Quick Roundup 252

Sunday, October 07, 2007

My schedule's out of kilter until Wednesday in part due to a two-day mini-course (which starts at the crack of dawn) I'm taking at work -- and in part because I spent most of the weekend with family and friends after they surprised me for my birthday Saturday. As one who has participated in my share of surprise birthday parties, I'm in no position to complain, but the fact remains that I have some adjusting to do now....

I did have fun, though, and it's funny to recall how my thoughts progressed -- without the aid of caffeine -- from "Huh. That woman sure looks like my mother," to "Oh. That is my mother!" Yes. I was ambushed at a breakfast place my wife and I frequent by my mother and brothers, my in-laws, and a few good friends.

The actual birthday occurs later this month -- which means that if I were like the authors of most singles ads, I'd feel like I could, technically, still refer to myself as "mid-thirties" for a little longer!

In any event, I find myself posting the first ever late-night version of my regular roundup feature -- unless you count the one I posted before my trip to Maine. But that one I posted when I realized that my flight was so early that it would be simpler to just not bother sleeping that night at all. I will be hitting the hay after this one....

Civil Rights Movement Betrayed

Walter Williams's latest column describes how permissiveness in the guise of "tolerance" (at least on the part of the educational establishment) is destroying America's black youths:

Much of what's seen today is a result of harebrained ideas and a tolerance for barbaric behavior. Kathleen Parker cited such an example in her May 16 syndicated column. The case concerned teacher Elizabeth Kandrac, who was routinely verbally abused by black students at Brentwood Middle School in North Charleston, S.C. A sample of the abusive language: white b----, white m-----f-----, white c---, white ho. Despite frequent complaints, school officials did nothing to stop the abuse. They told her this racially charged profanity was simply part of the students' culture, and if Kandrac couldn't handle the students' cursing, she was in the wrong school. Kandrac brought suit alleging a racially hostile work environment, and the school district settled out of court for $200,000. [bold and link added]
Parker's column ends with the same point Williams's does: "[T]he worst racists are those teachers and administrators who denied these empowered brats the expectation of civilized behavior."

This barbarism is also yet another inexcusable result of the government's longstanding policy of throttling competition in the educational sector by subsidizing public education. Were more parents able to send their children to schools that did not permit children to behave like savages, more parents would do so. Multiculturalism, as patently bad as it is, would not survive for long in a capitalist society.

What's missing here?

Through an update service, I learned that heated eggshells might make producing hydrogen fuel less carbon-intensive (not that I really give a hoot in hell).
L.S. Fan, Distinguished University Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State, said that he and former Ohio State doctoral student, Mahesh Iyer, hit upon the idea when they were trying to improve a method of hydrogen production called the water-gas-shift reaction. With this method, fossil fuels such as coal are gasified to produce carbon monoxide gas, which then combines with water to produce carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

The eggshell plays a critical role.

"The key to making pure hydrogen is separating out the carbon dioxide," Fan said. "In order to do it very economically, we needed a new way of thinking, a new process scheme."

That brought them to eggshells, which mostly consist of calcium carbonate -- one of nature's most absorbent materials. It is a common ingredient in calcium supplements and antacids. With heat processing, calcium carbonate becomes calcium oxide, which will then absorb any acidic gas, such as carbon dioxide. [bold added]
Or so it would seem from the hype.

So -- ignoring, arguendo, the question of what you'll burn to do this -- you heat the calcium carbonate in the eggshells to get calcium oxide -- which will absorb carbon dioxide. Brilliant, except that heating the eggshells in the first place will cause them to give off carbon dioxide as a bypoduct. (The ScienceDaily article seems ambiguous about this, later claiming that "[c]alcium carbonate –- a key ingredient in the eggshells -- captures 78 percent of carbon dioxide by weight". Too bad that the molecular mass of carbon dioxide, 44, is 78 per cent of the molecular mass of calcium oxide, 56. )

The best I could guess was that the egg shells could be used to sequester the carbon dioxide, -- which indeed seems to be the case from this news report.

Fair enough, at first blush. But then this, too sounds harebrained for another reason altogether:
[Fan] says they would need to be buried afterward to keep the gas out of the atmosphere.

Fan says using eggshells also would save egg processors money now spent to dump their eggshells in landfills. [bold added]
Would someone please tell me how the hell is it cheaper to: (1) treat eggshells to remove collagen, (2) heat them up to drive off carbon dioxide, (3) expose them to different carbon dioxide, and (4) bury them -- than to just dump them as we do now? Is it because of penalties imposed on waste sent to landfills? Subsidies for inefficient methods of producing "carbon-neutral" energy that aren't really carbon-neutral? Both?

At least the way this is being reported, it sounds completely hokey. If someone knows better, feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment. I doubt I'm going to have the time or the inclination to track this down, so I would love to be told that I missed something here, and that our science journalists (and funding agencies) are not as gullible as they seem to be here.

The Lighter Side of Global Warming

Heh. Lots of my teachers were priests and nuns. Unlike some other scientists I know of. (HT: Hannes Hacker)

Dumb -- or Corrupt?

Joseph Kellard
and Craig Ceely both look at the same question -- whether America's current cultural and political state is due to stupidity (as many like to suppose) or corruption.

Kellard looks at this question from the more abstract perspective, taking a recent HBL thread on Christopher Hitchens and Ayn Rand as a point of departure:
Commenting on this quote, another HBL member said that he found it disturbing that men as intellectual and literate at Hitchens can read Ayn Rand but evade the substance of her writings on a massive scale. He went on to write that men like Hitchens confirm beyond doubt that even highly intelligent men can read Ayn Rand and yet "walk away from it." By this, I gather he means that they can read "The Virtue of Selfishness," in which Miss Rand elaborates on her original, radical moral code based on rational self-interest—in which an individual neither sacrifice others to himself, nor himself to others—but still argue that her brand of selfishness preaches "do whatever one want without concern for others." In short, he brands Hitchens as dishonest.
And Ceely sees this cultural rot as more pervasive than just a "corrupt political class" (or the guiding intellectuals) or an "ignorant elecorate". He comments on a discussion of a book about revamping the Constitution:
It wouldn't turn out well. For those who are enthusiastic for a new Constitution or even for a few new amendments, as well as those Objectivists urging more political activism and even "our" own party, I have a question: where do you think the members of that corrupt political class come from? How do they get there? Who supports them?
I fully agree that such talk is particularly dangerous in this day and age.

-- CAV

10-8-07: Corrected some typos.