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Mail 533 August 25 - 31, 2008
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August 25, 2008
don't change a thing
I don’t know who is pressing you to change the Chaos Manor website but I for one like it the way it is. It is quick to navigate through. I come to your website and one click on the day and I am reading the comments. When I finish the day’s comments I click on the current mail and one more click on the day and I am reading the mail. It does not get any easier than that. The chronological order is refreshing so I do not have to read from the bottom up to follow a train of thought. So from this reader comes the vote to not change a thing.
Thanks for all you do,
I preen. Thanks.
Up until Taft Presidents used to keep a cow on the White House lawn for milk (admittedly by Taft's time it may have been posing but it wasn't in the early years). Somewhat earlier Andrew Carnegie provided a pension, from his own funds, to keep Presidential widows out of poverty, because the government had failed to do so.
In the Sherlock Holmes story the Naval Treaty Holmes suspects Britain's Foreign Secretary because, the fact that he had had to get his boots resoled proved he was not rich & thus possibly susceptible to bribes.
The era when politics was not rewarding is over & I am not sure that that is a bad thing. Honest & capable people who are not independently wealthy should not be deterred from public service. On the other hand the greedy should not be encouraged. On the 3rd hand the honest but poor don't seem to be doing particularly well in the present system. On the 4th hand if Prince Charles is what you get from selecting your leaders by a different system I think I will stick with what we laughingly call democracy.
On the 5th hand when we see that even the poorest now buy their milk & shoes at the supermarket & are, in almost all ways that don't involve having human servants, richer than Alexander the Great perhaps we would benefit from some perspective.
Indeed. We all have REAL freedoms that the wealthiest could not have when I was a lad. Such as the right to go to the DC/X reunion in Alamogordo or fly to Seattle (recall the scene in Captain Courageous when Leland Stanford needs to get across country in hours). But it is still the case that few of our masters in Washington have the foggiest notion of how we all live. Which is a great reason for limiting the power they hold over our lives. We need government. We need strong government; but strong in its sphere. That sphere ought to be as limited as possible.
You cannot abolish power, but you can distribute it among competing entities so that there is freedom in the interstices. We used to know that.
The URL is for just about the most stunning pic I've ever seen.
W5 Star Formation region. It's for about a 4x6 ft image. (Look for the cat face on the left)
http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/08/22/1284684.aspx shows a little teeny image and the article.
Gold-Plated Church Windows Purify Air
One wonders: Did the medieval cathedral builders perhaps have some knowledge of this effect, if only by observing that the air in such buildings smelled better?
" Medieval stained-glass windows colored in gold nanoparticles help purify air when lit by the sun, a new study finds."
discovery channel project earth
Turn on the tv and watch Discovery Channel’s “Project Earth”. They’re trying out some of the geo-engineering ideas you and others have discussed for years. Wrapping glaciers with insulation, putting lenses in orbit, air-dropping seeds or saplings over deforested areas, seeding carbon-eating critters in the ocean… They’re doing experiments and broadcasting their results.
No idea how it turns out since the series just started, but it may be interesting if they’re fair about it.
Energy Independence or Energy Security
It seems to me that we are striving for energy independence when what we require is energy security.
For example, is it better to attempt independence by turning corn into ethanol, or would we benefit more from selling the corn to be used as food and using the money to import Brazilian ethanol made from cane? Trade itself isn't the problem; the problem is one of what we trade and with whom we trade.
-- Mike Johns
So define easily available in some manner that makes sense to the average human being on this earth. The system is huge, has an average livability quotient of zero. Any resources available outside the earth are expensive, in terms of energy required to obtain them, much less to develop them. The need for resources is driven by the ever increasing population of the human race. So what is the problem? Is it the lack of resources or the lack of will power to restrain the increase in population?
First. I did explain all that, in great detail, in A STEP FARTHER OUT. I wrote that back when The Limits to Growth and the era of malaise, and small is beautiful, and all that were not merely popular but nearly all pervasive. I realize you would like me to make up for the deficits in American (and Western for that matter) education in a few sentences and catch phrases, and I wish I had that power; but I can't. I did explain it once, and I need to revise that work; but I am not able to summarize it all in a blog.
Second, I can say: it should be obvious that given access it is no more difficult to mine the Moon than to mine Arizona; that we know there is sunlight without atmospheric attenuation on the Moon; and we know from the French demonstrations in the Pyrenees http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,909204,00.html that we could build solar refineries on the Moon. That's a lot easier than trying to find things ten miles down. Access to space looks to be about a $1 billion dollar effort as a prize to develop the technology: after that the cost is about the same as air travel with the space ships about the cost of a modern airliner.
Go read Exile -- and Glory! for details in a story that you might even enjoy.
As to control of the population, have a look at the success in China. Social engineering always has consequences. Me, I prefer freedom.
That AFP piece on Angela Merkel, Georgia & NATO is definitely one of the most depressing news stories I've read this millenium. I was hoping the Euros would apply some brake to these Eastward Ho! expansion projects. Instead they jammed their foot on top of Neocon Washington's to floor the accelerator.
Expanding NATO to Georgia is meaningless unless the Ukraine is included.
So Obama went with Biden. That's probably wise given Obama's weaknesses in national security and with the working class. Look at James Monroe for an ideal President--he was never rich and he spent much of his life in public service. I think we need someone like that.
My views here have been shaped by watching what happened when the Labour Party ran out of good ideas. Labour clearly needs some time in opposition now to refill their reservoir--almost everything Brown is doing now is just digging a deeper hole.
There's a debate going on in neuroscience. Jim Bower opened it by criticising current neural theory as being too distant from the experimental data and has kept the fire going with carefully chosen examples. Here's a good summary of the discussion: < http://sciencehouse.blogspot.com/2008/08/realistic-versus-abstract-neural.html
>. I polished up the "here I stand" passage from my "Living Our Faith With Science" lecture
> and got some agreement, particularly with my take on reductionism:
"I am not a theoretical reductionist, which might be assumed from my being a materialist. Reductionism claims that higher-level systems can always be explained—that is ‘modelled’—in terms of lower-level systems. For example, that the mind is reducible to neural network activity; neural network activity can be reduced to biology; biology to chemistry, and chemistry to quantum physics. The problem is that you can’t do the modelling. The number of steps from each lower-level model to the next higher-level is essentially infinite—for example, to calculate the folding of a medium-sized protein from quantum mechanics requires more computational power than the universe can possibly contain. This is what Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen call ‘ant country’.
So to understand a higher-level system like the mind, you must develop a theory—anchored in careful experiments—at the same level as the mind. Anything restricted to reductionism is certainly infeasible and likely to be impossible. Certainly, the protein folds, but you can’t model it. I do the modelling, but it is 'cum grano salis.'"
In other news, they've gone barking mad:
Wheelbarrow loads to recycling centre banned for health and safety
Olympic athletes' airport welcome cancelled for health and safety
NHS discouraging good dental care: < http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/aug/22/nhs.health
And the usual:
Roman Catholic Church reorganises and down-sizes in the UK:
A big problem here is not enough priests.
The UK Government is unwilling to pay the true costs of training engineers (and lab-based education in any field), relying instead on importing foreign skilled workers. This has had some knock-on effects:
There's a similar problem currently preventing expansion of the nuclear power generation capacity. Since I'm in the UK as a foreign skilled worker, I shouldn't complain, but I find it hard dealing with people who aren't willing to be self-sufficient and then try to exploit me.
"If they do that with marks and grades, should they be trusted with experimental data?"
Harry Erwin, PhD
Weight of Saturn V vs Aries V
Dear Dr. Jerry,
The article referenced by Mr. Dobbins claims the Aries V stack could weigh well in excess of 10 million kg. By contrast, the Saturn V stack, according to Wikipedia, only weighed just over 3 million kg. The article references the Shuttle as weighing about 7.7 million kg. I can well believe that a "road" engineered for a 3 million kg load might have trouble with something 3 times as heavy (if the figures I cite are true).
I'll leave it to you and your other readers to figure out how and why the new launch vehicle is so darned heavy... but I will note that the Saturn V was, IIRC, fueled completely on the pad and the Shuttle has and Aries will have solid fuel boosters.
Dave in St. Louis
Terrorist Database Failures
Jerry, I read with interest the mail regarding the Terrorist Database. For more than 30 years in the IT industry, I've worked under the premise that the core functions of a computer application include: Add, Change, & Delete. Somehow this fundamental premise was overlooked by homeland Security or their vendors writing the code. http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB121937117186362585.html
Applications using very large databases with rigid time constraints and many interconnections have been successfully developed for a long time. Examples include airline reservation systems and telephone company call logs. Despite the obvious security requirements, this terrorism database should have been easy to implement at a much lower price.
I fear the aerospace industry (including my former employer) has sadly become better at getting money from government than effectively managing large projects. The replacement system should have gone to another vendor such as Oracle, IBM, Google, or any of the hundreds of other firms that do successful commercial projects on-time, on-budget, & meeting requirements. Debacles like this shake my confidence Homeland Security and our government as a whole.
Belated Happy Birthday wishes,
Adrian in Phoenix
"Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it." - Robert A. Heinlein
August 26, 2008
I wasn't alive in 1962, but it seems that we're headed for a Georgia Missile Crisis. Russia is now accusing us of smuggling weapons to Georgia, and has threatened military action if we deploy a missile defense shield in Europe. If we're going to war (hot or cold), I wish we'd at least do it with at least a pretense of National interest.
What the hell are the idiots in Washington thinking? Even during the cold war, our battles were fought with remote surrogates - not on each other's doorsteps. Hearing Bush say "there are no more spheres of influence" is patently irrational.
There's a line from the Hunt for Red October (delivered very well by Fred Thompson): "This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it. "
Here's to luck.
Despair is a sin; and we must not conclude that because we cannot do everything, we can do nothing. Europe has resources; let Europe settle the European affairs and regulate its territorial borders. America has interests, and we must mind those; but the time when Albright could be proud of using our armed forces to intervene in a place where we had no interests may come again. That's worth worrying about.
"more political-legal grounds than Kosovo"
"We have more political-legal grounds than Kosovo to have our independence recognized," South Ossetia President Eduard Kokoity told the upper chamber, according to the Interfax news agency. "When I say 'we' I mean both South Ossetia and Abkhazia <http://topics.cnn.com/topics/Abkhazia> ."
And what can we really say to that?
We can say "We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but the guardians only of our own." We can say that the American people have great sympathy for their cause, but there are limits to what America can do in the Caucuses. And we can (perhaps silently) regret our interventions in Kosovo, which (1) encouraged the Georgians, and (2) gave the Russians very good excuses for ignoring their own stand on national sovereignty and non-intervention in the internal affairs of others.
Detailed account of the Russo/Georgia war
If you haven't seen this yet, it is VERY worth reading. It doesn't necessarily address the question of what interests the USA might have (if any) in the question but it's very educational as regards Russian procedures.
The avowed purpose of NATO was "to keep the Russians out [of Europe], the Americans in [Europe], and the Germans down." The EU (read France) wants American military might to protect it so that it can spend its Euros on other projects like ESA and Airbus -- projects that are aimed at reducing American commercial penetration.
Later than you but independently, I came to the belief that NATO had served its purpose and that the US had no further interest in participating. But if we will not get out, why not invite Georgia, the Ukraine, and Russia to join NATO?
If the Russians want security, invite 'em to join NATO. Pledge American military forces to guarantee the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. Why not? The Russians pose a nuclear threat to the US, but they offer no credible threat in any other sphere. Who knows? We might even get a couple of bases in Russia out of the deal. (Can you say Codominium? I knew you could.)
I am sorry that this rant is not better organized and developed, but I am short on time and long on frustration with the posturing of neo-cons on Georgia.
Live long and prosper
h lynn keith
My view is that we have some interest but no control over the territorial disputes of Europe, and the Europeans have both an economy and military forces. Of course the French want us to sit on Fritz while they play moral superiority games; they have been doing this since before the Thirty Years War, and I don't expect that to change. Why we should be the enablers of this is another story.
The USSR was a danger to the US; it had both external power, and an influential fifth column in the United States -- and fifth, sixth, and seventeenth columns in Europe. I remain convinced that containment was a proper strategy for the Cold War, and while I regret the inevitable expansion of government that accompanied fighting the Cold War, there was little we could do about it. It was the price that the liberals, aided by useful idiots and fellow travelers, extracted as the price for allowing us to fight the Cold War. (My regret over most liberal programs is not the programs themselves; had they been confined to the states they might have been useful social experiments; my regret is the great expansion of the power of the Federal Government. That perhaps is a matter for another time-- but the Iron Law always applies.)
Russia and Georgia - You Missed It
You apparently missed the news of the silver lining to the Georgian invasion dark cloud. Last week ammunition was sold out all over Alabama. One shopper told a reporter "Those Russians might have caught Georgia with their pants down, but Alabama will put up a fight!"
Oath of Fealty in Dubai. Probably vaporware but still interesting given that Dubai actually is a monarchy.
"The Mayans and Egyptians constructed incredible feats of architecture able to weather the test of time, but they had no idea their pyramids would inspire the shape of the latest carbon-neutral super-structure to hit Dubai. Dubai-based environmental design firm Timelinks recently released some eye-catching renderings of the gigantic eco pyramid - aptly named Ziggurat - with plans for its official unveiling scheduled for the Cityscape Dubai event which runs October 6-9 of this year. The ginormous pyramid will cover 2.3 square kilometers and will be able to sustain a "community" of up to 1 million."
I wonder if Paulo Soleri was involved in the design? Fascinating.... For those who are confused, Oath of Fealty, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle -- recently reprinted in paperback by Baen -- is a story of an Arcology, a single building that houses and employs a great number. It was prophetic in its day and still holds up. Go get a copy.
OK, now this just ain't right...
All of the employees in our corporate office received an email this morning about the Clear program and its new alliance with a major airline we use. It caused quite a stir! In part, it reads:
"Clear members are pre-screened by the Transportation Security Administration and after application approval, which involves providing iris and fingerprint images, receive a card that allows access to Clear’s designated security lanes nationwide. Clear lanes, which feature concierges whose assistance speeds throughput while making the experience far more pleasant, are already operating in airports in Cincinnati, Denver, Indianapolis, Orlando, San Francisco, and Washington DC’s Reagan National and Dulles airports, among others. The annual fee is $100 plus a $28 TSA fee."
So, let me see if I have this straight. The government creates the TSA to keep air travel safe. The TSA institutes rules and procedures which don’t do a whole lot to keep us safe, but which do restrict our liberties and cause a lot of headaches and delays for travelers. But after several years of putting up with this nonsense, we can now have the privilege of avoiding all this "unpleasantness" at the airport if we cough up $128 a year to the government.
I'm sorry, but that's nothing more than a good ol’ fashioned protection racket! They create the problem, then collect money from us to "make the unpleasantness go away". Don't even get me started on the iris and fingerprint scans...
Government expands, always; and the Iron Law applies; always.
Subj: What should science students study in college?
Our friend RBT has fired a shot across the bow of the old ideal of a Liberal Education:
Sounds to me like an excellent way to produce a crop of Morlock-scientists. It would be an interesting experiment, to see how long a civilization could maintain itself under such a regime -- but not with *my* civilization, please, thank you very much!
Or maybe RBT is right, and science-oriented students would soak up the habits and attitudes necessary to sustain civilization naturally, on their own, in their spare time. The Muslims claim, as I understand it, that all babies are "naturally" Muslim, and that it is only by the malign influence of corrupt parents and communities that they fall away into infidelity. Maybe RBT has something like that in mind?
C.P. Snow once wrote about the "Two Cultures" -- one composed of civilized people ignorant of science and technology, the other composed of scientists and technicians ignorant of civilization. Later investigation, if I remember correctly, indicated that there are indeed two cultures -- but the sci/tech people tend to be considerably more knowledgeable about civilization than the non-sci/tech people are knowledgeable of science. How much that pattern depends on the innate inclinations of individuals, and how much on patterns of acculturation, I don't know.
I will grant RBT this much: no formal instruction in non-scientific matters would be better than the indoctrination in Politically Correct poppycock that is apparently the standard fare in our colleges today.
Robert Bruce Thompson replies:
I know a lot of scientists, and not one of them is a Morlock. Of course, scientists are by definition bright people, and bright people are, almost by definition, autodidacts. All of these folks are well-read, and many of them have focused on specific areas of interest outside science in their spare time.
I know scientists, for example, who could competently teach undergraduate or even graduate level courses in European history or Renaissance art or 19th century English poetry. I know of no history, art, or literature Ph.D.s who could competently teach even a high school chemistry or biology or physics course. There's a non-PC explanation for this. People who major in the hard sciences, engineering, and other rigorous subjects are very intelligent; people who major in non-rigorous subjects are, with few exceptions, not very intelligent. And most of those exceptions are business majors, which is unfortunate. Society would be much better served if they'd majored in rigorous subjects instead of wasting themselves on business.
High school is the place to introduce students to history, literature, and other non-rigorous subjects. Those who are interested can pursue these subjects on their own time. College and graduate school is the place to teach rigorous subjects such as science and engineering, as well as medicine, law, accounting, and the other learned professions. Others have commented that only perhaps 10% of those currently in college should be in college. The corollary is that only 10% of college courses actually have any valid place in an institution of higher learning.
My own views fall a bit in between, but the discussion is complicated by the contrast between what should be and what is. I was fortunate enough to go to the University of Iowa in the early 1950's at a time when we were required to take a full year of the history of Western Civilization. Everyone was required to take that. The lectures were given in a huge hall that had been the State Assembly chamber when Iowa City was the state Capital before the Capital was moved and the Capitol was given to the university. The lecturer was George Mosse, perhaps the greatest history lecturer alive at the time. Dr. Mosse was probably a Democrat of the centrist kind that prevailed in the US in those times; but that hardly showed. What he did was make history live and show how European history affected the political ideas of the Framers of the United States Constitution. Mosse had grown up in Germany during the Hitler era. He understood thoroughly what uninformed ideology could do to a nation.
I was also required to take Greeks and the Bible, Masterpieces of European Literature, and Modern Literature. A smattering of culture, with enough to whet my appetite for things intellectual. I do not regret a moment of all that even though Shakespeare sometimes interfered with Differential Equations.
I do not think all that could have been achieved in high school; I had as good a high school education as all but perhaps those in the best prep schools in the land could get, and better than most prep schools. High school students have not lived enough to be able to appreciate some of the experiences one gets from Shakespeare.
What is needed here is my essay on education, but I have not written it yet. The problem is not describing what is needed for both the left and right sides of the bell curve; it is how to overcome the inevitable consequences of doing that. We have the same situation here.
The education of those headed for college should not be the same as for those who will go there. I do not agree that 90% of college students should not be there; but I do believe that half those in college would probably benefit from an entirely different kind of education -- and would have benefited from an entirely different kind of high school education.
But I would emphatically disagree with the notion that science and engineering students should not be required to study some history and literature while absorbing differential equations. So did Richard Feynman who wanted me to do a senior course on Technology and Civilization at Cal Tech for exactly that reason. Alas, that never happened; but I don't think it was a bad idea.
This is not good, taking a military veteran and his wife and branding them unemployable terrorists on some secret list that cannot be challenged. I can’t believe Tom Ridge is being seriously considered as a VP candidate… He’s overseen assault after assault on the constitution and putting him in the chain of command over the US military scares the living shit out of me.
Calumny! See Mozart's Barber of Seville for details.
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
August 27, 2008
Continuing the discussion on education:
Robert Bruce Thompson wrote...
I have no Ph.D. I do have degrees in history and literature. I have successfully taught physics at a high school level as a substitute teacher. I've worked as a content specialist for a textbook publisher.
I've known plenty of scientists and engineers (and computer scientists in particular) who assume that detailed subject knowledge makes them good teachers. Most of them assume teaching is like mentoring someone one-on-one. Very few of them associate teaching with giving a presentation to a room full of disinterested middle management hacks who resent that you're keeping them away from their cell phones and pagers. And doing it five hours a day, 5 days a week, for 36 weeks a year.
All the knowledge in the subject won't help if you can't convey it to the pupils. Richard Feynmann put tremendous amounts of thought on both the subject matter, and how to teach it effectively. Textbook writers have to put similar amounts of thought on this, without the benefit of A) being as bright OR as engaging as Dr. Feynmann, or B) being able to "test" the presentation with live students.
Think for a moment on what the Iron Law does as selection pressure on textbooks, and how textbook publishers stay in business..
Great scientists do not necessarily make great teachers. Feynman was an exception, but he was not particularly effective outside the high IQ environment of Cal Tech. His explanations of the quantum phenomena for the layman are very good, but he was most effective with bright students. No surprises there.
John W. Campbell, Jr., in one of his Analog (perhaps as long ago as Astounding) editorials said that the difference between the Eastern and Western traditions was that in the East it is the student's job to understand the guru, while in the West the burden falls on the teacher. It was an interesting observation that I have never forgotten. There are many implications and one could write a book about the exceptions to the rules, but it is still worth contemplation.
The real question is motivation. Education in the sciences is a series of deferred rewards. History well taught has daily and recognizable rewards, images and insights; math and physics have great intellectual rushes with comprehension, but they come at infrequent intervals. We are not doing well at showing extremely bright kids why they ought to be scientists and middle bright why they ought to learn engineering. No Child Left Behind exacerbates this trend. And then some.
RE: NON-SCIENCE MAJORS UNINTELLIGENT?
Robert Thompson stated: “people who major in non-rigorous subjects are, with few exceptions, not very intelligent.”
I work as a chemical engineer, but I must disagree with Mr. Thompson. I believe one alternate explanation has to do with a person’s innate ability for 3 dimensional visualization. People who are strong in this aptitude generally do well in the sciences and engineering, and to enjoy it. Conversely, people who are low in this aptitude generally do well in and are attracted to the world of ideas, such as English, literature and so forth. The study of the great works of western civilization is an honorable pursuit.
But the study of the great books, the great works of western literature can be vastly different from perhaps many college humanities classes, taught by specialists who have no first hand acquaintance with the primary sources in western philosophy and literature. I have also studied theology. There are many intelligent people in the world of ideas as well.
I took Thompson's statement as hyperbole. George Mosse was one of the brightest people I ever knew. Robert Heinlein pretended a certain contempt for non-rigorous subject matter, but he privately admired many thinkers who came from fields other than the sciences. And it was Einstein who said that social sciences were much harder than physics.
I know of no rigorous science of human ethics and behavior. The sciences and engineering disciplines are very good at telling us what we can do, and in expanding what I call "real freedoms" -- the freedom to fly to Boston on whim at affordable prices, the freedom not to have your teeth rot in your head after age 50 -- but they are pretty short on telling us what we SHOULD do. Alas, the social sciences -- which I have more than once call The Voodoo Sciences -- are not very good even at telling us what will happen if we do certain things, so that a "science" of ethics becomes nearly impossible, and we find an "ethics of intentions" -- "But I MEANT well" -- is often taught in classrooms as if it were something real.
My only remedy here would be to return real power to local school boards. By real power I mean the power of arbitrary dismissal of teachers for insisting on "independent thought". See Leslie Fish's popular song "Teacher, teacher" for a very articulate statement of the view opposite mine. I have great sympathy for what Leslie is trying to say there; but she's wrong. Parents have every right to try to make their children be like themselves; the state has no right to tax us so that our children can be molded into the image John Dewey (or Bishop Sheen) had in mind for us. Read Jacques Barzun's excellent book Teacher in America for more on this.
The "social sciences" tend to be useful, in part because those who practice them know little of scientific method. Our next letter points to an exception.
Interview with Dr. Charles Murray published on MND
Hi Jerry -
MND's Bernard Chapin has just published an exclusive interview with Charles Murray.
No Nation Left Behind: An Interview with
2008-08-27 at 12:28 am • Filed under Culture <http://mensnewsdaily.com/category/culture/> , Current Events <http://mensnewsdaily.com/category/popular-events/> , Education <http://mensnewsdaily.com/category/education/> , Vox Populi <http://mensnewsdaily.com/category/vox-populi/>
My father always said that anyone who lived through John F. Kennedy's assassination remembers what they were doing at the precise moment the president was shot. This may well be true, but we also lucidly recall the circumstances of far lesser events such as the controversy surrounding the publication of The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life <http://www.aei.org/publications/bookID.445/book_detail.asp> by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray. The furor its conclusions caused is forever ingrained in my memory.
At the time I was a psychology graduate student and found that most of my associates were familiar with the work but deemed it a book to be burned rather than read. I, however, bought it anyway, and like to think that my purchase foreshadowed my eventual defection from the Democratic Party. While the mainstream media may deem Dr. Charles Murray a pariah, he has been a hero of mine for fourteen years. His fame preceded the 1990s, however. Losing Ground <http://www.aei.org/books/filter.all,bookID.447/book_detail.asp> : American Social Policy 1950–1980 <http://www.aei.org/books/filter.all,bookID.447/book_detail.asp> is a work that permanently altered public perceptions regarding the welfare state. Therefore, it was an honor to have him answer a few questions about his latest publication, Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality <http://www.aei.org/books/bookID.958,filter.all/book_detail.asp> . Currently, he is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute <http://www.aei.org/scholars/scholarID.43,filter.all/scholar.asp> .
BC: Congratulations on the publication of your new book, Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality <http://www.amazon.com/Real-Education-Bringing-Americas-Schools/dp/0307405389/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1219339683&sr=1-1> , why does the future of this nation depend on the education of the gifted? Personally, I find your assumption non-remarkable, but why are so many of our elites offended by the notion that we should assist the strong?
Dr. Charles Murray: The academically gifted run the country. That's not what should be, that's what is. It can be demonstrated empirically that the overwhelming majority of people in positions of economic, cultural, and political influence is drawn from among those in the top ten percent of academic ability. That being the case, they need to arrive at those positions possessing an education—a classic, rigorous, liberal education—that gives them the best possible chance of being wise as well as technically well-trained. The resistance of the elites to this idea? It makes them feel…elitist. And above all else, we mustn't think anything that makes us feel bad about ourselves.
BC: Along these lines, is our nation's devotion to the education of the handicapped—as discernable in the billions spent on special education since 1975—at the expense of higher functioning students—an example of compassion gone mad? In your view, for what reason do we preference the disabled over the abled?
Dr. Charles Murray: I am an impassioned advocate for the proposition that none of us deserves the academic ability we possess, whether it be high or low. So I am happy to see money spent on the academically handicapped, as long as the money actually accomplishes something. Most of it doesn't, and meanwhile we have neglected the kind of education that might really make a difference in their lives (e.g., teaching them ways of making a living despite their handicaps). But neglecting the gifted is just as morally bankrupt as neglecting the handicapped. We don't consider deliberately withholding special training from the athletically or musically gifted—we would think it unfair (even spiteful) to the child to do so. The same logic applies to the academically gifted.
BC: The major group tests given to college applicants—such as the SAT and the ACT—assess academic skills, is it your position that new evaluation measures should be normed and implemented that incorporate cognitive capacity as well (due to it better identifying, for employers, students who will excel in a vocational setting)?
Dr. Charles Murray: The SAT and ACT are actually pretty good measures of cognitive ability. But I'm in favor of moving toward certification tests that are specific to a vocation (the CPA exam is the archetype), and that measure what a job applicant knows, not where he learned it or how long it took or, for that matter, what his cognitive ability is. If I'm hiring a carpenter, I want to know if he's a good carpenter. The same principle should apply if I'm hiring management trainees, physicians, or even, God help us, public policy analysts. <snip>
GOP junk science.
--- Roland Dobbins
The solar system has a way of waking people up.
August 28, 2008
No Morlocks he claims? No one experimenting on living human beings against their will (e.g. embryonic stem-cell research)? No one who doesn't agree with the introductory section of the Declaration of Independence? (without which we'd have no freedoms at all, rather either the group-will-to-power or a dictator). No one who doesn't know where those ideas come from, and why they ought to be believed as true? I suspect he knows many Morlocks, but doesn't recognize them as being that much different from himself.
The basic story of history can be taught easily, but that does not mean that historical research is not (or ought not) be rigorous. Post-Christian notions of ideologically-driven historiography doesn't rise to the level of being history, no matter what the departments say. Likewise with literature and the rest of culture, and religion, metaphysics, ethics, epistemology and ontology. A 'scientist' who doesn't understand those things rather well is a technician, not a scientist, no matter how much he struts around and poses (like the idiot bigot Dawkins). Such people doing science are literally at the level of animism in their comprehension. They repeat things because they are supposed to work, they don't know -why- it works. They have no coherent reason for believing that it -does- work.
In fact, history literature, metaphysics, epistemology, ontology, ethics and aesthetics -are- scientia. It is a hubris of the late modern natural philosopher to think that mathematics are the only form of scientia. It is the hubris of the populace of the country of the blind who think that the one-eyed man must be insane. Logical reasoning is the key. Not math. Math is a useful tool in certain conditions. But it can only adequately describe some things, not all things. I'm not talking about the pseudo-scientific gibberish that shows up in education journals, where the authors (who teach the future teachers!) think that the more syllables they string together in a single coinage. the more scientific they are.
"Non-rigorous" Courses Banned from College
Heinlein once said, you only need three things: math, language, and history. Equipped with these three you can learn anything else.
One of the problems with the privileged position of science in our culture is that its adepts tend to convince themselves of its omnicompetence and suppose that nothing else is worth doing. One is reminded of one of the errors condemned by Bishop Tempier in 1277: "That philosophers are the only wise men in the world." While it is likely true that one may find a scientist who can competently teach history or English lit (or at least one who is convinced he can), I suspect that their teaching would be more a matter of facts and chronology than understanding. There is no task so simple as the Other Guy's.
Perhaps RBT would not go so far as Hume and advocate the burning of every book that is not a book of fact, but his notion that history can be self-taught is both true and not true enough. History is more than a simple compendium of facts and while science can always be studied historically, history cannot be studied scientifically.
My college Western Civ. was different from yours: No big lecture hall. I was placed in a seminar with perhaps a dozen students around the table and John Lukacs at the end of it. [You may have read his A History of the Cold War or perhaps his The Passing of the Modern Age (which makes a nice companion to Jacobs' Dark Age Ahead.)]
On my way to a BA in math, I also passed through four semesters each of philosophy and theology, a couple of Artillery ROTC courses, the aforesaid History of Western Civilization, English Lit, German, a couple years of Russian, psych, physics, astrophysics, stellar evolution, musical counterpoint, musical harmony and sundry odds and ends.
Science is the study of facts about the natural world. No amount of fact can lead to values. That is why all the big name scientists of a century ago thought eugenics was peachy keen. They thought they could reach a metaphysical conclusion from the physical facts of Darwinism. But as Mary Midgley wrote, "There is now no safer occupation than talking bad science to philosophers, except talking bad philosophy to scientists."
Of course in addition to Mosse's lectures everyone had "quiz sections" taught by his graduate students. In my case I managed to get into the sesson conducted by Mosse himself in his house; a dozen or so of us, who worked hard to gain his respect.
I already knew about artillery, the last argument of kings.
Falkenberg and CoDominium stories
I noticed that you have a character, John Christian Falkenberg, that is similar to an H Beam Piper character (I believe you guys co-wrote a story).
I read your story titled "The Mercenary" found in Analog's 1983 War & Peace edition.
I found the concept of the CoDominium to an interesting story line, and was wondering if you had any other stories along this line?
Although Beam was a good friend, I was an aerospace engineer when he died, and we never worked on anything together. I hadn't thought of similarities between Falkenberg and any of Beam's characters, but I will cheerfully admit to his influence on my work.
All of the Falkenberg and CoDominium stories (including the novels) are collected with some original materials in the Baen book The Prince.
Space Program Threatened
US-Russia Chill Threatens NASA Space Program
The chill left on US-Russian relations by Moscow's military incursion into Georgia could spell problems for future US access to the International Space Station, US experts said.
NASA will become dependent on flights to the ISS by Russia's Soyuz spacecraft when it retires the shuttle fleet that has long ferried US astronauts into space in 2010.
NASA will only get its successor space vehicle, Orion, planned for a revival of trips to the moon, ready for flight in 2015 at the earliest.
That leaves the needs of US astronauts visiting the ISS vulnerable to the possibility of a new Cold War between Washington and Moscow after Russia's powerful military overran much of Georgia.
"If recent Russian actions are any indicator, a technical excuse to completely block US access to the ISS for geopolitical reasons would fit nicely into the Kremlin toolkit," Vincent Sabathier, an expert on human space exploration at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said.
There may yet be The CoDominium. I think this points out the terrible mismanagement of U.S. interests by those at NASA better than just about anything else I could point to. That we have deliberately placed our future in the hands of a very real threat is just appalling to me.
Braxton S. Cook
It hardly cheers me up.
Inferno and Escape from Hell
Dear Mr. Pournelle:
I hope this email finds you doing well. Thanks so much for the many hours of entertainment you have given me through your books. I was very excited to learn that one of my favorites Inferno is being rereleased and that your new novel Escape from Hell will soon follow. Are there plans to release these books in a Kindle version? I have had a Kindle since late last year and read almost exclusively on it now.
The reprint of Inferno, in a trade paperback edition, should be available now; Escape From Hell is scheduled for early 2009.
Closing the 'Collapse Gap': the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US
Good evening Dr. Pournelle, seems to me that the technological advances you promote would be infinitely preferable to chaos and death implicit in the collapse of the United States. Tim Harness.
Georgia and Kosovo: A Single Intertwined Crisis,
It sounds like Stratfor has been listening to you about Kosovo and Georgia:
I wish more people would isten...
Virgin Galactic's barnstorming elephant, or, why I have no fear for commercial space access in spite of NASA's best efforts
Hi Jerry, it's been a while since the last time I wrote you, in fact blog wasn't even in the lexicon yet.
In all the coverage of Spaceship Two last month, and all the discussion about Virgin Galactic, there's no mention of the elephant in the room, though it's plain for everyone (except maybe your average tv news reporter) to see. Certainly both Branson and Rutan are smart enough to be on top of it, though they certainly can't discuss anything about it for business reasons.
After a couple dozen barnstorming celebrity space tourist shakedown flights, the next step, and the one that takes us 90% of the way to orbit, is three hour flight service from Mojave to Dubai. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Spaceships 5-10 financed by the Emirates, or a 'Dubai Aero Services' corporation setting up shop at Mojave, whose main line of work is tending to the private jets of sheikhs who land at Mojave, and take Virgin Galactic on to Dubai and leave their jets behind, either to be taxied on to Dubai later, or remaining hangared at Mojave to await their owners return on a Virgin Galactic return flight.
Why Dubai? They can afford it, and it's got the ostentation and luxury that they so love. Of course, that means that hub service will more than likely be built out from Dubai first. And then there's also the question of how long it will take for charter service to give way to scheduled flights.
What's surprising is the lack of discussion about this next stage. The silence is deafening. I mean, not from Branson, I'm sure he already has workups of the cabin decor, and not from the mainstream press, as collectively, they're all about as sharp as a bag of bowling balls, but from the enthusiast press and the learned commentators and analysts who ought to know these things. The silence seems almost conspiratorial.
All that being said, there's no doubt in my mind that we're not too far off from commercial ballistic air travel, and if Dubai isn't the first regular destination, I'll be quite surprised.
Re: Colonization of solar system to save the human race.
If the future of the human race is indeed at risk then nothing else you and I do is important. Everyone MUST start to work the problem.
Since you don't seem too concerned about elucidating us then the problem must not be as pressing and important as you've led us to believe.
Selling that we need to colonize the rest of the solar system because there is so much good stuff there doesn't work as well as you imply. Just imagine that some miner finds an asteroid that is composed of pure Pampers Diapers. Imagine 100 million tons of Pampers. The company that now makes Pampers would work VERY hard to prohibit bringing that asteroid back here for obvious reasons. This same scenario would repeat for most things to be found on the nine planets and their sundry moons.
Just pointing to a forty year old science FICTION book won't convince anyone. I learned long ago that a writer can make a work of fiction come out ANY WAY HE WANTS.
You are welcome to your views, but you are a bit misinformed. A Step Farther Out is a collection of essays and reports written when I was science editor of Galaxy (my predecessor in that position was Willy Ley) and is a non-fiction book that goes through the arguments rather carefully. I am sorry I am unable to be convincing in a few sentences, but if the matter is important -- and most who consider the matter think it is -- then perhaps you ought to read more than a few paragraphs in a day book.
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
And I would have thought it a boon for mankind to find a clean source of minerals and energy; all of that is explained in the book.
I do not accept the proposition that I don't care or don't find the matter important.
STAR WARS: BETTER THAN TANG !
The old rivalry between NASA and the Strategic Defense Initiative has reignited into a post-Cold War struggle to spin the the spin-offs that make men free.
For decades, the Tang Label was NASA's battle flag, but now Star Wars has struck back with this new icon:
-- Russell Seitz
Most of my discussions on vitamins were with Mike Lalor (late of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group and frequent Worldcon Business Meeting timekeeper) before he began experiencing personal problems and we lost contact a few years ago (he died in January of last year).
While I've followed his advice inconsistently, there are three major "lines" of effects that he focused on producing for me:
L-carnitine, which facilitates fat metabolism and in appropriate doses supposedly can remove fatty plaque from the inside of arteries (sometimes catastrophically if taken in large doses; I usually split a 250 mg dose over several days). I'm not sure if this has anything to do with why my stress test earlier this year turned up no signs of significant blockage, but given my size and weight I'll continue to take it. Acetyl-L-carnitine appears to have different metabolic function; I'll need to explore further.
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol, or water-soluble Vitamin D) which was said to be superior for regulating calcium transport to bones (and I would presume to the heart and muscles). I can positively report that on several occasions I've developed bone spurs in my heels; the associated pain usually ceases after 3-4 daily 400 IU doses of D2, and I never redevelop problems as long as I take at least 4-5 doses per week.
A cardiac/vascular protection "cocktail" of 2000 mg Vitamin C (anti-oxidant), 600 mg biorutin (base for reformation of vascular damage), 400 IU of natural Vitamin E (not synthetic, which is usually ~100% alpha-tocopherol, which Mike said was less bioeffective than the beta, delta, and particularly gamma-tocoperols, as well as leading to digestive problems), and 100 mg niacin (vasodilator). I haven't been taking this regularly for several years and need to start again.
One can find enthusiastic boosters of myriads of vitamin supplements; I have not the expertise to choose among them. I do take quite a large cocktail of vitamins and other supplements. I don't recommend my own formula to anyone else.
Subject: silver lining to the Georgian invasion
You apparently missed the news of the silver lining to the Georgian invasion dark cloud. Last week ammunition was sold out all over Alabama. One shopper told a reporter "Those Russians might have caught Georgia with their pants down, but Alabama will put up a fight!"
GLAST OFF !
NASA"s new view of the unfriendly skies seen in the hard gamma ray regime- yes, there is a black hole in the middle of the galaxy.
The Gamma ray Large Area Space Telescope has delivered , well ,,not exactly first light, It directionally images particle pair production by gamma rays too energetic for optics to handle
-- Russell Seitz
Not Smart Enough for College The Chronicle of Higher
To the Editor:
David Glenn's essay on the wage gap between college graduates and high-school graduates ("Supply-Side Education," The Chronicle Review, July 25) misses the central point: Not all people have the intelligence to complete a college education.
Some basic intelligence must be required to complete a respectable college education. Otherwise we will not only dumb down higher education, but the benefits of a college degree will be subsumed under a tide of educational mediocrity. One would need a graduate degree to truly be credentialed. If the big wage gap today were between graduate degrees and bachelor's degrees, would we suggest universal graduate school as the solution?
The truth is that there are students who don't belong in college. There are students who don't even belong in high school. Not only do they benefit marginally, if at all, but their presence reduces their peers' education as teachers are forced to slow down and give them more attention.
Many well-paying jobs require skill but not intellect. Some plumbers, carpenters, and electricians earn more than some professors. Pressuring everyone to go to college would gradually destroy the quality of higher education in America, and therefore of our society in general.
Anthony Kronman interviewed by Charles Murray
About the Program
In "Education's End," Yale Law Professor Anthony Kronman writes that universities no longer emphasize educating students about what the great thinkers have written about the meaning of life, instead concentrating on a curriculum fueled by political correctness.
About the Author
Anthony Kronman is Sterling Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He is a former Dean of the Law School and currently teaches in the university's Directed Studies Program.
This sort of thing is becoming more and more common. Here in Augusta, what was once the largest mall in Georgia closed some years ago because of crime problems. It still stands vacant. The other mall has fought to keep bus routes from coming close.
Baen books on Kindles
I saw one of your correspondents yesterday asked about the availability of your newly reprinted books on the Kindle.
You might want to tell him (and any other kindle readers of your site) that all your (recent?) Baen published books are available electronically on the Kindle, the iPhone and for that matter almost every other ebook reader and PDA/smartphone. Books are published via webscriptions in the following formats * Ebookwise/Rocket Format * Mobipocket/Palm/Kindle Format * Microsoft Reader Format * Sony Digital Reader Format * RTF Format * HTML Format
-- Francis Turner
Baen, yes, but Inferno and Escape from Hell are from Tor
Inescapable technological path to redundancy?
Congratulations on your recovery!
I have for as long as I can remember been interested in science and technology, and look forward to the many breakthroughs to come.
But are we (mankind) on an inescapeable technological path to make ourselves redundant? True AI is probably still many years in the future, but it seems more or less inevitable that the day will come when we build an intelligent machine that is smarter than we are. Is this the day all "thinking jobs" will disappear?
Suppose one had an IQ 500 mind in a box, that would be happy to think day and night. Of course the possibilities would be almost limitless, but at the same time maybe this would be the end of the human contribution to "evolution" on our planet? And why think at all anymore, when you know the box on your desk is 10 times smarter than you are?
Greetings from Denmark,
Moreover, computers would evolve through Lamarkian principles, not through Mendelian/Darwinian evolution. Greg Benford has written novels about such a universe, and of course Vernor Vinge has given it considerable thought.
I don't know. I do know that the Earth is just too small and fragile a basket to keep all our eggs in.
There goes the Cosmological Constant
Although I'm a Nuclear Engineer, I don't yet know what to make of this blog entry and the data. The linked paper which I've only skimmed has more details on the subject. Maybe the phenomenon is a good excuse for a new SF novel? In any event, I thought that it would interest you:
Do nuclear decay rates depend on our distance from the sun? http://arxivblog.com/?p=596
the physics arXiv blog - Do nuclear decay rates depend on our distance from the sun?
Do nuclear decay rates depend on our distance from the sun?
Interesting indeed, but I don't know what to make of it either.
I wish I had Charlie Sheffield to work with; we'd probably have a Higher Education story using it,
science and humanities
I was going to sit this one out, but I just couldn't let statements by Michael Flynn go by unchallenged:
It would be much more accurate to say that science is the study of how_to_think_about facts about the natural world. This is often done with mathematical models. The models are usually constructed based on observed data (facts, if you will). If the model agrees with the data, it _may_ be a useful model. If the model can reliably be used to predict outcomes, it is a REALLY useful model. It sounds conceptually simple, but collecting and interpreting data is usually the most challenging aspect of science.
A person of a scientific mind realizes that most observations in life are the result of multiply correlated causes, the interactions of which are difficult, if not impossible, to characterize mathematically. In short, our understanding is imperfect.
In the humanities, it is not usually possible to identify and isolate all the variables, or even agree on the basic postulates. If there is no absolute standard, every argument boils down to "because I think so". Today's trendy sophisticates sneer at the idea of universal values, and instead worship nuance and multiculturalism.
I also vehemently deny the assertion that
The only alternatives I can see to to values based on facts are values based on Revealed Truth, or values that are arbitrarily arrived at. And the humanities _still_ revere Margaret Sanger as a hero. You have to hand it to her, though. She didn't just believe eugenics was "peachy keen"; she did something about it.
Traditionally, age has been associated with wisdom. A long life allows one to accumulate data. Survival was an indication, if not proof, of the validity of conclusions that were being drawn by the survivors. Values develop because they have evolved over the course of years based on wisdom, which is a heuristic model to accommodate many accumulated facts. Wisdom is just an informal approach to the scientific method.
The problem the in humanities today is not facts without values, but values without facts. The worst offense that can be committed today in academia is to give offense. Feelings are more important than facts. We can safely ignore and denounce The Bell Curve without reading it because we know that some of the facts contradict our notions of equal ability. We will leap to denounce a team of rich white boys accused of raping a poor black woman before the facts are known, because no figure is more evil than the rich white male. We can vilify and humiliate Larry Sommers for having the temerity to suggest that a possible explanation for the fact that there are more male mathematicians than female ones is that it may be the natural order. We can ignore facts, and teach the nonsensical fantasy that Aristotle stole his ideas from black philosophers in the Library of Alexandria, so that black African ideas can be considered basic to western civilization. In the humanities today, values are immutable; facts are ephemeral.
Alas, this has not always been the case. Thirty years ago I took a year of Western Civ in a small Liberal Arts college. I also read Voltaire and Rabelais in the original. I used to be able the recite quite a bit of the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales. My proudest academic achievement on my way to a BS in Physics was the A- earned in Ned Crawley's Shakespeare 401 class. But that was back in the day when it was understood that enduring societal values evolve over the course of centuries, and do not spring fully formed Athena-like from the brow of a modern-day Marx (Oops, I meant Zeus. One of those monosyllabic names.).
I just love a good battle, and I'll let Flynn speak for himself; he's very much qualified to do so.
The question of whether facts can lead to values is far from settled. The present Pope addressed the issue in his Regensberg speech, and of course Aquinas did also; the reconciliation of Reason and Faith -- and their interdependence -- is one of the oldest issues to occupy the thinkers of Western Civilization.
You seem to believe that Reason and Faith cannot coexist; I will say briefly that a great number of very intelligent people have not held that view.
What I do not understand is why you think Flynn, who so far as I can tell from knowing him for some years is very much influenced by Aquinas, would disagree with much of what you said (although he will have a different tone).
Regarding the humanities, we have not been able to reduce a great deal of what we think of as wisdom to a series of falsifiable propositions. I got a Ph.D. in psychology and seldom encountered any falsifiable propositions along the way; the exception being the Grade Prediction Program and my studies of Factor Analysis. The Grade Prediction Program was declared unconstitutional by the courts on the grounds that it consistently predicted lower grades for black, and predicted higher grades for anyone if they majored in Education.
NASA dependent on Russia
On the article regarding our dependence on Russia to get the ISS:
“NASA will become dependent on flights to the ISS by Russia's Soyuz spacecraft when it retires the shuttle fleet that has long ferried US astronauts into space in 2010.”
I just picked up “Lucifer’s Hammer” to reread for about the 5th time….it’s interesting to note that in the story, the US was dependent on the Soviets to bring food to the Hammer observatory because the Shuttle program had stalled.
Quite a similarity there …. Now all we need is a large Hot Fudge Sundae bearing down on us…. :-)
August 30, 2008
Am pleased to hear you are testing clear of cancer. I am sure that you are relieved to not be reminded every time that you hit the C on the key board.
On that variation on decay times, it is reasonable to suggest that this is an artifact of the changing density of fine structure curvature external to the element and should induce a change in the expressed time clock. At least i think it should.
Have you tracked Nanosolar yet? I wrote it up on:
This will end the oil age swiftly, It is a little like watching the first step on the moon. And I have never seen a company garner this level of financial support ever.
I am putting up an update on Sunday night.
All I know about Nanosolar is their home page. I do know the solar constant, something about cloud cover, and that the sun doesn't shine a lot at night, which argues to me that ground based solar has limits they are not saying much about. Intermittent power sources require better storage technologies than we have at present. That doesn't mean we won't get them, but both wind and ground based solar tend to be distributed and intermittent.
variable nuclear decay
heuristically...I can't think of anything correlated with solar distance that would account for this...but ether drift or related sorts of effects might. But I think I'd rather believe it's a hoax...if that's true, surely something would have turned up in reactor control theory before now (among every other sub-discipline of nuclear engineering). This kind of phenomenon can't occur in isolation with no observable effects for sixty years. Can it?
Your guess is as good as mine; I would have thought we'd have discovered it in one of the various reactors either stationary or aboard ships. But stranger things have happened.
I do know we are not done with fundamental discoveries.
Algae to oil
“The sun will change the way we power the country,” says small-cap sleuth Greg Guenthner. “Just not the way you think it will. There’s another form of solar power. In our opinion, it’s more potent -- and could be even more life changing than the cheaper next-generation solar panels in development at this time.
“The big idea is to farm massive amounts of algae and harvest the plants for their oils. Internet communities are abuzz, and the technology has the support of numerous academics. That’s right -- universities, venture capitalists and even the government are all racing to squeeze valuable oil out of pond scum…
“Algae are the fastest growing plants in the world. They’re vital to water ecosystems worldwide and consume more carbon dioxide than any other plant. As they grow, algae produce lipids, or vegetable oil. In fact, they produce a lot of oil …
“Let’s put this into perspective. One acre of corn can yield about 28 gallons of oil in one year. In more tropical regions, an acre of palms can yield about 6,700 gallons of oil per year. But algae are in a class all their own. An acre of algae can yield anywhere between 20,000-100,000 gallons of oil per year. This is possible because algae really do grow like weeds. An alga plant can completely reproduce up to six times per day. Try doing that with corn.”
I do recall that green slime is prolific. We used to grow it when we were working on Moon Colony technologies. I don't recall the numbers, but the stuff certainly grows like weeds -- it is a weed.
Of course chlorophyll systems are the traditional way to harness solar energy, having been in use for a few thousand years.
On Muslims and the First Amendment
Happy Birthday and congratulations on the good news re your tumor.
Mark Steyn addressed the implications of our (Western Civilization's) reactions to Muslims in our midst in a speech given at Hillsdale College in March. With their 'First Amendment' right to advocate the murder of non-Muslims for a variety of offenses AGAINST Muslims (including conversion to another religion) , our anti-western political correctness, and the 'hate speech' laws that are proliferating in the Western world (that apparently only apply to straight, male Caucasian, conservative Christians), he finds our long term prospects to be pretty bleak. And, on the record, justifiably so. Here is a link to a piece based on the speech. :
James Burnham wrote SUICIDE OF THE WEST some years ago. Parts of it are relevant now. On the other hand, western peoples do seem to have a history of saying enough is enough. And Pareto is still worth reading on the matter.
Joanne Dow sent this as I was leaving for the beach. I asked Mike Flynn to comment:
A Fjordman Essay:
Fjordman: On Science and Religion http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/022433.php
Western science owes a great deal to the Western branch of Christianity with the Roman Popes. The idea of a separation between the secular and the religious took firm hold as did the idea of a strong separation between the bureaucratic and academic.
Earlier essays have shown Islam is incompatible with a true secular democracy, chiefly because it draws no distinction such as to allow a secular mode to exist at all.
This essay shows that Islam is also incompatible with scientific investigation. It's greatest scientists have been mercilessly flogged, imprisoned, put to death, and their teachings destroyed because their modes of thinking are an affront and serious danger to the Islamic scholars and their teaching.
(It seems odd given this background for the development of science as opposed to the much more rudimentary craftsmanship and borderline engineering other cultures developed that so many modern evangelical Christians treat science as being opposed to religion.)
It's hard for me to find much fault with the essay beyond a little something in its tone and perhaps in its organization. I had a fact article in Analog (Jul/Aug 2007) that covered the same ground -- and I had read many of the same books as Fjordman. I hadn't read Toby Huff's excellent book -- I am in the middle of it right now -- and it sheds considerably more light on the legal revolution that also prepped for the scientific one. (In brief: the idea of synderesis, of corporate persons, jurisdiction, etc.) But there is a limit to what one can encompass in a brief essay such as his. One runs the risk of sounding dismissive.
Tone: Fjordman overlooks one thing. Science was stillborn in the House of Submission, for reasons some of which he mentions, but _it came closer in Islam than anywhere else in the world outside the Latin West._ The Arabs and Muslims were far in advance of the Chinese, for example, who did not even have a word for "science." (The Chinese, however, were more advanced in technology, at first.) I have sometimes summarized the problem as "Islam never had an Aquinas; China never had an Aristotle." That is, Islam never reconciled philosophy and religion; China never developed an organizational framework for approaching natural philosophy. History might have gone very differently had the Mu'tazilites eclipsed the Ash'arites; or if Mo-tzu had overshadowed Confucius.
The Arab and Muslim culture did well in mathematics, astronomy, optics, and medicine. These were called in Europe the "exact sciences" because they could be approached with mathematics (arithmetic and geometry). Astronomy was a branch of mathematics, not physics, because no one considered epicycles to be physically real. But astronomy was brought into the mosque under the _muwaqqit_ (or timekeeper, who determined when it was time for prayer) and medicine came under the _mutahsib_, the roving inspector of virtue and vice. Islamic law did not recognize or permit self-governing corporate bodies like European-style towns, guilds, and universities.
One very minor point. Fjordman writes, "This explains why some medieval theologians can be equated with the best of the secular natural philosophers, such as John Buridan and Albert of Saxony. Some theologians, such as Albertus Magnus and Nicole Oresme, were clearly superior to them." Albert of Saxony may not have been a theologian, but he was a bishop (of Halberstadt). He and Oresme (bishop of Lisieux) were students of Jean Buridan de Bethune and the three of them plus William of Heytesbury figured in my novelette "Quaestiones super caelo et mundo" (Analog, July/Aug 2007) that won the Anlab* and Sidewise awards. It was accompanied in the same issue by a fact article, "De revolutione scientiarum in 'media tempestas'," written to the consternation of some readers in the form of a medieval question. In case you are interested, I've attached both to this letter.
(*) I had some fun at the Anlab dinner. I gave an acceptance speech in Latin.
Thanks. I have not written for Analog in twenty years. I used to regularly win the Anlab contests -- indeed when they did an overall evaluation the most popular writers for Analog were Heinlein, Heinlein again under a different name, Hubbard, H. Beam Piper, and me in that order; but alas they didn't have awards dinners. They did send checks which at the time were more appreciated than dinners anyway.
I read your Analog article. Alas, my Latin is long out of date. Had I time I would refresh my Latin with Caesar and Cicero, but I don't think I will ever get around to that now. I certainly do not regret learning it in high school.
There are a number of recent treatises on the dependence of science on Catholic philosophical principles; the supposed conflict between the Church and Science was due mostly to human error on the part of the Church, and a bit of triumphalism on the part of others. The current pope evidently understands this.
The Affirmative-Action Election.
Unlike many, I don't see lifelong employment by the government as a plus in candidates for high office. But I would certainly prefer candidates who are serious people, with some accomplishments of import on their resumes and some ideas to bring to the table.
--- Roland Dobbins
|This week:||Sunday, August
Things I get in the mail:
You get the impression that they want to impose a murder quota on whites and Indians as they are not enough being murdered
Here I recover from cancer and find that I'm still going to get stupid... My impression is that I am slower, but not more stupid. I hope that's correct.
We all know that every word of this is true, and we continue to pour money into "higher education" and hold out the goal of "no child left behind" and to act as if we believed that every child deserves a world class college prep education by age 18.
And they never catch wise! California is about to experience another blitz. The teacher have 40% more revenue and 30% fewer students than five years ago, but any failure to raise the education budget will be treated by the teachers as a measure to infect the children with Red Death.
The blind lead the stupid:
there is little in the above that I have not said, but Murray says it very well. He calls himself a sociologist, and that makes him one of the ten or so people I know who have any right to call themselves "social scientists". Murray understands the tools of real science. Most "social scientists" have not even mastered the tools of voodoo science.
<<Got any more ideas on what Obama and McCain believe that are wrong, foolish, crazy, damaging?>>
Believes universal pre-K (at huge increase in cost) is solution to achievement gap. Has no idea of the existing research. Re: the gap says we haven't lacked the knowledge as to how to close it, we've lacked the will.
Believes the sole reason people lack health insurance is that they can't afford it. In fact lots of people w/o insurance earn > 50K/year but prefer to spend the money on a BMW. Others see no purpose in insurance because they lack a future orientation.
Believes in crazy educational fads. When he was Chairman of the Annenburg challenge in Chicago, the program turned down math and science programs but funded ethnic curricula and gave something like 200K to implement study of Juneteenth in the schools.
Has naive kumbaya-type ideas about nuclear weapons.
Believes (as does Obama) that assimilation of illegals is just a matter of time.
Believes in neo-con theories of the Middle East.
Is something of a nanny-stater (as is Obama). For ex, considers it appropriate for govt to involve itself in stuff like steroid use by baseball players. Baseball players don't engage in activity where they can endanger people if they are under the influence. Congress is crazy to get involved in this; it should let the baseball league solve it.
Needless to say I could go on, but this will have to suffice.
"Palin electrifies conservative base - Yahoo! News"
"By tapping the anti-abortion and pro-gun Alaska governor just ahead of his convention, which is set to start here Monday, McCain hasn’t just won approval from a skeptical Republican base — he’s ignited a wave of elation and emotion that has led some grass-roots activists to weep with joy."
"The media elite — as well as elite members of the GOP consulting community — have all but mocked Palin as a former small-town mayor with zero Washington experience. But that view of her totally misses the cultural resonance she carries to crucial Republican power centers and could not be more at odds with the jubilation felt among true believers that one of their own is on the ticket."
I think that paragraph was unfair to "elites" like the Egregious Frum. He and his Egregious Neocon associates fully comprehend what this means. Frum makes this clear here:
"Should John McCain lose in November, Sarah Palin has just pole-vaulted into front-runner status for 2012. Should Mr. McCain win, her grip on the next Republican nomination will become a lock. So this is the future of the Republican party you are looking at: a future in which national security has bumped down the list of priorities behind abortion politics, gender politics, and energy politics. Ms. Palin is a bold pick, and probably a shrewd one. It's not nearly so clear that she is a responsible pick, or a wise one."
I personally translate "responsible" and "wise" as "we control". In Frum World "national security" doesn't mean something like securing Flyover Country from illegal alien invaders practicing retail violence. And it's also clear Frum doesn't consider foreign energy dependency or high costs to be real problems. "National security" is just Neocon code talk for unlimited American troop commitments to the Middle East and central Asia.
Two news stories this morning reminded me of your comment that we were born free, but …
The first is about police raids in St. Paul aimed at preventing RNC protests. “Deputies seized a variety of items that they believed were tools of civil disobedience: a gas mask, bolt cutters, axes, slingshots, homemade "caltrops" for disabling buses, even buckets of urine.” ‘Tools of civil disobedience’ – an Orwellian phrase, that. So now it’s acceptable for police to raid people’s homes and seize property to prevent a possible future crime?
The second story is about two teenaged girls in Denver who were pushed to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested for chalking messages on a sidewalk protesting Obama's pro-abortion stance.
Full news stories with links attached.
I guess the First and Fourth Amendments are optional now...
Palin Campaigns In Pennsylvania
... along with her steelworkers' union member husband. Meanwhile home made pics of the Palins hunting, fishing, ATVing and holding Bibles are flooding the 'net. I just started laughing.
I'm sure the Obama camp are tortured night and day by incautious remarks about insecure white factory workers "clinging" to Bibles and guns. That sneering Ivy League session in a San Francisco salon could end up costing them the election. Even Hillary was able to get a lot of mileage out it. Now the "clingy" people have appeared bigger than life on the ballot.
First sign of intelligent life in the McCain Campaign.
Reuters, Georgia and staged pictures
Reuters, Georgia and staged pictures
At least some of the photos that have been published by Reuters as proof of russian atrocities seem to have been carefully stages. http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m46819&hd=&size=1&l=e
After questions were asked these pictures where removed without comment.
This and the concerted efforts by media, US/select Western politicians makes it look like an initially well orchestrated Sender Gleiwitz affair executed but not designed by Georgia.
I have no knowledge on this but I would bet reasonable sums that both sides have staged pictures. There, in Palestine, in Lebanon, in Iraq, in ...
Subj: INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS: Google Earth Changed The Game
>>... Crowd sourcing is the unique web phenomenon whereby large numbers of people applying themselves to a task (like examining thousands of Google Earth satellite photos), reveals things that were previously unnoticed (even by the professional spy agencies, although they won't admit it). This proved to be beneficial for the intelligence agencies around the world, especially those in democracies. ...<<
The great equalizer...
American Sign language
My youngest daughter is deaf, so I learned American Sign Language. The easiest language I ever learned. I encourage everyone to learn it while they can hear. As you have discovered, it will be the last language we will all need.
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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).
Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.
I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too... I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail.
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