Extraordinary Claims and other matters

Chaos Manor View, Wednesday, August 19, 2015

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

“This is known as ‘bad luck’.”

– Robert A. Heinlein



After this great glaciation, a succession of smaller glaciations has followed, each separated by about 100,000 years from its predecessor, according to changes in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit (a fact first discovered by the astronomer Johannes Kepler, 1571-1630). These periods of time when large areas of the Earth are covered by ice sheets are called “ice ages.” The last of the ice ages in human experience (often referred to as the Ice Age) reached its maximum roughly 20,000 years ago, and then gave way to warming. Sea level rose in two major steps, one centered near 14,000 years and the other near 11,500 years. However, between these two periods of rapid melting there was a pause in melting and sea level rise, known as the “Younger Dryas” period. During the Younger Dryas the climate system went back into almost fully glacial conditions, after having offered balmy conditions for more than 1000 years. The reasons for these large swings in climate change are not yet well understood.


I hate Time Warner. So, I suppose, does everyone else; certainly I am not alone.

Today I got the Blu-Ray disks for my Pioneer Blu-Ray burner, and thought I would test it out, but I had some questions, The box needs USB 3.0 cable in; the connector in the box is USB 3.0 Micro B, which is not like any other USB cable I know of. The one that came with the box has a strange looking male plug that cannot possibly fit into any normal looking USB port on one end, and two normal looking USB male plugs on the other. The instructions say they are 3.0, but that is the only way I would know it; they don’t look different from the USB plug on the old keyboard except the innards of one is blue and the other the more usual whit. The two are connected in parallel, so that they can work together to supply power if your computer can’t put enough amperage out of one USB port.

The whole USB port/plug situation interested me. I know there are 3 levels of USB, and several levels of cable/plugs. The Kindle Fire needs one kind, there’s and older mini size for other stuff, and it’s a bit of a mess. Of course when I went to look it up it was just after four o’clock and there was the usual Time Warner slowdown so I couldn’t use the Internet. Given the years it took to get me any high speed connection I suppose I should rejoice, but Time Warner seems to dislike Studio City. Eric gets faster and better connections way north of the city, and they don’t die at four o’clock.

I connected the Pioneer Blu-ray BDR-XD05S Slim Portable Burner to the docking station for the Surface Pro 3, and everything just worked. It was a bit frustrating at first, causing several – uh, intemperate – remarks. The slim Pioneer is not easy to open and nearly impossible to open when it is not under power. There is an easy way to remove the disk, but it’s not apparent at first. The software – I presume Windows 10 – works although some of the prompts are not what you expect. Plan on spending half an hour the first time you use it if you haven’t burned some disks for a while; it works very well, but it’s a bit different from earlier times and older OS. And you don’t need NERO, Burning ROM any longer. Windows 10 knows how to do everything. The bottom line is that I have all my critical works – books in progress – burned to a Blu-ray, I have taken the burner out of the system and the disk out of the machine, put the disk back in and reconnected the burner to another machine, read enough of the files to know they are good copies, and struck away that set in the box it came in.


Blu-ray backups
I’ve been reading about your backup issues, and was wondering what your opinion was of the M-Disc technology? I bought and LG Blu-Ray burner that apparently has the ability to use an M-Disc, and until recently had never heard of it. Blu-ray versions are apparently available in 25GB and 100GB sizes.

Tom Brosz

I put this question to my advisors and got:

    It’s a case of getting what you pay for. DoD testing did find the M-Disc had superior longevity, although it did not go so far as to support all of the company’s claims. The cost per discs is substantially higher, so use should be reserved for items that merit as opposed to stuff that need only last a couple of year before being replaced several times over by more recent archival backups.



Blu-ray backups

I wonder how easy it will be to find high-quality blank m-disk media in the future?  Uptake seems pretty small so far, and without a big user base I don’t think media will be easy to find or cheap when located. 
I was at Costco earlier today. They had a Seagate 5 (!) TB portable hard drive for $139.  USB 3 interface.   Almost bought one, but I’ve already got a couple of 2 TB WD Passports that I’m not really using to best advantage.
I was alive when 5 TB was more storage capacity than existed in the entire universe (as we know it).

It’s a niche market that the general public isn’t ever likely to know or care about. Blu-ray burning is still pricier than it would be if it had seen the same uptake as DVD before it but if you aren’t handling high quality video the need can be hard to find. A lot of businesses that would love to clear out their warehouse space full of old records can make good use of it but that market isn’t enough for every new PC to ship with a BD-R reader, never mind a burner. Perhaps as 4K recording becomes mainstream it will get a boost.

    If you have the need the product is there with a little looking.

    I suspect the premium on M-Disc includes a very healthy margin for the company. They know their market is always going to be limited but willing to pay for what the product delivers. So long as Milleniata remains in business the media should be available.


And that, I think, ought to do it. The Blu-ray burner wasn’t expensive, and with USB was extremely rapid. The disks are now safely stored away from fire, ransomware, computer crashes, and it was all quick. The RAID will be automatic, and I have merely to remember to make a disk copy at frequent intervals.


The science is settled

Hello Jerry,

That the ‘science is settled’ is NOT confined to what is euphemistically known as ‘climate science’ but is now apparently the position of ALL science.  In particular, physics.

Here are two articles on the subject, both of which point out that nowadays, when observations of the behavior of the universe in action conflict with ‘settled science’ the universe is adjusted to fit theory. 

Dark matter and dark energy are cases in point:  when large scale astronomical structures were observed to behave in ways not predicted by ‘settled science’, it was considered to be conclusive evidence that the universe was constructed largely (~95%) of ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’ whose properties, quantities, and distribution could be deduced from the requirement that the universe conform to ‘settled science’.  In other words, since the theory was correct, the universe as observed wasn’t, so the universe was adjusted.

This article was precipitated by the reaction of the experts to the announcement of thrust from what are generically known as EmDrives, but includes references to dark matter and ‘cold fusion’:


I will be the first to admit that the existence of the ‘EmDrive’ effect is far from confirmed, but what the article is bemoaning is the immediate reaction of the experts:  the observations conflict with theory, therefore they are experimental error or deliberate hoax.  They may be right in this case, but is it necessary to trash the reputations of the apostates, personally and professionally (as they did with Pons and Fleischmann when they announced anomalous heat from their experiments) and as they are now doing with Dr. McCulloch with his MiHsC theory as he describes on his blog posting for 18 August:  http://physicsfromtheedge.blogspot.com ?

McCulloch claims (I certainly don’t have the ‘creds’ to either support or reject his theory) that his theory explains the observations from which the existence of dark matter/dark energy was confirmed (and quite a few other deviations of observations from theory) without requiring either.  The response by ‘settled science’ has not been to point out the error of his ways, but to make him a ‘physics non-person’ and to remove anything about his theory from common reference sources such as Wikipedia (ongoing) and arXiv. 

As Dr. McCulloch says:  “It is possible for a paradigm to survive not because it is more successful, but because it deletes the alternatives, and this is what an unscientific minority of dark matter supporters are doing.

That is the common practice in ‘Climate Science’, by the way.  Note how over the last 5 years or so the reputation of Dr. Judith Curry has changed from the respected climate scientist who was the Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, when she was enthusiastically on board with Catastrophic Global Warming driven by anthropogenic CO2 (ACO2) to now, when she has merely expressed doubts as to the certainty of the looming catastrophe, she is portrayed as an incompetent, anti-science shill of the Republicans and oil companies by her former comrades-in-arms.

The same goes for anyone with the temerity to engage in research into the existence of low energy nuclear reactions (generic cold fusion).  Even suggesting that research should be conducted in the field, never mind opining that it may be real, is a career killer for budding physicists.

I certainly can’t support OR reject LENR, EmDrives, or theories in conflict with general relativity using theoretical arguments, but as a layman I think that the ex cathedra rejection of experiments and the creation of an unobservable 95% of the universe because of conflict with EXISTING theory bodes ill for the advancement of science.

Bob Ludwick

I asked Stephanie to comment on this because I still have problems typing. I may also get comments from other physicist friends.

Okay, here’s the thing, Jerry. This is my personal opinion on the matter, as well as my attempt to explain; YMMV.

Climate science is, or should be, based on the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere. This is, in fact, the reason why physicists, astronomers, chemists, etc. often do NOT go along with the “consensus” on AGW, because it does not fit the physics/chemistry/astronomy of the situation as we know it. (Yes, I’m aware that the group of astronomers in Belgium is playing games with historical records of sunspot numbers, and as an astronomer I’m not best pleased by it. I see no scientific justification for doing so.)

But when we start looking at cosmology and such like, we are looking at fundamental physics on many levels. And that physics does have many levels, starting with Newtonian physics, then adding special relativity, general relativity, quantum mechanics, the various string theories, M theory, et cetera. So if you encounter something that appears to knock out one of those levels, you have to realize that it doesn’t JUST knock out that level, it knocks out pretty much all the levels above it. The lower the level, the more fundamental and earth-shaking the result. We’re talking, in some cases, about scrapping pretty much the whole of physics and starting from scratch, or nearly so. This is Not A Good Thing, in many ways, because we have used established physics in so many ways in our world. (Engineering is largely physics applied to the real world — imagine if we found, e.g., that quantum mechanical fluctuations could readily occur on a macro scale, and affected a particular structure commonly used in architecture, say. Would you ever feel safe in a high-rise again? In your own house??) Consequently there is a strong urge to try to make the current levels fit observations, rather than immediately going back and saying, “Oh, physics is wrong, drop back and punt.” But this is not a new thing; it is the way it has ALWAYS been.

Example: Epicycles. An attempt to make the previously-known science fit observations of planetary motion. And then Kepler came along and there was a hullaballoo for awhile, and then it was found that his model fit observations better, and so now we have Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion.

Example: Steady State Universe. There were no galaxies, there was only the universe, and it had always been just like it is. Then Edwin Hubble realized that the unusual spectra he was getting from those peculiar stars could be explained if they were regular spectra with extreme blueshifts, and he discovered that those peculiar stars are what we now call quasars, and they were far distant galaxies in their own right, speeding away from us at incredible velocities. And then astronomers began to realize that all those “spiral nebulae” and such were also galaxies, and they were also blueshifted, but at an amount corresponding to their distance. And lo, Hubble’s law was born.

I can go on and on like this for a very long time. It is the history, and the nature, of science done properly, according to the scientific method.


The problem most experts have with the “Em Drive” is that it apparently violates principles that are in one of those lower levels of physics. It’s like a perpetual-motion machine — a PMM violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is in the very foundation of physics; if a true PMM were ever constructed, we would have to throw out the whole of physics and start over. Something similar is happening with this “Em Drive,” in that it would nix a very fundamental brick in the foundation of physics, and to most experts and experienced scientists, it smacks strongly of “perpetual-motion machine.” Therefore they are either inclined to the notion that the whole concept is wrong, or that there is something about the setup that hasn’t been taken into account, which CAN be explained by physics as we know it.

(Also, feel a little sorry for those experts — you cannot imagine how many really way-out-there concepts, inventions, etc. they get, and have to deal with. I myself have reached a level of fed-up re: Moon Hoaxers that borders on knee-jerk.)

Stephanie Osborn

“The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

My own view is that if they keep having to adjust the data to fit the models, I don’t care how much consensus they have.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. EM drive requires strong evidence that you can get thrust without reaction mass. They have not really shown that yet. Until they do – allow someone not connected with them test it in a swing and demonstrate continuous thrust over time, the burden of proof is on them.

Man made climate change is in the same situation except that there are no lab experiments; but their models do no predict the past, so why should we believe they will predict the future? We know it has been warmer (in Viking times, and probably in Roman times), and rather than ex[plain that they adjust the data. I don’t know how to measure the temperature of my city block to a tenth of a degree; when they can do that reliably I will believe they know the Earth temperature to that accuracy. When you can take the conditions of 1950 as input to a model and run it and it gives today’s conditions, I will take the model seriously; but I cannot see any reason to spend billions of dollars on measures there is no real evidence to show we need. I like Los Angeles without smog. I don’t worry a lot about CO2 “pollution”. But then I don’t invest in green technology.


Iran Deal Worsens

You will need to set down your beverage before reading this one:


Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.



◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


Footfall and fusion rockets


Your recent discussion of an illustration of the Archangel Michel from Footfall has inspired me to reread the book again. It has been years. Since I have sense dallied with writing military hard Sci Fi with as many rivets as possible, I invested a bit of time in working out some of the math relevant to fusion rockets. The results are somewhat sobering. It is dependent on vehicle mass and acceleration of course, but the type of ships that make interesting stories would require fusion rockets with a power output of Petawatts (1eex15) to Exawatts (1eex18 Watts). To put this in perspective, the insolation of the Earth and ther habitable planets is on the order of 1eex17 Watts. Most of that energy is hopefully the KE of the exhaust, but the Gaussian distribution of velocities in a high temperature plasma combined with collisions with dust and gases in the near vacuum of space would transform much of that energy into heat. Most of that heat energy will be radiated as X-rays and UV, but some will be in the visible spectrum. If you gave any info on the mass of the alien ship in Footfall, I have not reached it yet but I would imagine that it is a multimillion ton ship. The bottom line is that a big ship with a fusion rocket is going to light up the night sky. You will not have to discover it by comparing subsequent photo images.

Of course dramatic license must be exercised to promote a good story. The size of the Motie light sail along with the power of the launching lasers and boost duration were all exaggerated to make a great story.

James Crawford=

Okay for starters, his comment about “Earth and their habitable planets” doesn’t make sense. Right now we have one habitable planet in our system, and it IS Earth. His calculation regarding the solar irradiance of Earth is roughly correct if you simply assume a circular cross-section intercepting the — it is indeed about 100 petawatts, as an order of magnitude. (Actually it’s closer to 200, being around 175, but order of magnitude, sure; and yes, I did the calculation myself, and THEN found the value online that confirmed my calculation.)

Jim is in a better position to calculate the useful output of a fusion engine. At first glance I’m inclined to doubt that it requires that much power to move a spacecraft of reasonable size. Constant acceleration of a decent-output engine(s) is the key, as we all know already. So we can reduce the size of the powerplant/engine significantly.

Then, of course, we must define “reasonable size.” I’m thinking offhand that “multimillion ton” spacecraft are overkill in general. I suppose if you’re carrying a small spaceborne city as a generation ship, as in Footfall, it’s possibly reasonable. However, the bigger/more massive the craft, the greater the initial drain on the system building it, so I think that would have been a bigger limitation than the engines, actually. If a Space Shuttle impact can seriously damage the thing, then it ain’t no Borg cube for sure.

For comparison, ISS is about 500 tons currently and IMHO is not the most efficient design, given the multiple countries involved, with no governing body overseeing. The mass of one of the World Trade Center towers was about 495 million tons, and contained nearly 2 million square feet of office space. If we assume a habitable-area ceiling height of 8 feet, then we have a usable/habitable volume of over 15 million cubic feet. If this ain’t enough for a spaceborne city, there’s a problem — and we still haven’t reached a million tons. I’d have to say he needs to significantly scale down his notion of the size of the craft.

I would also think that a 100PW engine output (which I think I’ve already established is way overkill) is hardly going to “light up the night sky.” It might resemble a small planet moving through the sky — IF the “exhaust port” happened to be angled in the right direction for the observer to even see. If the bulk of the spacecraft is between the observer and the exhaust, arguably you would see nothing, or perhaps a smallish IR-emitting cloud.

On the other hand, if you have a solar slingshot trajectory, that should have been the point at which the astronomers detected the alien craft, based on my experience as an astronomer. Might not have been initially recognized as a spacecraft, but they’d almost certainly have known something was there, IMHO. If nothing else, they’d probably have seen the transit against the solar disk. But stuff happens, and we didn’t have things like the STEREO probes up yet, so for story purposes, hey, it works.

The previous discussion is assuming he’s talking entirely the alien craft. If we’re talking the PO spacecraft, at least to some extent the answer is “we don’t know,” because we don’t really know how nukes behave in space, never having made the tests.

Stephanie Osborn

“The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

Jerry, I mistyped yesterday and only caught it when I was reading your blog today. The mass of the World Trade Center North Tower was 495 million POUNDS, not tons. And that’s of order a quarter of a million tons. Hence yes, we can say readily that a small spaceborne city does not have to weigh multi-million tons.

Sorry about that.
Stephanie Osborn

“The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

I did enough due diligence for a novel written in the 80’s…


Batgirl, RIP.



Roland Dobbins





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




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