Mail: new technology, climate, air supremacy, health advice, Putin, and more

Mail 821 Tuesday, April 22, 2014


“Surveillance is the business model of the Internet:”

“The adage goes that if something is free, the users are probably the product. With an increasing smartphone penetration rate, we Internet users are practically carrying surveillance devices in our pockets all day, and have become unwitting participants in government spying activity, security expert Bruce Schneier argued during a talk at the recently-concluded SOURCE Boston conference.

“Surveillance is the business model of the Internet,” Schneier told attendees in his keynote. “We build systems that spy on people in exchange for services. Corporations call it marketing.” But what’s even more concerning is how this massive data collection effort by businesses has made it easier for governments to do their surveillance on citizens. “The NSA woke up and said ‘Corporations are spying on the Internet, let’s get ourselves a copy,’” Schneier said.

“He explained how the Internet is built around the data economy, in which corporations have thrived on offering free services in exchange for learning more and more about users’ lives. In exchange for “free or convenience,” users have become goldmines for companies like Google and Facebook, which want to get even more data from users in order to better sell targeted advertising. “I like to think of this as a feudal model. At a most fundamental model, we are tenant farming for companies like Google. We are on their land producing data,” he said.” <snip>

“The fact that society today is so enthralled with social media and mobile devices makes it easier for agents to do their surveillance work. Surveillance work is no longer just “follow that car,” Schneier says, referring to the traditional way of keeping track of a person by following his whereabouts. It is now “tell me everywhere the car has been for the past month.” Meta data leaves a trail, after all, and we are all unwitting participants to this widespread surveillance effort with all the breadcrumbs we leave behind.” <snip>

There is more, of course. It makes conspiracy theorists seem reasonable: just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean They aren’t spying on you.

Ed (the shrink)

If something is free, the users are the product….


And the winner for "Best Use of a Drone in the Continental United States" is…

This is a really smart use of a drone to support an unexpected field: archeology.

–Gary P

I like that one.


America is an Oligarchy?

Hi Jerry

this seen on BBC today –

America is run by the rich and powerful – probably not news really

all the best


There is a sense in which all free societies tend to be oligarchies. Education is supposed to remedy that. Education and the usual regressions to the mean. A fool and his money are soon parted. The Barbara Hutton phenomenon. But of course the wealthy and the unions can work together to prop things up so that the usual leveling of a free society doesn’t happen.


green Greenland

Jerry, I know you’ve been using farms in Greenland as a reference point for the uselessness of climate models, but climate scientists do claim to have an explanation for the MWP..

For what it’s worth.


I misspoke. They don’t claim to have an explanation, just evidence as to the extent and scope of the MWP.


for the work.


But of course the ice cap on Greenland is thousands of years old. The Viking farms were possible only for a few centuries – and are impossible now, although the glacier is retreating. Not so far as it retreated for the Vikings though. All through that era from China through the monasteries in Europe, summers were longer and the climate was warmer. Vines in Yorkshire and Scotland. Viking settlement in Nova Scotia called Vinland because grapes would and did grow there – and vigorous skralings to drive them out, too.


crackpots and remote connections


I remember that in the early 80’s a guy who had been a bomber navigator and/or an Air Force weatherman use to hang around the fringes of scientific meetings. Once he latched on to you, mistaking your courtesy for approval. His insight was – get this – that weather patterns were connected. Note we have the NASA piece that tells us – curiouser and curiouser – that weather patterns are in fact connected, and halfway round the planet!

Golly. Even “crackpots” have their day.


Actually, I always found Major Singer interesting, and when someone would actually listen to him he no longer sounded like a crackpot; indeed he seemed to have found an interesting connection. He sent me a copy of his book, and apparently he has something, but how much I don’t know. He doesn’t seem to have revolutionized the weather prediction community. He had some purely empirical connections that he thought happened far more often than current theory would suggest.

I tend to listen to a lot of people others call crackpots. I am still fascinated by Peter Beckmann’s alternative to Einstein and as physics invents more and more epicycles I wonder, I do indeed. I mostly get stories of reactionless drives which are just around the corner, but alas I never saw one that I could test…

And there turn out to be a number of really unexpected connections in weather…


Microsoft OneNote

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Big changes must be on the way at Microsoft. They just released OneNote for the Mac, for free. It will also work on the I-devices.

As you’ve remarked on the virtues of OneNote in the past, and are a Mac user, I thought you might be interested if you were not already aware. Keep up the good work.


Art Russell PhD

I remain sufficiently interested in OneNote that I am seriously considering a Session 2 Pro. I’d have bought one already but the Microsoft site believes I have a previous account, which I probably do, and it won’t tell me how to reset the password without my giving the answer to a security question I do not remember ever choosing and certainly do not know the answer to. So I gave up. This was just before taxes, and my taxes were higher than I thought so I suppose I should be glad I didn’t buy it yet. But it does look like one great research tool. With OneNote.



From Ragnarok to Anak Segara

Dear Jerry

Some months ago we discussed progress in ‘carbon free carbon dating’- the

detection of cosmic ray damage levels in rocks covered and uncovered by evolving ice cover to date volcanic fallout layers at high latitudes.

The dating of such layers now combines with isotopic and geochemical tephra analysis to point the finger at aerosols from a little known volcanic cone on Lombok as the proximate cause of the shift in radiative forcing that drove the bad weather that terminated the Viking colonization of Greenland

<> >

Russell Seitz

Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University

But could that happen again?

Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

We know both from climate models and recent volcanic SO2 aerosl events that injecting just a few million sons of sulfur ( roughly a 100 meter cube ) into the upper stratosphere can cool the planet by a decree C or more. Recent eruptions in this category, from Tambora to El Chichon have been single paroxysmal events taking days or weeks to emit cubic kilometers of ash and tephra.

Consider what would happen if a varhe volume, high-volatile magmachamber emptied not with a bang, but a whistle,with a plume carrying thousands of tons a day of SO2 into the stratosphere for several or many thousands of days , instead of gigatons all at once?

Instead of a Year Without A Summer, you could get a Decade Without July

Stay tuned for more tephrology studies to get a quantitative handle on the subject.

Mantle and crustal heat flow models needed to answer the question depend in turn on better gravity models and more data on high pressure materials science than we at present possess

The greatest volcano on Earth was not recognized as such until last year:

Thanks to the GRACE gravity satellite program, improved mapping of density fluctuations in the crust and upper mantle is progressing :

But that never makes it into the big multi billion buck climate modals does


Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

Subject: Re: From Ragnarok to Anak Segara

Your wish has been answered- just out this paper on modeling a very big,

very long lived eruption :

Biogeosciences, 10, 669-687, 2013


© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons

Attribution 3.0 License.

* Article


* Related Articles


Impact of an extremely large magnitude volcanic eruption on the global

climate and carbon cycle estimated from ensemble Earth System Model

simulations J. Segschneider1, A. Beitsch1,*, C. Timmreck1, V. Brovkin1, T.

Ilyina1, J. Jungclaus1, S. J. Lorenz1, K. D. Six1, and D. Zanchettin1

1Max-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie, Bundesstr. 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

*now at: Institute for Oceanography, KlimaCampus, University of Hamburg,


Abstract. The response of the global climate-carbon cycle system to an

extremely large Northern Hemisphere mid-latitude volcanic eruption is

investigated using ensemble integrations with the comprehensive Earth System

Model MPI-ESM. The model includes dynamical compartments of the atmosphere

and ocean and interactive modules of the terrestrial biosphere as well as

ocean biogeochemistry. The MPI-ESM was forced with anomalies of aerosol

optical depth and effective radius of aerosol particles corresponding to a

super eruption of the Yellowstone volcanic system. The model experiment

consists of an ensemble of fifteen model integrations that are started at

different pre-ENSO states of a control experiment and run for 200 years

after the volcanic eruption. The climate response to the volcanic eruption

is a maximum global monthly mean surface air temperature cooling of 3.8 K

for the ensemble mean and from 3.3 K to 4.3 K for individual ensemble

members. AtmosphericpCO2 decreases by a maximum of 5 ppm for the ensemble

mean and by 3 ppm to 7 ppm for individual ensemble members approximately 6

years after the eruption. The atmospheric carbon content only very slowly

returns to near pre-eruption level at year 200 after the eruption. The ocean

takes up carbon shortly after the eruption in response to the cooling,

changed wind fields and ice cover. This physics-driven uptake is weakly

counteracted by a reduction of the biological export production mainly in

the tropical Pacific. The land vegetation pool shows a decrease by 4 GtC due

to reduced short-wave radiation that has not been present in a smaller scale

eruption. The gain of the soil carbon pool determines the amplitude of the

CO2 perturbation and the long-term behaviour of the overall system: an

initial gain caused by reduced soil respiration is followed by a rather slow

return towards pre-eruption levels. During this phase, the ocean compensates

partly for the reduced atmospheric carbon content in response to the land’s

gain. In summary, we find that the volcanic eruption has long-lasting

effects on the carbon cycle: After 200 years, the ocean and the land carbon

pools are still different from the pre-eruption state by 3 GtC and 4 GtC,

respectively, and the land carbon pools (vegetation and soil) show some

long-lasting local anomalies that are only partly visible in the global


Russell seems to have a magic computer that inserts weird formatting into his mail and this one has been around a while because it took half an hour to reformat and I still didn’t get it right; but it is worth your attention.


From a heart specialist friend:

More not less,


Read your comments about your own fatigue.

I hear these types of complaints frequently and the tendency among the fatigued is to do less, not more. It is a subtle trap. I often tell patients two things. First, at 25 when you chased the girls up the hill and you got tired you said to yourself "I need to get into better shape." At 75, when you feel fatigued we fret that the fatigue is the result of aging or some medical condition.

Often, it is the result of a fall in conditioning. So more is the answer, not less.

Second, I tell people that my father is about to hit 95 and his motto is "find a hill and tramp up it over and over again."

Grab Niven and Sable and hit the damn hills.

More, not less.


Alas I fell far behind in mail and I can’t take Sable now. I sure miss that dog. So does Niven. But we’re going up the hill tomorrow. And it’s great advice. Now I need nagging. Sable used to do that.


Subj: hmm


Certainly makes for interesting reading. But I am not sure I believe the next one


The real cause of global warming:



JSF F-35

Jerry –

Long-time reader of your columns in Byte – just discovered your website. Great reads!

My thoughts on the F-35 follow:

IMO the F35 multi-role fighter is nothing but a glorified Swiss army knife. Somewhat capable of many things, but not particularly capable of any. Some pilots have actually likened it to a flying piano.

As any skilled craftsman will attest there are no substitutes for purpose built tools.

Keep well

// Paul

Paul Loewen

The TFX was a very good recce/strike airplane, but it was also intended to be a fighter which it was not. There is no prize for second place in a dogfight. If you want air superiority you have to pay for the technology. You cant then hang bombs under the wings and call your air superiority plane a ground support plane.

All this is in great detail in The Strategy of Technology. The Air Force used to understand that lesson.


America and freedom

Jerry –

In your latest post, you wrote, "Nations have few permanent friends, but they do have permanent interests. One permanent interest of America is to maintain liberty and freedom."

I’m pretty sure this is the argument used by interventionists going back at least to Kennedy.

So the question arises: liberty and freedom for whom?


Jim Martin

I am not sure I understand your point. Kennedy went into Viet Nam because he thought it was necessary for containment. There was this ongoing thing called The Cold War, and if your strategy is to contain the enemy then you have to contain him. It happens that the war of attrition in Viet Nam had almost the exact effects intended by containment: we were rich enough to afford it. The USSR was not. It was hard lines on the Vietnamese of both parties; being a battlefield in a war of attrition usually is.

I recall in a debate with Allard Lowenstein back in those days, he said “Jerry, you want to win this and get out. I just want to get out. But your friends there “ –indicating the Secretary of Defense – “want to lose it and stay in.” I admit to being silenced. I didn’t have the minutes to give a lecture on how to win a war of attrition when it is part of a strategy of containment, and I am not sure I understood the situation that well in 1968 anyway.


Ethnic Boundaries

“Why is it our job? We did that after WW I and the result wasn’t very pretty.”


1) It is not our job, but since we appear to be continually embroiled in foreign conflicts why not arrange things so it happens less often?

2) We did not do that after WWI. We arranged things like a bunch of drunks, almost as if the goal were to screw it up so nothing ever gets resolved.


But well, we thought we were doing good. We drove out the Hapsburgs and ended the Holy Roman Empire once and for all. And after all, Die Sudeten Deutschen were only Germans, and Germans didn’t deserve an ethnic boundary.


Babcock & Wilcox cuts Small Modular Reactor program

>>B&W continues to believe in the strength of the mPower technology, but without the ability to secure significant additional investors or customer Engineering, Procurement and Construction contracts to provide the financial support necessary to develop and deploy mPower reactors, the current development pace will be slowed. <<



Government Swat Teams

We’ve been discussing government SWAT teams for years, on Chaos Manor and in other places.  We mentioned Department of Education SWAT teams and we quipped about drones and so on.  Well, the mainstream is finally catching up:


Regardless of how people feel about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management over his cattle’s grazing rights, a lot of Americans were surprised to see TV images of an armed-to-the-teeth paramilitary wing of the BLM deployed around Bundy’s ranch.

They shouldn’t have been. Dozens of federal agencies now have Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams to further an expanding definition of their missions. It’s not controversial that the Secret Service and the Bureau of Prisons have them. But what about the Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? All of these have their own SWAT units and are part of a worrying trend towards the militarization of federal agencies — not to mention local police forces.


They failed to mention the Department of Education, the Post Office, and other places that have SWAT teams.  They also did not mention highly trained Bunny Inspector Counter Assault Teams, which are trained to kill anyone who mistreats rabbits and evades the normal Bunny Inspector Agents.  And that’s probably because these don’t exist — at least not in the unclassified data stream.  =)  But, you’d almost believe it these days…


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


Two Fronts To Putinism


This piece makes an interesting case that we’re opposing Putin on one front when he’s actually fighting on two – and we’re unwittingly helping him on the second.

Briefly, we’re encouraging national self-determination around Russia’s periphery, an easy sell among former members of various Russian-dominated empires who do NOT want to go back.

At the same time though, we’re pushing Western postmodernism upon these nationalists, hard, by both current Administration policy and (my take) by general State Department proclivity. This doesn’t go over nearly as well.

Putin, meanwhile, despite our President’s proclamations to the contrary, very much does have an ideology – to oversimplify grossly, anti-postmodernism (read the original article.) The Russians bearing it aside, this ideology is a lot more attractive to many of the former Soviet nations than what we’re pushing. If we actually want to win this contest we’d do well to drop the aggressive postmodernism and stick to national self-determination. (If we want to survive as a powerful nation we’d do well to drop the aggressive postmodernism, but that gets into a discussion of the coming elections.)

As for various Western conservatives beginning to make approving noises about Putin, I assume that’s more a matter of any stick to beat our current postmodernist masters with than it is serious support for expansionist Russian nationalism, and I can (somewhat) sympathize. Were I them, though, I’d be very careful how firmly I grasped that stick.

The time could come when they’ll want to drop it in a great hurry, if Putin overdoes the expansionism.


Tsar Regent Vladimir Putin is one of the most astute politicians of the age, and underestimating him is a very dangerous thing to do. He has goals and their implication must be studied. But: he is a Russian nationalist, vicar for the Tsar, and not a candidate for Emperor of the world; and Europe has faced far more dangerous threats.

NATO is now a burden. The Cold War is over. And we have no great interests in the territorial disputes of Europe. Or in Entangling Alliances. We have common interests with Russia. They should be pursued. I’d rather have a Russian agreement than an alliance with Bosnia.


Another Russian bolide


Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery

See all my books at <>


Heat-seeking drones are getting the 420 on weed in the UK,


Ho ho – so ironic

Technology – ain’t it grand?


I see some great stories there. Free lance drone owners, like falconers…




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




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