August 30, 2008
The Rise of the West (Republican Westerners)
While some have noticed that there is no Southerner on either ticket, what's more interesting to me (and less remarked on generally) is that both Republicans are from the West. Reagan's style was at least partially derived from his region and we're likely to see, win or lose, a different Republican party emerging from this race.
August 28, 2008
Russia is attempting to bring up old treaties regarding Black Sea naval forces:
Actually, NATO can, and for several reasons. The first is that a majority of the Black Sea coast is made up of NATO members (Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria) or nations that do not object to the current mission (Ukraine, Georgia). None of the military restrictions on naval forces apply to these three NATO countries.
The Montreux Convention of 1936 lets small military vessels from outside the Black Sea zone transit without restriction so long as they do not displace more than 10,000 tons. The USCGC Dallas which is currently visiting Georgia for humanitarian purposes displaces 3,250 tons.
There is a further problem with the Montreux Convention regarding the US. We never signed it. We were invited to the negotiations, but declined to even send an observer to the conference. So long as our allies in Turkey keep letting our ships in, and Turkey has the right to waive restrictions, we're not obligated to observe any limits.
Turkey's ability to waive has served different powers at different times, including the USSR/Russia. Aircraft carriers are not supposed to transit the Dardanelles but the Soviets were permitted to do so in 1976 and 1979. And when the PRC acquired a former Soviet aircraft carrier it was, eventually, permitted to transit the straits as well in 2001.
August 04, 2008
In the great race to fix our energy systems, industrial scale algae production of oil is one of the potential major big fixes. No need to change the distribution infrastructure or end use machines, just turn petroleum from something you extract from the ground to something you make industrially. Companies seem to have already cracked the genetic code to manufacture green petroleum so why aren't we popping the champagne corks and churning out millions of barrels of the stuff already? The problem is one of scale.
What we haven't solved is how to make industrial scale vessels that make the stuff in quantities that matter in a commercially efficient way. These vessels, called photobioreactors, expose enough individual bacteria to sunlight that you maximize production while minimizing unexposed volume. Another problem is vessel fouling which gets worse as you increase the surface area of the vessel.
For an amateur observer like me, that's interested in seeing secondary markers, the articles on photobioreactors generally don't even cover what the relevant units of progress are and how close any particular design is to the magic point where you can start popping starter cultures in them and prepping for oil production. That's an unfortunate sign of disorganization, though it's not clear if that's the fault of the scientists making these things or the journalists reporting on them.
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