The Iowa Caucus Results – Do The Math

Iowa Caucus Results – Do The Math

First lets get some perspective. Iowa is a proportional split state, not a winner-take-all state. What percent of the total national party delegates come from Iowa? For the Republicans it is 30 delegates out of 2,380 or 1.26%. For Democrats it is 52 delegates out of 4,047 or 1.28%. The lack of perspective is that the candidates and media have spent at least seven months concentrating on one of the smallest states, as if it was the most important part of the election. They also have destroyed the old equal time doctrine by concentrating on the one TV star candidate, Donald Trump, with their coverage. This was, of course, to boost their ratings. They also made sure to just lob softballs, since Trump at the start made clear he would skip any media that was “unfair” to him. While the public was afraid that the Citizens United ruling would give all races to the richest backers, Trump proved that star power and hyperbole was the trump card, and Bernie Sanders has found a public backlash to the privately funded candidates. It is still a long race to see what else develops.

How does a mathematician look at the Republican results of 28% for Cruz, 25% for Trump, and 24% for Rubio? Since this was only one percent of the National delegates, not 100%, it didn’t mathematically matter who was the winner. It looks like all three got about a quarter of the delegates, plus or minus a few percent. The rest of the field also got about a quarter. While all three claimed a relative triumph, to a mathematician it looked like nobody was a standout. To a political observer, it looked like nobody had the support of more than 28%, which means that 72% of the voters did not prefer that leading candidate.

How does a mathematician look at the Democratic results of very close to an equal and 50% split? Mathematicians know that this is not 100,000 coin flips which can come out this close, although the leading Democratic candidates are very close in policies that they support. The caucus is not a popular vote, but one by districts, where very few state delegates are in a district. If there is a close popular vote in a district, they have to make an equal split of an even number of delegates, so it comes out 50-50, rather than say the real 45-55. The system is thus mathematically designed to tie up an overall close voting outcome. Once again, the emphasis on finding the “winner” is made meaningless.

The networks’ trying hard to find a “winner” where the result is very close, and essentially a tie, just reinforces their outlook that the Iowa caucuses were supposed to be all important.

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Odds on the Number of PowerBall Lottery Winners

There is a simple formula for the average number of lottery winners, and for the probability of various number of winners or the distribution of winners.  It of course depends on the ratio of the number of tickets bought N to the number of possible number outcomes, which is the same as the product of the the numbers of tickets bought time the probability of winning p.  This ratio or product we call <n> = N p.  <n> is called the expected number of winners, even though in general it is not an integer.  For the current Powerball jackpot, p = 1/292,201,338.  If N = 292 million Powerball tickets are bought, then the expected number of winners is <n> = N p = 1.  If twice 292 million tickets is bought, then <n> = 2 X 292 million / 292 million =2.

The formula is the Poisson distribution giving the probability P (n) for a given number of winners n, and integer, when the expected number of winners is <n>.

P (n) = exp(-<n>)  <n>^n / n!

The n! is called n factorial, and is the product:

n! = n (n-1) (n-2) … 1.

For example,

0! = 1, 1! = 1, 2! = 2 x 1 = 2, 3! = 3 x 2 x 1 = 6, 4! = 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24, 5! = 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120, 6! = 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 720.

<n>^n means the expected number <n> is raised to the power n, I.e. <n> is multiplied by itself n times.

The exp(-<n>) means the exponential number e = 2.718… Is raised to the power -<n>, which is the same as the reciprocal (1/e) being raised to the power <n>.

Table of the distribution of P(n) for various number of winners n, for a given <n>.

<n> = N p is the column label.

n is the row label.

n <n> =0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0
0 0.607 0.368 0.223 0.135 0.0821 0.0498 0.0302 0.0183
1 0.306 0.368 0.335 0.270 0.205 0.149 0.106 0.0732
2 0.0759 0.184 0.251 0.270 0.257 0.224 0.185 0.146
3 0.0126 0.0613 0.125 0.180 0.214 0.224 0.216 0.195
4 0.00158 0.0153 0.0470 0.0900 0.134 0.168 0.189 0.195
5 0.00016 0.00307 0.0141 0.0360 0.0668 0.101 0.132 0.156
6 0.00001 0.00051 0.00352 0.0120 0.0278 0.0504 0.0771 0.104
7 0.00007 0.00076 0.00343 0.00994 0.0216 0.0386 0.0595

Reading the table, for <n> = N p = 4.0, the greater probability for the number of winners is 3 or 4, with 5, 2, and 6 next.

For <n> = N p = 2.0, the greater probability is for 1 or 2 winners, with 3 or 0 winners next.

For <n> = N p = 1.0, the greater probability is for 0 or 1 winners, with 2 winners next.

For <n> = N p = 0.5, the greater probability is for 0, and then for 1.  Those two numbers take up 91% of the winning possibilities.  There is only a 9% probability of 2 or more winners.

For the recent $1.6 billion PowerBall lottery, there were 3 winners. For that lottery, there were N = 635,103,137 tickets sold, for a sales of $1,270,206,274.

<n> = N p = 635 million / 292 million = 2.1735.  Approximating from the table for <n> =2, the most likely number of winners for <n> = 2 would have been 1 or 2 at 27% probability each , 3 winners at 18% probability is still sizable.

Here we give the exact result from the <n> = 2.1735 giant PowerBall drawing:

n = 0:  0.1138, n = 1:  0.247, n = 2:  0.269, n = 3:  0.195, n = 4:  0.106, n = 5:  0.0460, n = 6:  0.0167, n = 7:  0.0052.

So the exact probability for 3 winners for the <n> = 2.1735 PowerBall was 19.5%.

While the $1,270 million sales would seem to not cover the jackpot and other prizes, the amount invested in previous weeks should be added to the total from which the prize was given.

For <n> = N p = 5, the table values would be: n = 0:  0.00674, n = 1:  0.0337, n = 2:  0.0843, n = 3:  0.140, n = 4:  0.176, n = 5:  0.176, n = 6:  0.146, n = 7:  0.104, n = 8:  0.0653, n = 9:  0.0363, n = 10: 0.0181.

The <n> = N p = 5 would favor 4 or 5 winners, and next 6, 3 or 7 winners.

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February Primaries’ Effects on Other State Primaries

From the viewpoint of the California voter, where we have the most delegates in both party’s primaries, and share the next to the last primary date, it is insulting that so much of the candidate’s time and money is being expended in the four February primaries. We will first discuss many of the effects of the February primaries that influence and affect the choices the voters in the other states have.

Then we will bore you with the data on delegates from the four February states, and then from the leading delegate states.

While caucuses are still somewhat democratic, they are not as clearly democratic and private as primaries are.

The inequity and inquisition of the February primaries.

California, the largest state with 12% of the US population, had 13.5% of the Democratic delegates, and 7.2% of the Republican ones, since Republicans have not done as well in the state due to their very conservative state nominations. The four states in the February primaries or caucuses have only 4.6% of the Democratic delegates, and 5.6% of the Republican delegates. California has three times the Democratic delegates of the February primary states. In a naive proportional system of campaigning over say a year, the 1/20 th of delegates in the February states would warrant 18 days of campaigning, and that fraction of the political ads. Instead, the February states get about nine months of campaigning and a significant amount of the campaign funds.

The number of delegates reflects also the number of voters in the February states, which is again an overplay to only about 5% of the voters.

The incredible attention to the February primaries completely ignores the 800 pound gorilla in the room.  Super Tuesday occurs on March 1!  The Democrats have 12 primaries or caucuses then, the Republicans 14.  The Democrats have 1,105 delegates in  play then, or 27.3%!  The Republicans have 689 delegates in play then or 28.9%!  That is, the Democrats and Republicans both have five times the delegates available on Super Tuesday as in the February primaries!   I assume all of the candidates and parties have big data programs and politically astute mathematicians working for them.  I guess that I must be really politically naive in just doing the math above.  Why don’t the candidates invest most of their early time in Super Tuesday states?  And why don’t the networks hold their early debates mostly in the Super Tuesday states?

Iowa and South Carolina are Republican states, while New Hampshire is a swing state and Nevada is a bell-weather state for the Presidential election.

The constant bombardment in the news with the state polls of the February states have psychological effects on voters in the national polls. They also weigh in on which of the Republican candidates get chosen for the main debate stage. They also somewhat determine who gets invited for the free TV interviews, which saves candidate’s campaign funds, and again influences a candidate’s national exposure.

Since the early states are so influential, donors have to contribute early. If a candidate fails in the early states, they are usually no longer funded, and disappear before even the larger or the majority of states with their different interests can weigh in.

In the now contentious debates and campaign appearances, there is an atmosphere reminiscent of inquisitions. Instead of campaigners informing the public of their qualifications and policies, the leading candidates are playing “Gotcha” and focusing on largely irrelevant issues for the country, in order to try to smear or disqualify fellow candidates. This also contributes to eliminating or marginalizing candidates before they get to the rest of the voters.

The early stands that candidates are forced to take in Iowa and other states are not representative of what a full spectrum of voters would like in future primaries or the general election. This means later inconsistencies, and moving into the political center as soon as they get the nominations.

California Voters will be neglected until the merry month of May. Except of course for frequent visits to the state to raise funds from very wealthy donors. This slants Californian’s influence to only the wealthy, which is a major concern since Citizens United, and the dominating influence of the Koch brothers.

Big city issues of New York and Pennsylvania are delayed to late April, and of California to June 7. These states are also states with leading environmental concerns, which includes climate change.

Leading Delegate States.

For overview, we point out that for the Democratic Convention, there are 4,047 delegates, of which 3,253 are pledged. For the Republican Convention, there are 2,380, of which 1,719 are pledged. The unpledged delegates are elected officials and party leaders.

The delegates in the February primaries or caucuses are:

Iowa:                     D: 52. R: 30,
New Hampshire: D: 32. R: 23,
Nevada:                 D: 43. R: 30,
S. Carolina:           D: 59 . R: 50.

Total of February states: D: 186. R: 133.

Percent of Total Delegates. D: 4.6%. R: 5.6%.

The leading states for delegates, with their percentages and primary dates are:

California:        D: 546, 13.5%. R: 172, 7.2%. June 7.
New York:        D: 291, 7.2%.    R: 95, 4.0%. April 19.
Texas:               D: 252, 6.2%.    R: 155, 6.5%. March 1.
Florida:            D: 246, 6.1%.     R: 99, 4.2%. March 15.
Pennsylvania: D: 210, 5.2%.     R: 71, 3.0%. April 26.

The five largest delegate states cited make up 38% of the Democratic delegates, and 25% of the Republican delegates. For the Democrats, each of the five largest states has more delegates than the four February states put together. For the Republicans, only California and Texas have more delegates than the four February states put together.

By just citing the leading states I do not mean to imply the other states are not important. The sum of delegates in all the other states than those in the February primary states is about 95% of the total.

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Postscript to Powerball Picks

Postscript to Lottery Picks

After I posted my advice on choosing numbers for normal lotteries that lessened the chance of sharing the prize, I turned on my news and saw the Powerball winning numbers. My advice for the unique large prize was to choose the random number. However, in general for weekly lotteries, I recommended avoiding common choices, like numbers in dates, or small even numbers considered lucky ones.

So the result was: 04, 08, 19, 27, 34, with Powerball 10.

Three are the small even numbers 04, 08, and 10. All three of those are also among the months in dates. Five of the six number are also those used in days in dates. All of the numbers are less than half of the maximum 69 which is 34.5. The Powerball 10 is less than half of the maximum 26. So the final numbers violated all of my rules to avoid splitting the winnings. I then expect there will be many winners, which I think is good.

Update:  there were three winners.

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Thoughts on the Lottery

Topics on the Powerball Lottery

I am torn between discussing:
(1) how the odds are calculated;
(2) how not to choose numbers;
(3) how the lottery is a very regressive tax on poor people;
(4) How its funding of education is only a small sliver of state educational funding;
(5) how the lottery encourages people to think of all the things that they desire, but can’t afford;
(6) How that can make people depressed after losing again;
(7) How the selective reinforcement by random, small winnings can make you addictive;
(8) How social reinforcement makes you not want to be different or left out;
(9) How thinking that God cannot reward you if you don’t try by buying tickets (which is sacrilegious);
(10) How you can think that gambling is not a sin or addictive, since it is legal and everyone is doing it;
(11) How you are going to be jealous when someone else wins the lottery;
(12) How getting some of the drawn numbers is again selective reinforcement.

(3) and (4) are discussed in articles that I have seen, and I think more freely available up-to-date research is needed on this, as well as on the bad psychological consequences: (5) to (12).  The one very disturbing number that sticks in my mind under the regressive tax is that people under the poverty level income of $13,000 a year spend 9% of their income on the lottery.

I will content myself in this article to only discussing the odds, and how choice of numbers matters. The odds are found by calculating all possible combinations, taking account that order of the first five doesn’t matter, and then taking the reciprocal of the results.

The possible ways of drawing the first five numbers are 69 for the first, times 68 remaining for the next, then times 67, 66, and 65, giving 1,348,621,560.. But the results for the lottery don’t care which order they are drawn. So we have to divide by the number of different arrangements of the five drawn numbers, which is 5 for the first, times 4 for the next, times 3, times 2, times 1. The number of rearrangements is then 120. We divide the first number by 120, giving 11,238,513 combinations for the first five numbers drawn. We then multiply by the 26 possibilities for the sixth number, giving the widely known, 292,201,338 possibilities. The odds of winning for one ticket are one in 292,201,338. Oddly, this is close to the US population.

Each possible set of numbers has an equal probability of showing up. Those who look at a list of numbers that have come up, or have most often come up, are just kidding themselves. Avoiding numbers that haven’t come up, is also just kidding yourself. Playing the same numbers each time, is also just kidding yourself. Normally, any choice of numbers would do.

But if you want to win a larger amount, and not just a share with many people, giving the biggest payoff, you should avoid commonly chosen numbers. Some people choose “lucky” numbers. These numbers are too common choices, and if they win, the prize will be shared by many.  A worldwide survey of lucky numbers turned up 7, 3, 8, 5, 6, 2, 11, and others.  People picking numbers probably pick smaller ones, not the larger ones among 1 to 69.  Since we and some others are betting contrarian to common choices, maybe 13 is also bet on by others.
Others play a given date. This limits one number choice to 1 to 12 for the month, out of a possible 69 numbers. That is limiting one choice to only about one sixth or 0.174 of the range, as well as sharing that choice with many other bettors, to split an award. The day of the month as 1 to 31, is also restricting to about one half of numbers, or 0.45 of the range, as well as sharing those numbers. Betting the current year of say 2016 as 20 and 16 again shares with a vast number of people. Betting any 20.. year is also bad, as is any 19.. year.

If the lottery odds were such that each week’s lottery has a winner, so you could bet over and over again for the same amount, you should pick your own numbers, avoiding the commonly played numbers, to get the largest payoff per bet.

About 70% of lottery tickets sold are just by random numbers. For only single run dates with the biggest payoffs, that is actually the best bet, since the results may contain some of the most commonly bet numbers, and sharing a very large jackpot is not so bad.

However, random numbers are often not random, but part of a sequence generated from a given starting number. If each machine starts from the same number, the sequence would be the same for all machines. We assume that this is not the case, and that the numbers are generated from a common source, that may be truly randomized.

It is odd that with some people’s belief in lucky numbers, or in their own birth date being special, as in astrology, or in looking at numbers that have or have not come up, they are actually lowering their payoffs or increasing their odds against maximum winnings, with their beliefs.

The other thing is that the psychological effects are fairly common, yet people may not be considering their effects, which are enhanced by addictive or serial betting.

Should you buy more tickets when the jackpot increases? That would involve having data on tickets sold per jackpot level, to see if your odds per dollar of winnings increase. I don’t have that data to figure it out.

Leave it to say that I am not interested in standing in line in cold 60 degree days in the winter here to buy tickets, as well as inducing all of the psychological effects in my dull brain.

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Physics and Star Wars

Physicists are anxious for a Star Wars film to explain some of the key physics elements that hold the story together. A few of the advances in physics could produce a few of the capabilities shown in the movie. Other effects or devices show some serious neglect of physics effects, or severe overkill.

The “Force”

First, we should deal with the “Force”. Does or can it exist? How would I know, and it doesn’t really matter. Almost all of the occurrences of the force are very local in effect and around just a few people. Sticking out your hand and regaining your light saber from a few feet away could be rendered moot by a single backup warrior, or by a simple wrist strap. I have a wrist strap on my ceramic ocarina, in case I were to drop it on concrete. The old Darth Vader choking someone a few feet away could by done by anybody by taking a few extra steps. Sensing the death of a planet by the force could be done with good communication. Guiding the X-wing fighter bomb by the force could be replaced by upgrading fighter guidance systems between movies, which would be available to all pilots. Extracting a brain readout is commonly done by truth-telling drugs. If only a handful of people use the force in very local ways, it would be relatively hard for any person to know about this. Physicists label their forces, of which we have four fundamental ones, and it about time that Star Wars labeled theirs, before someone like me labels it “the fairly useless Force”. It pales in comparison to Marvels’ characters powers.

Destroying a Planet by Ozone Depletion

Next, we come to the key suspense device of destroying a planet. I started thinking of what was the minimum energy way to destroy a planet. Actually, what they want to do is destroy life on a planet. That in itself is extreme overkill, since what they really want to do is wipe out a small rebel base. The easy solution comes from an earlier film where they use drones, something that we now are successful with. To destroy life on a planet, we already almost managed this ourselves without knowing about it. Simply by using spray cans with chlorofluorocarbons, we injected chlorine into the ozone layer, which acted like a catalyst to destroying ozone. That would have left us subject to ultraviolet solar radiation, that would give everyone skin cancer. F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina at UC Irvine won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering this. Amazingly, the chemical companies producing these chemicals tried to discredit this research and continue the production and use of chloroflourocarbons.

The Starkiller

The new planet destroying weapon, the starkiller, uses all the heat and energy in a star. They captured this in a single planet. Since a planet has only a smidgen of the mass of the star, putting all of that energy into the starkiller planet would essentially melt and evaporate it, before it could be used as a weapon. Even with magnetic confinement of the plasma, the heat from the plasma cannot be confined, and would evaporate the starkiller. I understand that the starkiller fired through hyperspace, or else the explosion of a nearby target planet would wipe it out. If the starkiller absorbed all of the mass of the nearby sun, that gravity of that mass would pancake any structure and people on the star killer. Finally, when the absorbed energy of the star is all shot at the target planet, the recoil would send the starkiller recoiling off into space, and the sudden acceleration would cause a shock wave on the starkiller, which would blow it apart. Overkill destroys the destroyer. With today’s technology, that can all be replaced by a drone regiment in the first place. Only a set of Senate committees completely led by science deniers could have approved such an unscientific and immensely expensive weapon. We have already reached that stage today.

Pressure Problems Inside a Starkiller

Since the full structure of the starkiller is not clear, we can only mention some pressure problems that would have to be dealt with. Hollowing a cylinder inside a planet would have to support the self attraction of the remaining mass of the planet, or its weight. Absorbing a larger star inside a smaller planet would require compressing the star’s plasma, which would increase its pressure, density, and temperature. These increases would increase the rate of fusion to generate a yet higher temperature and increase the radiation that would melt the starkiller. Even though magnetic confinement would contain the plasma, the magnetic fields would be supplying the confining pressure, and transmit that to the magnets providing the magnetic fields. The magnets would then press outward, and need to be confined by strong structures. In superconducting magnets on earth, that is supplied by surrounding steel and concrete. Finally, I don’t see how a fired plasma beam would be guided into hyperspace, and would know where to emerge from it to destroy a planet.


The key to Star Wars and any other interplanetary or galactic science fiction is almost instantaneous transport to any other part of the Galaxy. Stars orbit around the Galaxy at speeds of a few hundred kilometers per second. Even if you could almost instantaneously move across the Galaxy, you would arrive at your destination with a relative speed hundreds of km/sec out of sync with the target planet’s velocity, crossing it in a few seconds. Deceleration or acceleration to a synchronous velocity would require enormous g forces that would crush passengers and starships. There would also probably be a large time dilation and lack of time simultaneity between the start and end points, so you would arrive far before the threat, or far after the threat. The only mechanism being considered for such galactic travel is going into a black hole and emerging out of another one, via a wormhole, if possible. Of course, tidal forces crush anything going into or out of a black hole. Also, you could only arrive where the wormhole happens to lead to.  Actually, the isolation from intergalactic invaders that the universe requires, is the best defense that our civilization has. If you want conflict stories with threats to our civilization, just look at nuclear weapons on our own planet.

Energy and Anti-gravity Ships

One of the major advanced technologies in Star Wars is the anti-gravity used from star ships to desert scooters. Of course, deserts can easily be crossed in SUVs without such technology. Also, in many cases, the star ships could often land in many places. Now for the physics. If an object is on a frictionless table top, it can be moved across it without expending energy. If it was supported by an effective anti-gravity device such as electromagnetic suspension, or magnetic levitation, movement along a track or surface of suspension would not require energy. Of course, the various places a starship would hover over wouldn’t usually have such a magnetic surface, so they must use a different technology. It would, however, require energy to escape from a planet, equal to the gravitational potential energy it lost when landing on the planet from very far outside the planet. It is conceivable that the starship with its anti-gravity would have an analog of regenerative breaking, where it can store the energy that would normally accelerate an object falling to the earth’s surface. It would then have the energy to escape from the planet again.

Suspension of Anti-gravity Ships

If you put an object on a surface under the force of gravity, it compresses the surface until the restoring force balances the weight or gravitational force on the object. If the object is an ordinary ship, and the surface is water, enough water is displaced so that the greater pressure provides enough force on the bottom of the ship to counteract the force of gravity. A suspended starship would have to compress any surface it is over, or if over water, displace enough water to absorb the pressure of the anti-gravity suspension field and counterbalance the force of gravity on the starship. When the ship moves across the surface, the displaced water must move across the surface, and would provide the same drag as a boat of the shape of the displaced water. This would chew up energy, just like an ordinary boat. Similarly, a depression of a surface moving along a surface from an object resting upon it dissipates energy which is the same as that due to sliding friction of a non-suspended object.

The Massive Structure and Spaces of Starships

The motors of the star ships appear to propel the ships by ejecting matter, so why do star ships appear to be so spacious and built of heavy, thick metal, without lightweight cross members for structure. The halls are always empty except for storm troopers chasing the heroes. Compare this to our space shuttle or command modules or space station where every space is cramped and serves many purposes. When accelerating to hyper speed, why aren’t structures and people crushed by very high g forces?

Mass of Fuel for Energy:  Chemical, Fission, and Fusion 

The most efficient energy source which we can realize now is ion acceleration. Batteries, or chemical fuel burning, only generate a few electron volts per atom. Nuclear processes yield a few Million electron volts (MeV) per atom. Fission requires the heaviest elements such as uranium, to get a few particles out. Fusion gives a few MeV per light nucleus such as Helium 4. If the tri-alpha process, developed by the late UCI Professor Norman Rostoker, works, the energy comes out in already charged He 4 nuclei (alpha particles). Energy can be captured from these to accelerate some of them further or to accelerate protons from hydrogen, and be ejected for thrust. This allows the star destroyers to go furthest with the minimum weight being carried for ejectable fuel.

Matter-Antimatter Annihilation for Energy and Propulsion

To get the most bang out of fuel, use matter-anti-matter annihilation. Chemical fuels give about one billionth of the available mc^2 of fuel to energy, fission about one part in ten thousand, and fusion about one part in a hundred. Matter-anti-matter annihilation can give at least half the full E=mc^2 to acceleration. The first applications of this were considered to be creating positrons in a low energy electron accelerator at a fuel base, storing them aboard, and then annihilating them with electrons. However, with an accelerator of several GeV, you can make anti-protons and store them. For the same single electronic charge of one unit they have 2,000 times the mc^2 of a positron, and 2,000 times the mass so they can be confined much easier. Electron-positron annihilation into two photons can be visualized in the case that one photon flies out the rear of the ship, and the other is absorbed by the ship giving the full momentum p = E/c to the ship, where E = (mass of electron) x c^2. This is the maximum possible conversion of energy into momentum for thrust. The absorbed photon converts to heat, which can run the ship or power an ion accelerator (combined cycle annihilation process).
Proton-antiproton annihilation makes pions. Neutral pions decay into two photons with the same maximum thrust. Charged pions decay to muon and neutrino. The neutrinos are unstopped but statistically balanced to give no net thrust. Statistically, half the muons are absorbed to give thrust, and also heat to again be used for ship power or running an ion accelerator. The muons decay to electrons and neutrinos, where again the neutrino energy and momentum is lost.

Laser Disruption Shields

The shield system may actually be possible. The most energy effective way to use light as a weapon to cut or evaporate an object is to use coherent laser light to vastly increase the in phase electromagnetic field to break electron bonds and eject electrons, weakening a solid. If a defensive light or magnetic or electromagnetic field is set at the laser frequency but with random fields, that could ruin the coherence of the laser light, and make it relatively useless.  Of course a well polished metal surface of a starship would be a good backup choice.

Plasma Sabers

The light saber has difficulties, as a light beam doesn’t cut off after a few feet. However, a plasma field might be shaped and confined by a magnetic field, conserving energy. This is similar to a plasma discharge, or electromagnetic discharge from power line connectors. That also makes a humming noise. If the discharge just goes out, as a current, it creates a solenoid shaped cylindrical magnet field about it that will confine it into a beam shape. The ringed magnetic field will bend back any plasma particles trying to escape the beam. By the way, plasma cutters are already available from Home Depot for around $500 dollars.

If the good guys use one charge for the ion beams and the bad guys the opposite charge ions, then when striking each other near alignment, the magnetic fields ringing around the beams would join between the beams and make a magnetic field of twice the magnitude and four times the energy density.  The fighters would have to expend a lot of energy and force to bring this about.  The plasma sabers would then repel each other as is seen in the battles.  Oppositely charged beams would also glow with different colors.

The plasma discharges generate ozone and maybe nitrous oxides, since all of the planets that they are breathing on contain oxygen. Used outside, the ozone disperses safely. What I have been leading up to is that people have been buying air cleansing ozone generators for their confined rooms. Air UCI has studied these and concluded that they are harmful, along with the judgement of consumer groups and the Air Resources Board.

The Lack of Cyber Security in Starships

One might also fault the cyber security of the starships. Even an ordinary droid that can only beep can hack into the starship at lightning speed. We have already reached this stage, where any business or government network doesn’t even encrypt their data. The other security fault was the control panel for the crucial shields is off in a poorly guarded hallway, and can be turned off by flipping a switch.

Star Wars Speculations

This of course leads to speculation of the origin of galactic conflict. My guess, is that it is the prolongation of the cyber and device split between Android Google systems and Apple iOS systems, which do their utmost to be as incompatible as possible. Add this to the Amazon distribution system. The first planets to be Flickred away were probably those ruled by Yahoo.

The fans have probably already figured out a meaning of the villain’s name of Kylo Ren. To me, it basically includes the word Kill, and to Rend apart. However, to a scientist, it pronounces close to “kilogram”, a hidden chide to our continued use of the complex British system of units (also called the Imperial units of the British Empire), as opposed to the very simple and universal metric system. On the other hands, if the far away galaxy has beings with six fingers on each hand, they are probably using the British system.

One impressive development is that any starship can be controlled without instruction, with presumably the same simple console as you learn just driving a desert scooter.

Another impressive development, is that nothing has to be recharged at night.  Perhaps they all run on Mr. Fusion modules.

Even without further technology enhancements in Star Wars, there is still much Physics to ponder over.

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Climate Mitigation Through the Market


The largest countries at the Paris 2015 climate talks are constrained in what they can commit to, for various reasons. But if we look at what is producing the current level of carbon pollution control, it is largely the market, new innovations, and the local effect of pollution that is driving cleaner power sources.

I am not arguing that there is an “invisible hand in the market” that will solve our problems, since I don’t believe in myths. I am just pointing out instances where the market can work in favor of climate change mitigation and even be more effective than political standards, which are hard to pass and then bring into effect, and sometimes act in the wrong direction and at excessive cost.

In the US, smog, such as in California, has been the force to clean local power for decades. This predated the movement to stop climate change. Coal power has been ruled out in California, although some is still imported by Los Angeles. Clean car emission standards were pioneered in California, and carried over to nationwide use. Convenient transportation systems as in New York, Paris, and other large cities are low pollution per transport and allow residents to get by without cars.

The US requirement of fuel mileage of 55 mpg for model year 2025 was worked out in cooperation with industry in order to include feasible new technology. It also includes a fleet that maintains the profitable SUV lines, but also reduces the fleet fuel mileage to an estimated 43 mpg. This is a market compatible improvement.

Recently, the decline in emissions in the US and Russia is due to the economic slowdown. Before the last year, with the steep drop in the price of gas by a half, smaller, more efficient cars were selling well. Commuting was lower with fewer jobs. Less power was needed for less production.

The internet has led to Amazon and other internet sellers, which save a lot of driving and comparison shopping at various stores, and replaced by efficient serial postal delivery.

The recent research and development on solar cells, will increase their efficiency by 50%. The competitive approach of China has made the cost of solar power affordable, and China is the leading solar country. China has also taken over the lead in making wind power turbines.

The technology innovation of fracturing to produce natural gas has increased the amount produced in the US, and lowered the price to that below coal. This has caused a downturn in coal, without the new EPA regulations, which are being challenged and delayed in court. Despite the howls of politicians from coal states against the EPA, some coal production has already dropped by half by market competition with natural gas. People around the country are also protesting the atmospheric pollution of coal versus clean burning natural gas. The strip mining of hilltops and the water pollution and danger and accidents with coal ash hills are also leading to the shutdown of coal plants and the prevention of new plants. Coal plants also lead to acid rain, mercury pollution, NOx production, soot, and arsenic and selenium production.  Coal plants have now been shown to be four times as deadly for heart attacks as other forms of pollution.

China has been suffering from air pollution in all of its large cities, which is at least an order of magnitude greater than that allowed in US cities. They have a program of shutting a thousand of their most inefficient coal plants.  They have now promised to reduce emissions from coal plants by 60% by 2020.  Plants that can’t upgrade to emission standards will be closed.   They have contracted for new natural gas from Russia, along with building new pipelines for natural gas. They are considering many new hydro plants, after having built giant ones across their main rivers. The dams also lower the threat of floods, and set up irrigation systems. They are planning many nuclear reactors, which are also several times the size of US reactors.  China has pledged to peak its CO2 emissions by 2030 at the latest, and to lower the carbon intensity of GDP by 60-65% below 2005 levels by then.  They also plan for clean energy to be 20% of total supply by then.  There are perceptions that their economy is slowing down and increasing its service sector.

Air pollution has been shown to be very costly, as well as unhealthy and inconvenient. China has to close plants when air pollution is too high. Workers and students are often out with sickness and may require medical treatment. Productive lives are shortened. Families split with children moving out to the countryside, or even out of the country.

While the modern interest is in solar electric power, many countries use solar water heating systems that are a quarter the cost of solar power for a house, and save from the pollution of burning coal, or using natural gas that can then be used for power.

While in California we think that transportation means individually driving our own cars, people in developing countries often squeeze into vans or busses with many passengers, which follow fixed routes. We also waste a lot of time in stalled roads and freeways. The fact that we use at least double the energy per capita than other countries do, does not mean that our lifestyle is one which other countries should strive for. It could just mean that we are very wasteful with energy. Other countries that may have an outlook of cooperation and joint action, as opposed to our emphasis on individualism, may well achieve the same happiness without having to expend the level of energy that we do.

Cities in India are also polluted, although their per capita CO2 emissions are far below ours. They will have more severe problems if they do not include a lot of clean energy sources. Even coal dependent countries can build more efficient coal systems, using a second stage of energy extraction from the heated water. In a large city or development, the heated water can also be circulated for hot water and radiator space heating.

If there is a true cost of CO2 pollution imposed as a carbon tax or cap and trade system, which many states or countries have or will adopt, clean and reliable nuclear power as base power with modern, safer plants can be developed. The CO2 pollution cost will also stimulate and help fund renewable power with highly efficient natural gas plants to fill in to produce a stable power output.

The largest polluting countries cannot commit to severe cuts because of hesitancy over unknowns in the future energy market, or political opposition to making international commitments. However, the changing market and unexpected innovations may well dominate the future climate change mitigations, as they have in the past.

Posted in Autos, Climate Change, Coal, Conservation, Electric Power, Energy Efficiency, Fossil Fuel Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Hydropower, Natural Gas, Nuclear Energy, Oil, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Transportation, Wind Energy | Leave a comment

Pictures of UC Irvine Trees


UC Irvine has over 24,000 trees on the campus, and 11,000 are in the central Aldrich park. I have been taking interesting pictures of some of them, locating them in convenient areas for walks or exploration, and identifying them. My results are on my flickr account named dennis.silverman . This can be accessed by searching Google for “flickr Dennis Silverman”. The direct link is tapping here:  dennis.silverman

The central circular park section of the campus is named Aldrich Park. There was already a comprehensive map and identification of these trees by Tony Soeller and Cassandra Squires at I have added to my flickr account my own pictures of some of these trees and their interesting blooms at various seasons of the year.

I have pictured and recorded the identity of campus trees around the mile long Ring Road, centered around the buildings around Aldrich Park. I have also explored trees in sections of the UCI campus around the areas of: the Student Center (including the flagpole and Langson Library); Social Sciences; Engineering; the University Club; Physical Sciences; Biological Sciences and the Ayala Library; and Humanities. I have also added a few trees in University Hills.

Almost all of the tree identification was patiently provided to me by Matt Deines, LEED AP, Senior Planner, Environmental Planning and Sustainability at UCI The mistakes in tree identification are my own. Since I am still an amateur in this, please feel free to aid me by email. Andrew Herndon, Vice President of Community Development of the Irvine Campus Housing Authority, has also been very helpful in identifying trees for me in University Hills.

I also have added some trees and views of walks in Laguna Beach. In walking around the North Lake of Woodbridge Lake across from our UCI Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, I have mostly taken pictures of the interesting ducks, geese, and birds that visit the lake.

In 1995, the UCI campus developed a Green and Gold Plan (updated in 2014) with a uniform set of trees to be planted in the future based on those that are native California trees, that are drought tolerant, that are very scenic, and that are appropriate for their locations, including easy to maintain. For one thing, this list limits the varieties of trees that one has to learn, but is still large enough to provide many trees, which also bloom at various times through the year.

In driving around Irvine and local communities, I see many of the same trees. These are easiest to spot and identify at the time that they are blooming or seeding or turning fall colors. Many of the local communities use a similar list of trees to select their own trees.

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Climate Change and Continued Climate Change


This year will be the hottest recorded year. It used to be that the average world temperature was 0.7 degree C or 1.36 degree F above pre-industrial times. This year may be 1.0 degree C or 1.8 degree F above pre-industrial times.

The NOAA published in the professional and reviewed Science Magazine that more temperature data with advanced adjustment show that the world’s temperature rise has continued without pause. Skeptics like to take the El Nino year of 1998, with an enormous temperature jump, as a new starting point to show that the temperature was no longer increasing. But in 1999, the temperature returned to normal, and has really been increasing since then. We have pointed this out in this blog.

The pledges of the Paris Conference of 2015 show that the turnover in the worldwide rate of emissions will not turn over until 2030. But emissions will still continue at the highest rate ever. While we are waiting for the rate to drop afterwards, the 2 degree C,or 3.6 degree F warming, may be reached as early as 2032. The 2 degree C level has been considered by Europe as that at which many serious climate effect will cause effects beyond the tolerable level. Clearly, as newer and cleaner power sources come on line, there will still be more warming until the rate of CO2 emissions decline to almost zero.

But Wait! There’s More! Not only do we get the additional warming of the peak rate of CO2 emissions, the CO2 emissions of the last one hundred years are still partly up there, with a lifetime of the order of a hundred years to be absorbed in the ocean, trees, or land. Even if all CO2 emissions ceased in 2030, the effects of lingering CO2 causing warming will continue for the order of a hundred years.

Clearly, this Paris talks, as well as the next International talks of 2020 have to adopt more responsive decreases in CO2 emissions. In the United States, we have to stop backing politicians who are funded by the fossil fuel industry, and who promise to continue to destroy an international agreement, and the goals of the US in decreasing CO2 emissions. We have to stop backing politicians who continue to be climate change deniers and media who are sowers of doubt, when the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists supports the conclusions that are agreed upon worldwide. We have to stop such politicians from cutting climate science funding that will be crucial to effective and economical adaptation to climate change. We have to continue and increase funding for research and development of clean energy sources, and methods of increased energy conservation and efficiency. We also have to devote part of our efforts to methods that apply to underdeveloped countries, as well.

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Imported Sources of California’s Electric Power in 2014, and its CO2 Pollution


We look here at the CO2 cleanliness or pollution of power imported into California. This is reported as two groupings as Southwest or Northwest. The numbers work out nicely as fractions. The 2014 California power output is 296,843 GWh (GigaWatt hours), which we will call 300 (TeraWatt hours, TWh). The in-state generation is 198,973 GWh, which we will call 200 TWh. So 100 TWh, or one-third, is imported power. Of this, 60,609 GWh (20.4% of the total) is Southwest power (61 TWh), and 37,261 GWh (12.6% of the total) is Northwest power (37 TWh).

The 37 TWh of NW imports are mostly Wind (10,151 GWh), or 31% renewables, and Unspecified (25,676 GWh or 26 TWh), or 69%. The unspecified is hydro and newer natural gas plants.

The 61 TWh of SW imports are 29% coal, 17% natural gas, 14% nuclear, 6% renewables (solar, wind, geothermal), 3.5% large hydro, and 31% unspecified. The unspecified is highly efficient combined cycle natural gas plants and some coal.

NW unspecified is hydro plus newer gas plants. It would be helpful to know if these newer plants are the more efficient combined cycle plants. SW unspecified is the more efficient combined cycle natural gas plants and some coal.

The unspecified power for California is the sum of the NW and SW unspecified powers, making up 15% of the California power mix.
We apply the scale of CO2 pollution where natural gas is 1, coal is 1.78, and clean power is 0. I have used this in the previous two articles in this blog.

For the NW, the known sources are clean, giving 0, but adding 0.69 for unspecified.

For the SW, the weighted pollution index is 0.29 x 1.78 + 0.17 x 1 + 0 = 0.52 + 0.17 = 0.69 and adding 0.31 for unspecified.

The utilities total power produced is the relevant factor in CO2 pollution, along with their power mix. The power produced by the five largest California utilities in 2014 are shown below. Also included is their percentage of the total California power production of 296,843 GWh.

SC Edison 82,849 GWh 27.9%
PG&E 82,840 GWh 27.9%
LADWP 27,628 GWh 9.31%
SDG&E 17,670 GWh 5.95%
SMUD 10,319 GWh 3.48%

Their sum is: 221,306 GWh, which is 74.6%. The remainder of utilities must generate 24.4%. So the top two producers generate 56%, and the top five generate 75%.

The sum must include their out-of-state imports, since the total in-state power for 2014 was 198,973 GWh, which is less than the sum above. The in-state total actually includes the out of state power generated by the power plants owned by the California utilities. The installed capacity of the 1,051 in-state plants totals 86.883 GW (GigaWatts).

So do the sum of unspecified sources in the various utilities equal just the sum of the NW and SW unspecified, or cover more?

In trying to understand the Unspecified power, I added that from the five leading power utilities, multiplying their Power Content Label Unspecified percentage by their overall power output. That gave for Unspecified power:

PG&E at 21% = 17 TWh
SCE at 40% = 33 TWh
LADWP at 7% = 2 TWh
SDG&E at 20% = 4 TWh
SMUD at 8% = 1 TWh

Total = 57 TWh.

However, the sum of California Unspecified Power is the sum of

NW 25.7 TWh + SW 18.8 TWh = 44.5 TWh.

Since the sum of the five largest utilities at 57 TWh is only a part of the sum of all untilities, this is quite a discrepancy from my understanding of the California Power Content label explanations.

My guess, is that the State Power Label has the total of all power contracted for in the state, but some state power is sold on the spot market, and this is included with individual utilities under Unspecified Power. Since power produced in the State of California has almost no coal power, the state produced unspecified power is probably a mix of natural gas and renewables, and therefore is fairly clean. I am seeking clarification on this discrepancy.

Posted in California Power Mixes, Climate Change, Electric Power, Energy Efficiency, Fossil Fuel Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Hydropower, Natural Gas, Nuclear Energy, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Wind Energy | Leave a comment