fredag 30 mars 2018

Why is this night different from all other nights?

מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה

This year Passover corresponds precisely with the western Easter, whereas we Orthodox are still looking forwards to celebrating our Easter, which will be next week. John 19:14 says that today (Friday) was Preparation Day for the Passover, and therefore the Last Supper can not have been a Seder meal.

Confusion over this point arises from a mistranslation of Luke 22:7. From this confusion arises a further confusion, that the Mass is a re-enactment of the Last Supper; this is explained in the polemical book Innovations of the Roman Church by Apostolos Makrakis. From this confusion arises yet more: the use of unleavened bread in the Catholic Mass and the entire programme of liturgical reforms introduced, first at the Protestant Reformation, and fifty years ago, by the Roman Catholic Church itself.

Confusion should not, however, be a cause of enmity, but a reason for enquiry. I wish everyone who reads this a happy Pesach, or Easter, whenever you are celebrating it.
חַג שָׂמֵחַ

tisdag 27 mars 2018

Phasing out diesel

British politicians are now saying that the future for the railways is hydrogen or battery power and that diesel traction should be phased out by 2040.

Batteries have made vast improvements over the past couple of decades. Lithium supply is a problem but several of the elements on the top left hand side of the Periodic Table are candidates and we can expect substitutes to be adopted. However, the underlying problem of energy density is unlikely to be solved since there is no Moore’s Law in operation. The likely use of battery power will be for use on routes which are electrified for most of their length; one could envisage a train running from Paddington to Maidenhead on electric power and continuing to Bourne End and Marlow under battery power, where it could receive a top-up before returning; similar trains could also provide the all-day shuttle service on the branch. Apart from the provision of batteries, they would be similar in almost all respects to the regular fleet of electric trains running only on electrified routes.

Hydrogen power dead end?
Hydrogen powered trains, on the other hand, look like a specialised niche. The hydrogen has to be made somehow, probably by electrolysis of water. This energy is recovered in a fuel cell where it is converted into electricity. Both processes result in losses, on top of the usual losses associated with the drive train and control systems. That is not the end of the energy losses. There are also losses associated with the transport of the hydrogen, which is not a portable fuel. Hydrogen will liquify only at extremely low temperatures, below 33°K. That is cold. At ambient temperatures is has to be compressed and put in tanks capable of withstanding extreme high pressures, which means they are heavy, and both compression and liquefaction consume large amounts of energy. A German experiment aims to use otherwise unusable electricity from wind generation to produce the hydrogen but this seems an inefficient and expensive way of making use of it.

What is the overall thermal efficiency when all of this is taken into account? There is a discussion of the subject here, in relation to automotive applications of hydrogen fuel cells. Then there is platinum to consider. Fuel cells require platinum catalysts. Alternatives are not even on the horizon. It is one of the rarest of elements. Platinum mines are not environmentally friendly. Taking one thing with another, this technology is nothing like as clean as it seems, and not particularly cost effective.

Battery power might have specialised applications such as the branch line off an electrified main line, referred to above. Hydrogen power looks like a dead end. Neither is a candidate for the hoped-for replacement of diesel power. Politicians should get to grips with basic chemistry and physics before going public about their aspirations.

söndag 25 mars 2018

“Dictator Pope” author revealed

The author of the book “Dictator Pope” has now been revealed, which has led to him being suspended from the Order of the Knights of Malta.

Marcantonio Colonna is the pen name of Henry Sire, an author and historian. Sire was born in 1949 in Barcelona to a family of French ancestry. He was educated in England at the Jesuits’ centuries-old Stonyhurst College and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he gained an honours degree in Modern History. He is the author of six books on Catholic history and biography, including one on the famous English Jesuit, writer, and philosopher Father Martin D’Arcy, SJ. The Dictator Pope is the fruit of Henry Sire’s four-year residence in Rome from 2013 to 2017. During that time he became personally acquainted with many figures in the Vatican, including Cardinals and Curial officials, together with journalists specialising in Vatican affairs. (Publisher’s note)

It all makes for racy reading, but my own view is that anyone concerned about their spiritual well-being should keep well away from Rome and not engage themselves in the goings-on there, or, for that matter, in church politics in general. The aim and purpose of the church is to enable us to focus on its leader, who is Jesus Christ. Criticism of popes, bishops and priests is a dangerous distraction.

Over the two millennia of Christianity, church leaders in general, and popes in particular, have not, on the whole, covered themselves with glory; their failings are for the Lord to judge. If much is entrusted to one, then much is expected. We should consider ourselves fortunate if such responsibility has not fallen on us.

Their function is to provide us with the tools to enable us to carry out this task; the shepherds should feed their lambs.If the ones we have fail to do that, then we need to seek out others who still take the task seriously. Standing on the sidelines and booing is as much the Devil’s work as the shepherds who act like wolves.

lördag 24 mars 2018

GWML electrification disgrace to British engineering

The Great Western Main Line electrification makes slow progress. Between Swindon and Bristol Temple Meads the project has been abandoned due to the cost, which is a mercy as it avoids disfiguring the Cotswold landscape. The work to Cardiff proceeds, much delayed, as here at Bristol Parkway. The overhead structures look as if they were designed to carry the weight of the trains, not the thin contact wires and supporting catenary.

Should employment be subsidised?

With increasing automation, it has been suggested that it will be necessary to subsidise jobs. Is there anything in this idea? There are u...