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Monday  November 2, 2009

Harry Erwin's Letter From England

The academic cartoonist Jorge Cham had a run-in with the UK Borders Agency when he came here to lecture and ended up being deported. Go to <http://www.phdcomics.com/> and see the series of strips beginning 10/26/2009. Cham has hispanic and oriental parents and did a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford. He then was a full-time instructor and researcher at Caltech for three years before becoming a full-time cartoonist. This is not an uncommon experience for foreign (non-EU) academics in the UK--see this THE story: <http://tinyurl.com/yhdczv8>.

 The Royal Mail strike continues: <http://tinyurl.com/yg5zxn5>. The Tories are getting fed up: <http://tinyurl.com/yfgh676>.

 Labour under fire as recession continues in the UK and the US returns to growth. "The UK now has a smaller economy than Italy." <http://tinyurl.com/ygnejcf  > <http://tinyurl.com/yfrocot>

 New UK Supreme Court questions the vetting scheme. <http://tinyurl.com/ygb86h9  >

 Phorm in court: <http://tinyurl.com/yf3g3vv> <http://tinyurl.com/yhlomzt

 Nimrod problems: <http://tinyurl.com/yl86rjz>--the shortcut culture. <http://tinyurl.com/yg7m5tk  >

 UK helicopter problems: <http://tinyurl.com/yks53rg>

 Chief drug advisor sacked: <http://tinyurl.com/ylsc4x2> <http://tinyurl.com/yetayzr  > <http://tinyurl.com/yjoyuts> <http://tinyurl.com/ykzjvwb> <http://tinyurl.com/ydvrxm6  >


Harry Erwin, PhD

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




(1) This Youtube video from Viscount Monckton came via e-mail yesterday with the note attached:

This speech was made October 14, 2009 In Minnesota!

This has got to be disseminated quickly so that perhaps something can be done to stop this absolute madness. This is the most scary thing I have seen to date and it is going to happen very, very fast – in a matter of days. This is a relatively short video – PLEASE TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO WATCH IT.


(2) This page appears to be an outline of the treaty. On a quick scan (all I have time for this AM) I can neither confirm nor deny the Viscount's charges that it sets up a new world government that he expects the US to cede sovereignty to. (Conversely, the Viscount seems to know little about the ratification process; such a thing would never be ratified).


(3) The official web site of the Copenhagen Council. http://www.copenhagenclimatecouncil.com/ 

Linked from the Wiki for Copenhagen Climate Council.

(4) Official web sites of the Copenhagen Climate Conference 2009

conference-2009/index.htm  http://en.cop15.dk/

I've got to head out, but this is crucial. Hopefully the network can pick up on more.



I doubt it is that urgent. Treaties take a long time, and the Senate isn't in a rush to hand over US sovereignty to Al Gore. We do need to get past cap and trade.


"For shame, Scientific American"

That's the final comment of Lewis Page in his discussion of SA's current cover article all about how wind, sun and water renewable energy will save us all.




Mother of all carry trades faces an inevitable bust, 


Want to know why it hasn't felt like a depression? The pain has been deferred:


Hmm. Negative interest rates are here, for the rest of the world. Very interesting.



Critter arithmetic

The White House says the stimulus package has created or saved 640,329 jobs. I'd hate to be the 640,330th person.

Meanwhile 2.2 million jobs have been lost. In my day we would have subtracted one number from the other, giving a net loss.

But with the new math we have a gain, alongside the loss.




Subj: State of the US: Rome vs Byzantium or Lions vs Foxes?

Might it make more sense to understand the current state of the US using the framework of Pareto's "Circulation of the Elites", with its oscillation between Lions-dominated and Foxes-dominated states, than using the framework of unidirectional Imperial degeneration?

Did not Jefferson, for example, have in mind more a cyclical pattern for the unfolding of the then-future history of the US, with his famous "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure."?

Is Despair the only appropriate form of Pessimism for our current predicament?

Perhaps "We Are Doomed", as the title of John Derbyshire's most recent book puts it, but are we Doomed to annihilation, or merely to occasional, perhaps even periodic, less-than-annihilating catastrophes? Are we living on a live volcano, or merely on a coast that gets hit by hurricanes every few years?

Is not the expectation that we can Restore the Republic, and then bask forever after in serene Republican security and contentment, merely another form of the Pelagian doctrine of perfectibility?

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Conservatism and libertarianism are vectors, not scalars; I do not expect the restoration of the Republic, but moving in that direction is still the right idea. Being governed by national interests and not social theories still works better. Being objective about the world is still a good idea.

I agree, we are not going to restore the Old Republic; but then I never expected to. Conservatism as I see it is a set of principles and a map of some  dangers and swamps to avoid; it is not an ideology, and I have never insisted on ideological purity. I would prefer a centrist nation with two parties, neither of which had any real ideological commitment to anything except to capture control of government, so that one chooses candidates on googoo -- good government -- principles. Of course that too is unlikely.

I thought the Seventy Years War was a live volcano, and I was a Cold Warrior most of my life; I had to compromise a number of conservative principles to do so. Perhaps too many. Perhaps we ought to have fought harder against domestic ideologies than against the USSR, but the USSR did pose an existential threat, and for a while communism was vcry much on the march. It wasn't efficient but if it could expand and let war feed war the eventual result was inevitable.

The US has great internal strength. And do note that life was often good in Imperial Rome; it was when the resource base failed that things got grim at home. Of course the Emperor was no longer a Roman, and his staff were no longer Romans, but surely that isn't going to happen to us? The President has to be natural born, and the Chief of Staff has to be confirmed by the Senate and above reproach?

My friend the Derb is a bit more pessimistic than I am.




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Tuesday,  November 3, 2009

We have mail on nuclear power

Nuclear piece from Monday's mail on cost of new plants

Jerry, appreciate the support for nuclear in yesterday’s mail <http://jerrypournelle.com/view/2009/Q4/view595.html#Monday>  .

The cost for a new nuclear plant in the US, however, is more in the range of $6-$8B per plant. Maybe one day we could get it down to $2B but not anytime soon. Even though they’re expensive to build, new nuclear plants are still competitive against other technologies because of their low operating costs. Below is a link where you can find a Nuclear Energy Institute paper titled "The Cost of New Generating Capacity in Perspective": http://www.nei.org/financialcenter/. This paper could give you a good start on finding information on the economics and finance of new nuclear power plants in the US if you’re interested.


David Bradish


That is the cost in the present US legal environment; it is not what it would cost if we took energy independence seriously, and give it a national security priority. Simple legal changes would bring the price down by half simply by taking uncertainties out of the process. Having to have a bunch of capital committed but not working while the legal buzzards circle is one of the major costs. In France they don't cost so much. Nor in Japan.


Nuclear economy


You said in http://jerrypournelle.com/view/2009/Q4/view595.html#Monday  that

"One estimate is that 500 nuclear power plants would make America energy independent."

Keep in mind that we've got about a 100-year supply of uranium at our current rate of consumption (A) using current once-through technology and (B) at about the current price of uranium ($130/kgU -> ~0.4¢/kW•h). To quintuple nuclear power, we need to expand production considerably and/or shift to breeder reactors. Fortunately, both are possible.


the Integral Fast Reactor http://bravenewclimate.com/  or the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (aka Molten Salt Reactor) http://thoriumenergy.blogspot.com/ 

Or more speculatively, Bussard's polywell fusion, or Lerner's focus fusion, http://www.economist.com/
sciencetechnology/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14698355  .

-- Bill Woods

Doc Bussard was a long time friend. There are new technologies in the technology stream, but for now we don't need them to get going. If we had turned to nuclear power on 12 September 2001 where might we be now? We would not be in Iraq and we would have gone to Afghanistan and got out again. And as we stop buying oil from the Middle East the need for involvement there would be smaller and small. Of course I was saying all this before the FIRST Gulf War.

I think most people who think about these matters KNOW these things, but apparently those who control our destiny find other interests more important. All I can do is keep trying to get the message out.

The way to make an economy boom is to have low cost energy and freedom.


Nuclear and transportation is an easy enough problem.

1) Build nuclear plants in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Michigan's Bay area—anywhere with coal and water. 2) Set up a co-generation facility where the steam from the plant and the coal extracted locally are used in Fischer–Tropsch generation of petrochemicals (including transportation fuels).

It reduces resistance to nuclear from the coal producers by both directly adding jobs in coal-producing areas and by creating a new market for coal. It serves national security/energy independence purposes by moving the source of transportation fuel to domestic resources. It cuts carbon emissions less than the Sierra Club wants, but still some when you move the energy base of the country from coal-and-oil to coal-and-nuclear. Make the nukes fast reactors with on-site waste reprocessing, and they can even eliminate the problem of long-term nuclear waste storage, since you consume all the actinides.

Is it more expensive energy than the late-1990s coal-oil base? Sure. It's also long-term stable-priced energy from domestic resources. But since you're building new infrastructure, you have to beat the NIMBYs and BANANAs and the anti-nukes to do it.

-- Steven Ehrbar

We send a trillion a year to the Near East.


Nuclear power plants

… or, politically even easier, the Administration could direct 1/4-1/3 of the outstanding unallocated stimulus funds toward building nuclear power plants, thus “creating and saving” jobs in their most-favored locations in to-be-rewarded-for-political-support states. It would get the ball rolling. And, allocating more money wouldn’t necessarily get them built any faster than could be done with this level of funding (due to limited resources and ramp-up time), nor get any more built during this administration’s reign. As you say, it would work…

Allen P

It would work.


: Solar Power


 See it? That little black square in the middle of Saudi Arabia? It's 231 kilometres on a side, covering some fifty-three thousand square kilometres. That's the total area of solar panels needed to supply global electricity needs at its current rate of consumption, some 2 trillion Watts. Calculated by Professor Raymond Pierrehumbert of Chicago University, in an open letter <http://bit.ly/3Pdk0i>  that corrects global-warming denying innumeracy in Superfreakonomics.




Hidden Solar Cells: 3-D System Based On Optical Fiber Could Provide New Options For Photovoltaics

"Using this technology, we can make photovoltaic generators that are foldable, concealed and mobile," said Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering.


Bill Shields

The chief problem with solar power is the expense of storage; and of course it is irregular and not entirely reliable...


Smart Grid

I've worked for several of the largest utilities in the country, so this is first hand knowledge.

The utility companies are pretty well stuck. They've been vilified by the current administration only slightly less than insurance companies. As regulated utilities, they have a moral and ethical duty to provide safe, reliable, inexpensive power to their consumers, yet they've been hijacked by the green movement. In many places, rather than building clean-coal plants for example, which are the cheapest generation capacity currently available, they are building wind and solar facilities with are the most expensive. More important, these new technologies are unreliable, and can only be used for peak power demands, rather than base-load generation. Power storage technology simply isn't advanced enough to address the situation on a large scale, and across every climate in the country. Even if we had additional generation capacity, we don't have the transmission capacity to move the power to population centers.

As demand increases, we are headed for widespread brown and blackouts, and the utilities know it. The lead time on new plants can be up to 25 years, and transmission lines can be 10 years. For some, Smart Grid is a desperate attempt to stave off the inevitable for a few more years by reducing power consumption, since they can't build cost- effective new base load generation capacity (coal, gas, hydro, nuclear), for others, it's simply a means to advance a green agenda and control our standard of living, and for the rest, a way to boost profits and defer costs.

What they call Smart Grid has been wrapped up in nice pretty packaging, but from the consumer standpoint it involves installing a meter that has two-way transmission capability. This will allow them to do several things, beginning with automated meter reading, and moving on to variable rates, which means charging different rates at different times of the day. Later, it could allow them to ration power, create rolling brown/blackouts on a property by property basis, and expand the use of 'saver switches' on a mandatory basis to turn off certain appliances (e.g. dryers and air conditioners) whenever the utility company (or in theory, the hacker) wants. I have yet to have anyone explain to me how letting the utilities (and government) monitor and manage my power usage benefits me. It doesn't.

Now there are modifications to the electric grid itself, but those are somewhat different. Until recently, the grid was managed using a protocol called SCADA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCADA  , which is not accessible outside the SCADA network. That software has been written and tested over many many years, and works very well. Currently there are modifications underway to transition that network over to TCP/IP. It's not so much that there is new software, as that there's a new protocol.

Of course there will be firewalls, and private networks and other mechanisms to prevent remote access, but we all know that those aren't perfect. So essentially, we're moving from a network that is non- routable to the Internet, to one that is routable to the Internet. I'm not so much worried about solar flares bringing down the grid (which can still happen), rather somewhat concerned about hackers doing so. It's probably not a huge risk, but it is definitely non- zero.

In this case, the primary motivator behind the transition is money. SCADA requires the construction of dedicated network lines to each facility to be controlled, which are expensive. It requires knowledge of an increasingly arcane technology, and specialized, low-volume hardware components. By moving to TCP/IP they can leverage existing network links, reuse existing hardware and software, and reduce costs. Not a bad motivator, but security and reliability have somewhat taken a back seat.

So the net is, that Smart Grid doesn't do much for the consumer at all. For people that are retired, spend most of the time at home (or work there), it will likely result in significantly increased utility bills for those who need to use air conditioning, or like to do laundry during the day. I see zero benefit for the consumer in the long run, and many paths to future crises.



Dr. Pournelle,

I see a different reason for the smart grid. One that doesn't even require the grid to be reliable.

One of the favorite methods of determining unpaid taxes in the underground economy is to divide economic activity by power usage. When there is much power used that doesn't get reported on taxes, one has found an excellent place to audit. An example is growing marijuana under electric lights. Another is working a factory off the books. Alternative energy threatens to take this method away from the taxman.

I believe the smart grid is simply intended to preserve this method of social control and to extend it. Currently this method only extends to areas and groups. It is a back-office method that, however useful, does not cover individuals. With the smart grid power use may be admissible in court. Also, it is paid for by the consumer. Finally, it becomes more accurate.

For the government, what's not to love?


David Bullis

The purpose of government is to hire and pay government workers; to this end it must collect taxes since it has no other reliable source of income...


 News on Scribd

Dr. Pournelle,

I saw this on a litigation news reporter I subscribe to and thought you might have some interest. Mssg below:

Andrews Telecommunications Industry Litigation Reporter October 28, 2009



Scott v. Scribd Inc.

Copyright © 2009 Thomson Reuters .

In addition to wholesale, direct infringement, a filtering system used by online publishing and document repository Web site Scribd itself infringes the copyrights of authors whose works it purports to protect, according to a putative class-action lawsuit.

Scott v. Scribd Inc., No. 09-CV-03039, complaint filed (S.D. Tex., Houston Div. Sept. 18, 2009).

Author Elaine Scott filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, seeking to lead a class of all authors whose copyrights Scribd has infringed.

Scott describes herself as a successful children's book author. In a strongly worded complaint, she accuses the defendant of being an “egregious infringer” that has “broken barriers to copyright infringement on a global scale” and “shamelessly profits from the stolen copyrighted works of innumerable authors.”

Scott also takes issue with Scribd's system for dealing with copyright infringement. When the company receives a notice of infringement from a copyright holder, it removes the work in question and archives it in a filtering system to keep it from being uploaded again. Under the guise of helping authors, this practice still constitutes infringement and benefits Scribd, the complaint alleges.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 512, operators of Web sites are not normally liable for damages stemming from any information posted to them. However, Scribd is not entitled to such protection, Scott says, because it directly profits from copyright infringement.

Further, the company allegedly fails to maintain a designated agent to receive notices of infringement.

The complaint alleges copyright infringement.

Scott seeks a declaration that Scribd is not protected by the DMCA's “safe harbor” provisions. She also seeks damages, costs, injunctive relief and attorney fees.

According to the complaint, Scott will seek a ruling on her DMCA declaration on an “expedited basis.”

She is represented by K.A.D. Camara of Camara & Sibley in Houston, TX. Company: Scribd Inc.


Subject: eBooks and reading more


Re: the conversation on eBooks, and the idea that people are reading more because of them. I am an avid reader…I have been since discovering Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys in 4th grade…umm…let’s just say it was sometime in the middle of the last century. I’m now on my fourth eBook now having gone through an eBook Reader, a Sony Reader, and my second Kindle.

I would propose that Amazon’s assumption that electronic book reading people are reading more is probably flawed. I am reading more books from Amazon, simply because they are easier to get on the Kindle and I can start reading right away, which Amazon would view as increased business from me. It’s also making me branch out a bit more, because the book I want is not always available on the Kindle, so I’ll look around a bit for new material. The point is, I’m in a regular bookstore much less than I used to be, I may make a monthly trip now as opposed to weekly trips before, so I’m buying far fewer books from Barnes & Noble or Borders.

I do read a lot as I spend a lot of time on airplanes and I don’t like working during those periods. Speaking of which…I really wish the airlines would address eBooks and let us read them for the first and last 10 minutes of the flight…it’s annoying to have to turn it off during taxi, takeoff and reaching 10,000 feet…I don’t believe the eBook generates enough power to interfere with the flight instruments (obviously the Kindle and other books can’t be in wireless mode during any part of the flight). I also read every night before bed and often when I have a few minutes during the day. My Kindle goes everywhere with me…in the car, on the airplane, on my Harley, and I find it much easier to load the Kindle with a dozen books before I go overseas than to carry that many with me.

I’d probably read just as much or nearly as much if I didn’t have a eBook reader, although it does make it more convenient to catch a few minutes with my nose in the book, and perhaps the time I would have spent driving to and from the bookstore is spent in other ways, including reading.

I also wish the Kindle did a better job of formatting Adobe documents ….I wouldn’t mind sending some Adobe documents from work to the Kindle so I could review them at various times…even share them with others wirelessly.

Certainly eBooks are changing the landscape for many of us….and not just early adopters of technology.

Tracy Walters, CISSP

I don't think an ebook generates enough anything to harm an airplane but the simple thing to do is turn off the wireless part of it. And I agree about Kindle formatting of pdf. But over time things are happening...


Dell chief stuffs data center into suitcase

It occurs to me that a market exists for this…either develop and sell boxes to clients that could be prepositioned in a disaster situation…they could literally put them anywhere they had power and access to communication lines….they could even be updated to keep current along with the in place systems.

…or build boxes ready to ship and contract with a customer for a monthly fee guaranteeing the system to be onsite within 24 hours and operational within 48 hours of a disaster call. You could shelve several of these at a central hub (like UPS or Fedex), keep them current with updates from a software and hardware perspective, depending on the customer need and willingness to pay the fee.

Could be a paradigm for a new business opportunity if someone were willing to take it on.

Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/27/data_center_in_a_briefcase/



Chronically ill people 'happier if they abandon hope', say docs 


My ‘Conspiracy Theory’ antenna just started spinning…what if the ‘researchers’ are getting us ready for ObamaCare and the Last Year of Life syndrome.

Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/

Chronically ill people 'happier if they abandon hope', say docs

Promises to 'reconnect bowels' make people sad

By Lewis Page

Posted in Biology, 2nd November 2009 12:26 GMT

Health researchers in America have suggested that it is better for people suffering from severe illness to give up any hope that their condition might improve.

“Hope is an important part of happiness,” said Dr Peter A Ubel, one of the authors of the "happily hopeless" study, “but there’s a dark side of hope".

Essentially, according to Ubel and his colleagues, it's often better to just resign yourself to how awful things are rather than raging against your situation and hoping desperately that it will get better.

The doctors based this on surveys of patients who had their colons removed. Some were told that was it, they were on colostomy bags for life; others were informed that doctors would "reconnect their bowels" at some future date. Apparently the first group reported higher levels of happiness over the next six months.

“We think they were happier because they got on with their lives. They realized the cards they were dealt, and recognized that they had no choice but to play with those cards,” says Ubel, who was teamed up with social scientist George Loewenstein on the study.

The better-living-through-bad-news profs say that the same psychology is seen in other situations. It's better, they argue, to have your spouse die than to have them divorce you.

“If your husband or wife dies, you have closure. There aren’t any lingering possibilities," says Loewenstein.

The very worst thing a doctor can do, according to the profs, is to sugar-coat any medical bad news, or to rashly lay any stress on chances of survival or recovery.

“Hopeful messages may not be in the best interests of the patient and may interfere with the patient’s emotional adaptation,” says Ubel. “I don’t think we should take hope away. But I think we have to be careful about building up people’s hope so much that they put off living their lives."

There's more from Michigan Uni here http://www2.med.umich.edu/prmc/
media/newsroom/details.cfm?ID=1359 . ®

Tracy Walters, CISSP

Social science, voodoo science...


So do the grouches of the world still need to apologize? - 

Not Earth shattering, but I was amused by this.


R, Rose


Follow $ 


Even the New York Times can eventually figure out to follow the money:



Critics, mostly on the political right and among global warming skeptics, say Mr. Gore is poised to become the world’s first “carbon billionaire,” profiteering from government policies he supports that would direct billions of dollars to the business ventures he has invested in.

Representative Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, asserted at a hearing this year <http://energycommerce.house.gov/
Press_111/20090424/transcript_20090424_ee.pdf>  that Mr. Gore stood to benefit personally from the energy and climate policies he was urging Congress to adopt.

Mr. Gore says that he is simply putting his money where his mouth is.<snip>


Subject: How eInk works.


Tracy Walters, CISSP





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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Ether, Light Waves, And Etc.

Jerry ---

Just read your speculation about the New Ether (heh!) being, or possibly being able to be, the dark matter that is "observed" in the universe. I like it. Whether or not it's true or not, however...

Your speculation generates a thought:

The "vacuum" has been shown (Casimir effect) to be populated by virtual particles coming into and out of existence in every square, um, inch of spacetime, at all times, with the timescales, of course, being very, very small.

That sounds to *me* like a stroboscopic version of the ether.

Just a thought...

--- Tim Kyger

Scientific Truth in my Thomistic/Popperian view is a statement that generates falsifiable hypotheses which haven't been falsified. (I will leave Eternal Truth and Revelation for another discussion). I haven't yet seen data that falsifies my hypothesis, but then I haven't looked hard at the actual professional literature. It does seem to me that there is something wrong with special relativity given some modern evidence like synchronization of the GPS clocks -- which are certainly moving relative to each other as well as relative to the transmitter that updates their time stamps, so under special relativity as I understand it they can't really be synchronized -- but GPS only works if they are synchronized to nanoseconds. That data have been known for years, but special relativity is still accepted, which may be a comment on my lack of understanding of the explanations, but it may also be a comment on consensus in science: who would fund an experimentum crucis on special relativity? Assuming there is one that everyone would accept as crucial.


Nuclear Costs

"Westinghouse claims its Advanced PWR reactor, the AP1000, will cost USD $1500-$1800 per KW for the first reactor and may fall to USD $1200 per KW for subsequent reactors. They also claim these will be ready for electricity production 3 years after first pouring concrete. " http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2323 

Part of a rather good article on the whole subject.

If nuclear at $6-8bn a reactor is "competitive against other technologies" imagine it at $1.2bn. Probably even undercut China's cheap coal based energy on which their booming economy has been built. The rest of the cost is regulatory. I think government regulation overall destroys about 50% of the potential economy

Neil Craig

I think there is no consensus on the actual costs of reactors, but I am pretty sure there is agreement that a good half of it has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with the Trial Lawyers Association: France doesn't pay what we do. It's the legal eagles who profit.

I would still put the cost of a 1000 MW reactor at no more than 4 billion for the first one, and if you build 100 the last one will be less than $1 billion. I can defend that with numbers, but it seems intuitive as well.


Solar cost hype

Dr. Pournelle,

Your correspondent wrote " See it? That little black square in the middle of Saudi Arabia? It's 231 kilometres on a side, covering some fifty-three thousand square kilometres."

Please check me on this, or throw my calculations on the mercy of your other readers. Just playing around, I'm finding a quote for solar panels at about $190 U.S. per square meter in bulk. With thumbs and a calculator, I'm getting that cells alone would cost about $10 trillion. You might be able to beat that unit cost. Generously only doubling my number for the cost of rest (e.g. structure and power controller), costs for that one plant is $20 trillion. I'm sure someone in Saudi has that.

The energy efficiency rating quoted to get the 53k^2 number is an ideal based on clear-day noon output in a factory new panel. Ignoring transport losses, transmission infrastructure, and without a ready means of storage, you'd need a plant that size at about every other time zone -- a dozen or so around the equator -- to get a constant power delivery @ $20 T. While we're at it, also ignore the political cooperation you'd need to share all that power with all the nimby countries who aren't on the equator and hosting the plants -- or even the agreements you'd need for day-side countries to share with night-side countries.

Cells degrade over time. In about 20 years (about the time you finish building the first set), you'd need to replace about 30% of your capacity, just to break even. Also, as your neighbor Ed Begley demonstrates on television, cells don't produce well when covered with dust -- they need cleaning. Maybe Saudia Arabia isn't the best site after all, but regardless, someone is going to have to sweep your initially 650 ish thousand square kilometers of cell power plants. When they get done, they can start on that extra 195k square klicks you'll need to add every couple decades. Think on the scale of cleaning Texas, then going on and getting Arkansas while you're at it (it'd take 20-30 years, trust me: in bad winters we can't even get ice off our roads in a week). That's job security you can believe in. It'll work so long as we don't need sovereignty or greater capacity, and while the weather holds out.

Personally, I prefer your approach of avoiding weather, night-time production, transport issues, the nimby international politics, and some of the maintenance by setting the plants in orbit on a national basis. However, I think nuclear plants are still the better choice, one for which the technology exists now, and I think your nuclear power estimates were lower than the real setup cost of solar. Another correspondent mentioned limited uranium reserves, but didn't mention plutonium or thorium based power generation. We've got a load of the former material just sitting around waiting to go back into bomb casings.


I am not on record as believing in any kind of large centralized solar plants. I do think they can be very useful as distributed power generators. Depends on time and place.


An Announcement from the former Senior Editor at Chaos Manor

H. Beam Piper Memorial

Hi Jerry,

Just thought I'd let you know that the new H. Beam Piper Memorial Stone will be unveiled on Saturday, November 7th, 2009, at Fairview Cemetery in Altoona, Pennsylvania at 3:00 p.m. I welcome you, as well as all of your readers and subscribers who are fans of H. Beam Piper, to attend.

This has been a three-year effort and I'd like to thank all of you who contributed to the Memorial Fund and welcome you to the Memorial unveiling. Thanks to the generosity of almost a hundred fans we were able to raise over $5,000 toward the Memorial stone. I went to Fairview Cemetery last week to oversee the stone setting. All I can say is this monument is gorgeous -- even more than even I had hoped for.

Finally, a fitting tribute to H. Beam Piper, the man who has brought us all so much reading pleasure and provided so many stimulating ideas and new worlds. For those of you who are in the State College area, Dennis Frank and I will be meeting at the Waffle Shop on Atherton at 10:00 am on the 7th. We encourage you to join us there. (Contact me via e-mail for details.) From there we will caravan to Altoona for the Piper Memorial unveiling.

For more information on the Memorial and H. Beam Piper visit: http://h-beampiper.com/ 

Your friend,

John Carr


Colonel Couvillon on UAV's

: Pilots & UAVs

Na, nah, na, nah, nyah... Told you so!


earlier: http://pournelle.org/cgi-bin/perlfect/


and, http://www.pournelle.com/mail/


 David Couvillon Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work


Article: The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate

Dear Jerry,

A couple of (non-crackpot) scientists have posited that the products of the Large Hadron Collider are sabotaging it from the future:


I don’t know if I buy it, but it would make a fine plot device.

Jeff Stoner Centreville, Virginia

As I said when it came out, I am not sure that one gets up to being a cocktail party theory...


Re: eBook on Airplane

The problem isn't that these devices generate interference. The problem is that the FAA doesn't _know_ that they _don't_. And, in a government risk-assessment bureaucrat's mind, "don't know it doesn't" is a synonym for "does".

"Well, why don't they just test the device?" you ask. You ask this because you don't think like a government risk-assessment bureaucrat. These people consider an iPod and an iPod second-generation and an iPod third-generation and an iPhone and an iPod Touch and an iPod Touch second-generation and an iPod Nano and an iPod Nano second-generation and a Shuffle and a Shuffle 2G and an iPhone 3G and blah blah BLAH...anyway, every electronic device is a completely unique item which must be put through the full range of tests, in all possible operating configurations, before it can be certified as okay. If I swap the hard drive in my notebook PC, then it's no longer a certified device and I have to re-test it before the government risk-assessment bureaucrat will allow it to be used on an airplane.

-- Mike T. Powers


electronics use on airplanes


You can't call this security theater, but it is still theater. Aircraft comm is in the 108-135 MHZ band and is AM. Most cell phones today are very low power and operate in the 1800MHZ range. The chances of a cell phone interfering with TSO'ed Part 121 aircraft avionics is about 0. The only thing even close is DME in the 900MHZ band, but it's not the same type of modulation. The cell phones are running inside a big aluminum tube with windows, the Aircraft comm is running through blade antennas on the body. Not much competition. If every single passenger on the plane made a worst case connection with a cell tower, the RFI would still be minimal.

Another urban legend.



Hi Jerry:

Don't know if you've seen this article about the USN's newest trimaran:


Very interesting military strategic site too, for that matter.

JR in WV


SNAFU: Situation Normal, Act F***ing Incomprehensible

"There are sources, and despite your disdain I note that Limbaugh actually read portions of the proposed health care bill. Incomprehensible, of course, but that's not his fault."

I vaguely remember from long long ago... as the saying is. watching Johnny Carson one April 15th. He brought on a man, with a short and intentionally misleading introduction, to 'discuss and read' the Internal Revenue Code.

The man, dressed in somber black, stood behind a lectern, which held a thick tome, and read in unctuous and solemn tones, as if delivering a funeral oration (I paraphrase here only a little..:)

"The amount by which the amount by which the amount determined pursuant to article 6 of subparagraph 12 less the amount determined pursuant to article 7 of subparagraph exceeds the amount determined pursuant to article....."

The roar of the crowd made hearing any more, impossible.

Incomprehensible, of course, but that's not his fault.....








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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Guy Fawkes Day

A Penny for the Guy...

Always remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
ever should be forgot...

On Special Relativity

Your cocktail party theory on ether 

Dear Jerry,

Linking Dark Matter/Dark Energy and ether is not so far fetched at all: http://www.space.com/
mm-dark-unification.html  and http://www.eurekalert.org/

I would define a wave as "a cyclic changing of state over distance". I guess the key question is "change of state of what?" Michelson and Morley removed the "what". It seems to be returning. This also seems to suggest that gravity can be manipulated so maybe gravity drives are not as farfetched as before.

Taking honours physics at McGill I got to look at Michelson's notebooks; this was an elegant experiment and his notes were beautifully written. It isn't that they did an experiment badly, more that we need to figure out why they got the result they did if there is an ether.

Best, Michael

If there is an ether that is affected by gravity, then it will be entangled and one would not expect the Michelson Morley experiment to find an ether wind caused by the Earth's movement through the ether -- least not until one got a long way from the Earth, to, say, the L5 Point or beyond.


GPS needs quasars

GPS will only work if the Earth's position is known so precisely that only quasars plus other recent high tech will do the job.




GPS orbiters and relativity

I asked a physicist I know about this. His answer:

"The errors caused by Special Relativity are on the order of a half of a nanosecond per second, which is about a half of a foot in distance. If you didn't account for special relativity in the time of one orbit there would be an error of many feet. BUT the clocks know about special relativity and correct their time signals so that they "look right" in the coordinate frame of the surface of the earth. The fact that the correction works is actually an indication that special relativity is correct."

I have heard that also; I have also heard it questioned. I am not qualified to choose between those who say there's an anomaly and those who say this is a proof: I know people who are so qualified who will argue either way. As I said, it's a cocktail party discussion.


Dark Matter and the Size of the Universe


I would like to pose a three questions concerning Dark Matter.

Is the deficit in the observed matter in the Universe based on the perceived size of the Universe?

What if the perceived size of the Universe is larger than the actual size? (The "straight line" distance between two objects in the universe is less that the distance that the light from these objects must travel.)

If these are true do we need to postulate dark matter to make up the perceived deficit?

Bob Holmes

The perceived size of the universe changes like dreams. I have no idea. Special Relativity is counter intuitive-- even Einstein said that and sometimes he seems to have had some doubts -- but that hardly means it is not true. The universe is not only queerer than we imagine, but...


As a general comment on the whole thing, let me say I have no dog in this hunt. I do find Beckmann's challenges to special relativity, particularly what I think is an anomaly of the aberration  of spectral binaries, somewhat intriguing, but it's no more than that. I do not believe that the United States has billions of dollars riding on the question -- unlike the consensus view of Global Warming. Special and General Relativity fermented great activity in the scientific world; a finding that the theories don't explain all the data would probably do the same, and that would be a benefit. Of course admission of that would make obsolete a lot of what we think we know, but that is the way of science...

And see below


Quantitative analysis reqd

Scientific analysis requires quantitative analysis…

While we're speculating;

You said GPS clocks must be syncronized to nanoseconds. If you did the arithmetic would it turn out that the differences caused by special relativity would be less than that?

Reminds me of Newton's laws still being valid for special cases, such as use on Earth.


Not all scientific models are quantitative, and the assumption that all of nature can be described by mathematics has yet to be proved; but it is certainly the case that having a good mathematical model is best when possible. The special relativity equations are ugly and tedious but not really beyond advanced high school algebra. The tensors of general relativity, on the other hand, are beyond most people (including me) and some have as I understand it yet to be solved at all. That is one reason for interest in finding a simpler model of the universe that doesn't require tensors. Of course there may not be a simpler model; the universe doesn't always cooperate with our efforts to understand it. It's remarkable just how much of it we do understand.


Molecular spray for real!!? Implications for space travel.



Like the nano-lathing in Total Annihilation...  Wow.


Well, now it's official!

Religion and "global warming"



It had to happen...


Once you have government running health care you get stuff like this.


Our current health care system is not perfect, but the proposed "cure" seems much worse than the disease.

Ray A. Rayburn - AES Fellow

And of course this was inevitable too. You'd be amazed at what has to be covered in national health care insurance policies. I expect to see snake oil in there if a snake oil company opens a factory in a powerful Member's district. Why not? And it probably will be adulterated and end up importing the oil from China where they'll sneak in lizard oil to save money...


Space Elevator


EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A robot powered by a ground-based laser beam climbed a long cable dangling from a helicopter on Wednesday to qualify for prize money in a $2 million competition to test the potential reality of the science fiction concept of space elevators. The highly technical contest brought teams from Missouri, Alaska and Seattle to Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert, most familiar to the public as a space shuttle landing site. The contest requires their machines to climb 2,953 feet (nearly 1 kilometer) up a cable slung beneath a helicopter hovering nearly a mile high. LaserMotive's vehicle zipped up to the top in just over four minutes and immediately repeated the feat, qualifying for at least a $900,000 second-place prize. The device, a square of photo voltaic panels about 2 feet by 2 feet and topped by a motor structure and thin triangle frame, had failed to respond to the laser three times before it was lowered, inspected and then hoisted back up by the helicopter for the successful tries. LaserMotive's two principals, Jordin Kare and Thomas Nugent, said they were relieved after two years of work. They said their real goal is to develop a business based on the idea of beaming power, not the futuristic idea of accessing space via an elevator climbing a cable. "We both are pretty skeptical of its near-term prospects," Kare said of an elevator. The contest, however, demonstrates that beaming power works, Nugent said. "Anybody who needs power in one place and can't run wires to it — we'd be able to deliver power," Kare said. Earlier out on the lakebed, team member Nick Burrows had pointed out how it grips the cable with modified skateboard wheels and the laser is aimed with an X Box game controller. It had never climbed higher than 80 feet previously, he said. The day's competition began late after hours of testing the cable system, refueling the helicopter and waits for specific time windows in which the lasers can be fired without harming satellites passing overhead. The Kansas City Space Pirates went first with a machine that initially balked but eventually began climbing. Its speed was too slow to qualify for any prizes but it got within about 160 feet of the top before the laser had to be shut down for satellite protection. Ben Shelef, CEO of the contest-sponsoring Spaceward Foundation, said the Pirates had a minor laser tracking problem but the real problem appeared to be in the mechanical system. As the afternoon grew late, the University of Saskatchewan's Space Design Team had to put off its attempts until Thursday. All three teams had further chances to qualify through Friday. The competition was five years in the making, Shelef said. "A lot of hurdles to cross," he said. "Now that it's happening I'm actually happy already. It doesn't matter what the outcome is." Funded by a NASA program to explore bold technology, the contest is intended to encourage development of a theory that originated in the 1960s and was popularized by Arthur C. Clarke's 1979 novel "The Fountains of Paradise."

Space elevators are envisioned as a way to reach space without the risk and expense of rockets.

Instead, electrically powered vehicles would run up and down a cable anchored to a ground structure and extending thousands of miles up to a mass in geosynchronous orbit — the kind of orbit communications satellites are placed in to stay over a fixed spot on the Earth.

Electricity would be supplied through a concept known as "power beaming," ground-based lasers pointing up to photo voltaic cells on the bottom of the climbing vehicle — something like an upside-down solar power system.

The space elevator competition has not produced a winner in its previous three years, but has become increasingly difficult.

The vehicles must climb at an average speed of 16.4 feet (5 meters) per second, or about 11 miles (18 kilometers) per hour, to qualify for the top prize. A lesser prize is available for vehicles that climb at 2 meters per second.

The rules allow one team to collect all $2 million or for sums to be shared among all three teams depending on their achievements.

While the concept of an elevator to space may seem too fanciful, Andrew Williams, 26, a mechanical engineer on the Saskatchewan team, said he has no doubts it will come about.

"Once we put our minds to something it's just a matter of time for us to achieve it," he said.


Solar Power in Space


What happens when something flies through the microwave power down-link?

Bob Holmes

This deserves a longer answer but I am out of time. In essence, nothing. The energy density is low enough that birds get warm and fly out. There's considerable literature on this.


E. D. Hirsch’s Curriculum for Democracy.


-- Roland Dobbins

I recommend this one to everyone's attention.


2 Studies Gauge Effect of New York's Posted Calories http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/health/03nutrition.html  ]

How Posted Calories Affect Food Orders By RONI CARYN RABIN

Just a few weeks ago, independent researchers reported that New York City's ground-breaking calorie labeling law had had absolutely no effect on the caloric content of meals bought at chain restaurants in poor neighborhoods. Last week, city health officials delivered a more upbeat assessment, saying New Yorkers ordered fewer calories at four chains--Au Bon Pain, KFC, McDonald's and Starbucks--after the law went into effect last year.

The changes reported by the city health department's preliminary data were modest, indicating little change either way in the number of calories bought at 8 of 13 chains surveyed, and a significant increase in calories ordered at Subway, which researchers attributed to a continuing $5 promotional special on footlong sandwiches that has tripled demand for them.

Although the findings of the two reports appear to contradict one another, researchers said differences in focus and size might explain the discrepancies. <clip>





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Friday,  November 6, 2009

Re: challenges to special relativity

My physics days are long behind me, but I want to add a point not being made in most of the discussion. You can challenge special relativity in the sense that it needs refinement. You cannot challenge it that it is totally wrong. Special relativity is one of the most confirmed theories in science. Every particle accelerator is built using special relativity to calculate the momentum of subatomic particles moving close to the speed of light. Every accelerator experiment discovers the change in elementary particle lifetimes, depending on how close the particles are to the speed of light. The theory is confirmed, in detail, every time you run one of these accelerators.

I do not think that you will find a serious physicist who thinks that special relativity is _wrong_, any more than you will find one who thinks that Newtonian mechanics is wrong. It may need refinement, but it is not wrong. We will never stop teaching Newtonian mechanics in elementary school and high school, nor special relativity in college. They work.

As an example, you can discuss whether the world is round or flat (I have no idea whether intelligent people ever thought it was flat, and I remember the discussions here.) Then you can question whether the shape is a sphere; maybe it’s an oblate spheroid. But we are never going to think that it is flat. Some scientific questions get settled. Then you go on to refine them, by adding new twists.

So don’t ask about GPSs. They are going to follow special relativity’s time dilatation. It works. Any challenges will be on far weirder cases, out of the range of experimental science to date.

You mentioned global warming. Global warming is a very different issue, at a very different stage. There we are arguing over whether the science has been done right in the first place. I think that most climate scientists believe in the standard global warming theory, but there is a significant percentage that disagree on various crucial points. I don’t care if it’s 90% against 10% (and all surveys have shown that the percentage of doubters in the field is way above 10%) – that means that _there is no consensus_. They are still working on it. The science is not settled until essentially every scientist in the field sees this as being part of the basic tools he uses to do his business.


Well, as I said, I don't have a dog in this fight, and I am not going overboard on defending cocktail party theories. I do point out that no one says Special Relativity doesn't produce correct answers that standard Newtonian physics can't produce without modifications -- but according to Beckmann and a few others, so does Newtonian physics with an ether that is sensitive to local gravitational influences. The Michelson Morley experiment pretty well shows that there is no ether wind brought about by the motion of the Earth in its orbit. That means either that there is no ether -- Einstein's postulate -- or that the ether moves along with the Earth, i.e. that there is gravitational entanglement of the ether with the Earth. Beckmann's hypothesis is that the ether is the local gravitational field; there isn't any other ether. Beckmann, not a theoretical physicist but better trained in engineering physics than I am, was very careful about his assertions. He claimed, and I have seen no refutation, that his assumption that gravitational fields were in fact "the ether" explained all the experimental data without the assumption that light speed in a vacuum is invariant, or that motion of an object relative to an observer is indistinguishable from motion of the observer relative to the object: that is, if you move toward me, my clocks slow down, or at least someone observing both of us will think so.

I can hardly insist that the universe make intuitive sense, but I would prefer theories that don't unduly strain credulity. I'd also prefer a theory that doesn't automatically rule out faster than light travel. I understand thoroughly that the universe doesn't care about my preferences, but once again, given the choice of two theories one of which fits my preferences and one of which doesn't, I can hardly be faulted for raising questions about what evidence supports what theory.

Regarding GPS, special relativity flatly says there is no synchronicity of clocks moving relative to each other. Now orbital speeds are not high compared to the speed of light, but we can detect interference waves from light coming from objects moving at those speeds. It turns out that special relativity correcti0ns work with GPS but, as I understand it, you don't need that complexity, and assuming synchronicity among all those clocks is "good enough." Meaning, I presume that despite the special relativity prohibition of synchronicity of clocks moving with respect to each other, the assumption of synchronicity is good enough for navigational purposes. I don't really mean to make light of this: I merely point out that the complexities of assuming special relativity make calculations tedious, and it you can find a way to get the right answer without going through all of that, it's worth something not to have to do it. None of which is definitive.

My speculation, just to be clear, is that IF Beckmann's theory that there is an ether, and the ether is the local gravitational field, be sufficient to explain all the known data -- I don't use the word "truth" except in the Popperian sense of "not falsified" -- then I wonder if Dark Matter, which would certainly be entangled with local gravity fields, might not be the ether? And as I said, it's a cocktail party theory. I will also point out that asking questions about special relativity is probably the best way to increase understanding of a rather thoroughly counter-intuitive theory. Even Einstein seems to have had some doubts about the need for two different relativities. And I see no harm at all in asking about GPS: I know it works. I also know that special relativity says you can't synchronize those clocks. And I know that we have to assume they are synchronized in order to get the right answers. While we're on that, I can ask about clocks sent around the world, one to the east, and one to the west: they come back out of synch, and oddly enough, out of synch by the amount predicted by an ether theory. I make no doubt that special relativity can explain this but I'm not sure quite how. The clocks were sent on commercial airplanes and didn't move very fast over the surface of the earth, the rotational velocity being the critical factor.

I agree regarding Global Warming. That one is beyond cocktail party theories. And see below


"A colleague of mine spotted the anomaly on Google Maps, and I thought 'I've got to go there'."


-- Roland Dobbins


Sary Shagan Unveiled.


-- Roland Dobbins

I can recall when men risked their lives for photographs of that place... We saw tests of their ABM program conducted there.


The 'no electronic device use' issue on commercial airliners.

It has nothing to do with interference at all, it has nothing to do with technology at all. After all, the major carriers are all scrambling to allow in-flight mobile phone service via a TCP/IP-based satellite gateway, as well as Internet access (Lufthansa had this for a while and it was great; the problem is that they bought far more equipment than was needed due to networking vendor oversell, and so the service wasn't able to turn a profit).

The reason you're told to 'turn off electronic devices' is simply about control.

The aircrew want to be sure that you understand that, instead of being a paying customer who has rights and privileges, you're an unwanted guest whom they grudgingly allow a seat on their fine aircraft as long as you do as you're told. They want to avoid any possible liability resulting from a frivolous lawsuit filed by a passenger who was too stupid to understand how to put on his seatbelt, and who would claim that the aircrew should've prevented him from listening to his iPod/ iPhone and forced him to pay attention to the safety briefing the rest of us a) don't need and b) have heard 10,000 times before.

The secondary hidden agenda is that remarkably similar groups of delusional rent-seeking leeches within each airline company believe that they can somehow force people to abandon their personal electronic use due to abuse of the catch-all 'you must obey any command from the aircrew, no matter how absurd, or we'll send you to Guantanamo' laws passed in almost every country after 9/11, and instead make use of their insipid in-flight entertainment systems, for which they believe they can charge you.

It won't work, of course, but that won't stop them from trying. Here in Asia, everyone pretty much ignores these pronouncements, and as long as you don't flaunt the fact that you're ignoring their nonsensical ukases on this topic, the aircrew will simply ignore your transgressions.

The sole (and unsurprising) exception I've observed is Chinese airlines flying on domestic internal Chinese routes; taking a photo out the aircraft window is punishable by a term in the gulag, as China consider maps and aerial photography as covered under state secrets regulations, as was the case in the USSR. On international Chinese flights, everyone ignores these ridiculous strictures.

Roland Dobbins


: Obesity, poor education big obstacles to military recruiting, 


According to the W Post, obesity and poor education are big obstacles to military recruiting:


Perhaps soon we'll have an army like Rome's, just before it fell: a bunch of wimps not really up for a fight.


The Legions kept Rome going long after the center could no longer hold. But it is true: in the days of the Republic, Roman soldiers killed enemies until their arms were tired and raised new armies instantly after defeat. By the end, the Legions just weren't up to the fight. But that degeneration took a long time. Our Legions remain competent and loyal. So far.


A Response to Colonel Couvillon on UAV

Re. Col Couvillon’s gloating…

The average fighter pilot will accept obsolescence on the day that the average Army tank driver accepts unmanned main battle tanks as a suitable replacement for manned vehicles, the USN replaces their fleet with unmanned ships/boats, and an infantry officer hands in his sidearm in favor of a seat at a stateside console, since on-site presence is apparently not worth the cost or risk and our communications are good enough to substitute for actual presence.

The very same Army, Navy, and Marine folks who are adamant about the value of “boots on the ground” are the ones the most vocal about the uselessness and imminent demise of manned aircraft. Is that inter-service competition, hypocrisy, or ignorance? The arguments seem pretty adversarial, and the attacks on the “fighter pilot attitude” are far more personal than factual.

For my own opinion, I am confident that any military reliant on unmanned ANYTHING will find itself without any combat capability on the second or third day of the war. You were at least partially right in your mercenary series books… it’s too easy to knock a satellite out of the sky and our unmanned systems will always require non-line-of-sight comm. That, and even stealth aircraft can be shot down by anyone who has the ability to look out the window and SEE the target, so the force who can put real people in the sky will maintain an anti-stealth capability beyond that of any force relying on unmanned systems.

Remember, the pride of a modern F-15 pilot is no longer in the number of kills he has. We have no F-15 aces, and probably never will. Rather, it is in the fact that it has been decades since our ground forces have suffered a single loss to enemy air activity. It surprises hell out of me to hear anyone in the Army supporting handing that responsibility over to unmanned vehicles that can be rendered ineffective by a 50 gal drum of BBs lofted into the path of a comm. satellite. It’s a bit like giving an infantry soldier a gun that won’t work without an operational datalink back to the states, and asking him to be pleased with his new capability.

Then again, maybe the Army’s next main battle tank will be unmanned. The issues are exactly the same, and “everyone” agrees that there remains no substitute for human eyes and a brain on-scene when immediate action is required. But it’s too much fun to blame fighter pilots for everything and make operational recommendations for another service that wouldn’t be remotely considered for one’s own field of expertise. In the end, it won’t affect me in the slightest but our ground troops will bear the burden the first time we meet a halfway competent foe on the battlefield and they need some air support.


No one who thinks seriously about it begrudges USAF its honors in protecting the ground army from enemy action. USAF was superb at this from WW II, and can boast that no ground troops were lost to enemy air action in the Korean war.  (Alas, I know for a fact that ground troops were lost to air action by USAF and USMC aircraft, but that's another story. On the other hand, USMC was damned effective in supporting USMC on the ground, and many Army people wished they could get that effective support; again another story.)

The criticism is that USAF insists on keeping the ground support mission while it really doesn't want it. Had USAF handed over the Warthogs after the First Gulf War there there wouldn't  be so much glee among the brown shoes when the blue suits take one.

I am no fan of turning the military mission over to legions of robots. I am a fan of giving the ground support mission to the Army.




I hadn't read Dr Beckmann's theory in detail but I read some of the things he published about it. Jeffery Kooistra, who currently does alternating science columns in Analog, is also a modern ether theorist.

The bottom line as I see it (recall that at present I'm more an interested and educated dilettante in the subject rather than an active practioner, though that could change in January when the current job goes belly-up), is:

(a) Recall my "Einstein's fallacy" argument: dynamics is about geometric relationships; however, modeling dynamics geometrically does not mean that the underlying mechanism is geometric.

(b) The logical conclusion based on today's data and theory is that the underlying mechanism is more likely to be quantum theoretic, but that is an assumption; the cat is not yet belled in terms of a "final theory."

(c) The "waves in a medium" argument may come back to photons, or at least the concept of duality which underlying quantum mechanics: each particle carries the mass (more accurately, mass-energy) which supports its wavelike nature.

(d) There is accumulating evidence that Einstein's theory is incorrect, at least insofar as the concept that the speed of light is an absolute limit are concerned -- the European experiments showing superluminal transmission of RF signals, yesterday's report about reversed Cherenkov radiation in engineered "metamaterials." "Dark energy" and "dark matter" themselves are postulated because the visible energy and mass of the universe do not account for the observed gravitational dynamics on a universal scale. (Conversely, there are people who believe that the cosmological consequences of electromagnetism are not adequately understood, and I don't know the extent to which that might account for the observed discrepancies.) I also include here the papers from Los Alamos citing that the speed of electrostatic fields switching on is significantly greater than c (as opposed to the speed of radiating fields which by relativity are equal to c), and the Los Alamos results, never formally published, which Dr. Forward cited in several papers -- and was once gracious enough to speak to me personally about by phone -- suggesting that neutrinos always travel faster than light.

(e) Inadequate attention has been given to the issues that Hank Stein raised bout the speed of gravity. Landis and others have published on the web (years ago) essays stating that general relativity can adequately explain the discrepancies, but from what I've seen that may be a circular argument: the discrepancies always depend on the relationship between the velocity of the body in the test field and the position of the gravitating body (e.g that, as in Newtonian physics, the direction of the force always appears to be towards the instantaneous position of the gravitating body rather than towards the position where it was when the "gravity" was emitted, regardless of the velocities involved), and I suspect that such an relationship would be preserved independently of the speed of gravity.

All of this doesn't answer your question directly, but the bottom line is that there is nothing to preclude a universal field which has some, if not all, of the properties ascribed to the luminiferous ether, with the principle exception being the ether drift as anticipated by Michelson and Morley. A google of the subject appears to be fruitful as regards the modern theories.


Jim Woosley

The Michelson Morley Experiment showed there is no ether wind resulting from the motion of the earth in its orbit. I have seen nothing that says it ruled out an ether entangled with the Earth's gravitational field. Einstein didn't say there that ether had been disproved: he said that the special theory explained the experimental data with no need for the ether hypothesis.


Nuclear Power


We can’t have those nuclear power plants because they would threaten too many jobs in a too many industries. Which is why the “green jobs” are so attractive to the left – they make a lot of work for people. They are the same as patronage positions in government.

This came to me one morning at 5:55 AM, back before I retired, while I was standing in the train station waiting for my morning commute. We heard a whistle and got in line, but around the corner came not our commuter train but a unit train filled with coal from the WV mountains. 150 cars long, with two large General Electric locomotives, hauling 15000 tons of coal. Since I worked in the nuclear energy field, I wondered how much energy that represented, as the train passed by. When you do the math, it turns out that one Pressurized Water Reactor fuel bundle contains twice the amount of energy as one of those coal trains. There are about 200 of these bundles in a typical PWR, and about one-third of them are replaced every 2 years.

I could haul one of those fuel bundles in the back of my pickup truck, if I was willing to let it hang over the back a few feet.

So, instead of those big GE locomotives, and 150 steel coal cars, and all those rails and ties and the labor to put them all together and keep them running, and maybe even a few ships, too, if the coal went overseas, you have one pickup truck and the public roads.

I don’t have the numbers, but I bet GE makes a lot more money on locomotives than on nuclear fuel. And the US steel industry will never get rich making 500 steel reactor pressure vessels, or even the piping and other tanks or structural steel in those plants. And the railroads would certainly not like to lose all that revenue to a pickup truck.

The coal miners might continue to have jobs, mining coal that could be turned into liquid fuels at the mine-mouth using heat supplied by a nuclear reactor, but the construction and transportation infrastructure for that sort of endeavor is minuscule compared to the current steam-coal system.

Realize of course that fresh nuclear fuel is not shipped in pickup trucks, but in ordinary tractor trailers, which carry a lot more than one bundle at a time. When the fuel is finally spent, it requires a large cask to carry a number of bundles to their final destination, which should be reprocessing, but is now just storage. But you get the picture about how many jobs and how much industry depends on our current system. Until those people stop feeling threaten by nuclear power, it is unlikely to replace much current generation capacity.

Ralph Caruso







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Saturday, November 7, 2009

: My interview with Heather Paye:

This is a recent interview I gave to Heather Paye for her blog: You may find it interesting.

Down to the Core

A blog that digs deep into the "A Gift From Above" book, gives details, news, upcoming events, and more! My Shelfari Bookshelf Shelfari

Meet Francis Hamit!

Meet Francis Hamit, the inspiring author of the historical fiction novel "The Shenandoah Spy" about Belle Boyd, the first woman to be formally commissioned an army officer.


Francis Hamit


Consumer Electronics on Airliners

"It has nothing to do with interference at all, it has nothing to do with technology at all."

I am a licensed pilot and a licensed amateur radio operator. The above statement is not correct. Since the mid-80's most consumer electronic equipment sold in the USA is complete cr*p from the RF emissions standpoint. Very few items sold in department stores goes anywhere near meeting the FCC rules on RF interference. There is a chance of interference with the avionics when it comes to untested consumer electronics.

At cruise it has been judged that the danger is not material. You have several independent navigational aids and ground radar for backup. If there is a problem detected you have enough time to order all equipment shut down. An error of a few miles while cruising is not significant. That same error when landing in IFR conditions obviously is. The same situation applies to takeoffs due to the danger of having to quickly land if there is a problem. Hence the prohibition during takeoffs and landings.

Regarding the comment about being inside a metal box - (1) the cabin is not a Faraday cage, and (2) even if it was, that the avionics is inside that cage along with the potential RF sources tends to eliminate this as an issue. Regarding the final operating frequency of cell phones it should also be noted that even a perfectly shielded phone will still be broadcasting harmonics. And those phones are not perfectly shielded, and so you have the issue of transmissions from the IF stages.

While I do tend to scoff at the "nothing is too much to be safe" and "how do you KNOW it is safe?" types in this particular matter the airline rules have a reasonable basis.

Gene Horr

I would think that isolating the essential aircraft electronics from the electronic cabin noise wold be fairly cheap, if one decided to do that. And I note that we used to pay a lot of money to be able to telephone from an airplane in flight. Finally, I also note that I have been on military flights where I had wideband wireless access while flying over the US.


Subject: Ether theory a rival to Dark Matter

Here is more support for your cocktail party theory:

--- Dark Matter's Rival: Ether Theory Challenges "Invisible Mass"

news/2006/09/060908-dark-matter.html  ---

CP, Connecticut



Every guided air-to-air missile is a UCAV, and guided air-to-air missiles have existed since the 1940s. Indeed, the entire US air-defense interceptor force was really just reusable manned boosters for long-range guided missiles.



- Maj. Hasan

Hi Jerry,

I don't wish to defend Maj. Hasan, but - in our condemnation of him - there is always the risk of generalizing to far. I think you did so with this statement:

"...the instant he began to show doubts about the legitimacy of the War and an unwillingness to be deployed to participate in it, he ought at the very least to have been stripped of his commission..."

If Maj. Hasan refused an order to deploy, then he should have been disciplined. However, holding a personal opinion as to whether or not there ought to be such a war? I think the Iraq war was a serious error: naked aggression justified by trumped up evidence. Should I be stripped of my reserve commission for holding this opinion?

Also, perhaps relevant: In my memories of active service, it was often the case that doctors were not always terribly "military". Many of them joined the service as a way of getting their medical education paid for; and the military needs doctors badly enough to accept a lower standard of military behavior and allegiance. (I am also at risk of overgeneralizing here.)

Of course, a lower standard of military allegiance does not include shooting your fellow soldiers. Maj. Hasan is a treasonous bastard, and I trust he will be standing in front of a court martial as soon as humanly possible. Does the UCMJ still allow firing squads?

The larger question you raise is the important one: how many tragedies does it take before we discard political correctness. Not all muslims are terrorists, but essentially all terrorists that target the USA are muslims. This surely justifies extra scrutiny, rather than extra tolerance.



I will amend my statement to read that he should have been taken out of counseling the Legions as they prepared for deployment, and he was almost certainly unsuitable as a counsel or consolation for the severaly wounded returning from deployment. We no not need hire and purchase of treason.

I am not in favor of our Gulf Wars, and opposed them all, from the first one in the time of Bush I; but I am not applying for a position as troop counselor.

My position has always been that my opposition to the mission does not mean opposition to the forces we sent: once you send in the Legions, they deserve the support of all of us. My opposition to continuing in Afghanistan is based on my belief that we are unlikely to make the 20 year commitment of blood and treasure that is the minimum required for victory; and if we are not willing to stay the course, we ought to find another way to accomplish the objective of keeping Afghanistan clear of bases where our enemies can organize against us. Until we do something else to accomplish those goals, the Legions are needed in Kabul and the provinces, resented though they may be.

Hassan's position was that the Legions have no right to be in Afghanistan. He went further than that. This in a commissioned officer of the United States is an act of treason. He has a right to his opinion and to broadcast it; he has no right to do so as an officer. Oaths of office make a difference.


'NGOs have grown from a few small back-street offices into a multi- million dollar international organisation - in the case of Greenpeace, with a fleet of ships, modern office suites, staff and pension funds.'



-- Roland Dobbins

Nice work if you can get it...


Subject: Beckmanns' book


This is a bit of a tangent, but it relates to the theme of orphan books. I was curious enough about the subject to see if "Einstein Plus Two" was still available. Unfortunately, the work is out of print. Beckmann had his own publishing company, which appears to have gone out of business. Who might retain the publishing rights is not clear to me. The only used copy I found on the internet was $225, listed as a "first edition". The text does not appear to be available from Google Books. Seems like there really should be a way to preserve access to books like these.

CP, Connecticut

It was situations such as this which prompted Google to do their scans of books. I do not know who owns Petr's estate, but we need an amendment to the copyright laws that allows some way for the public to have access to works long out of print, yet provides some protection to the rights of the author. I make no doubt that something will evolve over time. It's too important to leave as is. As time goes on I am more attracted to the Google solution.

I once had a copy of Einstein Plus Two as well as a History of Pi. Alas the Brotherhood of Book Borrowers seems to have made off with both.





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