Freesteel Blog » 2017 » December

Friday, December 15th, 2017 at 6:48 pm - - Hang-glide

If I don’t blog it, it hasn’t happened. I have been forgetting this fact.

Yesterday I had a minor breakthrough.

For years I’d been seeing beautiful videos of simulated cloud convection online, but was never able to run them myself in order to look at the data.

The structure of thermals has been a long-term mystery to me, and I’ve noticed that some pilots seem to be able to navigate through and climb these invisible things quite reliably, yet are not able to explain how they do it. They are in the dark just as much as I am, yet they have — probably by luck (plus the necessary skill to recognize and lock it in) — struck upon the combinations of responses to inputs and gut senses that just happens to pay off spectacularly.

My gut feelings and responses to inputs don’t always work out so well because my imaginations of the air are probably too logical, incorrect and counter-productive and they require resetting and retraining to break free from their false notions.

So I’ve decided that it has got to help me if I can see what is going on, and not carry on wondering whether thermals are columns or vortex donuts, are surrounded by sinking air or tailwind incoming air, are observably warmer than their surroundings or mere upward kinetic energy.

So this time I tried harder to get to the simulation code when I had the time.

I am now pretty sure that the code for the GPU-resident Atmospheric Large-Eddy Simulation (GALES) is unpublished.

However, I did eventually establish from one of the papers that GALES is based on DALES — the Dutch Atmospheric Large-Eddy Simulation where it said the code was to be found at the broken link Fortunately it does exist at

This divulged a pile of Fortran90 code and a CMake script, and I was able to build it and run it against the cblstrong case example.

This eventually (after heating up my computer’s CPU) dumped out a file called initd03h00mx000y000.001 written by the function modstartup.f90 writerestartfiles with lines like:

write(ifoutput) (((u0 (i,j,k),i=2-ih,i1+ih),j=2-jh,j1+jh),k=1,k1)
write(ifoutput)  (((v0 (i,j,k),i=2-ih,i1+ih),j=2-jh,j1+jh),k=1,k1)
write(ifoutput)  (((w0    (i,j,k),i=2-ih,i1+ih),j=2-jh,j1+jh),k=1,k1)
write(ifoutput) (((thl0 (i,j,k),i=2-ih,i1+ih),j=2-jh,j1+jh),k=1,k1)

By the power of Python I used the module to read the velocity component records like so:

ku = f.read_record(dtype="f8")
kv = f.read_record(dtype="f8")
kw = f.read_record(dtype="f8")

and determine that the number of double-float values in each array record came to 475300. Of course you can immediately tell that this factorizes into 50*70*70, so that the 3-dimensional array of vertical components of air velocity can be stated as:

kkw = numpy.resize(kw, (50,70,70))

Thus this is plotted slice-wise at a constant altitude by:


to make a familiar image of computer generated thermals seen in past papers:

I didn’t stop there, and generated the following video of a melt through from the bottom to the top with black arrows denoting the horizontal wind components:

using the code:

cmdstring = ('ffmpeg','-r', '5','-f','image2pipe','-vcodec', 'png', 
             '-i', 'pipe:', "testA.avi")
p = subprocess.Popen(cmdstring, stdin=subprocess.PIPE)
X, Y = numpy.mgrid[0:70, 0:70]
for ik in range(1,50,1):
    plt.figure(figsize=(11,11), frameon=False)
    Q = plt.quiver(X, Y, kku[ik,:,:], kkv[ik,:,:], color="black", headlength=4, headwidth=2)
    plt.imshow(kkw[ik,:,:], cmap=plt.get_cmap("coolwarm"), vmin=-5, vmax=5, interpolation="bilinear")
    plt.title("zslice %d" % ik)
    plt.savefig(p.stdin, format='png', pad_inches=0.0, bbox_inches='tight')

Boy have I wasted a lot of time on this so far, and I’ve got to do some other things while I catch up on some Basic Lessons on CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics). It can only help to have some background knowledge of the field.

The next step will be to investigate how to program the initial boundary conditions and setup to create a single idealized thermal, which is an evolutionary structure in time and space that a glider like mine might encounter. And while a glider is flying and circling and climbing in it, the thermal is evolving, so your experience can only be expressed as a slice that runs like a diagonal corkscrew through the spacetime continuum fluid in four dimensions.

There’s no way this is ever going to make sense, but if it challenges my intuition to break out into another state where the flight of my wings flows through the air better, then it will have certainly worked for me.

Sunday, December 10th, 2017 at 2:51 pm - - Whipping

Page 332 of Buckminster Fuller’s 1981 book Critical Path has the following passage (rewritten for readability):

In the early 1960s I was commissioned by a Japanese patron to design one of my tetrahedronal floating cities for Tokyo Bay.

Floating cities are designed with the most buoyantly stable conformation of deep-see bell-buoys. Their omni-surface-terraced, slope-faced, tetrahedronal structuring is employed to avoid the lethal threat of precipitous falls from sheer high-rise buildings.

The tetrahedron has the most surface with the least volume of all polyhedra. As such it provides the most possible “outside” living. Its sloping external surface is adequate for all its occupants to enjoy their own private, outside, tiered-terracing, garden homes. These are most economically serviced from the common, omni-nearest-possible center of volume of all polyhedra.

In 1966 my Japanese patron died and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development commissioned me to carry out a full design and economic analysis for potential USA use. With my associates I completed the design and study as well as a scaled-down model.

The city of Baltimore was interested in acquiring the first such floating city for anchorage just offshore in Chesapeake Bay. At this time President Lyndon Johnson’s Democratic Party went out of power. President Johnson took the model with him and installed it in his LBJ Texas library. Baltimore’s politicians went out of favour with the Nixon administration, and the whole project languished.

That’s interesting, I thought, and looked for information about it at the LBJ presidential library.

I couldn’t find any record of a model, but I did get this transcript of an oral history interview with, I think, one of the White House staffers.

Liz [Carpenter] (press secretary to the formidable First Lady) and I had a fascinating afternoon. Charlie Haar, assistant secretary of HUD (under RC Weaver), who had some money for grants for new and innovative kinds of things, had given Buckminster Fuller a grant to develop a concept and model of an offshore city, floating habitation. Bucky had done the model in terms of, I think, San Antonio. Am I right? Is that on the coast? No, no, Galveston. That’s on the coast.

Haar was intrigued by it, and he thought we’d be interested in seeing it. So over we went, and there was this great model in the hall. Mr. Fuller and Secretary Haar began explaining how it worked, and Liz looked at it and she looked at it. This was the latest and most advanced, most sophisticated concept of all integrated facilities and services and shops and schools and housing and residences and everything all piled in a great bundle out at sea where it didn’t take any land, et cetera. She said it looked like a filing case, and what kind of people were going to live in a place like that? What was going to become of them if they lived in a place like that? She was shocked with Charles Haar. In fact she was going to turn the Sierra Club loose on him if he ever surfaced this proposal anywhere. People would turn into moles and be stunted if they had to live in a filing cabinet. She thought it violated everything we’d been standing for and working for.

Poor Fuller blinked, and I think that’s one of the best things that ever happened to him. Because he’s the kind of person who’s a demigod among technocrats and innovators, and everyone pays tribute to his genius. But Liz Carpenter sure didn’t. Liz just cut him down. He began talking about the mobilty of people these days and how he lived out of a suitcase and went from hotel room to hotel room. He was always making speeches and consulting here and there, and people really just need a place to bathe and lie down for a while. This kind of facility was designed for the new mobile age. Liz said, “Well, if they don’t stay home, it’s because we haven’t given them anything to stay home for.”

Charlie began getting worried that his august consultant might be offended. Liz was so direct and so irrefutable and so to the point and so insistent that they face up to the more basic question she was asking that Charlie finally sort of pulled her over under one side of the model, and I pulled Fuller over to the other side of the model to keep them away from each other. We temporized as hard as we could, and then we got Liz in an elevator and sent her down. I sort of patted Fuller on the back and said, “Now don’t you worry, and don’t you ever forget anything she said, because you know she’s right. But don’t let it get to you.” Charlie and I rolled our eyes at each other and felt that one had distinctly backfired. I think it shows her extraordinary contribution, and I couldn’t help but be glad that she’d done it.

For a bit of context, this was the era of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project disaster, which was designed by no less than the architect of the World Trade Center buildings. Public housing is hard– especially when public administrators are politically instructed to ruin everything in their power.

A clue of the personal-social dymanics between the professions is provided in an essay entitled; The Pruitt-Igoe Myth:

Even after the architects had switched to an all high-rise scheme, they faced continued pressure from the Public Housing Administration to keep costs to a bare minimum. In a 1975 study of the St. Louis Housing Authority’s expenditures on Pruitt-Igoe, political scientist Eugene Meehan analyzed the extent to which these budget constraints affected the final design. In addition to the elimination of amenities, such as children’s play areas, landscaping, and ground-floor bathrooms, the cost cutting targeted points of contact between the tenants and the living units. “The quality of the hardware was so poor that doorknobs and locks were broken on initial use. …Windowpanes were blown from inadequate frames by wind pressure. In the kitchens, cabinets were made of the thinnest plywood possible.”

…By continuing to promote architectural solutions to what are fundamentally problems of class and race, the myth conceals the complete inadequacy of contemporary public housing policy. It has quite usefully shifted the blame from the sources of housing policy and placed it on the design professions. By furthering this misconception, the myth disguises the causes of the failure of public housing, and also ensures the continued participation of the architecture profession in token and palliative efforts to address the problem of poverty in America. The myth is a mystification that benefits everyone involved, except those to whom public housing programs are supposedly directed.

Sunday, December 10th, 2017 at 1:27 pm - - Whipping 1 Comment »

I’ve had a bit of a layoff for the autumn due to various issues, but strength seems to be returning. I have just finished reading Buckminster Fuller’s 1981 book Critical Path, which was written well before the internet or the invention of free software.

I wanted to type up an excerpt. But since the writing was so terrible I decided to edit it down extensively so you can read and get the gist more easily.

Chapter 8, Critical Path: Part Two

It was important to adopt a target date so far in the future to avoid making any of the power structures of 1927 feel their interests were threatened by what I was proposing. It was necessary to reach beyond their most forward developed visions so that my concepts would appear to be either a pleasant “pipe dream” or innocuous nonsense.

I was able to do exactly that. The most powerful people I knew found me utterly unaccreditable but “interesting” — and to some “fascinating”. This induced them to invite me to their parties to entertain their guests with my “dreaming out loud”. For this reason their press frequently gave my projects prominent publicity– because they found my concepts popularly entertaining. They published them ever more frequently and prominently, hoping for advertisements-inducing, increased readership.

I will now discuss the probable order of livingry-reoriented realization of the socioeconomic results of our already-accomplished, half-century, critical-path-artifacts development.

Approximately 60% of employed US America are working at tasks that are not producing any life support. Jobs of inspectors-of-inspectors; jobs with insurance companies that induce people to bet that their house is going to be destroyed by fire while the insurance company bets that it isn’t, and so on.

The majority of Americans reach their jobs by automobile, probably averaging four gallons a day– thereby, spending four million real cosmic-physical-Universe dollars of nature’s stored accumulated millions of years mineral wealth without producing any physical Universe life-support– which alone constitutes wealth.

We can ask a computer the question: “Should we carry on as at present, trying to politically create more of these no-wealth producing jobs, or pay everybody a handsome fellowship to stay at home.”

The answer is obvious.

But then wouldn’t all the people staying at home just continually buy all kinds of expensive things? The answer is No. Because these people will want to travel around the world, and they will quickly discover that while you can’t take it with you when you die, you also can’t take it with you around the world. They will each discover for themselves that the greatest luxury is to be able to live unencumbered while able to get any information you want in split seconds and any desirable environmental condition they want in a day.

Assuming that, as a result of technological advances with machines, we can produce adequate life-support for humanity in half the present time, present custom would say we should adopt a four-day, five-hour-per-day work week. But this would result in living in the same spot and clogging up the highways with local weekend to-and-froing. Instead I propose a few years of continuous six-day-per-week, eight-hour-per-day service as in the military or medical internship so that by the age of 38 workers will have completed their service in direct production support of humanity. With their wisdom evolved, they will have more than half their lives left to live. They will be extremely well-informed and free to initiate their own commitments to the improvement of human functioning within the eternally regenerative integrity of Universe.

Along with making it economically feasible to permit a large majority of people to remain at home in country or city, to think fearlessly and unselfishly, we will permit all children to study at home, eliminating the schoolhouse, schoolteachers. school janitors, and school-bus systems, which cost unnecessary trillions of dollars each school year. At home we shall provide each child with a private room, television set, and video-education cassettes as well as world-satellite-inter-relayed computer and controlled video-encyclopedia access. These will make it possible for any child anywhere to obtain lucidly, faithfully, and attractively presented authoritative information on any subject.

Children and grown people will be able to get their continuing intellectual education at their home terminals. They will get their social experience and tool-handling education in locally organized neighborhood activities when humans wish to converge.

Those who have attained high scholarly capability assure us that the only real education is self-education. They also say that this self-discipline is often inspired by great teachers who make it apparent that it will be worthwhile to take the trouble. The records of all great self-educated individuals show that they discern intuitively when and what it is they want to learn. Thereafter they arrange to do so by four main strategies. The first is by self-conducted experiments, if they are scientists. The second is by going to living people who have educated themselves from direct experiences. The third is to contact through books those who have discovered and learned but are now dead. Fourth, they sometimes recourse to word-of-mouth information passed from generation to generation by craftsmen-artists.

Fearful of losing their jobs, the tenured professional educators of today and all those earning a living by teaching are relentlessly fighting video. Since they can’t tell the truth about their motives, these tenured pedants rationalize, “What the children need is the personal equation.” What I’ve long observed in the movie world is that millions of human beings fall in love with heroes and heroines knowing only their photographic images cast upon a blank wall. All the “personal equation” can be transmitted with more poignancy by electronics than would ever be feasible in ordinary, personal-contact life.

After beginning to receive their home-research lifetime fellowships and trying the video educational system themselves, professors and researchers won’t protest anymore about loss of the “personal equation” in education.

With complete freedom of choice, much of humanity will begin to discover that it loves to work at tasks of its own choosing — that it loves to discipline itself to demonstrate its competence to others — that it will compete with the many to demonstrate its competence to serve on one of the multitude of production teams. There will be no pay for work. It would be like qualifying for the Olympic team to be allowed to do what you want to do. You would have to prove that you could do the job you wanted to do better than anyone else available to get onto the production teams. Permission to serve on the world’s production teams will be the greatest privilege that humanity can bestow on an individual. There is no joy equal to that of being able to work for all humanity and doing what you’re doing well.

There will be no attempt to block automation to keep human muscle and repetitive-selection jobs operative. There would be continual inspiration to invent more automation. Those who are real craftsmen are good at developing the tools-that-make-tools and love their work will be at the heart of the production teams. There will be no need to earn more because your fellowship will always get you more than you want. You won’t be able to buy any non-consumables– you will only be able to rent. If you are renting more than you can use, the system will call the excess back.

Those who love to teach and have something valuable to teach can discipline themselves to qualify for membership on the subject-scenario-writing teams or on video-cassette or disc production teams. Great scholars will thrive, whatever their fields may be. They will be free to devote their entire time to their labours of love. Vast numbers will discover that they are earnest, capable independent-research scholars. What they have to say, if unique, can become the subject of a video-cassette world-satellite-relayed encyclopedia entry.