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Mail 599 November 30 - December 6, 2009







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Monday  November 30, 2009

Letter From England

It looks like Britain's little 'paradise on earth' is unaffordable. <http://tinyurl.com/yjk3872

UK police under fire for losing its way in the target culture: <http://tinyurl.com/yjddwfv>  <http://tinyurl.com/ydoxbxb>  <> <http://tinyurl.com/yjq2j3m

NHS hospitals under fire for losing their way in the target culture: <http://tinyurl.com/yfkry8k

Church loses its way in modern England: <http://tinyurl.com/ylm85jg>  <http://tinyurl.com/yfzwg37>  <http://tinyurl.com/yavjqqb

Universities lose their way in the UK as the Government looks for cost savings: <http://tinyurl.com/ybgzy85> . The research the elite UK research institutions produce is no better than the research produced by smaller institutions <http://tinyurl.com/yfovqde> --the research produced by the elite research groups outside Cambridge, Oxford, and London is *not as good* as the research produced by the smaller groups.

-- "If they do that with marks and grades, should they be trusted with experimental data?"

Harry Erwin, PhD


OK, so now they're saying the Mars meteorite really *does* contain fossilized bacteria?!


----- Roland Dobbins


Bob Ludwick's letter 

Bob brings up something I remember my father and his friends mentioning about recent (circa 1980's-90's) engineering graduates' uncritical acceptance of calculator / computer - generated numbers (this was for aerospace engineering).

Said graduates seemed to have no conception of the 'limits of precision', which was summarized as, "The calculated answer can be no more precise than the least precise measurement." With CAD programs, the machine will provide answers to 10 decimal places, if requested to do so, but those extra digits are effectively meaningless in building a device.

There is the thought that Dad & his colleagues (some of the sharpest guys I've ever met) learned using slide rules and log tables, and so had fewer digits to round off. However, a popular science article on the limits of precision & effective rounding off might be of some use to help people tune up their "nonsense filter" (yes, we all know the 'salt-ier' name).

There was a interesting piece on this recently, relating to house prices. Apparently, people only pay attention to the last couple of significant digits in a house price. This was tested by creating an ad for a house at $102,000, and an otherwise identical ad for $102,758. The second ad got more calls. Roundoff training would hopefully reverse that result.


Best Regards,

Doug Hayden

Interesting. I learned on a slide rule and keeping track of the magnitude of the answer was sort of ingrained. Now I guess the calculator does it all. My old log log decitrig hangs on the wall just in case there's a power outage.


Everything must go | theBookseller.com


Dear Jerry:

The above link is to a blog report from the front lines of the collapse of Borders UK Borders has already announced the closing of 200 stores in the USA. Barnes & Noble is also closing some stores. Having driven many independents out of business in the last decade the big chains are now withdrawing and leaving a vacuum that can only be filled by online providers. The only winner here is Amazon.com, which is laughing all the way to the bank. The only place where you can get anything that is not a "best-seller". This is not good news for writers.


Francis Hamit

First the Dalton and Waldenbook chains drove the independents out or bought them out; then the monsters came in. At least the mall chains were in the malls, where people might buy a book when they didn't go out to buy one (if you go to Borders you want a book, not shoes or luggage). As you say, it's all good for the on-line sellers, and Amazon got there first...

We are going to have to learn to market. So will publishers.


Early science papers


With my primary work systems down, I have been able to take a little time at lunch to peek in this little treasure trove. I hope you enjoy!

R, Rose


Subject: Ah, but models can be useful -- provided that you go back to the data from time to time.


I think this quote is from John Tukey, but I've never been able to pin down where:

"All models are wrong, but some are useful."

-- Bob.

I believe I have heard him say that in conversation, but it was long ago. Thanks.


'The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.'


--- Roland Dobbins


“My God, it’s Caesar!”


---- Roland Dobbins


'Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with a whitewash of what has become the greatest scientific scandal of our age.'


---- Roland Dobbins


: a prying Climate-gate question

Dr. Pournelle,

As I watched Ed Begley jr. step into the Climate-Gate scandal, I remembered your blog mentioning him as a personal friend. While I wouldn't want you to insult your friend in any way, I am curious as to any insight you might have into his character. He repeated "peer-review" in his interviews like it was a silver bullet to end the scandal when it is obvious that is the peer-review process that is compromised. I admire Begley for the sacrifices he makes for his beliefs, no matter how wrong-headed I believe them to be. However, there comes a point where one has to wonder if he has too many years devoted to self-sacrifice to see the issues clearly. Is he the type to say, "I've been driving this damn electric car for two decades too many to say I was wrong now!" or could reason allow him the chance to reconsider the issues as a whole?

Best Regards, Devin "Malcolm" Robertson

Ed was concerned about pollution and waste well before "global warming" became a catch phrase. As to his insistence on peer review, wouldn't most people? That is, few question the peer review process. I have long done so, but I'm very much an exception, and of course peer review is pretty good as a default; it's probable necessary but not sufficient as a means of allocating funding and publication.

Ed believes in what he is doing, and he is not rude about it with his friends and neighbors. I wouldn't presume to analyze his motives, but in my experience what you see is what you get.



Dr Pournelle,

You said:

> If you can't put it into a letter and send it to a competent colleague, it isn't science.

I would go so far as to say that if you _won't_ share it, it isn't science.

Steve Chu

Actually it's "if you don't put it in a letter and send to colleagues" it's not science. Science is public. We are not in disagreement.


'Intel inside' could mean thought-control chip in brain, say reports

Peter Clarke EE Times (11/25/2009 8:56 AM EST)

LONDON ‹ Intel researchers are working on functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) as a possible way to allow TVs, computers and cell phones to be controlled by human brain activity picked up by an implanted chip sensor, according to online reports.

The use of a headset with multiple sensors to sense brain activity and support biofeedback for control is well known, but Intel researchers in Pittsburgh have said that some consumers would opt for an implanted, wirelessly-connected Intel-developed chip-sensor rather than have the inconvenience of wearing a headset, according to the reports. 2020 is given as a date by which consumers will be routinely using implanted chips and brainwaves instead of a mouse or remote control.

 Intel Research Labs Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh are working together and have used FMRI machines to look at blood flow changes in specific areas of the brain in response to a particular word or image that someone is thinking of, according to a Computerworld account. Dean Pomerleau, an Intel researcher, is referenced saying the team is close to being able to include sensors in a head set that could be used to control a computer using thought. The next step would be the development of an implantable sensor that could be positioned inside the brain, the report said. "Eventually people may be willing to be more committed ... to brain implants. Imagine being able to surf the Web with the power of your thoughts," the report quotes Pomerleau as saying.

etoin shrdlu




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Tuesday,  December 1, 2009

Lots of Comments 

Novelists, advocates, and scientists: My brother recently pointed me at Pielke, RA (2007) The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics, Cambridge University Press. The author identifies four categories of scientists: pure scientists, issue advocates, science arbiters, and honest brokers. Pure scientists and science arbiters stay out of policy discussions, while the other two categories get involved. Pure scientists and issue advocates are Madisonian (grassroot) democrats, while the science arbiters and honest brokers work with policy alternatives defined by experts. Pielke's point is that scientists are found all four categories, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. We're seeing issue advocacy on trial.

The Popperian approach to science is generally accepted, but it has its weaknesses. Given the noise in experimental data, statistical techniques have to be used to falsify null hypotheses. Current standard practice is vulnerable to the base rate fallacy.

Consider a set of experiments that a researcher might be interested in exploring in their work. They observe X~f(x,theta), and test H0: theta=theta0 against an alternative H1: theta=theta1. They choose a test statistic T=t(X). If they follow standard Neyman-Pearson practice, they will define a threshold, c, for their test and reject H0 when the test statistic exceeds c, computing and reporting the resulting error probabilities. Suppose the nature of interesting experiments in a field is that the null hypothesis usually cannot be rejected--which might be the case if, for example, most drugs have no real effect against a specific disease--then most of the positive results will be false positives.

Bayesian statistics overcome that problem, at the cost of introducing the need for a prior distribution. James Berger advocates starting with a non-informative prior, but there are some problems that his approach (objective Bayesian statistics) introduces--you might not be able to define (or choose) a suitable prior. You might also have difficulty defining a suitable statistic relevant to your hypothesis. Only practitioners of science are likely to be aware of these problems.

My personal opinion is that our current dependence on fossil fuels is unwise *in the near term*, whether or not we're concerned with global warming (or global cooling). I also believe we need to drastically improve our monitoring and modelling of climate.

Borders and Amazon: I seem to recall Amazon buying up the publisher's backlists ten or fifteen years ago and nearly going bankrupt. The publishers stepped in with financing because Amazon gave them a direct marketing channel to the public. I do most of my book buying through Amazon since storefront bookshops in this area--even Borders--don't cater to my tastes.

If you're looking for a model health care system, it's not the NHS. <http://tinyurl.com/y8fxo84>  <http://tinyurl.com/yzjhv42>  <http://tinyurl.com/yd28kzu

-- Harry Erwin

Popper and the Weiner Kreiss show an approach not a set of laws. Some experiments are fairly crucial. Some results are obvious -- recall Holmes on finding a trout in the milk -- and some require an expertise in statistics that most scientists including some of the very best simply do not have. Even so, the obligation is to the data and to open publication, not suppression; it is not for the observer to decide that "these observations are irrelevant", particularly when they contradict a consensus theory. That's the point of observations.

My own view is that some questions are well enough settled that we need not be TOO concerned; I agree with the notion that extraordinary claims require extraordinary data. Carl Sagan was fond of saying that, but the origin of the statement is Descartes, and I have always believed that -- and that it very much applies to global warming.

There is a difference between scientific truth in the philosophical sense of "truth" and scientific truth in the sense of policy decisions. Policy requires cost/benefit analyses, and risk analysis, and that requires Bayesian analysis. Academic debates alas don't remain academic, and Ideas Have Consequences.

As to fossil fuels, I have been an advocate of nuclear power for about fifty years; I am no great fan of strip mining for coal. On the other hand, I am even less of a fan of sending a trillion dollars a year to sovereign investment funds.


JoAnne Dow says:

Regarding Global Warming....

Hiding the Decline: Part 1 - The Adventure Begins http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1447 

ESR, aka Eric S. Raymond, reviews some of the released climate change code. He finds this: "; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!"

It is embodied in a piece of code that produces the hockey stick graph. The Climate Warming nonsense is even worse than anybody had thought. It featured VERY blatant lying, for monetary gain, by scientists. They were paid to find this. So they arranged to find it regardless of the original data, which they were most careful to throw away.

That aside, I surely hope you are doing well of late. I've managed to stay up to my eyeballs busy, myself.


Good to hear from you again. Thanks


Climategate and peer review 

Dr Pournelle

To ascertain the validity of a scientific paper, it is neither necessary nor sufficient that it be sent for a peer review. But it is necessary that it be sent for an independent review. Without such independence, the current review process cannot produce apolitical results. Did we learn nothing from the disaster of eugenics? It took a world war to end that nonsense. Will it take another to end AGW?

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith
PS One supposes that your correspondent Mr Steve Chu is not the current Secretary of Energy, but one questions one's supposition nonetheless.

Peer review is a reasonable procedure so long as it is not used exclusively. Note that Ignatz Semmelweiss was subjected to peer review. They suppressed his work, got him fired, and finally locked him in a madhouse for suggesting that physicians might be spreading childbed fever.

What peer review must not be is the ONLY way to choose for funding and publication.



The Iron Law and Health Care Reform


"A quick search of the Senate health bill will bring up "secretary" 2,500 times.

That's because Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would be awarded unprecedented new powers under the proposal, including the authority

to decide what medical care should be covered by insurers as well as the terms and conditions of coverage and who should receive it."

Stand by for giant increase in the bureaucracy.



Swarm intelligence: Are Digital Ants the answer to Malware? 

Subject: Swarm intelligence: Are Digital Ants the answer to Malware?


Tracy Walters, CISSP


Of course people are angry, but what will they do about it? - 


Nothing in this report will surprise anyone reading your mail. However, I have no idea what I could do to help change things. I vote my conscience, occasionally write letters to my congresscritters, but in today's world that really doesn't do a lot of good. Since my divorce there isn't even any place I could garden in order to feed me and mine. I come to a reluctant conclusion that I may not be fit to survive the upheaval that I fear is coming. I have no idea what a subsistance existence will look like in today's world.

Anyway, I don't (usually) despair, I will just keep on keeping on and trust that a way will be made.

R, Rose

Well perhaps they will be angry enough to take back their government...

I am preparing some notes on surviving the crash. That crash isn't inevitable, but it's not a zero probability event. Perhaps it is time for a new survivalist movement. But note: the best way to survive a nuclear war is not to have one. The best way to survive a Great Depression with Runaway Inflation is not to have one...  Take Back Your Government


Springer Partners with CreateSpace for Print on Demand - 11/30/2009 8:21:00 AM - Publishers Weekly


Dear Jerry:

This is an academic publisher with low print runs anyway and thus a perfect candidate to distribute via a 'long-tail" mechanism such as Amazon.com. This does not bode well for traditional technical bookstores such as Op/Amp. Especially if other such publishers follow suit. The distribution channels are changing, becoming more demand-driven and efficient. Note that the e-book strategy is separate. These are printed books. It may be that the traditional brick and mortar bookstore has become obsolete. Certainly I wouldn't advise anyone to open one in the current situation, unless it was heavily into used books...and even there Amazon.com has the edge.


Francis Hamit


Murray: 'If you’re doing important work that you know will be controversial, you don’t lose the data.'


-- Roland Dobbins






For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Oppenheimer recommends Feynman

You might find this interesting.


-- Tim of Angle

An interesting assessment. Correct, of course.


Subj: All models are wrong, but some are useful: Box originally, but also Tukey

Wikiquote attributes the quote to George E.P. Box, and gives a citation, which I have not verified personally:


I had no personal contact with Box, but I took several courses from Tukey at Princeton, and heard Tukey use it often.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I spent a week with Tukey at a conference at Pajaro Dunes some years ago, and he said something very similar, perhaps that exactly, at dinner. It was a memorable week. I roomed with Marvin Minsky.


Slide rule accuracy


Reading Doug Hayden's letter reminded me of a long ago bottom of the page Reader's Digest story.

An engineer working on a government contract was assigned a new secretary who had no knowledge of Scientific Vocabulary. After being interrupted many times by the New Secretary as she was transcribing his Dictaphone notes and letters he told her to just type a word that was similar to the sound of the dictated word.

After being presented with a draft of a dictated letter of a new proposal the engineer ended up literally rolling on the floor when he read the closing sentence. "The numbers in this proposal are subject to refinement since they were calculated with a sly drool."

Bob Holmes



World Traveling Atomic Clocks

"Incidentally, the method of travel for the clocks was to send them by commercial passenger airplanes."

When I was just starting college, I did a couple of summer internships with Pan Am's avionics dept. They had some awards and the one that had pride of place was the Special Relativity Flights. It was a big deal. My Dad told me all about it. There were three clocks, one stayed put in NYC, another was put on the Eastbound plane and the last on a Westbound flight around the world. Each of the clocks also had an escort, they flew First Class all the way, nice gig.

Pan Am was the only airline that could get an airplane all the way around the planet, and you know the results.



Beckmann accounts for the clock discrepancy in his theory as well. It certainly is fascinating: the clocks certainly didn't have the have the same time when they returned from their first class trip around the world. The question is why clocks flown east slow down while those flown west speed up. This is not an obvious prediction of special relativity, although no doubt that is due to insufficient understanding. It's a direct prediction of ether theory (assuming that the gravitational field is the ether). Note that Einstein himself in a reply to Lorentz said that the gravity field in general relativity is "closer to the ether hypothesis than the special theory," and that it was clear that space isn't as empty as previously assumed.

I am sure someone will explain the speeding and slowing of the clocks in their first class journey on Pan Am.  Thanks


Book marketing

Dear Jerry:

You said, "We're going to have to learn to market." Meaning our books and other written work. As one who once had a day job called "Vice President of Sales and Marketing" I'm a bit ahead of the curve on this, but it is a soft science at best, and more of an art than anything else. The art of persuasion. I'm not surprised that most writers are essentially clueless about it. Very few of us are "people persons" at heart. Maybe I should run a class.

Not that I meet more than the Army definition of an expert (i.e. I know more about it than anyone else in the room, but still flounder from time to time). Currently I am trying to use social networking, I have a toll-free telephone number and promotional codes on LinkedIn and Facebook and a small ad on the latter that has about 68,000 impressions and 40 click-troughs in ten days. I keep posting new items and links, all of which are quickly supplanted by other posts, some of which are so trivial and self-involved that I wonder where people find the time. Facebook is a great way to find people you've lost track of, but also a tremendous time-sink. In terms of sales it had nudged the needle, but not moved it significantly. That's still more productive than the narrow-beam print ads with the same 800 number and different promotional codes. I'll have to wait for January to get a full reading and the bad economy is obviously skewing everything towards the negative. Amazon.com is selling the book and Hastings Entertainment still has it on the shelf. Our own web site which has all of the information and extra features isn't producing much. The "value added" of signed copies seems limited to book signings and while we did 22 book events last year, the number this year is five and likely to stay that way.

So the loss of so many chain bookstores is a matter of serious concern because this is still where most books are sold. The megastores at least pretended to carry a wide selection of titles but the small independent was where writers found some love. Of course, it doesn't have to be a bookstore. I did a charity event fund-raising at my bank last year. I know writers who have sold and signed in hardware stores in small towns because that was the only venue extant and one who sold 1,800 copies of his non-fiction novel at something called an "Irish Faire". (I presume that was over several days.)

With Marketing there is no "one best way" to sell. What works is dogged persistence. While researching the second book in the civil war series, we are still aggressively selling the first. And will continue to do so. This is what the big publishers forgot and why so much fiction fails in the marketplace; you have to give the product time to catch on. Brute force distribution to the top outlets in the market does not do much aside from waste time and resources. Witness the fact that so many of those outlets are closing. They can't make money from "best sellers" alone.

I own stock in Hastings Entertainment, which is unique. Their book department has about ten thousand titles, but they also have video, music, and, in the newer stores, coffee bars that rival Starbucks. They are mostly in small towns where direct competition is slight. They drive out single product category venues like Blockbuster. I've 16 book signings at their stores, some more than once. I liked what I saw and bought in. But they are only 152 stores, mostly in the western states (except California). Here's what I learned from those signings. (1) You sell as many or more books at a signing in a small town as one in a big city. You are a big event. (2) If you an get someone to pick up and look at the book, you have a fifty percent chance of a sale.

If a writer wants to market their own books, then they have to become involved in and think through every aspect of the publishing process, starting with the cover and the typography. What they can't do themselves they need to hire done. And they need to commit to the entire process. It's a grind. And forget those dreams of glory where you match the "best sellers" of the big firms. You don't have that kind of muscle. Think long-term, not short term, Persistence pays. If you want to see what I'm talking about, buy my book. :-)


Francis Hamit

All of which shows that from my view it's better that I write and let someone else market...


The New Money Flow | Ditchwalk


Well worth reading. A very intelligent take on the currently state of publishing vs. self publishing.


Francis Hamit


Climate change data dumped

Dr. Pournelle --

Climate change data dumped


"SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation."

"In a statement on its website, the CRU said: “We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data.” "

Inspires all kinds of confidence in their work, doesn't it?


So we just have to trust them, the data really were there. Once.


TWIT and the Climate emails


I'm listening to TWIT, great to have you back on the podcast. You sounded full of energy.

I noticed that even the NY Times had an article on the climate emails, which mentioned how the director of the British lab was stepping down pending an investigation. As an engineer, not a scientist, I learned to never throw anything away. I developed a technique for sorting what was really trash, things that weren't worth filing, but stuffing into a box for each month in case something came up in the future. I can't imagine these scientists would throw important raw data away, especially for the lack of space to store it.

Questions I'd like to ask include whether they requested space or money to store the data, or if they requested storage space from the community. The world is asked to spend trillions of dollars to prevent "Global Warming", or is it now "Climate Change", and there isn't money to rent a storage facility? And I understand this data had been requested under Britain's version of a FOI request.

Another question is on the conversion of the raw data into something useful. I have no experience working with huge amounts of data, and I'm sure there are always problems with the data, such as missing data points if a weather station is offline, but I'd like to know if it is standard practice for the raw data to be preserved and published, and for the calculations used to process the raw data to make it useful is subject to peer review.

Finally, even as a skeptic, if this turns out to be a case of scientific fraud, it doesn't prove global warming isn't happening. It does prove that global warming enthusiasts have taken this on as a religion, and they will say and do anything to prove their religion to the non-believers. If I were a believer in global warming, convinced that it was "established science" I would be furious at the scientists involved in the scandal. If its true, and the data supports it, why confuse the subject by cheating?


But you don't understand, this is IMPORTANT, and justifies any means necessary


ClimateGate (or whatever)


One thing that occurred to me while reading posts on ClimateGate at the Volokh Conspiracy, in light of the raw data "going missing".

When I was going through my college physics lab classes, my instructors were very clear about one thing. One never, ever, ever erases, deletes, or obliterates anything once it gets into the lab notebook. This includes raw data, calculations, "cooked" data, analyses, ANYTHING. If one finds a mistake, one lines it out with a single line, so it remains readable. Anyone reviewing the notebook later has to be able to tell what was originally there, and what "fix" was deemed necessary. After all, it might turn out that the "fix" was itself wrong, and the original item was correct after all.

I got graded down if I violated this rule.

Maybe the lab instructors for the scientists at the CRU were less strict about this rule. Or maybe they didn't know it.

Another 2¢.

................Karl Lembke


Western Union (of all people) apparently invented the Internet, broadband, and cloud computing in *1965*.



-- Roland Dobbins



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Thursday, December 3, 2009

maunderings about buying books...

Hi Jerry

The letter from Francis Hamit about marketing books was very interesting.. A few maunderings from the other side, should these be of interest:

We are a family of readers - Sunday evening often finds the whole family ensconcing on the sofas, each with a book. What seems difficult to us is finding new books and particularly new authors that we want to read.

Browsing through a bookstore is less and less satisfactory. This is particularly true in SF&F: the bookstore shelves feature the same well-known titles that they carried 10 or even 20 years ago. Ender's Game was a wonderful book, but why has it not been supplanted? All of Pournelle's and Niven's works from the 1980s are there - I already have them. Has nothing new been written? Do they just take some standard list of books from the publishers? In any case, the bookstores seem intent on putting themselves out of business.

For the past several years, we have bought most of our books via Amazon. If you just want the newest book by a known author, this is the easiest way to go. However, even Amazon is a marketing disaster: they fail to notify you of new books by authors you always buy, meanwhile announcing books that you "might like" that consistently miss the mark.

I have just ordered our first e-reader, to see what this experience is like. I am impressed by the Baen Books strategy of giving away selected books in a series as "teasers". I am also very much looking forward to downloading books from Google - I might actually re-read Shakespeare and other old favorites!

(Technical note: both Baen and Google use the ePub format. Not all readers support this format; Kindle specifically does not. Marketing idiocy that, combined with DRM, continues to fragment the fledgling ebook market.)

What Francis describes: slogging, tedious marketing work, is not what I want my favorite authors spending their time doing. Marketing ought to be the job of the publishers, but the internet has changed the whole picture and publishers are flailing. Until they learn how to market in this new world, the burden does seem to fall too heavily on authors.

At the moment, I think neither authors nor readers are entirely happy...



Indeed. And I do not devote my time to marketing; I haven't enough creative time as it is. Of course I can afford to live this way because of my subscribers, all of them, platinum, patron, and regular; without the subscriber base I'd hae to put more time into marketing....


small business regulation and implication for health care "savings"


In October you noted that Chaos Manor gave up having paid employees, thanks in part to excessive small business regulations. That brought to mind my own experience. A few years go I owned a small software business. I had one paid employee (she was also a part-owner). I worked for nothing.

When I would go visit my employee in her home office (several thousand miles away) I was always struck by the large number of government-required posters stuck to her walls -- how to report sexual harassment, or safety violations, environmental violations, labor law violations, etc. Her office was tiny -- off the kitchen-- and here were all these signs everywhere. The only possible use was to report on herself. But she had to have them up in case an official dropped by for an inspection.

This is my worry about the health care plans now under debate. I do not doubt the validity of the issue, but how can anyone doubt the result will be a proliferation of well-meaning regulation and paperwork? These will not come cost-free; health care savings will be illusory, no matter how much Congress wants it so.

Paul Bunning


“Carbon dioxide levels have been up to 1,000 times higher in the past. CO2 cannot be driving global warming now."


- Roland Dobbins

See correction below.


AIDS not caused by HIV?

Dr Pournelle,

I just ran across this and wanted to see what you thought.


The new film House Of Numbers (reviewed by me here <http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig7/foye8.1.1.html>  ) contains excerpts of interviews with almost everyone of significance in the debate about whether or not HIV causes severe immune deficiency (aka AIDS). In a true scientific debate, the defenders of AIDS orthodoxy would jump at every chance to engage in debate with HIV skeptics, in the hope of either clearly refuting their arguments, or else learning something from them. But instead their mantra <http://www.aidstruth.org/denialism/answering_denialists>  is:

"We will not engage in any public or private debate with AIDS denialists or respond to requests from journalists who overtly support AIDS denialist causes."

Apparently there is now such a thing as an "AIDS Denier". I guess they are the same people as the global warming deniers

Matt Kirchner

It is probably the case that HIV does cause AIDS; the evidence piles up from the "cocktail" treatments. It still makes sense to discuss the possibility of hypotheses in competition; see the Feynman quote in today's View. Rational debate is seldom helped by hysteria, getting the vapors, or shouting 'denier'.


My Perspective on the PKARC / ARC Controversy, by Dean W. Cooper.


-- Roland Dobbins

Some of you may remember Phil and the origins of ZIP and PK; this tells much of the story.


Lightning Source in Deal with CreateSpace - 12/3/2009 8:17:00 AM - Publishers Weekly


Dear Jerry:

Sanity has prevailed. Self publishing has just become a lot easier.


Francis Hamit






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Friday,  December 4, 2009

Raising the Dams

Dr. P.:

Efforts are indeed already under weigh to raise dams in the Tennessee Valley:


"TVA is raising the elevation of four of its dams to help reduce the risk of flooding in the unlikely event of weather more extreme than any conditions ever recorded in the region. TVA will place temporary, wall-like structures on top of earthen embankments of the Fort Loudoun, Tellico, Cherokee and Watts Bar dams in East Tennessee, raising the top elevation of each embankment about four feet. The extra height would prevent water from overtopping and damaging the earthen embankments...

A recent update of TVA’s river modeling program determined that the maximum floodwater elevations could be higher than previously calculated if a highly unlikely, worst-case winter rainfall were to occur in the upper part of the Tennessee Valley watershed...

He said structures to raise the embankments are scheduled for installation by Jan. 1, 2010, because large regional floods are most likely to occur in winter and early spring. The interim measures are expected to remain in place until long-term, permanent solutions can be identified, evaluated and implemented."

The press release does not state whether the update of the river modeling program was informed by Americanogenic Global Warming considerations. Perhaps not, my old agency has always seemed more pragmatic.

Jim Watson

At least it's shovel ready. And not entirely unreasonable. In the name of flood control TVA inundated more land than had ever been flooded in the worst floods, but it did generate power and stabilize what was left. Of course the goal was to get more government control of power; see Amity Schlaes The Forgotten Man for that story. It's still the best history of the New Deal I have encountered.


on junk science



Is specifically about "An Inconvenient Truth", but gets into good sequences on junk science and the misuse of science for agendas. Lion Chetwynd is quite succinct on this.


Dramatic. I really don't give a damn about Oscars. I do care about the Nobel Prize, and about scientific credibility. What's at stake here is a lot more important than Gore's ill gotten billion.


As if ClimateGate is not big enough yet....

As if ClimateGate is not big enough yet there is a researcher that claims NASA has been stonewalling him on an information request for their raw data and discussions while they were massaging it.

Researcher: NASA hiding climate data http://www.washingtontimes.com/

He is most interested in the discussions while NASA was revisiting their data in 2007 leading to 1934 being found to be the hottest year in modern history. Then they massaged their data again to make 1998 and 2006 the hottest years with 1934 third.

NASA refuses to release the information.

Is NASA part of the climate fraud?

(And finally a "buzz" item rumor: Apparently none of the emails released in those 61 megabytes of data in any way implicate NASA's Hansen, already shown to cook his data. And Hansen is going around saying any decision from Copenhagen is bound to be flawed and it'd be better if they went back to start the whole thing over. Based on this coincidence, Hansen is being accused, in some of the further out blogs, of being the "hacker". Is Barbara Boxer going to be so keen on prosecuting the leaker if it's the newly suspected Hansen himself?)


Since Climategate affects Hansen as much as anyone else in that camp, I can't believe he was involved in the "hacking". It may be that a whistle blower was conforming with the Freedom of Information Act. Someone's conscience got the better of him.

NASA was certainly part of the climate conspiracy. Just how much was unwitting isn't clear, but not all of them were deceived. Jump on the bandwagon and as long as you're up, get me a grant.


Climategate continued,

Hi Jerry,

One of the best responses to climategate has been from Derek Lowe on his blog In the Pipeline (http://pipeline.corante.com <http://pipeline.corante.com/>  ), scroll down to the post "Data, Raw and otherwise". Note this blog is written by a true scientist (he is a chemist), and I think sums up the opinion of many working scientists. The problem with "Big science" is the reliance on public funding Science deals in uncertainty and can never give an absolute answer, Politicians cannot deal with uncertainty, this results in tension and causes academic scientists to trim the results to meet political objectives( off course individual scientists have personal political beliefs and objectives, who doesn't). Lowe (and I) work in industry and have an alphabet stew of regulations to obey (GPMP, ISO 9000 etc) which mean we could not get away with doctoring the results. (the lawyers would have a field day if we did and got caught) It is time that Public Science was required to meet similar standards with punitive sanctions if they do not. As an aside the Information commissioner is apparently investigating the reported criminal actions of CRU in avoiding the Freedom of Information Act (Sunday Telegraph 29/11/09 "Grandfather who forced climate scientists into U-turn"

Yours Andrew Deacon


"I assume that what is there is highly damaging. These guys are quite clearly bound and determined not to reveal their internal discussions about this."


--- Roland Dobbins

Note that this is the Washington Times, not the Post. The main stream media are still stonewalling the story.


Your comment about Larry Summers

Hello Jerry,

You said this (all true): "Larry Summers, President of Harvard, said in a faculty meeting that one possible explanation for the undoubted fact that there are few women in the top levels of mathematics and physics might include a hereditary factor, his senior faculty got the vapors, and he was soon hounded out of office as President of Harvard, not for losing more than half the Harvard endowment, but for having the temerity to propose that as one possible hypothesis. His hypothesis wasn't met with data or argument, but with scorn and derision, demonstrations, and eventually he was forced out. That was a blow against science; but few seem to have noticed that."

This is a piece by 'La Griffe du Lion' on the same subject, inspired by Mr. Summers' fate: http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math.htm

I suppose that it is too late for Mr. Summers, but in any case, even if the article had been available BEFORE Mr. Summers' ill advised public utterance of the truth, he would have learned that facts are never a defense in such cases anyway.

Bob Ludwick

I am not as interested in the truth of Summers' conjecture -- we know that Marie Cure was a sharp cookie and we can name a lot more of them, so you can't use gender as a means of weeding out people to be sent to schools for bright young things -- as I am in the integrity of the scientific process. Science is still the best tool we have for finding workable hypotheses about the nature of the world. I do not want to see it ruined.


A Short Explanation of How Climategate Matters, and went so wrong



This is the best explanation of the reason how AGW went off the rails, and why the manner in which it did so, is so important....science v politics v ideology..


Please let me know if anything I say offends you. I may wish to offend you again in the future.

Tux says: "Be regular. Eat cron flakes."


: Why Most Published Research Findings Are False


What is happening with Hadley CRU emails may represent nothing more than an aggravated case of a problem that is common in many areas of science. In science there is always competition for attention and funding, the tendency to form cliques around certain hypotheses and the attempts to cut off the oxygen for researchers taking alternative approaches that might invalidate their research.

The problem has been aggravated in Climate Science because so many politicians and bureaucrats are using AGW to advance their own political agendas. The worst abuse seems to be for scientists who agree with the AGW hypotheses, but think the warming will be milder than the IPCC climate models suggest and don't require a radical reorganization of civilization or like Freeman Dyson who suggested that the warming would be mostly beneficial for humans. Even scientists who preferred a carbon tax instead of cap and trade were lambasted.

I suggest you read this paper by John P. A. Ioannidis called "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False". http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:
doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124  This section seems particularly appropiate:

Corollary 5: The greater the financial and other interests and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true. Conflicts of interest and prejudice may increase bias,u. Conflicts of interest are very common in biomedical research, and typically they are inadequately and sparsely reported . Prejudice may not necessarily have financial roots. Scientists in a given field may be prejudiced purely because of their belief in a scientific theory or commitment to their own findings. Many otherwise seemingly independent, university-based studies may be conducted for no other reason than to give physicians and researchers qualifications for promotion or tenure. Such nonfinancial conflicts may also lead to distorted reported results and interpretations. Prestigious investigators may suppress via the peer review process the appearance and dissemination of findings that refute their findings, thus condemning their field to perpetuate false dogma. Empirical evidence on expert opinion shows that it is extremely unreliable .

Joel Upchurch

I wouldn't go that far; the process has worked pretty well: look around you.

But this is the danger.


Climate Data 


One of the aspects of claims about global temperatures is that satellite data shows MUCH smaller increases than those claimed by people who use terrestrial sources. There are some assumptions which are involved in interpreting radiometer data, but there is much less room for fiddling with the results.

The Warmists are much taken with ground stations, tree rings, etc. The advent of GPS units and digital cameras has made it possible for the citizen scientist to survey the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) stations. In fact there is a good web site at:


Many are exemplary, but a large minority are troubling to say the least. Several pictures are attached. I have seen the one in Wickenburg, Arizona, and can vouch for it. The Goddard Institute people always say "Trust us, we have made the needed corrections!" Unfortunately, when you get into the data, you find that the good stations, which curiously show only slight if any warming, are often "corrected" to show much more.

Whatever is actually happening with the climate, the picture of the science and scientists is not a pretty one. Well, I see Mann has thrown Jones under the bus. It will be interesting to see who the "John Dean" is.


The Santa Monica Airport was once surrounded by bean fields. It is now in a highly developed area. How does one adjust for the urban island effect? I don't know, just as I do not know how you factor in sea temperatures at various depths, or air temperatures at various latitudes and altitudes. What weight do you give a ground station in North America in comparison to a sea temperature taken at equatorial latitudes and 20 fathoms depth? What about air temperatures? The whole notion of a single figure of merit for the temperature of the Earth seems a bit absurd to begin with; I have never heard a good explanation as to why one set of measures of that would be better than another. What about the temperature at the top of Mount Everest?


: Classroom demonstration, 

There's actually a really good "Teaching Moment" contained within the Clmategate story, Goode Doctor. One of the emails -- quoted in the Washington Post, of all places -- is a query from one of the researchers saying "Why is the sum of least squares negative?"

If one tells a class -- called "Computers in Public Administration" -- to bring up Excel and start trying to find a number which is negative when squared *and* find positive numbers which can be summed to a negative, a few minutes will give the class some (admittedly elementary) practice with Excel and demonstrate why there are people who are flabbergasted (in lieu of a blunter term) at what these emails show.

Which means that the IPCC true believers either have to demonstrate that the data which resulted in a negative least-squares has an inconsequential effect OR show us the magic wand which made everything work.

Yours Aye, Rod

PS: Sly Drool. Step into my parlor, Goode Doctor, and let me tell you a sea story. There's no reason to assume you've studied Naval Architecture though it wouldn't surprise me. Nonetheless, a bit of a backstory. It's useful, when calculating and estimating hogs and sags and stability of a ship -- especially a merchant ship -- to think of it as a beam. This is called "beam theory" and thereby hangs a tale...

In the early 90s, I was reviewing a course in ship construction & stability when I came across a lesson called "beam therapy". My mind flamed out, cold. I finally waylaid a Naval Arch person who read the lesson plan, started laughing, and said "Beam Theory." Of course it's beam theory...

This was back when keyboarding skills -- antediluvian that I am, I still call it "typing" -- weren't as ubiquitous as now and the school had put a admin person to work with a pile of diagrams and a dictation tape.

Murphy, in other words, never sleeps. But you knew that.


Poppy Gate 

I am simply astounded!


David March

Not all is as it seems...



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Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Correction:


Carbon dioxide levels have been up to 1,000 times higher in the past. CO2 cannot be driving global warming now."


- Roland Dobbins"

Much as I agree with the thrust and intent of the comment, I'm afraid the numbers are wrong. It was 1,000%, not 1000 times. I also noted that on the Daily Express site, so you don't have to.

Brian H.

The conclusion is not really affected, but we try to correct any mistakes in facts.


Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide Ramps Up Aspen Growth

Dr. Pournelle,

Wasn't increased growth in trees one of Dyson's predictions that was poo-pooed by his detractors?

releases/2009/12/091204092445.htm  or if you prefer http://www.news.wisc.edu/17436 


Well another effect is increased growth of edible crops such as wheat and rice. Plants like CO2. Surprise.


Met Office to Re-examine Temperature Data

Dr. Pounelle --

This from The Times Onlne this morning:

Met Office to re-examine 160 years of climate data


"The Met Office plans to re-examine 160 years of temperature data after admitting that public confidence in the science on man-made global warming has been shattered by leaked e-mails."

"The Met Office’s published data showing a warming trend draws heavily on CRU analysis. CRU supplied all the land temperature data to the Met Office, which added this to its own analysis of sea temperature data."

I will withhold my "hosannas" until I know whether or not the Met Office has the raw land temperature data from CRU and that it is a true analysis instead of an attempt to verify the previous results.

Of course, a rise in temperatures since about 1850 is to be expected since that date marks the end of the Little Ice Age. The real question is "why" the temperatures have been rising. So much is made of the timing of the rise in temperatures beginning shortly after the start of the Industrial Revolution, forgetting that many things happen at the same time with no causal reationship. It's why we have the word "coincidence."

There is a worrisome statement in the article:

"The Government is attempting to stop the Met Office from carrying out the re-examination, arguing that it would be seized upon by climate change sceptics."

Obviously, the policy has been settled, let science be damned.

President Eisenhower was right when he warned of the risks associated with science being guided by political policy.


How dare these boffins put data ahead of policy?


told ya

Following the link to poppygate, I discovered this on drone swarms:

<http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,571133,00.html>  dated 11/2/09 

"So, for example, the swarming algorithm, independent of human intervention, determines where a camera needs to look, where a UAV needs to fly, etc."

The Department of Defense's Unmanned Systems Roadmap calls for advances in precisely this type of autonomous operation and connectivity. Armies of robot planes that can communicate and work together may be the future of warfare.

Looks like I was right. I refer you to a paragraph in my email of 2/24/09:

In aircraft, I foresee drone fleets controlled by meta-drones, where the aircraft don't arrive as individuals but as a swarm. The mass bombing runs in WWII were just a primitive form of this, because strict formation flying was the best fit for pilots with limited skills, range of motion, and resistance to G-forces. Birds and bees have no such constraints, and with a meta-drone calling the overall mission, the individual drones can move and react with the grace and speed of a flock of birds in response to threats and in attempts to get the best angles of attack.

On the TVA - the TVA not only generated power, but created some of the best fishing in the world, and created a way to barge bulk material and large objects deep into and out of inland Alabama and Tennessee. IMO it was money and loss of land well spent, even if you eliminate the power for making the first nukes, which helped put Japan under western control instead of soviet domination.

Whether you agree with the politics or not, the TVA, WPA, and CCC used a semi-military form that prepared an entire army of men. Those men were then conveniently ready to be soldiers and sailors in WWII, and were certainly motivated when the CCC was phased out. The sequence almost begs the question "Was the CCC an intentional ploy by FDR to recruit a standing army without raising suspicions?"

The combination of our selling arms prior to our direct involvement in the war, and having these fellows ready when Pearl was bombed had a huge effect on the speed the country was able to respond to that attack.

I compare that to today, when I got an email from my brother, retired Army:

Subject: Military joke of "hurry up and wait" is no longer applicable "Now, it's "wait and then hurry up." It took POTUS _ten_ months to make a decision to send more troops. Now, he expects them to be battle-ready, feet-on-the-ground in seven months."

His email makes me sad. If WW III were to break out tomorrow, where would the new CCC workers be, and would we ever be able to respond in a timely global manner (other than nuking the aggressor)?



"What they're doing now is robbery. I never thought this kind of thing could happen in America."


-- Roland Dobbins


ARV Cocktail therapy and HIV

You state that evidence is piling up that HIV causes AIDS because of the efficacy of the Anti-Retroviral (ARV) cocktails.

Two points:

1. ARVs are cytotoxic. They kill life. They kill human cells, they kill bacteria, they kill fungus. If your immune system is compromised by an infectious agent, most likely the ARVs will take it out.

2. As properly placebo controlled, double-blinded, clinical trials have not been conducted on ARVs, one cannot rule out the following hypothesis: "AIDS patients are living longer because the medications that they take are less toxic". We know for a fact that the doses of AZT given in the 80s and 90s were extremely toxic, and that combination therapies have consistently lowered that dose over time, or done away with AZT altogether.

When you conduct a clinical trial comparing a new drug to an older drug (calling the older drug the "placebo"), and find that fewer people have died on the new drug - what exactly have you proven? You've certainly not shown that your new drug is better than nothing.

AIDS drugs are a classic result of a rush to do something, anything, under tremendous political pressure. -- Joshua Vanderberg

At this point the specific argument is beyond my competence. I gather that Duesberg remains unconvinced, and given his track record previous to his exile, it would seem reasonable to either allow him to conduct the crucial experiment as principal investigator, or to be part of the team that does it; it would still be a fairly cheap experiment, and add considerable confidence to our assumptions about where to put money in AIDS research. I am no longer convinced that the "peer review" process can solve this allocation problem. I do think that the NSF ought to be mandated to allocate 5% of its grants to contrarian research.

The problem is that it would be simple to allocate that money to the wildest and most absurd hypotheses instead of those with some substantially qualified advocates. How to keep the allocation board honest -- that is, to get them to put the money into research most likely to upset their most strongly held beliefs -- it is in no way an easily solved problem. I think it is terribly important, though.


Subj: Beam Therapy and Rocker Propulsion Elements

The "Beam Therapy" story reminded me of the time I went to the Princeton University Engineering Library looking for the classic _Rocket propulsion elements : an introduction to the engineering of rockets_, by George Paul Sutton.

I didn't remember the author's name, but I remembered the title. Entered it into the online catalog Search function. No hits. Eh?

Did a search on "Rocket Propulsion" as keywords. Found the catalog numbers of a few books from that search; all were close to each other. Went to the shelves and lo! There was Sutton's book, in amongst the others!

Went back to the catalog, searched on "Sutton, George P.".

One hit: _Rocker Propulsion Elements..._.

Immediately flashed back to the scene in _Fallen Angels_ in which the fugitives are escaping across the ice with the help of their illegal droogs. I imagined them in rocking chairs, propelled by ...

Reported the ... anomaly ... to a librarian. She laughed, said she'd correct the catalog entry.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


The End of America.


-- Roland Dobbins







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