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2010 Home



Junior Great Book Visual Study Ideas


June 1, 2010







The images below are part of study packets we're working on for a summer reading project.













Evolution of the British Empire



Racial Profiling and Missouri


Yes - It's That Time of the Year - Again - To Say Lots and Do Nothing


June 2, 2010







It's time to stop being nice about this issue.  This has gone on for a decade now, and the numbers have only gotten worse.

Where, in the private sector, would declining results over a 10-year period be tolerated?

The government collects data.  The attorney general issues an annual report.  IT'S VIRTUALLY THE SAME REPORT EVERY YEAR!

Law enforcement agencies give the same explanation year after year.  The stops are correctly reported, but the underlying population numbers are meaningless.

And another year passes.

Missouri has been hailed as a leader in the reporting of vehicle stops.  This is true.

Missouri has a lot of data - so much they're drowning in an ocean of data - in search of INFORMATION!

This time, we're taking the offensive.

The real data is out there - and I'm going to get it.  I've laid out, in previous years' columns, a proper method of analyzing this problem.  Get out of the way, you clumsy numerical oafs, who think "the data is what it is". 


Analysis to follow, as I retrieve the real data ...



Story to come


June 3, 2010








Story to come


June 4, 2010








1 2 3 ---


Continued Work on this Brief Workbook for Middle-School Kids


June 5, 2010


















D Day


Story to come


June 6, 2010








Mythology and Fountains


Kansas City Fountains and Sculptures


June 7, 2010








AKA: Flame Fountain


Description: The Pegasus was originally placed on the Country Club Plaza in 1954 and had a small, winged horse as the focal point. It was the work of sculptor Wheeler Williams who had also designed the Muse of the Missouri Fountain. In 1963, Pegasus was moved to a new location on West 47th Street near Broadway. When the fountain was moved, it was redesigned and now consists of a bronze bowl mounted atop the pedestal, equipped with a gas jet to produce flames. The water elements of the fountain were not changed and still consist of the circular arcing jets that spray toward the center of the pool. It enjoys a popularity resulting from its mixture of fire and water.


Type: Sculpture

Location: in median at 47th & Broadway, Kansas City, MO

Date erected: 1954





“Pan (Bacchus) Fountain”

AKA: “The Nymphs of the Forest, Fields, Rivers, Fruits and Flowers of the Earth Paying Homage to Pan”.


Description: A sculptural group set within a quatrefoil basin. A central male bust, a terminal pedestal, is surrounded by four female figures. Figures represent Bacchus holding court, surrounded by his female nymphs and male satyrs. Male bust of Bacchus depicts a youthful head with flowing locks of hair. Grapevines curl around the pedestal. Oak leaves and acorn form a wreath in his hair. The female figure to the left of Bacchus on the north elevation is portrayed kneeling and looking backward with an upraised arm that supports multiple folds of drapery. Her backward gaze is directed toward a cloven-hoofed satyr figure who is reaching up to touch her with a pine branch. To the right of Bacchus on the north side of the sculpture, a female figure is looking up at the central bust and a child’s figure is holding a garland of flowers and leaning back against her. A child figure with insect-like wings appears on west elevation. The south elevation contains a female figure who gazes outward, portrayed with sheaves of wheat beside her and sprigs of wheat in her hair. She holds a cornucopia. The adjacent figure on the south side has a cat-o-mine tails in her hair and holds a scallop shell. The child figure in front of her and beneath her is shown on his hands and knees in pursuit of a frog. His legs end in a webbed tail-like form suggesting a mermaid figure.




Address: 4701 Wyandotte Street, 47th Street & Wyandotte, Chandler Court, Kansas City, MO

Date erected: 1969






Pamona Fountain

Ward Parkway & Broadway, Kansas City, MO

Description: Female figure, Pomona, Roman Goddess and protector of gardens, orchards, and ripening fruit. Posture is classic, reminiscent of Greek figural forms. One arm gathers a cloth to drape her lower body, and the other hand, bent at the elbow, supports a cluster of fruit. Pedestal on which Pomona stands is placed in central of a quatrefoil reflecting basin of red stone. Water issues from the center of the saucer and creates a curtain. The figure is holding grapes in her PL hand, while cradling grapes and plums in her PR arm.


Address: 320 Ward Parkway, Ward Parkway & Broadway   Kansas City, MO

Owner: Hightower Properties

Owner Address: 310 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO 64112

Artist: Donatello Gabbriella

Foundry: Marinelli Studios in Florence

Date erected: 1969






Neptune Fountain

AKA: God of the Sea,

West 47th Street & Wyandotte Street, Kansas City, MO

Description: The God of Neptune is a tall erect figure in middle of sculpture. He is gazing down on proper left to reclining figures below. Reclining and seating on the base of the sculpture are four women and five children, all apparently worshipping or beholden to Neptune. The sculpture itself rises up from a pool of water which includes various fountain sprays.


This 8,000 pound cast lead fountain, placed in an oval pool, depicts Neptune, god of the sea, with three mythological sea horses in movement.


Inscription: Bronze plaque on proper left of sculpture in courtyard stone on floor: “Chandler Court, 1967, in memory of Clarence A. Chandler 1872-1963, Pioneer Kansas City florist and original owner of the first commercial structure to occupy site.”


Address: 308 West 47th Kansas City, MO

Date erected: 1953






Muse of the Missouri


Description: The Muse of the Missouri is located in the heart of downtown. Based on classical mythology, this creation of artist Wheeler Williams personifies a goddess bestowing her interest and guidance on the Missouri River. Williams had originally intended to use fish native to the river spilling from the net. However, he found catfish too ugly and carp unworkable. The nine fish netted by the muse are a hybrid using a carp body and bluefish head. There are 200 spouts of water making up the total fountain display.


Type: Fountain

Address: 8th & Main Streets, Kansas City, MO

Date erected: 1963





Police Pursuit


Caught in a Bind


June 8, 2010






While in Chesterfield, MO, over the weekend, I came upon an interesting article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Police Pursuits.

We all know what it said.  We can guess what happened.  It's been in the news in every community in America.

A criminal flees.  Police pursued.  An innocent bystander died.

Not exactly.

Let's back up a second, and capture all that I just said in a quick logic diagram.  There's a crime, and the police are in hot pursuit.  Inevitably, there's a collision.  An innocent bystander dies.  The public?  Outraged.  The result?  A change in policy - only pursue "dangerous-crime" criminals.


Sound familiar?

Of course.  It's an issue, as I said, arising everywhere.

And this leads to the article I referred to.  You see, auto-thefts were on the rise.  They were sky-rocketing.  Why?  Criminals, of course, knew police would not pursue!  And the public?  Outraged!  Pursue ALL criminals!

And you see the viscous cycle that results ..


Is there any way out of this feedback loop?  Is this a forever tug-of-war between the good guys and the bad?


Maybe not.

Let's check our premises.  Our assumptions. 

The dilemma - the conflict:  pursue / don't pursue.

Why would we pursue?  Of course, to capture criminals.

Why would we not pursue?  It takes only the death of one innocent bystander to verbalize this - to ensure public safety?

That seems to make sense, but at the same time, is this the reason police would not pursue a criminal, or is this the goal of the law enforcement community?

Maybe both.

Let's diagram this out ...


One thing that stands out immediately, merely in writing this down, is the idea of ensuring public safety.  Is it really ensured if policy don't pursue non-dangerous criminals?

Who says they're non-dangerous?  Merely because they're stealing cars?  If they're stealing cars, what else are they doing? What other crimes have they committed, if they're willing to break into a car and flee at high speeds?

Yes, occasionally - and sadly - an innocent person is killed in pursuit.  This is a high-profile death.  There's also 10 times that many people killed in less-than-high-profile deaths every day.  How many of these people are killed - needlessly - by criminals once considered "non-dangerous".



1 2 3 ---


Continued Work on this Brief Workbook for Middle-School Kids


June 9, 2010






Let’s see.  Let’s also incorporate some of the information we’ve used already:



This looks a little messy.  Let’s clean it up by simplifying:

To make sure we’re on the same page, here’s what I got, solving for S:


My goodness, am I done yet? 

Not quite.

You see, S is the base of the entire triangle.  That’s OK, because I need that for the formula for the area of the triangle.

However, I also need the height h, and in finding the height, I’ll (again) be using tangent.  But as you can see, the relevant “run” is really b.  This is ½ of S --- easy enough to find:



Done?  Almost!

What’s the area of our triangle?  That’s what we want to know!



Please expand this, as you would an ordinary situation with two factors like  (´ + 4)( 2´ - 7):


Circle Packing

within a Fixed Equilateral Triangle:  a summary

Why does our formula have an ‘n’ in it?  Let’s remember we kept the radius of the circle set at 1.  So the length of the sides depend on the number of circles n we’ve embedded.

Given n circles on the bottom row, each with radius 1, the area of all circles is


and the area of the external triangle is:


Let’s take a quick break.


The Mandelbrot Set


Part of a Book


June 10, 2010







Let’s recall our earlier graph of the behavior of the Mandelbrot Set as the escape value is changed:

Briefly, this “escape value” told us how long to check a point to see if it’s in the Mandelbrot Set.  The idea was many patterns of distances go like this: 1, 2,4, 8, and off to infinity quickly.  Other sequences cycle through a pattern like this:  1, 1.5, 1, 1.5, etc.  In both of these cases, we have an idea quickly about what’s going to happen.


Other times, we don’t have such a quick idea.  For example, what about this one:



It’s tough to tell what’s going to happen, because this thing seems to be bouncing all over the place.  But we have to put a limit on how long we’ll check, and we called this the “escape value”.  If our process escapes within a certain period, great.  If it doesn’t, we assume it never will.


Well, not exactly.  We just mark the result as “not escaping”.


In Volume #1 of =EQUALS=, we captured the images of certain escape values.

But is there a way to put all these images together into one consolidated image?  Let’s just color the image and see:


Maybe nothing to those of you who have used many wonderful fractal programs on the internet, but additionally wonderful to me since it was done in Excel.

What else can Excel tell us?

As the color changes, it means a process was at one point considered “under control” (meaning it didn’t escape before a certain number of iterations), but when that threshold (escape value) was increased, it was found that behavior did change - and exceed our threshold distance.

So there’s some behavioral change going on.  Let’s see how the points change over time.  Let’s extract 62,500 points from our grid, equally spaced across this 250 ´ 250 grid:

and set our escape value to 1,000.  That is, if the sequence does not escape by then, we stop.  We don’t necessarily say it will never escape, but merely that it didn’t by this point.

What’s the distribution of points by ‘escape value’?  But first, what do we expect?  Looking at the above graph (iterations 1 – 9), we see a lot of color changing.  Each point within a color change means changing the escape value threshold changed the graph.  So we expect a lot of early changing.

Let’s see:

Of the 62,500 points checked, 15,140 never escaped.  That means 47,360 points did escape!  But how fast did they escape?  Let’s graph it:

Indeed, a lot of changing.  Not included here are 15,140 points that made it all the way to the 1000th calculation, and were still within the threshold.

But there’s additionally a lot where the change took place above 25.  What can be going on here?  Fortunately, because we’ve created all of this ourselves, we can see.

For example, point c(0.03, –0.63) generates a sequence where the escape distance is breached only after 965 iterations!

965 iterations?  What does the behavior look like?



Westward Expansion


The Fountains of Kansas City


June 11, 2010






Corps of Discovery

AKA: Lewis and Clark Expedition Memorial

Kansas City, Mo.


Description: This sculpture of the famous Louis and Clark Expedition is seen in the round. The tri-level marble base holds a bronze statue of four people and a dog along with their personal articles on top of the rocks. There are two figures facing east. York, William Clark’s slave is holding a rifle in his right hand with the left hand resting on the dog, Seaman. In front of them is a trunk with “U.S. Cap. M. Lewis” inscribed on it. To left of the dog is another trunk. Three figures face west. The highest figure, Meriwether Lewis is holding a telescope in his right hand. Sacagawea, their Shoshone guide is in front of him. She has a basket with figs in her right hand. In front of and to the left of Lewis is Clark holding a pouch in his left hand and a map and compass in his extended right.


Inscription: Carved in marble around the base: “Of courage undaunted� and a fidelity to truth� I could have no hesitation confiding the enterprise to him.” Thomas Jefferson 1813 Meriwether Lewis 1774-1809 William Clark 1770-1838 Sacagawea CA. 1787-Before 1829 Jean Baptise Charbonneau 1805-1866


Type: Sculpture

Address: 8th & Jefferson, Kansas City, Mo.

Owner: Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department

Owner Address: 4600 East 63rd, Kansas City, MO 64130

Artist: Eugene Daub

Sculptor: Eugene Daub

Foundry: Artworks Foundry

Date cast: 1999





The Wagon Master


Description: Larger than life-size man attired in western clothing. He is sitting on a horse with a gun placed across the saddle. The man is pointing in a westerly direction. The sculpture sits on a very large limestone rock. There is a crack in the right rear hoof of the horse. The right boot sole and the underbelly of the horse have corroded. The artist used his own face. At the base of the statue are button activated recordings that tell the story of the Wagon Master and the Battle of Westport.


Inscription: God slumbers in the rock He breathes in the plant He dreams in the animal He awakens in man – An Indian Proverb. The Wagon Master. L.E. “Gus” Shafer, sculptor, presented to the people of Kansas City by Mr. & Mrs. Miller Nichols and their daughters, Kay Callison, Nancy Parker, Ann Nichols, Lynn Nichols, September 8, 1973.


Type: Sculpture

Address: South of Ward Parkway, West of Wornall,,Kansas City, MO 64112

Owner: Kansas City Missouri Board of Parks and Recreation

Owner Address: 4600 East 63rd, Kansas City, MO 64130






The Pioneers


Description: A monumental sculpture of three realistic male figures commemorates the establishment of Westport in 1833 as a stop on the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails. The monument honors these men who were instrumental in the development of Westport. John C. McCoy (founded and platted the town of Westport) is seated in the center and holds a map in his hand. Alexander Majors (a Westport business owner and partner in the Pony Express) is standing facing west and holding his hat. Jim Bridger frontiersman and operator of a Westport dance hall and saloon) holds a rifle in his left and rests his hand on his knee. Pioneer Park site also includes large terrazzo map embedded in the surrounding pavement.


Inscription: James Bridger, John Calvin McCoy, Alexander Majors.


Address: 4059 Broadway,  Pioneer Park, Kansas City, MO 64111

Date cast: 10/1/1986





Westport Memorial Marker

AKA: (Westport’s) Pioneer Mother Memorial, Daughters of Old Westport


Inscription: Whither thou goest I will go Where Thou lodgest I will Lodge Thy people shall be my people And thy God my God Presented to the people of Kansas City by Howard Vanderslice to commemorate the Pioneer Mother who with unfaltering trust in God suffered the hardship of the unknown west to prepare for us a homeland of peace and plenty


Address: 28th & Wyandotte, Penn Valley Park, Kansas City, MO

Date dedicated: 11/11/1927





story to come


June 12, 2010







The Ellipse


June 13, 2010






The great thing about a spreadsheet is honesty is a virtue.  If you're going to graph an ellipse, you need to know the points.  You cannot fake reality.

I'm in a spreadsheet now, and I want to find a way to graph all the points on the ellipse.

As usual, I'll start with something specific - two Foci, and a known distance.


Let's get started.  Let's just take an x-coordinate at random, say ´ = 8, and move forward with the single goal:  find the corresponding y coordinate:

By the Pythagorean Theorem, I have the following:


What else do I know about ellipses?  The total distance of the point on the ellipse from the foci is fixed:


Let's put all of this together:


I've solved for one of the distances.  Let's use an actual number for the total distance, just to get something on the table ...


and remind ourselves what exactly we've just found ...

And now, concluding, let's find our missing y ...


If we wanted to tie all of this logic together, we could, of course ...


And, more importantly, we could find the general formula for the problem, given any value 'x', what's the corresponding 'y' values such that the points fall on the desired ellipse?

All done --- and in the process of doing all of this, you'll find a ton of other problems arising in your head, plus the confidence to know you can solve any of them!



A Short Story on Insulin


Part I of "The Nutrition Series"


June 14, 2010






I'm not going to actually eat five Snicker's bars, but let's suppose I was.  What would happen?

Sure, I'd gain weight, and a reasonable question is to ask "Why?"  For example, if I ate the same amount of food (weight-wise) in carrots, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't gain weight.

Let's save this question.

Five Snicker's Bars in my system,  What would happen to me - besides weight?  My blood sugar readings would go up.  That must mean there's a normal blood-sugar reading, and this massive influx of sugar has caused my blood-sugar reading to spike.

That is:


The body is a miraculous thing.  When it realizes there's "unusual" activity, it acts to fix it.  For example, when you cut your finger, the body responds automatically to correct the problem.  The wound is sealed with clots. 

The body's immune system kicks in.

Does the body do something similar when there is too much sugar in the system?

A similar thought comes to mind regarding the oil spill in the Gulf.  There's always oil being leaked from the gulf floor into the huge body of water.  This is the nature of our planet.  However, the massive amount of water merely soaks up the oil - it's a part of the gulf.

Now, however, there is a huge amount of oil spewing into the gulf - an unnatural amount - and the gulf cannot absorb it.

What about our bodies? 

When there's too much sugar in the blood stream, what does our body do?  It miraculously tells cells to start soaking up the unusual amount of sugar.

What does this?


Insulin is a "sugar-regulator". 


Yes - the pancreas.  Among many things it does, the pancreas creates insulin, and sends it to the body to inform cells to get ready to "absorb" the excess sugar.


How does the insulin do all of this? 

And what happens if insulin doesn't work?  Your pancreas doesn't create - or release - it?

Next time!



The Mandelbrot Set


And Strange Behavior


June 15, 2010






(x,y) coordinates (0.3604, -0.318)

Innocent looking coordinates.

Around this area, this specific, you'll see a lot of behavior changes when you change the escape value.

For example, the point above generates stable behavior until the 7,411 iteration, and then it explodes!

What does this behavior look like?

Here are all of these iterations ...

The "wobble" becomes uncontrollable, and the behavior zooms "off to the Milky Way"!



The Dust Bowl


A Quick - and Introductory - Look at Understanding the Dust Bowl


June 16, 2010






One of several maps in the works to understand the dynamics of the dust bowl ...




Famous Americans / Famous American Things


The KC Fountain / Sculpture Tour Continues


June 17, 2010







George Washington Memorial

Washington Square Park, Kansas City, MO

Description: This 5 1/2 ton equestrian bronze statue is a replica of the original by Marvin Shrady that is located in New York City, NY. The sculpture stands over 16 ft. tall on top of a 13 ft. granite pedestal. This monument, depicting Washington during “the sad days at Valley Forge, is considered to be one of the three greatest statues of the General. Over 100,000 Kansas Citians contributed to the purchase of this monument in 1925.


Inscription: One hundred and nine-thousand citizens gave this statue to their city. Dedicated armistice Day 1925, Rededicated Armistice Day 1932.


Type: Sculpture

Also see: Valley Forge

Address: Pershing Road and Grand, Washington Square Park, KC MO 64108

Owner: Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department

Owner Address: 4600 East 63rd, Kansas City, MO 64130

Artist: Henry Merwin Shrady

Architect: William Wight (base)

Foundry: Roman Bronze Works, Brooklyn, NY

Date cast: 1906

Date dedicated: 11/11/1925

Funded by: 109,000 contributors






Andrew Jackson

Jackson County Courthouse, Kansas City, MO

Description: This larger than life equestrian statue commemorates the seventh American President after whom Jackson County, Missouri was named. Depicted in his role of General, gazing on a battlefield scene, his head is bare so that more of the old Hickory character may be revealed. The 16 ft. bronze sculpture rests on a Swedish granite pedestal.


Inscription: 1767-1845 Andrew Jackson


Type: Sculpture

Address: 415 East 12th Street, Jackson County Courthouse, KCMO 64106

Owner: Jackson Country Parks and Recreation Department

Owner Address: 22807 Woods Chapel Road, Blue Springs, MO 64015

Artist: Charles Keck

Architect: Wight and Wight

Sculptor: Charles Keck

Replacement Artist:

Foundry: The Gorham Company Founders

Date cast: 1934

Date erected: unknown

Date dedicated: 12/27/1934






Statue of Liberty

Kansas City, MO

Description: Statue of Liberty Replica – faces West and crowned with a 7 pointed crown. Right hand extended holding a torch, left hand holds a tablet to her bosom. Right foot balances on toes. Figure is heavily draped in a toga gown. Feet in sandals stand in a dirt flower bed surrounded by a stone base in the shape of an eleven pointed star. This in turn is surrounded by a 14’ circular dirt flower bed with not other boundaries.


Inscription: With the faith and courage of their forefather who made possible the freedoms of these United States, The Boy Scouts of America dedicated this replica of the Statue of Liberty as a pledge of everlasting fidelity and loyalty. 40th crusade to strengthen the Arm of Liberty 1950. Plague size: 16”x13”


Type: Sculpture

Address: Meyer Blvd. and Prospect

Owner: Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department

Owner Address: 4600 East 63rd. Kansas City, MO 64130

Artist: F.A. Bartholdi

Date cast: 1949

Date dedicated: 1949





The Constitution

Kansas City, MO

Description: A bronze monolith 14 ft. tall with slightly convex front and back (west and east respectively) surfaces is covered with 50 pairs of polished, cast and flat outline, bronze hands. The hands were modeled by actual individuals and reflect a cross-section of Americans. A bronze Bill of Rights plaque, which was presented to the U.S. District Court in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, is mounted below mid-height on the west face. The bronze dedication plaque is mounted on the east face. The two plaques are joined at the sides of the statue. After receiving the Bill of Rights plaque, the Court began an effort to determine the best way to display the plaque. The artist became aware of the project through Judge Scott 0. Wright’s wife (who was at the time a student of the artist) and conceived the piece. The work was commissioned by the Court and funded with donations from the judiciary and attorneys. Many legal, judicial and political figures, including Caroline Kennedy, attended the dedication ceremony. The artist is an immigrant from the People’s Republic of China and very committed to the individual freedoms provided by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights


Type: Sculpture

Address: 811 Grand, Kansas City, MO 64106

Owner: General Services Administration

Owner Address: 601 East 12th, Kansas City, MO 64106

Artist: Xin Kun Wu, Lawrence, KS

Date cast: 1991

Date dedicated: September 26, 1991






“Ben Franklin”


Description: The sculpture is a seated figure of Ben Franklin on proper left of a bench holding a cane in his proper left hand and a sheet containing the Bill of Rights in his proper right hand. There are two figures of birds on proper right top back slat of bench.


Inscription: G. W. Lundeen, Loveland, CO, 1989 1/21 See above signature which is located proper left on coattail which is lying on bench. Additionally, Ben Franklin is holding a large sheet inscribed “We the People.....” (Article I, Bill of Rights) Plaque on lightpost next to sculpture with words: “Benjamin Franklin in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791. A gift from Miller and Jeannette Nichols.”


Location: 700 W. Jefferson Block, Kansas City, MO





The Gulf Oil Disaster


Some Scary Thoughts


June 18, 2010







The leak continues, and the estimates are now up to 60,000 barrels a day.  At 42 gallons per barrel, that's 2,520,000 gallons daily.

That's an Exxon Valdez every four days.

There seems to be no end in sight.  Is there?  Is there a point where "the well runs dry"?

BP CEO Hayward said yesterday the oil reservoir under the Gulf holds 50,000,000 million barrels of oil.  And as ominous as that number sounds, the accompanying words are more scary, given the predictive nature of the BP disaster.  Remember, the leak started at 1,000 barrels a day, and the 5,000.  After a while it jumped to 25,000, and it's now up to 60,000 barrels.

Those two words:  at least.

At least 50,000,000 million barrels of oil.  At least 2.1 billion gallons of oil.

That's about two-and-a-quarter years of oil flowing, at 60,000 barrels per day.

Can we put a stop to this?  That's, obviously, the key question.

Let's see if we can first figure out what is going on.  Here's my understanding of the set-up:


After the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the rig sank, taking the riser with it.  The riser, connected to the wellhead, severed - partially.  A leak ensued.

How do we stop the leak?



Initial attempts to cap the leak included a dome-like structure atop the wellhead.  This made sense to me.


This failed.

But it failed for reasons I still don't understand.

You see, first off, I've got the wrong impression of what the dome was intended to do.  My containment dome above sat on top of the wellhead, and sealed everything in.  Why not?  Problem solved!

Their containment dome put in place was merely to funnel leaking oil from the damaged wellhead and riser to the Gulf surface.

But the dome's opening became clogged with gas hydrates - crystal structures that form when gas and water mix and are found in the low temperature and high pressure at the Gulf floor.

I don't know why this would become clogged, but the riser (when operating correctly) itself wouldn't clog.

And I don't know why it wasn't a dome merely intended to sit atop the wellhead.  Maybe the pressure building would be too great, and eventually lift the dome off the Gulf floor.  That's probably the case. 

I'm still trying to reason through all of the above, but the end result of BP Attempt #1:  failure.



Having failed with the "funneling" containment dome, the second attempt was a form of mud-jacking, as I understand it.  High-pressure pumps sent mud into the pipe, with hopes of clogging it.

This failed also.  I don't know how it could have succeeded, honestly.  This attempt didn't make any sense to me, either.



The next attempt was to cap the wellhead, but to cap it meant cutting free the damaged riser, which was bent when the Deepwater Horizon sank.  But to cut the riser free meant the risk of increased flow, we were told.


Imagine a crimped garden hose, with water coming out.  By removing the crimp, water explodes out of the hose. 

Yet this is what they did.  And the flow of oil did increase - greatly.

It was necessary to cap the wellhead, we were told.

But they haven't capped the wellhead - and they're not even trying.

And this leads to an ominous scenario:  why not?

Part II - tomorrow.



The Gulf Oil Disaster


Part II

Some Scary Thoughts


June 19, 2010







The riser's been cut, but BP is not even attempting to cap the wellhead.  Why not?  The only logical explanation, to me, now is the riser was not cut to afford capping.

Why was it cut, then?

To relieve pressure building in the pipe leading from the reservoir to the wellhead.

Because that pipe's been compromised.


If the wellhead were capped, and if the connecting pipe were compromised, then the leak would merely be transferred from the wellhead to many spots along the pipe - and eventually - there would be a massive blowout.


And then it's uncontrollable.

50,000,000 barrels.

Cutting the riser increased the flow - yes.  Dramatically.  But it headed off a major blowout.

This explains why all efforts now are on capturing the oil as it rises to the surface, and not stopping the flow.

It can't be stopped.

And this scene from Apollo 13 comes to mind ...



Houston ... we sure could use the re-entry procedure up here. When can we expect that?



That's coming real soon, Aquarius.



Houston, we ... we just can't throw this together at the last minute. So, here's what you're gonna do. You're gonna get the procedure up to us, whatever it is ... and we're gonna go over it step by step, so there's no foul-ups. I don't have to tell you we're all a little tired up here. The world's getting awfully big in the window.



Jim, this is Deke



It's Deke.



They don't know how to do it.



"They don't know how to do it".

As ominous as this sounds, I think it gets worse.


Can Nothing Be Done

Relief shafts are on the way.


Two are being dug now, hopefully completed in August.


But what will they do?  Here's what I think the situation looks like:




Let's suppose both relief shafts 1 and 2 breach the oil reservoir.  What can they do?  If both begin pumping oil, and if the total pressure is constant, then the pressure on the damaged pipe is reduced - by 2/3.




But the oil continues to flow, 2/3 directly captured through the relief shafts, 1/3 via funneling from the damaged shaft.


But the oil continues to flow.


And I don't see how it can ever be stopped - until the reservoir is depleted of oil, in a minimum two-and-a-quarter years!



For example, if they are able to finally seal the damaged pipe, there's still oil pumping through the relief shafts.  If the flow from either of the relief shafts is ever shut off, the pressure is transferred to the compromised pipe, and then through the fissures!  We're back where we started, aren't we?


The only solution:  don't focus on the top of the damaged pipe, but the bottom!




But how can one build a containment dome at the bottom of the compromised pipe, where the pipe breaches the oil reservoir?


That, to me, is the crucial question. 


And as far-fetched as it may sound, I think I have a reasonable answer.  A science-fiction answer, for sure, but nonetheless, something plausible!


To complicate matters, any solution right now hinges on the success of the relief shafts.  Industry experts predict a 60% chance of success for any given shaft.  If this is valid, what can we expect?



A 16% change we do not breach the reservoir? 



As usual, my "map of the territory" is off a bit, which is OK, since I started with no map of the territory at all!

Here is a recent BP image of the relief wells ...


The goal of the relief wells is to drill parallel to the damaged well-head shaft to 10,000 feet, and then angle towards it, intersecting it around 15,000 feet.

However, if they intersect it heading down, won't the oil explode up through the new point?


So, just before intersecting the casing of the main shaft, they turn upwards.

They will inject a type of mud to slow the flow, and then inject quick-drying cement into the shaft.

I hope the success of this mission does not depend on the structural integrity of the casing.





A Short Story about Batting Cages and System Correction


June 20, 2010







We were at the batting cages today.  Batting practice.

And with "automatic pitchers", you'd expect the ball to cross the plate at the same place every pitch.  After all, it's a machine mechanically throwing the ball!

If 20 pitches are thrown, you might expect this:


Of course, the pitches don't look like this.

Why not?

There's variability in a lot of places.  Every ball weighs just a little bit different.  Every ball is built a little bit different.  And every ball enters - and exits - the machine a little bit different - every single pitch.

Micro-millimeters makes a difference.

And actual pitches look like this:


Every kid is different, too, in size particularly.  My strike zone, for example (I'm 6'7") is different from my son's strike zone.

We need to adjust the machine.


There's this control device:


When you use it, it can be frustrating.

Let's suppose you step into the batting cage.  The first pitch:

You walk back to the controls and push the "up" button a couple times.  However, it takes time for the machine to accept the changes and re-calibrate itself.  You didn't hit the button quick enough, so your changes aren't "in the system".  Here's the second pitch:

You hop back to the controls, quickly, and pound the "up" button immediately, in frustration, and this time you hit the button quick enough so the changes do take effect.  Now there are four "up" pushes in the system.  The third pitch comes across the plate - head high:

Why did the pitch come in this high?  Remember, there was natural variation already embedded in the system, so in addition to our four "up" pushes of artificially-added variation, there was the variability already there!

Now we're really frustrated, of course.

What's our next natural reaction?  DOWN!  DOWN!  DOWN!

And the next pitch?

By this time, we're cursing the machine, as we're using up precious pitches on our coin.

"What's wrong with this machine?  What's wrong with these buttons"?

Is there anything wrong - or is there something wrong - with us?

What should we do?  "When should we push the button?"



You might be thinking - let it go a couple pitches so you can determine the "normal limits" of the machine.  Let's suppose the first four pitches were like this:

All four pitches are "below average", but all four are within "normal limits".  Would you push the "up" button?  Is four enough?  Is it too many?  And is it count only that matters?

For example, consider these four pitches:

Would you push the "up" button?  These, too, are "below average".  These, too, are within "normal limits".  But there's a pattern.  Would you consider something possibly wrong with the machine?  Maybe it's slipping.

These four pitches are also "below average" but "within control limits":


It's clearly not just a matter of "number of consecutive pitches below average" that drives your decision.  It's location.  It's trend.  It's consistency.

They all play a part.

The question remains:  WHEN SHOULD YOU PUSH THE BUTTON?



The Summer of Our Discontent


June 21, 2010








In an earlier post, I showed, with one map, three layers of causality.  The position of the earth relative to the sun.  The amount of sunlight during the day, and the temperature.


Today is "Summer Solstice".  What does that mean?

After playing around with a number of definitions and simulations with a globe, I thought I had arrived at a reasonable definition:  it's when the earth, revolving around the sun, is at it's closet point to the earth.  Moreover, because of the tilt of the earth, the circle traced as the earth rotates once at this point is the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn (if you're in the opposite hemisphere).

This was a cool demonstration.

But I was troubled by it.

Could it be the case just at the point the earth is closest to the sun on its trek about the sun it's also the case it's tilted furthest from the sun?

This is too coincidental.

It can't be right.

I don't think solstices and equinoxes have anything to do with the place in the orbit about the sun.


The Tropics



But where is the ellipse in any of this? 


So my new operating hypothesis:  equinox and solstice have nothing to do with the place in the revolutionary orbit about the sun.



NBA Championships


June 22, 2010







The Lakers / Celtics rivalry.  Game 7.  A great game.

The Lakers' franchise now has 16 titles, one behind the Celtics.

So the Celtics have 17.

The two combined - 33.

The league has been in existence since the late 40s.

These two franchises have about 1/2 of all championships.

But it's been a while since the Celtic dynasty of the 60s.

And the Lakers and Celtics share a unique distinction among current franchises - they've been around since the start.

Lots of things going on here - let's try to put it into a visible format:




















story to come


June 23, 2010







A Week Off - stay tuned for stories on the Dust Bowl, King Richard III, The Donner Party, Atmospheric Pressure, and others!

A Different Kind of Perseverance


The Story of the Pioneer Monument


June 30, 2010







Dr. Chester Warren Chapman, Nevada City dentist, was appointed chairman of the Donner Monument Committee.

It was 1901.

55 years after the Donner Party - yes, that Donner Party - got trapped in the Sierra's.

Chapman became fascinated with the story of the Donner Party.

A suggestion was made not to memorialize the Donner Party, but create a memorial to all Pioneers who headed west.

Chapman knew what these people were like - and liked the idea.  These people were courageous, tough, adventurous.

They put the idea to San Francisco sculptor Douglas Tilden.  His idea:

"I would like to depict actual privation so that posterity can see and understand.  On top I would place the lone pioneer figure [you described].  At the bottom I would place all around in the shadow of the rest, a dozen or so figures sitting, lying, creeping in different attitudes from cowering anxiety to resignation of death."


Chapman didn't like it at all, and shot off this response:

"While I can see all of the elements in the experience of the Donner Party, yet my concept of the Pioneers is that of a type of men who possessed courage, determination and endurance to suffer physical and mental strain, remaining steadfast and resolute to triumph over difficulties under which others succumb.  I would want the figure that surmounts this pedestal to show by attitude and mien that he had experienced terrors and strain.  I would want the eager, searching gaze to show a realization that the goal was near, and I would like the face to show the light of the conqueror's soul that never fails except through death, no thought of which could be gleaned from the steadfast gaze toward the promised goal.  I would not have those who leave its presence exclaim that it was beautiful.  I would have them square their shoulders and say, "I CAN AND I WILL!"

both quotes from "The Origin of a Statue"

Doris Foley


Chapman won - fortunately. 

The Pioneer Monument

at Donner Lake


A Visual Tribute as much to the Vision and Tenacity of the Pioneers as it is to Chapman himself!