Old and New: Solar Flares, Education, and Other Threats to the Republic

Mail at Chaos Manor Saturday, 24 January, 2015

I have several computers doing Outlook 7 (and one doing 10), and the result of the stroke is that I am way behind on getting everything into one master machine and copy. It’s a bad mess, and I have so far only once got upstairs to the old master system. For one month this portable has been the only reliable system I could get to, but I have to have also a machine that will do virtual XP since my accounting programs run in 16 bit mode. A side effect of dealing with that has been the discovery of some forgotten mail of interest – by forgotten I mean long forgotten. Years sometimes. There is also some mail more recent that was neglected by my limited energy. I will from time to time insert interesting if old mail.


A Mild Defense of Justice Roberts

Dr. Pournelle –

Perhaps I am alone in this and I admit that I have not had a chance to read the majority opinion or the dissent and am operating upon news reports. However, the Chief Justice may have followed a good conservative judicial principle, namely that it is not the place of the Supreme Court to protect the people from bad laws, only those which are unconstitutional. The solution to bad laws comes via the ballot box and voting the rascals out.

That being said – this is a mild defense after all – I do believe that the courts and all others in this case have operated under erroneous assumptions which have unfortunately been enshrined in jurisprudence.

First, I do not believe that, " Article I, Section 8. The Congress shall have Power … To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with Indian Tribes, …," was intended to mean, "commerce and anything that may have an impact upon said commerce." We have heard a lot about Wickard v. Filburn in the past couple of years. That decision dealt with wheat but is equally applicable to your backyard vegetable garden. The premise could even be applied to a mandate as to when we rise and when we sleep — these determine how much power we use, a commodity sold across state lines (unlike health insurance) and something likely to be even more heavily regulated if our current path continues.

Secondly, there seems to be a belief that the ability to raise money via a tax is sufficient to justify spending that money on anything the Congress pleases. Publius repeatedly assured the people of New York that the Federal powers were few and defined while those of the States were many and undefined. Increasingly we see the undoing of that notion. I fear that the enumerated powers have become like an unwanted stepchild.

Salve Conservus,


Hamilton objected to a Bill of Rights on precisely that ground: if the power was not enumerated then the feds did not have it. The Jeffersonians won that debate, I think to our sorrow. And then came the 14th Amendment, which gave us penumbras …


We got this over two years ago:

Forced innoculations begin in California, as we said they would. But, we were called conspiracy theorists. I guess if you can look down the street and see the road is about to end and you’ll fall off a cliff that you are a conspiracy theorist if you suggest to the blind driver that he shoudl stop the car…. Do you get my frustration with the [m]asses now? I warn them time and time again and they stand there like lambs for the slaughter. If your kids are in public school then you might want to take them out. What do you think is next for your kids when they do this kind of crap?

I was listening to an interview with the woman just now. She said that, because she refused to vaccinate her child, the doctor called the police. THe police contacted her, leaving two notes on her door, showing up with child protective services, and even interviewing her neighbors when she was not on the premises! The cops came because she allegedly failed to show her ID to the doctor — as if the doctor can id people — and because she was "acting strangely". Of course, the doctor never asked for the ID — according to the woman — and she did nothing strange. Now, they are trying to find a way to take her kids. They were asking neighbors questions about her to see if they could find any reasons to take the kids.


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

The issue comes up again. It is not a simple one. We never questioned – or few questioned – the States’ power of quarantine, effectively house arrest for public safety. Inoculation/vaccination is a more personal intrusion. It is a State power, not Federal; whether it is an intolerable assault on liberty is a legitimate debate. Measles at Disneyland is a current subject. When I was young, everyone got measles; sometimes you might visit someone who had it so you’d get it over at a relatively convenient time, since you were going to get it. Now enough have inoculation that it’s not inevitable. Foreign residents do not have inoculations. They are in danger, and measles is dangerous to adults. It is Liberty vs. Safety again, and like terror the threat does not go away. It is not unreasonable to conclude that inoculation is a greater risk than remaining exposed, for an individual child; but you may endanger another child or an adult in doing so. And then there’s smallpox.


Kelp yourself to a beer ?

I expect Poul Anderson will propose a toast in Valhalla tonight to the authors of An Engineered Microbial Platform for Direct Biofuel Production from Brown Macroalgae who report in <i> Science</i> today how to turn seaweed into beer:

Here, we present the discovery of a 36–kilo–base pair DNA fragment from Vibrio splendidus encoding enzymes for alginate transport and metabolism. The genomic integration of this ensemble, together with an engineered system for extracellular alginate depolymerization, generated a microbial platform that can simultaneously degrade, uptake, and metabolize alginate. When further engineered for ethanol synthesis, this platform enables bioethanol production directly from macroalgae via a consolidated process, achieving a titer of 4.7% volume/volume and a yield of 0.281 weight ethanol/weight dry macroalgae (equivalent to ~80% of the maximum theoretical yield from the sugar composition in macroalgae).

Had the Vikings known of this, they might have bypassed Greenland and Vinland, and made directly for the Sargasso Sea.

Russell Seitz


The Price Of Higher Education


It looks like the collapse of the economy, budget cuts, and the unwillingness of the middle class to take on more debt has finally put a hole, albeit a small one at this point, in the higher education price bubble (

Kevin L Keegan

Sent in 1912. As you can see, nothing stops the inevitable rise in cost of education – nor the fall of what is delivered. The ruin of education is the greatest threat to the Republic, far more deadly than terror. It steals all hope. And there is no stopping it; we cannot eliminate Federal Aid To Education and give one or two states a chance to go back to better times. And comes now free community college, relieving the high schools of any obligation to teach ANYTHING.


Orange County, FL & oranges


Mr. Cordelli bemoans the lack of citrus groves in central Florida, and places the blame on global cooling. But there are two other very important factors at work: population growth and citrus canker.

Population growth, of course, is a little easier to study. Thanks largely to Uncle Walt, the population in the four counties that more or less make up modern Orlando has seen astonishing growth in the last 50 years, and all those people have to have somewhere to live. In many cases, formerly productive farmland has been converted to housing, so citrus groves and cattle land has been lost. Wikipedia says that the city’s population in 1960 was about 90,000, and the 2010 Census estimate for the four county region is about 2,100,000 with a population of 2,800,000 in the larger Combined Statistical Area. (Actual Census Bureau data seems to be much more difficult to wade through. Alas.)

Citrus canker is a bacterial infection which harms the health of the trees, and renders the fruit displeasing to the eye such that it simply can’t be marketed. The Florida Department of Agriculture’s approach to eradicating it has traditionally been to burn all trees within a specified distance, This has been applied not only to commercial groves, but also to residential trees, so if someone 1500′ from me has an infected tree the State will send someone into my back yard to cut down & burn my lemon tree.

Andy Preston

Panama City Beach FL,_Florida

link to a 5 year old citrus canker report:

1986 article on tree burning, and opposition to same:

Andy Preston

Sent in 2012


Current 2015


My wife found this story this morning:

Scientists slow the speed of light

A team of Scottish scientists has made light travel slower than the speed of light.

They sent photons – individual particles of light – through a special mask. It changed the photons’ shape – and slowed them to less than light speed.

The photons remained travelling at the lower speed even when they returned to free space.

The experiment is likely to alter how science looks at light.

I wonder if this is the same kind of confused reporting we saw in the report about the "disappearing pulsar."

I am glad to see you continue to recover.


Hugh Greentree

Is this interesting?

Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor


Based on just the newspaper article, I would call it another attempt to sensationalize a rather mundane result – the well known fact that diffraction applies to single photons.

Call a "mask" a mask; it’s still a diffraction grating on some scale.

One hint is that it refers to the delay of the second photon as being millionths of a meter, rather than in femtoseconds. Diffraction patterns are geometric positions, not elapsed times.

The Preprint is available here:

The language is more technical and much less flowery, but the conclusion is the same.



Subject: Statistics

Took a graduate class in statistics, called Random Processes in the EE

department. It was great. It was also hard. But then, it was the EE


Phil Tharp

      Alas most climate scientists did not. Engineers have to work with

      the real world..

      Jerry Pournelle

      Chaos Manor

Re: Statistics

I’m actually beginning to question the computer science degree and the computer engineering degree which is supposedly half computer science half electrical engineering. Nether degree requires the level of math or physics I had to take. I’ve worked with several of these engineers over the last few years and while smart, they don’t have the more in-depth knowledge I got in math or physics or chemistry for that matter. I wonder if that explains the political trends of Silicon Valley over the last 20 years? I.E., they did not have to take vector calculus.

Phil Tharp

I cannot know, but I can suspect that deterioration of education has much to do with modern politics. The US is in debt for more than a year’s domestic production and the deficit grows. No one seems to notice. Productivity grows – which means more is produced by fewer people, and less demand for unskilled work. Even burger flippers can be automated out of a job: so our remedy is to raise the minimum wage so that the unskilled cost more; they know little from school and it costs a lot to hire them as apprentices; and no one seems to care.

The schools continue to teach less and cost more, as the robots get cheaper and smarter. Anyone can see this but they pretend not to.


‘And so the bureaucracy (and its hangers-on) does not exist to serve the public, but the public exists to serve the bureaucracy.’



Roland Dobbins

The Iron Law in action. More and more we are ruled by a civil service. Would a spoils system be worse? Civil service means protection for the unproductive – for their lifetimes. And no one dares to care.


Predestination – everything I’ve seen tells me that it was approached with utmost respect. However, I will probably not go to see it.

There are just some short stories that do not grow sufficiently well to become novels; like a bansai, they lose their beauty when forced to grow too large. "Nightfall" was deserving of every accolade accorded to it – as a short story. As a novel, well, so-so, I wish I’d waited for it to show up in the local used bookstore. We won’t mention the movie…

I wish we could get some animators on the level of, say, Murasaki, to take on some of the great short stories.

Richard Skinner


Dear Jerry,

I was a high school student when Barry Goldwater was campaigning for the Republican nomination. I was thinking of him this past week: while I don’t support his politics, he was a very important and forward-looking politician who perceived that the Republic was being undermined from within. I’m not talking about a fifth column or conspiracy theories. I feel that the outliers of our history are often the most important–because they tell us the truths we would like to ignore. With God’s Blessings for your continued work and on your household.

Rev. Phil Ternahan, Navy retired.


Dr. Pournelle,

Recently you have commented about EMPs (including solar flares) as something we do not need to spend a great deal of time worrying about. I would appreciate comments from you and your readers as to why this is not one of the more serious threats to our nation as I have seen a number of articles from legitimate news sources in the last couple of years that indicate our US electrical grid could be crippled for 18 months to two years by an electro-magnetic pulse attack, a Carrington class solar storm, or even from coordinated terrorist attacks on power stations and a transformer manufacturer (the terrorist attacks would have to be at peak usage).

Quote from testimony by:

(Congressional) Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack "The electromagnetic fields produced by weapons deployed with the intent to produce EMP have a high likelihood of damaging electrical power systems, electronics, and information systems upon which American society depends. Their effects on critical infrastructures could be sufficient to qualify as catastrophic to the Nation."

Other links:

Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for Terrorism April 2013 Sniper Attack Knocked Out Substation, Raises Concern for Country’s Power Grid

Scientists say destructive solar blasts narrowly missed Earth in 2012

Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012

Experts Warn Civilian World Not Ready for Massive EMP Caused Blackout

Report: US Could Be Plunged Into Blackout by Minimal Attacks

States work to protect electric grid from solar storms and nuclear attacks

Q&A: What You Need to Know About Attacks on the U.S. Power Grid

Solar Storm Risk to the North American Electric Grid

How a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe on Earth

Do Solar Storms Threaten Life as We Know It?

Truth About Solar Storms

And what they mean for humans here on Earth.

I am very heartened by your return am subscribed to your site. I greatly value your views and insights, and have been a fan since Byte magazine, which I would buy to read your column.

Jan Stepka

I have never said we should not prepare for solar flares, and indeed have often said the opposite. From observations of aurora in Alexandria, it seems a major flare hits Earth about every 150-200 years, and since the last was in 1859 we are due and past due. There are many SF survival novels about the threat, which is quite real. Of course government does not seem to care.


Middle School Reading Lists 100 Years Ago vs. Today Show How Far American Educational Standards Have Declined


Good to hear you are improving, best wishes. My niece posted a pointer to this interesting article on thefederalistpapers dot org website and I thought you might be interested.

Middle School Reading Lists 100 Years Ago vs. Today Show How Far American Educational Standards Have Declined <>

Middle School Reading Lists 100 Years Ago vs. Today Show How Far American Educational Standards Have Declined BY JASON W. STEVENS

There’s a delightful and true saying, often attributed to Joseph Sobran, that in a hundred years, we’ve gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching remedial English in college.

Now comes even more evidence of the steady decline of American educational standards.

Last year, Annie Holmquist, a blogger for, discovered a 1908 curriculum manual in the Minnesota Historical Society archives that included detailed reading lists for various grade levels.

According to her research, the recommended literature list for 7th and 8th graders in Minnesota in 1908 included the following:

Lobo, Rag, and Vixen; Ernest Thompson Seton Evangeline, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Harold, Last of Saxon Kings; Edward Bulwer Lytton Tanglewood Tales, Nathaniel Hawthorne Courtship of Miles Standish, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Rab and His Friends, John Brown Gold Bug, Edgar Allan Poe Stories of Heroic Deeds, James Johonnot Stories from Dickens, Charles Dickens Old Ballads in Prose, Eva March Tappan Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson Captains Courageous, Rudyard Kipling Essays from Sketch Book, Washington Irving Knickerbocker’s History of New York, Washington Irving Grandmother’s Story of Bunker Hill and Other Poems, Oliver Wendell Holmes The Spy, James Fenimore Cooper Stories of the Olden Time, James Johonnot Adventures of a Deerslayer, James Fenimore Cooper The Young Mountaineers, Mary Noailles Murfree Harris’s Stories of Georgia, Joel Chandler Harris

Source: Minnesota Educational Association, Course of Study for the Common Schools of Minnesota, 1908? Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

And also according to her research, the recommended literature list for 7th and 8th graders in Minnesota in 2014 (at one of the area’s finest districts, Edina Public Schools) included the following:

Nothing But the Truth, Avi

A Step from Heaven, An Na

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain Homeless Bird, Gloria Whelan The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis Uprising, Margaret Peterson Haddix Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson Touching Spirit Bear, Ben Mikaelsen The Last Book in the Universe, Rodman Philbrick The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer The Diary of Anne Frank (Drama), Goodrich & Hackett Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury Of Beetles and Angels, Mawi Asgedom Call Me Maria, Judith Ortiz Cofer

Source: Edina Public Schools per Google

What’s most interesting, however, is Ms. Holmquist’s very thoughtful analysis of the results.


“In examining these lists, I noticed three important differences between the reading content of these two eras:

“1. Time Period

“One of the striking features of the Edina list is how recent the titles are. Many of the selections were published in the 21st century. In fact, only four of the selections are more than 20 years old.

“In comparison, over half of the titles on the first list were at least 20 years old in 1908, with many of them averaging between 50 to 100 years old.

“Older is not necessarily better, but the books on the first list suggest that schools of the past were more likely to give their students time-tested, classic literature, rather than books whose popularity may happen to be a passing fad.” [Emphasis original]

This observation probably rings true for many students and parents of students today. I keep a pretty good eye on regular high school and college reading lists. Although the occasional older “classic” makes an appearance now and again, I’ve been surprised to find how many teachers actually assign Harry Potter, the Twilight series, Stephen King, and The Hunger Games for classroom reading.

And when I ask these teachers WHY those books are selected, the answer is always the same: Because those are the books that are popular today. There’s a greater likelihood that the student will want to do the reading and enjoy it as well.

The result, of course, is that Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Dostoevsky, and Chaucer are relegated to the trash-heap. In school, students are reading the same books they would read at home (if they read at all), and thus never encounter the classics because they lack good help from a good teacher.

Good teachers do not assign Twilight.

More from

“2. Thematic Elements

“A second striking difference between the two book lists are the themes they explore. The first is full of historical references and settings which stretch from ancient Greece (Tanglewood Tales) to the Middle Ages (Harold, Last of Saxon Kings) to the founding of America (Courtship of Miles Standish). Through highly recognized authors such as Longfellow, Stevenson, Kipling, and Dickens, these titles introduce children to a vast array of themes crucial to understanding the foundations upon which America and western civilization were built.

The Edina list, however, largely deals with modern history, particularly hitting on many current political and cultural themes such as the Taliban (The Breadwinner), cloning, illegal immigrants, the drug war (The House of the Scorpion), and deeply troubled youth (Touching Spirit Bear). In terms of longstanding, classic authors, Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury are the only ones who stand out.

It’s good for children to understand the world in which they live, but as with any area in life, you can have too much of a good thing. A continual focus on modern literature narrows the lens through which children can view and interpret the world. Would it not be better to broaden their horizons and expose them to a balance of both old and new literature?

To summarize the point, American students are not being taught about America.

University students who major in social studies education are not being taught about America.

I’ve talked to several of these types of students who want to teach American history at the middle school or high school level. So, these are our future teachers. And I always ask the same question: When was the American Revolution?

Usually, I am met with dumb stares. Hardly any of them answer correctly: 1775-1783. This is because, for the most part, students who will eventually be teaching American history are not required to take a class on the American Founding. Again, these are our future teachers.

Finally, Ms. Holmquist makes one final observation:

“3. Reading Level

“Many of the books on the Edina list use fairly simple, understandable language and vocabulary familiar to the modern reader. Consider the first paragraph of Nothing But the Truth:

“Coach Jamison saw me in the hall and said he wanted to make sure I’m trying out for the track team!!!! Said my middle school gym teacher told him I was really good!!!! Then he said that with me on the Harrison High team we have a real shot at being county champs. Fantastic!!!!!! He wouldn’t say that unless he meant it. Have to ask folks about helping me get new shoes. Newspaper route won’t do it all. But Dad was so excited when I told him what Coach said that I’m sure he’ll help.

“On the other hand, consider the first paragraph of Longfellow’s Evangeline:

“This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic, Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.

Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.”

“The first example uses simple words and a casual sentence structure, while the second uses a rich vocabulary and a complex writing format. Naturally, some might look at the second selection and say, “Good grief! How do you expect a child to understand that?!?”

“But that’s the whole point. Unless we give our students challenging material to dissect, process, and study, how can we expect them to break out of the current poor proficiency ratings and advance beyond a basic reading level?”

This, I think, is Ms. Holmquist’s most important point: Our children are not being taught how to read, which really means they are not being taught how to think.

Even classic works written in their native language–English–often appear to students like a second language. This is because they have never been challenged before.

And I sympathize.

The first time I read Hamlet, for example, I filled my book’s margins with notes and scribbles, none of which had anything to do with actually thinking about the book. I was struggling even to keep up with Shakespeare’s plot.

In other words, I had to teach myself how to read before I could even begin the much more difficult task of learning how to think.

Our students are simply not learning these skills in school.

What do you think?

Are these major problems for our students today? Is Ms. Holmquist on to something with her research and analysis? Or was Hamlet’s mother, the Queen, correct when she said: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

Thanks for all the years of good reading,

Paul Evans

I think the destruction of our education system ranks with solar flares as the major threat to the Republic and the government does not understand that because the Iron Law guarantees that it will not.

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.




Mail: Climate, solidarity, humor, etc.

Mail at Chaos Manor Friday, January 16, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Catching up. There is also a View today, Monday, January 19, 2015

There is a lot of Mail to catch up, and I will continue to add to the View. Apologies for the disorganization , I am trying to regularize but I can’t do it myself, and my long suffering friends have their own lives…   But do see View today as well


We begin with the “hottest year ever” absurdity. How does anyone know? We are talking about tenths of a degree F, over centuries. From all the historical records it was warmer in the Northern hemisphere in the Viking time, but of course we don’t KNOW, nor do we know how much warmer – or cooler — it was then. But it is absurd to say we know the average temperature of the Earth in 1900. Ocean temperatures then were taken with a bucket and a mercury thermometer and were no more than 1 degree of accuracy if that. Remember when we were young with mercury thermometers under the tongue? No one worried about tenths of a degree. It would be pointless. Even in space program days with anal probe thermisters which we calibrated daily we could be sure of 1 degree accuracy, and this of body temperature of a single subject. So now suddenly it is warmer on all Earth than it was in dust bowl times – and we know with certainty.  I don’t believe that.

Local news reported that 2014 was the hottest on record, surpassing the previous records in 2005 and 2010, going back over a century for the previous record.

I find that interesting in light of the fact that we have been in that temperature plateau for the last 17 years, which would take us back to 1998. Also interesting is the fact that Dr. Spencer shows that 1998 had a far higher spike than the one in 2010, both of which were due to El Nino events, and there isn’t anything recognizable as a spike in 2005:

(overall page here:

It’s also interesting that I can’t find the article/report on the local news’ website in order to grab the much earlier year. USA Today however has it here:

Pertinent quote: "The global temperature from 2014 broke the previous record warmest years of 2005 and 2010 since record-keeping began in 1880."

It is interesting to note that 1880 was still in the "wall" of the Little Ice Age; it is highly unlikely to have been any sort of record itself. It is entirely probable that the observed warming trend from the time records were kept in 1880 — and there is one, for about the first half to two-thirds of the 20th century — is simply the normal, expected rebound from the Little Ice Age.

Given the back to back series of extended solar minima that ran throughout the Little Ice Age, especially if combined with some of the large volcanic eruptions that took place during the time frame, it seems very probable that those comprise the explanation of the deviation, and that the current combo of solar inactivity and volcanic activity likely comprise the explanation of the current plateau.


Stephanie has the credentials to question with authority..


What bothers me is the assurance these people pretend.  Most of these modelers have never actually taken a real temperature, do not seem to know the difference between globe and air temperature.  Perhaps satellite temps are as accurate and reliable as said, but how do they know?  It takes theory to know what numbers to average, and many are not regular so they average guess in with data.  It sure does not look warmer in DC just now,  and satellites show lots of ice at both poles.




The general public ‘science’ article published by the Inquisitor about the disappearing pulsar drew upon another general public science article published by Popular Science. The Popular Science interpretations of the science were quite liberally reinterpreted by the Inquisitor.

Nothing unusual happened to pulsar J1906. It is NOT beaming its signal somewhere else in time, just somewhere else in space. We detect pulsars as pulsars because spinning neutron stars that are accreting mass from another object produce jets at points perpendicular to the accretion disk, a plane determined by the neutron star’s magnetic field, not by its spin axis. Just like on the Earth, the magnetic poles on a neutron star seldom align with the spin axis of the neutron star, so as the neutron star rotates (at up to 30 times per second), the jets emitted at the poles are swept though space like a lighthouse. If those jets happen to illuminate the Earth, we detect them as pulsars. We can only detect pulsars that happen to aim at the Earth at some point in their rotation. Most pulsars never do, so we do not detect them, though we can estimate their number given the number of pulsars we have found.

Precession happens to any spinning object whose rotation axis is not vertical. As children, we see this as the wobble of our toy tops when we nudge them away from vertical while they spin. Newton provided a means of predicting the rate of precession for our toy tops, so we call this Newtonian precession. When you get up to objects of significant mass, such as the Earth, scientists like to differentiate the precession of these objects by calling it geodetic precession (see While it is difficult to define ‘vertical’ in open space, a rotating mass produces a bulge at its equator, making it wider and more massive around its equator than it is around its poles. The Earth has this issue. The gravitational influences of the Moon and the Sun would like to keep that bulge at the Earth’s equator in the plane of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth and in the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The two are not coincident, so they are each pulling on the Earth’s bulge in different directions at different times. Also, the Earth’s spin axis is tilted 26 degrees to it solar orbital plane, likely by a large impact over 4 billion years ago. All of this leads the Earth to have an approximately 26,000 year precession. If we beamed a laser straight up in the sky from the North spin pole, it would strike the star we currently call Polaris. A few thousand years now, it will strike a different star. At some point in the time between, any observers watching Earth from Polaris will see our laser beam wink out. Disappear. Did the Earth just vanish? No. Did our laser beam go somewhere else in time? No.

What is complicating the Inquisitor interpretation is a misunderstanding of geodetic precision. Scientists make this distinction because large rotating masses alter their precession rates in a significant way due to the effects of gravity. In 1916, W. de Sitter used general relativity to predict that when a mass rotates, it actually rotates the spacetime around it as well. Think of it as a twisting effect, as would happen if you spun a bowling ball on a rubber sheet. This is called frame dragging. If a spinning mass is precessing, then frame dragging will have an effect on the rate of precession. It will not, though, allow the rotating object to send signals to other times.

What was observed with pulsar J1906 was geodetic precession shifting the axis of rotation away from the Earth, thus rendering the pulsar undetectable. While it may be the first time we have observed a pulsar doing this, it is not going to re-write the physics text books. Even without the effects of general relativity, this pulsar, and ALL of the other pulsars we currently observe, will eventually become undetectable as pulsars from the Earth as precession moves their rotation axes. Geodetic precession just predicts the when of this better than Newtonian precession. According to the Popular Science article, geodetic precession predicts that pulsar J1906 will be observable as a pulsar from the Earth again in just 160 years.

Which ought to settle that…


It’s Alive !

Dear Jerry:

Delighted to see you back on the air !

Here, to speed your physiotherapy, is evidence of a major advance on muscle building, from researches at Duke:

Best regards

Russell Seitz

Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University


Eric Holder does something right, for once.


Roland Dobbins


Movie Predestination

Someone made a movie out of Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” called Predestination. I just downloaded it off iTunes. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. After “The Puppet Masters”, I’m not sure what to expect.

Glad you are home by the way. Just be patient. The brain is a truly amazing thing.

Phil Tharp

But patience is a virtue hard to keep when a hundred trivial things go wrong and you can’t just get up and fix them.


I do not expect Hollywood to do well with Heinlein


The clarity of Philosophy,

Clarity of Philosophy

The Great Lao-Tzu said:

"It is only when you see a mosquito

landing on your testicles that you realize

there is always a way to solve problems without using violence.”




Subj: Rush

Pull quotes from today’s show (12:30 ET segment)

"Anyway, Mr. (Roger) Simon continues to write and speculate about why Obama ultimately didn’t go (to the rally in Paris). And then he gets to this: "Is there a ‘sleeper cell’ in the White House? It would certainly explain Obama’s not going to France…. There are so many other things that the existence of a White House ‘sleeper cell’ would explain that I couldn’t even begin to count them. …But who would be a member of this cell? … You are …free to guess…

"Well, now it’s not me calling a Democrat president irrelevant, it is, which is part of State-Run Media. Jim Patterson is the writer’s name. "The utter failure of the Obama administration can be measures in so many ways, from the number of beheaded American journalists, to embarrassing heads of state by spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkle’s personal mobile phone, to callously calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a war hero, ‘chicken shit’ and a ‘coward.’

Leslie Gelb <> is a foreign policy writer at the New York Times … "I’ve never proposed such a drastic overhaul" of the US foreign policy establishment. "But if you think hard about how Mr. Obama and his team handled this weekend in Paris, I think you’ll see I’m not enjoying a foreign policy neurological breakdown. …Valerie Jarrett doesn’t know what she’s doing. …It wasn’t just because President Obama’s or Vice President Biden’s absence was a horrendous gaffe. More than this, it demonstrated beyond argument that the Obama team lacks the basic instincts and judgment necessary to conduct US national security policy in the next two years. It’s simply too dangerous to let Mr. Obama continue as is … I have to tell you that I’ve never made such extreme and far-reaching proposals," and he goes on. His proposals are for Obama to get rid of everybody. Fire Valerie Jarrett. But not just that. He wants them replaced with Republicans…"

It is clear that Obama made a large blunder when he did not go or send Biden to the Paris arm in arm march



Since you’re recovering, I thought you’d appreciate a little ‘physic:’



This delightful link:

led me to another, better link:

Save the language! Up the Word Warriors!



Subject: botnets via home router compromise

Today’s “Infosecurity” magazine contains an article on the most recent DDOS attack on some game servers. My son’s console was impacted. Turns out the DDOS was a result of a botnet (as usual) using home routers. “Factory-default usernames and passwords for home routers are once again the culprits behind two high-profile distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on Sony and Microsoft’s gaming networks.”

Long story short: some home devices are installed with the default user names and passwords set to things like “user” and “password.” In fact, there are websites where you can find out default user names and passwords for popular devices. As in this from the Verizon support site:

“What are the default user name and password for my Verizon 9100EM router? What are the default user name and password for my Verizon 9100EM router? The default user name for the Verizon 9100EM router is "admin," and the default password is "password" (do not include the quotation marks).

* Note: To improve security, your router password may have been changed to the serial number of your Verizon 9100 router if you hadn’t previously changed the password from the default of "password." You can find your router’s serial number on the label affixed to the bottom or back of your router.

* If you reset your router to the factory default settings, the router password will return to "password."

The user name and password are both case-sensitive, so be sure to enter them in lower case.”

Busting into someone’s home network is easier said than done, but once in, having default user names and passwords is always bad. Be careful.

Robbed by his own robot…


Welcome back to your keyboard!

In a recent post you bashed our country’s practice of foreign aid. Everything you said was correct, and you might have continued at greater length. As usual, however, there are exceptions. The story of our Haiti-Micah Project is pretty heartwarming, and I think it is an exception. For starters, see

This foreign aid effort has been conducted by an association of US churches, with a helping hand from the US government. It started small and grew organically over a period of years. It has been closely managed by a small team which has obtained the cooperation of the local government. The point of mentioning the program here: Foreign aid can succeed if it is closely managed, if adequate time is available, and if the objective is to be helpful.


Weave put  more than a billion cash into Haiti.  Enough to get everyone out of poverty? Not hardly. So who got the money?  Yes, churches and private organizations tend to be efficient – with money they raised.  With tax money not always so.




"It may also be the case that the viruses’ more or less complex functions in various species can help us to understand why we are so different.”



Roland Dobbins 

Is this cheering news or frightening?  I have put smart making bugs in stories..  See Beowulf’s Children


This is from the opening “letter” in The Adventures of Hajii Baba of Ispahan, by James Morier, 1st published 1824.

A distinct line must be drawn between ‘the nations who wear the hat and those who wear the beard’; and they must ever hold each other, stories as improbable, until a more general intercourse of common life takes place between them. What is moral and virtuous with the one, is wickedness with the other—that which the Christian reviles as abominable, is by the Mohamedan held sacred. Although the contrast between their respective manners may be very amusing, still it is most certain that the Christian will ever feel devoutly grateful that he is neither subject to Mohamedan rule, nor educated in Mohamedan principles; whilst the latter, in his turn looking upon the rest of mankind as unclean infidels, will continue to hold fast to his persuasion, until some powerful interposition of Providence shall dispel the moral and intellectual darkness which, at present, overhangs so Large a portion of the Asiatic world.

Mr. Morier is a historical figure (you can look him up in Wikipedia) who spent 1809 to 1819 in what was then Persia. He was born in Smyrna (the one in the Ottoman Empire) and grew up there, 1780 to 1808. So his observations are only a historical curiosity, of course.


Agatha Christie’s pre WW II Come Tell Me How You Live has good insights into Mesopotamia also





More Ocean CO2 and Bitcoins

[Editor’s Note: A status report on Dr. Pournelle from his son Alex:

Dad is now ordering stuff from, writing short essays, asked me to look out for adaptive gear at CES, and looking forward to coming home. He still needs a walker and probably will continue to but the therapists are setting up ever more complex obstacle courses to keep him out of their hair.

[We start off with a typical message of support for Dr. Pournelle, and his reply that his recovery appears to be progressing well. Then we continue the discussion of Bitcoins and the CO2 levels in the oceans. The Contact Jerry page is best to let Dr. Pournelle know about interesting new topics, or comment on past topics. Use the Well Wishing page to send your messages of support for Dr. Pournelle’s recovery.]

Hi Jerry

Just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for the years of enlightened
sharing you gave through Byte Magazine and other venues. I started my
exposure to the PC world while at Intel from 1980 to 81, when the group next
to us were developing assembler code for the caching boxes used with IBM
mainframe hard drives (3330 drives if I recall). Their boxes used rejected
chips where one one of the 4 quadrants failed QC inspection. :)

I was fascinated by the CPM operating systems they used for development as
well as the 8″ floppies. One of the guys recommended Byte Magazine to gain
more knowledge about it. So you, Steve, and the other authors and
contributors became my tutors and mentors.

I’ve been very fortunate to grow up in this field and have you to thank in
no small part.

Best wishes to you and your family.

Ben Conner

Thanks for the kind words.  I will get home next week.

I noticed the following in the 1 January 2015 edition:

“Advisor Dan Spisak notes:

I would point out that a combination of increased temperatures and greater CO2 levels is contributing to making the oceans more acidic and this is having the effect of putting coral reefs into danger as the very ocean they live in dissolves them. So while there can be positive effects in other parts of the system I fear that the sheer size, complexity, and scope of what is involved means it will be important and challenging to see what the total balance of this is, be it positive, negative or neutral.”

In response I would like to post this chart I retrieved from an article ” Are the Oceans going to boil”?
by Steven F. Hayward in Power Line (29 December 2014):
(with reference to another interesting article about ocean acidification I found at – the comment section is well-worthwhile reading barring the trolls.)

Ocean Chart 2 copy<,qresize=580,P2C433.pagespeed.ce.zqzFRmp7wc1Cfte-WSSo.jpg>
Please note that Michael Wallace’s chart appears to show that over the past century or so, the oceans, rather than acidifying, are becoming more basic, thereby supporting the claim that we are in a period of global warming, if the dissolution of oceanic carbonic acid is the only cause of this phenomenon and the slope of his line is correct: both open to question.

Yours sincerely,

Gary D. Gross, DDS

I am hardly an expert but I thought the oceans were acidifying.  Surely we know at least that.  But on thinking about it, measuring acidity over the whole Earth is surely tougher than temperature.

In response to Peter Glaskowsky’s points about bitcoin and fiat currency:

Fiat currency is a term used for currency that has value based on the faith of the government that prints it.  China started this exercise many centuries ago and, like all other fiat currencies, it returned to it’s actual value — zero.

I understand your argument about bitcoin, and — really — that could apply to any currency, money, or commodity since it’s all only worth what people offer for it.  I’m not trying to marginalize your point; I agree with you on this but I think the focus could be more broad.

However, certain commodities e.g. gold, silver remain useful tools for trade and commerce and were welcome throughout much of human history. No fiat currencies can make this claim and I believe this is the spirit in which bitcoin argues.

And, given the history of fiat currency, their argument against it is sound, but does cryptocurrency offer a viable alternative?  What if the networks go down? I understand theoretical solutions exist, but will these work in practice and without electronic devices?  The idea needs more thought, more time, and more activity before it would truly replace fiat currencies.  Even then, something is only worth what the market offers as you pointed out.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC
Percussa Resurgo

Yes, of course the value of a thing is what that thing will bring. Bitcoin is unique in that it requires a high tech civilization to be worth anything at all — or even to use, for that matter.  Obviously it is not useful as a survival stash in a high tech crash.  More probable — how much is another discussion –is a  sort of stagflation, especially under some liberal regimes.  Bitcoin may enough under the radar to escape redistributing.  Obviously government is what to worry about. Too much or not enough, rule of law some areas and others simply abandoned.

The Woodward Effect: Clearly a lot of money was spent on this lab, yet the alleged drive mechanisms are cheap and not very deliberately designed. Not a good sign.

I will believe in reacti0nless drives when I have one.  Or at least see one.