Minimum wages, railguns, laser triggered fusion, student debt and housing, Black Holes and Cthulhu, and various comments.

Mail 811 Friday, February 21, 2014


Minimum wage

Like all progressive legislation, the mobs will be sold that this is their Right.

It can not be defeated, so acquiesce, but extract a price.

Any new business ( not counting existing business under new management) would be granted a ten year exemption from all wage laws (and hopefully all other government regulations) They could even hire teenagers for 50 cents an hour. Throw in your proposal of a doubling (actually I would favor a five fold increase) in the size of the workforce for exemption from government regulations and you begin to return Freedom to the workplace. Also add a rider that small businesses under 100 would be exempt from regulations under Interstate Commerce – the States can protect their own citizens.

And to appeal to those politicians who sold their souls, don’t stop with $10 or $12 go all the way to $20. (and to stop the trend towards subsidizing illegals) make the minimum wage only count for actual citizens of the United States. With a high penalty for falsely claiming citizenship. Not that it would ever be enforced.

This would be an excellent camel nose under the tent to get the Right Wing attached. In return for the Lefts pipe dream we would release the small businesses from bondage.

Earl Smith


Raising the minimum wage…

If the Chinese could be persuaded to raise (or establish) their minimum wage, it would be far more beneficial that raising the minimum wage in the United States.

Charles Brumbelow


What a marvelous idea.  Who bells cat?



Productivity and Pay

William Galston makes good points, but, as seems always to be true of those "in the mainstream Democrat intellectual community", his suggestions require a state with substantial coercive power and further assumes that the public programs will be efficiently administered by the state.

Anyway, wages as we understand them do not couple compensation to productivity; they couple compensation to time at the job. Piecework is the simplest way to couple compensation to actual productivity and it can and has been applied to large-scale manufacturing. Perhaps this archaic idea should be dusted off and given a fresh coat of wax.

Richard White

Austin, Texas


It looks as if officialdom have finally learned about tularemia.



Roland Dobbins

Luck is the residue of opportunity and design.

— John Milton

I first wrote about the use of tularemia as a terror weapon in about 1977. I also did a paper for a team at Edgewood Arsenal on the subject. I haven’t followed it much since, although I have toyed with using it in a novel sometime, but was worried about giving someone an idea. Glad to hear they are taking it seriously in the open now; I suspect that there was considerable attention paid to in at Edgewood at one time.

The Economics of Doomsday Preparations.



Roland Dobbins

As some of you may recall I was once a contributing editor to the late lamented Survival magazine.  Sometimes I am tempted to find some of my old columns and polish them for the modern era.  There are many things one should be prepared to survive: any one of them may be a low probability, but the probability of a Black Swan is not zero, and all the possible disasters are not uncorrelated.



Keystone Pipeline and energy independence


I was listening to an interview this evening where an environmentalist was vehemently against the Keystone Pipeline and stating that we need to make self sustaining communities producing sustainable energy and being self sufficient in other ways. I began putting other thoughts together and began to wonder…could it be the progressives are trying to reduce the capability to travel or ship goods over distance, having the communities have their own food production, people working locally and having housing become less sprawling and more centralized. By doing this they are attempting to make the populace into small, heavily concentrated population centers with reduced physical communication between the centers and potentially monitored electronic communication between them. All the things I’ve mentioned have been promoted in various initiatives I’ve seen over the past several years from ‘we don’t need the grid’ to placing monitoring devices in vehicles to cube type housing in city centers. Perhaps I’m guilty of too much paranoia but a picture is emerging…or perhaps everyone else has seen it and I’m just behind the power curve. 🙂


We can all hope you are wrong.


sousveillance strikes again

Sousveillance is surveillance from underneath; when we serfs and peasants hear what our lords and masters really think. For instance:

To the tune of Dixie: “In Wall Street land we’ll take our stand, said Morgan and Goldman. But first we better get some loans, so quick, get to the Fed, man.”

I forgive his failed attempt at humor; for humor is subjective. What sounds like gentle mockery of failure to one’s friends might sound like arrogant callousness to the victims of those failures. He had enough self-awareness to attempt this jest in private; but then sousveillance struck.

I also forgive his untuned singing voice. Not everybody has the gift; and those who don’t must spend 10,000 hours practicing to attain expertise.

But I do not forgive his rhymes, nor do I forgive his scansion. If he can count megabucks, then he can count syllables. He should not give up his day job.

Or maybe he should. Maybe he should quit banking, move to a cheap small room, and there spend 10,000 hours learning how to write a poem. At 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 2 days vacation per month, that’s only 5.31 years. He could afford that, easy.

It would be like a short prison term, even though bad poetry is not, technically, a crime. For him to voluntarily confine himself at hard labor for bad poetry would be poetic justice; but also a fantasy, for he and his friends have avoided being ‘guests of the State’ for far worse misdeeds.

Literary critique aside… I see in his song a reconciliation of Northern and Southern power systems. At last Wall Street and the Plantation are one. It’s not about wage servitude, nor about chattel slavery; they met in the middle at debt serfdom.

[long time contributor]


Navy deploying laser and railgun weapons


It’s not science fiction any longer! The Navy is deploying a laser defense weapon this year, and has plans to deploy a railgun experimentally next year.

In the next 10 years or so, say medium-term, I think these two technologies have the potential to be game changers.

I hope that your recovery from your fall continues to go well.


Tom Brendel

I have been waiting for this for a long time. Note that a nuclear carrier has a great deal of electric power, a lot of deck room to mount various sizes of rail guns, and a great capacity for ammunition…


Non-replicable research

Dear Mr. Pournelle:

You recently noted an L.A. Times article regarding landmark research the results of which can’t be replicated. I’ve read such articles also, and find the question fascinating.

The one comment I’d make is that it would be prudent not to assume this stems from fraud or sloppy science. It may, of course. But I’m thinking of an article in the Atlantic some years back about medical errors, which pointed out that while it would be comforting to attribute medical malpractice to a few bad apple doctors, it would be inaccurate. It turns out that more often serious errors in medicine result from unrecognized points at which errors are likely; as in when anesthesiologists pointed out that at that point their equipment was not standardized. On some models, you turned a knob clockwise to reduce the anesthetic. On other models, counterclockwise… Once this was standardized, serious operating room errors dropped dramatically.

So, a more interesting question regarding non-repeatable research would be: are we systematically not noticing a point of probable failure? Not through inattention or intellectual dishonesty, but perhaps an excessive confidence in our ability not to make mistakes.


Allan E. Johnson


Subject: Student Debt Hurts Housing Market

Who would have thunk it? Putting the middle class in life-long debt to attend college hurts other parts of the economy?

Dwayne Phillips

Who would have thought that making bondsmen of the middle class would have a deleterious effect? Yet I seem to recall that being debated in the time of Cicero.



Hawking’s Revenge

Dear Jerry

Your correspondent , Mr.John R. Strohm complains :

The latest version seems to say that Cthulhu could not only pop out of the black hole, but he could pop out of the black hole and into the “normal” universe at ANY point in the normal universe. It also seems to say that something that is at ANY point in the normal universe could suddenly, without warning, find itself engulfed by the black hole. Yes, of course the probability is inversely proportional to the distance from the center of mass of the hole, but it ain’t zero…

The bloody thing seems to me to be SCREAMING at us that one of the fundamental assumptions going into the discussion is false.

I beg to differ, as there is another ontologically coherent explanation :


Russell Seitz

Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University

How can Black Holes even "exist"?

As far as we know, isn’t it true that due to relativistic effects there is not enough lifespan to the universe for an asymptotically time-dilating (to ‘normal space’ observer) collapsar to form an actual event horizon? Like Xeno’s runner we can wait until the stars are cold (or atoms themselves are torn apart by the constantly accelerating expansion of Space) and never record the formation of an actual, fully formed event horizon?

Would not Superman himself fail to EVER see a singularity; even if he was standing with the top of his head level with the surface of a star when it began its final collapse?

According to Einstein, and never refuted that I know of, all "black holes" are, in relation to all of the universe WE can ever inhabit, possess the effects of a true black hole but are actually frozen an almost infinitely small step from ridiculously dense neutron star matter to that theoretical hole; which could only be observed by a point-like observer at the gravitational center of a pre-collapsed star "riding the front of the wave of implosion.

Or am I missing something as obvious as when Larry had to gently point out to me (Back in the days) that my modern, science-based space drive was nothing more than a re-invention of the principal of Cavorite? 😉 Questions? Comments? Criticisms? Old TV Guides with cool articles?

Guy DeWhitney



Several blog posts. Salient data: Globally, Jan 2014 was warmer than Dec 2014. So the extreme cold in the US is balanced by warmth

elsewhere. In other words, it’s weather, not "climate change."


Of course I have never seen a rational explanation of the measures and weights used to achieve a single figure ‘global temperature’ from any of the modelers and I am not sure there is one. What ocean temperature depths? Is the ocean weight by surface area or by volume? If volume, doesn’t the land have volume too? Or it is all atmospheric temperature?

Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

I believe that the UAH measurements use temperature normalized to a specific altitude and averaged over all resolution cells.

The models are likely a hodge podge, and to the extent that I suspect most are spherical earth, my back of the envelop suggests that the corrections for insolation on oblate earth are greater than their measurement fidelity.



"When you have to invent dark matter and dark energy as the makeup of most of the universe – something you cannot detect – it seems to me that you have gone far away from scientific methods as I learned it."

Throw in neutrinos magically morphing into _undetectable_ neutrinos to account for the "missing" solar neutrinos, and the ever-increasing count of new undetectable "dimensions" in string/brane theories…

… and I keep thinking, "Epicycles."

Carl "Bear" Bussjaeger

Author: Net Assets, Bargaining Position, The Anarchy Belt, and more Free Books, Craft How-To Articles:


I may be near with Laser Fusion


Two interesting papers, an overview in Physics and the principle paper in Phys Rev Lett

Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE

Physics: Steven J. Rose Viewpoint: Encouraging Signs on the Path to Fusion, <>

Phys Rev Lett: <>


"High-Adiabat High-Foot Inertial Confinement Fusion Implosion Experiments on the National Ignition Facility

H.-S. Park,* O. A. Hurricane,† D. A. Callahan, D. T. Casey, E. L. Dewald, T. R. Dittrich, T. Döppner, D. E. Hinkel, L. F. Berzak Hopkins, S. Le Pape, T. Ma, P. K. Patel, B. A. Remington, H. F. Robey, and J. D. Salmonson Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, P.O. Box 808, Livermore, California 94551, USA J. L. Kline

Los Alamos National Laboratory, P.O. Box 1663, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545, USA

(Received 14 October 2013; published 5 February 2014)

This Letter reports on a series of high-adiabat implosions of cryogenic layered deuterium-tritium (DT) capsules indirectly driven by a “high-foot” laser drive pulse at the National Ignition Facility. High-foot implosions have high ablation velocities and large density gradient scale lengths and are more resistant to ablation-front Rayleigh-Taylor instability induced mixing of ablator material into the DT hot spot. Indeed, the observed hot spot mix in these implosions was low and the measured neutron yields were typically 50% (or higher) of the yields predicted by simulation. On one high performing shot (N130812), 1.7 MJ of laser energy at a peak power of 350 TW was used to obtain a peak hohlraum radiation temperature of ∼300 eV. The resulting experimental neutron yield was ð2.4 _ 0.05Þ × 1015 DT, the fuel ρR was

ð0.86 _ 0.063Þ g=cm2, and the measured Tion was ð4.2 _ 0.16Þ keV, corresponding to 8 kJ of fusion yield, with ∼1=3 of the yield caused by self-heating of the fuel by α particles emitted in the initial reactions.

The generalized Lawson criteria, an ignition metric, was 0.43 and the neutron yield was ∼70% of the value predicted by simulations that include α-particle self-heating."

Dr. Stefan Possony was convinced by his friends at Livermore that laser triggered fusion weapons were inevitable, and would be developed before the end of the Twentieth Century. If they have been I do not know it.


Thwarting Climate Change

Hello Jerry,

The one thing that all official Climate Experts agree on is that Anthropogenic CO2 (ACO2) is causing run away heating of the planet and that the heating will be catastrophic if something is not done to drastically limit ACO2. Taxes on CO2 and regulation of any activity that produces ACO2 directly (power plants/driving) or indirectly (consumption of electricity) seem to be the favorite ‘go to’ solutions.

Everyone (all the experts) agree that we need to Do Something Right Now or We’re All Going To Die, but when asked to provide evidence of the efficacy of their ‘solutions’ their reaction tends to be to ignore the question or call the questioner names.

Since I have had no luck on Dr. Curry’s site in getting answers to these questions (except the obvious from respondents with views similar to mine, that we don’t know and there is no way to find out), maybe your readers can help:

a. If we take absolutely NO action to control ACO2 and simply derive our energy from whatever sources are most convenient and economic, what will the Temperature of the Earth (TOE) be in 10, 50, and 100 years?

b. If we convene a panel of 100 of the climate experts most convinced of the existential threat posed by ACO2 and implement their recommended solutions to our ACO2 problems, world wide, what will the TOE be in 10, 50 and 100 years?

c. Why is the TOE obtained by absolute government control of ACO2 ‘better’ than the TOE that we will experience by ignoring ACO2 completely?

d. Do Climate Scientists have any actual, empirical evidence that their solutions, if imposed world wide, would have ANY measurable effect on the TOE

It would seem to me that if the problem is that the TOE is increasing we should be relatively certain that controlling ACO2 would in fact prevent the TOE from increasing, and a pretty good idea of how much. Or that halting or reversing the rise in the TOE actually desirable in the first place.

So far, no luck on obtaining answers to any of the above.

Bob Ludwick=


Dear Jerry

The Steve Goddard piece you link, written by one Mark Sanicola claiming that CO2 does not have an absorption band " between 9 and 13 microns’ is pure hogwash .

10.6 microns is the molecule’s primary vibrational band, the one on which CO2 lasers are based.

Sanicola’s claim to have worked all his life as " a professional infrared astronomer " is equally suspect- he is a retired optometrist..

When new contrarians make extraordinary claims, it is wise to run their names through Google Scholar to see if they are for real. Most of them prove to be all hat and no bibliography

best regards

Russell Seitz

Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University

Ah well. So what was he saying?


The Iron Law


I will have to label this as "the Iron Law" at play…

An understanding of bureaucracy


The Iron Law of Bureaucracy


SUBJ: Fred on Education

Since education is the topic du jour. Our house curmudgeon turns his blowtorch on schools.

One money quote:

"Keep’em dumb, keep’em mad. Especially, keep their tuition."

Fred at his best. Depressing, yet rather entertaining – and always enlightening.

Minds me of an old anonymous quote "You have made me think. I’ll be wary of you in future."



Fred is generally worth your time. and particularly so this time.  He is blunt, of course, and not politically correct; but he calls things as he sees them and that is a remarkable quality in these times.




From the letter from Karen

“In the context of "America hating its bright kids" you have suggested that NCLB, by requiring more resources, at least in the form of teacher attention and time, being directed to low-performing children, makes those resources less available for bright and/or self motivated children. The implication is that schools and teachers can tell which children are brighter and stupider, and that their unimpeded freedom to direct their attentions as they see fit would lead to a better allocation of resources.

Respectfully, this is not true, and is in fact a load of horse manure. Indeed, you yourself have noted your wife’s success in teaching children who arrived at her classroom with piles of paperwork from previous "teachers" proving that these children could not be taught.”


I am not sure how Karen managed to get from the first paragraph to the second. The fact that Roberta was successful in teaching students to read suggests a teacher can determine brighter students from slower students. Karen suggests that Roberta’s success shows they cannot?

The piles of paperwork showing a student will never learn to read did not really come from a ‘teacher’. At least not a teacher with unimpeded freedom to act. I suggest the paperwork came from the system, via a teacher blindly following mindless rules. I suggest Roberta threw out the rules and used her own good sense and judgment in place of it and was successful.

There is a mentality here which I call ‘Going Corporate’. Not sure how to define it, but I know it when I see it. The earmarks are when mounds of rules are used as a substitute for good judgment and common sense.


Indeed. But in California the Superintendent of Public Instruction ordered that teachers in California Public Schools not teach “decoding” or Phonics because it impeded good reading, and that was the state school policy for a long time; and while the policy was rescinded, it was after a decade in which all the teachers going to state colleges of education learned that, and learned that teaching phonics caused student to be bad readers, and a great deal of other such nonsense; and California has never recovered.

And to this day the Federal Department of Education has the crazy concept of reading readiness, and that young children are not ready to learn to read and thus will be harmed by early exposure to phonics; so that the Head Start program does not teach reading, because Head Start students are “not ready” to read. Yet for a hundred years and more English upper middle and upper class children were taught to read in the nursery by nannies at age 4; and just about all of them learned. English children are not better protoplasm than American children, and what they can learn ours can learn – but only if it be taught to them. Most theories of reading are excuses for why the teachers are not teaching them to read.

About a quarter to a third of children in first grade will learn to read no matter what it taught to them; a similar group will learn if given any rational clue to the notion of the Phoenician Alphabet as opposed to ideographic writing; but it is hard work teaching the last third or so. Hard enough that if you don’t know how to do it, you will fail. And thus the pounds and pounds of literature proving that these particular kids can’t learn for various reasons. Alas, most of the teachers do not know they are part of a vast cover thy arse conspiracy. But those who do not learn to read by grade four are not going to be scientists and engineers.


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




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