Dean Drive and many other matters: A mixed Mail Bag

Mail 837 Sunday, August 03, 2014


It began with

Nasa validates ‘impossible’ space drive


31 July 14 by David Hambling

Nasa is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that "impossible" microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or Nasa has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion.

British scientist Roger Shawyer has been trying to interest people in his EmDrive for some years through his company SPR Ltd. Shawyer claims the EmDrive converts electric power into thrust, without the need for any propellant by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container. He has built a number of demonstration systems, but critics reject his relativity-based theory and insist that, according to the law of conservation of momentum, it cannot work.

According to good scientific practice, an independent third party needed to replicate Shawyer’s results. As reported, this happened last year when a Chinese team built its own EmDrive and confirmed that it produced 720 mN (about 72 grams) of thrust, enough for a practical satellite thruster. Such a thruster could be powered by solar electricity, eliminating the need for the supply of propellant that occupies up to half the launch mass of many satellites. The Chinese work attracted little attention; it seems that nobody in the West believed in it.

However, a US scientist, Guido Fetta, has built his own propellant-less microwave thruster, and managed to persuade Nasa to test it out. The test results were presented on July 30 at the 50th Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Astonishingly enough, they are positive.

The Nasa team based at the Johnson Space Centre gave its paper the title "Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF [radio frequency] Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum". The five researchers spent six days setting up test equipment followed by two days of experiments with various configurations. These tests included using a "null drive" similar to the live version but modified so it would not work, and using a device which would produce the same load on the apparatus to establish whether the effect might be produced by some effect unrelated to the actual drive. They also turned the drive around the other way to check whether that had any effect.

This is big news: Science Magazine, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is publishing stories about a new Dean Drive and that generates a lot of hope. It is the first time I know of that Big Science has published stories implying that a reactionless drive is possible. I have far more mail on this than we can publish; one dialog will have to suffice. If you don’t know what a Dean Drive is, see and

Subject: On the new ‘Dean Drive’ and similar impossible devices

Hello Jerry,

I think I have sent stuff about the EmDrive before but given your last post on the new impossible (Cannae) drive and the fact that

there are apparently developments on the EmDrive front I thought I would ‘re-submit’:

First, the EmDrive website:

Second, the link to the 2012 Chinese paper (English translation) with some experimental data: The Chinese paper claims experimental verification of the Shawyer’s theoretical

thrust calculations.

Third, talk by Roger Shawyer, inventor of the EmDrive, with accompanying slides: Shawyer

actually mentions, with approval, the ‘Cannae’ device, which apparently uses a different approach to applying the idea and gives

(currently) at least an order of magnitude less thrust than the EmDrive.

Thought you may be interested because the talk heavily emphasizes the applicability of EmDrive technology to the development of

Space Solar Power satellites.

I, of course, know nothing first hand about these devices, other than they apparently do something that I have been told,

repeatedly, by very smart people, can’t be done.

On the other hand, these folks claim to have hardware which does it anyway.

Bottom line, the team at the Chinese university built a test model, tested it, confirmed to their satisfaction that the device produced thrust and no exhaust, per theory, and wrote a paper on their efforts, which was published under the auspices of the university.

I have no independent confirmation, nor do I have any idea what the Chinese are going to ‘do next’.

I know if I were the Chinese and had any faith in the test results as reported, I would keep pretty mum about it and make a serious effort to produce operational hardware based on the principle. A working system would allow them to do ‘space things’ that we can only dream about.

If you want to read their paper, it isn’t very long and here is the link:

Of course the paper itself could be a hoax; I have no way of knowing, although some enterprising reporter contacted the principle investigator and received a ‘We would prefer not to comment until we have done more work.’ for his trouble.

Shawyer also said in his talk that Boeing was given (sold?) his work on the EmDrive after going through all the hoops to obtain an official export license, but anything that Boeing is doing with it is not publicly accessible. He continues to work on advanced hardware and showed what he said was a demonstration of the device causing a 100kg test device to rotate on an air bearing. It in fact rotated, but I have no way of knowing what made it rotate.

Shawyer DOES have a long history in spacecraft engineering as a senior engineer on several programs, so he knows something about space operations.

The Wikipedia article on the subject boils down to two basic sides: The experts agree that the device is impossible because it violates the conservation of momentum, but can’t agree whether the reports of working experiments represent incompetence, fraud, or some combination of both; Shawyer and the Chinese say ’That is all well and good, but we have each, independently, built and tested devices based on the ‘EmDrive’ principle, they work as predicted, and nothing comes out the back.’.

I’m suspicious (chucking the conservation of momentum is not to be undertaken lightly), but I am darn sure rooting for Shawyer and/or the Chinese. And as Mr. Feynman says, “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it is wrong.” The question is: Do Shawyer and the Chinese have experiments?

Bob Ludwick

I fear I have over the years seen many of these papers with charts and equations and diagrams, but until I see an actual demonstration of inexplicable thrust I will wait to celebrate – and even then I suspect it is more likely that they have discovered a flaw in the testing procedure.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. By Laplace by way of Carl Sagan.

"I await demonstrations of effects, not more claims to be just about ready for public viewing."

Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

Re: On the new ‘Dean Drive’ and similar impossible devices

Hello Jerry,

The Chinese said nothing about public viewing but actually (claimed to have) built and tested a working model. The paper describes the test setup and plots the measured thrust vs applied power.

The measured thrust vs microwave power deviated from the theoretical thrust vs microwave power, but the Chinese test equipment traced the deviation as due to the frequency shift of the magnetron as the power was varied. Once the curve was corrected to plot thrust vs power in the cavity bandwidth the thrust vs power tracked theory pretty well.

Here is a description of the test setup from the Chinese paper, along with measured test results. They didn’t provide make/model of the test source or measurement equipment, but presumably it was actual hardware with functionality as described. I apologize for the fact that during my ‘cut and paste’ from the paper, some of the graphs were truncated. If you want to review them, they are fine (although the annotation was not translated) in the actual paper.:

[A lot of stuff deleted by JEP]

"4 Conclusion

Indifferent equilibrium thrust measurement devices verify that, based on classical electromagnetic theory, creating a propellantless microwave propulsion system can produce a net thrust; Net thrust measurement of propellantless microwave thruster experimentation shows that the direction of net thrust produced by the propellantless microwave thruster is from the frustum microwave resonator big end to the small end. The results are consistent with theoretical calculations."

I agree with you: everything that I have been taught says that you can’t obtain thrust without throwing something out the back. On the other hand, we have a paper produced by students/faculty of a real university (in China, translated) that says that they built and tested a device that produced thrust without throwing anything out the back and that the measured thrust produced tracked their theoretical calculations within the experimental error.

I have no way of knowing the truth or falsity of Shawyer’s or the Chinese claims. Shawyer shows his hardware and (somewhere, I think) shows a demo of it working. The Chinese describe their hardware, their test setup, and their test results. Are they lying or incompetent? I have no way of knowing, but I admit that I am a ’sucker’ for these types of things (Ecat/LENR, aka cold fusion is another example) because I WANT them to be true. Maybe this time, just this once, it is. I hope.

Bob Ludwick

If they have hardware that does it, why is it not on the front page? It isn’t that hard to demonstrate actual thrust, and theories and equations are not needed. Just a demonstration.

Especially if it’s dramatically greater than what NASA was testing. A gizmo that hangs off vertical when the power is on, and comes to a vertical rest when it is off would do as a first phase and is very photogenic. I’ve got about nine invitations to come see one "when it’s ready" — one in Edinburgh has been in that state for eleven years. Real Soon Now….

Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

Hello Jerry,

It is not often that I envy the ‘super rich’. I live in my world; they live in theirs. In the Venn diagram of our lives there is little to no union of theirs and mine. I have ‘enough’ to be happy, and am. I assume that if happiness is proportional to wealth they are very happy.

This however is one of the times that I wish that I, like the rich who casually purchase huge yachts and expensive cars, had a few million dollars of ‘If it goes down the rathole, I don’t care.’ money. If I did, I would be happy to pour it down the EmDrive rathole to either confirm that it works. Or that it doesn’t. I would rather have absolute confirmation that EmDrive works than any yacht or car ever made. I would even like to have absolute confirmation that the experiments run were faulty and that the conservation of momentum was in fact humming along happy as a bug in a rug. Knowing that there is NO cookie is actually ‘better’ than having a cookie in sight but just tantalizingly out of reach.

For me, a confirmed, operational EmDrive would be close to the ‘ultimate cookie’. And if I had the money I would try to purchase it.

Bob Ludwick

We can agree on that. I would very much like to see a proof of principle for a reactionless drive: a way to convert angular momentum into linear momentum, angular acceleration into linear acceleration, some new cosmic principle that requires energy conservation but does not require equal and opposite reaction; and indeed I applaud NASA for doing the tests.

However, it is my understanding that the current tests have been done in air, using torsion to measure acceleration, and that is suspect to me: I’d prefer they used gravity (a swing) and a vacuum chamber. If that’s too hard to arrange, put a garbage bag around the entire apparatus.

Complex electronics produce complex force fields; it’s quite possible for a torsion spring to be affected by such a field. That’s not mysterious; but if gravity is affected I’d call it extraordinary evidence.

We can only wait for more results. But I I had to bet, so far I’d still bet that they have found a demonstration of flawed testing principles, rather than disproving Newton.


NASA Looking to EmDrive to Revolutionize Space Travel

Take care

Alan Rosenberg


Coup proof…

"In short, the problem of how to improve Iraqi military capacity without undermining civilian control won’t go away when Maliki leaves office. It will persist until norms of democratic and civilian rule become entrenched in Iraq — a process that could take decades, if not longer. "

Famously, in recent history, the US does not have the patience (despite having the wherewithal, treasure, and expertise) to carry through efforts at true change. Americans arrogantly refuse to acknowledge that our own path our current (-ly imperfect) state has taken 240 years.

David Couvillon

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work



Poverty in America"

Dear Jerry:

You mentioned you are working on an essay about income discrepancy.

Those interested in poverty in America should become familiar with census data showing just how well the poor live. The typical household classified as "poor" has a car, air conditioning, two color TVs with cable or satellite, an Xbox or PlayStation, clothes washer and dryer, and the usual middle class kitchen appliances. The typical "poor American" has more living space than the average European and lives in a three-bedroom house with garage and patio. My grandparents lacked almost all of these things, and I lacked about half of them when I was a child.

A couple of articles summarizing these facts can be found at

The relative prosperity of the "poor" has been the case for a long time.

Thomas Sowell pointed out the failure of the "war on poverty", which was aimed at reducing government dependency. Instead the opposite occurred.

Some simple steps can be taken by individuals who choose not to be

"poor." The Brookings Institution reports that three factors are

directly linked to poverty and under the control of individual

Americans: education, family composition, and work.

Commentators point out you have a very small chance of being poor if

you do just three things: 1.) Graduate from high school, 2.) wait

until you are 21 to get married and don’t have children out of

wedlock, 3.) get a full-time job.

But the facts about poverty are usually ignored in service of some

political agenda.

As I mentioned in my e-mail to you that you posted on November 20,

2013, the federal government seems to believe that men and women, far

from being volitional creatures made in the image of God and charged

with getting wisdom, are instead no more than mice, slaves to their

desires and appetites.

The government imagines that such citizens can be saved from their

bad decisions by means of bureaucratically-imposed techniques rather

than through the development of moral behavior.

Bill Cosby, Walter Williams, and more recently Dr. Ben Carson have

spoken courageously in favor of taking personal responsibility to

avoid making bad decisions. They are regularly attacked for this in

the liberal press.

Facts about income mobility are suppressed by the mainstream press

and liberal politicians.

Best regards,

–Harry M.


‘The stark reality is that, once labor costs reach a tipping point, automation becomes a practical, efficient, and economical alternative, especially for low-skilled jobs. Once implemented, there is no going back, and today automation is more accessible than ever.’



Roland Dobbins

Precisely as I have said many times over the years. With low costs of capital – artificially low interest rates imposed by the Fed – and rising labor costs – Minimum Wages raised by both federal and state governments – the incentive is to invest in robots, not in training new skilled workers. The result is predictable and has often been predicted. Lower unemployment rates because more and more people give up looking for work and thus are not part of the officially unemployed; lower numbers of people employed; higher wages for those who are employed, as for example in unionized government jobs which cannot be mechanized (or electroncized) for political reason; and rising numbers of people out of work but who are not officially unemployed.

This doesn’t appear to be a stable situation.


Diversity in academia

Hello Jerry,

I noticed this in your commentary for 30 July, which I didn’t get around to reading until this morning:

"The American melting pot worked very well, but we have abandoned it for ‘diversity’; the result was predictable and in fact was predicted by many, including me."

It reminded me of the email that I sent to my daughter (science teacher in local high school) and daughter-in-law (program director at local university) earlier this morning:

"Dr. Mike Adams, Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology (with tenure, fortunately for him) at UNC Wilmington, comments on his university’s recent effort to recruit a new Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) to manage the campus’ five separate Diversity Offices and their administrative support staff. He provides some background, quotes from the job description, and translates those quotes into ordinary English so that it is understandable by the hoi polloi. "

Bob Ludwick


Great work, if you can get it.


And it sure beats hunting around for actual illegal immigrants at the actual border and doing something about them.


Roland Dobbins

It’s nice work if you can get it, but you can’t get it if you try…


DMV is the exception to the rule

I, too, have had pleasant and efficient experiences with the motor vehicle bureaucracy, however the opposite was true every time I had to interact with the Social Security Administration.

Each time I had to visit the SSA office, it was filled to SRO. Random alpha-numerics were assigned to those waiting so no one could get an idea of where they stood in the queue. With more than 50 people waiting, only two service windows [of the 10 available] were manned at any time. Often, someone walking in would jump the queue for a "short" question that lasted more than 10 minutes.

There was an armed guard in the waiting room [unlike my bank's local branch].

It actually took two months for the SSA to correct their errors in my case — I needed to qualify for Medicare disability because of end-stage renal disease, yet keep some independent health insurance coverage under my working wife’s benefits. Everyone in the bureaucracy acted as if this situation had never occurred before.

From the way the bureaucracy fouled up both coverage and start dates, I fear coverage under the Affordable Care Act will be even worse. I suppose if I wanted to die quickly, I’d apply for my VA health coverage.

Most federal bureaucracies are like a toxic tar baby.

Pete Nofel

"It ain’t ‘fair?’ Hey pal, ‘fair’ is where you buy funnel cakes."

Dog bites man isn’t a story….


America’s current genteel ‘poverty’

I read your comments on America’s current genteel ‘poverty’, where ‘poor’ people have medical care and access to information etc. that until about 50 years ago not even kings could dream of. Yes indeed, that should not be forgotten.

However, we need to remember that progress is not guaranteed. God does not come down from the heavens and grant Americans prosperity. It was built up by hard work over a long period of time, and if we fail to defend it, it can and will be taken away.

Consider that in India today there are about a half billion people who are chronically malnourished (and most of the rest aren’t doing much better). Indeed, recent research has shown that in post-Black Death Europe, the standard of living was considerably higher than modern third-world countries! (see “British Economic Growth 1270-1870”, by S. Broadberry, B. Campbell, A, Klein, M. Overton, and B. van Leeuwen, 2010).

Real poverty still exists in the world. Technology, as wonderful as it is, cannot keep up with a population explosion. Consider that India, with the technological fruits of 500 years of western progress, with the fifth largest economy in the world and chemical fertilizers and computers and free trade and satellites etc., and things are WORSE than before the Western renaissance began. There is no technology so advanced that it cannot be overwhelmed by ever more people. That is an established fact.

So yes, for now Americans are still lucky. For now. But we must beware the downwards trend. Every extra dollar an hour that median wages decline is that much more in the pockets of the oligarchs – and they have no reason to stop at just driving wages down by only one dollar. What is today a modest downturn in living standards could easily continue down to feudal european levels, if we are so stupid as to assume that progress is automatic, that technology is an unlimited cornucopia, or that our leaders always have our best interests at heart – because they don’t.

Globus Polidus

We are in a race between increased productivity and disaster. It’s not entirely clear which will win. Either way there will be far more discrepancy between rich and poor. It will be interesting when more than half the citizens of the Republic simply cannot do anything that someone will pay them money to do—at least more money than they are entitled to simply by having been born.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings
by Rudyard Kipling
AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don’t work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wobbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will bum,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.


Muslim Accomplishemnts

"Obama’s brief statement, issued earlier this week to send best wishes to Muslims during the Eid al-Fitr celebration, said that the observance reminds him and wife Michelle "of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy."

I am fairly familiar with American history but find myself at a loss to come up with any such achievements. Apparently, I am not alone, since a quick search of the Internet revealed only others asking the same question. Now, it is quite possible, even likely, that I am missing something. Does anyone know of any or is this list kept in the same vault as Obama’s college transcipts and other related personal papers?

As with most of his speeches, Obama speaks in vague generalities while avoiding saying anything specific.



I was on TWIT last Sunday and at some point it was mentioned that modern technology and computer games seem to be reducing the size of kids vocabularies. It was speculated that this would do no harm, but I brought up New Caledonia where one official language is Pidgin, a trade language with a very restricted vocabulary . I have a newspaper election issue written in pijin. It’s a bit deficient in abstract terms for anything…

musings after your recent guest spot on Twit

Hi Jerry

Using less vocabulary is certainly a danger to expressing ideas and philosophies. At least the more complex ones.

Try this:

inspired by

Years ago I read about the situation in the outskirt quarters of Paris, the banlieus.

This area of Paris is mostly inhabitated by immigrants and first to third generation decendants. As the immigrants come from a diversity of former French colonies and have an even bigger diversity of native languages, the communication took place in a lingua franca of a French with only a few hundred words. The bare minimum. As far as I remember, studies showed that the mere limit of the used language limited again the exchange of ideas, the general interest of the community to strive towards improvement and a content of the individual to strive towards better living conditions, as if the idea of having a better live died with the possibility to express it in words.

I bet there is a novel in it

My best wishes to you from Munich, Germany Manuel




I ran across a condemnation of democracy on a political site that I occasionally visit, that went something like this:

"Democracy is when 200 million Americans decided that 80,000 of their native-born neighbors and their aging parents should be sent to concentration camps because of their choice of ancestors."

The reference, of course, is to Executive Order 9066, signed by FDR, the hero of democrats and Progressives, which resulted in 120,000 Japanese Americans being torn from their homes in the cities of California and shipped off to camps in desolate parts of the country. All it took was "one drop of Japanese blood" to be sent to the camps, no matter the age

– one camp even had a "Children’s Village" for young orphans, who were in some cases pried out of the arms of their (non-Japanese) foster parents. This makes the United States one of only two countries ever to have a special "children’s prison," the other being Iraq under Hussein.

The denial of their most basic rights met the approval of most of the rest of the country, including all but a small handful of ACLU members.

If not for the fact that this is a REPUBLIC, there would have been no Supreme Court to free them (and even then, it took several years).


The Framers wanted nothing to do with Democracy. They were interested in freedom and rule of law, which are usually threatened by Democracy…


No appreciable attention paid to Cyclical Analysis of Weather

you may find this interesting

University of Washington <> paper



Violating Niven’s first Law

1. Never throw organic fertilizer at an armed man. Never stand next to someone throwing organic fertilizer at an armed man.

OR… throw organic fertilizer at an armed man while standing next to your son, hoping he’ll be killed for the glory of Islam while you escape to find someone else’s son to stand next to when you throw organic fertilizer again.



Carrington Event Almost Happened in 2012


Remember all the hype about CMEs in 2012? Some of this centered around the apocalyptic prophets of doom in populist circles, but NASA’s attempts to calm the public made me suspicious that there was actually something to worry about.

If the eruption of July 23, 2012 has happened a week earlier, it would have hit us. And, the cat is out of the bag:


Analysts believe that a direct hit by an extreme CME such as the one that missed Earth in July 2012 could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

A similar storm today could have a catastrophic effect. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.

"In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event," says Baker. "The only difference is, it missed."

In February 2014, physicist Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc.

published a paper in Space Weather entitled "On the probability of occurrence of extreme space weather events." In it, he analyzed records of solar storms going back 50+ years. By extrapolating the frequency of ordinary storms to the extreme, he calculated the odds that a Carrington-class storm would hit Earth in the next ten years.

The answer: 12%.

"Initially, I was quite surprised that the odds were so high, but the statistics appear to be correct," says Riley. "It is a sobering figure."



Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo



1) In that week’s time that we supposedly had a near-miss, the Sun rotated so far that the centroid of the CME was angled 135 degrees away from Earth in the plane of the ecliptic. This doesn’t take into account any tilt above or below the ecliptic. Video of the event indicate that it was in fact south-tilted by a substantial amount. I don’t call that a near-miss.

2) No argument whatsoever as to the effects, should one that big hit us. And it is inevitable that it shall, sooner or later. There is also some evidence that may indicate that such events are more probable during the descents into, and ascents out of, extended minima. So if we are indeed going into an extended minimum, then woe betide. (On the other hand, that 2012 event may have been the Carrington going in. The question then becomes, how many of those happen on the "walls" of the minimum? We don’t have enough data to say, since we’d not have noticed THAT one if not for the space-based solar observatories we now have.)

3) Having read the statistical analysis paper that gave that 12% figure (which was published in 2012, not 2014 as stated), the actual values range from 1.1% all the way up to 21%, depending on how he tweaks his initial conditions and what properties he assigns to Richard Carrington’s 1859 event. What the researcher is really trying to accomplish is to link together several databases in an effort to extend the known data back several centuries, to around 1500-1600AD.

The problem with this is twofold: A) it requires different methods of analysis to do so, and B) one of those databases is nitrate spikes in ice cores, and the space physicists and the ice core chemists don’t agree as to the source of the nitrate spikes.

I would, for instance, expect to see NO nitrate spikes during the period of the Maunder Minimum. How can you have flares and CMEs when the Sun’s surface is uniformly blank? But in fact there are several spikes during that time. This leads me to be somewhat skeptical of the nitrate data. There does seem to be some small reflection of the Maunder and Dalton minima in the graphs, and certainly the Carrington event seems to produce a titanic spike, but the evidence is not sufficient for me to say definitively that they match. In fact there is sufficient variance for me to say that I do not think the data can be entirely attributed to CME events. Therefore until the additional source of the nitrate spikes can be determined, I’m not sure it’s valid to use them as an extension of the database for Carrington-level events.

End result is that I am not at all certain of that 12% figure.

And if there is a triggering mechanism in the onset of an extended minimum, it may be sufficient to raise the figure to 100% in any case.

Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery <>

It may be time for survivalist movements again…


State Department Propaganda Continues

Put your beverages and snacks to the side or you’ll ruin your screen and possibly your keyboard when you start laughing. This State Department spokesperson is at it again. First let’s look at allegedly invented reports of artillery fire by Russia on Ukraine:


Apparently still laying the groundwork for their own planned military intervention [], the US government has invented a narrative of massive Russian artillery strikes against Ukrainian military bases along the border.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf introduced the story to the press at today’s briefing [], claiming that the US has secret evidence [] from “human intelligence information” that the attacks are taking place. The Pentagon concurred, saying such attacks have been going on “for several days.”

During the past several days, there has not been a single report out of Ukraine of an artillery strike against any of their military bases, anywhere in the country. The last such incident was two weeks ago, when rebels fired a BM-21 grad at a military base [].

And this is Ukraine we’re talking about, which comes up with its own dubious stories of Russian attacks on a near daily basis. If Russia was carried out concerted shelling against Ukrainian military targets, Ukraine would be harping on about it constantly. They aren’t even alleging anything close to that is happening.

The latest invented story appears to have been produced primarily as a replacement for Harf’s increasingly debunked allegations surrounding the MH17 shoot-down, a talking point which has gained her no small mocking in the press over the past week, as she directly contradicts the US intelligence community’s own releases on the matter [].


And, second, as you may have read, the Intelligence Community admitted a lack of evidence indicating direct Russian involvement in the MH17 tragedy. Once more 2+2=5:


Determined not to let the US intelligence community’s open admission that they have “no evidence of direct Russian involvement”

[] in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines MH17, the State Department has once again insisted Russian President Vladimir Putin is “directly” to blame for it [].

Puzzlingly, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf cited the exact same intelligence community briefing as proving Putin’s guilt, even though the officials delivering that briefing said the exact opposite of it. [] Harf also claimed to be privy to even more secret evidence that had not gone public yet, which also pinned the whole thing on Putin.


I would think that, after the ongoing Iraq debacle that started with Powell’s "facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence", the people are little tired of secret evidence that contradicts open source intelligence. Of course, anytime anyone says they have "facts"

that are "based on intelligence" you should know they’re either (1) deceptive or (2) incompetent. I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining why.


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


Russia vs United States

This may be the Russian perception, or it may be an attempt by the kleptocracy to direct animus against the West:


The real reasons that US-Russia acrimony has been inexorably building, they say, is that Russia is at the leading edge of emerging countries that are challenging the US-run global financial and political order.

The US plan, Mr. Markov says, “is to continue tightening the screws over the long term, aiming to increase discontent among Russia’s middle class, and to turn people against Putin. The ultimate goal is regime change, and we would be fools not to see that.”

Although the Kremlin has claimed that sanctions against Russia will “boomerang” against Western economic interests, few analysts believe Russia can win against the overwhelming financial and economic firepower of the US and its allies in any extended showdown. As such, some argue that Russia has no choice but to accept a measure of isolation as its lot.


Matt, at 1913 Intel, offers this:


Russia is at a revolutionary tipping point. Not that there is going to be a revolution today, but things could easily change in the not too distant future. In a couple of years Russia might be staring at a revolution. And that will mean death to the thugs in the Kremlin.

If you are the godfather of a mafia family, and someone is out to get you, what do you do? You get them first. If Russia is given a good enough excuse, there is the potential for a great-power war with the US.

In the end I guess Russian leaders feel the US should just sit back and let Russia change the entire world order while doing nothing to stop it. Seriously, the Russian leaders are delusional. Unfortunately, the West is delusional too. The West has disarmed in the face of two thuggish regimes: Russia and China. While the Russians may be delusional, they have the means and nerve to take out the West (read US).


With our gutted nuclear arsenal, our unfundable navy (such that it is), and the budget cuts in the army, etc., his analysis seems more correct than most Americans want to admit, but — like Matt says — the West is also delusional. And it seems that I have little to say on this matter that is constructive.


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


Slate article on failure to replicate in the Voodoo Sciences

I thought you might like this article on Slate:

Psychologists’ Food Fight Over Replication of “Important Findings”

Alas, I do not expect much from the voodoo sciences…




Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




The Spotless Sun and Climate Change Models; What was Russia Thinking?; Peer Review; and a mixed bag of other interesting comments

Mail 834 Saturday, July 19, 2014


The Spotless Sun

Spotless Days

I notice they’re not going back 200 years to the last extended minimum in their comparisons…nobody is, to speak of. Nobody wants to go there.

As far as "solar physicists really don’t know what is happening," well, maybe the "solar physicists" don’t (which I seriously doubt — they just don’t want to admit it out loud, especially in the current scientific viewpoints — ESPECIALLY given the party line on climate), but us variable star astronomers sure get it.

Three years ago the Sun was still ramping up from a very deep and prolonged minimum, also — so you can’t really compare the current zero to that zero.

The guy may work for NASA but that don’t impress me none.

Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery <>


Source real time solar constant three-month trailing


The minimum on July 14 is almost a full wt/m^2 below the (by eye) three month average. Note Source calibration accuracy/average relative to other in-space experiments at

Total Solar Irradiance 

Jerry, presents the history of total solar irradiance measurements in space.


The wide variation in values between experiments is the consequence of the different accuracies of the different devices. Within each data set, however, both the variation across the solar cycle (with a steady minimum energy corresponding to solar minimum and significant daily variations during solar maximum is evident, and in the Cycle 23 data set the long minimum and the relative weakness of the current cycle is evident.

The bottom line is that we don’t really know the solar constant with an accuracy of more than half a percent, and it varies over the solar cycle by about 0.2 percent (which corresponds to about half a degree Celsius in the absence of terrestrial factors which impact heat retention and re-radiation.

Another reason not to trust the models.


Differential Equations….

There’s a weekly public radio show called "Ted Radio Hour." It’s little tidbits of Ted Talks.

*This* week includes a recommendation from someone who wants to put microscopic droplets of sulfuric acid in the upper atmosphere to increase reflectivity thus cooling the planet.

Which started me thinking about several postings on your site several years ago talking about problems caused by decreased light reaching the surface.

The researcher does admit that the ‘unintended consequences could be dire’ although he doesn’t mention light reaching sea-level.


Yours Aye,

Rod McFadden

More reasons to be sure that you cannot trust the models despite the billions spent on developing them and paying the people who maintain them. Until the models can account for the Viking Warm (which extended from Nova Scotia to Eastern China: longer growing seasons, increased crop yields, mild climate in England, France, Germany…); the Roman Warm period prior to the collapse of the Empire during the volkvanderung; the Dark Ages Cool before the Viking Warm; and the various meanderings we had during the Twentieth Century, you are not justified in betting the future on a computer model’s predictions of the climactic future. Simple Bayesian analysis would tell us that in the face of this much uncertainty the least risky course of action is reducing the uncertainties, not in preparing for an undetermined future.


What Was Russia Thinking?


To make any sense at all of the airliner shoot-down, you have to look at what Russia was (apparently) trying to accomplish in the region.

In brief, in recent weeks they seemed to be trying to impose a deniable "no-fly zone" over eastern Ukraine.

"No-fly zone", because Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine recently had started systematically rolling up the Russian-supported ethnic-Russian separatists. Taking away Ukrainian air-support, air transport, and air reconnaissance would put the separatists back in the game without Russia having to blatantly raise their military presence on the ground.

Deniable, because Russia’s economy is already hurting from sanctions, and Russia very much needs to avoid forcing Western Europe to stop turning a blind eye and hanging back in the matter. Overt Russian attacks on Ukrainian aircraft over Ukrainian territory, just like formations of Russian troops inside Ukraine, would be hard even for the Western Europeans to ignore.

Of course, the separatists have had shoulder-fired AA missiles for a while now, and Ukraine has been losing occasional helicopters and transports at low altitude for weeks. This hasn’t been enough to stop their offensive.

This week though, things changed. A Ukrainian An-26 twin-turboprop transport was shot down at 21,000 feet (above practical shoulder-fired missile range) Monday. At the time, Ukraine said they thought the SAM may have came from Russian territory.

A Ukrainian SU-25 ground-attack jet was shot down Wednesday, Ukraine says by an air-to-air missile fired from Russian airspace. The pilot survived, and there also would have been radar coverage; they may well actually have known where the missile came from.

And then there are the recent-days press reports I sent you yesterday of the separatists having at least one mobile SA-11 "BUK" launcher, and of that launcher being spotted on the ground by an AP reporter in separatist hands. (Much more social-media and eyewitness evidence of this – and of the launcher minus-two-missiles being hastily moved back into Russia – is surfacing, now that there’s no choice but to pay


The clincher as far as I’m concerned is one early Russian reaction to the airliner shootdown: Indignation that the Ukraine ATC center had failed to realize that high-altitude aircraft were now at risk, and thus to route civilian airliners around the area.

This is an implicit admission that the Russians thought it was already obvious that high-altitude heavy aircraft were now at risk over eastern Ukraine. And who but the ones delivering the message would assume so, after only two under-reported and somewhat ambiguous high-altitude incidents, both recent enough that details hadn’t yet really circulated?

My assumption, based on this: The SA-11 battery ended up in separatist hands with Russian support, with the intent of providing the visible fig-leaf for a Russian shutdown of Ukrainian air assets in the region.

This fits the circumstances far better than any other theory I’ve heard.

But the Russians apparently miscalculated on two counts: They wrongly assumed their message would get across to the rest of the world quickly and unambiguously (which may indicate far too high an opinion of western civil aviation bureaucrats.)

And they may have left the separatist SA-11 battery too loosely supervised. (It’s also possible the local Russian "advisors" either assumed or were told that three days after their first shootdown, anything coming over would have to be Ukrainian military.)

The only good news in the whole murderous mess is that the Russians now would have to be barking mad to continue their "no-fly zone" attempt. I wouldn’t totally rule out their doubling down, though, as they were pretty damn crazy to try it in the first place.

But their obvious play now is to push for a cease-fire in place, which would also have the original desired effect of stopping the Ukrainian push to reassert control over the region. All the while denying and obfuscating furiously as only guilty Russians can.


A good analysis, and about the conclusion I have reached. Thank You.

Downed airliner


It seems to me that given the manner in which Ukraine disintegrated, it was almost inevitable that the Russian separatists would have acquired BUK missiles and launchers from captured Ukrainian military bases.

Even if the rebels did not capture the missiles, Russia had an obvious and arguably legitimate national interest in preventing Ukraine from using high altitude aircraft to wipe out the Russian separatists. I seem recall the US setting the precedent of supplying SAMs to rebels in a place called Afghanistan. The US is currently supplying SAMs to rebel forces in Syria who just happen to be the same rebels who now control much of Iraq.

The salient point is that Eastern Ukraine is a war zone. There have been quite a few aircraft shot down including several in recent weeks. Any airline with a brain would fly around a war zone.

James Crawford=

Which is about all you can say about it. It’s a war, and we don’t need to be in it. And as Putin says, if he cannot make friends with the West, there are potential friends for Russia in the East…

MH17 and the Ukraine crisis.

The way Russia is behaving, is a step back into the great power politics leading up to the 1. and 2. world war, and continued into the cold war.

One might have hoped for a different kind of politics in this day, and the fall of the Soviet Union did give a hope of a world where international law and civilized behavior between nations, would be the norm.

Should we all recognize that is was an error, an unobtainable goal?

In that case we will need well armed alliances again, willing to use or threaten with war again. Or a steep further along the distribution of ultimate force, where more and more nations will build a nuclear arsenal.

Or try to make an example of out of Russia, of what happens when a "great power" tries to bully its neighbors, effectively isolating and impoverishing it?

One thing is quite certain: Russia under Putin is no use as an ally.


Bo Andersen


I would not agree, but it is rapidly coming to that point. Russia and the US have many common interests, but given the anti-Slavic attitude – and bombings – in the Balkan during Albright foreign policy, the continued encirclement of Russia – some of it botched – and Mr. Obama’s mood swings, President Putin may have concluded that the US is no use as an ally or even a friend.

But you are correct: it is a new era of Great Powers, and requires a realistic approach to foreign policy. And I continue to believe:

John Quincy Adams on American Policy:

Whenever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

Fourth of July, 1821


That’s an interesting point about the Alabama Claims. A class-action suit against Russia by the families of the dead passengers? Russia may have more reasons than they realize for hastily hiding any evidence they supported the separatists.

I am not a lawyer, but there already looks to be enough evidence for lawsuit purposes that the separatists did it. Russia meanwhile has deep pockets, and was all over the scene of the crime. They could conceivably lose such a lawsuit on a mix of circumstantial evidence they supported the separatists plus evidence of trying to cover up that support.

I might want to get this in front of a Dutch judge, were I a lawyer. Or Australian… 298 dead people times some substantial number of millions each? I’d be surprised if the lawyers aren’t already circling.



SDI – Star wars

Roger Miller


The illegal ‘children’ coming over the border

A little while back you said that Obama could not stop the flood of third-world ‘children’ (17-year old MS13 gang members) coming over the border because of ‘the law’.

With respect, as intelligent as you are, this is profoundly stupid. ‘The Law’? What law?

Until around 1970, the United States enforced the laws against illegal immigration. The result was that illegal immigration was negligible. Since 1970 the cheap-labor-uber-alles rich have demanded that the government stop enforcing the laws against illegal immigration – and that is the entire story.

Most of the current illegal immigrant surge consists of adults, and adults with minor children. ‘The Law’ does NOT demand that they be given asylum – that is entirely at Obama’s discretion.

And for those few unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors – no, Obama is not forced to let them in because of ‘the law’. He’s doing it because his cheap-labor patrons want it. He could stop it tomorrow if he cared, ‘the law’ be damned.

Wasn’t it a Nazi jurist who said ‘he is sovereign who makes the exceptions’? Obama can do any damn thing that he wants. He could just deny that anyone without papers is really a minor. He could have the military put up a fence, and just refuse to let anyone pass. He could claim national security and throw them all back , and classify the whole thing which means that no lawsuits could be filed because nobody could legally prove that anything had happened. He could cut off aid to Mexico until they stopped letting central Americans have free passage – and confiscate the bank accounts of senior Mexican government officials etc. – and stop letting Mexicans come to the USA without passports. And if the illegals filed lawsuits, well, Obama could just ignore them , delay them, claim national security, drag it out, etc.

And if in the final analysis stopping the border flood really required new laws, AND THE RICH WANTED THIS, we would have new laws in about two weeks. Remember how quickly congress passed a multi-trillion dollar bank bailout? So no, Mr., Pournelle, Obama is not refusing to enforce the laws against illegal immigration because of the law (but isn’t that a contradiction?). He’s doing it because he’s been paid to.

It’s like Joseph Heller’s catch22B – Obama can do anything that you can’t stop him from doing. He could machine-gun children at the border and Congress can’t stop him – unless they impeach him, and if the rich like what he’s doing, that’s not going to happen. Period.

I did not say that. I said that there is a law requiring a hearing before we can deport children originating in non-contiguous countries; it may not be a wisely chosen law, but it is the law.

I have been a vocal proponent of building better fences since 1980. I note that money was appropriated to build fences, but it has not all been spent. The President has said that fences don’t stop people, but I note that he has them around the White House.

‘Government data show that since 2000 all of the net gain in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal). . .

. . . the long-term decline in the employment for natives across age and education levels is a clear indication that there is no general labor shortage, which is a primary justification for the large increases in immigration (skilled and unskilled) in the Schumer-Rubio bill and similar House proposals . . . ‘



Roland Dobbins

The economy is still in a Depression although we don’t admit that. Unemployment is enormous, since so many have abandoned all hope of finding a job. About half the citizens no longer pay any income tax. This is not economic recovery.

A simple economic recovery could be had at any time: simply double the exemption numbers in the existing laws. It could be done in hours. That is, for any business exempt from various regulation because it has 10 or fewer employees, that number is now 20; for those exempt from various laws and regulations because they have under 50, the exemption number is now 100. And so forth. This for a period of at least ten years. The effect on the economy would be instant and highly desirable.

Of course no one seems to be considering that move.


Separatists and missiles


I would point out that A), the separatists have captured a LOT of Ukrainian materiel and ordnance, and B), they’ve already been shooting down aircraft with it.

Dunno if they have anything with 33,000 feet of reach, but remember that the Russkis had 60,000-foot reach in 1960 (when they shot down Powers’

U-2 and one of their own pilots who was trying to shadow Powers). I wouldn’t be surprised if Ukraine had (and lost) systems that can down jetliners.

Pix of the crash site show that the plane was relatively intact and in a steep but NOT VERTICAL descent when it hit the ground, which is consistent with damage caused by hits from fragments of what was almost a near-miss, pointing to the possibility of missiles launched by semi-skilled operators. Control systems or surfaces don’t take much damage before being rendered ineffective.

I have no explanation for a lack of distress calls from the plane. It would have taken as long as a couple of minutes to go from cruise altitude to the ground, more than long enough to have let someone know there was a problem.


Gary Powers died believing he was shot down, but Possony and I concluded long ago that he was downed by a bomb planted in his U2 in Pakistan. The Soviets had no surface to air missile capable of reaching that altitude anywhere near the site of the supposed interception, and it is doubtful that they had anything capable of that at all.


Could the Soviet Union have won the cold war?

Interesting speculative piece. But missed the main event.

Yes – if Lenin had lived. Lenin started out an orthodox communist – but when he saw that it wasn’t’ working, he was flexible and adapted to a "New Economic Policy" (NEP), which was a lot like modern China.

As Churchill said, the greatest tragedy of Russia was that Lenin had been born, the second greatest was that he died when he did. That let Stalin take over, and not just kill all the smart Soviets, but also cancel the NEP and move back to the dead hand of completely centralized economic planning.

If Lenin had lived ten more years and been healthy? One never knows…


Americans Too Stupid for GMO Labels


I am very torn on this one. I, too, believe in truth in advertising and hold it to be an important job for the government to unsure complete and accurate advertising of any product or service. Fraud cannot be tolerated in any marketplace and this is one area of market regulation that I am troubled by only when it fails.

All of that said, the GMO issue in the market place has to rest right along side the vaccines-cause-autism issue. GMO crops must pass strict safety testing and even the European Union has decided that it cannot exclude GMO products from its markets on a safety basis, despite trying hard to find anything possible dangerous about them (Are GM crops safe for human and animal health and the environment? ( Given that this is the case, labeling a product as GMO does feed into the hands of the fear mongers, and the fear mongers have killed more than enough people with the false vaccine scare. Dr. Andrew Wakefield deserves an uncomfortable place in the eighth circle of Hell for his hand in this (from January 5, 2011: Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud,’ British journal finds (

Required labeling should address issues that are known to widely impact health, such as sugar, caffeine, and trans-fat levels. Adding pesticide residuals and antibiotic residuals may be warranted, but the jury is still out on these. It should not warn of things that are not issues.

It wouldn’t hurt if people knew who they could trust, but that has been thrown away by nearly every group; actually sold, not thrown away. Ah well.

Child Migration & The Rule of Law


You wrote on the child migration issue: "But the law at the moment says they are entitled to a hearing, and it is not likely the President would sign a Bill removing that restriction even if the Senate would allow it to come to a vote." We have a President with little respect for the rule of law. When this crisis he has created does not get him what he wants and begins to turn into an embarrassment to his Administration, I suspect he will ‘reinterpret’ the law to mean that it does not apply to minors. They will then be on the planes and gone.


The Peer Review Scandal, Part II


You are right, that as written, it does not look so ‘quick and easy.’ However, if you consider that this attitude adjustment can be enforced by policy changes in a few key places — the funding agencies and the major journals, it becomes a whole lot easier and quicker to carry out.

As for the voodoo sciences and the subpar science, I believe that most of that would go away automatically as the need to fund replication along with the original research would help ensure that the funding was more carefully placed. We do have to be very cautious, though, as the craziest ideas sometimes turn out to be the most important, like quantum physics. Ninety years ago when it was born, it had no use at all. Now it keeps about a third of the world economy running.


EE, and is the new colossus old now?,

Dr. Pournelle,

Heartily agree with your advice to your young neighbor on pursuing electrical engineering, and with the advice on statistics offered subsequently from a reader. In addition to selecting a good school, which you also mentioned, I would also encourage him to seek working internships early and as often as is practical. Various relatives and acquaintances who have completed degree programs are finding it difficult to get a position without practical experience, and few universities seem to require the apprenticeship work for an engineering degree any more. Those who do get internship work seem to be easy to place in a good job after graduation.

At one time, I would have recommended one of the military academies, which once would have provided both education and practice, with employment guaranteed. I’m sure that is not the right option for everyone.

On immigration and the illegal minors now being held near me, I am a little confused on my own position. I was canalized by my teachers to _believe_ in the principles voiced in the Emma Lazarus poem:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

However, I see this flood of minor illegals as a Dickensian attack designed to overwhelm the resources dedicated to stop it, apparently successfully. Certainly any nation must be able to guard its borders, but I truly believe that these people represent a great resource that shouldn’t be discarded off hand. Definitely a dilemma that I’ve no idea how to resolve.


We can’t educate our own children; how can we educate those who come without parents? Of course we could, in the sense of having the military do it – think of them as apprentice Legionnaires – but we are not likely to do that either.


Net Neutrality and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act

I thought your comments on "This Week in Tech 463: All the Pretty Things" was perfect. I’m sure this is a more complicated issue than I realize, but I think you’re right. More U.S. citizens need to realize that this is more likely an FTC than an FCC one.




Robert Heinlein


This will be familiar to many of your readers but it bears repeating.


“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

John Edwards




Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Mailbag: Iraq, race and racism, soccer rules, and voodoo sciences

Mail 830 Friday June 27, 2014


TWIT 463

Hi Jerry,

As I was listening to the show I couldn’t help but notice you sounded much better than last year: clear voice, faster speech and better precision. You sound like you lost 20 years! Well done, I am glad the effect of all those rads seems to have faded, and I always appreciate your ability to see the big picture, conciseness and objectivity in debates and opinions.

Best regards,

Francis Gingras

Longtime reader

Well, thank you. I feel better also.


View on Iraq

I think I told you about the Bechtel manager I met at an RV park up the coast. He and some undercover SOCOM types were in Iraq before the invasion. They were spotting bridges to be hit by our planes. They expected enough precision that only part of the bridge would be taken out. They were building replacement parts in Kuwait so that after the invasion the infrastructure could be rapidly re-built. He was in the palace with commanding general when Bremer came in like a bull in a china shop. He fired the general, tossed the plans to use the Iraq army, and generally pissed everyone off. It’s ironic to me that if we were more like the Iraqis, someone would have shot Bremer in the head and the report would have gone back to HQ that Bremer had an unfortunate accident or some such and that they would have to send someone else.

Phil Tharp

It is probably as well that the Legions had not learned, but they are not stupid.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:

We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face

The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ "Chuck him out, the brute!"

But it’s "Saviour of ‘is country" when the guns begin to shoot;

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;

An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

                        Rudyard Kipling


The Voodoo Sciences


All sciences mature through a series of phases, first is identification, then classification, followed by experimentation. You have to know what is out there (e.g. find all the different rocks, stars, plants, elements, and so on), then develop an understanding of relationships among what’s out there (e.g. these rocks all look alike and these other rocks all look like each other, but the two groups are different…), and finally begin to develop testable hypotheses about what made each classification what it is and made them differ from each other.

Each step is necessary and will happen at different rates for different areas of investigation based upon the breadth of things to catalog, the complexities of measuring them for classification, and the difficulty of developing experiments that can be carried out. Biology has only recently entered the stage of experimentation.

The social "sciences", on the other hand, are still firmly rooted in the identification and early classification stages. Additionally, most of the participants in the social "sciences" have waved off the need to move to experimentation and are willing to posit "theories" that they will happily hold as untestable. It is at that point that the social "sciences" stepped off the scientific maturation process and became "sciences" only in quotes.

The sad thing is that psychology and sociology may finally have the tools needed to carry out meaningful experiments in human cognitive response. Brain imaging, electronic monitoring, and non-destructive interference with brain function through trans-cranial magnetic induction (TMI) are beginning to provide the needed observation and objective measurement methods needed for experimentation.

Kevin L Keegan


You wrote on June 23, 2014

"But the result is cynicism about all science. The American people are not well educated and as time goes on that condition will only get worse."

Cynicism about science is not confined to the lesser educated.

Cynicism about science exists with good reason among our most highly educated people.

In previous posts I mentioned conflicts of interest influencing the claims of those designated as scientists.

The corruption of peer review was documented at

Outright fabrication of results in promoting an agenda was discussed at

At times, in fact almost daily, articles in the peer-reviewed scientific literature are retracted as a result of fraud by scientists.

A 2005 article in PLOS Medicine concludes that most published research findings are false.

I am reminded that science was invented by and nurtured in the Roman

Catholic church in Medieval times by individuals motivated by the

idea that studying nature could provide insights into the mind of the

loving God who had created a universe of order and reason.

For popular, readable expositions of this fact, see Rodney Stark’s

"The Victory of Reason" and "For the Glory of God."

Of course, once the methods of science were invented and shown to

work, it was not necessary for practitioners to believe in a holy,

righteous, and reasonable God. The techniques were now available to all.

However, technique without a transcendent foundation transforms the

practice of science from a search for truth to a quest for power over

others in the service of some social or political agenda. Scientific

integrity must be optional. See, for instance, C. S. Lewis’s "That

Hideous Strength" for a novelization of the concept.

Those interested in the implications of basing societal norms on the

shifting foundation of human will might also be interested in Arthur

Leff’s "Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law". (Duke Law Journal, vol.

1979, no. 6, pp. 1229-1249, December 1979)

Today when it comes to the practice of science under the new

Lysenkoism we might paraphrase John Adams:

Science was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly

inadequate to the life of any other.

Best regards,

–Harry M.


Race vs racism

Hello Jerry,

"Race Has a Biological Basis. Racism Does Not”

Mr. Wade puts his toe into the ‘anti-political correctness’ pool, but just can’t make himself dive in.

I think it is Fred who has pointed out, many times, the fact that there are NO examples of societies in which races are represented in roughly equal percentages in which they co-exist peaceably, without ‘racism’.

There are countless examples of societies in which there are multiple races, with one dominant and small percentages of another race or other races where everyone gets along relatively well, but as the percentages begin to equalize, racism inevitably happens. I don’t know the percentages, and it undoubtedly varies from case to case, but my guess would be somewhere between 10 and 20%.

The phenomenon is not confined to race, either. It works with religion, too. Muslims, for example, get along just fine with other religions—until they reach somewhere between 10-20 percent. Then they start killing their way into power. Catholics and protestants: see Ireland. Ad infinitum.

All this would indicate to me that racism (or maybe ‘groupism’), as well as race, is as much biological as race itself. It is ubiquitous, and it is not, as the progressives would have us believe, confined to red-neck white conservative Christians. I could easily be wrong, but there is a good deal of evidence that I am not.

Bob Ludwick


Dr Pournelle

Once upon a time, I was a pro soccer referee. While I have no direct experience myself reffing a World Cup match, I know several who did have such experience.

FIFA <> run the World Cup referee assignment committee. Brazil does not provide all the referees to all the games. In international matches — and all the World Cup matches are international matches — the referees must be impartial. In practice that means the referees may not come from either country competing in the match.

For the USA-Portugal match, the best info I have is that the center referee was Nestor Pitana, an Argentine. Because Argentina is a Spanish-speaking country, I suppose Sr Pitana speaks Spanish. He may also speak Portuguese as well. I don’t know. If he does, then likely he speaks a dialect of Brazilian Portuguese. I know from personal experience that there are many dialects of Portuguese in Brazil. Continental Portuguese is different. To my ear, it sounds more like Castilian Spanish than any of the Brazilian dialects.

I do not know, but based on the fact that Sr Pitana is a high-rated and highly-respected international referee, I would wager a large sum that he speaks English.

The idea that an Argentine referee prefers Portugal to the USA is possible, but I find it not probable. I think Sr Pitana prefers his own reputation as an impartial international referee. I also found his concern for the players’ health to be commendable: He was the first World Cup referee to call a hydration break.

I watched the match, and I saw nothing that would indicate that Sr Pitana favored Portugal.

As for the added time, many of the matches — too many, in my view — have had 5 minutes added at the end of regulation. Not only USA-Portugal but many others. Perhaps this is due to the heat in Brazil and the injuries that result from it. I don’t know. I do know that I have become aware of the long added times.

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith


Dr Pournelle

At this World Cup, the scores are up and the number of ties is down. Why? The ball <> .

image <>

How the Brazuca may be changing soccer at this World Cup <>

The number and quality of goals in this year’s World Cup is remarkable bordering on incredible, and there have been plenty of theories as to why. The simplest may b…

View on <>

Preview by Yahoo

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

Who is to blame for Portugal’s late goal?

Dr Pournelle

If you must blame someone for Portugal’s late goal (90′+5′) <> , blame Michael Bradley <> . Bradley mishandled a trap in the last minute and tried to salvage his error and take the ball upfield. He lost the ball to Eder <> . Eder passed to Ronaldo <> . Ronaldo crossed to Varela <> for the header to tie.

Bradley showed signs of fatigue. I do not excuse his errors for fatigue. He muffed the trap, and his ego led him to try to salvage his error. Swallow your ego. Win the game.

The correct play for Bradley was to clear the ball out of bounds. Had he done that, the seconds would have ticked away and the final would have been USA 2 – 1 Portugal.

Were ifs and buts candy and nuts, what a merry Christmas we would have.

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

PS Based solely on the facts that the USMNT manager (a position most Americans call ‘coach’) Jurgen Klinsmann <> played for the 1990 World-Cup-winning West German national team and was once the German national team manager, I believe that in the final match in Group G Germany and USA will tie.

Three letters that sum up more than I know about soccer, referees, and rules. Thanks.


Racism and Sports


Please be careful with statements like "Anyone watching a basketball game will understand that races exist and skill sets relevant to basketball are not distributed equally among the races; and that’s hardly cultural." If we look at the demographics of basketball we find that in 1949 there were no African-Americans playing professional basketball, but by 2005, 76% of the players were African-American. A striking evolutionary gain! What is even more puzzling about these gains in basketball is that Division 1 college basketball only had a 63% African-American demographic compared to 33% white in 2005. Those evolutionary traits must not kick in until after college. Similarly in baseball, we can conclude that non-white races had not evolved any talent for the sport before 1946. But by 2012, some 7.2% of the players were African-American and 26.9% were Hispanic — a tremendous evolutionary gain in under a century!

My point is that economic opportunities are meted out on the basis of racial bias — racism — not on the basis of evolutionary abilities. Economics IS cultural and how we run our economy is culturally biased.

Kevin L Keegan

Prior to Jackie Robinson there were no Blacks playing professional baseball. There are many now. What has that to do with the ability to play? You have made no point I can recognize.


The Bugs in Darwin


You said, "official position that heredity is unimportant compared to culture"; which is true for a few things such as race, but by and large most things are now taught as a product of heredity – alcoholism, drug addictions, promiscuity, homosexuality, etc. – rather than a product of heredity and culture. While most of these things may have some basis in our genetic makeup – being more inclined to alcoholism because of a particular body chemistry does make sense – it doesn’t excuse the personal choice to indulge in the first place, especially if your parents and grandparents were alcoholics. The sad part is, we are now using these genetic excuses for why it is acceptable to be an alcoholic, a drug addict, cheating on your spouse, etc. When everything can be blamed on our genes how can we be held accountable for the choices we make?

Braxton S. Cook

I may have a defect of understanding, but I am not sure I follow your argument.

I have said and I think it is easy to demonstrate that the official “scientific” position in the voodoo sciences deliberately ignores easily repeatable observations. The usual Darwinian evolution comes to a halt when civilization makes it easy for the “less fit” to survive to have children. Of course that leads to the question of what do we mean by fit and less fit? The Spartans had their views on the subject, and all children born to Spartan Equals were inspected by the Ephors to determine whether they were to be permitted to live; this defined ‘fitness’ in one way, discernible by adult males examining infants of both sexes. Some of the founders of the Eugenics movements thought that the ‘unfit’ certainly included the mentally retarded, and advocated compulsory sterilization. (“Three generations of morons is enough.”) Various racists have defined various other races as manifestly ‘unfit’ to breed and bear children.

None of this has much to do with science, but fear of what science might discover dictates certain axioms of the voodoo sciences that must not be questioned. That mean in effect that it is no longer science.

As I long ago concluded, there are levels of rationality. Novelists are story tellers; we are required only to be plausible. Politicians fit into the category. They seek plausibility and persuasiveness, but they seek not truth.

Advocates are required to present all the evidence favorable to their case or their clients case, but are under no obligation to present evidence unfavorable to their arguments.

Scientists have the obligation to come up with falsifiable propositions, and to present and explain or admit inability to explain all the evidence of the truth or falsity of their propositions. All the evidence. The voodoo sciences openly suppress any evidence that might falsity their well mean axioms about equality and the irrelevance (or even non-existence) of race; and denounce as racists any who present any evidence for the existence of races of man, or of different trait distributions among those races. This can be ludicrous when it comes to athletic prowess, and it is quietly agreed that we can allow that certain races are more likely to produce athletes best at certain sports – but never say that aloud. After all, white men can jump…

There are undoubtedly some syndromes of effects. Alcohol tolerance is not equally distributed among humans nor among the races of humans; neither is resistance to fetal alcohol damage. We are beginning to understand some of those combinatory factors. And it has always been hoped that something like Head Start will erase intellectual differences among the races wherever it is applied. Everyone eagerly searches for evidence that it has worked. It seems extraordinarily difficult to find.

The climate sciences apparently are moving in the same direction, so that the Roman and Viking Warm periods known to us from history tend to vanish when climate models are constructed. There are similar tendencies in other sciences, so that supposed scientists become advocates, and often are required to be by custom if not by law.

And so it goes.


"spy" glasses

Despite the rhetoric and fear mongering (check the comments!), this is less a ‘spy’ tool and more akin the ‘heads-up’ display for fighter pilots. This will be tremendously useful to Marines on the ground (if portable power and uninterrupted connectivity can be assured).



David Couvillon

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work






Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Incompetent Empire; Politicizing IRS; freedom and religion; high frequency trading; and other matters of interest and importance.

Mail 829 Saturday, June 21, 2014


SUBJ: An amusing experimental cartoon

Science in the age of _USA Today_ and _People_ magazine.



I have bookmarked that site. Thank you.



You wrote:

"I do not believe anyone can put Iraq back together again. Saddam did so for a while, and we had an opportunity to continue that policy without its brutality (and without Saddam’s sons acting like the sons of Septimius Severus). It was possible to continue Western rule of Iraq through the tried and proven practices of client rulers. Saddam’s generals had control of the army; the army knew it could not defeat the United States, but it could control the populace; the elements of client rulers were in place. Were, until Bremer disbanded the armies that could control the population."

Jerry, I would submit that the US had employed the old imperial system of maintaining a network of client rulers in the Middle East for half a century. The first Persian Gulf War was essentially an example of the legions having to discipline a client ruler that had rebelled. Unfortunately; the first gulf war provoked extreme animosity which escalated to the 9-11 attacks. The fact that the hijackers were Saudi Arabian or Kuwaiti citizens rather than Iraqis only confirmed how dangerous the old imperial system was becoming. The near nuclear effects of the weaponized airliners that were used in those attacks combined with the prospect that Middle East client states would obtain nuclear weapons (Pakistan already had nuclear weapons and we later learned was marketing nuclear technology) inspired Bush to seek an alternative strategy. The idea of spreading democracy at the point of a bayonet was essentially liberal ideology dating back to the time of Woodrow Wilson or perhaps it dates back to Napoleon or ancient Athens. However; the only real alternatives were either a campaign of extermination against Muslims or surrender to Islam. Your preferred policy of energy independence is of course only common sense but when combined with isolationism it only delays the decision to either surrender or kill hundreds of millions of people.

I myself now favor a combination of energy independence and extreme isolationism. Thanks to President Obama’s eagerness to not only discredit Bush by abandoning Iraq (Iraq was stable after Bush’s surge) but alienate the Pakistanis whom Bush had persuaded to liberalize their economy, and promote the Arab Spring which was essentially a policy of surrendering the entire Muslim world to jihadists, the world has become far to dangerous for any policy except isolationism. Our European allies have been compelled by their demographic implosion to pursue a policy of appeasement that will lead to their surrender to the Caliphate. Obama has surrendered Africa to the tender mercies of the jihadists. I am clinging to the forlorn hope that observing the brutalities that the Muslims will inflict on native Europeans might inspire a renascence of faith and militaristic patriotism in the US that will be needed to wage a genocidal war against Islam. Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea and the resurgent birth rates that he has inspired are obviously an effort to strengthen Russia in the hopes of surviving the coming storm. Although Russia’s prospects for survival are dubious, Russia rather than Europe should be our ally. China and India, as well as perhaps Japan if they can avoid demographic oblivion, are also our natural allies. Australia, New Zealand and Canada as well as Latin America are irrelevant because they are surrendering to Islam and the demographic implosion.

In the final analysis the US will need to heed the wisdom of Captain Roderick Blaine.

"Conquest is expensive. Extermination is cheap."

James Crawford

I cannot agree that we were practicing anything like competent imperialism at any time in the Middle East. The first Bush War was needless, and would not have happened had there been competent agents in Baghdad to tell Saddam Hussein that Kuwait was off limits at that time: not that we disputed his claim to Kuwait, but we simply could not allow a Baathist regime that close to Saudi Arabia and the other Arab sheikdoms. Why Bus I did not make that clear is not known to me: he had after all been Director of the CIA and had plenty of experience in those matters. Why he relied on April Glaspie, a career Foreign Service Officer, to deliver a message that had to come from the President is not at all clear to me. She should have made it clear that Kuwait was off limits at the time, and that taking Kuwait would be a very serious step. She did not.

For whatever reason, allowing relations with Saddam to get to the point of our having to send in the troops is inexcusable incompetence.

The Second invasion of Iraq was an example of military competence, but then we sent in Bremer, a career Foreign Service Officer, to be proconsul, with utterly disastrous results. Without the Baathist regime and army Iraq could not be governed and anyone with any sense would have known that; but Bremer disbanded the army and the Baathist ruling structure, and the result was both predictable and predicted.

I cannot agree that Iraq was stable at any time after Bremer did that. The US cannot directly rule Iraq, and the surge was needed just to keep enough order to make it easy to get out. We never did rebuild any kind of stability into Iraq, nor could we given that there is no such place as Iraq. We did well with the Kurds, and had the troops been given the proper orders we could have built Shiite and Sunni regimes, all dependent on us for their existence; but we did not do that either. Imperial rule is a long term affair and the American people are not very good at it. The Philippine experience showed that well. We do not really want to train our military to rule without the consent of the governed; there are few places worth the long term costs of doing that.

Afghanistan is another example: We could have gone in, thrown out the Taliban, accepted the thanks of the Afghans, and got out quickly, leaving behind the memory: if you harbor our enemies we are coming, and you will not like the experience. Keep out enemies out of your country.

Conquest is expensive. Extermination is cheap; but not for the United States. An as imperial policy it may be needed; but it is not necessary. The United States has not the stamina or desire for a long term policy of competent empire; and we cannot afford to continue to try incompetent empire.


I read, and agreed, with COL Couvillon’s letter. I wanted to add something to this line:


That leaves Jordan vulnerable, which in turn threatens Israel.


A recent article from the Guardian caught my attention; it quotes other sources, including the Associated Press:


A fighter using a loudspeaker urged the people to join the militant group "to liberate Baghdad and Jerusalem." The Islamic State’s black banners adorned many of the captured vehicles. Some in the crowd shouted "God is with you" to the fighters.


Not only would Israel be vulnerable in the scenario the colonel outlined, it seems ISIS has every intention of attacking Israel. I suspect the promise of attacking Israel would motivate many disenfranchised young men from several nations in the region to sign up and so we could argue this is only a talking point.

But, I do not think it is a stretch of the imagination to say that we’re — likely — not dealing with rational actors. So, let’s say it’s only talking point to recruit people and they have no intention of attacking Israel. What happens when the chips are down? Could they go for it as one last hoorah? Also, let’s consider that ISIS now, allegedly, has access to chemical weapons. Even if ISIS cannot, militarily, attack and "liberate" Israel they might commit atrocities.

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo



Will: ‘Serious as are the policy disagreements roiling Washington, none is as important as the structural distortion threatening constitutional equilibrium.’


I’m unsure about the wisdom of the lawsuit Will proposes. It seems to me that the Constitution already provides a mechanism for dealing with a rogue President – impeachment – and that trying to utilize the judiciary in the way Will suggests will only lead to further problems down the road.


Roland Dobbins


Lerner Emails 2 + 2


A classic way of finding "lost" emails is in the archives at the other end. The question of the year of course is, were Lois Lerner and the gang of six coordinating with the White House.

I saw a clip of Jay Carney the other day, very smugly asserting that the White House had found no Lerner emails on their end.

Then I just now saw that the White House was made aware six weeks before the Congress that the IRS had definitively lost all its copies of a critical two years’ worth of Lerner+6 emails.

And 2 + 2 added up.

There’s probably not much point in looking at White House (or DOJ) archives for Lerner+6 emails now; they’ve had six weeks to scrub.

But looking for traces of the scrub might prove fruitful. Can’t get them for the crime? Then go after the cover-up. This one, possibly done in some haste, may have left tracks if someone skilled enough gets in and looks, hard, soon.

There may also be tracks on the IRS end, if only circumstantial, in the timing and disposition of the Lerner+6 "disk crashes".

I have trouble remaining calm in the face of the evidence in this matter. Politicizing the IRS is a nuclear weapon. It should never have been used. Now that it has been, the world of US politics has changed.


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Why "modus vivendum"?

I thought vivendum would be in the genitive: vivendi That’s what I remember Miss Benson teaching me, but that was back in ’53 so I may be a bit foggy.


Latin[edit <> ]

Participle[edit <> ]


1. nominative neuter singular of vīvendus <>

2. accusative masculine singular of vīvendus <>

3. accusative neuter singular of vīvendus <>

4. vocative neuter singular of vīvendus <>

On another note:

re "…but it’s not for sissies…"

My mother used to say, "I now know why they call ‘em ‘The Golden Years’; you need a lotta gold to get through ‘em."

Gary D. Gross, DDS

I have not seriously read Latin since high school, and I was in error. It should have been Vivendi.


Cruz calls on conservatives to defend religious freedom — at home and abroad <>

image <>

Cruz calls on conservatives to defend religious freedom … <>

Two of the Republican Party’s rising stars opened the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday by calling on social …

View on <>

It will require a great deal more time and length than I have tonight to comment properly. The United States has always had a common religious base, which for lack of a better term we can call Judeo-Christian principles, the most important of which is submission to a higher power, generally summarized in the Ten Commandments. Without some such agreement our laws can be based only on practical applications as if we understood what we are doing.

Religious freedom does not mean freedom from restraints on actions and behaviors, and even thoughts and lusts. Utterly libertine societies have seldom lasted.


Now, convert light into matter


Thunderstorms do indeed create matter from gamma rays. This was discovered about three years ago. What is special about the experiment described is that we now have a way of accomplishing the feat in a controlled environment. If we can raise the coupling of the gamma rays with the EM field, we can raise the efficiency of the process, creating more matter. If we can raise the energy of the gamma rays, we can create proton-antiproton pairs. If we can capture the positrons and antiprotons, which should not be difficult, and slow them down (which we have already done), we can produce anti-hydrogen.

If we can use the Sun to directly supply the energy and source matter stream for the production of the gamma rays and the creation of the high density EM field, we suddenly have a worthwhile anti-matter production facility. This has direct implications for space exploration.

Kevin L. Keegan

That is pretty much how I see it, but I am not really familiar with the operational requirements.


“This is not a Federal issue, yet the legal reasoning rests upon the specious ‘disparate impact’ penumbra of the (unconstitutional, in my view) ‘equal protection’ clause of the (again, unconstitutional, in my view) Fourteenth Amendment.”

Did we just agree that the constitution is unconstitutional? If so, what underlying principle validates the various parts of the constitution?


What I have agreed to is that we ought not seek fresh new rights based on emanations and penumbras. The law ought to have a consistent base.


Does the United States even have a democracy anymore?

Use of photo IDs as a condition of voting is being resisted tooth and toenail by some members of the political class – successfully in many instances. If memory serves, one member of that group bragged that she had voted several times during the 2012 election.

A significant and growing percentage of the voting in the United States is now done using electronic voting machines which don’t even pretend to leave a paper trail.

The increasing sprawl of the voting period from a single day to a period of weeks also increases opportunities for manipulation.

Stalin, I believe it was, said it didn’t matter who voted. What mattered was who counted the ballots.

I would like to see the nation return to physical boxes and paper ballots, with the boxes chained together and to a masonry wall or floor in each polling place, enough polling places to handle the crowds, a single day for voting, and long lasting purple thumb die. Ideally the voting day would be a national holiday as well. Photo IDs showing eligibility to vote would be a necessity.

Those steps might not totally eliminate cheating, but would make it more challenging.

If the integrity of the voting process – eligibility to positive identification to single vote assurance to removal of electronic cheating possibilities – cannot be assured, the United States is an autocracy rather than a democracy or a republic.

Charles Brumbelow

Were it left to me I would try to limit the scope and jurisdiction of laws, so that it takes a different machine in each county; we will not escape political machinations but we can make them much more difficult.

But in the old days the political machines delivered: they filled the pot holes and distributed the sacks of coal. Not they do not. Not they flaunt the spoils which they get by becoming the ruling class.


aging gracefully


Just some idle musings.

I am only 64 (that’s just 40 in HEX!!!! ).

But I can relate your experiences in such matters. I worked at university Chemistry Dept. (retired now) and was perpetually surrounded by 20 year olds. I should have felt young, but for some reason they (the students) stayed perpetually 20 year olds,and I just got older.

While most things still work, some (physical condition & bodily functions) are not what they used to be when I was 20 something.

I shudder to think of the historical cultural Inuit version of ObamaCare. When you got too old to keep up or contribute, you got left behind on an ice floe as the nomadic group moved on.

Are we old fogies, curmudgeons, and luddites just excess baggage in our current society now? Think of limited health care resources, and rationed benefits.

In times past, age & wisdom were thought culturally to be related, probably because not many lived to old age.

C’est la vie


High Frequency trading

I’ve just finished the book Flash Boys by Michael Lewis, which goes into the high-frequency trading issue in some depth, and the founding of IEX, (which as I recall got a 60 Minutes item a few months back), as a potential remedy.

The problem is that the brokers are basically front-running orders by virtue of algorithmic trading and fast/short links into the exchanges’ datacenters, which artificially manipulates the stock price. The protagonist of the book, Brad Katsuyama, ends up creating a new exchange with a deliberate propagation delay wired into the process to try and avoid the larger houses’ shenanigans. They literally have 38 miles of optical fiber rolled onto spools in front of the trading engine ( to force a 700 us delay into the process which apparently is enough to foul up the HFT computers. The new exchange is now trading roughly 60 million shares daily at this point.

Bob Halloran

There have to be technological solutions, but I do not know which ones are best. And it does not seem to be in the interest of anyone important to find them.


APOD: 2014 June 17 – V838 Light Echo: The Movie


Don’t miss the light echo:

Video of an expanding supernova.




AI could become a real danger…

Stephen Hawking: AI could be a ‘real danger’ – CNET

So… Would that be more properly attributed to random evolution or intelligent design?

Charles Brumbelow

All of which boils down to , “Do you believe in ‘strong’ or ‘weak’ AI, as Penrose and Hawking once debated.

I certainly do not want to build self-replicating robots capable of Lamarckian evolution…


I read this article and decided Nazi officials and Hitler’s own cognitive bias are probably the only reason D-Day went the way it did.

It seems we won by a thread:

“Of the many messages we received,” said Adolf Hitler on June 6th, “there was one that predicted precisely the landing site, with precise day and time. It was this that made me sure it couldn’t be the actual invasion.”

It is certainly an interesting story.


Retaliation for dead soldiers

Dear Jerry:

The killing of prisoner of war has always had a simple solution. Retaliation. During our Civil War Col. Sir Percy Wyndham hung two of Col. John Mosby’s men for being irregulars without uniforms, calling them bandits. Mosby hung six of his and that was the end of that. Brutal, direct and in the current context, most appropriate.


Francis Hamit


"We’re going to thoroughly vet the public’s opinion on the use of the aerial surveillance platforms."



Roland Dobbins

Luck is the residue of opportunity and design.

– John Milton


On Iraq

You wrote:


It’s hard to say what policy the US should have now. Since this civil war was predictable and predicted, one hopes that President Obama (or VP Biden) have been thinking about this and have a policy ready to implement.

I have seen no evidence that this is more than a hope.

And now we wait and see. Al-Qaida will kill Shiites. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard will kill Sunni. The Kurds will consolidate and continue their policy of tolerance. At least the Kurds are better off than they were under Saddam.


Perhaps, doing nothing and letting them kill one another is the policy. Shakespeare flows in iambic pentameter; every so often || we see a caesura. After all, wasn’t it American policy makers of the period who armed Iran and Iraq, fostering the more than seven years war between them?

It’s possible, but as you say, it seems more like a hope — perhaps a desperate one — that someone has a cool hand and a competent mind at the till.

I’ll share what I think is possible and I doubt it will surprise anyone we communicate with or rouse any serious disagreements. The Kurds will almost certainly get stronger; Turkey will not like that and it will add to the Turkish impetus to restore influence in the Middle East and North Africa. With Libya, Egypt, and other nations restructured and their respective situations normalized, a pan-Arab order seems most unlikely. Egypt was the keystone to that project; now Mubarak is gone and Sisi has more pressing matters to attend.

R.D. Kaplan would, likely, argue that Iranian influence would flow East if Turkey reasserts itself; where else could it flow? This Persian expansion would pressure Pakistan and throw cold water on ISI’s vision for a Greater Pakistan. It might force Sino-Pakistani cooperation, which could push India closer to Japan and, ultimately, the United States. This could also be a time to build the consensus in the Pacific, which is best done by allowing our allies to put in their own work for a while.

Matt, at, hypothesizes that China would pull back and consider a pre-emptive nuclear strike if conditions in the Pacific continue to escalate because of American policies. I believe that’s possible and we just saw four Russian bombers, capable of carrying nuclear cruise missiles with a range of 1,500 miles, fly within 50 miles of the California coast last week. We would do well to consider a Russian strike in our calculations as well. As an side, our nuclear force is passing through some interesting times as is England’s in 2014.

Another major problem, as you pointed out, is the late unpleasantness in Kosovo and the Russian perception of that campaign with all that entails. Securing Russian cooperation would seem better than not securing it; that basic argument would seem effective with almost anyone.

As Kaplan, MacKinder, and Spykman all argue, what happens in the heartland will have profound geopolitical consequences. Let’s hope it’s not amateur night on our side of the pond because the stakes are much higher than I believe most of the general public would suspect and I’m not sure that my vision goes much further than theirs. And the fallout of these events, likely, extends beyond any reasonable span of time where one would hazard an estimate of the future.

To use a billiards metaphor for the geopolitical context; someone racked the balls in the triangle and that noise we just heard is the balls breaking.

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Who rules to the East controls the heartland. Who rules the heartland controls the world island. Who rules the world island controls the world.  Mackinder may not be much read any more, and technology is changing many principles, but it is still something to think about.



The Answer to Seattle’s Minimum Wage

Dr. Pournelle,

After a bit of a hiatus, I found your site again. It’s amazing what one will forget after parking a Subaru in his short term memory.

As you most likely know, Seattle has set the minimum wage within its confines to $15.00 an hour. One company has come up with a solution for fast food restaurants. An automated hamburger making machine.

I thought you’d enjoy the irony:

Exitus acta probat,

Douglas Knapp

Raise minimum wages enough and every job that can be automated will be automated, and many of those that cannot be automated simply will not be done. That includes the entry level jobs which are apprenticeships for developing work habits.

But then we all know that.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.