George Thomas Kimmel III

The Enemy of Steam

In Published Articles on November 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Because steam is an alternate energy/renewable energy/green whatever thing there is much competition.  For one example there is ethanol.  We do not have the time to go into detail about what a fraud on the American public this is.  When driving past a corn ethanol plant you will be educated if you look at the large pile of coal beside it and the long trains of coal cars.  Much heat is needed to boil off the ethanol from the water/ethanol mixture, usually known as beer, to make pure ethanol.  All that ethanol does is to take two solid fuels–corn and coal–and turn them into a liquid that can be mixed with gasoline and burned in a traditional IC engine.  Actually it is an excellent way of transferring money from one person to another, but we do not want to get into politics in this blog; enough other people are already doing that.  

Another enemy is photo voltaic cells, known better as PV cells.  These are the things that turn sun light into electricity.  They are expensive, subsidized greatly by both federal and state governments, meaning innocent taxpayers, and degrade from dust gathering on them and with time.  Those of us who are nuts on steam think that a much better way of turning sunlight into power is through heat.  It can almost be done with a flat plate collector, but a two or three times multiplier works better, so a stationary trough collector is the best.  The reason this is a better idea is because it is cheaper and it generates a lot of heat.  At this time in America fully half of the fuel burned is to heat buildings.  This heating of buildings would be better done with solar energy combined with some type of a heat storage system.  Solar steam is much better than PV cells because they can only store power in batteries, a really bad idea that involves great expense, heavy metals,and degradation over time.  Heat is much easier to store.  Besides the stored heat can be used to heat buildings after it has made power.  

Gasification is another bad idea made only slightly better by not being as bad an idea as the first two.  The best gasification project is GEK out of Berkeley and these people are doing the best of anyone.  They are ideological and want to make the world a better place by producing pure carbon as a by-product and then pulverizing it to amend soil to improve the cation exchange capacity of the soil.  This is a pretty good idea until one starts to study the logistics of hauling all of this bio-mass back and forth across the country.  Gasification has the advantage of using an existing IC engine.  Its problem is that all of the heat generated is thrown away.  Absolutely none of it is used, and in fact, intercoolers are used in the system to make it work.  We think there is a limited shelf life to the filters that take out particulate matter and tar from the smoke as it goes to the IC engines.

Electric cars are a real problem.  The degree of dishonesty involved with them is both stunning and insulting to the intelligent person; which presumes that the American public goes about educating themselves intelligently.  Statements have been thrown out about “miles per gallon” that an electric car gets.  First of all, it is going to take the same amount of energy to move an electric car as it takes to move a non-electric car.  Therefore the miles per amount of energy consumption is going to be the same.  Air resistance, rolling resistance, and the amount of power needed to climb hills is basic physics.  The reason electric cars work is because few people understand physics.  When Telsa says that their cars get 100 miles per gallon what they are saying is that they get 20 miles per gallon equivalent energy output but that their energy costs one-fifth as much as the gasoline that goes into an IC driven car.  Here is how that works: when a gasoline engine makes power the cost is 50 cents per kw hour.  When coal makes power the marginal cost is 2 cents per kw hour.  Electricity at the meter, which is the retail price as it reflects capital costs and maintenance of the transmission system, costs about 10 cents a kw hour.  Thus an electric car is cheaper to operate than a gasoline powered car–after all it does not pay any sales tax or road taxes that are part of the cost of gasoline–and if it uses solar energy that is so subsidized as to be unrealistically priced, but it does not get more miles per energy input.  Some of us think that the energy loses going into and out of a battery combined with the cost of replacing the battery and disposing of the heavy metals safely should be added to the real cost of the electric car.  Honesty is in short supply when everyone is busy wetting their pants with delight at being green.  

Stirling Cycle engines are what people talk about who have no idea what they are doing.  They read some book that says a Stirling Cycle engine gets 45% thermal efficiency and then inquire no further.  There is a reason few Stirling engines exist.  Anything that requires exotic high temperature metal alloys that will hold up under 3000 degrees F is not practical. There is not enough chrome or vanadium or whatever they make high temperature alloys out of in the world to make enough engines to run the automobiles.  Secondly, any power system that needs 5000 psi hydrogen to be efficient is not going to work in third world countries where a slight leak will put the Stirling engine out of business.  It is even worse if helium is used, because that is not even made in third world countries.  Stirling engines are difficult to start and only run at one speed generating one torque level.  

Hydrogen and fuel cells have died a natural death after much carrying on.  Fuel cells have a problem with contamination and over-heating and expense.  Hydrogen has a problem with fuel density.  It is difficult to carry around.  The uninformed go on about solar generated electricity being used to disassociate water into its elements and do not bother to mention that the fuel value cost is the equivalent of $15 a gallon gasoline.  

Hybrids are almost as bad as electric cars.  What happens is that a car needs somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 horsepower to go at highway speeds down a flat road and twice that horsepower to go up a 6% grade at speed.  Therefore all excess horsepower in the car engine is used only for acceleration, the traditional test of power.  One does not need ten times the amount of cruising speed power in a vehicle for it to go down the road.  All one has to do is look at the many semi trucks going down the road that have about double the power they need for maintaining level speeds.  The reason cars need that extra power for acceleration is so they will be purchased by the buying public.  Therefore a hybrid car stores power in a battery to be used for acceleration and then hauls around up and down hills and across miles of Nebraska the battery pack and electric motors associated with a hybrid car.  While cruising down the road the car uses only the IC engine.  Mostly that is because there is not enough stored power in a battery to be of any assistance.  The fact that the hybrid is not understood at all by anyone is illustrated by the statement made by some science writer for one of the popular magazines.  Fortunately I forget which one but they were eagerly awaiting the invention of a hybrid airplane.  I was thinking of writing a letter pointing out that there were few stop lights in the sky and that acceleration from a stop is seldom needed by an airplane.  They thought that hybrid meant more efficient.  All hybrid means is smaller IC engine with a big battery to provide acceleration.  The smaller IC engine saves power because of smaller pumping loses, another subject for another time when I am calmed down sufficiently.


“Public Spectacles” and “News Theory”

In Published Articles, Unpublished Articles on October 23, 2012 at 6:17 pm

October 23, 2012

Dear Loyal Readers,  Here is what happened and it is complex.  I left a few weeks ago to drive out to the Bonneville Salt Flats to be part of the pit crew for a steam powered land speed record vehicle.  Before leaving I wrote enough articles to cover the time that I was away.  After reading the two articles that I wrote you may determine that the Journal Era editor showed good judgment by not printing them as written.  In either case, I am a sensitive artistic type and am having trouble dealing with the fact that my two articles were eviscerated and then sewed or sewn back together into one article which is why I am posting the two articles as originally submitted.  You may wish to reserve comment on which one of us is in the right as any further comment will probably not be productive.  The worst of it is that one issue of the paper was printed without an article in it, greatly disappointing my loyal readership, and making them think that I may be an unreliable writer.  Do not despair about me possibly running out of future articles.  There is a whole box of half written ones.  Unfortunately it is the good part that is written and not the other half and this reminds me of an old joke about the magician who was busily sawing young ladies in half every evening.  One of his acquaintances was wondering what happened to the young lady parts and therefore inquired.  The magician said that they could flip coins for the parts and the acquaintance, an inveterate pessimist, said that he would probably get the half that eats.    Tom Kimmel


“Public Spectacles”

A few weeks ago the local Optimist Club put on a meeting where the Other Columnist and I were invited to answer impromptu questions ex tempore.  I kept claiming short term memory recall problems as to why I could not remember the names of  Mike Royko or Barney Frank and lost a lot of credibility because no one believed me and the least of all Donna Richardson/ Olney/ Heyer who was born in 1912 and has no problem with short term memory recall.  She accused me of faking it.  One question had to do with what each of us two—the other columnist and I—looked at in the Journal Era when we first got it.  He was quite polite and said that he read my column first thing.  I was raised on the farm by hard working people of peasant stock and besides that did not receive enough love and attention as a small child which is my excuse for saying that the first thing I did was to leaf through the paper looking for letters to the editor with me as the subject.

One of the questions asked was how we determine what to write and where we do our best writing.  To answer that one would have to determine firstly if I know how to write in the first place.  After leaving our small town I went off to two nationally known Universities; the one in Ann Arbor and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland where I learned a great deal about where I came from while receiving a good liberal arts education.  I also learned that my education in this community was insufficient and really lacking in writing skills.  And so from time to time I pull my Strunk and White off the shelf, where it resides in hardcover in an attempt at impressing visitors, and leaf through it hoping for osmotic acquisition of knowledge, so that is why I came across on page 65 this sentence about avoiding the use of qualifiers, a cheap trick that I am attempting to break.  To quote: “Rather, very, little, pretty—these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words.  The constant use of the adjective little (except to indicate size) is particularly debilitating; we should all try to a little better, we should all be very watchful of this rule, for it is a rather important one and we are pretty sure to violate it now and then.”

Speaking of letters to the editor, now that the subject has been brought up, the last one to give my writing brief mention complained that the articles were too long.  I am a slow learner and therefore have not taken that suggestion to heart.  The management staff at the newspaper, I notice, is more receptive to public pressure.  Of course, they are dependent upon the paper making money and thus avoid offending readers whenever possible.  I am continually puzzled as to how to interest the readership without offending someone.  I notice that my great hero Lenny Bruce was not able to get through life without offending a few people and so this inspired me to, again, take a book off my shelf and leaf through it; “The (almost) Unpublished Lenny Bruce”, a compilation by his widow Kitty Bruce, another person with a checkered career.

And because this is another political season here is a good quote from page 91 entitled “On the Great Debate”.  “Everybody hears what he wants to hear.  Like when they were in the heat of the 1960 election campaign.  I was with a group who were watching the debate, and all the Nixon fans were saying, “Isn’t he making Kennedy look like a jerk?—and all the Kennedy fans were saying, “Look at him make a jerk out of Nixon.”  Each group really feels that their man is up there making the other man look like an idiot.  So then I realized that a candidate would have had to have been that blatant—he would have had to have looked at his audience right in the camera and say, “I am corrupt, I am the worst choice you could ever have for President.”  And even then his following would say, “Boy, there’s an honest man.  It takes a big guy to admit that.  That’s the kind of man we should have for a President.”

There is a lot more to say about politics but I need to keep this article short so that the management team does not feel the need to shorten it to make room for more advertising.  Here are the few paragraphs that were excised, although I prefer the more accurate term: eviscerated, from my recent article on the Fairgrounds.  The first sentence of this paragraph was printed and the rest was left on the cutting room floor.  Here are the two paragraphs in their original.

“There was a map showing where on the grounds this horse complex was going to be built.  It takes up some of the parking area but does not involve cutting down any trees.  Here is where I differ because I want to cut down most of the trees I see.  These things are always growing all of the time and getting in the way and falling over and taking out power lines.  As I recall there was some flap a few years ago when someone thought that maybe it would be a good idea to cut some of the forest down at the back corner of the fairgrounds so that airplanes did not run into the trees while trying to land at the college airport.  The fair management people must have been wary of negative publicity because they rapidly folded on that one, like a cheap lawn chair as they say, when faced with stirring letters extolling the joys of frogs hopping around under the trees and turtles gamboling in the mud.  I do not recall hearing of anyone actually walking out into the woods enjoying the idyll while slapping mosquitoes, but that did not slow down either the rhetoric or the tears.  It appears that some people think that the little forest creatures could not go someplace else to hop around and that the world would be a poorer place without them.

“This all got me to thinking about what made America great.  When the early settlers came here they cut down the forest to they could grow food and they drained the swamps so the mosquitoes did not spread malaria and kill them all.  It is a good thing we did not have the Department of Environmental Quality or whomever it is these days who demands a permit every time something happens on someone’s property or we would all be sitting out there in our ox carts waiting for the paperwork to come through.  Try to not get me started.  Anyhow the money is coming in for the horse thing, technically called an expo, that will eventually cost about $20 million, have a main arena 240’ x 400’ and generate $32 million annually for the area”

I could go on at some length about toads, turtles, and trees, and with greater intensity, however I do not want to give anyone an excuse to shorten this article.



“News Theory”

Another topic brought up at the Optimist Club event was how we, the columnists, would solve the congress-politician/budget crises problem.  That topic does not lend itself to a bright quip which is why I said I had no idea.  There are two basic problems with governance and the common perception of corrupt politicians being the problem is incorrect.  It is the well-meaning ideologically motivated politicians who are the problem because there is a limit to how much money one person can steal.  There is no limit to how much money an idealist can steal from the honest citizenry to give to the less fortunate.  Any time a politician can buy votes by taking money from a few and giving it to the many there is going to be a problem with balancing the budget.  We do not have the time to explore the solution to that problem.

What this topic does bring up is the function of a newspaper.  I have thought about that for some time and was often puzzled about why the newspaper dealt at length with cars laying on their sides in ditches, barns burning, and what happened in high school sports.  None of those topics have any meaning.  None matter to what is going on in society, yet, pages in color, no less, are devoted to these things.

Therefore my joyment was overjoyed when, upon the recommendation of my son the Ivy League graduate, I read the Ryan Holiday book “Trust Me I’m Lying” and found on page 217 a few randomly selected sentences on the news media:

“Let’s start a basic principle: Only the unexpected makes the news.  This insight comes from Robert E. Park, the first sociologist to ever study newspapers.  “For the news is always finally,” he wrote “what Charles A. Dana described it to be, ‘something that will make people talk.’”  Nick Denton told his writers the same thing nearly one hundred years later: “The job of journalism is to provide surprise.”’  News is only news if it departs from the routine of daily life. … And so the normal parts of life are omitted from the news by virtue of being normal…. The news, whether it’s found online or in print, is just the content that successfully navigated the media’s filters.  … Since the news informs our understanding of what is occurring around us, these filters create a constructed reality.”

“Trust Me, I’m Lying” is mostly about the blogosphere.  The elderly in our community may not be aware of that area or want to learn.  Apparently it is becoming more and more important.  This book has, on page 213, another little insight into a subject that I brought up without resolution in the article on Rick Santorum.  So far I have not found anything about Aristotle and the storytellers ruling the nation.  Here is what the book says: “Philosopher Alain de Botton once pointed out that Greek tragedies, though popular entertainment in their day, had a purpose.  Despite being gossipy, sometimes salacious, and often violent, they taught the audience to think about how easily an unfortunate situation could befall them, and to be humbled by the flaws of another person.  Tragedies could be learned from.  But the news of the twenty-first century, he writes, “with its lexicon of perverts and weirdos, failures and losers, lies at one end of the spectrum.” And “tragedy lies at the other.””

Thinking about the print media got me started on the TV media and so I, once again, was able to find a book relevant to the topic; “The Road to Mars, a post-modem novel” by Eric Idle, one of the original Monty Pythons.  I had always wondered why the good looking faces on TV always asked someone who had faced death, been rescued, or survived whatever life had thrown at them, how they felt during or after the event.  I could not imagine how much the TV talent would have to be paid in order to maintain an earnest look on their faces while mouthing such an inanity.  Here is Mr. Idle’s commentary on page 67: “Celebrities wallowed in public emotion, like warthogs in a muddy hollow.  So, yes, TV was to blame again, changing behavior, lowering standards, intruding, falsifying, exposing.  Emotions became the trademark of endless TV harpies, the Medeas of the media, with their frozen hairdos and their refrigerated smiles.  How do you feel? People were asked moments after they had scored a goal or been told their family was lost in a plane crash.  Prodding and jabbing.  How do you feel” Primed and prepped.  How do you feel? Until the tears would flow and the poor victim received his benediction from the blond show queen.  Pass the Kleenex, check the ratings, pass the sick bag, please.”

This is one book the reading public is not, and I repeat, not expected to read.  It is casually vulgar, meaning that a lot of bad words are used in the most casual manner.  The book has some good moments as in this line from page 209: “I mean, do you ever stop and wonder what it’s all about?”  Her thoughts bounced around, banging into things, like someone bumping into furniture in an old shuttered house.”  The book defines the meaning of comedy and I may use more of it in future columns but the casual vulgarity reminded me of the military and a philosophical question that I spent the entire two years of my stay in the Army wondering about.

In the Army, there was both a constant assault by bad words; the three types of curse words: blasphemy, scatology, and obscenity, and by immoral thoughts.  The life time members of the military had their minds in the gutter.  And so I wondered if it was possible for a person to go through that experience and not be changed by it, to not be corroded by the repetition, to be able to have the emotional energy to resist every time something was heard.  One is taught by religion that a person can remain pure of thought in any circumstance.  I cannot say if or how much I was influenced by the experience because it, as with any long time experience, slowly changes a person and thus one’s objectivity and awareness.  My conclusion is that the experience was corrosive although I cannot remember precisely what I was like before it.

And this reminds me, further, of past unprinted essays that I have written describing the military that have not been printed.  I thought that what I had to say was of value to the reading public, whose children and grandchildren may be considering joining the military.  I thought that the observations of a person who went into the Army as a college graduate and thus with some maturity and knowledge of cultural anthropology would be of interest to the reading public.  Little did I know.

New Blog

In General Ramblings on February 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm

As a person who thinks that their life has meaning I am starting a blog.  Not only do I think that my life has meaning, I clearly did not get enough love and attention as a small child.  My parents worked all of the time and were distant and besides that I had an older sister.  We are still dealing with those things.   Most of the time I am busy thinking about what to write next in the weekly newspaper articles, that are politely called essays, and sometimes I call diatribes, and that son George calls polemics.  What I think about the most is religion. The problem is that the newspaper wants to keep its subscribers and there is a perception that any mention of religion will only offend and never attract.  Thus the really good articles are not published, but languish in the reject pile.  A recent acquisition was the 2004 book “The Psychological Roots of Religious Belief, Searching for Angels and the Parent-God” by M. D. Faber and I have been glancing through it as time permits.  What I found interesting is that one can sit through a life time of sermons, watch tele-evangilists on TV, attend Bible classes in school, and never get any kind of a definition of religion.  Thus I want to quote two sentences from page 147 in my new book:  “Accordingly, the psychology of faith is quintessentially expressed in the experience of mystical prayer.  To feel merged with the Almighty, to have the sensation of ego boundaries dissolving, to emotionally become, or be, the divine Other, to achieve a perfect, mirroring, face-to-face union with an all-powerful provider is the psychological core of what we know generally as religious faith.”  Someday I will attempt a book review and see if it will be perceived as inoffensive enough to be printed.