who score high on conscientousness like to work/find working pleasurable? 

    I would say there is no correlation.  Conscientous people may appear to like their work because they work diligently and complete all assignments-- but that may simply be a consequence of the drive to do things right.  I can recall many occasions in my work life when I tried very hard to do things right just to get them off my plate without damaging my reputation.

  13. Why I do science?  Several commented on the satisfaction of curiosity-- but I would go beyond that.  First off-- I rarely do pure science, in the sense that I rarely do controlled experiments to confirm or falsify a hypothesis.  But-- I would find it very difficult to live my life without doing applied science.  Researching and using knowledge developed through science is a daily activity.  When measurements of earth movements published in 1988 showed the huge strain in the California faults, I packed up especially fragile items in my home prior to the 1989 earthquake, and had no damage to my home's contents.  When observations of the Jet Stream in 2012 showed the increasing amplitude and implications of instability I began to think about how that might affect weather patterns and moisture carryover past the Sierra's into northern Nevada where I live.  Somewhat more bizarre (to some, perhaps) I have a hobby of developing target ammunition for old firearms.  When I was gifted a small supply of a type of smokeless powder of a type I had no data for, I turned to the national gunpowder forensic database to learn the chemical characteristics in order to identify chemically equivalent gun powders for which I did have the necessary data.  Utilizing knowledge developed through science is, for some of us, a way of life as natural as breathing.

  14. 2 hours ago, Holmes said:

    In answer to the question posed in the title of the OP:

    • The challenger disaster
    • Cold fusion
    • Chernobyl
    • Thalidomide
    • Curing homosexuality


    Except perhaps for cold fusion and homosexuality, these are not Science-- they are applications of science coupled with engineering, management, and in some cases marketing decisions.  It is the applications of science (among other things), sometimes poorly conceived, that lead to disasters.  Science not applied generally does not hurt anybody.  As for homosexuality, It is merely one facet of the normal range of human behaviors.  Not my thing but I don't think it needs a cure.

  15. What's missing from this discussion to some extent is the unique aspect of humans:  A high level of intelligence coupled with the instinctive biological drives.  This creates a situation where there are three driving forces that can conflict:  (1) The instinctive drive to reproduce that pretty much all living things share, (2) The intellectual attraction some people develop that seems unique to intelligent species, and (3) The societal standards unique to individual cultures.  This makes it difficult to generalize.

  16. Philosophically, I think it is a matter of national boundaries.  That is, until mankind reached the point of identifying as part of a governmental unit, there was little basis for ownership, except, of course, ownership by force.  Once a group of people become part of a governmental unit, the land claimed by that governmental unit (i.e. national boundaries) becomes subject to the laws of the region and that inevitably leads to rights regarding who can live where and also conditions regarding land ownership.

  17. We have both cats and dogs-- very different.  There is a study of cat and dog behavior that suggests that cats seem aloof because they do not understand social behavior as well as dogs.  Details here:  https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210318-why-cats-wont-punish-a-stranger-who-harms-you



    The Fahrenheit scale (/ˈfɑːrənht/ or /ˈfɛrənht/) is a temperature scale based on one proposed in 1724 by the physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686–1736).[1][2] It uses the degree Fahrenheit (symbol: °F) as the unit. Several accounts of how he originally defined his scale exist, but the original paper suggests the lower defining point, 0 °F, was established as the freezing temperature of a solution of brine made from a mixture of water, ice, and ammonium chloride (a salt).[3][4] The other limit established was his best estimate of the average human body temperature (set at 96 °F; about 2.6 °F less than the modern value due to a later redefinition of the scale).[3] However, he noted a middle point of 32 °F, to be set to the temperature of ice water.

    Fahrenheit was born in Danzig (in the Polish-Lituanian Commonwealth)

    This is one, at least, that cannot be blamed on the oddity of English and USA measurements

  19. The original proposition is too poorly defined. Would heart stoppage be bodily death?  How long must human consciousness survive to qualify?  I had an elderly friend years ago who died at a square dance.  His hear stopped while he was talking to friends.  He felt his heart stop, got a puzzled look on his face, then then fainted.  It certainly appeared that his consciousness survived death by a second or two.  But, of course, it depends on how you define "bodily death."

  20. Having taught math successfully in Junior High and High school I though I would have a lot of great examples for you-- but on further reflection realized my best ones were not something that could be generalized.  I had the greatest success when I could connect the math lesson to the students' experiences.  For example, in my rural area the vast majority of the students have experience with guns and many also have reloaders in their families (people who make their own ammunition).  When I first tried to teach statistics I got blank looks from many students,  So that weekend I took my test equipment out to the rifle range and measured velocities of 10 rounds of ammo I had built.  On Monday I put the data up on the screen and asked the students if the load I had developed was consistent enough for hunting.  This lead to a successful lengthy discussion and the development of the idea of mean and standard deviation.

    The lesson I learned and applied from then on is this:  The goal is not so much to make the students think differently, but rather to create a use for the math knowledge in a way that connects to their experiences.  I can think back to lots of examples of good teaching tricks, but realize they are were specific to a certain student or group of students.  Not much help to what you want.

  21. On 12/24/2020 at 11:59 AM, Danijel Gorupec said:

    Can you be more specific on the Switzerland example. Is there enough wind power? Is there enough infertile land for solar power? I ask because Switzerland is not a very large country, yet it uses about 35MWh per capita (if I found correct data). Makes me wondering if Switzerland at all has a non-nuclear option if it would want to achieve energy independence?

    Sorry I'm slow replying (away for awhile).  Fundamentally, Switzerland went with the nuclear option because they had not significant sources of fossil fuels in the country-- they were importing what they needed.  Nuclear gave them a degree of energy independence.  That, however, was almost 20 years ago, and I have not kept track of how things may have changed since I left the country to return to the United States.

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