Rational Discussion and many other topics. Pledge Drive Ends

Chaos Manor View, Sunday, May 17, 2015

PLEDGE DRIVE OVER. If you forgot to subscribe or renew renew this is a great time to do it.

Sunday afternoon: I’ve just returned from Larry Niven’s birthday party. It was a great party, lots of old friends I don’t see often enough, and many of Larry’s relatives whom I don’t see at all except at his parties. I had discussions with people I’ve known a long time, and it was bracing: the world hasn’t all descended into madness where rational discussion is abandoned for Social Justice, whatever that means. I’d like to send you pix, but I can’t figure out how to get them off mi iPhone and it’s dinner time.  Or maybe I did.


Yep, here’s Roberta.  More later.

I’ve been a bit depressed all week, not because of this place, but another forum which I had thought was still rational, but which has turned poisonous, everyone looking for verbal errors so they can charge racism or sexism or check your privilege, thus winning whatever they thought was a contest, and ending all discussion before it starts. The obvious solution to that is to avoid such paces and only go where rational people of any persuasion make rational statements about what you’re talking about: who might and often do say You’re dead wrong! And here’s why, followed by some relevant statement, not an accusation of an “ism”., or a complaint that you have triggered some bad emotion, or offended someone, and thus you can’t say that.

And alas, finding rational discussion is rare now. It used to be that you could discuss such things as the size of the gay population – a question of fact, after all. Or what percentage of murders are committed by what minority populations, this preliminary to a discussion of educational policy and the point of education. Or – but you get the idea. If the data themselves have become too offensive to talk about, there is no point in the discussion.

So that’s one more place I won’t be going, and I am relieved because when Mr. Heinlein told me there was no way I could pay him back, I should pay forward, I thought participation in certain places where my experience might be helpful to younger people just getting started. I am sure that’s true, but hanging around in a toxic place infested with people of whose goal is to shout epithets at anyone they perceive as saying something that is offensive to some class, race, culture, or other collectivity – staying in that atmosphere is too high a price.

So if anyone wants advice from me, they’ll have to come to a less vicious discussion, and also understand that while I try to print all rational disagreements I simply ignore poisoning the well and proof by repeated assertion. Ah Well.

And I have to go now. I had one desert too many: my blood sugar is 156, which is quite high for me, and calls for some vigorous exercises as well as a protein dinner. I’ll be back later tonight or more probably tomorrow, with, I hope more time for here since I won’t be spending it elsewhere.


The pledge drive ends.   I was absent for most of the week, for which I apologize.  I’m pleased to announce we’ll still be here a while. 


How self-driving tractor-trailers may reinvent what it means to be a truck driver (WP)


    As you may remember, my career in computers ended for reasons seemingly beyond my control. I obtained my CDL and have been an Over The Road (OTR) driver for two years.

A couple comments on the article. Ultimately, this will not be good for drivers. Drivers are not well treated by most trucking companies. We work long and odd hours, often seven days a week, and are often away from home for weeks or months at a time. We generally only get paid when the ‘the wheels are turning’ and some companies don’t pay actual miles, but zip code to zip code or air miles. We often are involved in loading or unloading trucks, inspections, cleaning or maintaining equipment for which we get little or no pay. If we are stopped because of weather we get no pay and very little pay if the truck breaks down. Additionally, the Department of Transportation seems to delight in making life difficult for drivers through overly strict interpretation of regulations. A driver can be put ‘ out of service’ or even lose their license for a slight infraction, and it is often up to the officer at the scene’s interpretation with no recourse.

There are more examples but the picture I’m trying to paint is that most trucking companies consider drivers a necessary evil, not an asset and would like nothing more than to get them out of the cab. I’m sure that is why all the money and effort is going into the autonomous truck effort.

Now, I do want to say that some companies treat their drivers well. Mine does, giving me three pay raises this year, treating me like a valued member of the company and working with me when I need home time.

  There is currently an extreme shortage of drivers, and that may drive some of the research, but I believe the lure of not having to pay the three and a half million truck drivers currently on the road is a large part of it.

This is probably going to happen, but not for years. They will still need local delivery drivers for a long time. But I believe that truck driving is a profession on its way out.

I’m glad to answer any questions you may have.


I probably will but not tonight. The subject is important, of course


Subject: Other items of interest (probably old hat to you)





Our friend Fred Reed is sounding off on the subject of, well a lot of things including Presidential IQs.  He makes an unsourced assertion that the IQ of the 44th President is in the high 120s.  Which got me thinking about Chaos Manor, of which I’ve been an electronic neighbor for I-don’t-know-how-many-years.

Someone a couple of decades ago released the results of JFK’s IQ test, which came out at 117.  To my knowledge there has been no response from the Kennedy family nor the Kennedy Library.  Now consider one of your assertions of many years ago that an IQ of 115’s needed to benefit from college.  Based on the public record, therefore, you may justifiably say that Governor Palin’s as smart as JFK.

There are people who are rendered speechless by this announcement, but I’ve never had anyone gainsay me, certainly not by presenting proof that I’m wrong. 

And, yes, I say this when it renders people speechless who are much pleasanter to be around when speechless!

Yours Aye!

Rod McFadden

I owe you an essay on the uses of IQ, but alas I attempted to discuss elementals elsewhere, and discovered that bring up the data long agreed upon is no longer allowed: you must start over, first abasing yourself properly. So I shall write a summary here, Real Soon Now or preferably sooner; if there are new data I am not aware of, I will appreciate being informed along with the source. Thank you for the kind words.

For the few of you unaware of Fred Reed, you will find him at www.fredoneverything.net/ . Fred’s style is not mine, but he has reasons for the things he says.


NASA propulsion test media interview


Here is a link to a summary of the latest media interview following the strange propulsion test results.




Insecure medical device


Adult supervision of the programmers needed?

Chris Barker

Quite possibly


Xinhua Insight: Robot factories China’s answer to labor shortage – Xinhua |


Robot factories China’s answer to labor shortage:


Labor shortage?

I have seen this posted ass news in several places. This is from Xinhua, a mouthpiece of the Chinese government.

OK. The main point is that their coastal factories are sucking up labor, and that labor is pricing itself up high enough that the factories are looking to replace their human labor. But if you can use a robot to make things in China, you should be able to do it anywhere.

Limits to robo-factories: NIMBY regs that make it difficult to build any factory; and lack of engineers trained to build factories that make things.

The key is now that skilled labor in traditionally low-wage places is not so low-wage any more, either the factories move to low-wage places like Viet Nam and (ho ho) Africa — as low-wage work moved from Japan to China in the last century – or factories could move to be in the markets where their products are sold. An example of the latter is Japanese car factories in the US.

An Apple iPhone built in the US? Could happen . . .


But robots are cheaper and more powerful every year; while our schools are probably not better year by year…


There will always be a large island off the west coast of France…


> A bit of ‘adult’ language in this post – but entirely justified, IMHO.

Surely this is a hoax?



Roland Dobbins




NASA Announces Bold Plan To Still Exist By 2045

Hi Jerry,
I for one am shocked — shocked I say — to learn that NASA is now fully committed to the Iron Law.

Anthony DiSante

Yes, of course you are.

Dear Jerry –

Aaaand I do believe we have an Ig-Nobel finalist:


“A small team of researchers from the University of St Andrews and one from the University of Bristol, both in the UK has found, not surprisingly, that snipping a certain bugs’ penis caused it to have less success in producing offspring. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Liam Dougherty, Imran Rahman, Emily Burdfield-Steel, E. V. Greenway and David Shuker describe their experiments with Lygaeus simulans bugs and what they learned through their efforts.”

Apparently, size does matter.


Jim Martin


Here is a review of Scientific American’s “50” trends from 2005. Now ten years later, most of these breakthroughs are “still working on it” or have been superseded by something else. It is difficult to make predictions, it’s been said, especially about the future.


While many of us have probably thought about donut shaped planets, Anders Sandberg has actually done the math, here:



Much forecasting turns out to be wrong, especially the type which simply extrapolates from the past. Yet there is one such forecast, subsequently dubbed “Moore’s Law”, which has proved spectacularly correct. In 1975, Gordon Moore, then head of research at Fairchild Semiconductor, predicted that the number of semi-conductors that could fit on to a single computer chip would roughly double every year. Fifty years later, his prediction still holds true. Computing power doubles annually. This extraordinary, wealth-enhancing advance was driven not by starry eyed utopianism, but by the profit motive, the desire for improvement, and by viciously competitive commercial endeavour.

Mr Moore was interviewed recently by the New York Times. In all respects he sounded a wise and decent man. Yet his most perceptive observation was perhaps a social one. There are two societies, he said, divided by education. The worry about the modern world is not the rise of the super rich, or its manifestation in the extraordinary prices being paid for art. Inequality doesn’t matter if most people are getting richer. What matters is that the world is fast dividing into those with skills, and those without them. Attacking and undermining wealth creation won’t address this problem, but likely only make it even worse.



Hi Jerry,

Here’s the actual data from NASA on 1999 FN53:


It doesn’t even make the SpaceWeather.com NEO list at all. I guess I trust their judgment about what’s important a lot more than a hyperventilating journalist!



Well, yes, I trust that was plenty clear.


: Re: My guess is that the train engineer was texting/IMing or doing something else with his phone, and wasn’t paying attention until it was too late.

On 15 May 2015, at 0:42, Jerry Pournelle wrote:

> That would be my surmise

. . . or, maybe he decided to make his points about train safety with a bit more *emphasis*:


Something’s wrong, here.

Your impressions are worth following up. And some fired at the train preceding him


Iran and “There Will Be War” Vol 1

Dr. Pournelle,
Just finished TWBW v1, and enjoyed it. You mentioned at the time of its re-release that you thought the stories in the anthology still held up today. In light of the Iran nuclear treaty and ISIS, I’d have to say “Diaspora: A Prologue” by W.R. Yates is perfectly pertinent and by itself justifies the new printing. This was a new story to me and very timely.
I’d seen about a third of the content before, and you’ve described about as much in other writing, but much was completely new. It was good to have it all in one spot, and I read all but the Phillip K. Dick piece “The Defenders” (I had just completed a PKD collection, and had seen it too recently).
I also found a piece of your introduction pertinent: “…when soldiers have succeeded in eliminating war, or at least in keeping the battles far from home…it is then that their masters generally despise them.” Seems to me to be true of the conflicts since the original publication.
I am looking forward to Volume 2. Thanks



Dr. Pournelle,
What we have here, with discussion of Buffy’s billing cycle, is a failure of disbelief: few chronicles exist describing the income tax returns of Roland or Galahad (or Jesus, for that matter). We sometimes hear of rewards from those rescued who are both rich and grateful, and certainly expect that St. George or Bilbo get to keep at least some of the dragon’s spoils, but modern accounting was really invented during the renaissance, and is not an interesting part of the epic cycle.
I expect Buffy should be able to keep the spoils: hock the valuables of those dispatched. She’s in it for the bling. Don’t tell the IRS – I don’t know if she declared any of it.
Of course, at any scale of production, this model would mean that the richest dragons and vampires would become the highest priority targets, and become more rare over time. Like soaking the rich, eventually one just runs out of high-value targets and it doesn’t pay to go after the remaining population. We will eventually be at least knee deep in poor vampires and dragons requiring government assistance.


Navy Robots Test the Limits of Autonomy

By THE NEW YORK TIMESMAY 6, 2015     nyt

Navy robotics engineers are working to develop autonomous tools that can integrate with other technologies. But in field tests, the autonomous future still seems far away.

By Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper and Emma Cott on Publish Date May 6, 2015.

This is the second episode in a Bits video series, called Robotica, examining how robots are poised to change the way we do business and conduct our daily lives.

At a naval research facility along a stretch of the Pacific Coast in San Diego, civilian engineers work alongside active-duty troops to develop and test the next generation of military robots.

The engineers are members of the Unmanned Systems Group at Spawar, or Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, a research and operations arm of the Navy. Their mandate is simple: Take the soldier out of the minefield.

When autonomous systems are deployed, engineers at the center say they will revolutionize the way the military fights. They envision a day when one soldier will control an entire fleet of driverless trucks, or a driverless vehicle will make a road safe for a Humvee full of troops. They could also assist in detecting and combatting chemical or biological warfare.

Chris Scrapper is leading a team of engineers who envision an autonomous future. On a recent afternoon, they were tapping away at computers to analyze data from a failed run with RaDer (it stands for reconnaissance and detection expendable rover), the boxy black vehicle they’re trying to make drive on its own.

It’s hard to say when autonomous technologies will be ready for use in combat, Mr. Scrapper said, adding, “It depends on the threat level.”

Remote-controlled unmanned robots have been in use by the military for over a decade. IRobot’s Pakbot defuses bombs, armed drones track and strike their targets and the MK-18, an underwater torpedo-shaped vehicle, mimics a dolphin’s sonar to locate mines on the ocean floor. What these robots have in common is that there is one person directly controlling them.

Mr. Scrapper and his colleagues see the future of combat as using fewer humans to control more machines. While there will always be a human operator involved, they say, that operator may be in touch with several autonomous devices at a time.

Mr. Scrapper says that the technology they have developed is “mission-agnostic and platform-agnostic,” meaning that the same technology that makes a Humvee autonomous could be incorporated into a boat or a bomb-defusing robot.

So while he says his engineers are not working on weaponizing autonomous robots, their technology could be used for that purpose in the future.

His goal, and the one funded by the Office of Naval Research, is to make a tool that keeps troops out of harm’s way and frees them up for tasks that require human ingenuity and imagination.— Emma Cott


: Iran vs U.S Navy

We have a piece of possible — and I use the term “possible”

charitably — propaganda from Iran:


A U.S. warship and several planes reportedly “changed their direction”

on Monday after encountering an Iranian naval fleet during a patrol in the Gulf of Aden near Yemen, Iranian state media revealed.



However, this is more interesting:


The Pentagon says that U.S. Navy warships are no longer accompanying American and British-flagged commercial vessels through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.



This after the attack on the Marshall Islands ship, which is tantamount to an attack on U.S. flagged vessel. I have nothing constructive to say at this point.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


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




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