Slow Blogging Day

I’ll be on the road most of today, in transit from Tennessee.

BTW, I’m traveling in my 2021 VW GTI. Driving down from Maryland on Saturday, I was rolling with the flow of traffic at a speed that my first car, a 1962 Beetle, could not reach, and the GTI gets better gas mileage than the old Bug. OTOH, I spent about $90 for the gas for the drive down which would have paid for almost 10,000 miles of driving the Beetle back in the late ’60s.

Also, during roughly 650 miles of driving on Saturday, I saw only one Tesla. Based on the county shown on its license plate, it was not far from home.

Learning to Code

As CNN+ bites the dust, …Of course, they can always learn to code. I learned Fortran when I was a teenager and several other programming languages since then. These days, most coding is done with a keyboard, but I’ve found another tool useful for some forms of communication.OK, at least one of the Gentle Readers is going point out that manual telegraphy is as slow, essentially obsolete form of communications. That’s true, but Morse code still can deliver truthful information faster than CNN+ ever has. That’s why it will still be in use next month.

Coal Fired Teslas

The electricity flowing from a charging station doesn’t magically appear. It must be generated and transmitted to the charger.

Let’s do a bit of analysis.

Looking around the interwebz, I found that the typical Tesla uses 34 kWh of energy to go 100 miles. I’m more used to dealing with energy calculations in joules. 34 kWh = 122 MJ. That’s megajoules.

The typical charging station has an efficiency of about 90 %. In order to deliver 122 MJ to the Tesla’s battery, it will draw about 136 MJ from the power line. The typical efficiency of the power grid from generating station to end user is about 89 %. Some power station needs to generate 153 MJ to get 122 MJ into the Tesla’s battery.

Let’s assume it’s a modern coal fired plant. The efficiency of the process of burning coal to heat water to make steam to turn a turbine to spin an electrical generator is typically around 32 %. That means we need 472 MJ of energy from the coal.

Burning a ton of coal delivers about 22 GJ (gigaojoules) of energy, so we’d need to burn about 43.4 pounds of coal to charge a Tesla to drive 100 miles. That gives a fuel economy rating of 2.3 miles per pound of coal, and that’s roughly equivalent to 15 mpg for a gasoline vehicle.


My Solar Powered Volkswagens

I have a couple of Volkswagens, a 2014 Beetle and a 2021 GTI. The 2014 has a diesel engine, and the 2021 has a gasoline engine, but both are actually solar powered.

Let me explain.

Both the cars have internal combustion engines which derive their energy from the combustion of hydrocarbons with oxygen. Those hydrocarbons are so-called fossil fuels derived from petroleum. The petroleum was created over time by the compression and heating of organic matter buried in the ground, and that organic matter came from the remains of living organisms, plants and animals, which lived a long time ago.

The brontosauri that filled my cars’ fuel tanks survived by eating vegetable matter that lived by synthesizing organic molecules from the environment, and that synthesis required energy. That energy came from sunlight.

So there you have it. The energy to operate my Volkswagens came to Earth as photons from the Sun. So did the energy from fossil fuel fired power plants used to charge my neighbor’s Tesla.

Chipping Away at the Supply Chain

Milton Friedman once remarked that if the government were put in charge of the Sahara Desert, we would quickly have a shortage of sand. The looming supply problem for the electronics industry isn’t a sand shortage but one of silicon metal used to make semiconductors. SMM News is reporting that government imposed power restriction in China are adversely affecting silicon production.

The insufficient power supply will inevitably lead to a decline in the output in Q4. The impact of the dual control of energy consumption is more significant on the supply of silicon. The major silicon metal producing regions including Yunnan, Xinjiang, Sichuan will have to cut the production, where the silicon plants cannot maintain the normal production from September to November. The power shortage also restricts the production.

BTW, silicon isn’t rare; it’s the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust. Oh, and a vast array of products uses semiconductors. Even the toaster I bought last year uses an integrated circuit as the basis of its timer.

Magnesium and Wheels

I’m so old I remember when the only significant quantity of magnesium in an automobile might have been a set of aftermarket wheels. That’s not the case now. More and more parts on cars and trucks, including large body parts, are aluminum, and many aluminum alloys contain magnesium. There’s a lot of magnesium in a modern vehicle.

China produces over 80 % of the world’s magnesium. Recent power shortages have severely affected the region where most of China’s production is based, so a magnesium shortage is expected to hit vehicle manufacturers before the end of 2021.

Saving the Public Some Money

NASA has announced that the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter and its moon Europa will be launched by SpaceX using a Falcon Heavy vehicle. The total contract award is for $178 million. The competing vehicle was NASA’s SLS. The estimated cost of the SLS launch would have been $2 billion.

The SLS has not flown yet, but the Falcon Heavy has several successful launches to its credit.


A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

—Everett Dirksen

A Helicopter on Mars

Nighttime temperatures at Jezero Crater on Mars can drop to -90 C which can damage unprotected electrical components and ruin batteries. However, the Ingenuity helicopter survived its first night after being deployed from the Perseverance rover on 3 April. If all goes well, Ingenuity will be the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet.

Image Credit: NASA

Don’t Know Much About a Science Book

Uh, no, the failures in Texas are what happens as a result of the pursuit of unreliable “green” energy sources instead of reliable, science/engineering-based systems.

BTW, because I viewed the tweet on one of my engineering computer which has its clock set to Coordinated Universal Time, the timestamp on the tweet is +5 hours from Eastern Time. 0500 UTC is 12 midnight ET.

A Conspiracy Against Obsolete Technologies

When I was a kid back in the ’50s, my mother would occasionally shop at the A&P store at the junction of Natchez Trace and West End Avenue in Nashville, Centennial Park was across West End from the store, and my little brother and I would go across to the park and hang out in a playground. I can remember that there were street car tracks in the center of West End Avenue. The tracks hadn’t been used since just before World War II when the last street cars were replaced with buses.

Then, one day in the mid-to-late ’50s, they had repaved the street, and tracks were replaced with a wide pedestrian traffic island.

That was just one small part of the ongoing conspiracy to make it difficult to continue to use obsolete technologies. The next thing you know, they might start removing unused mailboxes from street corners.