Monthly Archives: April 2014


We had been skeptical of the utility of 3-D printing until we saw this video:

This came from Mike Shedlock: 3D Printer Builds 10 Small Houses a Day for $5,000 Each. It turns out we had been thinking inside the box – the printer cartridge box. The problem we had seen was that a printer can deposit a single material and that material must be of a nature that can be sprayed out of a standard printer nozzle. Most devices are made of separate moving parts of different materials. How could you possibly print a spring made form a specialty steel alloy or duplicate a part that is dependent on a material’s crystal structure?

Then we saw this video. Our problem? We didn’t understand the paradigm, partly because we had viewed it as a 2-dimensional process, the deposition of a thin homogeneous layer on a substrate, controlled by a computer. In other words, a mechanization of the centuries-old pen and ink.

In actual fact, the precursors of the 3D printer have been around for decades. Consider the cake decorating bag. Although it can be used to create 3-dimensional shapes, the common use is to produce lettering on the surface of a cake. The process of forcing a viscous sugar/flour mixture, possibly coloured, through a nozzle or opening in the bag in a guided manner is the basic process of the 3D printer. Another common application that falls within this paradigm is the soft ice cream cone machine. Again a viscous mixture of sugar, fats, and other ingredients is forced through a nozzle in a manner controlled by the operator to produce the characteristic cone-shaped extrusion.

Interesting extensions of the paradigm have emerged such as the 3M two-part epoxy system which mixes  binary components before they are forced through a nozzle.

The paradigm then is the application of a material of suitable viscosity to a substrate in a controlled manner. The height and width of the deposit are a dependence of the properties of the material chosen. Although current machines move in two dimensions, the problems of depositing in three dimensions are probably limited to materials and computational control. Given materials with appropriate thermal resistivity, there is no reason why we could not use lava from a volcano to build structural products.

Material science will be the area that generates the most interesting possibilities. If 3M can mix epoxy components before extrusion, why not mix carbon fibers with concrete and extrude a reinforced concrete shape. In house construction the joints where wooden components are fastened together are the weak point. How would a carbon fiber reinforced concrete house that is a single unitary structure withstand a tornado? What about developing a “concrete” that has high thermal insulation characteristics to build the shell of a house – in the colour of your choice? How about printing roads?

We can see now that the applications are limited only by ingenuity and discoveries in material science.

Holy Smoke, Batman!

Jeffrey Saut, Chief Investment Strategist at Raymond James reports in a King World News interview (noted for its hyperbole in prose) that Massive Volcanic Eruptions Wreaking Havoc On The World. He states:

You also have a drought in Texas.  One of my themes, Eric, has been the weird weather.  The world is actually cooling, not warming.  What’s causing this is the volcanic ash in the air.  You’ve got more volcanic ash in the air than at any time in recorded history.

As with all climate phenomena, “recorded history” consisting of reliable and consistent observation and measurement is very short. We simply note the comments to preserve them for future investigation.

Why Obama Can’t Explain Himself

April 14, 2014 | 2128 GMT


By Robert D. Kaplan

Secretary of State John Kerry evidently runs a tight ship, given the paucity of leaks that emerge from his office. So we know he is organized and disciplined. He is also an energetic risk-taker, jumping into high-wire negotiations with Iran, and forcing the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table — enterprises that could likely end in failure and ruin his reputation. This is a man with character. By contrast, his predecessor at State, Hillary Clinton, appeared to take few risks and has been accused of using the position of secretary of state merely to burnish her resume in preparation for a presidential run.

The Indian Ocean World Order

By Robert D. Kaplan

A noteworthy geopolitical shift is emerging that the media have yet to report on. In future years, a sizable portion of the U.S. Navy’s forces in the Middle East could be spending less time in the Persian Gulf and more time in the adjacent Indian Ocean. Manama in Bahrain will continue to be the headquarters of the Fifth Fleet. But American warships and their crews, as well as the myriad supply and repair services for them, could be increasingly focused on the brand new Omani port of Duqm, located outside the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Sea, which, in turn, forms the western half of the Indian Ocean.

U.S. Defense Policy in the Wake of the Ukrainian Affair

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 – 02:59 Print Text Size


By George Friedman

Ever since the end of the Cold War, there has been an assumption that conventional warfare between reasonably developed nation-states had been abolished. During the 1990s, it was expected that the primary purpose of the military would be operations other than war, such as peacekeeping, disaster relief and the change of oppressive regimes. After 9/11, many began speaking of asymmetric warfare and “the long war.” Under this model, the United States would be engaged in counterterrorism activities in a broad area of the Islamic world for a very long time. Peer-to-peer conflict seemed obsolete.

Russia and the United States Negotiate the Future of Ukraine

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 – 03:01


By George Friedman

During the Cold War, U.S. secretaries of state and Soviet foreign ministers routinely negotiated the outcome of crises and the fate of countries. It has been a long time since such talks have occurred, but last week a feeling of deja vu overcame me. Americans and Russians negotiated over everyone’s head to find a way to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and, in the course of that, shape its fate.

During the talks, U.S. President Barack Obama made it clear that Washington has no intention of expanding NATO into either Ukraine or Georgia. The Russians have stated that they have no intention of any further military operations in Ukraine. Conversations between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have been extensive and ongoing. For different reasons, neither side wants the crisis to continue, and each has a different read on the situation.

Sam Collins – April 2014

  • Short-term:
    • up
  • Midterm:
    • sideways
  • Long-term:
    • the long-term trend is bullish
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