THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 527 July 14 - 20, 2008
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July 14, 2008
On July 14, 1789, the Paris revolutionaries with aid of the local militia stormed the Bastille, a fortress in downtown Paris which was similar in purpose to the Tower of London. The revolutionaries freed all the prisoners held in the Bastille on royal warrants. They were all aristocrats: four forgers, two madmen, and a young man who had challenged the best swordsman in Paris to a duel, and whose father had him locked up so that the duel could not take place. The garrison consisted largely of invalid and retired French soldiers. After the surrender much of the garrison was slaughtered and their heads paraded on pikes. The four forgers vanished. The two madmen were sent to the common madhouse where they much missed the special treatment they'd had in the Bastille. The final freed prisoner joined the Revolution, became Citizen Egalite, and was later killed by guillotine in the Place de la Concorde for joining the wrong faction.
Since the fall of the Bastille France has enjoyed a number of governments including The Directorate, the Consulate, The First Empire, the Restoration, The 100 Days, The Second Restoration with several variants including the July Monarchy, the Second Republic, The Second Empire, The Commune of Paris, The Third Republic whose Constitution was framed to allow the possible return of the Monarchy, the Vichy regime, and the various permutations since the end of World War Two.
Lest we be too proud, the bloodiest war in US history was our Civil War; and while we have not had any formal changes of government since the Constitution of 1789, our Supreme Court has certainly rewritten the Constitution to the extent that we can probably boast of having at least three different forms of government since the Civil War.
For the record, I seem to be settling in: I can get about four hours of real work done each day, and doing that requires about ten hours of sleep. The rest of the day I don't feel bad but I don't get much done either. I can read. Generally on my Kindle.
The interesting part is not that the Pope is going green, and by replanting about 50 acres of a Transylvanian forest cut down in medieval times will offset all the annual carbon output of the Vatican (who knew it would be that easy!); the interesting part is that
The way this would work is that some government or trust buys the rain forests. The land is cheap, and it's being cut and burned for trivial amounts. Now I don't know if any of this is true. I never thought very hard about it before. But it does seem that for pretty trivial amounts -- the US budget is in trillions, after all -- we could save the rain forests, and probably recoup some of the costs by leasing some of those forests to tourist companies operating under fairly strict regulations. A rain forest with a people-mover monorail track through it is still a rain forest, and it would be easy enough to isolate the local populations from the tourists, much as Disney planned to isolate the research and other workers who would live in EPCOT from the tourists who would pay to observe research in action.
I don't think the "global warming pollution" we'd compensate for is all that important; but I sure do think saving those rain forests is a good idea, assuming the facts are as represented.
Incidentally, I have nothing against the Pope using the Vatican as a demonstration of how to live with renewable energy, just as I don't try to talk my neighbor Ed Begley Jr. into changing his green habits. We need such experiments and demonstrations, and at $140 oil it's even profitable. The Pope will have the best technical advice in the world and what he does to make the Vatican energy independent will be seen by the world. Good on him.
But I still think the important point here is just how cheap it would be to save the rain forests. It would cost a heck of a lot less than we've spent on Kyoto...
I told you it would happen. I've been telling you for years: you can't pump money into the housing market, and keep lowering the interest rates, without creating a bubble; and eventually the bubble will burst. Water runs downhill. Eventually it reaches bottom no matter what you wish.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were invented to create a housing bubble. I can't think that those who created those government owned private companies -- they used to be really profitable for their stockholders -- didn't know that pumping more money into the housing market would drive housing prices to ridiculously high levels. Surely at least some Congress critters have studied elementary economics? If you make low cost guaranteed loans restricted to investing in Quaker Oats what do you think will happen? I wonder how many Congress critters profited from the bubbles? Either directly or in big campaign contributions from those who did?
The intent of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was to make it easier for more Americans to own a house. A noble ambition, and one that the FHA was doing pretty well with; but FHA didn't insure loans that looked too risky. Not good enough. There were people out there who wanted a house. They had awful jobs, and often they were minority people, and they wanted to own a house. They were tired of renting. Like the chap who is losing his house in Anaheim: he paid $480,000 for a house, but his income is about $700 a month, and now he's facing foreclosure. Big surprise. Add enough instances of this and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own a trillion dollars worth of unsalable housing. Unsalable at anything like the amount loaned on it, anyway. So: something must be done.
I understand that the remedy being proposed is to pump even more money into Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae so that they will have more money to lend, and thus do something about the falling housing prices. Think about that for a while. The remedy is more of the disease that caused the problem. Maybe the water won't reach bottom for a while. Pump in more money and let a future Congress worry about what to do.
I paid $30,000 for my house in 1968. I've made some improvements, and at some reasonable appreciation rate it ought to be worth perhaps ten times that. Make that twenty times what I paid. But I am told that it's "worth" about one and a half million. Of course that does me no good: where would I live if I sold it? Meanwhile my property taxes rise every year. Fortunately Proposition 13 has kept a lid on that so I can still afford to live in my overvalued house; but in some areas, the housing bubble has been a godsend for local governments, who are really happy about that part of the situation.
The housing bubble, fueled by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, inflated at fabulous rates. Little two bedroom houses in our neighborhood sold for a million dollars (to be torn down). People bought houses with the intent of holding on for a year and selling out. There used to be a flock of radio advertisements for courses on how to get rich flipping houses. People were encouraged to be speculators. Loans were made to people who obviously had no means for paying them back. The bubble grew.
And every damned bit of this was predictable and predicted, but that isn't going to stop the Congress from bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, just as the Congress quietly changed the rules to allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to treat the worst of the loans they either bought or guaranteed as if they were assets, not liabilities, and use them as the basis for even more loans until the bubble spiraled out of control.
Anyone who did not understand that pouring more and more money into the housing market while at the same time using Free Trade as a means for exporting manufacturing jobs and other traditional investment opportunities cannot work forever is too stupid to be a part of the US government in any capacity. Those who did understand it and went along with it anyway ---
I have considerable sympathy for those who tried to get in to buy a house they really intended to live in, and got caught when the bubble burst. I would not be averse to finding a way to help them keep their homes. But I do not think the government has any business bailing out people who went into the market intending to flip the house and lost everything. I'm sorry they made such a terrible mistake, but it wasn't me that did it and I don't think I owe them any tax money.
Is there a graceful way out of this mess? Not too likely. There are some measures that the government can take to make the bursting of the housing bubble a little less horrid, but we built that bubble and pumping in more money isn't going to do anything to help. I wish I were clever enough to come up with a scheme, but I'm not; I can only show what's likely to happen if we keep on inflating the currency (i.e. lowering the interest rates). I have a German postage stamp: it was originally 3 pfennig for a first class letter. It was overprinted twice. The second overprint makes it worth 3 Mird Millionen Marks.
I understand that in Zimbabwe they no longer can afford the paper to print their 5 million dollar banknotes: that is, the paper is worth more than 5 million Z dollars...
About 70 people got their money from IndyMac in Pasadena today. One hopes they'll be a little faster in dealing with a bank run once they get used to it. Those who have accounts that aren't FDIC insured are in trouble...
Actually it's going to be tougher than you know. Most of IndyMac's assets are in bundles of mortgages so complex that it's nearly impossible to find out who owns what, and who has the right to foreclose on the house. If anyone does. If this all reminds you of the Lincoln Savings disasters we went through 20 years ago, it ought to. The didn't deregulate fraud, but deregulation made fraud a lot easier, as buyers conspired to kite property values higher and higher, then stick the final buyer with an over valued piece of land. It's happening in the housing market now.
And I heard a sad story: a man who put $150,000 into IndyMac; only the first $100,000 is insured. The irony is this chap was putting his money in the bank to save up for a down payment and get an actual loan. Now he's lost a third of his stake (maybe) because the bank loaned money to people who couldn't pay -- or worse, bought packages of mortgages that contained terrible risks along with good risk mortgages, 0nly it can't be sorted out as to which is which and who owns what?
It will get worse. Runs on banks. Collapse of the housing industry. Jobs exported forever. In Washington they are afraid of the "R" word. Me, I hope it's only a Recession. I grew up in the Great Depression, and you don't want to be there.
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Mark, knowing that I have been something of a fan of Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), sends this:
Just too cute for words.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBjtmCpTG5Q
It's pretty good. I wish her well.
Well it's about time! Today's paper tells me that the Feds are going to require that before bankers can loan Federally guaranteed money, they must first verify the borrower's income! And determine that the borrower is likely to be able to pay the loan back! Think of that! What a great idea!
Of course the notion that schemes in which you get to loan other people's money -- you can take big risks and keep the profits but shove the losses off onto someone else -- will always lead to disaster has been around for a while, but apparently never trickled into the collective heads of the Congresscritters. Not even the big Savings and Loan disaster of twenty five years ago seems to have left any intelligent memories. How anyone in government can pretend not to have known the consequences of setting up a system in which the loan officers get big commissions, the loan agency gets to package good and bad loans into bundles and sell them -- and then treat that as assets so they can loan money -- how anyone can pretend not to have known what w0uld happen is beyond me. Do they plead dishonesty or stupidity? Just simple inability to comprehend? And these are the best and the brightest, those who govern us because they are our betters.
But at last the Feds get it! Don't loan money to people who can't pay it back! Wow! One would have thought that bankers had always understood that; and of course they have, but if you tell them that there won't be any consequences for ignoring that rule, while there will be big commissions for making the loan...
What did the American people ever do to merit a government like this!
2054 A group of us has season tickets to the Hollywood Bowl and this was our first night this year. The program was Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, and Dvorak's 7th in D Minor. The conductor was new to us, Andris Nelsons, energetic and I think he got more out of the orchestra than most -- perhaps more than anyone we have heard. And Renaud Capucon did a wonderful job with Mendelssohn. Of course that is one of my favorites of all time anyway, stemming from when I discovered it as an undergraduate.
Anyway it was a great evening, but I am exhausted. Fortunately I took a nap before we went to the Bowl, and that got me through it all. And -- I did get through it all, and enjoyed it. Slowly but surely I seem to be recovering from The Lump and the The Big Burn...
We have added a couple of items to the reading list as requested by Sue. See the reports page.
I have also read through my year-old essay on author rights and the actions of the Electronic Frontier Foundation to undermine them and intimidate the Science Fiction Writers of America in their attempt to protect authors. It holds up surprisingly well; if what you say about Web 2.0 holds up a year later that's very nearly news....
I find myself increasingly irritated at the so-called web ethics position that says that if you ever said anything, even something distorted and rather silly, you can't note that where it was said. You can't change it or even point out that things aren't quite as you thought they were. That has to come in blogological order, which means the existence of a retraction or explanation isn't even known to many who run across the original. Years later someone stumbles across remarks made by some intellectual condemning me as a fool and showing the commenter to be a genius -- "Jerry should know better" or some such, and has no notion that I pointed out that this is a comment on what I didn't quite say. I suppose it feeds the intellectual ego, but it's annoying. I found this out when I realized that I have 200 open Firefox windows and some need to be closed. I found one set up to make the poster look good and me bad, and happened to run across some correspondence in which the chap pleaded that he'd like to make a change in what he said but web ethics forbid that. (And no, of course I am not going to point to this one; let him draw his own crowd.) This seems a very odd kind of ethics to me.
In any event, if I make mistakes I generally don't try to hide that, but I do go back to where I made them and put up a pointer to my later reflections or later data. I see no point in using "ethics" to perpetuate error. Ah. Well.
My five-year old students, are learning to read.
Yesterday one of them pointed at a picture in a zoo book and said,
"Look at this! It's a frickin' elephant!"
I took a deep breath, then asked..."What did you call it?"
"It's a frickin' elephant! It says so on the picture!"
And so it does...
Hooked on phonics! Ain't it wonderful
I need to move my Outlook operations from an XP system running Outlook 2003 to a Vista Ultimate system running Outlook 2007. I can't seem to get anything going because Outlook 2007 wants to bring up a wizard and if you exit the wizard then everything closes. I don't know where Outlook 2007 stores its PST files on Vista Ultimate; there must be an easy way to do all this but I think my head is not working.
Anyone know this or know where I can find out??
Happy Anniversary, Roberta
I had to get up early and go to the blood lab without breakfast. Then I had other errands. Now I'm back, pretty tired, and I have an MRI starting at 4 PM this evening. With a barium flush or whatever intravenous. That takes care of both arms...
I would have sworn that I did it a different way the last time I converted to Outlook 2007 on a Vista machine, but it's pretty clear that this time I will have to run the wizard, set up accounts, and then import all the pst files from my XP machine. What I am doing is changing main machines, which means I don't want to do anything that can't quickly and easily be undone. I need to be able to get back to the old system in case something goes wrong.
One thing that might go wrong is InBoxer, which doesn't transfer from one machine to another very easily. I consider InBoxer about the best Bayesian anti-spam program going, and I've used it for years. I have it set up so that what goes into the InBoxer Blocked folder can be deleted without looking at it. I can't say that for any other anti-spam program I know of including the one built into Outlook. I have to look at all the spam, and about one out of 20 will turn out to be not spam at all.
Anyway, the next couple of days will be devoted to switching over from XP Outlook 2003 to Vista Ultimate Outlook 2007, and I rather dread it...
Demand, Supply, and Prices
It's clear enough that even if the US economy comes to a halt -- and the Democrats seem determined to make that happen -- the demand for oil by China, India, and other growing nations will go up exponentially; and that greater demand without increased supply will keep the price of oil high and even drive it higher.
Speculators already believe that and are bidding up the price of oil futures. I have seen estimates that the supply/demand price of oil is under $100/ bbl but that speculators have driven it to the present levels. I don't know; it's very hard to estimate the "true" value of anything. What I do know is that the instant there's a real chance of increased supply, the speculator-driven price will fall. That's the way supply and demand works, and is in fact the whole purpose of speculators: to even out the swings in the market.
If the US made it clear that we are going to build new refineries and do off-shore drilling -- we can even simply make that a state option -- then speculators will read that into what they are willing to pay for oil futures. Similarly, new sources of energy, including T. Boone Pickens' wind farms, various means of using natural gas, improved solar, and most of all, nuclear power will be factored into what speculators are willing to bid for oil futures.
Now surely Obama, who says that allowing development of US oil resources won't affect oil and gas prices, must know this? Can he possibly be so stupid that he doesn't know it? Perhaps stupid is not the correct word; but surely he can never have given the subject five minutes' intelligent thought? Yet he makes speech after speech about the subject.
Supply and Demand always works. If demand goes up, prices rise until supply matches demand again. When the Congress decreed that more people ought to own houses even if under older banking standards they couldn't pay for the houses they bought, it created a way to loosen credit and inject more money into the housing market. That sent up demand, sharply, because more people who previously couldn't get a mortgage were able to do so; and the lenders were guaranteed that even if the new owners couldn't afford it, the mortgages would be repaid. That created pressure to get out more mortgages. What Congress intended, for marginal borrowers to be helped into mortgages they could handle, drive up supply of money; and those who made commissions by making mortgage loans were pressured to pay less and less attention to qualifications. The housing bubble was on, and so long as the bubble continued, there wasn't a problem. The property kept going up in theoretical value, the size of mortgages went steadily higher, the loan companies sold their packages of go0d and bad mortgages to get more money which they could loan out, and the bubble grew and grew.
That grew the demand for construction workers. That drove up prices for that labor; which resulted in construction practices that didn't need so much skill (many of them darned good ideas, too, like the various steel brackets and braces that hold things together far better than the old "toe-nail" techniques of master carpenters). Now there was a demand for unskilled labor, and the porous southern border promised an infinite supply of that.
But the new immigrants created demand for hospital emergency services, police services, and school services; none of which was likely to be paid by the new immigrants, and in general not by their employers either. So there was a counter-bubble, as hospitals closed their emergency rooms. They did so because they were forbidden to see if emergency room patrons had the ability to pay. All hospitals, public or private, have to admit anyone who shows up at the emergency room. For about 20 such in Los Angeles County that was too much: the emergency rooms cost so much and made so little that the hospitals simply closed the emergency rooms lest the entire hospital be driven into bankruptcy.
With the collapse of the housing bubble the demand for unskilled labor has fallen; but meanwhile the energy crisis has driven the cost of peasant food higher and higher, both in the US and south of the border, so the pressure to come to the US where things are done a bit more efficiently is high.
This is a very elementary first cut at the complex ecology generated in large part by good intentions: that no one be turned away from a hospital emergency room, and that everyone be able to get a mortgage and own a home. Unfortunately the oil escalation impacted on all that. Of course that was predictable. I believe it was in 1974 that I wrote a series of articles, some for American Legion Magazine, called "America's Looming Energy Crisis". I also wrote several stories about some ways to get past an energy crunch. They're in my newest book, Exile -- And Glory (Baen) which you can pre-order now http://www.amazon.com/Exile-Glory-Jerry-Pournelle/dp/1416555633/jerrypournellcha (the stories are combined with a novel and make up a surprisingly well done whole, if I do say so myself; they also hold up darned well.
The Energy Crisis was predictable and predicted. After Jimmy Carter it was even obvious. But neither major party took any of this seriously (and after Newt Gingrich departed as Speaker neither party seem to think a month ahead); and now we have the crisis.
The only way out of the energy crisis is to increase energy supply. No single source of energy will bail us out; we need to try all that have a chance of success. Correction: a massive investment in nuclear power won't save us by itself, but given sufficient kilowatts from nuclear we can get out of this. If the government wants to set up loan guarantee companies, I suggest that it (1) simplify the nuclear construction regulations -- see how they do it in Japan and France -- and (2) set up something like Freddie Mac to help raise capital for nuclear power plants. Let the states invest in nuclear power. Let the Federal government invest in nuclear power plants. Build the darned things: given energy we'll get out of any other crisis.
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
For information on a free Pascal compiler, see mail.
July 18, 2008
The MRI went all right, except that the nurse -- an RN, not a technician -- got the IV needle in the wrong place, and a bunch of the marker stuff got into my arm outside the vein, and wow did that hurt. I also now have an odd rash on my forearms (both of them, curiously) but that seems to be going away. And of course I wanted to sleep all morning, and I'm still sleepy. One strenuous day pretty well uses up the next day.
There's a lot of mail. And I have enough mail to do a Chaos Manor Reviews mailbag over the weekend. Meanwhile have a look a today's mail. Among other things there's an interesting self publishing case.
I have a correspondent who insists that Lysenko wasn't doing science and therefore Stalin wasn't operating in the name of science. Lysenko, I am told, was wrong. For some reason my correspondent thought I would be shocked to discover that.
Lysenko was an opportunist and may well have known better; that is, he may have been a pure con man. On the other hand he may not have been. Lysenko was about the last major state-supported advocate of the Lamarckian theory of evolution. Lamarck believed that it was possible to have inheritance of acquired characteristics. That hypothesis had considerable popularity at one time, partly because some data are complex. The simplest experiments, which were done in many places, was to cut the tails off mice and see if that had any effect on their descendents. Of course it did not, and not all that many Lamarckians ever thought it would.
Lysenko planted wheat in bad growing conditions, harvested what survived, and continued those lines by planting them in other bad conditions. His goal was to develop grains that grew in shorter growing seasons. He conducted massive experiments, and insisted that he was demonstrating the inheritance of acquired characteristics although, even given the accuracy of his data (and there's pretty good evidence that some of it was not correct) there are hypotheses other than Lamarckian that will explain the results he got or claimed to get.
Stalin, meanwhile, may not have been a convinced Marxist but he had no real choice: he had to at least pretend to believe in Marxist science. One of the tenets of Marxist science was the transformation of quantity into quality: in particular, the remaking of human nature. Those who lived under Communism would be changed as would be their children. Formal Lamarckianism was not integral to Marxism, but if one could show that society could remake humanity so that there could be a new generation of Soviet Man, this would be a Good Thing; and many Marxists fervently believed that this would happen. It was one of the justifications for the brutality of the early Bolshevik regime: they were making a new society with new people, a brave new world.
In any event Stalin supported Lysenko, and eventually forbade the teaching of any genetic theories other than Lysenko's. "Scientific dissent from Lysenko's theories of environmentally acquired inheritance was formally outlawed in 1948, and for the next several years opponents were purged from held positions, and many imprisoned." In other words, the answer to Mendelian genetics was not rational debate, or scientific experiment: it was suppression and censorship. We see some of this happening in the Global Warming discussions now: there are few grants for those who don't agree with the man-made Global Warming hypothesis, there is a movement not to hire or give tenure to "Global Warming Deniers" and in general the remedy to dissent is censorship and suppression.
But whether or not Lysenko thought he was doing science, Stalin certainly did (and no one dared tell him different). Teaching anything contrary to Lysenko in the Soviet Union was something like teaching Intelligent Design in any school in the US: the subject was never debated; what was debated was how it could be suppressed.
There was some debate on the subject, and it took Lysenko a while to gain total control of biology even under Stalin, because one of Lenin's legacies was considerable autonomy for the Soviet Academy of Science. So long as the Academy remained formally loyal to the regime, it was allowed in general to select its own members, and to pursue science without interference from the state. That was in theory, of course; in practice the Iron Law had its effect; but it remains true that the Soviet Academy was one of the few institutions in the USSR that had a measure of freedom of action. Stalin became obsessed with Lysenko's results, but it took him a decade to suppress that section of the Academy. Of course he prevailed eventually.
It is one reason why I am opposed to central control of curricula in the US; and why I think it far less dangerous to allow dissenting opinions to be taught in the schools. I think a debate between a Gore influenced science teacher and one who follows a different drummer would be good for the 10% of the student population who could follow the argument; and the fact that there is some dissent and things should not always be taken for granted just because taught in school does no harm to American education.
I do not suppose there are more than 100 school districts whose boards would mandate that some alternative to Darwinian evolution (and which one of those? The one that condemns catastrophism, or the one that thinks catastrophes are necessary, or the one that slips back and forth between them?) be taught and debated. Realistically, how many pupils might be misled assuming that the alternative was taught by some raving maniac? And of those, the ones I am concerned about are the least likely to be influenced by a raving maniac. Perhaps I remember Brother Fidelis debating evolution when I was in high school - what he was doing, teaching the theory of evolution, was illegal in Tennessee. I draw a lesson from that.
In any event, whether Lysenko really believed he was doing science, or was merely a con man who had the ear of the General Secretary, Stalin thought his regime was scientific. One could not graduate from a Soviet university without about 100 hours of Marxist theory; and Lysenko was very much consistent with what was then understood as good Marxism.
And I suppose I have spent quite enough time on this.
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
July 19, 2008
I have a number of letters insisting that Hitler regarded himself as Christian. They may well be right, although there is no evidence that anyone else thought he was: he conscripted priests, and his treatment of both Evangelical and Catholic churches was more dictated by political realities than any conceivable acts of conscience. To the extent he had any visible religion, it would appear to have been a version of Germanic paganism. However, he did say:
Whether that makes him a Christian or no is not so clear to me, but perhaps so.
Hitler, however, was a piker compared to Stalin and Mao (and Tamerlane for that matter) in stacking up corpses; and the original point was, I think, that fanatics can come from any tradition and belief, and many have. Those who want to regard Hitler as a Christian and chalk up his murders to Christianity may do so; I was never all that interested in keeping that kind of score to begin with.
There is a discussion of energy sources and policies over in mail.
I had a discussion with my advisors about the American Physical Society's reluctant and begrudging change of policy regarding man made Global Warming. Peter Glaskowsky said
Which caused me to reply:
I recall when the APS published its views on ballistic missile defense. It made 81 errors, every one of them in the same direction.
I can also recall several of the fellows trying to demonstrate to me that BMD required faster than light kills mechanisms. Then sneering by saying "I suppose you know that ftl is impossible?"
In fact, they picked a straw man, boost phase interception, and then made up a model system that couldn't work, and proceeded to show that it would take ftl to make it work. I don't know of anyone who ever proposed a boost phase ground based interception system. There was a proposal of a kinetic kill boost phase using smart rocks in orbit, but it took a lot of smart rocks in orbit to do that, and no one thought we could or should build such a system.
Lowell Wood's 10 terrawatt ground based laser (to be built near Grand Coulee so there would be power) with mirrors to be launched as needed had a possible boost phase intercept capability, but that wasn't its major mission. The system would raster a threat tube and prevent anything from flying down it. It also had an anti-air attack intercept capability. Never got built, and there are cost/efficiency arguments for other systems, but the APS analysis was ridiculous.
At that point I gave up paying attention to the APS positions on anything other than pure physics; and those were always predictable, anyway: give more money!!
I suppose my contempt for them -- they allowed their staff to put out all kinds of nonsense without challenge from the officers -- ought to be mitigated, but in fact I find the organization largely ludicrous.
I was persuaded this was worth publishing here. I suppose at some point I ought to reexamine APS, but at the moment I don't pay much attention to them; and their stand on man made global warming hasn't much changed, but they did yield to pressure to publish some counter arguments. Big of them.
Science lately seems to rely on censorship and repression instead of reason when anyone challenged one of their pet theories. It's a bit frightening.
It turns out that several of my physicians read Nature, and were impressed by
I was cleaning up my open windows in Firefox and found
which uses contemptuous language for anyone interested in reusable spacecraft. We are all "Space Cadets" and apparently unable to understand the rocket equation. That would, of course, include the late Max Hunter whose Thrust Into Space, I suspect, was the book from which many of these sophomores learned about the rocket equation.
We all understand the rocket equation, Mr. Jeffrey Bell. Really we do. And if we disagree it may be on fairly practical grounds.
The original SSX (which for various reasons became DC/X) was to be 600,000 lbs. Gross Liftoff Weight. That meant that there could be no more than 60,000 pounds of non-fuel, and of that perhaps 6,000 pounds might be actual payload. Note that at this point we are off in the third decimal point. Max wanted to build a reusable ship that we could fly, and fly often. It need not make orbit and possibly never would. It certainly would not make orbit on the first flights. What it would do is give us data. And as Max said, we find where we overbuilt and bore holes in it to lighten the structure.
SSX is still very much a worthwhile X project, no matter what Jeffrey Bell says about the subject.
Now SSX was a Single Stage to Orbit concept. Max's successors seem to be more persuaded by two stage to orbit reusable ships ( the first stage being recoverable, of course). This would put up more payload per flight at a cost of operational complexity.
My own view is we ought to be doing X projects on both, SSTO and TSTO. But then I am only a Space Cadet.
July 20, 2008
First Man On The Moon
I have got to convert my old Kodak projector slides into digital. I see a widely advertised gadget that does this for $99, and this looks like the simplest way to do it. I have a number of slides, all irreplaceable, from the many years when I was globe trotting with a Miranda camera. Some are not very good, but some are great. (I managed to sell on K2 to National Geographic). These include trips to Africa, Guatemala, Greece including the islands, and other such. I suppose it will take time to convert them, but if I can do a dozen or so an hour then I can at least get started, and who knows, maybe the neighborhood kids can help for a few bucks.
I am about to order the $99 stand alone USB device, which looks as if it takes trays of 6 or 8 slides and processes them pretty well automatically, feeding the results to XP by USB 2.0. I haven't seen anything else that tempts me. I have a number of pretty good lectures including Survival With Style on those slide, and I ought to get them into digital projection format. Who knows, someone might want a dinner speaker. I used to get pretty good fees for doing after dinner lectures.
Ebook reader for iPhone:
It has been a reasonably good day. Bad night last night. Still want to sleep a lot. Slow recovery. I have a rash from the MRI dye that looked very bad this morning but it may be fading away. Not sure who to tell about it. Doesn't seem to be an emergency, and Dr. Wang the radiologist is out of town, and I don't have the slightest idea of who I ought to talk to about a rash. It's not painful, doesn't itch (at least not enough that I scratch it) and other than that it's unsightly it causes no problems. Still, it's there. A neurologist friend looked at it this morning and said it was almost certainly a rash from the dye, and the reaction ought to be in my records, but he wasn't worried about it. Ah well.
Sunday afternoon. I was working on the bills. The phone rang. It was my doctor to tell me about the results of my Thursday morning blood tests. Sunday afternoon. My doctor telephones me.
My cholesterol is down in the normal range, my long term blood sugar is good and stable, and I'm in great shape (aside from the fact that I've got cancer). My MRI isn't up yet so he couldn't tell me about that, but we discussed symptoms. Now this is my internist, not the radiologist. We still have to hear from the cancer specialists. But other than that, I'm in great shape. My voice, they tell me -- well you tell me, too, from TWIT -- sounds normal. I can think, sort of, and write. So perhaps I'll be around a while yet.
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the weekly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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