Wednesday, December 7, 2016
PEARL HARBOR DAY
If Republicans want to force through massive tax cuts, we will fight them tooth and nail.
Senator Elizabeth Warren
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide.
If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.
Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983
Any science consensus without Freeman Dyson is not a consensus.
“Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Immigration without assimilation is invasion.
Trump surprised no one when:
Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A.
although a number of Greens pretended astonishment, and the groans could be heard throughout the land. “Denialist”, like “Racist”, is a term of art among some political commentators, and has no real meaning any more than “Fascist” other than as a term of disapproval. It is applied to anyone who does not accept the full “Climate Change” Party Line, complete with guilt and determination to do anything including bankrupting the United States to reduce the amounts of CO2 released into the atmosphere. Even those who accept the various climate change models as “agreed upon science” but point out that the remedies proposed harm the UDS economy but reduce the world CO2 generated by very small amounts as developing nations build fossil fuel plants by the megawatt and increase their CO2 “pollution” as we reduce ours are called “Denialists.” After all, isn’t the science question over? Isn’t there a consensus? How can anyone raise doubts?
Yet some do. And as I have said, even those who agree with the climate models do not all agree on the mitigation practices. One way to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere is to produce enough energy to allow extraction of CO2 to stabilize it at levels we can all agree are safe. We can debate what those levels should be – increased CO2 in the atmosphere increases crop yields and lowers the price of food, and warmer climates make large areas, presently sparsely inhabited, much more attractive.
Of course energy production increases CO2 – or does it? Nuclear power increases it not at all. The danger of being killed by a nuclear power disaster is small compared to the projected climate disasters predicted, yet strangely enough we hear little about that from anyone but – wait for it – Denialists. And if you are still afraid of industrial nuclear power, there is always space solar satellite power, which has no nuclear accident fears attached, and could be used to build power stations in the deserts where we could also put CO2 reduction plants, which are likely to be unsightly and you wouldn’t want them in your back yard…
In any event the confirmation hearings are likely to be interesting, and perhaps we will get some actual rational discussions of climate, energy, and wealth; but I doubt it.
Pruitt to head EPA!
greenies heads are exploding all over the world. Hurray!
An Economist’s Cautionary Note on Free Trade.
A lengthy disquisition, much of which I could have written. A good rational discussion of a situation we have raised before. Those interested will find this very interesting.
In case you missed it, I give you Mike Flynn’s explication again; it is well worth a second reading.
Facts and Theory
Your correspondent, Mr. Porter, asks what is the difference between a Fact and a Theory. This was not a question much asked in the 19th century, when the difference was clear, but the certitude with which many Theories have been repeated in the Late Modern Age give them many of the appearances of Facts, so the question does now need some clarification.
Basically, there is a three-layer cake in science: Facts, Laws describing regularities in the Facts, and Theories that provide a narrative explanation from which the Laws may be deduced and the Facts predicted. (Especially, New Facts.)
Mr. Heinlein once said that Facts are “self-demonstrating; but this isn’t true. Fact comes from factum est, “that which has the property of having been accomplished,” “something done”; cognate with feat. This is clear in German: Tatsache, “deed-matter.” Down to Jane Austen’s time, the expressions “in fact” and “indeed” were used interchangeably.
In modern terms, a Fact is a product produced by a measurement process and in general two distinct processes will produce two distinct sets of results. For example, there are at least two ASTM-approved methods for measuring the coefficient of friction of packaging materials. One uses an inclined plane and translates the tangent of the angle at which the package begins to slide into its CoF; the other employs a dynanometer to pull the package and translates the Force at which the package begins to slide horizontally into the CoF. The same package, tested by each of the two methods, will in general return two different values. In other words, there is no such thing as the coefficient of friction. There is only the result of applying a specified method of measurement.
I recollect a situation, lo, these many years ago, when we discovered that the thickness of an aluminum can depended on the technician who measured it. Tech B consistently obtained thinner sidewall measurements, even when measuring the same can. The reason, as it turned out, was that she thought the micrometer was a C-clamp and screwed the barrel as tight as she could. But unlike steel, aluminum is compressible; so….
Dictionary definitions are often of little help in the practical problem of actually producing the measurement; and whether a measurement meets a requirement or not may depend on how that measurement has been defined operationally. In another case, a dimension on a beverage can lid was measured differently by ourselves and by our customer. Both gauges gave the same result on the gage block, but different results on the lids. The customer’s gauge was hand-held and the part dangled vertically from the pin. Our gauge was mounted vertically on a granite block and the part sat in a “nest” holding it at a certain angle. We were not actually measuring the same dimension, and the difference was enough to put one set of measurements out of specification and the other set in.
Even so simple a problem as determining the diameter of a pipe is fraught with questions. A pipe has infinitely many diameters, so in practice we can only take a sample of them. So how many diameters will we measure? At which locations on the pipe? Shall we use a pair of calipers or some other instrument? Will we report the mean of these diameters? The median? The extremal average? Far too many folks show a touching faith in the reliability of measurements. Hence the straight-faced reporting of political opinion polls and who has gained or lost ground since yesterday. What does the GNP mean when it includes not only the tons of steel poured but also the gallons of martinis poured? It’s not that combining these figures means nothing, John Lukacs once wrote, but that it might not mean what you think it does. Can we legitimately add values for manufacturing and for service? What about popular vote totals for States with different rules for eligibility? Or temperatures for Anchorage and New Orleans?
Now throw in questions of accuracy, precision, linearity, reproducibility, and stability of the measurement process.
Regularities in the Facts are called Laws, preferably stated in the privileged language of mathematics — Euclidean geometry in the case of Newton, or differential equations in the case of Maxwell. For example: that a body moving under uniform acceleration will cover the same distance as a body moving at the mean velocity during the same time was demonstrated by Nicholas Oresme using Euclidean geometry in the 14th century. But the thing to remember is that Laws are descriptive, not causative. Objects do not fall because of the Law of Gravity; rather the Law of Gravity simply describes how they fall.
A Theory finally is a story we tell ourselves so that the Facts and Laws “make sense.” From the story you can deduce the Laws and predict the Facts. More importantly, you can predict New Facts that were not used in developing the Theory in the first place. To the instrumentalists, that is all they need to do. They need not be True in any cosmic sense. In fact, any finite body of facts can support multiple theories that can account for them. There are today several theories that account for the facts of quantum mechanics: Copenhagen, standing wave, multiple worlds, transactional. (They are called “interpretations” for some reason.) This Duhem-Quine Theorem in Logic is what lies at the root of falsification mania. There is always more than one way to skin a cat, and more than one theory to explain a fact. Sometimes a new Fact can blow a well-established Theory clean out of the water. The Ptolemaic model explained the motions of the heavens tolerably well since the second century. (Motion around an epicycle around a deferent is mathematically equivalent to motion on an ellipse.) And the Aristotelian physics on which it was based had stood even longer. But when the phases of Venus were discovered by Lembo and others (all within the same month!) Ptolemy went down the tubes and his model was replaced with Tycho’s model. (Both Tycho and Copernicus explained the same data. They were mathematically equivalent, given only a shift in the center of the coordinate system.) It was only with the discovery of stellar aberration, Coriolis effects, and stellar parallax between the mid-1700s and mid-1800s that geomobility was proved in fact.
So we might say that Falling Bodies are the Facts while Gravity is a Theory meant to explain them. To Aristotle, this was a tendency inherent in the bodies themselves by which they moved toward the center of gravity. To Newton, it was a mysterious action-at-a-distance by which bodies reached out (somehow) and “attracted” other bodies (somehow). To Einstein, it was a property inherent in mass that “bent” the space-time manifold so that other bodies would move along geodesics toward the minimum gravitational potential. Each of these narratives (in of course greater detail) pushed our understanding of mechanical motion forward.
Similarly, the Evolution of species is a fact, and Natural Selection is one theory put forward to explain it. Sexual selection, neutral selection, natural genetic engineering, et al. are other theories.
This may be more explanation than the question wanted, and we are overlooking
#4. Models. In the third phases of Modern Science, oftimes data itself is actually model output masquerading as data. For example, when some of the measured data is missing or if the instrument is broken or out of calibration, the missing data may be replaced by kriging or some other model output and then treated as if it were data. Or Something Else might be measured, such as tree rings, and translated to temperature by means of a statistical correlation model. A Model is sort of a hybrid of Facts, Laws, and Theories, partaking in many cases of the worst flaws of each.
On the subject of facts:
The Great Wines of Vineland
I have a duty to take issue with what you wrote on December 5th :
“We know that in historical times the Earth has been warmer than it is now. In Viking times. Leif the Lucky and his cohorts built dairy farms in Greenland that are still covered by ice; and the Vikings planted a colony on Nova Scotia which they called Vinland because they could grow grapes and make wine there. Needless to say it’s still to cold to grow grapes in Vinland.”
Nova Scotia’s Kentville research station where experimentation with grape varietals began about 1912
Commercial grape growing and wine production in modern Nova Scotia began in 1979 at Grand Pre Winery, owned by Roger Dial, founder of Appellation America, who also began growing the L’Acadie Blanc variety and others began at vineyards in Grand Pre , and Jost Vineyards winery on the Malagash Point peninsula has been in continouous production since the early 1980’s
Gaspereau Vineyards vines are situated on a south-facing slope to maximize sun exposure
In 2003, the Wine Association of Nova Scotia (WANS) was created, and there are now a score of wineries in the province, with over a square mile of vines in production.in 2015.
Mark Steyn may deny warming has driven the northward spread of viticulure on both sides of the Atlantic, but the alarming reality is that in former Viking haunts far north of Nova Scotia , wine production has begun in Scotland and Northumbria as well.
Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University
Senior Research Fellow, The Climate Institute
I have never been to Nova Scotia, and I stand corrected. I have been to Greenland, and I have seen Viking dairy farms emerging from the ice; the ones I saw looked to be still half covered by ice, and I would not care to try to raise dairy cattle on the herbage growing on the parts not under ice.
Vines since 1600 lead me to believe that Nova Scotia enjoys a far better climate than I had supposed and did so even during the Little Ice Age. I will remove it from my examples; but the fact of the Viking Warm period remains.
Air force one
I worked for a company that sold fans for aircraft. Back when Marine One was a Westland helicopter project we sold a fan to ventilate the shower in the helicopter. Unless it was for some radiation decontamination protocol it is hard to imagine the need for POTUS to shower between Andrews and the White house
You never know. And I suspect the service inspections were pretty expensive.
article on telepresence
Telepresence as a means of dealing with physical limitations.
I used to write about teleoperation a lot; I should look into it again.
Trump’s Conflict of Interest.
The recent phone call from Taiwan’s president to the President Elect was just another
“End of Civilization as we know it” episode.
Mainstream Media starts harping on Trump’s business interests in Taiwan. It’s going
to be a regular talking point from now until the end of time.
Trump has business interests all over the globe. There’s a difference between Trump’s
business interests and Clinton’s. Trump’s business interests are real business that
creates jobs and is constructive.
Hillary’s interests were just selling out the U.S. out for personal gain and the war profiteers.
It’s pretty clear that Obama was just a front man for the Clinton/Podesta Lobbying group
handing out Clinton Foundation cash to buy influence in Washington and the press.
Obama is just a likable guy that serves as a distraction. I voted for him.
Had me fooled.
It would be okay if they just went away.
I have always believed Fleishmann and Pons were on to something; so, incidentally, does the US Navy; at least they have continued to fund their research. We don’t know everything about atoms; we don’t even claim to.
It’s Not Cold Fusion . . . But It’s Something.
I don’t know what the something is, but it’s not fraud.
Petronius’s proposal on Robots
I read Petronius’s proposal on free robots to each citizen. However I would like to point out that it would be easier to give every citizen the right to license the creation and existence of one robot equivalent.
When every citizen has licensed a robot the number of robots a citizen can license would be increased to two and so on.
Parents would license the rights of minor children or alternately the licensing authority would be a present awarded as part of a minor’s ‘coming of age ‘ birthday party.
All Industrial automation would be examined and assigned a number of robot equivalents and illegal unless licenced by the required number of citizens.
Licensing would be for a fixed period and have to be renewed periodically.
The advantage of this is that the market would presumably set the licensing fee without the involvement of government, except for declaring (once a month?) what are the maximum no. of licenses a citizen can issue and keeping a central registry of the licenses every citizen has issued(to protect the poor industrialist from the rapacious greed of the citizens). Banks and mutual fund like organisations which would presumably come into being would ease the whole process.
just an idea.
Of course this assumes that you can’t own a robot without the approval of the government…
Lincoln’s Epigram & the Cost of Trade
One of your contributors wrote a rebuttal to your use of Lincoln’s epigram on trade. While your contributor was correct that there is more accounting to be done in the shirt purchase, the additional accounting does not negate Lincoln’s point. The first point Lincoln was making is simple: if the United States was to grow its wealth, we needed to purchase from each other and export to foreigners. By purchasing from each other, we keep our wealth at home, while exporting to foreigners brings their wealth to us.
The second point is more subtle. If we export the cotton to make one shirt to England, we will bring some British wealth to the United States. If we then purchase a British shirt, we send even more wealth to England than we received for our cotton. Raw materials are a low value commodity. A shirt is a high value commodity. Any nation that mainly exports raw materials and imports finished goods is mining its economy for the benefit of the nation exporting the finished goods. This can be a path to wealth, but only if the raw materials exporter uses the trade money to build its own industrial base, minimizing its purchase of foreign made finished goods along the way.
The United States was once a net exporter of raw materials. We became a world power by investing in our own industrial base to become a net exporter of finished goods. We have been very hard at work reversing this achievement in our trade relationships with third world countries and China. This has had a massive impact on our economy and our growth in GDP. We are trading our way back to the 18th century.
Kevin L Keegan
Well, we were, anyway. Perhaps not so now.
REDUX: Tax Code and Carrier Deal
Eric Sabo’s post on the Carrier Deal got me thinking. The leftists on NPR were critical of Trump’s deals, saying the Federal Government is now in the business of picking winners and losers…as if the Affordable Care Act or the bail outs didn’t happen… But, when you consider the breakdown presented by Eric Sabo, it is clear that Trump is merely micromanaging the tax code.
The Federal Government picks winners and losers inter alia through the tax code, which Republicans wish to reform and they will oppose Trump on tariffs to secure his cooperation on tax code reform and corporate tax breaks to solve the problems of free trade, according to my reading yesterday.
So, it seems government will begin subsidizing US businesses through tax breaks — most likely similar to the Carrier Deal whenever possible — to make free trade work because that’s the compromise Trump seems left to have. Perhaps, Trump can use these deals inductively to create better principles for a new tax code?
Do you think the Congressional GOP position of using tax code reform and tax breaks can fully address the problems of minimum wage and regulations? If so, how? If not, why not? These problems are not going away and we’ve been dealing with this since I was a child.
NAFTA was supposed to be this wonderful thing and now we’re still dealing with it.
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Joshua Jordan, KSC
You summarized the quandary aptly. One solution to this problem is world governance; I noticed Kissinger went to Trump tower so I assume that voice is being heard today.
Another solution is trade agreements — this is how the EU started.
Trump says these trade agreements are not fair. I’m not sure whether to classify these as “fair or unfair”. Compared to what? From whose point of view? Under what conditions?
Let’s say “fair” means that either we all have minimum wage or we all agree to race to the bottom and see what grotesque acts of self abasement we’re willing to perform in our assault on what Johnson referred to as “the bastions of success”. Let’s say health and safety regulations are also necessary for a “fair” agreement.
Now, you’re Korea, Japanese, whatever and suddenly you’re told that you’ll need to start doing business according to American health and safety regulations and pay a comparable minimum wage to participate in the common market. How is this not governance? How does this not affect the social and cultural progress of all members to the agreement?
This is what I believe we are really looking at and I wonder how could we make it work. Is it possible? What do you propose?
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Joshua Jordan, KSC
I’m working on what I propose, but my actual goal is to make people aware of the rational arguments…
Dear Mr. Pournelle,
As I read about “dark matter” and “dark energy,” I keep being reminded of “luminiferous aether”…
Allan E. Johnson
Read Einstein Plus Two and maybe you’ll think again about ether…
Feds deny key permit for Dakota Access pipeline
CANNON BALL, N.D. (UPI) — After weeks of growing protests, the federal government announced Sunday it will not issue a permit for the construction of a stretch of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
The Army Corps of Engineers said it will not give an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to build a stretch of pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe, saying it will work with Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the pipeline, and other groups to find another route.
About 2,000 veterans joined protests at the site this weekend, forming a human shield around the growing group of protesters against the pipeline.
It may get interesting up there shortly…
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.