Thinking Like Dyson

Chaos Manor View, Wednesday, May 06, 2015

I worked on Lisabetta, an asteroid colony novel in collaboration with John DeChancie, so I don’t have a lot today. I continue to work on thinking about the unthinkable.


Thinking About the Unthinkable

Hi, Jerry:
Yes, it’s time to think about the unthinkable again. Once nukes were invented, they aren’t going to be un-invented, and sooner or later some tyrant will acquire them.
Maybe it’s time to update my 1988 book, A FIGHTING CHANCE, in which I applied Just War Doctrine to the use of nuclear weapons. New enemy, new set of circumstances, but the same old dilemmas.

Joseph P. Martino

There are very few of us who think about this left; a new team will have to learn.`



Dr. Pournelle,
I read ( that emdrive measured output is .00061183 tonnes (thrust) per 1 kw input. I get that as about a pound and a third thrust per one and a third horsepower input. I haven’t tried to look up comparative efficiency, but offhand, seems like one could do nearly as well with laser or plasma thrust.

But yet some thrust. Any is impossible or a major discovery.  I hasten to add that what’s left is easier to ex[plain as measurement error. But I can wish otherwise.


Carbon dioxide levels reach new global milestone

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY 10:59 a.m. EDT May 6, 2015

Worldwide atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, the gas scientists say is most responsible for global warming, surpassed 400 parts per million for the month of March, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday.

Though there have been readings this high before, this is the first time that global concentrations of the CO2 gas have averaged 400 ppm for an entire month. Measurements of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere began in the late 1950s.

“It was only a matter of time that we would average 400 parts per million globally,” Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said in a statement. “Reaching 400 parts per million as a global average is a significant milestone.”

The burning of the oil, gas and coal that provides the energy for our world releases “greenhouse” gases such as CO2 and methane. These extra gases have caused the Earth’s temperature to rise over the past century to levels that cannot be explained by natural variability.

The last time that carbon dioxide reached 400 ppm was millions of years ago. How do we know this?

Scientists can analyze the gases trapped in ice to reconstruct what climate was like in prehistory, but that record only goes back 800,000 years, according to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

It’s harder to estimate carbon dioxide levels before then, but in 2009, one research team reported in the journal Nature Geoscience that it had found evidence of CO2 levels that ranged from 365 to 415 ppm roughly 4.5 million years ago.

CO2 levels were around 280 ppm prior to the Industrial Revolution, when we first began releasing large amounts into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels.

Carbon dioxide is invisible, odorless, and colorless, yet it’s responsible for 63% of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases, according to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.


: Freeman Dyson

“I’m just saying I don’t understand it and neither does anybody else.

“I’m skeptical because I don’t think the science is at all clear, and unfortunately a lot of the experts really believe they understand it, and maybe have the wrong answer.

“Of course [the weather] concerns me, but of course, we don’t know much about the causes of those things. We don’t even know for sure whether it is more variable than it used to be. I mean the worst disasters were the Ice Ages, and nobody really understands for sure the causes of Ice Ages, so I’m not saying the climate disasters aren’t real, I’m merely saying we don’t know how to prevent them.”

L May

I see that Dyson and I are saying the same thing; I feel vindicated.


Jade Helm 15.



Roland Dobbins



Once upon a time, the Emperor hosted a banquet. Some of his guests dined with cutlery and plates made of gold; but his most honored guests dined with cutlery and plates made of a metal even rarer than gold; element 13, known as Aluminum.

After the banquet, the servants piled the gold and aluminum plates in the kitchen sink; and there gold whispered to aluminum, “How does it feel to be one of the valuable metals?”

Aluminum said, “But valued for what? My lightness? My strength? My ductility? My protective oxide coating? No, just my rareness!”

Gold said, “What more do you need? Look at me! Who cares that I’m ductile, nonreactive and conductive? I’m rare, so I rule the world!”

Aluminum said, “That’s not what I want.”

Thirty years later electrochemists learned how to extract aluminum from bauxite cheaply by the tonne. A century later a railway worker laid his gold retirement watch next to a can of beer. There gold whispered to aluminum, “They have cheapened you.”

Aluminum said, “Yes! I am beer cans, baseball bats, lawn chairs, airplanes and foil! They use me, they use me up, I am everywhere!”

Gold said, “You are common. You are worthless.

Aluminum said, “I am useful! And they love me for what I am!”

Gold started to weep.

Aluminum said, “There, there, someday you too will be cheap…”

Moral: Better to serve than to reign.



Patent Reform Won’t Hurt Professors

University patent programs lock up publicly funded research—and don’t motivate faculty.   (journal)


Brian J. Love

May 3, 2015 5:38 p.m. ET

This could be the year that Congress finally passes patent reform. Last week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Patent Act, a bill designed to reduce the number of patent lawsuits filed to collect nuisance settlements. The bill’s companion in the House, the Innovation Act, passed that chamber in 2013 with White House support but stalled in the Senate; it was reintroduced in February by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.).

The substance of these bills has drawn strong opposition from an unlikely group: university administrators. A steady stream of statements and op-eds decry the bill as likely to, in the words of a recent letter to congressional leaders signed by 145 universities, “weaken our overall patent system and hinder the flow of groundbreaking advances from university research to the private sector.”

Given the strident tone of these appeals, it might surprise you to learn that university professors—those actually conducting the allegedly threatened research—disagree. Surveys of academic researchers suggest that professors in both life sciences and high tech generally oppose their universities’ efforts to patent the fruits of their research.

In a survey of electrical engineering and computer science professors that I published last year, respondents said that patenting efforts stymie their ability to attract funding, impede collaboration across institutions, slow the dissemination of discoveries, and provide at best a modest benefit to their efforts to commercialize their inventions. Only about 10% of professors said that patent rights motivate them to carry out more or better research.

Indeed, university patents often stifle, rather than promote, innovation and commercialization. In biotech, for example, patents held by Myriad Genetics, a spin off of the University of Utah, reduced the availability of diagnostic tests for hereditary breast cancer before those rights were effectively eliminated by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Many also believe that patent rights held by the University of Wisconsin slowed the development of human embryonic stem-cell therapies by requiring large royalties for virtually any commercial research in that field.

In high tech, a number of universities and their spin offs have filed lawsuits en masse against tech companies that didn’t copy university research, but rather independently developed similar technology and brought it to market—thereby achieving precisely the outcome universities say they want to facilitate with their patents. In 2013 Boston University filed lawsuits against 39 consumer-electronics manufacturers including Apple, Samsung,Hewlett-Packard,Amazon and Microsoft,alleging infringement of a patent filed way back in 1997 for a method of producing blue LEDs.

Actions like these suggest that administrators’ core concerns are about money, not the dissemination of research. The public might be able to stomach this, particularly given the lack of funding for higher ed, if patenting made money for universities. But multiple studies have concluded that though a few elite institutions turn profit on patents, most do not. A 2013 report by the Brookings Institution estimated that tech licensing programs at 130 of the 155 universities studied failed to break even.

The fact that most university research is publicly funded adds an additional ethical quandary. In addition to being unprofitable and unpopular, university patent programs routinely take technological know-how resulting from taxpayer-financed research and lock that knowledge away for up to 20 years from the public that paid for its creation.

The debate worth having isn’t about whether university patent rights are strong enough to suit the wishes of those running the existing system. What would be more productive is a discussion about when, and perhaps whether, it makes sense for universities to seek patents at all.

Mr. Love is an assistant professor of law and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.














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




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