View 715 Tuesday, February 28, 2012
I will be spending the day on Legend of Black Ship Island. I have been saving some mail for longer and better treatment, but this seems a reasonable time to bring them up. Alas, my contributions will be brief, but the matters are important.
I proposed this http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02148/RSL-HouseOfCommons_2148505a.pdf as a rational argument for a skeptical position on AGW in another conference, and asked for comments. A physicist who often strongly supports the consensus position replied:
Let me propose some terminology, to make it a little easier to discuss the argument. The people opposing the anthropogenic theory of global warming can be divided into three distinct categories:
"Skeptics" are asking legitimate questions about the science.
"Policy critics" criticize the policies proposed in response to global warming, for economic or political reasons.
"Deniers" deny anthropogenic global warming, period, end of discussion.
I’ve notice that, although deniers always claim that they are in fact "skeptics," deniers and skpetics are in fact complete opposites. The key feature of deniers is that they are not even slightly skeptical of any arguments against global warming: they are completely credulous of any argument, no matter how trivially it can be shown to be baseless, that opposes global warming.
Reading through this particular presentation of Lindzen, he starts out by saying that the greenhouse effect is real, and anthropogenic gasses contribute to it exactly as much as non-anthropogenic gasses; he just disputes what the radiative response function is. So I’ll put him in the category of "skeptics" rather than deniers.
In fact, he pretty much dismisses the deniers:
"Unfortunately, denial of the facts on the left [that the greenhouse effect is real], has made the public presentation of the science by those promoting alarm much easier. They merely have to defend the trivially true points on the left; declare that it is only a matter of well- known physics; and relegate the real basis for alarm to a peripheral footnote – even as they slyly acknowledge that this basis is subject to great uncertainty."
So, let’s ignore his loaded vocabulary here (words like "those promoting alarm" and "real basis for alarm" and "sly.") Here’s what he just said:
1. The greenhouse effect is real. It’s well-known physics.
2. By denying this, the deniers are not merely muddying the waters, they are discrediting actual skepticism by turning their case into one that is disdained by real scientists because they are defending propositions that are "trivially" not true).
3. The real scientists (the ones he calls "alarmists"), on the other hand, acknowledge uncertainty.
OK, once we’ve deleted his slanted vocabulary, I’ll agree with these statements.
At no point does he use the words "hoax," "fraud," or "scam," or support people who use those terms. Good for him. Maybe he could call up the rest of the deniers and tell them "hey, just because you disagree with the scientists, that doesn’t mean that they are frauds."
With that said, the presentation shown is one-sided; he presents a case for a value on the low side of the IPCC estimate, and makes no attempt to show any part of the arguments for higher values of the radiative forcing response function. Not unusual, if you see this as a presentation of one side of a debate, but one should never draw conclusions in a debate before hearing the other side.
I then said “And this is the response ?” which brought this reply:
I’m not sure if I understand the question. This is *my* response; I wouldn’t say it is "the" response.
Lindzen’s arguments, of course, has been pretty well addressed; it’s not hard to find good technical analyses if you look for them. I find it a little disconcerting that his conclusions have remained the same but the analysis he uses to support the conclusions keep changing; this (to me, at least) looks uncomfortably like the signature of an analysis crafted to support a pre-existing conclusion, rather than a conclusion that results from a careful analysis.
On the other hand, he does use actual science in his arguments, he agrees on the basic physics (that the greenhouse effect actually does exist, and human-generated greenhouse gasses are part of it) and only disagrees on the magnitude of the response function. And, most notably, he doesn’t accuse scientists who come to different conclusions of "hoax", or "swindle", or "fraud."
So even if he cherry-picks data rather egregiously, I’m good with him.
A good article about Lindzen in _Seed_ a couple of years back, if you’re interested:
My problem is that I still have no answer to questions I asked forty years ago regarding the global warming controversy.
I said then that what we knew was well known: that in historical times the Earth has been both warmer and colder than it is now. It was warmer in Viking times until about 1300 after which the Earth began to cool. Since 1800 the Earth’s temperature has risen about a degree a century. About 1900 Arrhenius did some back of the envelope predictions of what would happen if CO2 levels doubled. Since 1900 the Earth’s temperature seems to have risen at about the rate that it had previously been rising: that is, there is warming, but there has been warming from 1800 when the Hudson and Thames froze solid enough to walk across, and the rate of warming doesn’t seem to have greatly increased so far as we can measure given the accuracy of the data. Some of the warming may well be due to CO2 but there doesn’t seem to be cause for alarm. We do need to continue to study this and develop better measurement tools.
A Bayesian analysis would conclude that it is better to invest in ways to reduce uncertainty than to spend resources on the predictions of the models; there is just too much uncertainty.
I also concluded long ago that cooling was still a possible threat: that the return of the glaciers requires energy to transport the water vapor to the cold areas where it can fall as snow, and this can have a runaway effect. That needs to be watched.
Regarding science and cherry picking: I would have thought that the experimentum crucis was the essence of science, and that’s certainly cherry picking. As I said long ago in my essay on the Voodoo Sciences, novelist need plausibility, lawyers need evidence, but scientists need data and hypotheses that explain all the data: one contrary result (cherry picking) is important. Look at the controversy over whether or not they have found faster than light neutrinos. No one supposes that if we are certain of FTL particles this will not force a revolutionary change in our standard models in physics. It won’t be dismissed as cherry picking.
As to Lindzen not having changed his conclusions over the years, I think I could easily say the same thing about many of the AGW believers. What I find alarming is that Lindzen asks questions about the models and their predictions, and concludes that there is not enough evidence to justify panic: that the best evidence is that the increasing CO2 is not a justification for alarm, and particularly not enough quality evidence to justify spending $Trillions on revising the entire industrial economy. What I get is a sociological discussion about the quality of the debate, and a discussion of Lindzen. I would not think that is a rational scientific discussion.
My conclusion is that Lindzen has the better of it: he has challenged the models and the data, and I do not believe he has been answered.
Relevant to the subject of cherry picking in science
Dark Matter, Vacuum Energy, and Aristotle’s Aether
Aristotle’s aether was not Lorenz luminiferous aether and so was no disproven by M&M. Here is an interesting comparison of the properties of Dark Matter, Vacuum Energy, and Aristotle’s Aether:
or in this article
Philosophy as I understood it when I was young seems relevant to today’s fundamental questions, but it does not seem often to be discussed by today’s philosophers. I am grateful for my education in philosophy of science from Gustav Bergmann at the University of Iowa when I was an undergraduate, and to the Christian Brothers for my high school introduction to Aristotle. And to Mike Flynn for continuing to remind us that we do not want to lose sight of the relevance of some of the old questions.
Regarding the A-10, I’m reminded of the Stuka. At the outset of WW II, it was the best close-support aircraft on either side. It was regularly in the news. By the end of the war it had disappeared from the news, just as it had disappeared from the sky. It couldn’t survive in skies with high-performance fighters. It had neither speed, armor, nor armament to outfight the P-51 or the P-38.
I think the same would be true of the A-10 in a war against a "peer" power like Russia or China. It wouldn’t survive against their front-line fighters.
Having said that, the A-10 has been extremely successful in wars against non-peer powers. One of the most effective aircraft used in Vietnam was the A-1 Skyraider, originally developed during WW II as a carrier aircraft. It would not have survived in a sky full of MiG-19s, but it didn’t have to. There weren’t any over South Vietnam. the A-10 is now doing the job the A-1 formerly did.
We may have to fight a "peer" power some day, although I hope not. We are very likely to have to fight non-peer powers in the future, just as we have for the past fifty years. Getting rid of the A-10 because it can’t outfight Chinese J-10 would be foolish. They should be kept around for when they’re suitable, not eliminated from the inventory.
Joseph P. Martino
But no one ever supposed that the A-10 would operate without air superiority, as no one ever supposed that the A-10 would be useful in performing the air superiority mission. I was on the Boeing TFX design team, and we went through that analysis: the kind of airplane that wins dogfights is not the airplane you need for close support of the ground army, or for that matter for local battle area interdiction missions. As it happens the P-47 was useful for both, but its major value was for interdiction. Trainbusting recce/strike missions by the P-47 were a major factor in the conquest of Europe, although the P-47 was designed as an escort fighter. The P-51 with the Rolls Royce supercharged engine proved better at that mission.
The Army neither wants nor can perform the air superiority mission in a peer power war. That’s the job of the Air Force, and USAF is pretty good at it: the spectaculars of dogfighting, and the more decisive but more prosaic mission of taking out the hornet’s nests. You don’t really get rid of hornets by swatting one hornet at a time, but you sure do need a capability for escorting the guy with the Flit through a swarm of hornets. Air superiority takes a combined arms approach just as winning ground forces are those with combined arms capabilities. Give the A-10 to the Army, and give the local interdiction mission to the Army, and leave air superiority to the Air Force.
History has shown that combined arms armies have generally been victorious. That would seem to apply to the air superiority campaign as well. The Warthog is important in ground campaigns, and might well perform the equivalent of the heavy cavalry charge at just the right time in battle – provided that there is air superiority so that the A-10 can perform its mission.
How to delete your Google Browsing History before new policy
Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/320137#ixzz1nissqAwZ
View 715 Monday, February 27, 2012
I got the final version of Legend of Black Ship Island this morning, and I’ve been working on it all day, which pretty well used up my time. It’s a good story, but I’ve been so bunged up with this bronchitis that I haven’t had a chance to do a real final edit. It’s publishable now, but I can improve it, mostly by inserting a few details here and there. Avalon is a fascinating place, and some of the interactions with the ecology can be complicated.
Tomorrow will be an informative election.
I have found a bunch of open tabs, mostly prompted by mail, which lead to places you may find interesting. I have to clear some of them out because Firefox gets giddy if there are too many open tabs, so I’m just going to dump them. None of them take long to open, and while some of you will find different ones interesting, they were all interesting enough that I kept them open with the idea of writing something about them. I probably won’t get to.
Sing, O Muse, the Wrath of Michelle: Spengler said this before the election. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/JC04Aa01.html
Spengler speculates on what Richelieu would have made of our wars in the Middle East. http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2012/02/27/thank-heaven-for-little-ghouls/?singlepage=true
An interesting compilation. One day I may add to it. I need to do an essay on contraception and abortion but it is a delicate subject and requires time. http://io9.com/5887139/what-does-science-fiction-tell-us-about-the-future-of-reproductive-rights?tag=io9-backgrounder
I mentioned this one before, but it is the best summary of the skeptical position on AGW that I know of, and I recommend it. http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02148/RSL-HouseOfCommons_2148505a.pdf
Another climate change exposition: we’re freezing. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2093264/Forget-global-warming–Cycle-25-need-worry-NASA-scientists-right-Thames-freezing-again.html
I have pointed to this one before on why we are getting rid of the Warthog. http://www.rense.com/general38/a10.htm I have mail warning me about the rense.com site, but I know nothing about it, and the source is irrelevant: the argument is well made.
I won’t close this tab. It needs discussion. But it’s worth looking at if the subject interests you. http://hylemorphist.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/zero-point-energygroundvacuum-state-vs-real-being-vs-logical-being-vs-nothing/
Ditto for this http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/02/ofer-lahav-dark-energy?fsrc=nlw|newe|2-22-2012|new_on_the_economist
And all of that ought to be enough. I’ll be back in form in a few days. I am recovering. And I’v a mountain of work to do.
View 715 Sunday, February 26, 2012
It has been a long day, and it does seem I am recovering from this upper respiratory infection that seems to be going around. We managed church this morning, and Roberta sang in the choir, and after we went with friends to breakfast, and while it was all tiring I managed it; We even had a walk later. With Sable it’s pretty hard not to take a walk. She considers that an entitlement. Then we discovered that we were out of dog food and I had to go out again. Sable wondered where I was going, and she had an idea where it might be, so I took her along. It’s her favorite place. When we get to the Petco parking area she goes mad to get out of the car. Literally her favorite place. Inside she picked out an enormous bone and talked me into buying it for her. When I was a kid you’d get those for a quarter for a soup bone, but in modern times it’s not likely that any store around here ever sees such bones. This was huge, and will last her for a while, and it’s good for her teeth.
And then it was time for the Oscars. No real surprises on the awards, and none I disagreed with. Clooney and Streep certainly deserved theirs, and of the nominees I have seen I’d have voted for The Artist. But it all exhausted me, and I didn’t get these notes written up.
I strongly recommend http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02148/RSL-HouseOfCommons_2148505a.pdf as about the best rational discussion of CO2 and climate I have seen. It’s reasonably technical but not overly so; and it asks questions. I particularly invite those who believe in AGW to read it and send me your comments.
I actually know that Clooney didn’t win the best actor award, and I thought he dshould have. IN fact I thought that so thoroughly that I seem to have made myself think he had. That’s an odd trick for memory to play on me.
Mail 714 Saturday, February 25, 2012
Even the liberal media is concerned –
I’m surprised at a couple of the articles that have been published in the local alternative weekly paper. The paper leans heavily to the left, but at least one of their columnists is taking a hard look at the current administration’s record. Here are two well-researched, well-written articles that are critical of President Obama and the current administration. The first scares the heck out of me. The second only surprises me because the right hasn’t picked up on it.
Letters at 3AM: It Came From the White House Obama and a majority of Democratic legislators support the NDAA, allowing the arrest of U.S. citizens without a warrant http://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2012-02-10/letters-at-3am-it-came-from-the-white-house/
"Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., noticed that to subject American citizens to arrest without warrant and to detain us without trial violates the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments of the Constitution. Feinstein proposed to specifically exempt American citizens from the NDAA’s arrest policy.
Her clarification of the NDAA passed the Senate by a vote of 98 to 1. That’s as bipartisan as it gets, even in good times. In these times, passage of Feinstein’s clarification was a miracle of agreement.
Yet in the NDAA’s final version, as signed by President Obama, American citizens are not exempt. How did that happen?"
Letters at 3AM: Obama, Nukes, and Us
President Barack Obama fudges the truth of his nuclear policies http://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2011-04-08/letters-at-3am-obama-nukes-and-usmichael-ventura/
We also have proscription lists – lists of people including American citizens who shall be killed on sight if there is no way to apprehend them, or perhaps even if there is — bin Laden was apparently given no chance to surrender. Now of course soldiers in the field are allowed and encouraged to kill hostiles on sight, but that’s not quite the same thing as sending snipers in gillie suits or drones with Hellfire missiles to seek them out.
Courts still have the writ of habeas corpus, which demands that anyone holding someone against their will be required to produce that person and tell the court why it is legal to detain him. (If you don’t really believe that in the English language the male pronoun includes the female, feel free to change that to “detain him or her” or better, substitute Damon Knight’s ‘yeye’.) The question becomes whether it is a proper and sufficient return to the writ to state that yeye is being held pursuant to the NDAA act, yeye having been placed on the list of enemies of the people or whatever designation the NDAA gives them.
I haven’t done an extensive search on this. Snopes http://www.snopes.com/politics/military/ndaa.asp gives the statement that the military can arrest anyone without trial or warrant a “mixed” rating meaning partially true, but isn’t clear as to what parts are not true. Snopes seems to be relying on a signing statement by President Obama stating that it isn’t his intention to hold people indefinitely without trial. He did not say that they couldn’t be arrested and held; and he did not specify how long they might be held. Nor did he say anything about response to a writ of habeas corpus. Of course for a writ to be issued a judge has to know that someone is being held, and who holds that person.
Even the Daily Kos isn’t sure what the act authorizes.
I expect we’ll find out soon enough. http://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2012-02-10/letters-at-3am-it-came-from-the-white-house/
The white house’s e-petitions
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
I thought you might be interested in this technical innovation the White House has put together:
You’ve heard of e-petitions, right? The white house actually put e-petition software on their own web site. If enough people sign the petition, they promise a response of some kind. Essentially it’s the same thing as a letter to the White House, updated to the digital age.
I wonder what kind of petitions they get or allow to be displayed?
Boffins build blood-swimming medical microbot,
Fantastic Voyage — a blood-swimming medical microbot:
I just added ‘microbot’ to my spellcheck dictionary.
Now that is fascinating. We should hear more about this soon.
Subject: Follow up to Himalayan glaciers have lost no ice in the past 10 years, new study reveal
Some previous estimates of ice loss <http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/02/09/himalayan-glaciers-have-lost-no-ice-in-past-10-years-new-study-reveals/?intcmp=features##> in the high Asia mountains had predicted up to 50 billion tons of melting ice annually, said Wahr, who is also a fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Instead, results from GRACE pin the estimated ice loss from those peaks — including ranges like the Himalayas and the nearby Pamir and Tien Shan — at only about 4 billion tons of ice annually.
Bristol University glaciologist Jonathan Bamber, who was not part of the research team, told the Guardian that such a level of melting was practically insignificant.
"The very unexpected result was the negligible mass loss from high mountain Asia, which is not significantly different from zero," he told the Guardian.
“According to GRACE data published in the study, total sea level <http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/02/09/himalayan-glaciers-have-lost-no-ice-in-past-10-years-new-study-reveals/?intcmp=features##> rise from all land-based ice on Earth including Greenland <http://www.foxnews.com/topics/greenland.htm#r_src=ramp> and Antarctica was roughly 1.5 millimeters per year annually or about one-half inch total, from 2003 to 2010, Wahr said.”
It occurs to me with the above statement from the article that using the sample data below, over a one hundred year time span the total rise in sea level would amount to a little over 7 inches. This would hardly cause the catastrophic scenario the AGW alarmists are predicting in which coastal communities would be several feet under water.
The usual back of the envelope assumption is that the seas have been rising about a foot a century for a long time. Since the Ice Age some of the land formerly covered by glaciers has been rising. Obviously the presence of sea ice in the Arctic will have little effect on sea levels, although water density is affected by temperature of course.
The size of local glaciers in high and cold places is mostly affected by the amount of precipitation. In dry years there isn’t any snow and the sun still shines. In wet years with lots of snow glaciers grow. The snows of Kilimanjaro have been shrinking but there has been drought in that area.
Scientists Reply on Global Warming
The interest generated by our Wall Street Journal op-ed of Jan. 27, "No Need to Panic about Global Warming," is gratifying but so extensive that we will limit our response to the letter to the editor the Journal published on Feb. 1, 2012 by Kevin Trenberth and 37 other signatories, and to the Feb. 6 letter by Robert Byer, President of the American Physical Society. (We, of course, thank the writers of supportive letters.)
We agree with Mr. Trenberth et al. that expertise is important in medical care, as it is in any matter of importance to humans or our environment. Consider then that by eliminating fossil fuels, the recipient of medical care (all of us) is being asked to submit to what amounts to an economic heart transplant. According to most patient bills of rights, the patient has a strong say in the treatment decision. Natural questions from the patient are whether a heart transplant is really needed, and how successful the diagnostic team has been in the past.
Why The Generals Hate The A-10
Nice summary: http://www.rense.com/general38/a10.htm
It’s ugly. It’s lumbering and it’s old. But the A-10 Warthog almost certainly remains the best performing airplane in the Air Force’s fleet. The 30-year-old attack plane is safe, efficient, durable and cheap. GI’s call it the friend of the grunt, because it flies low, showers lethal covering fire and greatly reduces the risk of friendly fire deaths and civilian casualties.
While the high-tech fighters and attack helicopters faltered in desert winds, smoke-clotted skies and in icy temperatures, the A-10 proved a workhorse in Gulf War I, Kosovo, Afghanistan and the latest war on Iraq.
Naturally, the Air Force brass now wants to junk it.
And now the Air Force plan is to replace the inexpensive, durable, effective A-10 with the F-35????
It amazes me that the Army hasn’t taken back control of their own destiny and regained control of the close air support role. The Air Force doesn’t want to do it, they just want the $ associated with the mission.
The close support and interdiction missions should belong to the Army. The problem is that aviation is not a good career path for Army officers. It’s one reason why warrant officers are employed as helicopter pilots. The Luftwaffe solved this somewhat by allowing them to have ground units, but that doesn’t work very well either. Being a hot helicopter pilot doesn’t make one a good field grade officer. The Air Force has always had the myth that good pilots can learn command, and they have career paths for boffins, but it has always been a problem.
Some of the essence of the difficulty is shown – not deliberately – in the movie Command Decision with Clark Gable (there’s more in the actual novel it was based on).
I must agree with your earmark comments, and add that the ability for a weapons program to find at least one congressional champion is a key darwinian challenge for any system. Without a tame congresscritter, the contractors I’ve been involved with can’t build weapons systems that we _do_ know how to build. Grooming, care, and feeding of such champions becomes more important (measured in time and effort expended), in many cases, than the development and implementation of the technical aspect of the system. It is also easy to cross the somewhat arbitrary line between legitimate sales/support and illegal influence. Just my observations, mind you, but they seem in line with your own and the Iron Law.
Glad you are recuperating. Our own recoveries from a similar ailment have also been slow, but eventually successful (this is one of the first good day’s I’ve had in a month).
Looking forward to the new book…and combing the web for advance sales.
Congress must control spending. That means it can’t fund everything the executive branch – including the generals – wants. On the other hand sometimes the executive branch, and especially the generals, are just plain wrong in rejecting some projects. The earmark system is flawed and can lead to waste, but it’s better than having no Congressional control at all.
Legend of Black Ship Island will be up sometime next week I think.
Extraordinary Korean War Vet,
A friend sent me the link below. He commented. “That one did not go in the direction I thought it would. Almost stopped it at the beginning of Fanfare for the Common Man, as I thought it would be a lengthy slide show, but held on. Glad I did. Not a widely known gent, but obviously a deep soul. Thanks.”
The vid is 12 minutes. It is about Tibor Rubin, a Hungarian concentration camp survivor who came to the US and ended up in the Pusan pocket. He was left behind as his company retreated to impede the NK’s. He held out for a few days, came back to US lines, and after a number of patrols was captured. Since he was an experienced prison camp survivor, he helped others. At about 9 minutes he tells about how he fed a man “goat shit,” telling him they were pills but also telling his patient “You have to help yourself.” Finally in 2005 he got his MOH. Nice short piece. Worth watching – and I usually don’t watch vids.
Subject: We probably didn’t need an added incentive to get into space.
There could probably be volumes printed about this … Robert Heinlein would probably not be shocked.
SUBJ: Movie recommendation
Just watched an excellent, nay, out-STAND-ing movie that I think you would thoroughly enjoy. The movie’s title is "Longitude" and is about the British Royal Navy’s search to find a way to reliably calculate longitude in the 1700′s.
The story is fascinating. Its an historical drama. The movie contains military history, technical invention and innovation, politics, faith, betrayal and triumph all in an English historical setting. It also deals closely with government prizes, which you have been discussing lately. The movie contains both 18th-century and 20th-century components. It is well-written, well-made and well-told.
For an unabashed Anglophile movies and history nut (like me), it doesn’t get any better.
Netflix has it, although I found it at my local library too.
Instruments made of ice.
The fleeting nature of these instruments makes the all the more beguiling.
Oath of Fealty –
There’s also an iBook edition, which I’d picked up as my ‘emergency read’ for plane trips. During my last delay, I too was recaptured by the story – it’s one of my favorites, and definitely holds up well.
Thanks for the kind words. I am really quite fond of Oath of Fealty. It was the second novel Niven and I began, but we put it aside to do Inferno and Lucifer’s Hammer.
A Feast for the Eyes: Favorite Pictures of EPOD for 2011
Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE
View 714 Saturday, February 25, 2012
The FTL neutrinos may not be gone after all. The evidence is still murky.
This from one of our PhD physicist readers:
Subj: FTL Neutrino "Clarification"
On the one hand, the team said there is a problem in the "oscillator" that provides a ticking clock to the experiment in the intervals between the synchronisations of GPS equipment.
This is used to provide start and stop times for the measurement as well as precise distance information.
That problem would increase the measured time of the neutrinos’ flight, in turn reducing the surprising faster-than-light effect.
But the team also said they found a problem in the optical fibre connection between the GPS signal and the experiment’s main clock – quite simply, a cable not quite fully plugged in.
In contrast, the team said that effect would increase the neutrinos’ apparent speed.
In other words, the much ballyhooed "loose plug" from the earlier reports, when corrected, makes the discrepancy even worse, rather than better. It’s a separate problem, the oscillator, that reduces he discrepancy.
Meanwhile, I have finally looked at a few of the numbers. Given that classic tachyons of higher energies travel at speeds closer to the speed of light, and given that the mean energy of these muon neutrinos was something over 20 GeV, the measured speed is actually MUCH TOO FAST for these measured neutrinos to be classic tachyons if we assume the normally assumed rest energy in the vicinity of a few eV. Amusingly, the speed works out about right if the mass of the muon neutrino is sqrt(-1)*mass of the muon. But there is no apparent way to reconcile that with the obvious argument that it would suggest an electron neutrino mass of i*me.
And the fact remains as I noted in my presentation in November: EVERY quoted measurement of the neutrino mass is consistent with faster than light neutrinos. Even if this measurement falls, as noted above, it does not prove that neutrinos are not classic tachyons.
I will agree that it’s a mess and not getting cleaner until they get some good data with their hardware errors corrected.
Then we have:
The per person Medicare insurance premium will increase from the present monthly fee of $96.40, rising to: $104.20 in 2012; $120.20 in 2013; And $247.00 in 2014. These are provisions incorporated in the Obamacare legislation, purposely delayed so as not to ‘confuse’ the 2012 re-election campaigns. Send this to all seniors that you know, so they will know who’s throwing them under the bus.
I have no idea whether this is correct or not. It is from a partisan source. I haven’t read the Obama Health Care Act, (nor do I know anyone including some Members of Congress who has; it very long and complex) so I can’t say. Most of those who passed Obamacare didn’t know much about it – then Speaker Pelosi famously told the Congress they had to pass the act to see what was in it – but it is well known that it had lengthy time delays for many of its provisions. I am realizably informed that it has major changes in Medicare both A and B. I don’t want to get into a discussion of facts and interpretations, but do we have any experts who actually know in the readership?
I understand there is a new Internet Bill in Congress that has got past the Judiciasy Committee. It will require ISP’s to keep records of you internet visits, and make them available to law enforcement and also to discovery fishing lawyers in civil cases. Such as child custody or divorce – hah, he went to a porn site! – and any other civil suits. So all someone has to do is bring a lawsuit and collect everything your ISP knows about you, which is a lot.
I’ll have a lot more about this next week. I just heard about this on Leo Laporte’s radio show. More details later. Feel free to tell me what you know about this.
From the Show Notes, Saturday Feb 25 2012 of Leo Laporte’s radio show:
The EFF says Congressman Lamar Smith, you know, the SOPA guy, has introduced a new bill HR1981 which hides behind protecting children from internet pornography. But others are calling it the Internet Surveillance Act. Leo says it’s a grave invasion of privacy. It requires ISPs to keep track of all your search, electronics communications, email and IP addresses, credit card data for at least 12 months, and indemnifies ISPs from being sued for it. Leo also says it’ll give the MPAA and RIAA the ability to track you down easier.
On the air he said that the act would allow civil lawsuit lawyers access to all those records as part of discovery search. If so it’s not merely an invasion of privacy, it’s the end of any pretense of electronic privacy. Everything you have bought, every web site you went to intentionally or not, every place you have travelled…
Ands yet another warning: I got this Thursday but overlooked it.
It’s worth reading. Excerpt:
For example, in 2010, UK researchers aimed a low-level GPS jammer at test ships in the English channel. The results were stunning: Ships that veered off course without the crew’s knowledge. False information passed to other ships about their positions, increasing the likelihood of a collision. The communications systems stopped working, meaning the crew couldn’t contact the Coast Guard. And the emergency service system — used to guide rescuers — completely failed.
Then, there’s the incident with the U.S. drone lost over Iran. Humphreys believes that by using simple jamming technology, Iranian authorities confused the ultra-sophisticated RQ-170 spy drone to the point that it went into landing mode. The drone’s Achilles heel? It had a civilian GPS system — not a military-grade encrypted model. It didn’t take much to blind it and force it down.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/02/23/gps-emerging-threat/#ixzz1nRJKFW69
Needless to say, If I can confuse ships at sea I can confuse airliners overhead. I’m not sure it’s as simple as this makes it seem, but we know how to build directional antenna and oscillators of nearly any frequency you’d like, and…
View 714 Friday, February 24, 2012
Dr. Pournelle –
A reminder of this day in history:
Written 24 February 1836, Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo)
“To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World:
Fellow citizens & compatriots—I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna—I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken—I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch—The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country—Victory or Death.
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. comdt
P.S. The Lord is on our side—When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.
It still gives me chills to read it.
Thermopylae had its messenger of defeat. The Alamo had none.
Bill Gates has an education article “Shaming teachers is wrong solution for school performance” that’s worth your attention. The Gates Foundation has found that in most schools, if you eliminate the worst 10% of the teachers – don’t bother to replace them, just get them out of there – you greatly improve the efficiency and performance of the school. They don’t go into details, but speculation is easy. Good teachers who break their hearts trying cannot be much encouraged when they see they are evaluated and paid exactly the same as time-servers and incompetents and frauds none of whom can be fired. None of this is in the article, which is in reaction to publishing the “performance” statistics of individual teachers, and is a powerful critique of the evaluation methods in use today.
Gates says that good teaching is a missionary activity. He’s probably tight, too. As for the current situation:
I am a strong proponent of measuring teachers’ effectiveness, and my foundation works with many schools to help make sure that such evaluations improve the overall quality of teaching. But publicly ranking teachers by name will not help them get better at their jobs or improve student learning. On the contrary, it will make it a lot harder to implement teacher evaluation systems that work.
In most public schools today, teachers are simply rated “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” and evaluations consist of having the principal observe a class for a few minutes a couple of times each year. Because we are just beginning to understand what makes a teacher effective, the vast majority of teachers are rated “satisfactory.” Few get specific feedback or training to help them improve.
The rest of the essay is worth reading.
The problem is the unions which exist to protect incompetent teachers. The unions will oppose any form of teacher performance evaluation, and insist on seniority and credentialism as the only measures for teacher evaluation. That is clearly wrong.
One should always take Gates seriously, and I agree that publishing teacher evaluation scores is probably not a good idea; but I fear that his views will be used by the unions and “professional teacher associations” as an argument for doing nothing, changing nothing, and studying the problem while our public schools fail, and expensive private schools solidify the class distinctions in America so that only the rich get a good education.
It’s happening now. In many places the primary family goal is to get the kids out of the public schools. Into Catholic schools, private schools, Lutheran schools – anywhere but in the public schools. Of course in Los Angeles that’s particularly important. It happens that I live quite close to one of the best public grade school in LAUSD. It was almost wrecked some years ago in the bussing era, but it has recovered and people now buy houses in my neighborhood in order to make their children eligible. That’s shameful.
Afghanistan is exploding because prisoners were sending notes to each other in copies of the Koran, and the guards burned the books.
The only thing that has ever united the Afghan tribes has been the presence of armed foreigners on their soil. So has it been since Alexander the Great, and so is it now.
I’m still recovering from what officially isn’t flu but certainly lays you out like flu. Actually I had pneumonia once and this has taken longer to clear up. I haven’t had much energy, and what little I have has gone into errands and household maintenance. Apologies. I’m dancing as fast as I can.
While I was clearing some stuff out I came across a copy of our 1980 technology novel OATH OF FEALTY, and began to read. I got trapped. It’s a very good story and a lot more complex than it looks at first. It was written on an S-100 system with Electric Pencil, long before the computer revolution took off, so one would expect it to be primitive, but it’s not. It doesn’t of course have the Internet, but there’s something about as good; and our projections of some of the consequences of advances in computers were pretty good. We missed some of the implications of wireless so sometimes characters have to plug into a wired network, but we even had some wireless advances. It really holds up well. If you haven’t read Oath of Fealty, the paperback edition is available, and there’s a Kindle edition. It was a best seller in its time, and it’s still very readable.
Mail 714 Thursday, February 23, 2012
This will have to be short shrift – most of the mail deserves more comment, but this is the best I can do as I fall behind…
"I do wonder about the proliferation of hypothetical constructs and intervening variables in physics."
You would almost think it was a hundred years ago ….
Port Ludlow, WA
FTL Neutrinos & All Things Dark In Physics
Don’t worry about the state of modern physics too much on the account of dark matter and dark energy. These things are at least replicably measurable entities. The moniker of "dark" is a frank admission of the physics community that they do not know what the stuff is, beyond the fact that dark matter must be matter of some kind, some where, as it has a gravitational influence and that dark energy must be energy of some sort because it causes the expansion of space-time to accelerate. There are many theories as to what each is, and they are indeed theories because they are each falsifiable through observation and experimental testing.
Where physics gets into a little trouble these days concerns theories of multiple universes, many of which are inferred from our current theories of the universe — general relativity theory and quantum field theory — but which are not falsifiable or experimentally testable. So, they cannot claim the mantel of "theory" but they are still discussed as such. The physics community needs to come clean and call them what they are, speculations. Speculations are important as they provide the seeds of future observation and experiment, but they should not be elevated to the status of evolution, relativity, or quantum field theory just because someone with a PhD dreamed them up.
Kevin L. Keegan
Ofer Lahav on dark energy
Subject: Ofer Lahav on dark energy
The head of the science programme at the Dark Energy Survey on the rapidly expanding universe and the future of dark-energy research
Dark energy, like the aether, is inferred from indirect observations. Some of those observations are recent and there hasn’t been a lot of though given to alternate views. We’ll see. Meanwhile the space telescopes tell us more…
re: UFO’s and Burkhard Heim
Dear Dr Pournelle,
I’m reading A Step Farther Out and just got through the chapter about UFO’s. Something struck me: you cite a remark by Robert wood that "these things are generally reported accompanied by a really overwhelming magnetic field".
A by-product of Burkhard Heim’s unified theory is that a strong enough (as in tens of thousands of Teslas) magnetic field cancels inertia. A common theme in UFO stories is their ability to move as if they had negligible inertia – seemingly unlimited acceleration , including "turning" at very sharp angles.
As you say, it’s all conjectures.
On a different tack, it’s often stated that special relativity is what prevents us from interstellar travel. Staying with Newton doesn’t really make things much better.
Assume only Newtonian physics apply and you want to travel from Earth to Alpha Centauri in a week.
Under constant acceleration/deceleration, you’ll have to generate and handle about 22,000 g’s.
Assuming you somehow manage to survive this, your speed at turning point will be about 220c, meaning your kinetic energy will be equivalent to about 24,000 times your mass.
Let’s be optimistic and assume you have near-perfect mass-energy conversion and know how to generate and control black holes so you can store all that mass in a small enough space.
You’d still have to accelerate all this at 22,000 g’s.
The math to compute how much reaction mass you’d need to achieve this is beyond my ability under a scenario in which you also convert mass to energy to accelerate your reaction mass, but I note that with a reactionless drive, you’d need about 5 PetaWatts to do it and get a 1,000t spaceship in orbit at Alpha Centauri. Using marine nuclear reactors, we’d need (using the only figure I could find, 54kg/kW, and that for the Savannah’s power plant) 270 billion tons of power plant to generate them.
So even if Einstein were wrong, to get the the closest star system in a week we’d still need to
1) learn how to survive 22,000 g’s
2) learn how to generate energy densities about 2 (based on rocket engines) -3 (based on nuclear plants) orders (the 1,000x kind of order) of magnitude higher than we’re currently able to.
It doesn’t sound really less far-fetched than the Alderson drive.
Nobody ever said it would be easy.
I like the Alderson Drive – I wrote the specs for it, sort of, as the input for Dan Alderson to work with – but I fear that the only way to the stars is generation ships. Those are possible.
An interesting article on how smartphones change healthcare outcomes:
I’m surprised it took the NY times long enough to figure this out. I’ve been using search engines to diagnose myself for over a decade; now I use WebMD. Before I go to the doctor, I do my research and my recommendations are often followed. Medicine is analysis, plain and simple. You use the same structured analytical techniques that you use in matters of statecraft. The only differences are vocabulary and the composition of the information — really.
Doctors must learn all sorts of vocabulary and rules, but the analytical framework is basically the same. What a concept? That’s what the modern education system tried to erase, but they failed with some of us. Doctors are expensive consultants who speak a different language and are authorized by law to do things I can’t, like write prescriptions. I only go to the doctor if I need antibiotics, etc. Else, you’re candy on a stick, lazy, or incompetent.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Well, my professional career was in Operations Research, which is generalism par excellance. Gradually I learned less and less about more and more until…
Day of the Drone
I got a kick out of InvenSense’s disclaimer.
"InvenSense sensors should not be used or sold in the development, storing, production and utilization of any conventional or mass-destructive weapons or any other weapons or life-threatening applications as well as in any other life-critical applications including but not limited to medical equipment, transportation, aerospace and nuclear instruments, undersea equipment, power plant equipment, disaster prevention and crime prevention equipment."
While it is a precision accelerometer for -16G to +16G, it’s survivable at 10,000G shock tolerance. Doesn’t say what the temperature range for operation is (probably 50 to 100 degrees F?), nor what the tolerances were for electrical, magnetic or ionizing radiation interference or damage; although you can write to the company and ask for that information.
I wonder how durable these would be for a reusable space vehicle? At $150 a piece, you could easily have a light weight, multiple-redundancy system without worrying too much about one or two dying on a flight.
Michael D. Houst
I am told that the accuracy of these microgyro guidance systems requires correction by gps, and ICBM’s don’t do that. But drones get their position fixes from gps as well as inertial memory… It used to be that we talked about cruise missiles. Drones seem to be related…
Re: Drones or the do-it-yourself cruise missile
These pages have everything needed for an autopilot:
Parts are on the peg at the local MC for what amounts to pocket change.
For once, the electronics are cheaper than the airframe. Build one in your garage. One fellow in NZ pointed that out a few years ago and got in big legal trouble. See:
This guy has been messing about with pulse jets for quite awhile, so the results were somewhat predictable. On another part of the site, he shows where he built every kid’s dream machine, the jet-powered go-kart.
Just not sure why we haven’t seen any terrorist cruise missiles yet, maybe because it’s easier for the terrorists to program humans to do the job than microcontrollers.
I worked on inertial guidance systems at Wright Field from 1955 through 1958. Part of my job was to look for non-mechanical alternatives to rotating-mass gyros and moving-mass accelerometers. I came across a report on experiments by a Frenchman named Georges Sagnac. He had placed an interferometer on a ship and demonstrated that the interference fringes would shift if the ship were driven in a circle. That sounded like a lead to what I was supposed to work on. I found that the sensitivity of the interferometer depended on path length (longer path = more sensitivity) and on wavelength of the illumination used (shorter wavelength = more sensitivity). Knowing the maximum size that we could get away with in an airplane, I calculated the wavelength needed to get the sensitivity we required. It came out gamma rays. That was out. There are no mirrors for gamma rays, so you can’t make them follow a closed path. Good idea, but not feasible.
Years later, after I was long out of the inertial guidance business, I read an article in AVIATION WEEK about a laser gyro. The headline puzzled me. How do you make a gyro out of a laser? About two paragraphs into the story I realized they’d found a way to get a long path length, and make a Sagnac gyro work in either an airplane or a missile.
This is one of the tricks I learned to use in my later career as a technological forecaster. Ask "what’s missing" from a potential innovation, that makes it not feasible, then watch for something to provide that missing piece. The laser provided the missing piece for the Sagnac gyro.
Joseph P. Martino
Dandridge Cole said long ago that you can’t predict the future, but you can invent it. Of course your inventions will have effects you didn’t predict.
Gingrich definitely won the debate. Santorum will win some primaries and delegates, but not the nomination. I remembered that I didn’t support Santorum but couldn’t remember why. Ron Paul refreshed my memory while confirming my opinion that Santorum was the kind of kid who was always getting robbed of his lunch money.
More and more analysts are speculating about if not predicting a brokered convention. I believe that energy policy is the salient issue. If we don’t get energy policy right for a change, nothing else will matter. In spite of that infamous flirtation with Global Warming Theology posing with Pellossi on the couch, Gingrich is rational about energy policy. Santorum is also rational on energy policy and AGW. Ron Paul is also rational but would have a far too passive approach to energy policy. My fantasy is a brokered convention that nominates Governor Palin who is absolutely maniacal about energy policy. Obviously her activist approach to energy is policy is the result of the importance of oil production to Alaska, but she also understands how energy impacts the economy, foreign policy and national security. Alternatively, she could be the VP nominee and given authority over energy. If a President Paul, Romney or Gingrich reneged on such an agreement, she could seduce them. I have no doubt that the excitement of having sex with her would kill them then she would be President.
The Problem With Gingrich
I think the problem people have with Newt Gingrich is that he doesn’t care if people don’t like him, and he won’t apologize for having made someone mad. Everyone else will immediately rush out to apologize for and try to take back any statement that made someone feel mad. "Telling people who’ve spent their whole lives here that they have to leave is heartless! Um, wait, that doesn’t play well? Oh, well I didn’t *mean* it." Gingrich won’t play that game (or make that concession, if you want to see it that way.) And that’s why people get upset; not so much that he says things, but that he doesn’t pretend to feel sorry for having said them.
Mike T. Powers
"We thought they would support the other parties emerging from the womb of the revolution, but they didn’t."
Bacevich: ‘As Israel has discovered, once targeted assassination becomes your policy, the list of targets has a way of growing ever-longer.’
I am working on an essay about proscription lists. We seem to be legalizing them.
Spacecraft volume/mass calculator
This may interest you for both practical / fiction use; an online calculator for spacecraft volume and mass calculations.
"It ain’t fair? Hey pal, ‘fair’ is where you buy funnel cakes."
Norman Spinrad publishes rejected Star Trek script via Kindle Store.
Subj: Do we need more Solemn Excommunications?
Remember when I said the terrorists in Mumbai spoke a certain Hindu dialect? That made it very hard for me to believe that Muslim terrorists undertook those attacks; later I found evidence of certain outside intelligence agencies. As always, the discouragement fraternity had their baseless insults, accusations, denials, and disagreements. But, once more the truth rises to the top like the cream of the crop:
An Indian court on Saturday approved a request by prosecutors to charge an American citizen, David Coleman Headley, in connection with the 2008 terrorist attacks here, according to an official with the National Investigation Agency. The decision, which is the first step in seeking an extradition, sets up a possible confrontation between the United States and India.
Mr. Headley has confessed in the United States to playing a major role in the Mumbai attacks, which killed at least 163 people, but he testified against another man tried in the attack to avoid both the death penalty and extradition to India.
The plea deal has angered many Indians, already frustrated by the slow progress in the investigations into the brazen attack that unfolded over three days and shook this city. So far, only one person has been convicted in the case in India: the sole surviving gunman in the attacks, Ajmal Kasab, who has been sentenced to death.
The court on Saturday also approved charges against seven Pakistanis and another man in the United States, Tahawwur Rana. It was Mr. Rana whom Mr. Headley testified against in a United States court. Mr. Rana was eventually acquitted of helping to plot the Mumbai attacks, but he was found guilty of supporting plans to attack a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Just because certain intelligence agencies were able to use Hindu operatives to pull this off does not mean the sponsor of those operations was a Hindu sponsor. It is quite possible to convince people to work against their interests, even if you are their greatest enemy. In fact, KGB operations revolve around these deceptions — consider Operation Trest. As time goes on, operations become more complex and this is not an accident. I don’t know why this is a shock to the average person.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
I have no comment because I have no reliable information.
Justice Ginsburg causes storm dissing the Constitution while abroad <http://dailycaller.com/2012/02/06/justice-ginsburg-causes-storm-dissing-the-constitution-while-abroad/>
Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/02/06/justice-ginsburg-causes-storm-dissing-the-constitution-while-abroad/#ixzz1mebxY5XE <http://dailycaller.com/2012/02/06/justice-ginsburg-causes-storm-dissing-the-constitution-while-abroad/#ixzz1mebxY5XE>
I missed this completely when it happened, and it’s not what I particularly want to hear from a member of the Supreme Court whose job is ensure this country follows the Constitution. It seems she would be inclined to change to meet her standards.
Well, it has always been the fancy that the Supreme Court decides what is the law of the land, but in fact they decided cases, and only those cases that the Congress allows them to decide. (There are some cases in which they have original jurisdiction according to the Constitution, but most cases come to them on appeal, and Congress sets that up.) Jefferson abolished a number of courts when he took office; he did not care for some of the judges Adams had appointed. The relation of the Court to the other two branches of government is more complex than is usually taught in school.
View 714 Thursday, February 23, 2012
In Defense of Earmarks
The Constitution gives Congress control of the purse strings. Congress works through a system of committees. It’s not possible for every Member and Senator to be an expert on everything the government spends money on.
Now on the principle of subsidiarity, that should mean that many of the decisions made by Congress ought to be delegated to much lower levels. Left to the states, or even to local school boards and tax districts.
On the other hand, to pursue a strategy of technology – as an example – specific decisions have to be made. In military research and development it is quite possible to have legitimate disagreements on policy. On the other hand, if you don’t have the technology you can’t take certain directions. You can’t build weapons that you don’t know how to build.
At these levels it is quite possible that individual Congressmen have good ideas for development projects that are not favored by the Administration. Much of our military technology has been developed due to funds specifically allocated in authorization and appropriation bills. Then there is service politics: the Air Force will no relinquish any fixed wing air missions, but in fact the Air Force doesn’t like to do close support of the field army, or interdiction and isolation of the battle area. The Air Force doesn’t like Warthogs, and being assigned as a Warthog pilot is generally considered a career ending post. Most of the close support and interdiction missions turn out to be flown by Air National Guard units – and most of the appropriations for the aircraft and weapons needed for those missions has been through legislative direction – i.e. earmarks.
I could give other examples, but I think the point is made. The Constitution specifically gives the Federal Government the right to build post offices and post roads, and in the early days of the Republic there was considerable competition for funding of post offices in various small communities. Log rolling – you vote for my local project and I’ll vote for yours – has been with us since the first Congress. It’s part of the oil that keeps the system running.
Now it’s true enough that Earmark Projects will increase without number if there is no limit placed on them. Part of that is the Iron Law – once something is established there is always a lobby for it, and since everyone pays but few benefit directly you get a force for the appropriation and only a generalized ‘turn them all out!’ opposition. That too is the way the world works.
Earmarks need to be controlled by rules. They should always be open, voted on by the relevant committee, not thrust into the appropriation in the dead of night by an influential Member. They should be debated. But they should not simply be ended. Sometimes individual Congressmen have pet projects that really do benefit all of us. That particularly happens in the sciences, where there would be very little contrarian research and development if the Big Science consensus controlled the appropriations. Earmarks can be for very silly projects, and fund very silly ideas; but they are not really a very large part of the budget, and for every dozen or two pork barrel museums and preservations of the birthplace of some obscure community favorite son, there will be sound research and development that leads to useful technology. The DC/X could be classed as an earmark; and the country is better off for having funded it. It was rammed down the throat of the expendable rocket industry which has no incentive to develop technology for reusable rockets.
I’m in favor of having a brighter spotlight put on earmark appropriations, but it would be a very bad idea simply to eliminate them.
I’m still trying to recover from this upper respiratory things. I think I am recovering – I thought I would be recovered enough to go to my LASFS meeting tonight – but it’s slow. When it came time to go out, I stayed home and watched mindless TV. I’m now trying the zinc stuff: I don’t really believe in it, but I have recommendations from MD readers who say they don’t believe in it either but they’ve seen it work and use it themselves… I took a long nap after lunch and still didn’t feel up to going out. Sable is making it very clear that she is entitled to walks, and why aren’t we doing it>
I’m working on it.
But at least some things get done. I think we have the final version of the latest Niven-Pournelle-Barnes project.
Coming soon to an eBook site near you. Note I said coming soon. It’s not up yet. This is a teaser. It’s a novella set on Avalon.
View 714 Wednesday, February 22, 2012
‘FTL neutrinos’ result caused by inattention to Pournelle’s Law?
The applicable Pournelle’s Law was one of troubleshooting: 90% of the time it’s a cable. I first formulated that back in S-100 days, and it’s still true. Now it may be that we’re better off without faster than light neutrons, but I for one regret that they’re going away. Of course this was always the way to bet it, but it was a more intereresting universe when everything we thought we understood was fundamentally wrong…
Of course we still have the situation where some large portion of the universe is composed of dark matter which we can’t see or detect, and dark energy which we can’t find but have to believe in on faith. Of course one explanation of the data that forces us to believe in these undetectables is a revised aether theory such as Petr Beckmann’s aether as an entangled gravitational field – see Einstein Plus Two by Beckmann, and that would be interesting. Do note that I’m playing games. I do wonder about the proliferation of hypothetical constructs and intervening variables in physics. I thought those were a monopoly of the social sciences…
The Republican Debates
I watched the CNN-moderated Republican candidate debates that took place this evening in Mesa, Arizona.
The clear winner was Newt Gingrich. The clear loser was Senator Santorum, who was often petulant rather than presidential. It wasn’t a fatal loss, but Santorum must learn to stop taking the bait. The moderator, and others, all tried to get him to jump Romney rather than be presidential, to defend some past record rather than state what he would do now, to be apologetic rather than positive – and Santorum rose to the bait every time. Then he got into a long term slanging match with Romney. Neither of them looked very good in that, and neither came off all that well, but Romney looked more presidential than Santorum. Senator Santorum really has to learn the first rule of campaigning: don’t let the opposition set the agenda. Don’t respond and react. Santorum’s touchiness won’t hurt him as President. He’s sound in principle, and unlike British Prime Ministers, don’t have to engage in debates unless they want to, and being able to debate isn’t terribly important one way or another in actually governing the country. Debate talent is important for campaigning for the office of President, but not for executing that office.
That, of course, is one of the major flaws of democracy. We require those who would be president to spend most of their lives learning how to get the office, and almost none on learning how to be President once they get there.
Incidentally, Newt knows this. Campaigning actually bores him. He prefers to be among smart people discussing possibilities, in a situation in which he doesn’t have to be guarded but can say what he thinks as the ideas spring up. Most fresh and original ideas aren’t all that useful. They can lead to something useful, but we don’t use the phrase ‘half baked” for no reason. Many half-baked ideas do bake out, sometimes into very good things indeed. But of course campaign debates are not the place to spring new concepts; those need discussing in private and among friends who aren’t playing ‘gotcha’. When Newt was an unknown Congressman making speeches about the nature of the Constitution to the empty House chamber after hours, he was quite different from when he was Minority Whip, and when he found that it might be possible to win a Republican Majority for the first time in forty years and he went into campaign mode he had to change once again. Part of that was time, but part was the requirements of campaigns.
His experience at this came across during the debate. He stayed on target, didn’t rise to the bait and use his time on petty denunciations of others or in reacting to some accusation, and he pretty well stayed on point: we’re in big trouble, and it’s going to take some fundamental and profound changes to get out of it. We’re going to need energy independence to break our enthrallment to the Middle East. Breaking our energy dependence is a first requirement for independence and liberty. Fortunately we have the resources; all we need is to get the government out of that way.
Ron Paul came off well. When asked what single word best described him, he said “consistency” and he’s right. He doesn’t have plans and programs for education because the Constitution doesn’t give the government any rights or powers over education. It’s not a matter for either Congress or the President. He applies this principle to most of the matters brought up. He’s also keenly aware that we are spending money we don’t have, much of it on matters the Federal Government has no Constitutional power to spend it on. His return to the first principles of Constitutionalism seems absolute, and as the campaign goes on you begin to realize that he really means it. Whether that’s possible – whether the American people even want such a thing – isn’t clear to me, and I suspect it is not clear to him; but that’s his position, and he’s going to stick to it. Ron Paul reminds me of John Quincy Adams. We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but we are the guardians only of our own. We do not go abroad seeking dragons to slay. We have enough to do preserving our own liberty.
Santorum said little I disagreed with, and many things I liked, but I found myself shouting at him when he took the bait and went off on another silly tirade either attacking someone else, or defending his record in the Senate. I know why he does it, but I would far rather he showed himself being presidential rather than reacting as if — but no, I’m not going to frame that image. Let’s just say that he’s capable of looking presidential, and has done so, notably the night he won in Iowa but at other times as well. His positions are consistent and generally defer to the constitution. He’d do better if he displayed them rather than apologizing for voting for No Child Left Behind.
Day of the Drone
The two links below point to something astounding.
There was a time when I was the world’s most informed authority on inertial guidance. This wasn’t because of my expertise, it was because I was editor of Project 75, the USAF comprehensive survey of ballistic missile technology, and I had both the clearance and the access authority – need to know – for all of that. The result was a report that I wrote or edited every page of, but which was classified at a need to know level above mine – which makes sense because it literally had everything we knew about our missiles and everything we thought we knew about everyone else’s. Naturally I could get at every part of the document, but not all of it at once, because the number of copies was limited for very good reasons. Anyway, in those days inertial guidance depended on mechanical gyroscopes, and electronics to get the gyroscopic data. We were developing and hoped soon to deploy gyros which used lasers to pick off the spin rates and other pertinent data, which would increase accuracy because reading the data wouldn’t affect the gyroscope as much as the current electronic means would.
But for all that, an inertial guidance platform with three axis gyroscopes and three axis accelerometers was a fairly large and terribly expensive thing. Moreover, the computer that this had to feed was large too. Our other analyses indicated that the major improvement we needed in the ICBM force was not number of warheads or large yields, but accuracies at intercontinental range; and that required on-board guidance computers. (Obviously you couldn’t use any kind of midcourse correction system: no ICBM could be allowed to accept instructions from the outside because that would instantly become the major one point vulnerability of the missile. But that’s another story for another time.)
On board guidance computers had to be made smaller and more powerful and one result was a recommendation for major investments in large scale integrated circuits.
Once all that was done – we had smaller and lighter gyros and accelerometers, and much more powerful and smaller computers with kilobytes of memory, we still ended up with guidance packages that were large, heavy, and expensive,
Now go look here: http://invensense.com/mems/gyro/mpu9150.html
What’s described is a gyro and accelerometer system. In chips. Micromachines. You can buy it to put into your game controller. You can add GPS if that’s not already in it; it’s just another chip. And for about $1700 you can get a quadricopter, a four motor helicopter, complete with control system, GPS, battery life of more than ten minutes, payload of more than a pound. It will fly to where you send it, to an accuracy of a couple of meters, using GPS to find it. It can be given altitude constraints. Such as stay more than 20 and fewer than 30 meters above the local ground level (there’s a camera so you can see obstacles to go over or around).
I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to think of the sort of things a geeky kid who has decided he really hates his school and those bullies who make his life miserable might come up with in a week of thought. I can think of things I might have done with something like that on a particularly lousy day. They’d probably involve sprayers and agar agar, or perhaps inorganic chemicals. Fortunately my geeky kid being bullied experiences were all when I was too young to do anything; by the time I was able to make nitroglycerine I didn’t have any such motives. I didn’t get bullied in high school because my friend was a very large guy who really really wanted to pass Latin…
But I do leave you with the thought for the day. Also I point out that guidance systems for drones don’t cost much. They’ll control fixed wing “model” aircraft of sizes up to tens of kilograms just as easily as they’ll control a small one pound payload quadricopter. The day when any geek can have his own personal drone is not only coming, it’s pretty well here.
Newt makes his case
If he would just keep this up.
Well, it does make his positions quite clear. I can say from personal experience that Newt talks like this and has done so since the 1980’s. He’s being interviewed so it’s not an interactive conversation, but he is paying attention to the questions. I’ve had conversations like this with him many times.
If you’re wondering about Newt, he directly answers the questions about his temperament. And as my reader says, he states his case quite well.
View 714 Tuesday, February 21, 2012
I’ve managed to get up the energy to work on the novella LEGEND OF BLACK SHIP ISLAND by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes, and get the final off to our agent. This will probably be published by our agent as an eBook. It’s about the size that novels were back in the Laser Books days, but it’s far to short for today’s print market. It still has to be formatted and the formatted copy has to be proof read so it will be a while.
I also used up all my energy. We have the opera tonight and I think we are sufficiently recovered that we can go out in public without endangering everyone although I will be careful to carry lots of handkerchiefs in case of coughing fit, and not to breathe on anyone.
I have several essays to write. The world goes on. I’ll try to be back on schedule tomorrow. We can hope.
The opera was Simone Boccanegra, one of Verdi’s early political operas written during the Risorgimento, but then revised two decades later. I had never seen it before. The soprano, Ana Maria Martinez, was great in some scenes and a bit soft in others. Since she’s sung major romantic leads – Mimi, Violetta among them – in the big and cavernous Los Angeles opera house, she knows what’s needed, and the reviews I’ve seen of this production have mostly praised her, I conclude she probably had an off night. It wasn’t our regular night either: we had to exchange our tickets (for nowhere near as good seats, alas) because we’ve been sick. Pity.
Of course the big star was Placido Domingo, who has been an opera great for more than fifty years. He still has the voice, and the acting ability. He sings baritone now and doesn’t have to reach high notes, which would probably be tough at his age. but in fact the age doesn’t show. It wasn’t difficult to believe him as a young mercenary captain from Pisa in the prologue (the rest of the opera takes place 25 years later). Boccanegra was an historic character, the first elected doge of Genoa. One presumes the Genoese adopted this office from Venice, which had been a Republic for centuries. The opera plot is twisted and complex and not always easy to follow; one presumes that Verdi’s contemporaries were able to follow the allusions to contemporary Italian politics better than we moderns can. Of course Italy was never really united until Mussolini negotiated his Concordat with the Pope. One wonders what Verdi would have made of that.
In any event, we much enjoyed the opera. I confess that I think I could have staged some of the scenes, particularly fight scenes, better, but I often think that. It has actually been many decades since I directed a stage production, and I’ve never directed the action in an opera, where the goal is not so much to emphasize dramatic action as to give the singers a chance to sound off properly.
And now it’s late and well past bed time.