Monthly Archives: November 2007

Melting Ice – Rising Oceans

Global warming is a popular top these days. It’s not hard to find someone who will tell you that there is scientific consensus that it is happening and that it is man-made, but it’s also not hard to find evidence to the contrary.

The real problem is oversimplification. We are trying to take a whole plethora of changes we are making to our environment, of which increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations is only one, and ignore all other changes except that one. We are trying to take a whole plethora of effects the changes we have made and are making to our environment, and ignore all but one, average global temperature, and perhaps one specific consequence of that, a conjectured rise in sea levels.

I think I’ve said this before, but for those who don’t know, I’m a very big fan of a statement Richard Feynman once made regarding theories. Paraphrased, “If the theory isn’t consistent with the data, no matter how elegant, it is wrong.”

We keep hearing about global oceans rising in response to global warming. The idea is warmer temperatures melt ice melts increasing water volume, ocean levels rise. There is a whole multitude of problems with this theory, not the least of which is agreement with observed facts.

When I was in high school, I ran a pirate radio station, some friends of mine ran pirate radio stations. One of them, Jim Dolan, ran a pirate Shortwave Station he called the Voice of Clipperton, a pun on the Voice of America. Clipperton Island, at the time, was a little coral atoll that barely rose above sea-level. It had relatively little vegetative cover, no population, save for birds which nested there and a few scientists that visited to observe them.

A while back doing a web search to see if I could find anything on the Internet relating to that pirate radio station, I ran across some modern photos of the Island. It was visibly far higher than it had appeared in the 1970′s, had quite a few trees, and generally quite a lot of vegetation, some buildings, not at all like what I had seen in the 70′s.

Well, this lead me to search for more pictures throughout history recent enough to have photographs and I’ve found that the state of the island seems to vary quite a lot, it’s been claimed, possessed, and occupied by the United States on at least two occasions, the French, and by Mexico. Presently, it’s a French possession.

Despite rather dramatic variability over a period of thirty years, after looking at a longer time frame it becomes clear that the changes over time average out and the Island over a longer time frame oscillates, but on average remains pretty much the same.

Presently, it’s about ten feet above the ground at the higher spots, except for a 70 meter volcanic rock at one end, Clipperton Rock. If oceans were rising significantly this puppy would be way under water by now.

And then there are places nearby that I like to go, Ocean Shores, Westport, and the local beaches. The only changes that I see that are real visible are developmentally related. Ocean Shores used to be a nice place now it’s a rich peoples retirement community complete with all the anal rules and regulations that come with it, but the beach is still the beach, still looks pretty much the same if you don’t look inland and ignore all the seaweed and algae that didn’t used to be nearly as abundant before we started dumping so many nutrients into the water.

Birch Bay up by Bellingham, there the Beach has an extremely low grade and when the tide goes out the beach can extend out a mile, when it’s in, you can walk half a mile out and still just be up to your knees in water. If there is a place where rising oceans should be obvious, it is there.

Well, this gets me wondering, just how much HAS the oceans risen? The information I am able to find states, without saying how this was measured, that the oceans have risen .1-.2 millimeters per year for the last three thousand years up to the 19th century, and then they’ve risen 1-2 millimeters per year. And to get an idea just how accurate that data is, one ground based measurement says they rose 1.7 mm in 2006, another satellite measurement says 3.1 mm. Now those two measurements are in disagreement by a factor of almost 2x, that should tell you something about margin of error, and that really has to throw some serious doubts on the .1-.2mm figure.

Can anyone REALLY discern 2 mm difference in ocean depths over a year given all the other variabilities, the tides, the effect of Earth’s orbit around the Sun, and when you’re talking THAT small of a difference, perhaps even the other planets, underwater volcanic activity, changes in the plates below, etc? I don’t think so. I’m highly skeptical to say the least.

Let’s look at some complicating factors. Warmer temperatures will melt ice on land if, and only if, temperatures exceed the melting point of ice, 32°F. Any temperature increase also leads to increased evaporation, more water in the air. And some of that water is going to fall as, guess what? Snow!

What we seem to be seeing in fact is a mixture of effects; in the Arctic, we are seeing a lot of melting of ice, but this is ice already in water so that melt does not raise ocean levels. Further, the Eskimo’s oral tradition goes back 30,000 years, and they have stories that involve much warmer temperatures, apple trees where there was once only ice, and we do find evidence of that. 30,000 years ago I don’t think man’s contribution to carbon dioxide levels amounted to much but I could be wrong, there are global mythologies of advanced societies that may have existed before the last ice age and some hints of the existence of a prior global civilization. The point being that in the arctic, this is not the first time it’s gotten warm and floating ice melting isn’t going to raise the ocean depth although thermal expansion may to some degree.

Greenland however, now there you have a bunch of ice on land, that could become water in water. Hard to say though, the following is taken from an article on Wikipedia concerning Greenlandic Ice:

IPCC[2] estimates in their third assessment report the accumulation to 520 ± 26 Gigatonnes of ice per year, runoff and bottom melting to 297±32 Gt/yr and 32±3 Gt/yr, respectively, and iceberg production to 235±33 Gt/yr. On balance, they estimate -44 ± 53 Gt/yr, which means that on average the ice sheet may currently be melting, though it can’t be determined for sure.

This gives you a bit of idea with respect to the uncertainty of the data. The error margin is greater than the estimated rate of ice loss! Again, am I saying we should just keep dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? Not only no, but hell no! We’ve got issues relating to carbon dioxide that go beyond global warming, which I think should be more appropriately called global climate change. What I am saying though is our data is very shaky, both with respect to what is happening and what is causing it.

So what about Antarctica? The central ice cap is growing, you can read about it here. Yes, we all hear about the collapse of the Larsen-B ice shelf, but what most people don’t realize is that this is the way the whole system works, you put snow on the middle, it compacts into ice, spreading laterally as it does, pushing the ice off the edge. Even though parts of Antarctica have been covered in ice for 80,000 years, cores drilled don’t get more than about a million years old, because this mechanism keeps moving the ice off the continent laterally over time.

If all of the ice melts, is water really going to rise 200 meters? That’s what about 650 feet. The average depth of ice on Antarctica is 7000 feet, the total surface area of Antarctica is 13 million kilometers. The total surface area of the worlds oceans is 361 million kilometers. Let’s see that’s a ratio of about 30:1 ocean to antarctic surface area. If we divide 7000 feet by 30 we get 233 feet, well, that’s a bunch but it’s about a third of the predicted 200 meters and that’s if all the ice on Antarctica melts, an extremely unlikely scenario. The total amount of ice on Greenland is about one tenth that so add another 23 feet for Greenland, if it all melts.

This all assumes a few other things; one is that the Earth’s mantle and crust are solid and not plastic; but we already know this to be not true; we know the weight of the large ice packs depress the bedrock. When all this weight transfers to the ocean floor, which we know is thinner than the continental crust, it’s going to push that down and the weight removed from the land will allow it to rise. What effect will that have on global ocean levels?

More water will be in the form of vapor at any given time. One very clearly measurable change over the years is an increase in water vapor in the atmosphere.

Water Vapor

It’s a matter of debate what the cause of this increase is. The temptation would be to argue global warming again but we’ve also made greater use of irrigation. When we burn hydrocarbons, it’s not just carbon dioxide that is released, it is also water vapor. In fact, on the whole more water vapor is released than carbon dioxide, and yet, we don’t seem to be concerned about that even though water vapor actually accounts for the largest portion of the natural greenhouse effect.

So that water that is not in the oceans, but is in the atmosphere, or is rained down and is currently on land, taken up by plants, ground soil, lakes, rivers, not yet in the ocean, how does that affect the ocean level?

I know I sound like I’m trying to dismiss global warming, I am not; what I am trying to do is point out just how uncertain the data is, and some of the other factors involved. We keep hearing about carbon dioxide, but we don’t hear about water vapor, also a product of combustion and other activities, and yet, water vapor is by far a stronger contributor to the greenhouse effect. We don’t hear about methane, and even though it’s present in a much smaller concentration than carbon dioxide, it’s also about 100x as potent in terms of greenhouse gas effects, but we don’t here much about methane as a greenhouse gas either.

We also don’t hear much about the whole global warming thing when it fits certain agendas. It’s bad for us to use fossil fuels, but it’s ok to eat meat and dairy? Meat production is a primary contributor to methane. Yes, cow farts are actually altering our environment, perhaps as much as our automobiles and power plants.

If we really want to save our planet, we have to have the whole picture and plan for contingencies. I know this will be blasphemy, but ya know nature might even be a part of all this! Yes, and does that mean we shouldn’t worry then about our emissions? No, it means we should be even more concerned, because then it means we can only control a smaller percentage of total contribution to climate change so we have to work even harder to effect that which we can control. It also means that nature may do things that aren’t convenient so we must be prepared to adapt and being prepared to adapt means we’re going to need to have large amounts of energy at our disposal, amounts that simply can not be provided by combusting hydrocarbons.

Let’s talk about some examples of how nature might be involved. I’ve seen a number of clues but most people are clueless so I’ll share mine. I’ll start with some deep earthquake anomalies a few years back. Now there is something extremely odd here, because the original database which I mined for this information no longer has data past 1985, but it did have data through the 1990′s at one time.

Trying to find the same data in other databases has been non-productive, it’s not there, although there are some anomalies around the same time frame. This started with my noticing a news report about a quake off the Oregon coast being more than 300 miles deep, I think closer to 500 miles, and it was unusual because the mantle believed to be more fluid at that depth and not capable of generating strong quakes. But this came about two weeks after another report of a deep quake.

Now the odd thing was there were more than ten, something like eighteen of these deep quakes in one year, I think is was 1994, that were 6.0 or more in magnitude, and very deep, 500 or 600 miles. The years before and after at the time only one or two. And those quakes were all over the world.

But when I search databases available to me today, that data is nowhere to be found. Furthermore, the data that is to be found is very much centered around the American Samoa and Fiji islands, but it was widely distributed in the data I was able to obtain back then. It might be that I am mistaken about what database I searched, I thought it was USGS. I believe the year was 1994, it’s still anomalous in that there is an 8.4 magnitude deep quake in that year and nothing like that with depth and magnitude before or since, but the large numbers, not there anymore. So now I’m wondering, if this isn’t a classic case of data that isn’t fitting current theories being discarded. At any rate; whether or not it’s in the databases now, it was there at the time.

Now, coincident with this there was also an increase in the magnetic north pole drift and a number of sudden jags. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean anything sinister; the Earth’s magnetic field is strongly influenced by the solar cycle and various solar magnetic events, but it was coincident with the quake activity which I thought pointed to something happening deep in the Earth’s interior.

Then we’ve got this neighbor that fishes off of Sitka Alaska. He told us recently that the water temperatures there were crazy, they measured them at 60°F at one point. Compare that to the 34-36°F off of the Washington coast and you’ve got quite a mystery. Clearly global warming can’t cause water to be 25° warmer near the arctic circle than it is here.

What could cause that kind of heating? Underwater volcanism. Either that or some alien species is terraforming the planet out from under us. I favor the former explanation. In part because of recent surveys of under water volcanism. A few decades ago it was believed there were 10,000 or maybe 20,000 undersea volcanoes. Now we know there are more than two million. What’s more, a non-trivial percentage are not associated with any known heat source. That is they’re not at a mid-ocean rift, they’re not at a subduction zone, and they’re not associated with any known hot spot. Given that the number of undersea volcanoes is 100x what we thought it was just a few decades ago, it seems very plausible to me that their contribution to greenhouse gases might also be much greater than previously estimated.

Then there is the sun; there is a historical connection between Earth temperatures and solar activity, and last solar cycle’s peak was the largest ever recorded. And that ties in with the ozone levels that we keep hearing about, they also fluctuate with the solar cycle.

Am I saying discount man? No, I’m saying don’t discount nature, she is far more complex than we know. And here is the real jest of it; global warming tells us we should be doing something for energy other than burning hydrocarbons, but if this is due to natures whim, we can’t relax, it’s even more so because adapting to climate change will require more energy than burning hydrocarbons can deliver. For that we need large scale solar, wind, geothermal, ocean tidal, ocean thermal, ocean wave, ocean current, nuclear fusion, even advanced nuclear fission if we do it right (but I don’t think we can), everything, and we should start implementing these things on a massive scale yesterday and eliminate our use of natural hydrocarbons as a fuel.

With energy we can adapt, warm our dwellings where we must, cool them where we must; move when we must, water desalinization and vertical farming can solve global water and food shortages that will emerge with massive climate change. If we burned enough hydrocarbons to meet these needs we’d all suffocate and turn our lakes into battery acid.

Anyway, that’s my two cents worth, keep an open mind, research, don’t throw out data because it happens to fly in the face of popular theories. We’ve got to work together, adapt, make the world a better place.

Category: Future

Butanol – A BIG Solution To Energy Woes!

A method of using carbon dioxide, water, and electricity to create butanol has been devised and tested in the laboratory. It is estimated that at current rates; this method can provide electricity at a cost of 80¢ per gallon.

Butanol is a 4-carbon alcohol that can be burned in an unmodified gasoline engine. It has an energy content of 110,000 BTU/gallon verses gasolines 115,000 BTU/gallon but because the uniform molecular size allows more complete combustion and because it has a road octane of 94, (premium gasoline is usually 91 or 92), it actually provides better mileage than gasoline in most gasoline vehicles.

Originally, butanol was produced in an ABE fermentation process in which sugar is fermented into a combination of acetone, butanol, and ethanol; butanol being only 1-2% of that product. After 1954 when the US lost access to cheap Cuban sugar, butanol was produced from petroleum. More recently, a couple of new fermentation processes capable of producing 2.5 gallons of butanol per bushel of corn combined with the high cost of crude oil has pushed the economics back in favor of bioproduction.

However, this new method promises to reduce the costs to 80¢ per gallon while using CO2 as a feedstock and eliminating competition with food production. Like bioproduction, since CO2 is used in the production, this would produce a carbon neutral fuel.

This can really provide an elegant solution to our energy problems because it could provide carbon sequestration from existing coal plants, now you’ve got something to do useful with that CO2 instead of dumping it into the air, at the same time it can provide a market for the peak power produced by renewable sources like wind power making it economical to use wind for a much larger percentage of the base load since peak power produced by overbuilding will have a market.

And, if that weren’t enough, it cuts emissions of hydrocarbons from cars by approximately 94% verses gasoline, cuts carbon monoxide emissions to the point where they’re not even measurable, and cuts nitrous oxides by about 37%.

If we use all the available CO2 from coal plants or displace enough coal with renewables that the CO2 generated by coal plants no longer suffices, we could use various systems that absorb carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, chemical or biological.

If this is real; and right now there is a real dearth of information, but if it does turn out to be real, and we could somehow get it past oil company controlled congress, this could be a major energy and environmental breakthrough.

Category: Future

Nuclear Fission

The problem with nuclear fission isn’t the technology, it’s greed and lust for power.

It’s possible to build safe, efficient nuclear reactors that generate very little waste which has a much shorter lifetime and is infinitely more manageable than the waste created by todays generation of reactors.

What gets in the way of that is greed. Safe efficient nuclear power is more costly. Safe efficient nuclear power doesn’t produce weapons grade plutonium.

Safe efficient nuclear power would involve a combination of actinide burning breeder reactors and on-site pyrolytic recycling facilities placed at locations that are well underground but well above any water table providing environmental isolation in the event of an accident. The probabilities of an accident would be greatly reduced by using inherently self-limiting designs, designs which will not melt down even in the complete absence of coolant or controls.

Such designs use things like fast flux reactors in which Doppler thermal spectral broadening to reduce reaction rates, liquid fuels in which heat induced expansion reduces fuel density and results in lower reaction rates, etc.

Such designs exist today. Industry isn’t excited about building them because of the costs involved. The military isn’t excited about not having more plutonium available to make bombs.

Between those two interests we continue to operate one-pass pressurized or boiling water reactors. These reactors extract only approximately .7% of uraniums energy potential while leaving radioactive waste that has to be kept isolated from the environment for 50,000 years, an impossible task. That radioactive waste contains a high percentage of plutonium 239 which is used in nuclear weapons.

In an actinide burning reactor, a much higher percentage of other actinides and other isotopes of plutonium are generated which ruins the weapons potential of plutonium. It does this either by producing high background levels of neutrons causing a premature chain reaction ruining a weapons yield or by producing a large amount of penetrating gamma rays making it difficult for people to handle. This is not a bad thing at all, because the on-site pyrolytic processing will recycle these elements into new fuel without weapons potential.

The pyrolytic recycling / actinide burning reactor complex can extract as much as 96% of the uraniums energy potential, and because the actinides are consumed, only relatively short-lived fission products remain. The waste disposal problem is turned from a 50,000 year problem to a 300-year problem and the waste volume is reduced by a factor of a one hundred or so.

The waste from a conventional one-pass boiling water or pressurized water reactor is problematic specifically because it does retain so much energy potential. The short-lived fission products could even be used to provide industrial process heat or residential space heating. I’m not suggesting that fission products be kept in peoples homes, but they could be placed in a central location where the heat is extracted and then steam or hot-water piped to peoples homes.

Because this fuel cycle is so efficient, even uranium derived from seawater is cost-effective and there is sufficient uranium in seawater to provide energy via this fuel cycle for tens of millions of years.

Greed will result in industry being driven to do things as cheaply as possible. Lust for power will continue to pressure for the production of plutonium. On another planet that hosts an intelligent species this might be a safe, reliable energy source for tens of millions of years. On Earth with it’s primitive, greedy, power hungry human species, it is not possible.

Category: Future

High Efficiency Car

Most of the oil we import goes to moving us about in personal vehicles, cars, trucks, and urban assault vehicles. Recently, we’ve seen the introduction of hybrid gas-electric vehicles that get significantly better fuel economy than their non-hybrid equivalents.

Still, I think there is a tremendous amount of room for improvement. A hybrid vehicle costs several thousand dollars more than it’s simpler non-hybrid equal and gets perhaps 50% again as many miles from a gallon of gasoline.

There is a technology, it doesn’t get much public attention, that can get about as much improvement in efficiency at about one-tenth the cost. That technology is water injection. I put this on a 1968 Rambler, and with some other tweaks that it made possible, improved mileage from 16/22 to 22-25/30 city/highway. The variability in city driving being a function of how I drove. I could stretch it to 25 in the city but averaged around 23 under “normal” driving.

To get this type of mileage you have some things you need to do besides just adding the water injection, specifically you need to advance timing and and lean out the fuel. Additionally, I believe that even more efficiency could have been obtained by also raising the compression ratio.

The kits that you can buy assume about a 10:1 fuel:water ratio but I found best results were obtainable with 1:1. The kit I had also had no filter, which caused the injector to get clogged frequently. To be successful commercially, water injection will need to have a water tank as large as the fuel tank. Because it’s possible to increase fuel economy to such a large degree, an increase in total tank volume will be minimal because more than half of the necessary water volume will simply displace an equivalent amount of fuel tank volume.

Water injection does a number of positive things, some of them are easily understood, some area not. Water injection reduces peak cylinder temperatures to a large degree. This allows more advanced timing, leaner mixtures, and higher compression ratios.

Water injection turns into steam during combustion increasing the gas volume and pressure on the piston while at the same time holding temperatures down. Less heat escapes through cylinder walls, more heat is transformed into mechanical energy.

Another thing water injection did is drastically reduce emissions, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide was almost unmeasurable. The mechanism behind that is not known to me. I suspect nitrous oxides were also down since peak cylinder temperatures were down but I had no means of measuring these.

Why not combine water injection with a hybrid technology? Hybrids improve efficiency by recovering breaking energy, providing torque at low RPM ranges where a gasoline engine can not do so efficiently, provide a method of peaking power so that the engine can be sized smaller, and by allowing the engine to operate at optimal power and RPM ranges when it must operate. Combine that with a power plant that is considerably more efficient to start with and you’ve got some major fuel savings potential.

Then why not add plug-in hybrid technology to that? And maybe some solar panels to top off the batteries while the car sits in a parking lot all day?

Category: Future

Let’s Choose A Better Future

When I was four years old the World Fair came to Seattle. There were many things that fascinated me about the science center. The circular moving sidewalk carpet, the steam rocket that periodically launched, the colored pictures on the wall that changed, all fascinating. We had a television at home of coarse, black-n-white, but these pictures were full color, and right in the wall, not in a box on the floor.

What really stuck in my mind though is that we had the potential for a really bright future. And what really bothers me is that we’ve done just about everything wrong and managed to avoid realizing that bright future thus far.

The development of scientific understanding and of technology since that time has been nothing short of incredible, but what the human race has done with science and technology has been nothing short of tragic.

Food shortages, water shortages, energy shortages, environmental crises, pollution, rapid species extinction, war, most diseases, not having the time to spend with friends and family, these things are the collective result of our choices. And that’s not to say I absolve myself, I’ve made plenty of bad choices in my life that had I not made, I could have been happier and much better off today and most importantly, in a position to do much more to help others be happier and better off.

We come into this world without the benefit of a lifetime of experience here, and so it’s not intellectually knowable how the choices we make will affect others or they will affect our own future, and even with decades of living experience, it is still not obvious to most people how interconnected we all are, how are decisions affect us not just individually but collectively.

I think I’ve learned something though over the years, one thing that I’ve learned is that my heart makes better decisions than my head, if I listen to it, but I’ll admit, to this day I have a hard time doing this. I’ve also learned that asking God for guidance on a regular basis is a good idea, at least I seem to make better decisions when I do so, but I admit I don’t do it often enough and I’ll also admit I often don’t listen for the answers after I’ve asked the questions. But I’m working on it.

Moreover though, I see signs that this is true for many people. I interacted with Bill Gates before he was rich and famous on an early room message system, the very first actually, ICS (Island Communications System) BBS, the very first Citadel, written in C by Jeff Prothero. In the early 80′s, before he was rich and famous, though he was certainly well on his way, Bill Gates used to call that system and so did I.

I ran a BBS running on a TRS-80 model III, with TRS-80 Level II BASIC, a derivative of Microsoft BASIC. TRS-80 level II BASIC had a bug, specifically, the VAL(A$) function which returns a numerical value from a a numerical string, would explode if you had a ‘%’ percent sign in the string. That is, ’123%456′ as a string, passed to VAL(), would cause the computer to crash. If you ran a BBS and used VAL() this was a bad thing.

I disassembled TRS-80 Level II BASIC and studied it. Later, I bought a commented listing of a disassembly done by another party and that really helped me understand it’s operation. After studying that, I came up with a fix that not only corrected the ‘%’ bug so it wouldn’t crash your computer anymore, but also increased the execution speed of the interpreter by about 40% by reducing the amount of CPU time wasted in the keyboard scan routine.

I offered this modification to Bill, free with no conditions. I just wanted to see the bug fixed and people with this platform to be able to get the most possible out of it. I never received a response at all, not a “I’m not interested”, not a “Go to Hell”, not a, “you’ll have to sign a contract releasing all interest”, nothing. To the best of my knowledge that bug was never fixed and remained part of TRS-80 Level II BASIC as long as it was offered as a product.

The total lack of any response really got me to not liking Bill Gates very much. It was like, not only are you so unimportant that I am not even going to take the time to reply, (though he had always interacted cordially up to the point where I pointed out the existence of this bug), but neither are all the people who use this software important enough to get a fix to this bug.

That was only the beginning. IBM introduced the “Personal Computer” with a whopping 4.7 Mhz 8086 CPU and 256K of RAM, (640K on later versions). Microsoft released DOS 1.0, made it sound like it was a innovative revolution in computing. Other than the fact that it ran on an 8086 instead of a Z-80 or 8080, I couldn’t tell it from CP/M. All the commands were the same, the layout on disk seemed to be the same. To me it seemed like a complete rip-off.

Later, a hierarchical directory structure was introduced, Unix had a hierarchical directory structure, not exactly the same; in Unix devices were mounted on the root directory, under DOS each device had it’s own directory tree, and you used backslash as a directory separator instead of the forward slash under Unix, and to look at files in the directory, you still used CP/M’s DIR instead of ‘ls’. Still, suggesting that hierarchical directory structures were somehow innovative when Unix had had them for about a decade was a stretch.

Windows came out, another innovation, save for the fact that Xerox had a windowing graphical interface years earlier. And then long filenames, after Apple’s MacOS had had them for years. While all this is happening, I keep hearing Bill say in the media how innovative Microsoft is.

Well, now it’s 2007, Bill Gates is a billionaire many times over; he’s done some things that seemed frankly pretty questionable, the mansion on Lake Washington, what really is that all about? Now, he’s spending hundreds of millions or billions to address disease and poverty around the world, and me; I’m just trying to not get kicked out of my home long enough for my two kids that haven’t moved out yet to finish school and be ready to enter the world on their own.

His focus on business, making money, marketing, was a good decision, and my decisions to focus on infrastructure, product quality, was not; because he’s not only got the resources now to do genuinely novel things while I don’t, but also to influence the world in positive ways elsewhere, and he is choosing to do so. There are still things I don’t like about Bill, but I have to admit, when it comes to the influence he is having on the world; he’s made much better choices than I have.

I think around the world; there are many people like me who are looking at the choices they’ve made, stepping back, and deciding there has to be a better way. I am hopeful that one aspect of longer lifespans is that we all, collectively will have more years to live in which we’ve got enough experience behind us to live them more wisely. And this isn’t to say that just making money is a good thing, there is a question of what one does with it. Clearly, the international banking industry, the oil companies, the military industries, they are not doing good things with their wealth for the most part.

Bill Gates is attacking disease, and by extension poverty in Africa in particular, but also elsewhere, and I am glad to see this happening because they go hand in hand, between AIDS and malaria take a huge toll on people in Africa, limiting productivity and making escape from poverty impossible. Controlling AIDS and malaria (and there are others but these two are major) is a necessary step towards the elimination of poverty in the region. So now I have to believe, as much that I don’t want to, that Bill Gates is in fact not 100% evil.

There are many problems though besides disease in Africa which require human attention. I don’t have the personal resources to directly address these. I regret this because I do believe that, if I’d made better choices earlier in my life, I would have. But what I can do now is offer ideas on how these problems could be solved and hope people who do have resources but hadn’t thought of them might throw some of their resources at these problems and in that way perhaps I can at least indirectly make the world a little better.

I’m hoping there are a lot of people out there now starting to realize that like myself, perhaps their decisions haven’t been the past, and that collectively we all can turn things around and realize our human potential which I believe is enormous. God gave us an opposable thumb for a reason and it wasn’t for pushing missile launch buttons. It’s time we collectively start making better use of our opposable thumbs.

So here I am, I don’t have money to share, I’m just barely able to stay in my home, but I do have knowledge, ideas, so I share those, hoping that someone else who has resources but perhaps hasn’t thought some of these things through might act upon them, or that by getting the idea out there maybe we can collectively act upon them.

I have had an interest in scientific subjects and technology all my life and I know enough now to know that a much better existence for all of us, all the people on this planet, and other species, could all be collectively living much better than we are. We could all enjoy adequate supplies of healthy food, clean water, adequate housing, and good health. We could have enough time to spend with friends and family. Maybe we can never eliminate suffering altogether; our bodies are still mortal; and even if we scientifically crack the secrets of aging and the decline that goes with it, there would still be accidents and natural events beyond our control. But suffering could be greatly reduced, not only that which is directly self inflicted, but also many diseases could be eliminated if we chose to do so, our environment could be much better, our lives could be much more meaningful.

The optimal development and application of science and technology and not all that is involved, it’s not even a major part of what is involved. The biggest element is to realize how interconnected we are with every living things, and starting to think in terms of what is best for life collectively, instead of each of us individually, because in reality we are not so individual, we are all part of the same whole, and that collective whole will either be happy and healthy and loving, or unhappy, unhealthy, and hateful. Science and technology area areas that I am knowledgeable in and areas where I have a lot of ideas, and they are areas where many people who do have resources are not all that knowledgeable, so I’m going to share what I know, kick out my ideas, and hope they will find application and in some way contribute to a better world.

Category: Future

Water Injection and Fuel Economy

I’ve brought this up before but it didn’t seem to garner much interest. I am hopeful that with oil at $100/barrel and gasoline well over $3/gallon that this idea might now take hold because it has the potential to significantly improve fuel economy, power, and reduce emissions. This is something I feel fairly passionate about because I’ve done it! It’s not a hypothetical for me, I’ve modified a vehicle and put quite a few miles on it.

Let me start by stating my practical experience. I put a water injection system on a 1968 Rambler American with 199 cubic inch V6 engine. This car was a mid-sized passenger car weighing approximately 3200 lbs.

Without water injection, the engine really did not have adequate torque for how the car was geared (2.7:1 rear end and three speed manual transmission). It was picky with respect to fuel and knocked under heavy load. The fuel mileage without water injection was approximately 16 MPG city, and 22-23 highway. Tuneups were necessary every 10,000 miles or so and the spark plugs would be significantly dirty by that time.

I added the Edelbrock water injection system. The Edelbrock is flawed in major ways. The only really good aspect of the Edelbrock is the adjustable controller that can adjust water volume according to both vacuum and RPM. The problems with the Edelbrock are that the tank is far too small and the pump is integral to the tank making it impossible to just replace the tank, and, there is no filtration system so the injector rapidly becomes clogged.

The literature recommended about 1/10th the amount of water to fuel; however, I found optimal performance with city driving happened with approximately as much water as fuel, which made the 1 gallon tank useless. On the freeway when the engine was not so loaded, 1:10 ratio was closer to, but not quite, adequate.

The mileage improvements were not realized with just the addition of the water injection system, but with adjustments made possible by it’s addition. Stock, the engine would ping under load with the factory specified 6 degrees before top dead center initial advance and with the factory carburetor jets. The water injection totally eliminated this ping.

I found it possible to increase the initial advance to 14 degrees with no pinging and a great improvement in power across the entire RPM range. Particularly, the lack of pinging improved the usable low end torque significantly making the car a lot more pleasant to drive.

The 14 degrees initial advance and water injection both had the net result of significantly increasing the idle speed, so I was able to cut down on the idle settings quite a lot and save fuel. Also, no longer relying on fuel to cool the peak cylinder temperature, I was able to jet the carburetor a couple of jets leaner, as well as lean out the idle mixture, without pinging, and still obtain significantly more horsepower than stock.

The limit to how lean I could idle it was where it would start to miss. I added an MSD multistrike ignition system and that extended how lean I could set the idle without missing.

With these modifications, I now got 30 MPG on the highway, around 23 MPG around the city (I could stretch that to 25 if I really grannied it). What’s more, this car had no catalytic converter, but I had some tests done on it to see how clean the engine was and it came well within current smog requirements, far cleaner in fact than a brand new catalytic converter equipped GMC van we compared it to. An additional benefit is that it almost totally eliminated the need for tune-ups. Still had points but since they switched no current with the MSD ignition, they lasted; and after ten thousand miles I’d pull the plugs out and they’d look like I just pulled them out of the box.

Since much of what wears an engine is acids that are formed when incomplete combustion products react with water vapor, the almost total elimination of those products also had to be good for engine wear. Unfortunately, there were other aspects of the car that were mechanically bad, in particular the three speed no synchronizing gear in first transmission and completely inadequate brakes (at least for the way I drive), that ultimately lead me to sell it before the engine could approach true old age.

I’m convinced that even greater fuel economy and power could have been obtained by raising the compression ratio since there was absolutely no sign of pinging even on the worst obtainable gasoline.

These modifications approximately doubled freeway economy and improved city driving economy by more than 50%, while at the same time improving the power and response of the vehicle and cutting pollution at a cost far less than hybrid modifications. However, I see absolutely no reason this technology could not be combined with hybrid technology to gain the additional benefits provided by hybrid technology and such a combination might easily yield full sized drivable vehicles with fuel economies exceeding most motorcycles.

A factory equipped car would have two similarly sized tanks, one for water and one for fuel, and since the economy would be much higher, the fuel tank could be approximately half the present size so really no additional space would be required in total for the water storage, it would simply displace some of the fuel storage.

In a conventional engine, much of the heat energy is absorbed by the cylinder walls and thus not available to provide propulsion. In addition, the higher cylinder wall temperature reduces the overall temperature difference from fully compressed to fully expanded, and thus engine efficiency.

Water injection provides droplets of water vapor that are vaporized into steam by the flame. This simultaneously cools the flame while turning into steam and increasing in volume providing greater push to the piston. Less heat is lost to the cylinder walls.

Water injection allows a leaner mixture which would otherwise result in excessive cylinder temperatures, pinging, and engine damage. This in turn provides better economy as well, and reduced in carbon monoxide emissions. I also found the hydrocarbon emissions to be greatly reduced, in fact both hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide were almost unmeasurable. Nitrous oxides were reduced enormously as well, and the need for EGR eliminated as the water vapor provided all the positive benefits of EGR with none of the negatives side effects (reduction of power, etc).

If American car manufacturers weren’t such dolts they’d catch on to the fact that this is an inexpensive technology that would allow them to produce a car that could compete with the Japanese hybrids for economy, efficiency, and pollution specifications, while at the same time being much less expensive and having no battery pack to wear out.

Alternatively, they could combine this with hybrid technology and produce vehicles that were more efficient, more powerful, and lower in emissions than the Japanese hybrids at a similar cost.

Other possibilities also occur to me; for example, there is a class of carburetors referred to as “supercarbs” that various experimenters have built that use engine vacuum to vaporize fuel and provide replacement heat from radiator water, etc.

These carburetors can provide extreme improvements in efficiency because instead of feeding gasoline as droplets which then take energy from the flame to fully vaporize as they combust, feed it as a vapor. This results in slightly better combustion but the main efficiency gain comes from the fact that energy to vaporize the fuel is drawn from radiator waste heat not from the flame.

These super carburetors have not been practical for the most part because such a totally vaporized mixture is prone to pinging, and so far the inventors have been largely unsuccessful at working out metering and mixture issues over the full RPM and power range of the engines. None the less, I’ve seen some incredible mileage result from these. Water injection would at least eliminate the pinging issue and while it might be a stretch for the home experimenter, a modern closed fuel cycle approach applied to supercarb technology, combined with water injection, might yield efficiencies greater than fuel injection.

American car manufacturers are dolts, or at least run by them, so I’m sure they’ll continue to try to produce and sell inefficient SUVs while gas is $3+ a gallon and wonder why their losing billions of dollars a quarter.

Edelbrock no longer makes the water injection unit but there are other companies that do, such as “FJO” and AquaThrust. They tend to be more pricey than Edelbrock was (Edelbrock unit cost under $300 while the AquaThrust is almost $800). If you do decide to do this pick a unit with a separate pump, add a filter inline before the injector, and use a tank approximating your gas tanks capacity.

FJO Water Injection:

FJO Water Injection

Aquamist Water Injection System:

AquaMist Water Injection

AquaTune Water Injection Systems:

AquaTune Water Injection

Category: Future