Monday, June 30, 2008

More Ethanol thought experiments

As I learned here, the octane rating is a comparison of the actual fuel being tested to a theoretical fuel. Gasoline is a mixture of various hydrocarbon molecules, and different hydrocarbon molecules have different burn characteristics. Refiners put the raw petroleum stock in one end of the process, and gasoline comes out the other end. The theoretical gasoline used in the comparison is a fuel containing only octane and heptane. (It is theoretical only because no real world gasoline can be that pure, not because it is impossible to create such a fuel.) The octane rating of that fuel is the ratio of octane to heptane in it. If it has 87% octane, that's what the octane rating is.

To test actual fuels, they put the fuel into an engine and compare its characteristics to the known characteristics of the octane/heptane control fuel.

Also note that it is seemingly cheaper to produce fuels with lower octane ratings.

On to ethanol, which has an octane rating of 130. It is, after all, racing gas. The point of all of this testing and whatnot is that the higher a fuel's octane rating, the more it can be compressed in the cylinder before it behaves badly.

So, it seems to me that to get normal E10 fuel at an 87 octane rating, you need to mix gasoline of a lower octane rating with that ethanol of a higher rating to get 87.

.9(x) + .1(130) = 87, right? So .9(x) + 13 = 87 and .9(x) = 74 Meaning the X ends up being 82.

My point is, I wonder what effect blending this shitty gasoline with the less-energy-containing ethanol has on an engine? That ethanol blends aren't worse because of ethanol, but because of the worse gasoline being used?

More importantly, when are we going to start building cars that can actually take advantage of ethanol, instead of hacking on engines tuned for gasoline to make them tolerate ethanol? As it is, the engines now are basically de-tuned to tolerate the cheaper 87 octane, and now we're detuning them even more to tolerate ethanol. No wonder ethanol seems to be a lie.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

An Ethanol myth?

From this posting I found from a google search:

Specific post:

Whole thread:

"Fuel economy does not track with fuel energy per gallon it tracks with engine efficiency. Since E85 is a superior fuel it produces more useful work per BTU of available fuel energy."


"Now it the OEM manufactures would just produce a FFV that is half as efficient as back yard tuners can produce in a couple hours, we could actually get some where with it."

That seems to track with my version of "common" sense.  It is incontrovertible that there are fewer BTUs in E85 than in regular E10 gas.  But if engines can use it more efficiently, who cares?

I would imagine that the problem that car makers have with designing cars to use E85 is that they are forced by fuel availability constraints to make the engines flexible fuel.  They have to be able to run on either, and do so automatically with no intervention from the driver.  E85 is racing gas, in reality.  To make it work most efficiently, you need an engine specifically designed to use it.  Higher compression, more advanced timing, etc.  Those things just aren't adjustable after the car is built.  Well, actually they are, but not cheaply.  You can throw on a turbo or super charger along with adjustable timing and make it work.  But that's expensive.

Why Be Libertarian? - Murray N. Rothbard - Mises Institute

One of the better pieces in favor of the libertarian movement.  Thank you Carl for pointing it out.  I mostly agree 100%.  Especially with his analysis of the motivations of those who choose libertarianism as a movement.  It strikes me that many of the adherents today are of the selfish variety- liberty for ME, NOW, for the stuff I want to do.  And then maybe for the people I agree with.  And probably not for the people I don't agree with.  All but the purest of libertarians agree with the ACLU, for example.  (And frankly, I'm not sure whether their goal is the furthering of liberty, or the mocking of the idea via reductio ad absurdum.)

My quibbles:

- Pure, absolute liberty is impossible, just like perfection.  We humans just don't have it in us.  We can try to come close, and should.  But all (tangible) resources are finite- if there isn't some way for society to reset some of those things, resources will tend to concentrate.  Those who are smart, motivated and  lucky will eventually gobble them up during the good times and eventually (my turn at reductio ad absurdum) one person/entity/family will have everything.  Sure, they'll dole out their resources to the peasants to gain things they need, but it just won't even out.  To accept absolute freedom (even within the constraints of justice) is to accept that nature is brutal, and there will be losers.  And they will lose badly.  And then you get revolution.  I just don't see how living such a brutal, hardscrabble life is freeing in any tangible way for the actors involved. 

- It strikes me that libertarianism only works when there is a seemingly endless supply of resources.  And/or when you have the freedom to be able to ignore externalities.  Why, if you need more water, you just pay someone to get you some more- build a canal, hire laborers to cart some more in, build another well, etc.  That's fine when the natural resource isn't being stressed.  Or when, if you run out of resources in your current place, you can sell the farm, pack up the kids and Move West.  It just seems wasteful, for one.  What happens when resources are at their limit?  Those who control them have the power, those who don't lack the power (liberty?).  Sure, if I don't like what Big Mousetrap is doing, I can build a better mousetrap to my profit, and that of my customers.  But what do I do when Big Water uses up all the water in my stream?  I dig a well.  But Big Sorghum has sucked up all the groundwater.  My free market choice there is to not but their product.  Which is easy to do since I will have long since starved to death before I need another hog.

- And so I disagree with his abhorrence of the utilitarian.  Life is compromise, it just can't be any other way.  The libertarian hates government intrusion.  But I, individual, am free to associate and am further free to use that freedom to start a labor guild, right?  What is government but an all-encompassing citizens' guild? 

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Should I vaccinate my baby? -

Yes.  YES!  You morons are going to kill us all.

Alternate theory- it's much more likely that these kids already had autism, and had a "break" when the scary man in the white coat stuck them with a needle and caused them pain, right at a time when a) autism tends to appear and b) children are building a concept self and the world.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Quote of the day

 The struggle with evil by means of violence is the same as an attempt to stop a cloud, in order that there may be no rain. -Leo Tolstoy, novelist and philosopher (1828-1910)  Stolen from A Word A Day 

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Multimedia Madness!

Fire up this youtube video (audio only):

And then read this article and view the mugshots.  I suggest waiting until the first chorus begins before opening it.  Gold!

Also, Hammond!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Supreme Court wackiness

I know I'm just some guy, but this seems wrong (from Scalia's dissent):
My problem with today's opinion is more fundamental still: The writ of habeas corpus does not, and never has, run in favor of aliens abroad; the Suspension Clause thus has no application, and the Court's intervention in this military matter is entirely ultra vires.
I thought that Guantanamo was considered US territory?
It has threatened further attacks against our homeland; one need only walk about buttressed and barricaded Washington, or board a plane anywhere in the country, to know that the threat is a serious one.
That doesn't prove the threat serious, it only proves that law enforcement takes it seriously.
The game of bait-and-switch that today's opinion plays upon the Nation's Commander in Chief will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed. That consequence would be tolerable if necessary to preserve a time-honored legal principle vital to our constitutional Republic.
Seems to me that expedient justice for all is a time honored legal principle. How can we claim to stand for anything if not that?

You can't invent a special type of non-war so that you can rewrite the rules. When we deny any kind of justice to those taken into our custody, we demean what we (claim to) stand for.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

'Hey, get out of the street' -- Update to Pedestrian Story

Points of note:

  • Click the title of the post for the Tribune story.

  • It's not downtown: The area they are in IS notoriously bad for all modes of transport. And/but there are tons of uncontrolled intersections. If a car is rocking along in traffic at 25 or 30 and some guy appears in the middle of the street, it is hard to judge whether some guy in the street is a nut, AND if you can safely stop to let him through. Lacking a painted crosswalk and/or a traffic control device, I'm not stopping for anyone unless they are directly in my path. The "all pedestrians have the right of way" law is fine, but we need to understand the social contract- you can't just walk into traffic and expect to world to yield to your whim.

  • It's also coincidentally where the governor lives. (I've slightly obfuscated the location ("F"). While I believe it's publicly available information, I don't want any hassles. I will say this- I was in the area on business during the snowy season, and his were the only sidewalks that were uncleared. Classy.)

    View Larger Map

  • More: what happened to "look both ways before you cross"? This is just a snapshot, but a responsible pedestrian doesn't walk into the middle of traffic as is depicted here:

  • Saturday, June 07, 2008

    Chicago to start crosswalk stings next week,0,7822062.story

    OK, but will they also be ticketing pedestrians who don't follow the rules?  Like the average of 5 people I almost kill everytime I'm downtown because they are jaywalking or crossing against the light?

    How about adjusting the walk don't walk lights so drivers have half a chance at making a legal turn?  Why should traffic get backed up because some jerk dragging a suitcase on tiny wheels can't wait his turn?