Reactionless Drive; Trump on Russian Reset, and waterboarding; Climate Change revisited; and other important matters

Thursday, November 24, 2016


If Republicans want to force through massive tax cuts, we will fight them tooth and nail.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide.

James Burnham

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

“Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Immigration without assimilation is invasion.



I am likely to have a busy day, so I’ll put up what I can until my sons come to get me. Yesterday we went to the Holy Cross hospital Thanksgiving Dinner for patients, staff, visitors, and alumni. Roberta looked better than ever, but the room was full of people and we couldn’t talk much, and I did not understand a word; but then I seldom understand anyone in a noisy environment. After the party we went back to her room, only to discover they had taken her to the gym for more therapy, and when we (Alex and I) went to the gym she was hard at it. A good day.


Reactionless drive rough calculations

Hi Jerry:

I ran some back-of-the-envelope calculations on the reactionless drive, and it looks pretty disappointing for interstellar work, but promising for the solar system, at least with current technology.

The GHRS-RTG radioisotope thermoelectric generators used in the Cassini and Galileo missions have the highest power-to-mass ratio of any RTG: 5.2 to 5.4 W/kg. With the thrust of the drive at 1.2 mN/kW, if you neglect the mass of the drive and just count the mass of the power source, this works out to an acceleration of 6E-7 m/s2. Because the thrust force scales with the mass of the power source, mass of the power source falls out of the equation–i.e, building a larger, higher power (more massive) power source does not improve acceleration, assuming power source mass is proportional to output power.

So an RTG powered craft, accelerating at 6E-7 m/s2, would achieve the following velocities and distances over time:

1 year; 18 m/s (about 40 mph); 540,000 km (to the moon and beyond)

10 years; 180 m/s; 54 million km (over half way to Mars at closest approach)

The amount of time it would take to get to relativistic speeds (say c/10) is 1.7 million years. Unfortunately the half-life of the 238Pu in the RTG is 87.7 years, so it would never reach those speeds.

Things are better with solar panels, limited to use in the inner solar system. Solar panels used in space deliver about 300W/kg, so acceleration could be 3.6E-4 m/s2. This would give:

1 year; 11 km/s; 324 million km (taking into account acceleration and deceleration, perhaps one round trip to Mars)

Accelerating to c/10 would now take 2800 years, and would have to be achieved by shining a laser on the craft as it left the vicinity of the sun.

So I think we would need some quantum leaps in power source density and drive efficiency for the system to be useful for interstellar work, but it might be useful for inner solar system missions in the shorter term.

Hoping for you continued health and Roberta’s continuing improvement,

Doug Ely

First we need proof of existence: a reactionless drive requires us to rethink our understanding of the relationship of Newtonian, Einsteinium, and quantum physics in fundamental ways. If reactionless drives exist, they probably can be improved once the principle is known.


You know that it’s science when people argue over the results?



A Step Farther Out 

Dear Doctor Pournelle,

It is good to hear of Mrs. Pournelle’s progress in recovery. Stay strong!

In the Galaxy days of “A Step Farther Out”, as well as your early seventies story cycle, whose title at the moment escapes me, you proposed a launch system that was single stage to orbit based on ground based lasers. How much work was ever done on this, and why has it not been developed, or even tested as a concept that I know of? Was there some show stopper technical problem, or just another good idea that never got traction?

Also, the discussion about EmDrive reminds me of your story “Tinker”, wherein the spaceship’s drive was electric. I believe you posited a nuclear generation system for the power needed. It seems that for EmDrive, if it truly is what we hope, nuclear is the way to go. You need power density for such a drive, if I understand the equations correctly.

I remember a painting, an illustration for a magazine article on the Dean Drive bask in those times, showing a US Navy nuclear submarine in orbit, after being equipped with the drive. Unlikely, yes, fanciful even, but something like that would be what is needed here. If you are going to slowly build up speed, even with high power density, you need a big ship for all those consumables you use up in two hundred days getting anywhere. This leads to a world where commerce and travel will be more like the Age of Sail on earth than the Jet Age. Interesting territory for story telling, but more so for the reality it would make possible of opening up the solar system to exploitation.

If launch costs to LEO could be got down to ten dollars a pound, and the EmDrive could get a ton to Mars or anywhere else in the inner system for about another ten dollars a pound, our biggest problem will be figuring out how to spend the wealth efficiently. Imagine if we found one asteroid with a few million tons of high grade copper ore for example?

What if there was one with a few thousand tons of gold, and we could build power grids with gold wires?

We live in interesting times.

Newt Gingrich should be NASA chief, and it should be upgraded to a full department and cabinet status. Newt might well be our own latter day Pepys.

Does a working EmDrive not have implications for our understanding of

mass and inertia? What do the physics boffins say?


Obviously this merits further testing. Any thrust without loss of mass is worth studying for proof of existence, then for means.


From the New York Times live interview with President Designate Trump

( ):

FRIEDMAN: Will you have a reset with Russia?

TRUMP: I wouldn’t use that term after what happened, you know, previously. I think — I would love to be able to get along with Russia and I think they’d like to be able to get along with us. It’s in our mutual interest. And I don’t go in with any preconceived notion, but I will tell you, I would say — when they used to say, during the campaign, Donald Trump loves Putin, Putin loves Donald Trump, I said, huh, wouldn’t it be nice, I’d say this in front of thousands of people, wouldn’t it be nice to actually report what they said, wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia, wouldn’t it be nice if we went after ISIS together, which is, by the way, aside from being dangerous, it’s very expensive, and ISIS shouldn’t have been even allowed to form, and the people will stand up and give me a massive hand. You know they thought it was bad that I was getting along with Putin or that I believe strongly if we can get along with Russia that’s a positive thing. It is a great thing that we can get along with not only Russia but that we get along with other countries.

I find this comforting; it is pretty close to what I would have said to the NYT were I about to become President; and I think Mr. Putin will find it reassuring. I said before the election that I agreed that Trump makes me nervous, but this interview makes me much less so.

Indeed, I found the entire interview interesting; I do not think Trump was dissembling; he said what he thinks. His views on Climate Change, as an example. He believes it is not settled and that the “consensus” is not as solid as is usually stated; and he is aware that at least part of the “consensus” was based on outright fraudulent interpretation of the data. He is also aware that windmills and other green gewgaw is not going to fix our energy problem. He is apparently open to rational arguments, which is about all I have ever asked.

This also from the transcript:

HABERMAN: And on torture? Where are you — and waterboarding?

TRUMP: So, I met with General Mattis, who is a very respected guy. In fact, I met with a number of other generals, they say he’s the finest there is. He is being seriously, seriously considered for secretary of defense, which is — I think it’s time maybe, it’s time for a general. Look at what’s going on. We don’t win, we can’t beat anybody, we don’t win anymore. At anything. We don’t win on the border, we don’t win with trade, we certainly don’t win with the military. General Mattis is a strong, highly dignified man. I met with him at length and I asked him that question. I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said — I was surprised — he said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful.’ He said, ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.’ And I was very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he’s known as being like the toughest guy. And when he said that, I’m not saying it changed my mind. [An earlier version made a mistake in transcription. Mr. Trump said “changed my mind,” not “changed my man.”] Look, we have people that are chopping off heads and drowning people in steel cages and we’re not allowed to waterboard. But I’ll tell you what, I was impressed by that answer. It certainly does not — it’s not going to make the kind of a difference that maybe a lot of people think. If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it. I would be guided by that. But General Mattis found it to be very less important, much less important than I thought he would say. I thought he would say — you know he’s known as Mad Dog Mattis, right? Mad Dog for a reason. I thought he’d say ‘It’s phenomenal, don’t lose it.’ He actually said, ‘No, give me some cigarettes and some drinks, and we’ll do better.’

Again, I find nothing to disagree with. I cannot say I would never use waterboarding for any purpose – the classic case is the ticking time bomb known to be in an unidentified crowded public place and a captive known to have put it there – would you use torture? It has been asked for centuries, and remained a moral dilemma when torture was physical, very painful, and often left permanent damage. Is that ever justified? There has never been unanimity on this question. Fortunately, I have never been Faced with this decision except in rhetoric. I hope none of you ever are. Mr. Trump speaks as a reasonable man who is faced with this decision.


The full transcript is above; of course some interpret it their way.

The media spin on President Elect Donald J. Trump’s sit down with the New York Times on November 22, can only be described as dishonest. Trump appears to soften stance on climate change & Donald Trump backflips on climate change & Trump on climate change in major U-turn

The ‘fake news’ that Trump had somehow moderated or changed his “global warming” views was not supported by the full transcript of the meeting.[snip]

[snip] Trump also told resident NYT warmist Tom Friedman: ‘A lot of smart people disagree with you’ on climate change. (Note: Friedman has some wacky views: Flashback 2009: NYT’s Tom Friedman lauds China’s eco-policies: ‘One party can just impose politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward’)

Once again, Trump was 100% accurate as very prominent scientists are bailing out of the so-called climate “consensus.”

Renowned Princeton Physicist Freeman Dyson: ‘I’m 100% Democrat and I like Obama. But he took the wrong side on climate issue, and the Republicans took the right side’

Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist Dr. Ivar Giaever, Who Endorsed Obama Now Says Prez. is ‘Ridiculous’ & ‘Dead Wrong’ on ‘Global Warming’

Green Guru James Lovelock reverses belief in ‘global warming’: Now says ‘I’m not sure the whole thing isn’t crazy’ – Condemns green movement: ‘It’s a religion really, It’s totally unscientific’

Politically Left Scientist Dissents – Calls President Obama ‘delusional’ on global warming [snip]

A consensus that doesn’t include Freeman Dyson is not a consensus.

‘Global warming’ hits Tokyo.  



Roland Dobbins


Trump’s pro common core pick (deconstructed?)

On her web site, Ms. Devos states that she personally supports strong local standards, but not Common Core, though she has belonged to or worked with organizations that supported Common Core.

You pays your money, you takes your chances.  But I find support both for charter schools and for common core to be unlikely.  We’ll see how it plays out.

Subj: Fwd: Trump’s pro common core pick

When it comes to arrogance, power, and lack of accountability, journalists are probably the only people on the planet who make lawyers look good.  Steven Brill


NPR: No More Live Interviews with Conservatives

NPR has some racialist coverage; I’m a long time listener because I try to sample the major propaganda flavors this country has to offer.

I don’t think “racist” is the correct word, however:


National Public Radio ombudsman/public editor Elizabeth Jensen has recommended that the taxpayer-funded radio news service bar future live interviews of conservatives who may have controversial views, following an interview Nov. 16 with Breitbart News’ Joel B. Pollak.

Pollak, who serves as Breitbart’s Senior Editor-at-Large and In-house Counsel, defended its Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon from false and defamatory claims of antisemitism and “white nationalism.” He also turned the tables, pointing out that NPR has “racist programming,”

including a story that called the 2016 election results “nostalgia for a whiter America.”

NPR listeners were apparently outraged that anyone from Breitbart News had been given an opportunity to defend the website and its chairman.

In her response, “Listeners: Two Recent Interviews Are ‘Normalizing Hate Speech’,” Jensen concluded that the live format had allowed Pollak to get the better of host Steve Inskeep.

She suggested that future interviews be taped: “In addition, in my opinion, these interviews should not be done live. Inskeep is an excellent live interviewer, but live interviews are difficult, especially when there is limited time. A little contextualizing never hurts.”


I find it disturbing the NPR would prefer taped interviews — presumably so NPR can filter these interviews and release them in an abridged format. If NPR’s hosts cannot stand on their logic and rhetoric then they would do well to hire more talented folks who can better prepare for their interviews and/or maintain a respectable command and grasp of critical thinking and rhetorical skills. After all, NPR is partially tax-payer funded — don’t we deserve better?

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Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

I believe NPR actually has taxpayer money support? Charter schools return local control to parents; Mr. Trump and Ms. Devos seem agreed on that.  From what I know of Trump he may well sponsor – even finance – a “demonstration” school to show how education can be done. Or perhaps Ms. Devos will. We know schools can be better.  I once proposed to the late Rev. Moon when his unification movement bought the University of Bridgeport that they open a demonstration school as part of the University Education department; but despite some enthusiasm from Mr. Moon, nothing came of it. Among other principles it would have featured my wife’s reading education program. That was long ago. My mother was a first grade teacher in rural Florida; when I asked if any pupils left first grade who had not learned to read, she said no, thought for a moment, and said “A few, but they didn’t learn anything else, either.” 

The concept of normal children unable to read after fourth grade was simply incomprehensible – as the Army discover during the World War II draft.  Conscripts unable to read were almost universally those who had not been to school at all (more common in the 30’s and 40’s).  Now we think it splendid if only 20 % of high school grades are illiterate.


We could build schools in DC as demonstrations that over 90% of children can learn to read in first grade.



Clinton in jail?

I certainly don’t think that Trump should follow through on his “threat” to put Clinton in jail. I would like him to put in his own people at FBI and DOJ, and make it clear to them: I want you to find out what really happened, and if there are really a dozen or whatever FBI investigators who thought there should be an indictment, and if there are other investigations on other Clinton issues/crimes. Do your jobs. I will back you up, and whatever you conclude will be made completely public. The facts will be put out where people can see them. No one is above the law, and no one is trying to do a witch hunt either. Do your jobs.

Best wishes,


You should be pleased to know that that is pretty close to what Mr. Trump told the New York Times.


President – Elect Trump’s ‘concessions’


    A long time ago, I read (probably on Chaos Manor) that a conservative votes for a candidate based on their belief that the candidate has a similar set of standards as they do, and that the candidate will make good choices when faced with problems. Then they leave them alone (for the most part) and let them govern. On the other hand, a liberal votes for a candidate because they believe the candidate will bend to the electorate’s will and change their mind along with the current emotional state of the electorate.

    I believe that is what we are seeing as Trump selects his cabinet and advisors, and adjusts his position based on new information.  Those who helped him get elected are not screaming and yelling because he isn’t toeing the line, but instead believe he is doing what he believes is right, and will give him the benefit of the doubt (of course there are some that won’t, but in general they will).

I’ve come to agree that is a key difference between liberals and conservatives.




The nature of dwarf stars and star formation via Birkeland Current, Herbig/Haro strings, and the most probable prehistory of our system (video)

Much better video than we’d had previously. Troy McLachlan put a lot of work into this item:



Words of Muslim American

This is worth reading and it’s worth noting this is an American speaking:


“The Prophet said: ‘There is no god but Allah,’ said Thbait. “Instead the [elites of Mecca] rejected. They offered the Prophet wealth, status, and political representation – a seat on the executive branch within Mecca’s secular order – all to avoid this statement and its implications. Yet he rejected their offers and continued his journey towards radical change, providing us with step-by-step instructions on how to make this religion supreme.”

“The elites of Mecca would use every possible measure to coerce or contain Muhammad’s call for change within specific parameters,” he added. “Those parameters would permit the changing of anything that did not threaten their system and infringe on their power. But this message is not here to integrate. It is here to dominate. Islam is here to dominate! This was an ideological struggle, the sole purpose of which was to organize Man’s affairs in accordance with a system revealed by Allah.”

“There was no room for compromise,” Thbait continued. “Instead Allah revealed to the Prophet, saying: ‘Proclaim openly, as commanded, and turn away from those who associate others with Allah.’ ‘Proclaim openly, as commanded by Allah’ – this is our activism. It is free of polytheism, the polytheism of a secular system. Activism within a flawed infidel system is forbidden.”


I wanted to make sure this wasn’t “fake news” so I confirmed it by looking at the video on Twitter;

Nothing surprising but worth noting.

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Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Truce and even alliance is permitted between true Muslims and unbelievers (including heretics). Peace is not permitted, although a long enough truce is perhaps indistinguishable from peace as a practical matter.




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



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