9/11 Acquisition Reform Advertising Alaway Alcohol Ale Allergies Antisemitism Barack H. Obama Beer Billiards Biology Books Budget Bureaucracy California Capitalism Carbohydrates Carcinogen CDC Chemical Warfare Chemistry Chemophobia Chirality Climate Science Colonial Pines Computers Conservation Laws Constitution Consumerism Cosmology CPT Invariance Creationism Customer Service Daesh David Irving Dead End Defense Dinosaurs Disasters Economic Energy English Ethics Evolution Fluoride Food FTL Garden Care George W. Bush Gerlich and Tscheuschner GISS Glaciers GMOs HadCRU Haiti Health Himalayan Rock Salt HITRAN Holocaust Denial Home Brewing How It Looks From Here html Humor Information Infrared Spectroscopy IPCC Iran ISIS Islam Islamophobia Israel Ketotifen Fumarate Law Lawn Care Leibniz Lisbon Magnetism Math Medco Medicine Modeling Molecules Monopoly Monsanto Naphazoline hydrochloride Neutrinos Nietzsche NIH NIST Noether's Theorem Non-hazardous Norton Ghost Nuclear Warfare Oil Oil Spill Olopatadine hydrochloride Opinion Orson Scott Card Parody Pataday Patanol Pesticides Pheneramine maleate Physics Plumbing Politics Poll Pope POTUS Prescriptions Prop 65 Psychology Quantum Mechanics Quiz Racism Radiative Transfer Relativity Religion Respiration Senior Housing Signs Smoking Specific Gravity Statistics Stock Market Sugars Sun Tzu Surface Temperature Surgeon General Symantec Target Temperature Terrorism The Final Solution The Holocaust History Project Thermodynamics Time Trains Units Voltaire von Clausewitz Weather White House Wine Yeast

Friday, December 30, 2011

Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka, Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard

From the earliest days of their movement, Holocaust deniers have largely centred their arguments on the Auschwitz death camp. Surveying the literature which makes up so-called Holocaust Revisionism the obsession with Auschwitz is undoubtedly one of its defining features. Since the early 1990s, with the advent of the modern world-wide web, Holocaust deniers have taken to the internet to try and argue their case. Until recently, the ensuing online debates between advocates of Holocaust denial and their critics have likewise focused on Auschwitz.

My friends at the Holocaust Controversies Blog have written an article that focuses on the Operation Reinhard camps, Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor, and the attempts to deny the reality of the murder at those camps by Holocaust deniers, Carlo Mattogno, Jürgen Graf, and Thomas Kues. They dedicated this work to the memory of Harry W. Mazal OBE.

The work is entitled, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka, Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard: A Critique of the Falsehoods of, Mattogno, Graf, and Kues. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Heat Death of the Universe

This post is part of a series, Nonsense and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The previous post is entitled Time's Arrow. The previous post is essential to understanding this post.

In most of the discussion of nonsense in this series, the nonsense stems from a poor understanding of physics.  This post introduces some nonsense that must be taken seriously.  Perhaps, this nonsense, also stems ultimately from a poor understanding of physics.  The people with the poor understanding this time, however, are some of the most brilliant minds in physics.

The School-Book Story

This discussion starts with the school-book story of the heat death of the universe.  By calling it the "school-book" story I do not mean to pooh-pooh it too much.  In fact, it is most likely the correct story.  Much of this post, however, will focus on caveats and complications to the story as it is usually told.

In thermodynamics, the universe is defined as the system and its surroundings.  We have seen that the second law requires that for any change the total entropy of the system and the surroundings must increase or stay the same.  As time goes by, therefore, the entropy of the universe increases.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Time's Arrow

This post is part of a series, Nonsense and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The previous post is entitled The Second Law, Microscopic Reversibility, and Small Systems. The previous post is essential to understanding this post.

Why does time move forward instead of backward? In the spatial dimensions, one can move left or right, up or down, backward, or forward.

Time, on the other hand, has a preferred direction. Why is that so? The underlying physics does not seem to have a preferred direction, but time does.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Second Law, Microscopic Reversibility, and Small Systems

This post is part of a series, Nonsense and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The previous post is entitled The Second Law, Radiative Transfer, and Global Warming.

On a small scale, individual physical events are reversible; yet on a macroscopic scale, it is not so.  I used to find that confusing.  I'd like to try to cut through some of the confusion.  In so doing, the underlying mechanism of the second law may become clearer.

Figure Source (Monopoly by Hasbro).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Religious Test

This post discusses the startling results from a poll/quiz previously posted on this blog regarding the US Constitution.  Surprisingly, only a minority of respondents can correctly identify which statement about God and religion is actually in the Constitution.

Now, of course this poll is not a scientific one, and one should use caution in interpreting the results of  such a poll, but nevertheless I suspect it is indicative of profound ignorance of the US Constitution.

Before I reveal the results, let me state the poll one more time to give the reader an opportunity to see which answer he or she would have marked as correct.

The poll asks the reader to finish the statement, "the Constitution states:"

The following options were given as choices:
  • Men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights"
  • In God We Trust
  • There shall be "separation between Church and State"
  • "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States"
  • One Nation Under God 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Petagrams of Carbon

Sometimes carbon dioxide is referenced in units of ppm, and sometimes it is referenced in petagrams of carbon.  What are the meanings of these units and how does one convert between them?

In a previous post I explained how to convert to and from units of ppm.  The current post explains the units petagrams of carbon, and how to convert from ppm to petagrams of carbon.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fixing Norton Ghost

If you are running Symantec's Norton Ghost to backup a computer, you may occasionally run into the following helpful error:

"An interaction with the catalog's database layer failed unexpectedly: sqlite3_step--5: database is locked."

Surprisingly, the Norton online help is no use at all.  This problem, however is not difficult to fix.  As I have had this same issue with multiple versions of Ghost and also it seems to occur on multiple operating systems, the solution is probably not exclusive to my environment.  However, I am running Vista 64 bit and Norton Ghost 14.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Second Law, Radiative Transfer, and Global Warming

This post is part of a series, Nonsense and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The previous post is entitled Spontaneous Change and Equilibrium.

Does global warming violate the second law of thermodynamics?  Such a claim may seem strange.  The idea that the vast majority of physical scientists would subscribe to an idea that somehow violates a fundamental law of thermodynamics on its face seems odd.  Yet, such a claim is often made by people calling the science behind global warming into question.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Patanol vs Alaway (Ketotifen Fumarate) Eye Drops

In July of 2010, I wrote a piece on my experience with Medco getting my prescription for Patanol filled. The medication is a prescription antihistamine that is administered by drops to the eye.  It is prescribed for hay fever and similar allergies that cause itchy eyes.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Spontaneous Change and Equilibrium

This post is part of a series, Nonsense and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The previous post is entitled Free Energy.

Diamond turns spontaneously into graphite; yet we may have to wait longer than the lifetime of the universe to see such a change.  Hydrocarbons are spontaneously oxidized into carbon dioxide and water; yet gasoline requires a source of heat before it burns.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Holocaust History Project: Pamphlet on David Irving

The Holocaust History Project Blog of The Holocaust History Project has announced an updated pamphlet on Holocaust denier David Irving.
The British court found that Irving's
misrepresentation of history was
"deliberate in the sense that he was motivated by a
desire borne of his own ideological beliefs to
present Hitler in a favourable light."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Free Energy

This post is part of a series,Nonsense and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The previous post is entitled Entropy as Religious, Spiritual or Self-Help Metaphor.

You cannot get something for nothing, and the term "free energy" does not mean energy that has no cost.  Rather it refers to energy that is available to do something useful.  The use of the word "free" is in the sense of "liberated."  Free energy is energy that can be liberated to do something useful.

We know that the second law places limitations on how much energy can be used to do useful work.  In most situations, some of the energy must be dissipated as heat that cannot be used to do something useful.  The portion of the energy that can do something useful is the free energy.

At constant volume, the free energy is the Helmholtz Free Energy, given the variable A.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


This post continues a tangent  from my series on the second law of thermodynamics.  It discusses another quantity in thermodynamics, but it is necessary before I can get to the next post in the series, which is on free energy.

This post discusses the term enthalpy.

At constant pressure the change in enthalpy is the heat transferred to a system.

      ΔH = q  at constant pressure.

Heat is not a state function, but enthalpy is.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Site Redesign

Frequent visitors may have noticed that I've redesigned the site. An unfortunate consequence is that two of the polls were lost; I've recreated them but lost the votes to date.

Second Law Poll

The purpose of this post is to document the final results of a poll on the site.  I do not intend to comment on the results until I conclude my series on the second law of thermodynamics.  It is worth noting at this point that there is no clear consensus on the correct answer from respondents.

 I think that this fact is reflective of the state of confusion that exists in public discourse regarding the second law of thermodynamics.

The poll asked the respondents to pick an option to complete the statement:  "The second law of thermodynamics states:"

The option were:
  • The disorder of the universe must increase.
  • You can't win.
  • The entropy of an isolated system must stay the same or increase.
  • The entropy of a closed system must stay the same or increase.
  • Heat cannot be transferred from a cold body to a hot body.
  • The entropy of the world must increase.
  • Let's keep score.
The results are shown in the following figure with truncated responses:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The First Law of Thermodynamics

I need to take a tangent from my series on the second law of thermodynamics and discuss the first law of thermodynamics

Heat is not a conserved quantity.  Work is not a conserved quantity, but the sum of heat and work is a conserved quantity. The first law is related to the law of conservation of energy; in fact it is one case of that law.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Entropy as a Religious, Spiritual or Self-Help Metaphor

This post is part of a series, Nonsense and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The previous post is entitled The Second Law and Creationism.

While browsing around the Internet for misuses of the term "entropy," I found some examples of the use of entropy as a metaphor. For example:
In human development and performance, entropy is somehow equated with limitations. It should be noted that if we go on to accept that people have limitations and a capacity for sin, then the natural pattern of human performance is not towards excellence but mediocrity. I say this because there are challenges, adversities, and even suffering, which are essential for healthy growth, although we don't normally seek or invite them. Overcoming these challenges, help us to see limitations as mere imaginations. Since entropy is very difficult to keep at bay, why must we continue to struggle against it in life? (Source)
I think that this paragraph has to be read as a somewhat confusing metaphor. It is not easy to characterize as a correct or incorrect understanding of entropy, but I suggest it is a bad metaphor. Entropy is not something that we can struggle against in the long term.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Converting Units of Temperature

In the course of writing articles for this blog, on occasion I write a post on the conversion of units.  Units can be confusing for some, and if I can add some clarity, I think it is worth doing.  This post addresses conversion between units of temperature. 

The most common temperature conversion that one wants to do is to convert degrees Celsius to degrees Fahrenheit or vice versa.  I hope to explain how to do this conversion in such a way that one need not memorize a formula, even to get the exact answer.

First, it is worthwhile to mention a quick and dirty approximation that almost anyone can do in his or her head.  It is not exact, but it is useful, if you are traveling to a country that uses a scale that is different than the one you use to think about ambient temperatures.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Second Law and Creationism

This post is part of a series,Nonsense and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The previous post is entitled Entropy and Information Theory.

Creationists and other people confused about the second law of thermodynamics  often bring up some variant of the idea that life is somehow a counter-example the second law of thermodynamics.  If entropy were disorder (which it is not), is it not obvious that life is highly ordered?

Therefore they seem to conclude that life is an example of decreasing entropy. The flaw in their thinking is not so much the confusion between disorder and entropy; the argument could be made with an accurate description of entropy. It would still be incorrect.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Entropy and Information Theory

This post is part of a series,Nonsense and the Second Law of Thermodynamics The previous post is entitled  Partition Functions.

The posts in this series are primarily about the second law of thermodynamics, the concept of entropy, and the use and abuse of these ideas.  I would be remiss, however, not to mention information theory and the role that entropy plays.  This post is not intended to be a comprehensive introduction to information theory.  Readers especially  interested in this topic will want to read other sources in addition to this post.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Temperature Anomalies and Graphing Data

Globally Averaged Temperature Anomaly

One statistic that is used to understand climate is the annual globally averaged temperature anomaly.  It is not the only measure of global warming; there are a great many others, but it is one that the media tend to focus on because it is a convenient way of explaining what is happening to surface temperatures as a function of time.

The data here are taken from Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index (C) (Anomaly with Base: 1951-1980), which includes data from 1882-2007.  There are updated numbers available for more recent years, but I am using these data to respond to an argument made by a friend.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Partition Functions

This post is part of a series,Nonsense and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The previous post is entitled Fluctuations.

In previous posts it was shown that entropy is related to the the number of ways that a system can arrange itself subject to constraints such as constant energy.

The previous post on fluctuations showed that for very large numbers that fluctuation from the most probable distribution, are insignificant.  Most of the distribution is contained within the square root of N of the most probable result.