Friday, August 31, 2007

Broken Windows and Speeding

Saw this story about two dudes pulled over for speeding in South Carolina.

Turns out they were both on student visas from Egypt, in a car with PVC pipe, model rocket fuse, model rocket launchers and potassium chlorate. They said they were interested in 'model rocketry' and the KClO4 (potassium chlorate, for you non-chemists) was to be combined with sugar to make 'solid rocket motors'.

I have a little experience with KClO4, I saw my high school chemistry professor put a little sugar and a little KClO4 into a crucible and with a VERY long pipette, drop in a little sulfuric acid. The net result was a huge jet of flame in the crucible and a lot of otherwise bored high school students suddenly paying attention. KClO4 is a major oxidizer, if you need to burn a fuel you need an oxidizer to provide the extra oxygen for combustion. Notably, oxidizers and fuel are the primary components of every explosive device made.

These dudes deserve their day in court, and they need some good representation or they're going to get a long Cuban vacation. To compound their stupidity, they were pulled over for speeding with a car full of explosive makings seven miles from the US Navy facility where people being held for investigation of terrorist activity are held. It's entirely possible that they were at the absolute wrong place at the wrong time going the wrong speed, and they are the future of Egypt's Manned Space Program, but they're going to have to prove that assertion that now.

And all because -- they were speeding.

What I found interesting was the number of people that get pulled for speeding while they're in the process of committing another crime. Just recently here, a woman was stopped for speeding with $280,000 cash in her 2005 Honda. She claimed she was going from Georgia to Arizona, and basically abandoned the cash. It was seized, but you can't be arrested for having a lot of cash, at least she was smart enough not to be carrying anything actually illegal -- although counting the seizure it's probably one of the most expensive speeding citations ever written. I can only imagine the disappointment of whoever's cash that actually was.

Keep an eye on the news for how many drug arrests or other arrests arise from people pulled over for speeding. It's just mind-boggling how people committing felonies on the interstate don't seem to be smart enough to avoid attracting attention to themselves in the process of doing so. More Darwinism in action, I guess.

From that standpoint, speeding is one of the 'broken window' crimes that law enforcement keeps up on, simply because it seems to net the blatantly stupid felons in society. It may be cold comfort if you get pulled over for speeding, but most of the people reading this blog probably aren't pursuing felonious activity.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Saving the planet, one dead moose at a time

From German news magazine Der Speigel:

Norway is concerned that its national animal, the moose, is harming the climate by emitting an estimated 2,100 kilos of carbon dioxide a year through its belching and farting.

Norwegian newspapers, citing research from Norway's technical university, said a motorist would have to drive 13,000 kilometers in a car to emit as much CO2 as a moose does in a year.

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. According to the article, Norwegian hunters are expected to shoot 35,000 moose in the annual moose hunt this year, taking the equivalent of 35,000 cars off the road for a year. That's equivalent to installing 2.9 million compact fluorescent light bulbs in terms of CO2 emissions saved.

The bizarre interactions like this that are subparts of the larger climate issue give me pause when people say, "The science is settled". The "science" has yet to be settled in many areas of medicine, in part because we keep asking obvious questions and getting non-obvious or conflicting results. The science shouldn't ever be settled, because we should always be trying improve our results.

Alces alces, climate criminal

Lesson for the day: shooting a moose should count for carbon credits.

Go figure.