Making electricity a luxury good, and other diversions.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski

Electricity has become a luxury good in Germany.

Der Spiegel

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana



I view with profound relief my documents in Word on my main machine: they look as usual, nothing fancy, unlike the horrible formats I was confined to on Word in my back bedroom machine. That system, Swan, is on the advanced Microsoft update schedule, getting Windows and Office updates on the experimental advanced schedule, and apparently the combination was too much to bear: they’re updating Word to the point of unusability. The opening default format is several pages to the screen, all in tiny print. I can see how that might have been useful back when my eyes were better, but now it just makes things impossible. Doubtless others will complain as I have, and it will all be fixed before most users ever see it; a good argument for the early release test program, and a better argument for not allowing main production machines to be on the early release installation program.

Swan is in the back bedroom where I’m pretty well stuck late at night. It’s not really a main production machine, and thus a reasonable place for previewing early release stuff. Apparently the release I have is messed up in discriminating between “Read” and “Print Layout” views (lower right hand part of screen) neither of which is explained well; and there is no “edit” or “create” or “ordinary normal vanilla” mode or view. Possibly an interaction with a new version of Office 365 and a new release of Windows. Of no real matter, except it was frustrating last night to be stuck; possibly a restart of the machine will help; I’ll go back and test that later.


Health improves daily, but energy levels still lag. Not much I can do about that but rest; but too much rest turns me into a vegetable and one I’m not fond of, so it’s time to get on a new daily schedule. I have a dermatology appointment tomorrow – the biopsy showed the thing on my forehead has to go – and an internist appointment next week; by then I hope to be well into daily Five Tibetan Rites, which is my solution to the vegetation menace.


The news continues to be depressing. The main stream media continues to report every single thing President Trump does as a major disaster; the media has pretty well joined “The Resistance” which is indistinguishable from the Never Trump movement. Google “Kushner” and look at the results as an example. And predictably, Senator McCain is joining the resistance, going out of his way to tell us he doesn’t like whatever it is Mr. Kushner did even though he doesn’t really know what it was; but it was being nice to Russia, and that’s all we really need to know isn’t it?

The Paris Accords on Climate have reduced Germany to a state in which electricity is a luxury good according to Der Spiegel; so naturally President Trump is exhorted to agree to this nonsense. After all, the Europeans have; why should we be spared the economic pain? Surely Europe’s misery from self inflicted wounds is a more pressing problem for the US than the agenda Mr. Trump was elected for? Perhaps Senator McCain will tell us what the Paris Accords will do for the Earth, Europe, South America, various other places, and, perhaps even how they would affect the United States. We have natural gas; making it more expensive will certainly help Russia. Perhaps that’s it.

But I ramble.


We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating:

The use of new materials and technology that now allow batteries to power rocket fuel pumps is fascinating. Werner von Braun used a kerosene turbine to power the fuel delivery pumps in V2. Then we started Expanders, Staged Combustion, and all kinds of ways, many of which blew up rockets. Now it’s lithium batteries, which are much safer; are they rechargeable also? They will be…


Rocket Lab

the issue with launches isn’t cost-per-launch, it’s cost-per-pound
prices to LEO
Rocket Lab pans to launch 500 pounds for $5m or $10k/pound
space-x Falcon launches 50,000 pounds for $55m or $1.1k/pound
the Falcon Heavy will launch 140,000 pounds for $90m or $650/pound
ULA Atlas V launches ~40,000 pounds for ~$160m or ~$4k/pound
ULA Delata IV launches ~62,000 pounds for (indirectly calculated) >$300m or ~5k/pound
and this is not including savings Space-X will see from ‘flight tested’ boosters (including the eventual savings for the initial user), but the expectation is that it will cut costs by at least half.
Yes, there will be a market for ‘I need it right now and it’s small’ satellites, but far more of them can wait, and could piggy-back on another launch and include maneuvering capacity to get them into their own orbits at less cost than an individual launch (The Iridium launches launch 10 satellites/launch and they include enough maneuvering capacity to get them into their individual orbits)
It’s good to see someone else get into the market, but to describe this as “About to Eat Elon Musk’s Lunch” is overstating things by a lot.
I also think you may be interested in an amateur group working towards a manned sub-orbital flight. They routinely post videos to YouTube showing their progress.



It is trivially true that cost/pound-in-orbit is the long term determiner; but the new techniques keep expendables in the business, and that means it’s easier (takes less capital) to get into the rocket business. Obviously over the long run reusables will drive out most expendables.



As I’ve often said, I’m not a “Climate Change Denier”, but I am definitely a model denier: the current models can’t predict the past. (Start with 1930 initial conditions and run to 1999; the results vary but are nowhere near reality.

Mathematical models based on the same physical principles can be used to generate either short-term weather forecasts or longer-term climate predictions; the latter are widely applied for understanding and projecting climate change. … Manipulating the vast datasets and performing the complex calculations necessary to modern numerical weather prediction requires some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. Even with the increasing power of supercomputers, the forecast skill of numerical weather models extends to only about six days….A more fundamental problem lies in the chaotic nature of the partial differential equations that govern the atmosphere. It is impossible to solve these equations exactly, and small errors grow with time (doubling about every five days). Present understanding is that this chaotic behavior limits accurate forecasts to about 14 days even with perfectly accurate input data and a flawless model.


So, once again: the climate modelers take a weather model good for a week (or less), dumb it down by a factor of at least 300,000 (simplified physics, longer time steps, and coarser geographic cell sizes), and claim they can forecast half a degree (Celsius; 1 degree Fahrenheit) accuracy of the average global temperature after 100 years.


Precisely. We need to fund some new models, selected for ability to predict the past; when they can do that, we might look to the future. Incidentally, for next year’s weather, you would do better to rely on The Farmer’s Almanac rather than our most sophisticated (and expensive) models; at least past performance would indicate that.


Dropping the Hammer on Comey… Brilliant!

For what it’s worth, I’ve just run across the following link which appears to be one of the earliest postings of this article:

This article states it as coming from an uncredited Facebook post.


The Expert Disease

Dear Doctor Pournelle,

In a history class at university we were assigned a book that detailed the rise of the Expert Class in the late 19the century in America.

Between about 1875 and 1900 there emerged a new type of professional, and associations devoted to their professional advancement, all in service of Progress. Everything from Accounting to Zoo Management suddenly had a career path, a degree or certificate, and a professional Society to advance the New Way Of Doing Things.

Of course, this was all presented in the book as a Good Thing, reinforced by the lectures based on the book. There was progress, but at what cost?

Here is an example: I know a fellow whose father was a federal meat inspector. His dad’s job involved visiting stockyards and processing plants in his Midwestern state, ensuring everything was up to federal standards for health and safety of the product. One night, quite late, he was called out of bed to visit the scene of a highway wreck. He took along his son, from whom I have the tale. A truck full of frozen beef had jackknifed on the highway, and spilled most of its’ load. Thee highway patrol could not fully secure the scene, and people were scooping up the meat and loading it into their vehicles. The meat inspector was beside himself at this violation of all protocol, the utter disregard for potential contamination and subsequent health problems for anyone consuming the presumably tainted product, and did all he could to explain to the looters that they must cease this at once. I gather eventually, probably with highway patrol help, he succeeded. The son, when relating this story, explained how his father had taught him a valuable lesson that night: that people need to be protected from themselves, that experts are there to do that, and that we had better always listen to the experts.

Would you be surprised to hear that the son is also a far left advocate of socialism, believes in the hard version of human caused Global Warming and all that goes with being a leftist?

It is a disease. Those people on the highway may have been wrong to take the meat, but if it was spoiled or rotten, would they have really eaten it? Seems unlikely. But of course the idea of allowing people to exercise personal judgment is anathema to experts.

Not to mention that a common highway mishap literally became a Federal Case. Ah, sweet reason and Progress!


I don’t think the Philadelphia Constitution intended that to be a federal matter, but it is not unreasonable to say that the Interstate Commerce clause permits it to become one. Of course there’s no possible way you can grant a government a power that won’t be used.


Size matters in libraries now…

“Compared to the old system, where a small volume about geography might be shelved next to a large book of maps, the size-based approach eliminates the wasted space above each book. “This just maximizes the number of books you can put into the area,” Oliva says, noting that Princeton University and Columbia University’s libraries have adopted similar systems. The new book sorting system has increased the library’s storage capacity by 40%.”

Charles Brumbelow

I suppose there needs to be compromise between saving space and making things easier to find.


Special Operations in Africa

This doesn’t interest most people but it should. The tone and pace of special operations increased, globally, but increased even more in Africa. The reasons and the highlights are spread throughout this article, which I think is worth your time.

It seems that Africa will become more a threat than the Middle East for terrorism. Also, it seems that affairs are on a downward trajectory. I’ve been following the interest in Africa for over a decade but the committal of more resources is comparatively recent and “too little too late” in my opinion.

To his credit, Bush II foresaw this malaise and created Africom — much to the annoyance of the antiwar crowd. But, it’s taken time to shift resources to this entity. Why this didn’t happen after Mogadishu is beyond me, but our firefighters are there, doing their



In 2006, just 1 percent of all U.S. commandos deployed overseas were in Africa. In 2010, it was 3 percent. By 2016, that number had jumped to more than 17 percent. In fact, according to data supplied by U.S.

Special Operations Command, there are now more special operations personnel devoted to Africa than anywhere except the Middle East —

1,700 people spread out across 20 countries dedicated to assisting the U.S. military’s African partners in their fight against terrorism and extremism.


That snip tells nothing, really; the article is worth reading if you’re interested in geopolitics generally or special operations specifically. It’s also of interest to anyone who wants to know what’s happening in Africa today. Even though I’m not certain if these are core interests of yours, I think you’ll find this worth looking at because this is about to catch many by surprise.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


What You Need to Know About Climate, In One Chart

From Andy May at Watts Up With That, a chart that contains an enormous amount of information relevant to the climate debate. It shows global temperature as inferred from proxies (tree rings and the like), carbon dioxide and methane concentrations, and temperatures as predicted by the alarmists’ models for the Holocene epoch, the time since the end of the last Ice Age.

May comments:

In the figure below (source Javier, here) proxy global average temperatures for the whole Holocene (last 11,500 years) are shown in black. Computer model temperatures calculated by Liu, et al. (2014) are shown in green, carbon dioxide and methane concentrations from ice cores are also shown. For the Neoglacial Period, temperatures go down, but the computer model temperatures go up, so does the carbon dioxide level. Quite obviously, for the Holocene, neither CO2 nor the computer models are predictive of temperature.



As the chart reflects, we are currently living in a relatively cool period. Global temperatures change over time, and while there are various theories, no one really knows why. If the alarmists were real scientists they would go back to the drawing board.


Analysis: It’s not just droughts, but nearly all extreme weather is declining or at or near record lows

On Eve of DC climate march, drought drops to record lows in U.S. as nearly all extreme weather is either declining or at or near record lows (See: Climate Bullies Take to the Streets for ‘People’s Climate March’ in DC on April 29th’)

“It is not just droughts that are at or near record levels. On almost every measure of extreme weather, the data is not cooperating with the claims of the climate change campaigners. Tornadoes, floods, droughts, and hurricanes are failing to fit in with the global warming narrative.”


Brennan Says Nothing New

This is just an update; it’s nothing we don’t already know but it’s interesting to see former DIRCIA Brennan twisting in the wind, nearly a year later, repeating the same mantra:


Former CIA director John Brennan testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he was not sure if there was any evidence of collusion between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Yet Democrats are thrilled by his testimony, because he said there were contacts between Russian officials and some “U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign,” and hence an FBI investigation was warranted.

Note that there is nothing new in what Brennan said. The New York Times reported on January 19 — in a story timed to appear on Inauguration Day — that the intelligence services had “intercepted communications” between several Trump “associates” and Russian officials. (The same story said there was “no conclusive evidence of

wrongdoing.”) And last week, Reuters reported that there were 18 such contacts — over seven months, less than three per month.

All that Brennan presented was his opinion. And it is not clear what prompted his opinion. He said he convened a group, including the FBI and NSA, to investigate possible Russian attempts to affect the election in late July 2016.


◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

There hasn’t been anything new since Podesta invented the Russia myth as a distraction from the leaks about Mrs. Clinton’s unauthorized server. The investigations continue. Witch hunts usually find at least a hint of a witch.


Robots, books, and anger 

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I’m sorry to hear you had a bout with pneumonia, I hope you shape up soon!

Here is an interesting article on robot farmers who are in the process of transforming the way we do agriculture:

And, giving hope to people like my family, 3d printed ovaries which can be used to make kids, replacing those destroyed by endometriosis:

Alas, the modern world is still crazy in many ways . Make sure you don’t have a black character in your next book, as editors seem to take offense at white people writing in black characters.

So I expect in five years the same people complaining about

‘appropriation’ will be complaining about ‘erasure’ instead. I fear

for the field of SF, as the insistence of Americans on these rigid standards contributes to a narrow mindset which will greatly hamper our imaginations.

Perhaps we should just use fantasy creatures and cultures only, since they don’t have any real-world people to complain about their appropriation.

Oh, and I thought this article in Spiked on the late events in Manchester was spot on. In brief: Stop the weeping, stop the mourning, get angry and solve the problem.

Cordially yours,

Brian P.


I have often said that by 2024 – actually I suspect a bit sooner than that – at least half the jobs in the United States can be performed by a robot costing no more than 10% of the annual wage paid to the person now performing that job.  The implications of this are not all obvious.




Nye’s Quadrant

Posted on May 2, 2017

by Judith Curry

The scary emergence of Nye’s Quadrant in dominating the public discourse on climate change.

If you are unfamiliar with Pasteur’s Quadrant, read my previous post [link].  The focus of my previous post was on use-inspired basic research.  I struggled with the 4th quadrant (lower left), which is sometimes referred to as ‘taxonomy’.  In the context of climate science, I interpreted this as climate model taxonomy, which analyzed the results of climate model simulations to identify alarming future possibilities.

Nye’s Quadrant

In response to my previous post on the Science March, which mentioned Pasteur’s Quadrant, David Deeble tweeted this version of the Quadrant diagram:




Besides being hysterically funny, the more I thought about it, I realized how profound this is.


Enemies of the People

Hi Jerry
Do hope you are getting better and everything well.

With all the political noise in the US thought you might find this Canadian perspective refreshing. Conrad Black again seems to capture salient historical moments as touchstones to the present. Take care of yourself.

: Sam



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



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