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This week:


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Monday August 6, 2007

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

It's August...

Lab gets foot in mouth










Assault rifle stories





Epilepsy and TV




War on the streets of London


Drug spending








Lake Wobegon in England



The Murray drought



"Kidnapped" Filipino workers build American embassy <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article2199263.ece>


Gardening in Germany




I'll be in Washington DC next week, so the next Letter from England will be in two weeks.


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>


'A teenage science student has been banned from applying for a training programme with the Environment Agency because she is white and English.'


-- Roland Dobbins

Is anyone astonished? We will see considerably more of this. Until -- until when? How does this scenario end?

== And on that subject:

The country that used to exist.


- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Inferno

Which reminds me…

A good friend of mine, Larry, took his family to the Florida Beaches in early June for vacation. His 17yo son brought 4 friends as guests. Larry notices one of the young men reading a book (hardcover!) and inquired as to the title. He was shocked to learn that the book was Dante's Inferno, but assumed it was a summer reading assignment. To Larry's amazement, it wasn't - the young man had been impressed over the past school year by a teacher who referenced Inferno throughout the year during lessons. To be fair, all the boys attend an all male catholic school, but it still shows how influential a teacher can be, in general, during the course of teaching. The teacher's enthusiasm translated into motivation for the young man to LEARN or at least understand what the teacher was referencing.

The rest of the story is that Larry challenged all the other young men (and himself) to read Dante's Inferno during the summer and as a reward he'd take them all to Sullivan's Steakhouse for dinner to discuss the book, upon completion. All took up the challenge. One young man gave up midway through the book, but Larry is treating the other 4 to steaks next week.

David Couvillon
 Colonel of Marines; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Expert in TV Remote manipulation; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work


Phonics, Whole-word And Whole-language Processes Add Up To Determine Reading Speed, Study Shows

Science Daily - Reading specialists have often pitted phonics against holistic word recognition and whole language approaches in the war over how to teach children to read. However, a new study by researchers at New York University shows that the three reading processes do not conflict, but, rather, work together to determine speed.


Bill Shields

Hardly astonishing. And do see my short screed on reading.


Subj: Never Bring a Notebook to a Computer Fight


>>Wired reports that "DefCon, an annual underground hacking convention in Las Vegas, [which] has a strict policy against filming conference attendees" infiltrated Dateline NBC with a mole of their own and outed the Dateline NBC infiltrator themselves. "NBC's mole, Michelle Madigan, ... bolted out of the conference hotel with about two dozen reporters with cameras and others chasing after her -- in the manner of an NBC Dateline To Catch a Predator episode." ...<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com



And now THIS disturbing thought:


Walking does more than driving to cause global warming, a leading environmentalist has calculated.

Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.

The sums were done by Chris Goodall, campaigning author of How to Live a Low-Carbon Life, based on the greenhouse gases created by intensive beef production. “Driving a typical UK car for 3 miles [4.8km] adds about 0.9 kg [2lb] of CO2 to the atmosphere,” he said, a calculation based on the Government’s official fuel emission figures. “If you walked instead, it would use about 180 calories. You’d need about 100g of beef to replace those calories, resulting in 3.6kg of emissions, or four times as much as driving.

“The troubling fact is that taking a lot of exercise and then eating a bit more food is not good for the global atmosphere. Eating less and driving to save energy would be better.”


I have not checked the math, but it's not entirely unreasonable. High temperature reactions have different efficiencies from the relatively low temperatures of metabolism. Interesting. I am sure we'll have more on this...


Global Warming,Agriculture et al

Hi Jerry

I have just come across your site and certainly enjoy it, though I know your writing very well, been at early fan.

I have been maintaining a blog on the subject of Global Warming and Agricultural solutions in for the past several months. It is becoming quite rich in postings and you may wish to share it with your audience as I suspect that they will respond well.

See: http://globalwarming-arclein.blogspot.com <http://globalwarming-arclein.blogspot.com/

What got me going on this, is that I sat down and produced a manuscript titled Paradigms Shift which covered a wide range of new ideas and interpretations. It is really the basis for several books in the conventional form. One chapter introduced the tools needed for global terraforming. Needless to say this quickly led to the creation of my Blog, which will likely lead me into generating another manuscript. At least this is a little more entertaining.

By the way, in another life I took a degree in applied mathematics specializing in relativity. This tends to make me somewhat too rigorous in my thought processes.


Bob Klein (Arclein)


And another thing to worry about

Piercing The Golden Shield, 


This story is about The Great Firewall of China:


Most important is the training their Internet engineers are getting. Few know it, but it is the excellence of training that makes our military as successful as it is. That the Chinese seem to be doing this intensive training in cyberspace is ominous, to say the least.


How truly good. There are novels in there...


And this from Sue

What Schools Don't Teach

From the Chronicle of Higher Education issue dated August 3, 2007


Schools Are Leaving Some Subjects Behind


As schools spend more time teaching English and mathematics, which are tested under the No Child Left Behind law, time spent on other subjects has dropped by as much as a third, says a report released last week by the Center on Education Policy.

The study, based on a survey of 349 school districts and interviews with officials of 13 others, found that 62 percent of the districts reported spending more time teaching English and mathematics in elementary schools since 2002, when No Child Left Behind was enacted. But to accommodate the increased time spent on English and math, 44 percent of the districts had cut time devoted to other subjects or activities, such as social studies, science, art, and music, and lunch and recess.

The decreased time spent on those subjects or activities amounted to an average of 141 minutes per week, or nearly half an hour per school day, a 31-percent reduction since the 2001-2 school year.

The results indicate a "narrowing of curriculum" from elementary through high school, the long-term effects of which are unknown, said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a research group in Washington.

"It may be a trade-off," he said. "In the best of circumstances, kids could be better prepared in math and reading. In the worst-case scenario, they could be weaker in science and social sciences."

Shifts in curricula were more prevalent in districts that have struggled to meet No Child Left Behind standards and have been identified for improvement under the law, the report says.

The report is available on the center's Web site (http://www.cep-dc.org) .


 Section: Government & Politics Volume 53, Issue 48, Page A20






This week:


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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

My husband Paul showed me the comment on the "battle of phonics vs whole language reading." As a first grade teacher I used that wonderful and well labeled reading program called "the eclectic method." That meant that I taught each child according to his or her own skills and methodology. I also discovered that (anecdotally speaking) a child who reads before first grade seemed to be a whole language reader, and those who had to be taught needed phonics. In most of my classes of 32 first graders (later 20 thanks be to CA ed code) approximately 30% were sight readers, 65% were phonics readers and the others (one or two per class) needed other outside resources. No sight reader ever lost by learning phonics also.

When the pullout reading specialist at my first site discovered that I was bootlegging phonics (during one of the whole language only eras) by using songs from Sesame Street--You take a c, that's K and an a t at, you put them all together and they spell cat--she slipped me a wonderful phonics system called "Letters are Signs for Sounds." We used that "just for fun" just in case an unsympethetic administrator walked through.

My site's principal figured out what I was doing that first year and channelled several children who needed phonics to learn to read, into my classroom and swapped out a couple of fluent readers for them. It didn't bother me, because he told me that all he expected was a year's growth in skills in a year from whereever they started academically.

I am a strong proponent of the Eclectic Method of teaching reading.

Velma Hampson

About half the children in any reasonable group will learn to read given any rational instruction at all. A third will learn to read without any real instruction: just knowing that it's possible will do it. Macaulay learned to read by standing in front of his father as his father read Evening Prayer following the text with hid finger. Alas, for a year he could only read upside down.

Of the half remaining, about half those will learn to read given some instructions that include clues that let them learn to decode words.

It's that last quarter that take a lot of work, and without work never will learn to read.

English can be taught as if it were Chinese or ancient Hieroglyphics, but that seems pointless. Ideographic writing isn't easily learned by everyone. Again most of the natural readers can learn ideographically, but many others are condemned to a long and hard study to acquire something that everyone can learn in 70 lessons or so.

The point of systematic phonics is that it doesn't harm anyone; and it lets everyone learn how to attack words like polyethylene and antidisestablishmentarianism. We read largely by word recognition once we know a word; it's that first encounter that requires phonics. Whole language instruction encourages guessing, and that makes for sloppy reading when wording is important.


Man does not live by beef alone

Walking versus driving...carbon emissions. Only ~28% by dietary energy of the mean American diet is animal based and only ~5% is beef. Most other dietary components would seem to have a significantly lower carbon footprint than feedlot beef. Further, if comparing "all inputs" in the carbon footprint for beef, one should do the same for auto travel and not simply count fuel. Thus, all energy inputs to constructing and maintaining the vehicle (down to the car the factory worker drove to work if you want to be as absurd as the people detailing ag fossil fuel use); all energy inputs for replacing consumables such as oil and tires and brakes should be included, as well as the inputs of asphalt paving, etc. If one considers 2ndary effects, then walking increases health, reducing healthcare consumption and carbon footprint, but increases lifespan increasing footprint, and decreases weight which reduces fuel consumption in both transportation modes!

Best, Ben A. Pedersen, P.E.

What puts out the most CO2: eating the corn, or turning it into ethanol and burning it in an internal combustion engine?  I expect I could figure it out, but I am sure someone will do it before I get a Round Tuit.


"I'm going to see what I can do to send every single illegal alien back home."


--- Roland Dobbins



"Spengler" notes that Christianity is growing hugely in China:


He also reports, "[S]ome Chinese evangelicals and Pentecostals believe that the basic movement of the gospel for the last 2,000 years has been westward: from Jerusalem to Antioch, from Antioch to Europe, from Europe to America, and from America to China. Now, they believe, it's their turn to complete the loop by carrying the gospel to Muslim lands, eventually arriving in Jerusalem. Once that happens, they believe, the gospel will have been preached to the entire world."

An underlying reference: Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power - http://www.amazon.com/dp/1596980257/ 

This promises to be interesting.



Subject: Social Engineering - A Lesson for the Western World

Dr. Pournelle,

A thought on one of Professor Dobbins letters:

"PATH National's organisational development manager, Mary McDowell, said: "The "White Welsh", "White Irish" and "White Scottish" is a technicality in law - if they are a minority, they are entitled to places on these schemes - they are not part of the majority group, which is "White English"."

Upon first examination, this seems like nothing more that the self-induced reverse discrimination that it is. In the larger longer-term context, this is social engineering: akin to the forced migrations in Poland / Germany / Ukraine following WW2, while at the same time being a forced version of the 'melting pot'. The English will have to seek jobs in Ireland Scotland and Wales; the Welsh in England, Scotland and Ireland, etc. In the middle term, the only people who will have an advantage shall be the ethnically different minorities (Arabs, South Asians, Afro/Caribbean), as they continue to grow and refuse to assimilate - claiming minority status at the national level while actually becoming a majority at the local level. As such, they will come to constitute the bureaucracy. In the longer term, English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish shall cease to have meaning as they become one through bureaucratic force, and thus become the majority lower class. South Africa in reverse.

Not necessarily the direct replacement through fear and violence as discussed in the Sweden link from last week, but no less effective. Perhaps the Iron Law will stagnate and corrupt the minorities before there ceases to be an England?

Regards, Peter Czora


Light Sabers and Education

This is from the Wall Street Journal's _Best of the Web:_

Yankee Ingenuity <http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,292271,00.html

'Fox News reports on a nifty new weapon:

It looks like a big flashlight--but it's really a nonlethal weapon designed to make you sick.

Intelligent Optical Systems, Inc., of Torrance, Calif., has been granted a contract by the Department of Homeland Security to develop what it calls the "LED Incapacitator," according to a DHS online newsletter.

The handheld device using light-emitting diodes to emit super-bright pulses of light at rapidly changing wavelengths, causing disorientation, nausea and even vomiting in whomever it's pointed at.

"There's one wavelength that gets everybody," says IOS President Bob Lieberman. "Vlad [IOS top scientist Vladimir Rubtsov] calls it 'the evil color.' "

It looks a little like one of those "Star Wars" light sabers: Use the Force, Puke--uh, Luke.' http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110010439  http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,292271,00.html 

Are death rays next?


On Education

And This is extracted from a Letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago:

Lowest average combined GRE scores, by profession: 1. 896: social work

2. 913: early childhood education 3. 928: student counseling

4. 933: home economics education

5. 934: special education

6. 950: education administration 7. 965: public administration 8. 968: education (other)

9. 970: elementary education 10. 985: education evaluation & research 11. 993: social science (other)

| | |

?. 1063: secondary education

M. 1066: overall mean across all fields

So, eight of the 11 lowest GRE scores (July 2001 - June 2004) are in education fields, assuming that the figures are correct. And budding young bureaucrats are one of the others. The =outlier= education score is all the way up at the middle of the curve. Now, it may be that the numerical differences in mean scores are not statistically significant or not of practical significance. It may also be that the GRE does not test what is important for being effective in these fields. (We could make a case that early childhood educators need empathy and a caring disposition more than the ability for close reading of texts or factoring formulas.) And it is always worth remembering that "half of everything is below average." ETS "norms" the scores so that the overall mean is in the close neighborhood of 1000. Still, it is a little startling to find almost the entire left-hand tail of the bell curve "occupied" by educational occupations.


I would agree that in elementary education, temperament and dedication are far more important than sheer intelligence. The opportunities for those out to the right of the bell curve in graduate studies are likely to be much higher than those on the left side, partly influencing decisions.

As to social work, surely no one is astonished. See my essay on The Voodoo Sciences.


High Voltage Cable Inspector


Mike Broderick
Oklahoma City, OK

Don't watch this if you're squeamish!


Subject: The Company

You can view full episodes of The Company on the TNT web site:


Most of the networks are doing this now with at least some of their shows. I hadn't heard about this one until you mentioned it. I'll have to watch it when I have the time. TNT, along with USA Network and other cable outlets, are producing quality programming -- something the broadcast networks are sorely lacking since the rise of "reality" tv.

Joe Shockley

Actually no. It's all teasers. At least I could find no way to view the first episode. I could legally have taped it since I pay for TNT, but I didn't know when it was on (my fault I suppose).  I'm even willing to watch the commercials (except apparently it was commercial free). But there does not seem to be an on line stream. I know something about what was going on in those days and I would find it interesting to watch. And I think Keaton may be our most underrated actor.

I have managed to find the authorized web broadcast. It's 4 " tall and not much of a viewing experience but I now know the continuity. It follows the novel pretty closely. I read that a couple of years ago.




This week:


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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Airship debuts Friday?

The Aeros ML866
  is billed as travelling at eight thousand feet and 100-120 knots, something like the DC-3s I grew up with (running across the Everglades when not running between Provincetown and Boston). However, it has a wee bit more elbow room; 5,000 square feet, which would allow moving a heck of a lot of freight containers, or seriously challenge the QE2 for a more reasonable compromise between speed and comfort.

It also might make a nice zero stage if it could tote an air-launchable first stage to a reasonable altitude, drop it and move out of the way before ignition.

However, the AKRON, SHENANDOAH and R101 all crashed because of inadequate power for the aerodynamic loading when they met thunderbumpers. I have to wonder if the airchine has enough thrust to avoid things getting hairy when the weather gets dramatic?

-- -- 73s and best regards,
John Bartley K7AAY

"The state which separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools." - Thucydides.

The Zeppelin Company never lost a passenger until the Hindenberg. It had a wonderful record, even with the state of meteorology in those days. I would think that with modern satellite weather observation, plus more powerful engines, airships have a place in this modern world. Leisurely travel, with a certain degree of elegance...


Do people in Russia still become non-persons?

If they do, I suspect that may be the fate awaiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, due to his comment relating flag planting at the North Pole to flag planting on the moon. Of course if the United States no longer has the will or the knowledge to get back to the moon, this is a moot point.


"Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained the [North Pole] flag-planting with a precedent vividly etched in the modern imagination.

"Whenever explorers reach some sort of point that no one else has explored, they plant a flag," he said. "That's how it was on the moon, by the way."

Charles Brumbelow


General T'Sos chickens coming home to roost

Jerry: I've been wondering how long it would take for China to use their massive holdings of US debt to extort concessions out of the US.


Chris C

It takes a village to raze a mad scientist's laboratory.


Those who pay the piper call the tune. Unless you have borrowed the money to pay the piper from the Mob.


Bank run in Second Life.


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Viewing "The Company"


When you go to the web page linked in Mail, there is a menu on the upper left hand corner of the screen. The top item is "Watch Online". Click this and you go to a player page that has a small screen. To the right are three boxes for "Episode 101" labled Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

Click Part One and a short ad (30 seconds) will begin playing in the player box. At the end, a pop-up will ask you to click to go to another screen to obtain a license (it's free). Click 'OK' and your license (presumably a cookie) will be delivered and the video will begin plaing in the box. Pretty standard for most 'free' video delivered over the wb except for the license bit. First time I've ever been prompted for that.

After the video begins you can right click and expand the video ro full screen using Windows Media Player if you desire. I'm watching it right now.

If you alt-tab away from the media player, you will have to right click/expand all over again each time. Also the video will be interupted periodically by ads, which you can't fast forward though or skip.

And, irritatingly, you apparently have to reacquire the 'license' after each ad. A bit more trouble than the usual 'free' content, but it is possible.


-- Cecil Rose

With that as guide I was able to watch all three parts, in full screen. I was also immunized against ever buying a Lincoln product again, having been made to watch the commercial countless times. The only way to watch this is to let play all the way through, jerky stops and all; don't watch while that is happening, and don't try to switch to full screen. Eventually it will all download, at which point you can go back to the beginning, watch the commercial again, and then watch that segment of the show. Then go to the next one.

I thoroughly understand the temptation to simply download a pirate copy rather than go through the hoops that the DSM people seem to want you to jump through so that you can watch something that you could legally have recorded if you'd thought to do it.

This has to change. It's simply not a viable commercial business plan. I was more or less determined to see what they had done with the novel, so I put up with it; but most people that determined would have gone to Bit Torrent.

And now I find that what they offer is not what was shown: what I saw ends with the Russian lad going to DC. Philby is still at large. Angleton still doesn't know that he was the actual leak to his friend Adrian Kim Philby. The synopsis they give, though, says that the first night ended with Lilly's death and Philby's defection. That part, apparently, you don't get to watch even if you watch that stupid Lincoln immunization program a hundred times. So I still didn't get to see it all.

My fault, of course; but since we pay for cable access in two place, it's annoying. I don't pay so much attention to TV as all that, but I really need to have in place a way to record shows I really want to see. I suppose I should look into that.


So I am watching the wretched Lincoln ad again and again, there being at least three more segments.

I have to say that so far the story is quite realistic.











CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, August 9

If you want to remember Nagasaki, see View.

I have collected considerable mail about China and financial shenanigans, and I'll put them all out when I get them collated. It makes for an interesting subject.

Derb's pharmacopoeia.


- Roland Dobbins



The online WSJ has:

Government funded universal pre K. Oh boy.

My 4 year old is in pre K. It costs us 1200/month almost what our mortgage was. That is using private schools. Of course, if the fed's get involved, it will be more. At lest with the private school approach we can shop - and we have. On the other hand, it would be much better if my wife stayed home - that won't happen. Women have achieved so much in the last 40 years.



Subject: Dresden and the nuclear attack on Japan. A rant


If the bombing of Dresden was a mistake or a crime it is only because the destructive effort would have been more usefully directed elsewhere. Put yourself in the boots of a Russian soldier who had fought the Wehrmacht all the way from Moscow. He knew he faced a determined and resourceful enemy who was falling back on a major communications centre. Just the sort of place from which a counter attack might be launched. Also, our Russian soldier had buried many of his comrades and selfishly didn't want to die too. Of course the Russians wanted Dresden flattened. They were our gallant allies we were honour bound to oblige. Remember, it was the Russians who were paying the blood price for the Allied victory.

In the case of Japan it can be fairly argued that the Japanese military subscribed to an entirely different set of moral values to the Americans opposing them. Torture was routine and suicide a better prospect than capture. Suicide without the prospect of taking one with you, which would be my plan B in the last resort. Had we fought the Japanese on mainland Japan casualties on both sides would have been enormous. I see it as irrelevant that the use of nuclear bombs saved very many Japanese casualties, but it saved a large number of allied lives too.

Before deciding that I am a complete brute ask yourself if you want me looking after your safety in a war, or if you would prefer a gentler person who would hesitate to kill as many of the enemy as possible before they reached the trench that you were defending.

John Edwards.

Nits make lice. Kill the kids and they won't grow up to be enemy soldiers.

I have said elsewhere that I am glad I was not Harry Truman. Most of the scientists who developed the bombs wanted a demonstration, say offshore, rather than an attack on the city. On the other hand, there were no more bombs.

The real question is whether there can be laws of war. The United States went to war with Germany over the rights of neutrals: the Lusitania was not an American flag ship, but carried American passengers. The German consulate in New York handed all the passengers notices that the Lusitania was entering a war zone. The US upheld the rights of neutrals, including merchant vessels carrying foodstuffs and humanitarian supplies even if the vessel belonged to a belligerent. That was in 1918.

In December, 1941, the US declared unrestricted submarine warfare against Japan and all vessels of any flag operating in Japanese waters.

In the Confederate raids against Union cities Confederate troops were instructed to burn only public buildings, but take care that the fires did not spread to private property; and to fire only on armed resistors.

I am told that US units operating in Korea are accused of murder of civilian refugees in panic situations, and that controversy endures to this day.

Perhaps the notion of belligerent rights and neutral rights, of sparing civilians and targeting military targets only is long out of date -- although it is a rather modern development in Western history. Not making war on women and children was one of the traditions of chivalry, and evacuation of civilians from towns under siege was often allowed; one of the crimes Henry V is accused of is forcing women and children refugees to live between his siege lines and the besieged town. Harfleur, wasn't it?

International Law as such began to be developed during the time of Grotius. There are vestiges to this day, as any Marine in Iraq can tell you. Unrestricted bombing of civilian cities, bringing the war to the home front, making war on women and children is ancient and modern; but there was a period when it was thought to be barbaric.

I do not think you will be a lot more effective at preventing the enemy from reaching your trench and your troops than I will be in those circumstances.

The question is, will you target the suburbs five miles away? I gather that Serbian and Croat officers are even as we speak being tried for crimes against humanity for lobbing shells into civilian areas.

Are we consistent? Should we be?

War is Hell, Sherman said, and burned everything, private and public, in his march to the sea.

In my little memo on commemoration of the day I said nothing about my approval or disapproval; I merely remind people that killing people with nuclear weapons is not the only way to cause mass casualties, and given the costs of the Manhattan Project, the cost per kill by nukes was probably higher than the cost to kill ratio using fire bombs. And the Mongols managed a very low cost/kill ratio.


It might be a Codominium after all?! 


Read Super-K's Piece:

<http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/08/09/opinion/edkissinger.php>  "The debate about missile defense, nearly 50 years old, has been reignited by the plan to deploy elements of the American missile defense in the Czech Republic and Poland...."

The Money Quote:

"....But there are straws in the wind that may signal a more constructive attitude. Putin has made an intriguing proposal of potentially profound, long-range significance: to link Russia's missile-tracking radar installations in Azerbaijan or those planned for southern Russia to the American and NATO missile defense system against Iran. While the proposal includes conditions that make it unacceptable as put forward, it contains a vision of how to implement parallel strategic interests that might set a precedent for overcoming other global challenges.

Russia and the United States face an emerging world order whose threats as well as prospects transcend what any nation state, no matter how powerful, can deal with by itself. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, radical jihadism, the environment and the global economy require cooperative approaches. At the level of presidents and foreign ministers, this seems to be understood, and relations are characterized by serious cooperative efforts. Yet in the public dimension, something approaching Cold War attitudes is reemerging....."


Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, August 10, 2007

We have more on global warming. Follow these links.

Subject: NASA corrects climate data: 1998 not the hottest year

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

I've just been pointed at an interesting report on the methods NASA used to calculate temperature data, and significant errors that were found. I apologize in advance if you are getting a lot of mail on this topic: when I saw it, I thought you'd really like to see it, and I think others will feel the same way.


In short, the researchers concluded that the algorithm must have had a "Y2K Bug" in it. NASA has now tacitly acknowledged the error, by releasing corrected data:


According to that data, the hottest year on record was not 1998, but 1938.

All the best -
 Brian Thomson, Dublin IE

Both these links are interesting. I fear I am unsure of the definition of the mean climate anomaly. I can guess, and I expect my guesses are correct, but I haven't actually found a formal definition.

Determining the Earth's temperature cannot be easy. There are air temperatures at various altitudes. Sea temperatures at various depths. Earth temperatures at surface and various depths. Just how those are averaged to produce a single figure of merit for a year seems an impossible task, and the number derived would be highly sensitive to the formula employed; I could go out onto my balcony and take the air temperature, or the globe temperature (put a thermocouple in the center of  a black-painted copper shell about the size of a baseball; it gives an average of the air temperature and the radiant environment; we use globe temperature in human factors to estimate thermal stress environments).

Would I be justified in calling the globe temperature in the shade on my balcony the global temperature? Of course not. Suppose, though, that I get all my readers to do that, and we daily average all those measurements each day, then average the daily temperatures; would that be the Earth's temperature for the year? Probably not, but if 50,000 of you responded, we would have a number that we could compare year after year to determine trends. Would that be as good as the single figures of merit that NOAA and/or NASA uses? I have no idea, because I don't know what local condition changes the NOAA/NASA temperature stations undergo over the years, nor do I know how NOAA/NASA derives that single figure of merit.

We do know that some NOAA /NASA ground stations underwent drastic changes, with air conditioning units installed near them, bean fields converted to Condos, land around airports built up and blacktopped. We know that urban high temperature islands exist and affect the temperature downwind; while that is certainly man-made warming, how Global is it? I have never seen that explained.

When I try to ask questions like this in press conferences featuring people like Hansen, I am told that my questions are either too elementary and display my fundamental lack of qualifications to cover the story; or they are too complex to be answered in this conference; or, sometimes, I get a frank "I don't know."   When I ask for references, for a book that will answer the elementary question of how we derive a single figure of merit for the temperature of the Earth I never get an answer; and I can't find a web site that explains it. It may well be due to my fundamental ignorance in these matters. I am not a meteorologist or climatologist and I have had only sophomore level courses in earth sciences. On the other hand I do have advanced degrees and considerable experience in operations research and I understand mathematical models and means of testing their correspondence to reality. I know something about suboptimization and multivariate analysis. I think I can understand the answers to my questions if someone will explain it all to me.

The Earth may we warming. We know darned well it was warmer in the Medieval Warm period than it is now. When we have vineyards in York and dairy farms in Greenland and vineyards in the Viking Vinland, we can begin to believe the Earth is as warm now as it was then.

We know it was a lot colder during the Little Ice Age. We can believe it's warmer now than it was in 1900, and that 1900 was warmer than 1800. We don't have good quantitative handles on those differences, and different models and measurement proxies produce results that differ more than many of the asserted warming trends.

I had a short dialogue with a Global Warming Advocate in NASA about a year ago but little came of it. I really would some discussion on this matter, but what I usually get is accusations that I am just not paying attention, or I must be in the pay of an oil company.

Is there an oil company out there who would like to pay me? I doubt I'd accept your offer, but I'd at least like to know how much we're talking about. Alas, the only pay I get for these comments is from reader subscriptions and renewals.


RE: Jesus' General : When being brown is illegal

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

> Nonsense. A moron was picked up for graffiti. He was sentenced to 120 > days. He told authorities he was born in Mexico and was Mexican. He > never claimed citizenship. He was deported. > > Being a moron it took him a long time to get found.

Told them? In those words? Never claimed citizenship?

Doctor, have you ever worked with the mentally disabled? I have, it is easy to manipulate someone disabled into an "admission" to something you want to hear, and/or to get one barely literate to scrawl a signature on a form he doesn't understand.

The people who dealt with him have every incentive to "find" illegal aliens to justify their jobs -- you know this from your own "iron law of bureaucracy".

I have every belief that this story is true: a mentally disabled man from a family where English is the second language was assumed because of his ethnicity to be in the country illegally so paperwork was created to support that assumption and he was tricked or otherwise ("just sign this and we can leave you alone") gotten to sign some of it, even though the reality was that he was a native-born citizen of the United States.

I further note that not once, not even when he was arrested in a domestic dispute as he once was, did Samuel Konkin have to worry about being investigated and/or deported as an illegal alien. What does that tell you about equality under the law for those of Latino vs. Canadian extraction, Mestizo vs. Caucasian?

> Ye gods, I live here. Our hospitals are closing because they are > swamped with illegals. San Diego is > in bankruptcy because of illegals.

That may well be -- but it's not this man's or his family's fault, and is irrelevant here, or so it seems to me. He is entitled as a citizen to equal justice under the law, and he didn't receive it.


David K. M. Klaus

I continue to say nonsense. No one wanted that outcome. No one is proud of the result. There is no great pressure in Los Angeles to deport illegals. I wish there were, frankly: that is, I wouldn't go looking for them, but illegal aliens who are convicted of crimes, and crimes, ought to be conducted to the border as soon as their time is served. That does not happen.

A citizen who does not claim citizenship and signs a waiver of an extradition hearing has waived his rights. That he was a moron is apparently not all that obvious (nor is it actually established in a court as of yet.) He sruvived on his own so he is not entirely bereft of abilities.

We had here a bad situation and anyone in authority would have corrected it had he been aware of the situation. No one said being brown was illegal.

However the ACLU figures it has found a GOLD MINE as does the family, and they all want millions. If you want to pay that, feel free. I don't.

I understand that this country is now expected to sacrifice all the freedoms we ever had in the quest for egalitarianism. I confess I do not care to join that train. I do not want a bilingual United States. I believe in the melting pot. My Latin-origin neighbors speak English, and while their diet is probably different they are indistinguishable from my Anglo-Saxon and Ashkenazi and Greek origin neighbors.

I can work up outrage against bureaucratic folly, but not in this case. This is a shakedown.


Subject: Bird feeder

I bought a bird feeder. I hung it on my back porch and filled it with seed. Within a week there were hundreds of birds taking advantage of the continuous flow of free and easily accessible food.

But then the birds started building nests in the boards of the patio, above the table, and next to the barbecue.

Then came the poop. It was everywhere: on the patio tile, the chairs, the table...everywhere.

Then some of the birds turned mean: they would dive bomb me and try to peck me even though I had fed them out of my own pocket.

And others birds were boisterous and loud: They sat on the feeder and squawked and screamed at all hours of the day and night and demanded that I fill it when it got low on food.

After a while, I couldn't even sit on my own back porch anymore.

I took down the bird feeder and in three days the birds were gone.

I cleaned up their mess and took down the many nests they had built all over the patio.

Soon, the back yard was like it used to be...... quiet, serene and no one demanding their rights to a free meal.

And now, the plot shift you've been expecting...

Now lets see... our government gives out free food, subsidized housing, free medical care, free education and allows anyone born here to be an automatic citizen.

Then the illegals came by the tens of thousands.

Suddenly our taxes went up to pay for free services; small apartments are housing 5 families; you have to wait 6 hours to be seen by an emergency room doctor; your child's 2nd grade class is behind other schools because over half the class doesn't speak English; Corn Flakes now come in a bilingual box; I have to press "one" to hear my bank talk to me in English; people waving flags other than "Old Glory" are squawking and screaming in the streets, demanding more rights and free liberties.

Maybe it's time for the government to take down the bird feeder.



Subject: Clark's theory about industrialization


The article by Nicolas Wade begins by posing a pair of questions:

> For thousands of years, most people on earth lived in abject poverty, > first as hunters and gatherers, then as peasants or laborers. But with > the Industrial Revolution, some societies traded this ancient poverty > for amazing affluence. > Historians and economists have long struggled to understand how this > transition occurred and why it took place only in some countries. A > scholar who has spent the last 20 years scanning medieval English > archives has now emerged with startling answers for both questions.

Dr. Clark's theory may help explain why industrialization was confined to certain countries. But I thought the how of the transition was largely driven by the invention of several critical pieces of technology, the first of which was the steam engine. Even with lots of appropriate cultural values, the creation of high energy civilization wasn't going to occur until a technical means to create energy intensive industries had been invented.

Perhaps the importance of the development of the steam engine is a given to the economists and historians who study these matters. But it wouldn't surprise me to find that even they take for granted (i.e., fail to appreciate) the amazing amplification of capability that comes from having more than human muscle, horse, oxen, and the occasional water wheel to run a civilization.

CP, Connecticut


Subject: Dresden and Strafing

Dr. Pournelle, I always enjoy reading your work, both fiction and non-fiction, and I particularly enjoyed your comments on modern war, Hiroshima, and Dresden. But it seems that the story of Allied strafing of German civilians during the Dresden attacks is false, according to several German historians. Check out these links;



I know your admirable passion for accuracy, so I thought I'd pass this along.


Tom Schafer

Interesting. I had not heard the strafing story until I went looking yesterday, but it seemed reasonable. Actually, the most effect air campaign in World War II was P-47 hunter-killer train busting: strafing trains and destroying transportation in the local battle theater area. That turned out to have near-decisive results in allowing the advance of the ground forces. It was also highly efficient. The city-busting campaigns, on the other hand, certainly had some effect on the war, but the many studies and surveys have yet to quantify that.

The case can still be made that in the European campaign the allocation of the bomber command resources to more tanks and trucks, flying officers to infantry and tank platoon leaders, and so forth, with the USAAF strictly limited to support of the ground army, the war would have ended a year earlier without the near total destruction of German cities. I didn't say that case is established; but it hasn't been entirely refuted either.

The problem is that the ground support advocates didn't realize the importance of air supremacy, which can only be established by design. You don't swat hornets one hornet at a time; you destroy the nest. You don't win an air supremacy campaign by dogfights. You destroy the airfields, fuel supplies, and fuel delivery infrastructure. That works, and air war experts understood it. Unfortunately they went further and decided that ball bearing factories could be destroyed with the iron bombs available at the time despite the horrible costs of those raids.

I am as appreciative of the wonderful movie Command Decision as any other, and Gable does a wonderful job of putting the Air Corps case forward; but the movie also shows the costs. It implies that the Schweinfurt raids were a great success and helped destroy the Luftwaffe and German air manufacturing capability. The evidence is nowhere near that clear.

When Gable made his speech about the Luftwaffe's amazing record it was all true: the Luftwaffe had made blitzkrieg possible. The French defenses of the river lines relied on artillery placed well behind those lines, with firing patterns to disrupt any attempt to get infantry and armor across the river. The Luftwaffe was able to silence that artillery so that the panzers could cross the rivers; after that the Fall of France was inevitable. But that had nothing to do with Strategic Air Power, city busting, morale destruction, or anything else. That was the direct application of air power to military strategy. The Grand Strategy of allocation of so many resources to strategic air looks like a mistake.

The problem is that this falls between Grand Strategic, Strategic, Operational, and Grand Tactical levels. The Fall of France was due to Guderian and Manstein's ability to unleash blitzkrieg where France had expected a more static situation. They did that by combining air power with armor and infantry; classical combined arms grand tactics. Theorists noticed the Fall of France. It took a while to understand how it happened; but it was clear that the Luftwaffe was important.

It was not a vindication of the Douhet theory of strategic air war, summed up by the Technocracy organization's formula for war: build a huge fleet of flying wings. "The Wings of Technocracy will pass over the enemy's cities. They need not pass but once." The Technocracy people stated it that baldly, but most advocates of strategic air power thought in those terms. Put enough resources into bombers and you will win the war in weeks. Don't mind defense. The bomber will always get through, and once enough bombers do get through...

I don't have time to complete this; I've written much of it before, including professionally. The generalization that any one branch of a combined arms army cannot be allowed to dominate is true; but that doesn't mean that the different branches should get equal resources. The Manstein Guderian force that took France was well balanced. Not optimal, not perfect, but Good Enough.

I am rambling and I don't have time to organize this.

Things to think about: we sacrificed 400 years of development of International Law in going to the World War II total war with no rights of neutrals and not even the theoretical attempt to spare non-combatants. Those who defend doing this say there was no choice: we could not defeat the enemy any other way.

That may not be true. It is almost certainly not true of the war in Europe, which might have been won on the ground in 1944. (Note that Patton prayed for air power weather during the Bulge; but what he prayed for wasn't B-17 and B-24 weather. What he wanted was tactical air strikes in the immediate theater, and when he got them he was able to punch through.)

It would not have been true of Japan: a ground force invasion of Japan to force an occupation would have been incredibly bloody. We could have forced Japan back to the home islands, starved out the outposts, and reduced Japan to a minor power required to put all its resources into agriculture; and with carriers we could have achieved air supremacy (we pretty well had that anyway; the fire bombing bombers had their guns removed to allow larger bomb loads because they didn't expect any fighter opposition). With carriers we could have destroyed the entire internal communication system, railroads and ferries, without massive civilian casualties.

Since our declared war aim was Unconditional Surrender (something rather unusual in the history of war) it could only have been accomplished by ground invasion; but reducing Japan to a non-entity on the strategic scene would not have required that, and would not have been all that expensive. But that's for another discussion.

My point was the the West could have survived and won without throwing out The Law of Nations.


Global Warming - Blogger finds Y2K bug in NASA climate data


Blogger finds Y2K bug in NASA climate data

Years of bad data corrected; 1998 no longer the warmest year on record

An example of the Y2K discontinuity in action (Source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies) My earlier column

this week detailed the work of a volunteer team to assess problems with US temperature data used for climate modeling. One of these people is Steve McIntyre, who operates the site climateaudit.org <http://www.climateaudit.org/>  . While inspecting historical temperature graphs, he noticed a strange discontinuity, or "jump" in many locations, all occurring around the time of January, 2000.

These graphs were created by NASA's Reto Ruedy and James Hansen (who shot to fame when he accused the administration of trying to censor his views on climate change). Hansen refused to provide McKintyre with the algorithm used to generate graph data, so McKintyre reverse-engineered it. The result appeared to be a Y2K bug in the handling of the raw data.

McKintyre notified the pair of the bug; Ruedy replied <http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=1868>  and acknowledged the problem as an "oversight" that would be fixed in the next data refresh.

NASA has now silently released corrected figures <http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.D.txt>  , and the changes are truly astounding. The warmest year on record is now 1934. 1998 (long trumpeted by the media as record-breaking) moves to second place. 1921 takes third. In fact, 5 of the 10 warmest years on record now all occur before World War II. Anthony Watts has put the new data in chart form, along with a more detailed summary
08/1998_no_longer_the_hottest_yea.html>  of the events.

The effect of the correction on global temperatures is minor (some 1-2% less warming than originally thought), but the effect on the U.S. global warming propaganda machine could be huge.

Then again -- maybe not. I strongly suspect this story will receive little to no attention from the mainstream media.


The first lesson: "scientists" who use secret and proprietary algorithms are not acting properly. When the Administration required Hansen to shut up speaking for the government, it was proper to do that: Hansen's secret algorithm was suspect to begin with. I am hardly astonished to find that it wasn't useful: after all the algorithm was selected to give global warming results.

The second lesson: the Y2K bug was more serious than we thought, but we didn't see where it had the big effect. But Global Warming has been hideously expensive, and apparently it's due to the Y2K bug. Wow.

Now see below





This week:


read book now


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Surface Temperatures and Means (see above)


Goddard have a good short discussion of the measurement of surface air temperature here:


and Milloy and co have a lengthy discussion of their efforts to create a near real time measurement here:


There appear to be any numbers of 'accepted' measures, some shown graphically here


which differ by up to 5 degrees C, which is I think about an order of magnitude greater than claimed human influences?



The referenced articles are certainly worth reading for anyone interested in "Human Global Warming", but they don't tell us much. The FAQ at Goddard (responsible official, James Hansen) admits that there is no standard "surface temperature" and gives no formal definition. This alone ought to be enough to cause us to reject the alarm warnings: they can't or won't tell us how they get the numbers they scare us with. They're sure they see Global Warming, but they can't tell us what the temperature is, or what it was on December 31 last year, or what it was three weeks ago. And more to the point, they have no precise -- within a couple of degrees -- measure of the Global Temperature as of 1900, or 2000, so when they tell us how much it has risen since some date certain, we don't really know what they are saying.

The fact is that you can get almost any trend you want from the data, and you can get a "Mean Surface Temperature" from any of a dozen methods -- and those will vary by considerably more than the projected "warming."

Does this mean the Earth is NOT warming?  Of course not. We can be darned certain that the mean Earth temperature is higher today than it was in 1776. We can be certain that it was warmer in 1900 than it was in 1776. What we can't be certain of is this: is (Mean Temperature 1900 minus Mean Temperature 1776) greater or less than (Mean Temperature 2000 minus Mean Temperature 1900)? Or to put it another way, when did the obvious rise in temperature between 1776 and 2000 take place? Recently? In the 1800's? Between 1900 and 1950?

Once again, I welcome communication from those who tell us that the Earth is warming and it's human activity that's doing it; but rather than proof by repeated assertion, what I'd like to know is on what data they base their conclusions? And how do they obtain that data? Just what is the formal definition of the "Mean Annual Temperature"? What do we mean when we say that 1938 was warmer (0r cooler) than 1998? And by that I mean: what operations were performed to obtain the two numbers? What data did you average and with what weights? Do you take a daily world temperature, add all those up, and divide by 365? And given that you do, how do you get the mean daily temperature? Do you take temperatures of sea surface, air at sea surface, land at surface, air at surface level, air ten meters above surface, weight each by the amount of surface area on the globe it represents (one assumes that there are fewer temperatures taken at the South Pole and McMurdo and the Ross shelf to represent Antarctica than are taken in the continental US), and average all that?

It's odd, but so far I can't find how it's done. Moreover, apparently Hansen doesn't tell people -- which is why McKintire had to reverse engineer the data, and thus discover the Y2K bug.

When I took Philosophy of Science from Gustav Bergmann, I was taught that one definition of science is this: you can write a letter to a colleague, describing how you got a result, and he can, following your description of the experiment, obtain the same results. If you don't tell people how you got your results it isn't science.

Now true, Bergmann was one of the last survivors of the Vienna Circle, and the Weiner Kreiss was deeply committed to what is called "operational philosophy", which is a fairly extreme empiricism; but that doesn't make Bergmann wrong. If Hansen and the Human Global Warming advocates -- who go so far as to group "Global Warming Deniers" with "Holocaust Deniers" and presumably would treat Global Warming Deniers as Holocaust Deniers are treated in Europe, namely jailed -- have a different definition of science that says they don't have to tell people how they got their results, surely they have some obligation to tell the public -- which funds their activities and on whose backs the costs of their "remedies" will fall -- just what they are doing?

How do we get an annual Global Temperature?  I still can't find the answer to that. And the Goddard paper  http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/abs_temp.html says, to me at least, that they don't really have a formal definition, and raises many of the same questions I do.     



The fact that the Y2K bug has cropped up in the Global Warming arena gives me something to ponder. Many are now bemoaning all of the resources that were spent to eliminate the Y2K bug that in actuality had no significant repercussions,. Could it be possible that there were no significant repercussions because of all of the resources expended?

Bob Holmes

Certainly the lack of dire consequences was due in part to prudential preparations. It's pretty hard to say in advance how many resources ought to be devoted to a problem. We could see a potential Y2K problem and specify the mechanisms by which it would affect us. With Global Warming, we don't really know what's going on, and our remedies may exacerbate our real problems.


Sign of the times...

The latest, must-have, back-to-school item: a bulletproof backpack: http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/13860078/detail.html



 Gorilla Grips

Cute commercial as well.

>Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2007 14:29:50 -0700 >Subject: Gorilla Grips > >It looks like a really useful gadget. Seriously. >

< http://www.screencast.com/t/Zo3F00NbSz  >

Mike Morris


The Little Ice Age

I found an interesting book called "The Little Ice Age" by Brain Fagan. He goes into detail about European climate, population, and culture during the Warm Medieval Perios and the Little Ice Age. Hurricane-force gales, hot dry summers, severe winters, etc. He even mentions that during the most severe periods a few Inuit were seen paddling in their kayaks off Iceland. One was even spotted near England!

A good read. It would be even better if global warming doomsayers would deign to read it. There is a slim chance that they would realize that climate is not stable, and that the last 100 years of apparent stability is an illusion.


We do know that about the time of Charlemange a canoe full of Amerinds -- possible Inuit, it's not known -- appeared in Europe. They never got home, but were accepted as guests of the royal court.





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,  August 12, 2007     

Subject: Certainty of mean Earth temperatures

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

I've followed your blog on the global warming debates for a while now and tend to share your views. However, recently you wrote:

"We can be darned certain that the mean Earth temperature is higher today than it was in 1776. We can be certain that it was warmer in 1900 than it was in 1776."

I agree that we know very clearly that was the case in certain locations (even hemispheres), but in talking about global temperatures (however defined) couldn't these observed phenomenon have been counterbalanced in other parts of the world, such that we can not be 'certain' about past "mean Earth temperature" without greater geographic corroboration?

A Canadian

Robert Bruce Thompson makes the same point. I can only say that we have pretty good records from the Northern Hemisphere for the Medieval Warm period, and that corresponded with what may be thriving periods in MesoAmerica. In Heinlein's "man form Mars" novel they have "Fair Witnesses" who have a public office a bit like Notaries Public (and this being a novel, they aren't corruptible) who "witness" only what they have observed directly without making inferences about events they have not observed. I have no direct data about conditions in Australia and Tierra del Fuego and the Argentine in 1800. I do recall some accounts of harsh conditions in some of the South American revolutions, but I can't say I have made a study. I would bet reasonable sums, though, that if we examine conditions in 1775 - 1800 in South Africa and the Latin American colonies we will find that it was colder. That's only a bet, of course.

I suppose one might argue that there were some hot spots during the Ice Ages, and thus the average temperature of the Earth wasn't all that much lower. I've seen studies showing that south of the ice it wasn't all that much colder in North America. As far as I am concerned, the Ice Ages aren't anything we want to return.

I am much more interested in how the present temperature of the Earth is defined so that when I am warned about Global Warming I have some idea of what they are talking about. And again I urge everyone to read Freeman Dyson's disquisition.


"Dyson's essay is important, and I urge all of you to read it."


I came across Thomas Gold's presentation of "Abiotic Oil" much earlier. There's been a minority school of Russian/Ukrainian geologists adhering to this since right after WWII. It's become a favorite hook for do-nothing types who prefer to believe in oil industry conspiracy theories of full and capped off Pennsylvania oil fields.

Not that it matters, but personally I think Abiotic Hydrocarbons are true in part or whole. If they don't exist then we're back to the medieval theological proposition of Earth as a singularity. Hydrocarbons have been observed off Earth in numerous places, and no one has proposed a biological origin for those. Probably it's a combination of dead dinosaurs, dead microbes inhabiting a 10 mile deep biosphere and abiotic sources of methane and longer chain hydrocarbons.

And it probably doesn't matter for our own immediate energy supplies. We're still dealing with a geological process which is likely to have a lengthy propagation period. This period might be far shorter than is currently supposed, but is still clearly longer than it takes to economically deplete the average oil and gas field. There is one point where Abiotic Oil might affect AGW mitigation proposals. This is the idea to sequester CO2 from coal combustion and store it underground in depleted oil and gas fields. If we do that and Abiotic Oil/Gas is true, then we'll likely be preventing these fields from self-renewing for future generations.


I had several conversations with Tommy Gold, and he always convinced me. After which other experts would tell me he was off his head. I have insufficient expertise. But if we find oil on Mars...




--- Roland Dobbins


Wrong Side Of The Roche Limit

New Keck telescope observations of GD 362 show a ring of dust inside the Roche limit of the star, the disconcerting conclusion being that the hot white dwarf's metal emission spectrum arises from swallowing an earth-like planet.

Which former world is, to put it mildly, toast.


-- Russell Seitz



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