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Mail 502 January 21 - 27, 2008







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Monday  January 21, 2008

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

The first story needs a little background. The Government promised to increase investment in higher education last October, but now it is proposing to fund the increased investment by finding savings of double that amount in the budget for that area. This includes eliminating programme funding for students studying for second degrees. So far, they've identified half the proposed cuts. The next result is a major budget cut. This is typical Gordon Brown sleight of hand.

So, increasing the investment by cutting the budget:


> <http://tinyurl.com/2p3p7l>

I flew on one of these to Shang-hai and back last November:

<http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2243676,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2sspfh >


> <http://tinyurl.com/2zfvd4> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/transport/article3347977.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/2yrd9v>

<http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/transport/article3347978.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/2fw8ce >

<http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3216746.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/2qz5u2 >


<http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/transport/article3353773.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/yscld8 >

Home secretary Jacqui Smith fears walking on the streets of London at



<http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3216678.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/2p8amg >

<http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article3353761.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/3467zd >


> <http://tinyurl.com/372yu8>

I suspect this proposal will cost one or two teachers per school:


<http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2243718,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/36kffo >

<http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2243671,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2rwjjg >

Is this fair to the healthy students?


> <http://tinyurl.com/2boema>

Other European news:



<http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3216680.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/2jjd7n >


> <http://tinyurl.com/22l34j>

Biofuels doing more harm than good:


> <http://tinyurl.com/2mxl5y>


Harry Erwin, PhD

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Benjamin Franklin, 1755)


The Administrator has no clothes


"I hope no one was so ill-informed as to believe that we would be able to develop a system to replace the shuttle without facing any challenges in doing so," NASA administrator Michael Griffin said in a statement to The Associated Press. "NASA has an excellent track record of resolving technical challenges. We're confident we'll solve this one as well."

Professor Jorge Arenas of the Institute of Acoustics in Valdivia, Chile, acknowledged that the problem was serious but said: "NASA has developed one of the safest and risk- controlled space programs in engineering history."



Subj: NASA: Shuttle replacement Ares has little vibration problem


>>NASA engineers characterized the shaking as being in what the agency considers the "red zone" of risk, ranking a five on a 1-to-5 scale of severity. "It's highly likely to happen and if it does, it's a disaster," said Fischbeck, an expert in engineering risks.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Subj: Neurosci: Scans show culture fundamentally alters the brain


>> An fMRI study led by John Gabrieli found that people from different cultures use their brains differently to solve the same visual perceptual tasks. <<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Massive volcano exploded under Antarctic icesheet, study finds 

Interesting: This article:


Says, among other things, that:

The eruption occurred close to the massive Pine Island Glacier, an area where movement of glacial ice towards the sea has been accelerating alarmingly in recent decades.

"It may be possible that heat from the volcano has caused some of that acceleration," says BAS professor David Vaughan, who stresses though that global warming is by far the greater likelier cause.

Volcanic heat "cannot explain the more widespread thinning of West Antarctic glaciers that together are contributing nearly 0.2mm (0.008 of an inch) per year to sea-level rise," he adds.

So the oceans are rising at a rate of eight-thousandths of an inch per annum? So in one-hundred and twenty years the oceans will have risen one inch? Oh, and "some" of that inch rise in the next one-hundred twenty years will be from this volcano underneath the ice sheet the article tells of? "Global warming is "the greater likelier cause". Greater likelier? Interesting usage there. Greater likelier. This is science?


But wasn\'t it supposed to be "virtually certain" that the oceans would rise ten feet in the next century? Did I miss something somewhere?

Has anyone told Al Gore about -this- "Inconvenient Truth"?

Eight-thousandths of an inch. I think that ought to be on a button we can all wear.


The actual scientists on the UN committee did not predict ten feet or even ten inches of sea rise. Those alarming numbers were taken from a few theorists and inserted in the report without the knowledge of consent of the actual scientific committee charged with drafting a consensus document.

If I wanted to heat water, I think I would rely on applying heat under the water instead of blowing warm air over its surface. The Earth surface is mostly water. To raise the Earth's temperature you have to heat the water.

I note that National Geographic is (1) saying that crocodiles have been more or less unchanged for 100 million years, and (2) are now endangered by global warming of a few degrees. I find that fascinating.


Subject: Bush economy

"Bush has managed to bring us both Depression and War"

Depression? I think a little perspective is needed here.

Here's a chart of the DOW over the past five years of the Bush administration:


You can change the parameters there to see a full decade.

The DOW "crashed" to 12,099 on Friday. It would have to drop another 376 points before it dropped to the "record" dot.com level it was at in 2000 (11,723).

Unemployment rate is at 5 percent. Through most of my adult life this number would have been considered "full" employment.

There are, right now, almost six million MORE payroll jobs than there were at the employment peak of the 90's growth in early 2001.

Anybody looking at long-term charts of housing prices knew things were going nuts a long time ago. I'm sorry people refinanced to the hilt without knowing what they were doing, but this correction was long overdue.

I think this will all ride out fairly quietly, assuming the government doesn't pull any more stupid stuff. Like deciding that another five tons of regulations was exactly what the drowning American auto industry needed, or that the way to stimulate our economy is to pass out wads of taxpayer cash so people can buy consumer products from China and Japan. You know, a lot of people seem to have forgotten that when Keynes was promoting his ideas, the things Americans bought were mostly made in America.

Some of this is a media-engineered panic to try and make the economy the major election focus. It's been done before.

Tom Brosz

You are of course correct. We have not yet got to Recession, but less Depression. My remarks were exaggerated. On the other hand, the fundamental signs are not good. It may be that we will wake up.

But I would feel better if we were mostly buying things we make here.


Subject: cell phone radiation 



<snip> According to a report in the British newspaper The Independent, sweeping new research has linked the radiation emitted by mobile phones to such symptoms as confusion, sleeping problems and chronic headaches. Scientists studying 35 men and 35 women found that using the phones before bed delays and shortens the deep stages of sleep—the part of sleep that allows the brain and body to repair and rejuvenate from the day's wear and tear, The Independent reported. <snip>

What was particularly bothersome, and perhaps ironic, is that the article had advertisements for cell phones / cell phone services hyperlinked to the word "phones" each time it occurred in the article, such that they popped up on mouse roll-over without clicking.


I haven't been using cell phones much. I generally don't...


Subj: Secret Military History Of Silicon Valley


>>[I]n a seminar given back on December 18th on the Google campus, entrepreneur and lecturer Steve Blank explained how the valley was born from billions of dollars worth of signals intelligence contracts from World War II and into the 1960s.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

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Tuesday,  January 22, 2008

Kipling, regarding unit cohesion

Armed with imperfect knowledge, cursed with the rudiments of an imagination, hampered by the intense selfishness of the lower classes, and unsupported by any regimental associations, this young man is suddenly introduced to an enemy who in eastern lands is always ugly, generally tall and hairy, and frequently noisy. If he looks to the right and the left and sees old soldiers—men of twelve years' service, who, he knows, know what they are about—taking a charge, rush, or demonstration without embarrassment, he is consoled and applies his shoulder to the butt of his rifle with a stout heart. His peace is the greater if he hears a senior, who has taught him his soldiering and broken his head on occasion, whispering: "They’ll shout and carry on like this for five minutes. Then they’ll rush in, and then we’ve got ’em by the short hairs!"

But, on the other hand, if he sees only men of his own term of service, turning white and playing with their triggers and saying: "What the Hell's up now?" while the Company Commanders are sweating into their sword-hilts and shouting: "Front rank, fix bayonets. Steady there—steady! Sight for three hundred—no, for five! Lie down, all! Steady! Front rank kneel!" and so forth, he becomes unhappy, and grows acutely miserable when he hears a comrade turn over with the rattle of fire-irons falling into the fender, and the grunt of a pole-axed ox. If he can be moved about a little and allowed to watch the effect of his own fire on the enemy he feels merrier, and may be then worked up to the blind passion of fighting, which is, contrary to general belief, controlled by a chilly Devil and shakes men like ague. If he is not moved about, and begins to feel cold at the pit of the stomach, and in that crisis is badly mauled and hears orders that were never given, he will break, and he will break badly, and of all things under the light of the Sun there is nothing more terrible than a broken British regiment. When the worst comes to the worst and the panic is really epidemic, the men must be e'en let go, and the Company Commanders had better escape to the enemy and stay there for safety's sake. If they can be made to come again they are not pleasant men to meet; because they will not break twice.

-- Rudyard Kipling, "The Drums of the Fore and Fit"

Mike Flynn

Fore and fit! More like Fore and Aft!  When I was 10 years old I heard that story read on Saturday morning radio and became a Kipling fan.


1988 War College report on unit cohesion - 



This links to a PDF of a report from the U.S. Army War College (dating to 1988) discussing the merits of the Cohesion Operational Readiness and Training (COHORT) system.

Nothing earth-shattering, but the bibliography has given me additions to the ever-growing list of things to read, particularly, "Cohesion and Disintegration in the Wehrmacht" in World War II.

Note the irresistible appeal of the contrived acronym COHORT.

Unfortunately, the PDF is a scan rather than search-able text.



Unit cohesion in the Vietnam era

Dear Jerry:

I agree that unit cohesion is the glue that keeps armies together. That comes from my own experiences in the Army between 1967 and 1971. The run-up to the Vietnam war created a lot of opportunities to do it wrong. My basic training unit at Fort Leonard Wood was a case in point. That cycle was mostly made up of men from the Iowa National Guard, all of whom were very proud of themselves of having found a safe easy way to avoid the War. I found out years later that the drill instructors had made a devil's bargain themselves. They were not experienced in combat or even the army, but selected from Basic Training themselves, given an A.I.T. course in how to be a drill instructor and set to abusing their betters. For this they were promised that they too would never go to Vietnam. Most were draftees. I'm sure that plan looked good on paper. It was not until Benny Bowman joined us mid-cycle that we had a drill instructor worthy of the name. He came to us from the Army Pistol Team in Germany and had been in for 17 years and he was everything they were not. They had encouraged two of the platoon trainee leaders to "motivate" those under their control with a little frat boy hazing, including some beatings in the bathrooms after midnight. When this all came out, they were given courts martial and those drill instructors and the company commander got Article 15s. (Should have been the other way around in my opinion.) Needless to say the four Army Security Agency volunteers in that company of 200 were not impressed. All of us were offered the opportunity to escape the possibility of Vietnam by becoming company clerks and politely but firmly declined. Officially ASA wasn't in Vietnam anyway even though the first guy killed there was one of ours. Benny Bowman alone couldn't cure the problem, although he tried. (Do you really think it a good idea, Sergeant, to scream in that man's ear when he has a loaded weapon in his hand?)

Motivating by bullying did seem to be the order of the day, even at Fort Devens. We marched to class and we marched back. The rest of the time we trained. One day, an officer, seeing our sloppy performance, became enraged, got out of his car, took control of the formation and double timed us, not just to our destination, but around the parade ground first. This was not instruction but mass punishment. The result was that not much training got done at all that day since the men were too tired and distracted. (One of the training sergeants sent this officer a box of Tampons, and there were no more episodes of this kind.) The casual company pulled KP duty for the entire brigade. These were the men who were awaiting clearances or who had finished school and were awaiting orders. Good in theory, but disastrous in practice. These were 14 hour days seeming without end and some ended up on KP for 40 or even 60 days straight, in violation of Army Regulations and common sense. I witnessed one suicide attempt and there were others rumored. This did tend to lower morale in the ranks, especially if you were going to Vietnam -- which I was.

My unit in Vietnam was a hastily assembled composite, part ASA and part cast offs from the regular army sent to us (Oh good! A levy! Now I can get rid of my drunken motor pool sergeant.) I am sure that those Regular Army guys were flattered to have been selected for Military Intelligence, because it was certain that none of them would have been selected if they had applied. But they filled slots and ASA had slots to fill; so much so that our all volunteer outfit was sent draftees to fill clerks jobs at Headquarters in Frankfurt in 1970. Mine new guy was a nice enough kid, except he didn't want to be in the Army, hadn't finished high school and didn't type. He learned that at least.

Looking back these were all symptoms of the shortcuts necessary when an Army grows too fast and relies upon human capital that is conscript, unwilling and unqualified. ASA has standards for IQ that ensured that everyone, even the cooks and the drivers, were fairly smart people. That degraded real fast in Vietnam and there were social divisions that were never surmounted. Therefore unit cohesion was impossible to attain. In Frankfurt, we all knew each other, some from Basic Training on, and there was bonding. (I found it very useful as General Staff NCO to have fields at subordinate units who would alert me to problems long before they appeared on the Chain of Command docket.)

In combat, as S.L.A. Marshall wrote, men do not die for their unit or their country, but so that they don't let their friends down. We need to grow the Army again, but we must do it carefully and slowly.


Francis Hamit

We know how to build Legions. We don't always do it.



Ares vibrations, NASA and Saturn V 

RE: The reports of vibration problems with the design of the Ares I launch vehicle of NASA:

This is similar to the "pogoing" problems with the Saturn V moon rocket on its' second launch (April 4, 1968).


"1. Two minutes and five seconds after launch the whole vehicle developed a lengthwise oscillation like a pogo stick, which if severe enough, could destroy it."

"More than a thousand engineers and technicians ferreted out the causes of the problems from the miles of recorded data, as all the hardware was lost in space. Reliable solutions to all three problems were found."

Just thought it only fair to point out that NASA has faced a similar problem before, that time not with a planned design but wiah an actual flying piece of hardware, and solved it quickly enough that less than a year after said problem was identified the Saturn V flew astronauts to the moon (Apollo 8), and within sixteen months to the first lunar landing (Apollo 11).

Having said so, I must point out "that was then...", and that NASA is gone.

As to why by all the Blue Demons NASA is sticking with solid rockets for its' heavy lift and manned launchers after the shuttle experience with them:

It's like Henry Ford going back to a steam engine for fhe Model T. Typical bureaucracy. We could build a Saturn V clone with modern composites that could easily put 100,000 KG into LEO, or 25,000 KG on the moon. Probably twice that. But there's no Bureaucratic Glory in doing better what Von Braun and his team did once. Better to reinvent the wheel a third time and then play Russian Roulette with O-Rings and who knows what else every time we "light the candle".



Delendam Esse NASA!

On a personal note: You have my prayers for your full and complete recovery. Hang in there.



About a week ago, Russia was talking like this, and now:

Pre-emptive nuclear strike a key option, Nato told



As I'm reading this, I'm struck by two obvious thoughts. The minor one (and that this *is* "minor" compared to the other, reveals how *major* the other one is), is that it's not looking good for Nato. Like, maybe, they're angling for an "orderly dismantling" of the organization -- *before* the inevitable demographics of Europe turn it into a virtual (if not actual!) Caliphate proprietary.

I keep reading, and then notice that *they* are discussing "the dissolution of Nato." OK, got it.

The *main* thing, though, is the topic ref'd in the title.



 Robert Cooper, an influential shaper of European foreign and security policy in Brussels, said he was "puzzled".

"Maybe we are going to use nuclear weapons before anyone else, but I'd be wary of saying it out loud."


No, *really*?


OK, but they *are* "saying it out loud" -- so what may we take from this? Well, for one thing, these guys are the consumate politicos -- and this kind of talk will *not* play well at home.

So, first thing we can conclude is that it's *not* FOR the "at home" audience. That means it's for some *other* audience.


They're not saying. But naturally, The Caliphate would seem a likely candidate.

Next, we can conclude that there is perceived to be a rather pressing need to rattle this particular saber -- and to rattle it this loudly. You don't roll out the big guns on whim. That they *are* engaging in the kind of talk that will make blood "back home" run cold, indicates that they consider the threat posed by "the intended audience" to be palpable, and imminent.

This does not bode well for civilization. None of it.

IMO, of course.


Naumann suggested the threat of nuclear attack was a counsel of desperation. "Proliferation is spreading and we have not too many options to stop it. We don't know how to deal with this." =====


Well, that seems to narrow it down a bit, without actually naming names.



Thumb, meet eye?

Oops, sorry. I meant, "Eye, meet thumbskii."

That Pooty-poot is turning out to be one nekulturny sumbitchskii. 

Russian bombers to test-fire missiles in Bay of Biscay

= = =


Next ratchet-up will be off the east coast of N.A., I expect.

This kind of crap can easily go awry...

-- Photos: http://www.michi-kogaku.com/picsdir 

Modern "Privacy": "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."


Suggestion: Watch "Cabaret!" (It's a documentary, not a musical; a portrait of the end-game of a decadent culture.)




January 21, 2008 -- The city's efforts to reform its middle schools and close the racial achievement gap haven't made the grade: Black and Latino eighth-graders still lag far behind their white classmates, according to a critical new report.

A coalition of parents and community groups behind the report is calling on education officials to take urgent measures to address what they call a "middle-school crisis."

At a rally today, scheduled to coincide with the report's release on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the group, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, is set to propose three immediate remedies for the city's 200 lowest-performing middle schools.

Their suggestions include adding 90 minutes of academic and enrichment time per school day, implementing targeted training and incentive programs for teachers, and increasing academic, social and emotional supports for students.

The report uses state and national test data to show that the city's black and Latino eighth-graders have fallen further behind their white peers in reading proficiency between 2003 and 2006-07.


Subj: Secret Military History Of Silicon Valley


>>[I]n a seminar given back on December 18th on the Google campus, entrepreneur and lecturer Steve Blank explained how the valley was born from billions of dollars worth of signals intelligence contracts from World War II and into the 1960s.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


For what it's worth, the subscription to your site is the only money I spend on anything Internet, except what I pay my ISP for access - I subscribed to Byte before, but they went free on me without warning or refund, and anyway I only did it for your columns so I followed them to their new home. But while I originally subscribed to your site because of the Chaos Manor Reviews, I have found your site to be the only place for rational discussion in the Web; while there are other interesting sources of information and comment, yours is the only one that is not a monologue - the contributions from readers are a very important part of what makes your site worth reading, and this is clearly due to your moderating and editing work (at least, it is clear to anyone who has tried to read non-moderated comments). When I have some free time to spend in the Internet, I usually go to your site and just follow the links. There is always something useful and interesting to be found this way, and I hope you stay interested in the work for many years.



Thank you. It's a lot of work. Letters like yours make that worth while.



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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

England & walking pets on leashes


There are far too many good quotes in this to excerpt any single one of them.

Kent Peterson 

"... there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past ..." - Ray Bradbury, _The Martian Chronicles_



I know you don't often read VIN SUPRYNOWICZ, but...

This link might provide a worthwhile exception.


"A letter-writer recently objected that I [VIN SUPRYNOWICZ] used great libertarian Rose Wilder Lane as a "sole source" for the fact that American schooling was taken over, in the late 19th century, by statists enamored of the Prussian compulsion model, aiming to create a docile peasant class by crippling the American intellect -- making reading seem real hard, for starters, by replacing the old system in which delighted kids learned to combine the sounds of the Roman letters, with a perverted "whole word" method better suited to decoding hieroglyphics.

"In July 1991, John Taylor Gatto, New York's Teacher of the Year, quit, saying he was tired of working for an institution that crippled the ability of children to learn. He explained why in an essay published that month in The Wall Street Journal."

"Citing the 1993 National Adult Literacy Survey, Gatto in his book "Underground History of American Education," reports only 3.5 percent of Americans are literate enough today "to do traditional college study, a level 30 percent of all U.S. high school students reached in 1940, and which 30 percent of secondary students in other developed countries can reach today."

"This month, that majority is choosing our presidential candidates based on who looks better on TV."

Arguably the most visible effect of the "who looks better on TV" school of voting was the election of JFK rather than RMN in 1960, which created a lot of "what if" scenarios about roads not taken.

Charles Brumbelow

I am not an enemy of the locally controlled public school, just as I am not an enemy of universal manhood conscription. It is good for a republic to have the social classes mix. Catholic schools do as good a job of that as public schools, or did when I was in First Grade. My family was from the ruined old aristocracy, now solidly middle class, dependent on my father's salary. Next to me was the scion of the noveau riche  family that owned the Coca Cola franchise. In the seat ahead of me was a boy perhaps ten years old, still in first grade, an amiable giant who became my best friend. Most of my classmates were middle class suburbanites but there were also Italian truck gardener children. There were two grades in a room.

When we moved to Capleville the consolidated school, also two grades to a room, was the only school available. Once again there were the rich and the poor, farmers and intellectuals, a complete mix of rural Shelby County. Of course I went to high school at Christian Brothers, which was considered the college prep high school; most CBC students went on to college as a matter of course. Catholic High, run by Jesuits, did not sent 20% of its student on to higher education. The city of Memphis had a school system that was similar. Central High was the college prep high school, while the local neighborhood high schools were "terminal", in that most of the graduates got jobs or got married soon after graduation. Memphis had a third alternative: there was Memphis Tech, which taught drafting and wood and metal shop, and was considered a good place to have come from if you wanted any kind of technical job that didn't require calculus.

So long as local schools are locally controlled, and raise their fund locally -- that is, transparency and accountability are preserved, those who spend the money control what is done with the money -- the public schools will not become the enemy of the republic. I am not at all sure that today's centrally controlled schools funded by the states, hell bent to keep up attendance and leave no child behind, are responsibly to anyone at all. They are like the Golem created to defend a community but which terrorizes it, answering to no one. And no child left behind means that no child gets ahead.

Interestingly, I have found few intellectual communities including the national security bureaucracy who dispute that assessment of the school system. In the Homeland Security conference last week, a high ranking California homeland security official said "We are faced with an increasing requirement for technically competent employees while our schools are increasingly unable to produce them." No one in a conference of 1500 government and private industry security experts questioned the assertion. When I called attention to it to everyone I met, I got no quarrel. Everyone agreed: yet it was as if it had not been said.

We have an increasing need for technically competent high school graduates, and a school system decreasingly able to meet that need. And the band plays on. And No Child Is Left Behind.


From another conference

Here's an article that may be of interest from NY Times Magazine:

<SNIP> Microsoft Word. Light of my mind, fire of my frustration. My sin, my soul. Mi-cro-soft-word. The mouth contorts with anti-poetry. My. Crow. Soft. Word. </SNIP>


My goodness.


WRT: A new policy for America


I'd like to add a few comments, firstly: I'd suggest modifying your statement: Prizes cost nothing unless someone wins. to Prizes cost nothing unless someone wins, and then we all win.

Secondly, the prize numbers you mention are within the reach of 2 private US citizens who are in my mind squandering their riches. Bill Gates & Malcolm Forbes. They're putting their money into the Gates foundation whose goals though lofty, but are not equal to the wealth available.

Now, if we had free energy.... and $50Billion could get us there. (Free in the incremental sense, not in the capitol outlay) Illness, starvation, lack of access to medicine, water, food, education. All these things become much much easier to solve.

Free energy and other such projects are a far better way to "Give Back". Seems like the foundation is aiming low. If it only had a few Billion, well then its aims are reasonable.

I know if I had access to that much capitol, that's what I what i would do. (As long as the energy is Microsoft branded.. ;)


You are correct.



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, January 24, 2008

On Ares


from what I understand, the vibration is intrinsic to solid motor design but the problem is made worse by the fact that the SRB / Ares composite has a segmented casing (maximum allowable slippage before loss of vehicle thus some fraction of segment overlap divided by segment length, which is on the order of 1%) and isn't throttleable after ignition so that acceleration increases (roughly) in proportion to propellant mass burnt; plus the SRB motor is designed for lateral support due to the connection to the external tank, whereas this support will be missing from Ares. In addition, of course, while internal pressures are roughly constant, the fifth segment increases integrated internal forces (and thrust) by 25%, and with the other consequence that it takes a smaller net perturbation of the whole vehicle to induce the fixed segment to segment slippage resulting in breakup. And (of course) every pound of hardware to increase stability (and steerability) decreases payload by the same amount, and it doesn't take long for a two million pound vehicle with a payload fraction under 3% to eradicate its usability for a mission that required that full payload fraction (the mass margin for the planned Orion spacecraft launched from KSC to ISS orbit appears to be about 5,000 pounds based on the numbers at astronautix.com; of course, most of that mass margin would be required for a lunar mission. This includes the retrothrusters that have to be added to keep the spent first stage, if it survives to separation, from surging in the second stage immediately after separation due to residual thrust from the still-burning residual fuel.

The decision to use SRBs-derived motors for the Ares was politically good for Utah (which otherwise stands to loose most of its NASA funding as Shuttle is phased out) but probably disastrous for manned space flight.



Jerry P:

My hopes that the prognosis is good and you continue to bring out the best in analysis and discussion on the net.

On the topic of solid rocket shaking, I am familiar with resonant coupling as a result of musical training as well as an engineering background. What is happening I believe is that there is resonant coupling within the rocket motor which produces the pulsing described. In seismic terms there are eigenvalues produced which are certainly capable of destroying almost anything attached to the rocket.

An example of this type of mechanism was the Mexico City earthquake of 1985. Professor H. Bolton Seed of UC Berkeley gave a lecture I attended where he described how an earthquake hundreds of miles off-shore in the Pacific sent seismic waves to the lake bed upon which Mexico City is built. The destruction of structures was tied to the depth of the lake bed fill at a particular location and the height of the building. Neighboring buildings either shorter or taller were spared while buildings of a particular height were destroyed because their resonant frequency matched the resonant frequency of the lake bed fill at that point. As the lake bed fill depth varied, the old lake was filled in order to build the city, the resonant frequency changed and particular structures survived or were destroyed as a result of their resonant frequency matching the lake bed fill depth. This is also the reason that musical instruments rely upon resonance to produce their magnificent sounds. As the fuel cavity of a solid rocket varies during combustion, it is critical that no resonant coupling occur.

Describing the phenomena as pulsing or vibrating does not correctly address the phenomena. The multiplier effect of resonant coupling should warn anyone away from a particular design. Rocket design must address this condition in order to be safe as serious structural failures may occur if it is ignored.



Subject: Burt Rutan


The BBC has a report that Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites is well on the way to building the first commercial spaceship. The carrier is nearly complete and is scheduled for flight testing later this year and the two crew, six passenger spaceship is 60% complete. The BBC's story is at:-


John Edwards

They are moving along.

Alas, in last night's news, on one major network, they said that Rutan won the Xprize by twice going to orbit with Spaceship One. Alas, alas. No one seemed to have noticed.


Dear Dr Pournelle,

First I wish you a prompt recovery. It is difficult to consider one’s body as a machine, and physicians as engineers whose rationalizations may be questioned and evaluated by its owner. It should be done but, logically, it is most difficult when one does not feel well.

Not a constant reader of science fiction, I finally bought and read “A mote in god’s eye” when in Montreal visiting a son during the holidays. I found the book very entertaining through the story construction, the characters, the staging of actual questions of our own time. Also one can relate to the story as the science is close to what is known today and the fiction is only based on a few hypotheses expanding on this knowledge. So I bought and now am reading “Footfall” a few pages at a time so the pleasure lasts.

On the recent Chaos Manor view (http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/view502.html)  I particularly enjoyed the piece about Voltaire and the link to that eccentric who, guess what, reads books! As to the energy supply I have one question about solar power satellites: would not high energy microwave beams to ground stations be a hazard for organic life when it crosses them?

Best wishes.

Marc Banet-Rivet


PS. My son in Montreal indirectly was the subject of a message that some years ago I sent to you. I was only a reader of your Byte column. Out of the blue, I was asking for your help about education for video games production in California and you kindly answered me.

Thanks for the kind words.


On the fury of the legions


Here is a thoughtful two-part piece on our worn-down military:



The author speaks of a break in trust between the military and our civilian leadership. It looks like two phenomena: a building fury in the legions, and a growing abandonment of service by field grade officers and potential recruits.

It will be interesting to see which trend is stronger in the end.


Meanwhile the civilian bureaucracy has gone mad: trying to collect enlistment bonuses from veterans separated from service because of wounds in action on the grounds that they did not complete their enlistment. I am astonished that there have not already been very public actions about this. I gather that the brass has rushed in to try to ameliorate this horror, but we continue to cut veteran services, and in general treat our voluntary Legionaries as if they were short term conscripts.


Subject: Buying a book

Dear Dr. Pournelle. I would very much like to buy a book. The book I would very much like to buy is the next/final chapter of Janissaries. Is there any indication when I will be able to buy this book?

Also, I was browsing Amazon.ca for your books and found:

Condominium: Revolt on War World (Paperback)

which I thought an interesting way to organize a world, and wondered if the monthly maintenance fees were reasonable.

Sincerely, Longtime fan

Keith. T. Williams

I am working on it. I intend to finish that sucker in the next month. I intended to have it done this month but a few other matters intruded.

It will not be the final chapter. There are new characters and developments. But it is a full story. And of course Rick's children are growing up.


Subject: Energy

Dear Jerry,

1. I'll agree to disagree to disagree with you regarding the causes of global warming.

2. I strongly endorse the measures that you have proposed as being necessary to provide energy security, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and preserving the Republic.

3. Our prayers are with you.

Bob Kawaratani



Subject: The Mote in God's Eye

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Last night I pulled an old favorite off the shelves to reread. "The Mote in God's Eye."

I read it when it first came out, when I was in 10th or 11th grade and reread it along with Heinlein, Clarke and a few other favorites.

Reality intruded over the years, and it has been four years since I read it.

I looked at the timeline...2008 The Alderson Drive is tested....

Maybe we do not have anyone shutting down science labs for political reasons, but we do not have space colonies, we do not have the Alderson Drive...

I think perhaps the CoDominium was not such a high price to pay.

On the other hand, it is not over yet.

Thank you for all the work you have done over the years.

I am looking forward to Inferno II

Daniel Safford

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CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


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Friday, January 25, 2008


This just appeared at Slashdot: Author Paulo 'Pirate' Coelho leapt out of obscurity and onto the best-seller list <http://torrentfreak.com/alchemist-author-pirates-own-books-080124/>  by giving away his books on the Net. The best-selling author of 'The Alchemist' will even help you pirate his books via his blog <http://piratecoelho.wordpress.com.nyud.net:8090/> . His publishers were not pleased, but then his books went from selling 1,000 copies to 100,000 and then over a million.

Link to story at Slashdot: http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/01/25/1335206&from=rss 

The anecdotal evidence I keep seeing seems to support the contention that this sort of thing is actually good for authors and artists. I agree that the decision to post works on the Net should be up to the copyright holder, not some third party. But the evidence is mounting that giving stuff away on the Net is a very effective marketing strategy, not a net revenue loss.

Best wishes for a long and health life. I am eagerly looking forward to Inferno II and future projects.


John DeVries


Alchemist Author Pirates His Own Books


I see that the book is currently in the 100's on Amazon.com, which is incredible for a novel that's several years old.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson thompson@ttgnet.com

I am hardly astonished. Eric Flint has many such stories, and Baen Books has much experience in these matters. The question is not whether such methods of publicizing one's works will be effective -- sometimes -- but whether that's a sustainable model for use by very many people. Marketers have long known about sales and giveaways.

My concern has always been this: when ebooks become a large part of book publishing, then when a potential reader uses a search engine to find that book on line, it is important that the first hits not be pirated free copies; that the first hits be a legitimate copy sold at a reasonable price and easily obtained and easily paid for. Given those conditions I think most readers will simply pay the man the five dollars or whatever is the price, rather than search further to find the pirated copy. The second concern I have is web sites that use free books as a means to draw viewers, and derive their income from advertising; they will have money to publicize their pirate web sites.

When books are free, or make only modest sums from first publication, then the temptation will be for authors to indulge in journalism, not in putting in years to build large novels.








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