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Mail 462 April 16 - 22, 2007
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April 16, 2007
I'll have pictures from Andalusia up on my blog in a day or two. Visited Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, and Malaga. We haven't been on top of UK news, so this will be short.
UK Education news: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6543921.stm> --I don't know what to say... <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6553359.stm> --ditto. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6553123.stm> --rapid inflation in exam fees in the UK. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/6546967.stm> --the UK is known for poor treatment of children
Bruce Schneier comment on the CCTV culture here: <http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/04/cameras_in_the_1.html>
Garry Kasparov arrested in Russia: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6554989.stm>
The trip to Spain was mixed--we visited places we always wanted to visit, but learned that almost everyone smokes. Hotels claim to be non-smoking, but they lie. I'm an asthmatic, so I was glad to get home. When we go on these trips, we stay off the internet, and only glance at newspapers--it's refreshing to escape.
Southern Spain is having a boom. There is building going on everywhere, and people look prosperous. The countryside is like Southern California, but with a collection of large cities about the size of San Bernadino. The Church is important to these people, and they socialise in the evenings. It's a healthy, optimistic, dynamic society. If you can stand the smoke, visit them.
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
Subject: Global warming ozone deplesion and other sillyness
I have been reading some of your articles recently and have some thoughts on global climate change, ozone depletion, and even the Dean Drive.
I am a retired scientist having worked for NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab for nearly 35 years. In the early days of the space program there was much interest in various drive systems. No one believed that a linear reactionless drive would work, Newton pretty much settled that and Einstein confirmed it, but there was a lot of interest in the possibility of an angular momentum equivalent.
Attitude control systems on spacecraft consume fuel and therefore limit the life of the system. We experimented with small solar sails on Venus Mariner spacecraft and various pressurized gas systems but if a way could be found to use gyros or momentum wheels without having to de-saturate them from time to time that would be wonderful. So all sorts of Rube Goldberg devices were speculated and some were actually built. The most interesting was a three-gyro system with mutually orthogonal spin axis's. The idea was that maybe we could use gyro forces to make a stable reference frame against which the spacecraft could be torqued to provide attitude control. Well the results were unspectacular at first.
When all three wheels came up to speed we discovered that gyroscopic forces vanished, or at least so it seemed. There was no spatial frame stability at all. However, what we didn't realize was the forces inside the device were enormous. After rotating the assembly about every axis and experiencing no force suddenly the entire mechanism exploded into a spray of fractured metal and spinning wheels. The thing was DANGEROUS! Anyway we concluded that inertial stabilization by this means was also covered by Newton so abandoned the project. Now reaction wheels are used in many spacecraft including the shuttle and the space station but propellant must be consumed to de-saturate them from time to time.
Interestingly, there may be a way to create a linear reactionless drive using a beam of coherent gravitational radiation. It works a bit like a rocket but only gravitational energy is expelled. If you like I can expound on this one further.
I had another experience later when I was put in charge of a project to determine CFC transport rates from the surface to the upper atmosphere.
Ozone destruction by halogen catalysis is well understood and is easily demonstrated in the laboratory. The observed depletion of the ozone layer at both of the poles was of considerable concern and it was theorized that CFC based refrigerants were at fault. (I am sure everyone remembers that one) Well, anyway, we put together a program using high altitude aircraft and balloons to measure the CFC particle population at various altitudes. Mathematical models based on assumed ozone catalytic destruction had been constructed that predicted the levels to expect at various altitudes so we set about to confirm the model. What we found was that in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres the CFC density was less than five percent of what the model demanded to assign a causal relationship between CFC's and ozone depletion. The measurements were repeated a number of times but we never came close to finding enough halogen compounds to satisfy the model. We had to conclude that CFC's were not a significant contributing factor to ozone depletion and that catalysis did not dominate the process. Some other mechanism was at work. These results were so disappointing to the sponsors of the project we were instructed not to publish our results.
I have viewed subsequent work on both ozone depletion and anthropogenic links to global climate change with considerable suspicion. It is clear that these "scientists" have an ideological dog in the fight and their objectivity is for sale.
Anyway, I thought you might find these instances amusing.
Apple Valley, Ca.
I have always wondered how those very heavy CFC molecules got into the Southern Hemisphere stratosphere.
Richard Feynman used to say, often, that in science it's the experiment that rules; it's experimental evidence that counts. My Voodoo Sciences essay was conceived after a lunch with Feynman many years ago.
I would very much like to follow up on how you might get reactionless drive as a plausible system (after all I write science fiction); and of course any such thing would be the key to the solar system if not to the stars. And I'd be interested in how the explosion of the Mach platform (my name for your inertia independent device) is covered by Newton...
Like you I view much of the "consensus" science with suspicion: peer review grants go only to those who conform. Which scares me.
- Roland Dobbins
Ethanol is most easily made from wheat and corn. The Whiskey Rebellion was one consequence of this: it's one of the easiest way to store your corn crop, and farmers in the early Republic were accustomed to making alcohol out of their crops if transport was expensive and prices low. The whiskey tax outraged them.
We have seen riots in Mexico because of the increased price of corn.
Petroleum is too valuable to be set fire, but there's lots of coal. Better yet is nuclear for electricity. That requires new technology to convert kilowatts into transportation, but that still won't be as expensive as burning food.
Subj: Fischer-Tropsch lives!
Apparently there *is* some progress towards basing production of transportation fuels on domestic coal rather than imported oil:
"... Rentech plans to convert REMC's natural gas fed ammonia fertilizer plant into a facility that will use clean gasification technology to produce Rentech's ultra-clean fuels, fertilizer and electricity from Illinois coal. ... The East Dubuque facility will utilize the Rentech process, which is an enhanced version of FT technology, to produce the clean fuels which can be used for a wide-range of transportation applications, including diesel and jet fuels. ..."
Subject: Chaos Manor readers
You recently wrote--
My comment--You don't have enough pictures or celebrities or crime coverage to attract the other side of the curve. You could always print more TV and movie reviews if you want to change that.
As for meeting self-imposed deadlines for the web pages-- No offense but you are not as young as you were 10 years ago. Compare your vacation days to those listed for President Bush. I suspect you work more than he does and with far, far less support staff.
Over the course of a few weeks, you may have to concentrate more or less on your "day job" -- fiction-- but over the course of 3 or 6 or 12 months your work on the websites averages out to more than enough to make this place worth supporting.
We understand when the locusts attack. Most of us encounter them from time to time, we just don't tell you about it.
I do tend to work pretty hard...
RE: Wheat ... corn ... the Irish famine
The pet food poisoning in the USA. Due to normal for China rat poison in wheat. Ok then, why is the USA buying wheat from China!? Didn't China import tons of USA wheat during the cold war? I can still remember when Japan finally permitted the import of rice from Thailand.
We see the riots in Mexico due to the increased price of corn, but nothing is coming out of China.
I could not find the pointer to the Irish famine due to their english landlords selling irish raised food to England. Which this reminds me of.
Google has lots on this. Try Corn Laws and Famine.
We import because companies can make more money doing that. Whether that's good for the people of the US, or for the US as a nation in the longer run, is not so clear to me, but when I point that out the economists scream "You haven't read Ricardo" and walk out of the room. I have yet to have one of them explain to me why this situation is good, but I have had lots of lectures about buggy whips.
Subject: Don't stare at Muslims says advice to schools
You just can’t make this stuff up!
PUPILS and teachers have been told by an official body not to stare at Muslims for fear of causing offence.
A document intended to educate against religious intolerance and sectarianism urges teachers to “make pupils aware of the various forms of Islamophobia, ie stares, verbal abuse, physical abuse”.
Alas, you can't make this stuff up. We sow the wind.
Monday's mail on "Don't Stare at Moslems" contained a link to last week's article on the UW professor who needs $20k for his time-travel experiment.
-- Bill Kilner
Subject: RE: Rush Limbaugh's comments
I was listening to that show and heard his comments in context - he was not in any way challenging their right to speech - only that these same critics claim that such speech is dangerous in general, yet engage in it with gusto.
He's asking: What's OK for them isn't OK for us?
The principle that Congresscritters cannot be held to account in any other place by what is said on the floor is a vital principle of a republic (or even of a monarchy or empire). It does not extend to the notion that anything said by anyone in any place is equally protected, and it seemed pretty clear to me that Limbaugh wasn't making that distinction.
Are you telling me that politicians can be hypocritical? But I am sure you know that and that you know that I know that.
The Imus affair is pretty silly on its face. A man who just signed a $50 million dollar contract to keep Imus on CBS now is shocked, just shocked, to find that Imus is controversial.
I have mail indicating belief that I have some grudge with Rush Limbaugh. I can't imagine why anyone thinks that. I may have misheard him, and he may have a keen understanding of the importance of immunity of individual Congressmen and Senators. My point is that this is an important immunity, and the fact that it is often misused does not lessen its importance. Not being subject to discipline by anyone other than their own house of the legislature, and by their constituents, is fundamental to the separation of powers.
And that is quite enough on that subject.
April 17, 2007
Subject : Al Gore Out On A Limb
Anxious to offset his carbon intensive lifestyle, my incorrigible Ecology 101 classmate , Al Gore , has paid to plant bunch of trees in parts unknown.
But some of his penitential shrubbery seems fated by physics to hasten global warming instead of offsetting it as intended
The Wall Street Journal has kindly let me post my 14 April op-ed on his run in with The Law Of Unintended Consequences -
An Inconvenient Tree :
Subj: Globalization and Its Implications for the Defense Industrial Base
A monograph from the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College:
A subject I need to write more about when I get time. Thanks
Subject: Spanish Missions
"Frankly, I wouldn't mind how little she knew if I didn't know that she's spent at least 20 classroom hours on this project. That means that, out of 20 classroom hours, the only hardcore information she's taken away is that priests come from Spain, enslaved Indians, and built Missions out of adobe bricks made from clay, straw and manure. That strikes me as a very poor return on time spent.
I'm harping on this because it ties in to my constant gripe about what I see as the public school system's profound misunderstanding of arts and crafts. Thirty or forty years ago, educationalists figured out the obvious, which is that not all people learn through words, but that some people are better visual or tactile learners. The logical thing to do, and the thing that you see in my beloved Montessori, is to focus on key issues related to any given subject, but to give kids the chance to study and express the information through the medium most natural to them. The schools, instead, simply abandoned the idea of conveying lots of information, or enabling the kids to learn lots of information, dumbed down lots of subjects so that they could be turned into giant arts and crafts projects. The Mission project is a perfect case in point."
Subject: Universal health care
Some real-life input on the subject of universal health care, British style. We have a part-time employee who lives in Britain, and comes to work for us several times a year in Switzerland.
In April 2006, she ruptured disks in her spine. As everyone knows, this is a pretty common injury, and usually easily corrected by surgery. Without surgery, one winds up invalid.
Here we see the benefits of universal health care. To assess the damage, she had a CAT scan of the spine in December 2006. That is EIGHT months after the initial injury. The CAT scan determined that her injury was unusually severe, involving no less than three disks. However, since she was still able to get around (with the help of lots of painkillers), she was told that she would be a low priority for surgery. She might expect an appointment sometime next summer. At her first consultation with an actual surgeon, another month later, it wasn't clear if she would be offered surgery at all.
Of course, the injury is getting progressively worse. She is now unable to stand or walk more than a few minutes at a time. Even sitting or lying is painful, and the contortions of trying to minimize the pain are leading to additional problems in her upper back and shoulders. She is forced to cancel more and more of her work, because she can no longer function even with painkillers.
She has finally made an appointment with a private clinic in Germany. Even though she cannot really afford private care, there seems to be no choice if she actually wants treatment.
If I ever had any doubts of the effectiveness of universal health care, they are laid to rest by this case. Eliminate any remnants of competition, and the result will be a huge, ineffective bureaucracy, unable to provide essential care for its patients. In this case, the system is taking a productive, otherwise healthy person, and doing its best to make her into a permanent cripple.
British health care is an embarrassment to an otherwise proud nation.
I can't wait for Hillary Care
Subject: More Ecofascism, or...
Is this more ecological paranoia, or...
Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?
Scientists claim radiation from handsets are to blame for mysterious 'colony collapse' of bees
By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross
Published: 15 April 2007
It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.
They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.
The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up. <snip>
And I have no idea. The bee situation does seem to be serious.
Subject: Interesting Skilled Trades Article
One of my local papers just ran this:
"Builders still need skilled laborers."
"Our biggest obstacle is the high school guidance counselor," Anderson said. "He is convinced that all kids have to go to college or they are going to be shaking a fry basket at McDonald's. I've been in this trade 15 years. I have everything I need and most of what I want."
This is good. So students are aimed towards the money ravenous college diploma mill industry. And I mean accredited and often state-owned diploma mills. This is done even though the student and parents often have to take out college loans and otherwise impoverish themselves to meet Academia's greed for cash. And even though all of these guidance counselors are aware of 'college graduates' thronging the work forces of their local Wal-Marts and Home Depots.
Meanwhile fully paid apprentice programs (paid salary plus paid tuition) are begging for entrants.
Tell me again about the free market and the higher altruism of our professoriate. Or it an academic Kleptoklatura?
This seems to be common. Even Bill Gates thinks everyone ought to have a world class college prep education in high school. On the face of it that is silly. We do not live in Lake Wobegon, and we are working at importing unskilled and uneducated people. We have terrible policies, and the results will not be good.
We sow the wind.
April 18, 2007
Regarding this: "We should have entered a new Ice Age with glaciation, with Seattle and Chicago under half a mile of ice and glaciers reaching almost to Olympia and Cairo, all of New England under ice, about 5,000 years ago. The astronomical parameters are there. We have been spared that for some reason or another."
While web surfing for information on the topic of global warming, I happened to stumble on what appears to be a newer theory regarding the glacial cycles: http://www.seas.harvard.edu/climate/eli/reprints/Gildor-Tziperman-2003.pdf
The key idea is here:
The authors feel that this may have implications for the impact of global warming:
That is encouraging, but I can't help wondering about this: It looks like we didn't get quite as warm in this interglacial as we did in the last (for whatever reason). Maybe that is why we didn't flip the switch for the next ice age. Now suppose this latest bit of global warming, be it man made or natural, is just the boost we need to flip the switch, and kick off the next ice age? I guess we'd have "Fallen Angels", second edition.....
Subject: If one guy had been packing
I know our gun laws will take a lot of heat due to the Virginia Tech shooting; but what struck me as I heard about this is that if just one guy had been packing, he might have put an end to the slaughter before the shooter had 32 victims.
Of course, I'm from the Cretaceous (which makes you, my friend, a creature of the Jurassic).
Subject: Foreign OSINT Poised to Pounce
Apparently US intelligence agencies are not terribly open to "open source intelligence" - that is, gathering intelligence by perusing the Internet:
Sad, really, but typical for the CIA. I would have thought that DIA would be a bit more open, though.
Subject: Burning Food
Jerry, On one hand, I do not have a fundamental problem with burning food, i.e. corn based ethanol. On the other hand, I do have concerns about burning food while simultaneously paying people NOT TO grow food. On the gripping hand, there will always be unforeseen consequences of the government tinkering with the market.
Respectfully yours, Mark E. Horning, Physicist,
Subject: China and Wheat -
Just a note on the importation of grain from China (i.e. the pet food scandal). From someone who used to work in the pet food industry, I've learned that we import wheat gluten, not the whole grain. In some cases, we export the whole grain (on the ships then sent us TV's probably), they process it, and return the components to us.
Not that that's a good thing - if we're to be burdened with OSHA, EPA, FDA and all the rest, the least we can expect is that they keep the food supply safe. China has no such guidelines, and the import inspections only test for bad chemicals that we expect to find - not for the unknown ones. It's only a matter of time before this kind of thing impacts the human food chain.
Maybe we can't have import duties...but perhaps import regulations would serve the same purpose: level the playing field. If Japan can do it with our beef, we can do it with Chinese grain. But then the Clinton's would have to return all those campaign contributions.
I just got back from a two week working retreat (lock myself in a hotel room with a computer and no internet connection to do a lot of work), and was going through what I missed on your site when I came across this comment:
"Why do we always get the DARK version of Science Fiction as OUR future? I want that OTHER worlds' future, the one over THERE with the giant wheel space stations and Luna City! "
I while ago I recognized that I sort of have my feet in both "sci-fi futures". I have spent 15 years working on computer technologies at Id Software that lead towards a lot of the Matrix / Neuromancer style dystopias, but in the last six years I have also been pushing for the grand old future in space with Armadillo Aerospace. I often wish that I had time to try to put down some coherent thoughts about it, but the time has never made itself available. I'm an optimist about most things, and I think even the "plugged into the matrix" sorts of futures can have all sorts of positive aspects, and all the trends point towards that being a lot more likely than idyllic space colonies. Still, more likely doesn't mean certain, and there is an appeal to going down the road less traveled.
A lot of it does come down to how you look at the world. We live in an age of wonders right NOW.
I am going to talk at the Heinlein Centennial in July, hopefully I can flesh out a few thoughts by then. I would also love to hear Neil Stephenson comment on the topic, as a seminal cyberpunk author and special advisor to Blue Origin...
Well, you live in a world of wonders. Most of us don't get to fly rockets on weekends...
Subject: Rushing the VT Gunman
In response to your comment and John Derbyshire's comment about not rushing the gunman I would add that on one of the interviews from students I read, the student said that she and other class mates debated whether or not to barricade the door. If my memory serves she said this went on for quite some time, about 20 minutes. Finally one of the other students got up and shoved the professor's desk against the door. Five minutes later the gunman tried to enter the room, could not, and put two bullets through the door but injured no one.
Do you think this could be another tragic example of people not being having to be responsible for, well anything, anymore?
Don't make more of my comments than I intended. It's partly a matter of temperament. I wasn't there, and I can hardly be critical of those who were. When I was in college there were a lot of WW II and Korean War veterans in my classes, and I suspect we would have reacted a bit differently; but that too is speculation. ========
Will there always be an England?
Although multiple marriage is illegal in Britain, some people are collecting for multiple spouses:
"And young men, in particular, are not internalizing the norms and values of our society."
Jerry check out the following I think you will find it amusing.
Some years ago I asked a simple question related to quantum gravity. The above are some of the results that the question stirred up. The question came to be known as "The Ivie Conundrum"
Here was the question: Quantum gravity, if it can be shown to exist, functions by means of the exchange of particles. These particles may be gravitons, graviphotons, or gravitinos depending upon the model. Consider that in GRT all of the mass of a black hole lies within the event horizon What is the quantum gravitation model of a black hole that allows the exchange of gravitons or other particles across the event horizon without violating causality. Any solution must be consistent with the predictions of general relativity at least to the first order.
I have seen lots of arm waving but never a satisfying explanation.
On Reactionless Drives and Mach's Principle
re your questions.
I would very much like to follow up on how you might get reactionless drive as a plausible system (after all I write science fiction); and of course any such thing would be the key to the solar system if not to the stars. And I'd be interested in how the explosion of the Mach platform (my name for your inertia independent device) is covered by Newton...
Let me cover the "Mach Platform" first. By the way I like that name, if the thing had worked it would have definitely shed some light on Mach's Principle.
We never built another one but we think we know what happened. Precession forces were coupled through the structure that held the three gyros together. The wheels were large, 10 inches in diameter, and heavy, over 20 lb. each. The motors spun them at over 8000 rpm. Side loads on the shafts holding the wheels were calculated to be several thousand pounds but because, Again according to Newton, the sum of the moments in a closed system is always zero we could not detect these forces externally. The transverse load had to be carried by bearings, which were never designed to sustain such a force. The bearings failed, pretty much simultaneously, freeing the wheels and motor parts to go where ever they wanted which was just about everywhere. One tech suffered minor injures from flying debris and it took a couple of days to clean up the lab and find all the pieces. We got unambiguous instructions from upper management to not build such a device again without approval.
With regard to the reactionless drive idea I am not sure that is the best way to characterize it but on the other hand I don't know what else to call it.
Mechanical gravitational wave generator
The concept is derived from another device that I proposed a number of years ago that being a means of producing measurable gravitational waves. The basic idea is as follows.
A pair of wheels loaded with a pattern of very heavy pellets, tungsten or heavier, located at the periphery are rotated in close proximity to one another. The wheels rotate in opposite directions so that the pellets form minute gravitational perturbations as they pass one another. Because all of the pellets on one wheel encounter their corresponding fellows on the other wheel simultaneously there is constructive interference that produces a very weak oscillating gravitational dipole that propagates along the spin axis of the wheels. Now if we build several such wheel assemblies and arrange them along their common spin axis and synchronize their rotation rates constructive interference again acts to strengthen the magnitude of the gravitational wave and to narrow the width of the beam. Calculations indicate that if tungsten were used it would take several thousand such wheels in an assembly a kilometer or so long to produce minimally detectable waves. If depleted uranium were used those numbers could be cut approximately in half. Detection could be performed using a Forward Gravitational Gradiometer (Robert Forward's invention) operating at the same frequency as the generator. The advantage of this device is that the frequency and orientation of the gravitational waves are known in advance making detection much easier.
What does such a device buy you? First it would demonstrate that gravitational waves do exist. Then, if it worked, it would permit the direct measurement of the propagation velocity of gravitational waves. The general relativity theory predicts that G waves propagate at C but this has never been demonstrated. This device would provide yet another confirmation of Einstein's GRT. It would also provide a general-purpose tool for analysis of G waves and a means to explore their properties.
The closest analog to this device in electronics is a traveling wave amplifier. I like to think of it as a "GRAZER" or Gravitational Laser.
Needless to say the device was never built primarily because of cost and a certain amount of legitimate skepticism that the thing could ever work. Also, I had gained a reputation for inventing things that blew up in the laboratory resulting in great cost, questionable results, and potential injury to everyone near.
So what does all this have to do with a space drive? Consider this.
Lets assume that we can build one of these things but instead of using pellets of dense ordinary material like tungsten or uranium we use relativisticly degenerate matter or even quantum black holes. Now I admit that the components have now moved from "hardtogetium" to "unobtainium" but calculations indicate that if such a device were to be built very powerful gravitational waves could be produced. Powerful enough to warp space time and to create a warp bubble as described by Alcubierre (See Alcubierre drive in Wikipedia and elsewhere).
So as you can see, now that I am retired I have far too much time on my hands.
Chuck Ivie, Apple Valley, Ca
Dhimmitude in Minnesota.
- Roland Dobbins
Tree warming, talk about your unintended consequences!
Russell strikes again...
So much for sex education, eh?
Subject: Bismarcks Refuse To Sink , United Nations Deeply Shocked
A lot of other supposedly disappearing Pacific islands have the same problem, most notably the one that popped up near Tonga earlier this year. The worst offenders are in the Louisiade Archapelago, where the Rossell group are rising nearly an inch a year
From: Peter N. Glaskowsky Subject: The other Virginia college shooting, five years ago
In 2002, another Virginia college was attacked by a madman bent on mass murder. That time, only three people died-- because two legally-armed students intervened before the local police could arrive.
Virginia law allows college students to carry guns just like other responsible adults, but Virginia Tech's rules left its students defenseless.
It's time to face facts in the gun-control debate. Gun control doesn't protect people. Guns protect people.
No sooner did this lunatic use guns in the commission of a horrendous crime but the media began telling us that the only cure was gun control. It doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone that one other student armed in that group might have saved the lot of them.
I am reminded of Benjamin Franklin's statement: "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!"
From another conference:
I know we all went around this a couple of years ago when Greg Cochrane and Henry Harpending's paper was written. I believe the main intellectual debate is between Charles Murray's view that high Jewish IQ was apparent in antiquity and long before the Middle Ages while the Cochrane-Harpending view is that evidence only emerged among the Ashkenazim around the middle ages. No-one seriously disputes (with evidence) the higher average IQ of the Jewish population of North America or Europe. Might be interesting to go around again. Anyone have opinions about Roman times?
From The Sunday Times April 8, 2007
Murray lauds 'genius of Jews'
Times online; <BLOCKED::BLOCKED::www.timesonline.co.uk> www.timesonline.co.uk
Roman times. Interesting.
- Roland Dobbins
"Today's scientific consensus very often turns out to be tomorrow's redundant theory."
- Roland Dobbins
Hello Dr. Pournelle, I have read with interest the comments about "burning food" at Chaos Manor and at other websites. I do not know very much about the process of making Ethanol, but I do know that the "mash" byproduct of the process is still suitable for animal feed. I do not think the people who decry ethanol realize this. I do not know how much of our corn crop goes toward animal feed, but I would guess that it is a significant amount. So, if we are using corn for ethanol that would be cattle/chicken/goat/whatever feed anyway, what does it matter if we can still use it for feed* after we've made fuel out of it?
*I do not know what the relative feed value of the "mash" is, but I don't think there would be that much difference between it and unprocessed corn. I have heard many stories of moonshiners using the mash to feed hogs with the distant past. We may face a plague of drunken cows in our future!
Don't rush me, sonny. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles. - Miracle Max
The energy extracted from the mash is no longer available as animal feed. It takes a LOT of mash to feed hogs, because there is very low food value in what's left. But you knew that. It's called the Conservation of energy, the second law of thermodynamics. The fermentation process turns sugars into alcohol. The alcohol is extracted to run cars (or get you pickled). What's left is high fiber but low energy...
Subject: "de-saturating" a gyroscope
Correspondent Chuck Ivie writes:
...Now reaction wheels are used in many spacecraft including the shuttle and the space station but propellant must be consumed to de-saturate them from time to time.
Perhaps he (or you) could explain to the less technically proficient among us what "de-saturating" a gyroscope is, and why it's necessary. In all my years of flying with the USAF, I never heard of de-saturating the gyroscopes or inertial nav systems used in our airplanes. Would this be in some way analogous to re-erecting a gyro that had tumbled?
Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination. --Thomas Dewey
Subject: Re: "de-saturating" a gyroscope
Jerry The gyros you are familiar with are sensing devices and are used for inertial reference only. The gyroscopic force is used only to maintain a stable inertial platform. Gyros in this application never need to be de saturated or unloaded.
However, when a gyro is used as an momentum exchange device it is another matter. In a spacecraft there are externally applied torques that try to alter the orientation of the vehicle. These forces can come from solar pressure, gravitational gradients and even occasional outgassing from systems onboard the spacecraft its self. When a flywheel is used to actually control the attitude of the spacecraft there is an exchange of momentum between the vehicle and the spinning wheel.
Think of the torque you feel when you start or stop an electric drill that you are holding in your hand. As the motor accelerates the drill body tries to move counterclockwise when you turn the motor off the drill body tries to move clockwise. This occurs even if there is no drill bit in the chuck. This is momentum exchange. In the case of flywheels that are used to stabilize a spacecraft the speed of the wheel is proportional to the integral of the force that it is compensating.
As a result if the wheel is compensating for a constant torque applied by say solar pressure the wheel must spin faster and faster until some maximum speed is reached. At that point the wheel must be un loaded or desaturated or the overspeed will cause a failure of the system.. In a well balanced system this occurs only occasionally so the wheels can operate at safe speeds for very long periods of time.
In the case of the space shuttle or the space station the wheels can operate without desaturation for many hours or even days without having to be unloaded. When the unloading becomes necessary the torque that results must be compensated by firing attitude control jets. However, with a good strategy and fine balance of forces the effect is a significant saving in attitude control fuel. The wheels exchange momentum with the main structure of the vehicle and store it. The big advantage is very fine control over attitude that is difficult to get with thrusters. The Hubble space telescope uses wheels to provide precise pointing to a fraction of a second of arc. That is not possible with rocket thrusters.
From a well known Australian
The V Tech killler seems to be a common enough type of paranoid schizophrenic or choose-your-label angry nutter that one is bound to find taking to violence in a large population. He wouldn't have been out of place in a Dostoevsky novel. So what, amongst the obvious causal elements, could reduce the probability of such an event happening again?
1. Lock him up on a well judged fear? Not a hope - vastly too expensive and far too many caught who shouldn't be.
2. Improve institutional (school, university, police, hospital, medical profession) ability at and enthusiasm for picking up such cases and counselling/pacifying them. No doubt that is already under way (since Columbine in schools one supposes) and will have some unknowable minor effect.
3. Avoid the sort of publicity for such events that the perpetrator would have wanted and is likely to encourage copy cats. Fat chance.
4. Train everyone from age 12 to react appropriately to such events - effectually military training for a particular class of emergency. Fantasy. Indeed the better or more likely defence is that some boys will fantasize how they would deal with such an event and that could even make heroic and effective responses more common. Compulsory cadets at school such as my generation did once a week for five years plus annual camp probably would be quite effective but wouldn't be adopted except for some larger policy reason. (It would have been quite good at detecting the weirdo by peer observation, and, just possibly changing his behaviour, but the killer at V Tech may have developed his psychosis only in late adolescence)
5. Allow everyone "concealed carry" so a would be killer might be deterred. Why would such a killer be deterred? And it would only be possible for a school to allow it to teachers, at least with students under 18, and that would simply mean that the teacher would be killed first by surprise. With over 18's teachers are unlikely to be happy knowing there could be concealed guns in their classrooms.
6. Compel everyone, a few conscientious objectors excepted, to carry guns. Effective up to a point but unrealistic, and dangerous even amongst over 21s to whom it might realistically be confined. Danger of accidents and normally non-lethal fights killing people, maybe many more in total over a year in the US. Also, what does the would-be killer then plan instead of a simple assault with him having all the firepower. How about smoke, gas and explosives? Don't marines behave differently if the enemy is armed? And don't they still kill people?
7. Keep guns away from the killing fields by
(a) making it far more difficult to buy and own a gun legally, especially automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Require licensing, registration of each gun, video-recording of sales, pre-sale cooling off and checking period, report of sales to police including compulsory report on anything odd said by purchaser, compulsory training in gun use, compulsory and enforced safe storage, no sales to or ownership by almost anyone with a police record; and/or
(b) sophisticated detection devices and thorough procedures to ensure that no one could go into any building on campus with an undetected gun. Given that 7 (a) is against the NRA religion it looks as though it has to be 7 (b) alone because that might not only work quite well but it could be sponsored by all those corporations which would make billions out of it (and why not the NRA with white hat on?).
PS Before Australia largely got rid of semi-automatic weapons in private hands except for a few criminals who use them to kill other criminals, we experienced an even bloodier massacre by a young male loser of IQ 70 or so who is now in gaol (The Port Arthur Massacre). There can be little doubt that Australia is a safer place as a result of reducing the number of such weapons but I wouldn't suggest for a moment that the same remedy could be applied within the next 50 years to a country with the US Constitution and traditions - and number of guns.
Which is a pretty good statement of the situation.
He has left out (8): Live with it. Freedom is not free, free men are not equal, and equal men are not free. The price of freedom is sometimes high: but high is relative. After all, 170 were killed in Iraq, a place with the population of California, in one not atypical day. Gunmen routinely kidnap and kill police recruits.
Good government is a precious gift. It is not to be tinkered with lightly. Alas, with Free Trade, Open Borders, and increasing Nationalization of our whole system of criminal justice, with the development of KGB powers for HHS in the name of increased security, we are most certainly tinkering with a republic that endured for a very long time.
We sow the wind.
April 20, 2007
"Qu[e]asi Chocolatus" by Suetonious
The public comment period on the FDA's proposed "eat chocolate, beef-fat" ruling closes NEXT WEEK (on 4/25). The link for commenting on it is here:
-- Bill Kilner
Subject: Disarming Yale's insidious sword culture
This one made me laugh out loud:
You just can't make this stuff up. Political correctness gone stark raving mad. And this is the example set by the leaders of the college that claims to be furnishing the leaders of the United States.
Bill Buckley once said he'd rather be governed by the first 500 names in the Boston telephone book than the faculty of Harvard University. We all agree, don't we? And here we see why. Yale's no better.
Eggheads and intellectuals. Foxes, who want to disarm the lions. Go read Pareto if that doesn't make any sense.
Subject: ethanol & food prices
I find it interesting that the discussion on ethanol becomes (more or less automatically) one on food prices.
While it is easy to understand the consequences of corn prices on pig and chicken feed I would have believed that much of US based cattle ranches would keep their herds on the open range, climate extremes probably make this impossible in northern states but feed-lots and corralling surely lead to a poorer quality where beef is concerned.
Also please note that in southern states such as Florida (maybe also in Louisiana and Alabama) sugar cane makes a lot more sense as a potential ethanol producing crop.
All things considered (I'm no expert at this) ethanol and bio-diesel look like good ways of stretching the oil supply, they also mean lower incomes for the world's Ayatollahs.
Finally, at the time I went to college (back in 1974) the local gas company in Montevideo was in the process of phasing out a coal gasification plant (originally built by the British in the late 1800's) given that coal is plentiful, why not go back to that type of process? It is not expensive, can certainly be made more efficient and during WWII there were lots of cars here that used to run on coal gas. It is poisonous (carbon monoxide) but it certainly offers an option which could help make the world largely independent of the arabs and chavez-like people we have all around us.
Sugar Cane makes sense as an ethanol crop in the right places. As to open range, I grew up in the Old South where there are no open ranges. Veal, as you probably know, comes about largely because diary farmers don't need many bulls, and it costs money to raise a young bull; so off he goes to the slaughterhouse. I suspect that the reason there isn't much open range beef in the US is simple economics.
I wrote about bio-diesel back in A Step Farther Out in the 1070's. Nuclear power and bio-diesel are good ways to energy independence, and I am darned sure that the total cost of US energy independence -- 200 1000 MW nuclear power plants, lots of research into using electricity for transportation, and investment in bio-diesel and ethanol-electric hybrids, etc. -- would be less than the One Trillion Dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) poured into the sands of Iraq. But then I said all that before we went into Iraq.
Subject: On the Shooting at Va Tech
You quoted John Derbyshire:
I don't hate Mr. Derbyshire for asking, but the two situations are hardly analogous. The people on Fight 93 were adults, they had warning (from family members on cell phones) as to just what was happening, they faced men with short blades, not firearms, and they had no alternatives - they knew they had to fight back or die.
The students at Virginia Tech were kids, teenagers with no real-world experience for the most part, they had no warning other than the sound of gunshots coming down the hall. A semi-auto handgun can fire as fast as the trigger is pulled and be reloaded in seconds. And handguns can hold from six to seventeen rounds - after which number would you try to rush the gunman?
Under the circumstances, I think most of us would instinctively duck or flee. I think many of the students exhibited admirable coolness in hastily creating barricades, and at least one of the teachers, the holocaust survivor Lariescu exhibited admirable bravery in holding the door while his students escaped out the window, at the cost of his own life.
Cecil Rose, Virginia Tech '68, Aerospace Engineering
As I have observed, many of those in my college classes were there on the GI Bill, nd I suspect veterans would react in a different way. Also, when I was younger, ROTC was a much larger part of people's lives -- indeed, wasn't that college originally founded to provide officer training? I suspect that the faculty at Virginia Tech no longer teaches that there is any merit in manly virtues; perhaps I demean them. It's certainly the case that few US universities do. They are filled with foxes.
Subject: Australian comments on VT
In item number five of the Australian comments on the VT killings he stated:
"5. Allow everyone "concealed carry" so a would be killer might be deterred. Why would such a killer be deterred? And it would only be possible for a school to allow it to teachers, at least with students under 18, and that would simply mean that the teacher would be killed first by surprise. With over 18's teachers are unlikely to be happy knowing there could be concealed guns in their classrooms."
Why not consider that the gunman may not be deterred but rather shot and killed? The number of students on campus who qualify for a legal concealed carry permit would include former military and such. Why would a teacher be "unhappy with guns in the classroom" if they were in the hands of those who had been vetted by the permit process? They are there in the stores, the restaurants and the churches of the area and do no harm.
As for the safety of Australia after the Port Arthur Massacre, it think it is a little early to pronounce things cured. The Bath School Disaster of 1927 required no guns but resulted in more dead (45) and more injured (58). Evil people will find a way to kill.
-- --- Al Lipscomb
Subject: The Hero of Virginia should get more publicity.
Of the various factors involved in the V Tech massacre
"3. Avoid the sort of publicity for such events that the perpetrator would have wanted and is likely to encourage copy cats. Fat chance " seems to be the one uniquiely relevant to the modern world.
Our instant worldwide communications system clearly does encourage these killings. The cure of ending it would be far worse than the disease.
However I suggest that in a really healthy society the media would be more interested in the heroism of men like Professor Liviu Librescu,
I can think of no better way to die than respected at 76 saving ones pupil's lives.
It is also worth pointing out that if open borders allowed the killer in they did the same for the Professor.
I do not believe that either of those came here under an open borders policy. Otherwise I agree.
Subject: tick warning- Rocky Mtn. Spotted Fever
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
You write of walking, with Mr. Niven and with your dog. I do not know if you are in tick country or not, but as a long time reader, I hope you are taking every precaution against getting one of the blood-suckers on you and yours. For my 32nd anniversary my beloved and I went to a state park here in Florida, and after we had packed the car to leave decided on a brief (1/2 hour) walk along a trail. That evening at home I found several ticks on me. Four days later I noticed a few round red spots on my wrists and lower legs, followed a day later by what felt like the worst sinus infection ever. The wife suggested it might have something to do with the ticks, so I googled tick diseases-- and found I matched the symptoms for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever! My doctor treated aggressively, and there were several days where I wasn't sure I was going to make it. The treatment-doxycycline and heavy prednisone- turned my system so acidic I felt like John Hurt in "Alien" by the time that was over, and now I'm being treated for that acidity. It's nasty and I sure don't want my favorite living writer to have to endure it. RMSF sounds like an old disease, something out of Westerns, but it is for real and only knowledge found via the internet (the CDC website was google's first listing) got me to the doctor in time; another 24 hours and I might have been in the 5% fatality figures.
So DEET yourself up before hiking in tick country, if you will sir!
On the bright side, I plan to subscribe using the money saved from not eating much the past two weeks!
Keep up the good work.
Yours, Stewart Lollar
I don't believe that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is endemic in the Studio City hills, but we are careful. I mostly stay on the fire roads.
Sable, having caught a small rattlesnake at an early age, tends to be a little more careful than in the past, but she does tend to charge after gophers, particularly the one that stays up to warn the others. She's never caught on yet.
Thanks for the warning and the kind words.
April 21, 2007
- Roland Dobbins
"Archaeology, emergency preparedness, textiles, personal fitness — this seemingly random list of activities is just the beginning of the things James Calderwood has mastered.
Calderwood is a Boy Scout who's earned every single merit badge available. Twenty-one are needed to become an Eagle Scout. He earned all 122.
"I never really planned on earning all the merit badges," Calderwood said, "and if I had I definitely wouldn't have left bugling for the last one. I sort of started following my different passions and hobbies; and found merit badges a great way to learn about new things.""
Subject: current generation (virginia tech) vs. 1944
This is regarding your idea that an older generation may have responded differently to Virginia Tech. Perhaps this is an example.
Yes, I saw that at the breakfast table.
I suspect but do not know that in today's society, having all the students 18 and over in a classroom armed (or possibly armed) would not be a good idea. I could be wrong about that.
It does appear that crime rates go down where citizens are armed in a stable free republic. How you get to that state -- or get back to it once lost -- is not so easily determined.
We continue to sow the wind.
Subject: That Dean at Yale and the Wooden Swords
She's really quite a piece of work, but she's leaving the end of the term:
" In the past, Trachtenberg has made light of her reputation as a hard-line administrator. In what was perhaps an admission that some students view her with trepidation, Trachtenberg once appeared in the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s Halloween concert as Darth Vader.
On Tap Night nine years ago, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg stood guard at the High St. gate to Old Campus, determined to keep the typically chaotic annual event under control. Amid the swarms of scurrying a cappella group members, Trachtenberg — who, the year before, maintained order on Tap Night with a high-powered squirt gun — was pushed to the ground and trampled by the unruly crowd.
She maintained order with a weapon! Horrors! I propose Dean Trachtenberg be called before the Academic Senate at Yale for censure and investigated for possible Thought-Cri- err, Weapons Policy Violations!
Meanwhile, in the real world 400 US college students a year drink themselves to death in pursuit of a good time. Yet we don't seek to reinstate Prohibition.
Subject : Editorial Obsession with the Demon Nerd Of Blacksburg
It only serves to distract us from the journalistic uses of the second amendment--
The document published Friday said the question of limbo had become a "matter of pastoral urgency" because of the growing number of babies who do not receive the baptismal rite. Especially in Africa and other parts of the world where Catholicism is growing but has competition from other faiths such as Islam, high infant mortality rates mean many families live with a church teaching them that their babies could not go to heaven.
Yep. Hell's bureaucracy has to deal with this. We're doing of it.
|This week:||Sunday, April
This was Earth Day. I took the day off.
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