Category Archives: Science & Technology

Wojick on Whales II: Missing BOEM Report?

by David Wojick

In my previous article I raised this question: what is the potential adverse impact of Virginia’s massive offshore wind project on the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales? Answering this basic question should be a central feature of the upcoming Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) required for the wind project by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

The 70-ton North Atlantic Right Whales migrate through Virginia’s offshore waters twice a year, making the impact of these proposed huge offshore wind projects a serious question. I have been doing some digging, and the results are puzzling. We may have some secret science going on.

To begin with, while there has been a lot of research on these whales, it has almost all been done in their northern and southern habitat zones. There is almost nothing on migration, even though migration is especially dangerous for any critters that do it, whales included.

So, it is not clear that we even have a clear picture of how they migrate through the waters where these massive wind projects are proposed. A lot of the risk depends on how they migrate, and we seem not to know much about that.

I say we “seem not to know” because someone in the federal government may actually know more than they are prepared to divulge. This is where it gets puzzling, as follows. Continue reading

Hoos the Best Software Engineering School?

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes we get nice surprises. Yesterday was one of those days.

A friend on the UVa Board of Visitors sent me a report by CodeSignal.

Founded in 2015, (CodeSignal is) the first company to develop an objective skills-based assessment platform that can be used as a standard for technical hiring.

The report presents that organization’s ranking of the 50 colleges and universities with the highest concentration of students who received a top score under  CodeSignal’s General Coding Framework, “the industry-standard assessment taken by more than 50% of graduating computer science students in the United States”.

It is meant for corporate recruiters and hiring managers.  Here is the list of the top 30 universities.

Ta da!

I am a UVa grad but, alas, in 1962 I did not major in software engineering.

Congratulations to the Hoos.

Mass Transit and Flying Machines

Anderson Cooper in a personal flying machine.

Real rebound or just a dead cat bounce? After bottoming out at around 21,500 riders a year ago, the Virginia Railway Express commuter rail service in Northern Virginia is experiencing a recovery in ridership, reports The Free Lance-Star. In February, VRE reports, monthly rider trips totaled more than 52,900. That’s a far cry from the previous, pre-COVID February ridership of 355,000, but it’s something. The decision by a federal judge in Florida to throw out the national mask mandate for public transportation might help revive ridership a bit more.

Yet… the latest numbers suggest that former VRE riders are NOT taking about 300,000 trips monthly that they had been before the pandemic. Some are likely working at home, but some may be adding to congestion along I-95. Virginia has invested in the rail infrastructure, so, it’s a shame if people aren’t using it. On the other hand…

Self-driving cars and flying cars. The Virginia Mercury reminds us that Sheppard Miller, Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation, thinks flying cars could be a reality within the next 50 years — a reason that the Commonwealth should “reexamine transit.” People have been fantasizing about flying cars for a hundred years now, and we have yet to see anything remotely practical. But a wave of venture-funded innovation is giving rise to what might better be described as personal flying machines. They’re not cars with four wheels and wings; they’re battery-powered, drone-like craft that can lift off from parking lots and the tops of buildings. On Sunday, 60 Minutes broadcast a clip of Anderson Cooper flying (seen above) in one such device. Continue reading

New Sea Level Prediction Less Dire, Still Unlikely

Aquatrak wave and tidal sensor. Not sure if these are used in VA.

by Steve Haner

The latest projection from the ever-trustworthy federal authorities sweating out the climate crisis is that the sea level will rise one foot along Virginia’s coast by 2050, rising the same amount in 30 years as it rose in the previous 100.

The news quickly swept across the Commonwealth. Here is the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s take and here the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot (both firewalled, sorry.) And The Washington Post.

What do the stories fail to mention? That this is a far less dire prediction than the ones distracted news consumers are usually fed. Governor Ralph Northam’s administration prepared a climate adaptation report last year that assumed 2.2 feet of rise by 2050, and almost seven feet by 2100. I wrote about it on Bacon’s Rebellion in August. The higher prediction of almost seven feet is also cited in a lawsuit against the state reported previously.

Even this more modest prediction is still incredibly unlikely. Nothing has changed with the actual measurements of the slow but steady rise in relative sea level, the focus of the earlier-cited article I did with Kip Hansen. For the new prediction from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to come to pass, those measured rates will need to double or triple promptly. Continue reading

Our Media Trusts “The Smart Ones”

by Steve Haner

Not every policy imposed by government is subject to public hearings or votes. That’s one reason to vote for smart candidates who have the country’s best interests at heart and not for those who rant about personal liberty without accepting any social responsibility for individual decisions.

That was part of a response I received by email from somebody who read Friday’s post on the Air Pollution Control Board’s new regulation which ties Virginia’s auto market to emissions rules promulgated by California. I had noted how the state’s usual and statutory requirements for notice and comment had been bypassed on the orders of the General Assembly.

Clearly this reader thought that was just fine, which floored me. My respondent was a member of the working news media. If anybody should be standing up for transparency and public participation, it would be news reporters, editors and producers, right? Not this person, not on this issue. (I’ll withhold the name.)

The comments from a “journalist” about “smart candidates” versus “those who rant about personal liberty” speak for themselves. Note they would apply equally to COVID mitigations and efforts to eliminate carbon dioxide, with disdain poured on skeptics in either case. It was a refreshingly honest admission that explains the selective coverage we must wade through on so many issues. It came at a time when I was already shaking my head over the media coverage of Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to exit the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Continue reading

Climate Rationality Preached in a UVA Pulpit

Jason S. Johnston, Professor, University of Virginia School of Law

by Steve Haner

Efforts to rapidly expand our reliance on wind and solar generation for electricity, while at the same time closing baseload natural gas generation with similar haste, makes no sense economically. “The only explanation for that policy is you want to shut down the economy.”

Another voice of reason has emerged to challenge the climate alarmist orthodoxy, a Virginia voice,  Professor Jason S. Johnston at the University of Virginia School of Law. He brings to the discussion the experience and analysis of a regulatory law expert and economist, distilled into a somewhat daunting 656-page book published by Cambridge University Press in August.

“Climate Rationality: From Bias to Balance” (available through Amazon here) focuses at length on the legal precautionary principle behind most climate regulatory schemes, with little or no consideration taken of either the economic costs or unintended environmental consequences. He writes in an excerpt from his introduction:

The precautionary principle says little if anything about how such costs should be weighed in designing policy. But, given the highly uncertain and unpredictable future impacts of rising atmospheric GHG concentrations and the unprecedented cost of reducing GHG emissions, any rational regulatory response to curbing human GHG emissions must surely closely scrutinize the case for decarbonization. The purpose of this book is to provide precisely such an examination…

Precautionary US climate policy has already cost lives, damaged the environment, and increased costs for the basic life necessities, such as electricity, in ways that are felt most acutely by the poorest American households.

Continue reading

Covid Benefits – Yet Another Massive Government Program Gone Awry

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Stolen without a gun. NBC News is reporting that hackers and scammers have pulled off “an epic theft” of COVID benefits. Foreign and domestic criminals have looted tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars. As reported, “The federal government cannot say for sure how much of the more than $900 billion in pandemic-related unemployment relief has been stolen, but credible estimates range from $87 million to $400 billion — at least half of which went to foreign criminals, law enforcement officials say.” In other words, more money could have been stolen from the jobless benefits program than the U.S. spends on K-12 education in a year. Continue reading

Herd Immunity from the Delta Variant – “Mythical”

Image by Spencer Davis from Pixabay

To vax or not to vax? I’m vaccinated. I think everybody who is eligible to be vaccinated should get vaccinated.  Jim Bacon makes the excellent point that people who are vaccinated may still get COVID but are far less likely to die from the virus. Others believe that vaccinations will confer herd immunity to the population as a whole if only enough people get vaccinated. Not so claims a world renowned virologist. Sir Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group and a leading epidemiologist, calls herd immunity from the Delta variant “not a possibility” and “mythical.” If herd immunity really is “mythical,” is there a public health basis to mandate vaccines? The pro vax mandate crowd has continually compared the COVID vaccinations to vaccinations against diseases like polio. But if herd immunity is “not a possibility,” where do we stand? Continue reading

Print Me a House

3D printer used to construct a house                                 Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

For someone who stays away from housing issues, I now have my second one in two days. Yesterday, I expressed dismay at the price tag on new “affordable” homes. Today’s topic is 3D printed homes.

As strange as that may sound, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported yesterday that work has begun in Richmond on the “first house in Virginia partially constructed using a 3D printer rather than lumber.”

I have trouble wrapping my mind around this concept.  =As I understand it, the “printer” is a large contraption that lays down concrete, rather than ink or toner, in precise patterns that have been programmed into a computer. The concrete is then smoothed out with a different nozzle that has a scraper attached. In the case of this house in Richmond, the printer is laying down layer after layer of concrete to “print” the outer walls of the house. The interior walls will be constructed by more traditional means. Continue reading

Yes, Virginia, There May Be Alien UFOs — Off Your Coast!

Image captured by Virginia Beach naval aviators. Image credit: 60 Minutes

by Bruce Majors

If you spend any time on the internet, you will almost daily see geographical rankings: the best colleges, the best small towns, the best places to retire, the cities with the worst drivers, the states with the worst tippers or the rudest residents.

Apparently whoever or whatever is behind the UAPs (the acronym for the new bureaucratese “unidentified aerial phenomena,” what we used to call UFOs) that the Senate Intelligence Committee will soon tell us about also seem to have a list of where they prefer to visit. Former national intelligence director John Ratcliffe hinted that the report will be surprising, telling FOX News anchor Maria Bartiroma, “We are talking about objects that have been seen by Navy or Air Force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery, that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain, movements that are hard to replicate, that we don’t have the technology for or are traveling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier without a sonic boom.”

The National UFO Reporting Center maintains a database of reports of UFO sightings and it organizes them by state, as well as by shape of the UFO and other categories. Virginia is 35th on the list. Continue reading

Paul Marik: COVID Quack or Pandemic Hero?

Dr. Paul Marik

by James A. Bacon

Across the state of Virginia, the fatality rate for COVID-19 patients entering hospitals has been 37.7%. Put another way, nearly two of every five patients died, according to Virginia Department of Health data. But in Norfolk, only 25.8% died. What accounts for that disparity? One possibility is that the dominant hospital in Norfolk is Sentara General Hospital… which is affiliated with the Eastern Virginia Medical School… where Dr. Paul Marik, an EVMS professsor, may have co-developed an inexpensive but highly effective treatment for COVID-19.

Marik is virtually unknown to Virginians. The only local news story I could find about him, dated about a week ago, tells how he was reprimanded by the Virginia Board of Medicine for prescribing controlled substances to five people who were not his patients. That article noted only in passing that Marik has written more than 400 peer-reviewed journal articles, 50 book chapters, and four books about critical care, and that he has developed a new treatment for sepsis.

You will get a very different picture of the 63-year-old South African native by reading, “The Drug that Cracked COVID,” written by Michael Capuzzo and published in Mountain Home, a Pennsylvania magazine. Other than to say that Capuzzo obviously did an enormous amount of research for the article, I cannot testify to its fairness, balance or accuracy. But from a surface reading, the reporting seems credible enough that Marik’s story at least warrants telling.

Marik and four U.S. colleagues who are experts in critical care developed an early treatment protocol for COVID-19 centered on the generic drug Ivermectin they dubbed I-MASK. If the article is to be believed, the protocol has saved millions of lives in poor, developing countries desperate for affordable ways to respond to the pandemic. But the protocol, developed through trial and error in front lines of hospital treatment, did not meet the gold standard of randomized clinical trials demanded by COVID guru Anthony Fauci, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and Big Pharma. With the active cooperation of the masters of the media/social media universe, the “follow the science” crowd has worked to suppress the findings of Marik and his colleagues. Continue reading

Tech Prof Corrected WHO, CDC on COVID Spread

Linsey C. Marr, PhD.

by Steve Haner

Wired has chronicled a one-year struggle by a Virginia Tech teacher and researcher, working mainly with other non-physicians, to convince the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization they were dead wrong on COVID. The kind of dead wrong that made more people dead.

The battle was quietly won when on April 30 of this year the WHO changed its published stance and admitted that the virus causing COVID-19 was readily spreading airborne far beyond the three or six foot social distancing guidance. A few days later the CDC also changed its public stance, creating a minor media ripple rather than the wave it deserved.

One of those we can thank is Linsey Marr, the Charles P. Lunsford Professor in Virginia Tech’s department of civil and environmental engineering. Megan Molteni’s article, “The 60-year-old Scientific Screw-Up that Helped COVID Kill,” opens with Marr participating in an April 2020 virtual conference with COVID science poohbahs around the world.  They uniformly blew off what they heard from Marr and other experts on aerosols. WHO had stated as fact that the SARS-2 bug was not spreading aerosol. Continue reading

Brood X is Coming!

Photo credit: Baltimore Sun

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

It was spring, 2004, several months after our first grandchild had been born. My wife and I were visiting our daughter and family in Fairfax County. There was a loud, incessant buzzing, almost roar, in the air. Big bugs were everywhere; you could not walk without crunching on them. They were dropping from trees, sometimes on you.

I had heard of periodic cicadas, but had never seen them. It was simply amazing. I was fascinated. And, I thought to myself, when Calvin becomes 17, they will back. That time is now.

Brood X, one of the major 17-year cicada cohorts, is due to emerge in the Northern Virginia suburbs this year  Reportedly, a consistent ground temperature of 64 degrees is their key to emerge. So, May is the month.

They do not pose a danger to humans.  hey do not bite or sting. They don’t even eat the shrubbery. The only potential “problems” will be that some people may feel they are a nuisance — the noise and the omnipresent bugs and their shed husks. On the other hand, the birds will go crazy; it will be feast time for them. I have heard that dogs like to eat them, as well.

This is one of those shows of nature that comes around only every so often.  Enjoy it.

End the Emergency Orders. Now. Every One.

Governor Ralph Northam Signals His Virtue

by Steve Haner

There is no more COVID emergency. Every single emergency order issued by Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam should be lifted immediately. Not relaxed or revised, ended.

For the millions of Virginians now vaccinated, this is all just virtue signaling, “pandemic theater.” For the millions of Virginians who have made conscious decisions not to get the vaccine, my level of concern for them has evaporated. They, their families, and their health care providers are on their own, and, frankly, most will be fine until winter stimulates the virus again.

More Virtue Signaling

By then, more of them will have come to their senses and gotten the shots.

The rules in place are really starting to look stupid.  President Joe Biden, Governor Northam and all the others holding onto and consciously modeling needless restrictions are the real anti-vaxxers now. They are the ones clearly rejecting all the scientific evidence of vaccine effectiveness.  Continue reading

The New Normal

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

We are used to hearing and seeing weather temperatures reported as being some number of degrees above or below normal. The definition of “normal” has changed this year.

The National Weather Service defines “normal” climate conditions as a 30-year average. New Climate Normals are calculated every 10 years. Before this year, the 30-year time frame was 1981-2010. Now, the “normal” time frame is 1991-2020. As a result, “normal” temperatures have shifted upwards.

Because we are in an era in which climate conditions are shifting, the National Weather Service is adjusting its reporting by providing alternative definitions of “normal.” In response to user groups, it is releasing monthly “Supplemental Temperature Normals.” These reports show averages over 5-, 10-,15-, and 20-year periods, in addition to the traditional 30-year normal. They also show “normal” calculated differently from a straight average. These alternative methods are called “Optional Climate Normal” and the “Hinge Fit.”

Therefore, when it gets hot in the coming months and some folks on this blog, who are not overly concerned about climate change, say that temperatures are not that different from the norm, just remember that normal ain’t what it used to be.