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Mail 475 July 16 - 22, 2007







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Monday July 16, 2007

The Cold War is back



New curriculum model:



Mosque in Germany draws criticism



Don't tax you; don't tax me; tax the guy behind the tree.



Lock em up!





Severe weather in the UK--global warming? (On the other hand, there's less rain in the Orkneys and Shetlands)



The cost of security has gone off scale...



Revenge of the elephants!

<http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article2076009.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/24nolg>


Scottish airport attack

<http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-6780487,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/3bkdjo>


NHS failures




Grapefruit associated with breast cancer



Diet and wealth in the UK

<http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article2771024.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/36s9nl>



Postcode lottery

<http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-6777190,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/36oup2>



Upon returning Friday from the North of Scotland, I was informed I was to become module leader for a final year class in Inferential Forensic Computing. The text is Everitt, B., & Dunn, G. Applied Multivariate Data Analysis. Hodder Arnold, 2001--I doubt the students are ready for a final year text in statistics. I have a bad feeling about this... Reminds me of the year back in America I was assigned to teach English Composition to students in the computer science programme.


My pictures are up from the Orkneys and Shetlands.

<http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php> <http://tinyurl.com/2xzz8k>



Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.


Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>


Your meeting with Dan Quayle in 1989

Dr. Pournelle:

I found this article that mentions you quite prominently (although at first almost derogatorially).


I found it because my brain etch-a-sketched after a big lunch and I forgot what SDIO stood for. The article was an interesting read in how it showed how a program lives and dies by the amount of interest shown by certain people in power (presidential, congressional).

Best regards,

Bill Kelly

Houston, T(X)

Well, parts of it are interesting, but he seems to believe that X-33 had something to do with an X project. It did not. It was a political grab. In our X project briefing we had charts of "THE MAJOR DANGERS TO THE PROGRAM". The first item was "CAPTURE BY ANOTHER ORGANIZATION".  That is in fact precisely what happened to the SSTO program. X-33 wrecked the X projects. It was intended to. Companies that make their money by selling expendable rockets have little incentive to build reusable spaceships.

As one view of DC/X it's probably worth reading, but do understand that it is an apologia, and an attempt to explain why NASA did nothing with the X projects. NASA has spent enough money to get us to Alpha Centauri in a generation ship, but we aren't to Mars yet.


Did Assignment Zero Fail?



--- Roland Dobbins



I am baffled by the assertion that the human mind recoils from sex selection. Mainland China has a sex ratio of 120 (males to 100 females) because of the widespread practice of selective female abortion and even female infanticide.

Also, echoing Sandel, his book, THE RADICAL CENTER, Michael Lind of New America Foundation wrote of his horror of the notion that "The Rich" might use technology (e.g., embryo selection for IQ). I have bad news for both authors: "The Rich" arranging for the genetic superiority of their offspring has *already* happened, and on a mass scale, not the tiny scale that any intervention that requires in-vitro fertilization would be implemented.




July 8, 2007

Tinkering With Humans


Skip to next paragraph


Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering.

By Michael J. Sandel.

162 pp. Harvard University Press. $18.95.

Three years ago in The Atlantic, the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel wrote a critique of genetic engineering titled "The Case Against Perfection." Now he has turned it into a book. The title is the same, but the text has changed, and sections have been added. That's what human beings do. We try to improve things.

Sandel worries that this urge to improve can get us into trouble. Steroids, growth hormones, genetic engineering and other enhancements "pose a threat to human dignity" and "diminish our humanity," he argues. That's the way ethicists talk: things are good or bad, human or inhuman. The book's subtitle encapsulates this project: "Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering." But genetic engineering is too big for ethics. It changes human nature, and with it, our notions of good and bad. It even changes our notions of perfection. The problem with perfection in the age of self-transformation isn't that it's bad. The problem is that it's incoherent. <snip>

I would have thought that people who marry for intelligence have been doing selecti0n for a long time.





Leave those kids alone

The idea that adults should be playing with their kids is a modern invention -- and not necessarily a good one

By Christopher Shea | July 15, 2007

WHAT COULD BE more natural than a mother down on the rec-room floor, playing with her 3-year-old amid puzzles, finger-puppets, and Thomas the Tank Engine trains? Look -- now she's conducting a conversation between a stuffed shark and Nemo, the Pixar clown fish! Giggles all around. Not to mention that the tot is learning the joys of stories and narrative, setting him on a triumphal path toward school.

A "natural" scene? Actually, parent-child play of this sort has been virtually unheard of throughout human history, according to the anthropologist David Lancy. And three-fourths of the world's current population would still find that mother's behavior kind of dotty.

American-style parent-child play is a distinct feature of wealthy developed countries -- a recent byproduct of the pressure to get kids ready for the information-age economy, Lancy argues in a recent article in American Anthropologist, the field's flagship journal in the United States.

"Adults think it is silly to play with children" in most cultures, says Lancy, who teaches at Utah State University. Play is a cultural universal, he concedes, "but adults aren't part of the picture." Yet middle-class and upper-middle-class Americans -- abetted, he says, by psychologists -- are increasingly proclaiming the parents-on-all-fours style the One True Way to raise a smart, well-adjusted child.

There is now a concerted effort to spread adult-child play beyond its stronghold in the upper- and middle-classes of wealthy countries. To this end, many cities and states support programs of some sort. Massachusetts will give the Parent-Child Home Program, which has 33 sites in the state, $3 million this year (up from $2 million last year). Through the program, staff members visit the homes of low-income residents and offer tips not just on good books for toddlers but also on "play activities" for parents and kids. Likewise, the eminent Yale psychologist Jerome Singer has partnered with a media company to devise imaginative parent-child games (examples: "My Magic Story Car" and "Puppets: Counting") that librarians and social workers can teach to low-income parents.

Lancy is concerned that specialists behind the movement -- psychologists, social workers, preschool teachers -- are too aggressively promoting this intense, interventionist parenting style to low-income parents, and that they are are too quick to claim that adult-child play is crucial for human development. He doesn't quite rule out that some interventions may improve literacy -- though the data are murkier than the psychologists admit, he insists. But the programs, with their premise (as he sees it) that a whole class of people is simply parenting badly, leave their advocates "open to charges of racism or cultural imperialism."

> ....among the Gusii > people of Kenya, "mothers rarely looked at or spoke to their infants > and toddlers, even when they were holding and breast-feeding them." > (So much for the universality of peek-a-boo.) On Ifaluk Island, in the > South Pacific, tribespeople believe that babies are "essentially > brainless" > before age 2, so there is no point in talking to them. > > The goal of the Yucatec Maya is to keep babies in a "kind of benign > coma," through bathing and swaddling, so that parents can leave them > and get work done.

And all those cultures are well known for all their cultural achievements. They must be on to something. Let's copy how they do things.





This week:


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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Indian women would be required to register their pregnancies and seek government permission for abortions under a proposal intended to curb abortions of female fetuses in the country, where boys are traditionally preferred.


Kinds of interesting to watch the 'right to choose' rhetoric breakdown.


Jerry Pournelle: I would also establish that anyone who is honorably discharged from the US armed forces after 8 years service gets instant citizenship with a special track for spouse and children resident in the US.


My concern with the above proposal is that it would provide the US army (more precisely, the US government) with virtually unlimited reserves of military manpower. There are probably a lot of people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America who would enlist in exchange for American citizenship. Is this a good idea?

Historically, world leaders have been compelled to seek peace and compromise by the limits to their supply of military manpower. When leaders have easy access to 'cannon fodder,' they are more prone to engage in foolhardy military adventures. A good example would be Napoleon and his formidable 'conscription machine.'


Your point is well made. As it happens we are already headed there, and the Pentagon is looking to Latin America for recruits. Perhaps I should rethink my position. On the other hand, bringing in people who have actually served and earned citizenship may be a way to build up a voter faction who detest illegal immigrants who have not...

Napoleon did not institute conscription. That was the Revolutionary Government with its levee en masse. No Royal government would have dared attempt conscription (except from the aristocracy who were expected to serve in return for their privileges). Napoleon inherited conscription, and of course used it.

We don't need cannon fodder. We could fill the ranks of the army with jailbirds and those who flunk out of school. The new model army needs smarter recruits.

I think the Old Republic is in bad shape. Perhaps we ought to be in transition to competent empire. At the moment we have neither republic nor competence. It is certainly worth discussion.


From my daughter in law:

Where do pets come from?

A newly discovered chapter in the Book of Genesis has provided the answer to "Where do pets come from?"

Adam and Eve said, "Lord, when we were in the garden, you walked with us every day. Now we do not see you any more. We are lonesome here, and it is difficult for us to remember how much you love us."

And God said, I will create a companion for you that will be with you and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourselves."

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam and Eve. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased.

And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve and he wagged his tail.

And Adam said, "Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and I cannot think of a name for this new animal."

And God said, " I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG."

And Dog lived with Adam and Eve and was a companion to them and loved them. And they were comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog was content and wagged his tail.

After a while, it came to pass that an angel came to the Lord and said, "Lord, Adam and Eve have become filled with pride. They strut and preen like peacocks and they believe they are worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught them that they are loved, but perhaps too well."

And God said, I will create for them a companion who will be with them and who will see them as they are. The companion will remind them of their limitations, so they will know that they are not always worthy of adoration."

And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam and Eve.

And Cat would not obey them. And when Adam and Eve gazed into Cat's eyes, they were reminded that they were not the supreme beings.

And Adam and Eve learned humility.

And they were greatly improved.

And God was pleased

And Dog was happy.

And Cat didn't give a shit one way or the other.

Mac Thompson Greater Washington Siberian Husky Club


This is the second letter from Susan Shepherd. The first was anonymous for obvious reasons. See http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/

A California High School Student reports.

Last update from a CA high school student

Dr. Pournelle,

Greetings, and I hope you and your family are well. On this end, the school year went fairly smoothly, and I have only a few updates on California's education system. Not everything I see will apply to all districts, and I am very glad to say that my district is far less nutty than some others you may have heard about. I would cite the Bookworm's commentary at bookwormroom.wordpress.com in the 'Education' subsection as an example of a district that is odder than my own. But her posts are certainly worth reading, if you have the time to look them over.

On the home front - my friend did manage to successfully challenge his English class. I mentioned last year that he had e-mailed the district at the address listed on their home page, with no response. Well, it looks as though the address wasn't working or the recipient wasn't sure about where the letters should go from there. So he went to one of the biweekly meetings of the local school board, they heard him out, and then they directed him to someone who could help him.

If I recall correctly, she was an administrator for Curriculum and Professional Development, and after he was able to talk to her the process went fairly smoothly. He took and passed the test in short order, and the district even went as far as to waive the 'essay' section because he received a 5 (extremely well qualified) score on the AP English Literature and Composition exam. So the district was quite efficient in the delivery; the problem was getting the message to them in the first place.

Also, it appears that colleges do not look down upon those who challenge classes. He put it on the application of every college he applied to and had the pleasure of choosing between Cornell, RHIT, Middlebury, Caltech, MIT, and the three most prominent UC campuses for his post-high-school education. So challenging English class did not affect him negatively in any way, so far as he can tell, or at least he claims as much.

I also discovered that there is a test which California's students may take to prove that they know all that they need to know to graduate. This test is called the California High School Proficiency Exam, and more information can be found at CHSPE.net if any of your readers are interested, Dr. Pournelle. I have no idea how this test is regarded by colleges, but I'd rather have the information available to the public than hidden the way it is now.

One of the things I realized about half way through my senior year was that the school system isn't designed to keep parents informed. Actually, teachers are not really supposed to tell students that they can challenge classes or get out of high school early. One administrator (who will remain anonymous) said something that can be summarized as, "We don't tell people about the tests because the exams are not nearly as beneficial to the students as the actual classroom experience." I could see that person's point - but I also think that this sort of decision should be made by informed parents and students, jointly. I most sincerely do not believe that it is the school district's job to make this sort of decision on my behalf, without my knowledge or consent.

Perhaps it is arrogant of me to believe I have a better sense of what is good for my education than the administrators - but I doubt it.

Credentialism is the same as ever. One teacher I know is having to re-take a course which that teacher already passed - because the first time, that teacher was able to take it for free, and apparently credits don't count unless you pay for them. (Wonder whether this applies to those who get their degrees while on a sports scholarship - but I digress.) A different teacher is having to take summer courses to teach him how to instruct students on a subject which he has more than ten years' experience in teaching.

Some of the district's policies are chasing teachers away. There is a nearby district that pays more and has no union, and I know of some teachers who would never teach in that district precisely because it has no union, but that isn't stopping everyone. And the bright students are the ones who will suffer when the really good teachers think about leaving. I already know of one teacher who left partly due to some of the school district's policies - for one thing, the classrooms are insanely crowded, for example - and my former school is diminished without him.

Interestingly, the awards ceremony for seniors only included those seniors who would be presented with awards. This probably saved on costs, but I am somewhat curious as to why the school wouldn't invite any other seniors to come. I am a bit of a nerd, to put it mildly, and although some of my close friends also received awards, the ones I've known the longest were not invited to attend. One would think that the school could charge for tickets, given that the awardees ate free but their families had to pay for the price of the meal. Again, I digress, but it reminded me of those schools in Washington, D.C. who supposedly award their "honor roll" students in secret to avoid having the smart kids beaten up. That is not the case here - I hope - but I thought it noteworthy enough to mention.

The incoming class for next year will be around seven or eight hundred students. I graduated along with around 460 others. I hope very much that this is not the norm for California. In that time, I alone made $22 for my district each day I attended - $44,880 over 12 years, ignoring kindergarten and assuming 10 days of absence each year. My graduating class, then, made about $20 million for the school district. (The money comes from the federal government every day I am not absent from school.) Now, I don't know about you - but I think that much money, to educate 460 kids over twelve years, is an awful lot.

Put it another way. The school serves about 2200 students. Each day, then, the school gets $48,400 to cover costs, or $8 million over the course of a year. (Again, this assumes that the average student is absent ten days each year.) The school has around a hundred and thirty administrators, teachers, and hired help - call the average salary $60,000 - leaving the school "only" $428,000 to work with each year, for supplies and such. I have no idea why the school district says it needs more money; that seems like quite a lot to me.

And that is just the federal money! I don't even know how much of California's state budget was given over to "educational purposes", but it was probably a fair amount. I don't know what your opinion of this is, Dr. Pournelle, but to me it looks like we don't need to increase the education budget any time soon, no matter what the unions claim.

I hope this letter was informative and worth your time. If you post it, I'd prefer that you use my regular name and e-mail address. I've graduated and have already been accepted to a college, so I doubt anything negative will happen to me or my career as a result of writing to you.


Susan Shepherd

A former CA high school student

Thank you. Confession to readers: Susan sent this some time ago. It came on a weekend, and I thought it deserved more prominence, so I selected it and set it aside and -- and nothing, of course. My apologies to all.

Good luck in college. If you need any help from an absent-minded one time professor, don't hesitate to write. I may have a couple of hooks for an essay that will surprise your instructors. Clearly you can write your own.

I expect you have seen my notes on writing essays ("How To Get My Job") but if you haven't, it's worth your time.

As to the substantive matters: it is very clear that money is not the problem with California public school. The real question here is whether, given the enormous inflow of unskilled and uneducated labor into the state, California can sustain a first world economy over the next twenty years. All evidence indicates that it won't be able to.

The future of a high tech economy is pretty well in the hands of those on the right hand side of the bell curve; if enough of the bright kids don't get a good education -- clearly some do, as the letter above demonstrates -- then you can't sustain a first world economy, and the economic situation goes into a death spiral.

At the same time, the economy has to have provision for those on the left side of the bell curve: they have to be taught useful skills, and the economy has to be organized so that they have work and feel useful.

The two groups (and yes, there is overlap, but we won't get into that here) have different requirements for education. The left side needs some training in symbol manipulation, but that won't be their primary occupation. Most need skills, not general education in using symbols. Skills are taught by training. Repetition. Drill and Kill. On the other side, the requirement is for education: mathematics including algebra. Structure of paragraphs, and the essentials of writing English, including some of the technical aspects of writing poetry (see Stephen Fry The Ode Less Traveled), general introduction into western culture, civics -- all material that generally isn't learned by repetition (basics are: the addition and multiplication tables have to be learned by rote and early on). The point is that different education techniques are needed.

No Child Left Behind wants to level the playing field. Since it's impossible, the result is to bring all the standards down, and see that no child gets ahead.

And enough blathers. My apologies for not posting this earlier.




- Roland Dobbins


Human Mate Selection for Intelligence

You said: "I would have thought that people who marry for intelligence have been doing selecti0n for a long time." [sic]

Have a look at


"On The Evolution Of Ashkenazi Jewish Intelligence"


A team of scientists at the University of Utah has proposed that the unusual pattern of genetic diseases seen among Jews of central or northern European origin, or Ashkenazim, is the result of natural selection for enhanced intellectual ability.

"The selective force was the restriction of Ashkenazim in medieval Europe to occupations that required more than usual mental agility, the researchers say in a paper that has been accepted by the Journal of Biosocial Science, published by Cambridge University Press in England."

Charles Brumbelow

That's Cochran, of course, and we had that discussion here two years ago. See Mail 264.  How The Ashkenazi Got Their Smarts. It has been debated widely. Well worth your attention.


The Coldening!

Jerry: Australian article about their cold winter. To the orthodox, if it warm then it's global warming, and if it's cold it's an anomaly.


The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits. - Albert Einstein


Subject: Latest moonbat offerings on global-warming

Apparently global warming is a result of competition for mates... who knew?

"Sex sells, but at what cost?" http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6900665.stm 

There are just so many things to laugh and/or cry about in there (including the readers comments), I was just left speechless...

He even managed to toss that old "noble savage" chestnut in there that was a favorite of (and great flaw in) Marx: "In early human societies, people were able to compete in non-lethal ways, by collecting beautiful objects such as feathers, unusual pebbles or animal skins."

It truly beggars belief no matter which side of the issue one falls on...

Regards, J.S. Cardinal


The Erdös Number Project Extended.


- Roland Dobbins


Carroll Quigley, in his great book The Evolution of Civilizations, said civilizations went under when an instrument for expansion degenerated into an institution bent only on its own survival. He cited a familiar example, college football, designed to get undergraduates much needed exercise, degenerated to a situation where those least in need of exercise were running around while those most in need were watching them from the bleachers. Efforts to show that having a good team and having a good year raise alumni contributions for non-athletic programs have not been successful, in spite of the vested interests of athletic departments to prove it.

**Those who have the wherewithal and interest to prove their case and don't probably don't have a good one.**

Punting our Future: College Athletics and Admissions http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/change/sub.asp?key=98&subkey=2352  

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy in action...


Alger Hiss Rides Again.


- Roland Dobbins

And exonerating Senator McCarthy as well. Good job.


Books on the Internet.

I know that your "Fallen Angels" has been published to the internet to promote other books. I also believe that you used to be involved in the politics of SF authors.

This question doesn't reflect one of your books. And I'm a deeply lapsed subscriber, so don't get any special grab onto your time.

When I find a book on the web, is there any way to tell if it's legit? I wanted to recommend Vinge's "True Names" to someone, and either Wiki or Google sent me to http://web.archive.org/web/20051127010734/

The transcriber's notes are dated more than nine years ago, an eternity on the Web. If the page is illegal, I would expect it to have been brought down long ago.

If it is not legit, is there anything authors can do with this? Is there any way for a browser (the human, not the program) to tell if it's legal before pointing people there to read it?

(permission granted to publish and to make minor edits if you want to discuss this on your weblog.) -- Greg Goss


Genetics and linguistics.


- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Socialists have a different end to this story....

Remember the story of the Little Red Hen from your childhood? I bet those of my age remember it well. It's probably out of fashion now.

Communists end the story a different way, don't they?




Subject: 'Some Velvet Morning' song on Coast to Coast


The song you are looking for was sung by Nancy Sinatra (Frank’s daughter) in the 70’s and can be found here:


Artist: Nancy Sinatra Album: Movin' with Nancy Title: Some Velvet Morning Other performers: Lee Hazlewood Duration: 3:39

I hope this helps, and I am certain mine will just one more among the 1,000,000 emails you get referring you to this info about Ms. Sinatra and that very beautiful song…


Alberto S. Lopez

I am still trying to figure out what it means...


Subject: Half Sigma: The e-book rip-off

The writer finds that Real Books at Amazon are cheaper than e-books from two download sites.






- Roland Dobbins

I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you.


General Relativity

Dr. Pournelle,

Regarding the article at


which Mr. Jay R. Larsen pointed out: The fact that General Relativity is not a required undergraduate course is neither surprising, nor particularly troubling to me. Special Relativity is certainly taught, but General Rel. is definitely a rather specialist subject. I would no more expect a specialist in solid state physics to be versed in General Rel, than I would expect an astrophysicist to be able to explain a Brillouin Zone or explain the significance of the Fermi Surface of a solid. Everyone takes E & M, Classical and Quantum Mechanics as well as some type of statistical thermodynamics both at the graduate and undergraduate level. Things like Solid State, General Rel. and the like are specialist topics.

I found it far more troubling when I discovered that my brother in law, who has a PhD. in Mathematics, has never had to solve a partial differential equation, something a physicist will learn in his sophomore year. Now, my brother in law's area of expertise is combinatorics, so he knows far more about linear algebra and group theory than I have any interest in knowing, and I'm a person who finds almost everything interesting.

On a completely different note, thank you for posting the first section of Mamelukes in the subscriber section. My wife is a huge fan of that series, and is quite excited that you are working on a further installment.

Mark E. Horning, Physicist,




This week:


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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

“The Chinese officials we contacted on this matter were all reluctant to become involved."


- Roland Dobbins

And there is more to come.


Diethylene glycol in counterfeit Colgate

The counterfeit toothpaste may contain the toxic chemical diethylene glycol, or DEG, and is labeled as being manufactured in South Africa. It comes in a 5-ounce (100 ml) tube, a size Colgate does not make or sell in the United States, the company said.

Consumers can identify the counterfeit product by the size as well as the label tracing it to South Africa, Colgate said. In addition, there are misspellings on the package including "SOUTH AFRLCA" and "isclinically", Colgate said.



Jerry Have you seen the story about defective Biased NOAA weather stations?

From Bruce Kebbekus



The uppermost web site is where a private researcher has started looking at NOAA weather temperature recording stations. He has asked for help from volunteers, but is finding that many stations violate the NOAA standards for temp readings because they are now next to buildings, autos, air conditioner vents, parking lots, or now located on paved surfaces.

Since going public Monday his computer server is overwhelmed....but will be up soon.

Bottom line is a lot of NOAA temp data is wrong, but biased toward warming because when these sites were first set up many years ago they were to be 100 feet from buildings and heat sources, and NOT on any pavement. Since the parking lots and new buildings came at random times, the aggregated data would not have "jumps" which would be correctable. The best move would be to have nearby proper stations constructed to see how much bias each bad station is currently making, or perhaps eliminate their data.

No matter what you believe about global warming, you should see this. The only working link is the second one....he is overwhelmed, but the norcalblog shows many examples.

I got this some time ago. There's a lot more on this now. My point all along has been that until you have a good definition of "the temperature of the Earth" it's a bit odd to talk about changes.

It's clear that the Earth has warmed since, say, 1776. It's not so clear that it has warmed since 1976.


Subj: Linus on GPL v2 vs v3 vs other licenses


Linus' comments remind me of the scene in Heinlein's _Citizen of the Galaxy_, in which the woman anthropologist explains the Free Traders' predicament to Thorby:

>>The People are free to roam the stars, never rooted in any soil. So free that each ship is a sovereign state, asking nothing of anyone, going anywhere, fighting against any odds, asking no quarter, not even cooperating except as it suits them. Oh, the People are free; this old Galaxy has never seen such freedom. ... But at what price was this freedom purchased? ...

Not with poverty. The People enjoy the highest average wealth in history. ... Nor has it been with cost to health or sanity. ... Nor have you paid in happiness or self-respect. ... But what you _have_ paid for your unparalleled freedom . . . is freedom itself. ... The People are free . . . at the cost of loss of individual freedom for each of you -- and I don't except the Chief Officer or Captain; they are the least free of any.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Interestingly, the woman anthropologist is modeled on Margaret Meade, who wasn't a very accurate anthropologist. Charming lady, though.


The More We Learn, The Less We Know...

"The first concerted effort to understand all the inner workings of the DNA molecule is overturning a host of long-held assumptions about the nature of genes and their role in human health and evolution, scientists reported yesterday.

"The new perspective reveals DNA to be not just a string of biological code but a dauntingly complex operating system that processes many more kinds of information than previously appreciated."

"Altogether, the new project shows that the simple sequence of DNA letters revealed to great fanfare by the $3 billion Human Genome Project in 2003 was but a skeletal version of the human construction manual. It is the alphabet, but not much more, for a syntactically complicated language of life that scientists are just now beginning to learn.

"There's a lot more going on than we thought," said Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, the part of the National Institutes of Health that financed most of the $42 million project."



Charles Brumbelow


Terror bird? I'd be scared!


-- Right now the Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem, from the outside, to be an elite colluding against the voter. Peggy Noonan


_Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows_ leaked to BitTorrent.


- Roland Dobbins

I'll wait for mine... But the implications are rather large, no?


Subj: Buffy the Musical Lives!





Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Subject: Packets beat Circuits 


An argument against mass transit that I'm inordinately fond of, because I made it up myself:


Appeals to the geek within.



Old Republic-Competent Empire

I think the Old Republic is in bad shape. Perhaps we ought to be in transition to competent empire. At the moment we have neither republic nor competence.

Too right and too unfortunate. One of the advantages of being conservative is that I don't have to rethink my ideas if I discover that what I want to happen is unlikely to happen. We've used our cultural weapons of mass destruction on ourselves too often, and we're already too international, especially among our elites, to ever really reclaim the Republic. Probably the best reasonable outcome is to fight rearguard actions as much as possible, so that when the Empire comes its has an American tinge, while trying to make sure the transition to Empire is as smooth and effective as possible.

The parallels between ourselves and the Roman state c. 150 B.C. are very striking. Mr. John Reilly at www.johnreilly.info  has often discussed them.

Adam Greenwood

As have I.

If we can open a new frontier. The Space frontier. Then perhaps...


: State Of Fear

I read "State Of Fear" by Crichton based on your review at LASFS some months back and I found it very good. He exposes a lot of the junk science that the media, politicians and celebrites try to ram down our throats. Thank you for recommending it. I in turn tell my friends about it... Although with out much luck. Seems like most people like to feel guilty about taking the blame for living on a dynamic planet that is still evolving. I look forward to your future reviews.



A Survival Imperative for Space Colonization - New York Times

As if you didn't already suspect.

Tim Harness



Made in China - NOT

NPR had an interesting interview today with an author whose new book discusses a year in her family's life without items "Made in China" or with components known to have been made in China.


The takeaway: Cost wise, it was essentially breakeven -- non-China goods usually cost more but enough items had NO non-China substitute that doing without them left enough cash in their pockets to offset the extra costs of the others. Time wise, it became a major effort to find non-China equivalents when they could.

Charles Brumbelow


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, July 19, 2007

New Space Suit

Dr. Pournelle,

You wrote, "I wore such a suit in 1962 or thereabouts." Do you know how far along the technology was at the time? The article states,

[quote] The new BioSuit builds on ideas developed in the 1960s and 1970s by Paul Webb, who first came up with the concept for a "space activity suit," and Saul Iberall, who postulated the lines of non-extension. However, neither the technology nor the materials were available then. [end quote]

Apparently the current problem is getting the pressure high enough to wear in space, although progress is being made. (Cutting edge models are at 25 kilopascals, and 30 is needed.) It would be interesting to know what technological obstacles prevented deployment of similar suits in the 1960's.


Paul Webb of Yellow Springs developed the Space Activity Suit in the 1950's. Experimental models were built using Spandex. The SAS uses mechanical strengthening of the skin to keep the body from exploding -- that's the Spandex -- and a pressurized helmet to provide oxygen enriched air at about 12 pounds (12  psi) to provide sufficient partial pressure of oxygen to sustain activity.

That, at least, was the goal: a suit that you could wear and go from a cabin atmosphere (air at perhaps 5,000 foot altitude equivalent) to hard vacuum in a short time (ideally seconds); and to be able to do useful work in space without the bulky hard suit. Early models worked at lower total pressure and higher oxygen partial pressures.

Problems included voids: with men it was the area around the genitals, with women areas between the breasts, and underarm areas with both sexes. Stuffing voids with partially inflated balloons was an expedient that worked well enough to allow tests to continue.

In those times Spandex was expensive, and getting suits made of Spandex was difficult. Fit was important. The whole project was done on a shoe string: at Boeing I think we had a budget of about $10,000 for our experiments, and most of the personnel work was done on "down time" (technicians and professionals with butt ends of days or weeks after a funded project was finished and before starting another funded project). The altitude chamber was used when it wasn't needed for funded work. The Flight Surgeon attending was on call at Central Medical, not assigned to the project (he was a space enthusiast).

We didn't find any show stoppers. Space Activity Suits were not ready to go operational, and weren't even evaluated when Boeing was assigned the contract to test available space suits for Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo; but we did work in a couple of experiments with SAS as bootlegs on the funded projects.

 Back in the 1980's I tried very hard to get NASA to fund Paul Webb at Yellow Springs with a very small contract on the order of $100,000 a year, a trivial amount in NASA's hideously inflated budgets, but I didn't have the lobby budget to fight Hamilton Standard and the companies that were making a lot of money on the inadequate NASA standard suits.  I also tried hard to get funding for Bruce Webbon and Vic Vykukal of NASA Ames who had another suit -- a variant on the hard suits, but which was working toward the ability to do space walks without pre-breathing -- but I didn't have enough resources to fight the Houston monopoly gang in their turf wars (and of course they had the help of Ham Standard) in their fights.

NASA has spent enormous sums on inadequate space suits for political reasons. The US could have good "use them fast" space suits now, but NASA mismanagement has prevented that.

Continued below.


Subject: Sir, I respectfully disagree. Forcefully

Dear Jerry,

>>I would also establish that anyone who is honorably discharged from the US armed forces after 8 years service gets instant citizenship with a special track for spouse and children resident in the US.<<

If the Congress were in a functional state this might be acceptable. But it's not. Right now the American population has precisely one lever left to control the Neocons' insatiable (and unappeasable) appetite for imperial adventure fought with others' blood. This is the population's willingness to provide voluntary recruits to sustain these splendid little wars. To remove this final constraint of voluntary recruiting inside the legal US population base is to reduce native born US citizens to the status of tax slaves paying for War Without End, Amen. And corruptly administered, incompetently executed and inflationary debt funded war at that. At least until enough of the rest of the world allies to forcibly put a stop to it by all means available. Ron Paul seems to be the last US Congressman left with any interest in fiscal discipline, so even this check will be lacking.

We *ought* to be going in the other direction, which is to impose strict caps on the numbers of foreign born recruits permitted to enlist. If recruits are lacking, it's time to start looking into mandatory military service for US citizens and legal residents. And if the political class cannot justify their present war policies sufficiently to sell that to the American people, all the better.

But let us please not make it easier for the overclass to sustain the current cheap labor illegal immigrant invasion. I think this is one of many reasons they don't want to face up to any sort of mandatory military service. It's because of the cry that would instantly arise for expelling those not subject to mandatory service, i.e. "illegals".

Best Wishes,


If the goal is to restore the Old Republic you may be correct. If the goal is competent Empire, perhaps you are not. It is a question of what we think we can get. For myself, I would rather have 8-year honorably discharged veterans as citizens than anchor babies.

We need to control the borders. That is going to require a loyal military, because it will eventually require military force to stop this invasion.


Subject: Old Republic, New Empire & the Vote of the Legions 

Dear Jerry,

If this is accurate the legions themselves are still voting decisively for the Old Republic.


According to these reports Ron Paul has more legionary support than all other Republican candidates combined. And he decisively leads all candidates period.


The addition of Admiral McCain accounts for 56% of *all* military contributions. A new fad popular with the capital factions is to denominate the election in metal, namely the gold of campaign contributions. The courtiers and financiers should beware of this dangerous game. The legions could choose to vote with metals they have greater advantage in. Machiavelli observed that while gold can't always get you good soldiers, good soldiers can always get you gold.

Best Wishes,



Temperature trends

I have lived in or around Houston for nearly 50 years. When a new airport was built in the late 1960’s, the “official” weather station moved there; it was 26 miles further inland in a hotter micro-climate. The “south” airport was under the influence of Galveston Bay winds and diurnal air flows (lower day temps, and higher RH and night temps).

There is no effort to adjust for heat island effect of urbanization as well.

Thus, no long-term trends are assured.

Allan Smalley

There are many such stories. How anyone thinks we can establish trends when there is a consistent bias in the primary input data is beyond me.


Kinetic sculpture


These kinetic sculptures could explore planets. I expect you will get this from more than one subscriber...jim dodd


Jim Dodd

Perhaps exploring planets. They're sure cool!


Subject: THE LAYS

Wonderful ! I never knew these even existed ! I have 2 Bachelor's degrees and have read people like Edith Hamilton-but never come across these.

How much of our history as Italian-Americans have we given over to trash like "The Godfather" and "The Soprano's" ?

Thank you very much. I have printed them all out and am going to read them.

Joe Pavone


From my introduction to The Lays of Ancient Rome:

These essays and their attached lays comprise a sort of mini-education in themselves, particularly if students will take the trouble to look up references they don't understand. I can't emphasize enough that they need to be read twice, since it is nearly impossible for those with modern educational background to understand them on first reading; but often reading all the way through will fill in gaps so that the second reading is much more full of understanding.

I recommend reading the Lays over the summer. It's very much worth the effort, just as reading Macaulay's History of England -- yes, all five volumes -- is very much worth the effort.


Temperature Trends

Those of us who live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area are used to hearing about the "official weather readings" at DFW airport and comparing it to the reality outside of our windows. First, I would like to know what genius at the weather bureau decided that all official readings should come from a weather station inside the third busiest airport in the world? Second, is that the same genius who thinks that it should be "official reading" for both Dallas and Fort Worth and their suburbs, an area that is slightly larger than the whole state of New Jersey? And I'm supposed to believe in global warming from this data?!?





CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, July 20, 2007

Subject: A question on military lore

Dr. Pournelle,

In a recent table-top game, I found it necessary to explain the concepts of the two axis "officer classification system." Active versus passive and intelligent versus stupid. My first choice, the internet, had *surprisingly* little to say on the matter. As someone who's had significant interactions with the military and bureaucracies, I would love to hear your discussion of the four categories that those axes lend themselves to. Furthermore, I'd love to hear any stories that you might be able to relate which typify those four categories.

Many thanks, -Brian

Not sure what there is to tell. The concept has been around a long time. Understand you are talking about officers, meaning that they are all presumed to be about IQ 120 or above, so "stupid" doesn't mean drooling idiots.

Officers are either active or lazy, and brilliant or stupid. That makes four classes. Intelligent and lazy is the commander. They are smart enough to see when things need doing, but lazy enough not to run the troops to death making changes just because they can see some kind of need. Brilliant and active is the Chief of Staff and various staff officers who will agitate to do things. Stupid and lazy are the line officers, and they run things. Stupid and Active need to be weeded out. Fast. You can't trust them with troops and you can't put them in intelligence, and you can't keep them around for anything else because they get hare brained schemes and rush out to put them in effect.

This bit of military wisdom has been around since the days of Clausewitz. There is an excellent discussion in Joseph Maxwell Cameron, The Anatomy of Military Merit, if you can find a copy. It has long been out of print, which is a crying shame. I have long been tempted to have it scanned in or typed and publish a copy myself, but of course I have no right to do that. I never met Col. Cameron or his heirs.


Obama: Let the genocide proceed... 


I guess the lessons of Vietnam are lost on the Democrats.

Oh, right, they took the lessons they wanted to from that one.


Obama: Let the genocide proceed...


SUNAPEE, New Hampshire — Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq is not a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.

"Well, look, if that's the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven't done," Obama said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.

"We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven't done. Those of us who care about Darfur don't think it would be a good idea," he said.

Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, said it is likely there would be increased bloodshed if U.S. forces left Iraq.<snip>

And Kerry said that there was no blood bath after Viet Nam fell. He seems not to have paid much attention to what happened after the North Vietnamese triumph in 1975.

As to Iraq vs. Congo, I said the same thing before we went in. There are plent of dragons for the US military to slay. The difference with Iraq is that we broke it. Twice, first shamefully under Bush I by encouraging the south to rise up, then leaving them to be slaughtered by Saddam, and allowing one of the worst human wrought eco disasters in recorded history to be accomplished as the marsh country was drained and despoiled and we stood by. Then we went in and smashed the Baathist regime, dismantled the Iraqi army, and lingered on without purpose while Bremer stumbled about. We have left the blood of the Legions in that desert sand. Is it to be without purpose?


Dr. Pournelle,

Recently taking a job as a contractor to NASA, and knowing little to nothing about spacesuit design, I pointed out the article on MIT’s Space Activity Suit to some long time spacesuit designers and former spacesuit designers, hoping that I might gain a better understanding of the subject. The response I got back could be summarized by saying:

The concept has been investigated by NASA a couple of times and abandoned. As previously noted, the MIT suit is basically a glorified g-suit which pilots use in performance aircraft flight. The penetration response is a light-weight response to a very ugly event. Several layers of material are needed in order to separate the skin surface a bit from an initial impact surface. At initial impact the debris or micrometeorite splays and continues penetrating with many smaller particles. Having several layers of material, as in a conventional suit, slows down the penetration. By the debris or micrometeorite hits the skin it will hopefully not vaporize the impact area. This would not be the case with a g-suit. Even if it hit the suit surface but not penetrate it, the energy exchange is quite phenomenal and would most likely kill or severely injure the wearer.

Warren D. (Chip) Fleming

First: the "investigations" didn't lead to much in the way of publications, did they?

Second: the Space Activity Suit is one candidate for a work suit; it may well not be the right choice for the standard EVA suit. It may, on the other hand, be very much the right choice for an emergency inspection suit. They have to be cut to fit and one might not carry more than one, but having a flight engineer able to go out and inspect might have saved Columbia.

Third: NASA hasn't "investigated" alternatives to the present low pressure pure oxygen suits. There was some activity at Ames, underfunded, and when that looked like paying off, the turf wars saw to it that nothing would happen. The Ames suit developed by Webbon and Vykukal was far more suitable for EVA but despite a successful demonstration that it could be worn pressurized for hours without fatigue, no serious "investigation" was done.

Were the people you asked employees of Hamilton Standard? Did they include the executive who tried to get McGraw Hill to fire me for my BYTE column about the computers in the Ham Standard space suits? Just curious.

Regarding space activity suits (which ought to be called the Paul Webb suit, or the Yellow Springs Suit, or the Space Activity Suit; it wasn't invented at MIT): if the problem is ARMOR, then perhaps there ought to be some "investigation" of what armor might be designed? Ballistic nylon coveralls. Real armor made of steel perhaps. But why is it decreed that the pressure barrier must be the armor? One can put on the armor when needed, and wear the SAS when not.

The fact is that NASA didn't "investigate" in any serious way. This was all part of the astronaut office turf wars. If there had been "investigations" we'd have models and tests. The present suits are not satisfactory, require pre-breathing, make unscheduled EVA for emergency inspection and repair nearly impossible; all this is known; but NASA isn't doing anything about it even though this has prevailed for forty years and more.

Tell your long time designers they sure didn't do a very good job, and it's their fault we don't have on-orbit assembly. Space Activity Suits may well not have been what was needed; but what NASA gave us was no improvement whatever.

This will be continued next week.


Black holes trigger stars to self-destruct


"The fate of stars that venture too close to black holes could be even more violent than previously believed. Not only are they pulled apart by the black hole's tremendous gravity, but the process can also trigger a nuclear explosion that tears the star apart from within, a new study says."

"There will be an explosion of the star - it will be completely destroyed," Brassart told New Scientist. Although the explosion obliterates the star, it saves some of the star's matter from being devoured by the black hole. The explosion is powerful enough to hurl much of the star's matter out of the black hole's reach, he says."

Charles Brumbelow






This week:


read book now


Saturday, July 21, 2007

From another conference:

The pleasure I get from www.lagriffedulion.com  including, not least, The Smart Fraction Theory of IQ etc, hasn't quite made me get my own mathematical skills and data finding up to doing the same sort of interesting exercises, so I hope that I can interest La Griffe in having a look at "The civilising fraction: how it rose and how it is falling". I did a back of the envelope calculation, based on the assumption that all women of over 115 IQ had two children at average age of 33 and all with IQs under 85 had three children at average age 20. 85 to 115 assumed no differences. It gave me a 2 per cent drop from the 100 average IQ of European countries in 100 years and I then assumed 15 SD and the normal curve to alarm myself with the loss of serious brains. (Australia should be doing pretty well with its East Asian immigration offsetting the high reproduction rate of Aborigines but there is no reason not to apply the assumptions and figures to Australia).

Now I would be interested to work out how far IQ may be shown to have probably contributed to the scientific revolution, Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution occurring in NW Europe and how rapidly average IQ is now going backwards. The Ancient Greeks may remain a puzzle but it is a reasonable guess that the contribution of England and Scotland (and urban Ireland) from base populations in the 16th century which are not very different from 18th century Ashkenazi populations had some connection to the figures produced by Burt and others which showed huge lumps at the right hand end of the Bell Curve: far more people with IQs of 170 and over than is consistent with a normal curve describing the whole population's IQ distribution, and, equally, quite a lot to do with breeding habits and success not too different from that of Ashkenazim. If the urban poor barely reproduced themselves but the rich, even the urban rich, regularly produced families in which four or more reached adulthood and themselves married, approx. the assumptions behind the Cochran-Harpending hypothesis, three hundred years of that might account for much when added to the security of living on a prosperous, comparatively freethinking island protected by the rule of law and a dominant navy.

Now that Ashkenazim, like upper middle class Anglos, are not even reproducing themselves, how fast will we, in the First World, go backwards in terms of our collective capacity to do the work of genius?

Clearly we have a lot of good science ahead of us from millions of bright East Asians and upper caste Indians and the US system of government still seems a long way from succumbing to populist vote-seeking amongst the under class, but dysgenics has got to break out somewhere. I have never gone in much for science fiction or futurology but I can't see that the standard models of democracy are going to work well enough unless there is enough wealth to allow the ruling classes and cliques to run bread and circuses in a big way. Mostly circuses, pop music and films and TV, tribal gatherings at the football etc. In my home state we have bagged the Australian Open tennis (one of the four Grand Slam events), the first Formula 1 Grand Prix of each year, the Melbourne Cup (one of the world's oldest and most famous horse races), the Australian Football League's Grand Final, and those are only some of the annually regular events with which we can entertain ourselves to death. It reminds me how the Australasian colonies/dominions were, in the their prosperous late 19th century heydays the leading experimenters in a lot of democratic, welfare state and other developments which showed how democracy can run quite well as long as there is enough prosperity around for everyone to get a bit, even if without merit or effort.

And the Indians? Is there a La Griffe method of making an estimate of the difference in IQ between castes? Although there was a recent President of India who was born untouchable and became a distinguished diplomat, it seems obvious enough that 1000 years of removing fecal matter for a living or similarly dirty work is likely to select for something other than IQ.


Taking IQ seriously: what are the consequences of present demographic trends? Those interested in the subject and not familiar with La Griffe du Lion (http://www.lagriffedulion.com/) should have a look.

I realize that it is not politically correct to take IQ seriously, but the various studies on IQ and the Wealth of Nations are intriguing; and it should be obvious that there is some minimum population of intelligent -- and educated -- people below which you cannot sustain a First World economy. It should also be obvious that demographic trends in Europe and the United States are not encouraging. The US at present owes the entire capital value of the nation to entitlements and overseas debt holders; meaning that if this debt is to be paid, it must be paid through increased productivity and growth, and that has to be done before foreclosures. It will be interesting to see where all this leads.

James' observations about the democratic welfare state and prosperity are not original -- see Schumpeter -- but are certainly true.

I do warn you that La Griffe is not particularly hard to read, but he deals with difficult concepts.

For a spread sheet on IQ in the US States, see www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/stateIQs.xls


Hidden Smarts: Abstract thought trumps IQ scores in autism,


Autistics are smarter than we thought:


The interesting question for me is whether this also holds true for people with Asperger's syndrome. It's sure true for lots of programmers and other problem-solvers.




--- Tiny-brained man wows doctors He lived a normal life despite the fluid buildup in his skull Reuters Updated: 8:07 p.m. ET July 19, 2007 WASHINGTON - A man with an unusually tiny brain managed to live an entirely normal life despite his condition caused by a fluid buildup in his skull, French researchers reported on Thursday.

Scans of the 44-year-old man's brain showed that a huge fluid-filled chamber called a ventricle took up most of the room in his skull, leaving little more than a thin sheet of actual brain tissue.

"He was a married father of two children, and worked as a civil servant," Dr. Lionel Feuillet and colleagues at the Universite de la Mediterranee in Marseille wrote in a letter to the Lancet medical journal.

The man went to a hospital after he had mild weakness in his left leg. When Feuillet's staff took his medical history, they learned he had had a shunt inserted into his head to drain away hydrocephalus - water on the brain - as an infant.

The shunt was removed when he was 14.

So the researchers did a computed tomography (CT) scan and another type of scan called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They were astonished to see "massive enlargement" of the lateral ventricles - usually tiny chambers that hold the cerebrospinal fluid that cushions the brain.

Intelligence tests showed the man had an IQ of 75, below the average score of 100 but not considered mentally retarded or disabled, either.< snip >


Has anyone ever pointed out that the rate of black male incarceration won't be high enough until black great-grandmothers in inner-city neighborhoods feel as safe on their streets as I do on my streets?


"Parents Are Cheaper Than Police And Prisons, But Police And Prisons Are What We Have(TM)".



Back to Story - Help

Study shows racial disparities in prison

By DAVID PITT, Associated Press Writer Wed Jul 18, 3:01 PM ET

Blacks in the United States are imprisoned at more than five times the rate of whites, and Hispanics are locked up at nearly double the white rate, according to a study released Wednesday by a criminal justice policy group.

The report by the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based think tank, found that states in the Midwest and Northeast have the greatest black-to-white disparity in incarceration. Iowa had the widest disparity in the nation, imprisoning blacks at more than 13 times the rate of whites.

Such figures "reflect a failure of social and economic interventions to address crime effectively," as well as racial bias in the justice system, said Marc Mauer, the group's executive director.<snip>

I am not sure that incarceration is the remedy; but it's pretty clear that we have run The Great Society experiment without much success (its failure was predicted by the late NY Senator Patrick Moynihan --
News_Type=Loca  ).

We have also tried the experiment of throwing money at the schools; you can see the results in the District of Columbia; the DC experience is now to be applied nationally through No Child Left Behind with predictable results.

How DO we get to the point where all of Los Angeles is as safe as our neighborhood. (Hint: the trend is in the other direction. We can walk at night; in Chatsworth, once the symbol of Valley suburbia, our friends scarcely go out at night at all.)


Chronic Fatigue No Longer Seen as Yuppie Flu http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/17/science/17fatigue.html 


For decades, people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome have struggled to convince doctors, employers, friends and even family members that they were not imagining their debilitating symptoms. Skeptics called the illness yuppie flu and shirker syndrome.

But the syndrome is now finally gaining some official respect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which in 1999 acknowledged that it had diverted millions of dollars allocated by Congress for chronic fatigue syndrome research to other programs, has released studies that linked the condition to genetic mutations and abnormalities in gene expression involved in key physiological processes. The centers have also sponsored a $6 million public awareness campaign about the illness. And last month, the C.D.C. released survey data suggesting that the prevalence of the syndrome is far higher than previously thought, although these findings have stirred controversy among patients and scientists. Some scientists and many patients remain highly critical of the C.D.C.s record on chronic fatigue syndrome, or C.F.S. But nearly everyone now agrees that the syndrome is real.

People with C.F.S. are as sick and as functionally impaired as someone with AIDS, with breast cancer, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said Dr. William Reeves, the lead expert on the illness at the C.D.C., who helped expose the centers misuse of chronic fatigue financing.

Chronic fatigue syndrome was first identified as a distinct entity in the 1980s. (A virtually identical illness had been identified in Britain three decades earlier and called myalgic encephalomyelitis.) The illness causes overwhelming fatigue, sleep disorders and other severe symptoms and afflicts more women than men. No consistent biomarkers have been identified and no treatments have been approved for addressing the underlying causes, although some medications provide symptomatic relief.

Patients say the word fatigue does not begin to describe their condition. Donna Flowers of Los Gatos, Calif., a physical therapist and former professional figure skater, said the profound exhaustion was unlike anything she had ever experienced.<snip>


Subject: Air pressure helps objects sink into sand


Now here is something I never thought about - a denser atmosphere, such as Earth's, makes a falling metal ball penetrate much deeper into grainy terrain:



Dropping the Ball: Air pressure helps objects sink into sand

Davide Castelvecchi

Here's good news if you happen to drop something while you're strolling across a sandy section of Mars: You should be able to find what you dropped more easily than if you had dropped it into desert sands on Earth. And that's not just because of Mars' weaker gravity. Two teams of physicists have shown that a denser atmosphere, such as Earth's, makes a falling metal ball penetrate much deeper into grainy terrain.<snip>


Subject: Last man on the moon...


"Despair is a sin", but this, "Once we walked on the Moon. When I was in high school in the 1940's I read science fiction and knew that I would live to see the first man on the Moon. I did not know I would live to see the last one" does make me want to despair too. In the sixties, my friends and I talked realistically about how one of us could be the first person on Mars, and that's a bitter recollection now.

However, you won't necessarily live to see the last person on the moon. Perhaps the last AMERICAN in your lifetime had been there, but I have hopes for the Chinese program. And that might, just might, spur a revival here as well.

I don't want to see the passing of all the Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon before SOMEONE goes back. We are perilously close to that, and it is very, very sad, and something I would never have imagined even ten years ago.



From Mail for July 21, 2007:

"Tiny-brained man wows doctors."

What I did NOT find amazing was: "He ...worked as a civil servant..."


Intelligence tests showed the man had an IQ of 75..."

Obviously the French educational system DOES work. They managed to train this man for the EXACT proper career for someone with "little more than a thin sheet of actual brain tissue."

If only we could perform brain scan upon a few members of the TSA...





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,  July 22, 2007     

Northrop Grumman Buys Builder of SpaceShipOne


"Northrop Grumman Corp. agreed July 5 to increase its stake in Scaled Composites - the builder of the Ansari X-Prize Cup-winning SpaceShipOne

 and a host of record-breaking aircraft - from 40 percent to 100 percent, Northrop Grumman spokesman Dan McClain confirmed July 20."

Either very good, or very bad. No middle ground on this one. I hate to see an innovative start-up taken over by Big Aerospace. However, Grumman may be one of the best of the Old Breed left.

On the gripping hand, a big company can fight the regulatory battles, should it choose to persevere.


As you say.


A comment:

Hello Dr Pournelle. There are a few things this week I wanted to comment on.

One was the suggestion that we should limit foreign involvement in our armed forces to provide limits on what the government can do with its armed forces. I'm going to submit this is irrelevant. First, I've personally been involved in situations involving foreigners in the armed forces, so it is already happening. Requirements to speak English do limit it somewhat, and I submit that those who want the benefits of being treated like US Citizens are a larger set than those willing to work for it. Second, the actual manpower requirements are not that terribly large. We are keeping our forces up to strength despite years of opposition by parts of our nation, with organizations forbidding or hindering recruiting efforts they are required to support by law, and organizations set up for the sole purpose of opposing military recruiting. Third, the biggest limiting factor in recruitment isn't principled objection to the government, its weight and physical fitness of prospective recruits.

Congress is the limiting factor here, since the detail that will stop or reduce military adventurism is money. You can complain that Congress is busted, but that's why we can elect a different group of bums. Note that while our Congress has conducted bipartisan operations to limit the ability of challengers, we've seen political parties break up in the US before, and it can happen again if the people will decide they aren't being served and vote for alternatives.

Now, as for Ron Paul, I just can't see my fellow Legionnaires voting for someone with his views on 9/11. I'm working at a major command now, so I ran a quick unscientific test. I asked the staff NCOs and field grade officers I met, plus a lone captain who was handy at the time, what they could tell me about presidential candidate Ron Paul. Nobody knew anything about him. I was able to find one lone sergeant who wants to vote for Nader, but the rest were quite mainstream in their discussion of who would make the best leader, and while I didn't always agree with them, opinions on what to do about the Long War always figured in the discussions. I find it rather odd that the national and international polling organizations show Ron Paul with a statistical support of zero percent, but he always seems to be at least competitive with the front-runners in online polling, if not dominant.

My comrades appear to think that traditional small government is still the best plan, and that the best place to fight is on someone else's soil.






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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, 2006, 2007 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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