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.



A Peace to End All Peace; loyalty and witch hunts; Amazon and Whole Foods; More on gene editing


Saturday, June 17, 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 don’t usually begin with these daybook entries with an obituary, but this one has me feeling my age.

David Fromkin, Professor and Author on Mideast, Dies at 84


David Fromkin, a nonacademic historian whose definitive book on the Middle East warned the West against nation-building by partitioning antagonistic religious groups behind arbitrary boundaries, died on Sunday in Manhattan. He was 84.

The cause was heart failure, his nephew Daniel Soyer said.

Professor Fromkin, a lawyer and investor, became a published author only in his 40s and a professor in his 60s.

His seminal book on the Middle East, “A Peace to End All Peace” (1989), traced the roots of conflict in the region to the creation of unsustainable nations there through artificial mapmaking by European diplomats in the early 1920s, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I.

He concluded that those self-serving cartographers had grossly underestimated the indigenous population’s enduring faith in Islam as the foundation of everyday life, politics and government, and that they had failed to account for the Middle East’s lingering resentment of Western imperialism. [snip]

The rest of the well written Times obituary is well worth reading for those not familiar with Fromkin’s work. I had not seen the actual obituaries – Monday 12 June was my skin cancer operation and I saw little of last week, or of much else including sleep for that matter – so I was alerted to this depressing fact by a review in today’s Wall Street Journal.

The Great War’s Great Historian Appreciated the Good Life

David Fromkin’s ‘A Peace to End All Peace’ was a masterpiece. But I wish I’d eaten at his restaurant.


Roger Kimball

The historian David Fromkin died last Sunday, a couple of months shy of his 85th birthday. I first met him over lunch in 1986, when he was working on the book that would be his magnum opus, “A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East.” That book, about how France and Britain endeavored to impose a new political dispensation on the Middle East in the aftermath of World War I, was published in 1989, to near universal commendation.

All of Fromkin’s signature virtues were on display in “A Peace to End All Peace.” It was the product of prodigious but lightly worn research. It was politically canny about the realities of power (Fromkin had been a student of Hans Morgenthau at the University of Chicago). And it was beautifully written. It is worth stressing this last point. He commanded a light, allegro prose, spare but deeply evocative, clear as an Alpine spring.

“A Peace to End All Peace” was also shot through with a recurring leitmotif typical of Fromkin, at once nostalgic and admonitory. The nostalgia focused on the lost sense of innocence and amplitude that marked the decade before the outbreak of war in the summer of 1914— “Europe’s Last Summer,” as he put it in the title of his 2004 book about who started the Great War. (Spoiler: there were really two wars. One was started by the Hapsburg Empire when it attacked Serbia, the other by the Germans.)

The innocence had to do with the political easiness of the time. The opening decade of the 20th century was a time of apogees and consummations. There was a shared sense, Fromkin wrote in his book “The Independence of Nations” (1981), that Europe, finally, at last, had become civilized. Sweetness and light reigned, and would reign, forever. He quotes the historian A.J.P. Taylor: “Until August 1914, a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state.. . . He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card.” For the most part, there were no passports. One didn’t even need a business card when traveling. A personal card would do. This was an age before the income tax, before exchange controls and customs barriers. In many ways, Fromkin notes, there was more globalization than there is now.

Edward Gibbon, FRS, rejoiced in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776) that European Civilization had finally prevailed over the barbarians to the East and South. The Turks had been repulsed in 1529 in a very near thing, again in a closely fought naval engagement in 1571, and once and for all in 1683 in a battle that wasn’t even close. Frederick the Great had said that “the peasants in the field and the burghers in the towns should neither know nor care when the Prussian state was at war”, and this was a sort of ideal for all civilized monarchs and leaders; and since military technology had made it certain that only the West could destroy the West — England would lose America, but to Europeans, not Native Americans – Western Civilization was safe after millennia of barbarians and centuries of Moslems.

The 18th Century would see destruction that rivaled the Thirty Years War, but that evidence was ignored: until the Great War, The War to End All War, put paid to that notion. Fromkin’s Peace to End All Peace warned against the arrogance of the West.

I met David Fromkin only once. I am not even sure where it was. It was a small semi-formal meeting to discuss foreign policy. Fromkin and I were adherents of Hans Morgenthau’s realism school. I am sure nothing ever came of that meeting, and I doubt I thought of Fromkin until many years later when George H. W. Bush involved the United States in Military operations in the Near East. I was not surprised to discover that Fromkin,  like me, was opposed to sending in our army.

Gibbon was clearly mistaken. Western Civilization is not safe from barbarians and Muslims. We really never were.

Wealthy republics historically have had short lives. Venice, until Napoleon, and the United States are exceptions. Wealthy republics have wealth, and appear to be weak and indecisive; The temptation is always great.


A.D. 980-1016

A.D. 980-1016
Rudyard Kipling

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: –
“We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ‘em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: –
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: –

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”

We used to say that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. That is true, but it is only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition. Some form of internal unity—enough citizens devoted to preservation of the Republic—must also exist. In view of the latest news, it is depressing to contemplate this.

Fromkin was a Scoop Jackson Democrat. We were on opposite sides on domestic politics, but united in preserving the United States against Soviet Communism. We were the same age –he was one year older than me. I didn’t know him, but I respected and admired him; in our only meeting he was polite, and devoted to rational discussion. There are few like him remaining.


Amazon has bought Whole Foods, surprising everyone. Jeff Bezos now owns the Washington Post, a successful space ship development, and an upper middle class food store chain. I used to say Whole Foods is a way of life, and I was only half fooling.

Holman Jenkins has an analysis in today’s Wall Street Journal that makes as much sense as anything else I have seen:

Amazon Will Free You From the Minivan

With his Whole Foods purchase, Jeff Bezos takes aim at groceries—and car ownership.


Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.

Amazon’s announcement on Friday that it is purchasing the Whole Foods grocery chain was puzzling to analysts; to the grocery industry it was unalloyed lousy news. Share prices of food retailers from Kroger and Costco to Wal-Mart dropped sharply in the moments after the news broke.

But maybe it’s the car industry and its frenemy Uber that should really be worried. Some see the deal as evidence of Amazon’s craving for a brick-and-mortar presence, but the fattest bogey out there is getting grocery customers out of their cars and in front of their laptops.

The average American makes 1.5 trips to the grocery store a week, spending an average 53 hours a year roaming the aisles. A British survey that studied in detail the reasons for car ownership—and second- and third-car ownership—found high on the list was the need to haul otherwise unmanageable grocery loads from store to home. Some 65% said grocery shopping would be “quite” or “very” difficult without a car.

In the U.S., an even more suburban and exurban society, the same is undoubtedly true. Trips to the grocery store are second only to physically transporting oneself to school or work as a reason for car ownership, and not as easily replaced. Traveling to school or work, after all, usually doesn’t involve dragging along 70 pounds of irregular small items in awkward bundles. [snip]

I have never lived in Manhattan, where no one seems to have a car, but I have often wondered about this. I guess the answer is that childless families eat out a lot – keeping a car is expensive, you can eat out a lot on what that would cost. The suburbs are another matter. One car, even two, become a necessity. But I have noticed that while I have two cars – I should give one away – neither of us drives. We still use them, but a son or a friend drives us in one. I can drive, but I prefer not to; I have read too many accounts of octogenarians losing control and causing mischief or even fatal accidents. And even with the house full of people I find that it’s a lot simpler to order from Amazon. With a Prime account it generally costs no more, although it does encourage thinking a couple of days ahead.

And once you’re in the habit of ordering from Amazon, you order more and more.

[snip] Not that Mr. Bezos’s ambition is to substitute home delivery for outside shopping. His ambition is oriented toward accelerating consumer gratification however possible. If that means delivering an item to you wherever you might be by drone, he’s game. If it means setting up kiosks and lockers so you can grab in an hour what otherwise Amazon would have to ship you overnight, fine.

So what if some of this is uneconomic and effectively a loss leader? So what if free shipping encourages people to order inefficiently small numbers of items at a time? So what if lowering barriers to gratification engenders a higher-than-average incidence of buyer’s remorse and elevated product returns?

As every Amazon Prime subscriber discovers, even with these higher costs, the great genius of Amazon’s business model is to encourage us to buy more stuff and, gradually, relinquish the habit of using the web as a tool of remorseless price equalization.

Mr. Bezos figured out early that the great untapped gold mine of Amazon’s business model, “price discrimination,” would have to remain untapped. Price discrimination means using various methods to coax out of each customer the highest price he or she would be willing to pay for a given item. It’s a common and even efficient practice defended by economists elsewhere in the economy, but Amazon customers have made it clear their trust would dissolve if Amazon used its copious personal information to turn its logic on them.

In every other way, however, the Amazon promise to shareholders is founded on softening customer resistance to buying stuff without carefully comparing prices. Don’t kid yourself about this. You’re ordering sparkplugs? What a pain to get up and walk five feet to see if the cat food is running out. Just order more. Is the price on really a bargain even with free shipping? I guess I could Google for a comparison but why bother? [snip]

Whole Foods has always been a way of life. Whole Foods with Amazon may become so for a lot more people. Jay Leno will continue to collect cars, but combine Amazon/Whole Foods for groceries with Uber for medical and social calls, and the effect on – I was going to say Detroit, which shows my age – the auto industry may be as profound as the effect on supermarkets.


From today’s Wall Street Journal editorial:

That didn’t take long. Barely a week after James Comey admitted leaking a memo to tee up a special counsel against Donald Trump, multiple news reports based on leaks confirm that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the President for obstruction of justice. You don’t have to be a Trump partisan to have concerns about where all of this headed. [Snip]

[snip] There are nonetheless good reasons to raise questions about Mr. Mueller’s investigation, and those concerns are growing as we learn more about his close ties to Mr. Comey, some of his previous behavior, and the people he has hired for his special counsel staff. The country needs a fair investigation of the facts, not a vendetta to take down Mr. Trump or vindicate the tribe of career prosecutors and FBI agents to which Messrs. Mueller and Comey belong.

Start with the fact that Mr. Comey told the Senate last week that he asked a buddy to leak his memo about Mr. Trump specifically “because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.” Did Mr. Comey then suggest Mr. Mueller’s name to Mr. Rosenstein? He certainly praised Mr. Mueller to the skies at his Senate hearing.

The two former FBI directors are long-time friends who share a similar personal righteousness. Mr. Mueller, then running the FBI, joined Mr. Comey, then Deputy Attorney General, in threatening to resign in 2004 over George W. Bush’s antiterror wiretaps.

Less well known is how Mr. Mueller resisted direction from the White House in 2006 after he sent agents with a warrant to search then Democratic Rep. William Jefferson’s congressional office on a Saturday night without seeking legislative-branch permission. The unprecedented raid failed to distinguish between documents relevant to corruption and those that were part of legislative deliberation. GOP Speaker Dennis Hastert rightly objected to this as an executive violation of the separation of powers and took his concerns to Mr. Bush.

The President asked his chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, to ask Mr. Mueller to return the Jefferson documents that he could seek again through regular channels, but the FBI chief refused. [snip]

[snip] We relate all this because it shows how Mr. Mueller let his prosecutorial willfulness interfere with proper constitutional and executive-branch procedure. This showed bad judgment. He shares this habit with Mr. Comey. [snip]

Witch hunters generally find witches.


Gene Editing

Gene Editing
The CRISPR technique is certainly a breakthrough, possibly equal to the transistor in importance. As you point out, there are significant regulatory hurdles to overcome, at least in Western nations.
Ten or so years ago, several researchers that were active in looking for treatments for muscular dystrophy wrote an article for Scientific American on treatments for MD that used viruses to alter the genes in muscles. It was a very hit-or-miss method as it was hard to get a virus that would only target the cells you wanted to alter without bad side effects. They did make a bold prediction that stuck with me. They said that given the state of the art at that time, the 2008 Olympics would be the last one where we could be sure that none of the athletes had been genetically altered.
I can think of at least one major nation with a bad record on human rights that would proceed quickly to human experiments if they believed that it would be in their national interest. Winning Olympic medals was of such national importance to East Germany that they did life-shortening and life-threatening drug treatments to their athletes. Can the anti-doping agencies keep up with technology? Can our ethics?
I’ve told my daughter, now pursuing a biochemistry degree, that the 20th century was the Physics century. Using the tools developed in the 20th, the 21st century will be the Biology century.

Edmund Hack

I would assume North Korea is already developing this technology. And I would assume Edgewood Arsenal is investigating as well. Be afraid.

Gene Editing

Besides Beyond This Horizon, I think this would open the door to the Sauron Supermen that somebody or other wrote about 🙂
Be Well ( and please finish Mamelukes soon as I’m getting to the age where I have to worry about me dying before I can read it! )


Let us remake man in our own image.
It’s an ancient desire, reflected in your comments on 6/16/2017 about the developing science of gene splicing and its possible role in remaking ourselves according to a new image.
The eugenics movement in the early 20th century had the same goal, scientifically based on Darwinian speculations about the “perfectibility” of man. Tens of thousands were forcibly sterilized in the U. S. In the more highly educated nation of Germany, with its emphasis on social engineering, millions were killed as part of the remaking of man in a more perfect image.
A few questions jumped immediately into my mind:
Who will choose the image in which we are to be remade?
Who will define perfection?
Who will choose the image makers?
Whose ends will be served in our remaking?
To whom will the image remakers be responsible?
I’m sure I’ve read lots of science fiction over the past 3/4 of a century that deal with these questions, as well as an increasing amount of moral philosophy.
Initially I’m reminded of C. S. Lewis writing in “The Abolition of Man”:
“Man’s conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature’s conquest of Man.”
It’s a short book, just 42 pages in the PDF format I downloaded from
but somehow stretched to 121 pages in the paperback edition I bought in 1962.
Of course, for just $8 you can by it new in paper from Amazon.
Perhaps a few more quotes will motivate your readers who don’t know the book to take a look at it.
“Man’s conquest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men. There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well.”
“For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please.”
“But the man-moulders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please.”
Lewis explores these issues in relation to education as implemented by the men who will condition us to their desires in the absence of any transcendent or shared value system to which we all might be subject.
Perhaps you’ll explore these issues in your blog. It would be a pleasant distraction from America’s burgeoning shooting war. It is well occasionally to take our minds off those in The Resistance who, like James Hodgkinson and James Devine, are now hunting Republicans.
Best regards,
–Harry M.

Indeed. I welcome discussion.

For the record, Galton’s (Sir Francis Galton, FRS was an English Victorian statistician, progressive, polymath, sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, …) Eugenics consisted of encouraging bright students to marry earlier, thus increasing the number of bright people. It was obvious that the less than bright were outbreeding the intellectual, who could not afford to marry while at University. It remains a matter of concern.

I used The Abolition of Man as required reading for several of my classes in Technology and Civilization back when I was in the professor business; Marvin Minsky and Dick Feynman tried to get me a faculty position at Cal Tech to give a Technology and Civilization senior seminar, but nothing came of it. But that’s another story. I certainly recommend Lewis to anyone contemplating this question.

Our experience has been that if something can be done, someone will attempt it. Genesis 11 shows this is not a recent notion.


This Altercation in Texas Exposes the Heart of Fake News

Merrie Spaeth / June 09, 2017 /

“Fake news” has become a widespread accusation, but what does it actually mean?

Is it something that’s been invented out of whole cloth, like H.G. Wells’ planetary invaders?

Different definitions abound, but I submit that fake news, at its core, is reporting in which the journalist selectively chooses and ignores facts, and interprets or paraphrases those facts to reach an unwarranted conclusion that conveniently validates his own views.

It goes to the heart of how many reporters see their job these days. [snip]

She gives an excellent example: what was reported and what really happened as migrants invaded the floor of the Texas legislature.

This didn’t seem to get any national airplay.

Subj: Fort Collins man suspected in Munich police shooting, German authorities say – The Denver Post

First I heard.


further thoughts on loyalty

Dear Mr. Pournelle,
An example comes to mind. You remember 60’s Chicago, and the Democratic machine. I learned then about the corruptions of power. Consider a proposal that the Chief of Police *ought to be* personally loyal to Mayor Daley, and *ought to* be ready to suppress any investigation into possible misconduct by City Hall. I just don’t think any executive should be given that kind of free pass. While I agree that law enforcement cannot itself be above the law, I also think we need police and prosecutors who are prepared to go after *any* official. Their primary loyalty must be, not to an executive, but to their oath of office.
Allan E. Johnson

Officers must be loyal to their superiors, but neither the junior lieutenant nor his captain imagines that he will obediently obey any order; surely you can understand that? Do you really imagine that Mr. Trump does not? But to continue to hold a post of power and responsibility while planning to drag your feet and do everything legal you can do to hinder the application of a superior’s policies is not loyalty and pretending that it is is a despicable action.


Project Thor

Jerry, this showed up in my Facebook feed. I thought you might like to see it.
Best wishes for you and the Mrs. both,
Old-School Technical College Physics Curmudgeon


Actually, it was 1958 or 1959, before Apollo, and there were others involved. I wasn’t the team leader. We were working on air-launched cruise missile weapons systems and I speculated on using orbital systems – say an 18 foot pole of tungsten steel. Cob Beum and Robert Zieke were also involved in the study.  Of course I used the Thor concept in many stories after I got out of the.aerospace industry.



C. Northcote Parkinson available from

FYI, C. Northcote Parkinson’s _Evolution of Political Thought_ is available on at .    I’ve attached a copy of the .pdf file; also available in kindle, epub, text formats.

As an aside, is a wonderful source for these sorts of classic texts.  Between it and, we all have a free library that would be the envy of most 19th-20th century scholars.

Bob Bailey

Thank you.




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