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Mail 576 June 22 - 28, 2009
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June 22, 2009
The Site linked to by Harry Erwin is, in fact, made up. It's a spoof (though, sadly, very similar to some real websites), as might be guessed by the last name of its alleged founder "Dr. Richard Paley." (As in Paley's watch.)
I suppose I should have known. Thanks.
Harry and Jerry,
The site is a parody one.
I determined this by a little digging around the Intertubes, as well as examining the site itself. As an example - a real fundamentalist WOULD not claim spiritual kinship with Mormons (just ask Orson Scott Card).
Subject: Cow Burps
Apparently the Obama Administration has decided that removing beef from the US diet in the name of Climate Change probably won't go over well. I'm still not sure how I'll get my beef without diesel trucks, or cook it without my coal or gas grill, or my coal powered electric stove, but then I do like my steaks raw.
The flatulence -- actually burps -- of cows turns out to be an important source of greenhouse gasses. Now what?
The MP expense reports were released--heavily redacted. <http://tinyurl.com/m2zlcv > <http://tinyurl.com/nnnf8e> <http://tinyurl.com/ms6xb7> Follow-on stories: <http://tinyurl.com/ns46bz> <http://tinyurl.com/ltqnnw> <http://tinyurl.com/mz2gyf > Parliament plans to block future release of these data. <http://tinyurl.com/nk7zpt >
The police coming out after the battle to finish off the wounded: <http://tinyurl.com/mjavbt >
ID card scheme likely to be delayed or cancelled. <http://tinyurl.com/mk67kv >
Bizarre health and safety rules in UK education. <http://tinyurl.com/kp8tvp >
Social policy 'ruining childhood'. <http://tinyurl.com/n3povw>
Royal Mail refuses to deliver mail after postman was attacked by kitten. <http://tinyurl.com/lwsphv>
'She says agencies that receive the food may not charge residents for food or ask them to work for it.'
-- Roland Dobbins
Proud To Be An American
"Georgia recently sent elements of its 48th BCT to Afghanistan. Within 3 weeks 3 of their warriors were killed by an IED explosion. The following video is simply magnificent. It's 12 minutes long, but it makes an incredible point - the people of America love and honor their warriors and appreciate the sacrifice they make. The video is shot from inside the procession which picked up the remains of SSG John Beale and shows the crowds which turned out to honor him as it traveled through various parts and towns in Henry County, GA, where SSG Beale was from. "
Last time I got back, we were escorted from the airport by the highway patrol, who called in to the local radio stations. As we passed towns, some people were waiting outside, with chairs and umbrellas. Others were running outside as we convoyed past. It was a supremely moving experience.
'They may well wish for democracy — but not always or necessarily if it comes with unconstrained capitalism and the assumption that to be a democrat means sacrificing your national interests to those of the United States.'
I don't agree with all of this (certainly not the parts about the ABM Treaty or about Gary Kasparov), but it's well worth reading, IMHO:
-- Roland Dobbins
Subj: Multiple Intelligences - Do those arguing even agree on what they're arguing about?
I've seen no indication that anyone is interested in reaching even second-order agreement.
The concept of "g" is not intuitive to some. It's a mathematical inference but does conform somewhat to common sense concepts of "smarts". Many of those who write about the subject don't really want to understand what "g" is; they have another agenda.
The whole idea of the suggestion of multiple intelligences is indicative of a field that has not yet matured to the point where it has any relevance or predictive ability. To my mind, anything so overly complicated has an unfinished quality to it. The beginning stage of any field of enquiry (I wouldn’t quite call it a science at this point) is exploration, cataloging, and creating definitions. From here, there are two possible directions. The preferred direction is for the items of the various lists to be integrated, and their relationships defined. The exploration then becomes a science. Should such an integration not be possible, then the subject is not a science.
In physics, things started out when the early philosopher/physicists began to measure, record, and catalogue. They noted the different types of matter, and then the different types of energy. Where things really got moving, understanding was achieved, and progress was made, was when these forces - painstakingly discovered, and separately cataloged - were unified. Similar observations can be made about the cataloguing and descriptive energies that went into taxonomy, before the sciences of biology, and ecology were derived. Thus it goes – we start out by breaking a subject into all of its separate parts, and then learn its principles though the unification by which we put these parts together.
Certain subjects have no basic principles, and thus do not exist as science. This is discovered after the cataloging phase has ended and attempts are made to unify discoveries made, into a framework. In biology, physics, chemistry, and all of what is today considered science, basic principles were uncovered through unification, and led down a path of further discovery. In some other cases, no such unification could be made, and a dead end was reached. Phrenology and astrology are two directions of exploration which dead ended (though doubtless there are some who would argue the point). To my mind, such a dead end indicates that there are no basic unifying principles, and the subject is not a science, and never will become one.
Even should it turn out that many of today’s soft sciences can be made into true science, this change has not yet occurred. As I mentioned above, any exploration at the point of cataloging and listing is an exploration which is not yet sure of itself, is amassing facts, and is not yet useful science. So, it may be possible, someday, to turn some of these soft sciences into real science, or they may end up dead ending, and becoming the same sort of pseudo science as astrology.
Presently, the list of such subjects includes education, economics, sociology, and most of what we like to call the soft sciences. It is interesting to note, that the major employer of those who study such subjects is the government. It is also interesting to note that one of the few valid predictive principles of the soft science of economics, that of supply and demand, seems consistently to be ignored when making government policy. Economics is one of the few soft sciences that I think might someday become real science; but not in its present form. As with the transformation of alchemy into chemistry, economics may well be scrapped, and some of its valid principles integrated into quite a different field of study, which may turn out to be valid science.
Back before alchemy had passed into chemistry, some tried to turn lead into gold; before the scientific approach to biology, medicine often consisted of blood-letting and drilling holes in the skull to let out evil spirits, humors, and vapors. Both alchemy and the spiritistic practices of medicine turned out to be wrong, dead ends, yet some of the misunderstood facts in those bodies of knowledge were integrated into what would become the sciences of medicine and chemistry.
In a true science, things are taken down to their component functional parts, and then reassembled. In a non science, things are generally taken at face value and are either not broken down, or no reassembly is made. As a bit of an aside, the differences in approach between a science, and a non science, is the difference between reading by phonics, and reading by whole word. I wonder if it is coincidence that the same so called progressives who are heavily involved in the soft sciences are big supporters of whole word. I also wonder if, by training the mind to phonetically break down and reassemble letters as component parts of words, we are creating structures in the brain/mind, which facilitate the scientific deconstruct/construct way of thinking. The corollary to that is that when we stop training in phonics, we also cease to encourage this type of thinking.
An interesting theory. I haven't thought about that.
I'm worried about SpaceShipTwo. I just saw a photo with the nose attached with duct tape. I know Rutan is innovative, but….
Heh. I'll have to ask Burt about that next time I see him.
In my day it was baling wire. We didn't have duct tape.
"Sorry, Paul Simon, Kodak is taking your Kodachrome away."
"The world's first commercially successful color film, immortalized in song by Simon, spent 74 years in Kodak's portfolio. It enjoyed its heyday in the 1950s and '60s but in recent years has nudged closer to obscurity: Sales of Kodachrome are now just a fraction of 1 percent of the company's total sales of still-picture films, and only one commercial lab in the world still processes it.
"Those numbers and the unique materials needed to make it convinced Kodak to call its most recent manufacturing run the last, said Mary Jane Hellyar, the outgoing president of Kodak's Film, Photofinishing and Entertainment Group.
"'Kodachrome is particularly difficult (to retire) because it really has become kind of an icon,' Hellyar said."
Subject: No more Kodachrome!!!??
"Kodak Retires KODACHROME Film..."
When they came for the astronomers' special emulsions, we did nothing, because we were not astronomers...
Do you think the Chinese will buy the technology?
Or will a consortium of wealthy photography enthusiasts buy one production line -- and the sole(!) surviving processing lab -- and keep them going as a museum, and to serve afficionados?
I wonder how much of the tech, for making and processing complex, multi-layer emulsions, has other applications -- perhaps to biotech?
Of course, Perkin-Elmer's application of spy-satellite-making tech, to the Hubble Space Telescope, did not go entirely well...
Creative Destruction in action. At least they didn't ask for a bailout. If the military needs to preserve the technology, doubtless they can find support for doing that. And perhaps some university will adopt it.
Solar Power Calculations
The answer to this, of course, is that if we have space solar power to generate kilowatts, we won't need to burn coal and oil and natural gas to get those kilowatts. Or even run nuclear power plants. Power generation from coal and oil will never be more than about 60% efficient. Even were it 75%, it would mean that 25% of the heat produced goes into the atmosphere (or into cooling ponds or whatever) without being useful at all; whereas with space solar power, about 90% of the power beamed down is useful power, and all the power wasted in converting sunlight to microwaves never enters the atmosphere at all.
I can't fully agree with this. Heat is the most randomized form of energy. Virtually all Solar power beamed to Earth will wind up as heat, one way or another, as is virtually all of the energy produced by other means. Unless we wind up somehow beaming it all back into space. Which makes sending it here a pointless exercise...
On the other hand, a quick back of the envelope calculation suggests this won't be much of a problem.
Assume a human population of 6 billion using 10kW each continuously. That makes a total human power consumption of 1.44E15 watts. Assume total insolation of 1kW per m^2, which is 10E9W/kM^2. Surface area of the Earth is 510E6 kM^2, so the total Solar input is 5.1E18 watts. So the added heat input from human use works out to about 300 parts per million. (1.44E15/5.1E18 = .282E-6)
Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. When I burn coal, 40% of the heat produced does not become useful energy. (Actually more, but call it 40% for now.) When I convert sunlight to energy, only about 35% of the heat becomes useful energy. However, if I am doing that on Earth it doesn't matter so far as the total heat load be concerned because that heat was already here (well most of it was; some would have been reflected back if Ed Begley Jr. hadn't intercepted it on his roof top, but again we can neglect what would have been reflected back). However, if I intercept sunlight in space, then the only energy that comes down to Earth from my solar power satellite is the microwave energy I want; and 85% of that gets to the power grid. Thus, for any given Kilowatt, 85% of the heat added to the Earth's heat balance will be useful energy, whereas with coal only about 40% will be useful energy; thus to make a kilowatt adds less energy to the Earth's heat balance if I use a solar power satellite and don't burn the coal.
Note that the above is only talking about heat balances. We haven't mentioned pollution, CO2, and such like. Space solar power requires making stuff and that's a different analysis.
Cow Methane Redux
"Belching from the nation's 170 million cattle, sheep and pigs produces about one-quarter of the methane released in the U.S. each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That makes the hoofed critters the largest source of the heat-trapping gas.
In part because of an adept farm lobby campaign that equates government regulation with a cow tax, the gas that farm animals pass is exempt from legislation being considered by Congress to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
"It really has taken on a life of its own," said Rick Krause, a lobbyist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which coined the term cow tax and spread it to farmers across the country. "This is something that people understand. All that we have to say is that (cows) are the next step with these proposed permit fees. And people are still talking about it."
Cow burps, cow taxes, and why is it that EVERYONE on Capital Hill understands that if you tax cow/pig/sheep emissions, you get less cows/pigs/sheep and more expensive food and wool, but they just cannot seem to grasp that if you tax fossil fuel power plant emissions you will get less power, at greater cost, and much more expensive products?
Let's play a little game called "It this goes on..." (When in doubt, always go back to Heinlein, Can't miss. Never fails.)
If 170 million farm animals emit a quarter of our national methane output, how much comes from the 300 and some odd million residents? (I began to write "citizens" there, which was but a kneejerk reactionary moment so please forgive me Herr Komissar), but five to ten per cent of "us" aren't :"citizens", and it increasingly doesn't matter anyway to our masters.
"If this goes on...", follow the logic: If methane is to be regulated as a greenhouse gas, do we allow exemptions? I can see a "Zero Tolerance" lobby already for this sort of thing. Logic says someday we will pay a hefty "fee" (tax) every time we eat Mexican. I can see it now, the "Taco Bell Bill". "
Say, perhaps "illegal immigration", oops, I mean "Undocumented Immigrants" (forgive me Herr Komissar!) is adding to our Greenhouse Gas emissions? Do we discourage immigration, legal or ill, ifthe poor and huddled masses are methane spewing Baby Polar Bear Killers from legume eating cultures? Dare I mention which nation to our south loves beans in their cuisine, and sends more "undocumented" visitors here each year than any other? Is there a looming alliance between hardline "Minuteman" style border control advocates and Global Warming Greenies? Stranger bedfellows have come from saner causes.
"If this goes on..." AKA "The Crazy Years"
"Eat a burrito, kill a Polar Bear!"
"Abstain from beans!"
Do we go from burning down car dealerships that dare to sell SUV's (which has happened) to firebombing beanfelds, laying waste broccoli farms, and sniffing out/plowing under cabbage gardens?
I recall reading years ago about one of the sons of Louis Leakey (not Richard) spending years searching for a legendary bean that did not gresult in Human Enteric Emissions (the technical term for this matter). He found his Magic Bean in South America. Who knew he might one day be hailed as savior of thousands of jobs in the food industry? A "Jack" whose beanstalk might save an enitire ethnic cuisine from the ignominy of the Death Of A Thousand Regulations!
To parlay the punch line of an old joke: "What's the most painful part of entering government service? The part where they the take out half your brains!"
You just cannot make this stuff up.
"If this goes on...": Since exercise makes people emit more CO2, does this mean we need to have a workout tax? Every gym membership gets a Carbon Fee added on? Do we start to sneer and frown at obviously fit people for being CO2 emitters? Will it be legal to run joggers and bicyclers into the ditch, or at least understandable as we are trying to Save The Planet, so it;'s not road rage, but justifiable probative behavior? Can citizens stop such Carbon Crooks and demand to see their receipt for their CO2 Emissions Fees?
Your walks up the hill with Niven are Killing The Polar Bears! You cruel, heartless beasts
"Jog a mile, go to jail!"
"Less Sweat, More Polar Bears!"
I am beginning to think if Mephistopheles appeared and offered to trade the Green Nannies "even up" for the return of the old Red Menace, I might consider it.
The commies were ruthless, but they (mostly) werem't barking mad.
And the last, deepest, unkindest cut of all: As much fun as I have had here, none of ithe above is impossible, or even all that unlikely given the fullness of time. It's'all completely, perfectly logical, once you accept tthe premise of the soi disant AGW consensus.
As for me, I am buying stock in whichever Big Pharma Corp. it is that produces "Bean-O"!. After all, it's an ill wind, indeed ,that breaks to nobody's good.
Pythagoras would be proud. Abstain from flesh and beans...
June 23, 2009
While I have more trouble disbelieving the AIDS scare than holding "contrarian" views on things like global warming & radiation hormesis I share your view that the refusal to do the experiment that could falsify the infectious AIDS theory is incompatible with the scientific method.
Last year the World Health Organisation came out with this which quietly admits that all the catastrophic predictions over the last 30 years, based on it spreading geometrically like an infectious disease were wrong. If it isn't going to spread outside the "high risk groups" where it first appeared then Duesberg's prediction was certainly more accurate than those of his early opponents.
"...the head of the WHO's department of HIV/Aids said there will be no generalized epidemic of Aids in the heterosexual population outside Africa.
Dr De Cock, an epidemiologist who has spent much of his career leading the battle against the disease, said understanding of the threat posed by the virus had changed. Whereas once it was seen as a risk to populations everywhere, it was now recognised that, outside sub-Saharan Africa, it was confined to high-risk groups including men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, and sex workers and their clients.
Dr De Cock said: "It is very unlikely there will be a heterosexual epidemic in other countries. Ten years ago a lot of people were saying there would be a generalized epidemic in Asia – China was the big worry with its huge population. That doesn't look likely. But we have to be careful. As an epidemiologist it is better to describe what we can measure. There could be small outbreaks in some areas."
Actually, the threat of heterosexual AIDS and the question of why the discrepancy in heterosexual between the US and Africa may be an entirely different question from the HIV = AIDS hypothesis. The threat of heterosexual AIDS epidemics was originally a major factor in obtaining AIDS research funds. That's no longer such a critical factor. Until the actual cause of AIDS was known, the mechanisms of AIDS propagation were pretty hard to determine.
'He's made mathematical models showing that the secret seas are hugely violent bodies thrown around by the immense mass of Jupiter.'
-- Roland Dobbins
An interesting hypothesis that says in effect that everything we thought we knew about Europa is wrong.
"Extraordinary hypotheses require extraordinary proof" -- Descartes by way of Carl Sagan...
“He was my only son, and he’s the only grandson to my father.”
-- Roland Dobbins
"The agency here was accusatory and threatening. Workers lost their jobs because we couldn't meet an arbitrary standard of nuisance odors."
---- Roland Dobbins
Regulations and jobs. It is always a compromise, but in California there really is no opposition party any longer. Picture of the future in the US?
"Measures to stop the trade in horse flesh may be a good thing. But any common sense in Brussels is drowned by the sheer weight of ludicrous suggestions."
--- Roland Dobbins
The problem here as with California is that legislatures seem to feel they must always be doing something. Every one of them needs a bill with his name on it, and...
Your favorite magazine, SA, has a whole article on grassoline. This would kill two birds; replacing gasoline, and with the cows not eating no more cow greenhouse gas. One question I have, if we harvest field residue for brewing fuel, what happens to the extra nutrients and tilth that the residue adds to the soil, and what of no-till systems that rely on it? And every time a crop is grown, the soil is depleted and nutrients have to be added back. When cows eat the grass they - how shall I say this - restore nutrients.
When I was an undergraduate I went to the University of Iowa, where I learned about timothy hay, a valuable cash crop. The practice in those days was to grow timothy in a field, harvest it, and sell the bales of hay, until the field wouldn't grow timothy any longer. Then it was turned to pasture or sewn with various nitrogen fixing plants (usually both) until it would grow timothy again. I haven't thought about that for a long time.
Chewing gum and Kodak
Baling wire AND chewing gum fixed everything. You forgot chewing gum.
The Germans had color film a few years before Kodak. And the true eternal Kodachrome was the 1941 formula revision, not the original.
Pelosi to bring climate change to floor
People might want to pay attention to this one.
Speaker Pelosi is forcing the bill to the floor this week.
Nobody seems to like cap and trade except the people expecting to make a quick buck on it.
I wrote some rather negative things about burning trees for renewable biomass. I think I've adopted Freeman Dyson view that Trees are natural carbon sequestration systems.
BTW there is a discussion about laser launching going on over in EnergyFromThorium.com. I dug out my copies of High Justice and Exiles to Glory to refresh my memory.
I do not think that cap and trade is a very popular measure. Alas, we didn't continue to work on laser launch systems.
Dinosaurs actually slimmer than we thought:
So much for science by consensus.
But there remain Slim Dinosaur Deniers!
Subject: HIV/AIDS and Africa
You wrote in Monday’s view about AIDs and that the New Scientist article led people to believe that millions of deaths are caused by denialists (by the way, my Word spell checker doesn’t think ‘denialist’ is actually a word J).
You may recall we had lunch in Phoenix three or four years ago, and at the time I was flying back and forth to Uganda working on a project to put computer systems and software in hospitals and clinics to track the distribution of Anti-Retroviral drugs. Many U.S. drug companies are willing to donate the drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, but the drugs are routinely stolen and are on the black market before they can even get to the distribution centers. Consequently, the drug companies want a distribution system and insight into the treatment results so they can see what the drugs are doing. The drug companies are not completely altruistic about this, the results tracking tells them how well the drugs work, and lets them make the drugs better. Certainly the folks in Africa who are dying are not particular that the companies make use of the results if it makes their lives better or they live longer.
My point is that I do not believe the myriad people in Africa I was involved with were ‘denialists.’ Quite the contrary, they clearly realized there are sick people needing treatment. As a sidebar, some Shamans (they are called witch doctors there) recommend that adult males with HIV/AIDS symptoms sleep with a virgin girl and that the disease will transfer from him to her. Obviously, this is a horrid social issue, transfers the disease to one more person who is usually an innocent, and exacerbates the problem.
The medical professionals and service organizations I met were generally very interested in helping stricken people. I say generally because Pournelle’s Iron Law is fully in effect in those countries, and the people not only in medical jobs but the service organizations (of which there is a whole worldwide subculture of these folks who know each other, and is another interesting story) from various countries highly value their jobs, like to feel good about their contribution, however small, and do have a vested interest in perpetuating their positions. I don’t believe they would ever admit to themselves or anyone else that they were making it harder for people to get well, but they will sure as heck dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ in accomplishing their jobs. Further, there are some people involved in bribes and kickbacks, and keeping that process going is near and dear to their hearts.
Eventually, the program I was working on was abandoned, not for lack of funding, but because we refused to participate in bribery. The U.S. Ambassador made it perfectly clear to us from the onset that it would not be tolerated. Once it was learned we wouldn’t contribute the ‘standard 10%’ as it was put to us, we couldn’t get any support even where it once was overwhelming.
Again, no one I met ‘denied’ the existence, causes or results of HIV/AIDS … but you better be ready to come into those countries with knowledge, cynicism, lots of materials, create lots of jobs, and have lots of untraceable cash if you want to get anything done.
Sorry for the long diatribe….I still feel badly that we weren’t successful in deploying those systems, and regret that there are probably many lives we could have saved or made better with our contribution. God had other things for us to do though…He will work on those problems in His own time.
Tracy Walters, CISSP
Of course you were not in South Africa, where in addition to problems with bribery and corruption, Mbecki, the then (now ex) President of the Republic, explicitly denied that AIDS was a contagious disease.
Thanks for your first hand information.
The United States has prosecuted US company executives who resorted to paying baksheesh in places where failure to do so was impossibly non-competitive. At some point that's worth discussion; is it a liberal or a conservative issue? Paying bribes encourages those asking for them. Failure to pay them costs lives.
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
June 24, 2009
The stratfor article referenced in Tuesdays view makes a lot of sense, and is probably close to the truth. If the US and the (perfidious) British want to influence Iran I would suggest a little reverse psychology-support the Iranian president and the Supreme leader, given what The Supreme leader said on Friday, it would be interesting to see his response!. It is imperative that the US and UK stay out of Iranian affairs as any actions will only make things worse. I realise that creative inaction is difficult for politicians to understand but it is often the best (or least worse) course of action
Re: Iran elections/revolution
I too read the Stratfor report and while they are generally a useful source of information, I believe they may be a bit shortsighted this time around.
Chatham House, the Iranian Studies Institute at the University of St. Andrews did an analysis of the vote, comparing it to known voting patterns from the 2005 elections, as well as looking at the 2001 and 1997 returns. Their analysis is worthy of consideration and can be found here: http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/14234_iranelection0609.pdf. They pretty definitively debunk the idea that Ahmadi-Nejad won in the rural areas, for example.
Stratfor also contends that the early protests were entirely made up of English speaking students. While good information is thin on the ground, there is evidence to indicate that this is not entirely true. Sorting through the twitter feeds is time consuming...and may well be misleading...but there seems to be more than a few middle-aged and older folks who were around for the '79 revolution. More recently, photos showing mullahs (visible by the clerical turban) among the demonstrators have surfaced. One of the keys to the outcome of the protests will be whether they are able to utilize the Shia mourning customs to keep the momentum going as was done in '79. The traditional days of morning, as I understand it, are at 3, 7 and 40 days. The '79 revolution ran on 40 day cycles.
None of the above challenges the concept that this also a power struggle within the leadership. The political situation there seems to be much akin to the Borgia era. Rafsanjani, who was responsible for Khameni acceding to his present position despite his lack of clerical gravitas; is apparently overtly trying to build a voting block to remove him. Montazeri, once the heir-aparrent to Khomeini, has spoken out on the reformist side; but he has been politically sidelined since about '89 and it is unknown what influence he retains among the clerical clique. Ali Larijani, the speaker of the parliament, has publicly condemned both the voting results and the reaction to the protests. There have also been reports that several senior members of the Republican Guard have been arrested, which causes one to wonder about their reliability.
It is quite possible that there are two, only tangentially related, processes going on. One is the power struggle among the leadership, particularly acute due to Khameini's age and rumors of ill health. The second is the more visceral reaction among the population to--as several Iranian correspondents have described it--having their intelligence insulted by vote counts that no reasonable person could believe. Imagine, if you will, a 2000 presidential election where the vote count said that Bush had won with 63% of the vote--even in Massachusetts and California. Nobody would have believed it, including you. That he did, in fact, win the election would be secondary to the indignation over the count. Ahmadi-Nejad may very well have won this time, but at this point it probably doesn't matter. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out, and internal instability in Iran has potentially serious consequences for the entire region. If Iran's ethnic minorities sense that the Tehran regime is losing its grip--or even is just distracted--they may decide to seize the moment. Nationalist uprisings among the Kurds, Baloch, Arabs and Azeris could easily become transnational problems.
For all my myriad disagreements with this administration, I believe they have gotten this one right so far. Play back on the ball, and be ready to move when the time comes. Charging in now would be counter-productive at best and disastrous at worst.
Another very solid analysis of the Iranian election results by two former top-ranking Bush National Security Council officials who were fired prior to the Iraq War because the neocons suspected that they believed in reality...
There is another analysis by Luttwak in today's Wall Street Journal. He thinks that Iran is headed for democracy, and fairly soon, largely as a result of these protests. Luttwak is nearly always worth paying attention to, but he can also be quite wrong.
My own view remains: western cultural weapons of mass destruction will eventually doom the mullah regime, but that is going to take time; meanwhile I can't think of anything I'd do all that differently. The real problem is Iranian nuclear weapons, and I have no idea of what to do about that. It's not likely that we can do anything. As I've said before, were I in charge I'd subsidize some prize shows in Farsi, the prizes being iPhones, iPods, and blue jeans. Lots of prizes. Tons of prizes, sent directly to the winners. But that will never happen...
Subj: Crop rotation and biofuels
Switchgrass is a widely-touted candidate as a basis for biofuel production.
The use of the words "privileged" and "common" is a good sign of the author's political bias (liberal or socialist), which is clearly impacting his thesis. A neutral term, as you note, is socioeconomic status. The implication in the letter is that some people are 'given an unfair advantage'. Well, life isn't fair, and it never will be - especially when you really understand the underlying statistics and correlations.
The question is directly answered in the Bell Curve: IQ has a much stronger correlation with adult socioeconomic status (SES) than does parental SES - but yes, both are factors. High IQ (and SES) children are correlated with high IQ (and SES) parents. So is it SES or IQ that's the predictor? It's additive, and there's actually two bell curves that have moderate overlap: one for high-IQ and one for low- IQ. Within each distribution, high parental SES tends to be on the high-side, but not always. There is overlap between the two distributions, not because there are Low-IQ people in high paying jobs (very few of those are not highly-g loaded - some professional sports is an exception that comes to mind), but rather the opposite: there are more high-g jobs that are low paying (actors, writers and artists come to mind).
Or to put it another way, without using the politically correct wording in the original: Assuming that the difference between "common" and "privileged" is 2 standard deviations (it's probably larger), if we take two people of equal parental SES (either high or low), one with an IQ of 140 and one with an IQ of 80, which one is more likely to have higher SES of their own? The answer is clear: High IQ.
I t is covered extensively in The Bell Curve, but few people read that book. As I have said before, I saw one AAAS panel chairman review and discuss the book while proudly stating that he would never read it.
IQ as Predictor
Hi Dr. Pournelle,
I'm one of your recent subscribers and have just read your IQ versus Privilege as predictor/indicator analysis. Very interesting stuff. My sister is a Superintendent of Schools for Barbour County here in West Virginia and has knowledge about that which you speak. Her take is that your analysis is a non-sequitor. There are way too many variables to control for to really have valid results. She says that while IQ and privilege are part of the equation the real predictors are family values, work ethic, and drive. She has seen too many lazy or drug addicted kids who come from privileged families. She also has seen too many kids with high IQs make terrible choices which would include involvement with drugs, gangs, casual sex causing pregnancy, etc. that affect their success. She says that she can predict outcomes almost perfectly if she knows the kid's values (including parental values), work ethic, attitude, and drive. She has seem many average kids make good that have poor parents with average or even below average IQs. As I'm sure you can surmise, West Virginia is a poor state with average people but the success stories are plentiful. She sees it as her duty to guide her kids (all 2,400 or them) to successful outcomes. She leads by example and has had many kids who went through her system come out of college and become a success. She says their IQs and privilege level varies greatly. She also has a second tier of kids who are just high school graduates that start their own local businesses and become successful. Of course, your definition of success may vary but that's a discussion for another time.
Anyway, that's just my two cents worth. Have a wonderful day!
I am not entirely sure I understand, but again I suspect that the problem is expecting too much from predictors. A correlation of .6 means that we can account for 36% of the variance. That's quite a lot when you are dealing with large numbers, such as the entire incoming class. I can only repeat: when dealing with statistical matters, you have to understand what the statistics mean. Alas, few teachers are given any real instruction in those matters: statistics in the education department will typically consist of instructions in how to compute different measures, but very little on what those measures mean or indicate.
The Navy funded the Grade Prediction Program (understand, it dealt with high school graduates who had matriculated at a state university: that in itself selects the incoming sample rather drastically) because they wanted to find a way to improve their selection basis for trainees going to expensive schools. Even a small percentage improvement would save a lot of money.
As to definitions of success, precise definition of what you are predicting is vital to any prediction program.
And finally, I don't quarrel with the notion that good interviews will often produce better selection results than any kind of mass administered test. The Navy used a variant of the grade prediction program to select whom to interview, because interviewing everyone was also expensive.
There is or ought to be a distinction between a scale and an entity. If we need complex numbers to talk intelligibly about electricity, why suppose "intelligence" is one dimensional?
Is "g" an entity or a scale unit?
Is projective geometry the appropriate tool to use? To what extent are the different axes projections of some central thing?
Orthogonal factor analysis will almost always discover orthogonal factors.
If there is a mathematical entity called "g" at the heart of each different axis of "intelligence," is that as significant as that helium and uranium are composed of the selfsame kinds of particles? (Formal causes may matter as much as material causes.)
Given this, if "g" is core to each axis of measurement, does it mean the same thing on each axis? See projective geometry, above.
Are the axes orthogonal, or do we apply a cosine rule to g.
Because a term appears in a mathematical analysis, is it necessarily the case that a real entity exists in fact? Or is that neoPlatonic Pythagorean woo-woo. Epicycles popped out of the mathematics of geocentrism. OTOH, epicycles were fantastically useful for a very long time.
In a history of science, I once read the following [paraphrased] statement: The methodology of science was born in the physics of local motion and worked there spectacularly well. It was extended to the remainder of physics with stunning success and was adopted by chemistry with likewise good results. It has worked tolerably well in many parts of biology; and not at all in social "science." It seems the more willful the subject matter, the less well the scientific method functions. Or, to quote Chesterton:
Einstein famously said that sociology was far more difficult than physics.
I don't remember a lot about my year of study of philosophy of science with Gustav Bergmann, but I did get introduced to Karl Popper, and I find Popper's approach useful. The notion of falsifiable hypotheses as central to scientific study seems good to me. It's the lack of such that makes me question the whole man made global warming hypothesis.
'Global warming' in Arizona.
--- Roland Dobbins
Pandemics. Global warming. Food shortages. No more fossil fuels. What are humans to do? The same thing the species has done before: evolve to meet the challenge. But this time we don't have to rely on natural evolution to make us smart enough to survive. We can do it ourselves, right now, by harnessing technology and pharmacology to boost our intelligence. Is Google actually making us smarter?
Maybe not so that you'd notice it...
bribes and Africa
I remember a lecture back in 1990 when I was an ESCP student (one of the top three French business schools), by a Treasury guy (on official business), who specifically told us that bribes, as long as they were demonstrably necessary for conducting business in third world countries, WERE tax-deductible.
He made it plain that this was unofficial but well-established, regular policy, as in not-for-prime-time-media-printable but barely.
At least someone in the UK still has a sense of humour
At least there is still SOME hope for the UK...
Why Can't I get this job?
Privilege and Success
I think that the best way to define privilege as a measure of success would be the following:
A child privileged to have parents that cared about education, instilled the virtue of honest work and ensured that self discipline was taught at an early age.
This privilege is available to all socio-economic classes if the parents are willing to devote the time and energy required.
See today's View.
Graft: Black and White
He did not claim to have invented the distinction, but Herman Kahn used to distinguish White Graft = paying an official to do expeditiously things he was supposed to be doing anyway from Black Graft = paying an official to do something he was not supposed to do, or to not do something he was supposed to do.
Kahn regarded White Graft as much less a problem than Black, especially in less-developed countries and cultures.
Memphis city boss Ed Crump used to talk about "honest graft": this was awarding city contracts to friends but insisting that they do the job. I gather that the old Daley machine in Chicago operated on some such principle.
Baksheesh is the custom in many places, and it is generally impossible to operate in such places without paying it, even though the United States tries to make it impossible for US companies. And of course in some countries, the civil servants are so underpaid that they can't do their jobs without baksheesh.
The world is hardly a perfect place.
Xi Lu, Michael B. McElroy and Juha Kiviluoma
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
The potential of wind power as a global source of electricity is assessed by using winds derived through assimilation of data from a variety of meteorological sources. The analysis indicates that a network of land-based 2.5-megawatt (MW) turbines restricted to nonforested, ice-free, nonurban areas operating at as little as 20% of their rated capacity could supply >40 times current worldwide consumption of electricity, >5 times total global use of energy in all forms. Resources in the contiguous United States, specifically in the central plain states, could accommodate as much as 16 times total current demand for electricity in the United States. Estimates are given also for quantities of electricity that could be obtained by using a network of 3.6-MW turbines deployed in ocean waters with depths <200 m within 50 nautical miles (92.6 km) of closest coastlines.
Interesting discussion on AIDS and its relation to HIV. In the US, Europe and the developed world there is a tie in because the presence of HIV is required for a diagnosis of AIDS. No HIV, you may well be sick but it will not be diagnosed as AIDS. For example, tuberculosis with HIV is AIDS. Tuberculosis without HIV is still deadly but it is only tuberculosis.
In Africa, due to the cost of HIV testing, they use a different definition. One can be diagnosed with AIDS based on having fever, diarrhea and a couple of other symptoms.
As you mention, AIDS in the US is not contagious other than by certain specific activities. AIDS in Africa is generally contagious. I've never seen anything that really addressed how a disease like this could be contagious in one locale and not in another. I know that living standards could have an effect on the level of contagiousness, I don't see it as making in contagious when it is not in other areas.
It has long seemed to me that African AIDS and American AIDS are not the same disease at all. I am not even certain that much of African AIDS is actually AIDS. It seems to me that if AIDS requires HIV for diagnosis, then absent the test it is impossible to diagnose yet this is just what they do in Africa.
As you alluded in your notes, even suggesting this kind of thing is not permissible, getting one called and "AIDS denialist". When I've tried to raise the question with people with some expertise, I do not get an answer, I merely get scorned for being impolite.
I am not trying to deny that lots of people are sick and dying horribly. I simply question whether it is AIDS.
John R Henry CPP
"All progress is made by a lazy person looking for an easier way." - Lazarus Long
I wonder if we ought to offer a large prize for the development of a reliable and automated HIV test? Something that can be given by relatively untrained people, and which is effective in screening out AISS without HIV? The current AIDS treatments are HIV treatments, as I understand it, so does no good for those who have the "other kind of AIDS"; and given the expense it's important not to use it on those who don't have HIV.
I'm no expert on this, but I suspect it would be possible to form a series of prizes that would generate research into better ways to detect HIV -- and since prizes don't cost anything unless someone wins one (in which case it was worth it) -- I'd think there would be wide support for this. It might be a good pilot program for prizes as research stimulation.
For some reason, though, Congress doesn't like prizes. I suppose because a fair contest doesn't guarantee a winner in any given Congressional District?
Subject: Bribery in Third World Countries
Another correspondent mentioned that in business school in France, the government understood that bribery was a way of life in third world countries, and not only condoned it, but made it tax deductible. I applaud the French for being realistic about it…at the same time hope that as people get more sophisticated they will abandon the concept and become to believe that actually working for the money is the right way.
My experience in Africa also showed that the Chinese and Indian people have absolutely no compunction about bribery as a way to conduct business. The Chinese have moved into Africa in a big way…road and building construction, electrical power generation and cellular phones. If the Africans aren’t careful, and don’t get sophisticated about this stuff really fast, they’re going to find their countries owned, lock, stock and barrel, by foreign nationals.
Incidentally, there are stories in Uganda that after Idi Amin took over, there was a pogrom of Indian people who had become a significant part of the business climate during British Empire rule. Their property and businesses were ‘nationalized’ and there were many bodies of Indian nationals floating down the rivers.
Tracy Walters, CISSP
Subject: DARPA seeking Genesis-style godware capability
DARPA lives on the edge….and I’m glad they do. This is interesting technology to develop.
Tracy Walters, CISSP
We want DARPA to be far out...
June 25, 2009
Fusion, Alt. Energy Sources & Misc Ramblings
I've been a reader for many years and have enjoyed your website greatly The exchange of views - with knowledge and data to back them up is all too rare these days. The specific reason for this email is to pass on some information which you may already be aware of: e.g. Polywell fusion - the fusion approach that was being researched by Dr. Bussard at the time of his death.
The Navy has been funding basic research in this area for the past several years and continues to fund additional research - all well under $10M total. Why is this important? Simply because even if Polywell Fusion does NOT work, the methodology of small, well-defined, targeted research projects certainly shows a better way forward than the massive ITER type projects which NEVER seem to produce any results, beyond supporting thousands of scientists and engineers.
However it appears that Polywell may work and the most
interesting fact is that we should know within two years. A good discussion
of the technology can be found here:
As a "lowly" BSME, my physics background is not strong enough to comment in detail on the engineering or physics involved, but my management background tells me that these people have a defined mission: Prove that the Polywell fusion concept either works or will not work, do it on a limited budget and do it as quickly as feasible. It may not work, but at less than $10M, this is the type of bet that we can't afford NOT to take.
My one disappointment with the whole process is that certainly 100 years ago ( may be even 50 years ago ) American private enterprise, business and capital would have been doing this, not the government. It is a sad commentary on the decline of American civilization that this is not the case today.
Of course, I strongly agree that we should be building at least 100 new nuclear power plants in any case, and pushing for cost effective, reliable transportation to LEO and GSO - without this, SPS is less than a dream and we need SPS too. I keep thinking of H. Beam Piper's short story "Day of the Moron" - to have all our energy eggs in one basket (any one basket) is unbelievably reckless and irresponsible (one is tempted to say suicidal) for a society.
Keep up the good fight!
Bob Bussard was a long time friend, and we have discussed his concepts. I'm not qualified to comment on the physics; I can only await results. Obviously I wish him well.
Bob used to say that "of course it's tough. We've done all the easy stuff, like making atomic bombs." He wasn't being flippant. Much of the easy stuff has been done. The devil is in the details, and the details are complex. As for instance with rockets: we understand the rocket equation, but that doesn't mean we understand the engineering details. The reason that Rutan's X-prize flight unexpectedly went into a spin has to do with engineering details of the kind of engines selected for the prize flight. None of that figured in our early science fiction about the glories of a space faring society.
June 26, 2009
Potomacac Watch (Strassel): The Climate Change Climate Change
<snip>Among the many reasons President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority are so intent on quickly jamming a cap-and-trade system through Congress is because the global warming tide is again shifting. It turns out Al Gore and the United Nations (with an assist from the media), did a little too vociferous a job smearing anyone who disagreed with them as "deniers." The backlash has brought the scientific debate roaring back to life in Australia, Europe, Japan and even, if less reported, the U.S.<snip>
Republicans in the U.S. have, in recent years, turned ever more to the cost arguments against climate legislation. That's made sense in light of the economic crisis. If Speaker Nancy Pelosi fails to push through her bill, it will be because rural and Blue Dog Democrats fret about the economic ramifications. Yet if the rest of the world is any indication, now might be the time for U.S. politicians to re-engage on the science. One thing for sure: They won't be alone.
The climate change debate does seem to be changing a bit: the holes in the consensus are becoming obvious. The weather isn't cooperating with Gore's people, either, and there's new publicity on what Gore and his people stand to make.
Hence the desperation in the debates. They think it's now or never. There are hundreds of billions at stake here. Expect the hysteria to increase with more pictures of polar bear cubs...
The market can take care of energy if we let it work.
'The reality is that cost estimates for climate legislation are as unreliable as the models predicting climate change.'
- Roland Dobbins
The implications spread wide. As an example:
There is considerably more. I'm still thinking about this: it's not entirely obvious what needs to be done, or even that there is a villain. Google is profiting from publisher fraud (read the article to see how) but over time Google is also providing the remedy (again see the article). We haven't seen what Microsoft Bing may do here. There's plenty of room for innovation.
Economics of Nuclear
I have found this site useful on the costs of nuclear http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html
In particular if France can have been generating 80% of its electricity from nuclear for decades at 2.54c/kwh it seems difficult to argue that it is impossible to do so (though I admit a lot of anti-nuclearists have managed ).
new article---Major Problems with Journalism
Mike Fox does a great job on this, I think. Effectively, the SEJ (Society of Environmental Journalists) is serving as a massive propaganda machine for Al Gore, the UN, and, of course, the Obama Administration. This isn't objective journalism, and it does NOT serve a Democratic Society well, IMO.
John D. Trudel
June 27, 2009
Here is something you might find interesting. The article was written by two economics professors, one from UC Berkeley and the other from Trinity College Dublin. The authors graph economic indicia now relative to 1929 at the onset of the Great Depression. See:
If they are correct, then we have not
Rodger Morris morris_rl@ yahoo. com MCSE+I, MCSE(NT4,W2K), CCAI, CCNP, CCDP, CTT, Security+, and so on Adjunct Professor, Oxnard College, Department of Engineering Technology
And we haven't seen the effect of the new energy tax, either.
The ongoing discussion, over in climateaudit.org, about the extent to which the Anthropogenic Global Warming promoters can be considered to be doing "science", has taken an interesting turn. R (r-project-org) is an open-source statistical-computing package. Steve McIntyre invoked the Spirit of the R Community, trying to conjure information sufficient to permit replication out of the author of one paper (who was clearly using R) -- and it pretty much worked!
A little Googling also led me to this:
Maybe there's some hope, after all!
We can hope. But the charges of "Climate Change Deniers" continue to circulate, while the number of falsifiable hypotheses from the consensus group does not increase. The very nature of science may be at stake: consensus as more important than falsifiability.
|This week:||Sunday, June
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