The Fall of Saigon; Extraordinary Claims give extraordinary hopes; Science and Statistics

Chaos Manor View Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I continue to train my Dragon; but it is a slow job, and it is my turn to take a pass through a book with Niven and Barnes, and another with DeChancie. I have much to do.

I don’t seem to understand how to get Dragon Naturally Speaking to actually edit anything.  I don’s seem to be able to turn it on.



The anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the consequent death of about a million people who thought the United States would protect them. The end of American credibility: not only did Kennedy allow the assassination of the man who invited his help, but when Viet Nam was invaded by three army corps with armor and other weapons from Russia, the Democratic majority Congress abandoned our allies, and we had the shameful scene of pushing helicopters off the deck of a carrier to make room for more.

Viet Nam was not a civil war. The insurgent movement was defeated. Then in 1972 the North sent down 150,000 men with as much armor as the Wehrmacht sent into France, The Army of the Republic of Viet Nam – ARVN – with US air and materiel support destroyed the enemy. Fewer than 50,000 returned north. US casualties were under a thousand, in a battle larger than most in World War II. It was no civil war; it was an invasion from the North; and it was defeated by ARVN, with little US ground support and few American casualties. It was victory.

Of course we do not celebrate victory in Viet Nam.

When the North built a new army and sent it south, the Democrats of the Congress denied all air support, and voted materiel support of twenty (20) cartridges and two (2) hand grenades per ARVN soldier. Accordingly and predictably Saigon fell and the War ended with a North Viet Nam victory. Executions, reeducation camps, boat people and other refugees accordingly followed; and the dominoes fell in the killing fields of Cambodia.

The Democratic Party does not celebrate this victory, but it is all theirs; and the myth that the USA was defeated by Viet Cong guerrillas grows and grows.

And the one certain lesson of the fall of Saigon is that you cannot trust the United States to defend you no matter how much blood and treasure has been spent, or how little will be needed: US politics trump any national commitment. It was not always so.


For more see

On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War Paperback – June 1, 1995

by Harry G. Summers (Author)


There Will Be War seems to be selling well considering its age.


I have not much followed the controversy over the Hugo’s, the most important of the fan SF awards, but there seems a fair summary at:


Is the Universe a Hologram?


Roland Dobbins

Probably not but it makes for interesting story ideas. As does:

NASA EM drive

Dear Dr. Pournelle;
I know it’s early days yet, but this is looking more and more promising.
E. Gilmer

This is one of several messages I have on this; I am looking for comment by readers with far more expertise than I have. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and we do have that for something as extraordinary as faster than light travel; yet we do have some evidence pointing to that possibility.

Warp four, Mr. Sulu …


Wireless range

Dear Jerry,
Glad to see you are getting better, and also to see the re-release of the There Will be War series. I bought the early books, but life got in the way.
On the report that 900 MHz phones have greater range than more modern ones, that’s a result of the lower frequency. RF signals will be absorbed by most anything, but the higher the frequency, the quicker the absorption. This implies that 4.8 GHz wireless could be problematic where 2.4 GHz equipment could work. This makes me wish I still had my 49 MHz wireless phone at times…
P Brooks

I can report that the Panasonic cordless with the range extender discussed yesterday works fine, even in this old house with plaster walls..


Ebola cure via cows?

Charles Brumbelow=


More on the demise of science (in this case, Physics)

Hello Jerry,

You should spend some of your copious spare time in rummaging around Dr. Mike McCulloch’s blog, where he spends a good deal of time cataloging the growing tendency of ‘science’ to modify the universe to force the universe to behave in accordance with ‘settled scientific theory’.

In his latest:

he describes the difficulties that the world’s experts in the field have experienced in measuring the universal gravitational ‘constant’, G. 

The experts have simply postulated, as an axiom (Newton’s LAW, you understand), that G is in fact constant for all observers, everywhere, and set about measuring it.  When faced with experimental data showing variations in G over time of several times the supposed experimental error, they simply average their values and declare THAT to be ‘G’, instead of contemplating the possibility that ‘G’ is NOT constant and setting about determining how and under what circumstances it varies. 

Now I have no idea whether Dr. McCulloch’s pet theory (MiHsC) is right or not, but I absolutely admire him for his willingness to go where the data points and, like him, am appalled by the current mindset of generic ‘science’ which forces ALL observations to conform to current theory, rather than modifying current theory to explain anomalous observations which do not conform to theory.

Bob Ludwick

Hello Jerry,

I just sent you an email with a link to one of Dr. McCulloch’s blog posts.  It is on the subject and worth reading, but his last post from yesterday about the observed variability in ‘G’, which inspired the email, is actually this one:

Sorry about the mixup.

Bob Ludwick

We will hear more on this another time. Much modern science – especially the social sciences – is contaminated by misleading statistics, and many hard scientists have never learned the basics of statistical inference.

Lie Detectors and Statistical Dragnets

Years ago I read an essay by Oliver Sacks in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, which described a group of mentally infirm patients who would laugh whenever someone lied. It was something like a disconnect between what they saw in the face and what they heard the fellow saying. I suppose I could dig it up and refresh; but ever since I have this vision of a secret department in the CIA in which a group of mental patients are kept to watch tapes of foreign dignitaries making assurances……
The problem with data dredging in Big Data is what K. Ishikawa once said: “A flying crow always catches something.” Suppose you had a sample of patients and you examined them for a set of ten risk factors and ten diseases, and then conducted a series of tests for association at the alpha risk of 1%. (This is more stringent than the usual 5% level.)  The odds are almost certain that at least one of the hundred combinations will show a spurious positive.
Recall Kepler searching through Tycho’s data at the dawn of the Modern Ages — or Watson and Crick searching through Franklin’s data at the dusk — searching for that one geometry that would make sense of the whole mess. Aha, it’s an ellipse! Aha, it’s a double helix! Now imagine that the number of observations or radiographs are thousands of times larger. When the cost of collecting data is low, vast amounts will be collected — bad data as well as good. But there is so much of it that it is too costly to search for the bad measurements and edit and correct them. What hope of finding ellipses or double helices in the underbrush? So we resort to automatic correction algorithms, which is never a good idea: A measurement may be bad for a variety of reasons and require different kinds of corrections. Overfitted models can be improved through principle component analysis, but mathematical precision is purchased at the price of intelligibility: Y=f(Zi), but the Z-components don’t correspond to the actual measured X-variables. The fit is heuristic, not physical.
Big Data may be the death of Modern Science: that is, of finding theories in a mess of data.


And to climate scientist “peers” the models are more important than the evidence.


Lockheed Martin’s new Compact Fusion Reactor might change humanity forever

This is an invention that might possibly modify the civilization as we know it: A compact fusion reactor presented by Skunk Works, the stealth experimental technology section of Lockheed Martin. It’s about the size of a jet engine and it can power airplanes, most likely spaceships, and cities. Skunk Works state that it will be operational in 10 years. Aviation Week had complete access to their stealthy workshops and spoke to Dr. Thomas McGuire, the leader of Skunk Work’s Revolutionary Technology section. And ground-breaking it is, certainly: Instead of utilizing the similar strategy that everyone else is using— the Soviet-derived tokomak, a torus in which magnetic fields limit the fusion reaction with a enormous energy cost and thus tiny energy production abilities—Skunk Works’ Compact Fusion Reactor has a fundamentally different methodology to anything people have tried before. Here are the two of those techniques for contrast:


The old-style Soviet tokomak scheme of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, a huge system being constructed in France.


The Skunk Works’ recent compact fusion reactor design.

The crucial point in the Skunk Works arrangement is their tube-like design, which permits them to avoid one of the boundaries of usual fusion reactor designs, which are very restricted in the sum of plasma they can sustain, which makes them giant in size—like the gigantic International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. According to McGuire:

“The traditional tokomak designs can only hold so much plasma, and we call that the beta limit. Their plasma ratio is 5% or so of the confining pressure. We should be able to go to 100% or beyond.”

This design lets it to be 10 times smaller at the same power output of somewhat like the ITER, which is anticipated to produce 500 MW in the 2020s. This is essential for the use of fusion in all kind of uses, not only in huge, costly power plants. Skunk Works is committed that their structure—which will be only the size of a jet engine—will be capable enough to power almost everything, from spacecraft to airplanes to vessels—and obviously scale up to a much bigger size. McGuire also claims that at the size of the ITER, it will be able to produce 10 times more energy.

The one thing here to remind everyone is that Lockheed Martin is not a stupid dude working in a garage. It’s one of the world’s major aerospace and military corporations. McGuire also understands that they are just starting now, but he says that the architecture of this compact fusion reactor is sound and they will progress rapidly until its final operation in just a decade:

I remind you that the skunk works managed to eat all the $billions of X-33 money and did not produce a single x-plane; one the most spectacular failures of the x program since we learned nothing from it that high school solid geometry students did not know. There are still good people at Lockheed but it is not what it once was.


EU investigation of Google

the article you quoted talks about Google ‘seizing control of the opensource ecosystem’ from the manufacturers.
It conveniently ignores how those same manufacturers have been leaving customers in a lurch by locking down phones so they can’t be upgraded without the manufacturers assistance (and then not releasing any updates), loading down the phones with unremovable bloatware, etc..
I’m not saying that Google is entirely in the right, but the article was rather biased

David Lang


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




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