Fun with numbers- how your teen can prove that BP is lying

To understand the nature of a continous event you have to be able to both scale up and scale down.  That is, what may be a small amount of oil in a small period can add up to a big amount of oil in a big period. 
BP has been trying to turn that on its’ head, in effect saying that the leak is too big to stop effectively while claiming that the net effect is very small, as if all the oil that came out in one day came out in a single spurt.
5000 barrels per day, the original estimate, works out to about 9.2 litres per second.  That is about the same volume as the volume of water you would get if you turned on 46 taps at once.
Apparently the pipe that is leaking is a 22 inch pipe.  
Having the diameter of the pipe and the flow rate allows you to solve for velocity, e.g. with this wonderful site:, which allows you to mix your units.
A 22 inch pipe leaking 9.2 litres per second has a flow rate of 0.08 miles per hour. 
Just eyeballing the live feed and using the 22 inch diameter pipe as a scale reference it looks closer to about 2 feet for second to me.  Solve that for flow instead of velocity and you get 149.5 litres per second, about 81,250 barrels per day.
I would question how that amount of pressure though would be enough that a 100 ton cap was insufficient.   Put in place a 100 ton cap without trying to siphon off oil to make money, then bury it under further heavy material immediately and I like the chances.  Cap, bury and seal and I would have thought the whole business would be over quickly. 
To double check the math if you don’t trust the web calculator, the area of a circle is Pi (approximately 3.141592653589793 if I recall) x the square of the radius.  The pipe is 22 inches, the radius is 11 inches, using 3 instead of Pi to ballpark it it comes to about 363 square inches, more exactly 380 inches if you use Pi and a calculator, or 2.64 square feet.  If it moves 2 feet per second that’s 5.28 cubic feet per second. 
The only thing that you really have to look up is that a "barrel" by definition in the US is 42 gallons or 158.9873 litres. 
Part of the tyranny of the experts is that they promote laziness on the part of the populace.  Part of my point about ballparking is that to get a general handle on these matters it isn’t too complicated.   With access to unit conversion tables or knowledge and a few basic facts this is stuff that a competent grade 8 student can do on the back of a napkin.
Having contrary experts come out against the other experts and offer alternative figures was somewhat helpful but even more helpful would have been to point out that no particular expertise is required.   You look at the video, pick a form coming from the pipe as the billowing is irregular, and estimate how far it is going in a second using a 22 inch pipe for scale.  It looks like the shapes move a little more than the diameter of the pipe in a second, or about 2 feet.  Once you have that the rest is basic math solving for one variable using multiplication and division.
Before you have the video and can see the flow rate you can solve for flow rate using the claimed rate per second and the diameter of the pipe, and it seems  highly dubious that oil moving at 0.08 miles per hour from a 22 inch pipe would somehow be  too much for a 100 ton weight to handle. 
Before you get to Tea Parties and the like trying to take back your country a good start would be taking back your minds.   Deferring to the "experts" with bovine complacency- even experts that happen to be right at the time- only breeds an atmosphere in which the population will be hoodwinked over and over again.  If you have dueling experts, how do you judge which is right?   The starting question should be, is any expertise required?

Working in not so mysterious ways

Back in the times of Jesus, many of the jews were expecting what they thought of as a Messiah and he and John the Baptist were both by family descent qualified for the job but not particularly inclined to lead their flocks on a suicide mission.   Both were sharp tongued but level-headed enough to know that for men to purport to bind a god to a specific course of action by writing something in a book could lead to nothing but trouble.   They would be expected to bring down fire from the sky or lightning and strike down entire legions and neither had any delusion that this could happen.  There was no indication that armed force was their proposed method of addressing problems at all.  Trivia question:  how many people did Jesus kill in each gospel?  Also look at Luke 9:54-56.
Jesus was famous for making various statements that his revolution-seeking militant jew opponents thought were heresy, such as "give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s".   That is why some jews wanted him crucified while the local Romans were likely more than content with leaving him be. 
After his passing and his brother James took over the church in Jerusalem, and he didn’t have any inclination to mount an overthrow of the Romans either. 
When the jews ran out of level-headed leadership they started a revolution and actually kicked the Romans out for a few years- after which the Romans came back and largely destroyed the jewish population. 
Jews who had moved to other places, including many affiliated with Jesus’ group, avoided the massacre. 
Today, a large number of jews remain.  The pagan Roman empire is gone and latin is a dead language.  The jews that survived are those that, whether actually following Jesus or not, adopted a policy of avoiding armed conflicts with well armed, well trained Roman legions.   They are the fathers of the modern jews.  Much as predicted those that lived by the sword died by it. 
So Jesus did save the jews, at least for a generation, and with his loyalists that moved away contributing to the mass of survivors it may well have been necessary to the survival of the religion.   But that wasn’t how the jews wanted to be saved.  They wanted fire and brimstone from the sky.  They wanted Hollywood style action and instantaneous results. 
The Catholic Church has been saved in a curious way.   While it had absolute power the church was an abomination, little more than an all-powerful corporation.  That is the way of the world, those with the upper hand rarely preach tolerance. 
The rise of protestantism and expecially atheism have saved the soul of the Catholic Church.   It has been moving, innovating and in a number of ways transformed into a progressive and liberal organization.  The church is no longer anti-intellectual and is informed on modern science instead of opposing it.   It has returned to being a bona fide religion.   Without external pressures to reform and stay relevant it would have been forever in a rut.
I can’t say that I am surprised that the Supreme Court in the US will soon be composed entirely of Catholics and jews.  
That the jews have been successful I attribute primarily to their culture being pro rather than anti-intellectual.  Catholics are increasingly taking a similar approach and can expect similar success.   In contrast, the protestantism of the southern US for the most part takes thinking as a sin and being a moron as a virtue.  That will get you an enormous following of trailer trash and hillbillies with three teeth, but not too many potential Supreme Court justice candidates.

Reform needed in law of defamation and extortion

One lawyer, Jeff Anderson, is on a one man crusade against the Catholic church.  He is a plaintiff’s counsel who has taken on an enormous number of the child abuse cases. 
Mr. Anderson apparently has a press conference for every new unproven case and ensures that these matters are constantly in the press.
Whereas the few wicked priests have harmed thousands, Mr. Anderson has harmed millions of Catholics with the manner of his approach.
As noted in the articles about Mr. Anderson, the Vatican attacking the news media has backfired and is misconceived.  It is misconceived.  They should be attacking Mr. Anderson. 
One bad priest could molest 100 children.  100 cases can bankrupt a huge diosese if the payouts are over $1 milllion per person.   A system where one man can deny the right of millions to attend at the religious institution of their choice is a threat not just to that religion, but to every religion and every other institution.   The only reason that the Anglicans, Baptists, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, public schools, public libraries, recreation centers, day cares, parks, children’s sports teams, and all the other institutions or locations with lots of children aren’t in the same predicament is because they do not yet have an opponent as vindictive as Mr. Anderson. 
I would be greatly surprised if US protestant denominations do not have rates of abuse that are considerably greater than the Catholic church.   US protestantism has a long and dubious history of being dominated by personality cults of creeps and weirdos. 
In other words, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  Maintain the same damages ratios that are hitting the Catholics consistently and almost all forms of human activity will be uneconomical. 
There is no reason to be settling abuse claims for over $1 million each, other than bad tort law in a given state or bad press.    People who are damaged just as badly as a result of a car accident or any other claim don’t get remotely that much. 
Then there is Gloria Allred.   I have mixed feelings about Ms. Allred’s recent revelation that one of her clients was attacked by Roman Polanski.  I can say at the outset that there is every reason to believe that the allegation is true, and indeed I had predicted that Mr. Polanski would have other victims. 
I am however concerned that Ms. Allred’s motivations in other cases have not seemed appropriate.   She has become known as the "mistress lawyer", representing women whose profession is seducing celebrities then trying to cash in on it.   At least one received a payment to remain silent. 
Given that a mistress doesn’t have any rights to compensation from a married man under most circumstances, I have difficulty seeing why such persons need a lawyer whose apparent function is to deal with the press.
While a lawyer may serve some function there in making sure certain lines aren’t crossed as far as defamation the appearance is questionable. 
The traditional law of extortion requires that there be a formal demand for something in return for silence.   The difficulty is that if no demand is made that this can be circumvented.  If a person continually goes to the press until paid to shut up, the effect is the same as extortion even if the law has not technically been violated.  The wrongdoer receives money to which he or she is not entitled in return for dropping something.   I can think of no sound legal, moral or ethical principle for allowing such practices to continue.  There needs to be a law against that practice.
The law of defamation has a similar weakness.  Traditionally, it has been a complete defence to a defamation complaint that the defamation is true.  I can think of no sound legal, ethical or moral reason why that should be a defence in the absence of public interest, which is difference from the public being interested in the sense of titilated.   The current system allows people to profit from wrongdoing. 
Tiger Woods isn’t accused of doing anything illegal with any of his mistresses.   In the case of the quarterback Ben R., the football player was accused of sexual assault and it sounds like at least the second allegation could be proven at least to a civil standard.   Reporting the Big Ben incidents is public interest.   Reporting Tiger Woods’ affairs only allows wrongdoers to make money.  It is against the public interest to allow any reporting of Tiger Woods’ affairs.   Of course there would have to be some distinction between mass media vs. other forms of communication- you don’t want to say that nobody can ever mention an affair, including to the wife. 
The implicit extortion issues should be dealt with in the case of lawyers by law societies preventing lawyers from holding press conferences except for defence to allegations in almost all cases.  I’ll leave the door open that there might be some case where generating a public outcry may be the only way to a remedy.  People should not be litigating through the press as the effect is so analogous to extortion.  Defence is a different issue- sometimes it is necessary to publicly respond when a case is high profile and a reputation would otherwise be destroyed.   The best example was when a swimming coach at Simon Fraser University was accused of raping and harassing a student and dismissed.   His lawyers held a press conference to prove that the student had in fact been harassing the coach who had spurned her numerous advances which included sending him inappropriate emails and photographs. 
And then there is the question of what to do in the meantime until the law is fixed, while Mr. Anderson and Ms. Allred are techically not violating any law or any code of professional conduct.   
In Mr. Anderson’s case, here is my suggestion:  he has or has had thousands of these cases.   It is inevitable with that number of cases and the easy money that, just as with any other area, there will be some fraudulent cases.   I would be highly surprised if there is no case in which it cannot be proven that a would-be plaintiff never attended where he claimed to have attended.   Most fraudsters aren’t rocket scientists.   Even good cases always have a hole or two, bogus cases are usually like Swiss cheese.
The church should be selecting the cases most likely to be fraudulent, as well as doing due diligence in every case to check if people did attend where they said they attended, etc.  Announce several of these cases when proven false.  Ensure that criminal prosecutions are begun where appropriate.  Make sure that Mr. Anderson’s name is repeated at least 17 times in any related statements or interviews.  Show clips of Mr. Anderson’s news conference from back when the case was started.  He probably wouldn’t know of any specific client being a fake but that is no reason to not ensure that he is judged by the same unfair measure as he would have the church judged.   Do unto others as you would have done unto you.  Judge not lest ye be judged.   
And nip this nonsense in the bud before it starts spreading to anything else.

Arizona Immigration Fiasco

Robert Krentz, the Arizona rancher who was shot, leading to widespread support of the Arizona immigration law, was a kindly man who was compassionate to illegal immigrants that he found on his property.  
There were widespread reports that his last words were that his last words were that he had been shot by an illegal immigrant.   That looked suspicious- most people’s last words would be more like "tell my family I love them"- so I looked a little deeper and discovered that yes, this had been distorted and his last words were more along the lines of "I’ve spotted an illegal immigrant that needs help".
Mr. Krentz would probably be crushed if he could know that his name is now being used to spread racial hatred.
In fact, he was most likely shot by an American based gang member in retaliation for his brother reporting a drug shipment through their property the previous day.   The person was apparently solo, although illegal immigrants tend to travel in groups, and the person was going towards the Mexican border rather than away from it, eventually crossing into Mexico, making almost a B-line for the border.  That an illegal immigrant would go to that effort and then return to Mexico is highly improbable.   I would also question where a poor immigrant would get a gun.
The most interesting question, where the person came from, has been dramatically under-reported.  I’ve only found one reference stating that the person was already headed south prior to the interception of Mr. Krentz, and that was in a blog.
The party was probably dropped off by somebody else in a vehicle who probably would not stray too far if they were looking for a target on the 54 square mile ranch.  The most obvious way to proceed if the gang wanted to make a point would be to get within sight of a target and have the gunman approach on foot.  I wonder if anybody looked for tire-tread marks outside the fences?
There is a certain irony that the Arizona immigration law may make it more difficult for Mr. Krentz’s killer to ever be prosecuted.   There may well be illegal immigrants with relevant information who would now be automatically deported should they come forward. 
Of course the immigration law is beyond the competence of Arizona, encroaching on Federal jurisdiction, and the law will presumably be shot down.  Most politicians of any party do not care whether what they enact is constitutional and that is one reason we have a court system.
Arguments that a law can be passed provided it is not inconsistent with Federal law miss the point as the issue is whether it is inconsistent with the Constitution.  The 14th Amendment makes it extra clear that states no longer have even control over who is a citizen of the state.   If supposed consistency with Federal law is all that is required it would be equally reasonable for States to enter into treaties and everything else on the same reasoning.   Consistency is only relevant when there is concurrent jurisdiction.
Not least of the problems is that the law as it stands is inconsistent with Arizona’s own state constitution, with s.8 giving a right to privacy, s.14 preventing any state restriction on habeas corpus, and s.22 which describes restrictions on bail.   Under s.22 of the state constitution an illegal immigrant can only be denied bail if there is clear proof of a very serious offence, which by necessary implication means something other than being an illegal immigrant.  
Habeas corpus is another problem.   The new law would prohibit release of a possible illegal immigrant without proof of legal immigration status. 
If you don’t have proof that the person is illegal and a writ of habeas corpus is brought, the person has to be released. 
What happens if a disorganized person with an accent loses their papers?  They get to languish while the bureaucrats see if they can find replacements?
It is hard to see how the "reasonable suspicion" that somebody is illegal can be based on anything other than skin color or accent or the like as the alternative is using the police officers’ psychic intuitions.   There is also the intended implementation of the law, which everybody knows even if it is not explicit in the law itself.  The police will not be investigating and detaining indefinitely people with British or Australian accents on the suspicion that they may be illegal immigrants. 
The law does nothing to curb the gang violence that lead to Mr. Krentz’ death.   It is more likely than not to be used on illegal farm workers, nannies and others that are doing their best to be law abiding apart from their illegal status.   To the extent that the law would be implemented by diverting resources from dealing with violent crime to dealing with deporting nannies and farm workers it is not a particularly good use of resources. 
We also hear about the border crossing problem as if there is a complete absence of federal presence.   Apparently over 200,000 people were caught trying to cross into Arizona last year.  That is a high number in proportion to the number of illegals, reportedly over 400,000, that are already there.   When the vast majority of incomers get caught each year I have trouble characterizing the Federal Government as inactive.  It sounds more like the average border patrol officer is catching several people every day.   Of course facts are the eternal nemesis of Republican politicians.
There are other options.   I like the idea of amnesty at a price. 
For instance, allow naturalization as a reward for informing on criminals.  I’d trust an illegal immigrant over a jailhouse informant any day.   Make an incentive to clean the place up rather than hide from police.
Or how about conscription for below what would otherwise be minimum wages?  America needs infrastructure.  This isn’t the 30’s.   The cost of regular citizens building infrastructure at market rates is prohibitive, which is one reason the country is falling to pieces.   Allow the illegals to pay some dues in return for entry.
There are no doubt other options.   The present unconstitutional knee-jerk reaction is probably the dumbest choice. 

Gulf oil spill- is stopping the flow BP’s top objective?

So far most or all of the options being considered for the flow of oil have involved some manner of pumping it up to ships or on other platforms, presumably to be used for profit. 
The talk about relief wells implies making other oil wells to release the pressure, presumably also worked by BP who will make a profit.
The first option considered for capping the well was not really capping it, it was about capturing the oil and having it flow up to tanker ships.  Then when there was freezing so the oil couldn’t be channeled, the 100 ton cap was removed.  There was some issue raised about the 100 ton cap becoming bouyant but that wasn’t really clarified.
Next up was some "top hat" cap idea, without it being really clear whether that would allow the recovery of oil.  That went from being plan A, to suddenly being replaced by a plan B, switching to inserting a tube into the leaking broken pipe so that a small portion of the oil coming out can be recovered.
Am I the only one that gets the feeling that while there is a major disaster going on, the oil companies involved are primarily concerned with how much oil they can recover? 
I wonder if, in the absence of any functioning conduit for the oil, BP et al might be at risk of losing their stake. 
If they’ve been allowing the leak to continue while they finesse some way to get oil out of it that is major hubris.  
A more obvious way of doing things would be to lower some kind of cap and then dump thousands of tons of rocks on top to hold it down.   That would be a lot safer. 
If you take the industry figure of 5000 barrels per day leaking, that works out to about 9.2 litres [~2.4 gallons] per second.  That’s not much pressure.  If it’s 5 times that much like some people think, I still have trouble seeing that moving a 100 ton cap.   Cover the cap with lots and lots of rock and you’re probably set.  If there’s any residual leakage it should be sufficiently well behaved at that point to seal. 
When you get this kind of problem you don’t bother looking for a finesse solution.   Cap it, bury it and seal it and if you are sufficiently prepared it can be all done in a few days.  
In this case it looks like preserving the well got priority over all the other considerations.   If they have to make a new well, too bad.  The whole approach of the oil companies involved has seemed cavalier.   One of the safety devices was partly disabled so that they could use a piece of it to do something with testing.   The prospect of their well being buried and unusable should be the least of their concerns.   If they have to spend months drilling other wells that’s just too bad.
Other oil companies ought to be on them for this and publicly proposing solutions as the outcome will affect everybody.  If the leak gets tamed quickly and professionally it makes life easier for everybody.
If on the other hand drilling that deep in the earth under that much water produces an oil volcano that can’t be controlled by any means, the only rational decision is to ban the practice and only allow drilling with consequences that can be controlled. 
So if they are just going to fiddle around they should think twice about that.

Metaphor traps

Certain of the Kagan supporters have been favorable on the ground that she is supposedly going to be in favor of gay marriage. 
It is hard to see what effect her appointment could reasonably have on the issue because the only way for it to become a constitutional right is by an amendment.  If every perceived injustice becomes a constitutional affront then every issue becomes a constitutional issue, to be decided on purely subjective views as to unfairness.  A decision making gay marriage a constitutional right would be the worst decision in the history of law, in effect an end to law, by setting a precedent for rule by opinion that could equally apply to a fetus’ right to life, a woman’s right to abortion, the right to practice religion, the right to block religions for promoting some unjust practices, everything and its’ opposite being decided by what a majority of nine people think is fair.  That is not a good idea.
Providing that different sorts of partnerships are allowed the same social benefits as marriage for bureaucratic purposes it is hard to see the justification for insisting that it be recognized as being the same in any metaphysical way.   It is a vain search for approbation that will never occur.   It is not akin to a black man demanding the same rights as a white man, it is akin to a black man seeking to be declared white, and one has to question whether creating such a legal fiction serves a purpose and whether turning one class of people into a parody of another class of people entrenches rather than eliminates a connotation of inferiority.    If you are proud of what you are, why do you want to be a parody of something else?  It just looks like a desparate grasp for approval.
It also piggybacks on the modern anachronistic approach to marriage. 
Notoriously, in biblical times, including at the time of the Commandments, the "taking unto wife", i.e. the physical act, confirmed the marriage back before bureaucratic registries and religions with their hands out for fees confused everything. 
Strictly speaking the old New Jersey law whereby people were married on having sex was the most accurate in describing what constitutes a marriage.  Getting married in the same sense that is protected by the Commandments and not registering it is not an affront to God, it is an affront to the people that want your money and who want to further legislate about your behaviour in terms of asset division and other things. 
So strictly speaking, the religious concern should not be about pre-marital sex, which is a non-sequitor, it should be about promiscuity, which amounts to adultery per se. 
The registration of marriage leads to certain baskets of rights, which can be provided without necessarily referring directly to marriage. 
The marriage itself in a correct historical sense comes though from the act, which is something that can be legislatively ignored but which can’t be legislatively taken away from the view of moral implication.
Whether any God would consider a homosexual act on the same footing is frankly beyond the jurisdiction of even a constitutional amendment.   If there could be any true same sex marriage as opposed to regulatory construct it would be on that basis.
But what this issue comes down to is not equal treatment, which can be legislated without use of specific words, but the desire to be thought well of, and whether you want to be thought of as equals, which can’t be legislated.
Changing definitions rather than rights to appease people should generally be avoided.  It stirs things up without purpose and is likely to achieve the opposite of any public relations objective.   It may also sideline real progress by obfuscating and conflating what matters and what doesn’t and creating the appearance of a victory when nothing has happened. 
If we throw things wide open it degrades everybody.   Some person in Germany recently apparently had a ceremony to marry his cat.   Well if marriage means whatever you want it to mean and is only about your personal truth, why not?   I would rather not know if that was consumated.
And then there are transexuals, who believe that they are the wrong sex.  Even after their surgeries, every cell in their entire body will still be genetically the sex that they are born with, regardless of surgery, changes to driver’s licences, in some cases the absurd changing of birth certificates to the wrong sex- which may be a pain to genealogists and the like in the future.   And as long as we go along with these fantasies, why limit it to the sex you are born with?  How do you know that you aren’t really a female dolphin or aardvark or panda born in a man’s body?  Should the state fund species reassignment? 
The situation reminds me somewhat of how I used to joke that I should join the university’s Chinese Christian Association, as it would be discrimination for them to exclude me.   While I meant that in jest, some people do things like that, say openly gay people that feign shock when Catholic institutions don’t want to hire them. 
I frankly think that a Catholic’s right to be Catholic is more important than the right of a non-Catholic to be Catholic and have every litigant and every judge turned into a pope by the legal system, entitled to rewrite dogma, is quite undesireable.   Why isn’t it enough to get on with your lives?  Why does every single person have to accept you?  The pursuit of universal acceptance rather than equal rights gives the gay rights movement the elements of the wrong sort of religious crusade.
The quantity of various rights crusades has also detracted from the quality and focus.  The key focus for the 99% of people who are not rich should be the equitable distribution of the products of our labor.  Productivity has gone up what, 16x or more in the past 100 years?  Are we 16x better?  Why not? Why has the America in which one white collar worker could afford a home with picket fence and retire at a normal age 50 years ago been replaced by an America in which two white collar incomes are about enough to just get by with a decent rental condo, when productivity has increased astronomically in the intervening period?  The women’s rights movement has succeeded in getting an ever more equal slice of an ever shrinking pie.  The gay rights movement’s reward for distracting the left will be at best getting wonderful certificates printed off of bureaucratic printers, which will change nothing of substance, while they edge ever closer to slavery with everybody else. 
I am sure that the right wing is quite pleased with the left’s loss of focus and fracturing into thousands of one issue factions with tunnel vision.  The left spends enormous energy on symbolic victories and poetry and metaphors and other delusions and what really matters is lost.

Genetics- why the loss of the “war on drugs” is inevitable

Genetic engineering in various plants and animals is already taking place and the only reason that it hasn’t been exploited yet in the criminal realm is because criminals tend to be creatively stunted.
If you can make tobacco glow in the dark by inserting a flourescent kelp gene, there isn’t any particular reason why the relevant DNA for THC from marijuana, or that produces the active ingredient in cocaine or opium poppies, couldn’t be inserted into common lawn grass or wheat, for example. 
Then unless looking for distinctive plant features, what do you do?  What do you do in a world where a dealer only has to go out and mow his lawn? 
It’s coming.