Dec 12, 2009

How the Kingston ash spilled

I have long thought that the massive ash spill the TVA coal plant in Kingston was the result of the hard freeze on the night of December 22, 2008. After reading the analysis of the spill, I am even more convinced.
Engineers who studied the event found no specific cause for the rupture, but they did not consider my hypothesis. They looked at weather, but only rainfall, which they determined was not heavy enough to trigger the flow. As with a sand, ash that is too wet or dry flows easily, but the right amount of moisture makes it sticky. TVA regulated water content in their waste ash pile to keep it sticky.
Something caused the pile to liquefy that night, and engineers examined seismological records and train schedules looking for some type of disturbance. Once flow starts somewhere in the pile, it propagates. The initial rupture was catastrophic, pushing a house off its foundation, but it involved just a fraction of the mass that spilled. Most of the spill happened gradually over about an hour, filling in the mouth of a creek and pouring ash into an impounded stretch of the Emory River but lacking the force to travel uphill and cause further harm to shoreline properties.
When there is a hard freeze, ice forms on the surface of mud or soil. The expansion of water as it freezes causes a pressure drop that pulls water from below the surface. As the photo above illustrates, this pressure can draw out a considerable amount of water, which freezes into crystals or ribbons.
The rupture in the ash pile started in the northeastern corner of the pile where the curvature maximized the surface area, providing more exposure to the cold air. The wicking pressure would be strongest in the corner, and the flow created as ice formed on the surface of the pile is just the sort of trigger engineers were looking for. Since they failed to consider the cold weather, they were unable to find a cause.
Why does it matter? Just a couple years prior to the spill, an outside consultant warned TVA of this danger and recommended that they lower the water content in the pile during winter months to prevent a freeze-triggered collapse. They did this the previous year, but TVA cycled managers to other plants during a reorganization in 2008. Apparently institutional memory was lost and the pile was not dewatered last winter.

Dec 3, 2009

Silence of the Lambs

Plagiarism has brought down many an academic career, scandalized politicians and cost reporters and speechwriters their jobs. It is a form of theft and thus covered in the Ten Commandments under "thou shalt not steal," so I expect Christians to treat it as a serious matter. I have been looking into a case of plagiarism involving a Christian author recently, and I found no evidence to support that expectation.
Atheist and science bloggers discovered the plagiarism months ago. An Internet search reveals a dozen such blogs that mention Ray Comfort's plagiarism, yet I can not find a single Christian blog that condemns or even mentions the theft. Even sites that are critical of Comfort only take him to task for his sophistry, not his ethical transgression.
I contacted both the book publisher and Comfort's Living Waters ministry by phone. The person at Living Waters took a detailed message and all my contact info, but no one ever contacted me. He refused to give me a name or email address for a publicist, attorney or anyone. The publicist at Bridge-Logos, the publisher, answered their phone, but she claimed to have never heard the allegations and could not respond. I sent emails to her and directly to the owner of the company and again a week later reminded them that there was still time to comment prior to my deadline. Nothing.
Numerous major media outlets publicized an effort to pass out Comfort's book with the plagiarized passage on college campuses, but none mentioned the plagiarism. Three pages of text are taken with little change, making the theft quite obvious. Comfort is a best-selling author of dozens of titles, a television personality and a frequent guest on radio and news shows. Men of lesser stature have had to answer for passing off another's work as their own.
Is there a double standard here? The Bible warns us that men of poor character and ill intent will use piety and righteousness as a disguise. Have Christians let down their guard to dangers within their midst?

Dec 2, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Earth in on it!

While the lower half froths over trivial emails taken out of context, SourPersimmon has discovered the true smoking gun of the massive global warming conspiracy.

It's not just that every climate scientist has shunned the penny-ante bribery of free fill-ups at the local Exxon station for the more tempting lucre of grant money and carbon offset trading. They are smart guys who can clearly recognize long-term value. It's not the charade of trekking to the poles to drill ice cores or poring over tree rings and pollen deposits to reconstruct the paleoclimate. Let's face it, scientists love practical jokes, and if they all decide it would be a hoot to fool the world into thinking they've discovered temperature proxies, the only thing that will give them away is the giggling.

Scientists can definitely fool everybody all the time about what the world was like 50,000 years ago or what it will be like 50 years from now. Fooling people about what is right in front of their eyes is a bigger challenge. Shrinking glaciers and Alaskan fishing villages crumbling into the sea are harder to fake than results from crazy computer models.

Look at this shit:

Those are direct, empirical, present-day measurements. What the hell? To understand this, you must time-travel with me back to January 1, 1993. Bill Clinton had not yet been sworn in as President, but already the transfer of power had begun. Al Gore was involved in secret negotiations, unrecognized until just now when I, SourPersimmon, realized what the title of Gore's book released on that New Year's Day really means: Earth in the Balance.

The Earth is IN ON THE CONSPIRACY!!! It's not just a bunch of joker scientists helping Gore win prizes and sell offsets, it's Earth herself! She's in on the scam, melting her glaciers and calving icebergs. First fossils and now this. You were Gore's whore, old girl, but now the jig is up.