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Last Two Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Last Two Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Last Two Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Two Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Two Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Two Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Two Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Two Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Two Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Two Issues

"History is just people doing things"

THE ABQ CORRESPONDENT

                 ISSN 1087-2302   Online Edition Number 321......September 2022

Published since 1985 for clients and contacts of 
ABQ Communications Corporation, the fuzzy focus

of The ABQ Correspondent is "the impact of new 
technology on society." If you'd like to receive email 
notification when each monthly issue is posted, please 
let us know.   correspo at swcp dot com
 

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KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY

In these puzzling times many people are promoting the use of hydrogen as a fuel suitable for powering all sorts of processes in manufacturing, construction, and transportation. Its big attraction is that when it burns…combines with oxygen, releasing energy…the byproduct is water, H2O, and since hydrogen is the most abundant element is the universe, we’re unlikely to run out of it. It’s been 85 years since the Hindenburg disaster made everybody and his dog nervous about using hydrogen for anything, and that uneasiness is subsiding, based in part on the not-necessarily-warranted assumption that Sensible Science has found ways to handle the stuff safely. In fact, a team of sensible scientists at Deakin University in Australia (with campuses in Melbourne, Geelong and Warrnambool) seem to have found a genuinely new way to handle hydrogen, making it useful in a lot of practical applications. They use a mechanical process to combine hydrogen with other chemicals, creating a stable powder that can release the hydrogen for useful combustion when it’s heated by a couple of hundred degrees, (Dunno whether that’s °F or °C and one rather hopes for °C, making it harder to have accidents in the kitchen, for example.) This makes it practical to carry very highly concentrated (not compressed) hydrogen around safely. The “mechanical process” is highly surprising. They select appropriate chemicals, and tumble the stuff in a ball mill under controlled temperature and pressure, so the chemicals are repeatedly mashed by falling metal balls. Somehow, this pounds the atoms out of the chemicals, and lets them re-form into other chemicals in powder form from which hydrogen may easily be released. Further, the process is efficient, using less energy than other methods of producing gaseous hydrogen.  Who’d have thought?  This may be a big deal, and hydrogen is not the only gas of interest. “Mechanochemistry” may become economically important to the petroleum refining industry,* which has a nice lot of money for exploring this new technology. While the Deakin team has published a thoughtful technical paper on their work, the best popular-level explanation we’ve seen is by Loz Blain, writing for New Atlas. 

*In the late 1950s, a training film I was assigned to write at

Pilot Productions was on “platforming,” for Universal Oil

Products. That probably came to me because nobody else in

the place was game to learn the elements of petroleum refining

swiftly. All I knew for openers was that people collected

black liquid from the ground, and heated it up or something

to turn it into various desirable products like gasoline and

lubricating oil. In preparation, I consulted encyclopedias (of

which Collier’s was most helpful, may blessings on them fall)

that relieved a small part of my vast ignorance. UOP provided

an informative guide: the startup manual for a liquid overhead

cat cracker they had just put into operation in Kamloops BC,

which I studied diligently in hope of finding out, among other

things, what a cat cracker was. When I asked why, no matter

how carefully I counted, it appeared that the system put out

more gallons of material than were put into it, the fellows

looked at me as if I’d crawled out from under a flat rock, and

said, “When you’re changing molecules from rings to strings

and back, the volume changes.” That was obvious to anybody

with two brain cells and I felt foolish, but my BA in Studies of

Russia and East Europe had not set me to thinking along those

lines. The next film I wrote and directed was a sales

presentation for home water softeners in which the topic of

changing volumes did not arise. I have since forgotten most

everything I learned about both oil refining and water softening

…and this…and that…reverting comfortably to vast ignorance.

The upside is that everything technical I encounter is fresh,

unbiased by previous knowledge. It helps also that I don’t much

mind looking foolish because I have so much practice at it. 

 

DON’T COME ANY CLOSER

This press release from about two-and a-half years ago…Quanergy Accelerates a Safe Return to Work with 3D LiDAR Solutions for Social Distancing…cheerfully explains that the company has developed systems integrating such things as cameras (presumably to see who’s not wearing a mask), remote temperature sensors (presumably to detect people with fever), and lidar (to detect how far apart people are) to aid in reducing transmission of Covid. That was in April 2020, mind you, just shortly after Covid had emerged in the general consciousness. The release is reassuringly sensitive to issues such as privacy, pointing out that the good effects of using the system could be achieved without identification of anybody in the crowd. Still…one rather wishes that non-intrusive use of the technology did not depend wholly on the good will of its user. Not complaining; that’s just how things are. My dad was a big time advertising copywriter for major national clients. When he was challenged in the 1950s about the use of “subliminal” advertising in television commercials, he said simply, “It doesn’t work; if it did, we’d be using it.” When an associate traveled on business in the Far East in the ‘80s, he was impressed by the width of the street leading to the Forbidden City in Beijing. Old friend Ed Sie (aka “Shay” or “Hsieh”) who had been there in earlier times remembered the street as much narrower, but the Management decided it should be wider, so they wiped out a neighborhood hundreds of years old to make it so. “If they decide that isn’t enough, and they want another 500 feet, they’ll take it.” All Managements may change their minds. Some leaders in our society have exercised restraint in the application of machine intelligence in producing extraordinarily imaginative porn and realistic political deepfakes, but that’s a matter of personal taste, and when push comes to shove, somebody will use the tools at hand.  We have somewhat longer experience in trying to discourage people from developing nuclear weapons, and we’ve learned something about the effectiveness of passing laws against them. Perhaps there are alternative ways of encouraging restraint. Meanwhile, we have optimistic media releases to keep us entertained. It ain’t the technology.

 

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NELS MUSES 

Item:

Re: last issue’s comments on breadfruit. jackfruit, and durian: a couple of readers commented on their own experience in finding the aroma of durian intolerable. Good news has arrived: somebody has now bred durian that doesn’t smell terrible. Jake Mendelssohn reported that he was going to tackle a jackfruit on his own. He hasn’t been heard from since. Steven Sester warned me to be alert for a package. Sure enough, a couple of days later Mr. Amazon delivered three lunch-snack sized packages of “breadfruit chips.” I tried them, and sent a note in response:

Hi, StevenS--
Well, I'll be darned! So that's what breadfruit chips are like...sturdy (easy to pick up dip or maybe a ham without breaking the chip), bland (even when lightly salted), and interesting in a sort of cardboardy way. I can now scratch eating breadfruit off my bucket list.
The print on the bags talks a lot about fruit and fresh stuff, but I was unable to detect anything fruity in this incarnation of breadfruit.

I'd almost like to have seen the expression of a porch pirate on opening the package.
Thanks

 

Item:

Just a nostalgic look in 2020 at DC-3s whose first flight was in 1935. These great stills and a wonderful video documenting a mass flight of these planes from England across the Channel to Normandy in 2019 are almost painfully nostalgic to a few of us. They estimated then that about 8% of the 11,000+ that were built were still flying

 

Item:

Daughter Chantal is a greeter at the outstanding St. James Tearoom (this classy English tearoom is in an adobe-style building in Albuquerque) where all seatings are at set times. As one seating begins and another ends, they may have 120+ guests coming or going, Chan commented that fifteen minutes before a seating a couple of days ago she was daunted to realize that she had 60 people still to check in. The staff is good at it, and it went well.

…but the comment recalled the time in 1977 when Personal Computing Magazine staged the first personal computing show…in a hotel at the corner of Century Blvd and Sepulveda anent the Los Angeles airport. (Somebody else had announced an earlier show, but aggressively competitive publisher David Bunnel was determined to beat them…so away we went on a wild ride.)

Literally fifteen minutes before the show opened, about a third of the hundred booths in the big ballroom were empty. The scene was subdued and gloomy. I worried. In those last fifteen minutes, with a huge bustle of activity, the folks who had signed up to exhibit in those booths galloped in with their stuff. The show went well.

Most of those late exhibitors were computer stores from all over the LA area. They were amateur retailers who had invested their life savings along with money borrowed from friends and family into the brand new business of stores selling something most of the population didn’t understand at all. They had to take stock off the shelves to bring it to the show, and the stores couldn’t afford to be short of product for a minute longer than necessary. Hence the crazy last-minute rush.

Computer retailing empires have risen and fallen since then.

Tearooms have been in business much longer with more knowledgeable clientele, though we’re unaware of any tearoom empires.

 

 

ITEM FROM THE PAST

 

This item from 1996 was brought to mind somewhat

improbably by a report on new tunneling technology.

The new Denver airport, magnificent as well as expensive, suffers fascinating and exhausting problems of scale. We have all heard about the troubles associated with scaling up the automated baggage system, which has a tolerable failure rate at small size, and an intolerable failure rate at large size...but have you tried getting from Gate 79 to Gate 7 to make a connection from a late incoming flight? It must be half a mile between gates. Even a passenger who runs along the moving sidewalks, not falling more than a couple of times as he reaches dry land between them, staggers up to the departure gate perspiration-soaked, bright red, and gasping. Many sag to lie on the briefcases and carry-on bags they have been toting. Their hands feebly raise ticket envelopes up to the counter agents. The effect is especially impressive in people who have just arrived from sea level, and can’t yet handle the mile-high thin air. It’s a great show.

In fact, the three parallel runways at DIA are reportedly

a full mile apart…and Management gave up many years

ago on the automated baggage system that kept throwing

bags on the floor violently. DIA is a long, expensive way

from town, but that’s not what recalled the old item.

The construction of the airport took so long, running up a

staggering cost overrun, and some of the details of its

construction and decoration are so odd that several

entertaining, sort of plausible conspiracy theories

are connected with the establishment. See this, this, and

this,

The talking gargoyle is lots of fun,

What triggered this was the conspiratorial suggestion that

DIA is connected by a tunnel to NORAD at Cheyenne

Mountain a hundred miles away. 

The Correspo spoke a few months ago about a company

called Petra that figured out how to apply so much energy,

controllably and inexpensively, to an area of rockface that

the rock crumbles and can literally be blown away as the

process continues. Their technology apparently could create

a 60” diameter tunnel through solid rock at a practical rate

of maybe 120 feet a day. Wow.

A competitor to Petra has now appeared with similar

technology, a company called Earthgrid, that speaks

optimistically of tunneling at the rate of a full kilometre a

day ...making it six months, easy, from DIA to NORAD in

Colorado Springs.

If this class of technology is really practical, it’s a BIG deal. 

Oh, and note the reference in the quarter-century-old item to

to “ticket envelopes.”

Grandpa, what’s a ticket envelope?

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Everybody is a Somebody

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Graphical user interface

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceAfter some years of working and reworking, this has become a real book, via Lulu Publishing. The blurb on the back (under a picture of the author looking unnaturally cheerful) says:

 “This book is Nels Winkless’s wry look at his half-century-and-more as a “professional outsider” writing, editing, interpreting, presenting new ideas, and serving as a sounding board for interesting people who have influenced some of the major technical developments of the era. While fascinated by the dazzling advance of technology, he’s most intrigued by the savage resistance people have to every sort of change, making technical progress virtually miraculous, and he suggests an explanation for this puzzling conflict.
   His recollections of the work and people are often funny, sometimes painful, and usually surprising.

ISBN: 978-0-557-05785-6                        Review(s)               Available at Lulu.com

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