View 773 Monday, May 06, 2013
I woke up, had breakfast, and essentially spent the day in bed accomplishing nothing today. I am not sure what has got me, but I think the day’s rest has got me past it. More tomorrow. Apologies for the weekend funk.
The world continues, with strange stories.
‘The head of a rival kindergarten is reported to have confessed to lacing the yogurt with rat poison because the two schools were both trying to attract children.’
Kerbal Space Program (Space Program Simulation Game)
After reading the review on Kerbal Space Program that you linked to, I decided to download the demo to try over the weekend. I was quickly hooked and bought the full version the following Monday.
I was expecting a fairly basic "build a rocket and launch it" game. I was wrong. If you design your rocket poorly, expect it to fall over and explode on the launch pad…or lift off and then explode, or lift off and then crash. Through some trial and error, you can make it out of the atmosphere, but then you need to establish a stable orbit.
If you get really ambitious, you can start heading for the moon and further destinations…but you will end up learning a little about orbital mechanics and weight to thrust ratios. Fortunately, even if you are a little dense (like me) there are a lot of tutorials available on Youtube. So far, I’ve managed to reach orbit and even land on the moon and return. I definitely have a new respect for what the folks at NASA were able to do during the 60s.
I am rambling a bit, but I do think that many of your readers would find the game interesting and entertaining.
E. Ashley Howell
The new system I use for this journal, unlike the old Front Page system, makes it much harder to insert bookmarks and links into the text but the link is in http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=13411 about halfway through the mail items. I gather there is considerable material on line about the game and how to play it, with different strategies, and some have used it to design space programs along the lines of those in Niven/Pournelle’s Footfall.
I expect to give it a try myself one of these days.
Last Thursday night at LASFS my friend and colleague John DeChancie brought me a copy of The Static Universe by Hilton Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe is a South African Astronomer who rejects the entire notion of the Expanding Universe on the grounds that there is no real evidence for it, and quite a lot of evidence against it. That seems a very bold statement, since the Standard Cosmological Theory asserts that the universe is expanding according to Hubble’s Law, and while there is considerable controversy over the exact size of Hubble’s Constant, there is no real question about its existence. I have been through the book once, and this is the sort of book that an amateur like me must read at least twice, since understanding some of the material in the first part assumes you things that are discussed later in the book. My understanding is not helped by Ratcliffe’s aggressive and sometime mocking style; and he often assumes that his readers are familiar with arguments that most of us have not been taught.
For all of that, it’s an intriguing book. I can recall in high school being taught the Hubble Expanding Universe as the truth established by science. It hadn’t yet been complicated by the insertion of dark matter and dark energy so that most of the universe turns out to be invisible and unobservable by any direct means (or if those concepts were around they hadn’t reached down to Brother Henry at Christian Brothers College High School in Memphis). We were taught that there was plenty of observational evidence for Hubble’s expanding universe, and indeed we read about Hubble’s observations.
Just about everyone in the civilized world understands now that the Milky Way is a galaxy of millions of stars and that we are in it; and that off at great distances there are other “island universes” – galaxies – as large as or larger than our galaxy. At the time of this discovery astronomers were only just discovering how large the universe really was, because there were no reliable means of measuring the distances to stars and other objects outside our solar system. The best method was to measure the angle to the object at different points in the Earth’s orbit. Even before the actual distance of the Earth to the Sun was known with any precision, the angles could be determined to an accuracy of about one second (60 minutes to a degree, sixty seconds to the minute), so that the parsec – the distance to an object with one second of parallax – could be determined in “astronomical units” of the distance of Earth to Sun. When the Au was determined with some accuracy the parsec could be translated into kilometers. Given the accuracy of ground based observations, distances to objects of about 100 parsecs could be determined with reasonable accuracies.
This allowed calculation of distances to stars and objects up to about 300 lightyears. Beyond that no direct measurement was possible. Unfortunately the objects observed as nebulae – island universes – are considerably farther than that. The Magellanic Clouds lie at 160,000 and 200,000 lightyears distance. Measuring distances to the Clouds and other galaxies relies on observation of certain kinds of variable stars whose blink rate correlates exactly with their absolute brightness. Unfortunately the closest of those stars, Polaris, is 433 lightyears, just a bit farther than the limit of accuracy of determination by parallax; a condition that may not last much longer.
Stars that seemed to be Cepheid Variables – ones that blink with a rate proportional to their brightness – were found in the Andromeda Nebula, at 2.5 million lightyears the nearest “island universe” to ours and by the 1920’s it became established that ours is not the only galaxy. The Andromeda Galaxy has trillions of stars in it – and it is one of billions of galaxies. Distances to those galaxies can be determined using the Cepheid Variables – but only to a certain distance.
Hubble determined those distance so far as he could. Meanwhile others had observed “red shifts” in the light coming from those galaxies. Hubble thought those red shifts correlated linearly with distance. The Standard Cosmological Theory was born. The red shifts were explained as Doppler effects – those galaxies were moving away from us – and the farther away from us they were the faster they were moving away from us. The Universe Is Expanding. This expanding universe was predicted by General Relativity. All was well.
It then became standard to determine the distance to a very far away object by measuring the red shift of the light from it – there being no other way of determining that. At millions of light years we are far beyond the limits of angular measurement and geometry. But all was well because it all fit.
Then, quietly, the observational component of this theory collapsed: it turns out that the universe is not expanding in our general region, and our local galaxies are not all receding from us at rates proportional to their distance, and the primary data on which the Hubbard theory, and thus the Expanding Universe, and thus the Big Bang theory, were based was an artifact. The Standard Theory was modified to say that the universe is expanding, but we don’t observe it at distances of a few million lightyears.
This is the thesis of the first part of Ratcliffe’s book: that there is no actually observational evidence for the correlation of red shift with distance, and within the sphere in which we can estimate distances by observations – using parallax and Cepheid Variable blink rates – the expanding universe does not hold. Indeed within the sphere where we have some means of determining distances we find not only red shift but blue shift objects. When we get to the regions where we believe the universe is in fact expanding, the only evidences we have for that is the red shifts themselves.
Radcliffe then brings up evidence against the expanding universe and points out that Halton Arp’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies contains several examples that simply cannot be explained by the Standard Expanding Universe. And then there is the phenomenon of Quasars.
At this point I need to read the book again before I will attempt to review his arguments; but it appears that the evidence for the Expanding Universe is based largely on extrapolations from the original Hubble Slipher observations, and stayed in place after those observations were shown not to be complete or accurate, and indeed applied to a region in which Expansion is not taking place; and the evidence for expansion is based on a circular method of estimating distances.
I wish I had Sir Fred around to discuss this with. He never did believe in the Big Bang, and when he was in the proper mood he could explain many of these complexities to people like me who are very much amateurs. I find it astonishing that an entire theory of the cosmos is based on observations now known to be faulty, and I find it hard to believe. I also find it hard to believe that a great part of the universe is made up of matter we can’t see and energy we can’t detect, and more over we can’t find that stuff around here in our neighborhood. All our fundamental theories seem increasingly complex and held up by more and more complex assumptions; are we due for something new?
But it’s late, I am beyond my understanding of this book, and it’s time for bed. With luck I will feel better in the morning.
View 772 Friday, May 03, 2013
A long time ago when computers were not very reliable, and networking them was tricky at best, I developed a principle of troubleshooting: ninety percent of the time it’s a cable. This morning Roberta’s computer told her she wasn’t connected to a network. It had a box to click for fixing the problem. She hadn’t encountered that message before, and rather than respond to it told me.
I had a quick look, and it was in fact the Microsoft Windows message, and she was in fact not connected to our internal network. I looked at the Ethernet switch for her system, and the power on light was lit but nothing was blinking. I found a spare D-Link gigabit switch, but no power supply for it; I tried it with the old power supply, the power on light came on, but when I connected the cables to the printer and to the main Ethernet switch upstairs, nothing happened.
I went back to finish my coffee, then took a working gigabyte switch from the Apple Net Book Pro I used for Skype and Internet conferencing, along with its power supply, and went downstairs and connected that switch to Roberta’s system. This time I got some lights blinking but the connection wasn’t reliable, at which point I remembered Pournelle’s first principle of troubleshooting and replaced the cable from her system to the switch box. Lo!, all was well. She’s connected back to the system, and all is well.
Meanwhile upstairs I tried to get the switch I’d replaced to work with the Mac Book Pro, and it didn’t work well at all: light on but no blinking lights. Yet that certainly had been working before I changed switches. And in fact the Pro was connected to the net. Now what? But of course that’s simple. The Pro, formerly connected through the Ethernet, found itself disconnected from the net and connected through the Airport wireless; once connected it saw no need to connect through the Ethernet again.
Of course I can’t leave it alone. Now I have been trying to get the D-Link DGS 2205 Gigabit Switch, which also has a printed label “green Ethernet” on it, to work. It’s clearly new switch, probably one bought for me by Eric when we used the switch connecting Robert’s system to the network, as the entry point for TRENDnet 500 Mbps Compact Powerline AV Adapters which use the house power lines to connect to the back room where my TV set, which has TV input Cable but no Internet, resides. Getting an Ethernet line back there has been a problem for years, and the TRENDnet devices work so I can now use the Internet to find content for my TV. More on that another time.
But the “green Ethernet” D-link switch doesn’t seem to want to work, making me wonder whether it was a bad cable after all? In any event her system works, and all is well. And home networks still take troubleshooting.
My problem is, why do my older D-Link switches work just fine, but the newer “green Ethernet” switch doesn’t – any why did it suddenly stop working after weeks of doing everything well? I’ll figure it out.
I’ve now heard the Reese Witherspoon arrest tape, and it’s pretty clear that Atlanta would be far better off without that particular police officer. When I grew up, the police were the friends of the citizens. They weren’t looking for reasons to make arrests, they were supposed to keep the peace. When I was growing up our local deputy sheriff would have been more interested in preventing Witherspoon’s husband from driving drunk than in arresting a pushy blonde. This one was determined to make certain that Witherspoon and husband were subjects, not citizens.
The parts of the arrest audio being broadcast make the policemen sound more reasonable than he was; you have to listen to it all, otherwise it makes is sound as if she’s just a pushy blonde. Which she was, but that’s not illegal. The policeman was insisting that she get back in her car, as if she were some kind of danger to him, which again it is clear she was not. Of course we can think of similar situations which would have looked like a danger to the policemen. This wasn’t one of them.
This is a result of the crazy insistence on equality. If everyone has to be treated equally, then everyone has to be treated as a potential cop-killer contemptuous of the police and the society; and of course if everyone is treated that way, more and more will find that they may as well be hung for being a sheep instead of a lamb, and a few will figure out that if they act as wolves they may well not be hung at all.
I don’t know of a real solution to this problem. I do know where it ends. Social orders have been down that road before.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free. And having said all that, we do not know how to deal with real inequalities – of civility, of ability, of moral value – among citizens. We don’t really even have a theory.
Gelzinis: The deadly sound silence can make,
When the lawyers start whining about how unfair it is to prosecute the Boston bombers’ friends – the ones who went into the apartment and tried to throw evidence away – one should consider this piece:
View 772 Wednesday, May 01, 2013
I don’t do breaking news, but sometimes a breaking story triggers a thought. The breaking news is that three suspects have been detained in matters related to the Boston Marathon bombing. I put it that ambiguously because the exact connection with the bombing isn’t clear, but television is showing them shackled and in civilian clothes being perp-walked into a courthouse. Presumably we will learn what they are charged with.
Early reports said that they were charged with lying to federal agents about removing property/evidence from the room of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The early report didn’t say anything about being charged with removing anything, only for saying they had not removed anything. This may well have been incorrect – early reports often fudge things – but it reminded me of the Martha Stewart case. Ms. Stewart was charged with lying to a federal officer by denying that she had done something that was not a crime even if she had done it. The conclusion to draw from the Martha Stewart case is that you should not cooperate with any federal officer for any reason whatever, lest you end up in a jail cell. When I was growing up we were taught that the authorities were our friends and we had a civic duty to cooperate with them; but surely not at the peril of being sent to Club Fed because you said you hadn’t done something that wasn’t a crime to begin with? Unless you have perfect memory, you are likely to get a detail wrong. If you have a detail wrong, you can end up in jail.
As this story breaks the story is more clear cut, involving a backpack and laptop being removed from the room, with the backpack eventually being recovered from a junkyard. I haven’t heard anything about the laptop. The story on the news is that the three new suspects found firecrackers whose powder had been removed in Tsarnaev’s room, and removed those as well.
The question here is not trampling on the rights of the suspects, two of whom appear to be “undocumented” or “expired document” immigrants aka illegal immigrants, but the wisdom of the Martha Stewart prosecution. Once Washington proves beyond doubt that they can get you once they decide to do it, you need to think twice about cooperating with the feds for any reason. That conflicts with normal civic habits – which is the point. When you set out to prove that you have arbitrary power and intend to use it, it sends a message. The message in this case is that cooperating with the feds may have a very bad outcome; lawyer up and plead the fifth, even if all they ask you is for the time of day.
This is of course not a favorable attitude for a republic, and actually it’s even worse for the plebiscitary democracy a lot of intellectuals hope we will evolve into. But that’s another essay.
We await actual charges in the Boston Marathon case. We can predict that the authorities will do almost anything to avoid attention on the fact that the Russian repeatedly warned us about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Death by database.
We were told that the Patriot Act and the Bush-Cheney security actions had made this sort of thing impossible. Has something changed since January 2009?
andrew j offutt, RIP
Andrew Jefferson Offutt, 78, of Haldeman Heights, passed away on April 30, 2013 at his home after an extended illness. He was born August 16, 1934 in Louisville, KY, the son of the late AJ and Helen Spaninger Offutt.
Offutt spent his childhood years in Taylorsville, Ky. He graduated the University of Louisville in 1955, which he attended on a Ford Foundation scholarship. He began a full time writing career in 1969 and published more than fifty books.
Offutt served two terms as President of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and was a consultant to Writers’ Digest Criticism Services. He was Guest of Honor at more than eighty science fiction conventions.
Offutt is survived by his wife of 56 years, Mary Joe (Jodie) McCabe Offutt and four children: Chris (Melissa) of Oxford, MS; Jeff (Jian) of Fairfax, VA; Scotty Hyde (Jim) of Bowling Green; and Melissa of San Diego, CA. Other survivors include five grandchildren; Sam, James, Stephanie, Joyce and Andrew Offutt. He is also survived by his sister, Jane Offutt Burns, of Lubbock, TX.
I never approved of his preference for lower case spelling of his name, and sometimes teased him about it. He was an old friend and was Treasurer when I was President of SFWA, and remained Treasurer for some years until he became President. We only met at conventions, and over the years the times when we were at the same convention became fewer and fewer, but we generally found time for a short meeting when we did. Farewell old friend.
I was looking around the old View column and came upon http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2view/view476.html which has the story of Tarquin and the Poppies. At one time everyone knew that story – it was taught before eighth grade – but I expect it is not so much known now. If you have a moment it is worth your time. Further down as some other items from the time that are still rather current.
While I share your dismay at the disappearance of Greek and Latin from core curricula, I am proud to report that the Classical spirit lives on in this university’s response to the Olympian tragedy that overtook the Boston Marathon,
Harvard has just staged funeral games in memory of the fallen:
A story of the land of the free. Of course California is further along the road than many. but here is what the rest of you have to look forward to in this brave new world that has such people in it.
It is, I suppose, the business of the state to protect the innocent, unless they are not yet born; and mere parentage does not allow one to question the duly appointed authorities, lest children be harmed (so long as they have been born). Child protection services have a job to do, and they must do it. And yet, one wonders. If the people are not qualified to make their own decisions should they be allowed to vote? If one is not qualified to question the experts, then how is one qualified to choose them? And where does egalitarian democracy lead us? History would say rule by bureaucrats who have qualified to hold their jobs, and who can form unions. The public schools might be an example.
Freedom is not free. Who shall pay the prices? But if you limit freedom in the name of some higher end such as the protection of children from their parents, where is the end of that? The state wants a monopoly on all the means of violence, and puts the protection of its officers ahead of almost anything else: the Long Beach Police who shot a man dead on the front porch of his friend where he had gone because he felt impaired to drive and was playing with a garden hose nozzle as if it were a pistol have been found to have acted within policy, although at no time had they made their presence known to the man who was playing with the hose nozzle. One has no right to sit on the front porch and play with a toy pistol. Best to shoot him dead before he harms an officer of the state. And had the parents of the child resisted, in this land of the free–
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.
And on that score
“They wanted to keep Mr. Curtis in custody while they built a case. They knew early on he wasn’t the right guy, but they fought to hold on to him anyway.”
Criminal justice experts said the political pressure from Washington to solve the ricin case would have been intense, particularly since the president was targeted and it occurred around the same time as the Boston Marathon bombing. Some experts said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks taught law enforcement officials to do everything possible to prevent attacks, even if it means arresting the wrong person.
“There would have been unlimited armchair quarterbacking if he was the guy and more letters went out while they continued to investigate him,” said Chris Swecker, who retired as chief of the FBI’s criminal division in 2006. “When the stakes are this high, they have a sense of urgency to move faster.”
View 772 Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Another major shock awaits the American people as the clock ticks on toward the full implementation of Obamacare. Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article
Daniel Kessler: The Coming ObamaCare Shock
Millions of Americans will pay more for health insurance, lose their coverage, or have their hours of work cut back.
In recent weeks, there have been increasing expressions of concern from surprising quarters about the implementation of ObamaCare. Montana Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat, called it a "train wreck." A Democratic colleague, West Virginia’s Sen. Jay Rockefeller, described the massive Affordable Care Act as "beyond comprehension." Henry Chao, the government’s chief technical officer in charge of putting in place the insurance exchanges mandated by the law, was quoted in the Congressional Quarterly as saying "I’m pretty nervous . . . Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience."
These individuals are worried for good reason. The unpopular health-care law’s rollout is going to be rough. It will also administer several price (and other) shocks to tens of millions of Americans.
It’s all true, and of course the effect is easily predictable. President Obama’s ‘guarantee’ that if you like your present plan you will be able to keep it is simply impossible. You cannot take an insurance program that selects among potential purchasers to reject those with pre-existing conditions, or charges them higher premiums than those who do not have those conditions, and continue it at its present rates. Those rates are set from statistical estimates of how many will get sick from lung cancer, or skin cancer, or brain cancer, or any other expensive illness, estimates the costs that will be incurred from treating them, and charges premiums based on averaging that cost among all the policy holders. If we now allow those with pre-existing conditions to join the policy holders at that same premium the policy will run out of money. The company can cut its salaries, cut the amounts it pays doctors, eliminate all profits, but it will not be able to operate without raising premiums, and since those premiums cannot be increased for those with pre-existing conditions nor can those who will inevitably require expensive care be rejected, there are no choices left. The new costs will have to be averaged among all the policy holders, and since there will be more expenses the premiums have to be higher. The alternative is simply to get out of the insurance business. Note that this is the case for both investor-owned and mutual insurance companies who have to sell all their health care policies at the same price. The same would be true, of course, if there were a “Right to Insurance” law that mandated that anyone, no matter of what age, has a right to a life insurance policy at the same price as anyone else.
Thus the compulsory health insurance: the only way insurance companies can survive under these conditions is to require that everyone buy a policy (or have it bought for him). Of course if the penalty for not having the insurance is low enough, it may still be better for an individual to pay the fines until he gets sick or has an accident: at which point his “living will” will, lo! have a provision applying for insurance and an instruction on how it should be paid for. I make no doubt that Obamacare will prove to be a boon for lawyers who can design such contingency plans. The government will then find ways to require everyone to take out a policy, the lawyers will find loopholes and the cycle will repeat. There are those in the Obama planning staff who full well understand this, and count on it, because it is a pretty sure spiral to universal “free” health care, which is the goal of a great number of liberal social theorists.
What then happens to health maintenance organizations like Kaiser, and to physicians who opt out of the whole system and maintain a private “fee for services” practice, whether the “country doctor GP” or the “concierge physician”? On the one hand you will have social theorists insisting on equal access for all to everywhere – everyone deserves the best, so the Mayo Clinic has to take everyone, not just those who will pay (as emergency rooms must do now, which is why more than half the emergency rooms in Los Angeles County have gone out of business in the last decades); on the other hand you will have the ruling class who full well understand that while universal free health care is what you deserve, it’s not good enough for them and their families.
Of course that has already started.
Exempting Congress From ObamaCare
The Members try to protect themselves from ‘Medicaid plus.’
The Politico website broke the story Thursday morning that Congressional leaders were in hush-hush talks to exempt themselves and their staff from the wonders of ObamaCare. The story succeeded in blowing up the talks, but there’s a bigger story here about Congressional intentions that is worth telling.
House Speaker John Boehner quickly took to Twitter after the Politico story appeared, saying that he’s not "sneaking any language into bills to solve" a problem for Democrats. He added that full repeal of the law is "the solution to this & other ObamaCare nightmares."
We’re told that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer initiated the discussions. Mr. Reid now says he’s not trying to exempt anyone from the law. Mr. Hoyer’s spokesman says only that the Maryland Democrat wants the law to be "workable for everyone."
Mr. Reid’s office says he merely wants to ensure that the generous subsidies in the current federal-employee health plan can continue to flow to Congressional staff once they are required to obtain coverage via ObamaCare’s new insurance exchanges. Since insurance companies are referring to the ObamaCare policies that will be offered on exchanges as "Medicaid plus," you can see why Congress wants to protect its own.
The ruling class likes its current health care plan and wants to keep it. They won’t be able to under Obamacare. Something has to change. We can count on the establishment Democrats to offer the establishment Republicans some way to accomplish this. They may have to make some concessions to others, but you may be sure they will first take care of their own.
Sesquicentennial anniversary of the battle of Camarón de Tejeda <http://thisainthell.us/blog/?p=35355>
"There is something odd in the human spirit that celebrates events where a small group of men, despite being badly outnumbered by a foe, will still resist and likely die. Greece has the 300 Spartans at the pass of Thermopylae; the United States has the Alamo and its “thirteen days of glory;” and Great Britain has the successful defense of Rorke’s Drift in the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War. Then, there is France and its Foreign Legion, which every year on April 30 at its headquarters in Aubagne, holds a solemn parade and celebration for the brave men who gave their lives far from home, defending their lives and honor, at a small town in Mexico called Camarón de Tejeda…"
Camerone Day. Somewhere and somewhen, Falkenberg’s Mercenary Legion is taking the day off.
View 772 Sunday, April 28, 2013
Last night’s mail had a reference to a fusion project. Today we have
ITER and fusion
I too saw this linked on Drudge: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/one-giant-leap-for-mankind-13bn-iter-project-makes-breakthrough-in-quest-for-nuclear-fusion-a-solution-to-climate-change-and-an-age-of-clean-unlimited-energy-8590480.html
and after reading the article concluded that it was Solyndra cubed (at least).
Instead of a few ‘Friends of Obama’ (Solyndra) getting a half billion dollars laundered through the DOE and quickly going broke (except for the principles, who most assuredly DIDN’T go broke), we have an international version with the following schedule: "There is at least another decade of building work and a further decade of testing before the reactor will be allowed to “go nuclear”, with the following caveat: "Even if everything goes to plan, the first demonstration power plant using nuclear fusion will not be ready until at least the 2030s, meaning commercial reactors could not realistically be built until the second half of the century.
In other words, an endless money pit (tons of managers, topflight scientists drawing topflight salaries, lots of support staff, gorgeous headquarters buildings and other infrastructure, international conferences in exotic locations, briefings to multiple governments, ad infinitum) whose success cannot even be QUESTIONED for at least 40 years, lest the questioner be accused of being a Luddite who is against scientific progress. And manna.
During the 1960-1970 period I was a big promoter of nuclear fusion research, and I wrote several columns about the foolishness of Carter’s big cuts in the fusion research program. I had to take a lot closer look at fusion after 1980 because my essays were read in the White House; and I took some time to tour fusion labs. At that time there were a number of fusion programs. The most spectacular was “laser trigger” fusion reaction, which is a subset of the entire “inertial confinement” approach. The notion is to zap a small enough area with enough energy transmitted by one of any number of means – laser (photons), electrons, plasmas, and some even more exotic – to spark one of a number of theoretical fusion reactions; and that trigger would spark more fusions. The result might be a weapon, but the real goal would be “controlled fusion”. The problem with controlling fusion is that it’s fusion – the direct conversion of matter into energy. Since e = mc squared, that’s a lot of energy, and that much energy tends to melt the mechanisms that are producing it as well as the structure that is defining it. An unconfined fusion reaction is either a fizzle or a fairly spectacular bomb. Discovery of a laser trigger mechanism for producing a thermonuclear explosion would lead to very cheap nuclear weapons. They wouldn’t have been cheap in those days – lasers were expensive and the control electronics for making all this happen equally so — but we could all foresee a great fall in the costs of electronics.
As an aside: in those times the most expensive part of an intercontinental ballistic missile was the warhead, followed very closely by the inertial guidance system with its high precision gyros, very accurate multiple axis accelerometers, memory to keep track of the data from the gyros and accelerometers, more memory to keep track of the “ideal” course the bird should have flown as opposed to that course it did fly, and computers to determine what changes in course need to be performed to drive the bird back onto the proper course so that it will hit its target. All this has to happen in boost phase while the motors are still hot, and of course the acceleration of the bird changes – rises dramatically – every tenth of a second as fuel is burned and blown out the back end thus reducing the mass to be accelerated. It is now possible to buy the equipment to do all that very cheaply: the gyros and the accelerometers are built into chips, memory is nearly free, and most of the computer is a single chip.
Thus laser trigger fusion would be a mixed blessing, and the arms control community argued that we’d be better off without it – that such research ought to be forbidden by treaty. Stefan T. Possony and Francis X. Kane began a work called The Strategy of Technology which argued that the march of technology is inexorable: you can’t stop it by forbidding research, and you may very well be losing the decisive war if you rely on that strategy. I joined that team and became a co-author of the book, which is still available free through Baen Books (the address given in the forward is no longer one I receive mail from).
There were extensive experiments in inertial confinement fusion, and some continue to this day, but progress has proven to be a great deal slower than we had hoped.
The other major line of fusion research was “magnetic confinement”: enormously expensive reactors (one of the most popularly known was the Tokamak) which used enormous input power to keep the reaction confined, and more to trigger and control the reactions. These certainly “worked” in the sense that fusion was stimulated and took place. There is controversy over whether any of those ever produced more energy than it consumed while in operation, and I think no one has claimed that any such reactor has ever produced more energy than was required to build as well as to operate it.
As of the late 1980’s the consensus of fusion reaction research directors was that you could produce an experimental reactor that would by brute force produce more energy than it consumed, but it would be difficult to operate. The most optimistic estimate of when an operational reactor might go on line to add energy to a power grid was thirty years. That had been the estimated time to break even in the Carter administration and remained the most optimistic prediction over the decades: it was always about thirty years.
The US Navy continues to support a small effort in “cold fusion”. I have no direct information, but I believe this is at about the proper level: there are some results worth pursuing, but nothing to be excited about or pour money into crash programs for.
Bob Guccione of Penthouse Magazine as well as the US Navy supported research by Dr. Robert Bussard into various fusion projects including a scheme to use modified existing fission reaction designs to produce power, and using fusion power to “recharge” the fission fuel elements. He had other reactor designs. He got encouraging results, and announced that his”Polywell” design was advanced enough to warrant going directly to an actual commercial scale reactor, but died shortly thereafter of cancer. Bob used to visit me whenever he was in Los Angeles, but I have heard nothing of progress since his death, although I understand that research efforts and fund raising continue. I have heard no estimates of the time required to “go commercial” without Bussard at the helm, and I don’t know how the funding is going. Bob died about the time I was being successfully treated for brain cancer, and I had pretty well lost touch with nearly everyone during that period.
I always had confidence that if anyone was going to produce commercial fusion energy it would be Doc Bussard, but I’ve heard little about the effort since his death.
Note that the above is an off the tip of my head outline, not intended to be more than background. The history of fusion research is complex, and while the summary “It’s always thirty years to commercial fusion” is a fair summary it’s no more than that.
* * *
Obviously the development of controlled fusion would change the world. The capital costs would be important in determining just how large a change would happen over what period of time.
I have received this not long after posting the story. As background, the Navy funded Dr. Bussard’s work but the grant was ending when I lost track of the work there. I am not a source for any of this information, but perhaps I should look into it. As I observe below, any commerci9al fusion would be a world changing event. It would also be a factor in the climate change debates.
Polywell research is still on-going. Since they’re so inexpensive in comparison to the big boys, the Navy is still funding that particular avenue. Here’s some example: http://www.nuclearfusionpower.us/blog/?p=268
Regarding climate change and global warning, Fallen Angels by Niven, Pournelle, and Flynn http://www.amazon.com/Fallen-Angels-ebook/dp/B005BJTZ1U/ref=tmm_kin_title_0 has something to say on the subject. Comes now
Thought you might get a kick out of this blog post:
We have this comment on the DSM (which was also discussed in last night’s mail bag):
Your link about psychiatry, science, the DSM and the commentary thereon, along with a lot of discussion about how the government will go about keeping us ‘safe’ from folks like the recent slaughterer of grade school kids, reminds me of this that I sent to a local friend recently:
"’Keeping guns out of the hands of people with mental problems’ sounds like a no-brainer. And, if you think about it a moment, it IS a no-brainer. Enacting legislation forbidding people with ‘mental problems’ from buying or possessing weapons is like twenty Christmases arriving simultaneously for the gun-grabbing totalitarians who have been hoping for such a bonanza for years. After all, which political persuasion will be deciding exactly what behavior qualifies you as ‘mentally ill’, and, by extension, unqualified to own a gun?
Take a look at DSM IV, with DSM V on the way (both compiled EXCLUSIVELY by liberals), with their ever growing laundry list of ‘mental disorders’. How long will it be after the ‘Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of the Mentally Ill’ legislation is enacted, with the enthusiastic cooperation of the ‘gun rights’ groups, before the following takes place?:
Customer: I’d like to buy this gun.
Merchant: I’m sorry sir, I would like to sell it to you, but under the current law, you are forbidden to purchase or possess a gun.
Customer: What’s wrong with you? I have NEVER had a run in with the law, not even a parking ticket. I work for an organization that requires a full background investigation and a polygraph examination for its JANITORS, never mind what actual employees like me have to endure, just to get a job there, and you tell me that I am not qualified to buy or possess a weapon?
Merchant; Yes sir, I understand, but according to the law, citizens with ‘mental conditions’ are forbidden to purchase or own firearms.
Customer; But I don’t HAVE a ‘mental condition’.
Merchant: Check out DSM V. According to the authoritative, government certified listing of behaviors indicative of mental instability, the desire to own a firearm is one of the most prominent. You want a gun; therefore you are mentally unstable and forbidden to own one.
Customer: So how do you stay in business, if you are a gun dealer forbidden to sell guns?
Merchant; Oh, I am selling guns like hotcakes, except that all of my customers are government employees who are purchasing them for ‘official duty’, using government funds. They have a really generous monthly allowance for ammo, too. Seems that they require a LOT of training.
This is DEFINITELY one of those ‘be careful what you wish for’ moments."
I trust that everyone understands that the above is a work of satire.
However, I have this comment from a long time subscriber:
That is NOT satire to an increasing number of military veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD and denied the right to keep their firearms.
Mail 771 Saturday, April 27, 2013
A long time subscriber sends this:
Years ago, I created a knick-knack shelf in the shape of periodic table and have been putting element samples in.
I now have to move and cannot take it with me.
Since you are a scientist of some renown, I thought you might want it or know someone who does. They can have it for the cost of shipping.
I have contacted the local schools and colleges, those that have responded have said they cannot accept chemicals without a clear chain of ownership.
I will forward serious answers to him. I don’t promise he will answer, and I don’t promise answers or acknowledgments, but those seriously interested are encouraged to write.
"American academia no longer studies history[.]" <http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=13546>
In my experience, the academics study past events and write wrong histories.
I was trained to separate chronologies, chronicles, and histories. A chronology is a list of dates and events. A chronicle is an account of events; for example, Amity Shlaes’s _The Forgotten Man_. A history is an exposition of events; that is, not just "This happened" but "This is why this happened."
I do not know if you categorize as I do, but I thought an explanation in order.
I have known professional historians who took great pains to get the details right. I have known others who were so ignorant of their chosen area of expertise that I as an undergraduate corrected them. (One speaker at a National Historical Society convention I attended criticized Julius Caesar for his lack of a general staff. I pointed out that his criticism was anachronistic, because the general staff was invented by the Prussians in the 19th century. Didn’t mean the jobs did not get done. Just meant they were not called ‘general staff’.)
I have also witnessed historians spread lies to suit their political agenda. I was told — by an arrogant young Irish socialist — that the black soldiers in the American army mutinied after Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed. This was history that he read. I remember when Dr King was killed. I do not recall any army-wide mutiny of blacks. Confronted with my memory, he preferred his wrong history.
At the Second Party Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, the minority faction walked out and held its own congress. They called themselves the Bolsheviks; that is, the Majority. That was an obvious lie. If they were indeed the majority, why did they not just push their platform through the Congress or eject the Minsheviks? Yet Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolshevik> insists they were majority at the Congress.
Like the Bolsheviks, historians lie. The tales they tell tell me more about them than about the events they expound.
“It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.” –Ronald Reagan
Live long and prosper
h lynn keith
When Harvard, back in the 19th Century, began to allow students to graduate in science, the common bon mot was a quote from a professor of classics, who said, “No madam, it does not guarantee that they will know science, but it does guarantee that they will not know Greek and Latin.” The same could be said of the elimination of history from the basic undergraduate requirements.
A very long time ago the State University of Iowa had a “core course” requirement for everyone, whether in business administration, engineering, English, education, or any of the liberal arts. One of those requirements was two semesters of the history of Western Civilization, taught by Dr. George Mosse and a team of his graduate students. Mosse was a fascinating history lecturer, and his lectures were to the entire freshman class, held in the old Iowa State Capitol building which had been left to the University when the Capital moved to Des Moines.
Other core courses included Masterpieces of English Literature, Greeks and the Bible, Modern Literature, and that sort of thing. Everyone who graduated from SUI in those days had some exposure to what used to be thought of being an educated person.
But over time the notion of a minimum exposure to history and the intellectual arts has faded, and the idea of core courses has vanished from most universities, to make room for various racial and gender studies programs and what I have called The Voodoo Sciences. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/science/voodoo.html
The result has been the loss of any common consensus about what used to be called the good life, and the Socratic maxim that the unexamined life is not worth living and the unexamined universe is not worth living in. Philosophy, once the queen of the sciences, is now essentially redundant, and over time even the rigorous formal logic studies that came with operational philosophy have been watered down to pap. When I took Philosophy of Science from Gustav Bergmann at the University of Iowa we learned things which stood me in good stead through my career in operations research; I doubt that happens now, just as no one seems really to understand Sir Karl Popper’s notions about the limits of scientific inquiry.
Of course real philosophic inquiry, like real studies of history, are not something many should specialize in. A dose of these matters is vital to a real education, sufficiently so that I would say that those who can’t learn something from undergraduate philosophy and history ought not be in University at all, but would be better off in specialty trade schools of one kind or another. At the university level, though, those who are truly masters of philosophy and history ought to be treated differently from those whose only knowledge is in the voodoo sciences. But that’s for another time.
Subject: The Psychiatric DSM
The Psychiatric DSM
Here’s an article about the psychiatric DSM that you might find interesting:
"But it’s not entirely clear that psychiatrists want a solution to the problem, at least not to judge from what happened when the experts conducting the most recent revision of the manual, the D.S.M.-5, were offered one. "
I sent this message to Dr. Ed Hume, M.D. Psychiatrist
To: Edward Hume
Subject: FW: The Psychiatric DSM
Have you any comments on this? I am about to write something on it. It’s important. Psychiatry rejects science… I would have thought that L Ron Hubbard would have been more friendly to biological data than this.
RE: The Psychiatric DSM
I read the linked article.
The final paragraph says, "This notion—that the apparent mental condition is all that can matter—underlies not only the depression diagnosis but all of the D.S.M.’s categories. It may have been conceived as a stopgap, a way to bide time until the brain’s role in psychological suffering has been elucidated, but in the meantime, expert consensus about appearances has become the cornerstone of the profession, one that psychiatrists are reluctant to yank out, lest the entire edifice collapse." That’s about it. And really, until we know a lot lot lot more, this non-instrumental approach is probably the best approach. At least it keeps us humble, lest we think we know something. If going this way means we don’t use lab studies (are they ‘scientific’ yet?), so be it. BTW — the DST he referenced fell out of favor because it did not reliably diagnose melancholics; nor did those who had a positive test constitute a valid disorder. Besides, the test they settled on was most likely not the best test to use. From the research, I thought at the time that an index dose of 0.5mg looked better than the 1mg dose they mostly used. ‘Scientific’ in this context may be more like ‘scientism,’ the semblance of science.
In the meantime, research progresses. Hundreds of genes have been implicated in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, for example. After all, the part of the brain and the functions involved are massively complex. We will be a long time disentangling it all. Yet I can diagnose most cases in seconds — and I am not alone. The German term ‘augenblick diagnosis’ — eyeblink diagnosis — certainly applies. And I have a man on my unit who came to us loudly complaining of suicidal depression. He was intrusive as well. It came to me a few days after he was admitted that here was not a man with depression and borderline and narcissistic personality disorders, but a man with dysphoric mania. I took him off all of his antidepressants and carefully primed him with anti-manic agents. Now the dysphoric mania is gone . . . and we still have that borderline personality disorder. And the other day he and I discovered the separation anxiety that got him into being a borderline. The narcissism has faded into his borderline disorder. What I mean to point out with this vignette is that the names change, but the old disorders are real. "In the room the ladies come and go … That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.”
Meh. The DSM began in 1952, as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. I like DSM-2, published in 1968. My copy is only 134 smallish pages long. The DSM-4, by contrast is 886 large pages long. DSM-2 simply describes the cases you are likely to see. Good stuff, that. 1980′s DSM-3 was the grandchild of the Washington University Criteria (called by us there the ‘Feigner criteria’) by way of the Research Diagnostic Criteria. Think of the landscape of mental illness as a great prairie. You put fences (the criteria) around certain fields and declare those fields to be your disorders. The locations of the fields and the placement of the fences are determined by research, and presumably contain a ‘valid’ disorder (a technical term when used this way) which can be diagnosed with ‘reliability’ (another technical term; it means that if diagnosers are all given the same manual they mostly will diagnose the fenced-in illness). You can see the immediate problems with this approach. In any case, if your fenced fields do not contain a hill or at least a hillock — one of those recognizable diseases — you have . . . an empty field.
The clinicians who built DSM’s 3, 4 and 5 did some silly things to be able to differentiate between illnesses. For example, a blistering (but civil) critique of the DSM diagnostic categories for personality disorders showed about eleven years ago that the criteria focused on the differences between disordered personalities; but the personalities overlapped greatly. But to make the manual more useful to diagnosticians, this aspect was ignored . The critique, having been done by psychologists was also ignored by the psychiatric establishment.
For DSM-5 we had a big controversy about how serious a disturbance must be before it qualifies as an illness. Please. What must our forefathers think of us if, as the poobahs of my profession would have it, 52% of Americans have a mental illness at some point in their lives? Like the plague of ‘bipolar disorder’ that has spread throughout the land, this lowering of the bar to make more people whose distress is covered by their insurance seems — well, it does — like a self-serving income-producing scam.
I’ll stop now, before I stray into such topics as the Joint Commission of A__ H____, who by their dictatorial powers have turned large numbers of Americans into unwitting opiate addicts. Or the specialty boards, who have introduced ‘recertification’ to make more business for themselves.
I managed to finish my graduate education in psychology before ever encountering the DSM. At one time my major interest in psychology was in “personality theory”, so I had many courses in psychological theory, abnormal psychology, and other clinical studies although I wasn’t trying to become a shrink. I encountered the DSM in reading psychology journals, and from the beginning I found them absurd, since the diagnoses were intended to provide a terminology for billing insurance companies, not any kind of recommendation for treatments. In proper medicine diagnostic causes are verified by concepts like Koch’s Criteria (sufficient but not necessary for a diagnosis to be accepted), but in Freudian psychiatry almost all of the evidence is theoretical or anecdotal – and it turns out that some of the anecdotes were embellished by theoretical concerns. You can prove anything if you can make up your data.
Proper medicine developed procedures for taking case histories, but they don’t really apply to psychology, and it is often difficult to distinguish the DSM from an anecdotal collection. As an example, there are clearly many variants in the behavior and backgrounds of those formally diagnosed as “having” ADSD, Asperger’s, and what is called autism, but the DSM won’t tell you much about that. Since treatment often depends on diagnosis, physicians find they are often on their own. Drug companies want to sell lots of drugs, and many of the drugs used to treat ADHD and autism produce rewarding experiences. The result of that is predictable. Bright kids aren’t stupid. Even stupid kids aren’t that stupid.
The DSM is handy for those who have to bill insurance companies or government agencies; it has never seemed very useful as a diagnostic instrument except for those who are required to have a diagnosis before they can get paid.
On the subject of diagnosis and treatment: at one time there was an accepted disorder known as dementia praecox. Most of those who received that diagnosis are now known as early onset schizophrenics. The thing about dementia praecox is that it was known, absolutely known, to be incurable. The prognosis was that the patient might temporarily have remissions, but there would be progressive deterioration. The easy deduction from that was that ‘treatment’ was a waste of scarce resources, and the proper course of action was asylum. Since the disorder was known to be incurable, that generally meant perpetual asylum, or in other words, life imprisonment in a mental hospital with no treatments. Many dementia praecox patients became fairly stable and could be trusted to perform maintenance and service tasks in the hospitals. The result of that is predictable, and there were all too many such cases. The discovery of this was one of the factors in the general emptying of the mental hospitals during the second half of the XXth Century. (Obviously psychiatric drugs had an effect on that as well.)
The DSM discourages the collection of genuine detailed case histories, and without those it is not likely that a medical science of mental health will ever be discovered. Hubbard, like Freud, apparently made up some of his cases (it is very difficult to know just when he collected some of those described in Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health) but he did not in that book say that collection of evidence was unimportant. The DSM is a convenience to practitioners who must come up with formulas in order to collect their pay, but I do not think it is useful in developing a science of mental health.
‘So big business and big government are uniting to pursue their mutual interest in sticking it to the little guy.’
It is also a precursor for a national sales tax. That comes next.
We are nowhere near the end of this matter of Internet Sales Tax to be paid to states, cities, counties, commercial districts, school districts, etc.
I’m running Win 8 on my Acer tablet that came with Win 7. Touch screen mechanism works better under Win 8. Plus startup is a lot faster.
I’m using the baked-in anitvirus and malware with no problems.
However, I dislike the Metro interface. I always stay in Desktop mode that I am used to.
A bad descision on Microsoft’s part was to kill the start button. I now have the capability with this little freeware gem – Classic Start 8.
Ton of options to tweak the behavior to your liking. In addition, I now boot into the desktop.
I also replaced the Adobe reader with Foxit reader: http://www.foxitsoftware.com/downloads/
Opening PDF files snaps you into the Metro version of Adobe Reader. With Foxit, you stay in the desktop.
Bud Pritchard, retired bit-twiddler.
My other equipment will stay at Win 7. No real reason to change.
Thank you for that report. I have Windows 8 on a big desktop and sometimes I like it and sometimes it drives me mad. I do believe that it would be useful with a touchscreen, and I am contemplating getting one of those to try it with.
Brian P wrote: "Evidently the author, one Michael Matthews, leaped to the conclusion that the bombers were from Czechoslovakia and called for its nuking despite the fact that the two countries are a thousand miles apart. Somewhere a geography teacher is crying him/herself to sleep while hitting the bottle hard."
You know what’s even funnier, Brian? It’s the Czech Republic. Czechoslovakia no longer exists, and hasn’t for nearly two decades.
What’s that geography teacher doing now?
When I was in charge of the Captive Nations efforts back before the Treaty of Leningrad, our maxim was that we should try to keep the Czechs and the Slovaks from both attending any meeting: either one was helpful, the two together would fight to the detriment of any action we might try to take. It was pretty clear to us that the liberation of Czechoslovakia would quickly result in partition into two nations. I had good friend among both Czechs and Slovaks.
Little Brother and the Boston Video Militia
My daughter Hannah and I have a nickname for the camera-phone: ‘Little Brother’. The portable camera-phone means mass ‘sousveillance’; surveillance from beneath. We have seen, in Egypt and with Occupy, that Little Brother can be Big Brother’s revolutionary foe.
But Little Brother is not all rebel; in fact Little Brother can be a patriot, helping the authorities defend the nation. We have seen this in Boston, in the crowd-sourced identification of the Tsarnaev brothers. For details, see:
Tamerlan the would-be conquerer, and Dzhokhar the joker, thought themselves invisible in that crowd, but Little Brother was there, and Little Brother is the Eyes of the Web, which never forgets. The Tsarnaev naifs thought their target was unarmed; but they were fatally wrong; for the crowd had hundreds of camera-phones, each one a weapon against their cowardice.
The camera-phone is a kind of weapon; and those hundreds of videographers were a kind of militia. With the Boston Video Militia’s help, the cops got their men before the week was done. Justice is best when swift and sure.
I do not go so far as to say that privacy is dead, get used to it, but certainly technology has made much of our life a lot less private, not out of any intention but simply by expanding capabilities. The 911 dispatcher quite often knows your exact location without your telling yeye. This is good if you haven’t much time or you don’t know where you are. But the same technology makes it clear where you are to anyone who really wants to know, whether you like that or not. If you’re going to violate a separation injunction, don’t carry your cell phone. Not even a throwaway, unless you intend to throw it away while it remains anonymous. And Moore’s Law is inexorable: technology that was once highly expensive is now so cheap it can be included in throwaways…
Found this interesting link on the Drudge Report:
One giant leap for mankind: £13bn Iter project makes breakthrough in the quest for nuclear fusion, a solution to climate change and an age of clean, cheap energy – Science – News – The Independent
Which is wonderful if true. I have heard announcements like this about every five years since I wrote A Step Farther Out.
Obamacare for thee, but not for me.
Congress rules. Government employees rule. Why should they endure what they give to the subjects?
Should Science Fiction Be Mandatory for Students?
" A Republican politician from West Virginia wants to make works of science fiction compulsory reading in his state’s middle and high school curricula. The reason is, according to the pending bill, to “promote interest in and appreciation for the study of math and science among students is critical to preparing students to compete in the workforce and to assure the economic well being of the state and the nation.”
Could reading the likes of The Postman and Speed of Dark instill an interest in one of the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, mathematics — in teenagers?
West Virginia State delegate Ray Canterbury believes the former. He has proposed the bill to the West Virginia Board of Education out of the specific wish “stimulate interest in math and science among students.” (Such educational issues seem to be one of his concerns; another bill proposed by Canterbury calls for prohibiting the use of “calculators for teaching purposes” for K-8 students).
Noting that he is himself a fan of the works of Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne, Canterbury emphasizes that he is not referring to “fantasy novels about dragons” but “things where advanced technology is a key component of the storyline, both in terms of the problems that it presents and the solutions that it offers.”
Asserting their support for Canterbury’s bill are writer David Brin and James Gunn, the founder of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at Kansas University, who points out that
Because science fiction incorporates the one thing that is undeniably true in today’s fiction — that the world is changing — it has the capability of shaping that change as well as adjusting to it. As I say in my signature motto, “Let’s save the world through science fiction.”
Science fiction has the capability, at its best, of exercising the rational portions of the brain.
Brin also underscores the value of reading science fiction in a world full of change. Noting how works like George Orwell’s “1984” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” can be seen as “self-fulfilling prophecies,” Brin emphasizes how science fiction can give us a sense of what — given predictions and trends about global warming, the melting of arctic sea ice, rising sea levels, habitat loss and more — could befall us. Like Canterbury, he is wary of some works of science fiction, especially many recently published that are “either gloomy dystopias or else fantasy tales wallowing in dreamy yearnings for a beastly way of life called feudalism.”
The latter could be a (rather cynical) reference to “The Hunger Games” or even be extended to works like Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” which shows the power plus the potential misuses of science, with a message warning us of our limits. Brin offers suggestions for a number of science fiction books that “wrestle with concepts at the very cutting edge” and ways to encourage the writing of “new and better” science fiction works for kids.
Brin and Gunn focus rather on science fiction’s capacity to inspire an interest in science and its use in solving the problems of the world. Canterbury, too, seems to see science and science fiction performing such a role. In his own state of West Virginia, a “bit of a Calvinistic attitude toward life” exists, he says. Science fiction imagines alternate scenarios rather than suggesting we are destined to be stuck in the same old circumstances.
Science fiction works including Orwell’s “1984” have long been on school reading curricula. Given repeated reports and statistics of the U.S.’s lack of STEM professionals, could newer science fiction titles make a real difference not only in an English class curriculum, but in math and science classes?"
“Get Science Fiction out of the classroom and back in the gutter where it belongs.” Harry Harrison had that posted as the background to a science fiction panel at a Cal Tech Symposium that included Harry, Sir Fred Hoyle, me, Poul Anderson, Phil Dick, Fred Pohl, and a number of other writer back in the 70’s. It was a great symposium.
High mass binary pulsar constrains alternatives to general relativity
Hi, Jerry. This article:
has it that observations of a particular high-mass pulsar binary system have provided the most precise verification yet of general relativity.
The piece doesn’t claim that all other theories of gravitation are excluded by these observations, but that such theories are much more tightly constrained.
Presumably we still won’t have anything that can be called ‘the real deal’ until quantum gravity is proved out, but this makes for an interesting data point.
All the best,
I will have to wait for comment by those more qualified than I am, but it is my understanding that Petr Beckmann’s ether theory makes the same predictions and with considerably simpler mathematics, while Special Relativity has a great deal of difficulty explaining how spectroscopic binaries can exist. I know of no crucial experiment with experimental results that distinguishes between relativity and the modified ether theories of entailed ether. Which is not to say relativity is wrong, but it certainly is complex.
Hilton Ratcliffe, maverick astrophysicist
Just a quick note to let you know I’ve read THE STATIC UNIVERSE by Hilton Ratcliffe. It seems to demolish Big Bang Theory (the original event, not the TV show). I don’t, however, have the scientific street cred to tell whether his arguments are entirely sound.
I enjoyed it, though the chapter on the CMWB and the WMAP data are too technical at times for the layman. I had to skirt the thorniest parts of it. The main shocker, something I’ve never heard before, is that at least 40 quasars have detectable Proper Motion. This flies in the face of the notion that quasars are at cosmological distances.
My only cavil is that he bases a lot of his objections on Halton Arp, and Arp is old hat. You’re not going to win any debates citing Arp.
Hoping to get an opinion from you and/or your pen pals on this book.
I have not read that yet. I will try to get to it. Sir Fred Hoyle never believed in the Big Bang, and there are numerous theories explaining the cosmic background radiation; while the standard theories are in more and more trouble from the whirligig galaxies, so that some theories postulated that 75% or so of the universe is made of stuff we can’t see – dark energy and dark matter. The other day upon the stair I saw a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today.. Oh how I wish he’d go away. It may be that the universe is very complex and that it is not uniform in all directions, and it mahy well be that the universe is not only queerer than you imagine, but queerer than you can imagine; but it may also be that we have ignored Occam at our peril.
I welcome comments on this one:
Space Shuttle on a treadmill
Pop quiz: place a treadmill on Earth’s equator. Set the treadmill to run opposite the Earth’s rotation. Then launch the shuttle. The question is: would it fly?
I thought the humor would be self-evident. I stand corrected. People actually argued about it.
Transporting the A-12
The interrogation of the Boston Bombing suspect was likely not terribly hostile since the objective was to prevent immediate harm if there were other devices planted and to also gather intelligence. The interrogator probably used his native language and pretended sympathy with his goals, such as they were. He may have been of the same ethnicity. It was undoubtedly recorded and analysed by forensic psychologists and other experts. Voice stress analysis would have been used. But the questions would have been put in a very friendly manner to get the kid to give it up. In other words "Good Cop" technique. When the Miranda Warning was given that’s when it went to "Bad Cop" and the kid clammed up.
It was not the time for confrontation. Too much was on the line.
One has a constitutional right not to be convicted by evidence obtained from yourself against your will. Jeremy Bentham did not agree and John Stuart Mill had his doubts; but it was fundamental to the Bill of Rights. That does not mean that one cannot be asked questions, the answers to which cannot be used as evidence. There are such matters as public safety. But then there is the matter of Tosca and Cavadadossi questioned while a judge observes…
View 771 Friday, April 26, 2013
Apologies for not being very active this week. I am still catching up, and apparently have a spring cold slowing me down agan.
Reflections on the Boston Marathon Bombing
The major lesson I would draw from the Marathon bombing case is that it would be very wise for us to reexamine the ‘refugee status’ immigration visas. When Tamarlan Tsarnaev voluntarily returned to his country of origin, surely it then became obvious that there was no emergency need of refugee status? But earlier than that his parents returned to Russia. Why were they not required to take their children with them? I know, I know, there were incidents during the Cold War involving minors attempting to escape from the USSR in which we granted emergency refugee status visas to escapees, but that was a different world. The Soviet Union had 25,000 nuclear tipped missiles aimed at the United States, the Cold War Games were in earnest, the Red Army was poised just east of the Fulda Gap, and chiliastic Communism had a powerful minority position within the governing Politburo of the USSR. The world was a different place in those days.
Even then there were distinct signs that the Melting Pot, in which legal immigrants became Americans in spirit and their children became Citizens, was being overflooded. Of course the notion of the Melting Pot making Americans of those from all nations – one from many – was discarded by the American Left in favor of Diversity. That was a bit strange since the Communist system remedy for the “nationalism problem” and the “racial problem” was the Leninist process—everyone becomes a communist, the most enthusiastic get to join the Party, and that Party rules. What Stalin created out o that probably wasn’t quite what Lenin envisioned, but officially it was, and official meant the Party Line, and in American academia e pluribus unum was replaced by hymns to Diversity.
Of course American academia no longer studies history, and thus can prove anything it likes by making up historical theories that replace what actually happened without much fear of contradiction.
A second lesson from the Marathon bombings was confirmation of something long known: the Miranda Rights Experience ends all cooperation with intelligence gathering. The Constitution required assistance of counsel in a trial, and by extension insists that evidence obtained without the advice of counsel cannot be used in obtaining a conviction. Since no evidence is needed to make the case that the Brothers Tsarnaev were in fact guilty, and they had voluntarily told at least one victim of their rampage that they were the ones who done it, why is a constitutional protection against self-incrimination and a constitution right to counsel before and during trial translated into a prohibition against being interrogated? It is likely to be an unpleasant experience to have intelligence officers questioning you, but then it is an unpleasant experience to be blown up just as you are finishing a Marathon race; it is unpleasant to have your legs blown off; it is unpleasant to have your car hijacked; and one presumes it is unpleasant to be shot dead because your uniform shows you have a gun, and one of the brothers wants it to arm the other. In an age of terror.
The drums are beating for American involvement in the Syrian Civil War. The end of that game will be no better than Libya and probably worse; how can we know? We have no plan and no objective. Meanwhile there are demonstrations against American intervention in Syria. Meanwhile it is hard to see an American interest in killing more Middle Eastern people, given the success of our efforts in Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
It took me an hour to get from Wilshire Blvd to Inglewood and three hours to get from Inglewood to the Valley. I was more than thirty minutes late getting to Inglewood; I missed my appointment in the Valley by about two hours. I did not need the LA Times to tell me:
Los Angeles has reclaimed the dubious honor of having the worst traffic in the United States, according to an annual congestion scorecard.
It’s not only time you lose; you lose money in gas. And — God forbid — if you have a business, do you know how unprofessional it makes you look when you don’t have a crystal ball telling you how traffic will flow? How many people lose how many clients over this?
Four hours on the road is half the working day, which leaves most people with another four hours of productive time at best. I spent a total of six hours on the road that day. I got an hour of face time and an hour of office time. And they want to increase taxes to improve the eternally worsening roads and the ever increasing congestion..
Joshua Jordan, KSC
I understand that Elon Musk has contributed a fair amount to a foundation trying to solve the 405 problem. Most of the mess is bureaucratic of course. There are employment rules, and those employed have to show that they do something, so everyone reads each others’ minutes and comments before anything gets done. Meanwhile some Caltrans officials have other jobs or own Internet companies on which they spend time so they don’t have time to read the memos that have to be initialed before another memo can be issued for circulation.
California provides an important example for the rest of the nation. And the California government is so busy looking for ways to keep the ridiculous “High Speed Rail” scam going. We have spent a billion dollars on that! It isn’t enough! We need the full $150 billion before it becomes obvious that’s it’s a scam. And look how many people are getting rich off it. California has much to teach the nation about the future.
The attorney general says that the way we treat our friends and neighbors who are undocumented is key to who we are. There are those who say that friends and neighbors obey the laws including immigration laws.
View 771 Monday, April 22, 2013
Air Traffic Controllers have been furloughed, and flights are delayed, but be calm. The Bunny Inspectors are still on the job, so all is well.
Chechnya and Czechoslovakia
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Greetings! Writing to you from my new email address.
Perhaps nothing more illustrates the woeful state of American education than this statement made by the Czech ambassador :
Which was necessitated by this tweet:
Evidently the author, one Michael Matthews, leaped to the conclusion that the bombers were from Czechoslovakia and called for its nuking despite the fact that the two countries are a thousand miles apart.
Somewhere a geography teacher is crying him/herself to sleep while hitting the bottle hard.
I believe this animated gif best sums up my reaction:
EARTH DAY ABOUNDS.
Never fear, the icebergs will not be here next year.
I am using inspiration from Fallen Angels to celebrate Earth Day.
"Throw another log on the fire…"
Government Budgets vs. Private Industry
"Air Traffic Controllers have been furloughed, and flights are delayed, but be calm. The Bunny Inspectors are still on the job, so all is well."
As one recent letter to the editor in the Washington Post suggested, isn’t it interesting that mandating a 25% (or more) increase in the minimum wage (no small part of a company’s operating expenses) will supposedly not negatively impact a business’s operation, but a smaller cut in virtually any federal agency’s budget will apparently bring about significant downgrading in that agency’s ability to function.
This one is a bit of a stretch but once upon a time I attended a 1960 New Years party on Marlborough Street about a five minute walk from where the baloon went up. The folks I was with lived in Watertown about two and a half blocks from where the two firefights brought it down. I bet the two morons never even had a clue about how good facial ID technology has become. Considering the lousy tradecraft the FBI displayed in their first encounter with the older guy, it must have come as a hell of a shock to find that the non-Bunny Inspector side of the organization can be quite good.
‘So big business and big government are uniting to pursue their mutual interest in sticking it to the little guy.’
Every time Congress has taken a serious look at proposals to boost Internet sales taxes, it has rejected them. That’s probably why pro-tax Senators are trying to rush through an online tax hike with as little consideration as possible.
As early as Monday, the Senate will vote on a bill that was introduced only last Tuesday. The text of this legislation, which would fundamentally change interstate commerce, only became available on the Library of Congress website over the weekend. And you thought ObamaCare was jammed through Nancy Pelosi‘s Democratic House in a hurry.
This thing is on rails, speeding for passage.
Mr. Enzi’s Marketplace Fairness Act discriminates against Internet-based businesses by imposing burdens that it does not apply to brick-and-mortar companies. For the first time, online merchants would be forced to collect sales taxes for all of America’s estimated 9,600 state and local taxing authorities.
New Hampshire, for example, has no sales tax, but a Granite State Web merchant would be forced to collect and remit sales taxes to all the governments that do. Small online sellers will therefore have to comply with tax laws created by distant governments in which they have no representation, and in places where they consume no local services.
It is in a way the end of the Nation of States, and a very strong move toward abolishing the notion of state sovereignty.
subject: EARTH DAY
If one thing is trying to kill you, it’s called an enemy.
If everything is trying to kill you, it’s called Nature.
Earth Day is the result of a mass outbreak of Stockholm Syndrome.
Matthew Joseph Harrington
e pur si muove (the motto of consensus deniers since 1633)
View 771 Sunday, April 21, 2013
"Agents think the sleeper cell has up to a dozen members and has been waiting several years for their day to come.”
I have heard this from other sources as well. The Brothers Tsarnaev expected to get away with it, melting back into the woodwork and never being suspected. In that scenario, in due time some organization not associated with the Tsarnaev family would step forward and take credit for the Marathon Bombing. We have little experience with such long term activities of this sort. Communist and anarchist organizations more or less gave up “propaganda of the deed”, preferring other means for undermining confidence in the legitimacy of the government. Perhaps that is coming back?
Those who advocate suicidal jihad (generally for execution by someone else) find that the period in which the prospective jihadist is ready and willing does not last long: it is very difficult to plan long term events which require suicide for their culmination. Obviously there are some operatives willing to spend a long time planning to die for their cause, but there is never a surplus of them. There is speculation that at least some of those involved in the 911 hijackings did not know that the end of the affair would be using the airplanes as cruise missiles. Obviously the pilots knew the mission and did not expect to survive.
In the Boston Marathon case it is pretty clear that both participants expected to get away with it. When they found that they had been discovered they had a sudden need for the means and wherewithal to flee, and it’s pretty clear that they had given that matter no thought; the most likely reason for that was they didn’t expect to have to do it.
If there is evidence of long term sleeper cells but no file on the Brothers Tsarnaev, can we draw any conclusions on how well the security organizations are working now?
View 770 Saturday, April 20, 2013
The bomb went off near the Boston Marathon finish line. Across the street from one of the bombs is Lords and Taylor, a department store. The mother of the bombers is now reported to have been arrested for shoplifting at Lords and Taylors some months ago. I have also heard it reported that the surveillance photographs that identified the bombers was from Lords and Taylors. This is probably all gubbish, but it is a bit peculiar.