Dying Mice and overpopulation; Voyager programmer needed.

Chaos Manor View, Friday, October 30, 2015

I first opened this with an attempt to write a piece on China’s new two-child policy and the effects of their Mao imposed and brutally enforced one-child policy on their and our future; doubtless I will get to it, and probably write it next, but it’s getting late and I may not. Of course I was writing it at 4:05. Which is in the middle of Time Warner’s 4:00 PM daily net shutdown for this part of Studio City, so I couldn’t get to my links on data for the piece, and when I did – the Net doesn’t so much shut down as crawl to a near halt – I had another problem: my mouse right-click didn’t do much of anything. It’s a standard Microsoft redeye optical mouse, quite possibly one of the first they ever made; the standard mouse for Chaos Manor. I have several of them all acquired years ago, some, as I said, when they first switched optical for mechanical mice with mouse balls, others over time. I don’t think the newest is less than ten years old. I generally build my own machines – well, lately Eric does most of the work but it’s done here and I can claim to have supervised – and there it goes again.

My redeye mouse went wonky. The pointer moved, it tracked all right, left click worked fine, but right click did absolutely nothing. It didn’t take me long to notice because my typing since the stroke is two finger only and I often hit more than one key even with this Logitech K360 keyboard which has keys somewhat separated. Also, I often hit the wrong key. The result is I spend about as much time correcting a sentence as I did to write it, and if it weren’t for autocorrect I’d be spending more. Fortunately, hitting double keys in long words generally results in a unique error and once I teach that to autocorrect I never see it any more, which is one reason I can still produce text; but even so, there are plenty of red-wavy-underlined lines visible each time I look up at the keyboard, and compulsive as I am I must fix them before I can go on. And that requires right click.

Now that I know my mouse was dying I recall that the copy function was unreliable for a week or so past; I always cured it by restarting the machine, because right click seemed to work, and maybe it was a software problem; shutting down and restarting always cured it. Anyway, I tried that, it got long past 4:00 and the Time Warner gift of slowdown, and my right click still wasn’t functioning; and while dying mouse has never been a problem at Chaos Manor – at least since we lost mouse ball mice – it eventually entered my thick head that it could be a mouse problem.

I got out another Microsoft redeye mouse, attached it, and lo! the problem was solved. Right click worked just fine. Being me, I took the old mouse and sprayed it with Blue Works contact cleaner and dried it off with my towel, and lo! It worked. Alas, not for long. I wrote the first paragraph with it, and there it went again; the rest of this was written with another ancient mouse which seems to be working fine.

I even tried spraying the defunct mouse with Blue Works again, but this time it did nothing, and even I am forced to admit that it isn’t worth my time to try to revive a ten year old mouse.

As it happens, we’ll be going to Glendale tomorrow on an adventure to the Apple Store and also to the Microsoft Store, and I’ll buy myself two new redeye mice. If one can die, another can just as unexpectedly; they’re all the same age. And my time when I have the energy to write is at least valuable enough that it isn’t worth spending on dying mice,

It’s getting close to dinner time. I’ll post this and get back to China later. It’s an interesting problem: is the Earth over-populated, and can we reduce the population gracefully?



It’s still pledge week.  We got several new subscriptions this week, and the renewal of subscriptions is going at least as well as usual, or I think it is; I haven’t time to do a close analysis.  We operate on the Public Radio model, which is why I key it to the KUSC pledge drives.  I sure could use some new subscriptions.  If you’ve been here a while and like it, maybe it’s time to subscribe. Click here http://www.jerrypournelle.com/payingnew.html and get it over with…


Today China announced the end of their Mao-imposed and since then brutally enforced one-child policy. They even admit that the old policy was – well, not exactly a mistake, but not best – and they did not choose freedom as an alternative: Chinese couples will still need a license to have their two children, the bureaucracy that enforces that policy will still be in business and the Iron Law will have its effect, and one effect will be to abort unlicensed pregnancies.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a good column on all this, http://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-new-two-child-policy-and-the-fatal-conceit-1446157377?alg=y and I recommend you read it. China is still trying to maintain control and still experimenting with social engineering.

The one-child mandate is the single greatest social-policy error in human history. After Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, his legatees were horrified to discover how little they had inherited. Despite almost three decades of “socialist construction,” China was still overwhelmingly rural and desperately poor. More than 97% of the country lived below the World Bank’s notional $1.25 a day threshold for absolute poverty, according to recent Chinese estimates. With a population still rapidly growing, China seemed on the brink of losing the race between mouths and food.

When I was an undergraduate I believed in social engineering, and I was very much convinced that the Earth was already overpopulated or nearly so. I was convinced by William Vogt’s Road to Survival and the ecologists, so much so that I sought out Rufus King at the University of Iowa and arranged to take his ecology course; where I learned a number of things including that not everyone calling himself an ecologist knows much about the subject; but that’s perhaps another subject. I was seriously concerned about over-population, and like most undergraduates with grandiose goals, I thought it was our business to fix these easily foreseen problems. I also thought it would be simple and rational, if only all the irrational people would get out of the way.

I have some sympathy with the Chinese, those not overwhelmed with political ideology but hoping to apply some rationality to obvious problems; and indeed, their worst enemies have to admit that the modern Chinese state has done a lot better than anyone expected.

It seems obvious that to reduce a population without simply killing a lot of people, you will have to pass through a period in which there is more work needed than you have workers to do it. People age, inexorably, and as they age their productivity rises, then declines; and when enough are in their period of declining popularity, they must be replaced with younger workers: now where are the younger workers to come from? Particularly if you care about what race they are, and you want cultural stability in any event. The Chinese have never been interested in the progress of anyone but Chinese; the communist ideology doesn’t recognize that, but Chinese history and tradition does. Perhaps the communist ideology blurred the obvious coming dilemma – there aren’t going to be enough Chinese workers.

There is one out: robots. Robots increase productivity enormously. Perhaps enough? Perhaps a much smaller young population can, with robots, produce enough to keep an increasingly less productive aging population not just in survival conditions, but the increasingly wealthy style that they are trying to become accustomed to?

It looks to be China’s only out; and for the nations of the West, and Russia, we can watch and learn, for our turn may be coming, even though not produced by social engineering.



: Ceres

Have you seen the latest update on the profess of the DAWN probe.
Your writing Science Fiction writing about Ceres were a great inspiration to read more about the rest of the solar system and beyond,. My background is in satellites in ground station operations and maintenance, as well as actual operation and maneuver control of Telstar. EchoStar and Sirius satellites.
Bob (R. J.) Ballenger



To save on weight, a detour to the moon is the best route to Mars

For a piloted mission to Mars, fueling up on the moon could streamline cargo by 68 percent.


Yet another reason to build a working moon base before trying to send men to Mars.


In case you haven’t seen this

The Rocket Man Who Wants To Beat the Billionaires

Deep in the California desert, an unknown entrepreneur is competing against famous billionaires for a chance to build the government’s next great spacecraft. He’s outmanned and out-financed. And Masten Space Systems just might pull it off.


Monkeys to Mars

Travel to Mars is so easy a group of monkeys are being trained to do it:


Monkeys paved the way for us to reach the moon and now Russian scientists are hoping the animals will be key to getting a human colony to Mars.

Experts from the Russian Academy Of Science are training four rhesus macaques to travel into space and land on the red planet.

This training, which includes using a joystick and solving puzzles, should make them capable to man a mission within the next two years.




At the end of their training the creatures should be capable of completing a daily schedule of tasks on their own.

The scientists are hoping this will be achieved by 2017.

Dr Kozlovskaya said the main goal is to teach monkeys to perform a particular range of tasks which they will be able to remember.

‘What we are trying to do is to make them as intelligent as possible so we can use them to explore space beyond our orbit,’ she said.

The team is also hoping that the space monkeys will be able to train others and integrate them into the team.


What if the monkeys learn they’re free and no longer need the Russians? Many decades from now, we may hear stories of a group of rogue monkeys who broke away from Earth and began settling other planets… =) ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


And alas, Dan Alderson is dead. His like may no longer be with us.

Voyager needs a programmer

Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Perhaps someone in your reading audience would like to take up the challenge. It seems the current engineer for Voyager 1/2 is retiring. 
So they need someone who is greatly skilled with Fortran and Assembly languages to step in and keep the probe running.    This is old-school programming at its finest; there are only 64kb of memory to work with, and this will be real-time programming , I suspect, with hard constraints. 
I’m a little disappointed. Voyager is the reason I got into computers in the first place, but now after years of writing database and object-oriented programs I don’t have anywhere near the experience required to do this kind of work. I’d be willing to learn ..  but I suspect “willing’ isn’t enough.   “Willing” doesn’t instantly make you an expert in real time software.

Brian P.





Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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