Thursday 31 January 2013

Working in Montréal today --Compressed Monkey Gel

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Montréal today.

Three days ago I was having lunch with David in the food court across from the Toronto office when he must have read something on the news-scroller on one of the several TVs and said, "hmmm. Iran launched a monkey into space.".

I looked up from my eggplant broccoli and blackened chicken.   "Sorry, what's that?"  You see, what entered my mind wasn't an over excited primate strapped to a backboard aboard a  Pishgam rocket with "Death to the Infidels" painted in the side, but rather some unfortunate spider monkey that inadvertently mocked Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and was unceremoniously flung into space as some form of extremist punishment.  Scratch that, a small ceremony would be just fine.

"You mock me, you die!  Death to America and this Monkey.  How do you like my new suit, tailored nicely, yes? I could kill you all with a thought, I could kill me with a thought!". Followed by the sad tuba sound.  Mwa mwaaa.

Sorry, must have had that fun loving Ahmadinejad confused with Darth Vader.

Just to continue.... what followed in my mind was a macabre image of a teethy death grin frozen on the face of the monkey passing by confused crew members looking out windows of The International Space Station (tm).

Now then.  This got me thinking.  If this monkey were indeed flung into space without the aid of a Pishgam special, what would be needed ?

Escape velocity from our favorite planet is roughly 11.2 km/s or about 25,000 miles per hour, or about 24 times faster than the rotation of the earth at the equator.  I haven't personally verified this number, but the folks at NASA toss that number around a lot.  They sent 32 monkeys into space, even though their own experts recommended clowns, one even as late as 1985 so they should be the experts in monkey propulsion stats.

Odd though.. They lost most to "parachute deployment problems".


There are two problems with this.  For one, when one is traveling at 33 times the speed of sound the friction of the dense air here close to us 'Surface Dwellers' is likely to cause the aforementioned grinning monkey to just burst into flames.. well not really flames but a whole step up, a superheated plasma where the monkey once was, extremely unlikely to have any ash left available for orbit let alone preserved teeth left for a grin.

Yes, a real problem.  That's why we need self propelled rockets, they travel upwards at fairly slow speeds until they reach the upper atmosphere where there is a lot less air density and then they accelerate to escape velocity.

Problem two.  How do you accelerate the monkey during the all important fling stage of its travel?  What I mean is, if you try to accelerate a monkey from a standing stop to 11.2 km/s out of a 1 metre cannon barrel, you would compress the monkey into a shallow homogenous disk of monkey gel.

Euew... Monkey gel.

Let's see if we can figure this out -- or I guess just me, I doubt I can ask the now snoring guy in 1F to spare a calculator.  A test pilot in really good physical shape can withstand 45 G acceleration on a rocket sled while wearing pressure suit and wondering why he didn't choose a career in interior decorating and wondering exactly how much urine the suit will hold.  Usual humans like us are likely to experience death or serious injury at sustained 25 G.  And just in case you are interested, protons accelerate at 190,000,000 G in the Large Hadron Collider.

So let's use 45 Gs.  We're already annoyed with the monkey enough to fling it into space but we don't want to rip off any limbs, no fun sending an armless monkey into space, hell anyone can do that.

Let's pull up some grade school physics.

1G is 9.81 m/s2 acceleration (one of those handy constants), so * 45..  we will use 441.45 m/s2 as our rate of acceleration.  I will show all math (always show your work, else ppl will doubt your answers) if so inclined you can substitute other rates of acceleration or escape velocities.

Time = (Velocity - Initial Velocity)/Acceleration
Time = (11200 m/s - 0 m/s) / 441.45 m/s2
Time = 25.37 seconds

Average Velocity = 1/2(Initial Velocity + Velocity)
Average Velocity = 1/2 (0 m/s + 11200 m/s)
Average Velocity = 5600 m/s

Distance Displacement = Average Velocity * Time
Distance Displacement = 5600 m/s * 25.37 s
Distance Displacement = 142,072 m

So we need a Rail Gun or perhaps a Trebuchet arc about 142 km long and capable of 441.45 m/s2 of acceleration of a 30 lb monkey.  I am really losing the point of this pulp, but now at least we know why it's easier to use launch vehicles to get stuff into space then just trying to throw them.

Oh yeah!  Working on Problem two, how will we accelerate the monkey to escape velocity...

Now the Trebuchet idea works well since at 142 km circumference of the half circle of acceleration, the diameter would be ..  let's see C=Pi(D) if C is 2*142 km, 284 km/3.1416 =  90 km diameter.  So the monkey would be traveling at escape velocity at an altitude of 90 km, almost the altitude of the Auroras, and just shy of the Kármán line.

Sidebar:  The Kármán line is the imaginary line where under it aeronautical lift works at velocities less than the orbital velocity, over it and and you don't need the lift because you can just travel at orbital velocities and not fall to earth.

Damn, how heavy would the Trebuchet's counter-weight need to be?  First some guides.  The optimal ratio for the Trebuchet arm is 3:1, that is the arm section in the projectile side of the fulcrum is 3 times the length of the weight side.  And then there is the sling length, not a clue.. 1/5 the arm length? and what the hell do we build this thing out of?

Ah screw it, just strap the damned monkey into a rocket.

We're out of time anyway.
This is why it takes me a while to finish my plate of food sometimes.

Have a good day, exercise your brain.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Working in Ottawa today --Baby Blues

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Ottawa today.

Not a huge amount of time today, to be frank, I could not wake up.  This led to a late shower, even later shave, and most of you know that since I adopted the shorter coif a number of years ago, I waste no time combing hair.  But as a result, I arrived at the airport just in time to board my flight, and am really more interested in closing my eyes for a bit than writing.

But duty does call.


TTC and the anti-baby crowd.   There is much discussion amongst the governance of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) on what to do about strollers.  Seems a rider complained that the strollers get in her way, and there should be limits on the number of strollers allowed on a bus at any given time.  Two.  And if there are already two strollers, then a mother and child(ren) will simply need to wait for the next bus.  In the rain.  Or snow.  Or 25 below.  This is the frozen north, remember?

Let's examine shall we?  Her complaint stems from a TTC that is experiencing record ridership.  Ridership, that's transit lingo for the people that ride the bus, subway, and streetcars.  With increased ridership, there is less free space on the busses, and so when a young mother boards the bus with stroller in tow there is less room for other non stroller towing riders.

But I look at it a different way.  I will assume that all riders have some legitimate need to get where they are going, daycare, work, market, doctor, who gives a damn where, and that these mothers have paid their fare..  So if we are to have riders wait for a less busy bus, let's at least make the least disadvantage by the wait, wait.   Since a child has less mass and therefore more susceptible to the evils of weather, that there be a limit on bulkier persons on the bus is case a child needs to board.  This should apply not only for babies but school children as well.  If a child is late for school, it could be recorded on their permanent record :p

How about a limit on the count of riders that need to ask the driver a question?  Let's not even get started on those with physical challenges that may need bulky wheelchairs or awkward canes or crutches.. Set Limits now!

You see the mother with stroller has no choice but to be on the bus, if she did, she would likely not be there, but she needs to get to daycare, or to the market or to school, and to counter the suggestions that she should leave the stroller at home and strap the child to her body is absurd.  Most young mothers are not members of the Olympic Weightlifting Team and would collapse from exhaustion if they were to carry child, diaper bag, groceries, books, around through their entire commute.

The TTC provides public transportation.  It is available for all.  If the buses are too crowded we already have a very simple solution that is much better than refusing passengers.  Buy more buses.  Duh.  Instead the TTC has set a review of the policies regarding strollers (currently there are none), it shouldn't even be on the table.

Damn.  We haven't pushed back yet.  Not good for the start of my day, but may mean I can close my eyes for a bit on the flight.

Have a good day, be courteous to others.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Working in Montréal today --The art of quitting

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Montréal today.

Quitters.  The problem with quitting is that it rarely achieves the goal the Quitter had in mind.  This would include scoring a moral victory on your oppressors; to be called back on your terms; it does however leave you with some extra time on your hands.

I don't have much time today, but let's examine a few great Quitters.  Richard M Nixon, AKA, Tricky Dick. He resigned with his somewhat infamous "I am not a crook" speech.  Interesting enough, those are the only memorable words..  Actually come to think of it, he was a two time Quitter.  He lost an election in 1962 and parted company with the reporters with something like, "You won't have Tricky Dick to Kick around anymore, this is my last press conference."  Yeah, no.

Johnny Paycheck may have said it better with, "Take this job and shove it".

The lost generation may remember General MacArthur's resignation.. seems to me he wanted to invade China and Pres. Truman thought it best not to start another world war just while we still had some installment payments on the last one.  Mac left with, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.."

And yesterday Toronto budget chief Mike Del Grande resigned shortly after Toronto's latest budget was passed.

Seems Del Grande was upset that City Council has passed a motion calling for additional transparency in the budget process.  I gotta say on the grand scheme of things that others may call for, that doesn't seem that bad for a public function.  I mean, Del Grande isn't practicing an art that involves arranging chicken bones, studying tea leaves and channeling fallen budget chiefs from the Roman Empire, so why not additional transparency, full transparency?

In the end, I think that Del Grande may regret his knee jerk reaction and I think Toronto will as well.  Interestingly enough, I hear the budget was agreed by all to be a very good one.

Have a good day, don't act rash.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Working in Ottawa today --Magic Beans

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Ottawa today.

Canada needs to export the basic financial skills of Gail Vazquez-Oxlade to the U.S.  Our friends to the south need some help.  You see, they are overspending on their hobbies and entertainment to the point of putting their financial house in a mess.  If you have ever watched Gail's show "Till Debt Do Us Part", you will know that her recipe for recovery is simple.  Write everything down so that you know what you are doing; cut spending; increase income; but most important, commit to the process of getting out of debt and stupidity.

I will preface this blathering with the acknowledgement that I am not an economist, but I have performed an emergency reorganization of a small South American monetary system on my kitchen table --hmmm..  I was going to write about a health issue and was going to acknowledge that while I am not a doctor but that I had performed an emergency appendectomy on my kitchen table. That would be funnier.  Sigh..  economics is such dry topic material.

And we're back.

The U.S. debt is right around 16 trillion dollars. The amount the spend on stuff each year is about 4 trillion, and they bring in revenue around 3 trillion.  So you don't have to own a very powerful calculator to figure out that they added a trillion in debt just last year.  Oh, but wait..  they reduced spending by 61 billion, that has to count for something, yes?  No.  If you were overspending your household budget by $100, cutting out one cup of Starbuck's coffee would not have much effect.

So, wanna hear their latest grand plan?  It doesn't involve reducing spending or increasing income...  Nope.. but rather have the executive branch of gov't mint a magic platinum coin with a 1 trillion dollar face value, and then 'deposit' it at the Federal Reserve and then borrow against it to pay for the shortfall in the current budget.

Once you stop laughing let's examine.

There really is no law preventing such an action, similarly there is no law preventing Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner from dressing up like Side Show Bob and guest appearing on The Simpsons.  But neither would solve the debt crisis.

The current circulation of U.S. currency is about 1.2 trillion, if the executive were to magically create an additional 1 trillion in currency, that would effective cut in half the buying power of the dollar that someone had in their pocket.  That is massive hyper inflation.

If they think they have troubles now, wait till they have people running to their banks to withdraw all cash so they can buy a hard asset now!

Another consideration is that the debt is not owed to the Fed, but rather to the creditors which is quite frankly the rest of the world, like China.  I doubt China would accept the deposit of the magic coin either.

Out of time, about to land.  Have a great day and don't take any wooden nickels.