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Mail 372 July 25 - 31, 2005






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Monday  July 25, 2005

There was considerable mail over the weekend. Do not neglect Francis Hamit's copyright fight. Also see Microsoft and patents on emoticons.

Subject: The Brazilian who was shot dead

wasn't an illegal immigrant - he was a -legal- immigrant. And, as it turns out, he was nowhere near any flat under surveillance by Special Branch or other organs of the British government, he was merely . . . riding the bus. And he was shot five times in the back of the head as his reward.

I suspect this is the result of bully-boy plainclothes tactics; not showing badges or IDs, or doing so but acting overly belligerent and spooking this poor man. After all, in Brazil, one fears being stopped by the actual police, much less thugs merely -pretending- to be police.

And no one has yet resigned . . .

----- Roland Dobbins

Arming police who are not usually armed is often not a good idea; at least not without considerably more training than these seem to have. An NYPD officer who shot a man five times at close range while he was restrained by other officers would be in a heap of trouble.

So: not Niven's laws in action, but a more serious situation; predictable given the disintegration of English society. Has there ever been the kind of "multicultural" society they think they are building? I think of none that did not have a dominant class or caste that suppressed the others.


Subject: Re: London Shooting and the ongoing terror campaign

Dear Mr Pournelle,

I am afraid that I have to correct Roland Dobbins statement that the Brazilian who was shot was not an illegal immigrant. He had entered the country legally on a Student visa which had expired and was employed as an electrician. Therefore he was an illegal immigrant and working illegally. Whilst I do commiserate with his family he was challenged and should not have run, especially given the current circumstances. That he ran because he was afraid that he would be deported is no excuse and given the fact that only 79,000 failed asylum seekers have been deport out of the 375,000 who's appeal has been refused this was not the likely outcome in any case.

I am afraid that London (I live within two minutes of Baker Street Tube) is in for an extended campaign of bombings and perhaps other attacks. The four individuals responsible for attacks have not been caught and I think it is safe to say that their are probable many other extremist cells in the UK. Why do I say this?

Firstly the previous Head of the London Metropolitan Police stated that approximately 3,000 UK nationals or naturalised citizens had pasted through Al Queda's training camps prior to the Afghan War.

Secondly, every time I see a young (Or come to that old) Muslim interviewed the view they adopt is the same "Yes the attacks were terrible, but...." That "but" speaks volumes about how Muslims feel in this country, they are not integrated or in any way committed to it. An excellent example of this was the recent suicide bombing in Iraq that killed twenty or so children who had stop a US patrol to be given sweets. I saw a number of young British Muslims interviewed who blamed the American soldiers, when asked why the American soldiers were at fault and not the suicide bomber, they got a puzzled look and seemed to think that this did not require an answer as it was so obvious. Consider for a moment that this is an attitude that they feel free to portray on national television!

Thirdly despite his attempts at sounding Churchillian, Bliar acts much more like Chamberlin, he is attempting to appease the Muslim "community" instead of do the necessary things. Seal the borders, impose strict controls on entry and exit of this country, declare a state of national emergency (This would allow him to effectively suspend the Human Rights Act) and start ethnically profiled stop and searches on the transport system (With enough random searches to restrict the bombers use of third parties). Some of these measures are being discussed, but I doubt that they will be implemented.

The Political and Media class of this country have set the stage for a tragedy of which these initial attacks are only the beginning. I believe that there is strong evidence to suggest that there are sufficient numbers of potential terrorists to sustain a prolonged campaign. If only half those trained in Al-Queda camps are active then that would be at least five times the number of "active" members of the IRA at the height of it bombing campaign and these "gentlemen" do not follow the same rules.

Eventual things will change, this country has a history of being ruthless when it comes to the crunch. However it is hard to see, at least at the moment, where the leadership will come from.

Simon Enefer

Well that is closer to my original take on the subject: it is Niven's Law. If you are illegally entered in a country that is under terror attack, especially a country run by Anglo-Normans who have historically been among the most warlike people ever known, be very careful to comply with instructions from the police.

It may well come to that in the US. If we begin getting suicide bombers detonating themselves, shooting them in the head is certainly a preventive measure. One that has an obvious answer, of course.

Comes now Harry Erwin whose observations I always find valuable::

Subject: The News

I'm putting together a research proposal so I won't do the Letter from England until that's done, but I do need to comment on the "Shoot to Kill" story. The current story is that the Brazilian had overstayed his student visa and panicked when the police confronted him. That sort of thing is _very_ common in the UK, and there's an population of illegal immigrants, particularly in London, who basically don't want any sort of police contact because of it. There's a film about it, titled "Dirty Pretty Things": <http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/dirty_pretty_things/>.

The police side of the story seems to be coming unglued. See <http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/ 0,16132,1535565,00.html> . Apparently he was tailed from his home as he rode a bus and then confronted at a tube station where he panicked. He was then shot eight times. Now nobody in the affected community is comfortable talking to the police. I like the work of the UK security forces, but this reminds me of how everyone in the Pentagon seems to insist on playing (and often screwing up) some sort of bit part in any significant military operation. We really don't need terrorists starting to use dead-man switches.

Yes, the UK is trying to build a multi-cultural society. Immigrants make a disproportionately important contribution to the economy and society despite the prejudice they encounter at all social levels, but the society is nowhere as multi-cultural as in the US. The problems are other areas--there are long-standing biases against modern culture, science, engineering, and industrial practices that have led to a humorous description of the UK as a second-world nation working half-time to catch up with the first world nations. The skills shortage that American business leaders complain about is nothing compared to the shortage in the UK--of course, you have to remember that no more than 15% of the population was receiving any sort of academic education ten years ago--but you really can't run a modern economy on the backs of only 15% of the population. You _have_ to have those immigrants for their education, their character, and their willingness to work hard.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Security engineer and analyst. http://www.theworld.com/~herwin/




Subject: This is just plain GORGEOUS.

Jerry, this pointer came off of James P. Hogan's website.


This guy is an artist who does art in chalk on sidewalks. He's started doing perspective stuff.

The work is absolutely GORGEOUS. I don't know a better word.

--John R. Strohm

Wow. It sure is. Thanks


Subject: Feynman and Academic Freedom

Feynman and Academic Freedom


Your link to the public funding of science told the story of Feynman's study of the mathematics of how the rotation of a thrown plate differed from the wobble of the rim and how this led to his Nobel prize. It left out the vital part of the story which was how when Feynman's mentor (Bethe?) asked what Feynman was working on and was shamefacedly told about the plate, replied that since he was the one that hired you he was the only one that can fire you. So carry on. Who knows where it may lead?

This is academic freedom at its best. It wins Nobels. I regret that it does not extend to gender outreach studies.

John Edwards



Subject: Resizing Photos

From: Jon Barrett

Subject: Resizing Photos

The Resize option for Irfanview is , curiously, under the "Advanced" button of the Batch Conversion utilities. Fortunately, the checkbox for Advanced and the rdaio buttons for what advanced feature, such as resizing, are sticky, and they'll stay put the next time you open Irfanview as well.

There's also the XP Power Toy which will let you select pictures (singles or multiples) in Explorer and resize via right-click. It offers stock sizes as radio buttons, and resizing is all it does.

Jon Barrett

I figured it was something simple like that. I'll have to go through and do a thorough cleanup one of these days. But it may be that I don't understand "resizing". Microsoft WORD has a "picture compression" utility that does splendidly, taking photos from several megabytes down to something appropriate for a web picture; I send my columns with embedded pictures and the compressed Word document is usually less than 1/5 the size of the uncompressed document. That's what I really need: something that does not change the size and shape, merely the bit density. I'll have to experiment with Irfan which I recall liking at one time, but after Word came out with the compression for documents I got out of the habit of using it.


Subject: No copy in web sites


A quick google on "disable right click" turns up many hits on the technique; the idea is to add a custom javascript to a web page that defines what is to be done on a right click.

Of course, this also leads to a very easy way to override this behavior; if you use Internet Explorer, temporarily change the security settings on the zone that the page IS in (normally Internet) to disable the use of JavaScript.

TADA; right click will now work again.


I knew there was a reason I never studied Javascripts...


Subject: It finally happened.


--- Roland Dobbins

Bring the Jubilee!  Well, I suppose one ought not rejoice in the misfortunes of one's fellow men, but then are spammers part of the human race?

Subject: Vladimir Putin unsubscribes

Modern Russia, Vladimir Putin unsubscribes the way we all want to.

An image from the “Kill the American English Centre” contest / Image from www.cartoon.ru 


Russia’s Biggest Spammer Brutally Murdered in Apartment

Created: 25.07.2005 13:14 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 14:24 MSK, 11 hours 20 minutes ago


Vardan Kushnir, notorious for sending spam to each and every citizen of Russia who appeared to have an e-mail, was found dead in his Moscow apartment on Sunday, Interfax reported Monday. He died after suffering repeated blows to the head.

Kushnir, 35, headed the English learning centers the Center for American English, the New York English Centre and the Centre for Spoken English, all known to have aggressive Internet advertising policies in which millions of e-mails were sent every day.<snip>

John Monahan


Placeholder: I have inserted above  letters about the London bombing, including a letter from Harry Erwin.


VooDoo and the Social Sciences (continued from last week)

Jerry: I am a 25 year old recovering political science major (Class of 2002) working at a small state policy think tank. My undergraduate political science program, if one could call it a "science", was focused overwhelmingly on political theory and area studies. We were not required to take any form of statistics, nor was a knowledge of calculus required for graduation. I took both introductory statistics (in the business school) and Calculus II anyway, taking my lumps in the process. My math background at the time was, to be generous, shaky. Within the past year, I have retaken calculus and statistics. This time around, even though I felt a bit old, I enjoy the material.

I would like to study mathematics further. However, I know little about the overall structure of the field, so I am uncertain which courses or subjects to study in what order. Next step seems to be multivariable calculus, followed by Linear Algebra and Differential Equations. After that, I am uncertain what else there is. I don't think I'm alone in this ignorance.

As far as encouraging students to leave the social studies and move over to math and engineering...wow, that's tough. Undergraduate degrees, outside of inheritance cases and educators, are now seen as a waystation to either a job or a graduate degree. Graduate and law programs place extraordinary emphasis on an applicant's undergraduate GPA. If one even wishes to leave the door open to higher education, they are unlikely to take courses that may put these GPAs at risk. Mathematics, which is often taught poorly at the grade school and high school levels, is seen as a trapeze act without the twin safety nets of grade inflation and subjective interpretation. It is also, for the average college student, and even the above average college student, as more challenging. If the undergraduate degree is a means to a prosperous (JD/MBA) end, the path of least resistance is likely to continue to win out, especially if it can a) improve the chances of one's grad school admissions and b) include more time to socialize with attractive members of the opposite gender. This is especially so if high school math and science programs leave students with little applicable skill and very low confidence in their mathematical ability. As you mention, the departments would have to skilltest themselves out of business.

On a more personal note, what would books, programs, or courses would you recommend to a fairly intelligent young man who learned about the limits of political science the hard way and is trying to rebuild math skills?

From a happy reader of the World's First Blog, Michael Kane

One need not be able to solve differential equations but one ought to know what they are. Linear Algebra through matrices, coupled with statistical inferences, allows the use of multivariate prediction models, mostly linear (non-linear is really tough to solve although with computers approximation methods now allow wider use).  Again, one need not be skilled in actually solving the models. We had to be when I was getting into the field: to make a multivariate grade prediction model required the inversion of a 60 x 60 matrix, something that had never been done at the time. Now it is sufficient to know what a matrix inversion is, and what it produces; computers can do the rest. Had I had Excel in graduate school I would have been the greatest operations research scientist alive. Alas, we have those tools now but not many know enough of the mathematical theory to make good use of them. (And the courts have got into the act: the Grade Prediction program was declared racist although there was never any racial identification or racial variable in the model.)

If one understands what differential equation represents, and how matrix algebra can be applied to linear programming and regression models (meaning some understanding of statistical inferences beyond the cookbook calculation techniques usually taught in lieu of actual probability and statistics) one is equipped to describe a number of social phenomena.

Thank you for the kind words.


And going back to Fred and his observations which began the Voodoo Science discussions:

(This follows a short exchange of letters which are not necessary to understand the comment. The discussions involved alternatives to teaching "creation theory" and the like. I pointed out that one alternative is simply to allow the subject matter to be guided by a school board elected by those whose children attend the school and those who pay the taxes to support the school; a method that worked pretty well for at least a century in the US.)

The alternative I see is to actually teach science. My sense is that "Darwinism" is right in the big picture but it is a long way from nailing shut its case. There are a lot of good folks trying to work out the aspects of evolution we don't understand. But the whole debate really seems to me to boil down to education. Science is taught to most secondary school students as a laundry list of facts to be learned and regurgitated on command (it is godawful hard to break them of this when they get to college). When science is presented as just another belief system I can certainly understand why those with a belief system that already satisifies them would take umbrage. Too many science teachers fail to realize that the holes - and, of course, there are a number at this point - in our understanding of the origin and development of life is not an embarrasing weakness but is the natural state of science. In fact, I have long thought that high school biology teachers could use the entire creation/evolution debate to teach what science actually is; what differentiates faith from reason and where each has the most power. In other words, if what was taught was science, rather than facts to fit an end of year exam and a pseudo-belief system, most of the animosity would likely die out. It is my feeling that a lot of the ID folks are simply trying to stick it to a bunch of arrogant fools who have been telling them they are stupid. Which is understandable but not very productive. Of course, that is just wild conjecture on my part.

Backtracking for just a moment, Jerry, you stated that I may have led a sheltered existence when I wrote that the stereotypical arrogant scientist who wishes to ram a godless ideology down people's throats isn't as common as people think. You stated that the pests are ubiquitous. I'm not sure we disagree. That type of person is distressingly visible and not as rare as one would like. However, it is my impression that Fred (and most of society) is of the opinion that ALL scientists are this person and I think that is far, far from the truth. Most of my colleagues embrace a view of humanity that includes spirtuality, for want of a better word. Most of my colleagues find the arrogant, power hungry person using their science credentials for a platform just as repulsive as the rest of society. But we aren't any closer to shutting them up than are good lawyers, journalists, politicians and religious officials shutting up the idiots in their fields. For example, when I was 12 I was diagnosed with diabetes. My parents (and I) were told by dozens of folks (in a town of 10,000) that either I or they had committed some grave sin and we were being punished. My grandmother was told by her friends that it was a sin for me to take insulin and we should simply pray. My brother-in-law, at the age of 5, was diagnosed with leukemia and the same treatment was given out by their "friends" and family and fellow churchgoers. My college roommate, at the age of 14, was made to stand in a receiving line after he watched his father die in front of him and be told by the congregation how happy they were "at this blessing". I could go on as these are not uncommon stories and note that I haven't even touched on what has gone on recently in madrassas or bishops' offices. If we were to judge religion by these folks, I wouldn't come to the conclusion that it is much of a thing to be protected. But you and I and every other reasonable person knows that religion has another side that is comforting and beneficial. The wholesale condemnation of religion is no more justified than the wholesale condemnation of science. Whoever fired first, it is time for the tired either/or debate to end, in my opinion.

For what it's worth, I am of the opinion that the current science climate (especially where education is concerned) is on the wrong track. How science is done; how it is funded, carried out, taught, and coupled to the body politic is, in too many cases, misguided in my opinion. The thing that has attracted me to your website and your writing there is that one can find important questions and critical observations that are sorely lacking elsewhere. However, when this turns to a broad statement that Science has it wrong and Scientists are deluded, power-hungry people, I think it goes too far. I’m admittedly close to the scene and take such statements more personally than perhaps I should. But I know many, many good people who do good science and work hard to teach science to a society that is increasingly of the opinion that science is only interesting for what creature comforts it can generate in the short-term.

This is a long winded ramble that really only says that if the education of science is what has you bothered, I understand and agree. But that seems to be much more a matter of politics than science at this point. I’m of your mind (as far as I understand it, at least) in regard to federal intervention into the classroom. I, too, would rather the decision of what to teach be left to local school boards. Let the school board of Osbourne, Kansas decree that only creation be taught in science classrooms. However, don't let them expect their students be admitted to my university.

. Thanks. -Paul

I end as I began on this: in many districts it won't produce the kind of schools I would send my kids to, but local boards elected by those whose children attend school and and those who pay the taxes for the school will more often produce good schools than not. Yes, there will be some places where some smart kids will be suppressed; but so long as they are not brutalized, smart kids will generally learn thing, particularly if the knowledge is forbidden. Remind me to tell you of making nitroglycerine as an early teenager. My guess is that the students in Osbourne, Kansas, who actually apply to your university will probably know more of Darwinian theory than those who came from some place that taught the subject but indifferently.

Consent of the governed is still the basis of the right to rule in American political theory. I see no obvious reason to replace it with "dictate of those who think they are smarter than the rest of us," whether in city planning or in school curricula.


Subject: Italy Next?


The Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades who claimed the two London bombing attacks published a fresh warning Monday, July 25: “After London, it is Rome’s turn.” The Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is warned that by failing to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq, he would by his own hand “turn Rome into a graveyard.” The statement run on the Internet threatens the Italian capital with harsher and more painful strikes than the London attacks. “As long as a single Italian soldier remains in Italy, you the prime minister can look forward to nothing but “more and more blood.” DEBKAfile adds: All the European capitals have placed their security and emergency services of maximum terror alert. London too is bracing for more terrorist attacks. One of al Qaeda’s prime targets is expected to be the Vatican, which the terrorist organization sees as a world center of heresy. An earlier warning by the same group gave Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK and Italy until August 15 to pull their soldiers out of Iraq. <snip>






This week:


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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Subject: Russian Media Hails Spammer's Murder

Russian Media Hails Spammer’s Murder


Russian-language media, both online and offline, has made little effort to conceal one central thought when dealing with the spammer’s demise: that somehow the late Mr. Kushnir got what he deserved. “The Spammer Had it Coming”, one headline reads. “Spam is Deadly”, “Ignoble Death Becomes Russia’s Top Spammer”, “An Ultimate Solution to the Spam Problem” - 84 Russian-language news captions on Kushnir’s murder, retrieved by the Yandex News <http://news.yandex.ru/> search engine within a day of the event, seem to share the general feeling.

Craig Hawkins


[Wednesday, 27 July, 2005: be sure to read the entire section including the conclusions; it is more than likely that this entire story is based on confusions. At the same time, it is no trivial matter.]


Subject: Privacy, Microsoft, Piracy, and Updates

Jerry :

Well, it seems that Microsoft's pulled off the boxing gloves and put on the ones with the lead saps in the knuckles. If this article :


is correct, one won't be able to get proper software updates without letting MS look around inside your computer, where they see fit. To wit, "The company will scan machines for a variety of information, including product keys or software authorization codes, operating-system version and details on the flow of data between the operating system and other hardware, such as printers."

"Details on the flow of data" ? Not in _my_ computers, I can say.

MS will "graciously" (my emphasis) still allow users to get security patches.

And for those people who enjoy paperwork, they can get free upgrades to WinXP if they can produce proof of purchase for "unknowingly" buying counterfeit copies, fill out a piracy report, and send in the CD-ROMs. Those people who don't have proof of purchase will get discounts on the OS in the future. I'll be fascinated to see how this plays out.

"Mr. Jones, you purchased Windows XP 64bit version for $25. This great price means you _had_ to know it wasn't legitimate. But thanks for letting us know you have pirated software. Our legal department will be in touch with you Real Soon Now."

Interesting times.

John P.

I have heard no confirmation of this yet, but I expect a storm of controversy. If the story as reported is true, Microsoft has just committed suicide. Hacked copies of their software will be everywhere since many very smart people -- including some Microsoft programmers -- will feel no ethical obligations to Microsoft at all. I can think of no better boost for Linux and Apple than this -- assuming, as I said, that the story is true as reported.

Subject: Microsoft validation

I just pulled up the new "Microsoft Update" page and got this offering:

Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool (KB892130) 443 KB , less than 1 minute The Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool enables you to verify that your copy of Microsoft Windows is genuine. The tool validates your Windows installation by checking Windows Product Identification and Product Activation status. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer. Once you have installed this item, it cannot be removed.

I'm not sure what this means, but it seems to be related to the article you posted. Don't think I'll download this just yet.

Tom Brosz


Microsoft WGA "enhancements" It looks like this is true, Jerry.

Best, Ben Pedersen


Subject: Dvorak: Where's the buzz?


-- Roland Dobbins

A very reasonable question.


Privacy and Microsoft


If the story is true, by Microsoft's own standards their latest foray into our computers is actually rather inoffensive. In June 2002 The Register carried a story that the current MS Passport Terms of Use Agreement allowed MS to use, sell, or license anything you send. You also handed over your copyright and patents and any other rights without compensation. Apple users need not feel smug about this as their original iDisc service tried something similar.

Despicable computing anyone?

John Edwards

For more on this subject, see below.


Subject: Global warming et al

Jerry P:

The July 8 issue of Science magazine contains an article titled: Ocean Science: Penetration of Human-Induced Warming into the World's Oceans which is also somewhat reflected by another article in the same issue. This one titled: Ocean Science: Warming the World's Oceans. Both articles cite computer models which cannot find natural solutions to the warming of the oceans, and default (my phrase) to anthropogenic warming. The latter article, by Hegerl and Bindoff states in its closing paragraph:

"The historical ocean data cover a relatively short time span(~50 years) and their spatial coverage is inhomogeneous, particularly in the less accessible Arctic and Southern Oceans. Therefore, it is still a challenge to validate more complex details of ocean physics in climate models than was done in (1). Further work is needed to determine more accurately and in more spatial detail how temperature and surface salinity changes penetrate into the ocean. We also need to better understand the ocean's major modes of climate variability, particularly on time scales of a decade or longer, and to quantify the likelihood of sudden ocean change [such as a collapse of the thermohaline circulation (4)]. Another question is how ocean biogeochemistry and ecosystems, and thus the global carbon cycle, will respond to global warming. Therefore, it is important that we keep probing the world's oceans."

I have not included the referenced sources but the magazine is available for anyone wishing to read these articles. The point is that there is work being done, and more needs to be done, on the oceans. As the bulk of the earth's oceans are in the southern hemisphere, that is one place where a better understanding is needed. As I am not qualified to critique the particulars of these articles, I would suggest that long term ocean circulation patterns are the primary source for the earths weather variations, but I hope that these things are strongly investigated. I also would suspect that the US Navy has temperature data, both surface and subsurface that would be useful for these investigations. After all, the Navy has been exploring and recording data on the oceans for probably half a century. Maybe it needs to be declassified or something.

Charles B. Simkins

I would argue for a lot more work on this, and a lot more record keeping. We have the means now to take measurements and send them to a central office. How much the Navy might have that isn't publicly available I don't know.


Subject: Interesting old quote

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."

-Sir Winston Churchill (The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

E.C. Field






This week:


read book now


Wednesday, July 26, 2005

I added some new material with the "Suicide of Microsoft" letter above; go back and look at that first. Then read below.

The conclusion here is as I suspected from the beginning: Microsoft may make some egregious mistakes but the data mining intrusion isn't one of them. Having said that, it is well to read what did happen; and Microsoft would do well to pay attention to the storm aroused by rumors like this. If anyone is tempted to build such data mining "features" into Windows VISTA, this would be a good time to find those people and beat them more senseless than they already are...

To: Jerry Pournelle
 Subject: providing information about data that Microsoft intends to collect during the beta testing process?

 Remains to be seen but such a decision would have to be at the Gates/Ballmer level what do you think?

Microsoft revealed some more information on the pending products when it posted to the Web some privacy statements meant for the testers who will get their hands on the product real soon now.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Microsoft Reveals More Vista, IE 7.0 Beta 1 Features
By Mary Jo Foley <http://www.microsoft-watch.com/author_bio/0,2184,a=2274,00.asp>  <http://www.microsoft-watch.com/images/ms_spacer.gif>
Vista Beta 1 has yet to debut. But Microsoft is trickling out (inadvertently or not) more new information on what to expect in its pending Windows and browser releases. <http://www.microsoft-watch.com/images/ms_spacer.gif>

In preparing for the imminent Beta 1 release of Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7.0, Microsoft posted to the Web new information about new features expected in the pending product releases.

Microsoft made available on Tuesday two separate privacy notices, providing information about data that Microsoft intends to collect during the beta testing process. Those documents also include information on some of the features, including many security-specific ones, set to be included in Vista and IE 7.0. ADVERTISEMENT <http://ad.doubleclick.net/jump/mswatch.dart/home;abr=!ie;sz=336x280;ord=3682367206?>

A few Windows enthusiast sites posted copies of the Windows Vista <http://www.activewin.com/articles/2005/visfeat.shtml>  and IE 7.0 privacy notices <http://www.activewin.com/articles/2005/ie7.shtml>  on their Web sites.

Vista, the product formerly known as "Longhorn," is the version of the Windows client operating system due to ship in 2006. IE 7.0 is Microsoft's Web browser that the company plans to integrate into Vista, as well as back-port to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Last week, Microsoft officials said to expect Beta 1 of Vista to hit on August 3. But a number of Windows enthusiast sites reported on Tuesday that Beta 1 will hit earlier — on July 27. <http://www.microsoft-watch.com/article2/0,2180,1840781,00.asp

Vista Beta 1 will include an audit feature that will allow an administrator to monitor the system and create a security log, according to the privacy documentation. It also will include a built-in Microsoft's Rights Management Services (RMS) client. RMS is Microsoft's software that acts as a DRM system for applications software, primarily Microsoft Office.<snip>


Subject: Genuine Advantage data mining

Here's Microsoft official answer:

Q: What information is collected from my computer?

A: The genuine validation process will collect information about your system, such as Windows product key, PC manufacturer, and operating system version, to determine if Windows is genuine. This process does not collect or send any information that can be used to identify you or contact you. The complete list of information collected in the validation process is shown below:

* OEM product key * PC Manufacturer * OS version * PID/SID * BIOS info (make, version, date) * BIOS MD5 Checksum * User Locale (language setting for displaying Windows) * System Local (language version of the operating system)

No mention of "details on the flow of data between the operating system and other hardware, such as printers." So, either the article is mistaken, Microsoft is lying, or Microsoft has changed the data being gathered and not updated their FAQ.

Still, even if Microsoft restricts itself to the types of data they claim to be collecting, that's much too much for my comfort. I run only one Windows box here, but I'll restrict it to security updates only.

If you think this is bad, just wait to see what happens when Microsoft can finally gain complete control of your new DRM-enabled PCs. Not for me, thanks. Having migrated to Linux, I'll never look back.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

I would assume that a great deal of this flap is due to confusion between the procedures for authenticating the operating system as genuine, and for doing crash and error analysis. The latter certainly does require some information about data flow, since most problems are caused by driver conflicts. And now a word from a security expert:

Dr. Pournelle:

I tested the new Microsoft "Genuine Windows" by using Windows Update on my computer. The process is quite painless.

For those worried about the information sent, note this link to the Microsoft Privacy Information as part of that valid license check: http://www.microsoft.com/genuine/downloads/PrivacyInfo.aspx?displaylang=en 

" Microsoft has commissioned TÜViT, an independent German security auditor to test how well Windows Genuine Advantage Version 1.0 protects customers’ data. TÜV conducted a legal audit of Microsoft’s statements, policies and specifications to set the requirements for a technical audit that determined that the program’s databases, source-code and implementation respect privacy concerns.

"TÜV has confirmed that Microsoft does not collect any personal information or process any data that would allow Microsoft to identify or contact a user. It has also confirmed that Windows Genuine Advantage can for privacy reasons be used safely on a system that processes privacy data and that it does not interfere with any client software other than the operating system, and, therefore, it does not conflict with the relevant European and German data protection laws."

So, I am not worried about any intrusion into my private information with this process. The press report in yesterday's view/mail is not accurate, in my opinion.

Microsoft may do some things incorrectly, but this one looks OK.

Regards, Rick Hellewell

So: most of this is a PR error. Microsoft, having failed to get its story across earlier, is now in the position of having much of what they say questioned, and many of their good deeds unreported. Part of this will be due to "la calumna" spread by rivals. Some will be due to imbecile tactics and decisions at lower levels.

Aside: I remember many years ago the great "trashing your hard disk" flap: a summer hire at Microsoft coded into the OS messages an error detection message that said "Invalid operating system detected. Now trashing your hard disk." In fact it did nothing of the kind, but one may imagine the furor (and panic) this caused, particularly since there was an Open File bug in that version of the OS that allowed one log file to grow without bounds until it filled the C: drive...

This looks to be another such flap.

I don't apologize for discussing it (although I have been accused of "spreading vicious rumors" by doing so. Incidentally, Mr. Hellewell sent me an earlier mail that my Microsoft Outlook Junk Email filter hid from me until I went through the spam filtered mail. It came yesterday and should have gone up yesterday, but Outlook didn't want me to see it.


On Ocean Data and Global Warming

Subject: Ocean Data

Dear Jerry

>>After all, the Navy has been exploring and recording data on the oceans for probably half a century. Maybe it needs to be declassified or something.<<

I suggest phoning Vladimir Putin. The Soviets undertook a massive multi-decade survey of the world's ocean temperatures, salinity and other measurable qualities with their ubiquitous hi-tech fishing trawler fleets. I mean the ones outfitted with forests of antennae and other advanced big fish and big bird finders. This data, undoubtedly extending back into the early 1950s, can most likely be purchased for a fraction of the cost of still more non-performance linked 'grants' to the Man-Makes-All-Global-Warming-With-CO2-And-We'll-Save-You-In-Exchange-For-Totalitarian-Power-Over-Your-Life* priesthood.


* p.s. The cloned character of the Global Warming priesthood's credo, absolutely identical to discredited 'Scientific Communism's' sales pitch, is what originally inclined me towards agnostic beliefs about man-made global warming. Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick served as my Charles Darwin, confirming me into a shameless atheist about man-made global warming.


Subject: Navy sea data


When I was driving ships we used to send our weather observations to the World Meterological Office as unclassified data. It included sea surface temperature.

My information is dated, but such things change slowly. I would check with WMO first, and then the Navy.

This link is a press report of Navy/Weather Channel collaboration…


Jim Dodd
San Diego


Subject: Open-source, cross-platform Inkscape.


--- Roland Dobbins

. . . functions placed at low levels of a system may be redundant or of little value when compared with the cost of providing them at that low level.

-- Saltzer, Reed & Clark, "End-to-End Arguments in Systems Design"


On Border Control

The study assumes that INS agents can only deport 10 illegals per year. Experience in Israel, Malaysia and the U.S. shows that immigration agents can bust at least one illegal a day. See http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=39418  for an article about how just 12 INS agents captured 450 illegals in a few days. Of course, Bush freaked out when the INS actually started doing its job and stopped them. Hey, wages might have gone up by a penny. Can't have that.

This is a crucial point because the study claims that apprehension accounts for 73.61% of the total cost of illegal removal. Using a more realistic 250 illegals per agent, per year, reduces the apprehension cost from $17,603 (the number in the "study") down to less than $1000 per deportation (actually $702.8). Of course, this results in an 70.67% reduction in the total cost of illegal expulsion.

If that weren't bad enough... The study also assumes that only 20% of the illegals would remove themselves faced with real law enforcement. Experience in the U.S. and other countries shows that at least 2/3 would get out rather than be arrested and deported. Providing incentives ("leave on your own with no penalty versus a lifetime ban if we have to do it" would be one approach) could raise this fraction materially.

Using a more realistic 66.7% voluntary exit rate yields another 58.34% cost reduction. Combining these two "minor adjustments" reduces that likely cost by 87.78%. What's being wrong by a factor of 10 among friends?

The authors also assume that mass deportation will have no effect on the number of illegals entering the U.S. Even they regard this as dubious but use this claim in their analysis. Their actual words:

"Although some of the future flow would likely subside if a massive deportation policy were adopted within the United States, this report assumes the demand at our border will remain unchanged over the five year period."

On a positive note, the claims that the future cost of enforcing the border is only $2.99 billion per year. Sounds cheap to me.

Overall, the study amounts to just another Open Borders screed and a bad one at that. To call the study "trite" would be an undeserved complement. The study repeats the long-refuted mantra about how cheap labor supposedly helps us all. Tell it to anyone who has actually lived in California for the last 30 years.

Thank you


Interesting: so my $1000 per head bounty is not unrealistic at all...


On Science Policy

[I have asked for comments from some advisors on the following, and it is subject to modification when I cool down a bit. It may be over the top. It may not be.]

Dr. Pournelle:

I came upon this link today and thought I'd pass it on. http://aip.org/fyi/2005/112.html 

The American Institute of Physics is very upset that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) sent letters to certain scientists requesting information regarding the scientists' Global Warming research.

Furthermore, according to House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Barton, et al, "have sent an investigative letter to Dr. Mann and his colleagues that raises charges that the scientific community has put to rest, and ask for detailed scientific explanations that your Committee undoubtedly lacks the expertise to review."

What do you and your readers think? Is this a valid exercise of Congressional power? Or political meddling?

Very truly yours,

Lee Keller King Chandler, Arizona

First, before it's possible to discuss this, everyone will have to read the referenced material posted on the AIP site, but also pay attention to what prompted it.

The AIP is grandstanding: here is part of what they said to the Congress:

<snip>"It is certainly appropriate for Congress to try to understand scientific disputes that impinge on public policy. There are many ways for us to do that, including hearings with a balanced set of witnesses, briefings with scientists, and requests for reviews by the National Academy of Sciences or other experts.

"But you have taken a decidedly different approach - one that breaks with precedent and raises the specter of politicians opening investigations against any scientist who reaches a conclusion that makes the political elite uncomfortable.

"Rather than bringing Dr. Mann and his antagonists together in a public forum to explain their differences, you have sent an investigative letter to Dr. Mann and his colleagues that raises charges that the scientific community has put to rest, and ask for detailed scientific explanations that your Committee undoubtedly lacks the expertise to review.

"This is utterly unnecessary given that Dr. Mann's articles have prompted a spirited and appropriate (and often technically complex) debate in the scientific community that has played out in readily available journals. Moreover, the only ‘charge' that has been leveled against Dr. Mann that might prompt Congressional notice - that he was refusing to share data - has been soundly rejected by the National Science Foundation, and those who continue to raise the charge are well aware of that.

"Therefore, one has to conclude that there is no legitimate reason for your investigation. The investigation is not needed to gain access to data. The investigation is not needed to get balanced information on a scientific debate. The investigation is not needed to prompt scientific discussion of an important issue.

"The only conceivable explanation for the investigation is to attempt to intimidate a prominent scientist and to have Congress put its thumbs on the scales of a scientific debate. This is at best foolhardy; when it comes to scientific debates, Congress is ‘all thumbs.' <snip>

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics

Note well what is said there. Congress has the responsibility to send the tax collector to extract money from the people; to send it to the SCIENTISTS; but not to look into what has been done with the money. The hell there is no legitimate purpose to an investigation. Mann trumpeted his "hockey stick" ( http://www.john-daly.com/hockey/hockey.htm ) but repeatedly refused to make public his model or his data. If he has since done so and the National Science Foundation has that model and data, I am not aware of it. (I am told he has now done so. I see the claim. I am not sure I have seen the verification: if one takes the data he sent in and the model he gives does one get the result? What assumptions are involved here? I have seen no critique of this model; the last I saw was a refusal. Now on July 15 there is this:  http://www.realclimate.org/Mann_response_to_Barton.pdf which says all necessary and proper materials are attached. I haven't gone over the attachments.) I await someone without a horse in this race who will examine the attachments and tell me what they mean. I hope I can be excused for not instantly believing all that Mann said given the history of the hockey stick and the political uses made of it.

Congress takes our money and gives it to these people and they dare say that there is no legitimate purpose to an investigation of how the money was used to finance what became a report intended to alarm the public? Really?


OK: I have stated the case in an extreme form. Yes, I understand that it is usually a good idea to insulate the funding source from the scientific investigation. But when Big Science does not follow the rules of science -- and a secret proprietary model that is used to scare the holy hell out of the public is definitely not part of the rules of science -- then those who put up the money have every right to go ask what is going on.

As to "balanced hearings" the Kyoto advocates have done everything they can to avoid that. Balance to them is nine people who passionately believe in the consensus model, one who has doubts, and five kuckoos who believe in Creation Science and Bishop Usher on Creation in 4004 BC. Balance to some of these people is like the AAAS sessions on The Bell Curve in which they happily denounced a book they had not bothered to read. Or the AAAS sessions on Nuclear Winter. Or the AAAS sessions on Strategic Defense.

Recall that the AIP is the outfit that condemned Strategic Defense on the basis of a "study" in which there were 83 identifiable errors, every single one of them in favor of the AIP thesis that strategic defense is impossible. The AIP has long since ceased to be a scientific organization; it is now a lobby that favors unlimited money being poured out to its clients and members, with no supervision by those forced to pay for it.

Those who have followed the Global Warming debates here have been told that "science" is just trying to be "scientific." Science didn't seem to get into the act when Mann foisted his Hockey Stick on us http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba/ba478/ with a widely publicized report based on his proprietary models. The AIP doesn't seem to be very critical of that; but let the people who have to pay for this junk ask what is going on, and they are up on their high horses.

I had to deal with these political operatives disguised as scientists during the Star Wars and Nuclear Winter discussions. I see they have hardly changed their spots. I fear I have no confidence in the independence of the AIP staff, having seen them in action.

Now: I am told that there have been adjustments in the Hockey Stick, whatever that means, and that the proprietary model has been released, and there are adjustments in temperatures inferred from tree rings and other such climate data.  I am not sure what any of that means.

I'm also told that it is mad of me to support Congressional supervision of spending public money on matters that greatly influence public policy. That may be mad, but it is a madness I am not likely to be cured of. If you take public money you must expect public inspectors to look over your shoulder as you spend it.

Public funding of science in matters that influence public policy is a very serious matter; pretending to some kind of scientific indifference is dangerous; and the track record of the AIP on Nuclear Winter and Star Wars is a definite indication of an agenda held so strongly that they don't put science first: they didn't then, so why should we assume they do so now?

And this from a physicist I have some confidence in:


For what it's worth, my comments:

1. I can't speak for science in general, but such Congressional investigative actions regarding federal funding are far from unknown and there is no principle on which the field of federally-funded science should be exempt. That's not to say that if it were my ox being gored, I wouldn't respond in the same way.

2. I concur that, like most major scientific organizations, the AIP has a pronounced liberal lean (apparently on the theory that socialized science is subsidized science) and a tendency to discount research paid for either with private funding or with defense and military funding. So your concluding statement, while semantically loaded, is rigorously accurate. (I'd probably never say it, but it is accurate.)

3. Speaking to the heart of the matter, the core issue appears to be whether Mann has, in fact, released his models for an adequate peer review (including scientists of the opposite ideological bent). All I know about the debate has been on your web site, so I haven't gone looking for the evidence, but that should be a matter for fact rather than public debate. If, as the AIP spokesman states, the relevant data is available for peer review, the there may be no need for a Congressional inquiry -- which is NOT the same as saying that Congress has no right to conduct one. If not - and I'm convinced that the persons pressing the Inquiry belive that it hasn't been published/peer reviewed properly - then there is every reason for an Inquiry into why such a politically charged result has not been peer reviewed adequately.

Bottom line: if the evidence is there, tell us where; if it's not there, produce it. I concur.

So. We will see from here.

The opposite view is given here: http://www.realclimate.org/ where you will recognize some of the names involved. Note well that to get public funding in this matter you need to satisfy peers who also receive such funding (those whose funding come from non-public sources are often excluded from the peer reviewing panels on the grounds of non-independence; the assumption is that public funding makes for independent views, something not entirely clear to me).

And a comment from an old veteran of the science Wars when I said none of this hockey stick wars stuff makes much sense to me, and I can make any trend I want if I start with a sine wave and I get to choose the end and beginning: Yes, you are right, but that is a bipartisan problem as we are faced with choosing between a Vancouver Penny Stock mining economist's taste in rubber graph paper,and the Sliding Scale School of UN climate homiletics.

Which is a clever way of putting it.

I return to my original position. Stop funding models and conclusions and start funding some actual data gathering capabilities... And see Russell Seitz, below


Subject: Shuttle Grounded-

Jerry, I think that this will spell the death knell for the shuttle fleet http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8720825/ . I believe there is no way around the the debris problem. The forces acting on the insulation are complex, being made up of X vector(up) and the Y and Z vectors (vibration, not up and down). Then there is that g vector, just hanging there, always changing direction relative to the Shuttle. Looking at a small area of the insulation on the tank (ds), we can calculate the major forces acting on it. We can not calculate the the minor shearing forces caused by vibration, pitch, yaw, etc. We can develop average forces. Therefore; we can not solve (accurately) the partial differential equation ds Force( X cross Y cross Z cross g)/dt =Vector of absolute Force Then add in adhesion and shear forces (that seems to be the problem here.) I know there are also many other factors (fuel slosh, wind, harmonics, etc.) I don't have time to properly set up the equations, but I do think this is the limit of this design. Do I think that there are other insulations that could be used? Yes, there is no more time to search them out. It is time to declare the Shuttle dead.

Just my thoughts, John

 And if that grounds Atlantis while it is clear there is damage to Discovery? So there is no possibility of rescue? Perhaps they need to rethink the situation. And see below




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Subject: Shuttle ET insulation problems


RE the Shuttle ET foam insulation shedding problems, two points:

One, it is clear now there was considerable wishful thinking involved in declaring the problem solved after two and one- half years and several billion dollars spent. NASA's internal management culture is far from fixed.

Two, according to Alex Gimarc, who would know, environmental concerns caused NASA to switch away from CFC-based foam for the ET in 1995. The substitute foam started flying in 1996, around the same time as debris hits on Shuttle tiles went up by a factor of 10. An industrial adhesives chemist friend tells me yes, water blown foams have a tendency to be a bit more rigid and friable than the CFC based ones. He adds that if you do the foam app wrong, you get a high probability of interlaminar misbonding which can, in turn, be peeled apart by thermal stress, cryopumping, and/or acoustical vibration.

Were I running the program, I'd be in the White house right now telling them give us environmental waivers and we'll fly in three months. Then I'd strip the foam off the next flight ET and recover it with the most adhesive, fracture-resistant stuff available, then launch the next mission as close to on schedule as possible. Again, watch and analyze the results in excruciating detail (why did we wait till flight 118?), make any indicated changes, and move on.

Even money though this standdown lasts at least another year, as they study this to death then likely as not come up with another half-assed "solution". Well, LockMart's billable hours will reach orbit, even if a Shuttle doesn't...

Henry Vanderbilt (but see below)


Subject: The Root Cause of Shuttle ET foam problems

A number of years ago, the EPA, in response to the as-yet unratified Kyoto treaties, directed NASA to radically change the formula that was used to produce the ET (External Tank) insulation foam.

The result was an immediate increase in the amount of foam shedded during launch and ultimately, the loss of Columbia and her crew.

In some views (mine included), NASA is criminally culpable for the present state of the ET and launch operations for Shuttle. There are several 'solutions' to the ET foam nightmare, all of which have been rejected. These solutions are generally 'duh' simple including various schemes for weaving kevlar thread or netting through the foam as it's being applied and to literally shrink-wrapping the foam layer of the tank.

However none of the potential solutions are as demonstrably reliable as going back the original foam formulation which was designed to provide both insulation *and* aerodynamic integrity.

Keep up the great work!

Chuck Kuhlman



From the report of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, Volume 1, p. 129:

"The foam loss problem on STS-87 was described as "popcorning" because of the numerous popcorn-size foam particles that came off the thrust panels. Popcorning has always occurred, but it began earlier than usual in the launch of STS-87. The cause of the earlier-than-normal popcorning (but not the fundamental cause of popcorning) was traced back to a change in foam- blowing agents that caused pressure buildups and stress concentrations within the foam. In an effort to reduce its use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), NASA had switched from a CFC-11 (chlorofluorocarbon) blowing agent to an HCFC-141b blowing agent beginning with External Tank-85, which was assigned to STS-84. (The change in blowing agent affected only mechanically applied foam. Foam that is hand sprayed, such as on the bipod ramp, is still applied using CFC-11.)"


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The following articles are from the Newsmax website. Have you or any of your contacts heard of the theory that NASA was forced during the Clinton administration to change the foam insulation from a safer Freon based product to the unsafe non Freon based substance? As an engineer the theory seems to make sense to me but I always question anything I read on the net. Do you think the environmental cultists of the Clinton administration were responsible for the loss of the shuttles? Has NASA been so taken over by political correctness that crew safety is being compromised for the sake of environmentalist junk science?

Best Regards,

James Marino Mesa Arizona


Shuttle Foam Loss Linked to EPA Regs http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/7/28/93055.shtml 

As recently as last month, NASA had been warned that foam insulation on the space shuttle's external fuel tank could sheer off as it did in the 2003 Columbia disaster - a problem that has plagued space shuttle flights since NASA switched to a non-Freon-based type of foam insulation to comply with Clinton administration Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

"Despite exhaustive work and considerable progress over the past 2-1/2 years, NASA has been unable to eliminate the possibility of dangerous pieces of foam and ice from breaking off the external fuel tank and striking the shuttle at liftoff," the agency's Return-to-Flight Task Force said just last month, according to The Associated Press.

But instead of returning the much safer, politically incorrect, Freon-based foam for Discovery's launch, the space agency tinkered with the application process, changing "the way the foam was applied to reduce the size and number of air pockets," according to Newsday. <snip>


Subject: Shuttle gounding


All of the evidence to date suggests that Discovery made it without significant damage, but there were definitely pieces of foam of the size of the one that doomed Challenger thrown.

I think that if Discovery had been damaged beyond possibility of safe recovery, they would of necessity have launched Atlantis to recovery the crew.

One can say statistically that, if this is associated with the "environmentally correct" foam introduced about 1994 IIRC and given a (liberal) average of 4 flights a year through 2002, there is about a 3% chance (with large errors, of course) of a damaging piece of foam hitting the shuttle. But the thing is, the problem is not going to be solved without going back to an environmentally unfriendly, but effective and sturdy, thermal insulator.

I DO hope this shuts down the voices which have called for the CEV to be launched in a Shuttle-C mode on top of the current ET/SRB stack. That alternative seems to me to keep every problem of Shuttle and introduce more through the design compromises necessary to make CEV fit the configuration limits. But of course the other alternative is designing and man-rating a new Saturn IB-class or better launch vehicle -- which everyone agrees is a $15 B R&D proposition (the same as the Boeing 777, for what that's worth. Of couse, $15 B in 2003 comparison dollars is $2.6 billion in 1965 mean-Apollo-project dollars, and as I've noted before, von Braun didn't have to content with EPA and OSHA...and also, his engineers didn't have to be experts in MS PowerPoint. And, I guess, forget about putting this launch system together in less than a decade for some reason (what happened to three-to-five year development cycles?)

Jim Woosley

===============Discussion continued below





On Terrorism:


"Are we fighting a war on terror or aren't we? Was it or was it not started by Islamic people who brought it to our shores on September 11, 2001? Were people from all over the world, mostly Americans, not brutally murdered that day, in downtown Manhattan, across the Potomac from our nation's capitol and in a field in Pennsylvania? Did nearly three thousand men, women and children die a horrible, burning or crushing death that day, or didn't they?

And I'm supposed to care that a copy of the Koran was "desecrated" when an overworked American soldier kicked it or got it wet? Well, I don't. I don't care at all.

I'll start caring when Osama bin Laden turns himself in and repents for incinerating all those innocent people on 9/11.

I'll care about the Koran when the fanatics in the Middle East start caring about the Holy Bible, the mere possession of which is a crime in Saudi Arabia.

I'll care when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi tells the world he is sorry for hacking off Nick Berg's head while Berg screamed through his gurgling, slashed throat.

I'll care when the cowardly so-called "insurgents" in Iraq come out and fight like men instead of disrespecting their own religion by hiding in mosques.

I'll care when the mindless zealots who blow themselves up in search of nirvana care about the innocent children within range of their suicide bombs.

I'll care when the American media stops pretending that their First Amendment liberties are somehow derived from international law instead of the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights.

I'll care when Clinton-appointed judges stop ordering my government to release photos of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, which are sure to set off the Islamic extremists just as Newsweek's lies did a few weeks ago.

In the meantime, when I hear a story about a brave marine roughing up an Iraqi terrorist to obtain information, know this: I don't care.

When I see a fuzzy photo of a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners who have been humiliated in what amounts to a college hazing incident, rest assured that I don't care.

When I see a wounded terrorist get shot in the head when he is told not to move because he might be booby-trapped, you can take it to the bank that I don't care.

When I hear that a prisoner, who was issued a Koran and a prayer mat, and fed "special" food that is paid for by my tax dollars, is complaining that his holy book is being "mishandled," you can absolutely believe in your heart of hearts that I don't care.

And oh, by the way, I've noticed that sometimes it's spelled "Koran" and other times "Quran." Well, Jimmy Crack Corn and -- you guessed it -- I don't care!" -


FTG (Failure To Grovel) violation


Jim Nichols

Woman In Trouble With Law After Questioning Officer's Identity 73-Year-Old Cited For Misdemeanor Obstructing & Delaying POSTED: 7:41 am EDT July 28, 2005

RALEIGH, N.C. -- What are you supposed to do when a police officer knocks on your door at night? Officials with the Raleigh Police Department say in a particular case, the answer was obvious, but an elderly woman who had her doubts got charged with a crime.

Marie Venezia, 73, is in trouble with the law after she questioned a police officer's identity.

Marie Venezia, 73, lives by herself in her Raleigh home. Last Tuesday night, a Raleigh police officer knocked on her door and asked her about damage to a neighbor's fence.

"I said 'I don't know what you want me to say. I don't know who it was.' He said, 'You know who it was.' I said, "I don't know who it was." He said you do," she said. "And at that point, I began to wonder if this guy really was a policeman because I didn't think officers acted like that."

Venezia told the officer she was going to call 911 to confirm who he was.

"He said, 'Don't close that door.' I said I am going to close it and then I went and called 911," she said.

When Venezia came back, the officer charged her with misdemeanor obstructing and delaying, issuing her a ticket.

"The exchange that occurred between the officer and the resident was unproductive to the point that the officer felt the charge was necessary," said Jim Sughrue, a representative with the Raleigh Police Department.

There have been a number of prior cases in Wilson and Raleigh about people posing as law enforcement officers. Plus, a WRAL investigation found a Web site selling badges. However, the Raleigh Police Department said those are unfair comparisons because in this case, the officer was in full uniform and his patrol car was in plain sight.

Raleigh police officials say when an officer is in full uniform and the car is visible, just cooperate. WRAL checked with other agencies and most say it depends on the situation. The Chapel Hill Police Department actually encourages double checking.



I just wanted to add this thought to your forum here at this URL: (I couldn't find a way to respond on the page) ===[I will explain why below. JEP]===

RE: (your webpage)Windows Genuine Advantage Validation


For one thing, it seems thaat the discussion on the Windows Validation Tool was going pretty good, except for the fact that it looks like someone keeps changing the subject to things like "Global Warming" "Ocean Data" and "Border Patrol". The question has still not been answered correctly, as this is still too new a subject to just let fade away like I believe someone is trying to do on this page. You see its an age old tactic that when you don't want something discussed you will typically want to change the subject so as to avoid the truth and having to answer any further questions. This person/people changing the subject right out of the blue from Windows OS validation tool to ..........uhem.......THE WEATHER! (case in point), it just seems a little bit odd to me. Just another observation. A little more than half-way down the page you'll see and excerpt from someone, (in quotes) "I would assume that a great deal of this flap is due to confusion between the procedures for authenticating the operating system as genuine, and for doing crash and error analysis. The latter certainly does require some information about data flow, since most problems are caused by driver conflicts. And now a word from a security expert:" Maybe it's just me......................but doesn't this sound like a "de-bunker"? After every topic discussed and on this very same page Microsoft themselves (a link) alluded to the fact that it is indeed more intrusive than your average customer would want. The statement above "And now a word from a security expert" sounds alot like .........."And now a word from our sponsor" ...or a visual would be the old man in the black and white commercials telling you that smoking has been studied and there really no health risk to be concerned about. That being said, This subject was dropped way too fast for my taste. I have seen nothing for evidence and once again I am told to "JUST BELIEVE" ....................I think Windows is heading in a bad direction and as for me........I'm switching to Linux as soon as possible. (I guess you could call it assisted suicide now) I noticed that TÜViT is spearheaded by Germany and the EU. I know from history past that Germany CAN be trusted and the EU ISN'T the new Revised Roman Empire that is trying to take over the world and far be it from a World monopolizer to shake hands with an OS monopolizer.I Wonder how the world will be taken over? Maybe by being the dictator of everything that is needed in business and in life, COMPUTERS. (I am being sarcastic here in case there are some who don't pick up on it).

Anonymouz [phenom@accesscomm.ca]

I do not often put up letters like this, but it is an illustration of why I do not allow direct posting to this site. To answer the implication of the letter, I don't think the question is settled either; but there are other matters discussed here as well. Thank you for sharing this with us.


Cold Winters

Dear Sir:

I ran across this in an old scrapbook. In light of what you have written, I thought you might find it of interest. The name of the paper does not appear on the clipping (It was probably one of the Utica, N.Y. papers) but the date of the article's appearance was 1902.

"The following facts with regard to former extraordinary severe Winters are particularly interesting at the present season when the weather-wise are predicting a more than usually sharp Spring: In 408 the Black Sea was entirely frozen over. In 761, not only the Black Sea, but the Straits of Dardanelles, were frozen over; the snow in some places rose 50' high. In 822 the great rivers of Europe-the Danube and Elbe, etc.-were so hard frozen as to bear heavy wagons for a month. In 860 the Adriatic was frozen; the crops totally failed, and famine and pestilence closed the year. In 1133 the Po was frozen from Cremona to the sea; the wine casks were burst, and even the trees split by the action of the frost, with immense noise. In 1236 the Danube was frozen to the bottom, and remained long in that state. In 1316 the crops wholly failed in Germany; wheat, which some years before sold in England as six shillings the quarter, rose to two pounds. In 1389 the crops failed in Scotland, and such a famine ensued that the poor were reduced to feed on grass, and many perished miserably in the fields. The successive winters of 1432-33-34 were uncommonly severe. At one time it snowed forty days without interruption. In 1408 the wine distributed to the soldiers in Flanders was cut with hatchets. In 1648 the Winter was excessively cold. Most of the hollies were killed, Coaches drove along the Thames, the ice of which was eleven inches thick. In 1709 occurred a cold winter. The frosts penetrated three yards into the ground. In 1715 booths were erected and fairs held on the Thames. In 1744 and 1745 the strongest ale in England exposed to the air, was covered in less than fifteen minutes with ice an eighth of an inch thick. In 1809 and again in 1822, the Winters were extremely cold. In 1814 there was a Fair on the frozen Thames."

Paul Bloom

I am not entirely sure I believe all of those, but it would be interesting to see if there is any corroboration. The fascinating part is that in 800 or so there was actually a warm period, or so I have thought. But local fluctuations can be important. Anyone know more about any of this?









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Friday,  July 29, 2005

The Following will go onto the Reports page, but it is very relevant to the Hockey Stick/ Global Warming Discussion

        This is not a graph

By Russell Seitz                                                                                 Copyright MMV


Until the  Cold War‘s end scientists were the heavy artillery of the peace movement ,trading   salvos with Apocalyptic televangelists on the Tonight show . But with the Soviet demise, and the Green Revolution, Helen Caldicott and Paul Ehrlich’s prophesies of nuclear and  Malthusian  doom decayed , and they faded from prime time. But  peace seldom lasts .Now generation Y activists are bombarding  the popular imagination with shrapnel made of a strange new alloy , created by  tossing climate science and semiotics into America’s cultural  melting pot.


Having known Sin at Hiroshima, science soon  made the acquaintance  of advertising-- the climate debate  is above  all about  the merchandising of ideas. Those with the steely surface glint of hard science look great under the studio lights  , and  the creation and manipulation of symbols in the service of politics is returning   science  to  Talk TV,  .


The  UN  sponsored the International Geophysical Year back when  Esso  was planting  fake tiger tails in  the tanks of cars with tailfins ,and Ambassador Bolton  was  trick or treating  for  UNICEF. But sometime after  Earth Day 1 UNESCO and  the  United Nation’s Climate Change Program’s  PR team  became  hardwired to  the Green multinationals . They spend billions  on advertising. Their knowledge of climate’s future may be shaky, but they  know enough  about image making to realize that an  item of sports equipment can  serve as well  as a plush animal as a mascot.


Global warming’s   current totem is a squirrelly reconstruction of the last 1000 years of global temperatures -- a computer drawn curve  with a kink in its 20th century tail that leaves it looking like a hockey stick .To Gore voters, this  sporty icon  signifies the approaching end of the world, but Bush fans fear it symbolizes the end of science itself. They could both be wrong.  what if the stick is just a symbol created to change opinion without the effort of informing it?


The current fracas  over the stick’s significance  between the BBC world service and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal  may mark  the opening  of the  second half of a Hundred Years War. In 1954,  a Look cover drew an imagined  connection  between   A-bomb tests and  changeable weather. Since then, computer animation has become the Orwellian medium of enforced illusion par excellence - a supercomputer   with an airbrush can run rings around Disney’s  Fantasia. In 1984 one of these  fearsome engines  in the service of a PR firm  transformed Carl Sagan’s ‘Nuclear winter’ climate model from a ghost in a machine into part of the cold war’s imaginary landscape. Then the Cold War ended , and science television started to get really weird.


The atmosphere is the earth’s most complex dynamic system, and the nuances of its scientific description make the works of many modern French philosophers seem models of clarity. So forget Roland Barthes  - when the semiotic going gets really surreal, the tough turn to Rene Magritte.His painted world resembles an Acme Products catalog, full of gravity defying hats, and   windows that open inward on infinity.


Since his famous picture of a pipe is entitled Cici n’est pas une Pipe: "This Is Not A Pipe”, he’d instantly grasp the scientific truth about the "hockey stick”: This Is Not A Graph!   It’s a collage. Some think such artistry   symbolizes a conspiracy to rewrite scientific history. But scientists go to the climate wars with the data they’ve got, and it often comes with the dread words “Some Assembly Required.”  When confronting complexity, science uses accounting practices carved in rubber, not stone.


The “hockey stick “ blade is hammered out of a solid block of thermometer readings, but its 800 year long shaft is cobbled together  from proxy data  from dead tree rings and bits of coral. No wonder critics found  chinks  in the stick’s statistical armor that  made  _ Nature_, ‘s editors send the stick’s authors to the penalty box to fix what was broke. This they did, and  the evidence for medieval warming back where it belongs, in plain sight. In short, science worked. Yet neither side can claim this slapshot as a goal.


Hype is as perennial a problem in science as the securities business, but hype is not synonymous with hoax. Few doubt the temperature rise since the Industrial Revolution, or construe the absence of ancient evidence as proof of future climate running amok. But many seem to covet their own hypotheses—some want the UN climate program’s signature hockey stick redrawn as a boa constrictor that has swallowed an elephant.


Perhaps we should humor them. We live on images in a time when Photoshopped Presidential records fool network anchors, and ubergeeks can reconstitute a Warhol  Campbell’s Soup can  out of microdot portraits of Suerat  Such works may not be masterpieces, but they tells us something about the temptation facing post-modern science as well as art.


Where does this leave us relative to Kyoto and all that?  In a word, dissed. Computer modelers have been preying on policy analysts since the days of the Club of Rome. It’s still a problem; but Moore’s Law cuts right and left.  The growing strengths and diminishing limits of computational power justify the millions that not just UN bureaucrats, but free market commodity analysts pour into improving long-range climate modeling. Feed them garbage, and the best models still behave like colicky elephants. But satisfy their insatiable appetite for hard data, and  " man made global warming”, emerges not as a metaphysical entity but a phenomenon real as death, taxes-- and inflation.


America’s fuel consumption is as well defined as it money supply, and just as surely as printing money drives inflation, rising emissions of   CO2 raise the rate of energy absorption from the sun. Even when inflation is low, we look to policy to manage, not ignore it.  The pace of warming may be glacial, but it never rests, for CO2 remains in circulation for a century .The measured 3 microwatts per meter squared per day of solar gain represents neither a crisis nor a catastrophe, but a respectable problem in search of an honest solution. Heaven help the Fed if it ignored even a puny rate of inflation over such a stretch of time.


It is hard to undo the misrepresentation of science to the public. Few scientists and fewer popularizers succeed in setting complex issues straight- even Michael Crichton admits that Hitchcock’s admonition  "It's Just a Movie “ applies equally to State of Fear and The Day After Tomorrow .  Environmentalists may hiss when Crichton appears on talk show screens, but his  disarming  candor lends credit to his techno-thrillers unlikely silent hero- transparency in science policy.


He thinks groups and laboratories that examine global questions ought to expose all their data and methods to scrutiny on the Internet. It’s an intriguing idea, but the political neutrality of scientific institutions must first exist in order to be respected - a cause the  UN’s climate secretariat certainly cannot help by abetting environmental surrealism  yet again. Some evidently will never forgive or forget its role  in the Soviet endorsement  of ‘nuclear winter’ in 1984.



‘Nuclear Winter ‘ ultimately perished because of the ability of intelligent laymen to recognize hype when they hear it and cartoons when they saw them. Today, computer literacy   threatens practitioners of statistical deception just as the rise of the Blogosphere does those of journalistic deceit. But at the same time , pixilated images  have made it hard to distinguish myth from natural history- computer animation is  an advertising medium of unprecedented force.


The climate debate amply evidences that animating the Apocalypse is no longer an aberration. It has become accepted as a best practice by true believers on both sides of science’s rapidly eroding center. PBS erstwhile political neutrality only compounds such abuse, as does its custom of putting past polemics into self-reinforcing reruns. When focus groups determine how an arsenal of   special effects   will redefine the environment on TV, mere facts cannot prevail over digital reality. If computer animations divorced from data supplant science in the political arena, semiotics’ new big stick may transform  from blunt instrument into a deadly weapon in  the fight for control of popular culture,.


It’s tempting for free-market think tanks to  turn to a best selling novel .But when the issue is science rather than policy, those inviting Michael Crichton  to speak should avail themselves of his considerable sense of the sardonic- Congo  was clearly not intended as an African  strategic resources  handbook, The Andromeda Strain  as a Bioterror response manual,  or  Prey as a remedy for nanohype , . The scientific literature may not be a page turner, but policy makers are more likely to dream the dreams of reason if they fall asleep reading peer reviewed  journals  than  blockbusters that terrify by design. .



 Note that I have copied this article and much of the debate onto a Global Warming Reports page.



You've used the term 'like herding cats' a couple of time on your site, I liked it so much I used it at work and a guy reminded me of a commercial that EDS made:

http://tvadverts.blogspot.com/2005/05/cat-herders-herding-cats.html  http://www.fallon.com/assets/work/eds/cats_te_mpl_mpg.mpg 

Extremely funny!

On the subject of reorganizing your site -- Don't! If you need good searching you can add a Google search box to each page like I did on my site at http://www.brianlane.com or people can use the site:www.jerrypournelle.com command when they search from google's main page.


Site:www.jerrypournelle.com works fine. Thanks


Subject: New world may be double Pluto's size

Dr. Pournelle:

I figured you'd be interested in this one:


<snip> An object possibly twice the size of Pluto has been found - hiding in plain sight. The discovery could be the biggest world in the Kuiper belt of rocky objects that orbit the outer reaches of the solar system. </snip>

<snip> The MPC reports the object is about 51 Astronomical Units from the Sun - 1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Its orbit brings it comes as close to the Sun as 35 AU, while Pluto maintains an average distance of about 39 AU. "Someone should have found this before," Brian Marsden, director of the MPC, told New Scientist. </snip>

The site claims to be subscription-based, but I had no trouble reading the article without having to sign up.

Given that the International Astronomical Union still officially lists Pluto as the ninth planet, this would seem to be the tenth, assuming the size guestimation holds up. I've been following the whole "what exactly is a planet?" debate with great interest ever since they announced the discovery of Sedna last year.

On a related note: it's too bad about the space shuttle, but not much of a surprise to me based on what I've read on your web site over the years. On the other hand, NASA does seem to be pretty good at unmanned space exploration, with the twin Mars rovers being an excellent example. Maybe they should stick with robots?

"Deferred success is not an option!" -- Gene Krantz

"Failure is not an option -- it comes bundled with the software!" -- Anonymous(?)


Bob Shepard


From: Robot-Bastard

Subject: Re: Big Aerospace versus Engineering

As an engineer who works for one of the Big Aerospace firms, I can tell you that Big Aero has almost no interest in aerospace development these days, and little enough interest in the actual work of aerospace engineering. Big Aero, like the rest of American industry, has been taken over by businessmen, who are only capable of understanding one type of organization: The Big Systems Integrator. These people only know how to run a company which buys black boxes from smaller companies, bolts them together, and sells the resulting assembly. It does not matter whether they are building satellites or airplanes or cars or toasters or financial-planning software or cat food; all products are the same algorithm, and there is only one way to execute it.

If the businessmen had their way, neither Boeing nor Lockheed would have a single engineer working for them!

The horror of it all is that I believe you. I once worked for Boeing when it was a really good company that did exciting work. I was at North American when it was an engineering aerospace company. Now --

Which is why I propose that we bribe the big companies to get out of the way so someone else can actually get us into space. And see below


Subject: Shuttle Foam correction


Seems my good deed for the day is to serve as an example of why one shouldn't fulminate on the basis of one info source. After firing off yesterday's screed about how easy it'd be to fix the Shuttle External Tank's foam- shedding problems, I checked around some, and discovered that "it's all the EPA's fault!" is more urban legend than fact. Alas, an ET fix isn't that simple.

To be brief, the Shuttle ET has had problems with shed foam damaging the orbiter thermal protection surfaces from the very start. The problem goes back to the design days, when the Orbiter designers didn't tell the Tank designers that oops, the TPS was going to be too fragile to handle ice falling off the tank at launch, until after the External Tank design was set. The foam was a last-second patch, and has never worked right; there have been shed-foam hits on the TPS every flight the Shuttle has ever made. More on some, less on others, as production quality and methods have varied and the ET engineers have tried a series of fixes. (There's a good account of all this at http://www.rednova.com/news/space/1482/design_solution_created_problem_with_shuttle_columbia/)

The killer to the "EPA dunnit!" story is in this excerpt from the Columbia accident report: "The change in blowing agent affected only mechanically applied foam. Foam that is hand sprayed, such as on the bipod ramp, is still applied using CFC-11." IE, they were still using the original composition foam on the ramp area that broke loose and killed Columbia, and on the ramp area where a big piece broke loose on Discovery's launch the other day.

Now, my friend the adhesives engineer's comment is still apropos; bad technique in hand application can cause airpockets and/or bad adhesion between layers, either or both of which can help chunks break loose. QC at the ET plant in Michoud is definitely one of the things that needs looking at here.

My comment on NASA's organizational culture stands too; it is abundantly clear now there was considerable wishful thinking involved in declaring the problem solved after two and one- half years and several billion dollars spent. NASA's internal management culture is far from fixed.

But in passing on the EPA-dunnit net legend, oops, I goofed.

Henry Vanderbilt

All I know is that a billion dollars is a lot of money. You can buy a whole new program with new ships for a lot less. But to NASA it's chicken feed, and they aren't even ashamed that after a billion they can't keep the foam from flaking off to hit vulnerable spots.


The tiles and the SOFI are examples of a generic problem with far greater implications than safety of a given Shuttle launch.

In the mid sixties I worked on the Dyna Soar project, the only surviving residue of which is the Titan launch vehicle family.

But Dyna Soar also specified a heat resistant material that was duly ignored by NASA.

It was called Rene 41, and was called a "refractory metal". It was never flown on Dyna Soar, because that never flew, but it flew twice on something called ASSET, for "advanced super sonic entry technology" and worked just fine.

An Orbiter armored with such a material (and there are even better materials now) would not only have avoided the whole tile scenario; it would have avoided the extremely time consuming and expensive TLC devoted to tiles after every flight.

NASA rejected that and went to the Ames Research Center developed tiles.

I'm not aware of the origin of the ET insulation, though there is a story circulating that some time back NASA discovered that the stuff used up to that time contained the element that in gaseous form in Freon, was blamed for erosion of the ozone layer.

They immediately ordered Martin, ET builder, to come up with a formulation that avoided that element ... even though there was absolutely no way that stuff could come out of the very tight chemical bonds of silicone in the insulation during its brief sojourn in space or while traversing the "ozone layer".

The story is that the replacement insulation is what is shedding now.

If you will examine each disaster that resulted in astronaut deaths, you will, without exception, find management incompetence was the root cause, whatever the actual physical cause was.

Start with the pad fire for Apollo, and realize that there was ample precedent to cause avoidance of high pressure (one atmosphere) pure oxygen exposure of humans, especially when it served absolutely no useful purpose and did not duplicate the 5.5 psi actual flight atmosphere. There had been a previous fire in a ground simulation test at 100% O2 from which lunar astronaut Al Bean narrowly escaped, as he had been a participant, but had just left the "capsule" before the fire.

The first Shuttle Challenger disaster was blamed on the cold O-rings in the SRBs, but Thiokol engineers had told NASA managers that they were way outside the design temperature limits that day, and the NASA manager's famous response was "My God, Thiokol! Do you want us to wait 'til April to launch"?

So it was a management error then, also.

In the case of Columbia there were multiple management errors, that actually go back to the choice of tiles over Rene 41 sometime in the '70's, the explicit ignoring of the previous history of insulation losses, the change (if verified) to a specious "environmentally friendly" foam insulation and the ultimate decision not to use USAF satellite imaging to examine Columbia before re-entry.

This concatenation of incompetence has never been stated publicly nor in the media even though I've circulated it widely.

The real cause, in my opinion, lies in having a government agency doing what should be a private enterprise, competitive process.

We should long since have segued out of a government bureaucracy into a competitive bidding, private enterprise process with NASA contracting for delivery of cargo (not "payloads) to specified FOB orbital parameters, in launch vehicles designed by the kind of people who built Space Ship 1.

The private environment is far from perfect, but it either avoids such egregious errors or is soon out of business.

Government agencies are allowed to continue indefinitely and are protected from their errors because so many Congressional Districts have a vested interest in their survival... even when they repeatedly kill people!



William E. Haynes

Aerospace Systems Analyst


I worked on Dyna Soar in my Boeing days. That project was killed by the peace process... As for Freon etc. see Henry's letter above. I have no idea. I do know that replacing the asbestos sealing paste for the solid booster O rings may well have caused the Challenger disaster. For what NASA ought to have done about the foam problem, see my essay with added material on NASA and getting to space.  For why NASA can't do much see below.




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Saturday, July 30, 2005

=On NASA and Journalists

Dear Jerry:

Great piece on NASA and the shuttle; the last paragraph especially was deeply affecting, in a sad sort of way.

But you have to give the politicians cover if you want things to change: to change policy first you have to change perception. Still today the perception among the mass of the American public is that NASA is the go to guys, the folks with "the right stuff," the best and the brightest in the field of space exploration.

You know that's not the case because you follow this stuff a whole lot more closely, with better understanding of the details, than 99.9% of the population. But say you're some ink-stained wretch from the NY TIMES sent to get the story. NASA flies you to the Cape, fills you up on warm Florida sunshine and cool orange juice, shows you many large and brightly lit rooms with what looks like Buck Rogers technology under development, hands you a bunch of beautifully designed and printed White Papers, introduces you to some attractive people who have actually BEEN in space and speak highly of their employers, and your story sort of writes itself, doesn't it?

Whereas if you want to interview Burt Rutan you've got to pay your own way to Back of Beyond, Nevada, or wherever he hangs out, walk around in a dust bowl in the heat, get shown some stuff (brilliant as it is) that looks like it was put together for a high school science fair, meet a few people for whom even geek is a second language (their first being math & science), and come away feeling not only gritty but pretty stupid. Plus this article far from writing itself is going to take a lot of actual work just to understand, much less explain, what's going on and why these people should be funded seriously.

Yet "policy follows publicity" so don't expect things to change until somehow bright guys like yourself who know a little bit how to direct the media circus break through the background noise, boredom, and disinterest of our major national "organs of record" and get the word out that the real right stuff isn't anywhere near NASA these days - and not just point but take them by the hand and lead them in the right direction.

All the best--

Tim Loeb

An excellent statement of the problem.




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Why NASA Can't Do Much

Re Tim Loeb's post (and your agreement): it's always fun to kick around the ink-stained wretches, but let's look at a counterexample: the big wet 25-minute kiss that "60 Minutes" gave to Burt Rutan on July 3, after another last fall.

Reporter Ed Bradley tells us that Spaceship One "has ended the government's monopoly on space travel." He shows us five SC engineers in a hangar, and draws the comparison : "Weren't you guys concerned? I mean, you're going up against NASA and its billions of dollars." We get a feathering demonstration and the shuttlecock simile. We get Burt recalling the Walt & Wernher TV shows of the mid-50s, and pulling up his own version of the big orbital wheel on his laptop.

We get the clip of Rutan in 1986, receiving his Presidential medal for the Voyager flight, and making the point that he'd had to file only two pages of paperwork (there's Reagan beaming in the background). What can the viewer possibly infer from this (as from your original post, Jerry) but that the only hard thing about space is all that governmental overhead and Big Aerospace sloth? Let's see if I remember: Reagan's small government had Space Station Freedom almost completed, then GHW Bush -- not a *real* conservative -- overloaded it with GANTT charts, and then Clinton de-orbited it to please the State Dept wusses, right? (but I digress...)

In short, "60 Minutes" was a high-profile mainstream media piece doing exactly what Tim says the "media circus" never does: celebrating the Right Stuff, the lean mean entrepreneurial team, and more or less explictly consigning NASA to the dinosaur exhibit. I could cite a hundred other broadcasts and articles surrounding the X-prize flights that did exactly the same thing.

So what was missing? Oh, just some geeky, trivial technical details like the difference between suborbital and orbital.... which is the difference between a few minutes of weightlessness, a spectacular view, bragging rights -- and actually being in space long enough to *do* anything, or leaving any equipment fucntioning there.

No average viewer would have had a clue from that show that an orbital Spaceship N is going to need a factor of 5 in delta-v and >25 in total energy, which just might make it less adorably cheap and cheerful than Spaceship One, and require a mother ship the size of Nellis AFB. Or else (horrors!) that dreary, obsolete "NaySay" technology of expendable booster$.

Or that it's far from scientifically obvious, let alone proven, that feathering scales to re-entry from orbit.

Or that there might be some other differences between demonstrating design performance a handful of times (with two white-knuckle anomalies), then off to the Smithsonian...

...And actually "kick-starting a new industry," "the dawn of a new era," "building a [Virgin Galactic] space program," and other such phrases from the show.

Look, I admire and respect Rutan and his peers in alt.space (the 10% of real contenders, not the 90% of Powerpoint rangers). I subscribe to the basic alt.space premise that most progress for the foreseeable future is going to come not from new technology, but from higher flight rates, new sources of demand, and a "virtuous circle" of increasing experience and declining ops costs. I happen to think price/demand elasticity is a lot lower (and therefore the circle will take a lot longer to spin up) than the evangelists do, but that's another rant.

The fact is, Tim, that far from ignoring alt.space and toeing the JSC/KSFC line, out here in the real world the media have been falling all over Rutan, and treating each piece of foam off Discovery's ET as the potential hammer of doom. Maybe you and Jerry could wake up and smell the coffee?


Monte Davis monte.davis@verizon.net

It is certainly the case that Rutan's system cannot lead to orbit; but he is now talking about sub orbital vehincles that can. I am not worried about Burt getting publicity. I am worried that it takes spectaculars like his to get the media to look at anything but NASA. There are many other players in this game, as those who go to Henry Vanderbilt's Space Access Conferences know.



Subject: More on "Kelo" aftershocks

About the Kelo decision, you wrote ( http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/view367.html#takings ):

"... California, which has some pretty bad laws, has seen fit to protect me from this misuse of Eminent Domain: in California the only way to take private property for non-public use (like a freeway or railroad right of way) is to clear a blighted area, and one can go to trial on the issue of fact over whether this is blight."

But, in an article by Debra Saunders ( http://www.townhall.com/columnists/debrasaunders/ds20050728.shtml ) about a takings case in Oakland, this:

"Dana Berliner, a lawyer for the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice, which fights government eminent-domain overreach, argued that the California Supreme Court and state law don't bolster eminent-domain abuses. But: 'The laws are routinely ignored because local governments know most people can't afford to fight them.'"

When the big guys raise the stakes in the pot higher than the little guys can handle, the law is become a useless reed, not a sword to defend the citizen from outlawry. (Yeh, freely mixed metaphors. Less mixed up than the Eminent Domain issue is, though. :-)

David W Needham

It remains a state matter, not a Federal one. The Federal Bulldozer was brought in through unconstitutional Urban Renewal programs. If those had been declared state matters, we would be a lot better off. I don't susptect that the states will always be better at protecting freedoms; I do suspect that competition among the states will help, while centralizing protection of freedom in the Federal government will result in nothing being protected for very long.


Subject: Foam Fairings

I've once again collected enough facts to be dangerous. Indulge me as I follow an interesting logic chain...

The Shuttle External Tank (ET) has on it a number of built-up insulating-foam structures that NASA calls "PAL Ramps". PAL stands for "Protruberance Air Load" - what these things actually are is aerodynamic fairings around various hardware attached to the outside of the ET. As a gesture of respect to clear language, I'm going to call them "fairings" henceforth.

Post-Columbia, NASA decided the hand-applied multi-layer foam process used to build up these "PAL Ramp" fairings on the External Tank may have suffered bad QC. The fix involves a full-time inspector looking over each foam applier's shoulder, to make sure they don't mess it up in ways that could leave air pockets or bad bonds between layers and cause potentially fatal foam chunks to fall off in flight. (See http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/sts107_foam_ft_030506.html for background on the QC problems pre-Columbia.) (Dumb question - why not just make the fairings from sheet aluminum? It's not as if that'd be a risky new development in airframe design...)

Discovery flew with an ET manufactured before the loss of Columbia.

NASA decided to completely remove the foam fairings at the base of this ET's forward Orbiter attach bipod, and reapply redesigned versions with the new better-QC process, presumably because foam had demonstrably broken off from that point on Columbia's last flight.

At the same time, they decided that the foam fairing over the cable and hose-run alongside the big liquid oxygen feed down the side of the ET, a fairing built up in the same factory of the same foam by the same process deemed untrustworthy for the bipod base fairings - NASA decided that this fairing was safe, since they'd never seen chunks break off it on the limited occasions they'd looked. So on the stated theory "if it ain't broke don't fix it" they launched Discovery with this suspect-QC fairing. And, of course, a chunk of foam described by NASA as large enough to have done fatal damage to Discovery had it broken loose a bit earlier, broke loose. (To be finicky accurate, a smaller chunk of foam also broke off the new-built bipod fairings - the new QC, alas, isn't a panacea either.)

Is it just me, or did we just witness hundreds of intelligent, skilled, dedicated individuals get organizationally dumb enough to commit the fallacy of assuming absence of evidence equals evidence of absence, in deciding "it ain't broke"?

The Columbia accident investigators concluded a central part of the problem was a badly broken corporate culture in the major part of NASA that does "human spaceflight". I think we can now safely say that, post-Columbia reforms notwithstanding, it's still broken.

Mike Griffin has his work cut out for him, trying to harness this beast and drive it back to the Moon and on to Mars. The odds look worse than they did a week ago, and return-to-flight euphoria aside, they didn't look great then.

My take is still that by far the best chance of making it all work is to jack up the hood ornament and drive a new car up underneath - essentially disband the current NASA "human spaceflight" centers as Shuttle and Station are wound down, and start the new projects entirely afresh elsewhere.

Probably politically impossible, yes - the White House has a war to deal with, and the Congress still treats the JSC/KSC/MSFC delegations as just one more regional pork coalition to horse-trade other things with. Fostering the widespread impression that pork-as-usual at NASA is BAD for the country would help, but I don't know how to do that with the resources at hand.

Still, there is at least a precedent now - I just heard that the much- maligned No Child Left Behind schools program actually has such an institutional "death penalty" for the most persistantly bad schools - literally, fire the entire staff and start over. I hear it's even been done a few times already, with test scores in the schools involved more than doubling the first year after. Hmmm...

Henry Vanderbilt















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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

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

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

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Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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