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Mail 248 March 10 - 16, 2003 






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I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

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Monday   March 10, 2003

Dr. Pournelle,

I teach for the Engineering Department at a local college. I was 9 when John Glenn orbited the earth. This week another instructor and I were discussing the general state of education in the U.S. The other instructor (who is 10 years my senior) said that when he was in college at Purdue, the engineering faculty and students spent a lot of time arguing how best to put a man on the moon. Then he said "Now I spend time arguing with my students about whether or not we actually put a man on the moon!"

Randy Storms

I am on the road and this is my Tablet PC with Front Page 2002, so mostly this is a test. Thanks for the mail. We are in the crazy years...

This explains why your satellite connection always acted up when you needed it most:

Mind Over Matter

March 9, 2003

No Ghost-Busting at Princeton, but Skepticism Just the Same



DOWN a long cinderblock corridor and past the machine shop in the basement of the engineering quad is a dull brown door bearing a decal of a pear. It is the entrance to the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) laboratory. And what goes on in this warren of small rooms is most anomalous indeed.

For a quarter of a century, a few Princeton University scientists have been quietly gathering data that they believe prove that the mind can influence the performance of machines. While they do not claim to know why the hair dryer burns out before the big date; why the computer some days seems that it knows what is wanted of it, or why a driver coos, "come on baby," when cranking over the car on a freezing morning - they say such things can be cases of mind over matter.

In fact, they theorize that the resonance of the mind with simple machines and sophisticated electronics can affect kitchen mixers and air traffic control. A newer project spun off from the lab here claims that the collective energy of human consciousness around the world is measurable - and in fact showed a sharp increase during the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997 and the terrorism attacks of Sept. 11.

Such musings have caused a good deal of static in the scientific community, <snip>

Ed Hume

Heh. Years ago I wrote about machines being in a conspiracy. Stephen Vincent Benet (Nightmare #3 I believe) knew it. I knew they were all in this together.




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Tuesday,  March 11, 2003

Joel Rosenberg sends this under the subject of silly fun... 

The cafeteria menus in the three House office buildings will change the name of "french fries" to "freedom fries," a culinary rebuke of France, stemming from anger over the country's refusal to support the U.S. position on Iraq.

I assume that we're now going to have "freedom kissing" and "freedom ticklers."

-- ------------------------------------------------------------

That'll fix 'em.

"Where it's so damn cold Freedom letters are sold wrapped up in a ball of snow..."

Here is the kind of letter you need not send me:

Subject: 321 studios


If you foung a crack for the DVDx copy please send one to me or tell me where i can find one.

for obvious reasons.

REfugee has a web site:

This guy even has a web-site. A homeless, stateless, "everything I own is on me or my bicycle" political refugee has a website. I think the future has, finally, arrived. 

Iranian Bicyclist Given Asylum, Released

March 10, 2003 10:35 PM EST

PHOENIX - An Iranian bicyclist arrested when he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border during an international ride for peace was released by immigration authorities Monday after being granted asylum.

Kim Owen Smith






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Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Subject: Hey Dr. P.

I'll bet you get a kick out of this:

 -- Dean Esmay

You're right. Thanks.

Subject: Wonderful typo!

Check out , for an incredibly apt typo!



Hi Jerry!

Did you see this Spacedaily article about Project Orion?

Best regards,


It's quite good. Thanks.

Hello Mr. Pournelle,

I know that you are a strong advocate of hydrogen as the new fuel. I found an article in Wired-magazine recently which might interest you : 

Kind regards,

Rob Baartwijk The Netherlands.

It's not so much that I am a strong advocate of the Hydrogen Economy as that it's an alternative to the war, and to dependence on oil. The problem is there are no hydrogen wells. There are natural gas wells, and there seems to be more and more natural gas. Given electricity (from nuclear fission at first, from space solar power platforms sustainably) we still need ways to distribute and use the energy, particularly in mobile systems. Hydrogen is messy and tricky stuff -- we have learned a lot about it since I wrote The Hydrogen Economy in 1976 -- but it is one way to distribute energy, and given fuel cells a way to power mobile systems.

We need to work 0n distribution of energy and also on non-fossil generation methods that are more under US control. Fission is one source. Ground Solar is another. Over time Space Solar is the cleanest and in some ways simplest once we get the cost to orbit down. 

From Richard, a summary of  X programs:

Flight International

August 06, 2002

SECTION: Features; Cover Story; Pg. 30

HEADLINE: X-planes advance; US industry is pushing for government funding of more X-vehicle experimental programmes in a drive to maintain its technological edge in aerospace

BYLINE: Graham Warwick/Washington DC

BODY: From the X-1 to the X-50, over a span of 56 years, the USA's famous series of experimental vehicles has contributed uniquely, if not always successfully, to the advancement of aerospace.

The pace with which X-programmes are launched has picked up in recent years, with an emphasis on demonstrating technology for unmanned air vehicles and reusable launch vehicles.

US industry would like to see the pace increase further, as flight demonstrators help to attract new talent, as well as to develop the skills and retain the services of experienced engineers.

Despite a high mortality rate among modern X-vehicle programmes -- for technical and budgetary reasons -- several are active, and more are likely to emerge from programmes such as NASA's Space Launch Initiative.

This review of currently and recently active programmes illustrates that the USA's X-vehicle culture remains vibrant -- and the envy of other industries.


Flight testing of the Boeing/EADS X-31 -- the first international X-plane -- has resumed under the VECTOR programme to demonstrate extremely short take-off and landing (ESTOL) capability. Funded by the US Navy and the German defence ministry, the $53 million programme involves the use of thrust vectoring and high angle-of-attack (AoA) approaches to reduce landing speeds by up to 30%.

Two X-31s were built by Rockwell (now Boeing) and MBB (now EADS) for the US/German Enhanced Fighter Manoeuvrability programme, and completed 580 flights between October 1990 and June 1995, demonstrating the tactical utility of post-stall manoeuvring using three-axis thrust vectoring. Powered by a single General Electric F404 and fitted with thrust-deflecting paddles, the canard/double-delta aircraft was flown to post-stall AoAs up to 70deg. and outmanoeuvred Boeing F/A-18s in simulated air combat. Later flights simulated tailless operation. The No1 aircraft crashed in January 1995 at Edwards. The pilot ejected safely.

The follow-on VECTOR (Vectoring ESTOL Control Tailless Operation Research) programme began in March 2000, the surviving X-31 returning to flight status at Patuxent River in February 2001. The aircraft was then modified with new flight control software, flush air-data system, autothrottle, triplex air-data and inertial-navigation/global-positioning systems, belly camera and associated cockpit display, and high-integrity beacon landing system. Flying resumed in May.

ESTOL testing is planned to begin by November, involving approaches to a "virtual" runway at 5,000ft (1,525m) altitude. Approaches will be flown at AoAs up to 35deg. with the gear up and 25deg. with the gear down, to check out the GPS-based precision landing system, which uses ground-based "pseudolites". A total of 25 flights are planned. ESTOL "to the ground" testing is set to begin in December, with 20 flights planned. Approaches will be flown hands off at AoAs up to 25deg..

The X-31's normal approach angle of attack is 12deg., resulting in a landing speed of 160kt (295km/h). At an AoA of 25deg., landing speed will be reduced to around 115kt. The aircraft will automatically pitch up to the required AoA, fly the approach and "de-rotate" just before touchdown.

Plans for extremely short take-offs and tailless/reduced-tail flights have been cut for budgetary reasons. EADS's primary interest in the VECTOR programme is in demonstrating its advanced air-data system. This promises to provide more accurate information, particularly at high angle-of-attack and low speed. The low-observable system has 12 flush pressure ports located radially around the X-31's modified nose cone.


Boeing and Lockheed Martin were awarded Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) concept demonstration contracts in 1996. Each built two aircraft -- designated X-32 and X-35 -- to demonstrate commonality between the three JSF variants, carrier approach handling qualities, and short take-off and landing (STOVL) performance.

Boeing's X-32A was flown 66 times between September 2000 and February 2001 to demonstrate both the conventional take-off and landing and aircraft carrier variants of Boeing's JSF design. The X-32B STOVL demonstrator was flown between March and July 2001, completing 78 flights.

The delta-wing, twin-tail X-32 was powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F119-614, with a direct-lift STOVL propulsion system in the X-32B. In STOVL mode, the two-dimensional thrust-vectoring cruise nozzle was closed, redirecting engine thrust to two swivelling lift nozzles.

Lockheed Martin's X-35A completed 27 flights during October and November 2000 to demonstrate the conventional take-off and landing version of the company's JSF design. It was then converted to the short take-off and landing variant, making 39 more flights as the STOVL X-35B between June and August 2001. The carrier variant was represented by the X-35C second demonstrator, which was flown 73 times between December 2000 and March 2001.

Resembling a scaled-down F-22, the X-35 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney F119-611, with a shaft-driven lift fan mounted behind the cockpit in the X-35B. In STOVL mode, the cruise nozzle was swivelled downward, the lift fan engaged and engine bleed air ducted to roll posts in the wing. In September 2001, Lockheed Martin was selected to develop the F-35 JSF based on the X-35 demonstrator.


Lockheed Martin signed a co-operative agreement with NASA in 1999 to design, build and fly the X-33, a half-scale technology demonstrator for its VentureStar single-stage-to-orbit reusable launch vehicle. Suborbital tests were planned with the unmanned X-33, but technical problems led to delays and cost overruns and in March 2001 the programme was cancelled after NASA had spent more than $900 million and industry over $350 million.

The lifting-body X-33 was designed to take off vertically powered by a Boeing Rocketdyne XRS-2200 linear aerospike rocket engine, then glide back to a horizontal runway landing -- all autonomously. The programme came unstuck in November 1999 when the X-33's composite liquid-hydrogen fuel tank failed during ground testing, delaying a first flight from 2000 to 2003.

Like the X-33, Orbital Sciences' X-34 reusable launch vehicle (RLV) technology demonstrator fell victim to cost overruns and a change in direction at NASA. The programme was cancelled in 2001 after three of the unmanned air-launched testbeds had been built and three captive-carry flights conducted under Orbital's Lockheed L-1011 TriStar carrier aircraft.

Orbital was awarded a contract in 1996 to develop the X-34 as a low-cost testbed for RLV technologies including all-composite airframe and autonomous landing system, but costs had risen to $205 million and powered flights slipped to 2002 when the programme was cancelled.

In 2000, NASA launched its five-year, $4.8 billion Space Launch Initiative (SLI) to develop technology for a second-generation RLV to replace the Space Shuttle. But the agency decided the benefits to be derived from flight testing the X-33 and X-34 did not warrant the use of SLI funding to take the programmes to completion.


Boeing (originally McDonnell Douglas) built two X-36 tailless agility research aircraft for NASA -- 28%-scale remotely piloted models of a proposed low-observable fighter. The unmanned aircraft completed 33 flights between May 1997 and December 1998. A canard configuration with lambda wing, using spilt ailerons and thrust vectoring for directional control, the X-36 demonstrated greater agility than current generation fighters despite having no vertical or horizontal tail. The last two flights were conducted for the US Air Force Research Laboratory to demonstrate the ability of neural-net flight control software to compensate for the damage or failure of control effectors on a tailless fighter. X-36 hardware and software, avionics, flight controls and Williams International F112 engine, have been reused for Boeing's X-50 canard rotor/wing demonstrator.


Final assembly of the X-37 reusable spaceplane is under way at Boeing Phantom Works under a $173 million cost-sharing agreement with NASA signed in July 1999. Unpowered atmospheric drop tests of the unmanned vehicle are scheduled for early 2004, from NASA's Boeing B-52.

The original plan for orbital flight tests has been shelved, but Boeing has proposed an on-orbit demonstration of the X-37 under NASA's Space Launch Initiative programme to develop technology for a second-generation reusable launch vehicle. The company's SLI concepts feature an X-37-derived upper stage.

The X-37 is designed to be carried into space on an expendable launch vehicle, to operate on orbit for up to 21 days before re-entering at up to Mach 25 and returning to a conventional runway landing -- all autonomously. The vehicle has an all- composite airframe, durable thermal-protection system, opening experiment bay and Boeing Rocketdyne AR-2/3 on-orbit propulsion system.

The delta/twin-tail reusable spaceplane is scaled up from the X-40A space manoeuvre vehicle, which was built by Boeing for the US Air Force. Atmospheric drop tests of the unpowered X-40 have demonstrated the autonomous runway acquisition and landing technology planned for the X-37.


NASA has stopped work on the X-38, a prototype emergency crew-rescue vehicle (CRV) for the International Space Station (ISS), after new administrator Sean O'Keefe concluded the one-way mission was too narrow. As a result, industry is working on designs for a more capable vehicle able to carry crews to and from space.

The seven-occupant CRV was to be carried into orbit by the Space Shuttle, and remain attached to the ISS until needed as a lifeboat. The vehicle was then to glide back from orbit, jettisoning its deorbit propulsion stage during re-entry and deploying a steerable parafoil parachute for the final descent to a skid landing.

NASA, with involvement from the European Space Agency, designed the X-38 in-house using the lifting-body configuration of the US Air Force's Martin X-24A, flown in the mid-1960s. Two 80%-scale atmospheric test vehicles were built by Scaled Composites and eight drop tests from NASA's B-52 were conducted between March 1998 and December 2001.

On the final flight, the unmanned, unpowered X-38 was released at 45,000ft and flew autonomously, reaching transonic speed, before being slowed by a drogue parachute and deploying the remotely controlled steerable parachute. A third, orbital test, X-38 was nearing completion when the axe fell. NASA plans to complete the vehicle for instructional use.


The designation X-39 is unassigned, but was reserved for use by the US Air Force Research Laboratory and may have been intended for subscale unmanned demonstrators planned under the Future Aircraft Technology Enhancement (FATE) programme to evaluate technologies for future fighters. Funding was transferred to the X-45 unmanned combat air vehicle technology demonstrator.


Begun as a 90%-scale prototype of the US Air Force's proposed Space Manoeuvre Vehicle (SMV), the unmanned X-40A has served as an 80%-scale precursor for NASA's X-37 reusable spaceplane. The X-40, which lacked the X-37's thermal protection and on-orbit propulsion, was drop tested to demonstrate low-speed flight dynamics and autonomous landing.

A single drop test was conducted under the SMV programme in August 1998, from a Sikorsky UH-60 helicopter at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. This was followed by seven drop tests at NASA Dryden, from a Boeing CH-47 Chinook, in support of the X-37 programme. The X-40 was released at 15,000ft, autonomously acquired the runway and landed conventionally.


The classified X-41 is "an experimental manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle carrying a variety of payloads through a suborbital trajectory, then re-entering and dispersing the payload in the atmosphere", says the US Air Force. Status is not known.

The X-41 is a technology demonstrator for the USAF's proposed Common Aero Vehicle (CAV), a conventionally armed manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle that could be deployed by a ballistic missile, aircraft or spaceplane. Potential payloads include a 450kg (990lb) penetrator warhead, four small-diameter bombs or six mini-missiles.

Also classified, the X-42 is "an experimental expendable liquid rocket motor upper stage designed to boost 2,000-4,000lb payloads into orbit", says the US Air Force. The status of this programme to demonstrate technology for launch vehicle "pop-up" upper stages is not known.


The X-43 is the centrepiece of revitalised US research into hypersonics, with four versions planned. The X-43A is the first in NASA's Hyper-X series of unmanned hypersonic flight demonstrators.

The first flight in June 2001 ended prematurely when the air-launched X-43A's Pegasus booster went out of control. A second attempt at a Mach 7 flight is planned for May or June 2003. If successful, the X-43 will become of the world's fastest aircraft, breaking the record held for over 30 years by the rocket-powered X-15.

NASA's Hyper-X hypersonic experimental vehicle effort is the scaled-back successor to the National Aero-Space Plane (NASP) programme, which was cancelled in 1994. The X-43 is a small-scale model of the X-30 piloted single-stage-to-orbit demonstrator planned under the overambitious NASP programme.

The X-43A is intended to demonstrate an airframe-integrated supersonic-combustion ramjet (scramjet) at M7 and M10. Working with Boeing, MicroCraft has built three of the 3.7m-long expendable vehicles, which are powered by an uncooled, hydrogen-fuelled, dual-mode ramjet/ scramjet produced by GASL.

The vehicle is attached to a modified Orbital Sciences Pegasus booster and air-launched from NASA's B-52. The Pegasus boosts the X-43A to the test speed and altitude, where the vehicle separates to fly autonomously and the scramjet ignites to burn for 5-7s. The X-43A then descends to its destruction in the Pacific.

The failed first flight was planned to demonstrate scramjet operation at M7, the highest speed possible in ground test facilities. The second test will be a repeat attempt at a M7 flight, while a third flight at M10 is planned for 2004. An M10 flight would provide the first data with which to benchmark hypersonic computational fluid-dynamics models.

The next version will be the X-43C. Scheduled to fly in 2008, this vehicle will be powered by the HyTech hydrocarbon-fuelled dual-mode scramjet under development by Pratt & Whitney for the US Air Force. The fuel-cooled, flight-weight HyTech engine is expected to accelerate the 4.9m long X-43C from M5 to M7 after separation from the air-launched Pegasus. Ground testing of the engine began at GASL in July.

There are two powerplant options for the planned but unfunded X-43B, a scaled-up version of the X-43A intended to demonstrate a reusable combined-cycle propulsion system for future air-breathing launch vehicles. NASA is developing both rocket-based and turbine-based engine options for the X-43B, which is planned to fly in 2010.

The rocket-based combined cycle (RBCC) engine is being developed by RBC3 -- a consortium of Aerojet, Boeing Rocketdyne and Pratt & Whitney -- under NASA's Integrated Systems Test of an Airbreathing Rocket (ISTAR) programme. The RBCC is capable of powering the X-43B from zero airspeed to M8.

The turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) powerplant option is being pursued under NASA's Revolutionary Turbine Accelerator (RTA) programme. The high-Mach turbine engine could power the X-43B from zero airspeed to M4-5, where the HyTech dual-mode scramjet would take over and accelerate the vehicle to M8.

General Electric has been awarded a contract to build the ground-test RTA (Flight International, 30 July-5 August). Rolls-Royce and Williams are competing to build the smaller flight-test engine, four of which would power the X-43B, sharing inlets and nozzles with the scramjets.

NASA plans to choose between the ISTAR RBCC and RTA TBCC options after ground tests of both engines in 2006-07. The X-43B will be released from the B-52 at M0.8 to power itself to M7 before gliding back to a runway landing. The reusable vehicle will have a 25-flight design life.

A potential follow-on vehicle, the X-43D, is being studied by NASA. A direct development of the X-34A, this would be powered by a cooled hydrogen-fuelled dual-mode scramjet, which would run for 10s and accelerate the vehicle to M15.


The designation X-44 MANTA (Multi-Axis No-Tail Aircraft) is attached to a NASA/USAF proposal, currently dormant, to modify a Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 prototype to demonstrate flight without any aerodynamic controls, using multi-axis thrust vectoring. The horizontal and vertical tails would be removed and a delta wing fitted. Pitch/yaw-vectoring nozzles would provide all flight control.

A feasibility study has been conducted. The X-44, if it proceeds, would be a follow-on to the thrust-vectoring X-31 and tailless X-36, as well as the USAF/NASA ACTIVE (Advanced Control Technology for Integrated Vehicles) programme involving a Boeing F-15 modified with multi-axis thrust vectoring.

Lockheed Martin has proposed the FB-22, a derivative of the F-22 with delta wing and multi-axis thrust vectoring, to the US Air Force as a long-range strike aircraft.


Flight testing of the X-45 unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) began in May at NASA Dryden. Boeing Phantom Works has built two X-45A technology demonstrators for the joint US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and US Air Force programme, and is designing a larger X-45B "fieldable prototype" UCAV.

The DARPA/USAF programme aims to demonstrate the technical feasibility and military utility of using unmanned air vehicles to perform suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD) and strike missions autonomously. Testing of the two X-45As will culminate in 2004 with an end-to-end demonstration involving multi-vehicle control, co-ordinated flight, inter-vehicle communications, dynamic retasking, co-operative targeting and weapon release.

The 8m long, 10.3m span tailless X-45A has a 3,600kg empty weight and is powered by a Honeywell F124 with yaw thrust vectoring. The X-45B, more representative of the planned A-45 operational UCAV, is 9.8m long, with a 14.3m span and 6,350kg empty weight. The larger vehicle is powered by a General Electric F404.

The X-45B has fully integrated avionics, two functional weapon bays, low-observable features and provisions for the full sensor suite, satellite communications and aerial refuelling. Three vehicles are planned, with the first scheduled to fly in late 2004. They will be used for increasingly complex multivehicle demonstrations culminating in joint operations with manned aircraft as part of a strike force.


The designation X-46A has been assigned to Boeing's design for a naval unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV-N). The US Navy and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency plan to award at least one contract to demonstrate an unmanned vehicle able to operate from aircraft carriers and perform surveillance, suppression of enemy air defences and deep strike missions.

Both Boeing and Northrop Grumman (see X-47) are working under UCAV-N risk-reduction contracts awarded in May. Boeing's proposal draws heavily on its X-45 UCAV for the US Air Force. The tailless, flying-wing vehicle would be roughly 10.4m long, with a 13.4m span, and be able to carry 1,200kg of munitions up to 1,200km or perform surveillance missions lasting up to 12h.


Northrop Grumman has built the X-47A Pegasus as a private venture to support the design of a naval unmanned combat air vehicle. The kite-shaped experimental unmanned vehicle is being prepared for flight testing at China Lake, California, and is intended to demonstrate aero-dynamic qualities suitable for autonomous operations from an aircraft carrier.

The tailless X-47A is 8.5m long, with a wing span of just under 8.5m, and is powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D turbofan. A total of 15h of flight testing is planned, involving up to 40 landings. The vehicle is a precursor to the larger X-47B UCAV-N technology demonstrator.

Northrop Grumman was awarded a UCAV-N risk-reduction contract in May, as was Boeing, and is awaiting release of a request for proposals to build the full-scale demonstrator. This has been delayed while DARPA and the US Navy debate whether to award one contract or two, to maintain competition for the UCAV-N development programme scheduled to begin in 2007.


Boeing plans to begin flight testing its X-50A Dragonfly Canard/Rotor Wing (CRW) technology demonstrator in September at Yuma, Arizona. CRW is a vertical take-off and landing concept that aims to combine the hover efficiency of a helicopter with the cruise speed of a fixed-wing aircraft.

The manufacturer and US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are sharing the $21 million cost of the CRW demonstration equally. Boeing Phantom Works has built two subscale, unmanned X-50As reusing avionics, flight controls and Williams F112 engines from the X-36 tailless fighter demonstrators.

CRW differs from previous stopped-rotor designs in that lift during conversion between rotary- and fixed-wing flight is provided by a forward canard and aft horizontal stabiliser. This allows the rotor to be unloaded, slowed, stopped and locked perpendicular to the fuselage. In helicopter mode, exhaust from the turbofan engine is ducted to tipjets on the two-blade reaction-drive rotor. During conversion to fixed-wing mode, engine exhaust is diverted progressively away from the rotor/wing to an aft cruise nozzle.

An operational manned or unmanned CRW is expected to be capable of cruise speeds up to 375kt and altitudes approaching 35,000ft. The X-50A is not designed to go beyond 150kt as testing will focus on conversion between rotary- and fixed-wing mode. Eleven flights are planned. The X-50A will take off vertically and operate as a helicopter at speeds up to 60kt. Above 60kt, the canard and stabiliser will begin to generate lift and by 120kt will support the vehicle's weight. Conversion to fixed-wing flight will take place at 130kt.

The CRW is a candidate configuration for the DARPA/US Army Unmanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft programme, which is likely to result in the next in the illustrious series X-vehicle series.

A good summary of what's going on.

On education


I know you are concerned about our school systems. It is nice to read something nice about them once in a while. While they are often criticized, an by no means perfect, our schools are providing the graduates to keep our technical edge, and there are many that wish to study here.

doug mccaw

I become increasingly less optimistic about the public school system. Sometimes there is good news, but usually there is not. The purpose of a bureaucracy is to hire and pay bureaucrats. The Soviet system of agriculture could not be fixed. NASA can't be fixed. The US Education system is organized like the above two institutions.

On Single Stage to Orbit

Dr. Pournelle

In your reply to my email you mentioned several things. These are:

· SSTO-TSTO & economics · Military SSTO · Wings-going up and coming down.

I will put in my 2 cents worth on these subjects in order. My time in product development introduced me to several concepts. Nonrecurring costs, recurring costs, and internal rate of return. Obviously, an SSTO has a smaller recurring (operational) cost. It also has a higher nonrecurring cost (development). How does one choose? That goes back to the market. If one can 12 launches a year, then even an outstanding reduction in operational costs doesn't justify the initial development expenditure. If one sees a thousand launches a year, then even a modest reduction in operations justifies the initial development. Right now anyone talking about reusable systems projects something called "market elasticity." Essentially build it and they will come. If the price comes down, payloads will materialize that didn't exist before. I believe that. But it takes more than belief when one is talking about investing hundreds of billions of dollars. One of your writers referred to risk. There is lots of risk involved and the success usually doesn't work its way to those making the decisions. I once joked that I'd like to be a vice-president. I could sit in a corner office and say "No, no, no," all day long just as well as anybody else and I could sure use the cushy salary. So, I favor TSTO as the next step. The initial development costs (and risks) are reduced. Sure, we pay the operations costs, but that comes in the future. Meanwhile we drive down launch costs and expand the market. Then, by the time the TSTO design is showing its age (say ten years), the information on market and operations costs encourage a move to the SSTO. One has to crawl before one can walk or run. I am sorry about the cliché.

Now I will turn to military SSTOs. Certainly, our blue suited friends would prefer the operational ease of a "strap in on and go anytime vehicle." But now are we stretching things even further. I would surmise that the military mission would be to dominant the Earth through space assets. And this would mean overflying the Earth's entire surface, which tells us that a military craft must be capable of Polar orbits. This changes our vehicle's delta V ground rules from 30000 fps to 31500 fps. Now let us compare vehicles:

Straight East-low inclination Payload Glow empty wt diameter dev cost 6,000 602,206 65,942 16.53 $396,000,000

Polar Payload Glow empty wt diameter dev cost 6,000 798,000 78,900 19.05 $474,000,000

2 Stage Polar Payload Glow empty wt diameter dev cost 6,000 275,850 40,157 11.2 $241,000,000

The military may be forced to prefer TSTO or SSTO at least for the first generation of resuables.

Now I turn to Wings. Wings are pretty useless in the vertical phase. Most winged vehicles are sized for re-entry. On ascent, the craft masses much more and the lift is not worth the drag. One a two stage vehicle, one could play games with lift, drag, and mass. I agree the advantage to wings is on re-entry and not for the "airplane like landing." Wings produce decent lift and that works out to cross-range on re-entry. A vehicle in orbit occupies a plane orbiting the planet. Earth spins beneath that plane. If we wish to return to a certain point on the Earth's surface, like KSC, we must initiate re-entry when the Earth spins through the orbital plane. If our vehicle is not in the right position with regard to KSC, we may land uprange or downrange of our intended landing site. Notice, the Soyuz craft doesn't have specific place to land but an area. Therefore, exact phasing (raising or lowering its orbit) needs to be done to position it correctly for re-entry. But with a winged vehicle, it can fly left or right of its orbital plane to allow it to maneuver to a landing position at a point on the Earth's surface. When one observes orbital operations. A re-entry can be "waved off" for one rev if the weather isn't perfect. This wouldn't happen with a minimal cross-range craft; a "wave off" could be for 12 or 24 hours. This complicates vehicle design. Also, a reusable vehicle is less viable if its spending its time waiting on orbit instead of doing what's supposed to do, namely lifting stuff up. One does not need wings to get cross-range. A biconic gives somewhat good hypersonic L/D. All these things need to be taken into account.

These are my observations

(name withheld)

And really the point is that we can argue forever; but until we FLY some x projects that incorporate some of the technologies and get some data, we will continue to argue. The DC/X demonstrated that a major X project can be built on time and in budget to produce flying hardware that can be operated by a small operations crew, as well as that you can control a pure rocket at low speeds and altitudes, and that the flight crew need not only not be aboard, but the whole flight crew can be 5 people, not the thousands needed by Shuttle.

But of course it was single stage to a few hundred feet. Never mind, until it flew there were many experts who knew even that couldn't be done.

Build more experimental ships. Or as we said in the 1986 report of the Citizens Advisory Committee on National Space Policy, AMERICA A SPACE FARING NATION : "Build more rocket ships. Fly more rocket ships."


Dr. Pournelle:

CBS 60 Minutes for Sunday, March 9, had a segment dealing with IIT--Nehru's Indian Institute of Technology. The entrance requirements are very stiff, the courses tough, and the students well-prepared for virtually any technical job.

One student, who managed to pass the entrance exam, but who was not within the top 200 (these students pick their major, the others are assigned one) decided to go to his second-choice school, on a full scholarship. The college he attended was Cornell.


Mark Thompson

A sobering thought indeed. Our higher education system used to be all right but it's being affected by having to do high school in college. 

Abolish the public schools. What we get instead can't be worse than this. Or can it?









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Thursday, March 13, 2003

Subject: Wonder what he found?

Iraq Says U.N. Weapons Inspector Dies in Road Accident Thu March 13, 2003 12:30 PM ET BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq died on Thursday after a truck hit his car as he was returning from an inspection mission, an Iraqi source said.

He said the unnamed inspector was returning from Numaniyah, south of Baghdad, when the accident happened at 1:45 p.m. local time. The man's nationality was not immediately clear. He was taken by helicopter to hospital in the Iraqi capital but died one hour after arrival there, the source said.

Ed Hume

A very good question indeed.

Subject: Could it be the solid boosters?

Interesting new theory that it could have been debris from the solid boosters, not the tank that fell off:

The senior NASA official briefed on Mr. Austin's request also said some engineers working on the Columbia investigation were now not certain at all that the debris that hit the tiles had come from the external tank. Last month, several NASA officials said the debris was probably hardened foam insulation from the area near two metal struts that connect the tank to the shuttle. In four other shuttle launchings, foam had broken off from the area and damaged the orbiter.

But a close look at the video of the launching does not show beyond a doubt that that was the case with the Columbia, even though the Boeing engineers clearly made that assumption, the senior official said. The only thing the video shows, he said, is that debris from the right side of the orbiter floated beneath the nose and re-emerged on the orbiter's left side. It then slammed into the left wing.

Engineers specializing in the solid rocket boosters are checking to see whether the debris could have broken off from one of the boosters, the official said. They are looking at any material that could have come loose, including a silicone-based heat shield called superlightweight ablator that covered two structures on the boosters called bolt catchers.

Each bolt catcher is the size of two large stacked cans. There is a catcher on each rocket booster near the forward area of the external tank. They catch explosive bolts that come loose when the rocket boosters separate from the external tank as the shuttle shoots into orbit.

The official said NASA engineers recently determined that the amount of loads and stresses they had thought the bolt catchers could handle had been exceeded during their actual uses. During manufacturing, the bolt catchers were tested without the ablator on them.

The consequences of the bolt catchers' exceeding their load and stress limits are unknown right now, and engineers will have to run more tests, the official said.

During a launching in 1988, the shuttle Atlantis sustained serious tile damage from debris flying off a solid rocket booster. In that case, the debris came from the nose cone of a rocket booster and knocked out most of one tile below the crew compartment, said Professor Fischbeck. The shuttle's aluminum skin experienced high heating, he said, but a steel frame around an access hatch in the area absorbed most of the heat.

Rich Pournelle








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Friday, March 14, 2003

Dear Jerry,

Michelle Malkin reports on TSA:

The Transportation Security Administration is a fiscal black hole, and fiscal conservatives ought to be enraged.

Instead, the Bush/GOP-backed bureaucracy headed by semi-conscious Democrat Norm Mineta is thriving. Sucking down tax dollars like a bagless Dyson Cyclone vacuum gone berserk.

Already, the 1-year-old agency has amassed a $3.3 billion budget deficit and is demanding upward of $6 billion for the current fiscal year. Never has a single government entity spent so much for so little in such a short amount of time. Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead (at least he, unlike many transportation security employees, seems to be awake on the job) revealed last month that cost controls are as non-existent as common sense at TSA.

Don't you feel safer?


Gordon Runkle

-- "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." -- Theodore Roosevelt

Precisely. The purpose of any bureaucracy is to hire and promote bureaucrats. This one also gets to harass citizens. Don't you feel safer?


This was forwarded to me by a friend and co-worker.  I don't know if the stats are correct, but they're believable:

>Subject: Can you imagine what company this is??

>Can you imagine working for a company that has a little more than 500 employees and has the following statistics:
>29 have been accused of spousal abuse
>7 have been arrested for fraud
>19 have been accused of writing bad checks
>117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
>3 have done time for assault
>71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
>14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
>8 have been arrested for shoplifting
>21 are currently defendants in lawsuits
>84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year
>Can you guess which organization this is?
>Give up yet?
>It's the 535 members of the United States Congress.
>The same group of Idiots that crank out hundreds of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of us in line.

Even if it's not true, it makes a great urban myth.

David L. Marchman

As  you say, believable at any rate... Go take an aspirin while you still can before the FDA decides to look into that. 

On the Clintons (regarding a discussion of the triviality of the Lewinsky business):

The reaction of the Looney Right to "Monicagate" was indeed looney, and I shed no political tears when that one Georgia Congressman (Barr?) who lead the Impeachment got bumped off in his 2002 election. But Travelgate showed the naked face of Evil--the Clintons were willing to suborn the FBI to pursue baseless charges against a handful of ordinary, everyday Americans whose only "crime" was being the incumbents in some low-level jobs the Clintons wanted for their cronies. The willingness to inflict enormous costs on the innocent for trivial gains for oneself is Evil Incarnate.

I know of no parallel charge against any modern President before or since Clinton.



Subject: Why I Won't Listen to Tom Lehrer Any More

Lehrer on the Columbia space shuttle explosion:

"They are calling it a disaster instead of a screw-up, which is all it was. They're calling these people heroes. The Columbia isn't a disaster. The disaster is that they're continuing this stupid program.

"One of the things I'm proudest of is, on my record That Was the Year that Was in 1965, I made a joke about spending $20 billion sending some clown to the moon.

"I was against the manned space program then and I'm even more against it now, that whole waste of money. And so, when seven people blow up or become confetti, then they've asked for it. They're volunteers, for one thing."

-- Mike Flynn

Behold the power of Wal-Mart. The company's one-day sales of $1.42 billion tops the GDPs of 36 countries.

I'm not sure this needs a comment.










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Saturday, March 15, 2003 The Ides of March

Subject: Falkenberg's computers?

Today's Seattle PI:

Saturday, March 15, 2003 Spokane company sends hand-helds to Iraq battle front SPOKANE -- American combat units preparing for war in the Middle East are carrying juiced-up versions of high-end, hand-held computers developed by Itronix of Spokane.... 


Jim Whitlock

Things did in fact move faster than I predicted in 1974, didn't they?

Subject: Re: UN Inspector dies in car crash
I must tell you that I am very disappointed in this posting and your
response. While it appears that no amount of reasoned discourse will change
plans now, this gives the appearance that you advocate jumping to
conclusions without recourse to facts or analysis. IMO, innuendo does not
become the Chaos Manor site. If UN inspectors found something particularly
damning, do you think that the Iraqis would depend on a traffic accident to
sabotage the report? Really? Did the poster report that there was a second
inspector in the car who survived? 
Scott Miller

Come now. You mean you have no other source of news? I put up a link to a story, which I thought humorous in the circumstances. Graveyard humor, perhaps, but there it is.

Apparently the link is down, so I can't look to see if the presence of the second inspector is in the report, but I suspect it was, and since I didn't even give the incident a name or summary I don't see how you fault me over putting up the link. No, I doubt that the Iraqis would rely on an arranged traffic accident -- but I wouldn't find that impossible, either. The case against invading Iraq doesn't rest on the nature of the Iraqi regime, which is ripe for removal; it rests on US national interests, which is a judgment. I don't share the Administration's views on that, largely because I think our best interests are served by having a more frugal republic with cheap self government, and spending on development of alternative energy sources.

We're not going to do that. Given we are not going for what I believe is the optimum strategy, I can be persuaded that we may as well finish off Iraq for the encouragement of others. 

But no, I don't think I owe anyone an apology for putting up that link and Mr. Walters' comment.

Now from Francis Hamit, a defense of the TSA:

Dear Jerry:

I've been holding back from getting into the TSA debate, but I think that maybe some people don't understand the situation. As you know my "day job" for several years was in the contract security guard business, starting as a Guard Captain in the Chicago suburbs and ending up as VP, Sales and Marketing for a company in the L.A. area. Until recently I was a member of the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS).

In 1991 I attended the ASIS annual conference on terrorism in Washington DC. This is always a high-level executive briefing for executives and the speakers are from the FBI, CIA, State Department and various industry groups. The airline industry security guys made a presentation which described a "defense in depth" concept that would have been a measurable improvement over the status quo, but which all of us knew would never be adopted because the airlines would never pay for it.

The "passenger screener" part of the contract security industry was worth billions of dollars, but most of us didn't even bother to bid for it. The companies that specialized in that segment paid minimum wage with no benefits, which made the contract price about what most of us paid our guards in direct wages. Training was OJT and skimpy. Turnover was high, even for us.

We didn't laugh the airline security guys out of the room, but we knew that their plans would never be adopted as long as these low-ball body-shop outfits were willing to do it on the cheap. There was considerable grumbling among the those attending because any one of us could have figured out a dozen ways to evade those so-called controls. As is the usual case in security matters, a major tragedy had to occur before anything got changed. That tragedy was 9/11 and the TSA was the result. Its a new agency that is still finding its way. It provides training and a career path, and decent wages, all things that were not there before. What it does not have yet is a lot of experience in handling a large volume of traffic. It is probably going to experience a lot of turnover to find the people with the proper motivation and culture to do the job well. I imagine that some place there is an office that takes and analyses consumer complaints. The problem is that those complaints have to be put in writing and directed to the proper people before any improvement can be made. It is a bureaucracy. However it should be one sensitive to public complaints precisely because it is supported by tax money. They want to hear from you and they want to improve, trust me on that. They don't want unhappy people because that just slows the process.

They are also being tested a lot of their own inspectors...and failing the tests. This, along with the fear of another tragedy make the less experienced ones sometimes overdo the formalities. Cameras are a particular problem. Big enough to hold a small bomb that can bring down an aircraft. You can and should ask for hand inspections of such items.

The reason that you never noticed this "excessive" level of security before the TSA was because it wasn't there. The whole system was more for show than anything else. The people on post were usually underpaid, unmotivated and barely trained. Now they get sixty hours of training before they work a post and they get frequent breaks and more training to keep them sharp.

Yeah its annoying. We're in a war and this is a prime target area, so expect it to continue to be annoying. Its far from a perfect system, but it stands miles above what was there before.

By the way, one of my few unpublished articles was based upon the material at that 1991 terrorism conference and covered the lousy state of airline security in depth. I could not find a general interest magazine that would run it. Too narrow a topic, too boring and more than one editor accused me of exaggerating the problems.

Security people run into this "gatekeeper" mentality a lot, not just with the media before 9/11, but also with the very executives who should be most concerned with trying to solve security problems. Denial is pervasive because doing it right costs lots of money.

Security is a very Zen, pro-active discipline. It succeeds best when nothing happens. Law Enforcement and other "first responder" cultures, by comparison, are demand-driven. Security has very few heroes because heroism usually represents operational failure.

The war on terrorism has produced a few heroes and will produce more because the real "first responder" is the security officer who finds the bomb and then helps evacuate the building. Richard Jewell comes to mind. So does Rick Rescorla, the Security Director at Morgan-Stanley's office in the WTC on 9/11. He got 800 people out, giving his life in the process.

The TSA is probably full of people who, if called upon, would perform heroically, but if they're really on the job, that will never happen. I'd say its time to cut them some slack.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

Well. First let me point out, there was no inspection of my cameras. I was merely required to take them out of the protective case and put them into a tray, bare. The computers got the same treatment. Fortunately the tray they dumped onto the floor through sheer incompetence held the cameras, which were not damaged. A fall from that height with the screen exposed on my Tablet PC would probably have shattered the screen.

If you are going to require people to expose delicate equipment, you have some obligation to run your  belt conveyer competently, and not in jerks and starts. I find it hard to believe that I am the only person this happened to.

Second, if you are going to search a Navy wife and her 3 year old, you probably are not acting optimally by telling her in advance; letting her designate which of the 7 bags are hers and therefore to be searched, and which are her husband's and thus not to be given special attention; and told again that you will have to strip the toddler, but you have an hour or so to prepare for it.

Yes: clearly these people were trying to operate within their rules which they knew were stupid. But no one in his right mind would think that all the passengers were more secure as a result of this charade. The purpose of this imbecility is to employ people, and as far as I can see, of all those in this "Service" I have seen about one on each shift who might be able to get a job doing something else. Some of them don't even speak English well enough to be understood.

Richard Jewell had his life ruined by being a hero. But not from the bomb. Is there a lesson in there?

Third: the attacks in September were successful because people had been lulled into believing that in a hijacking situation they were better off doing nothing and acceding to the hijacker demands rather than resisting. The disaster came not because the planes crashed -- airplanes are always vulnerable to those determined enough and willing to be killed in the process of destroying them -- but because the hijackers were able to gain control of the airplane. Better passive security measures such as stronger cockpit doors; and instructions to flight crew and passengers not to give in but immediately to not only resist but resist with deadly force any attempt to take over an airplane would have resulted in a few dead passengers, more dead hijackers, and an unaltered New York skyline. If you want security heroes, that would have generated s0me very real heroes.

If I want to kill a lot of people, even if my desire is to kill airline passengers, I will be better off detonating a large bomb while standing in the security line (I will not have been searched and I can be carrying a roll-on chock full of explosives and shrapnel) than in trying to smuggle a bomb into the airplane. At Las Vegas I could have got a LOT of people and of course would have shut down air traffic in and out of that city for at least a day, possibly a lot longer. 

But if I want to destroy air passenger companies the best way is to get the US to initiate flight-avoidance conditioning procedures. That has succeeded beyond Al Qaeda's wildest expectations.

The problem is simple: we have instituted a false sense of "fairness" for any semblance of common sense. It's "fair" to harass everyone rather than concentrate on likely suspects and likely attacks. Stupid, but "fair". Even more "fair" would be to prevent anyone from traveling at all.

And if the people I have been encountering are now "sharp" because of training and frequent breaks, we are in a spot of trouble.

You will never have 100% safety. If someone really wants to destroy an airplane, and has enough resources, it will be managed. What we can prevent is using the airplanes as cruise missiles. We can make it less than trivially difficult to blow people up en masse, but we will never be able to make that impossible either. A bomb in the Forum during a Lakers game would be spectacular in its way, and fairly easy to accomplish. I am sure you can think of other spectacular events that would get a lot of attention. Are we then to institute a new "Service" to prevent all those as well?

And a defense of those actually caught in the TSA trap:

Dr. Pournelle

I disagree with your take on the Transportation Security Administration, or at least where you said:

"But it's full employment for otherwise unemployable people, so I suppose we ought to go along with the fiction that it's all for our own good."

Please don't misunderstand, I DO agree that there is little or nothing added by the security farce we see at airports every day. I think a large part of the problem is driven by the fact that, according to a large percentage of our Congress, the world would end if we ever even thought of the term "racial profiling", let alone tried to implement it.

If your son's military experience has been anything like mine there are a lot of times when orders are obeyed even though you know they are a waste of time. One that used to stick in my craw was FOD (foreign object damage) walks we had to do at the bomb dump where I was the flight chief. According to the Wing (AF) leadership, the reason we had to do them was to show that we were "partners" with the guys on the other side of the flightline.

Talking to people who used to work with me and now work for the TSA a lot of them are in the same boat. They can't profile so they muddle through doing the best they can. Not following the rules is pretty analogous to a military member not following a stupid but otherwise harmless order. It may change a few individual situations before it gets quashed but then everybody is back to the same old grind, or worse. These folks are definitely not " otherwise unemployable".

The way to change the situation is to change the rules. If I were King I'd imitate a lot of what El Al does, in the meantime I use economic pressure; the range where I would drive instead of fly has increased to about a radius of 500 miles. Maybe the airlines will get the idea and pass it on to their lobbyists.


Ed Campbell

Perhaps I have been unduly harsh on those actually stuck with the job of being TSA "officers"; certainly those who were required by the silly computer system to search my daughter in law and granddaughter were doing their best to make it easier within the imbecilic system.

They were still doing things they knew were both wrong and ineffective, useless at increasing security. On reflection, I suspect that the chap who told me "Sir it's for the safety of all the passengers" knew better but would have been fired for saying "Yeah I know it's a crock but this is what we have to do." But doesn't that in itself say a lot?

We were born free.

We now have a large group of people who can't be fired, who can't be made redundant, and who can only appear to be earning their pay when they are doing silly things they know are wrong. 

You tell me what we should be doing about that?

The TSA is the result of enemy action. Getting us to establish the TSA was the most effective use of economic ju-jitsu I have ever seen, making us use our own strength against ourselves. The TSA has cost us far more than 9-11 ever did; a 9-11 every year would cost less than the TSA. 







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Sunday, March 16, 2003


You said in mail on 3/15--A bomb in the Forum during a Lakers game would be spectacular in its way, and fairly easy to accomplish. I am sure you can think of other spectacular events that would get a lot of attention. Are we then to institute a new "Service" to prevent all those as well?

Actually a bomb at the Forum during a Lakers game wouldn't do much since the Lakers moved to Staples Center a few years ago along with the Kings. The Forum is now owned by a church.

I haven't been to Staples but I do know that at Dodger Stadium and other ball parks fans with purses, backpacks, etc. are faced with size limits and security feels the outside and/or looks inside every one. They mostly confiscate cans and bottles which could be thrown and have objected to me carrying an umbrella on a night it looked like rain. Those checks became more careful after 9/11. The routinely check the purse of my 84-year-old mother.


All true, but if you think the security adequate at Staples you haven't been around there a lot. I won't go into details, and for that matter I am not always accurate in any description of potential enemy attacks for obvious reasons.

My point is there are a lot of places you can get to with a bomb if you don't mind blowing yourself up; and the TSA isn't making us much as much safer as equal amounts spent on other kinds of security measures would. TSA is an employment scheme.

Roland sends this with high priority:

Subject: SARS: Bioterrorism? 

 Roland Dobbins

The CDC notice is official of course.

Chickens in the Sand (there's a joke in the middle of the paragraph)

March 16, 2003: The U.S. Marines brought some fifty chickens with them to Kuwait. The birds, which are easy to care for, but sensitive to chemical weapons, were thought to be perfect as live chemical attack monitors. If the bird drops, the thinking went, it's a chemical attack. But within days of arriving in Kuwait, most of the birds died anyway. A few marines figured out what was happening and saved the rest. It seems that chickens spend most of their time pecking at the ground for stray bits of food. But these American chickens had never been in the desert before and their encounter with the Kuwaiti sand led to them gobbling up enough of the sand to kill them. Birds are not very bright. So the surviving birds were saved by keeping them off the sand. With most of their two footed "chemical attack detectors" gone, the marines looked around for a replacement. And found one, a critter nearly as clueless (at least in a combat zone) as chickens. It seems that many, if not most, of the hundreds of journalists assigned to combat units can't be bothered with carrying around their chemical warfare equipment. So many reporters plan to use the journalists (at least the ones who refuse to take their chemical protection gear with them) as chicken replacements. On a more practical level, the marines are bringing in several hundred homing pigeons for chemical attack detection duty. The pigeons are smaller, easier to take care of and are known to survive quite well in the Persian Gulf area.


Ed Hume

Also from Ed Hume


From what I'm reading, the Academy sounds like an organization with a bad culture. You don't reform those things (think about the public schools, and you begin to get the idea). The place should be shuttered and sold, a new academy (with a new faculty) founded in a desert somewhere-one can learn in tents-until a new facility is built in another state.

Too drastic? I've seen too many organizations fail to change. They have to start over. If having a USAF academy is important, it's important enough to do it right.


I would not go so far. I would also want to see just what has in fact happened. And what it is that we want. There has yet to be an objective study on women in combat and the military, costs and benefits. We know that some jobs are probably best carried out by women. Whether you can build institutions that impart a warrior culture to officer classes and have them sexually integrated is another matter. It may be possible. It may even be easy. But there is no proof of this.

If the purpose of a military is to be correct and look good in parades we know how to do that. If it is to win wars, we know something of how to do that. We even have some history of being able to do both, but the more conditions you impose on the sharp end the less we know about the end results. Parade grounds and sensitivity training may make for good warriors, but they may not. As James Warner Bellah has one of his cavalry officers say in Spanish Man's Grave, dirty shirt blue makes the best empires.

Subject: You thought American Security was bad???

Ham roll lands Springbok manager in a pickle

March 16 2003 at 11:22AM

By Melanie Peters

Springbok rugby communications manager Mark Keohane is in hot water with New Zealand customs officials - over a half-eaten ham roll in his three-year-old son's backpack.

Keohane took little Oliver to Auckland to visit his sick granny last weekend, only to be faced with the customs officials from hell.

They cleared Keohane and then searched Oliver's backpack. Shock, horror, they found his lunch box with the roll the boy had been unable to finish.

The lunch box was confiscated and Keohane was slapped with a NZ$200 (about R900) fine for failure to declare the leftover snack.

After traveling for an exhausting 30 hours, with stopovers in Johannesburg and Singapore and a son who was sick along the way, Keohane was held up at customs for another hour while officials investigated, discussed, took pictures and debated the weight of the ham roll.

Bobby Robertson

But at least the sheep are safe.

After seeing the number of people who casually deny the potential ease of staging a highly visceral terrorist attack against something like a sports or concert venue, I can only be thankful there are apparently few people out there with the intent combined with my twisted imagination.

There are any number of small items like adwvtqu34d that are casually admitted into such locations on a daily basis. How many people carrying soap bar sized bricks of explosive distributed throughout the audience would it take to cause massive mayhem. Each one going off so as to only kill and maim a small surrounding group but multiplied by, oh say, 19, would a very effective strike on the American way of life. all without the expense and attention of flight school.

Anybody that thinks attacks by a determined can be eliminated is dreaming. The only real defense is the resolve to make any such attack extremely expensive in terms of repercussions.

Eric Pobirs

Indeed. As you say, terrorism requires daring more than cleverness.

There has to be a special place in hell for the idiots who put college kids in Co-Ed dorms, right alongside the idiots who put woman guards in men's prisons and men guards in woman's prisons. Kinda like hiring Homer Simpson to guard the doughnuts.

Walter E. Wallis

But we no longer hold people responsible for the prudential outcome of their actions and policies. "But I meant well!"

Subject: Slippery-sloping toward a police state...

"WASHINGTON -- (AP) Government agencies opened a package mailed between two Associated Press reporters last September and seized a copy of an eight-year-old unclassified FBI lab report without obtaining a warrant or notifying the news agency.

FBI spokesman Doug Garrison said the document contained sensitive information that should not be made public. However, an AP executive said the package contained an unclassified 1995 FBI report that had been discussed in open court in two legal cases."

David Langdon

"For every problem, there is a solution which is simple, neat, and wrong." --H. L. Mencken

What a surprise! I am shocked...

Subject: Dry spell.

---- Roland Dobbins

Subject: No 'No Irish Need Apply'

- Roland Dobbins

Subject: Married, with children.

- Roland Dobbins

Subject: Cost-benefit analysis.

- Roland Dobbins

Perhaps a step in the right direction.

For a fascinating - albeit concerning, even frightening - look at the goals and timelines of the Chinese space program, check this article which appeared in the Science section of the New York Times at
  . I sourced it through Drudge report, where it should still be available, at least on their 'prior reports' page.

The Chinese are stating that they are quite serious about the economic utilization of lunar resources, specifically hydrogen 3. To this end, they want a lunar base within 10 years, and further out, a manned colony on Mars. Earlier reports have suggested that the moon base would be an unmanned processing facility; this article seems to suggest that it would be manned.

Either way, it is a sobering turn of events. When the Chinese claim the moon as their own property, insist that all visitors clear Chinese customs on earth and depart from a Chinese spaceport aboard a Chinese rocket, and enforce their claims with missles... will the American government regret the results that 30 years of space inactivity and abandonment have wrought?

Regards, Charles Worton Constelar Computational

Hardly astonishing. Perhaps they can make our leaders listen? On the same subject

Subject: Chinese Aggressive space plans

James Woosley










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