Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.  Revision 2 (corrected 1/2/2012)


Over the years there has been On-N-Off again interest in using thorium rather then uranium to fuel our energy needs. The interest came in part because of the greater availability and more widely distributed quantities of thorium in the earths crust. In addition the a thorium based fuel cycle seem to be significantly, despite nay-sayers, more resistant to diversion to weapons production (proliferation.) Recent studies, both at design phase and pilot plant size demonstrations have demonstrated that in an appropriate rector, the thorium based fuel cycle can both grow its own fuel, and burn up uranium fuel cycle based spent fuel treated as waste.

There are also detail assessments of the costs of such alternative technology, which I’ve ignored in this article. Why? For the most part in my studies, all such cost studies overestimate the end costs. This is in part due to the use of pessimistic values of input data and the use of conservative modeling assumptions.

Figure 1. The (simplified) Thorium Fuel Cycle

The discussions that follow are encapsulated gleanings from the main articles I reference, all published in the last several years. In addition, I skimmed my collection 60+ document collections on the thorium fuel cycle reference that, go back to 2005.

I attempted, within the time I had available, to determine whether any of the older ‘paradigm’ basic assumptions had been wrong in their conceptualization of thorium use for energy production. I found none, however many of the earlier documents differed by their use of then less accurate state-of-the art models. Such models continuously evolve, get challenged and improve  to get more accurate. Technologically, we both get smarter mathematically and computing power grows in accord to Moore’s Law.

In parallel to computational development, more realistic definition of model inputs and available experimental data based on the physics, and chemistry of elements of the thorium fuel cycle have occurred.

The Basic Historical Nuclear Energy Facts as I Know Them

Nuclear energy worldwide is based on a Uranium Fuel cycle.

The non-Thorium elements in this article can be either researched in Wikipedia or just googled. They are no a part of my normal reference practices which tend to focus heavily on the main topics under discussion in these blogs. I do suggest to stick with engineering and science oriented sites or those of the much larger international site that under obsessive peer review by anti-nuclear types. It is better to check out facts than to fight the belief battle with those who have received guidance from small voices in their heads or they’re under technology educated neighbors or media fear mongers.

Uranium fuel use for electrical energy generation is a legacy of US and German weapons development during WW II. At that time the US goal was to beat Nazi German to the super weapon punch. The allies won in Europe against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis by convention means including carpet-bombing of bother German cities, factories and infrastructure.

However to win the parallel war with Japan, our leaders decided to use these newly developed atomic bombs against Hiroshima an Nagasaki. This is not the place to deal with this history — its issues, geopolitical and moral. There are library full of such analysis. I include this background to give our less history minded readers a sense of the past.

The use of nuclear science and engineering newly discover during the US’s weapons program evolved rapidly. This was a result of initially, of general then President Eisenhower’s, Atoms for Peace program. It was paralleled or closely followed by a shared US and UN sponsored program to support the growth of nuclear energy for electricity generation with the nations of the world. There was at the time a hope for low cost, perhaps not needing to be metered, electricity.

The lead agency for doing so internationally is the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA.]

Again, this is beyond the scope of this article, this did not happen. As a result of a combination of accidents, some deadly, some just scary and a growing sense of nucleophobia, especially in the United States and more recently in Germany, nuclear energy became a dirty word. France, China, India do not think so. Apparently neither do Brazil, Russia and Saudi Arabia and it’s neighbors.

For them electricity from highly regulated and proven ‘catastrophe’ safe, nuclear energy remains a reasonable alternative to their options to deal with population growth, middle class aspirations for standard of living related energy shortages, and with energy security.

Even, when the sound and fury and fear factors die down, Japan will have trouble killing off its nuclear program. On the other hand heads should roll for their intuitional and corporative neglect. While the rest of the world made progress in understanding less frequent accident risks such as natural forces (tornedos – tsunamis – earthquakes) the Japanese corporations in bed with their regulators had their heads in the sand. It’s a time honored tradition — They have shamed the nation; perhaps Seppuku would be honorable.

Thorium Fuel Cycle Pro Arguments

Figure 2 - The Thorium Decay Chain

Enough said as background. Despite problems and issues that temporarily shut down nuclear energy programs and projects, almost all the nations of the world are seeking, if not publicly, to make nuclear electricity usually from uranium and a bit from thorium. In that effort, the Thorium Fuel cycle can perhaps play a key longer term role if I understand that ‘energy’ system.It appear to have been well documented, if not yet fully proven to the naysayer’s or for that matter to regulators around the world,Thorium Fuel Cycle is:

  • Safer
  • Cheaper
  • Proliferation Proof,
  • Creates Minimal high-level Waste
  • Eases recycling existing uranium spent fuel, and of course
  • Aiding the effort to become self reliant in Energy for their industry and transpiration needs.

One could now add:

  • Minimizing Greenhouse Gas production
  • Assuring low cost means of purifying sea or recycled and brackish or polluted water for drinking and agricultural purposes.
  • Lowering Transportation and its associated pollution costs

All of these uses have high-energy demands, usually in the form of inexpensive, reliable, safe electricity

For balance, most of the cons of using a Thorium Fuel Cycle have been specifically leveled the Liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) or the to early for it’s time (funding) Pebble Bed reactors.

Therefore I cover both positive and negative aspects of these specific solutions to using a thorium-based thorium, in the section below. Had Pebble Bed not happened in parallel to our recent economic meltdown, it might also have been an alterative.

Future Potential Path(s) Forward


  • Focus on spent fuel recycling by proven available chemical processing to recover uranium/plutonium for reuse, while minimizing waste and proliferation risks.
  • Progress with Advanced Reactor Design that initially creates intrinsically safe and ultimately inherently safe nuclear energy generation facilities.
  • Make significant International Progress with controlling the various aspects of the fuel cycle (mining though either waste disposal or reuse, to minimize costs to present and future generation, and of course maximize safety.
  • Expedite designing, testing and deploying alternate fuel cycles that avoid the problems caused by our use of uranium or uranium-plutonium fuel  [MOX] to generate electricity.

That’s where Thorium comes into play. In the section that follows I share the pros and cost of developing and ultimately relying on a Thorium based electrical generation cycle for our electrical needs.

The information below, shared at a summary level, described the myriads of pros & cons in slowly switching to a thorium based fuel cycle. These of course have been heavily discussed in both the scientific-engineering literature including the Internet, and on pro-and-con blogs on the issue. Of course adoption, all thing being equal, will likely happened faster in India, and China, … than in the US.

Unfortunately for clean energy advances which include energy independence and closed cycle nuclear power, since we seem to be a ‘fourth world’ (Doc’s New Label) nation with respect to tackling major global problems such as energy independence, climate change, and low-cost abundant safe energy to boot strap our economy and stamp out poverty.

Low cost sustainable energy will play an important role in economic development, especially approaching 2050 or after. India and China are planning very ambitious programs of nuclear power development. Both countries are planning rapid deployment of significant numbers of traditional Light Water and Heavy Water power reactors, while projecting the further development both Fast Liquid Metal Reactors [FLMR]] and Thorium cycle breeder reactors. (Barton I)

More below about thorium based aspects of these reactors types.


Liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) Pros)

  • From the nuclear physics standpoint, they are potentially, passively safe,
  • Past and present designs, and demonstration plants show that they are mechanically simple
  • These reactor types can be quite compact in size allowing them to used in the manner projected for other modular nuclear reactors or small stand alone factory built rechargeable battery style nuclear reactors/power generator systems.
  • They can in principal be deployed virtually anywhere and protected more ealy han large reactor facilities.
  • In preparing to build LFTRs we will recover valuable medical radioisotopes that could provide early financial return.
  • Operating LFTRs will generate electricity, desalinated water, and generate valuable radioisotopes for NASA and the medical sector where ever it is needed, requiring minimal expensive complex grid systems.
  • The possibility of utilizing a very abundant resource which has hitherto been of so little interest that its abundance has never been quantified properly seems worth investigating fully.
  • The production of power that creates fewer long-lived transuranic elements in the waste.
  • They, based on their nuclear physics, produce significantly reduced radioactive wastes.
  • Although I could not document this statement, I believe (yep the belief word) that the amount of radiation spread if battle hardened reactor is hit, would be about the same magnitude of the spent uranium ammunition were spreading now. If a war situation used nuclear weapons – shells – missiles or bombs…all bets are off. You are dead, end the environment doesn’t master. Gaia will recover in a millennia or two.


  • At the current state of knowledge, they have a high cost for fuel fabrication [e.g., due to the presence of 233-Uranium]
  • There are similar problems in recycling thorium itself due to highly radioactive Th-228 (an alpha emitter with two-year half life) is present.
  • There is some concern over weapons proliferation risk of U-233 (if it could be separated on its own), although many designs such as the Russia’s Radkowsky Thorium Reactor addresses this concern. There appear to be safe-cost effective solution to this issue.
  • The technical problems (not yet satisfactorily solved) in reprocessing solid fuels. However, with some designs, in particular the molten salt reactor (MSR), these problems are likely to largely disappear.

Much development work is still required before the thorium fuel cycle can be commercialized This is being done in India and China, The effort required seems unlikely while (or where) abundant uranium is available. In this respect, recent international moves to bring India into the ambit of international trade might or may not result in the country ceasing to persist with the thorium cycle, as it now has ready access to traded uranium and conventional reactor designs

Nevertheless despite the negative aspects that would limit, universally, switching to a thorium fuel cycle, the thorium fuel cycle, with its potential for breeding fuel without the need for fast neutron reactors, holds considerable potential in the long-term. It is a significant factor in the long-term sustainability of nuclear energy.

Gen IV reactor History and Safety Features

These have been universally claimed to be passively safe; that is, they remove the need for redundant, active safety systems. This is in part due to obviating the need for electro-mechanical safety-fail safe feature and any part for human action – The nuclear physics does the job. This is a result of the reactor is design allowing it to both safely handle high temperatures {No melt-down scenario.} The reactor can cool itself by natural circulation and still survive in accident scenarios, which may raise the temperature of the reactor to 1,600 °C.

LFTR type reactors will offer safe, sustainable and efficient nuclear power at a potentially low cost. LFTR and Pebble-bed reactors can also theoretically power vehicles. Why, they would be fail-crash safe, and there is no need for a heavy pressure vessel for containment. Furthermore, the pebble bed heats gas that could directly drive a lightweight gas turbine.

The use of the advanced thorium cycle in a fusion-fission hybrid could potentially bypass the stage of designing and building fourth generation breeder reactors in that the energy multiplication in the fission part allows the satisfaction (achievement) of energy breakeven point and the in magnetic and inertial fusion reactor designs. I have not discussed this somewhat still academic alternative lack of time,

Historically, in the United States, the thorium-fission fuel cycle, which I have not discussed for was investigated over the period 1950-1976 both in the federally funded Molten Salt Breeder 1976 in the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor Studies (MSBR) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Reactor (MSBR) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as well as in the pilot (ORNL) as well as in the pilot Shippingport fission reactor fission reactor plant.

It has also been used in the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) in a pebble bed and a prismatic moderator Reactor (HTGR) in a pebble bed and a prismatic moderator and fuel configurations. General Atomics Corporation (GA) did a large amount of documented-peer review-published work, which the US has ignored but not so the rest of the world.

The General Atomics (GA) Company built two prototype thorium reactors over the1960-1970’s period. The first was a 40 MWeMWe prototype at Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania operated by Philadelphia Electric. The second a 330 MWeMWe at Fort St. Vrain for the Public service of Colorado which operated between 1971 and 1975.

It now appears that the effort to building a Pebble Bed reactor [PBMR ] that was planned in South Africa failed because of lack of Investors/customers, rather then the albeit, large technical and regulatory challenge.

Figure 4. Molten Salt Reactor


Because India was outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons program, it was for 34 years largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant components or materials that had hampered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009. Due to these trade bans and barriers, and the lack of indigenous sources of uranium, India has uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium.

Indeed its expertise has made it the premier source of potential thorium fuel cycle expertise, technology and soon workable-licensable reactor designs. Will building thorium based reactor systems come next?

The Molten Salt Reactor [MSR]

The MSR is an advanced breeder concept, in which the coolant is a molten salt, usually a fluoride salt mixture. This is thermally quite hot, but not under pressure, and does not boil below about 1400°C. The higher temperatures enhance the efficiency of energy generation.

Much of this research has focused on lithium and beryllium additions to the salt mixture to enhance safety. The fuel can be dissolved enriched uranium, thorium or U-233 as fluoride salts. Recent international discussion has been focused on the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, utilizing U-233 which has been bred in a liquid thorium salt blanket and continuously removed to be added to the core.

The MSR concept and design was studied in depth in the 1960s, and is now being revived because of the availability of advanced technology for the temperature-radiation resistant materials and components. There is now renewed interest in the MSR concept in China, perhaps in Japan, Russia, France and even in the USA, and one of the six Generation IV designs selected for further development by DOE’s advanced reactor program is the MSR.

The Anti-MSR View — In his 2009 article, my colleague Arjun Makhijani, entitled Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power reiterates the widely published concerns about with implementing a commercial thorium fuel cycle. I agree with the listing of problems, so dies the rest of the nuclear engineering community both engineering and commercial.

I do ask, Arjun, what’s new other then trying to involve the public in another nucleophobic red herring. This is an IEER fault that I can seldom find in studies by the staff of the Union of Concerned Scientists who’s work on nuclear and other energy issues I also follow.



I leave it to the reader, especially the scientist, engineers, economists and science-educated politicians to think about this. I for one would rather pay a short term penalty (cost) for a safer cost effective, proliferation resistant fuel cycle that released except in mining, no green house gases, than the alternatives and comes closer to solving the HLW disposal problem than to throw that valuable asset away.

If wishes were horses (beggars would ride)and I could perhaps:

  • Convince the City of Richland (WA) and Oak Ridge (TN) to set up a municipal ‘battery reactor’ – Ups, NRC is mostly ignoring the licensing of this reactor, and will doubtless prevent us importing them from the UK.
  • If I were not risk adverse, I could invest heavily in thorium mines. However, by the time that licensing anywhere in the world occurs, these ores would become as inflated as gold, palladium or rare earth element ores are now.
  • Buy a real stake (ownership) of the iron and uranium mines that underground repositories create.

I would seriously consider investing my children’s-grandchildren’s future inheritances – what’s left after my wife and I pass on, or at least half of that amount in such a “certified and licensed’ and default insured ventures.

A Final Thought
— Over the many years I’ve know him, I’ve been troubled by my colleague Arjun Makhijani ongoing finding of problems in nuclear and other energy areas that for the most part can be dealt with minor tuning of the design of a project. Most of which has nuclear concerns when reviewed 3-5 years later, have been proven to be technical challenges rather that fatal flaws or perhaps unconventional red herrings. WIIFT anyone?



The Thorium Fuel Cycle, Wikipedia, 2011

All About Thorium, The World Nuclear Association, March 2011.

Thorium Costs, site; Undated

Nuclear Power in India, The World Nuclear Association, October 2011

The Fusion Fission Hybrid Thorium Fuel Cycle Alternative <A Slide Presentation, Feb 2010>. University of Illinois.

Thorium Fission and Fission-Fusion Fuel Cycle, Nuclear Power – Deployment, Operation and Sustainability, by Magdi Ragheb (2011), Pavel Tsvetkov (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-307-474-0, InTech

Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power, By Arjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd, dated for the Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research [IEER.]  

Safeguards Approaches for Fast Breeder Reactors and Associated Fuel Cycle Facilities, Nuclear Security Science Policy Institure, 2010   

The Thorium Fueled Molten Salt Reactor News [MSR] Blog

Nuclear Batteries (e.g., Small Nuclear Reactors) By Eben Harrell Monday, Feb. 28, 2011, Time Magazine.,9171,2050039,00.html/

Pebble Bed Reactor — Wikipedia 2011.

Uranium-233 {formed in Thorium Reactors } – Wikipedia. 2011.

Sidebar Notes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles cited or quoted in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledged and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

The author considers, as do many experts, Wikipedia a reliable and accessible site for technical information, provided that the reference cited in the Wikipedia article meets the following standard.

My Standards for References Checks Are the references provided essentially complete or representative of the literature, and relevant?  Do they include both precedent and present work, including any referenced disagreement with any of the article author’s assumptions, methods or views?In addition I always try to glean WIIFT <what’s in it for them?> WIIFT is a neutral characteristic that sets the authors paradigm, some the reader needs to be aware of. It’s like who actually sponsors research, a political add, or ant means of trying to sway you viewpoint – OKAY enough preaching.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I have lately been inundated by wind power articles, trying to convince me that (subsidized) wind power for the US, is the next best thing to sliced white bread. One of my thought, ignored by most commentators is that it does mater to me whether I must pay a direct rate increase for alternate energy, or the government sneaks it out of my pocket as a hidden tax, aka subsidy. I object! I get stuck and perhaps suckered either way, which the industry and their political supporters prosper. As Robert Heinlein has coined the SciFi slang terms TANJ and TANSTAAFL. Both speak to my views.

White Bread Analogy — Relative to the white bread, many of us have long been aware that the Wonder’s™ of this world, have profitably convinced several generations of Americans of their products’ worth. We all should eat, so the message goes, this low in nutrition (needs fortification), low fiber, and either sweet or flavorless with no mouth appeal products  ‘tongue” on our innocent advertising is truth addicted public.  The paradigm is slowly changing, check out big store grocery stores and you find much more in the way of whole grain, artisan and other healthier breads… still high carb, but much better tasting and better for you; if using a bread maker does not fit your schedule.

Is the same true of Wind Power? If so where in the US does it make sense? The Europeans once big on wind power that they heavily subsidized it as a silver bullet have now gone off subsidizations. Guess what even in Europe with a closely placed urban friendly grid; orders for Wind turbines have dropped dramatically.

I recently came across two well written and thought provoking articles that naysay the wondrous benefits wind power, which of course motivated this Op-Ed topic. I shall summarize their claims at the end of this article segment.

WIND POWER YES or NO — Questions That Need To be Considered

  • Is Wind Power competitive in your region perhaps because it is easily connected to the local or regional grid?
  • Can a wind power system be developed, in the near future, to provide base load uninterruptable power supply to urban and industrial America?
  • What impact will the cost of wind power have on base regional electrical rates if it is only confined to making up for base-lead shortages? At what unsubsidized cost are any savings that result worth the life cycle cost penalties. (E.g., How Good is Good?)
  • Have much publicized estimated costs/benefits of wind power considered the ecological and greenhouse costs of making, installing and ultimately disposing of the windmills? (E.g., Best estimate ranges of Full Life Cycle Costs. Even the global warming folks do this!)
  • With the major NIMBY response to mostly off shore and also to mountain top turbine farms, are we placing wind farms in locations where the wind blows, sort of, but the distance to the industrial and urban consumer becomes an obstacle to true competitiveness?
  • How do the other environmental side effects ranging from noise pollution to bird kills compare to other energy sources, say natural gas, solar, nuclear (including mini-reactors) and of course oil.
  • How will Windpower fare in the newly developed “Clean Energy Standards” that are being considered as alternatives to both cap-and-trade and a carbon tax.

Note, I left coal out of my list because I don’t believe there will ever be a cost effective politically correct clean way to either use a ‘clean’ coal technology do assure 100,000 year sequestration of the CO2 from coal burning. The numbers I heard bandied about are 5,700 year to assure sequestration safety. Alas I can find no credible analysis or regulatory basis for this number.

The two articles that intrigued me were:

OVERBLOWN: Windpower on the Firing Line (Part I), and0
Oxymoronic Windpower (Part II: Windspeak.)

Both were written by Jon Boone on September 13, 2010 and January 18, 2011 and are posted on the Master Resource the Free Energy Market Blog.

They are a fascinating combination of Boone’s adopted slang from both George Orwell’s’ Movie 1984 and the Harry Potter books, plus. The articles also include a pithy description of the Wind Power industry’s double-speak. The later in typical Madison Avenue style, foisted on the public and brain washed into politicians’ sense of political correctness. Of coursed all is funded by those who would profit, either financially or ideologically, from wind technology.

Although masked sarcasm, that covers sharp and biting analysis, I find Jon Boone’s analysis, replete with credible references, credible and accurate. They substantiate the studies I’ve done, in an area I try to keep up with the ever-evolving factual data. I quote…

Widespread misunderstanding about the difference between energy and power has given cover to the charlatan-like wind lobby, which pretends their wares provide something they do not. We are all familiar with black-white PR jargon that characterizes wind projects as mills, farms, and parks, despite the looming industrial presence of 450-foot tall turbines propelling rotors at tip speeds of nearly 200-mph for many miles along terrain or seabed. But for sheer oxymoronic audacity, nothing beats the trickeration of the term wind power, since the technology is the very antithesis of modern power performance. In fact, wind provides no modern power. Rather, it throws out spasmodic, highly skittering energy that cannot by itself be converted to modern base load power.

Although much of the first article in this series is filled with a general overview about energy and its role in modern society, it is an excellent read, worth your attention. It’s underlying, and accurate premise is that the diffuse nature of wind’s fuel requires (in most locations) continuous supplementation by reliable machines fueled by more energy-dense fuels, as well as virtually dedicated new transmission lines and voltage regulation systems. It’s the kind and scope of activity that must happen to make wind create modern high-density continuous power.

Note: Unlike my usual practice, in this Op-Ed segment, quotes are in italics and my ‘purple prose is in plain or plain blue colored text.

The second article in this series provide details about the wind power industry, their campaign that uses albeit CO2 producing coal as the antithesis “clean” wind power and other madison avenue tactics to create a favorable ‘climate’ for funding wind energy. [Eg. AWEA] despite wind’s low unit availability, and capacity values. White bread anyone?

Here are some factual insights, edited by me for brevity that Boone provides:

1. Despite more than 100,000 huge wind turbines in operation around the world, with about 35,000 in North America, no coal plants have been closed because of wind technology. In fact, many more coal plants are in the offing, both in the US and throughout the world. Moreover, a Colorado energetics company, Bentek, recently published a study about wind in Texas and Colorado showing, in its study areas, that wind volatility caused coal plants to perform more inefficiently, “often resulting in greater SO2, NOx, and CO2 emissions than would have occurred if less wind energy were generated and coal generation was not cycled.” Further examination of fuel use for electricity in both states during the time of inquiry suggested that wind caused no reduction in coal consumption.2. Unpredictable, undispatchable, volatile wind can provide for neither baseload nor peak load situations. It can only be an occasional supplement that itself requires much supplementation. Consequently, as Australian engineer Peter Lang once wrote, since“ wind cannot contribute to the capital investment in generating plants… it’s simply is an additional capital investment.” 

3. Wind technology does NOT represent alternate energy. Since wind cannot provide controllable power and has no capacity value, it cannot be an alternative for machines that do provide controllable power and high capacity value. Wind therefore is incapable of entering into a zero-sum relationship with fossil-fired capacity—that is, more wind, less coal. All other conditions being equal (demand, supply, weather, etc.), more wind generally means more coal.

4. None of the considerable public subsidies for wind, indeed, not even state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) laws, are indexed to measured reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Consequently, there is no transparency or accountability for how wind technology will achieve the goals set forth by those policy initiatives. This means that corporations with a lot of fossil-fired market share to protect have no obligation to replace it with wind. And they don’t. Because they can’t. Freedom from responsibility is a child’s fairy tale dreams come true.

5. The work of a number of independent engineers—Hawkins, Lang, Oswald, Le Pair and De Groot—suggests that even the most effective fossil fuel pairing with wind, natural gas, will very marginally reduce overall natural gas consumption beyond what would occur using only natural gas generators, without any wind whatsoever.

6. Because oil provides barely 1% of the nation’s electricity, wind represents no threat to oil’s market share.

There’s more, my favorite entitled, as you might guess, is a discussion of follow the money… Check out the links and the reference therein.

Feedback of course is always welcome with one proviso: Just the Facts Ma’am by Joe Friday; of Dragnet fame’s so provide references to your counter arguments.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Sidebar Notes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles cited or quoted in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledged and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

The author considers, as do many experts, Wikipedia a reliable and accessible site for technical information, provided that the reference cited in the Wikipedia article meets the following standard.

Are the references provided essentially complete or are representative of the literature, and relevant?  Do they include both precedent and present work, including any referenced disagreement with any of the Wiki author’s views?

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

iPad versus Android


Freescale aPad IMX515

What is the fuss about tablets? Do we need them? Why or why not? How much do they cost? Which one should we buy? What is the supported hardware and software? How do we get more (software and hardware)? Can the operating system be upgraded? What OS versions to avoid? What do they lack, straight out of the box, and what add-on is worth it’s weight in gold? Let’s find out.

I’ve been tracking tablets since Apple released the iPad, and I have to admit I’m impressed. I’d like an iPad, but the price tag is so much higher than 7″ or 8″ Android OS-based tablets, so my first tablet will probably run Android. I’ve done some online comparisons and see there are 7″, 8″ and 10.1″ Android tablets that run different versions of Android (1.6, 2.1, 2.2) and have different supported hardware/software features.

The hardware features that vary include CPU and clock speed, memory (ranging from 128MB to 1GB), hard drive storage (2 – 8 GB), TF slots for additional memory (max ranging from 16 – 32 GB), cameras (no camera, have web cam, have 1.3 M Pixel cameras – similar to cell phones from 2 – 3 yrs ago), USB Ports (some do, some don’t), and wireless connectivity (a/b/g/n).

The main supported software I’ve seen is probably related to the version of Android installed on the tablet. The types of supported video formats varies considerably – only 1 or 2 I looked at support H.264, and only 1 said it supports Flash 10.1.

The tablet that has caught my eye today is the Freescale aPad IMX515 ARM Cortex A8 8″Android 2.2 tablet. Speed is 1 GHz, it has 512 MB RAM and 4 GB storage (plus TF expansion slot for another 32 GB storage).

My question: Has anyone out there that bought an Android OS tablet be willing to share their experience of using the tablet? Ted, one of the other contributors of this site, has an iPad and loves it. I’m curious if the Android tablets invoke as much appreciation by their owners.

I’d like to learn what owners like and dislike about their tablets, what they cost and what they spent to upgrade them, how long is the battery life on a single charge, what types of applications are bought (vs free downloads), how many use these devices at work or school, and whether or not the owner feels these devices can replace laptops or netbooks.

My impression is that these devices are very handy and can take the place of a lot of stuff being done on laptops (gaming, internet browsing), but I don’t believe they currently can replace a laptop. I cannot imagine writing a long book or developing large software applications on a tablet. I can see them as terrific devices to take out in the field – I know I’d love to take one along when going out at night to observe the skies, as long as the battery life kept it going all night.

If the Android tablets have short battery life and the iPad is much greater, it seems wiser to skip the Android tablet purchase and move right on to the one that will do what I need, because battery life is just as important as supported applications.

I’d like to hear from anyone willing to share about their good or bad experiences using a tablet.


Apple released the new iPad (2.0) on March 2, 2011. It is 2/3 as thick as iPad 1.0, faster dual core A5 processor, better/faster graphic processing (1024×768), lighter (1.3 lb), has front and rear-facing cameras, 3-axis gyro, accelerometer,  runs iOS 4.3, same 10 hr battery life, and ships 3/11/2011 at the same price as the iPad 1.0 models. Mac computers must have a USB 2.0 port and run OS X 10.5.8 or later. Click here to go to the site for product details. Want to see the new model? Here it is:

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

This post is my response to some of the supposed experts that claim scientists are wrong about global warming. I lack the credentials to speak with authority on global warming, however I trust experts from the scientific community more than ignorant politicians or political movements or big coal/oil.

The past 4 years I’ve heard a lot of things about global warming that surprise and concern me. Being skeptical is fine, but changing or ignoring information that disproves a position is wrong. This is an informal top ten list of reasons I heard or read by people who claim “Scientists use falsified or modified data about global warming, because scientists…”

  1. just want to continue to get research grants.
  2. lack the ability to interpret data as well as regular people.
  3. don’t really believe in G-d because he wouldn’t let us wreck our planet.
  4. really only have temperature data since the 1950s, and tree and ice cores don’t mean anything, so how would they know?
  5. at “my” church don’t believe it, so those other scientists are wrong!
  6. want to look important and attract members of the opposite (or same) sex.
  7. are out to get big coal/oil. Anti-business, plain and simple. Drill baby drill.
  8. actually believe in evolution and refuse to accept the earth is less than 10,000 yrs old. Carbon dating is just wrong!
  9. really faked the moon landings.
  10. are tools of them liberal democrats!

Based on my own experiences with them, this is my top ten list to respond to the list above: “Scientists…”

  1. are ethical people and well aware their papers are subject to peer review. Credibility is everything to a scientist, and not many would continue to get grants if most or all of their peers continually reject and refute their findings.
  2. are better equipped (and more knowledgeable) to interpret scientific data than people lacking a scientific background. Please, child!
  3. have and lack religious beliefs, just like other professions. I believe there have been things like the black death plague in the middle ages, the holocaust in the 1940s, the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons for the 50s to today – G-D did not prevent them. Being a scientist does not mean one must deny the existence of G-d.
  4. use tree cores and ice cores that date back hundreds and thousands of years to track and interpret weather data.
  5. are not proven wrong because one or two people with a similar background disagree with the entire scientific community. I’ve known people who claimed to be Christians that were horrible and mean-spirited – I do not interpret that to mean all Christians are bad (or wrong) because of the behavior of a few of them. I’ve also met a number of nice people who were Hindus and Muslims – that does not mean there are no bad Hindus or Muslims.
  6. are not attention-seekers. They seek verifiable answers to questions, not pick-up lines to use at a local bar.
  7. understand the need our society has for power systems. I’m not saying some members of the scientific community dislike big oil/coal. I’m saying the position of a few does not dictate the position of every one of that profession. And I believe that many people living on the Gulf coast do not agree with the political byline of “Drill Baby Drill.”
  8. believe in evolution, a 4.54 billion year old earth, and G-D. And yes, carbon (and potassium/argon) dating is quite accurate. I agree with those positions. There is not an inherent incompatibility of scientists and religious beliefs. I’ve met some scientists that had strong religious beliefs as well as scientists that were atheists – the job does not dictate religious affiliation or the lack of.
  9. believe America had the technology and desire to send astronauts to the moon in the 60s and 70s. I agree. Those men were brave to undertake such a dangerous flight, and it is an insult to them and their families for people to deny their accomplishments.
  10. are democrats, republicans, independents, and none of the above. Just as with other professions, some scientists have liberal-leaning while others are politically conservative. Political orientation should not be used to change science or history.

There are a few more posts on this site about global warming doubters – if that subject interests you then check out this post.

The list of global warming doubters has dropped over the past 5 years, but there are still some that want to voice their opinions that they know better than people with the education and credentials to discuss the topic.

I apologize if I offended anyone, because that is not my intention or desire. I get tired of hearing or reading opinions of people who fear conspiracies “they alone are smart enough to recognize.

In an open society, people are free to have their opinions, but that does not mean spreading false material because the truth conflicts with a political agenda or religious beliefs. An open society does not mean people are free to attempt to intimidate or insult others that disagree with cherished/uninformed notions or religious beliefs.

And finally, the tactic of not stating your position and trying to use half-truths and internet innuendo to undermine the opinion of another person is not the act of a smart, kind, wise person. It is the act of someone who realizes their own position is undefendable. It is the act of someone that fails to see that their approach alienates and does not convince another of the validity of their opinion. When one desires that they or their opinions be shown respect, they better be willing to show the same respect to people that do not agree with them. Respect is a two-way street.

To sum it up. Free speech and open discourse – good. Distorting data, lying about data, or stifling inconvenient truths – bad.

Just my 2 bits.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.


One of the two thing I dislike at the Holiday, read that gift  giving season, is not knowing what to give my Macintosh using friends, that’s not just an out of the catalogs gift.  The other is that I’m always short of cash and figuring what nice vs. chintzy (cash limits) is a hassle.

The Gift That Works for a Year or Three — Or at least until your OS changes so it can’t be supported.

What I started doing late last holiday season and will continue to do this year is to give my friends a CD of selected Shareware/Freeware items that seem most suited to their computing needs. I have several reasons for doing so.

  • The gift is both useful and personal 
  • The cost is as large or as small as you can afford.
  • That you share tools that will either increase the friend’s productivity or enjoyment if the tool shows you took the time to care!

Most of my friends aren’t software/shareware junkies and miss out on the kinds of goodies identified in Dan Frakes’ Macworld’s Gems columns, one of which I’ve linked to; or the items I surf for and occasionally review found on the MacUpdate site:

So what do you do, beyond trying to understand how your friend(s) 
use their Macintosh?

Think About and Get Downright Personal — In Their Faces —

  • Are they newbies, Wintel transplants, experienced users or experts?
  • Are they focused on productivity (writing or creating graphics and other media), media collection, running a business, surfing for fun and perhaps bargains, gaming or what ever?
  • What software do they already own and use. Are there add-ons/alternatives that they would enjoy exploring (e.g., Photoshop filters?)
  • Are big name commercial products out of their reach so they would welcome having most of a name brand products features at a much lower cost (e.g., OpenOffice vs., MS Office, or PDFpen Pro or Adobe Acrobat.)
  • Are there applications [toys] out there that would either enhance their present productivity, add features and alternative ways to enhance what they routinely do?
  • Provide them with toys that pleasure them or just open their eyes to new world of working on/with the Macintosh?

Don’t forget to consider the lower cost commercial products  such as Photoshop Elements or Bento, which are better than Apple’s iPhoto or paying for the full-fledged version of FileMaker Pro. If you get the down loadable version, they can be included on your CD.

How Do You Create Personalized Mac-Gift Package for Your Holiday Gift Recipients?

Congratulations, you’ve done this the hardest tHiMk part!

  • All the rest is just a bit of application collection,
  • Prepay Pay a license fee (if shareware) for them as needed,
  • Collect some summary information of the particular application (I use the descriptor from either MacUser or the developers site, and
  • Put all this plus the appropriate links in a unique folder.

Fancy or plain, there are tools to customize folders some of which I’ve previously described. You might include some in your gift. As noted previously my favorite icon tools are Folder Brander and iconCompo.

  • Gather these individual software items up in a burn folder. I use Toast, but Apple’s tools are just fine!
  • Add a short or long note, some pictures of you and yours or you and them together that you’ve taken.

Burn Baby Burn

Then create a pretty label for your gift. I mostly use Belight Software’s Disc Cover or Smiles DiscLabel, both great programs that I can’t choose between.

Final Thoughts

Yes, creating a purrfect Shareware gift CD has a trade-off. It’s personal, and by definition meets your budget but also takes tHiMk time.

A Possible Complication — Depending on how the software developer licenses’ their product, you may have to register it your friends name / eMail) etc. I usually get around this by dropping the developer a note to see if ‘gifting’ the item causes any registration problems.

Sidebar Notes:
Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.


By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

The Java Developer Mailing list has been buzzing about Apple’s recent announcement to deprecate Java. Apple even statied it would not include Java in the next version of OS X (Lion, due the middle or end of next year). Bad news for Java developers, educators, students, and businesses that rely of Java and prefer to use the Mac.

Fortunately we had some good news today. Apple and Oracle announced the OpenJDK project of OS X. Click here to read Apple’s press release on their site. Weigh in with your opinions as to this news.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

A few months ago I wrote a short piece how a Scottish non-scientist named Chris Monckton has been traveling the globe denying global warming using unverifiable or misrepresented facts. Professor John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering posted a point-by-point rebuttal to one of Monckton’s presentations at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota and Monckton was furious, insulting the Professor (whom he called “a parboiled shrimp”), the university (he called a “half-assed Bible college”), and the head of the university (Father Dease). While insulting the school and university professionals associated with Professor Abraham, Monckton has threatened to sue the professor and the school for defamation. Seems odd that someone publically insults others chooses to insist that he is the one being defamed, doesn’t it?

A new story from Susan Alexander (a writer at UST) addressing this issue was released yesterday. Susan’s piece was well-written and it helps bring the public up to date on the situation with Monckton and global warming. Please go here to read it.

IMHO, the biggest skeptics about global warming seem to either be non-scientists, meteorologists, politicians with a political agenda, or the oil industry. It seems most scientists, including climatologists, agree global warming is very real. Many former skeptics now accept global warming is real, is impacting life on our planet, and feel it must be addressed now before it has too dramatic an effect on the people of our world. Even Monckton can use Wolfram|Alpha to generate graphs like the one below:

I know I’m merely a computer scientist (not as science-focused as a degree in classical studies), but that graph looks like it is climbing, not dropping, during the past 100 years. To reproduce this graph for yourself, click here.

Monckton is entitled to his opinions, but it seems rather odd that a man without climate-related academic credentials is trying to take on a tenured professor with credentials and knowledge. As for me, I think I’ll side with Professor Abraham and accept global warming is a real threat to our species.

A larger concern is that newly elected conservatives are threatening scientists that speak up about global warming. A good article on this was recently published in the Star Tribune. Go here to read it.

For a link to Professor Abraham’s rebuttal to Monckton’s feeble attempt at rebutting the good professor, check out this blog.