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The Man Who Fell for Fusion

Back in the 1980s, no one could replicate Pons and Fleischmann's claims about cold fusion, and the idea of controlled fusion without tremendous costs became a sort of atomic snake oil. ITER's tremendously expensive controlled "hot" fusion is still decades away from practicality, but the hydrogen bomb seems to suffice as proof of concept. Cold fusion has crept back into the news, but not into peer-reviewed discussion. Skeptics attack the few articles published with a fury. Peak Oil guru Tom Whipple is used to doubt, and has followed the issue dispassionately in a handful of articles. His Cold Fusion Update discusses the current claims of Italian entrepreneur Andrea Rossi:

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Australian Open begins

We're half a month into 2012. Novak Djokovic's streak is long gone and most of the top names are at the Australian Open. Even though Australia is not presently as big a tennis powerhouse as say, Russia, tradition has the AO as the first major of the year. While planning the first Grand Slam—winning all four majors in one year—Don Budge was advised to skip the Australian Championships. In 1938, Australia took several weeks to reach by steamship, and his friends warned that he was such an attraction that the Aussies would play him to death in preliminary tournaments. But Budge schemed to win all four majors before turning pro, and had to start down under—as did Maureen Connolly, Rod Laver (twice), Margaret Smith Court and Steffi Graf.

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Mayor Bloomberg Rides Livery Cab to State of the City Address

Cute to see Bloomberg tell Sadik-Khan to stay in the bike lane, but hardly the funniest part.

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Hybrids: Alt Energi

Even though Detroit is hurting, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is still a big deal in the industry. The historically Big Three did fairly well in 2011, particularly Chrysler, which increased sales some 26% more than 2010. I hated Chrysler's product line at last year's Baltimore show, but their Imported From Detroit campaign included several redesigned models. I read one article that attributed Chrysler's comeback to a patriotic fervor stimulated by the 2011 Superbowl advertisement featuring Eminem. That would be ironic, because since June, Fiat owns about 58% of Chrysler Group, LLC.

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EVs: Leaf and i-MiEV

I'm hoping Nissan shows the Leaf at the next Auto Show. I recently looked more closely at the specs. When the Leaf was first released, forced-air cabin heating was standard, and a cold weather package was optional. In chillier areas, the cold weather package was standard. In summer 2011, Nissan offered the cold weather package as standard throughout the US. It seems that cabin heating draws 3 to 5 KW and reduces the 75 or 100 mile range (depending on who you believe), which is already a source of concern for American drivers. Presumably front and rear heated seats, a heated steering wheel and a rear HVAC duct draw much lower wattage and eventually heat the cabin air. The package also includes a battery heater and heated outside mirrors.

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Libertarian Westerns

The Man That Didn't Shoot Liberty Valance

Tom Doniphon respects Libertarian (Liberty) Valance's right to live life his own way, as long as Valance doesn't bother him. After killing attorney Stoddard and most of the townsfolk, Valance eventually dies of cirrhosis.

A Fistful of Gold Eagles

The Man With No Government ID arrives in a town where two leading families, the Rojos and Baxters, are each printing their own currency not tied to the gold standard. He maneuvers each side's forces into killing off the other, then takes the gold.

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2011 Documentaries

I took another quick look at Roger Ebert's site and ran across his top twenty list of documentaries released in 2011. Though I was vaguely aware that someone had done a documentary of Conan O'Brien, I hadn't heard a thing about the rest of them, including The Interrupters, above.

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The Skinny on Fat

Now is the time for resolutions, exercise and diets - or so we are told in just about every media outlet. But why is this so?

Walking through Barnes and Noble a year or two ago, I noticed Fat History, written by my college professor Peter N Stearns. I'd enjoyed his classes, so I bought the book. I've started and stopped reading it on light rail several times since then, and am still only about halfway through it. I'd probably do about as well dieting.

In his history courses, Stearns generally taught us how things really were then, as opposed to how we believed they were, and how we got to how things are now. One course was called Sex and Death, another Work and Leisure. "Then" was usually the years immediately before the Industrial Revolution, and Stearns would lecture about how and why our attitudes had changed since preindustrial times. 

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Flicks Watched Over Xmas Break

The weekend before before Xmas I watched some classic films I had seen many times before - Holiday Inn in black and white, White Christmas in color - but one morning TCM showed All Mine To Give, based on the true story of a Scots couple settling in Wisconsin in the 1850s. Played by Glynis Johns and Cameron Mitchell, the couple worked hard, raised a cabin with help from their neighbors, prospered and brought five or six children into the new country - the American dream. But first the father, and then the mother took sick and died while the children were still quite young, and the oldest son, all of thirteen, followed his mother's wish that he find families to adopt each child. It was heart-rending to see the boy pulling an empty sleigh at the end of the film, on his way to work in a lumber camp, but at least they had neighbors with compassion.

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Marat élu

Named for the famous revolutionary who was stabbed in the bath, Marat Safin was about as talented and powerful as anyone that has played tennis. While the he earned a handful of good results on the tour, like defeating Sampras in the 2000 US Open and briefly claiming the #1 ranking, the rumor was that he spent too much time satisfying his female fans. Though charming off-court, he was known for angry outbursts on court and claims to have smashed over a thousand racquets. He once played the Hopman Cup, "sporting a bandaged right thumb, two black eyes, a blood-filled left eye, and a cut near his right eye, all suffered in a fight several weeks earlier in Moscow."

So he's well prepared for a life in Russian politics.

Marat Safin Reveals His Plans for His Future


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Donal is now posting on a wordpress blog called simply, Donal.


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