J Thomas on November 19, 2010, 11:54:47 am
For most people in Afghanistan under the Taliban, life was miserable. Under their fanatical rule, for example, women could not receive medical assistance if they became ill, because naturally only a man could be a doctor, and for a male doctor to heal a woman would be immodest.

Be careful whose propaganda you believe. Ask, why do most afghan women still not get official medical assistance when they need it? Because they live too far from clinics, and travel is too slow. Why are there so few female nurses? Largely because they've had so much war. Why are there so few midwives? If you were a midwife in Afghanistan, would you tell the government? Why do so many women die so young, particularly during childbirth? Malnutrtion is the major cause. If every malnourished pregnant afghan woman had US-style healthcare they could survive their pregnancies much better. But they don't get enough food, much less advanced medical care, particularly because of the war. Also, how much should we trust the statistics about this sort of thing? Some of them are US statistics. Some of them are UN statistics. How well was this data collected?

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The Afghans, therefore, were ruled by a bunch of fanatical thugs. The United States, and other countries, invaded, thus pushing those thugs out of the way. The overwhelming majority of the Afghan people would welcome the ability to resume living their lives in peace - but they are adversely affected, just as NATO troops in Afghanistan are affected, by the violence of the Taliban thugs trying to regain their hold on the country.

When you occupy with a bunch of foreign troops who mostly don't speak the language, you've got to expect a lot of violence. What we hear about is only Taliban versus collaborationists. But there could be other important nationalists groups who stay entirely under our radar. We think some of them are Taliban and we think others of them are colalborationist, because those are the only two pigeon holes we have to put them in.

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If the United States invaded Afghanistan to rob or enslave its people, yes, resistance would be legitimate, even by guerilla warfare. But that is not what is happening. They invaded because the Taliban thugs conspired with Osama bin Laden in his attempts to escape justice.

I'm kind of unclear on the story. I sort of heard that we told Taliban to give us bin Ladin for crimes, and they asked him whether he did it and he said no. So they quite reasonably asked us if we had evidence, and we said we had complete proof but we wouldn't tell them about it. They should just give him to us and we'd take care of him, apparently without shoiwing our proof to anybody even at a publc trial. If the government of Afghanistan had demanded we give them Bill Gates on that basis, would we do it? Would we do it very quickly?

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So their acts of hostility towards NATO troops are part of this conspiracy - they don't need to be terrorist in themselves, they are being done to facilitate terrorism. Which the attacks of September 11, 2001 definitely were.

The links in your chain of causality look pretty weak to me. But maybe if I was more certain about the story they would look stronger.

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Given that, objectivity is, of course, difficult - but if it is attempted, it should be well thought out.

Facts are often more slippery than fish. I like to maintain a lot of tolerance until the facts get pretty clear, because it's really better not to get into a 10-year war halfway around the world by accident, through a misunderstanding that keeps digging itself in deeper.

NeitherRuleNorBeRuled on November 19, 2010, 02:13:00 pm
Personally, I prefer slightly more open definitions along the following lines:

"the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear"
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

I really like that definition.

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It isn't always the government's actions that terrorists seek to influence through fear; it can equally be those of the populace, of businesses, etc.  And it is quite possible for governments themselves to terrorise people, and hence be terrorists themselves...

I'd go so far as to say that it's unusual when governments don't use terrorism against both foreign and domestic individuals.

ZeissIkon on November 19, 2010, 04:25:41 pm
If you can measure how much a coin bends when you bend it slightly, then you can detect a center slug. It won't bend the same. You might likely detect that by sound -- it won't vibrate the same. Or ultrasound -- a sudden boundary might cause an echo.

I like this method, and it's probably the most difficult quality of high purity metals to match.  Fine gold (better than 99% pure) has very little elasticity compared to virtually anything -- it will bend, permanently, much more easily than you can apply a bend that will rebound elastically (the elastic flex will take less force, but the difference is small enough it'd take a machine to do one without the other).  Still, there are cost-effective machines that can detect (for instance) the very first onset of plastic deformation (aka yield) when torquing a bolt, working only from a rotation encoder and a torque meter; it should actually be a little cheaper to put together a stepper motor and gear reduction driving a screw, rotary encoder (from a mouse) to count the turns, and strain gage force measurement to detect when a coin starts to take a permanent bend -- that'd very reliably separate any same-density substitute from fine gold, even from coin-alloy gold (or even coin-alloy silver or copper, come to that, both of which are harder than gold but still have little gap between elastic and plastic deformation).

The thing that might throw a wrench in the works for this one is work hardening -- every time you test a coin, it gets a minuscule amount harder (though the deformation needed for a test is so small that thousands of tests might only produce a few percent change in yield strength).  On the other hand, annealing a coin wouldn't damage it (unless it's plastic coated; annealing would damage or burn off the plastic), and precious metals are easy and quick to anneal (heat and quench, unlike steels that harden with this treatment and require a slow, careful cooling to take the softest state).

Best part of a yield-strength tester is it doesn't require any new technology -- you could build one in a week or two, if you've got the skills and equipment to build and test electronic devices, program microcontrollers, and build small gear trains (or repurpose ones from sources like cordless power tools).

NeitherRuleNorBeRuled on November 19, 2010, 04:52:34 pm
How about testing electrical resistance?

My understanding is that electrical tests like that can be fooled by having just enough of the pure stuff coating the outside. Of course I haven't looked into it thoroughly enough to be sure.

I think this is significant only for AC (the "skin effect"); for DC it is much less significant.  Any issues could probably be solved by having a three-point contact; one hot and two grounds; one ground would be near the hot contact on the same side of the "coin", the other on the opposite side of the "coin".  By "coin" I mean a relatively flat solid that has two large parallel "sides" and the rest being thin enough to be considered "edge".  It need not be round for this to work.

quadibloc on November 19, 2010, 07:08:22 pm
My understanding is that electrical testing for coin composition usually involves things like eddy currents. The skin effect has to do with conduction of AC by a metal wire; if one is instead looking at the response of a metal object to a changing magnetic field, that is only kept at the surface of the object if it's superconducting.

Thus, U.S. coins made of cupronickel and copper do simulate the behavior of silver coins in a vending machine, but they did so through a layered construction. (Although the test was crude enough that a copper coin or a cupronickel one might have passed too.)

paddyfool on November 20, 2010, 02:29:08 am
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It isn't always the government's actions that terrorists seek to influence through fear; it can equally be those of the populace, of businesses, etc.  And it is quite possible for governments themselves to terrorise people, and hence be terrorists themselves...

I'd go so far as to say that it's unusual when governments don't use terrorism against both foreign and domestic individuals.

Of course, we should acknowledge that as popularly used, it's tyranny if the government do it, and terrorism if anyone else does it.  But I've never been entirely clear on why it's necessary to make the distinction.

J Thomas on November 20, 2010, 05:53:36 am
How about testing electrical resistance?

My understanding is that electrical tests like that can be fooled by having just enough of the pure stuff coating the outside. Of course I haven't looked into it thoroughly enough to be sure.

I think this is significant only for AC (the "skin effect"); for DC it is much less significant. 

There is a general tendency for charges to take the path of least resistance, and other things equal that tends to be near surfaces. But I'm sure there are tricks to get around that.

So, the more different tests you have, the more expensive it is for a forger to get past all of them. Density, electric conductivity, elasticity, thermal conduction, thermal capacity, etc. It's pretty easy to detect surface alloys, so a decent fake needs a layer of gold on the outside. If that layer is too thin then it might fail a hardness test. So you must have a reasonably thick honest layer on the outside and something else inside. But then it could fail a thermal expansion test. Heat it a little, and if the inside expands at a different rate the surface will get a bit distorted.

Nondestructive tests don't have to be definitive. If it fails a preliminary test then you can do more, even cut it in half or melt it down.

Each cheap test that is expensive for a forger to pass, is a win for the good guys.

quadibloc on November 20, 2010, 10:38:42 am
Of course, we should acknowledge that as popularly used, it's tyranny if the government do it, and terrorism if anyone else does it.  But I've never been entirely clear on why it's necessary to make the distinction.
Why do we make a distinction between climate and weather?

Living under tyranny has been the natural condition of most of humanity for most of history. Terrorism is an occasional annoyance, usually practiced by demagogues who, when they win, create a worse tyranny than what they replaced. Thus, those great thinkers of the past who were allowed to survive by the tyrannies of the past advise us that we should endure tyranny with patience, but abhor terrorism.

Not making the distinction may be a corrective to the obvious systematic bias in their advice, but on the other hand they may also have had a point.

While I, too, am willing to settle for less than anarcho-capitalism, I favor being ambitious enough to shoot for liberal democracy, with all its imperfections. So I find the distinction useful, although I hold both tyranny and terrorism to be great evils.

SandySandfort on November 20, 2010, 03:02:28 pm
I did a little research on spot-the-fake-gold-coin issue.

The speed of sound in gold and tungsten is significantly different and is (apparently) easy to measure:

 http://www.rfcafe.com/references/general/velocity-sound-media.htm

Tungsten is basically the only metal you could use to spoof gold. All the other metal as heavy as, or heavier than, gold, either cost more or are radioactive.

Here is a good discussion of counterfeiting gold coins and bars. Why he does not like the Fisch, is a mystery to me. His solution is not something you can slide in your back pocket. Nevertheless, he has a good handle on the subject:

 http://www.greenenergyinvestors.com/index.php?showtopic=3782

Here is a site that specifically discusses the use of tungsten to make fake gold bars and coins. And remember, no one has ever seen a fake gold coin with a tungsten center. I doubt we ever will. All other fake gold coins require that you be an idiot to be taken in:

 http://beforeitsnews.com/story/1/443/IMF_Sells_Tungsten_Gold_Bars_to_India.html

Finally, here is a site that is just plain weird. They do sell gold plated tungsten items, but nothing that could be taken for a real gold coin:

 http://www.tungsten-alloy.com/en/alloy11.htm

So in summary, it is very easy to protect yourself from fake gold coins without the need for elaborate equipment. Low tech is more than sufficient. I'm satisfied with this understanding. Anyone who wishes to deal with this as a useless, though interesting mental exercise, knock yourself out.   :)

jamesd on November 20, 2010, 03:15:47 pm
I did a little research on spot-the-fake-gold-coin issue.

The speed of sound in gold and tungsten is significantly different and is (apparently) easy to measure:

 http://www.rfcafe.com/references/general/velocity-sound-media.htm

So, to non destructively determine a coin is OK, need a handy little device that measures volume, mass, and ring, and, to be on the safe side, eddy current decay.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2010, 03:20:50 pm by jamesd »

paddyfool on November 21, 2010, 04:20:13 am
Of course, we should acknowledge that as popularly used, it's tyranny if the government do it, and terrorism if anyone else does it.  But I've never been entirely clear on why it's necessary to make the distinction.
Why do we make a distinction between climate and weather?

Living under tyranny has been the natural condition of most of humanity for most of history. Terrorism is an occasional annoyance, usually practiced by demagogues who, when they win, create a worse tyranny than what they replaced. Thus, those great thinkers of the past who were allowed to survive by the tyrannies of the past advise us that we should endure tyranny with patience, but abhor terrorism.

Not making the distinction may be a corrective to the obvious systematic bias in their advice, but on the other hand they may also have had a point.

While I, too, am willing to settle for less than anarcho-capitalism, I favor being ambitious enough to shoot for liberal democracy, with all its imperfections. So I find the distinction useful, although I hold both tyranny and terrorism to be great evils.

I suppose.  I wonder if it isn't also that the specific tools used to cause fear in each instance tend to be a little different (imprisonment vs abduction; airstrikes vs suicide bombers; etc.).

ShireSilver on November 26, 2010, 06:14:36 am
So, the more different tests you have, the more expensive it is for a forger to get past all of them.
...
Nondestructive tests don't have to be definitive. If it fails a preliminary test then you can do more, even cut it in half or melt it down.

Each cheap test that is expensive for a forger to pass, is a win for the good guys.

One of the points I try to make is that most small units aren't economically feasible to counterfeit. How many fake one dollar bills are out there? How many fake dimes? Compare that to how many fake 20 dollar bills are out there. It seems to me that the only people who would think it worthwhile to counterfeit smaller units would be governments.

But I do like hearing all the ideas being tossed around, and I think that there might be a market for such devices. I hope someone takes up that challenge.

My dream scenario is a cash register with a built in detector. The clerk scans all your items, and you see the cost on a screen. You drop your coins, bullion, whatever, into a slot and the device determines the mass, purity, and type of precious metal; looks up the value; and changes the amount owed accordingly. You keep dropping PMs into the slot until your amount owed is zero. The clerk doesn't open a drawer or anything, the PM just drops right into the proper location.

terry_freeman on November 26, 2010, 07:46:58 am
We are already getting close to such automatic cash registers; newer ATMs at Wells Fargo and Bank of America automatically count dollar bills and scan checks on the spot. I see no reason why such machines could not accept multiple forms of currency, including precious metals. Given a few more years, they'll be standard equipment everywhere a cash register is now used.

A recent news item reported that a firm with large holdings of precious metals in London, New York, and Hong Kong is now using ultrasound and other measures to scan their entire bullion inventory. I wonder if any tungsten-cored bricks will actually be discovered, and if so, who was responsible for their creation?

By the way, there are people in Malaysia who are promoting gold and silver coinage; I'll see if I can find the youtube video. One of the folks points out that the price of a chicken or a goat, measured in gold or silver, is pretty stable, even as the price in faith-based paper changes depending upon how much paper is printed.

 

ShireSilver on November 26, 2010, 07:57:53 am
By the way, there are people in Malaysia who are promoting gold and silver coinage; I'll see if I can find the youtube video. One of the folks points out that the price of a chicken or a goat, measured in gold or silver, is pretty stable, even as the price in faith-based paper changes depending upon how much paper is printed.

Yep, I heard about this project several years ago.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelantanese_dinar and http://www.islamicmint.com/ are useful links.

Glad to see that my prices are better than theirs, at least on the silver  ;D

I wish them luck, but they are making the same mistake that the U.S. founding fathers made, that of naming a unit of trade instead of just using masses of precious metal.