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Mail 483 September 10 - 16, 2007







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Monday September 10, 2007

Day was spent in travel and recovery from computer failure.





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Tuesday, September 11, 2007 (Happy birthday, Sable)

In Memorium

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

The British Government is working hard to stop the spread of knowledge and skills. Here's the policy: <http://tinyurl.com/3yj2g5>.

Here are the subjects covered: <http://tinyurl.com/2uunk5>. Note that these restrictions can apply to American and Canadian students.

My wife works in medical statistics and has become very concerned about additives in the diet and exposure to compounds like plasticisers in packaging. The following Nature article discusses how pheromone perception controls sexual orientation in mice. <http:// www.nature.com/nature/journal/v448/n7157/edsumm/e070830-11.html>


Latest news:

Madeline Cann story. My suspicion is that the police are trying to close this case rather than actually catching those responsible. We shall see. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6984781.stm> <http:// news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/6984689.stm> <http:// tinyurl.com/3d22su> <http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/

0,,2165011,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/3xg9yh> <http:// www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article2405209.ece>

<http://tinyurl.com/2gbtrp> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/08/nmaddy608.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/

32lpwr> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/

2007/09/08/nmaddy508.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/34vhbc> <http:// www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/07/

nmaddy907.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/3b8gua> <http:// www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/07/

nmaddy807.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/2amhrx> <http:// www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/07/

nmaddy707.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/2hu97d>

Secularism triumphant. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/


Possible snap election this fall. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/ guardianpolitics/story/0,,2164933,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2qdsx9>

Be careful what you wish for--ID crackdown in pubs. <http:// society.guardian.co.uk/drugsandalcohol/story/0,,2164892,00.html>


Civil rights in the UK. (The UK and China are at different points on a continuum, while America is on a completely different scale.) <http://www.guardian.co.uk/prisons/story/0,,2164953,00.html> <http:// tinyurl.com/3ae7qz> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/

news/2007/09/08/nrights108.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/2x75yv> <http:// www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/08/

nrights208.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/2htnlz> <http:// news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/article2941849.ece>

Security stories. <http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/09/

federal_judge_s.html> <http://tinyurl.com/ys2g6p> <http:// www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/09/the_nofly_list.html> <http:// tinyurl.com/2vaz98>


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>



You say "and not to Pocket Books where they can get it for $5.95. (Alas, no, Pocket hasn't got a good electronic copy available at that price....)"

But Mote *is* available for $5.00 at Baen:


As well as in a bundle of eight of your other books for $36.00.


But I know you know this.

Unless there is a good reason not to, perhaps you could set aside a page of your site dedicated to the few links that *do* add to your income. Hamit would obviously have more / better ideas, but links to your in-print catalogue might help raise visibility, as well.


John Murphy

I confess I haven't paid much attention to the prices of mass market paperback books in a while. I should, but I just haven't. When HAMMER was going to paper, everyone worried: no mass market paperback had ever sold well above $3.95, and Hammer had to sell for more than that. Gold Medal bit the bullet and did the book uncut; and it was 14 weeks as #2 on the best seller list. After that I know paperback book prices went up.


Subject: Immense discovery in paleoarchaeology, 


We always thought that the story which began "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far way" was fiction. But now, an immense discovery in paleoarchaeology suggests that it was, after all, based on actual events:


It's not every day that one chances on a derelict Death Star.



Subject: Thinking in images 

Dear Doctor Pournelle,

From Mail for September 8, 2007:

"Perhaps the ability to hallucinate was of value sometime in our past? The late Julian Jaynes argued that we all hallucinated (instead of being truly conscious beings) until about 2500-3000 years ago and that schizophrenia was a remnant of that. Is the percentage of individuals who hallucinate higher among more primitive peoples? What do our anthropologists have to say about this if anything?

Louis Andrews Stalking the Wild Taboo

A very interesting speculation.

I recall when very young having eidetic memory and the ability to think in images without words."

I am reminded of that young Albert Einstein not speaking for the first three or four years of life, and I have read speculation this aided him in his ability to conduct "gedanken experimenten" (thought experiments). He could think in images and convert them directly to mathematical terms without words getting in the way.

I've had the experience of lying down and consciously running a "movie in my mind" of images and then writing those down as a plot for a screenplay. I watched the entire "movie", then just wrote what I had seen. It was a silent movie, dialog comes from the images, not the other way around.

I have also had the experience of visiting places where I lived or visited as a three year old, and knowing the place in an odd way, visually but not "intellectually", is the only way I can describe it.

I've always felt there was indeed something to Jaynes concept of early humans living in a dream world. I'm not sure, but is it possible the "Dreamtime" of the Australian aborigines is related to that?

By the way, do you recall Sir Alister Hardy's 1960 theory that humans once were semi-aquatic mammals, which explains why we have hair mainly on just our heads, high body fat per-centage and why something like twenty per cent or so of our children are born with webbed digits.


"The human attributes which set us apart from all other primates and all other "grassland" dwellers and align us with aquatic and semi-aquatic mammals are: bipedalism, conscious breath control and speech, greatly reduced body hair, subcutaneous fat <http://hoopermuseum.earthsci.carleton.ca//aquatic/impt.htm>  , and increased brain size."

There's some thinking now that fish oil might have been the vital causative factor in the increase in human brain size.

Food for thought. Literally.




Again I want to thank those who have recently subscribed or renewed subscriptions <http://www.jerrypournelle.com/paying.html>  . It gives some weight to the proposition that there are those in America who will pay for web content without being forced to.


Not to get overly picky here, but there are those of us outside America who support your site too - or am I the only one?


Indeed! My apologies! I guess I was thinking about Science Fiction Writers of America. Or something. In any event, apologies: we have many subscribers from every Continent. (Well only one from Antarctica...)


War Fatalities high for Iraq? Importance: Low

I remember that during the first Gulf war, the Military folk that were “in-theater” were many times safer than those at home in the USA. In fact, there were more new pregnancies than casualties, so more people came home than were sent into combat!

However, until this came in I have never seen data on war casualties for Iraq compared to the risk we see statistically out of the war area. Check out the stats below; clearly our perception of war risk is wrong and the media is to blame for the distortion.


War Casualty Stats:

Why has the media not complained before the Iraq war? These are some rather eye-opening facts:

As tragic as the loss of any member of the US Armed Forces is, consider the following statistics. Annual fatalities of military members while actively serving in the armed forces from 1980 through 2004:

1980 .......... 2,392

1981 .......... 2,380

1982 .......... 2,318

1983 .......... 2,465

1984 .......... 1,999

1985 .......... 2,252

1986 .......... 1,984

1987 .......... 1,983

1988 .......... 1,819

1989 .......... 1,636

1990 .......... 1,508

1991 .......... 1,787

1992 .......... 1,293

1993 .......... 1,213

1994 .......... 1,075

1995 .......... 1,040

1996 ............. 974

1997 ............. 817

1998 ............. 826

1999 ............. 795

2000 ............. 774

2001 ............. 890

2002 ........... 1007

2003 ......... . 1,410 ----- 534*

2004 .......... 1,887 ----- 900*

2005 ............. 919*

2006 ............. 920*    

* Figures are Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom fatalities only.

Does this really mean that the loss from the two current conflicts in the Middle East are LESS than the loss of military personnel during Mr. Clinton's presidency? Were we at war? Now, are you confused when you look at these figures? Especially look at 1980, during the reign of President "Nobel Peace Prize, Jimmy Carter" himself, there were 2,392 US military fatalities.

What this clearly indicates is that our media and our liberal politicians pick and choose, and they tend to present only those facts that support their agenda driven reporting. Another fact our left media and politicians like to slant is that these brave men and women losing their lives are minorities. Wrong again - The latest census shows the following:

European descent (white) .... 69.12%

Hispanic ............................... 12.5%

African American …….. 12.3%

Asian ……………………….. 3.7%


Native American ……….... 1.0%

Other ...................................... 2.6%



Now, the fatalities over the past three years in Iraqi Freedom are:

European descent (white) .... 74.31%

Hispanic ............................... 10.74%

African American …… ...... 9.67%

Asian ...................................... 1.81%

Native American ……….... 1.09%

Other ...................................... 2.33%


These statistics are published by DOD and may be viewed at:






This week:


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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Cold Wind In September <http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/


On the morning of 9-11, the WTC erupted into fire and came crashing down. Yet not an ounce of the hundreds of tons of refrigerant gases in the Twin Tower exploded. That small triumph of safety technology was utterly eclipsed by the tragedy, but if we forget it, the buildings of the future may be less safe in war and peace than those of today.

Because some things get discovered before they are predicted, we face the present danger of 20 th century advances in building safety being blown away by a new wave of environmental regulations aimed more at preserving the ozone layer than human lives.


Russell Seitz


Dr. Pournelle,

We have heard repeatedly that those who criticize the American intervention in Iraq should not have their patriotism impugned. I believe it is possible to have thoughtful and sincere criticism of the American involvement. However, moveon.org has abandoned any pretense of such criticism by taking a full-page as in the NY Times accusing the American general leading the troops in Iraq of treason, christening him "General Betray Us".

Those who will not repudiate such a crude and vile insult to an officer, in the absence of irrefutable evidence, abundantly deserve to have their patriotism questioned.

Steve Chu


Jerry, I know I've asked this before, but has the Democratic party totally taken leave of its collective senses? http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/ for 9/11/2007    <snip>

On Saturday The Politico <http://dyn.politico.com/members/
=1&threadid=122372>  reported that Democratic lawmakers are hoping that others will smear Petraeus for them:

"No one wants to call [Petraeus] a liar on national TV," noted one Democratic senator, who spoke on the condition on anonymity. "The expectation is that the outside groups will do this for us."

The outside groups came through, although the Democrats may not be entirely happy with the manner in which they did so. As CNN <http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/
09/10/petraeus.moveon/index.html>  reports, the far-left, pro-defeat organization MoveOn.org purchased an ad in yesterday's New York Times headlined "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" In the upside-down world of the anti-American left, as Cliff May <http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=
MDQyMmUwYjE5YmZjZjgzMDA4NzMzNTBhZGY4ZDRmZmQ=>  notes, it is an act of treason to refuse to accept defeat at the hands of America's enemies.<snip>

(PS I opened my meeting this morning with a moment of silence.)


The Congress will send the troops overseas to serve under generals they say are traitors?

This more and more reads like Rome in the last days of the Republic.


Subject: Jobs for heroes

Dr. Pournelle,

I grew up as an Air Force brat and was a young man fresh out of college during the Vietnam era (graduated in '63), I have been pleased by our culture's new found respect for the people of our military and the recent polls that show it is more trusted that our politicians. These people of our military represent our very best and here's some evidence that their service counts for something valuable in the commercial world as well:



John Witt


Noted in Passing

Chemicals changing the physical sex of unborn children in the arctic. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/gender/story/0,,2167005,00.html>  <http:// tinyurl.com/28pb4c> . Note that XY females are unlikely to be fertile.

Brain network related to intelligence. <http://www.eurekalert.org/ pub_releases/2007-09/uoc--bnr091007.php>  <http://tinyurl.com/2uc4gu

Electronic stamp security problems in Germany. <http:// www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/09/lousy_electroni.html>  <http:// tinyurl.com/2grf5t

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>



Regarding "Independence Gardens" as suggested by Mr. Cheek:

Many communities are already moving in similar direction by use of yard clippings and other biowaste to run local heating plants. Such use of the resources is significantly more efficient than a multistep conversion program,

Ultimately all such programs are subject to economies of scale and the V^(2/3) law: if it costs $100 (say) to build a plant which can produce 1000 gallons of product ($0.10 per gallon), it will typically only cost $10,000 to build a plant which can produce 1,000,000 gallons of product ($.01 per gallon). Operations labor also typically scales by a similar factor or better, and bulk raw materials and energy are marginally cheaper (usually 10 - 25%) as well. These factors are hardwired -- as you know -- by the hard facts of materials costs, manufacturing processes, administrative processes (which is cheaper -- one accountant cashing one check for one plant buying 1,000,000 gallons of raw material, or 1000 accountants cashing 1000 checks from 1000 plants each buying 1000 gallons of raw material) and human nature (which would you rather buy -- a gallon of store-brand spring water for $0.75, or a pint of brand-name spring water for $1.25?). These facts may be lamentable, but they are facts of nature, and all of the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth in the world won't change them.


The simple solution to US energy problems is 200 new 1000 MW nuclear power plants. While the first of these may cost $4 billion, by #200 they will be under $1 billion each (design to a common standard, streamline licensing) and the whole thing would cost far less than a year of the war in Iraq. Now take $100 billion and tell the US Army (or Navy) to build a space based solar power satellite that can deliver 100 MW to any spot within 45 degrees of the Equator. Once the first one is built, others will be fairly cheap; and we can build a Moon Base on third shifts and weekends.

That takes care of the primary energy problems. Meanwhile take $100 billion and offer it in $1 billion chunks as prizes for specific goals in electrical energy storage and conversion of the transportation system to electricity in so far as that's possible. Appropriate $200 billion to implement the conversion to electrical in transportation. Give it five years.

That's $500 billion and five years. Assume we'd done that on September 12, 2002, Sable's birthday.

Well, I told you so.


Good grief. By 100 MW power delivered to Earth I don't mean as a death ray. I mean to a receiver site.


The price they pay

'Burt' has left a couple of important numbers out of the statistics he quotes. Specifically, the 27,000+ seriously wounded. Body armor and modern medicine have saved the lives of many wounded troopers compared to previous wars, but with twice the amputation rate of 20th century wars. On top of that, the General Accounting Office estimates that about one third of those wounded have traumatic brain injury, because so many of the injuries come from explosions. An unknown number of soldiers not visibly wounded by IEDs have probably suffered lesser brain injuries that may not be apparent for years.

--- Robert Brown

 http://www.grumpypundit.com  That which does not kill me has made a grave tactical error.


The price they pay

In reference to the price we pay, do keep in mind that car crashes, illness and the other things that kill soldiers in peacetime also produce casualties who aren't dead. Those seriously wounded in the war are quite comparable to the seriously wounded outside of the war. For instance, I've not had a day in the last ten years when my knees didn't hurt, and I've never been hit by enemy fire. I know soldiers who were killed in action, soldiers who died in car accidents in the war zone and those who died of car accidents when they got home. That includes a kid who died in theater because he was using a weight loss compound and following a fad diet so he could lose enough weight to get promoted. He died while standing guard over a contractor who was working on base. Was that a war loss? Would it have happened if we'd stayed in the US? Body armor does in fact make it better for those hit, and it does not double the amputation rate so much as it halves the rate of other injuries to the body. See Mark Twain on statistics.

The GAO has never struck me as a good source of medical knowledge, but also keep in mind that in other wars since the development of exploding shells, these same injuries took place, they were just rolled up under the standard saw that seeing the elephant changes some people more than others.

The fact is the loss rate is astonishingly low by any standard at all, including comparison to training events at Ft Irwin.

Serving Officer


 death rays


Please tell me that

a) Someone really misunderstood that you meant power; b) That is was not inappropriate to intentionally misunderstand your intent (as I did in a moment of dark humor...)


The letter that prompted the addendum did look seriously intended, but my head isn't working well so I may have misunderstood. Anyway I have erased it.




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Swiss citizenship system 'racist' 



An official report into the process of naturalisation in Switzerland says the current system is discriminatory and in many respects racist.


The report recommends that decisions on citizenship should be decided by an elected executive and not by the community as a whole.


Oh yeah, letting some bureaucrat decide is ALWAYS the best way of determining if a person has something to offer a community. Just look at England, the U.S.A., and France. Our immigration systems are sooooo much better.

Braxton Cook

Why is it racist to have the Helvetian Confederacy for Helvetians and Swiss, while it is patriotic to say Egypt for the Egyptians? Why is it terrible to have nation states that are not "diverse"? Islamic Republics are fine; Christian nations are not. This is taught in every school in the land, and soon enough it will be universally believed; but is that the right way to go? Do people really want "diversity"?


Backpack straps harvest energy to power electronics

All that rubbing of your backpack straps on your shoulders may be put to good use, now that researchers have designed a novel type of energy harvesting backpack. The pack has straps made of a piezoelectric material that can convert the mechanical strain on the straps into electrical energy that may power or recharge portable electronics.


Bill Shields

Has anyone done an energy analysis on this including manufacturing energy?


Colorado proposes unilateral economic disarmament -

Morning Jerry,

Our wonder Democrat Governor has chartered a blue-ribbon commission to over-react to the bad science of global warming.


The panel is recommending drastic increases in utility costs - if you use more than 'they' think you should, you'll pay an exponential incremental cost for gas and electricity.

The voters of Colorado got what they voted for. Socialism.




Subj: The Fury of the Legions: How long delayed?


>>The poisonous partisan climate in Washington has seeped beyond the Beltway and is now harming the public's trust in the institution that will continue to sacrifice most in the coming years. Extremists from both political parties have used Iraq as a zero-sum emotional battle for votes instead of putting the battlefield in proper context.

The evidence of this is the blatant absence of common ground. First, the Republicans declared the enemy in Iraq defeated before we started fighting, later employing invective to attack rational critics of the order of battle. Then Democrats declared the war lost just as we employed a new strategy. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, has been especially careless, declaring defeat last spring, labeling the new strategy and the surge in troops a "failure" before it began, slandering an elite warrior in Marine Gen. Peter Pace, and continuously undercutting Gen. Petraeus--most recently dismissing his forthcoming testimony as "Bush's report."<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


From another conference:

Why Girls Make Better Grades

There is a new site up that uses Griffian diversity space to examine why "boys are smarter, but girls make better grades." The author determines that high school grades are determined approximately 38% by intelligence and 62% by motivation.

I can't vouch for the analysis, but the math is fine.




At least they are starting to look at the possibility of an infectious agent being implicated...




Thursday, Aug. 02, 2007

When Worry Hijacks The Brain

By Jeffrey Kluger


This is terrible. If one of my  children were 35 pounds overweight at age 16, how could I ever find that out without his/her school reporting it to me???



Ark. obesity report cards scaled back

By ANDREW DeMILLO, Associated Press Writer Sun Sep 9, 4:16 PM ET

Teenager Jeffery Trimble used to wolf down as many as six cheeseburgers in a day and wasn't worried about being overweight. But then his school sent home an obesity report card.

"They let me know that I was at risk of having things like diabetes and a heart attack if I kept going the way I was," Jeffery said. "I knew I was overweight, but I didn't know how bad it could be."

The 16-year-old Jeffery changed his diet, started exercising and dropped 35 pounds.

Four years ago, Arkansas became the first state in the nation to track the number of overweight students in its schools. School officials say it has helped improve the state's childhood obesity rate, and a new report due Monday is expected to show that more Arkansas school children are winning their own battle of the bulge.

Health researchers, however, fear recent changes to the law could tip the scales the other way. Students will be weighed only every two years and it's now easier for parents to take them out of the program.


More "Demographic Doom" for our society.




Women feed the jump in college enrollment

By Greg Toppo and Anthony DeBarros, USA TODAY

Colleges and universities these days are seeing a surge in enrollment - and it's increasingly driven by young women, according to U.S. Census data out today.

The numbers confirm years of enrollment data showing that women have not only closed the college enrollment gap - they have far surpassed men on campuses. For every four men enrolled in graduate school in 2006, there were nearly six women.


Dr. Pournelle:

I have long stated that global warming and energy credits, buying green, etc. are nothing more than a front for someone to make a lot of money. Either through energy taxes, exponential energy consumption costs, whatever, the government is going to be dipping their hands in our pockets and extracting more money to fund more useless programs such as hydrogen. Or some company is going to get a lot of money for useless energy research. Oak Ridge, close to where I live, gets many such contracts. Nothing useful has come from the programs except to employ a lot of unemployable, and yes lazy, people. I see hydrogen programs being promoted on the horizon, but I see no hydrogen wells. The cost to extract hydrogen from dihydrogen monoxide is surely going to have a net loss in energy.

Now Colorado wants to charge people exponential amounts based on political correct consumption. What will this additional money be used to accomplish? Nothing at all. What’s next? Charging people who drive more higher costs for gasoline?

Ray Thompson










CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, September 14, 2007

Subj: Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

Recall the controversy about the extent to which the research supporting the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming can be considered scientific, since the researchers refuse to disclose sufficient information about their materials and methods to permit independent replication.

There was an article -- unfortunately available only to subscribers -- in the _Wall Street Journal_ today about John P. A. Ioannidis, the author of the following piece, which the article says "remains the most downloaded technical paper that the journal PLoS Medicine has ever published":


>>There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research.<<

This is interesting for at least two reasons: (1) the matter itself; (2) an example of "no permission required" publication.

The WSJ article also linked to this:

Most Published Research Findings Are False—But a Little Replication Goes a Long Way


This leads me back to something I've been wondering for several years: should part of every PhD -- or even Master's -- program be *replicating* a published result, or trying to? Or should special recognition be given to *replicated* results? There used to be a _Journal of Irreproducible Results_, which was kind of a joke; maybe it was a more ironic joke than we knew, and what we need is a _Journal of Reproducible Results_?

It is my understanding that the guidance for the bodies allocating public funds for research grants excludes funding for research that merely replicates previous experiments. Should some fraction of public research funding be set aside for replicating (or not) the supposed new discoveries of publicly funded research?

The late statistician John Tukey, of Princeton and Bell Labs, used to distinguish between

Exploration -- looking for indications that something is going on,

Confirmation -- looking for evidence about whether previously-noticed indications are spurious or not -- and

Adjudication -- weighing the all the evidence to make a judgment about whether, in what sense, and to what extent, something has been "proved".

Do we need more explicit support, both financial and social, for confirmatory and adjudicatory research?

Peter Drucker used to say that making an effective decision has to start with *disagreement*. Do we need more disagreement in science?

Investigations by the Catholic Church of candidates for sainthood include participation by an officer known popularly as the "Advocatus Diaboli" -- the Devil's Advocate -- whose job is to marshal all arguments *against* the candidate. Do we need such officers in our scientific communities, or at least in the organs of our government that try to use the results of scientific research to guide public policy?

How can we make sure that *negative* results get published, so they're available to be weighed in the balance against the "positive" results of similar studies?

And finally: where are the science-fiction stories that might provide cautionary tales to inoculate youngsters who'll eventually be the next generation of scientists, maybe even of science-policy makers? I see _Fallen Angels_; what else is there?

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I'm working on them. But I have to make a living and that kind of story doesn't sell as well as big thrillers. Now if we had a few thousand subscribers...

The institution of a Devil's Advocate in our scientific deliberations would be a good thing; it would at least put one different view onto our increasingly monolithic campuses. Of course we need more disagreement in science; but the politicization of science has gone far. Note that we still have put all our AIDS research investments in the HIV hypothesis without any crucial experiments. Perhaps that is wise; but it still seems to me that a few million in contrarian research would be a good thing before we discard Koch's Criteria. In this case we know who ought to be funded, too.

I spent a wonderful weekend with Tukey while working on a project for NASA. Minsky was there as well (I roomed with Minsky). It was one of my better weekends.


Well, just to play "Devils Advocate" :-)

I have a problem with an effort devoted to replicating results. That addresses one as of the issue--identifying faulty, erroneous, or created data. It does not address the issue of poor experiment design.

From another point of view, though, perhaps what you suggest is analogous to an Audit. In an audit, done by CPAs, internal controls are review of internal controls (analyzing the structures and processes that gather and organize the data into financial statements-) in order to determine how much reliance you can place on the accurate recording of data, and then testing transactions (individual data points). More reliable structures and systems result in less transactional testing. And the auditors write Management Letters identifying weaknesses in internal controls and recommending solutions to fix those weaknesses.

Should some fraction of each research grant be set aside for such audits ? Who is capable and interested in such work. It seems like it would be a paid role, not an unpaid peer review role....

Could there not be standards created for experiment design, like there are for bridge design (oops, perhaps that's a bad analogy given recent events in Minneapolis) or manufacture of goods (oops, another bad analogy, given the recent discovery of lead paint in toys sold by Mattel) ? Well, thinking it through, perhaps standards address many, but not all issues. But standards can help reduce, but perhaps not eliminate, errors in design.

Still, it seems to me to be a quality control issue, addressable at least in part by applying some of Dr. Deming's thoughts to the research domain.

Dave Montgomery

I would say it's pretty clear that we ought routinely to fund contrarian research.



The following exchange took place in another conference. Chris Brand's response is posted with permission.

[NYT] David Brooks: The Waning of I.Q.

I.Q. is like a black box. It measures something, but it's not clear what it is or whether it's good at predicting how people will do in life.




Chris Brand here:

It is notable that "op-ed columnist" David Brooks (while doubtless shocking some lefties by admitting 48% heritability for IQ) does not quantify for NYTwits any of the non-IQ factors that he fancies to be so important in life. He shows no sign of having read The Bell Curve, Race, Evolution & Behaviour, The g Factor, or IQ & the Wealth of Nations. Brooks thus fulfils the prediction in Heredity:

"Despite the limitations of their statistical databases and methods, Lynn and Vanhanen have launched a powerful challenge to economic historians and development economists, who prefer not to use IQ as an analytical input. It is likely therefore that this work will be studiously ignored, whereas it urgently needs to be refined and built upon."

Henry PALAIRET (economic historian), 2004. Heredity 92, 4, 61-3. Reviewing R. Lynn & T. Vanhanen, IQ and the Wealth of Nations. Westport, CN : Praeger.

Nor should Brooks be allowed to get away with implying that there are vast emotional/artistic riches and complexities that fail to be captured by general intelligence:

"The chief determiner of human conduct is the unitary mental process which we call intelligence.... ....The intelligence controls the emotions and the emotions are controlled in proportion to the degree of intelligence.... It follows that if there is little intelligence the emotions will be uncontrolled and whether they be strong or weak will result in actions that are unregulated , uncontrolled and, as experience proves, usually undesirable. Therefore, when we measure the intelligence of an individual and learn that he has so much less than normal as to come within the group that we call feeble-minded, we have ascertained by far the most important fact about him."

H.H.GODDARD, 1919, Psychology of the Normal and Subnormal. New York : Dodd, Mean & Co.

"Making art is one of the manifestations of human intelligence; it is difficult to establish its limits, reasoning and needs. There can be no such thing as spatial painting or sculpture, just a spatial concept of art. The element in space in all its dimensions is the only possible evolution of spatial arhitecture. There exists an art which cannot be for everyone, and this is also true of mankind's other creative forms, humanity is checked by them and we owe our civilizations to this process. The only freedom is intelligence." Lucio Fontana (Italian 'neo-Futurist' abstract artist artist and sculptor), 1953, speaking at Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, 18 iv. Quoted in Matthew Gale and Renato, Beyond Painting: Burri, Fontana, Manzoni. London : Tate Publishing, 2005.

"What was it that you loved about Dora*?" I asked [art lover and critic,] John Richardson. "Her intelligence," he said. "There was something magical about her."

* Dora Maar was the muse and lover of Picasso from 1936 till 1943 as well as being a painter in her own right. Picasso later told his subsequent mistress, Françoise Gilot, that he had wanted a former mistress, Marie-Therèse Walter "because she was sweet and gentle and did whatever I wanted her to" but Dora "because she was intelligent." Mary Ann CAWS, 2000, Dora Marr - with and without Picasso. London : Thames & Hudson.

"..the strongest regiment of all in the army of darkness: stupidity." Philip Pullman (author of His Dark Materials), 2005 interviewed in Times Higher, 22 iv, pp. 18-19.

"I've got a really high IQ, I was a smart girl. If you're not and you haven't had a good education, and you've got a poor diet, you're at a really massive disadvantage." Tracey Emin (postmodern artist, 42, and still resolving to learn to spell; famous for exhibiting her unmade bed, complete with soiled underwear, at the Turner Prize exhibition in London, 1999), 2005. Interviewed by Martin Gayford, Daily Telegraph (Magazine), 8 x. In 2007 she was made an Academician of the Royal Academy of Arts - one of only 19 artists to achieve that distinction.

Strangely, Brooks could have drawn support for his IQ-bashing from Charles Murray's latest:

"I am among the most emphatic of those who think that the importance of IQ in living a good life is vastly overrated." Charles MURRAY, 2007, 'Intelligence in the classroom.' Wall Street Journal, 17 i. But evidently Brooks cannot even be troubled to read the Wall Street Journal.

My answer there was:

Am I mistaken in saying that IQ is still the best single predictor of "success" however you want to define that? That is, if you take a group of people in almost any profession or job description, and rank order them by their "success" in whatever it is they do (say by having a peer group rank order them) the best single predictor of that rank ordering is IQ.

That certainly was the case for a long time: is it different now?

When we did the grade prediction program, tests of "g" were the first item in a multivariate prediction equation. I don't recall all the weights and variances, but it used I think 6 items, and was pretty good until the courts made UW stop giving it because it predicted lwer grades (on average) for blacks. (Race wasn't one of the factors, needless to say.)

So far as I know that is still the situation: IQ or other measure of "g" is still the best single predictor. Understand I did not say it was a great predictor, or that it was definitive; what I said was it is the best single predictor. When combined in a multivariate prediction program it can be very useful.


On energy issues

Jerry, Once again the question begs an answer from those who know. Where is the energy to produce hydrogen fuel and power electric cars going to come from when several slightly warm days bring the power grid to its knees. We do not have the power to run our society today if every tool and appliance was turned on and put to work. Call full power usage, instant black out! They will not build the quantity of sensible power plants our current needs demand, so what will they do when millions of hydrogen fueled cars hit the road along with millions more electric cars, shut down the plants that make them to provide the power to run them? --

James Early
 Long Beach, CA

We have spent the money that might have gone to energy independence; it was poured into the sands of Iraq. And we did not go in and get the oil pumping, which would have paid for the imperialist adventure. Incompetent empire is not useful.

Now we have a tar baby, and I do not know how to escape. If we came home now and put the money saved into nuclear power plants we would come out ahead; but we will not do that.


Subject: Fred's view of smart people

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I read the article, referenced in the 13Sep2007 "View". Originally, Fred's ramblings seemed arbitrary and dangerous. Now, his statements are recognized as being based on his experience, and he believes them quite strongly.

I quote one statement, and the spelling is his, "A doctorate in psychology is a sure sing of confusion." "Sing" may be a typo, a Freudian slip, or what he intended. His essays assure me that calling him mistaken or wrong is about as smart as stepping on an animal trap to see if it works. I wish both of you to continue your web pages, and will worry only when the two of you competely agree with each other or any third party for an extended time.


William L. Jones

wljones [dot] pe [at] verizon [dot] net

I think Fred knows that I have a PhD in psychology... He's still a friend. I don't always share his views. He knows that.


Read this one:

: On the last days of the Republic and the Fury of the Legions

This is a subject matter on which I can speak from personal experience, perhaps other readers have more and better examples but I would like to provide some input.

I have lived most of my life in a small country in South America (Uruguay) which is notable for being so european that most foreigners are amazed when they first come in. For almost a hundred years, ending in 1973 this was the most democratic country in all of Latin America, no ifs, ands or buts.

A series of guerrilla actions started by radical left wing organizations (and don't you think that the Democratic party even in its most extreme form compares) created a period of increasing unrest from the late sixties on. This led to police action (which did not work) and escalated to the calling in of the army during 1972, in 6 months the army routed the guerrillas, never mind how well they were organized, they lost.

However, this let the genie out of the box, the generals (and even more so the colonels and LtCnls) had complained for years about the road the republic had been taking, the lack of government attention to the country's problems, corruption, etc. When the guerrilla was defeated they were not even thanked, even though the quasi-civil war was still going on there were calls for their return to quarters without so much as a "thank you" note.

At long last in June 1973 there was a coup, congress was dissolved and we entered into a 13 year dictatorship, which at first was hugely popular among many people who also thought government was not doing its job, I remember this distinctly because I heard people in the street commenting about the whole thing and literally saying "it was high time someone did something like this, disorder and unrest were everywhere!". We did get order, or rather ORDNUNG.

Let me point out that over the years I met many of the actors in this whole political-military process and a very large majority was made up of people who were highly educated, bright, and with the best of intentions. However, they did not have the proper set of reflexes required to run a country that has not been occupied in the course of a war, it is an extremely common occurrence that military men will see everything through the pattern of their training, thus every situation becomes (in their eyes) a military one. The sad truth is that they don't make good ministers or presidents and their governments tend to be extremely rigid and hardly capable of modifying their own behavior.

The rub lies in that no matter how well intentioned and bright military men do not know how to run a country except in extremely specific circumstances, a normal civilian population WILL resent military style government, and they also will make fun of those who govern.

So if you think you have a bad government now, please think again, military government will be worse, it will certainly be much worse for a country like the US with its tradition of freedom of expression. A military emperor, no matter how good his intentions will eventually revert to form, he can't help it, because to a general obedience by his subordinates is both logical and obvious. Civilians are unruly, and the can be nasty....

BTW the guerrillas who lost in 1972 are today the democratically elected government, they have proceeded to show themselves as utterly unfit, except in those few areas where they haven't changed the previous government's economic policy.

All the best


When I was in graduate school, Uruguay was held up by my liberal-left professor of international relations as an example of what could be in South America. But that was long ago.

Military government (Plato and Aristotle called it Timocracy) is generally not stable. Military organizations are competent at breaking things and killing people. Some officers are highly competent in other matters, but they generally don't have the tools to accomplish their goals. Still, the Roman Empire lasted a long time and did some glorious things.

At the moment we have incompetent empire run by civilian party hacks.


Jerry Predicts the Future; Smokes!

Re: The Tom Snyder YouTube interviews: It's amazing how well your predictions about what would become the Internet came true. You even address electronic books. Your practical imagination was amazing.

But that suit . . . yikes! Although it was the height of style back then.

Technology marches on: Your TI calculator on the show can probably be outdone by $20 calculators hanging in blister packs at the grocery store. And they say we don't live in a science fiction world.

Pete Nofel, editor pnofel@nelsonpub.com MAN – Modern Applications News


Global warming 'is good and is not our fault'


"Mr Avery, a senior research fellow at the Hudson Institute, an independent US think-tank, said: "Not all of these researchers who doubt man-made climate change would describe themselves as global warming sceptics but the evidence in their studies is there for all to see.

"Two thousand years of published human histories say that the warm periods were good for people."

Shocking, isn't it?




Re: Independence Gardens and Knowing Nothing About Food Preservation

Last week reader Jim mentioned the loss of hands-on knowledge for methods of food preservation in the general population. The knowledge has not actually been lost with the attrition of the elder generations, rather it is (like so much else) embedded in books. This is a topic that can and should be addressed by one’s survival library. Rodale Press has a great deal to say on the subject, but other publishers and authors address the topic quite thoroughly as well. This is my own collection, and all are available through Amazon (and I seem to recall that clicking through to Amazon.com via the Chaos Manor website earns Dr. Pournelle a bit of pocket change).

Root Cellaring - by Mike Bubel - ISBN 0878572775

Stocking Up: How to Preserve the Foods You Grow, Naturally - Carol Stoner - ISBN 0878570705

Putting Food By - Janet Greene - ISBN 0452268990

Food Drying At Home the Natural Way - Bee Beyer - ISBN 0312905467 http://www.amazon.com/Food-Drying-Home-Natural-Way/

And since you have so much free time on your hands, Dr. Pournelle, I’m looking forward to your forthcoming Special Reports page on survival libraries ; ).

Greg Hemsath

In my copious free time...


The Case of the Shrinking Kilogram


Right of out Erle Stanley Gardner..."The Case of the Missing Mass."


"Shrinking Kilogram Bewilders Physicists By JAMEY KEATEN

PARIS (AP) - A kilogram just isn't what it used to be. The 118-year-old cylinder that is the international prototype for the metric mass, kept tightly under lock and key outside Paris, is mysteriously losing weight - if ever so slightly.

Physicist Richard Davis of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sevres, southwest of Paris, says the reference kilo appears to have lost 50 micrograms compared with the average of dozens of copies....."


Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE







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