Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Jerry Pournelle (page 1 / 1)

What's wrong with "cherry picking"?

Yowza. This is Jerry Pournelle on education and "cherry picking".

On education, the usual critique of charter schools is that they are guilty of "cherry picking" which is to say, they accept only students who want to learn something and are willing to be disciplined. Thus an academically accomplished charter school in DC was not allowed. Cherry picking is supposed to be a bad thing? As opposed to the current practice of making those who would like to learn in DC go to a school that accepts those who do not want to learn and refuse to be disciplined? And this from people who are supposed to be liberal? It seems to me a very good way to keep the blacks in their place. Make them go to lousy schools filled with disorder while you send yours to schools that have discipline, and then on to Harvard. Is that the goal of liberalism? To keep the blacks down? Because I think of no better way to accomplish that goal than what is happening in DC. Tons of money spent on truly horrible schools that no one who could possibly escape them would go to? Would anyone who had in mind the good of black children in DC permit the current school system there to exist for ten minutes more?

The money is spent, and the results are known, and nothing is to be done. Yet under the Constitution the Congress is responsible. One presumes that both parties intend the results obtained since neither party makes any attempt to do anything about it.

That's the best response to the cherry picking argument that I've seen yet.

(Nearly) Unlimited Energy?

This weekend, while in Minneapolis, I started reading Jerry Pournelle's 1979 book, A Step Farther Out. I was reading it on my Kindle, natch.

In the first chapter, Jerry advocates a form of energy production known as the Ocean Thermal System (OTS).

It is an Earth-based solar power system, and the concept is simple enough. All over the Earth the sun shines onto the seas, warming them. In many places--particularly in the Tropics--the warm water lies above very cold depths. The temperature difference is in the order of 50° F, which corresponds to the rather respectable water-pressure of 90 feet. Most hydro-electric systems do not have a 90 foot pressure head.

The system works simply enough. A working fluid-such as ammonia--which boils at a low temperature is heated and boiled by the warm water on the surface. The vapor goes through a turbine; on the low side the working fluid is cooled by water drawn up from the bottom. The system is a conventional one; there are engineering problems with corrosion and the like, but no breakthroughs are needed, only some developmental work

The pollutants associated with the Ocean Thermal System (OTS) are interesting: the most significant is fish. The deep oceans are deserts, because all the nutrients fall to the bottom where there is no sunlight; while at the top there's plenty of sun but no phosphorus and other vital elements. Thus most ocean life grows in shallow water or in areas of upwelling, where the cold nutrient-rich bottom water comes to the top.

More than half the fish caught in the world are caught in regions of natural upwelling, such as off the coasts of Ecuador and Peru.

The OTS system produces artificial upwelling; the result will be increased plankton blooms, more plant growth, and correspondingly large increases in fish available for man's dinner table. The other major pollutant is fresh water, which is unlikely to harm anything and may be useful.

Well, that sounded impressive enough. This book was written in 1979. Why haven't had I heard more about OTS? Then, this morning, I did hear more about OTS. The New York Times published an article about it. The Times' article offers a brief overview of the technology while also talking about how expensive it could be to use.

Skeptics say that the technology is highly inefficient because it requires large amounts of energy to pump the cold water through the system.

Patricia Tummons, who edits the newsletter Environment Hawaii, said a major question about the technology was "just how economical it can be."

Robert Varley, who is helping to lead Lockheed's efforts, estimated that just 3.5 percent of the potential energy from the warm water pumped might actually be used. "In reality that doesn't matter -- the fuel is free," he said.

This is something I'll be keeping an eye on.

This entry was tagged. Jerry Pournelle