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Monday  May 19, 2003

There was a fair amount of mail over the weekend. You might want to look at that. 

There was also a story on the Jessica Lynch rescue. It has generated comments.

I am told that as I left it last week, it appeared I believe the story was in fact a hoax. No. Read on. Let us see the entire claims first.

Subject: The Jessica Lynch story

Dr. Pournelle,

The Toronto Star had this story a couple of weeks ago. I don't have a copy around, as it had quite an unremarkable impact. The article might have been co-written by a Brit, as many Canadian journalists (including the one from the Star that found the possible Sadaam-Al Queda link) have teamed up with reporters from elsewhere whilst over there.

It didn't cause much of a ripple here because the basic alleged facts had been out there for a while. It was also mentioned briefly, I think in suspect terms, in Time or Newsweek. Those magazines seem to be only places where I'm ready much critical analysis of American policy these days. I'm certainly not seeing it on TV. I joined the western world in chuckling derision over Pravda's innocent name and co-operative nature back in the pre-American Empire days. My guessing is that after the Soviet Empire fail, more than a few ex-Pravda execs found work at Fox [G].

Given the now-obviously fictitious WMD excuse for the war, American veracity isn't in question anymore. It's assumed to be non-existent in a large portion of the world.

A country that has done so much good for this world, possibly nothing greater than espousing that "Better a 100 guilty go free rather than imprison a single innocent," has invaded a country with a warrant that even the most backwater judge in the country would throw out. "Truth, justice and the American way." Or has it come down to "Truth. Justice. Or the American Way?"

America is better than this. Be more like Tom Cruise and a lot less like Jack Nicholson. Demand the truth.

G [name with held] from Canada

There are many things to note here. One, was the story really scripted? If so, who was in on it? The Marine Gunny here in San Diego who was one of those carrying the stretcher certainly thought it was all real, and has said that he was more scared on that raid than in anything he had previously done in the Corps. He is retiring this year. He is entirely believable. He made nothing up.

Perhaps, though, at a higher level?

Assuming it was all cynically done by the higher ups doesn't mean the troops involved were told that this was anything other than what it was: an act of courage to rescue one of our own.

But, assuming it was all cynically done, that is not entirely astonishing, nor is the cynicism of others astonishing. This is the kind of thing empires do, and it comes with the job. Legends are terribly important in the empire business; the more people believe the legend, the fewer troops you need send, and the less often you need to send them. Empires ruled by legends are far less bloody than empires ruled by cold steel. Poul Anderson had a very odd series of science fiction stories on that theme, beginning with one called "The Double Dyed Villain."

On the other hand, to stage anything like that and expect the scheme not to be found out is more stupid than I can believe. It is really stupid, mind-boggling stupid, and thus unlikely. But suppose even so.

Canadians have been accusing the United States of being imperialists for a long time. Perhaps their fears are coming to pass. But let me point out that there is an old phrase: may as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. Many of us down here learned it in our childhood.

There is also this:

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Here is a URL where the BBC "story" (in the sense of "sea story", "bedtime story", or perhaps "just so story") is elegantly dispatched. It is on Professor Glenn Reynolds' site, "InstaPundit": 

Very respectfully,

David G.D. Hecht

Which is certainly true as far as it goes: they weren't firing blanks. This was no stage show, and the BBC is way off base to suggest that it was.

There were no dead Iraqis either.

One possibility: we were told she was being held in durance vile. There was the story of the intelligence officer slapping her. That story got to the troops. A rescue was planned. And the troops were coldly angry.

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, the word got out: the Americans are coming. The Iraqi Army did what it usually did, faded away into the dusk. The Americans came, expecting resistance. There wasn't any but the adrenalin was flowing, the NCO's were shouting "GO Go GO" as they do, and probably there were some shots fired, perhaps our troops starting at shadows -- to this day I am convinced the first shots fired at Waco were by BATF agents -- and when one hears gunshots while rushing into danger the effect is to make one more than ready to fire at anything threatening or remotely threatening. These were soldiers, and this is not NYPD Blue sending in a SWAT team with the homicide detectives. These are soldiers and they break things and kill people, and when you send them in you expect things to be broken and people to be killed.

They took her out. It may not have been under fire, but they went in expecting opposition, and they went in ready. I suspect you will have a hard job convincing those involved that they used excessive force or that the Iraqis, who after all were forcing their own civilians to drive cars into our check points in hopes that we would kill some civilians for Al Jaziera, were all saintly people whose only ambition was to take care of the wounded American girl.

Whatever happened, one thing was made clear: the US takes care of its own. And the world should understand that.

I got the next shortly after posting the above:

Dear Jerry:

Your comments on the Jessica Lynch rescue may be right on. I mentioned earlier that I saw a certain amount of myth making already in progress. I believe that Lynch herself may not remember the events surrounding her capture. This is fairly common with POW's, and even among those who serve in combat. My own memories of Vietnam are rather foggy, but I've always attributed that to the Agent Orange exposure.

I note a certain amount of debunking already in progress from the foreign media. I had words last week (literally) with an Australian colleague who originally contacted me regarding commentary on the Jayson Blair matter I posted on Romnesko's Media News at He went off on a tangent about how bad the American media was about reporting war stories and alleged that he had seen tape of Mike Spann, the CIA agent killed in Afghanistan, heavily interrogating John Walker Lindh, which he alleged had been withheld from the American public. My reply was to the effect that there was not a whole lot of sympathy for Lindh, who I view as another spoiled Marin County rich kid who made bad choices (hardly a new problem) and that if such a tape existed and were shown, people would be cheering Spann on. Probably shocked the hell out of him. I haven't had a response.

I doubt if such a tape exists, myself. One of the articles I did for the Britannica back in the early 60's was on Disinformation. This smells like that. It is a legitimate tactic of war and we are, however much people might wish it otherwise, at war. Raw data, such as this alleged tape, can inflame an audience. Context is in the eye of the beholder.

I can see someone wanting to put a gloss on the circumstances of Lynch's rescue and with the "fog or war" factor, it very much becomes a matter of point of view, affected, for better or worse, by a lot of emotion and hormones. Hey, they got her out. That's what really counts.

As for the circumstances of her capture, if everyone else around her was KIA, we may never know the truth. Awards for heroism require direct testimony of soldiers who were involved in the action. She may never receive what is due her. Somehow I doubt she really cares. Probably just happy to be alive.

My Australian friend ranted a bit about how ill trained and ill prepared our troops were for Afghanistan and Iraq. My reply was that, if the big hero(ine) of the war is a nineteen year old supply clerk with nine weeks of Army Basic, imagine what the so-called front line and special ops people are like. The truth is that we are currently scaring the hell out of much of the rest of the world because of our disproportionate military power and prowess. This is not necessarily a good thing.

We have been forced into the role of policeman of the Global Village. The question is whether of not we will will take the traditional motto of "serve and protect" as our mantra, or like so many small town cops, get by with bullying the citizenry.

I like to think we're better than that.

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

Don't kid yourself. We are not "better" than that because good soldiers are not good policemen. We don't have the money to train a world constabulary as well as a world class army; given one or the other, we'll take the army. Armies break things and kill people. They are not the village constable.

The way empires work, eventually, is that the Empire has an army that can defeat anything. Then it gets client states to do the police work and tax collection and suppress most of the dissent, and generally provide imperial security. A client state that refuses the job, or doesn't do it well, finds itself punished. The technique works pretty well, but it's still Empire: governing with powers not derived from the consent of the governed.

We'll probably be good at it, perhaps as good as the British Empire was, perhaps even better.

I don't know where the stories about PFC Lynch firing her weapon until she was out of ammo came from. One hopes they were true. As to her injuries, that's a matter of objective fact that sooner or later will be reported.

But she is out, and as you say that is the important point; and a salutary lesson was given: we take care of our own.

Incidentally, Edmund Burke warned against appearing too overwhelmingly powerful, as it begets enemies you didn't really want.

See also below.



I expect to see more of this sort of thing. I expected it before we went in:

Subject: "Why don't we go back to Saddam?"

 -------- Roland Dobbins


Spam tactics:

Web Vigilantes Give Spammers
Big Dose of Their Own Medicine
They Find Mass E-Mailers

And Play Tricks on Them

When all 24 office phones at Scott Richter's e-mail marketing company started ringing at once, with nobody at the other end of the line, employees knew they were under attack again.
Daniel Dye, the systems administrator, could do little. After 15 minutes into the lunchtime assault last month, Mr. Dye recalls yelling, "Go ahead and pull your phones out of the walls for now. It'll be easier to think about what to do." Examining the phone system's central computer, Mr. Dye found that someone had hacked into it and programmed a feature that caused all the phones to ring at the same time.
Mr. Richter's company had been "flamed" -- attacked by a shadowy group of vigilantes who have taken to harassing spammers using just about any means they can dream up. Spam, or unsolicited commercial e-mail, has set off a war between marketers and people who hate spam. Mr. Richter, who is a mass commercial e-mailer, has become a frequent target of attackers known as antispammers.
They form a loose affiliation that uses the Internet to coordinate attacks from around the world. E-mail marketers often feel powerless against them. "It's an underground cult running it," says Mr. Richter, whose Westminster, Colo., e-mail marketing business, (, pitches mortgages, adult-related products and Viagra. "You don't know who they are."
Here's one of them: Mark Jones, a 26-year-old software engineer in Enterprise, Ala., who calls himself a "soldier" in the war against spam. From his home at night, he tracks down spammers by tracing the complex routing code hidden in e-mail messages. He reports them to what antispammers call "realtime blacklists," Web sites that track known spam sources and allow computer administrators to block certain Internet addresses.
Then, he fights back. "Anytime we find a source of spam," he says, "we spam them back."
After his three children were asleep late one Saturday night last November, Mr. Jones sat down at his PC for a bit of spammer-flaming. First, he says, he visited a Web site, (, that's a favorite among techies; he pulled down a list of about 10 alleged spammers. He programmed his personal computer to send a letter to each supposed spammer in the same way many spammers do: through so-called open relays and mail servers that forward e-mail in ways that make it hard to track down the sender. As his finishing stroke, he had his PC send the message to each spammer 10,000 times.
"We use the same methods the spammers use," says Mr. Jones, chuckling. "It's a bombardment."
< snip>

Heh. Optin Big has sent me messages for years. Opting OUT has done no good, and needless to say I never opted IN. If they were near me, I fear I might encourage juvenile gangsters to take an interest in them.

The Internet Engineering Task Force, the global group that set Internet standards, is working on solving the spam problem. Some alarming statistics and interesting solutions.

On the same note, my ISP's spam catcher averages about 750 spams a month on my email account. At that, 3-4 porn emails get through each week.

Randy Storms

 "The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something." Robert Browning


Another warning  about today's worm; see also the Security page.

Subject: Today's Microsoft email hoax/trojan ( priority one)

----- Roland Dobbins

And then

Subject: Start limping.,1282,-2694090,00.html

---------- Roland Dobbins

And there is a price for imperial power:

Subject: $1T.

--------- Roland Dobbins

Needless to say this is no small sum, and there is much we could have done with that much money...


Very interesting take on modern warfare, esp American technology vs "the rest of the world." As Steven Den Beste tells it:

"One usually thinks of the paradigmatic soldier is the frontline rifleman, or maybe a guy buttoned up in a tank. Think of ancient armies and one imagines the Roman legionary, or a knight on horseback. Basically, we think of the guys who are doing the fighting. That's quite natural.

But in order for guys like that to be where they are, doing what they're doing to the enemy, there are other people elsewhere doing other less glamorous jobs...I've referred to the U.S. military as being the first true Information Age force, as distinct from the Industrial Age armies used by nearly everyone else (though the British are straddling the boundary)." 

Henry Stern Dayton, OH

Wellington famously said that it was as important to get a biscuit to his troops before battle as to have the trooper armed and ready. He paid a lot of attention to logistics troops. But indeed...

And one final thought for the day:

May 1, 2003, 9:30 a.m.
Rising Up From Flanders Fields
Where you stand depends in part on where your soldiers lie.

By Father Raymond J. de Souza

aster is the season of empty tombs and lilies, but the war-torn Lent of 2003 has kept my thoughts on full cemeteries and poppies.

Here in continental Europe, the preponderance of public opinion and public argument has been strongly against the morality of this war, with the Holy See taking a leading role.

For this Canadian in Europe, though, the shape of the debate has indicated that we, like our fellow North Americans in the United States, think rather differently about war than do most Europeans. Different moral lessons were learned on opposite sides of the Atlantic from the wars of the past century. It is not so much a question of this war but of war in general; not so much the morality of war but the moral of the war story.

North Americans learned from the First and Second World Wars that noble causes could be fought for nobly. It is historical commonplace in Canada to say it was on the battlefields of World War I that we grew to maturity as a sovereign nation, having paid the price in our soldiers' blood.

Like most Canadian schoolboys, my first introduction to public thinking about war was during the annual commemorations of Remembrance Day, Nov. 11. An indispensable part of the day was the reading of the poem, "In Flanders Fields." In fact, I doubt there is another piece of literature that is so universally taught in Canada — every Canadian knows it.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The image of the passing torch is so deeply ingrained in the national psyche that those words from the final stanza were inscribed on the walls of the Montreal Canadiens' dressing room in the old Montreal Forum — the most important shrine of our national sport.

The poem was written by Major John McCrae during the second battle of Ypres in May 1915, where he fought as part of the First Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery. Canada suffered 6,000 casualties at Second Ypres, which was only a prelude to the horrors of World War I — a war the Canadian prime minister of the day, Robert Borden, privately called "the suicide of civilization."

Amid all that, McCrae was able to write of flowers and birds and crosses, and of bravery and love and fidelity. It not a poem about the horrors of war; it is a paean to the heroism of warriors.

That is not the common European experience. While Canadians visit Juno Beach at Normandy with pride and Americans visit Omaha and Utah Beach, there are no such places of unalloyed national pride associated with the Second World War for the French, the Germans, the Austrians, or the Italians.

George Weigel, the papal biographer, once asked his subject what he learned from the Second World War. Pope John Paul II answered instantly: "I learned the experience of my contemporaries: humiliation at the hands of evil."

The moral of the war story for so much of Europe is just that: humiliation and evil.

When a German thinks about World War II, he does not think about the "finest hour" but of national shame. A Frenchman does not think of triumph in a noble cause but of defeat and collaboration. Austrians bought their safety at the price of their honor; Italians needed, as it is wickedly observed, to "be liberated from their allies." The low countries were crushed; the Iberians and the Swiss declined to participate. Russia suffered terribly to win the war and then inflicted further suffering on her own people and throughout her empire during the peace.

The Holy See, too, felt the pain of humiliation, with the tiny Vatican City State surrounded. The Church felt compelled to moderate her voice to preserve the neutrality upon which her freedom depended. It was a defensible policy but there was no glory in it — there was only humiliation in the face of evil.

Indeed, with the exception of Poland — which fought bravely and lost — and Britain — which fought bravely and won — the moral of the war story for Europe was that, as John Paul is fond of saying, "nothing is solved by war." The subsequent Cold War only reinforced the view that war brings more evils in its wake and further underscored the impotence of free Europe to combat evil in its own neighborhood.

Americans used to talk about a "Vietnam Syndrome." Long before Vietnam, Europe was stricken with doubt that it was possible to fight well, to fight nobly and to win. Europeans do not speak, as Americans do, of the veterans of World War II as "The Greatest Generation."

All of this is important to understand the deep divisions that exist over war in Iraq.

It would be a mistake to dismiss Europe's dark memories as the irrelevant fears of "Old Europe." Europe is old enough to have learned some important lessons in thinking about war and peace, the first of which is that war is often just that: humiliating, shameful, degrading and evil.

But Europe also needs to recover the North American sense that evil can be fought, that it is shameful to appease aggressors and that wars can be won with pride and decency.

Both are necessary elements in the Christian moral tradition on war and peace.

In the light of the current war, the lessons of the past do not determine current political positions, but they do give a sense of how the debate is framed.

The Canadian government opted not to join its historical allies — Britain, United States and Australia — for the first time, but the leading opposition party is in favor of the war, and the premier of the largest province has endorsed it in defiance of the national government. Canada is perhaps the only antiwar country where leading voices are criticizing the government for not joining the Coalition. The arguments one hears emphasize duty, loyalty to allies and the demands of a just cause — not unlike the themes of In Flanders Fields.

Here in Italy the opposite is the case. The government has joined the Coalition, but public opinion is against it. The ordinary Italians I speak to seem completely convinced that only base motives exist for this war — money, power, oil. The torch of Flanders Fields does not figure in the public imagination — the hands of war grasp only after gain.

So the Iraq war has produced an odd situation. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair are men of deep Christian faith, explicitly motivated by the morality of their policy and committed to the role of religion in public life. Yet the Holy See has opposed them every step of the way.

That happens sometimes in the practical application of moral principles. Disagreements are to be expected in those situations where the starting points for moral reflection are so different. Where you stand depends in part on where your soldiers lie — in Flanders fields, in Normandy, or somewhere else.

Flanders fields are in Europe. But their legacy is elsewhere.

Father Raymond J. de Souza writes from Rome. This originally appeared in The National Catholic Register and is reprinted with permission.







This week:


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Tuesday,  May 20, 2003

More on the matter of Pfc Lynch. Note that Robert Scheer has devoted his column to the subject today. Of course it is no surprise that he finds a good anti-American slant. 


Subject: Firing Blanks

There are two reasons that the witnesses at the hospital may have felt the rounds being fired were blanks. One is that during stressful situations the body will shut down some sensory input. Auditory exclusion is a pretty well known phenomena during a gun battle. More than one person involved in a shootout has told others that they thought that the guns were not real because they were shooting blanks.

The second is that, according to a representative of the Cor-Bon ammunition company, the forces involved were using the Whisper round which is a much quieter round than the very loud .223 ammunition common in NATO The Whisper rounds are sub-sonic so you do not get the loud "crack" as the bullet breaks the sound barrier when leaving the barrel. Along with a modest suppressor this combination would sound like cap guns.

Al Lipscomb.

I think the matter of "blanks" is covered. There weren't any. The troops would have known, and you can't keep a thing like that from getting out.

Subj: Jessica Lynch rescue

Jim Dunnigan's shop has a rebuttal to the Brit media claims that the rescue was faked:
  News about Information Warfare at's How to Make War.

Dunnigan is generally worth reading and he cares to be accurate. And for another Canadian view:

Fortunately I read the piece by Father DeSouza before I responded to this so I no longer feel obliged to apologize for all my fellow citizens. Several notes:

The Toronto Star is famously leftist, slavishly devoted to the Liberal party and fiercely anti-American. I of course do not see Fox News as I am "protected" by my government (that same Liberal party) from viewing what I want without considerable difficulty. (Receiving unauthorized satellite signals is illegal and cable companies do not carry it at least in the basic cable package.) Hence I can't comment it's coverage. Based on the wailing from the leftists, Fox must be doing something right.

Many people do not assume America's veracity to be non-existent. Many people recognize that America is a tremendous force for good in the world. Those Canadians who reflexively bleat their anti-American mantras don't even stop to think what Canada would be like if our "close" border had been with the Russian empire and our "far" border with the US instead of the other way around.

Tom Cruise / Jack Nicholson? What does that mean? Don't be like either actor. Be like George Bush, Be like Ronald Reagan, be like Harry Truman. Believe in good things. Stand up for them. One of the reasons America is so great is that regularly you elevate men of principle to high offices. Try to avoid being like Woodrow Wilson or Jimmy Carter. The difference I think is in being grounded in reality.

You worry too much it seems to me about American Imperialism. Yes the Republic of your youth is gone and your federal government too powerful, but conquering Afghanistan and Iraq are good things. No one seriously believes that America wants to occupy Iraq for any great length of time. It would be nice if you were able to occupy them long enough for them to develop the institutions of a civilized society - an independent judiciary, free markets. But no one seriously believes (except for the leftists) that America invaded Iraq to steal their oil, or has any ambitions to remain.

America could create an Empire, the world would probably be better off for it, but I see no serious intent to do that by this or any conceivable administration.

Yours truly,

Peter Holden (Name not withheld) from Canada

And one might with profit look at the Canadian view posted above. Discussion continues when I get back from my walk.

And see below.



On a different subject:

Dr. Pournelle,

A while back you remarked on the utility of a language or compiler that would let you write code, then run it, without mucking about with forms and all.

I believe I may have found a useful candidate for you. To quote the author's website: "Rapid-Q is a cross platform BASIC programming language capable of generating GUI and CONSOLE applications (including CGI applications). It directly supports MySQL, DirectX, a bit of Direct3D, Sockets, a bit of COM, component/object programming, and many other nice features. Rapid-Q is currently available for Windows 95/98/NT/2000, Linux/i386, Solaris/Sparc, and HP-UX. Although Rapid-Q is still in Beta (for over a year already), it is fully functional and FREE!"

It seems to be a very nice little quick'n'dirty compiler. A (very) simple console hello.bas:

print "Hello, World!"

compiles and runs just fine. Rapid-Q includes text color, cursor location, and even PEEK/POKE commands!

I've been playing with it for a couple of days, and I'm pretty impressed. The only function they don't seem to have implemented is a RANDOM number generator, and that shouldn't be too hard to write. Recommended.

You can get Rapid-Q (by William Yu) at . This link takes you to a page where you can get distributions for Windows, Linux, Solaris/Sparc, and HP-UX. The same page code examples, optional libraries, and documentation.


I will look at it, but I do find Python is a good utility language.


I find myself progressively unimpressed with government attempts to regulate my behaviour, "for my own good". What has really set me off is the 'no smoking' bylaw - soon, it will be against the law in Edmonton, and in many cities in North America, to smoke in any public place, including bars and lounges. Now, I don't smoke, so you'd think I'd be in favour of this legislation... but I am not. For me, the issue is not one of smoking or not smoking; it is an issue of personal freedom. It is government imposing its will on individuals, in an attempt to control their behaviour. Now, this is nothing new; governments impose their will on society all the time - we have laws against robbing banks, laws regulating how you control your vehicle, laws regulating payment of taxes. In the vast majority of cases, these laws enforce a code of conduct which, when adhered to by individual members of society, result in a social structure that is fair and beneficial to all.

But over the last few decades, a disturbing trend has emerged. Governments at all levels of society have proven increasingly more receptive to the passage of laws which may be beneficial to the individual, but are of little or no value to society as a whole. Take motorcycle helmets, for example. Now, there can be no question that motorcycle helmets are a good idea; they save lives everyday. But if an individual chooses to ride a bike without a helmet, the only person he is endangering is himself. He is not a danger to society.

There are many laws of this type. Seatbelts are another example; while statistically of great value in reducing injury and death in automobile accidents, it is difficult to prove that failure to wear a seatbelt is dangerous to other members of society. Yet, driving a vehicle without using a seatbelt is illegal. Bike helmets - not motorcycle, but pedal bicycle helmets - must now be worn by every person under the age of 18 in Edmonton while riding a bike; and there's a groundswell of activity to make this requirement universal, to extend it to all members of society regardless of their age. And the proposed anti-smoking bylaw will attempt to control individual behaviour in yet another arena. In fairness, the argument is made that the "no public smoking" law is aimed at reducing the exposure of other members of society to second hand smoke; but there are no studies that show that exposure to second hand smoke is injurious to people. In fact, the latest study, a 40+ year study of 35,000 people in the state of California, proves just the opposite; it demonstrates conclusively that second hand smoke has little, or no, impact on human health. It would appear that human biological defence mechanisms treat second hand smoke no differently than they treat car exhaust, and are able to deal effectively with both forms of pollution.

So, now we must ask the question: should governments engage in the passage of laws that are beneficial to individuals, but have negligible effect on society? Should we regulate individual behaviour, for the good of the individual?

I would suggest that the answer to that question, is no.

The reason is that in a free society, individuals have the power to make choices - including bad choices - and to hopefully learn from those mistakes, as well as learning from the observation of the mistakes of others. I have no quarrel with government showing prospective bicycle and automobile operators both the statistics, and the photographs, which prove conclusively that seatbelts and helmets are a good idea; but the final choice must always be in the hands of the individual whose life is affected.

When governments place control within the power of the individual, they empower the individual; but when governments regulate the behaviour of the individual with laws - even well intentioned laws, designed to improve human health and quality of life - they diminish the self worth of the individual; for they diminish the rights of the individual to chart his or her own course through life.

Where will it end? We know that alcohol consumption beyond an extremely modest amount - about half of one bottle of beer a day - is injurious to people. We know that being more than 20% above your ideal weight carries a heavy health penalty, particularly in later life. We know that excessive gambling leads to a whole constellation of human misery. Will we regulate the consumption of alcohol to 3 bottles of beer a week, fine or imprison overweight people, tax chocolate, ban all forms of gambling?

I would hope not. Because in the process of making mistakes, enduring the penalties of those mistakes and overcoming those mistakes, we grow as individuals. We become more capable of looking ahead; we become more adept at avoiding pitfalls on our own, instead of relying on some government agency to pave our way. We become self reliant, more adaptable, and more confident. We know we can achieve difficult things, because we've done it. Free societies breed strong individuals; they serve as the crucible in which strong, intelligent human beings are forged. The fire may be hot; but the payoff is enormous.

The payoff of freedom is human capability. It should come as no surprise that the strongest and most capable nation this world has ever seen, is also the most free nation this world has ever seen.

And when making laws, that's a law our lawmakers must always remember.

Sincerely, Charles Worton Constelar Computational

You describe the development of the Nanny State. Hillaire Belloc and Chesterton had much to say on the subject a long time ago. Few listened then, and none listen now, and the neo-conservatives are more interested in reading people out of the conservative movement than in personal freedom. 

Libertarians generally take an extreme view that grates: as Niven say, Libertarianism is a vector, not a place to go. We want to go toward more freedom. We probably don't want to get to the anarcho-capitalist state that is envisioned in Libertarian novels and tracts.

Motorcycle helmets: are you willing to contract with the state that you will never accept state aid, and therefore, if you turn yourself into a vegetable by having an accident while riding without a helmet, you will not be assisted by any public facility? Operating room attendants have a name for people who ride motorcycles without helmets: organ donors. If it were only your business, then go ahead; but if you voluntarily assume risks that in fact the rest of us must pay for, then it becomes my business too.

Same with other hazards to health. Those who demand "free" health care -- that is, health care paid for by someone else -- have difficulty protesting that they want to be free to endanger the health the rest of us must pay for.

How much risk should you assume, and how much must the rest of us assume, and do you really want a way to opt out? Many who say they do, faced with the opportunity, somehow don't get around to doing it.

Would you, for instance, in exchange for exemption from the various health and safety laws, wear a bracelet that identified you as a "no public resources to be spent on medical care for this person"?  Assuming we can work out ways to do that.

A long time ago I edited and contributed to a book called THE SURVIVAL OF FREEDOM that went into these issues in some detail. It is of course long out of print. Perhaps I ought to try reviving it. I agree that freedom is a valuable resource.

It is also the case that half the population is below average, in mental ability, physical ability, productivity. The implications of that are large, too. But enough for today. See Below For More

Subject: Weapons of mass destruction

I am not all that well spoken when it comes to writing but I will try and get to the point.

Someone pointed out to me (and I have read it in numerous places as well) that we have found no weapons of mass destruction which by inference means the US had no justification nor are we honest about our motives or goals.

My reply was that if we were as dishonest as you imply, wouldn't we have manufactured or placed weapons of mass destruction to justify why we were there? I did not get a reply but a thoughtful frown. The fact that we are not finding any yet (and I emphasize, yet) to me points out that we are, even if we're wrong, reporting what we see.

Just my opinion of course.

Very Respectfully,


I have yet to find anyone who argues with the following propositions:

  1. Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction  at one time

  2. He did not hesitate to use them on foreign troops and civilians (Iran)

  3. He did not hesitate to use them on internal enemies (Kurds)

  4. He retained the ability to make WMD at reasonably short notice

  5. He regarded the inspections as a game and the inspectors as enemies rather than the inspections as a means to prove he had disarmed and the inspectors as allies in making that proof manifest to the world.

Given all that, what difference does the existence of WMD make? And while we are at it, are people really accusing Colin Powell of deliberately lying to the UN in his presentations?

Subject: Microsoft's next step in taking over the world...

Hi Jerry,

if you liked that,3959,1094546,00.asp  , you might as well have a look at 

Your long time reader



Subject: Call to legalize organlegging in UK

Seen on Drudge:

Apparently, the guy is saying that organlegging is going on, so the Crown might as well get into the act.

Hmm. Thanks

Subject: Wohlstetter.

------- Roland Dobbins

Good article. Albert Wohlstetter was one of the consultants to my Study of Strategic Stability I did for the US Air Force office of doctrines and plans, and of course an old associate: he and I and Possony were all Fellows of the original International Institute for Strategic Studies back when it was fairly important.

A brilliant man whose views were always worth listening to. And a good article. Thanks.

Subject: Knockout rats and the popular science press

 Hi Jerry,

 I don't know how closely you follow biological and medical research news, but I found this article interesting in two ways:

 First, apparently it has been impossible until now to create rats with genes "knocked out", as they do routinely with many other species.  This new ability to do so ought to lead to many new important discoveries in both basic biological research and in medicine.

 Second, I wonder how it came about that I had never been aware that knockout rats couldn't be produced, and that this had been a major problem for 10 years.  I think of myself as a fairly knowledgeable layman, but apparently the popular science sources I read every month either never covered this, or didn't cover it enough for me to notice it.  It makes me wonder what other longstanding problems we laymen are oblivious to. 

 -- Phil Rand <>


--- Computer and Information Systems

-- Seattle Pacific University


"One person CAN make a difference,

but most of the time, you probably

shouldn't."  -- Marge Simpson


Cruel and unusual punishment? 

David Paterson --- A random thought for the day:

kakistocracy \kak-uh-STAH-kruh-see\ (noun): government by the worst people


Yes I saw that, and wondered the same thing...


Subject: Ma'am, I'll need those nail clippers

Dr. Pournelle,

I suppose there may be members of airport security that believe the confiscation of nail clippers important to the security of an airliner. I will guarantee that almost every member of airport security in this country does believe that confiscating nail clippers is important. Though, most of them only think so for the safety of their job. If a plane is highjacked at clipperpoint the person who is going to be looked at is the security officer who let the offending clippers through. Nobody wants to be at the end of the finger used to indicate blame. You are right, as if travelling were already not fun, now the trouble you have to go through to get on a plane is ridiculous.

You have made comments about whether we are actually safer in the air now or not. Remember, it is not reality that causes a person to react, it is their perception of reality. Most Americans have a really skewed perception of reality.


So far I have found NO ONE who believes we are safer, and is willing to say so, although I do have some who think others must believe we are safer. As to perceptions and realities, my guess is that my fellow Americans are not quite as stupid as the enlightened intellectuals believe.









This week:


read book now


Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Subject: More on Pfc Lynch

Dear Jerry,

Perhaps Occam’s razor could come in handy here. While the U.S. certainly has some incentive to create a legend, don’t the Iraqi doctors whom the BBC interviewed have even more of an incentive to claim, as they do in the BBC story that they were treating Lynch well, wanted to give her up at the first opportunity, and were only hindered by the U.S. desiring a photo op? This sounds so much like the Iraqi Misinformation Minister’s claim that the U.S. was making up a mock-up of Baghdad as to be more than a tad fishy. If I have to chose whether or not to believe a hysterically anti-war BBC and their Iraqis meat-puppets who are afraid of being accused of war crimes for criminal negligence in their treatment of a U.S. POW, or the U.S. military that I think is not inclined to play such games not only because of honor, but at least as importantly, because such ham-handed propaganda would eventually get out, I chose believing the U.S. military. If that makes me hopelessly naïve, so be it.


David Curp

And more:




Starship Trooperization

By James Pinkerton 05/12/2003

This is not your father's infantry. This is the Mobile Infantry. Having dropped from the sky in a vertical insertion, Rasczak's Roughnecks are ready for some serious action. And none more so than Juan Rico, who recalls:

I ordered? Advance! And did so myself, hopping over the next row of buildings, and, while I was in the air, fanning the first row by the river front with a hand flamer. As I hit, the Y-rack on my shoulder launched two small H.E. bombs a couple of hundred yards each way to my right and left flanks but I never saw what they did as just then my first rocket hit - that unmistakable (if you've ever seen one) brilliance of an atomic explosion.

Uh, wait a second. An "atomic explosion"? That can't be right. Oops. I have my notes confused. That's not a first-hand account from Operation Iraqi Freedom, that's from the first chapter of Robert Heinlein's 1959 novel, Starship Troopers. Sorry. My mistake. A novel in which a small number of warriors swoop in on rockets and blast every target to smithereens suddenly doesn't seem like fiction anymore. Indeed, Troopers is the only sci-fi novel that's on the reading list of all four service academies.

No wonder, then, that what might be called the Starship Trooper-ization of the U.S. military is accelerating.

In late 2001, Pentagon Special Forces subdued the Taliban in Afghanistan with a total of 125 men on the ground. Or, sometimes, on horseback. To be sure, those 125 Special Operators had a lot of help. It was possible for an American to be riding along, spot a target, tap the GPS coordinates into a laptop, and then wait for a few minutes as the target was destroyed. This in any kind of terrain, in any kind of weather. Indeed, the seemingly magical power of such close air support led the Afghans to confuse cause and effect. That is, the locals came to notice that if an American seemed to be staring at a particular position through binoculars, it had a tendency to blow up. Since the JDAMs or cruise missiles came whistling down at invisible speed, the only conclusion to be reached was that the binoculars themselves were some sort of death ray. As sci-fi sage Arthur C. Clarke observed, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."


Here's a Wired article that's worth reading: "If We Run Out of Batteries, This War is Screwed." < >.

The mental image of artillery colonels defaulting to using big-breasted avatars in Microsoft Chat was quite amusing. I wonder what avatar General Franks used.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson




A friend has one of those custom programs that requires you to send him a confirmation that your message is real before your message goes through. He writes to me:

A spammer with an awful lot of time on his hands --  AKA  -- actually followed the directions exactly and sent me back his spam!

(Yes, it was 100% pure spam, nobody I know, etc.)

So -- one of those should be a valid address if you want to spread it around.

What a freakin' weird world... :-)

Which is interesting. It's too bad we can't get the real email addresses of spammers and publish them in places where they will be harvested by spammers...

Dear Jerry;

This brief verse from (I think) a contemporary of Chesterton and Belloc might be apropos of some BBC, Guardian and other news coverage of Ms. Lynch's rescue:

No man can hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist;
 But seeing what the man will do unbribed, there's no occasion to.

Al Frank -- Chicago

No comment...


In his letter decrying the loss of personal rights, I feel that he used a bad example with the Motorcycle helmet law. His lack of helmet does not only affect him; rather it affects everyone who sees their insurance rates go up because of him. I don't want to have to pay more money for my car insurance, just so he can feel the wind in his hair.

I think it's the growing interdependence of things like this, that are the true destroyers of our historical freedom. Increasingly, due to things like insurance and medical costs which everyone pays, actions of individuals affect whole groups of individuals who don't want to be affected. Those who want to win elections, will pander to the pocketbooks of these people, and thus we have a nanny-state.

Freedom is dangerous, and lately, we citizens have shown an increasing wish for safety at all costs. Our education is so lacking that most of us no longer can say why fulfilling this wish is MORE dangerous than freedom.

David Bierbaum

=Well in fairness, it was me who transformed his argument from bicycles to motorcycles, although the same principles may apply. I don't think you two are in much disagreement.

And the helmet example wasn't a good one anyway. See Below.




Heinlein was right again. Jerry really was a man.

Chuck Anderson

So far not in law, but you never know...

Subject: H2O +K2CO3 =? 


This is almost identically the same thing that Dr. Randall Mills has been claiming for 8 years (I met him in '95 or early '96 when he briefed Teledyne on his technology).

See  for (extensive -- almost 100 MB of pdf "technical publications") since then.

No commercial products yet, though.

I don't know how their "theories" mesh. I can't tell much from the article you posted. Mill's theory claims that the symmetry which leads to the well-known monatomic hydrogen spectrum breaks down for molecular hydrogen or molecular hydrogen-like molecules, allowing for the creating of energy states ("hydrinos") with bonding energies equivalent to 2R, 3R, 4R, etc., where R is the well-known "Rydberg" of hydrogen bonding energy. He has successfully patented both his power generation technology and the unique properties of the hydrino molecules, and is become well enough known that his technology was cited as a "perpetual motion" scam by a reviewer in one of the Time Magazine "technologies of the new millennium" specials back in 1999.

Whatever else it is, it ISN'T perpetual motion. I don't know whether it's valid or not, except: (a) if I were going to choose where to "break" the Schrodinger theory, that's ate least close to where I would choose to break it (Note 1), and (b) I note that he's building an impressive backlog of publications, a few of them in referred journal. However, no products yet. Is R&D harder than he anticipated -- or is the "R&D" just promoting the alleged "scam." Inquiring minds want to know.

NOTE 1: The basis of non-relatavistic QM is that the "energy levels" observed in bound energy systems correspond to the eigenvalues of the functions in the solution spaces of the Shrodinger equation. However, there is no physical mechanism proposed that I have ever heard of or remember which explains WHY the system is constrained to those values, and not to the superpositions which correspond to the general solutions of the equation. Mills may be wrong, but skimming his theory and results (all I've had time to do over the years to keep up), everything seems to flow logically from his one change in fundamental assumption.

Jim Woosley 


However, no products yet. That's probably the operative sentence. But stay tuned. And see below.

From Ed Hume



















. . . I JUST DID


Jerry, In your CHAOS MANOR Mail May 20, you wrote:

Motorcycle helmets: are you willing to contract with the state that you will never accept state aid, and therefore, if you turn yourself into a vegetable by having an accident while riding without a helmet, you will not be assisted by any public facility?

Jerry, if you look, the chances of being turned into a vegetable are INCREASED by wearing a helmet. Having a serious bike accident without a helmet, IF there is a head injury is most likely to result in brains on the pavement. Note that most bike accidents result in injuries to parts of the body NOT covered by a helmet.

Jerry old buddy, you rode bikes with me and know how I personally feel. I ALWAYS wore the best helmet I could afford. But the idea that bikers who have accidents while riding without a helmet are "Turned into vegetables" is the argument pushed by those organizations who want to exercise control over the individual, or perhaps, those who milk insurance companies, by keeping said vegetables alive, even when massive damage to the brain is evident and the resulting meat should be allowed to discorporate.

Sometimes Death is not the enemy, but a merciful release.

Frank Gasperik AKA Harry Reddington AKA Mark Cezscu

Well, perhaps, but it doesn't change my point. I suppose now that I think on it, it's bicycle riders who get crippling head injuries. It was hardly Mr. Worton's point either, since he argues a fairly straightforward libertarian case.

The Nanny State is a lot longer subject than I have time to get into this week, and most of it has been said before. Mr. Worton's argument is that only liberty allows people to develop their potential, and freedom is the best means for assuring economic growth. I don't at all disagree, but I have less confidence in the stability of such systems. "There never was a democracy that didn't commit suicide." The Framers were all agreed on that: on a straight up or down vote, eventually the have-nots will despoil the haves. "Democracy endures until the voters realize they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury."

It is precisely here that libertarians and conservatives disagree: how to reconcile liberty with equalitarianism. In my day to day life in my neighborhood the only government I need is garbage collection and I could contract out for that. I seldom see any need for police and courts and the rest. But of course not two miles away we have nightly conflicts between the police and criminal elements. Left to themselves things go downhill. We need governments.

"That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed." But even if we all agree on that, which rights? An equal right to property? A right to a good education? The right not to starve? The right to go to a hospital emergency room and not be turned away no matter what financial resources you may or may not have -- and no matter how precarious the financial status of the hospital? The right to shoot someone in the act of burglary? The right to a government pension for disability? The right to a job?

I could make a very long list here. Some rights people have demanded are indefensible. Some really are self evident. And some are matters for disagreement among people of good will.

The argument between libertarians and conservatives will never end, but it's fairly healthy. The liberals also make the point that if certain concessions are not granted willingly they will be taken by force; isn't it simpler to be generous, particularly when we are talking about matters that many of us think are basic rights anyway? Isn't there a right to a safety net? Which is not so far as some might think from Edmund Burke's flat statement that for a man to love his country, that country ought to be lovely. 

As many of you know, I was at one time part of a coalition that defeated motorcycle helmet laws in California even as I never rode mine without a helmet. I have more mixed emotions about seat belt laws, which are a much better example for discussion anyway.

And see below.




Dear Jerry,

Not to pick nits with Mr. Pinkerton, but having read your Falkenberg stories carefully, I have to to take issue with his characterization of the role of special forces in Afghanistan. Small teams that rely on precision munitions for which they provide terminal guidance sound a whole lot more like Colonel Falkenberg's Special Air Service teams than Heinlein's Mobile Infantry.

Don't get me wrong, Starship Troopers is a great book. It's just that I think The Legion's SAS fits the facts better. Here's hoping "The Prince" will wind up on the service academy reading lists Real Soon Now. As always, I remain,

Your Fan,

Preston A. Rickwood, Lilburn, GA, USA

Well, I rather thought so too, actually...






This week:


read book now



See above for more on this.

Hi, Jerry!

First, let me thank you for the time and effort you put into your reply. You raise some very pertinent issues.

I agree with your assertion that Libertarianism, taken to its logical conclusion, will not produce a very nice life for the majority of the participants. But that is also true of any other political or philosophical structure, when taken to extremes. Would any of us choose to be babied from cradle to grave? Would you want your time managed by a productivity advisor, your investments managed by a government appointed investment manager, your career chosen by a government appointed 'skills profiling' board and your life partner supplied by a government eugenics board? For that is the logical conclusion of the 'Nanny State'.

One of the important goals of lawmakers should be to steer a course between the extremes of human behaviour; and laws imposed should try to benefit society to the greatest extent, while impacting on the freedoms of individuals to the smallest extent possible. Laws that impose restrictions on individual human behaviour, while providing meagre or non existent benefit to society, are bad laws. It is my concern that lawmakers have, in recent years, failed to keep this principle firmly in mind.

Your assertion that half the population is below average in mental capability, physical capability, and productivity is an amusing twist on the statistic, as well as being obviously correct. And, regardless of what we do, it will always be correct. If we could triple all of the elements mentioned above for every citizen in America - so that the dumbest among us had an IQ of 150, for example - it would still be true that half the population was below average.

But that's not the point.

The point is to structure a society in which the majority of individuals are free to pursue their own goals, with minimum restrictions on their ability to do so. Why? Because only a society so structured enables individuals to grow to their greatest ability. When individuals grow, they become empowered; and that empowerment ultimately benefits the state far more than the micromanagement of the "Nanny State", ever could. As an example: I may never achieve the stature and fame with my writing, that you have achieved with yours. But a free society allows me to try, even though most writers earn a distressingly meagre financial return; and while my writing may never be spectacular, it is at least better for my having made the attempt... and I am better, for having made that attempt. There are governments on this planet right now, that would never allow the free exchange of ideas contained within this email, and I would be imprisoned - possibly executed - for doing so. Were I governed by the possibility of the imposition of those penalties, I would not write... and I would be less than I am.

So, yes, half of society will always be below average. But that is even more reason to encourage their growth; and the very best way to enable and encourage their growth, is a free society.

Regarding health costs: again, your point is valid. But freedom comes at a price; and that price is paid by society in many ways, one of which is increased health care premiums. A failure of an individual in your state to wear a motorcycle helmet will eventually increase your health care premium, no question about it. (Although probably not by much, and that cost may be more than offset by the value of the organs that such individuals regularly deliver to operating rooms across the country.) However, the grease and calorie laden hamburgers, fries, and colas that are consumed by hundreds of millions of Americans every day contribute far more to the heart attacks, strokes, and hip and knee replacements that fill the hospitals in every major city - and contribute far more to the cost of your health care premium - then the helmetless motorcyclists ever could. Should we tax fat people, smokers, motorcycle riders (helmeted or not), sky divers, rock climbers, and all of those people who engage in risky personal behaviour that ultimately increases the health care premium? Should we prohibit such conduct entirely? What kind of society do we want, anyway?

Because "Freedom" isn't free. It carries many costs; not just financial costs, but also the heavy burden of personal responsibility.

And in my personal estimation, it's worth the price.

Best wishes, Charles Worton

Constelar Computational

Clearly that case has been made many times before, and will be made again. It is, as most of my readers know, a view with which I have much sympathy. My friend Bob Thompson and I argue these views often: how much freedom is too much? Because of course between the two of us we would need no government restraints whatever. We both ascribe to about the same moral code although derived from far different sources. We both believe strongly in responsibilities that go with freedoms.

But the world is not that way. Self restraint and civility and personal honor are not universal, even among those who might appear to be civilized, and naked greed and total lack of concern for the victims can appear in places as apparently civilized as board rooms of accounting firms, as well as in cities where the major cause of death to young men is death at the hands of other young men. 

But naked greed can also appear at the polling place. As I have said above, democracies cannot endure equality. There used to be a right wing radio show that came on not long after something else I used to listen to. I never listened to the show all the way through, but the opening was always the same: "Freedom not free, Free men are not equal, and equal men are not free." I could entirely agree with that sentiment, but as I recall the speaker would then go on to say things I found self-evidently silly, but that may be a failure of memory. In any event I can entirely agree: Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.

Transforming that into a system of government that actually works is another matter entirely. 

My preference is generally for freedom, but as I said that's a vector, not a destination. My real goal is a system of self government based on the consent of the governed, and that recognizes that there will be places and people who will consent to far more restrictions on their personal liberties than I can imagine accepting if I have any choice. I want them to have their silly laws so long as they'll let me have mine: and so long as I am allowed to build enough military and legal and police and judicial resources to enforce and defend my own silly laws. As Chesteron said, so we can all be free to be our own potty little selves.

And on the Nanny State:

Well there seems to be no end to the ability of some people to make unreasonable demands for more government protections for their own good (or everyone else's since I know what's best for you too). Two article in the current Tech Central :

Regards, Dave Krecklow

Alas all true. Nothing is beyond the dreams of avarice, and there is no demand that some politician will not encourage people to make. Freedom is not free, and liberty and democracy are antithetical, and thus was it ever.




Subject: HAH!  1 acre lunar land for ONLY $29.99

Jerry, I just got this -- haven't seen it before. What a hoot!



You Can Purchase 1 Acre of Land on the Moon $29.99. Stake Your Claim Now

Moon Land For Sale, unbelievable, but true.

The Perfect gift Great Long-Term investment You retain full mineral rights A Great conversation piece

Stake your claim

In 2003, the Trailblazer, a TransOrbital mission to the Moon, will deposit the names of the property holders listed in the database, on the actual Lunar surface.

Each package contains the deed for one acre of land and it lists the actual location of the property by quadrant, latitude and longitude.

A lunar map accompanies this, marked with an X showing the location of the property.

1 Acre of Land on the Moon $29.99 

Someone's been reading Heinlein?

Several including Richard Doherty have sent me this one:

Subject: NYT - Computing's Lost Allure By KATIE HAFNER 

Computing's Lost Allure By KATIE HAFNER

BERKELEY, Calif. -- ON a sunny May afternoon, Brian Harvey's introductory computer science class at the University of California convened for the last time before the final exam. By the time Dr. Harvey was full tilt into his lecture, reviewing recursive functions and binary search trees, the cavernous hall was lightly peppered with about 100 students, backpacks at their sides, a few legs slung over the backs of empty seats.

Sparse attendance is, of course, an end-of-semester inevitability. Many students viewed the lecture by Webcast, if at all. But more significantly, just 350 students signed up for the course this spring, in striking contrast to enrollment in the fall of 2000, when the same lecture hall was engorged at the start of the semester with 700 students sitting and standing in every available pocket of space. <snip>


Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Allow me to express a certain amount of skepticism about the claims of the article. There are two items that make me suspicious:

1) The chemist who 'verified' their claims used their apparatus. It appears that he used it as a black box and had to take on faith what it contained.

2) The proposed mechanism is the old scam of getting energy by a transition from the hydrogen ground state to an even lower state:

'According to Mr Davies, the cell is the product of research into the fundamental properties of hydrogen, the most common element in the universe. He argues that calculations based on quantum theory, the laws of the sub-atomic world, suggest that hydrogen can exist in a so-called metastable state that harbours a potential source of extra energy.'

If this claim is true, then quantum mechanics is wrong. The hydrogen atom is a VERY basic and fundamental result of QM.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I'll wait for the evidence before I invest.

Sincerely, Larry Weinstein

----------------------------------------------------------- Lawrence Weinstein Associate Professor of Physics Graduate Program Director Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA 

Indeed. As I have said often, show me experimental results. Repeatable. Science is what you can put in a letter and send to a colleague and he does it and it works... 

And from Joanne Dow

Subject: How can I comment on this one....

"Aerosols' Effects Could Change Current Understanding Of Global Climate Change"

I'll try, "Well, Duh!"


I can hardly add to that.

This is also posted over in the Topics page.

RE: I want them to live

This is my second letter in response to What Do We Want These Machines To Do. I want them to live. I want Mr. Data in every household. If there is a dirty, nasty, repetitive task I want a machine to do it, and appear cheerful while doing so. Man has already exhibited the ability to become attached to their computers. Imagine if it becomes that much easier to anthropomorphize them. Every family a butler or maid. Mechanized babysitters. The uses are endless.

There is another reason, though. I want to watch the social upheaval. I can already see the android activist movement. Hundred's of unwashed bodies marching the streets of America with signs and placards, "ANDROIDS ARE HUMAN TOO," "FREE THE 'DROIDS." Then there would be the TV spots. "This is my friend Bob. He's an android." Don't believe it will happen? These are Americans we are talking about. We are some of the best at jumping on bandwagons. If most of America keeps a level head, or can be made to care it will go nowhere. Can we count on a large portion of the American population to care? Well, to look at recent history, and by recent I mean the last forty years, probably not. I can already see the battered android shelters and the Android protection laws.

I also see the entrance of androids into the vice arena. Imagine, bordellos staffed completely with androids programmed to meet every desire possible. Let's not forget child-like androids for that particular set, and a whole new set of laws to go along. This will also bring the church into the issue, not that they wouldn't already be there. The more radical of the Christian sects, and I can see Muslim there also, will be decrying humaniform androids as Godless and evil. Once we start seeing mechanical sex toys the controversy will be over whether sex with an android is adultery. "Well, she's not a real woman." This argument will be made by husbands and argued over by clergy.

This brings us to the Terminator scenario. Do I think this will or can happen? No, I do not. While the ability to produce such machines is going to come about, man's ability to react after being burned will come into play. One rogue AI, and there will be controls placed on machine intelligences that will take care of the issue. It will take something of the sort to wake humanity up though. We have a history of looking the other way until our backside gets bitten. Even then, the android rights movement will get into the picture. I can see the ACLU spokesman on television now, "Should all androids be judged by the actions of one?"

Basically, I want androids to become as anthropomorphic as possible. I want Artificial Intelligences to be able to, or at least appear as able to think and make decisions, or more precisely make judgment calls, to make a decision where the arguments made are ambiguous. I want this for two reasons. Number one, the utility. Androids could be a liberating force. Second, I want to sit back and watch the next act in the American circus.

Ave atque vale, Douglas Knapp

That is certainly the ultimate wish. You remind me that this is your second letter, which reminds me to say that there is no great guiding principle here: I get lots of mail, far more than I can comment on or even post, and when it comes has much to do with what happens: sometimes a lot of good stuff comes when I have many other things to do, and then the mail is put where I can get to it when I have time, and I generally don't have time, and...

I found your first letter. It's now over on the topic page.

Anyway I think it safe to say we won't have real AI for a while. What can we do with the machines we have now, or by Moore's Law will have shortly? But I agree, Isaac's Robots, or those who served the Websters, would be very useful...

On an entirely different subject:


Just if you're interested, this is one example of why many people around the world don't believe that human rights or freedom are high on Bush's agenda:

Stuart Mc Bride

Well, the author of that story has an agenda, and on the internal evidence of the story I don't trust her. 

At the same time there is a point. Judicial review of executive actions is an important part of the rule of law. On the other hand, it is impossible for an empire to apply to its external enemies, real, suspected, and those caught up in the system by accident, the same niceties as it shows to its own citizens or even to those legally resident in the home country. 

At home we are ever more expanding the power of the judiciary and the lawyers at the expense of the executive, to the point that more than one justice has thought to point out that the Bill of Rights is not a suicide pact. To apply those principles to all those taken overseas will not work, and will lead to frustrations among the soldiers; as indeed some of that leads to disenchantment of police here at home. Alienation of the police from the community they guard is dangerous. Alienation of the military is a disaster.

I do not believe there is anyone in Guantanamo held merely because he doesn't look like his passport picture. If that passport turns out to be a false document then I would change that belief.

But I agree entirely; this kind of shadow war generates situations none of us would like. I do not agree that the present administration does not care for liberty and human rights. It is precisely because they do that they are able to justify to themselves the building of a system that could yet be used by successors less tender of feeling and less devoted to liberty.

Tampering with the Bill of Rights is a dangerous game. Holding people without charging them, no confrontation with their accusers, detention for an indefinite duration, and the rest is routine in war time as actions against enemy soldiers: but it behooves us to be sure those so treated really are enemy soldiers...

And now from Ed Hume something so irrelevant I am giving you a button so you can skip it. Why does the chicken cross the road, 2003 style...

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?


We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not. The chicken is either with us or it is against us. There is no middle ground here.


Now at the left of the screen, you clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.


We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed access to the other side of the road.


This crossing of the road was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve gas on the chicken.


The chicken's habitat on the original side of the road had been polluted by unchecked industrialist greed. The chicken did not reach the unspoiled habitat on the other side of the road because it was crushed by the wheels of a gas-guzzling SUV.


To steal a job from a decent, hard-working American.


I don't know why the chicken crossed the road, but I'll bet it was getting a government grant to cross the road, and I'll bet someone out there is already forming a support group to help chickens with crossing-the- road syndrome.

Can you believe this? How much more of this can real Americans take? Chickens crossing the road paid for by tax dollars, and when I say tax dollars, I'm talking bout your money, money the government took from you to build roads for chickens to cross.


No one called to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the farmer's market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.


Because the chicken was gay! Isn't it obvious? Can't you people see the plain truth in front of your face? The chicken was going to the "other side." That's what they call it -- the other side. Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And, if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like "the other side."


Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, The chicken crossed the road, But why it crossed, I've not been told!


To die In the rain. Alone.


I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.


In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Someone told us that the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.


Isn't that interesting? In a few moments we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart-warming story of how it experienced a serious case of moulting and went on to accomplish its life-long dream of crossing the road.


Imagine all the chickens crossing roads in peace.


It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.


It was an historical inevitability.


I may not agree with what the chicken did, but I will defend to the death its right to do it.


What chicken?


To boldly go where no chicken has gone before.


You saw it cross the road with your own eyes! How many more chickens have to cross before you believe it?


The fact that you are at all concerned that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.


I have just released eChicken 2003, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook - and Internet Explorer is an inextricable part of eChicken.


Did the chicken really cross the road or did the road move beneath the chicken?


I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What do you mean by chicken? Could you define chicken, please?


I invented the chicken. I invented the road. Therefore, the chicken crossing the road represented the application of these two different functions of government in a new, reinvented way designed to bring greater services to the American people.


And God came down from the heavens, and He said unto the chicken, "Thou shalt cross the road." And the chicken crossed the road, and there was much rejoicing.


I missed one?


On a considerably more serious note, the following was circulated to a bunch of space enthusiasts, after Buzz Aldrin sent around a copy of an op ed piece. It's worth wider distribution:

Thanks Buzz, for sending it around.

Hi all. I'm Bill Haynes. My credentials are that I am a USAF Test Pilot School graduate, and was MinuteMan Test Force Commander at the Cape, crew systems manager for Martin on Skylab and flew a Vietnam combat tour as an F-100 squadron commander.

Here's an independent comment on the Shuttle System :

"Steven B. Wallace, a board member on loan from the Federal Aviation Administration, went even further, saying that if commercial airline flights operated with the same reliability as the shuttle, there would be more than 500 fatal crashes a day."

But I do not believe the Board members grasped the real significance.

If commercial airlines discovered that potential rate of failure, or anything close to it, they would FIX it!

It is because NASA only flies so seldom by comparison that they (and all of us) were ready to keep right on flying the Shuttles until 2040.

NASA, by effectively deciding to live with, not only an unacceptably unsafe vehicle for another 40 years; is ready to live with one that costs $10,000/lb. to deliver stuff to LEO even when nothing significant goes wrong mechanically.

Do any of the people on the board believe that humans will forever fly such unbelievably expensive and hazardous launch vehicles into space?

Of course not.

So when and by whom will safe, economical space access be created?

Not by the organization that is so content with the status quo!

The Shuttle system's deficiencies will not be corrected by the Shuttle builders polishing the details and making certain parts more easily maintainable.

Let's say that the revised Shuttle system is three times as reliable, or equivalent to "only 170" fatal crashes a day.

I think that gives you a measure of why I say the sooner we replace the Shuttle with a VTOL/SSTO vehicle, the sooner "economical and safe access to space" will be achieved.

The codicil to this statement is that NASA has amply demonstrated its utter inappropriateness for tackling that job.

There is a truly insidious posture revealed by the NASA (pre-Columbia) statement that they were prepared to fly the Shuttles "until 2040".

They are ready to accept the avoidable deaths of a shuttle crew every few years as the price of NASA's retention of their total choke hold on space system development.

That posture is not just NASA's; we all shared in it, because there was no uproar when that statement was published.

I submit that all of us ... and therefore each of us ... had descended to the same tolerance of potential ... no actual, deadly danger as the NASA manager who said (when Thiokol said don't fly Challenger with icicles hanging from the SRM's): "My God, Thiokol, Do you want us to wait 'til April to fly"?

I will make three flat statements.

1) We must fly Shuttle only as long and as often as is necessary until we have a successful replacement system

2) Responsibility for defining, procuring and operating the replacement must NOT be NASA's

3) The replacement system must meet airline levels of reliability and cost.

The third statement is impossible to meet?

Yes, as long as the consensus thinks so! Catastrophic failure becomes an inevitable outcome just as long as its presence is considered acceptable.

Walt Cunningham is certainly as valid a commentator as can be found on space operations. Nevertheless I will challenge two of the statements in his article:

"It's time we acknowledge that space is the most dangerous environment into which humans have ever ventured."

Compare the space operations environment in LEO to underwater ops. The max pressure differential in space is one atmosphere, whereas underwater operating at 3,000 ft down we encounter 100 times that differential, with the high pressure on the outside.

Compare unlimited space visibility in the total absence of any obscurations to the murky ocean depths and the pitch darkness below about 500 ft.

Compare tidal surges and surface storm effects to the utter tranquility of LEO ops.

Yet tens of thousands of people operate under those conditions every day ... and they have avoided the stultifying repression of a government bureaucracy telling them how to do it, what equipment to use and how much of our tax money they will get.

Deep space and in proximity to other celestial bodies, even radiation exposure on the Earth's moon present increased hazards, but even those are well known, predictable and can be prepared for.

No, space is exactly as hazardous as we allow it to be, including the means we use to arrive there.

The other statement I have a problem with is:

"Restricting shuttle missions to ISS-compatible orbits would exact a 30 percent payload penalty and greatly limit operational flexibility."

Well, perhaps. But not nearly as much as grounding it.

Thirty percent of the original 65,000 lb. payload, or of the approximately 40,000 lb. current load to the Station?

Whatever it is, the Orbiter has, and can continue to carry the ISS elements up there to finish, re-supply and maintain it.

A thirty percent reduction in payload capacity is a relatively small price to pay to be able to assure the crews ... and all of us... that it is safER.

Note: No transportation system is absolutely safe. But saying that one orbiter in every fifty flights failing is a good safety record is just whistling in the dark.

BTW, I'm informed by B  at Ames that a vacuum curable tile patching system was part of the initial Space Shuttle design package and that its existence has been forgotten, but the technology is still available.

My view: The most hazardous element in our current space operations is...


It is for far too long that we have allowed this 800 kg bureaucratic gorilla to stand in the center of the road to space progress.

Bill Haynes

On Sunday, May 18, 2003, at 02:50 PM, Buzz Aldrin wrote

From: "Walter Cunningham" <> Date: Sun May 18, 2003 11:59:48 AM US/Pacific To: "*" <> Subject:

Thought you might have an interest in this OpEd piece in the Houston Chronicle today. Walt -- |

Section: Viewpoints, Outlook

May 16, 2003, 8:28PM

Reduce the risks, but let our shuttles fly


OK, so we've had another manned space disaster, the third in 40 years, and the faint-hearted are once more out to save us from the risks. They are concerned age and corrosion have taken their toll or the shuttle is too fragile or the wear and tear of going in and out of space is greater than anticipated. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, goes so far as to say, "We ought to scrap the program, or limit it to transporting only cargo, not humans."

Columbia won't be the last space disaster. Unfortunately, we can spot some common factors in the three tragedies. Complacency was a factor in at least two of them and management decisions played a significant role in all three. Following the Apollo 1 and Challenger accidents, virtually everyone got on the bandwagon to make the vehicles accident-proof. In the aftermath of Columbia, we have an opportunity to break that pattern. We can become more accepting of the risk in manned spaceflight and more realistic about our expectations. We can still avoid the mistakes of spending billions of dollars and years of time for dubious or cosmetic "improvements" or adopting operational restrictions that add little or nothing to safety but have a severe impact on operational flexibility.

Following the disastrous Apollo 1 launch pad fire that killed the crew, dozens of safety and operational improvements were incorporated into the spacecraft and Apollo 7 was launched 21 months later. During those 21 months, our crew placed a great deal of emphasis on keeping engineers, managers, and even congressmen, from "killing us with kindness." That is how we referred to the tendency to go overboard on changes in the name of safety. It is possible to add so many safety features, the vehicle becomes overweight, loses its operational flexibility and is no longer able to perform its originally intended mission. Most of this "overkill" was motivated by well-intentioned concern -- their way of avoiding a repeat of the Apollo 1 disaster. We eventually adopted that old rule: "If it ain't, broke don't fix it!"

Those of us on the first two flight crews knew that our own overconfidence played a role in the fire. We had many safety concerns about the Apollo 1 spacecraft but thought we could "fly the crates they shipped them in." Weren't we the best pilots in the world?

The cause of the Challenger accident in 1986 was quickly determined to be hot exhaust gas leakage through a solid rocket booster seal even though earlier missions had been successful in spite of similar exhaust gas leakage. Complacency and overconfidence led management to launch in weather so cold that hot gas "blow-by" was almost certain to occur; and Challenger blew up.

When it was determined that some of the Challenger crew may have been alive until impact with the water, two minutes and 45 seconds later, engineers came up with a bailout "scheme." It incorporates a fireman's pole out the hatch, launch and re-entry flight suits and requires the orbiter to be in "stable, controlled flight at an altitude of 30,000-40,000 feet." Shuttle pilots with whom I have spoken say it provides more the hope of a bailout than a real bailout capability. It did allow everyone -- NASA engineers and management, Congress and even the public -- to feel they had done something in the name of safety.

Now we are dealing with the most recent failure in the dangerous business of exploring space. Once more, there is a real risk of overkill as congressional committees, engineers and managers concluded they have a duty to take all human risk out of the operation.

The Shuttle Thermal Protective System is a complex and impressive solution to the re-entry heating problem. The tile component is extremely fragile; the reinforced carbon-carbon a bit more robust. Design requirements say the delicate heat-shield tiles should not be hit by anything, even raindrops. It was, obviously, never expected to launch through a hailstorm of external tank insulation, the most likely cause of the Columbia disaster. That possibility was avoided -- or so NASA believed -- by the selection of the foam insulation material and the adhesive for attachment. Foam insulation has come off the external tank on a majority of missions. After 20 years of successful re-entries with some tile damage, management became used to the risk. Since NASA did not consider some damage to the tiles on launch a safety issue, it was only a slight stretch to conclude that Columbia would be OK, as well.

Once again, overconfidence and complacency have encouraged bad judgment. Our weakness was not so much in our equipment as in our decision processes. But management's honest and incorrect conclusion that the falling insulation caused little damage did not lead to the loss of the crew. It was the long series of decisions by NASA management to continue launching orbiters through shedding insulation that led to loss of the Columbia and its crew.

Even if they had correctly concluded that the insulation had damaged the Orbiter's thermal protection system enough to compromise re-entry, there was absolutely nothing that could have been done to save the crew. All those knowledgeable about space flight and the space shuttle know that. When the shuttle program manager, Ron Dittemore, was honest enough to say so, the NASA Administrator, Sean O'Keefe, took exception at a congressional hearing, saying, "To suggest that we would have done nothing is positively fallacious. If there had been . . . a clear indication (of problems) ... there would have been no end to the efforts . ... "

O'Keefe, who has otherwise handled the Columbia disaster very well, was displaying three deficiencies: lack of space experience; lack of systems knowledge; and lack of awareness that, in manned spaceflight, it's only results that count, not efforts.

During the 1990s, under continuous budget pressure, NASA delayed some scheduled safety improvements. This reduced the emphasis on safety and contributed to an attitude of doing the job in spite of budget deficiencies. So far, it does not appear to have played a direct role in the Columbia disaster.

Second-guessers have had a field day speculating on what NASA could have been done to save Columbia. Even if we had known STS-107 was in trouble, all the second-guessing schemes were virtually impossible, took dangerous shortcuts on procedures and training and violated operating norms and mission rules developed over decades of spaceflight. They would all have introduced more risk to an already hazardous undertaking.

Let me repeat: There was absolutely nothing that could have been done to get the STS-107 back!

There is no dearth of proposed hardware changes and/or operating restrictions to keep future orbiters from suffering the fate of Columbia. Most of the proposals for cockpit escape capsules, post-launch external inspections, and restricting orbiters to International Space Station-compatible orbits seem to lose sight of why the space shuttle was developed in the first place. It was to carry large, heavy payloads and crews into near-earth orbit on a routine basis. It was not to be 100 percent foolproof and absolutely safe. No country can afford such a luxury. President Kennedy did not say, "We will make spaceflight absolutely safe in this decade and when it is safe, we will go to the moon."

Astronauts have always understood there is only so much that can be done to reduce the inherent risk in every space mission. The thermal protection system has always been the weak underbelly of the orbiter -- its Achilles' heel. NASA should improve this critical system if possible but it might be easier to eliminate any possibility of damage from other parts of the launch system. I mean the foam insulation on the external tank.

Retrofitting cockpit escape capsules to the shuttle fleet would take years and cost billions. One scheme would reduce the useful operating time by spending hours or days performing extravehicular inspections of the underside of each orbiter following launch. Restricting shuttle missions to ISS-compatible orbits would exact a 30 percent payload penalty and greatly limit operational flexibility.

NASA would be better off concentrating on a fix for the external tank insulation problem and getting the orbiters back in the air to do what they do best -- fly.

Considering what it does, the space shuttle really has a good safety record. It is certainly the safest manned space vehicle the United States has ever developed. Its record of two failures in 113 missions translates into reliability greater than 98 percent -- and management decisions could probably have avoided both of the failures. Considering what the space shuttle has accomplished in the past 22 years opening up a new frontier, it has been a marvelously safe machine. How many died opening up the American West in the 19th century? How many aviation pioneers lost their lives in the 30 years before commercial aviation took off in the 1930s?

It's time we acknowledge that space is the most dangerous environment into which humans have ever ventured. There will always be risk associated with manned space flight. There are also gains to be made from the exploration of space. We should reduce the risk to the point where gain to be made exceeds the perceived risk and then get on with the job.

Cunningham, a Houstonian, was a member of the backup crew for Apollo 1, served on the Apollo 1 Accident Investigating Committee and flew Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission. His book, The All-American Boys, will be in the bookstores in June. 

< -- | Section: Viewpoints, Outlook This article is:

William E. Haynes

So. Where to now? And see below.



And we can end the day with something that can occupy your time for months to come:


Jerry, suspect you'll be interested in this. More complex than I get, in part because I don't have the background to understand what he discusses, but stretches my brain a good bit. 

Mark Huth Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. twain

Not many do have that background. I recall him from the first space development conference I organized. I am not sure I understand 10% of what he says, but he has the knack of making me think I do until I get away and try to think about it....







This week:


read book now


Friday, May 24, 2003

Phil Chapman on the space program:

Those trying to minimize the risks of shuttle missions say that there have been 113 flights, but that counts the drop tests, etc., which did not involve the stresses of space launch. There have been 2 catastrophic accidents in 107 actual space missions, so that the empirical probability of an accident is about 1.9% per flight.

Astronauts are willing to accept this risk because there is at present no other way to fly in space, although they would of course welcome a safer system. As a matter of public policy, however, only a compelling national interest can justify taking such risks with the lives of astronauts. The ISS presents no such necessity. The scientific program has been gutted to accommodate the cost overruns, and now consists mostly of routine experiments of a kind that might win prizes at a high school science fair.

There can be little doubt that the entire human spaceflight program will terminate abruptly when we lose another shuttle crew.

The ISS is supposed to be operational until 2016, which will require about 50 shuttle flights (@ 4/year). NASA will probably fly some additional missions unrelated to the ISS (e.g., to lower inclination). A reasonable guess is 15 such missions before 2016. If the probability of an accident on a given flight is 1.9%, the probability of losing at least one more shuttle during the life of the ISS is easily calculated as just over 70% (!!!)

In other words, NASA is embarked on a project in which the probability of avoiding another disaster is leass than 30%. This is like playing Russian roulette with a revolver in which 4 out of the 6 chambers are loaded. Only a suicidal lunatic would accept such a proposition.

In 1969 Wernher von Braun said: " By the year 2000, we will undoubtedly have a sizable operation on the Moon, we will have achieved a manned Mars landing, and it's entirely possible we will have flown with men to the outer planets." In fact, we have not even started on any of these projects. The harsh truth is that the national capability in human spaceflight is less now than it was then.

In 1969, we landed on the Moon; now we cannot get out of LEO. In 1973, we had a space station called Skylab, with accommodations for three crew, which could have become a permanent Earth terminal for a lunar transportation system. Now we have a space station with room for 3 crew, but in normal operations only one of them will be American. The ISS is so absurdly complex that housekeeping occupies almost all the time of the crew. We will be lucky if the lone American gets to spend 20% of his/her time in the research that is the alleged purpose of the station. The lifecycle cost of that research time is more than $16 million per manhour!!!

It is time to recognize that the NASA program in human spaceflight is an abject failure.

We need to take this responsibility away from NASA, and give it to a new organization, one that understands that spaceflight must become cheap and safe, and that exponential growth in the extraterrestial enterprise is utterly impossible while it is funded exclusively by taxpayers. The program _must_ be funded largely by investors. The proper function of the government effort is not to control spaceflight, but to get rid of the barriers that have prevented the private sector from putting people into space.

Bill Haynes is absolutely correct.

Phil Chapman


In the hands of competent engineers, The shuttles would have been back in operation 2 months after the crash, not 2 years. Perhaps it is time to go back to a practice I learned about from my uncle Jim, an aviation mechanic during WWII. After an aircraft overhaul, one of the mechanics would accompany the test pilot on the first flight. Kinda like making chute packers jump with a chute randomly selected from their output. And of course, there is the test of Russian bridge engineers, where once a year their bridge is loaded up to design maximum while the engineer stands under it. Put someone in charge of flight safety and make it his ass if anything goes wrong. Randomly assign him or her to accompany their bird on a flight, and keep the KYA komandos away from any decision process. Any REAL engineer would welcome the responsibility.

Walter E. Wallis, P.E.


And see below on NASA's method of dealing with the problem.


And on much the same subject

Subject: We'll never know

------------ Roland Dobbins

But we very much should have known.


From Mark Huth

Poor review...I disagree with his statement re: science fiction and literature! I sometimes wonder if reviewers read the same books I read. I've not read this one, but my distaste for the review makes me want to go purchase the book.

Are there any really good reviewers?

Other than me, you mean? Actually there are few reviewers; most want to be critics now.

And several are wondering:

Andromeda Strain?

I realize the BBC's credibility is low at the moment, but surely this sort of thing is bound to happen sooner or later: 

John Stephens

Sir Fred Hoyle believed in diseases and other genetic alterations from space. Adrian Berry once said to me, "Yes, but Sir Fred is off his head, don't you agree?" If Sir Fred is right it explains a lot but there are many problems with his theory, and it's hardly won wide acceptance.


Subject: "too dangerous"

This, from the architect of Waco:


Subject: Albert Einstein Digital Archives now online

Just noticed that the Albert Einstein digital archives are now online here: 

They are in the process of digitizing every manuscript in the Albert Einstein archives this includes published and unpublished scientific papers, travel diaries and other non-scientific writings. They also have an itemized database of about 43,000 Einstein and Einstein related archival items.

-Dan S.


Subject: Iraq War Lessons Learned

Anyone read David's Sling?

May 8, 2003: The Iraq war demonstrated once again that there is a lot of gear on the civilian market that does the job better than the stuff the troops are issued. This ranged from such simple items as goggles, to high end stuff like satellite phones. 

The goggles issued were too big and bulky and lenses often popped out. Many troops bought civilian models were more sturdy and fit better. The Iridium satellite phones (which were issued) always worked, versus many types of military radios that would not under certain conditions. The troops feel that satcom (satellite communications) is the future and that the sooner the shift is made, the better. 

Another civilian item that was very popular was the $65 drop holster for pistols. Much more convenient. Troops also improvised lanyards for the pistols using phone chords. These coiled chords would automatically retract when the pistol was holstered, unlike the straight issued chord. Another popular item from civilian sources was three point slings for M-16 rifles. One popular off the shelf one was the "Giles Tactical Carbine Sling" (from "The Wilderness Tactical Products"). 

Some troops also purchased computerized translation systems (Phrase-later) for communicating in Arabic. The PDA sized unit allows the user to speak into it, and in a few seconds what was said comes out in Arabic (or any other language the Phrase-later is equipped to handle.) Another electronic item many troops bought were commercial GPS receivers. These were smaller, lighter and easier on the batteries than the military issue ones. 

During the 1991 war, troops also bought GPS receivers (at several thousand dollars each), but this time around the price was a tenth of what it was twelve years ago. Memory sticks were yet another popular item. There wasn't enough capacity on the battlefield Internet to transfer large image files. The memory sticks easily held these files, which were then carried by courier (via helicopter if it was a rush item) to the headquarters that needed.

Charles Butler

Now if NASA can learn that lesson...

Jerry: You and your guests post some good comments about the foam impact. While watching the famous impact footage a few times on the news, I've become frustrated by the lack of any information on how many frames per second the camera was shooting. It obviously isn't a high speed camera which seems pathetic, Given the fact that NASA is spending about a billion bucks per launch, I'd expect them to spend a bit more on better camera equipment so it would be easier to determine the cause whenever they augur it into the ground. I've been tempted to calculate the probable aerodynamic drag on the debris to determine the probable Delta Vee before it impacted the shuttle, but have been dissuaded by my own laziness. However, for the sake of discussion, I'll accept NASA's published statements about the impact velocity.

The $64K question then is, "How in the hell could such a large chunk of foam remain intact from being decellerated from 15,000 mph to 1,000 mph over a distance of about 20 feet!!!!" Since NASA seems to have accepted the fact that the external tank is going to shed pieces of insulation during launch, you'd expect them to intentionally formulate the stuff so that it is too fragile for a big chuck to remain intact in a high velocity slip stream. An alternative identification of the debris is that is a piece of ice, but given the fact that water ice isn't famous for its tensile strength either, how could such a large sheet of ice remain intact in the turbulent slip sream. You may recall many of the classic launch clips of the Saturn V days showed sheets of ice being shatterred and shaken loose from the skin of the rocket. This wasn't a problem because the smooth, metal skin would shed its ice buildup almost immediately and the Saturn V didn't have a fragile, easily damaged orbiter strapped to its back. The SOP for Shuttle launch is for safety officers to do a last minute inspection, looking specifically for ice buildup which is known to be a potential cause for severe vehicle damage. My conjecture is that a portion of the foam wasn't sealed properly to prevent the infiltration of moisture. This chunk of water saturated foam would have then escaped notice. I suspect that the foam would have acted as reinforcing fibers in the ice, giving the composite far more tensile strength than either material would have by itself.

The nature of this accident makes me question NASA's claim that they can have the shuttle flying again in a few months without compromising safety. Granted, they can probably develop a better inspection regime to insure that the insulation is properly sealed and detect water infiltration if it isn't. However, given the fact that damage to thermal tiles from smaller pieces of presumably dry, low density foam is so common, I'd think that they would reconsider their amazing tolerance for this routine failure. The obvious solution is to redesign the external tank so that the insulation is internal, as it was on the old Saturn V. This would keep the foam contained and allow any water ice buildup to be shed immediately after launch. Of course the shuttle's thermal tiles are so delicate that they might be damaged by a chunk of ice that has fallen from a height of only twenty meters. How many years and how many billions of bucks would NASA require to make these minor modifications?

J Crawford


Dear Dr Pournelle, Do you recall, some time back (~October 2002), holding Alyosha's mirror up for us to see our reflection? The Moscow Times has done something similar:

(The Karamazov Question <  >)

"A man appeared in the doorway of the Oval Office... they saw his companion: a 2-year-old girl standing by his side. A mass of tousled hair framed her face, a plain red dress covered her thin body... A Marine guard reached for his holster, but the man raised his hand, gently, and the guard's movement was arrested...

The president, brilliant in the light, alone retained the freedom to move and speak. "Who are you?" he asked, rising from his chair. "What do you want?"

The man put his hand tenderly on the back of the girl's head and came forward with her. "I have a question for you, and an opportunity," the man replied. "I've heard it said that you are righteous and wish to do good for the world."

"I am," said the president. "I wish only to do God's will, as he in his wisdom reveals it to me. In his will is the whole good of the world. What is your question, what is your opportunity? Be quick; I have mighty business at hand."

The man nodded. "If tonight you could guarantee the good of the world -- peace and freedom, democracy and prosperity, now and forever; if tonight, you could relieve the suffering of all those who labor under tyranny and persecution, all those who groan in poverty and disease; if tonight, you could redeem the anguish of creation, past and future, now and forever; if tonight, you could guarantee this universal reconciliation, by the simple expedient of taking this" -- here the man suddenly produced a black pistol and held it out to the president -- "and putting a bullet through the brain of this little one here, just her, no one else: would you do it? That is my question, this is your opportunity."

With firmness of purpose, the president grasped the pistol and walked around the desk. With confidence, calmness and steady hand, he pressed the barrel to the girl's head and pulled the trigger. Her eyes, which had grown even wider with her smile at the approach of the nicely dressed man and his rosy cheeks, went black with blood in the instant shattering of her skull. Her body spun round -- once, twice, three times in all -- from the force of the shot, then fell, with the remnant of her mutilated head flailing wildly, in a heap on the floor of the Oval Office.

At that moment, the man faded, like a dream, into nothingness. The aides and attendants, unfrozen, stepped back into their tasks. The room was again a whirl of activity, like a hive. The president -- the dematerialized gun no longer in his hand -- strode confidently back to his chair. He winked at a nearby aide and pumped his fist: "Feel good!" he exulted.

The speech went off without a hitch..."

On the one hand, I can remember worrying along the same lines about the morality of removing dictators when the safety of innocents can't be guaranteed. On the other hand, we know from Colin Powell that when Bush gave the "Execute" order to Tommy Franks, the President was grim and white-faced, to the extent that Powell felt impelled to touch his hand in support. And no-one saw that in any broadcast. __________________________ On the gripping hand, the same issue carries this: (Kremlin Taking Bad Advice <

'A friend of mine, who often goes "behind the wall" to the Kremlin to advise President Vladimir Putin and his aides, told me a couple of days ago: "The crowd in the Kremlin still seems to be in the dark and dismayed over how America won in Iraq".

As time passes, the true picture emerges of complete incompetence in military and political decision-making during the Iraqi crisis that led Russia to spoil relations with Washington and put the nation's future in serious jeopardy. A small group of officials -- Kremlin chief of staff Alexander Voloshin, Federation Council foreign affairs committee chairman Mikhail Margelov and Putin's foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko -- tried desperately to keep alive a pro-U.S. foreign policy but ultimately failed, opposed by the united forces of the anti-U.S. lobby...

...Yevgeny Primakov summarized the attitude of the anti-American majority in the ruling elite when he said: "The American blitzkrieg in Iraq failed." Apparently, utterly defeating a country the size of France with an armed force of 400,000 in three weeks, while losing some 150 allied soldiers, is in Primakov's assessment, "a failed blitz." ... U.S. diplomats say that Russia, whose specialists in the past helped to build much of Iraq's infrastructure, is welcome to participate in the rebuilding of the country. But there are strings attached: Moscow should stop opposing Washington in the UN and begin behaving as a true partner. It has also been mentioned that the ouster of Ivanov may seriously improve bilateral relations."

Which is quite extraordinary in itself. But what really made me pause and think was that the first article was written by an Anglo-Saxon (Chris Floyd) and the second by a Russian (Pavel Felgenhauer).

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole BA/BSc/BE/BA(hons) ( System Administrator, Dept. of Maths. & Stats., Otago Uni. PO Box 56, Dunedin, NZ.

I am clearing out old mail. I got this some time ago and didn't have time to do a suitable comment. I still don't but it ought to be posted.

Jerry: This is just a short note to let you know how pleased I am that you are publicizing civil defense issues. I have Beckman's Book, "Life After Doomsday" and his warnings about crowded airliners being effective vectors for the spread of diseases was an erie forewarning of SARS. Dr Robinson's designs for cost effective, permanent bomb/fallout shelters should have received far more attention. I also owe Dr Robinson a debt of gratitude for literally saving my life. His letter concerning the tragic death of his wife to pancreatitis arrived barely a week before I contracted the same disease. If I hadn't had that forewarning, I might have tried to just tough out the symptoms until I bled out rather than rushing to the hospital. I've been trying to coax my wife into building an earth sheltered home that would incorporate some of there ideas. We've compromised for now by letting me put 200 cubic yards of concrete into the foundations of my toy barn. I remember doing the calculations on what effect Dr. Robinson's shelters would have on Soviet targeting requirements. It turns out that if everyone in every major city was protected by a 200psi bomb shelter, they Soviet's massive overkill will be negated, which would allow even a limited ABM system to effectively protect civilians. Also, because an attacker would have to use surface bursts to destroy these shelters, point defense systems similar to the 30mm Goalkeeper gatling cannon could be employed as a final phase intercept system to protect civilians. The synergistic effects between an ABM system and effective civil defense simply cannot be overstated.

James Crawford







This week:


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Saturday, May 24, 2003

I put up a lot of mail, some from a couple of weeks back, last night, so look upstream first.

Chris Brand on The Spectator article:


RACE & IQ WARS SUMMARIZED An up-to-date two-page account of the London School’s battles with ignoracist PeeCee was provided by journalist Sean Thomas in the Spectator (24 v,

Fairly supportive of the Jensenist Heresy, the article did indeed – as it claimed – ‘break a taboo’: it is seldom that any kind of race realism gets more than an indirectly favourable mention in the Speccie (except from columnist Taki). Nevertheless, Thomas felt obliged to end his article on an ‘optimistic note’ by backing James Flynn’s idea that the worldwide secular IQ-test-score rise of the twentieth century will one day somehow be extended to close the White-Black IQ gap. Evidently Thomas had not troubled to read either The g Factor ( )  or this Diary (October, 2002). However, he did make kind references to the ‘clever psychometrician’ Philippe Rushton, to the ‘wrongly ignored’ Richard Lynn’ and to the ‘noted psychologist’ Chris Brand, so at least some of his readers in English country vicarages will feel encouraged to rectify his omissions. {Indeed, Thomas’ article immediately elicited a rare email from the famously defrocked ‘Knicker Vicar’ of TgF NewsLetter and general tabloid fame (1997). I am happy to say that Father KV continues in fine fettle, having married his swish mistress last year and started showing an interest in Carpocratianism….}

Chris Brand, Psychorealist, author of THE g FACTOR (Wiley DePublisher, 1996). (The 2000 edition is available FREE at .)


Brand is a man who makes enemies easily, but he also makes a good case for his views. I don't know precisely what a Psychorealist is, since Chris is about the only person I know to use that term to describe anyone, and he doesn't seem to have applied it to anyone but himself. THE g FACTOR does a pretty good job of stating the evidence, and makes a number of arguments from that evidence.

I have elsewhere said most of my own piece on IQ and achievement, and on The Bell Curve, which, unlike most of its "scientific" PC detractors, I actually read. Explaining away, or actually banning discussion of scientific findings that do not suit one's views is fairly common in human history, as Galileo could have told you; one reason why Bacon and da Vinci wrote many of their views in code.

I follow Karl Popper's notion that open debates work better in a search for truth -- and that truth can never quite be known, although we can get pretty close.

Subject: Private Space Enterprises

Dr. Pournelle, Are there such? I went back to the beginning of Chaos Manor mail to start reading it all. Yes, I take up such monumental tasks. Anyways, I was reading the second letter you have posted and it talks about corporations using Chinese launch facilities due to the lack of cargo space here in the states. I'm sure that thought has been given to a private organization to place new satellites in space. Truthfully, I think I've read about them somewhere. Do you have any information about private space oriented businesses? (Yes, I have been reading about Spaceship 1. Well, mostly looking at the pictures.) Are there any other enterprises and where would I find information about them?

The next daunting task I have is coming out of my cocoon and actually getting abreast of what is going on in the world. The links on your site are helping there greatly. I'm also looking for a good weekly. Any recommendations? On the basis of the cover story I picked up a copy of The Nation. That was probably the worst waste of three dollars ever. That magazine is only a conveyance for invective against anything conservative. I tend to stay away from periodicals like Time, and Newsweek because I find them suspect. I'm looking for a good, non-biased (as much as possible) news weekly.

Third, I am going to return to school as a history major. I am of the firm belief that everything that is happening today is because of something, or several somethings in the past. I know that you must have some recommendations as to reading material. Please, hold forth.

Thanks, Douglas Knapp

Desinit in piscem mulier formosa superne - Horatius

Well I keep threatening to do a reading list, but you can start with the book reviews. In particular this one.  As to current events, well, this place isn't terrible but it can be spotty when I get involved and fail to post some of the recommendations others find for me. I haven't any notion of the best place to go to see what's going on in the world: there are several that are not bad, but they too can be spotty. Good luck.

As to private space companies that look to have a future, Henry Vanderbilt's Space Access Society keeps track of those and encourages them. Go look there. There are several companies in Mojave that look pretty good. My son Richard is VP for Finance for one of them. 


To: Senator Byrd of W. Virginia Subject: Email To Sen Byrd

Senator Byrd, As a retired Naval Officer, with two Gulf carrier deployments under my belt, I find your criticism of President Bush's visit to the Lincoln offensive in the extreme! This is the first time that the Commander-in-Chief took time out of his busy wartime schedule to pay a visit to thank those who served in the line of fire, in a way that was both dramatic and meaningful to those on the carrier. Perhaps if LBJ got off his fat ass to do something similar, our troops' morale in Vietnam might not have been so low.

As a Naval officer, I am extremely sensitive to styles of leadership. That is, after all, our stock in trade. And it was not lost on me that the President spent about thirty seconds shaking hands with the Admiral, CO, and CAG (If you don't know these abbreviations just look them up in your Funk & Wagnalls!). He then spent the next forty-five minutes putting himself at the disposal of the people who make that ship work, the yellow shirts, the green shirts, the purple shirts, the chiefs, the sailors. If you don't know the significance of those colored shirts, look it up in your Blue Jacket's Manual. Not dressed out in formal uniform (I understand at Bush's request), but in their greasy, smelly, sweaty working uniforms ... working a flight deck is hot, hard work. And yet he, in his flight suit, put himself at their disposal, this was their moment for 19 or 20 something year old kids a few years out of high school, to get a picture of themselves with the President of the United States, his arm draped around their shoulder. That is a moment that those kids never dreamed would ever happen to them, maybe not even when they knew he was coming aboard. Surely, he would see the brass, not the troops. But it was the troops to whom he gave his time ... and it was the most natural moment in the world. You might have thought it was a family reunion, and in a way, it was ... Bush is one of them, the common man, and while he is still the most powerful man on the planet right now, he hasn't lost his touch for them.

Was it a political moment? What moment of a president's life is NOT a political moment? Was it grand standing, to come in to an OK pass to a 4 wire, a bit high in close, correcting, left of centerline? Well, hell, he didn't fly the approach anyway, though I understand from the pilots who flew him that he did a pretty good job at formation flying, tucked in close for a lead change. You can always tell a fighter pilot, you just can't tell him very much. And apparently after thirty years, it all comes back, with a little coaching, I am sure. Frankly, I would have liked to see him come aboard in an FA-18, but the Secret Service vetoed that, and Bush accepted their judgment ... again, a mark of a good leader.

If you had spent some time in the service, instead of the Klan, you might understand the significance of that moment to all the men and women aboard the Lincoln, and indeed to all the men and women in the service who shared that moment vicariously. But you chose the bedsheet instead of the uniform, and so you don't. I am half-tempted to move to West Virginia just so I could vote against you in your next election.

Lewis F. McIntyre CDR, USN (Ret) Hughesville, MD


From Ed Hume:

Subject: Cows with guns (PG-12--mild language) 

Ye flipping burger gods...

From another discussion group:

We need to set the CIA on developing a much-easier-to-conceal satellite TV antenna and also start developing a lot of "MTV"-style content in Arabic. To date we have not taken the development of specifically-targeted Cultural Weapons of Mass Destruction nearly seriously enough!

As I have said many times before. I don't think the Jihadists are correct when they call America "The Great Satan", but I think we are capable of being a very *good* Satan.








This week:


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Sunday, May 25, 2003

Subject: NASA at its finest (priority one).

------------- Roland Dobbins

AAAAarrrggghhh!! With luck the Congress will have something to say about this one. They can't keep covering things up forever. Or can they?

Subject: Did you know most cheaters come from France?

The link below is to an article about online games and cheating. One of the interesting factoids in it is that an official US Army game is wildly popular. The other is the line quoted in the title. It was said by the inventor of one of the cheat software packages. He would know, I guess.,3605,960616,00.html

Ed Hume

I am shocked. Shocked.






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