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Monday  January 4, 2010

New Year Letter from England

If you provide a 3-year university education to 5% of your population and a 3-year college education to another 10%--the pre-1992 UK model--you're already committed to most of your expenditure. You can then easily triple the number of students at about $3000-$4000 a head per year, which would make a profit for the country except that you run out of students who can benefit at 30-40% of the population. You could push the numbers further if you had decent elementary and secondary education--but as the CBI head commented this week: 'Labour has spent too much time "messing around" with the education system and its high spending strategy has been inefficient....' <http://tinyurl.com/ykw529l>.

 The Times Higher Education published its review of the year this week: higher education funding to be cut £915 million over three years (-12.5%), the amount per student paid by the Government is to drop by £190, research is to be focussed into a small number of institutions, and the bachelor's degree is to be reduced to two years. Lead article: <http://tinyurl.com/yaco4sr>. Editorial <http://tinyurl.com/yem4reo>. Cs by students from deprived backgrounds will be made equivalent to As by other students for entry into the better UK universities: <http://tinyurl.com/yht4sqh>. Article on PhD supervision: <http://tinyurl.com/yhvxsuf>.

 A new age of austerity in the UK <http://tinyurl.com/yevytff> <http://tinyurl.com/ycmb5hm> <http://tinyurl.com/y9zvp42>. It will be a while before the UK recovers from the Labour spending spree. Labour death wish <http://tinyurl.com/y9lxfhr>. If you want it bad; you get it bad. <http://tinyurl.com/yk8vqqa>

 I remember Harriet Fast Scott discussing the alcoholism problem in the Soviet Union. Watching the same problem in the UK has been sobering: <http://tinyurl.com/y9cavfc>. I've been involved in discussions with clergy about ways for our church to take the lead on these problems.

 Religious hysteria in Europe. Intruder shot at home of Danish cartoonist: <http://tinyurl.com/yl2s35u> <http://tinyurl.com/yc49z68>. Irish atheists challenge new blasphemy laws <http://tinyurl.com/yl9uq4v>.

 Full body scans to be introduced into UK airports <http://tinyurl.com/yd5kuqr>. Bruce Schneier's comments: <http://tinyurl.com/ydo3qsb>. Fly naked? Passenger profiling based on race and religion: <http://tinyurl.com/yafz2ok>


"If academic research is not devoted to finding the truth, it is a form of propaganda, and not necessarily to be preferred to other forms, much cheaper and perhaps more persuasive." (Russell 1993) Harry Erwin


"Do your degree in two years"--UK universities ordered to concentrate on 2-year degree programmes in practical subjects: <http://tinyurl.com/y9o73o6> <http://tinyurl.com/ycbckrn> <http://tinyurl.com/yahkwpy> <http://tinyurl.com/yjh4t3y> <http://tinyurl.com/ycwpnlo>

 Further cuts in UK university funding. Universities urged to eliminate degree courses that do not directly benefit the economy: <http://tinyurl.com/ybwym9u> <http://tinyurl.com/yepwper> <http://tinyurl.com/yauqumj> <http://tinyurl.com/y9t3vje> <http://tinyurl.com/y87czxs> <http://tinyurl.com/yehnlzc>

 UK recession continues: <http://tinyurl.com/ycmajjn>

 Travel firms refusing new UK ID cards as an alternative to passports: <http://tinyurl.com/ycu5z53>


Harry Erwin


SUBJECT: Atomic wristwatch and Intel compilers

This will perhaps give you a chuckle:


and programmers will be interested in this one:



Mike Casey

The watch is amusing. The others is a bit more disturbing.


APOD: 2010 January 3 - A Force from Empty Space: The Casimir Effect, 


This is just cool. A Force from Empty Space:







"I just saw one woman pleading with a gate agent, saying that she had two small children and a heart condition -- that she simply could not take this. But of course, there will be no exceptions."


--- Roland Dobbins

Your tax dollars at work



Your comments on the crotch bomber were insightful. The next step will no doubt be to have the explosives inserted into body cavities. ("No sir Mr TSA agent, I'm not carrying a bomb. I'm just suffering from a severe case of constipation") I believe that the culmination of terrorists techniques to smuggle bombs onto airliners will be Semtex Breast Implants. The only effective screening technique that I can think of would be to have security palpate the breasts of any female passengers who seem to be excessively well endowed. Where do I go to apply for the job?

You have an interesting discourse on climate change. As one of the authors of FALLEN ANGLES, you have a unique perspective to offer.

I believe that Dyson and other critics cannot be accused of ignoring back of the envelope level physics calculations. It seems to me that it is the global warming skeptics rather than the proponents who are the ones who are actually capable of independently deriving the Arrhenius equation that defines the equilibrium temperature of the planet. Just mentioning Arrhenius provokes bewilderment from the local activists. We are the ones who can identify the only three variables in the equation, including the variable that is mislabeled the solar constant. We are the ones who thank God for the greenhouse effect because we understand that without the greenhouse effect the Earth would be a global deep freeze. We are also the ones who take note of the fact that since temperature responds to the product of the three variables raised to the one-fourth power, the Earth's climate is inherently insensitive to perturbations in these variables.

Your comments about deserts being the areas where CO2 driven warming will be most evident are right on. These are the only areas where water vapor will not be the predominant greenhouse gas. There used to be quite an alarm about the alleged relentless march of the Earth's deserts that was being driven by deforestation, overgrazing and the burning of animal dung for fuel. Seems to me that rather than planting trees that will not sequester much carbon because they will eventually release said carbon by either growing old, falling down and rotting or burning in a catastrophic forest fire, creating more desserts would be a good way to offset a runaway greenhouse effect. Of course the largest desserts in the world are actually the arctic and Antarctic regions where precipitation is limited and the level of water vapor in the atmosphere is almost zero. The Earth's poles are also prime locations for the Earth to radiate away excessive heat because the minimal amount of solar isolation even in summer provides an excellent heat sink and eliminate the risk of an offsetting enhancement in solar isolation. Interestingly, ice and snow are very close to being perfectly emissive in the infrared spectrum so they make excellent radiating surfaces. Unfortunately, thick layers of ice and snow are also extremely good thermal insulators. As a result, the temperatures in the Artic and Antarctic drop so low that the level of cooling resulting from black body radiation is nearly zero. Fortunately, sea water is also a near perfect emitter of IR radiation as is barren, rocky soil. The solution to global warming is to melt the ice caps so that the polar regions can operate as effective heat radiators.

I confess that I haven't the time and probably not the expertise to actually check the detailed, computerized climate models that the global warming alarmists have developed. However; it is my understanding that the climate change alarmists have been extremely reticent about releasing the algorithms and computer codes they are using as well as the original, "uncorrected data sets" to skeptics so that they can be critically examined. This is essentially the issue that culminated in the FOIA request that caused the CRU to assemble the massive files that were subsequently accessed by a hacker. I ordinarily favor an extremely prolonged, agonizing and spectacularly violent death for computer hackers. However; these guys deserve a medal.

James W. Crawford


'An Aboriginal Dreaming story about a star crashing to earth with a noise like thunder has led to the discovery of an ancient meteorite crater in central Australia.'


-- Roland Dobbins


SUBJ: The Misandry Bubble


A long read but extremely worthwhile.

Executive Summary: The Western World has quietly become a civilization that undervalues men and overvalues women, where the state forcibly transfers resources from men to women creating various perverse incentives for otherwise good women to conduct great evil against men and children, and where male nature is vilified but female nature is celebrated. This is unfair to both genders, and is a recipe for a rapid civilizational decline and displacement, the costs of which will ultimately be borne by a subsequent generation of innocent women, rather than men, as soon as 2020.





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Tuesday,  January 5, 2010

'Ministers now face having to exempt under-18s from the scans or face the delays of introducing new legislation to ensure airport security staff do not commit offences under child pornography laws.'


- Roland Dobbins


Navy Accepts Future USS Independence 


Tracy Walters

Pirates beware


Ah ha! I have the solution at last... <grin> 

As I was catching up on your daybook and mail today, the solution to the whole AGW mess, as well as the energy crisis and economic crisis came to me like a blinding bolt of bullsh.. errr - make that brilliance.

Surely we have some clever person who can figure out how to design an instrument package on a sat that will be able to measure not o the ground temperature of the planet below it, but thousands of increments of air temperature between itself and the ground as well.

We propose putting up a fleet of these things. Think of the consequences!

Real data on planetary temperatures!

Full employment for the aerospace industry!

So much data coming in so quickly we have to hire an army of American programmers to deal with the huge data streams. Perhaps some of that ill-user TARP money can fund this!

Which automatically means American computer producers like IBM and Apple make a ton of money, 'cause you need a lot of computer power to do any kind of analysis on that data!

Which automatically improves the economy, both here and in China, since the parts for all those computers would come from China. (buying from China = economic prosperity! )

Which allows us to fund a way to power those sats, once their normal power cells run dry, in a totally green way by building power sats to do it. Incidentally, the power sats can beam any excess power to the ground. The greens will be happy, no pollution, and we can use the sat power beams to put heat wherever we want it giving us weather control! (Well, those AGW people do say that just a tiny amount of extra heat in exactly the right place can ruin the planet... weather control from a hugh microwave oven in the sky makes just as much sense,,, no? :)

How cool is that?

<grin> Now that I think of it, some looney just might buy into braindead logic like that, perhaps I should go peddle it in D.C....


Sounds like a plan...


Your papers, please! And how much do you make a year???

Dr. Pournelle:

War correspondent and photojournalist Michael Yon was handcuffed and detained at the Seattle airport by the border bullies for refusing to tell them how much he makes.

Posted on his Facebook Fan Page follows:


Got arrested at the Seattle airport for refusing to say how much money I make. (The uniformed ones say I was not "arrested", but they definitely handcuffed me.) Their videos and audios should show that I was polite, but simply refused questions that had nothing to do with national security. Port authority police eventually came -- they were professionals -- and rescued me from the border bullies.

When they handcuffed me, I said that no country has ever treated me so badly. Not China. Not Vietnam. Not Afghanistan. Definitely not Singapore or India or Nepal or Germany, not Brunei, not Indonesia, or Malaysia, or Kuwait or Qatar or United Arab Emirates. No county has treated me with the disrespect that can be expected from our border bullies.

You are astonished?


: Wattgate 381 Audio Grade Duplex Socket


Have you read the reviews of this product?


That made my day. I haven't howled like this in a long time!

On a more serious not, the quality of AC power can be an important factor in the quality of high end sound reproduction. Of course, these sockets won't do anything regarding the lousy quality of the power supplied by the power company of the lousy quality of the wire in the walls of your house. The money would be better spent if saved up for a good power conditioner.

Hearing and listening to music is a psycho-acoustic experience. These sockets will definitely help the psycho part of the experience!

Bob Holmes

Power conditioners are certainly to be preferred...


Economy power cables/outlets vs high quality

Hello Jerry,

The wall outlet cited may be OK, but this one is probably better for the 'critical listener': http://www.musicdirect.com/product/74162 

Naturally, having a decent wall outlet is worthless without a high quality power cord. Here are a couple of well thought of candidates, although you may have to wait; they are both on back order:

http://www.musicdirect.com/product/84626 (on back order) or http://www.musicdirect.com/product/74066 (on back order)

And of course once you have POWER to your system you are, unless your ears are rated several stages below 'tin', going to need to need high quality interconnects for the various parts of your system. And then speaker cables. These would probably be 'OK': http:// www.soundstage.com/equipment/shunyata_aurora_cables.htm

No system is complete without a turntable for your old vinyl. This one may not be the 'best' but it is such a steal at $13,999 (vs the normal $24K) that it would almost be a sin to NOT buy it: http:// www.musicdirect.com/product/73004

Unfortunately, it comes sans cartridge. This one is decently rated: http://www.musicdirect.com/product/72713.

A quality pre-amp is a must: http://www.musicdirect.com/product/ 73063 should do.

As is a power amp: http://www.musicdirect.com/product/73053

Speakers are SO personal; just figure on an entry level of $20-30k and let your conscience (and ear) be your guide.

All-in-all it MAY be possible to put together an 'acceptable' (to a connoisseur) system for under $100k, but I wouldn't get my hopes up.

But, rest assured, the power outlets and power cables are CRITICAL to your audio success. Low ball those and you may as well go back to 8- track. Or so you would deduce by dipping into the surreal world of the audiophile.

I'll also bet that the audiophile world went for Obama at a higher rate than Harlem.

Bob Ludwick


Subject: CO2 levels and temperatures in the distant past


I wanted to offer a cautionary note for those of your readers who are ginning up correlations of CO2 with temperature, using estimates from the distant past. The wild card here is the intensity of solar radiation. Astrophysicists apparently believe that, when the earth formed, the solar radiation from the young sun was only 70% of what it is today. So as you go further back in time, the intensity of incoming solar radiation may also have been lower. This leads to what Carl Sagan termed the "Faint Young Sun Paradox". Based on lower solar radiation, the earth should have been a snow ball for much of it's history. Yet geological evidence suggests liquid water was present for much of earth's history. One theory to resolve the paradox is that, in the past, higher levels of greenhouse gases offset the effects of lower solar radiation. The implication for the current debate is that a given concentration of greenhouse gases today might produce higher temperatures than in the past, because the sun in now hotter.

CP, Connecticut


Before 'Global Warming' saved us

Hello Jerry,

I'm with you. If I have a choice between warm and cold, I'm gonna go with warm. At least if this 'before Global Warming' story is an example of the 'cold' option.:


Bob Ludwick


I took another look at Octave's ordinary least squares function, and noticed something I'd missed/misunderstood.  The function fits the matrix equation y = Ax.  To use this to fit a line, y = mx+b, in the usual form, you have to find a way to get it to fit y = a1 x1 + a2 x2, and let it solve for m = [a1 a2].  Using a constant 1.0 for x2 works nicely.  (Computer graphics people will recognize homogeneous coordinates.)


I dug out my old HP-11C, did a quick fit to the data in the table, and got one set of numbers.  I cooked a new AWK script, to create a corresponding set of [ppm 1 temp] triples, and ran the ols() on that set.  The numbers agreed with the HP-11C fit, to four significant digits, which is better than the input data, so I knew I was on the right track.  I then reworked my original AWK script, to do the same thing, and ran that.


The final fit was:


    temperature = 7.3736e-004 * ppmCO2 + 15.715 C


which translates to 1356 ppm CO2 gives one degree C temperature rise.


Raw data (columns are name of era, date of beginning of era in millions of years ago, ppm CO2, and Celsius temperature):


Cambrian      542 4500 21
Ordovician    488 4200 16
Silurian      444 4500 17
Devonian      416 2200 20
Carboniferous 360  800 14
Permian       300  900 16
Triassic      250 1750 17
Jurassic      200 1950 16.5
Cretaceous    145 1700 18
Paleogene      65  500 18
Neogene        23  280 14

Revised AWK script (you will need gawk or something similar to create the long-form data file that is sourced into GNU Octave, below):


BEGIN { printf("a = [\n"); }

NR == 1 { gstart=$2; start = $2; co2 = $3; temp = $4; }

NR > 1 {
    for(i=0;i<(start-$2);i++) {
      printf("%f 1.0 %f %d;\n", co2, temp, (gstart--));
    start = $2; co2 = $3; temp = $4;

    for(i=0;i<start;i++) {
      printf("%f 1.0 %f %d;\n", co2, temp, (gstart--));

Revised GNU Octave commands:



x = a(:,1:2);

y = a(:,3);

[m,b,r] = ols(y,x);



Jerry, I'd be happy to supply the 500-line expanded data file to anyone who wants it.

John Strohm



1991 Iraq war 

It appeared at the time (1991) that Saddam Hussein intended to invade Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after Kuwait, after which conquest he would have been able to dictate world energy prices. What would have happened to the U.S. economy faced with $100 oil in 1992 or $200 oil in 2002? Recession at least, and much lower GDP growth would be my guess. August 2001, Iraq placed 100,000 troops on the Kuwait border for war games and insisted that Kuwait was a province of Iraq, and gave indications that it still intended to invade Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Given this Sudetenland type provocation, maybe invading Iraq in 2003 was unavoidable.

Darryl Miyahira, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Saddam was easily deterred, but we didn't do that. As to expelling him from Kuwait, having done that we might as well have seized the oil. There was no sane strategy to the First Gulf War. But that's another discussion.

Iraq has ALWAYS claimed that Kuwait was a province of Iraq. Perhaps it is. Why is it our affair? I have seen no credible evidence for plans to invade Saudi Arabia. And I have no idea why if we had to throw him out we did not make the Kuwaiti royals pay for the exercise...


re: Schneier is wrong about drone encryption. - 

Hi Jerry,

Regarding Roland's email about Bruce Schneier being wrong about drone encryption, he must have been reading a different article than I did. Bruce's point is that given the choice between using the current encryption infrastructure, and having an unencrypted link, the latter is the better choice. However, he went on to make an additional point: The NSA and DoD need to have a commercial-grade, ad-hoc encryption infrastructure that can support encrypting non-classified data such as the drone links. The current solutions and policies are time-consuming, restrictive, and hard to implement across the wide variety of users who need access to the data - it's a failure of the current system/solution to meet a new use case, not a lack of a need, that's preventing the use of encryption on the links.




SUBJ: The Misandry Bubble


A long read but extremely worthwhile.

Executive Summary: The Western World has quietly become a civilization that undervalues men and overvalues women, where the state forcibly transfers resources from men to women creating various perverse incentives for otherwise good women to conduct great evil against men and children, and where male nature is vilified but female nature is celebrated. This is unfair to both genders, and is a recipe for a rapid civilizational decline and displacement, the costs of which will ultimately be borne by a subsequent generation of innocent women, rather than men, as soon as 2020.



hacks in Congress 


In response to Mr. Greentree's well reasoned objection to Congressional term limits:

(1) The absence of limits does not presume that the next generation of Congressmen will take any further efforts to understand the workings of the executive branch (which remains the problem at the national level, as stated).

(2) The solutions are obvious:

(a) With very few exceptions, federal agencies should be authorized for a finite period of time and closed permanently. If the need remains, it is necessary for the Executive to convince Congress to authorize a successor agency to continue the mission. (And on a one-on-one basis, not a blanket authorization.)

(b) There should also be employment limits for federal employees, particularly those in the Executive Service and Senior Executive Service grades. (At which time they must be reappointed, or transfer to a different agency, or some other appropriate termination. Retirement at half-pay with benefits might be cheaper in the long run than what they're doing to the country these days...) In any event, housekeeping after changes in administration should go one or two levels further down than just the appointees.


Or perhaps we could make GS-10 and above hereditary with the oldest child inheriting the job. Modern primogeniture...


'Now researchers estimate that nearly ten times as many such structures — of unknown purpose — may exist undetected under the Amazon's forest cover.'



- Roland Dobbins

The Island of Dr. Moreau 


For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"We don't know if that's (the nausea) because there was something really going on or if the employees were just nervous."


-- Roland Dobbins

Well, we know they can detect honey in checked luggage. And that TSA has stout hearted men.


'Drop the cotton directly into the cooker. Don’t touch it!'


-- Roland Dobbins

At least we know how to write user manuals.



"One can put independence or great wealth as one's first choice."

I believe you can have both. I think one major reason the U.S. doesn't have independence (in the economic sense) is the development in recent decades of a specific ideology that (among other poisonous fallacies) declared industry, mining, energy production, and manufacturing to be crimes against humanity and nature.

Countries like China haven't developed this particular psychosis. Yet.

Tom Brosz


The Differential Theory of the U.S. Armed Forces (Snake Model) - Updated 2010


"Upon encountering a snake in the Area of Operations (AO)...

Airborne: Lands on and kills the snake.

USAF O-6 and above: "Get that damned snake off the fairway!"

And half a hundred more. Amusing. Thanks. And see below


'Birds of prey are to be deployed in North Wales to stop seagulls attacking shoppers. The Coastal Hawks Project will put hawks and falcons on patrol in Rhyl, with their handlers wearing medieval dress.'


-- Roland Dobbins

We could have used some at La Guardia..


Dumping CO2 into the atmosphere

Hello Jerry,

You said that you didn't want to have an unrestricted race to dump CO2 into the atmosphere.

If I understand correctly, ALL of the carbon in 'fossil fuels' was originally IN the atmosphere. That is how they became 'fossil fuels', by taking CO2 from the atmosphere and turning it into coal etc. (Actually, there is some question if the carbon in oil and natural gas was ever part of a living being, but never mind.)

It would appear that rather than unrestricted dumping of CO2 into the atmosphere, what we actually have is an eons long carbon sequestering program. There is a large number of natural processes, processing away, which have the long term effect of taking CO2 OUT of the atmosphere. Permanently. Or at least until humans get around to burning the the carbon rich substance and restoring the CO2 to its rightful place. Coal is only one of the sequestering media. Another is limestone. All the carbon in limestone was originally a life form. Now it is sequestered in the form of somewhere around 5e19 kg of limestone (someone's estimate, not sure how reliable) and the sequestering is proceeding apace in the oceans at a rate of 50-100 cm/ 1000 years. Whatever the exact rate, there is a LOT of CO2 being sequestered every year, without congressional funding. And once it has been turned into limestone, it is pretty much incommunicado until some human comes along a builds a cement plant.

While a bit tongue in cheek, I'll reverse your concern. Do we really want to run the experiment of halting or reversing our release of CO2 into the atmosphere when our population is expanding and we are totally dependent for our existence on the vigorous growth of plant life? Which plant life inarguably grows more vigorously in an atmosphere approximately three times more CO2 rich than the one we have currently or are likely to produce in the foreseeable future, even with an 'unrestricted race' to dump CO2 into it?

Maybe humans were God's invention to 'save the planet' by de- sequestering the carbon in fossil fuels before the plants starved themselves, and by default, the animals, by eating themselves out of house and home. And we dutifully invented the internal combustion engine, SUV's, HVAC, and the incandescent light bulb just in time to stave off disaster. I like this one at least as well as Gore and Hansen's theory of catastrophic global warming caused by mildly increases in atmospheric CO2.

Bob Ludwick

Well, I already said much of that in Fallen Angels. I know we cycled from the Roman Warm to to colder to the Medieval Warm to the Little Ice Age and came to the present, so that balance works. I am not sure I care to double the CO2 levels without understanding the effects better. Chaotic systems do have tripping points. Which is why I advocate more understanding before we try to Do Something.

One thing I would like to understand better is the actual effect of more CO2 and gentle warming; and the feedback mechanisms. And I would like to develop engineering methods to compensate just in case. What I can't figure is why we would want to wreck the economy thus assuring that we can do nothing no matter what is happening. And see below


Microsoft offers Windows XP, Office XP users 50 percent discount to encourage upgrades


Tracy Walters, CISSP

Good idea. Windows 7 really is better.


'By blocking out the Republicans — not to mention House Democrats who object to what the Senate passed — Pelosi and Reid are setting up a protracted game of "ping-pong," in which the legislation goes back and forth from the Senate to the House and back to the Senate again.'


- Roland Dobbins

The ravening wolves...



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Thursday, January 7, 2010

: Malthus and Carbon Dioxide

“The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power in comparison with the second.” Thomas R. Malthus

Dear Jerry, So many of the extreme environmentalists seem to be Malthusians. I wonder why they have never considered that if Malthus was right, his principles would apply to plants and carbon dioxide. Looking at historical levels of CO2, which were much higher in the past, that we could surmise that plants are doing their best to consume as much CO2 as possible and that has lead to our current low levels of CO2. Additionally nature hasn’t done a good job of replenishing the atmosphere with what would seem to be a scare resource.

L. Nettles


Is more CO2 better?

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

I came across an article on Frontpagemag.com about Dr. Craig Idso, who believes that there is too little CO2 in the atmosphere now. He was referring mainly to the highly beneficial effect on plant growth of higher CO2 levels (there is a linear relationship which has held to at least 5x current CO2 levels in experiments).

This got me to thinking about "optimal" CO2 levels. You've often expressed some concern about running a world-wide "experiment" with rising CO2 levels. But the geological record seems clear that, prior to the recent glacial epochs, CO2 levels were significantly higher than today.

So the question I have been pondering is whether it would be a cause for concern if we did (somehow) manage to significantly reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. Beyond the postulated climatic effects, might reducing CO2 levels lead to lower crop yields and increase the level of hunger, malnutrition and starvation on the planet? Plus, for nature lovers, reduced animal populations as their food supplies dwindle due to CO2 starvation?

Do we want to (assuming that it is even possible) run a world-wide experiment in lowering CO2 levels?

Bill Hembree

My concern is that we don't know what we are doing. I have no idea what the optimum temperature is, nor what the optimum CO2 level is. My proclivity is to warm rather than cold, and more CO2 rather than less, but until we know what we are doing it seems obvious that slower is better than faster when it comes to change. Since we have no real understanding of the feedback loops involved, we don't want to rush ahead. But by rush ahead I mean a rapid exponential growth in CO2; the current increase rate is higher than I like but not so much higher that I am alarmed. Still -- I would think it prudent to invest in developing engineering methods for reducing CO2 levels if it turns out those are needed. We need not apply those methods; but I would think we ought to have them as weapons on the wall, just in case.

Your scenario of not enough CO2 is no less likely than some of the AGW scenarios. Indeed we had something of the sort in Fallen Angels.

If I were in charge, I would first make it a lot easier to build nuclear power plants: most of the nuclear cost is legal and financial, not engineering and construction. With proper financial and licensing structure nuclear is quite competitive with fossil fuels. I would secondly finance research: continue Hansen's budgets but also allocate some money to qualified "deniers" like Singer and Baliunas. We need to find out more about the feedback loops. I would stimulate research into learning the real effects of increased CO2, and higher temperatures. We may need to worry about triggers and runaway effects, but since we are not going to keep India and China from producing more CO2, the only practical thing we can do is learn engineering methods for taking the stuff back out of the atmosphere. All of this put together won't cost as much as the wars have cost, much less what the measures proposed AGW fanatics will consume.

I don't deny that climate changes. I do deny that we know what drives climate change. And this year the evidence is that we don't even know which direction the change is going: it's cold in China, England, the US East, the South -- indeed through the Northern Hemisphere. That may be a fluke: it certainly wasn't predicted by anyone's models.


Not enough to worry about?

Dr. Pournelle --

Saw this story:

Nearby T Pyxidis Supernova Could Destroy Life on Earth

"Doomsdayers and 2012 blog-keepers, take note. Astronomers at this week's American Astronomical Society meeting revealed that a massive white dwarf star in the throes of multiple nova is much closer to our solar system than once thought. When it does finally collapse into a type Ia supernova -- okay, if it collapses into a type Ia supernova -- the resulting thermonuclear blast will destroy life on earth <http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/100104-aas-close-supernova.html>  . Seriously."

"But the fantastic scale of the cosmos that allows such massive, cataclysmic events to unravel also bears a silver lining for those of us on Earth (2012 believers, stop reading now). Though in terms of star life supernova is likely around the cosmic corner, it's estimated to happen many millions of earth years from now, a full 10 million years by some estimates. Suffice it to say that we're far enough from T Pyxidis that we can't really tell exactly how big it is or how quickly it's accreting mass. But the end of the world isn't coming tomorrow. Or even in two years."

This got me wondering what makes some people "enjoy" thinking that doom is around the corner.



: Phillipine Insurrection Recalled

Although this article about the US and the Philippines following the Spanish-American War is offered as if there were some lesson to be applied to Afghanistan, the author's explanation for why most of the "lessons" can't be applied makes it much more insightful about the present than the past. Still, it's an interesting reminder about an overlooked part of American history.

One of the quotes reminded me of comments you've made on your blog --


Though the war was declared over in 1902, American soldiers continued to die in the Philippines for 46 years - up to the onset of Word War II, [Dan Roberts, a Vietnam veteran and host of the public radio history program, “A Moment in Time”] says. The United States granted independence to the Philippines in 1946.

“I don’t think the U.S. wants to stay in Afghanistan for 46 years,” Roberts says. ”But that’s the way you do these things. You have to be willing to stay there and shed blood decade after decade.”

--Mike Glyer

See "On a soldier fallen in the Philippines"

We did manage to export something like democracy to the region, and it's unlikely that the Philippines would have survived as an independent nation without the US Protectorate. We can count the Philippines as a success in the sense that they are better off for our intervention. Whether this was good for the United States is for another discussion.

The insight is a good one: transforming societies takes blood, treasure, and a lot of time.


Sounds like typical TSA behavior, to me.


- Roland Dobbins

An unkind cut...


Eggs, basket.


-- Roland Dobbins

We don't need no stinking backup systems. Our satellites will always be there and operative. And our Navy navigators can take sun sights, and their accurate clocks will always be working even after an Argus, and the Tooth Fairy will take care of the rest of our problems. All's well.


The environment

The link is to a really interesting "peer reviewed" paper from economics that appears to have real relevance to the climate change controversy.


Happy new year,

John F. Gothard, Ph.D.

Bottom line being that things will go on about as they have in the past.


THz radiation and DNA

Hello Jerry,

For years we have been subjected to scare stories about how radiation from power lines does horrible damage to folks living near them. Maybe it does.

On the other hand, I have a hard time envisioning the mechanism by which appreciable energy with a wavelength of 5,000 km and a field strength approaching zero at a distance of a hundred meters or so from a power line (or inside the home) is coupled into a 2 m human body with disruptive effects on internal body structures with centimeter to microscopic dimensions.

I do NOT have any difficulty imagining that body scanners operating at a wavelength of 1 mm, more or less, with energy density sufficient to 'do the job', can find LOTS of stuff in a human body to resonate with. Apparently, the folks at Los Alamos and Harvard Medical School have found that one of those things is the DNA double helix.


You will note in the paper that THz radiation also induced 'behavioral modifications' in mice, but only at relatively high power levels and/or long exposure times. 'High power' being 15 mw per square cm and long exposure greater than 5 min. My theory is that there is probably a lot of significant stuff going on inside a mouse well in advance of the exposure time and field strength at which the mouse's behavior is noticeably 'modified'.

At any rate, we are about to initiate an experiment in which the upper end of our bell curve, as a condition of being 'allowed' to travel, is repeatedly subjected to intense illumination from millimeter and sub-millimeter radiation that is known to interact, disruptively, with DNA and to cause 'behavior modification in mice'. Not an experiment that I would undertake cavalierly, but then I am not the government and immune to the consequences of my actions.

Bob Ludwick

I doubt that Congresscritters and high officials will have to go through this. It should be an interesting experiment. Not sure what it accomplishes.

I can tell you that radiation sickness is no joke, and has an effect on memory, but for the rest I am not competent to say.


'The follow-up letters I receive from those prospective Ph.D.'s [sic] are often quite angry and incoherent; they've been praised their whole lives, and no one has ever told them that they may not become what they want to be, that higher education is a business that does not necessarily have their best interests at heart.'


--- Roland Dobbins



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This week:


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Friday,  January 8, 2010

Cultural weapons

"Our cultural weapons of mass destruction work their magic on the young. Blue jeans, iPods, rock music, all the secular blandishments seduce them away from strict Muslim commands and toward a more latitudinarian view of the world. That dictates a Western strategy, or so it seems to me."

I've been saying this since 2003. What's tricky is that the cultural things that work toward this are libertarian and anathema to both the U.S. right and left. Conservatives want Christianity to be the sway, anything else is not the true way. Liberals wish to preserve the culture that fosters such viciousness - IOW, we shouldn't sway them because... (therefore, we have to insulate them from that which would seduce them). Polls in the US continually track percentages of liberals/conservatives/moderates; democrats/republicans/independents. I haven't seen, or know of, a single poll or study that tracks pragmatism. (Ironic, since I seem to recall that pragmatism evolved in the U.S.).

2 hrs after writing to you, I come across this:



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 

Muslims don't allow Christian missionaries to operate freely. Of course that's hardly astonishing since the USSR didn't, and the Israeli's don't now.


As you know, the panti bomber has jusfied the use of body scanners that were ordered en masse last year. These body scanners amount to high-tech strip searches. I would like to point out the Soviet Union did not strip search its citizens at airports.

Whenever we see the images of these body scanners in the news, they are always blurred and inverted. If you go the manufacturer's website, you will learn the resolution of these machines allows you to see the pores on the skin or to zoom into a mole next to someone's genitals. Of course, it is always with a weapon as part of the subtle psychological operation to convince people that body scanners are necessary and if we don't use them people will smuggle all sorts of weapons through--even though the panti bomber was on a terrorism watch list and boarded the plane without a passport. As an aisde: how did that happen? Google "sharp dress man" + "underwear bomber" and read up on the man who flashed credentials at the security checkpoint. Also Google around about the man who videotaped the entire flight--videotaping is normally not allowed on flights for "security reasons".

Back to the point: I will share links to Photobucket as well as attaching the photos of the body scanner photos I am using to prove my point, and I have added black dots on the vulva and nipples of the woman in the scanner to preserve her dignity. If you wish to have a full view, you can invert the colors in your favorite photo editor yourself. The detail is enough to know that this woman shaves her pubis. The links are here:



As an other aside: could these high-tech strip searches contribute to the TSA agent--who was arrested--feeling that he was "god"? Link:


I wonder how many others feel like that?

Back to the point again, these scanners allow you to do various filters--like you do in a photo editor. Therefore, you could see them in blue or pink or--as in the case of all publicly released photos--negative (or inverted).

Are we enjoying the tyranny yet?

Won't it be wonderful when they bring these into vans and roll around in the cities randomly scanning everyone? Links: http://www.smithsdetection.com/eng/4497.php 



Gee, I wonder when we are going to get some of those cool mobile execution vans that they have in China?

-- BDAB,


"Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened." —Winston Churchill

“The opinion of ten thousand men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.” —Marcus Aurelius

Well, al Qaeda's strategy is jiu jitsu and it appears to be working.


Term Limits and Executive Complexity

Last Satuday (January 2) Hugh Greentree said:

"I can see a very important problem with the Congressional Reform Act of 2010. Legislators with a limited time in office will never learn to be experts in the various government agencies and programs that the legislature oversees. The lack of experience would weaken them...this in turn would strengthen the position of congressional staff, outside lobbyists, and the career civil servants who man most of the positions in the civil service."

This seems like a very reasonable consideration given the Federal Government as it exists today. We can only speculate whether it would be an issue had the Tenth Amendment been taken seriously. Perhaps then we would have accepted the notion that no Governmental organization too complex to be managed by a second-term legislator could be tolerated?

Of course, once the curious notion that it would be the Federal Courts rather than the States that controlled the limits to Federal power was adopted that was out of the question. We seem to be stuck with a rapacious "creature of the States" with no hope of ever reining it in.

Too bad.

David Smith


Greg Bear isn't surprised.


- Roland Dobbins

But I am. That's fairly astonishing.


'Before Sartory died, police say, he gave Blanc his computer passwords and a power of attorney granting control over his bank and brokerage accounts.'


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: The most useless machine ever



Tracy Walters, CISSP

Information Technology Consultant

Hurrah! I doubt I will make one, but I recall seeing one many years ago on the desk of an engineer at North American...


Police May Scrap Entrance Exam 


Chicago may get rid of its police entrance exam to boost minority hiring:


While it is true that African-Americans tend to have more people skills than Caucasians, a job like police requires a certain amount of book smartness. If this goes through, watch the results in a few years. Should be interesting.


When I was young I thought the law ought to be colorblind. I was considered a hopeless radical. I have not changed my view and I am now considered a hopeless reactionary.

The law ought to be colorblind, and the best way t0 determine if an examination is useful is to correlate results on the exam with the success of the applicants. Over years you can develop some pretty good test items including some that you have no idea why they work or how they are relevant. Of course in our politically correct era we will no do that.


SUBJ: TSA parody PSA video

"We're the TSA and You Can Count on Us to overreact to tiny threats and ignore big ones."


Only about a minute long, but totally worth it.

"If despair be a sin, be not laughter a sacrament?" John


re: "Make everyone safe. Everyone flies commando!"

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

imagine the "heating fuel" surcharges or the like that they could impose, to render the cabins bearable, and then forget to drop again when someone suddenly realizes that clothes aren't any more dangerous than the decades before 9/11 when everyone flew with them still on and hardly any planes got hijacked or blownup by "rebel" underwear-wearers.

One can still dream, even if it is only in contrast to the nightmares of reality.

Best regards,

James Siddall jr


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This week:


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Saturday, January 9, 2010


Dr. Pournelle,

Ed said

> African-Americans tend to have more people skills than Caucasians

That may be true. I would like some quantifiable evidence, but I will admit it may be possible.

It seems, however, totally unacceptable to advance the proposition that Caucasians are in any way innately superior to other races, or that men are in any way innately superior to women on a statistical basis. Women who moan about the "glass ceiling" are perfectly happy to stand on the "glass floor"; more than 90% of the US prison population is male. That's one march for equality I've been waiting to see.

Based on my limited knowledge and experience, I believe that Ed may be on to something. Being able to deal with the public is an important skill in police work, and should be part of the job qualification. The best thing to do would be additional testing for interpersonal skills. The stupidest i.e. the most likely thing would be to stop testing altogether.

Steve Chu

The simplest and probably most effective solutions to problems like this are transparency and subsidiarity. The fix to Jim Crow was the Voting Rights Act. That has been accomplished. Federal interference in these matters is not likely to be useful. Perhaps Blacks have better people skills. Perhaps Finns do. I don't know, and I am darned sure that Washington doesn't know.

I have worked on classification and assignment tests and predictions, and there's no substitute for trial and error, but if you aren't allowed to try...


Listen to econtalk?

Hey Jerry, catching up on TWIT and got to the one where you mention your libertarian views. Right on! I've been reading some of your political posts. I really enjoy what you have to say about health care (I work for a Medicare Advantage company). You should check out econtalk, the single best podcast on libertarianism/free markets out there. www.econtalk.org 

Try it out and let me know what you think!

Adrian Anders

In my copious free time...  Thanks.


Johnson bomber as spy

While reading your Thursday view regarding Attny General Mukasey's article, I had a thought. I haven't heard any of the Islamists attacking the US described as spies. Spies infiltrate the enemy and perform acts of sabotage. Isn't that what these guys are doing, and wouldn't that bring up a whole different way of prosecuting them?


There are any number of reasons for turning this chap over to the military authorities. It isn't as if there were any alleged question about his alleged actions on the alleged airplane which was allegedly in flight.


Johnson bomber - a threat assessment 

Good afternoon (and a very cold and snowy one here in the UK, at least by our usual measures) Dr Pournelle,

The following article popped up on The Register today; the author, Lewis Page has a habit of writing informed, readable and sarcy coverage on a range of military issues, so sending it your way seemed like a good idea...


**** Trouser-bomb clown attacks - how much should we laugh? ****

Reg investigates case of the undertotally-pants bomber

COMMENT: As the smoke clears following the case of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the failed Christmas Day "underpants bomber" of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 fame, there are just three simple points for us Westerners to take away.

First: It is completely impossible to prevent terrorists from attacking airliners.

Second: This does not matter. There is no need for greater efforts on security.

Third: A terrorist set fire to his own trousers, suffering eyewateringly painful burns to what Australian cricket commentators sometimes refer to as the "groinal area", and nobody seems to be laughing. What's wrong with us?

All the best,

Ian Kirk

Oxford, England

Enjoy your global warming...


Johnson bomber, TSA, and political correctness

Jerry, the TSA was created with "political correctness" in mind. Why blame Obama for the whole thing? Doesn't the previous administration deserve some of the "credit" for the way the system works? Just asking.

John R

The Republicans lost because of their arrogance and incompetence, for earmarks and deficits and big government spending. Changing TSA is not something one expected Obama to fix in the first year, but there is no indication that it has ever been planned, and now we can expect ever greater increases in TSA power. I do not expect to see meaningful traveler directed change.


Pi is...


A change of pace from climate change and health care/insurance...

Charles Brumbelow

Good way to generate random numbers?


How to turn your iPhone into a Cambridge Z88.


-- Roland Dobbins

Interesting. Even the keyboard for the older iPaq would be useful if Apple allowed one.


SUBJ: "Universal Voter Registration": how Dems will steal elections for the next 50 years.

If this contains even a particle of truth, it is _monstrous_!


From the article:

In January, Chuck Schumer and Barney Frank will propose "universal voter registration". What is universal voter registration? It means all of the state laws on elections will be overridden by a federal mandate. The feds will tell the states: 'take everyone on every list of welfare that you have, take everyone on every list of unemployed you have, take everyone on every list of property owners, take everyone on every list of driver's license holders and register them to vote regardless of whether they want to be ...'

This is well past appalling and well into pitchfork and tumbrel territory.

We already have Motor Voter laws. It is long past time for transparency and subsidiarity in these matters, but the Iron Law always prevails. There is a very large Civil Rights Industry now, and it is ever alert for things to act upon.

Pitchforks will not prevail over the Legions. The Bastille fell to militia, not to a mob.


And from a fighter pilot:

One more differential theory entry

USAF F-15E crew: Hauls enough ordinance to fight a small theater war to the Snake’s location, loiters until nightfall and/or bad weather, then attacks the snake using 6,000 lbs of laser guided bombs from 100 ft altitude simply because they can. Claims snake was airborne so it should count as an air to air kill. Spends next hour shooting dead snake with laser while collecting “greatest hits” pod video. Returns to base and brags about how an F-16 would have needed support from 3 tankers to make the attempt and still would have either failed to locate/kill snake, or augered in while playing around with the targeting pod. Crew goes to bed after an evening drinking at the squadron’s deployable pub, dreaming about shooting down UAVs because that’s where they are all going when their weapon system is retired.

That’s at LEAST 10% true.




 read book now




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, January 10, 2009      

"I'm hoping that this will start to bury the idea that's been around for 100 years—that Neandertals died out because they were stupid."


---- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Good summary of the Climategate Fraud Implications

At the core, the issue is political agendas (Cap and Trade = Ration and Tax Energy + Government Control of the Energy Sector -- Radical Green, the new socialism) massively corrupting science. $79 Billion of the taxpayers' money (source SPPI) was wasted on "research" to support Gore's theory, and such efforts continue.

Here is one possible solution to prevent radical politics from corrupting science, peer to peer review. Hopefully more checks and balances will come, as will legal action to punish the fraud that has already occurred.


John D. Trudel


: YouTube - George Carlin - Saving the Planet




: Military Is Deluged in Intelligence From Drones - NYTimes.com


Dear Jerry:

The sheer volume of material has always been a problem for modern intelligence agencies.


Francis Hamit

We are all lost in a torrent of information.


“It’s not a robot. It’s a pet.”


-- Roland Dobbins












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