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Monday, June 09, 2008

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Monday  June 2, 2008

Charter Schools - 

You wrote:

> I have a modest proposal: we spend about $10,000 per child per year in our education system. Could we have schools in which we will spend only $6,000 per child? The rules are: both teachers and pupils are volunteers.

We have something very close to this now... it's called "charter schools."

(Note that I had to learn the difference between "charter" schools and "magnet" schools. At least in Georgia, charter schools cannot conduct admission testing. If there are more applicants than spaces, a lottery determines who gets to attend.)

Your ratio is about right. The City of Atlanta spends about $13,500 per student. I'm involved in a charter, Tech High School, that gets about $8000 of that for our students. (The missing $5500 is sucked into bureaucratic black hole.)

We initially thought that applying technology would be the solution, hence the name Tech High. "Laptops! Eight o'clock! Day One!" It turned out that we were getting ninth-grade students scoring at the fifth- grade level in reading and math. So some of the more ambitious technology projects were put on hold in favor of some old-fashioned fundamentals. Yes, you have to do your homework. Yes, you have to wear a uniform (nothing exotic: khaki pants, and any solid-colored shirt with a collar and no words on it). Yes, you have to shut up when the teacher is talking. Yes, we're going to hire teachers who actually give a damn about the students.

There are years when the entire dinosaur herd of the Atlanta Public School system (50,000 students) sends *one* graduate to Georgia Tech. In our first graduating class of 47 students, with zero intake testing/ qualification, but with four years of teaching under our common-sense rules, Tech High School is sending *three*.

As you can imagine, the Atlanta public school educrats are doing everything they can, inside and outside of the rulebook, to shut us down.

More details at
/tech-high-school-graduation-on-sunday.html >.  I wouldn't mind a bit of publicity for our story, since we're certainly not going to get it from the local media.


-- Stephen Fleming | Chief Commercialization Officer | Georgia Tech

We have charter schools in LA, too, but they tend to be hated by the bureaucracy even though they save lots of money. You'd think that the bureaucrats would love it: the district gets all the money and only has to pay about half to the charter school. But they're terrified.

But this still does not solve the problem of how to educate the right hand side of the Bell Curve. It may be that self selection will do it: only those who really want to go to university will apply to the university prep charter school. If we could then have good technical education -- draftsmanship, shop, good center of the bell curve skills but not college prep -- charter schools we would go a long way toward getting out of the hole we are in.

In 1983 Nobel Prizeman Glenn T. Seaborg as Chairman of the National Commission on Education, said "If a foreign nation had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightly consider it an act of war." Since then the public education system has gotten worse. One would think it a matter of some concern that we fix a public education system indistinguishable from an act of war, but apparently no one much cares.

We sow the wind.


Victory in Iraq?

Three years or so ago, a talk show host in San Francisco said that the only way to "win" in Iraq was to leave. You won't get the Iraqis to "stand up" if someone else will do it for them. "The Bernie Ward Plan" centered on a one-year promise to leave, with heavy-duty support during that year.

OK, so we subsequently had the surge (that heavy duty support during the interim) combined with the one-year promise to leave (Democratic Party inevitability and Obama promises). And Iraq seems to be following what the Bernie Ward Plan promised. If they think that the Americans are going to leave, then they start paying attention to what they would be doing once there are no more Americans.

It may be that a surge followed by Democrats is exactly what Mr. Ward was proposing. There is at least a possibility that the victory is being caused by the predicted loss.

Greg Goss.

There is a certain truth to the notion that so long as we are willing to do the hard work, the Iraqis won't, but I am not sure this is an accurate analysis of what's going on there. I cheerfully admit that I'm glad I am not emperor just now, because I really don't know what we ought to do over there.

What I don't think I could take is another Fall of Saigon scene, complete with the reeducation camps, slaughter of all those who were our allies and auxiliaries, and the equivalent of boat people. On the other hand, I don't think the US needs a million Iraqi Muslim refugees.

On the gripping hand, I am not at all sure my brain is working properly.



Cut and paste data splicing is a scientific norm in palaeoclimatology, where temperatures antedating the development of the thermometer must be inferred from proxies as various as tree rings ,coral. and wine vintages. The lack of an ancient instrumental temperature record has led to much recrimination, like the Hockey Stick fracas, but it is often assumed that the modern record stands in contrast as a sterling example of the hard data science prefers as the basis for theory.

Now another glitch has been detected-- due to a most unexpected artifact, the global temperature record for 1945 has kicked the bucket


-- Russell Seitz


Re: the shortest way to world peace 

... is to get this guy an editor. The writer is apparently well-read, and spends a lot of time making sure that you know it. He makes some interesting observations and conclusions along the way until he finally comes to the point.

To summarize, the shortest way to world peace is to agree to the end of history. This is, freeze the boundaries of countries, agree to accept the status quo at that time, and avoid foreign interventions.

It may be an interesting thought experiment, but I can’t see how anyone can take it seriously. On the other hand, I could say the same about several widely popular ideas.

Steve Chu

As I said, a strange form of Jacobite. Some of his points are valid; and come pretty much from the realism school of international relations. Others are as idealistic as any progressive scheme, but he seems strangely unaware of that.



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Tuesday,  June 3, 2008

Inferno III 

HI Jerry,

Just saw this quote in a blog elsewhere which made me think of inferno

"I don’t believe in Hell, but if I did, the seventh circle would involve an eternity of trying to keep Africans from killing each other."

Hell *is* repetition.

- Paul



Subject: Mistake


"In retrospect, the proper British strategy would have been to harry Washington with relentless pursuit, bringing him to battle at every possible opportunity. The Continental Army was the soul of the Independent Colonies, and had it been destroyed, sentiments would have changed. ..."


Grant did not make the same mistake.



David Couvillon
Colonel of Marines; Former Governor of Wassit Province, Iraq; 
Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; 
Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; 
Chef de Hot Dog Excellance;  Collector of Hot Sauce;
Avoider of Yard Work


Gotta Wonder 


You have to wonder who thinks its a good idea to lay off Nuclear Scientists and Engineers from our premier weapons labs...Scientists and Engineers who have knowledge and experience that cannot simply be recreated at will. May God help us all...



Richard Hakala


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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

NASA suppressed reports on global warming

Hi Jerry,

The way I read this report - NASA is being accused of not pushing global warming hard enough! Any "turnaround" here is likely to be in the wrong direction...



I confess I hadn't read it closely; it hardly matters. It just means that NASA has forfeited any claim to scientific respectability along with Hansen.

It is good to push one's theories, but scientists are not lawyers. I wrote about this long ago in my Voodoo Sciences essay. If you haven't read that essay, it may be worth your time.


CO2 Global Warming As A Suicide Cult


"Professor Schpinkee's Greenhouse Calculator". "Find Out When You Should Die." "How big a greenhouse pig are you?" "When you're done click on <skull & crossbones icon> to find out what age you should die at..."

Aimed at 9 year olds by the Australian Broadcasting Network.

Back in the late 70s I remember reading a 1973 novel by D. Keith Mano titled "The Bridge". It was a very prophetic view of the ideological Greenie's inner mentality.

Best Wishes,


how truly comforting...


 Harry Erwin's Letter From England

It's getting expensive to produce food in the UK and other places. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/7428014.stm> <http://tinyurl.com/4uguos> <http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/shocked-how-the-oil-crisis-has-hit-the-world-837477.html  > <http://tinyurl.com/6mkmjb>


The UK approach to energy rationing. <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/29/carbon_rationing_no/> <http://tinyurl.com/6zww75>


Nanny state (or university): <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7423086.stm>


Thoughtcrime in the UK. <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/30/student_arrested_downloading_book/  > <http://tinyurl.com/4s3qkj> <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/30/notts_al_qaeda_manual_case/> <http://tinyurl.com/43khox>


Yet another information technology fiasco (YAITF). <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/30/nhs_it_analysis/> <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/nhs-records-project-is-thrown-into-confusion-836840.html  > <http://tinyurl.com/6ozd43>


Use of antiterrorism laws to control the British population. <http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article4036231.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/6k4jzy>


Reforms to privacy laws to allow help to be forced on the elderly. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/conservative/2055869/Tories-attack-Labour-plan-on-energy-poverty.html  > <http://tinyurl.com/6jscr8>


Cancelling difficult operations to meet NHS targets. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2056076/Liberal-Democrats-say-NHS-are-scrapping-16%2C000-operations-to-hit-Government-targets.html  > <http://tinyurl.com/6aog48>


Funding dries up for British astronomy. Bureaucratic FUBAR. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/higher/stark-message-in-the-sky-funding-dries-up-for-british-astronomers-822513.html  > <http://tinyurl.com/44s94n>


Expert in student surveys quits after being suspended for criticising  the UK Government's National Student Survey. (His criticisms are  accurate.) <http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=402184&c=2  > <http://tinyurl.com/5qlowo>


Research to be evaluated by information beyond peer review. However,  the Government refuses to detail what the additional information will  be, which has everyone suspicious. <http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=402185&c=2  > <http://tinyurl.com/69fafd>


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


 Four leading academic specialists on education wrote an open letter to the Independent indicating that "Government policy is no longer the solution to the difficulties we face but our greatest problem," BBC version: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7430957.stm> Guardian version: <http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,2283393,00.html > <http://tinyurl.com/6xxpod>


Jerry, you probably don't want to be labelled a "global warming denier": <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4048461.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/6p2qbu>


Telegraph article on Eurolegislation: <http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/politics/danielhannan/june2008/eueverywhere.htm > <http://tinyurl.com/5veqk4>


Op-ed on the "Collapse of 20th-century ideology" (although the Roman Empire had a similar ideology, which resulted in the deaths of martyrs and eventually led to Diocletian's 'reforms' as the Roman social system collapsed) <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/06/02/do0201.xml > <http://tinyurl.com/5szw89>


-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>



Subj: Government Data and the Invisible Hand


>>In order for public data to benefit from the same innovation and dynamism that characterize private parties’ use of the Internet, the federal government must reimagine its role as an information provider. Rather than struggling, as it currently does, to design sites that meet each end-user need, it should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that “exposes” the underlying data. Private actors, either nonprofit or commercial, are better suited to deliver government information to citizens and can constantly create and reshape the tools individuals use to find and leverage public data. The best way to ensure that the government allows private parties to compete on equal terms in the provision of government data is to require that federal websites themselves use the same open systems for accessing the underlying data as they make available to the public at large.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com



Most expensive plumbing trip ever?

Dr. Pournelle,

I'm sure you've seen that the ISS toilet went out. Well, apparently they've fixed it:


Now, that in and of itself is hardly news. What strikes me as appalling is that they sent up 35 pounds worth of hardware to get it running again. Based on a few minutes scrounging for the cost to LEO on the shuttle that puts the cost of getting the hardware up there somewhere around $165,000. Are you really telling me that they couldn't have diagnosed what was broken in the pump and replaced that part, or at least gotten a pump that wasn't made of solid gold?

Ryan Brown

And we used to worry about $500 toilet seats on the B-52!


Laying Off Experience

Richard Hakala writes: "You have to wonder who thinks its a good idea to lay off Nuclear Scientists and Engineers from our premier weapons labs...Scientists and Engineers who have knowledge and experience that cannot simply be recreated at will."

Well, if you're a bureaucrat, then you figure that there is no such thing as knowledge and experience; there's only A Procedure. As long as you get your nuclear scientists to write everything down, then _anyone_ can be a nuclear scientist--all they have to do is follow the procedure and bam, Nuclear Science happens. This means that you don't have to hire any of those expensive people who won't do what they're told; once all your knowledge is Written Down and In The Procedure, people become interchangeable parts.

It's actually a bit scary to read Neal Stephenson's book "Snow Crash" where he describes the end result: a society of mindless drones. Planting crops? Go to the temple and ask the priests to read you the Litany Of Planting Crops. Building a house? See the priests, ask for the Song Of House-Building. It's someone's idea of a perfect world, where nobody truly _knows_ anything; it all just drops into their head when the Overall Government Procedure states that they'll receive it, and afterwards it disappears without a trace.


Although there is some feeble justification for this. In this modern age, we have decided that it's impossible for you to _prove_ that you _aren't_ a bigot. So any time you make a judgment call, or refer to benefit of experience, or just take personal responsibility for something, you're immediately accusing of being a liar and a bigot. But if I can refer back to an Impartial, Objective Procedure as justification, well, then it's not a personal decision--I'm Just Doing What I'm Told. You can't accuse me of racism; it's just, well, here it is in The Procedure.

-- Mike T. Powers

Or Heinlein's Universe.

In the beginning there was Jordan, thinking his great thoughts alone...


Well, eight years later..


Well, eight years later, something I was (peripherally) involved in may have borne fruit...


Teledyne Brown Engineering is expanding its nuclear engineering and manufacturing work, opening a 200,000-square-foot plant and landing a $92 million contract to make service modules that aid uranium enrichment. <snip>

With problems related to greenhouse gases and soaring oil prices, the nuclear power industry has built strong congressional support and seen its reputation transformed in recent years as a newly viable, non-carbon-emitting source of power.

By the end of next year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expects license requests to build 31 nuclear reactors across the country, NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said Tuesday. <snip>


We can hope...


Blogging as cancer therapy 

Dr Pournelle

Writing Chaos Manor is good for you:

"Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study <http://theoncologist.alphamedpress.org/cgi/content/full/13/2/196> in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not."


Live long and prosper

h lynn keith


A Question from Joanne Dow

Global Warming Question

You have a nice collection of experts present. So I think I'll ask the collected intelligence an interesting question.

My understanding of the basic thermal model for the planet has Sun light reaching the planet and being trapped as heat. It hits the ground and is reflected upwards where only a percentage gets out.

If this is accurate, is there anything the human race can do to mitigate its contribution other than reduce the population to small family groups of wandering clever hairless monkeys?

Any solar energy gathering enhances the conversion of light to heat. Light gets back out. Heat does not. Thus the problem I see. Gathering solar energy, be it solar cells, wind farms, or most anything else produces a few percent greater conversion of light to heat. Thus there is nothing we can do to reduce our putative contribution to "Global Warming". Even nuclear energy will generate heat, which can't get out.

Methinks the human race's best shot is to get off this dirt ball and learn to cope with the dangers and problems of living in thermos-bottles in space. Most of the human race may be doomed to die out or to be reduced to roving bands of clever hairless monkeys. But some of the species may escape the planet and perpetuate the species out in space, wherever that leads them.

Yes, it's a silly question. But if the cycle really amounts to light reaches the surface, is partially absorbed and reradiated as heat, and the heat that is reradiated is trapped by CO2 and other greenhouse gasses then enhancing that trapping process is going to simply make it worse, never better.


There are ways to change the Earth's Albedo. It doesn't take much.

On the other hand, the Earth is too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in.


Iron Law - Transit Systems

I wonder if this guy reads your site:

> For most transit agencies in the United States, if they were to write a mission statement that > is reflective of what they do, they would indicate that they exist for the purpose of serving their > employees and vendors.





Howe and Valley Forge

"Attacking the Continental Army in Valley Forge would have required an assault against prepared positions, in horrible weather, against men who had proved they would fight desperately. It would have been terribly costly."

Not only that, but Valley Forge had excellent oversight of the entire countryside between Philadelphia and Valley Forge - countryside that was not then well-roaded. Howe would have been seen and tracked slogging his way through waist-deep snow for days before closing. (And von Steuben had already been drilling the army....) Having inspected the country myself from the outpost positions, the panorama is stunning.

I have also been told that Adams, who was in France with Franklin and Jefferson for most of the war, did not have a reliable take on the proportion of Tories and Patriots.

Gen. Howe's brother, the Admiral, had worked with then-Pennsylvania ambassador Franklin to try to stave off the break with England, but by then there was no formula that would have satisfied both the Americans and King George -- and parliament was controlled by the King's Men and their allies. (The story of John Wilkes is instructive.) There is no reason to doubt either Howe's devotion to the Crown's cause, but I have always thought of them as like the War Democrat generals in the Civil War: loyal to the Union but unwilling to press things so far as to make reconciliation impossible.

Mike Flynn








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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Subject: Global Warming 

"Light gets back out. Heat does not." 

I'm nowhere near a 'clever hairless monkey', but if heat can't get out wouldn't we all have been burnt up millenia ago?  Certainly heat does have to dissipate somewhere?  After all, even Sol sends us its heat.



David Couvillon
Colonel of Marines;
Former Governor of Wassit Province, Iraq;
Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; 
Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; 
Chef de Hot Dog Excellance;  Collector of Hot Sauce;
Avoider of Yard Work

Heat gets out, of course. Light waves come in and hit the earth. This shifts the energy toward the IR. IR is absorbed by CO2 -- and far more so by water vapor -- much more efficiently than light waves. This is known as the "Greenhouse Effect" (although as Petr Beckmann used to say, any farmer would tell you "Ain't the way MY greenhouse works).

And there are many ways to change the Earth's albedo. High clouds do that. Most climate models can't handle clouds (there just isn't enough computing power). Water vapor, which is a very efficient IR absorber, also makes clouds. High clouds are reflective and more of the light that was coming to the Earth is reflected away and thus never gets to the ground to be converted into heat. Climate models are not very good at actually dealing with this, so most of them have some kind of fudge factor. The efficiency of making water vapor given solar input varies like crazy with terrain, wind conditions (waves don't reflect like mill ponds) and such; this makes modeling a very difficult thing both to do and to test. I don't envy climate modelers.

Incidentally, Joanne is a retired electrical engineer specializing in communications, and was considered pretty good at her work, so her questions aren't based on total ignorance.


Heat traps

Joanne; The Earth radiates a great deal of heat into space. The blockage of IR is at best partial, and at limited frequencies. Water and CO2 block the same range, and water vapour is 19X more abundant in the atmosphere. So if you want to let the heat out, which is turning out to perhaps be a very bad idea indeed, you should concentrate on keeping water vapour out of the air. Perhaps we could spread oil over all the ocean surfaces to prevent evaporation? Of course, that would end rainfall everywhere, too ... Problems, problems ...


Brian Hall

As Freeman Dyson points out, the only places that CO2 can make much difference are cool, dry places; if there's much water vapor, the CO2 effect is essentially nil.


A Dialogue:

In Response to Joanne Dow's Question


I'm slightly confused about the idea here. Joanne says that with all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the heat would come through with the light, bounce off the planet, and the heat would stay while the light escapes...

#1. If the heat gets _through_ the atmosphere with no difficulty, why would it have trouble getting back out, especially if it is an inherent property of the light?

#2. The carbon dioxide supposedly traps the heat in. Shouldn't that property work in reverse as well? Keep the heat out? I've heard "greenhouse effect", where the heat + light come in, but aren't able to escape, but for some reason, that theory didn't ever really convince me. Yes, the light comes into a glass/plastic house and warms it up. However, that's an enclosed area. I don't think that heat would have that much of a problem dissipating. After all, doesn't heat excite the movement of molecules, which then gradually entropy? A gas like carbon dioxide and the myriad other gases in our environment are no different than the gases we observe on the ground...if anything, we should be worrying about "burning away" our atmosphere.

This is all theory, and it's based more on logic according to the basic rules of geothermal science that I do know. Heat has this crazy tendency to dissipate, rather than propagate. If we're disrupting the equilibrium of Earth's heating and cooling, thermodynamics states that the entropy of the system will increase, rather than decrease. I don't see how global warming can be seen as a common sensical proposition, rather, it seems like a strange sort of science fiction (which I would love, if it was seen as that). The problem lies in the complete break with established science that those who believe in global warming have. That's my issue with it. It's great to have theories. I could make up a dozen theories, but if past data and current data don't confirm them, it's just that.

A theory.

Blake Richardson


I replied:

That is the nature of the "greenhouse effect". Longer wave lengths (lower frequencies) are absorbed more by water vapor and CO2. Energy comes in, hits the earth, heats it, and the IR then tries to get back out...

That's observable. It's also clear that CO2 is a greenhouse gas only where there isn't any water vapor, which is to say where it's dry, because water vapor is a much greater absorber of IR than CO2

Jerry Pournelle
Chaos Manor


So basically...carbon dioxide emissions would only show a significant heating effect in areas like the Southwestern United States, various desert regions in Asia, and the desert regions of Africa? That makes the whole global warming theory seem even less plausible then before. I can see why you and Dr. Dyson have such an issue with it, and with NASA for propagating it.

I take issue with the fact that the proponents of global warming are blatantly fear-mongering, in a very "cardboard sign wearing hobo with a Bible" sort of way. I'm especially disappointed by Vice President Gore's method of taking advantage. I suppose in a world like Earth that holds the entire population of a species, we can't avoid end of the world theory. I can only hope we manage to get an off-world colony before a _real_ disaster does befall us.

Blake Richardson

I have little regard for those who profit from the Global Warming scare. As I have said many times, the proper policy would be massive investment in finding out what is going on -- including grants to those seeking to DISPROVE the Human Caused Global Warming theories -- by gathering more reliable data. When we know what is happening it is time to devise a policy to deal with it, but until then, costly efforts to reduce CO2 cannot be worth their costs. Or so say I.


Subject: less-than-infinite global warming

Joanne Dow writes:

"My understanding of the basic thermal model for the planet has Sun light reaching the planet and being trapped as heat. It hits the ground and is reflected upwards where only a percentage gets out."

I'm interested in reading the explanation too, because there must be more to it. Sunlight has been reaching the Earth for several billion years, but the effect obviously is not cumulative, although that result is suggested by the description.

--Mike Glyer

All planets have an equilibrium temperature. As temperature rises, more gets out. As it falls, less gets out. There is also reflectivity. If the Earth is cold and dry and covered with ice it will be shiny so more light is reflected at high frequencies without being absorbed. And so forth.

Physics always works.


Subject: Joanne Dow's Question

Sunlight consists of energetic photons, which reach the Earth. Some are used by plants to create complex compounds, others are immediately reflected into space (see 'albedo'), and yet others are absorbed by the atmosphere and surface, driving atmospheric (weather) and hydrospheric (currents, etc.) dynamics and eventually being degraded into heat. The heat is then radiated, mostly at night. The effect of greenhouse gases is to increase the efficiency of atmospheric absorption of incoming light or outgoing heat photons so that the atmospheric and hydrospheric systems contain more energy at any time. One way this is expressed is in more extreme weather, another is in an increase in the mean global temperature. Solar energy collection that bypasses some of the absorption and dumps the waste heat directly into the ground for radiation at night should reduce the weather problems.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

On Tuesday, May 27, 2008 you wrote:

"Nuclear power comes to mind. Nuclear is, of course, a temporary strategy: we'll run out of uranium if we don't find a lot more and mine it."

Well, I could say that you’re wrong on both accounts...

Nuclear power doesn’t come to everybody’s mind, especially here in Brussels during that "Green Week 2008" with its slogan "Only One Earth" (<http://ec.europa.eu/environment/greenweek/home.html> ).

But now for the good news:

"There is enough uranium known to exist to fuel the world's fleet of nuclear reactors at current consumption rates for at least a century, according to the latest edition of the world reference on uranium published today [3 June 2008].

'Uranium 2007: Resources, Production and Demand,' also known as the Red Book, estimates the identified amount of conventional uranium resources which can be mined for less than USD 130/kg to be about 5.5 million tonnes, up from the 4.7 million tonnes reported in 2005. Undiscovered resources, i.e. uranium deposits that can be expected to be found based on the geological characteristics of already discovered resources, have also risen to 10.5 million tonnes. This is an increase of 0.5 million tonnes compared to the previous edition of the report. The increases are due to both new discoveries and re-evaluations of known resources, encouraged by higher prices.


Deployment of advanced reactor and fuel cycle technologies could increase the long-term availability of nuclear energy from a century to thousands of years."

Source: The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), a specialised agency within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).


With my best wishes for a complete recovery!

A. Romain

Alas. Known to exist is not the same as opening Uranium Mines. Would that it were. But the good news is that there are many more applications for nuclear power plants in the US, and in the present climate there is a lot more public support.

The bad news is that I doubt Obama will approve the measures needed to actually get nuclear power plants built in the US.

Alert: Cooling Underway: Global Temperature Continues to Drop in May


June 4, 2008

Posted By Marc Morano – 9:51 AM EST – Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.Gov <mailto:Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.Gov

Cooling Underway: Global Temperature Continues to Drop in May

'Significantly Colder' - 16-month temperature drop of -0.774°C!

Global temperatures continued to slide in May 2008. Meteorologist Anthony Watts details the cooling temperatures in a report titled “Global Temperature Dives in May.” The new global temperature data reveals a whopping three quarters of a degree Celsius drop in temperatures since January 2007. Watts reported late yesterday
that the cooling is “equal in magnitude to the generally agreed upon ‘global warming signal’ of the last 100 years.”

“Confirming what many of us have already noted from the anecdotal evidence coming in of a much cooler than normal May, such as late spring snows as far south as Arizona, extended skiing in Colorado, and delays in snow cover melting in many parts of the northern hemisphere, the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH), published their satellite-derived Advanced Microwave Sounder Unit data set of the Lower Troposphere for May 2008,” Watts reported on June 3.

“It is significantly colder globally, colder even than the significant drop to -0.046°C seen in January 2008,” Watts explained. The updated global temperature chart is here <http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/
2008/06/uah_may_08.png>  )

“But even more impressive is the change since the last big peak in global temperature in January 2007 at 0.594°C, giving a 16 month change in temperature of -0.774°C which is equal in magnitude to the generally agreed upon ‘global warming signal’ of the last 100 years,” he added.

Climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer, formerly of NASA and currently principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, commented on the new data. “If you exclude the anomalous 1992 cooling from the Pinatubo volcano eruption, it’s the coolest May in 20 years,” Spencer said.

Physicist Dr. Lubos Motl, formerly of Harvard University, also reacted to the new temperature data. “The global anomaly was -0.17 °C, the coldest reading after January 2000 and the third coldest monthly figure after September 1993. Yes, I mean that anomaly-wise, May was even colder than all the cool months of 2008, despite the dramatically weakening La Nina that now seems likely to change to ENSO neutral conditions this month. For example, the month-on-month cooling from April 2008 was by 0.19 °C while May 2008 was more than 0.75 °C cooler than January 2007. The average anomaly for the first five months of 2008 is negative. 1994 was the last year whose average annual anomaly was negative,” Motl wrote on June 4. (LINK
uah-msu-may-2008-cooler-than-april-by.html>  )

“The Sun has been spotless at least for 9 days. The standardized May sunspot number was 2.9, equal to April, and the solar flux was even slightly lower than in April, namely 68.4,” Motle wrote.

# #

Related Links:

'Global Warming Will Stop,' New Peer-Reviewed Study Says – April 30, 2008 <http://epw.senate.gov/public/

Global COOLING Currently Under Way – February 27, 2008 <http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?

U.S Army Chief Scientist Says Sun, Not Man, Is Causing Climate Change – June 3, 2008 <http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/06/army-vs-global.html

National Post: Global Cooling! 'Spotless Sun' prompts scientists to fear 'dramatic turn for the worse' – May 31, 2008 <http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/

U.S. Senate Minority Report: “Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007” <http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.SenateReport

# # #

Marc Morano

Communications Director

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Inhofe Staff


250 trillion cu ft of gas found


As the price goes up, more and more oil and gas will be found. The latest (in the newspapers 1 June)

Larry May


The charge is centred on what Australia's Science Agency estimates is 250 trillion cu ft of gas locked in vast Jurassic coalfields largely under the sweeping agricultural plains of southern Queensland. Proven reserves are a fraction of that but confirmation of the full resource would make this tiny portion of the country the world's fourth-largest source of natural gas - ahead of Saudi Arabia.

We do have alternatives to selling the country to the Saudis


Black Light Power  (see View)


Back in 1998 I was living in New Jersey, and looking for work. I remember seeing the Black Light web site (they had some open positions). I seem to recall that they had been in business for a couple of years at that point. Mills had been pushing his theories on physics even longer. Even at that time, the company had press releases indicating that they were talking with curious Fortune 500 companies. I didn't apply because my background didn't align with what they wanted. I also was concerned that the company might be pushing technological snake oil, and that working for them could eventually look bad on the resume.....

It has been 10 years now, which would seem long enough to prove their technology, and start setting the world on fire. That it hasn't happened makes me wonder if there is any substance to it. On the other hand, they seem to have come up with enough money to stay in business for over 10 years.





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Friday,  June 6, 2007

Subject: UC Irvine

Dear Mr. Pournelle,

When Pajamas Media saw the email you posted from Bruce Blumber of the Academic Senate Council on Student Experience at the University of California-Irvine, we immediately contacted him to see if he'd like to respond to Reut Cohen's piece. He declined the invitation. Today Ms. Cohen defends her position in another piece for us: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/uc-irvine-or-uc-intifada/


Aaron Hanscom Los Angeles Editor, Pajamas Media <http://pajamasmedia.com/>


Dr. Pournelle,

I appreciate your taking the time to notice our simmering problem at UCI

I represent UCI and the almost half a million people around the campus in the California State Assembly. UCI is the largest employer in my district. It is a hugely important engine of science and culture. And, it is an institution rife with uneven, politically correct application of administrative power where conservative, pro-American students get shut down (for instance, the “Equal Opportunity Bake Sale”) while peddlers of hate and intimidation are apparently welcomed with open arms. Members of the Muslim Student Union certainly have their First Amendment rights, should they wish to continue to call for the destruction of Israel, a member nation of the U.N. That said, campus administrators should be prepared to denounce hate speech after it clearly and consistently appears. Not to do so is to aid and abet a climate of campus intimidation – or worse.

We can report on modest progress in at least being able to document what is being said on campus by fully exercising our First Amendment rights to record hate speech events sponsored by the Muslim Student Union. Previous campus policy allowed the Muslim Student Union the right to prohibit the recording of their speakers. This led to numerous incidents where student journalists using video recorders or cameras were ejected by campus officials at the request of Muslim Student Union leaders. I decided to test this unfair and unwise policy myself a year ago when I walked into a Muslim Student Union sponsored lecture with my video camera. I was told to leave. I refused. But the speaker himself said he was fine with my recording the event, so a potential confrontation was averted. I used this incident to crystallize action from UCI where Chancellor Drake, to his credit, revised the policy. Now student groups may request no recording at an event, but campus officials are not supposed to force compliance with the request. My earnest hope is that shedding light on hate speech will serve to turn the temperature of that speech down a notch or two while the new policy may defuse confrontations at events featuring hate speakers as it becomes generally known that recording of such events cannot be prohibited.

Lastly, on a personal note, I have read a good deal of your work and am delighted to see your complete engagement in current affairs. I even wrote my own fictional novel a few years back: http://www.chinaattacks.com/pages/1/index.htm.

Thanks for caring about America and important ideas.

All the best,

Chuck DeVore <http://republican.assembly.ca.gov/members/index.asp?Dist=70&Lang=1>  California State Assembly, 70th District Chuck.DeVore@asm.ca.gov <mailto:Chuck.DeVore@asm.ca.gov

As I have said before, academic administration is a difficult job and one I don't want. In this era of incivility -- not to say barbarism -- among modern students and institutionalized in their organizations, it is near impossible. Cotton Mather (or perhaps Jonathan Williams) once said "Tether a beast at midnight, and by dawn it will know the length of its tether." Students always seek to know the length of the tether.

I would certainly think it reasonable that public events on public property at meetings sanctioned by public education institutions ought to be recorded: after all, everything else is recorded in this Internet Age. What is the alternative? To give some kind of public authority to bouncers hired by the event sponsors? To ignore acts of assault against those who seek to make the recording? Surely we have not yet come to this? Mark my words, if the campus officials will not enforce the "no recording" policy, we will see new confrontations. 'Twas ever thus, and I have no suspicion that the MSU will not be dominated by the most extreme of its members. That is the usual tendency for campus student organizations. It's a sort of corollary to the Iron Law: those who don't have another life take over organizations. Real students have other things to do.

I predict that we have not seen the last of this. Is the next step to be having the Carabinieri stand by while blackshirts administer castor oil to those with camcorders? Of course in this case the actors will be different and the shirts and gowns will probably not be black, but the principle is the same. Surely freedom of speech is not the freedom not to have that speech recorded? Or have I misunderstood?

In any event I await the next development with some interest.


Apparently there is some sanity in DC

Senate Climate Bill Fails - 'Largest Tax Bill Ever' Defeated

Excerpt: This week’s Climate Tax Bill debate revealed many useful insights into why the American people will remain skeptical of a global warming cap-and-trade system. The Wall Street Journal aptly noted on June 6 that environmentalists are "stunned that their global warming agenda is in collapse" after the Climate Tax Bill debate. "The green groups now look as politically intimidating as the skinny kid on the beach who gets sand kicked in his face. Those groups spent millions advertising and lobbying to push the cap-and-trade bill through the Senate," the paper noted. "With gasoline selling at $4 a gallon, the Democrats picked the worst possible time to bring up cap and trade," a political analyst noted. "This issue is starting to feel like the Hillary health care plan," the analyst added. (LINK) Roll Call quoted frustrated Democrat staffers as being beside themselves in anger for the way the cap-and-trade bill was presented. "We have no strategy, no message and no plan," said one senior Senate Democrat aide. "Everyone knows this bill is going nowhere. The president is opposed to it. The House is not inclined toward action on this, and now we're going to spend valuable floor time on a bill that's going nowhere ... while Republicans are champing at the bit to accuse Democrats of raising gas prices," the aide added. “Boxer is walking us off a cliff,” another senior Senate Democratic aide said, according to the paper.


June 6, 2008


MARC MORANO (202) 224-5762


Not entirely unexpected. Many politicians want to appear to be "for the environment" but understand that the consequences of some actions are just too great to bear. One hopes that rational decisions will be made, but ...



Regarding the availability of nuclear fuel - My understanding is that Professor Bernard Cohen calculated some years ago that it would be possible to obtain enough uranium from sea water to keep our current nuclear industry going till the Sun explodes. This would also require breeder reactors & recovering uranium from "waste" but we know how to do all that. Admittedly that much uranium isn't in the sea at the moment. He is fiddling a bit by assuming that the rivers will keep running the stuff down to the sea.


Boiling the seas would cost rather more than current mining but fuel is a far smaller component of nuclear power than of the conventional stuff so it doesn't much matter.

Even Wikipedia is forced to acknowledge that there are enormous resources though naturally it has ben edited into an addendum at the end of their article


And when the uranium runs out we can use torium.

Neil Craig

The important point is that there is enough uranium economically available to keep us going until we have solar power satellites and fusion plants. See A Step Farther Out; I dealt with much of this in my book. My Survival With Style presentation used to be fairly popular -- at least I got fairly high speaking fees for it -- and went into details about energy and other resources. It's in A Step Farther Out.


If you were in any doubt that this subject is complex, the next message ought to convince you:

Energy balance and the earth's "temperature"


Folks are struggling with inadequate knowledge of the physics underlying the temperature of the earth: a.k.a. global warming.

Perhaps it would help them to understand that the real issue is "energy balance" and the partitioning of energy received from the sun and "used" by the earth and its residents. In complicated systems of non-linear physics there are often simple notions that can guide a person's thinking. Energy balance is one of them. The issue of global warming is cloaked in the esoteric subject of nonlinear statistical physics. It includes concerns not only of partitioning the energy flow of the sun into hydrodynamic phenomena, ocean currents and weather, but into the canopy of biological subsystems including plants and animals.

It takes only a moment's reflection on the storage of solar energy that has led, thankfully, to our accumulation of gas, oil and coal. Unfortunately, it is difficult to imagine that solar energy played a major role in the production of our mineral resources.

Finally, the use and discharge of energy to and from the earth requires a careful investigation of the nature of the energy and the mechanisms for transmission. You and others properly talk about the role of water vapor, dust, and CO2 in the energy propagation subsystems. However, I am troubled with the apparent lack of knowledge regarding the "black body spectral distribution" of radiant energy from the sun and the consequent ability of the system to run energy towards the earth at high frequencies so it escapes certain absorption mechanisms. And then having used that energy and wishing to "rid" ourselves of the excess we radiate it "back to space" from a very much lower temperature radiator than the sun. That implies that the energy has a spectral distribution with most of it in the infrared-low frequency-regime that is most easily absorbed-and re-radiated-by the water vapor, dust, and CO2.

The albedo terms are used to lump together the "reflection" return of incoming energy. In fact, the albedo itself is strongly affected by the "frequency character" of the incoming radiation.

Harry's comment that radiation occurs at night, mostly, is patently wrong. Any body at a temperature above absolute zero radiates energy. I think what Harry meant to say is that "during the day" the incoming energy flux onto the lit area is orders of magnitude greater than the outgoing energy flux from that same area. At night, the incoming is much less so the outgoing becomes a more significant component in determining the temperature where we live. More simply said: the lawn is warm in the summer's sun but cools off in the night without clouds or wind to cause the grass to fall below the air's dewpoint and, voila!, dew forms on the grass. When the sun "comes up" the next morning the incoming energy flux is absorbed by the dew and it warms itself sufficiently to evaporate by mid-morning.

All this stuff is a completely inadequate commentary about the introductory physics of the issues confronting us. An equally important issue is our understanding of non-stationary statistics and non-equilibrium phenomena which is woefully inadequate for the challenge at hand. The paper by West is a good indicator of what we don't really know or know about.

Global warming, IMHO, would not be an issue without the "popular" press and Mr. Gore and his friends. I rue the day that the Nobel committee paused to give Gore a "prize." But maybe all that is a sign of the times we live in. If you agglomerate all that has been said on your web site about government and education and the intelligence of most of the people it is not hard to become profoundly depressed. We appear to be an animal species that is destined to relinquish our place in history to something else. That speculation keeps me interested in matters of non-physics.

Simple minds harbor simple thoughts that ask for simple answers to often complicated questions. That may be impossible. Or we may be so filled with intellectual hubris that we fail to find the opportunity suggested by Occam.

Persons who may be "brilliant" and "deeply knowledgeable" about computers, communications, and information technology are not necessarily deeply knowledgeable about earth science.

Joanne's question indicates that she is really smart and at the same time ignorant regarding some physics and earth science. It is a wonderful contribution she makes to the discussion by asking a "simple" question that requires a "complicated" answer. In fact, her question may be simply answered that the net energy flowing to the earth in a single revolution is so large that there must be an equally large component of energy being radiated into space. Otherwise we, indeed, would have been "cooked" years ago. The difference between those two huge numbers is what we are concerned with. That was the subject of the class in which I joined about 6 others in learning under Prof. Werner Suomi who "flew" the worlds first net radiometer from Cape Canaveral in the late 50's. The subject of our class was limnology but it rapidly became a seminar in net radiation and the weather! Reid Bryson was a young professor in the department at that time and, today, has written a brief but pithy note regarding his "opinion" of this general subject. He and Suomi were "buddies" that were very concerned with trying to measure what is happening and worked tirelessly to access financial help for expensive data collection systems: using satellites to gain data that no ground network would ever be able to do. Their work led to today's weather satellites and surveillance systems that are working hard to refine their ability to measure the net radiation of the earth.

Best wishes for a happy ending to your journey.

Steven, Ph.D., physicist and retired technology executive...


And more:

Climate Change

Hi Jerry

Firstly, hope you are on the mend. My mom has just finished round 2 of chemo for breast cancer, so I have a vague idea of what you are talking about - and I'm sure it's no picnic. Your positive attitude does make a difference, so hang in there and look to the future!

Secondly, there is an article in the Register about the global warming story that I'm sure you'll want to look at, if you haven't already: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/05/goddard_nasa_thermometer/ 

Thirdly, another virus which attempts to hold one to ransom - and with decent encryption to boot: http://www.net-security.org/malware_news.php?id=945 

Seems like those who don't keep backups are once again in for an inconvenient lesson.



Ari Levien

The Register article is well worth your time.


In contrast to Obamma, here is a black man I would vote for


Sheriff Green is all right.




Intelligent Design

Jerry, I was little disappointed to see you (somewhat) taking the side of the ID crowd. With a few exceptions (like Dr. Michael Behe), none of these guys are scientists, and save for an exceedingly small number like Dr. Behe, the rest of the scientific community, and in particular, biologists hold no truck with them. Let's be clear here that there are evolutionary researchers who are religious, and who will often, metaphysically speaking, take the side of theistic evolution, but they do not insist that their religious beliefs have some sort of emperical basis, or that any of those beliefs can be demonstrated through scientific mechanisms.

As to your specific comments amount irreducible complexity, as Behe's self-destruction at the Dover Trial demonstrated, biologists have long known about this, and, in fact, it is a prediction of evolutionary theory. A decent explanation can be found at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/ICsilly.html for why IC as formulated by the ID crowd is no argument against evolution at all.

You can also find a somewhat more technical analysis and explanation at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe/icsic.html.

The ID crowd, at least in the US, are purely motivated by politics. It's just the same old Creationists who, having had their collective you-know-whats handed to them every time they've tried this with the federal courts thought they had a First Amendment winner (Dover demonstrated this to be wrong). Heck, the Discovery Institute isn't even really running with the Intelligent Design ball any more, having moved on to the "Academic Freedom" and "Teach the Controversy" angle.

There's nothing in evolutionary or abiogenesis theory that forbids religious beliefs, but evolution is no more going to invoke a god than thermodynamics or stellar formation theory. The US education system is in bad enough shape as it is without having a pack of rascals trying to undermine the already pitiful state of science education with this sort of nonsense.

-- Aaron Clausen mightymartianca@gmail.com

In other words if I do not want to suppress an idea, I am wrong?

Whatever happened to the idea of rational debate? Or are the Darwinists afraid they cannot prevail if someone presents an alternate view?

I fail to understand. I don't much care one way or another on Intelligent Design vs. Darwin. I would imagine there must be hundreds -- hundreds, I tell you -- of school districts that want some alternative to Darwinism taught along with Darwin and natural selection. I do not think that if they all prevailed it would cost the billions that Global Warming costs us. Indeed, if every school district in Kansas taught ID in addition to Darwinism, I don't see how it would cost the people of the United States very much, unless you assume that some brilliant kid in Kansas would be seduced by ID, and fail to come up with some invention that would change the world.

The Global Warming debate is far important. And I note that the Global Warming advocates are afraid of actual rational debate, and try to suppress the teaching in school of any alternate theory.  If I have to worry about educational curricula, I think I would worry more about that.

 Jerry Pournelle Chaos Manor




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This week:


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Saturday, June 7, 2008


Officer Rot in the Unites States Air Force 

Hi Jerry,

You might find this post of interest


The blog is by a writer called Robert J. Avrech who often has interesting things to say.

- Paul

Worth Reading. After I read it I posted this comment:

Creation of the Air Force as a separate service was a mistake to begin with. The notion was to provide career paths to multi-star rank for pilots; it did this very well indeed, but at the price of losing the purpose of the air service, which is to support the infantry.

Marshall was hardly the first or only thinker to realize that "you can fly over the land, you can strafe the land, you can bomb it to oblivion, but you don't own it until you can stand a seventeen year old kid with a rifle on it."

When the Air Force refused to give up the close support mission and managed through political manipulation to keep the Army from having its own fixed wing aircraft, it forfeited its right to exist as a separate service.

The Air Force doesn't promote Warthog pilots. It doesn't promote transportation pilots, or tanker pilots. It reluctantly promotes bomber pilots although with the disappearance of SAC that has changed too. The Air Force like Fighter Pilots, and they promote each other. And when someone like Schriever does come along and get to high rank, they close ranks against him -- and abolished Systems Command as soon as they could do that. Development of weapons and weapons technology is vitally important to the nation, but it's a deadly career path in USAF.

USAF has pretty well proved that it has no reason to exist as a separate service. Of course it will  continue. The Iron Law in action...









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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday,  June 8, 2009     

This day was devoured by work: column and copy edited manuscript of Escape from Hell.




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