Friday, February 29, 2008

Polls and Polling

We all know the difference between the polls and polling. But we may not realize what a difference there is in the polling.

First though, you should always be mindful of the concept of Alpha in any Poll. An alpha number of 5 means that there is a 5% chance that these numbers mean absolutely nothing. That's the reason some polls fall outside of the pack. But assuming that your information is inside the 95% confidence range, then the next thing you need to watch out for is a poll with likely voters or LV. An LV means that the polling organization is predicting the turnout and the complexion of the turnout.

Here's today's new Zogby poll which says:

Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle Poll:
Obama Builds Lead Over Clinton in Texas,
But Dem Race Too Close To Call in Ohio

Texas - Democrats

Clinton 42%
Obama 48%
Gravel <1%
If you look at the last five polls in Texas , you will see that one, Insider Advantage, has Clinton up by 4. But the average of all five today show Obama with a lead of 2.4. Assuming that alpha is not at play, why the big difference?

You must look deeper into the poll to see why. The Insider Advantage poll has decided that the likely voters will be fairly represented by (225) white,(130) black, (219) hispanic voters. That W/B/H ratio is 39/13/38. Clinton is ahead 53-39 in Hispanics and Obama is ahead 75 to 14 with Blacks.

When you go deeper into the Survey USA Poll ,which shows an Obama lead of 4, the W/B/H ratio is 47/21/28.

Look deeper into the Rasmussen Poll which has Obama up by 4 and you see that the W/B/H ratio is 57/16/27.

When you sort through the cross tabs of the PPP poll ,which shows a tie, the ratio is 45/22/29

I'm not sure why our media doesn't dig into the polls. Probably they do, and they figure that we won't understand it. Maybe they figure that this kind of information should stay in the campaigns and with the experts.

But it makes running a big headline saying that Obama is building a big lead a little bit misleading. If you don't know the crosstabs of the poll, you really don't know much.
But practically all of us understand this:
If you put more Clinton supporters in the LV poll, you get a better number for Clinton. If you put more Obama supporters, he ends up with a big lead.

I don't know what the real W/B/H mix is going to be in the Texas Primary, and apparently, neither do the pollsters. But if we use the PPP poll as a yardstick, we can perhaps come to this metric.
If the the second number is higher than 22, that's good for Obama, if the third number is higher than 29, that's good for Clinton.

You can do the same thing with age. In the Insider Advantage poll where Obama is behind, 20 year olds represent only 10% of the total. In the Survey USA poll where Clinton is behind, that number is closer to 20%. (tabs are for different ages)

So when it comes down to polls that have a LV next to them,

watch out.

The "difference" is the difference between the Polls and the Polling.

It's the difference between the talkers,

and the walkers.

And walking is where it's at this year..

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Noah's Seed Ark

"Hey Noah, What are you building there?"
"An Ark."
"What's an Ark?" B Cosby
When I was a boy, I spent many a summer plowing in the rich soil along the Canadian river. I never got to plant mind you, my job was to disc, to turn the soil over. It was dusty and it was hot. And there were no air-conditioned cabs.

Back then, the price of wheat was 2 or 3 dollars a bushel. And in forty years, nothing much changed. As recently as 1999, wheat was trading at 2.40 bushel. But grain prices are on the move big time. Here's part of the the story from the CSM:

Wheat prices hit record high
The cost of March spring wheat hit $24 a bushel Monday,
double its cost two months ago.
By Ron Scherer

New York - Dressed in his white apron and baker's hat, Jose Espinal puts the finishing touches on a chicken pot pie that will be sold to customers of Cucina & Co. later in the day. He carefully places a crust on the pie and crimps the top and bottom together.

But to make the dough for about 300 pies, Mr. Espinal, the pastry chef, used 22 pounds of flour – an item that the store knows will soon be rising in price.

"I'm expecting it this week," says Michael Salmon, director of operations of Cucina, which is in Macy's in Manhattan. "Maybe 20 or 30 percent."

Why the increase? The prime ingredient in flour is wheat, which these days is acting more like oil – rising sharply on commodities exchanges. On Monday, the price of March spring wheat on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange shot up to $24 a bushel, the highest price ever. Within the past month, the price of some types of wheat has risen over 90 percent. Already, agricultural experts say, it's getting hard to find the type of wheat used to make pasta, noodles, pizza, and bagels.

"Supplies of some types of wheat will be extremely tight," says economist William Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, Neb. "I don't think we'll see physical bread lines, but supplies will be just tight."

Companies that use wheat say they are overwhelmed by the sharp rise and have little choice but to pass on at least part of the increase to consumers. Flour manufacturers, for example, are raising prices by at least 30 percent or more. Since the beginning of the year, bread in the supermarket has risen anywhere from 10 to 30 cents a loaf. more

And here is another story from the North Queensland Register:

'Panic' wheat buying across the US
By Arlan Suderman, Farm Progress grain markets analyst
Tuesday, 26 February 2008

In the wheat price surge this week, the leading wheat contract in Minneapolis, US, has risen by more than the entire worth of the contract just months ago.

Prices rallied by $5.75 a bushel on Monday, being up by nearly 30pc at one point compared with Friday’s close. Eight months ago on June 19, the lead Minneapolis wheat contract settled at over $US5.00 a bushel.

Panic over commodity shortages continues to emerge as the dominant factor in the global markets, with both end user and speculative buyers of corn, soybean, cotton, rice and a host of other commodities taking note of what’s happening in the wheat pit.

While US has made improvements to increase crop production efficiency in recent years, the world hasn’t really put sufficient investment into production agriculture for several decades.
The net result has been declining stocks at the same time that expanding global wealth has demanded more raw commodities.

The net result on Monday was new all-time record high prices for corn, soybeans and wheat on the same day. more

Certainly, this run up in prices may be like other investor balloons, but what if something else is at work besides speculative greed? Like weather? And 100 oil? Here is Lester Brown of the Earth Institute writing about it six weeks ago:

January 24th, 2008

"We are witnessing the beginning of one of the great tragedies of history. The United States, in a misguided effort to reduce its oil insecurity by converting grain into fuel for cars, is generating global food insecurity on a scale never seen before.

The world is facing the most severe food price inflation in history as grain and soybean prices climb to all-time highs. Wheat trading on the Chicago Board of Trade on December 17th breached the $10 per bushel level for the first time ever. In mid-January, corn was trading over $5 per bushel, close to its historic high. And on January 11th, soybeans traded at $13.42 per bushel, the highest price ever recorded. All these prices are double those of a year or two ago.

As a result, prices of food products made directly from these commodities such as bread, pasta, and tortillas, and those made indirectly, such as pork, poultry, beef, milk, and eggs, are everywhere on the rise. In Mexico, corn meal prices are up 60 percent. In Pakistan, flour prices have doubled. China is facing rampant food price inflation, some of the worst in decades. " more

China has even instigated food price controls.

With all the hubbub over who gets to be the next supreme leader, grand papooska moose person, its easy to miss little stories like this, even with our quack, I mean crack corp of MSM reporters out there. But, I think it's safe to say that a four fold increase in wheat is a pretty important story.

Several days ago, we wrote about the Approaching Storm and how millions of people may starve in the next four to five years as climate continues to move and change.

It may not take that long.

Meanwhile, Noah's Ark for seeds just opened.

A seed Ark in the Arctic?

I'm happy about that.

I think.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Good President

Even as a C student, National Guard drop out, it would have been hard to predict just how bad a president GW has been. But, I never did his chart. I just know he is a Cancer. (July 6th , 1946)
Consequently, we decided to look up the ephemeris for August 4th, 1961 last night. After that, we ran it through an interpretation site. When the free sample version said that "you could be a good politician, spokesperson, group leader, director, or coach", I decided we better go on and spend the $7.96 to get a little more info. Here are some of the more enteresting aspects:

Sun in Leo:

Proud and intensely individual, you really want to stand out, to be the very best you can be, and to be recognized and appreciated for your unique contributions. Doing something well and being respected for it is extremely important to you, and you cannot tolerate being in the background, taking orders from others, or being "just one of the team". You must put your personal stamp on whatever you do, and direct your own course in life. You need to have a place where you can shine, express yourself creatively, and be the one in charge.

You have big dreams and the determination, spirit, vitality, and enthusiasm to bring them into being. You also have a noble, romantic heart, and a love of the dramatic, colorful, and extravagant.

For you it is true that "all the world's a stage" and you secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) desire to be the Star or Hero in the play. You want to be great, and to receive the love and applause of an adoring audience, even if the "audience" is just one other special person. You need someone to believe in you and your dreams.

Sun Square Neptune:

You are extremely sensitive and imaginative, and you can get lost in your dreams, fantasies, and visions. You are attracted to artistic and creative pursuits, the world of color, beauty, and emotion. You are also drawn to mysticism and have deep spiritual aspirations and yearnings.

Sun Conjunct Mercury/Uranus

You may be a bit high-strung and over-zealous in the pursuit of your endeavors. You always seem to be in a hurry and have the ability to evaluate situations quickly. You have a brilliant mind and possibly could invent something.

Sun Conjunct Venus/Mars

Both sensitive and sensuous, you blend charm and energy. You have a healthy sexuality and a good balance between activity and passivity. You may be fond of singing, dancing, music and drama.

Moon in Taurus

You are generally very romantic and your affections are strong, deep, and unwavering. Since Taurus is a practical earth sign, the placement of the Moon in this sign suggests an ability to protect your self and your interests. You will rarely make a move without first determining that it is safe and that its good for you and your interests.

Mercury in Leo:

You are a person of strong opinions and you express your views energetically and often dramatically. You are an entertaining speaker and will embellish or exaggerate in order to get your point across. You have an aptitude for storytelling and performing.

Uranus Conjunct Sun/Pluto

You have a great need to make changes in your life and to break away from circumstances that hold you back. You are not likely to be very patient and feel that you know what is best. You tend to force yourself to work until physical exhaustion.

Venus in Cancer:

Sensitive and sentimental, you are deeply attached to your family, old friends, familiar places, and the past. You are romantic and tender in love, and the remembrance of birthdays, anniversaries, family rituals, and other days of personal significance is very important to you.

Mars in Virgo:

You are a perfectionist and have high standards for your own work. You often feel that if you want something done right you must do it yourself, for others do not do as thorough a job as you do. Doing a task well is very important to you, and you may labor over minute details that others wouldn't bother with. You strive for accuracy, efficiency, and precision, and you become very irritable when things are not done "right".

Mars Trine Saturn:

You possess the gifts of endurance and perseverance, the willingness to work hard and seriously to achieve your objectives.

Jupiter in Aquarius:

Your strength lies in your ability to be innovative, open to new progressive concepts, willing to experiment and to reject customs and traditions when they cease to serve any positive function in the present. Also, you have an expansive view of the world, one that includes humanity and not only your own small, personal circle.

Saturn in Capricorn:

You have a great capacity for self-denial in the pursuit of a long-range goal.

Jupiter Conjunct Saturn:

Your aspirations and dreams are always tempered by realism and practical considerations. You pursue your aims in a systematic, disciplined, and thorough manner, and you are willing to take your time, advancing slowly and steadily on your way to your goal.

Pluto in Virgo:

You are part of a 15 year group of people that are driven by the need to find an ethical standard and a clear sense of what is right and what is wrong. There is a subconscious drive to straighten out all the world's evils and create a world of perfect order.

Neptune in Scorpio:

You are part of a 14 year group of people that have very intense psychic sensitivity and imagination. Your age group is very attracted to the strange, weird, and unusual.

Neptune Sextile Pluto:

The entire generation to which you belong has tremendous opportunities for spiritual rebirth and awakening. This will not be forced upon you or precipitated by unavoidable events, rather it comes from an inner yearning and a natural propensity to seek the depths.

Uranus in Leo:
You are part of a 7 year group of people who are unusually self-willed, proud, and egotistical. You are a group that defies authority and insists on having its own way. Parents and school teachers found that it was extremely difficult to discipline your age group.

Governments that are repressive to individual expression and freedom meet a great deal of resistance from your age group, and you tend to rise up against any form of tyranny and oppressive rule.

We know what a bad president looks and feels like.

Surely, it's the time and the place

for The Good President

And this looks very good indeed.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

World Class Solar

Late last week, we had another major solar plant announcement from Spain. But this time, it's going to be built in Arizona. Big solar plants are beginning to show up on the planning boards of big utilities everywhere. And there will be more. Here is part of the story from the Abengoa Solar's press release. (watch video)

Abengoa solar to build the world’s largest solar plant.
Arizona Public Service Co. announced as partner.
280-Megawatt plant will sell around $4 billion in clean electricity over 30 years.
Madrid, 21 February 2008

Abengoa Solar, a subsidiary of a multi-billion-dollar international technology company, has signed a contract with Arizona Public Service Co. (APS), one of Arizona’s leading energy utilities, to build, own and operate what would be the largest solar power plant in the world if operating today.

The plant, scheduled to go into operation by 2011, is located 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, near Gila Bend, Arizona. It will sell the electricity produced to APS over the next 30 years for a total revenue of around $4 billion, bringing over $1 billion in economic benefits to the state of Arizona.

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano praised the joint efforts of Abengoa Solar and APS. “This is a major milestone for Arizona in our efforts to increase the amount of renewable energy available in the United States,” the Governor said. “Arizona is leading the way in protecting our world for future generations through increasing the amount of renewable energy, combating climate change, fighting for air quality and much more. This plant will offer Arizonans a clean and efficient source of energy.” (clip)

According to the APS release:

“APS is committed to making Arizona the solar capital of the world and bringing affordable renewable energy to all our customers,” said APS President Don Brandt. “The Arizona Corporation Commission has challenged Arizona utilities to be leaders in renewable energy, and we are responding aggressively.” (clip)

Santiago Seage, CEO of Abengoa Solar, said, "This project not only shows leadership in Arizona and the southwest, but for America. This project will help usher in a new era of large clean and efficient solar power plants. Our commitment to solar energy is global and we will work with utilities, regulators and companies worldwide to make plants like this happen by leveraging the technologies we have been developing over two decades. We continue to advance these technologies in our research and development centers in Europe and the United States.”

The solar plant has been named Solana, meaning “a sunny place” in Spanish. The Solana Generating Station will have a total capacity of 280 megawatts, enough to power 70,000 homes while avoiding over 400,000 tons of greenhouse gases that would otherwise contribute to global warming and climate change.

The plant will employ a proprietary Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) trough technology developed by Abengoa Solar, and will cover a surface of around 1,900 acres. The construction of the Solana Generating Station will create about 1,500 construction jobs and employ 85 skilled full-time workers once completed. (clip)

Abengoa Solar is currently operating the world’s first commercial CSP solar tower plant in Spain, a demonstration trough plant and the world´s first commercial photovoltaic low concentration plant. It is also building three more CSP plants in Spain with a total capacity of 120-megawatts, two trough plants that will generate 50-megawatts of electricity each, one tower plant with a capacity of 20-megawats and two hybrid gas-solar plants in Algeria and Morocco. " more

Arizona has very good sun and building large scale solar plants there is a no brainer.

Soon, we will see more of these plants in the southwest US and even in the northern parts of Mexico.

From a utility viewpoint, we were talking yesterday about how siting a solar plant 600 to 800 miles to the west of the load makes that power match the actual load quite nicely. This Arizona plant's production would be perfect for El Paso. We also discussed our West Texas wind production and realized that its production curve would fit LA's load profile better than it does ours.

Ideally, the left coast should build solar plants in the Pacific, and solar plants in Texas should provide energy for cities on the right coast. Because the Gulf coast winds come early in the day, their production might be sold to Atlanta.

world class solar, coupled with a massive effort to harvest the energy in the globe's various wind fields and regimes, integrated by a unified energy web with solid state capacitance can bring us to an advanced post promethean age.

We would be able to meet our needs,

without meeting our ends.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

The Approaching Storm

Over the weekend, I received this piece from David Tattershall. I wrote about the perfect storm back in January of 05, but David's serves as a nice update.

The Perfect Economic Storm

Last weekend was the anniversary of the IPCC report from Paris: the conclusions of, and the interference surrounding that report became contentious issues in the following months. The bottom-line of the report (for me) was that the Arctic Summer Sea Ice was forecast to remain until 2100+ and all other events linked were scheduled accordingly.

Analysis of existing data by a high school math teacher would have revealed a minimum 30-40 year error. By the end of the 2007 melt season in the Arctic, that error grew to 40-50 years, i.e., it was accelerating or in mathematical terms, there was a distinct curve in the climate. Any sign of a curve in the climate is the equivalent of someone having their finger on the launch button for real WMD’s: it’s simply a matter of time in other words because we cannot negotiate with nature - we could however start to act sensibly.

James Hansen attempted to bring to the attention of the world the necessity to act and understand why the report was not in the best interest of anyone-bar those consumed with BAU (business-as-usual). The bottom-line is that while a mere handful of people relative to the population of the US refuse to accept the dire nature of matters and effectively block relevant information, we are now on schedule to kill a minimum of several hundred million, maybe more, in the next 4-5 years.

Personally I find this morally repugnant and as a national security issue, the ramifications are quite beyond the imagination of most.

I highly recommend that you look at James Hansen’s most recent slide show, and note from the first slide that James Hansen is ‘under orders’ to ensure he states this is his ‘personal opinion’.

A measure of the suppression of free speech can be found by reading this report from‘The Sunday Times’. The ‘Sunday Times’ is one of the most respected newspapers in the world. When did you read or see anything of this nature from the U.S. MSM?

The Arctic Summer Sea Ice will disappear on or before 2012 and when it does, the climate will be destabilized to the point where mass agriculture is potentially close to impossible. It is hard to imagine anyone not noticing the increase already in the price of food due to international crop failures.

It is about to get critical and many millions on the very edge of survival will starve to death because we simply couldn’t be bothered to moderate our approach to resource consumption.

The impact on the economy is obvious, while the potential impact on anti American sentiment around the world is equally obvious.

Still, Washington continues to either suppress or avoid the issue: should anyone be surprised?

I thought that the title of James Hansen’s presentation was very apt, but when combined with another piece from ‘The Sunday Times,’ it becomes ‘The Perfect Economic Storm’.

For several years, those who have tracked and forecast this event have been vilified as alarmists. I find it impossible to believe that former US Energy Secretary Dr James Schlesinger doesn’t both know and doesn't understand exactly what is happening: whether you like the guy or not, he was known for a very thorough approach.

So add together the financial impact of rising food with rising energy and a point blank refusal to address either issue and you have the perfect economic storm. It has already started and due to utter and total control of politics and the media by the BAU interests, we will all face the consequence.

I have to wonder what it will take for people to simply decide that things could be a whole lot better, and that we owe the children of the world a much better performance than this." (end)

We had a good conversation about this with some folks before the Obama rally the other night. What will it take before we actually begin to deal with this issue?

When the head of GM still calls climate change a total crock of s#it, and an anticlimate change conference is coming up in March, I suspect that it will take more than "warnings of an approaching storm".

It will take the actual storm.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Truth of the Lies

There is a new book out call called Where does the money go?, written by Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson. Here they are on Bill Moyer. It reminded me of this post from EfA from the first year. Just remember this though, if our politicians had not stolen our retirement from us, we would have perhaps 10 trillion dollars in savings. And interest alone on that amount, not to mention a broad portfolio of equities, would yield perhaps 400 billion a year, enough to pay our current annual social security outlays. As Simon almost said, "It was too much money in the hands of the public".

So they stole it. ( 2008 Budget is here)

The Rule of Holes

Generally, I only talk about planetary issues, like climate change, and peak oil, and human culture, but the current debate in the geographic state of the United States over the so called reforming of Social Security is a clear violation of the rule of holes. It is therefore worthy of some comment under the human culture anomaly section.

The rule of holes, in case you don't know, is this:

If you are in a hole,

Stop digging.

In this case, that means stop draining cash out of it.

Look at the budget. Click on section 2 and go to page 34.

Now look at column one for the year 2004.

That is individual income tax receipts.

Individual income tax receipts have gone from just over a trillion in 2000

to just over 3/4 of a trillion in 2004.

When Clinton came in to office in 92,

It was 1/2 a trillion.

According to the White House's own numbers,

they won't get back to Clinton's revenues until their 7th year.

But so far, the revenues are still going the wrong way.

Take a look at that column and go way back.

This kind of regression in tax revenue is almost unprecedented.

The next column is corporate taxes,

and you can see that corporations don't help very much.

After all, they make the profits, why should they have to pay the taxes?

The next column is total payroll taxes which is about 3/4 trillion too.

Now, go to page 76 and see how much money Social Security spends.

That number is about a 1/2 trillion.

So, each year, the Congress takes part of our social security

and they use that money to pay for other things,

like bombs, and medicare, and tax cuts.

If a small businessman does that, he goes to jail.

So, if you include the money they are taking from our retirement,

last year's deficit was really a 3/4 trillion deficit.

Not the 1/2 trillion that was a record anyway.

If you wanted to save Social Security,

the first thing you would do is stop draining cash from it.

When the Congress took our retirement "Off Budget"

They stole it.

"Stopping this theft" is what the guy who got the most votes 4 years ago

said we should do with this program.

Everyone made fun of his lock box.

It's not so funny now.

It's like having Willlie Sutton tell you that the bank is going bankrupt

each time he robs it.

I guess if anyone would know,

He would.

I'm not going to link to any stories about this issue.

They are all way too shaped.

Read the budget for yourself.

Find the holes in the story.

And the truth of the lies.
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Eleven Eleven

This is the 1,111th post on earthfamilyalpha.

Yesterday, instead of doing my normal exercise routine, I decided I would run around the lake instead. It was a beautiful, crisp late winter afternoon, and I was working out early because the big debate was in town.

I ran all the way down the path on the North Side and then I crossed over at the jillion dollar pedestrian walk-way where I began running along the side south of the lake thinking I might take a peek at the new park that was just completed.

I decided to stay on the path instead. As I passed the statue of our local blues legend, I looked up out of my runners high and I saw a few people gathering around a tall thin man. There were some suits around too.

It was Barack.

I began to deaccelerate as I approached the small gaggle around him. I looked up at the secret service, making what eye contact you can, and continued to jog forward. I jogged right up, stopped, he stuck out his hand, and right there, I suspect I shook the hand of the next president.

"Good Luck" I said. "Your're going to win Texas."

"Think so?"

"'Oh yeah. "

"Well, don't let me interrupt your run."

I took off running again.

In a few minutes, I was close to the Hotel where Obama was staying. There were police lines and barricades and folks crammed in behind them. I wanted to tell them as I jogged by that Obama was about 200 yards down on the path, but it just didn't seem like the right thing to do. He was obviously getting some fresh air before the debate.

I ran down to Congress Street and crossed over the bridge. I was kind of laughing to myself. Sometimes I get lucky like that, especially when I'm operating in the soul field and getting out of my routine.

I thought, well now I guess I'll run into Hillary.

I got back to the gym, steamed, and showered.

As the elevator doors opened to the main lobby, the air was thick. All of the Hotel brass were standing around attentively. Black suits with ear pieces were everywhere. And in minutes, Hillary and her entourage filed through.

"Good Luck", I said.

She looked back and said, "Thank You."

They were the only words spoken in the Lobby.

Outside, there were no big crowds, just big cars and SUVs. As they filed past me and jumped into their cavalcade, I felt a sense, perhaps a tinge of sadness. It felt a little like we were honoring the family of the deceased at a funeral. Hillary looked good in her black outfit with gold trim, making her look just a little like a military man.

As the commotion cleared, the door man brought up my Chevy Impala.

I jumped in and headed to the debate party we had hastily put together earlier in the day.

Hillary was at her best last night right at the end.

Because for her,

It is.

The Obama rally at the Capital opens its doors about six.

Program starts at nine.

I'll be there.

Maybe We'll Change the World.

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oz note:

the rally was great.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Transformation Optics

I tried to watch the full moon go black last night, but it was too cloudy. Lunar eclipses are always worth the effort. I think I've seen a half dozen or so in my lifetime. The next one for us is in 2010.

Speaking of going black, in my wardrobe of black shirts, socks, pants, and shoes, I have a black T shirt that says, "I'm only wearing black until they make something darker."

Well, they have. And it fits right in to the solid state materials revolution that I wrote about two days ago.

Here is part of the story from the Post:

Their Deepest, Darkest Discovery
Scientists Create a Black That Erases Virtually All Light
By Rick WeissWashington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2008;

Black is getting blacker

Researchers in New York reported this month that they have created a paper-thin material that absorbs 99.955 percent of the light that hits it, making it by far the darkest substance ever made -- about 30 times as dark as the government's current standard for blackest black.

The material, made of hollow fibers, is a Roach Motel for photons -- light checks in, but it never checks out. By voraciously sucking up all surrounding illumination, it can give those who gaze on it a dizzying sensation of nothingness.

"It's very deep, like in a forest on the darkest night," said Shawn-Yu Lin, a scientist who helped create the material at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. "Nothing comes back to you. It's very, very, very dark."

But scientists are not satisfied. Using other new materials, some are trying to manufacture rudimentary Harry Potter-like cloaks that make objects inside of them literally invisible under the right conditions -- the pinnacle of stealthy technology.

Both advances reflect researchers' growing ability to manipulate light, the fleetest and most evanescent of nature's offerings. The nascent invisibility cloak now being tested, for example, is made of a material that bends light rays "backward," a weird phenomenon thought to be impossible just a few years ago.

Known as transformation optics, the phenomenon compels some wavelengths of light to flow around an object like water around a stone. As a result, things behind the object become visible while the object itself disappears from view.

"Cloaking is just the tip of the iceberg," said Vladimir Shalaev, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University and an expert in the fledgling field. "With transformation optics you can do many other tricks," perhaps including making things appear to be located where they are not and focusing massive amounts of energy on microscopic spots." (clip)

While Lin and his colleagues, including Pulickel Ajayan, now at Rice University, pursue applications for their superblack, Pendry and others are hoping to go further by perfecting complete invisibility. The big difference is that a superblack object, even if invisible to the eye, still casts a shadow behind it, while an object shielded by an invisibility cloak does not.

Pendry pioneered much of modern thinking about how to attain full invisibility using "metamaterials" -- substances engineered to manhandle light. Ordinary matter, such as glass or water, slows and bends light as it passes through. Metamaterials contain bits of metal or other substances embedded in precise patterns to make the light bend in an opposite direction from normal paths.

"In a sense you have some negative space," Pendry said. "The light appears to go backward in space." clip

There is a flip side to the emerging ability to manipulate light, scientists say. "Think anti-cloaking," said Shalaev, the engineering professor. "Instead of excluding light from an object, you can concentrate light in a small area."

Normally, light cannot be squeezed into a space smaller than its own wavelength, he said, but transformation optics create the possibility of accomplishing just that -- packing loads of energy into a vanishingly small space." more

Will this development have implications in the creation of a photonic energy web?


Some solar companies such as SolFocus of Mountain View California., are already in touch with Lin. Regular old fashion solar hot water heaters will become more efficient with these materials, but there are some really intriguing possibilities here that will apply in the world of advanced Photonic devices and advanced focusing strategies.

Transformation Optics and the other advancing sciences of light and advanced materials have the potential to change our lives and the very way we see the universe.

And maybe, just maybe, they will even

transform us.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tearful Awakening

Tearful Awakening

Because a mentally ill young man fired into a crowd
of students near my hometown —

A friend and heroine of mine, Bert Kruger Smith,
after the death of her first son, age six, said,
“I had a choice. I could either take action
to help other people, or I could
— quietly and alone — go mad.”

She founded the Hogg Foundation in Texas
which has supported research and funding
for mental health issues for 5 decades.

Violence in America is not random
and it’s not unlikely even
in the perfect, insulated heartland
communities where I grew up.
Some of it comes from mental illness.

There is mental health crisis in America.
Ask anyone who has ever tried to
get help for a loved one.

And guns are commonplace.
Anyone can buy a gun, hide it under a loose
coat, baggy shirt, in a book bag.

The corporations who profit from gun sales
on the street are the same ones who profit from war.

The Carlisle Group, invested in heavily by the
Bush family, is one of the largest arms manufacturers
on the planet.

We want to fault the family when a person
goes off the deep end, a mother who prepared
the wrong supper, a father who drank too much,
everyone was at work, no discipline in the family,
no church, broken community —
but mental illness is real and usually manifests a
chemical imbalance in the brain.

We blame the family but we don’t create
avenues for them to get help for their
mentally ill loved ones and we don’t keep
guns off the street.

What does this have to do with grief,
with comforting the families and friends
of the victims?

When the family members of James Byrd
came together to heal, to make sense of the
horrific death of their beloved son, grandson,
brother, cousin, they chose to oppose the
death penalty for the young men who dragged
their loved one behind a truck until he was dead.

They began to organize to oppose the
death penalty in general, because they said
there had been enough death —
that healing begins with trying to combat
the sources of violence in our culture.

They created a foundation for racial justice,
to teach, to offer alternatives to racism
and violence which can turn anyone
into a victim.

They did this because it is a sane
response to grief.

They did this instead of
—quietly and alone — going mad —
when our beautiful, innocent, gentle
and complex children fall victim
to a violent culture
it is in our power to heal,
and maybe that is the gift in
this horrible, tear stained instant —
a tearful awakening of the will
to make a better world.

© Susan Bright, 2008

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published two-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh. She grew up in Waukegan, Illinois.


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Solid State Revolution

Most folks in the business and energy worlds tend to think that the best way to solve our environmental and resource depletion issues is to let the "proverbial" market work. And indeed, there is much to be said for the way the capitalist banking and financial system works. But "allowing the market to work" as a philosophical cure all for our pressing problems should not be conflated with the rather remarkable system of capital creation that so called free economies employ.

You probably remember from your economics 301 class how the system creates capital. You might remember a question similiar to this on your final. If the Federal Reserve requirement is 5% and there is one trillion dollars in the system, how much money can be created if there are no leaks in the system? The solution requires you to take the reciprocal of .05 or 20 and multiply it by 1 trillion. The correct answer on the quiz is not 20 trillion though, you must subtract the original trillion, and thus write down 19 trillion to get credit on the question.

The "realization" that our banking system creates capital out of thin air stuck with me ever since that day in class 40 years ago. Never again would not paying a loan back be a an unpardonable sin against some grandmothers savings. Rather, it became more like a speeding ticket on a four lane highway. Of course, if you got too many tickets, you might lose your drivers licence and your driving record would be blemished for a certain time.

So, in our banking system, money is not loaned, rather, a credit is extended. It's an important distinction. If a banker loans me 100,000.00 and I put it my bank account in his bank, the bank's reserves are actually increased by that amount. As I spend it and pay it back, that particular bank may see its reserves go up or down, but the expansion of money supply is captured by other banks and institutions.

I say this because I think it is necessary to differentiate what is a rather remarkable aspect of the capitalist system with the notion that markets "solve all problems".

Now don't get me wrong, well considered and fairly designed markets are an efficient way to arbitrate flows of power. But really fair so called "free markets" are paradoxically, heavily regulated. The New York Stock Exchange is a good example.

But markets that only trade on a portion of the true costs of the goods that are being exchanged are fake markets. They are to "fair trade" what Fox News is to "fair and balanced."

If the costs of solar electricity are compared with the cost of electricity from a coal plant without including the costs of the emitted CO2 and the other pollutants, the market is "rigged" in favor of the fuel that has externalized or socialized these costs.

Similiarly, if the costs of supporting an army and a navy to defend our strategic supply lines is not included in the price of oil from foreign soils, a portion of your gasoline price is now in your income tax burden. But, the market and the consumer do not recognize it, and thus, the pricing signals are incomplete and perverse results occur. (like war)

Capitalists understand the concept of externalizing costs much better than you might imagine. It is a centuries old strategy to dump your trash into the commons to avoid having to put the price of disposing it or recycling it onto your product.

Thus, unless and until markets are properly designed and regulated to capture all of the true costs, they become "faux markets" that are not only inefficient, they are often perverse in their results. And they cannot be counted on to provide results or solutions that reflect the best path.

"Letting the market work" would have never created the national network of railroads that knitted 19th century America together. "Letting the market work" would have never created the Interstate system of roads that super glued the American landscape into the rivers of commerce and corporate franchises it is today.

"Letting the market work" would have never brought electricity to the rural areas.

Consequently, in my judgment, "letting the market work" to solve our looming problems of climate change and resource depletion will be as effective and sane as "letting the generals of commerce and industry work" to solve the issue of growing authoritarianism and corporatization of our social institutions.

No, we need a vision, and a plan to make that vision a reality.

That vision would include all those things that our human culture does rather well. And it would exclude those things that fail us.

From a technological perspective, we need to move towards an advanced civilization that uses energy in a fundamentally different way.

We must fundamentally transform our very technological social being from the primitive system that runs our world today, to a unified photonic solid state energy web that is capable of providing pollution free, long term, affordable energy to a unified transportation and stationary sector.

Everything becomes solid state. Our homes will have walls that glow. These same walls will draw the energy from your body when you are too warm and deliver it back when you are cold.

Our transportation devices must morph as this new age of technological sophistication emerges. We may charge our personal transportation devices inductively from buried plates in our roads and surfaces, conveniently finding the charge billed to the transportation section of your electric bill.

All energy will come from the light energy that surrounds us. Almost every human made structure that sees this light will convert photons to useable electrons. That energy will power an electric grid that is smart and strong in solid state capacitance. Energy, in the form of electrons, photons, and electro- magnetic vibration will move almost effortlessly and seemlessly between our sun and ourselves.

Within this new photonic unified energy system, a new, smarter, more humane economic paradigm will grow.

And just as we have done when we built the other great public infrastructures of our culture, we will use the magic of the capitalists reserve requirement to create the money to build this energy system for us all, not just those of us with privilege.

And we will "let the market work" within that frame.

As Benjamin Franklin once said,

"Failure to Prepare,

Is Preparing to Fail".

Let us Plan to Survive.
photo courtesy of the new Solid State Revolution

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

On the Death of Raul Salinas

Here's a tribute by Able Salas on Latino USA.

On the death of poet Raul Salinas

March 17, 1934 - Feb 13, 2008

The gift that names itself today
is faith in our capacity for change —
the revolution of one soul, fanning out
like the spokes of the Sun Dance Raul
longed for but didn’t complete because
he said he would do his Sun Dance
when Leonard Peltier was free to
do his, and that didn’t happen
in his lifetime.

You could say the system — neocolonialism,
globalization, the military industrial complex,
the prison industry — is so evil
no one can soften it, and you’d be right.

But change, the revolution of humanity
insisting on justice
will not be silenced, stopped, repressed.

Raul Salinas, a poet, a reformed
convict, a man kicked out in his youth of
his home town, booted to prison, I’ve
been told for ample reason, used his time
behind bars to read, write, finish his education,
start it, formulate an agenda, La Resistencia,
a book store, cultural center, revolutionary hub,
Raul, always a gracious host, welcoming
visitors to the home he’d won back,
layer after layer, taking back his home,
homeland, the community that became
the movement he devoted his life to—
a peacemaker on the streets,
fiercely committed to justice
denied to so many —
Guadalupe torso, fist raised forever
on Vieques — stop dropping bombs here,

He became an Elder —
honed, chiseled, exactly beautiful and wise.

I am sad today.
So many artist/activists have gone
in the last decade —
Ahmos ZuBolton, Lorenzo Thomas,
Susan Lee Solar, Joanie Whitebird,
Ricardo Sanchez, Marsha Gomez,
and now Raul Salinas —
each sang a different part of the song,
spun a different part of the dream.
How to continue without them?

I always think change is possible,
that the ordeals holding us down
today, tomorrow will lessen their grip
on our lives, that the mistakes people
make early on will diminish with time,
that we will each come home, like Raul did
make peace, grow to be elders
embrace the best our souls can glean
from outrageous realities —

Sometimes it happens —

and it gives me hope, the stamina to go on,
when one of us finds his, finds her way home
when la familia opens their hearts
as wounds fall away, or not,
each person healing any way they can.

We can do this.
We can change

ourselves —
the world.

©Susan Bright 2008

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

Photo © Alan Pogue, 2000, Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Note: Poets, friends — add your words, poems in our comments section and/or send them to: Rene Valdez, If you are in Austin there is an altar for Raul at La Resistencia, at the corner of W. Annie and South First Street where you can leave notes, poems, etc.

Here is the notice Rene and the bookstore sent out:

“A Tender Warrior fell today…”

Poet and Activist Raúl Salinas, March 17, 1934-February 13, 2008.

It is with profound sadness and heartache that we inform the Austin, Texas and international community of the passing on February 13th, 2008 of raúlrsalinas.

Xicanindio elder, poet, and human rights activist raúlsalinas was the Executive Director of Red Salmon Arts and founder of Resistencia Bookstore—a literary venue and community center for aspiring writers in Austin, Texas. raúl also conducted intensive creative writing clinics locally and throughout the country with disenfranchised youth. These clinics were held in conjunction with a variety of arts organizations, correctional facilities and social service agencies. raúl’s work with various political movements earned him an international reputation as an eloquent spokesperson for justice and advocate for the challenges and struggles of youth. Through SOY (Save Our Youth) raúl reached countless marginalized young people and trained other members of the Red Salmon Arts collective to continue this invaluable work nationally. He worked extensively with the American Indian Movement and the International Indian Treaty Council. raúl was the author of four books of poetry: Viaje/Trip, East of the Freeway, Un Trip Through the Mind Jail, and Indio Trails, as well as three spoken word cds: Los Many Mundos of raulrsalinas, Beyond the BEATen Path, and Red Arc. Most recently the University of Texas Press published raulrsalinas and The Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen, a collection of his essays, newspaper articles, and letters. His last published work, an anti-war poem “Loud and Proud”, appeared in the 2007 anthology Telling Tongues: A Latin@ Anthology on Language Experience, a Calaca/Red Salmon Press publication. Since 2001 he was an adjunct professor at St. Edward’s University teaching classes in incarceration and media studies. raúlrsalinas is also the recipient of numerous awards: The Louis Reyes Rivera Lifetime Achievement Award presented by La Causa and The Dark Souls Collective at Amherst College, Massachusetts in 2003; The Martin Luther King Jr./Cesar Chavez/Rosa Parks Visiting Professorship Award given by the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 2003; The Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture in 2004; Con Tinta, a coalition of Chicana/o Latina/o cultural activists and writers honored raúl with the Veterano Writer Award in 2006, and finally the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award in 2007. He was honored this past year at a pre-opening event, AMORINDIO, held at the Mexican American Cultural Arts Center and “The Road to Austin Concert” held at Auditorium Shores. raúlrsalinas served as a beloved mentor as well to many artists, writers, and scholar-activists whom sought to make a difference beyond the academy. It was fortunate that raul received this recognition in his life and many community memorials are currently being planned in his honor. The work and struggles that raúl was so deeply committed to and was a vital part of will continue after his death.


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