Saturday, October 29, 2011

October 29, 2011, Update

Here follows various updates regarding various projects I have been pursuing. The list is not fully comprehensive.

Mars Mission / Paper Presentation at Mars Society Meeting August 2011

That project is completed. I stand by my earlier statements that we could put men safely on Mars and return them safely, for under something like $50 billion. It would take a space agency that we do not currently have, and a contractor base that we do not currently have, to accomplish this. The real take-home lesson is that the agency and contractor base we have built and maintained all these decades is the wrong setup.

I did revamp the program back-up to solid-core nuclear “slowboat” from the original VASIMR-based fast-trip. The baseline is still gas-core nuclear fast-trip. As it turns out, VASIMR is just another electric ion drive, no better than the others in terms of performance potential. None of those is suitable for fast manned trips to Mars. I did add some better orbit trajectory estimates. See the 9-6-11 posting “Mars Mission Second Thoughts Illustrated” for those details. The original posting of paper content was 7-25-11 “Going to Mars (or Anywhere Else Nearby) the posting version”.

Ethanol Vehicle and Engine Work

That is now completed. I have decided that it is easier and more effective for most people just to use stiff gasohol blends E-20 to E-35, than it is to come up with shade-tree conversions for still-higher blend ratios. For some vehicles and engines, conversions are easy, for others, not so much.

This work is documented well enough in postings 5-5-11 “Ethanol Does Not Hurt Engines” and 2-12-11 “”How-To” for Ethanol and Blend Vehicles” for others to use the information. Anyone can learn to make E-30-something blends in any vehicle. For me, this has become routine operation of an F-150, a Nissan Sentra, two lawnmowers, a wood chipper, and a garden tiller on E-30-something blend, all completely factory stock. I still run my slightly-modified Farmall tractor on straight E-85, but have re-mothballed the modified 1973 “ethanol VW” and the unmodified 1960 “blend VW” against future needs.

My two-stroke chain saw and weed eater seem to run just fine on the E-10 blend they now sell as regular unleaded gasoline, with one exception. The weed eater is having age-related fuel line replacement troubles, but also seems to suffer from some poor design choices, as well, regarding how these lines connect to the fuel tank and the other components.

I have never run stiffer blends in either the weed eater or the chain saw. Is there is a materials incompatibility problem with the weed eater? I don’t know yet. Is there a “bad design” issue with loosening connections? Yes, of that I am sure. Is there an overheat problem that stiffens fuel line hose? I think so, and it’s another “bad design” issue unrelated to fuel composition.

Ramjet Engineering

In June of 2010 I paid a visit to Jeff Greason and his crew at XCOR Aerospace, Mojave, California. This was in regard to a future space launch project of theirs that involves ramjet propulsion. They had been unable to locate an all-around ramjet expert, until they ran across me by accident. I had not done such engineering since the old rocket plant in McGregor closed, at which time I was laid off: November 1994. It was not very long after that layoff, that most serious military ramjet work simply dried up in this country (although, not overseas).

As it turns out, of the few of us that I considered to be all-around experts with significant real design and test experience, most (or maybe all) the others are now dead. I seem to have outlived them all, thus becoming pretty much this country’s last living expert in that kind of propulsion.

Over the last year or so, I dug out some of my old ramjet stuff and got back into the “swing of it”, in order to be “back up to speed” when XCOR needs my help, perhaps next year. I began by looking at high-speed systems for orbital launch, which aligns with their project. This took the form of pencil-and-paper stuff in the odd evenings, and eventually evolved into a two-stage horizontal takeoff/landing aircraft, the lower stage being parallel-burn rocket and ramjet. We paralleled each other in this.

As best I can figure, the ramjet strap-on assist idea for vertical-launch rocket vehicles is more of a low-speed design system. That idea is less worked-out than the high-speed two-stage airplane, which does seem both feasible and attractive. But I do believe that my top-level conclusions are correct. I do not yet have the software tools necessary to do this kind of work for XCOR or anybody else, seeing as how no computer folks still support the old DOS-based programming languages that I learned long ago.

I have put a lot of “typical” ramjet performance estimates up on this “exrocketman” site, in articles too numerous to catalog here. More will be forthcoming, as I develop stuff into results one can truly trust. I have put some efforts into converting my old “smarts” and programs into modern Excel spreadsheet format. I now have a sizing spreadsheet that works for the old lower-speed “stovepipe” designs, plus a performance mapping option verified to work as the nozzle unchokes. It has become clear that the nested iteration-loop character of these calculations demands a real computer code, not a manually-converged spreadsheet, which is simply too slow and labor-intensive to be practical.

I already had a sizing code in an advanced BASIC language that works for high-speed designs. The corresponding performance-mapping code does not yet work. The corresponding codes for low-speed designs are nowhere-near in working order at all. There is available to me only a single obsolete computer with an old Windows-98 operating system, that will even run the programming language. This is a real practical problem yet to be solved.

More recently, I made contact with Aerojet, who is the current inheritor of the gas generator-fed ramjet work I did long ago at the old McGregor missile propulsion plant. It seems there might be a need for my skills once again. We’ll see. I have heard nothing positive back since that initial contact, though.

Meanwhile, I have been documenting my old procedures and methods in a series of reports that I keep in a “ramjet how-to” notebook. It’s not complete, but I do have a document regarding the high-speed engine cycle analysis, and one giving estimated spike inlet performance, plus another one documenting low-speed engine cycle analysis, with flameholding and heat protection “how-to” for both speed regimes. I think eventually this notebook will become a book on the “how-to” of ramjets.

One thing I do know: it is very easy to document science, but it is very, very hard to document art. Most of ramjet engineering is art, not science! And the science is hard enough, being way more complicated than rocketry.

Cactus Tool Stuff

I get more email inquiries now, but still very few sales. Many folks seem to be finding the cactus page on the “txideafarm” site. These seem to be generally younger folks. But, as it was with the old ranchers looking at magazine ads, few seem willing to believe it really works.

But, it does work! My place, and everything my friend Dave Gross has done, proves it.

I build and sell about 1 or 2 tools a year, these days. I sell about 2-4 plans sets per year. The rigors of fabricating pieceparts is taking an increasing toll on my aging body. Steel is now about 3 times as expensive as when I started doing this, 6 years ago. This all makes me wonder if I should not give up fabrication in favor of just selling plans. Maybe it is time to license construction to a bigger company.

Dear readers, please weigh in on this: should I continue selling tools, or just plans? There’s comment buttons available; use them.

Reno Air Race Crash

I posted an article 9-23-11 about the fatal crash of the Galloping Ghost at the recent Reno air race. That article says the elevator trim tab failed, most likely due to aeroelastic or other structural divergence effects at high speed.

Tab failure in the P-51 at race speeds, modified or not, leads to a sudden pitch-up condition. That leads quickly to pilot gee-induced unconsciousness, at best. The cure for spectator fatalities is not to position any spectators under expected flight paths.

I still see no reason to revise this posting until the NTSB has a chance to report its findings, perhaps sometime in 2012. And I doubt there will be any need to revise it then.

Energy Resources

I had published an article here 3-14-10 “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less?” that dealt with a purported vast US oil resource named “the Bakken”. That resource is really shale tar, and is not (and will never be) “drillable oil”. Since then, I have become aware of the fact that not all of that rock unit is shale. There is a substantially-more porous dolomite layer in the Williston basin that actually does contain a light crude recoverable with hydro-fracturing technology.

In an article dated 9-5-11 “Surprise, Surprise: Oil Boom in the Williston Basin (“the Bakken”)”, I took on the size and recoverability of that resource. It is significant, but no “game-changer”, as some would have you believe. I concluded that yes, we should go get this oil. But, no, it will not save us from foreign oil dependence. I still see no reason to change those conclusions.

The fundamental economic problem is that our western economy was designed to run on cheap energy, primary of which is transportation fuel. Energy today, particularly transportation fuel, is no longer cheap. Therefore, we have economic recession/depression (choose your word). Government policies (from either side) have nothing to do with boom or bust conditions. Only energy prices really matter. The proof of this thesis is in the data posted 2-4-11 “Oil Prices, Recessions, and the War”.

It is hard to argue with data, is it not?

My most important point is that the best way to win this “war on terror” is to not need middle eastern oil any more. It’s not so much about the economics, it’s about victory. What is so damned hard to understand about that concept?

Concluding Remarks

Enough rambling. Please weigh-in by means of the various comment buttons. It is the only way I know that anyone even sees this stuff at all.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos? Maybe! Their Meaning? Arguable!

Recent news reports from the world of science indicate one team working in a particle accelerator has clocked neutrinos traveling slightly faster than lightspeed. They are begging other teams to confirm or disprove this result independently, as is proper and normal in the business of science.

Commentators and experts have been weighing in on what such a result might mean, if confirmed to be true. “Everybody” points at Einstein (specifically his 1905 Special Theory of Relativity) to say that there is a speed limit these neutrinos seem to be violating. It’s either/or, not both.

Speed limit? That is an interpretation of Einstein’s theory, not a result. It is a very old interpretation, and I personally disagree with it. Here’s why:

In Einstein’s original 1905 paper, he sets up and solves the equations that describe the appearance of object A to an observer in reference frame B, moving at some relative but constant velocity V, when seen by light photons traveling at vacuum lightspeed c.

He did this for speeding subatomic particles, just like those neutrinos. Others since have extended the theory to large objects.

The theory postulates that c is a value which all observers measure as the same, no matter their motion, which really is something actually experimentally demonstrated with certainty. The theory’s mathematical results (sometimes called the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction equations) describe the object’s mass, dimension, and rate of time passage:

M = Mo/√(1-V^2/c^2) where M is what is seen and Mo is the resting value at V = 0

L = Lo*√(1-V^2/c^2) where L is what is seen and Lo is the resting value at V = 0

T = To*√(1-V^2/c^2) where T is what is seen and To is the resting value at V = 0

For these, M is the object’s mass, L its dimension in the direction of travel, and T is its local rate of time flow. Lateral dimensions are unaffected by V.

If one plugs a V greater than vacuum lightspeed c into these equations, the results are not real numbers, when a real-number result is what one seeks, being the only result that has meaning in the context of this problem. For almost a century now, the common interpretation has been that the not-real result means it is not possible to travel at speeds V exceeding vacuum lightspeed c. This is the origin of the common statement about “Einstein’s speed limit”.

When solving formulas in any branch of science and engineering, there are always fundamental assumptions about the problem, even if they are unspoken. Getting a not-real result with a modeling equation can nearly always be traced back to violating a fundamental assumption, even if it is not obvious.

Why should not-real results from Einstein’s theory be any different? What was his fundamental assumption that we violate when we plug in V greater than c in those equations?

Remember, the equations describe the appearance of object A to an observer in reference frame B. That presupposes that observer B can actually see object A (there it is!)

At V greater than c, we get a non-real result, which most likely simply means observer B cannot see object A, since we assumed he could. This interpretation is based on all those other experiences with formulas and problem-solving, and getting real versus not-real results.

When you think about it, how could observer B see object A traveling so fast? Object A is traveling faster than the photons with which observer B sees. The same sort of observational thing happens with supersonic aircraft: you cannot hear them coming because the sound waves by which you hear don’t arrive until much later.

Now, is the moving object A really heavier, shorter, and moving slower in time, or does he just look that way? How do you tell? You have to bring object A back to rest in observer B’s frame of reference.

Once the relative velocity V is back to zero, the equations say mass, length, and rates of time flow look completely normal and quite equal to both object A and observer B.

And furthermore, it does not matter who was really moving: V is relative only (that’s in part where the name of the theory came from).

Yet, somebody’s time flow rate really was slower. Their clocks (which are totaling devices, not rate of flow devices) will disagree. This is an experimentally validated and very certain result. Special Relativity does not resolve that problem, which is often called the Twin Paradox.

It is Einstein’s 1915 work on General Relativity that provides the answer: whoever did the accelerating to V and then back to zero is the one who experienced less total accumulated passage of time. Yet, his sense of time flow was entirely normal, to him, throughout the journey! This is the direct consequence of speed of light, not rate of time flow, being constant for all observers.

Could object A be observed if it were flying faster than light? To me, the equations say “no” with the not-real result; remember that they were derived on the assumption the object can be observed.

Could object A actually travel faster than light with respect to reference frame B? That’s a very good question! If the not-real result actually just means he cannot be seen, then that same not-real result says nothing about whether he can actually fly that fast!

So, that’s my maverick interpretation: Einstein says nothing about an actual speed limit. I seem to stand alone in this. But I always did like shouting from the corner that the Emperor has no clothes.

But, if I am right, we actually can travel faster than light, given sufficiently powerful technology. But, navigation will be hell if we see by photons, because the entire universe becomes unobservable!

We’re going to need some additional theory!

Update 12-21-11

The December 2, 2011 issue of “Science” (volume 334 issue 6060) has an interesting “News Focus” article on pages 1200-1201. This magazine is the peer-reviewed journal published by AAAS. The article title is “Where Does the Time Go?” and its topic line is “Superluminal Neutrinos”. There is now a lot of effort at a lot of places to either replicate the experiment or de-bug the procedures OPERA used to produce its faster-than-light results. Depending upon those outcomes, this result may never be explained. But this kind of activity is exactly what should be going on. The process of doing science really works.

The article describes the experimental concept as a simple timing across a fixed distance, although the elements of accomplishing that are not that simple. These are pulses of neutrino creation at one location correlated as pulses of neutrinos received at another location. Timing is by speed-of-light corrected GPS measurements, and by electrical transmission speed corrections in all the equipment. They are looking at how much the graphs of these pulses overlap.

One item questioned in the article is the GPS calibration, which really wasn’t done often enough. Countering the notion of miscalibrated GPS is the systematic time shift required to correct the calculated neutrino speed downward, when a more randomized error would be expected.

In the sixth paragraph (on page 1200) is an assumption the OPERA scientists made about the location where the neutrinos get created, of about a km delay. That assumption should be investigated. While the article says the error associated with it is “small”, it is a small effect we are arguing about (around 60 nanoseconds of time over a distance of about 700 km).

If it were a surveying error, the article says it would have to be on the order of 18 meters, which is not really credible. To me, this points right back to the creation-delay assumption.

It has been my engineering experience that 90+% of assumptions made are faulty or inappropriate. That why I suggest investigating assumptions first, or at least very high up on the priority list.

The other assumption that should be investigated is the interpretation of special relativity implying a speed limit, as discussed above. While not a popular topic in the physics community, it should still be done.

I would be delighted if the neutrinos were actually faster than light, and we needed some new theory. That would be a real breakthrough, and no telling where it might lead.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Comic Opera Buffoons and Puppet Theater

Take a few minutes to watch this cartoon, it is well worth it.

1948 Cartoon

I last saw this cartoon as the “movie day” movie in a public school classroom sometime in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, but I don't remember which grade or whose class.

I will say this: the "ism" this cartoon warns against is exactly what is being preached today by BOTH our political parties, ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE. The "issues" that divide them are nothing but puppet theater to distract us from the real and lethal problems that we face. Those are problems that require us to work together, but that cooperation does not contribute to re-election campaigning.

Holding public office has ceased to be a public service, and has instead become a high-dollar for-profit business, especially at the national level. It is also prevalent at the state level, and below in some places. As a result, we typically choose from among various comic-opera buffoon candidates, who are motivated only by selfish interest, instead of real statesmen who would do the people's business in preference to their own.

From the letters I see published in the newspaper, the ridiculous forwarded email "hit pieces", and most of the mainstream media opinion columns and broadcasts, it appears that a majority of the public has fallen for these lies. Furthermore, it appears most of the voting public actually believes the nonsense shouted by these buffoons. That scares the daylights out of me.

If I am right about this, and no one else out there wakes up and sees the real truth, then we are truly doomed.