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Mail 493 November 19 - 25, 2007
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November 19, 2007
Subject: HSV 2 Swift
The Swift was tied docked at the naval Academy this weekend so I kayaked over and took a couple of pictures, I believe your family has/had an interest in this vessel.
Lt Cdr Phillip Pournelle is no longer Exec on Swift, but we are still interested in her. Thanks.
The Falsification of the Atmospheric Greenhouse Effect
Dear Mr. Pournelle,
You and your readers might find the following article of interest. The Falsification of the Atmospheric Greenhouse Effect of some interest for the physics involved and the claim that atmospheric greenhouse warming runs afoul of the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
Alas it is beyond my skills to critique.
Louis D. Nettles
Subject: Re: Ho Ho Ho Santa Banned
Heres a link, it was also in the local newspaper in Canada.
Im surprised with Aussieland as they arent usually the PC country, though apparently itís a US Based Agency.
Subject: NSA backdoor in new random number standard?
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
Subject: "WORMHOLES" and the SPEED OF LIGHT
I keep getting a mental problem concerning the concept of wormholes being derived by the General Theory of Relativity and the fact that Relativity (General and Special) puts a maximum speed (light in a vacuum) for the transmission of information in space. Wormholes seem to violate this in that they seemingly allow -- if possible to make them of course -- the INSTANTANEOUS transmission of information between to distant points in space and time, violating this speed limit. I realize that the method bypasses the basic tenant by making the DISTANCE between the two end-points essentially zero, so the light is actually moving at its normal speed when it goes from one to the other, but this seems to me a "Go away, kid, you bother me!" waving of hands. Either space exists or it doesn't. If you can make space disappear then it really does not exist in the way we think it does. Note that this is EXACTLY the problem of the "Spooky action at a distance" that bothered Einstein in quantum mechanics, exemplified by the entanglement of pairs of particles that ignore distance, too. How could Einstein come up with wormholes (or at least a theory that can allow them under some conditions) and worry about entangled particles, which act in the same way, in effect? They are both "Spooky" in this regard! I do not understand how one can be "kosher" in Relativity and the other not.
Subject: TSA Follies
The latest directive from TSA. "Pack your carry-on neatly or we'll be very, very annoyed!"
This foolishness is why I check my bags.
Nanny is watching...
Normally this would be anathema for a mainstream journalist. Is this courage, foolishness, or perhaps a societal change afoot?:
Don -- Donald W. McArthur "It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." - Karl Popper http://donmcarthur.com
Watson may have started a real debate. He is, after all, hard to ignore, and the ignominy into which he was cast has annoyed a number of his colleagues.
Subj: Notices of American Math Society: Opinion piece on Open Source Math Software
>>One key difference between mathematical theorems and software is that theorems require little maintenance, whereas _mathematical software requires substantial and potentially expensive maintenance_ (bug fixes, updates when algorithms or languages change, etc.).<<
The piece goes on to question how much one can rely on an claimed proof of a mathematical result, when the claimed proof depends on the correctness of software whose internals are not available for public inspection.
I would certainly never trust a "proof" that had hidden internal steps, any more than I would trust a proof that had the line "HERE A MIRACLE OCCURS" embedded in it.
|This week:||Tuesday, November
Subject: More unabridged audio books please
After listening to the last TWIT podcast I immediately downloaded Starswarm from Audible.com and have thoroughly enjoyed the 10 hours of excellent listening it provided.
*PLEASE* could you get your publishers to do more unabridged audio books, and make sure they are available for international download, not just domestic US. If there is anyone I can badger at the publishing house, please let me have their email address.
Thanks once again for a great story and lots to think about!
Thanks! Our agent is looking into these matters now. Glad you liked the book.
Subject: Action at a distance
Action at a distance
Regarding Mr. Okun's conjecture in today's (11/19/2007) mail:
In conventional physics, the two phenomena are different because they have different origins and different physical underpinnings.
Wormholes are a three space dimensions / one time dimension phenomenon of connectivity through a higher dimension. In the usual two-dimensional analogy, one views the universe as being represented by a sheet of paper; this sheet of paper is folded until the two sides touch at one point, the "wormhole." Thus, if one is aware of the third dimension in which the folded paper resides, one can move between the two halves of the sheet at the point where they touch, without passing through the normally intervening distance between the two points which passes along the paper.
Entanglement is a quantum mechanical phenomenon which represents elementary particles not a physical points but as probability functions which express the probability of obtaining certain results when the particles are observed. Quantum mechanics postulates (and it is measured in the laboratory) that if two particles interact in such a manner that, for example, one particle must have an upward spin and the second particle a downward spin following the interaction, then if leftward moving particle A has an upward spin when it is measured, then rightward moving particle B has a downward spin when it is measured at a later time, even though the time difference is such that light cannot traverse the distance between the points of measurement. It would seem logical to assert then that particle A has spin up at the instant following the interaction, and that particle B had spin down at that instant; the assertion of quantum mechanics remains that the spin does not exist until it is measured, and supposedly (I have to take this with a huge grain of salt, personally, but it is still the claim) experiments have been conducted which verify that the spin on particle A is not upward, or downward, but indeterminate until it is observed to be upward, and that the spin on particle B becomes downward at the instant the spin on particle A is determined no matter how far they are separated. The arguments along those lines that I have read (not many since I elected to forsake the groves of Academia to accept the King's shilling) are not convincing to me on the surface, but the experts believe them and I haven't had (or taken) the time to follow the math to its bitter end and either buy the argument or bury it.
Mr. Okun's conjecture then is not that original, but is related to one of several suggested "hidden variable" theories arguing that the apparent statistical basis of quantum mechanics is due to not-yet-defined geometric and/or dynamical factors. Unfortunately, not many people are tilling in that particular field of knowledge.
On the other hand, it's String Theory or your Life!, only string theory has yet to generate much in the way of interesting experiments; or so I am told by those who do this stuff. It's 'elegant' but not very useful. I suspect we're waiting for something new.
You got your quantum mechanics and your QED
Subject: Outsourcing . . . lawyers, for heaven's sake,
"First of all, outsource all the lawyers . . . "
Heh. Had to happen. You thought your job was safe. Outsource the factory jobs, the call centers. Radiology is being outsourced, and so is surgery: some insurance companies are sending patients to the U.S. Midwest to get operations done more cheaply than on the coasts. Nursing homes: some people are going to Mexico for nursing home care.
And now the lawyers. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people, eh?
"You can access Drudge, Slate, and a bunch of other places. Apparently I have managed to irritate someone, probably with my stories of Security Theater in the TSA."
"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." -- Winston Churchill
Subject: 'Once Great' Britain searches for a national motto Buffy Willow
British PM Gordon Brown has lost his mind. Homegrown Terrorism, a disappearing Royal Navy, soaring crime, disaffected nationalities and, right almost forgot: the country is also at war.
"Keen to redefine an increasingly diverse nation and its values, the government has launched a quest for a national maxim. Meant to be "truly representative," the motto will be arrived at by 1,000 members of the British public. This week, the BBC and the Times newspaper jump-started the process by soliciting suggestions on their websites.
"Once Great: Britain," offered one contributor. "Americans who missed the boat," read a second. "At least we're not French" quipped a third. While some were genuine efforts, most were scornful in tone Ė revealing more about the British today than any motto could.
Despite the mockery, however, Brown believes he has good reason to play the British card. Nationalism is rising in Wales, Scotland, and England, and disenchanted ethnic minorities are picking at the seams of British unity. Homegrown terrorism has added extra urgency. The prime minister has already floated ideas like a new "national day" and new citizenship rules in a quest for greater social cohesion and peppers his speeches with the word British far more than Tony Blair ever did."
As you are wont betimes to say, "Ye flipping gods!" What Orwell could have done with THAT idea.
Filed under "There'll always be a big island off the coast of France."
November 21, 2007
Do read this. It raises some interesting points. It's pretty clear that the Kindle model isn't going to remain unchanged. Either Amazon will make some changes, or the computer user community will see to it that they are made.
I have always viewed your site as an open book to a portion of your brain. As such, overly compartmentalizing the page might remove a hunk of its charm and appeal.
Please leave your site alone. Some things should be the same forever.
When I bring your site up, it's the look and feel that has "old friend" all over it.
I recently became aware of your site, so Iím not up on all of the e-mail strings or anything. But have you noticed how much today seems like the Crazy Days mentioned in the Heinlein Future Earth series? Incompetent politicians (more so than usual), divided politics and electorate, wars for resources, wars of religion, repeating history, loss of personal freedom in the name of public good, etc. It sometimes seems as if we are on the edge of collapse. I do like your analogy to the Roman Empire, as we could do much worse than the Roman example. The Romans went through some hard times before they became an empire, as we are. Iím not sure that the American public is comfortable with empire building, and I donít think that the Russians or the Chinese will sit idly by and let us be the Ďcop on the beatí without some dissent. After all, they want to be empires, too. Weíll probably fall into the role instead of seeking it out. As usual, weíll muddle through.
Iíve enjoyed many of your books through the years, and look forward to reading many more. I also enjoyed several of the articles on survival. As a token of my appreciation, I will be subscribing to the web-site later this week, as soon as I find the check book. Sorry, PayPal and I are not great friends. Thanks,
Nathan Okun wrote: "Either space exists or it doesn't."
As I understand it, the answer is that it doesn't. Ernst Mach and the "second positivists" took that stance that space and time were metaphysical intrusions with no status in an empirical physics. Einstein set out to prove this and in "Erklarung der Perihelbewegung des Merkur aus der allgemeinen Relatvitaetstheorie," wrote: "In an appendix I have shown that these field equations behave in a generally covariant way if the scalar of the energy tensor of "matter" vanishes. I have also shown that there is no objections of principle against the introduction of this hypothesis, by which time and space are deprived of the last trace of objective reality." ['durch welchem Zeit und Raum der letzten Spur objektiver Realitaet beraubt werden'] (quote marks on "matter" in original).
Elsewhere, Einstein is supposed to have written [though I have not tracked down where] "Formerly, people thought that if matter disappeared from the universe, space and time would remain. Relativity declares that space and time would disappear with matter." This is weirdly consonant with something that Thomas Aquinas wrote; namely, that time is the measure of change in corruptible matter, so that without change, there would be no time. [Summa I.X art. IV. Tom was discussing the difference between eternity and time. I don't know if this made Aquinas an early proponent of Milne's theory of relativity, with its two time axes.]
How space and time can be non-existent, but a ration of the two [velocity] can be absolute, is a philosophical puzzle. Later, as I understand it, Space made a comeback in the form of Einstein's relativistic ether, which was the field of Ricci tensors.
Subject: Surprising commentary in Slate on Watson and IQ differences.
I consider Slate to have a liberal bias. Consequently, this article was a bit of a surprise: http://www.slate.com/id/2178122/entry/0/
The author dares to suggest the unacceptable:
There is more at stake than first appears. The whole notion of education requires an understanding of what techniques work best with what people. Sorting people by race is unacceptable (and we thought the 14th Amendment made it unconstitutional, but apparently not so); but if we sort by IQ, we will get significant differences in the members of each race in each group. The high IQ groups will have proportionally higher numbers of Ashkenazi Jews, Orientals, and Caucasians (roughly in the order) and proportionally lower numbers of blacks.
No one who has given an hour's thought to the subject suspects that the same education techniques that work well with IQ 110 and above will work well (or indeed at all) with IQ 90 and below. It is not that the IQ 90 and below cannot be educated. They can be. But they will learn less from formal education in techniques of abstract reasoning than the higher IQ group, and there is not one thing you can do about it. They can both learn to read; but what they ought to read differs.
On the other hand the IQ 90 and below group will learn skills through repetition -- "drill and kill" -- techniques that will bore the bejesus out of the high IQ group; and once again there is not one thing you can do about it, and all your good intentions will be for naught.
And you can insist that there is no such thing as race, but it will still be the case that when you sort by IQ, one group is going to have more people who identify themselves as black than the other.
Saudi Supreme Court increases punishment for rape victim
Here's a followup to the story from last week: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,312372,00.html. The court has increased the punishment for her being with an unrelated man after her appeal of the sentence. This barbaric culture sounds like something out of the middle ages - which is exactly what it is. Christianity reformed itself in the 17th century, but Islam has yet to do so. How anyone can defend the Saudis is beyond me.
As you've noted time and again, if after 9/11 we'd invaded Afghanistan and stopped there, then created a crash project for energy independence, it'd have cost less than Iraq, we'd already be well on the way there, the dollar wouldn't be in the tank, we wouldn't have $3/4/5/gallon gas, and the Republicans wouldn't be facing complete annihilation in the upcoming elections.
I'm a life-long paleo-conservative and have always voted Republican, but I'll vote for whoever adopts near-term energy independence as a national imperative - an honest to goodness Manhattan Project. Real independence, not pie-in-the-sky solar and conservation: Ten years maximum, Nuclear as the cornerstone (dump the environmental roadblocks), massive R&D on batteries and other portable power sources and storage systems, distribution systems - the works.
Then let's pull out and watch the Middle East implode. I'll buy the popcorn.
But we need the oil, and it's ONLY 200 lashes...
If the Serbs had done that to a Muslim we'd be bombing from 15,000 feet.
November 22, 2007
- Roland Dobbins
There was until relatively recent times a large run on the Capitoline, in which a female wolf was kept in pampered honor. The cage was still there in the 1970's. Alas, vandals of the 1960's had tormented the wolf and she was not replaced, although the SPQR had honored that obligation for more than two thousand years until that time. It is, I suppose, a sign of modern times, and of no matter.
Reoranisations and mottoes
Please, hasten slowly. This is NOTHING I'd wish to see changed on your site except maybe a decent search facility, and if you can't do that without messing things up, then don't change anything. Above all, please don't change to a "latest-first" blog-type layout.
As for British mottoes, perhaps the one-eyed bandit Gordon Brown hasn't noticed that we already have one: it's on the Royal Coat of Arms and has been for centuries. "Dieu et mon Droit" - good enough for me. Or if that's too subtle how about "Nemo me impune lacessit", the motto of the Black Watch regiment of Scotland, which in English means "Nobody interferes with without trouble", in modern Scots perhaps "Don't mess with me, pal" and maybe in American "Don't tread on me".
If only we were still like that. Alas.
'And what does an 8-foot sea scorpion eat? Pretty much anything it wants to, Braddy said.'
-- Roland Dobbins
November 23, 2007
Subject: NASA's "Cheap" Satellite -
It appears that someone over at NASA thinks it shouldnt cost hundreds of millions of dollars and a shuttle mission to get something into space:
A step in the right direction?
From Derek Clark, a European Parliament member (MEP) complaining about new questions on the next census survey which will ask--among other things--"the "date(s) of the beginning of consensual union(s) of women having ever been in a consensual union: (ii) first consensual union and (ii) current consensual union".
"Mr Clark added: 'When will politicians realise that George Orwell's 1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual?'"
See Pournelle's Iron Law
OK, not only are we heating up the planet, but our observing the universe - through quantum effects - is shortening the life of the universe:
When will the marches against observatories begin?
I have enjoyed your fiction and non-fiction for many years. I have done some non-fiction writing the past 20 years (see http://dwaynephillips.net).
Do you have any fiction writing workshops, forums, blogs, on-line courses whatever that you can recommend?
-- Dwayne Phillips
First, if you have not already read my essay on How To Get My Job (on this web site) do that. If you already are comfortable writing English sentences with good grammar and sentence construction, and you understand what paragraphs are, so you are asking only how to get into fiction, the simple answer is that no one can teach you that. You either know how to think up stories or you don't. If you can think up good stories but don't know how to tell them, there are learning techniques, but I have never met anyone who learned much from creative writing classes. I've taught one writing workshop and thought I didn't do much good for the students.
The best writing workshop I know of is conducted by Tim Powers for the finalists and winners of the Writers of the Future contest. If you have a story that might win in that contest, by all means submit it: the week with Tim Powers and his associates is worth more than the contest winning.
You also need two books. I didn't write either of them; they are both by the late Dwight Swain, who was a damned good writer, a really good story teller, and unlike most of us, a damned good teacher. If Dwight were alive I'd say go to Oklahoma or wherever he is and take his course; but since he's not with us any more, I don't know where he's teaching now.
Dwight left us two books, and you need them both. The first is on creating characters, and is called Creating Characters.
I will actually get a dollar or so. The
second is called Techniques of the Selling Writer, and it goes into markets
as well as writing. You need them both.
is worth going through.
Dick Perry has a book, One Way to Write Your Novel
which I acquired early in my writing career. It was then available through, I believe, Writer's Digest. I found it useful, and you may also. I certainly don't regret the time I spent with it 40 years ago.
After those there are dozens of books, many by friends of mine, that say they'll teach you how to write fiction in general and science fiction in particular. They may be useful, but not as useful as simply getting down to it. Read in the genre you intend to write in. Read good short stories if you want to try those (I have never been much good at short stories and write few of them; I used to read a lot of them, but I don't have time now.) Read the kind of novels you would like to write.
Keep notebooks, and write scenes. Think in terms of scenes. If you need to tell a story, what scenes ought you show? Are you going to write mostly action, or do you like the Perry Mason / Nero Wolfe stories in which most of what happens is conveyed in dialogue? And so forth. (In my case I do both: I set scenes with dialogue, then let them play out on stage. Or at least I often do that.)
Other than that, the best advice I can give you is that you must write, not talk about writing, not go to classes about writing, not invite other amateurs to tell you how to write, not annoy the working writer down the street to get him to tell you how to write: you just write. If you already know how to do sentences and paragraphs (and most people don't; the schools don't really teach it) you're way ahead. If not, start with How To Get My Job and go on from there.
You said, "I have never met anyone who learned a great deal from creative writing classes". Actually you have. I have a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers Workshop, and before I took that I studied Playwriting with Howard Stein in the Drama Department. He's the one who encouraged me to see if I had any talent and take my first fiction writing class. Stein later became a Dean at the Yale School of Drama. One of my classmates in the Drama Department was Nicholas Meyer and I am sure you know Joe Haldeman, who was at the Workshop, with a T.A., when I was there in the early 70s. The trick of the Iowa program is you have to be a pretty good writer just to get in, but you get to study with people who have had significant publications. I learned a lot from my instructors. Robert Anderson and William Price Fox taught me how to write screenplays as well as fiction, Jack Leggett taught us about writing creative nonfiction and Vance Bourjaily probably had more impact on late 20th Century American Fiction than anyone else simply because he taught writers like Jane Smiley, T.C. Boyle, and the guy who just won the National Book Award for fiction. The M.F.A. degree isn't worth much these days, but then no one went there to get the degree. We went to study with the people we studied with.
You may well be right, but I know a lot of people who make a good living at writing, and very few of them owe much to creative writing classes. Many use workshops and classes as a good reason not to write.
My suspicion, perhaps unfounded, is that anyone who got much from those classes probably would have done as well studying something to write ABOUT. Now if they needed the structure to get them to read -- at Iowa I was in a precursor to the creative writing classes, but what we had was a series of seminars in which we read everything from Sophocles to Camus, St Augustine to Audin, Sarte and Lewis and Chesterton, wrote papers, and discussed all this in seminars. That I found valuable.
But peace. Perhaps there are valuable creative writing classes. There sure don't seem to be many, at least judging from results.
But then I never claimed to be a great or even a very good writer. I just know how to tell stories and make a living at it.
Subject: The Jim Watson Broohaha
The geographical distribution of the IQ bell curve should not be such a big mystery. All one has to do is consider the process: hunter gatherers moving out of the relatively pleasant environment of the Rift Valley into the harsher environs of the rest of the planet. Smartass and hell-raiser kids are more likely encouraged to depart the family group than those easily socialized. The truly defective die young. (Teelas always excepted.) The survivors will be those smart enough to do well in marginally more difficult conditions. A diffusion-selection situation.
The further away from the Rift Valley, the smarter the population. Always marginally.
My personal experience has been that the Chinese and Japanese folks I worked with over the years tended to be smarter on the average than I am, but that is anecdotal evidence. By this criterion Amerinds should be furthest to the right of the distribution, except to note that smallpox and measles do not discriminate and the process might have been scrambled 500 years ago. The last time I had close Indian contacts was in the fifth grade. The Yuma Reservation schools did not go beyond grade four so the "Powers-that-be" bussed the kids out of California across the dry Colorado to the Sixth Avenue Grammar School. I have no specific memories except for the warm feeling that we all had a great time together learning English and practicing our growing skill throughout the day. The teachers did not share our joy. Sight unseen I would bet my buddies also shared the C for deportment on my record.
November 24, 2007
ďIt used to be that you had to turn down action; then you had to look hard for action; and now thereís no action."
- Roland Dobbins
|This week:||Sunday, November
I took the day off.
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