Chaos Manor View, Monday, March 23, 2015
Remember when The Phone Company was a public utility regulated by the FCC under the 1932 law under which Obama pressured the FCC into applying to the Internet? Today a Time Warner robot called me to tell me my bill was way overdue. The robot wasn’t clear in its messages, but said I could pay by credit card, but every time I poked in a credit card number it said it could tell I was having trouble, did I want to talk to a human for Five Dollars. We went through this dance three times, and I hung up in fury. Of course Time Warner in Los Angeles or at least where I live has no competition I can’t change to a cable provider who employs humans or can afford better robots.
Somehow I don’t think the FCC grab – which will be years in court – is going to help. I pay my bills by Robot or thought I did, and records show that I did pay last month but not this month; not sure why. So I sent two month’s worth—a considerable sum—electronically and I can let the payment system and Time Warner fight it out. The robot said it would have me talk to a bill collector unless I paid, but then didn’t let me, but I could talk to a human but it would cost me five bucks.
I have had the monopoly cable people—three prior to Time Warner—for twenty five years and always paid the outrageous bills, this I think the first time I have been late, but neither robots nor Time Warner cares. I remember The Phone Company having a human bill collector call back when it was a regulated public utility but even he was embarrassed when I pointed out that was the first late payment in twenty years. That was in the 60’s. I doubt things will ever be better now that the Internet is a regulated public utility. Politicians will still find ways to grant “regulated” monopolies, and while the Time Warners can talk to the regulators, we’ll talk to robots.
There was the annual paperback book expo yesterday in LA – well actually in Glendale – and often a bunch of will get together for dinner afterwards. Yesterday began with brunch with Larry—we sign together since there are a lot of collaborations, this time more because Barnes was there with us – but the surprise was that at brunch we were joined by Greg Benford.
I’m now going to post some mail about NASA and the reactionless drive. As it happens I discussed this report with Benford, who is a retired Professor of Physics University of California at Irvine and was aware of it, so after the mail I summarize his views. Understand that I have no real qualifications to examine the technical details. I do know enough to state unequivocally that if this holds up and we do have a reactionless drive, it’s revolutionary, with a particularly large impact on Relativity, both General and Special.
Violates the Laws of Physics?
Making statements such as “Violates the Laws of Physics” alarms me. The statement makes unstated assumptions. The most ridiculous of these is that we know and understand everything about the physical universe. Nothing, of course, could be farther from the truth.
If we are to make progress we must be able to maintain an open mind and not be afraid to abandon theories that no longer adequately explain the phenomena that we are able to observe.
Government Research Grants appear to favor the status quo by favoring theories that have popularity. Grants should be made on the basis of results.
Jerry’s ideas for X Prizes to encourage privately funded development of research yielding specified results would seem to be a more productive use of Government Funds.
Cannae or Can’t, and black or white
I hadn’t commented on the Dean Drive link because I was waiting for more to come out. Sadly, I’ve seen little that was new. The Wired UK link is from July last year, and almost everyone has published a partial retraction as of August ’14. Seems as if someone re-linked an old, unverified article.
I can’t imagine NASA going without a major press release, from a director-level mouthpiece, on this accomplishment (unless, of course, it somehow fails to reaffirm a Muslim self image, or has a high carbon footprint). Damn shame, ’cause I’d like to have it.
It is interesting to read of the Cannae Drive and the related Chinese device. I recall a G. Harry Stine ‘Alternate View’ column in Analog that postulated something of the sort, thrust produced by a microwave resonant cavity tuned JUST right.
It is tough getting old and not being able to watch the spaceships take off.
Might as well stick my neck out on this one, too. Although I can’t get it quite as far as on climate “science.”
I’m probably not qualified to evaluate properly this even if I had a peer-reviewed paper in front of me (or even an account in one of the reputable space technology media sources). Having a third-hand popular science account gives me really nothing – except to note that a measurement in thousandths of grams is not particularly a good “proof.” (I treat Chinese releases of “science” for popular consumption in just about the same way as I used to treat Soviet releases of such – i.e., with a thirty pound block of pasture salt.)
I think it quite likely that this will end up being a measurement error, “debunked” either by better instrumentation, more carefully calibrated instrumentation, or instrumentation that is measuring a force that they did not consider originally. For one thing, bouncing microwaves back and forth is going to cause heating of your “containment” vessel – and if there is a slight difference between the heating of one end and the opposite end, you will get some amount of net thrust from the “hot” end.
Of course, I would be ecstatic if this proves out on closer examination – but I remember my (brief) excitement over FTL neutrinos all too well…
I have worked with Johns Hopkins APL who did some testing for NASA on a similar engine design. They confirmed that they were able to achieve positive thrust. The thrust level was less than predicted by the UK inventor. It appears that they didn’t exactly duplicate the design resulting in a lower Q for the resonant cavity, which the inventor’s published theory says is a major performance criteria.
Many years ago in the 90’s I talked with an inventor of a similar engine that was actually patented by the USAF. He worked for the then Air Force Weapons Lab and developed and patented such an engine. It exploits non-linear electromagnetics. I have the patent number but not with me – I can send it later. The thrust achieved was greater than the conservation of photon momentum would predict, but was consistent with the predictions of non-linear EM equations.
Also of interest is the following AF report on DTIC from 1989 (AD-A227 121) Electric Propulsion Study. Physics E (Vol 48 Num 2 – August 1993) has a paper that describes under what conditions energy can be extracted from the quantum vacuum.
Lastly Heisenberg in the late 50’s stated a belief that quantum mechanics should be evolved to a full non-linear version, just as Maxwell’s equations and Relativistic Gravity are. This would potentially resolve the background dependency of QM issue.
Bottom line for me, is that now there are 3 independent tests that successfully demonstrate thrust of this engine design (UK inventor, NASA (via APL) and Chinese researchers). This may be experimental demonstration of a need to reformulate Quantum Field Theory in a manner similar to how Heisenberg envisioned.
That is a fair sample of mail on Cannae. We all want it, and there are now reports of data. Dr. Greg Benford thinks it is a result of differential heating and bad instrumentation. Of course as a Relativist he would not think it possible, but he also points out they did not even do a null experiment – and that is bad experimental design. I’m quite competent to comment on that.
We also speculated on why such a quiet announcement of such revolutionary data. If they were certain of having reactionless drive, as opposed to uneven heating and inadequate instrumentation, they should be shouting from the rooftops. Regarding the supposed Chinese reports of spectacular results, the same is true: Chinese scientists are well aware of the revolutionary nature of such data.
Some years ago I hosted a small conference on reactionless drives. I reported it in
http://www.jerrypournelle.com/sciences/dean.html and I really have nothing worth saying beyond that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_drive gives a reasonable history of the original Dean Drive and summarizes my minor role in that.
I completely agree with the late Dr. Forward; until we have a repeatable demonstration of a reactionless drive it is useless to speculate. If NASA actually has data showing a propellantless acceleration of any amount no matter how small – or the possibility of such – it certainly worth the cost of building an unambiguous demonstration. I they do not, NASA can’t afford to tease us. It’s too important.
I still do not understand the low key announcement last August and silence ever since.
I have this, with specific links:
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
The conference papers alluded to in the Wired.uk article concerning the “Dean Drive” are posted on the NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS). The papers identify the drive as either a “Q Drive” or as an “RF Cavity Resonator.”
The first paper on the RF Cavity Resonator, “Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum”, was published on 24 SEP 2014. The abstract is available here:
and as a PDF document here:
The full paper (Report ID: JSC-CN-31446) is available at this link (the result of a search of the NTR Server):
The paper was presented at a Propulsion conference sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, among other organizations, and was held in late July 2014.
With one exception, the authors of both papers are based at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston.
Interestingly, one of the authors (Dr. Harold White) published a second article, “Human Outer Solar System Exploration via Q-Thruster Technology” (Report ID JSC-CN-31446), which discusses mission analyses for spacecraft using what is termed a Q Thruster. The description of the Q Thruster is similar to that of the RF Cavity Resonator: “quantum vacuum plasma thruster.”
You will recognize Dr. Harold White from his involvement with the Alcubierre Drive, mentioned some time ago in “The View from Chaos Manor.” Dr. White’s Wikipedia entry is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_G._White_(NASA)
The abstract of the RF Cavity Resonator paper indicates “Future test plans include independent verification and validation at other test facilities”; however, I was unable to find published results from other organizations attempting to verifying the findings. (Of course, the initial report was published only eight months ago.)
which makes this a serious publication. I still do not understand the low key announcement.
White Roof, Black Roof
Discussion continues; my point, really, is that if we want to alter the Earth’s solar energy intake, CO2 control is not the cheapest, and certainly not the only, way to do it.
Counter point to your white roof discussion, recently it was announced California could have all the electricity it needs by having essentially black roofs: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/03/17/california-could-power-itself-three-to-five-times-over-with-solar/. From the article, researchers propose covering about 2000 square miles of California roofs and parking lots with photovoltaic panels.
We’ve corresponded in the past on the consequences of predicting output from solar electric panels. A few new features to add to those prior posts: thermal retention (the things retain lots of heat that white roofs would shed), PV manufacture has a carbon footprint that takes about 3 years of electrical production to overcome (and seldom figured into cost estimates), and when kept spotlessly clean, lose about 1% electrical efficiency per year. The article also doesn’t provide the source of the $5 or so installed cost per watt.
White Roofs and heating from SPS
If we assume an eventual global population of 10 billion people and a lavish urban allowance of 100 square meters of roof per person, then the affected roof area is 1eex12 square meters. This is 0.2% of the Earth’s total surface area of about 5eex14 square meters.
We could run around the barn to calculate average insolation of urban areas taking into account latitudes of urban areas, the Earth’s rotation, and cloud cover. However; I would point out that given the fact that given the fact that thermal radiation is proportional to surface temperature raised to the fourth power, it can be estimated that the net decrease in the Earth’s equilibrium temperature resulting from white roofs might be on the order of (0.998)^1/4 or about .0005 or about .14 Kelvin.
This is of course assuming that white roofs would have the same IR emissivity as dark roofs.
White roofs – again…
I find that I must retract a trifle on earlier comments – blame a consistently tired brain that on occasion has some absorption problems.
Your statement that the “white roofs” concept would almost certainly do more to ameliorate global warming than anything being done now – sigh, that is completely correct. (I say “almost certainly,” because of the Pournelle Iron Law, sir. There would certainly be new parasites hired to enforce the regulations – and I am not sure whether the long-term heating avoidance would, or would not, be more than balanced by the heating produced by their activities.)
Of course, just about anything would be more effective in reducing the net heat gain by Mother Earth than what they are doing now. Every last thing being done now actually increases the gain, thanks to the Universe Iron Law (that pesky one about entropy). Dark photoelectric panels absorbing radiation that would otherwise be reflected back to space, emitting some of that as heat loss during conversion to electricity. Acres and acres of mirrors focusing radiation that would otherwise be reflected back to space onto salt column absorbers, emitting a great deal of that as heat loss during conversion to electricity.
And then there is the use of that electricity (after more heat loss during transmission – can’t neglect that). Except for the tiny bit consumed for outdoor lighting (that which escapes to space rather than being absorbed, that is), every human use is essentially converting radiation that would otherwise be reflected into space into radiation that will be (mostly) trapped by “greenhouse” gases.
So the “white roofs” idea is actually different in SIGN, not just in magnitude, from every scheme (and scam) being promoted by the worshipers of the Church of Global Warming.
What we have not done is devote much thought to alternative to giving the government higher taxes. No surprise there. Developing nations like China and India ignore the whole matter.
As Demand for Welders Resurges, Community Colleges Offer Classes
By PATRICIA COHENMARCH 10, 2015 nyt
HOUSTON — Ryan Gassett had already put in a full day, moving heavy boxes and furniture for $15 an hour, when his introductory welding class began at 10 p.m. By the time he arrived at Lone Star College north of Houston, the highway toll collectors at the exit for the school had closed for the night and the campus janitors were mopping bathrooms.
The graveyard-shift course was not his first choice, Mr. Gassett, 19, explained, but “there were no other openings.” So he took what he could get.
In recent decades, welding — like other blue-collar trades that once provided high-school graduates with a reliable route to the middle class — seemed to have about as promising a future as rotary phones. But many of these once-faltering occupations are finding new life in Texas and the Gulf Coast region, where an industrial revival built around the energy boom continues to spawn petrochemical plants and miles of new pipeline despite the plunge in crude oil prices.
The Fcc is supposed to be an “independent” “bi-partisan” regulatory agency
The Obamanet Crack-Up
The FCC has rolled out 400 pages of slapdash regulations, ensuring years of litigation.
L. Gordon Crovitz
March 22, 2015 6:57 p.m. ET
President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet went on tour in Washington last week. If politics worked like Broadway, the show would have closed on opening night.
Congress held three hearings—two more are planned this week—to surface new information on how the White House political machine bullied Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler had long opposed the reactionary step of regulating the Internet as a utility.
Photo: Getty Images
Nov. 10 was the turning point. The day began with Mr. Obama issuing a surprise video insisting on the most extreme regulation for the Internet, submitting it to laws written in the 1930s for Ma Bell. The same morning, a group of protesters swarmed Mr. Wheeler’s house, blocked access to his car, and demanded that he obey the president.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee obtained Mr. Wheeler’s email later that day complaining to his senior staff about being bludgeoned. With the subject line “FW: The President wants you to see this,” forwarding Mr. Obama’s demands, Mr. Wheeler emailed:
“FYI. Isn’t it interesting: 1. The day of the [net neutrality] demonstration just happens to be the day folks take action at my house. 2. The video of POTUS just happens to end up on the same message as the video from POTUS. 3. The White House sends this email to their supporter list asking ‘pass this on to anyone who cares about saving the Internet.’ Hmmm.”
Apple isn’t just satisfied reinventing health care, it’s targeting clinical trials as well (WP)
By Vivek Wadhwa March 23 at 7:00 AM
When Apple announced, last year, that it was developing a watch that had the functions of a medical device, it became clear that the company was eyeing the $3 trillion health care industry; that the tech industry sees medicine as the next frontier for exponential growth. Apple’s recent announcement of ResearchKit shows that it has an even greater ambition: It wants to also transform the pharmaceutical industry by changing the way clinical trials are done.
Apple isn’t alone. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Samsung and hundreds of start-ups also see the market potential — and have big plans. They are about to disrupt health care in the same way in which Netflix decimated the video-rental industry and Uber is changing transportation.
The upshot? We will receive better health care for a fraction of the cost.
This is happening because several technologies such as computers, sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence are advancing at exponential rates. Their power and performance are increasing dramatically as their prices fall and footprints shrink.
We will soon have sensors that monitor almost every aspect of our body’s functioning, inside and out. They will be packaged in watches, Band-Aids, clothing, and contact lenses. They will be in our toothbrushes, toilets and showers. They will be embedded in smart pills that we swallow. The data from these will be uploaded into cloud-based platforms such as Apple’s HealthKit.
Artificial intelligence–based apps will constantly monitor our health data, predict disease and warn us when we are about to get sick. They will advise us on what medications we should take and how we should improve our lifestyle and habits. Watson, for example, the technology that IBM developed to defeat human players on the TV show Jeopardy, has already become capable of diagnosing cancer more accurately than human physicians can. Soon it will be better than humans are in making any medical diagnosis.
The key innovation that Apple just announced is ResearchKit, a platform for app builders to capture and upload data from patients who have a particular disease. Our smartphones already monitor our activity levels, lifestyles and habits. They know where we go, how fast we move, and when we sleep. Some smartphone apps already try to judge our emotions and health based on this information; to be sure, they can ask us questions.
ResearchKit apps will enable constant monitoring of symptoms and of reactions to medications. Today, clinical trials are done on a relatively small number of patients, and pharmaceutical companies sometimes choose to ignore information that does not suit them. Data that our devices gather will be used to accurately analyze what medications patients have taken, in order to determine which of them truly had a positive effect; which simply created adverse reactions and new ailments; and which did both.
The best part is that the clinical trials will be continuing — they won’t stop once the medicines are approved by the FDA.
Apple has already developed five apps that target the most prevalent health concerns: diabetes, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and breast cancer. The Parkinson’s app can, for example, measure hand tremors, through an iPhone touchscreen; vocal trembling, using the microphone; and gait, as you walk with the device.
Combined with genomics data that are becoming available as plunging DNA-sequencing costs approach the costs of regular medical tests, a health-care revolution is in the works. By understanding the correlations between genome, habits, and disease — as the new devices will facilitate — we will get closer and closer to an era of Precision Medicine — in which disease prevention and treatment is done on the basis of people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles.
Google and Amazon are one step ahead of Apple in the data they capture — they offer a repository for DNA information. Google also announced last year that it is developing a contact lens that can measure glucose levels in a person’s tears and transmit these data via an antenna thinner than a human hair. It is developing nanoparticles that combine a magnetic material with antibodies or proteins that can attach to and detect cancers and other molecules inside the body and notify a wearable computer on the wrist. And it wants to control aging. In 2013, Google made a significant investment in a company called Calico, to research diseases that afflict the elderly, such as neurodegeneration and cancer. Its goal is to understand aging and, ultimately, extend life. It is also learning how the human brain works. One of its chief scientists, who is a mentor to me, Ray Kurzweil, is bringing to life the theory of intelligence expounded in his book How to Create a Mind. He wants to enhance our intelligence with technology and allow us to back up our brains onto the cloud.
We may have been disappointed with the advances in medicine in the past because things have moved slowly because of the nature of the health care system itself. It hasn’t been focused on delivering health care — it has been about sick care. That’s because doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies only make money when we are in bad health; they don’t get rewarded for keeping us healthy. The good news is that the technology industry is about to change all this.
I have little doubt that the next 20 years will be nothing less than amazing — as the technology industry “eats medicine.” But I’ll admit that I am not quite ready for Kurzweil to beam my intelligence up into the cloud. I’d rather keep this in my limited local storage.
A book review that gives some interesting discussion of big data:
In ‘Data-ism’ Steve Lohr gives his take on how Big Data will shape our future.
By Sarah E. Igo March 20
Sarah E. Igo is a professor of history at Vanderbilt University and the author of “The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public” (2007).
The Revolution Transforming Decision Making, Consumer Behavior, and Almost Everything Else
By Steve Lohr
HarperBusiness. 239 pp. $29.99
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.