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Mail 346 January 24 - 30, 2005






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Monday  January 24, 2005

Be sure to see last week's mail on file transfer between external devices.


Subject: El Nino not linked to global warming

Jerry, In November 1990, Dr. Paul Handler gave a talk at Los Alamos National Lab where I still work. There were perhaps 15-20 people present, but he discussed his theory that El Nino events were the consequence of volcanic eruptions in tropical latitudes. He showed a number of strong correlations, which I won't go into here, although I found them impressive. At that time, atmospheric scientists were saying that another El Nino event was overdue, but Dr. Handler made a very clear and testable prediction: There would not be another El Nino event until after there was a significant volcanic eruption in the tropics. Seven months later, in June 1991, Mt. Pinatubo blew its top, and the El Nino event of 92-93 is one of the strongest on record.

I realize that this does not constitute proof of his theory, but I found it to be a pretty strong data point. I grant much more credibility to scientists who make testable predictions, especially when their predictions come to pass. He also made the point that until the advent of satellite observations, it was possible to have a major volcanic eruption, one that spewed millions of tons of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, but that was completely unnoticed by people, and he said that it was this SO2 in the upper atmosphere that led to an El Nino event, not the ash or some other aspect of the eruption.

Here is one link that references his work, and at the same time points out that there is no apparent link between El Nino events and global warming.

Well, doggone it, I know I found it a while ago, but I don't remember the search string I used, and everything I have tried to find it again has been in vain. If I find it tomorrow, I will forward it then.


-- Gordon Foreman

"We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about."

- Einstein

Perhaps someone else will be able to find the paper. This looks to be important. If El Nino is not linked to Global Warming, then the debate over what is important in climate takes a somewhat different turn: particularly if the Atlantic Gulf Stream and the whole system there is also more dependent on volcanic events than other matters.

I continue to believe that rather than remedies and big international conferences we ought to be doubling the NSF budget for studies of the basics; reducing uncertainties is expensive but cheap compared to "remedies". We really need to understand the problem.

Handler P., and K. Andsager, 1994: El-Niño, Volcanism, and Global Climate. Human Ecology, 22, 37-57


Thanks to Bart Prine


Subject: Luttwak on Iran with the Bomb.


- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Scientists' Exposure Casts Doubt on Boston Lab Plan (Wash Post)


Scientists' Exposure Casts Doubt on Boston Lab Plan University Did Not Notify Public of Nonfatal Disease

By Jonathan Finer Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, January 22, 2005; BOSTON, Jan. 21 -- The revelation this week that a laboratory slip-up led three Boston University scientists to become infected with tularemia, a flulike disease sometimes referred to as "rabbit fever," has fueled criticism of a plan to build a state-of-the-art research lab to study some of the world's most lethal germs in Boston's South End. < snip >


Subject: USB File Transfer - Another Data Point

Dr. Pournelle:

Regarding your entry about the problem with USB file transfers; another data point.

I have a portable USB hard drive (brand name "NetDisk"). In preparation for building a new computer, and as a result of your column on backing up, I attempted to use the NetDisk to back up my home system (Win2K, fully patched). I got the same errors -- a failure to write part of the backup files (using the MS Backup program).

Although the NetDisk has Ethernet capabilities, that requires installing special drivers; the USB interface does not. I connected it through a USB four port hub, which also has a printer and mouse on it. I also tried it on my laptop (WinXP/SP2, fully patched), and got the same error.

The NetDisk site doesn't have any information on this, and a Google was similarly not helpful.

On the 'sleep' front, I seem to recall advice saying that if you can't get to sleep after about an hour, it is best to get up and do something else, rather than just lying in bed trying to sleep. My sleep problems were 'sleep apnea' related, which have been fixed with a weight loss of about 25 pounds. It does take ma e a bit longer to drop off at night -- I tend to think too much while trying to sleep. I can start dozing off in front of the TV at night, but if I then go to bed, it still takes a while to get to sleep. There are probably some relaxation techniques I could use, but haven't investigated them yet.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Subject: Crazy years alert IF The Sun can be trusted on this - A VIOLENT craze in which thugs slap strangers across the face and record it on video phone is sweeping Britain.


A VIOLENT craze in which thugs slap strangers across the face and record it on video phone is sweeping Britain.

The so-called "happy slappers" attack while an accomplice captures it to post on the internet or send to another mobile.

But what started as a schoolkids' prank has escalated into more serious assaults - including fly-kicking strangers' spines - and robberies.

There have been 100 incidents in London alone, leading to eight charges.

In one case, a lad of 18 on the Underground was asked if he was having a nice day then slapped.

His 15-year-old sister was punched in the face. Transport cops said: "This is not fun. It is assault."

Clark I wouldn't spam filter you


Subject: Lunar colony to run on moon dust and robots


Moon dust solar cells!



I have always said I know how to build a Lunar Colony. I don't think we know enough to colonize Mars. Yet.


Subject: The Villa of the Papyri.



-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: _Fallen Angels_, anyone?


-- Roland Dobbins

Humans 'may have saved world from ice age'

By John von Radowitz HUMANS may have unwittingly saved themselves from a looming ice age by interfering with the Earth's climate, according to a new study.

The findings from a team of American climate experts suggest that were it not for greenhouse gases produced by humans, the world would be well on the way to a frozen Armageddon.

Scientists have traditionally viewed the relative stability of the Earth's climate since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago as being due to natural causes, but there is evidence that changes in solar radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations should have driven the Earth towards glacial conditions over the last few thousand years.

What stopped it has been the activity of humans, both ancient and modern, argue the scientists.<snip>

Once again: wouldn't it be well to understand what is going on before we decide to fix things?



Subject: Got my mac mini last week

Set it up for my wife in the kitchen with at 15" Magnavox 15MF200V (Monitor, HDTV Monitor, Std TV-Tuner), MS Office USB Keyboard and a USB scrolling mouse (I ordered the Kensington Mac Mini Keyboard and Mouse Set for $39.99 http://www.kensington.com/html/6388.html  but it hasn't arrived yet.)

The purpose of the box was to give my wife a small footprint device she could have in the kitchen to help her run the rental business of some vacation homes we have in Florida. It isn't rocket surgery, but she is constanly getting calls/emails asking about availability ocertain weeks, pricing, etc... and she is tired of traipsing down to my office in the basement to look such stuff up.

The box works pretty well. I had extra ram and wifi installed. I turned it on, it found the home wifi network and it pulled down a bunch of updates. Then I downloaded firefox, an avi media player, vncviewer and few other utilities, set up email and we were basically done with software installs.

It found my home network w/out a hitch, saw all of the windows shares and using CUPS it found my exposed linux printers. My main server on the network is Dual PIII box running SuSE 9.2 and 1/2 terabyte 3ware array. The mini found the shares and mounted them w/out a problem (remounting after a reboot still requires manual intervention, but I'll overcome that.)

Next I pulled her bookmarks.html, default home page and few other goodies over from firefox on the windows box she was using and she was ready for the web.

To get her Outlook Express mail history over, I used one of my linux boxes. KMail on linux can import the contents of Outlook Express mailboxes (.dbx files) and save them in an mbox format (cmd is kmailcvt.) Once they are mboxes, you can just scp them over to the mac and import them into mail.

I let iTunes import (without copying locally) the contents of the network Music share and iPhoto pulled down the photos from the Photos share as well (I couldn't figure out how to have iPhoto run from the share and not copy them locally.)

Next I went in and edited the sudo'ers file (visudo) and set myself and her as sudo capable, enabled the ssh daemon, set up ssh authorized_keys and did some other mundane *nix stuff so I could remotely admin the box for her when I am on the road.

What I found most suprising was the difference in usability for my wife and I. She is what I call a low impact windows user (WWW, email & word) and she's had relatively little problem adjusting to the mac. Being a longtime Unix/X/Linux user its taking me longer for some reason. I am finding the window navigation, the menuing, etc... a little harder to adapt to, but I'll get there (plus I can just open a terminal session when I really want to do something.)

All-in-all, a nice little box. We are enjoying it.


-- John Harlow, President BravePoint


Subject: ATTRITION: Marines Reenlist In Record Numbers

January 22, 2005: The U.S. Marine Corps has experienced a large increase in first term marines reenlisting. In the first three months of fiscal 2005, they have reenlisted over 75 percent of the first term marines they wanted to get for this fiscal year (which ends at the end of September.) Moreover, they are getting more of the higher quality marines (high school graduates, those in the best physical condition and those who score highest on aptitude tests). These marines know there’s a war on, and they believe they are making a difference. The war on terror is not being fought with a total mobilization of the nations manpower for combat duty, but with volunteers. So far, those who are closest to the fighting, are the most eager to do what has to be done to win.

John Monahan

But: is this true? See below.



This week:


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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

To continue:

Subject: Marine re-enlistment

While I am sure that the Marine re-enlistment rate is better documentation of support for the war among enlisted men than the moronic left-wing assertion that National Guard enlistment rates being down (because fewer people are leaving the regulars) demonstrates a lack of support for the war, I wonder if this might also have something to do with bonuses and the state of the job market?

I had dinner on his anniversary with my brother (an enlisted man in the Guard, an ex-Ranger) and his best friend (whose hitch is up soon) and their spouses. While the conversation was free-ranging and both of them take the (fairly typical in my opinion) view that if they think too much about WHY we are there it may affect their job performance negatively (i.e. unless an order is illegal don't dwell on the logic or lack thereof behind it) MOST of the conversation about re-upping related to compensation, strategies for maximizing that, and the minor but not negligible odds of coming home in a bag or short a limb. They both voted for Bush, of course.

Best, Ben Pedersen


Subject: Marine Re-enlistment

It seems that we are experiencing something that happened during the Vietnam War (and many past wars no doubt); namely we are seeing a separation between the true warriors, who re-enlist because they like the job and like the fighting, and the people who joined for other reasons, be it feeling of duty, obligation etc. The primary difference being that in Vietnam the unwilling were drafted while in this case many were bribed with promises of educational benefits and career opportunities when they got out. While they were in the extreme minority, there were many who came back for multiple tours in Vietnam. I know a couple cases of men who went over in the early stages of the war and barely left until the end. I wonder if we will start seeing more of the same here?

Love your column. Keep up the good work

Matt Kirchner Baghdad, Iraq

P.S. - I intend to start paying for my use of this site soon. I think I have been free-loading long enough!

Agreed. The Warriors will always find a home. And God knows we need them. I approve of your final remark... The question is, how many Warriors are there:

Subject: Sources For Marines Reenlist In Record Numbers - buffy willow

I would really like for this story to be true.

A search for "ATTRITION: Marines Reenlist In Record Numbers" leads you to the original source of this article:


It is unsourced there. If this is true I thought, surely the Marines would have said something about it. I went to www.usmc.mil and checked the press releases and maradmins (Administrative messages to all commands in the Marine Corps) there and found nothing.

This story doesn't seem to exist anywhere except this one site.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/0/4AF042B285F0D77485256F100080764 8?opendocument 

tinyurl version:


Seems to paint a different picture at the end of FY04 (Sept 30, 2004). The Marines met their goal, but it doesn't appear to have been heavily over-subscribed. It's certainly possible that the first quarter of FY05 is radically different than FY04, but it does seem a bit unlikely to me.

I see from this maradmin:

http://www.usmc.mil/maradmins/maradmin2000.nsf/0/4778a78252696ac785256f09007 01e4f?OpenDocument 


that the USMC is looking for 5,703 first term re-enlistments in FY05. Despite diligent Googling, I can't find anything else about first quarter results.

Now as I said at the start of this message, I would really like for this to be true, but at this point I'm skeptical.

I was wondering if you'd publish this as a follow-up and ask your readers to see if they can confirm/source this report. I'd love to pass on this good news, but at this point it seems a little good to be true.

Scott Kitterman

I eagerly await comments: there are many Pentagon people among the readership here.

And see below


Subj: Small Wars Journal


=The SWJ is dedicated to providing operators and researchers a one-stop Internet resource covering Small Wars issues, concepts, and lessons learned (or unlearned).=

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com



More on MiniMac

Subject: Note on Mac Mini

Nice review by John Harlow, thank you sir.

One note: If you set a Mac OS X user account as "Admin" when you set it up, it will already be in the sudoers list (at least, that's my experience). The first account you set up at install time is an Admin, and for additional accounts it's an option in one of the tabs in the setup dialog.

Second note: If Mr. Harlow is a longtime Unix admin, he should know that Mac OS X does a few things differently "under the hood" as well as cosmetically, and the differences will drive Unix gurus up the wall until they figure it out. Basically, I recommend that he Google the word "NetInfo", spend some time at macdevcenter.com, or just get the O'Reilly book "Mac OS X Panther for Unix Geeks". http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/mpantherunix/index.html

Steve Setzer


Subject: Mac Mini

Well I decided to try the new Mac Mini so I ordered one from the apple.com store. In addition to the base unit I ordered the Superdrive, more memory and the wireless keyboard and mouse. The keyboard and mouse arrived a few days ago but it appears that it will be a few weeks before the Mac arrives. Not the best way to do things but we will see.

--- Al Lipscomb


Subject: Mac mini review 

Dr. Pournelle,

Take a look at this mac mini review.


These other two mac reviews are also very good.



 Sean Long





This week:


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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Subject: Of all the books for Bush to read and take to heart . . .

I respect Natan Sharansky a great deal; he was a courageous dissenter in the USSR, and his personal courage and integrity helped secure the emigration rights of thousands of persecuted Jews who were able to leave the Soviet Union and start new lives elsewhere. His eloquent defense of intellectual freedom was an inspiration for all who were oppressed within the Communist bloc, and he rightly deserves our respect for his unwavering, principled stance in the face of tyranny.

That being said, I disagree strongly with the underlying premise of his new book, _The Case for Democracy_ - it strikes me as an exercise in projection coupled with wishful thinking. I knew that Mr. Bush was toting it around a few weeks ago; and apparently, The Speech was the result:


-- Roland Dobbins


On Summers at Harvard:


The intellectual capacity of women

[Posted 1:40 PM by Roger Kimball]

Poor Larry Summers. The president of Harvard University has good instincts. But he wants people to like him. So he starts off by saying things that are true but unpopular. Then people get angry with him and he apologizes and takes it all back. A case in point: A few years ago, Summers caused a ruckus when he suggested that Cornel West, who was then the Alphonse Fletcher, Jr., University Professor of Afro-American Studies at Harvard, buckle down to some serious scholarship (West's most recent production was a rap CD called "Sketches of my Culture") and that he lead the way in fighting the scandal of grade inflation at Harvard where one of every two grades is an A or A-.

Summers was quite right. Cornel West is one of the most ridiculous figures in contemporary academia. He calls himself a philosopher but really is just a political sermonizer. He acts like an old-time Baptist minister. But his revival meetings feature not hellfire and brimstone but sermons about racism and the horrible failings of American society. What Summers did not understand was that college presidents are not allowed to criticize black professors. No sooner had Summers opened his mouth than West went into a snit, followed by the entire politically correct community at Harvard and beyond. Charles J. Ogletree, another professor of Afro-American Studies at Harvard, thundered that "It's absolutely critical that the president make an unequivocal public statement in support of affirmative action." And The New York Times, natch, lumbered into support West and criticize Summers. <snip>



Talk about a slippery slope! Summers' mistake was to give an inch to his critics. Once you start apologizing when there is nothing to apologize for, there is no logical end point. He should have gone on the attack immediately, denouncing Nancy Hopkins as a disgrace to women in the sciences for "fainting at the sight of an intellectual argument".

As with Permanently Disadvantaged Minorities, there is almost nothing that an institution that relies on a supply of Ph.D.s can do. If any difference can be made (and you know very well how little difference can be made), it has to be made way "upstream" of Harvard's science faculty. Summers would have gotten away stating this obviousness.


Now that would set the cat among the pigeons...

Subject: de Borchgrave on the speech.


Roland Dobbins

Armand is always worth attention.



Using computers, hundreds of thousands of hours of recorded lectures (in hi res and with multiple camera angles), and electronic books why can't we provide essentially an infinite number of curricula? Why can't each kid out in a small rural school in South Dakota or Wyoming be given a customized curriculum?

Rote repetitive learning for lower IQ people: Can't even some of that training be automated? Granted, it will be hard to get them to sit at a computer. But 36" or 50" large screen demonstrations of how to do some kind of sawing (for example) could be done with many camera angles repeatedly shown. Look at the TV shows on home repair. Can't better versions of those shows be done for teens to learn a large variety of manual skills? The video wouldn't entirely replace an instructor. But the video could be played again and again. The video would always be there even when an instructor was sick. A kid who missed a class could make it up by watching more video. Also, in shop classes (and I toook them) you always end up with lots of kids crowded around stretching their necks trying to see the saw from the right angle to see what is happening and (as I recall) they can't all see it. Cameras would avoid that problem.


I have my doubts. Schools in a democratic society have other purposes including teaching the national saga and such. I make no doubt that modern technology can manage to create a better system than we have, though.


Subject: New article re space suits


Research is under way at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on a Bio-Suit System that incorporates a suit designed to augment a person’s biological skin by providing mechanical counter-pressure. The “epidermis” of such a second skin could be applied in spray-on fashion in the form of an organic, biodegradable layer....

....The scenario envisioned ... is an astronaut first donning his or her customized elastic Bio-Suit layer. Then a hard torso shell would be slipped on, sealed via couplings located at the hips. A portable life support system is then attached mechanically to the hard torso shell and provides gas counter pressure. Gas pressure would flow freely into the wearer’s helmet and down tubes on the bio-suit layer to the gloves and boots.

Newman said that the spacesuits of today are very limited in terms of mobility. In addition, the current weight or mass of EVA suits is another limiting factor.

“In the microgravity environment those limitations are not show-stoppers. But for an advanced exploration spacesuit for the Moon or Mars, unlimited mobility and a very low mass spacesuit are paramount,” Newman told SPACE.com .


Timothy Elliot

About time... See A Step Farther Out or Birth of Fire (a novel) both written in the 1970's...

Subject: Skinsuits

Looks like MIT is starting to catch up with your flexible skinsuits from "Birth of Fire":


Hope you're feeling better.

Barry Griffiths



Subject: 3 1/2 years later . . .


-- Roland Dobbins

Good enough for government work...



Dear JP:

Well, I was afraid the narcoleptic effect of my new Tempur-Pedic mattress would trump the storytelling stimulation of BURNING TOWER, but I was wrong. Once again I find myself turning pages when I should be sleeping.

You rat. You dirty rat!

All the best--


PS: get well soon!

Now go tell them at Amazon...


Subject: Windows monitor madness

Dr. Pournelle,

I'm sure someone among your readers has encountered this before. In fact, the same glitch happened to me more than a year ago when I installed a new monitor in Windows 2000. Today, the same thing is happening to me in Windows XP.

I recently swapped my 19" CRT for a no-name LCD. Everything was fine until I allowed Windows to automatically install updates, at which point it decided to change my monitor driver.

Now, when I play any video - WMF, MOV, MPEG - I see a black square where the image should be. The audio plays fine, and all other graphics display correctly.

When this happened to me in Windows 2000, it seemed related to the multiple monitor types automatically installed by Windows in the Device Manager. Frankly, however, it was a long time ago that I solved that problem, and in fact it took me several weeks to figure out the solution.

And as a side question to the group: Why has Windows become so fussy about monitors? I yearn for the days when you could install a monitor just by plugging it in. In fact, that technique still worked until Windows adjusted the software. What has changed in monitor technology to require Windows to install a driver for a "dumb" device like a monitor?

-Mat Bergman

 Web Design & Development Consultant

I haven't seen that problem, but it would sure be annoying. My problem was figuring out how to use multiple monitors while on the road. It worked fine once I figured it out.


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, January 27, 2005

We have a great deal of mail on educati0n, and on global warming.


Subject: El nino and global warming

 Dear Dr. Pournelle,

   Just a comment on the topic of GW and ENSO / El Nino, if you aren't familier with the site www.co2science.org , you should visit and look at this topic under the subject index.  The web site is a compilation of research that greatly debunks the GW alarmists as well as providing ample evidence for the beneficial aspects of CO2, which is an aerial fertilizer.  Unfortunately the site just this month went to subscription only, although the fee is nominal, ~$8.00 per year, and they update with a new issue each week.  The site is run and maintained by scientists who are devoted to science based on real world observations, and models when they can be shown to adequately reproduce the real world data.  They reference many reconstructions from proxy data that go back hundreds to thousands of years, which can give perspective to the current situation.  You may find at times that they succomb to the advocacy that you rightly denounce among scientists, but I think in their case it is due to what seems to be a sense of being a voice in the wilderness, with the massive weight of the MSM and the UN arrayed against them.

   Below is a sample of one of their reviews, to whet your appetite.  Hopefully, if you haven't been to their site you will become a frequent visitor.


 Dave Theisen

Thanks. I have moved the paper to a reports page, where I hope to accumulate other papers on this subject.

On Education:

Subject: Education

There's a second reason for public funding of education--an economic system that requires children to pay off the debts of their parents is a system that becomes poorer over time. The reason is that the families with longer investment horizons eventually own everything, and the resulting society has very low total productivity. Public education breaks the slavery of future generations to the consumption decisions of their parents.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

Agreed: and I would subsume that also under "public investment". But note that an education system that reserves good education for the wealthy and gives "credential training" to those who can't afford to go to good schools does not meet your goal.

Now true, all the schools are not all that bad; there are some good public schools; but even the best are saddled with the requirement of no child left behind, which in many cases means no child gets too far ahead. Not all our schools waste intellectual capital but many do.

Subject: RE: Mini Essay on Education

Seems to me there is a natural order in the universe: Somewhere along high school jocks begin to realize that grades are important and go to the nerds for help. In return, they help the nerds get laid - or at least invited to parties. The nerd probably had too much ego to admit he needed help from the jock on anything, but out in the real world he will find that social skills are as valuable as those which come to him more naturally. I am worried that magnet schools disrupt this process now, and I'd be more worried under your proposal unless you could show me how abstract thinkers and concrete thinkers could form a single community. You would still let the concrete thinkers vote, right?


Good heavens: like Buckley I would rather be governed by the first 500 names in the Boston telephone directory than the Harvard University Faculty.

Your point is well made and needs thought; at the same time we need to stop wasting intellectual capital. So what do we do?



"There were a great many of us, in the 1960s, who felt that there were grave practical and moral objections to the criminalisation of homosexuality, and therefore supported, as happened in most Western countries, changes in the law which meant that certain forms of homosexual behaviour ceased to be unlawful. Homosexuality itself was still to be publicly regarded by society, let alone by its churches, as a great moral evil, but men who engaged in it, within strictly defined limits, would no longer be sent to prison. We believed this to be the maximum homosexuals deserved or could reasonably expect. We were proven totally mistaken. Decriminalisation made it possible for homosexuals to organize openly into a powerful lobby, and it thus became a mere platform from which further demands were launched. Next followed demands for equality, in which homosexuality was officially placed on the same moral level as standard forms of sexuality, and dismissal of identified homosexuals from sensitive positions, for instance schools, children's homes, etc., became progressively more difficult. This was followed in turn by demands not merely for equality but privilege: the appointment, for instance, of homosexual quotas in local government, the excision from school textbooks and curricula, and university courses, passages or books or authors they found objectionable, special rights to proselytize, and not least the privilege of special programmes to put forward their views - including the elimination of the remaining legal restraints - on radio and television. Thus we began by attempting to right what was felt an ancient injustice and we ended with a monster in our midst, powerful and clamouring, flexing its muscles, threatening, vengeful and vindictive towards anyone who challenges its outrageous claims, and bent on making fundamental - and to most of us horrifying - changes to civilized patterns of sexual behaviour."

Paul Johnson  From his 1997 book _The Quest for God_, pages 28-29


I am not dead sure what to make of this.





CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  January 28, 2005

We will resume climate discussion momentarily, but first:

Subject: The Everquest Cyber Economy -- So What If China Kicks Our Ass In GDP Growth -- We OWN Norrath!


January 28, 2005

The Everquest Economy (crossposted at johnquiggin.com)

Posted by John Quiggin

The Economist has an interesting piece on the interaction between the economy in massively multiplayer games and that of the real world < http://www.economist.com/finance/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3577988 > . The classic study of this question is Castronovo’s < http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=294828 > analysis of the economy of Norrath, the setting for Everquest < http://everquest2.station.sony.com/#home > . Among various features of Norrath’s economy, one of the most interesting is trade with Earth through the sale of game items (weapons and so forth) via private treaty or on eBay1 < http://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/003158.html#fn1 > . This enables Castronovo to estimate that the wage in Norrath is $US3.42 an hour, a figure that has some interesting implications.

At the Creative Commons conference last week, I heard a story to the effect that when the owners of one of these games tried to prohibit item trading they were sued and, in the course of litigation discovered that the plaintiff ran a sweatshop in Mexico where workers participated in the game solely to collect salable items. Clearly as long as the wage is below $3.42 there’s an arbitrage opportunity here. More technically sophisticated arbitrageurs have replaced human workers by scripted agents, working with multiple connections. Either way, arbitrage opportunities can’t last for ever, and are likely to be resolved either by intervention or inflation < http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/2345933.stm >

The positive economics of all this are interesting enough. But how about policy analysis? Who benefits and who loses from this kind of trade, and do the benefits outweigh the costs?


The Everquest URL above is for Everquest 2, but the analysis was for the original Everquest. The implications are very interesting.


Subject: A quick 3-question global warming quiz

Mr. Pournelle:

I'm a design engineer with 20+ years of experience in various engineering fields, primarily having to do with heat transfer and thermodynamics. My first professional employment was with a company designing and manufacturing air conditioners and heat exchangers for cooling electronics enclosures, which often used active refrigeration systems. Back then, the most common refrigerants were R-12 and R-22. These are now know as the infamous "CFC's", which were banned by the Montreal protocols.

That was my first introduction into the world of politics radically affecting engineering decisions...and with no rational basis. The "ozone hole" nonsense, at least as it pertained to human influence, was never more than a baseless conjecture. When a single volcanic eruption can inject more chlorine compounds directly into the upper stratosphere than human-kind has ever released, the banning of the only safe and effective refrigerants know is rather moot.

But have you noticed that nobody's talking about holes in the ozone layer anymore? Is this because last year's hole (see NASA's web site) was the smallest ever recorded, and broke up almost before they could measure it? Given the dire predictions made before the protocol was enforced, it was supposed to have been on the order of fifty (50) years before any effect of the ban could be noticed.

I came across an article in a magazine circulated around at work a while ago. From Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 11, 2002, entitled "Nations Disagree on Reasons For Shrinking Ozone Hole". It's just amazing how this story gets absolutely ZERO coverage in the popular media...I guess proving that the enviro-whackos had their heads up their collective asses doesn't increase readership like scaring the sheep does.

From the article: "U.S. scientists also reported that the ozone hole over the Antarctic is becoming significantly smaller and recently split into two separate holes." Does the fact that we only have 30 years of data indicate to the non-rational that maybe we're just seeing a part of a normal cycle of enlargement and shrinking? I'll guarantee you that if, after seeing the seasonal ozone hole shrink for the last 10 years, if it starts growing again, we'll see the same hoorah about it...even though it's only "grown" back to where it used to be.

Also from the article: "Data from onboard recorders and monitoring devices revealed that after CFC's near-disappearance, chlorine level in the troposphere is peaking before beginning to decrease over the next 4-6 years. However, additional studies identified other difficulties or threats. According to Megie [CNRS French national research agency's president], the lower ozone content is leading to the troposphere's COOLING [emphasis added] by as much as 1 C/decade while water vapor seems to be noticeably increasing." Hey, wait a minute. According to the information presented when the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987, we were told that it would take until at least 2050 before the chlorine levels would peak. And now we're worried about global cooling again?

And of course, it's all due to human activity. From the ASHRAE Journal (October 1998) article entitled (curiously, since the body of the text proves completely the opposite) "Montreal Protocol is Working": "Naturally occurring events in the atmosphere affect climate and can affect stratospheric ozone processes. The presence of particulates (such as sulfate aerosols) in the upper atmosphere can provide reaction sites for ozone-loss chemistry to proceed. Stratospheric sulfate aerosols have increased by more than an order of magnitude due to the two most recent volcanic eruptions (El Chichon in 1982 and Mt. Pinatubo in 1991)."

These HCFC's are what we substituted for R-12 and R-22, refrigerants so safe you could breathe them in any amount up to where it displaced so much of the oxygen in the air that there wasn't enough to keep you conscious:

From ASHRAE Journal, October 1997: "Industry Group Says HCFC's Not Health Risk". Okay, so maybe they're not as safe as we thought: From ASHRAE Journal, December 1997: "Conference Attendees Briefed on Incident at Belgian Plant" "An incident at a Belgian smelting plant, in which nine overhead-crane operators developed reversible liver abnormalities...the workers were exposed to leaking refrigerant [HCFC R-124] for extended periods." "...tests were performed at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, at concentrations below which any effect was anticipated. A volunteer exposed to R-134a at 4,000 ppm v/v for several minutes had to be resuscitated after he lost consciousness and his pulse and blood pressure dropped to zero." Let me see, the (incredibly healthy and young) test pilot actually DIED during the test...but what the heck, the ozone is safe. As an aside, R-134a is what's been put in most automotive A/C's since 1987. We all know that car A/C's never leak, and never, ever need recharging. ---------------

The exact same phenomenon is now occurring with anthropogenic global warming. Interview 100 climate scientists, and 99 will clearly state that (in the words of the IPCC's report, but NOT their political summary) that "there is no known correlation between human CO2 emissions and global temperature increases". However, the other one will jump up and down screaming that "The sky is falling, the sky is falling". Which of these two interviews is published/printed/broadcast?

Before I'll listen to anyone even express an opinion on anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming, I've been asking them to take a simple, 3-question quiz for the past five years or so:

1. What gas is responsible for approximately 95% of the "greenhouse effect" on planet Earth?

2. Are the United States a net A) Emitter, or B) Absorber of carbon dioxide?

3. Is the global climate now A) Warmer, or B) Cooler than it was approximately 1,000 to 1,100 years ago?


1. Water vapor is responsible for about 95% of the Earth's greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide is less than 2% of the total effect, with methane taking up most of the balance, and other gasses responsible for the remainder. But all we EVER hear about is CO2.

2. The U.S., with it's vast forests (more now than in pre-Columbian times) and farmlands is a net ABSORBER of CO2...as opposed to Europe and Japan, which are net emitters.

3. Let's see...they were raising crops of oats in Greenland, and the Icelandic/Viking explorers were calling what is now the chilly area of Newfoundland "Vinland" because of the grapes which grew there. It's an era referred to as the "Medieval Climate Optimum" in old climate textbooks, and was followed by the spread of Black Plague (the fleas of the rats taking advantage of the warmer climate to spread to northern Europe). That period was followed by what used to be referred to as the "Little Ice Age", in which England saw snow in areas never before seen, and the River Thames froze quite solidly on a regular basis. That period ended in the early/middle 1700's, and we've been in a warming trend ever since.

When an eco-fanatic that I'm talking to fails the first question, I have to enquire why they feel that they are entitled to demand legislation on a technical topic of which they have absolutely NO idea what they are talking about.

I apologize for the length of this note, but I just wanted to express an opinion to you.

P.S.: While not an SF "FAN", I am and have been for all of my sentient life a "fan" of science fiction, starting with (naturally, and bless the public librarians) Robert A. Heinlein at age 5, and "Rocket Ship Galileo". I've been reading your work, as well as your collaborations with other various authors, since I've been old enough to reach the "adult" shelves in the library. Making the pilgrimage to the "P" section under the authors at the store is still standard practice, to see what you've made available lately.

I'd like to express my most sincere appreciation (naturally, I've expressed it in the most sincere form, that of hard cash, at my local bookstore here in Minneapolis, "Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore" over the years) for your writing, and the countless hours of entertainment and education that it has brought me.



Ted Bezat Minneapolis, MN


Isn't it odd that Freon became dangerous just before the DuPont patent expired, and the only thing that could replace it was more expensive, more dangerous, and, oh, yes, patented? But surely that was all a coincidence.

I have seen climate models that try to explain the Warm Period from 800 to about 1300 as a local phenomenon. I have not see those results come out of the general climate models. If there is a general climate model that explains the period 800 AD to 1800 AD (from warm to Little Ice Age to warming again) I am not aware of it, and I have certainly looked as well as indicated my willingness to listen.

Subject: Benford_warming

Good morning Mr. Pournelle,

Mr. Benford's use of "voodoo" to describe the work of dissenters from his point of view raises suspicions about the strength of his arguments. Likely just got annoyed. The press has made it difficult to talk about global warming by simplifying "Civilization contributes to global climate change" to "Civilization causes global climate change" It's my understanding that, at worst, we're accelerating a natural trend. If the goal is to slow a trend, isn't this the same as saying "Let this bitter transition pass from me, to my grandchildren."? If the goal is to end climate change, are we clever and brave enough to pull it off? I'm very much in favor of learning more before action is taken, at my income, reduced carbon living would involve warm clothing in winter, no air conditioning in the summer and a bicycle for transport, as hydrogen plumbing won't be cheap.

Tim Harness

My analysis indicates that given reasonable assumptions for the costs of remedies (including the increases in cost of delaying the onset of remedies) and the cost of acquiring more data to reduce uncertainty, we ought to be spending significantly more on reducing uncertainties; the expected value of doing so is very high.

On Benford versus Crichton

--when specialists start worrying, I think it's time to put some money into monitoring things. Hence the recent cutbacks in earth observational studies are probably the wrong thing.

On UK university education--you have probably heard stories about the closure of numerous mid-rank departments due to inadequate government funding. It hasn't been limited to engineering and science. Universities have also been cutting back on medical education, especially expensive specialties like radiology--the overall reduction in medical education over the last few years has been about 30%. The general pattern is that any programs that are expensive and consumed mostly by UK students are being closed since the government habitually underfunds them. Oxford has decided to reduce the number of UK undergraduates by a thousand (from 11,000 to 10,000) over the next five years. It's disheartening to see the winding up in my lifetime of an 800-year tradition of academic learning.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

Good sense from Dr. Erwin, as usual. Thanks


Subject: Re: the Benford newspaper article

For the paper by Hoffert et al. (Gregory Benford is the second of the et alii), go to http://www.mcgill.ca/economics/faculty/green/#Articles 

 Click on the link 'Advanced Technology Paths to Global Climate Stability'

Nice discussion of space solar power in this paper.

The geoengineering section of the paper includes a discussion of a 2000 km diameter mirror at Lagrange point 1 to deflect 2% of the solar flux. This section ends with this sentence "Of course, large-scale geophysical interventions are inherently risky and need to be approached with caution." [I should hope so.]

The concluding remarks section of the paper says "... We have identified a portfolio of promising technologies here--some radical departures from our present fossil fuel system. Many concepts will fail, and staying the course will require leadership..."

On page 479 of Crichton's book, his character says, during a conversation, "... They conclude that wind, solar, and even nuclear power will not be sufficient to solve the problem. They say totally new and undiscovered technology is required."

Everyone can read both works and see if Crichton's character got the gist of the paper of the paper by Hoffert et al.

Joe Hennessey

Precisely. I have nothing against energy technology research.

Subject: Neocons & Toyota Prius


The alliance of hawks and environmentalists is new but not entirely surprising. The environmentalists are worried about global warming and air pollution. But Woolsey and Gaffney—both members of the Project for the New American Century, which began advocating military action against Saddam Hussein back in 1998—are going green for geopolitical reasons, not environmental ones. They seek to reduce the flow of American dollars to oil-rich Islamic theocracies, Saudi Arabia in particular.


A consummation devoutly to be wished...

Subject: Benford vs. Crichton

From: Stephen M. St. Onge saintonge@hotmail.com

Dear Jerry:

You asked ( http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/view346.html#Tuesday ) for comments on Gregory Benford and Martin Hoffert's newspaper article ( http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20050121/news_lz1e21benford.html ). Here's mine.

Short Version: I'm rereading Lowell Ponte's _The Cooling_ at the moment, and it sounds rather like Benford and Hoffert's article, except that it comes to the conclusion that we're on our way to an ice age. The main difference is that Ponte argues more cogently, seldom attacking the people who disagree with him, or using obvious logical fallacies. The main similarity is that there isn't enough evidence to support the conclusions reached, in either Ponte's book, or Benford and Hoffert's article.

Rather too long version: (Can be found on the Climate Discussion Reports page)


Jerry P:

One of the fun things about reading your Chaos Manor site, I wouldn't call it a blog as it has too much going for it, is that I keep getting introduced to articles, like the de Borchgrave column that Roland Dobbins sent. There seems to be a lot of that and it makes good reading.

The Fear of reason column was interesting. They quote , Crichton : " . . . concluded that there is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of carbon dioxide in the 21st century." Then they say: ". . . we outlined plenty of technologies that must be further developed . . .". Well, technologies that must be further developed does not cancel out no known technology. The problem of course is that independent nations will use whatever technologies they choose and the point is moot as politics not technology will be the deciding factor. There is a certain hubris in scientists who state that they can provide the answer to a problem if only the rest of society will only heed their advice. Sorry guys, that is not how this old world works. And while Crichton may be off base to a certain degree, your call for more and better information is the correct answer.

I notice that the weather service called for rain last night, which was about 24 hours late in arriving. Given all the exacting technology for accurately predicting the current conditions, I must question the modeling that predicts the future with such accuracy given the number of variables affecting the climate. I challenge any computer model to be backed up 1000 years to accurately predict known conditions; or set at 1066 and project the ensuing climate conditions.

Charles Simkins


Subject: The Benford/Hoffert piece


My, you do pick 'em. Looking through Greg's commentary, I must admit I'm uncertain how such a well-written author can have such a hard time groking English. Just to pick at a few of the high points that bothered me:

1. Crichton: No known technology/Benford: "outlined plenty of technologies that must be further developed" - Is it just me, or does Greg just not get the concept that he is saying that these technologies don't yet exist. If they existed, there wouldn't be a need for his Manhattan Project-style effort.

2. Politicization of global warming: Maybe it's just me, but I get the impression that Greg hasn't been paying much attention to just how politicized the whole global warming argument has gotten - and how vicious the attacks are on any scientist who dares disagree with RightThink.

3. Heat islands: Gotta love the rebuttal. Rather than address the issue (of heat island effects being ignored), he attacks the messenger. Yep, that's how to prove the point.

I really hope the rest of Greg's science is better than this. -- Charles Prael Los Trancos Systems http://www.lts.com

The Babbling Brook http://www.livejournal.com/users/chuckles48/

I would say that technologies that need massive development investments may be "known", but they certainly can't be implemented immediately. Perhaps Crichton would have been more accurate to say "readily implementable" instead of "known".

Greg Benford is well known in particle physics, and he and his twin brother were participants in the Citizen's Advisory Council on National Space Policy which I chaired during the Reagan era.

Subject: The Idso brothers' web site

Thanks to Mr. Theisen for reminding me of www.co2science.org  <http://www.co2science.org/> .

The men running this site ( www.co2science.org  <http://www.co2science.org/ > ) do valuable work and have credentials and publications up the wazoo (the ones that the DRI guy so admires). Yet they write:

"For the past seven years, therefore, we have provided everything we produce free of charge to everyone, sustaining ourselves with grants and donations from numerous sources. Over the past three years, however, income from these sources has declined dramatically, and additional cuts are on the horizon. We have tried to adjust to these changes by sequentially eliminating one full-time staff position and three part-time positions, by reducing the salaries of two of us by 50% and one of us by 100%, and by one of us selling the house in which he and his family lived to move into a smaller and less expensive home. All of these actions, however, have been insufficient to compensate for our monetary losses, and have failed to stave off the inevitable. Consequently, to continue to simply survive (which one cannot do for very long with a negative income), and to continue publishing CO2 Science, we have no choice but to limit its access to those who contribute an annual donation of $7.95 ..."

The price of coming up with the wrong answers?

I joined.

Joe Hennessey

So have I.

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