Gravitational Waves?; Election results; how to get rich; left to right; Invictus

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski

Electricity has become a luxury good in Germany.

Der Spiegel

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Constitution of the United States. Article One, Section One


I lost a whole week of sleep to residual pain from my skin cancer operation, but that’s going away – nearly gone – and I’m coming back to normal. Chaos Manor remains chaotic.


I remain fascinated with genetic editing. I am halfway through Dr. Jennifer Doudna’s book. A Crack in Creation, the story of the development of some genetic editing techniques and predictions on where that art is going, and I am more and more convinced that this may be one of the most important developments since the discovery of antibiotics, and way bigger than Jonas Salk and his polio vaccine.


The Republican sweep of the House elections should come as no surprise; Mr. Trump chose Congressmen for some of his key posts for the obvious reason that they would have credibility and influence with House Republicans and former colleagues; but not being an idiot he chose no one whose seat was not reasonably safe.

The Mainstream Media are making a big deal out of the “closeness” of the elections, but given the desperation of the Democrats – the race for the Sixth District of Georgia, Newt Gingrich’s old seat, was the most expensive in the history of the House of Representatives ($55 per vote cast!), with the Democrats far outspending the Republicans – perhaps not surprising after all. In any event, the Republicans held all the seats.

The election in the Sixth of Georgia was wisely seen as a test of President Trump’s power. He and the Vice President visited the district during the election. The Republicans won 53% to 47%; some say that is close, but the polls reported (I don’t say showed) the Democrats winning. Compared to losing a key seat, a 5 point lead is pretty big. The Democrats spent enough money that it is unlikely that more would have helped.

President Trump is either a bull in a China shop, unwittingly inviting the undying hostility of every civil servant and holdover political appointee in the Establishment, or he is crazy like a fox again and knows exactly what he is doing. And every now and again you see the portrait of Andy Jackson, one of the co-founders of the Democratic Party, that he had brought into the Oval Office…


‘Right now, the best way for a moderately intelligent person to get rich is to win a seat in Congress.’


Yes but first you have to find someone to put up the millions you will need to get it. Of course those who put in that kind of money want nothing in return…


Oliver Stone’s Response to Being Laughed at for Defending Putin: Blame the Jews

by Alan M. Dershowitz
June 14, 2017 at 3:00 pm

The essence of anti-Semitism is the bigoted claim that if there is a problem, then Jews must be its cause. This is the exact canard peddled by Stone — and is extremely dangerous if unrebutted. I challenge my old friend (and co-producer of Reversal of Fortune – the film based on my book) to debate me on the following proposition: Did Israel do more to influence the 2016 election than Russia?

When film director Oliver Stone could not come up with a plausible response to Stephen Colbert’s tough questions about why he gave a pass to Vladimir Putin for trying to influence the American presidential election, Stone resorted to an age-old bigotry: blame the Jews – or, in its current incarnation, shift the blame to the nation state of the Jewish people, Israel. Colbert was interviewing Stone about his new documentary, “The Putin Interviews” a film comprised of conversations he had with the Russian president over the past two years. The exchange regarding Israel did not make it to air but was relayed to the New York Post’s Page Six by a source who was in the audience.

When pressed by Colbert about his apparent fondness of the Russian dictator, Stone replied: “Israel had far more involvement in the U.S. election than Russia.” He then said again, “Why don’t you ask me about that?” Colbert responded: “I’ll ask you about that when you make a documentary about Israel!”

If Stone’s absurd response were not reflective of a growing anti-Semitism by the intolerant hard left (of which Stone is a charter member) it would be laughable. Indeed, Stone resorted to the “socialism of fools” (which is what German Social Democrat, August Bebel, coined anti-Semitism) precisely to save face because he was being mockingly laughed off stage by Colbert’s audience for giving Colbert ridiculous answers.[snip]

It should be understood that Mr. Dershowitz is not my favorite liberal lawyer, but he has been making a great deal of sense lately. It is said that a neo-conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.

I caution to add that I am not now and have never been a neo-conservative. It would be fairer to say I was mugged by Russell Kirk and Stefan Possony, who became my friends and mentors. Still, the neoconservatives were very good allies during the Cold War, and at one time John Podhoretz’s Commentary was one of a very few intellectually respectable journals in America.



Why it doesn’t happen in North Korea

You state “Arthur Koestler famously said that a sufficient condition for the doom of a totalitarian state would be the free exchange of ideas within it. I pointed out after the Falkland War that computers were necessary for military power, and widespread use of computers guaranteed the free exchange of ideas. I did not realize how quickly that would be effective on the Cold War.”

Then you ask: “I have no explanation of why something similar has not happened in North Korea.”


Internet access is available in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), but only permitted with special authorization and primarily used for government purposes and by foreigners. The country has some broadband infrastructure, including fiber optic links between major institutions. However, online services for most individuals and institutions are provided through a free domestic-only network known as Kwangmyong, with access to the global Internet limited to a much smaller group. <snip> As of December 2014, there are officially 1,024 internet protocol addresses in North Korea, though The New York Times journalists David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth believe that the actual number may be higher. The total amount of internet users is estimated at no more than a few thousand.”


After the Falklands battle I concluded that restricting computer use to a small part of the population would have severe military consequences. Of course I was considering Great Powers, not hermit kingdoms; it does appear that if your goal is survival, and you don’t much care how long it takes you to develop new military technology, you can greatly restrict free exchange of ideas within your population, even among the elites; an ability that the USSR never had time to develop. And, of course, the nomenklatura who actually ruled Russia had for the most part long since lost any faith in Marxism-Leninism, and were more interested in survival with power than any ideal.

It may be that Koestler was wrong, but this is not a fair test: North Korea has no need of armies with computer savvy. And after all, in those days we Cold Warriors actively pursued a strategy of technology including Star Wars despite the efforts of the left to ridicule strategic defense. Since ridicule was about their only argument – Homing Overlay demonstrated that you could hit a billet with a bullet – and the Soviet military contained a number of realistic strategists, ideological decay wasn’t extremely necessary: strategic defense imposed great economic burdens on those building and maintaining offensive only missile forces.

It was clear to me in 1989 that the Soviet Union was doomed; it was surprising to me that it came apart without many more killed in its death throes. The actual nearly peaceful fall of the Soviet Union was a great opportunity, but we were unready, and possibly unwilling, to exploit that. Instead we became involved in our own wars, first “liberating” Kuwait from Saddam, then in futile but destructive activities in the Balkans where we had no clear interests and were apparently unaware that choosing the anti-Slav side rather than neutrality condemned us to historically Slavophilic Russia’s hostility in Europe and elsewhere.

North Korea has always been an enemy; their enmity may be the justification for adopting a strategy of technology; in which case it may be a blessing in disguise.



New Study Shows What Really Happened in the 2016 Election



Of course it does not strictly define what is meant by “conservative”. That may be more obvious with Social Conservatism, but it is not at all obvious what is meant by economic conservatism.

My doctoral thesis, done long ago, is a bit similar, but I defined each axis more carefully.


Also I placed General Eisenhower in the exact center of it; by now, the meaning of social conservatism has changed, and I’d be inclined to place him a bit elsewhere; on either of the above charts, a bit up and to the right. But that’s off the top of my head, and I’m willing to be shown I am in error.


For those interested in more about my political spectrum, there’s an essay at


Was It All Just Noise? Independent Analysis Casts Doubt On LIGO’s Detections

Post written by

Sabine Hossenfelder

Sabine is a theoretical physicist specialized in quantum gravity and high energy physics. She also freelance writes about science.




After an effort of more than 100 years and a collaboration involving over 1,000 scientists, we all celebrated. It was February 11, 2016, and LIGO had just announced their first direct detection of gravitational waves. Analysis of the data attributed the signal to a black hole merger that happened several billion light years away. But what if there wasn’t a signal at all, but rather patterns and correlations in the noise that fooled us into believing we were seeing something that wasn’t real? A group of Danish researchers just submitted a paper arguing that the celebration might have been premature.



A team of five researchers — James Creswell, Sebastian von Hausegger, Andrew D. Jackson, Hao Liu, and Pavel Naselsky — from the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, presented their own analysis of the openly available LIGO data. And, unlike the LIGO collaboration itself, they come to a disturbing conclusion: that these gravitational waves might not be signals at all, but rather patterns in the noise that have hoodwinked even the best scientists working on this puzzle. [snip]

The article is worth reading if this subject interests you. If they have not discovered gravity waves, a fair amount of Standard Model relativistic physics is left partially unsupported. Note I said unsupported, not falsified, and partially, not unsupported. As to how seriously to take this, I could only ask friends who are more familiar with the subject; I don’t do high level cosmology although I do attempt to follow its developments


Ms. Hossenfelder’s article notes that LIGO’s contention is that the contrary result of the Dutch group is based on tutorial material on the LIGO website that is not fully representative of the data analysis techniques used in the published articles.

Until there is an apples-and-apples comparison of analytic techniques, it’s hard to say anything.

Conversely, extracting systematic data from random noise that is of 1000 times larger amplitude is a non-trivial task. This would not be the first time that systematic fluctuations have misled the researchers.

On the gripping hand, the candidate events have been assigned to what seems improbably precise origins.

The bottom line is that I would agree with Ms. Hossenfelder’s conclusion (and your mantra) – remarkable claims require remarkable evidence. LIGO should publish their statistical techniques and raw data in full, if the procedures on the web site are incomplete. That’s the only way that the results can be evaluated fairly and reproducibility verified.

Jim Woosley

Just to be on the safe side, I will note that the aphorism “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” was made popular by the late Carl Sagan, and originated with Descartes.


Mars site

Dr. Pournelle,
I picture a pressure dome over the crater…

And wouldn’t that be loverly…


CRISPR and Robotics

Dear Jerry,

Glad to see that you are recovering. Don’t model yourself after David Fromkin (from an age perspective). I want to be like Jacques Barzun, in more ways than one, live to be 102 and productive to the end.

Regarding CRISPR, it will revolutionize biology but perhaps not as much as its proponents predict and it’s detractors fear. The expression of the genome is highly complex and not well understood. We keep thinking we have taken the final step only to have God reveal another level of complexity. We thought sequencing the genome would reveal everything, then we discovered microRNAs, junk DNA, and epigenetics.

CRISPR will help with single gene or simple network gene traits. Perhaps Muscular Dystrophies and Down’s will vanish, a great thing to hope for. But I would predict other “genetic” traits will prove more difficult to solve. They may be too complex or have important downsides. The latter won’t stop the N. Korea’s of the world but will limit everyday utility.

As far as robots and loss of low skilled jobs; do you think we might be headed for an Asimov World of robotics, where everyone lives on a huge and isolated estate managed by robots? If robots do almost everything we won’t need as many people as there are now. Maybe we naturally reduce population (declining birth rates) from 6 Billion to 6 million? I exaggerate but this could be the direction we are going. As always there will be pain for some along the way.



Do not forget Moore’s Law, and IBM’s Deep Thought when predicting future technology developments; things happen faster than most suppose. I predicted universal communication in the “free world” after John McCarthy showed me the ARPAnet on dialup; but the Internet took me by surprise. Things flow here so…


Contemplating robots and AI


By William Ernest Henley


Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

      For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

      I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

      My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

      Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

      Finds and shall find me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

      How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

      I am the captain of my soul.


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



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