Funny predictions from an engineer

An engineer on a mail list recently posted the following predictions.

It is unlikely that the USA will survive the present financial crisis unscathed. It _certainly_ will be long gone within 100 years.

Here is what I believe will happen shortly (within 25 years):

1. Mexico will become part of a North American Union, together with the USA and (probably) Canada and /or Honduras..

2. Gold will again circulate as the article of exchange, as paper money systems will be replaced.

3. At least 4 major US cities will be destroyed by nuclear explosions, killing millions of people.

4. Except for a few electric vehicles, automobiles will be powered by coal gas (carbon monoxide), as coal will emerge as the energy source of choice. Oil will completely go away as a source of fuel (but will be used as lubricants).

5. Despite its obvious advantages, nuclear generation of electricity will NOT return to common usage because the power plants cannot be protected from terrorists.

These predictions seem very familiar to me, I think I’ve heard many of them over and over again from many different pundits over the past four decades. I don’t think I’ll count on any of them coming true now.

To give a little feeling for the crazy ideas from this guy here’s a few wild statements I believe I’ve read from this guy before. He is re-incarnated. All of the problems in the US are the fault of the Democrats, even when they are not in control of any of the branches of government (e.g. Iraq war, 9/11, budget deficit, you name it, it’s the Dems fault). He can make more money playing poker at casinos than by doing engineering yet he doesn’t do it. He has problems with chips and PC’s that he’s absolutely certain exist yet no-one else, including the manufacturers, has the same problems.

With such great thinking skills I’m glad I’ll never have him working on any projects with me.

Update March 4 2008

A couple more odd statements from this engineer:

In reference to a quote by Lewis L. Strauss from a Speech to the National Association of Science Writers, New  York City September 16th, 1954.

Yes. This quote was made in a 3-page advertisement in Scientific American in 1955. I carried it with me for years. Alas I finally lost it. and I have been very suspicious of Scientific American ever since…

I wonder is he suspecting that Scientific American stole the advertisement from his pocket or is he suspicious of SciAm because they have advertising. Neither makes any sense to me. He followed this up with this gem:

The truth is that nuclear power is the MOST costly of all power generation methods. The US government has never admitted the true costs, because it would probably cause a taxpayer revolt.

Hmm, as a republican nut bag you’d think this guy would be aware that the government doesn’t generate power or control it’s costs (free market) .

Comments closed 7/18/08 to slow the spam

Spectacular Windmill Failure

The video below shows the most spectacular video of a windmill failure I’ve ever seen. There aren’t a lot of details on the intertubes but I have found a couple of articles from Danish newspapers one in English and the other not. The windmill was a ten year old Vestas windmill located in Aarhus Denmark. Piecing together blog comments, the articles and, my own knowledge, this is what appears to have happened. A large storm came through the area, the central monitoring station detected that the main and backup safety braking systems had failed in this particular unit. They sent a crew to make sure the area was secure and to observe the failing windmill, after a few hours the result is shown in the video. While this was clearly a dangerous situation, the fact that the operators had ample warning to get there to observe the failure clearly shows that these types of problems should not be a cause for panic by the public. In general windmill’s are a safe and effective method of generating power, the failures usually have only economic consequences for the owners.


Hat tip to Phil Plait from Bad Astronomy for pointing me to this story.

A lesson for UK hosting providers

The first good news is that the Quackometer is back! A great big thank you needs to be given to The Positive Internet Company Ltd. whom picked up the hosting for Quackometer.

The next good news, if true, should send a clear message to UK hosting providers. The news comes from Joe Obi’s blog:

The fact that I am currently suing the Quackometer’s former Internet Service Provider (Netcetera Ltd) …

If he is to believed, then he is proceeding with suing Netcetera even though they caved to his bogus threat and removed Quackometer from their servers. This should be a lesson to all UK based hosting providers, even when you cave to the demands of a con-man like Obi he will still try to drag you through the courts to steal some cash from you. Since Obi’s claims are bogus I believe Netcetera would prevail in court and likely recover their costs in defending themselves from Obi. However because they dumped Quackometer, they have gotten a bunch of bad publicity along they way. If they had been willing to stand up for what’s right they would have ended up with good publicity and the same trial outcome, heck it could have even made their defense less costly and simpler because Le Canard Noir and others would have been motivated to help their defense.

The only way UK hosting services can be sure to avoid this situation is to pre-screen all content your customers wish to post. I think you’ll need to limit your customers to people who want to post about kittens, puppies and other non-controversial topics. Somehow I don’t think this is a workable position for UK hosting providers. I suggest they form an industry lobbying organization and push the UK government to give them legal protection like they have in much of the civilized world. I suspect a UK hosting support lobby would get much support from the science friendly blogosphere for a protective law, at least I know I would do what I can to help publicize their cause.

Please Boycott the Netcetera hosting service

Last night in a comment on Orac’s blog I found out that Le Canard Noir’s great Quackometer site has been taken down by his hosting provider. This was prompted by more groundless threats by the ridiculous pseudo-scientist Joe Obi. While Mr. Obi deserves to be ridiculed and taunted for his outrageous pseudo-science and legal bullying what is even more important is to send a message to the hosting provider who caved in to Obi’s threats.

If you are a customer of Netcetera Limited I strongly urge you to notify them that you are moving to a hosting provider who has a spine. Personally I’ve been very satisfied with GoDaddy for hosting services and from what I’ve heard about Netcetera pricing I think they are less expensive as well. As consumers we have very little power over corporations but we do have the power to vote with our wallets. This is an important issue, hosting providers must be made to understand that free speech on the Internet is a right we demand, not a casual service they’ll give us until they have some nutcase threaten them.

If you are going to cancel your service with Netcetera then sending a letter explaining why you’re leaving will be helpful (email just doesn’t have the same impact). Here’s Netcetera’s contact information from their web site:

Netcetera Limited
The Dataport
Isle of Man
British Isles

For more details see:

The Bad Science Forum :: View topic – Quackometer silenced

Quackometer silenced! « gimpy’s blog

Today’s News: Quackometer Silenced. Netcetera Tossers. Obi A Disgrace. « jdc325’s Weblog

Science and Progress: The Duck is dead, long live the Duck

shpalman: Regrets to inform you that is dead because Netcetera were stupid

Thinking Is Dangerous: Netcetera condemn themselves as pathetic caitiffs

Quackometer blog taken offline – by its cowardly Netcetera host, and spurious legal threats « Holford Watch

Apathy Sketchpad » Blog Archive » Netcetera Are Spineless Morons

Netcetera Cave In « Letting Off Steam

Quackometer Silenced – JREF Forum

Not that Little Black Duck

Respectful Insolence: Le Canard Noir in trouble? I’m there!


Save le canard noir! « WhiteCoat Underground


Hawk/Handsaw: Netcetera fold like a cheap suit

Netcetera are a pathetic, cretinous excuse for a webhost at Badchemist’s Blog

Twonilblankblank · Netcetera bad, well done Positive Internet

netcetera QUACKOMETER – Google Blog Search

ScienceDebate 2008

ScienceDebate 2008 has gained some steam lately but they still can use more help. Please stop by their web site and help out if you can.

From the latest email they sent out:

Friday Business Week ran this story on us.

Over the last several days heavy hitters like Intel Chairman Craig Barrett and former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala have signed on, as have numerous universities, including Stanford, Georgia Tech, Cornell, and several others. 

Yesterday, Earth & Sky Radio began running this interview with one of our organizers around the nation.

But the big news is we have invited the candidates.  And we’ve issued a press release.   The debate is set for April 18 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  That’s four days before the Pennsylvania Primary.  The New York Times, MSNBC, and others have picked up the story. 

In fact, just about the only people we haven’t heard from are the campaigns.  If you have contacts at the Clinton, Huckabee, McCain or Obama campaigns, please urge them to accept. 

Please tell them this is a mainstream concern about the big policy challenges the next president and our nation are facing.  We are doing this for the good of our nation, and we hope those who would lead it take the future of the American economy and job security seriously enough to come to Philadelphia.  We hope they take having a discussion with American voters about climate change seriously enough to come to Philadelphia.  We hope they realize that we as American innovators, business leaders, scientists and thought leaders, and as over 100 leading American universities and organizations, that we care about our nation’s investments in science and math education, that we care about our broken healthcare system and our declining investments in basic research, that we care about scientific integrity, about clean energy, about the future of the oceans and about the biodiversity that secures life on our planet, that these are not arcane, quirky science questions, they are questions about American jobs, about the health of our families and businesses, about our children and the future of the planet, and we hope that those who would lead us them seriously enough to come to Philadelphia.

Thanks for being a part of this historic and important initiative.  Finally, please consider making an online donation here to support our efforts.

The team at

Happy 199th Birthday Charlie

darwin-mi-1882On, February 12th, 1809 Charles Darwin was born at Mount House, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England. Take a moment to read this short biography or view his life in pictures. If you’re more ambitious you can read some of his great works at Project Gutenberg or the University of Cambridge Darwin web site. For any religious people reading this who are unsure of how to think about science and Darwin’s big ideas, please read this earlier post I made, MLK Jr., Science, Darwin & Intelligent Design.

After you’ve learned a little about him please show your support by becoming one of The Friends of Charles Darwin. The requirements for membership are minimal so anyone capable of reading my blog should meet the qualifications easily. Then you can sing Charlie Is My Darwin while you celebrate the life of this giant of science. While you’re visiting the FCD site be sure to subscribe your RSS reader to the wonderful blog, The Red Notebook by Richard Carter, FCD.

If you have some cash, then please donate to The HMS Beagle Project so they can launch next year in time for Charlie’s bicentennial birthday.

Wishing everyone a happy Darwin Day,
Paul Hutchinson, FCD

New paper shows evidence for the Salem hypothesis

I was pointed to this EDN blog post about an Oxford University paper via a mail list posting. I later found another article about it in EETimes. The title of the paper is “Engineers of Jihad” the full paper as a PDF is here and here. It’s part of the Department of Sociology, Working Paper Series at the University of Oxford. The paper is by Nuffield College Professor Diego Gambetta FBA, PhD and Steffen Hertog.

I have only skimmed through most of the paper’s 90 pages so far but I plan a more detailed reading as time permits. The only section I read completely is the section “Religiosity of engineers” beginning on page 51. This section refers to the Salem hypothesis and gives data from a 1984 survey of academic engineers. While the survey does not explicitly deal with creationism it clearly shows engineering academics to be more likely to be conservative and religious. In my experience, the combination of conservative and religious is a good predictor for creationist beliefs, hence my feeling that this supports the Salem hypothesis.

This reply on the mail list surprised me:

Sounds to me more like paranoia over the protestors who are attempting to stop Oxford University building a laboratory where animals will be used for experimental medicine. See for typical news item on it.

This engineer jumps right up to say the paper is merely a conspiracy to draw attention away from the PR problems Oxford is currently having. Lets see if this makes logical sense based on the evidence that I see. First, the paper was published three months ago and has not been actively promoted by the university. To me that seems like the absolute worst way to use the paper for deflecting public opinion away from the other troubles. Active early promotion of the paper would help support the premise that this was a diversion but that didn’t happen. Second, I’ve never seen conservative religious groups protesting against animal laboratories, in my experience these types are more likely to defend the laboratory. The paper makes the case that academic engineers are more likely to be conservative and religious. Intentionally irritating those who are most likely to support your cause does not seem to me to be a good way to deflect public criticism. So, from what I see if this paper was meant to diffuse the animal laboratory issue, Oxford has made a very illogical choice.

Reading over the comments at the EDN blog and EETimes article, I see many irrational and conspiracy minded responses from people who likely haven’t even read the paper (some even admit this). The ad hominem attacks, claims that all sociologists are fools and multiple commenter’s saying how they know so many religious non-Muslim engineers, all provide evidence to support the basic premise of the paper and the Salem hypothesis. It sure looks like many of the commenter’s didn’t take the time to read the paper and instead are simply reacting to the papers title, sigh. With all the ridiculous comments is it any wonder that scientists are suspect of engineers when it comes to questions of science.

Another interesting data point is that economics and business majors came in number two, right behind engineers, in the conservative and religious proclivity. Now where have I been recently seeing a high profile member of this 2nd group involved in promoting creationism? Bueller?… Bueller?… Bueller?

While researching this post Tyler DiPietro published an interesting post, Irrational Engineers: A Conjecture. I’m thinking about this and will comment over at Tyler’s site later.

Netiquette for blog carnival readers or how to confuse a group of blog readers

It had never occurred to me that the following would be need to be said but clearly there is at least one person out there who needs to hear this. When you read a blog post linked from a blog carnival, you should post your comments about the post, at the post. Don’t post your comment at the carnival host’s post, the main carnival site, the carnival organizer’s notice of the carnival or, at a random post at the carnival organizer’s blog.

Until this evening it didn’t occur to me that anyone would need to be told this because I’ve never been told this, it just seems like common sense. Tonight this situation came to light at Orac’s blog, it was a simple little humorous post about a nasty email he’d received. I’m skimming through the comments when I encounter this long winded comment that doesn’t appear to be at all related to the post. The replies and comments go on and on and I can’t easily figure out what precisely the commenter Roy is trying to say. Many of the replies from others show that they also are having trouble figuring out what Roy is complaining about. I see references to the denialists deck of cards from a totally different blog and mentions of the Skeptics Circle blog carnival.

Then it finally clicks for me, Roy dislikes and/or disagrees with blog posts in various Skeptic Circle carnivals. Does he post a comment at the blog post he has issues with, no. Does he at least post at the carnival host’s post, nope. Does he post his comment at the main blog carnival page, not. Does he post at the carnival organizer’s notice of that edition of the carnival, no way. Instead he places his comments at the most current post of the blog organizer, a post which has absolutely nothing to do with the blog carnival. Hmm, I don’t think I can even imagine a more effective way to make readers totally confused about your comment. 😉

So to re-iterate what should be obvious to most people, when you have a comment about a blog post, place your comment on that exact post. This way the author of the post sees your post and the blogs readers will be able to have context for your comment.

The only other acceptable alternative is to put the commentary on your own blog as a new post and link back to the original blog post. Oh and while we’re on the subject of blog carnivals, do not assume that the carnival organizer and/or carnival edition host agree with the other blogger’s posts that make up the carnival. Just because a post meets the criterion for a host to include it in an edition of the carnival does not mean the host agrees with it.