More thin gruel. Surface won’t turn on, then does.

Chaos Manor View, Thursday, March 26, 2015


0915 Niven will be here shortly to take me to Pasadena and JPL where we will spend the day.

I have a note from a reader: NASA is being cautious because some think reactionless drive does in fact work. We can hope, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof…

Meanwhile I vamp until Larry gets here.

My Surface Pro won’t turn on.  It got a bunch of updates yesterday, and died.  Nothing I can do causes it to turn on: it was that went when I went to bed, and still is.  I have held the button down for a count of 100 both in the docking station and out. More when I know more…

1530:  I left the Surface out of the dock and not plugged to power.  When I got home a few minutes ago I pushed the button.  It turned on.  I’ll experiment more but it appears to be all right. Precious accepted my user name and password and is welcoming me.  Larry is here and we’ll go to LASFS. More tomorrow.



Re: NASA refutes Mann and Rahmstorf – Finds Atlantic ‘Conveyor Belt’ Not Slowing


Further to the Science Daily story that you were forwarded, from that article linked in “Thin Gruel”,

“The gradual but accelerating melting of the Greenland ice-sheet, caused by human-made global warming, is a possible major contributor to the slowdown. Further weakening could impact marine ecosystems and sea level as well as weather systems in the US and Europe.”

But this from 2010:

“PASADENA, Calif. – New NASA measurements of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, part of the global ocean conveyor belt that helps regulate climate around the North Atlantic, show no significant slowing over the past 15 years. The data suggest the circulation may have even sped up slightly in the recent past.”

And this article pulling in research on the issue from different sources:

Notice that the there is not any “accelerating melting of the Greenland ice-sheet” as claimed in the Science Daily article.

If anything, it appears that seasonal melting is slowing and there is a small increase in year to year ice mass. That chart, referenced in the article mentioned above, is from




Back in the days of Microsoft’s glories, the company lived on one simple approach to the world: Every decision the company made was to promote Windows. In a period when PCs were the only thing that mattered and Windows’ control was close to absolute, this was a simple formula to building market and profits.

The nature of the industry began changing quite a while ago, but business stayed pretty good for Microsoft and there was little reason to redo things. But having finally been hit by huge changes–especially the realization that the PC, Windows or otherwise, no longer completely dominated the market–Microsoft is going through a major rearrangement that finds Apple and Android as important as Windows.

Looked interesting to me.

Digital? Cloud? Modern And Cost-Effective? Surprise! It’s The Mainframe

Comment Now

Follow Comments

What’s up with IBM IBM +0.88%? On the one hand, IBM is betting the company on the cloud, yet on the other, they are doubling down on the mainframe – sinking over a billion dollars into their new IBM z13 model in their z Systems mainframe line.

Furthermore, the explosion of mobile traffic is throwing a wrench into the works as digital transformation becomes the driving factor in enterprise technology purchasing decisions. Do these apparently competing forces spell trouble for Big Blue?

On the contrary – there’s method to IBM’s madness. The z13 mainframe is in fact one of the most powerful digital transaction platforms available – and in many ways also supports enterprise cloud efforts.

A $60 Gadget That Makes Car Hacking Far Easier

The average automobile today isn’t necessarily secured against hackers, so much as obscured from them: Digitally controlling a car’s electronics remains an arcane, specialized skill among security researchers. But that’s changing fast. And soon, it could take as little as $60 and a laptop to begin messing around with a car’s digital innards.


: white roof –

Hi Jerry,

Just one data point for your white roof theory. Our house used to be pale blue, and now it’s dark brown. Our utility bills dropped by about 10% in the winter – and went up by about 20% in the summer (the greater amount is because the social engineers artificially raise the price of electricity in the summer beyond market rates). The net is still a cost savings to me. So what I need is chameleon paint that changes color with the season!






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




Thin Gruel

Chaos Manor View, Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Most of the day was devoured by medical appointments, and the rest was pleasurably enjoyed in lunch and dinner with Roberta two of our sons. Frank, who lives in Texas, came out for the day and actually joined us going out to Kaiser in Panorama City, and when we had lunch on the way back we were joined by Alex, who lives in the Valley. Then we all four went out to dinner.

In other words I didn’t write much, for this journal, for the SFWA Bulletin, on my novels, or anything else. Tomorrow Larry Niven and I will go out to JPL to have lunch with Richard, my youngest son, who lives in DC but operates out of Houston a good part of the time; after which he has a presentation at JPL, doubtless about NanoRacks and the satellite launching business. And after that my old friend Harlan Ellison will come to a LASFS meeting, and Niven and I can’t miss that, and ==

So it’s thin gruel today and probably less tomorrow. Ah well.


A little more on reactionless drives:

OK, this is most likely my last on this subject, having foolishly gotten myself into it…
Housekeeping first:
1) No, I did not dig more for further information than the popular science bits that were first presented. My research time these days is used for other things (mostly economic and social evolution, military history, and one rather nasty astrometric project.) I would submit, though, that this is precisely why the Doctor invites many different people to the Manor.
2) I stand by my opinion of Chinese research. When all things are subordinated to the State, there is a far steeper cliff of verification needed. There are Chinese researchers that I have on the trust but verify list (a very few), ones that I’ll take a look at but approach with a great deal of skepticism (the majority), and ones that I automatically dismiss (once again, a very few). By the way, I hope that nobody confuses the institution at which these researchers work with the American university – Northwestern PolytechnicAL Institute is in Xi’an, Shaanxi, China; *not* Fremont, California, USA. This paper fell under the majority rule – but on checking, looks like a fairly reliable description of a beginning research effort.
The preceding being out of the way – now to the meat…
Reviewing the links for all three published pieces (sorry, not the YouTube clips – time, again) *not* one of them is claiming a reactionless drive. (See page 2 of the Shawyer IAC presentation, abstract of the Chinese paper – NASA does not say it so simply, but “momentum transfer” is action/reaction, whether momentum is being transferred by “normal” kinetic processes or through the virtual quantum plasma.) Sorry, no breaking of the current “laws” of physics here…
Probably the best way to (vastly) simplify the Shawyer and Chinese work is to describe it as putting a nozzle on your “traditional” engine’s combustion chamber, thus turning a relatively low thrust into a far higher one. Shawyer describes a NASA test device that is quite like his own, and that of the Chinese. All of them apparently produce thrusts at a rough order of magnitude of 0.2 Newtons / kilowatt. (That’s one kilogram, accelerated at 1 meter/second/second with an input of 5 kilowatts of power – which is *extremely* good).
Where Shawyer and the Chinese part company is in what they see as the *potential* of the technology. Shawyer is, in the best Western tradition, looking at the speculative endpoint of a huge amount of further research and engineering advancement – it is a long way from 1 Newton for 5 kilowatts to a SSTO lifting large masses against a 1G field. Note that there is nothing *wrong* with that, and everything *right* with it – how does anyone think the West gained its preeminence in the first place? In any case, this is the very long view.
The Chinese, on the other hand, are seeing this technology as solving in the near term a very practical, but important problem. That is the problem with the fact that any kind of “traditional” thruster that throws mass is certain to cause interference with delicate instrumentation on your spacecraft – or, even worse, deposit that mass onto things like camera lenses, communication antennas, solar cells, etc. To them, this is a way to get small thrusts without the inevitable “pollution” of the immediate environment. It would not surprise me to see this showing up in PRC surveillance satellites, planetary probes, and the like in the near future.
The NASA link is to an engineering paper. You might think it is simply a more sophisticated version of the Shawyer/Chinese devices – but the apparatus described is *very* different, as is their description of the physical principles involved. They also measured the thrust of their apparatus at a mean of 40 *micro* Newtons – which, unless someone did something very wrong, is not in the same region as the other two, not by a very long shot. I think that, despite the superficial similarities (no propellant mass and involving microwaves), the NASA paper is describing a completely different line of approach to achieving thrust. (Apparently not an overly efficient one, either, which does not surprise if the momentum transfer is through the virtual particle plasma – it is called the “vacuum energy” for a very good reason.)

Richard Skinner

I don’t have time to analyze that. I can only repeat, any reactionless drive – any thrust without a propellant – is impossible under the Standard Theory. It blows up Relativity so far as I can tell; certainly makes it complex beyond understanding. It requires serious adjustment to Newton, much more than Beckmann’s postulating a finite speed of propagation to gravity. It makes the quantum structure more important, and certainly changes what we think we know about it. Magnitude isn’t important here. Any propellantless thrust changes our understanding of the universe.

And that’s wonderful. It’s also unlikely. Sagan was fond of Descartes’ dictum, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Existence of a device that can produce thrust without a propellant is a very extraordinary claim.



For whatever it’s worth, coming from one who consistently flunked high school math, but, having looked at the number of stars in our galaxy, and the number of galaxies in “our” known portion of the universe — and said to himself, “wow, that’s a lot of stars…” I have to ask: If a reactionless drive is indeed possible, then it would seem to my mathematically challenged mind that the upper limit of velocity, given sufficient time, would approach an impressive fraction of the speed of light.

If so, then, given the equally impressive number of stars in the sky, how unlikely is it for us to be “visited” by others?

The more I ponder the questions, the more important the warnings from Hawking et al seem — and the more idiotic any form of “active” SETI (AKA “Here we are, come and get us!”) seem.


Many years ago Freeman Dyson pointed out the mathematics point strongly to there being but one intelligent species per galaxy. The logic summarizes thus: assume a thousand years in transit in a generation ship to get to the next inhabitable planet. Assume a thousand years for the resulting colony to achieve an industrial technology to build two more star ships. How many millions of years does it take to fill the galaxy? But we have billions. The only variable is how long it takes to evolve the first star crossing industrial civilization…

I have drastically summarized a brilliant analysis, but you may now play with the assumptions, and you will find the conclusion compelling. One per galaxy.

One way or another.


Gulf conveyor slowing

From (admittedly alarmist) articles and television programs I saw at least a decade ago, I know that interruptions of the Gulf stream are likely to have played a part in historic periods of cooling in the Northern Hemisphere. Now comes this:
-Gulf Stream system: Atlantic Ocean overturning, responsible for mild climate in northwestern Europe, is slowing
This seems to match some of your speculation.


Apple puts clinical research tool in your pocket


Tapping an iPhone’s touchscreen to take a photograph or make a phone call is as familiar as the traditional cameras and mobile phones that it displaced. Medical researchers hope to use the same simple interactions to study diseases from Parkinson’s to asthma.

Apple began its move into the digital health industry last summer when it unveiled Healthkit, a software platform that developers can use to pool data about workouts, caloric intake and weight. Apple touted its potential to alert doctors about changes to the user’s wellbeing, and several US hospitals have begun to pilot the system.

Less than a year later, almost 1,000 fitness apps are plugging in to Healthkit, giving Apple a strong base upon which to launch its health-centric Watch device.

Apple’s longer-term plans became clearer with the launch earlier this month of ResearchKit, a way for medical researchers to transform the iPhone into a tool for conducting clinical research.

“All you have to do is stick the iPhone in your pocket, walk out 20 steps and back, and the iPhone’s accelerometer and gyroscope precisely measure gait,” said Jeff Williams, senior vice-president for operations, of an app studying Parkinson’s, at this month’s launch.

Apple is not planning to make money directly from these apps, which also track diabetes and cardiovascular health. But ReserachKit is building goodwill with the medical community that could help to sell more iPhones or Watches.

“Having a common platform is a godsend to researchers at the university, hospital, clinical and government level,” says Richard Doherty, research director at Envisioneering, a technology consultancy.

Guaranteeing users’ data security and privacy will be essential. Mr Williams has said that customers will opt into any ReserachKit programmes and promised that Apple “will not see your data”.

“Apple has always believed that amazing things can happen when you put technology in the hands of the many,” Mr Williams concluded.


Force fields could be the next big battlefield innovation (WP)

By Dominic Basulto March 25 at 7:00 AM

America’s military-industrial complex keeps coming up with innovative ideas for how to win asymmetric wars in far-flung locations around the world. As if insect-like drones and Terminator bots were not enough, Boeing recently filed a patent that describes how to create a “force field” capable of shielding soldiers and military vehicles – including tanks and armored personnel carriers – from the shockwaves of IEDs.

While Boeing doesn’t actually call it a “force field patent,” that’s essentially what it is. You can see how Boeing’s “method and system for shockwave attenuation via electromagnetic arc” works in the figure below. Here, a sensor (10A) mounted on the top of a military humvee would detect an explosion and its resulting shockwave (24) in the immediate area. The sensor system would then almost instantaneously send a signal to a power source (38) to superheat the surrounding ambient atmosphere (26) around the vehicle, producing a heated, plasma-like medium (30) between the target and the explosion that would act as a buffer and shield from any shockwave.

Although some have referred to this innovation as a Star Wars or Star Trek-like shield for repelling enemy attacks, that’s not exactly the purpose of the patent. As Boeing points out in patent no. 8981261, such a system would act to “attenuate” any shockwave by a combination of means that might include “reflection, refraction, dispersion, absorption and momentum transfer.” The goal, then, is not to knock down an incoming projectile or missile, but to deploy an intermediate medium that would reduce the collateral damage from such an attack.

Unlike previous attempts at creating a similar type of shield, this Boeing patent – if it ever gets commercialized — would be a dynamic system, rather than a stationary system, relying on sensors to activate a shield in real-time. This would differentiate it from previous patents, which focused more on how a specific substance – such as an aqueous foam, gas emulsion or gel – could somehow absorb the blow of an incoming object when placed inside a barrier. In other words, the force field would be highly mobile and be capable of activating at a moment’s notice, rather than being erected in front of a structure hours, days, or months ahead of time.

Given the nature of modern asymmetric warfare, such a dynamic “force field” is greatly needed. Over the past decade, the “roadside bomb” has fundamentally changed the way the military operates as well as how it innovates. Consider the number of IED attacks in a war zone such as Iraq or Afghanistan, where over 3,100 deaths and 33,000 injuries have been sustained over the past decade. Clearly, the U.S. military needs some way to counter the ability of a terrorist or insurgent group to inflict maximum damage on unsuspecting U.S. soldiers with minimal risk.

As researchers are now finding out, even the shockwave from a detonated IED can cause internal injuries that may not be detected for years afterwards. Unlike the Hollywood movies, where heroes walk away from impressive-looking detonations and blasts as if they were nothing, researchers now say that IED shockwaves are tantamount to being hit multiple times by a ferocious NFL middle linebacker, resulting in potential head concussions each time.

There’s a huge potential market for this type of technology and that means it’s not just the U.S. military that could become buyers of such a battlefield innovation. The British Army is also working on the creation of supercharged electromagnetic fields to deflect anything up to the size of a small missile. And the Israeli Army is also working on a system to knock down incoming projectiles.

Real force fields would be a major development and require new theories…


If you haven’t got your California Sixth Grade Reader (1914) you should do so:


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




Reactionless Drives

Chaos Manor View, Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Took a long – for me and the walker – walk this morning, discovering after we were well out of the house that I had two-pound ankle weights from doing exercises.  I can tell you if you want to induce fatigue in the legs, walk with ankle weights. It works – at least if you are as old as I am.

Spent the rest of the  day at the dentist getting a broken off abscessed tooth out. I should feel better now if I survive. Clots are dangerous.

It’s dinner (poached eggs) time. I may have more later. Meanwhile:


: Reactionless drives

Hello Jerry,

A bit more on reactionless drives:

First of all, the EmDrive, real or not, has nothing to do with the ‘Dean Drive’, which was a mechanical device. 

The guy who started this whole flap is a British aerospace engineer named Roger Shawyer.

He was a payload engineer who apparently specialized in stationkeeping and (supposedly) noticed that the spacecraft were moving around more than could be explained by ‘the usual suspects’. 

He came up with the idea and asked his bosses for a research budget to investigate it and was turned down firmly:  “Your idea is impossible; get back to work.”.

He quit his job, started his own company, got funding from the British government, and built and tested a thruster based on his idea.  It supposedly produced thrust.  His mathematical theory as to how it works is apparently bogus; I can’t do his math OR the math that reportedly proves his to be wrong.  I don’t care about the math; does it produce thrust or not?  He says it does.  So (at least for now) does NASA.  And the Chinese

Here is a link to his web site: .  He presented a paper at IAC2014 in Toronto that your son addressed re cubsats.  His IAC paper:

is linked on his site along with test data from several iterations of his thruster.

This is a 14 minute YouTube presentation by Shawyer explaining the history of his idea and how it works.  It includes several pictures of various EmDrive designs and a demo of a thruster (supposedly) causing a test rig weighing around 100kg to rotate on an air bearing:

This is Part 2 (15 min) of the above lecture:

and Part 3 (23 min) of the lecture:

This is a link to the NASA Eagleworks test report.

Contrary to the comment on your blog today they in fact DID do a null test, substituting a 50 ohm load for the thruster.  The load produced no thrust. 

The Chinese team at Northwestern Polytechnical University, College of Astronautics built a frustum thruster similar to Shawyer’s, tested it, and produced this report in 2011:

about which Richard Skinner made the following comment:

“Having a third-hand popular science account gives me really nothing – except to note that a measurement in thousandths of grams is not particularly a good “proof.” (I treat Chinese releases of “science” for popular consumption in just about the same way as I used to treat Soviet releases of such – i.e., with a thirty pound block of pasture salt.)”

Without taking sides re the reality of the EmDrive effect, I think that Mr. Skinner may be a bit cavalier in characterizing a paper, with experimental data, by six researchers, including at least on PhD,  from the Northwestern Polytechnical University, College of Astronautics as a ‘Chinese release of science for popular consumption’.  I suspect that he never read the paper.   Also, if he is actually interested in the papers, rather than third hand popular science accounts, you could pass him some of the links here, which include Shawyer’s work, NASA’s report, and the Chinese report.

As far as I know, the Chinese have not published anything on the technology since.  There are several possible explanations including:  “Oops!  We screwed up; lets just keep our mouths shut and hope no one notices what suckers we were and hope it goes away.” and “Holy Crap!  Do the idiots who published that report realize how important this is and what an advantage it will give us if we just keep our mouths shut and hope everybody blows it off as test error or something?”  I have no idea which, if either applies, but apparently the outfit which built and tested the device is a bit like China’s version of JPL.  They may be wrong (I suspect that even JPL may have been wrong a time or two in the past.), but the report was NOT a ‘Chinese release of science for popular consumption’.

There is a hot forum going on (since last September) over on one of the NASA blogs with a bunch of folks, including several highly qualified PhD’s, busting their humps trying to figure out if or how it works.  The first thread ran a couple hundred pages (the usual is less than 10 for a given topic), before things got so rancorous that the moderator pulled the thread.  This is the original thread:

which was cut back to 183 pages after the moderator threw out the last 50 pages or so because it was degenerating into a food fight.

The moderator started a new thread:

which is now up to 76 pages and counting. 

A related subject is a cosmological theory, Modified inertia by a Hubble scale Casmir effect (MiHsC) by a British (or Scottish, not sure) PhD Physics professor, Mike McCulloch, who claims that his theory requires neither dark matter or dark energy to explain such various observations as the rotation rates of galaxies which, to preserve GR, requires that 90+ % of the universe consist of unobservable dark matter and dark energy, the Pioneer Anomalies (which JPL explained by an EXTREMELY complicated analysis of the thermal radiation from the spacecraft), the observed motion of Proxima Centauri, which is double the speed predicted by Newton/GR and which dark matter/dark energy cannot explain…….and also predicts thrust from frustum shaped cavities the same order of magnitude as that observed by Shawyer, the Chinese, and by NASA’s Eagleworks in Houston.

Dr. McCulloch’s blog is here:

and includes at least three posts addressing EmDrive theory.

At any rate, there are (at least) three different entities who have built and tested EmDrive frustums, all of whom detected thrust far above (orders of magnitude) anything that could be produced by the same power in a microwave beam.

The experimenters have been accused of everything from incompetence to outright fraud, but to date, except for ex cathedra proclamations by a variety of self-proclaimed experts who took no part in the experiments that the measured results are impossible, no one has actually driven a stake through the heart of ANY of the experiments by Shawyer, the Chinese, or NASA’s Eagleworks.

As for me, I am not a ‘true believer’, but I am very definitely a ‘true hoper’.

Bob Ludwick

Dark matter is straining belief in the Standard Theory. First we assume that we don’t live in a unique part of the universe; then it turns out we must live somewhere unusual, and more and more hypotheses about dark matter, which we can’t see, and dark energy which we can’t detect are generated. They pile up.

The late Petr Beckmann’s book, Einstein Plus Two and the popularization by Beckmann’s friend Tom Bethell Is Einstein Necessary? claim that every crucial experiment supporting Relativity can be explained in a much more simple way by Newton if you assume a finite propagation speed – probably c – for gravity. It is not that Einstein’s Relativity, Special and General, are wrong: but they are very much more complicated, taking pages of tensor calculus with Einstein, while two or three equations comprehensible to anyone who knows Maxwell’s Equations.

This doesn’t mean that Beckmann was right or wrong; but it does give a reason for asking if he is necessary. Beckmann’s theory assumes an aether, as did Newton. Beckmann’s aether is the system gravitational field which is entailed by Earth as it moves in its orbit. For more read bethel, or Beckmann. Bethel manages without equations. Beckmann assumes standard university calculus, but not more.

Relativist friends tell me there are phenomena better explained by Relativity; Beckmann’s champions say there are not. Those who question Einstein point to spectroscopic binaries, which you would think could not exist were Special Relativity true. I haven’t the expertise to have an opinion. Obviously the consensus opinion held by a vast number of physicists is Einstein. Not so obviously, most of those physicists have never looked at the question since graduate school, nor have needed to, or wanted to. There are only a few hundred to a few thousand people with the math training to participate in the argument. I am certainly not one of them. I do admit the spectroscopic binary phenomenon seems crucial, and the Relativist argument seems lame, but that is my layman’s view.

A data point like reactionless drive – action without equal reaction —  is not an argument; facts are stubborn things. If a real reactionless drive exists, Newton must be modified; it is difficult to see how Relativity will survive.


Greg Benford is convinced that the NASA data are incorrect. He and most Western physicists think an attempt to duplicate the Chinese results should be tried but he does not believe it will work.

I continue to root for the data. Facts are real, and theories are expendable, The NASA data seem much more serious than I first believed.

One thing is certain: the existence of a working reactionless drive – mechanical or quantum – will change the world.







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