MonthOctober 2009

First electric wind turbine powered grid in 1941

Wired has an article on the first electric wind turbine, which actually helped power Vermont in the 40s:

The turbine ran through hundreds of hours of testing up to 1943, often pumping power onto the Central Vermont Public Service Corporation’s electrical grid. The project’s engineers were sure that, technically, the machine worked.

The Smith-Putnam wind turbine stood as a testament to the power of human — and American — ingenuity. A decade before, Soviet engineers had built the world’s largest wind turbine, a 100-kilowatt machine. Now the Yanks had constructed their own, 10 times more powerful.

Time concluded its article on the project with a hopeful half-prediction, “New England ranges may someday rival Holland as a land of windmills.” This was, after all, merely the prototype for whole lines of turbines that would be more resistant to German bombs than a centralized coal plant.

Unluckily, a bearing broke in 1943, and the war prevented its replacement until 1945. With the war waning, the wind machine got back up and running in the spring of that year. And that’s when disaster struck.

Wired: Electric Turbines Get First Wind

Just 15 Minutes of Sensory Deprivation Triggers Hallucinations

You don’t need psychedelic drugs to start seeing colors and objects that aren’t really there. Just 15 minutes of near-total sensory deprivation can bring on hallucinations in many otherwise sane individuals.

Psychologists stuck 19 healthy volunteers into a sensory-deprivation room, completely devoid of light and sound, for 15 minutes. Without the normal barrage of sensory information flooding their brains, many people reported experiencing visual hallucinations, paranoia and a depressed mood.

“This is a pretty robust finding,” wrote psychiatrist Paul Fletcher of the University of Cambridge, who studies psychosis but was not involved in the study. “It appears that, when confronted by lack of sensory patterns in our environment, we have a natural tendency to superimpose our own patterns.”

Wired: Just 15 Minutes of Sensory Deprivation Triggers Hallucinations

The rise and fall of South Korea’s most popular economic pundit

minerva

Until the day he was outed, the most influential commentator on South Korea’s economy lived the life of a nobody. Park Dae-Sung owned a small apartment in a middle-class neighborhood of Seoul and freelanced part-time at a telecom company. Thirty years old, he still hoped to earn a four-year degree in economics. In the mornings, he would bicycle to the public library to study for the university entrance exam. His standard uniform was slacks, loafers, and wrinkle-free button-down shirts, as though he were going to work in an office. But with his slightly chubby moon face, glasses, and neatly parted hair, he easily blended in among the rows of students. While they worked through school assignments, he immersed himself in the text of his chosen profession.

In the evenings, Park would go online, frittering away the hours like millions of other geeks. He often played the simulation game Capitalism II, where he’d assume the role of a blue-chip investor, closing million-dollar deals and speculating on skyscrapers. Nothing that he did earned him any attention.

Then, in March 2008, Park opened an account on South Korea’s popular Daum Agora forum. Here, he decided, he would call himself Minerva, after the Roman goddess of wisdom, and write exclusively on economics, drawing on both public reports and his years in the stacks poring over Adam Smith and Joseph Stiglitz. Affecting the effortless command of a seasoned investor, he strove to project the authority that had eluded him in real life. The world economy is in the midst of collapse, he warned, so pay your debts and stock up on noodles and drinkable water. He made pronouncements on when to buy or sell a home, exchange Korean won for dollars, and pull out of the financial markets altogether.

Wired: The Troubles of Korea’s Influential Economic Pundit

See also:

Christian Science Monitor: Financial blogger’s arrest tests Korea’s progress on human rights

Korea Times: Foreigners Puzzled Over Minerva’s Arrest

zero hedge
Also of interest:

New York Magazine’s article on Zero Hedge and Matt Taibbi’s response.

2013: Or, What to Do When the Apocalypse Doesn’t Arrive

Gary Lachman, author of Turn Off Your Mind writes:

Much has been written about 2012, pointing out both the value and the flaws in Argüelles’s and McKenna’s interpretations. I don’t intend to repeat those here. The strangeness of the ideas did not repel me. At the time that I came across them, I was reading Rudolf Steiner, who had his own prophecies concerning the third millennium, which, to be honest, were rather vague. I had also already spent some years in the Gurdjieff “work,” so odd ideas were not a threat. What troubled me then and today is what I call the “apocalyptic gesture,” a point I raised recently on the Reality Sandwich website, much of which is dedicated to the 2012 scenario. The desire for some once-and-for-all break with the given conditions of life seems, to me at least, to be embedded in our psyche and is a form of historical or evolutionary impatience. Social, political, or cultural conditions may trigger it, but in essence it’s the same reaction as losing patience with some annoying, mundane business and, in frustration, knocking it aside with the intent to make a “clean start.” While in our personal lives this may result in nothing more than a string of false beginnings and a lack of staying power, on the broader social and political scale it can mean something far more serious. […]

The “Summer of Love” in 1967—which by many accounts wasn’t as groovy as believed—quickly became the year of “Street Fighting Man” in 1968, when the “generation gap” promised to turn into something like revolution, and dangerous slogans like “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” promoted a simplistic us-or-them scenario. Yet by 1969 the hopes of an Aquarian Age had been severely battered by the gruesome Charles Manson murders and the Rolling Stones’ disastrous concert at Altamont, when Hell’s Angels murdered one man and terrorized hundreds of others, including the Stones themselves. (I tell the story in Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius.) Exorbitantly high hopes can often lead to very deep depressions, and in a microcosmic popular sense, within a few years the peace and love unreservedly embraced by the flower generation became the “no future” of the punks. Cynicism, jadedness, and pessimism often constitute the hangover from the intoxication of excessively high expectations. No one rejects ideals more vigorously than a bruised romantic.

Disinfo: 2013: Or, What to Do When the Apocalypse Doesn’t Arrive

It’s not what Lachman is writing about here, but a detailed account of the origins of the 2012 myth can be found in Sacha Defesche’s excellent paper The 2012 Phenomenon.

Why Are Contracts for AIG Execs Different Than Contracts for Autoworkers?

Back in the spring, the Obama administration had no problem insisting that union autoworkers give up some of the health care benefits that they were entitled to in their contract. In some cases, workers had already put in more than 30 years earning these benefits. Note that this was before any of the manufacturers went into bankruptcy.

While these workers were forced to make large concessions on contractually promised benefits, we are told yet again that AIG, an effectively bankrupt company, has a contractual obligation to pay big bonuses to its top executives and traders. It would be interesting to hear why this would be the case and if it is legally committed, why shouldn’t the company just go into bankruptcy now that the immediate post-Lehman panic is over.

Dean Baker: Why Are Contracts for AIG Execs Different Than Contracts for Autoworkers?

The question answers itself.

Why is this anti-gay Leviticus tattoo extra absurd?

Leviticus

Jesse Galef writes:

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan put up a post about an extremely brutal hate-crime attack on an openly gay man. The 2-minute news report he embeds is depressing, but there was something to laugh about at the end. The studio interviewed one of the attackers’ friends, who proudly displayed this tattoo.

It’s a tattoo reading “[Thou] shall not lie with a male as one does with a woman. It is an abomination. Leviticus 18:22?. Who else sees the problem here?

Leviticus also forbids tattooing. In the very next chapter.

“Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:28?

Full Story: The Friendly Atheist: Why is this anti-gay Leviticus tattoo extra absurd?

(via Paul Bingman)

See Also:

The Duggars and Quiverfull – The Cult Behind The Family

The Westboro Baptist Church is (Probably Not) a Scam

Who really said “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross”?

Yet another Atlantis candidate

The site, which straddles 30,000 square meters of ocean floor off the southern Peloponnese, is believed to have been consumed by the sea around 1000 BC. Although discovered by a British oceanographer some 40 years ago, it was only this year that marine archaeologists, aided by digital technology, were able to properly survey the ruins.

What they found surpassed all expectations. Thanks to shifting sands and the settlement’s enclosure in a protected bay, the exploration revealed a world of buildings, courtyards, main streets, rock-cut tombs and religious structures. In addition, the seabed was replete with thousands of shards of pottery.

Guardian: Lost Greek city that may have inspired Atlantis myth gives up secrets

(via Paul Bingman)

There are many speculative locations of Atlantis.

I have previously linked to the Collina-Girard’s theory (See: Spartel Bank hypothesis on Wikipedia) and Robert Sarmast’s theory (see Near Cyprus hypothesis on Wikipedia).

This seems more legitimate than these others.

(*sigh*, Mac would have loved to have read about this… I found that Cyprus theory link on his blog…)

RIP Mac Tonnies

I was just catching up on tweets and learned, via Captain Marrrk, that Mac Tonnies has passed away. I’m in shock. This is just so sad:

Nick just called to tell me that our friend and colleague Mac Tonnies was found in his apartment this (Thursday) afternoon, apparently dead of natural causes. There was no evidence of foul play or suicide according to a close friend.

It is hard to find the right words to describe my feelings at this moment.

The last time we talked was just after his appearance on Coast To Coast on September 28th. He asked if I thought he had done a good job. I said he hit one over the fence. Tentatively, I asked if he would consider collaborating on a fiction project, and he liked the idea. Now, I don’t really know what to do or say.

The manuscript of Mac’s last book was apparently complete and ready to be delivered to the publisher.

Nick will have his feelings and more details to follow, but Mac’s family have been informed, and we wanted to get the news out to people who either knew Mac, or were inspired by his original and highly intelligent contributions to the study of UFOs and other anomalies, as well as many aspects of leading-edge science and technology.

Just an indescribable loss. In the next day or so, perhaps I’ll have more to say.

From: UFO Mystic: Mac Tonnies Gone

Update: Some info about Mac’s heart problems

Judge Refuses to Dismiss War Crimes Case Against Blackwater

Jeremy Scahill writes for the Nation:

On Wednesday, a federal judge rejected a series of arguments by lawyers for the mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater seeking to dismiss five high-stakes war crimes cases brought by Iraqi victims against both the company and its owner, Erik Prince. At the same time, Judge T.S. Ellis III sent the Iraqis’ lawyers back to the legal drawing board to amend and refile their cases, saying that the Iraqi plaintiffs need to provide more specific details on the alleged crimes before a final decision can be made on whether or not the lawsuits will proceed.

“We were very pleased with the ruling,” says Susan Burke, the lead attorney for the Iraqis. Burke, who filed the lawsuits in cooperation with the Center for Constitutional Rights, is now preparing to re-file the suits. Blackwater’s spokesperson Stacy DeLuke said, “We are confident that [the plaintiffs] will not be able to meet the high standard specified in Judge Ellis’s opinion.”

Nation: Judge Refuses to Dismiss War Crimes Case Against Blackwater

Media was happy to be bullied by Bush, but Obama is “controlling”

With hypocrisy that pervasive, who could ever hope to take note of all of it? Still, the complaints from America’s Right — and especially former Bush officials — that the Obama administration is attempting to “control the media,” all because the White House criticizes Fox News, is in a class of hypocrisy all by itself. That those petulant complaints are being amplified by a virtually unanimous press corps — “it’s Nixonian!” is their leading group-think cliché — makes it all the more intolerable.

John Cole itemizes just some of the measures adopted by the Bush White House to manipulate, control, punish and bully the very few media outlets which were ever hostile to it — each of those Bush measures, standing alone, is infinitely more invasive and threatening than the mild and perfectly appropriate criticisms of Fox coming from the Obama White House. Indeed, the Bush White House did exactly the same thing with NBC as the Obama White House is doing with Fox, and virtually all of the media stars who today are so righteously lamenting the “attacks on Fox” said nothing. Worse, the very same Bush official who this week said it was “like what dictators do” for the Obama White House to criticize Fox — Dana Perino — herself stood at the White House podium a mere two years ago and did exactly that to NBC News.

But the Bush administration did far worse to media outlets than merely criticize them. They explicitly threatened to prosecute New York Times journalists — to criminally prosecute them — for reporting on Bush’s illegal spying program aimed at American citizens. They imprisoned numerous foreign journalists covering their various wars. The administration’s obsessive and unprecedented secrecy — Dick Cheney refused to disclose even the most basic information about his whereabouts, his meetings, or even the number of staff members he had — was the ultimate form of media control. And what was the Pentagon’s embedding process other than an attempt to control media coverage and ensure favorable reporting? One will search in vain for much media protests about any of that.

But it was the Bush Pentagon’s “military analyst”/domestic propaganda program that was, far and away, the most egregious case in a long, long time of a White House attempting to control media content and political coverage in the United States. […]

Whatever else is true, Fox has taken on a political role that is very rare, at least in modern times, for a large American news organization. Its news coverage is not merely biased or opinionated; there’d be nothing unusual about that. Instead, it is a major participant — the leading participant — in organizing, promoting and fueling protests, including street protests, against the government. Fox has undertaken a role typically played by media outlets in, say, Venezuela or various unstable, under-developed countries — sponsoring rather than reporting on protests against the government — and it is difficult to recall any recent example that is similar.

Glenn Greenwald: What “controlling the media” really means

Greenwald has more, plus citations for the claims he makes in the text above.

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