picture of me

Chaos Manor Home Page> Mail Home Page  > View Home Page > Current View > Chaos Manor Reviews Home Page


Mail 611 February 22 - 28, 2010







BOOK Reviews

Chaos Manor Reviews

read book now

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)mailto:jerryp@jerrypournelle.com

CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO SEND MAIL TO ME. Mail sent to me may be published.

LAST WEEK                             NEXT WEEK


This page looks better if you set the default text to Georgia.

Atom FEED from Chaos Manor

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


  If you send mail, it may be published. See below. For boiler plate, instructions, and how to pay for this place, see below.

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday  February 22 - 28, 2010

Rules for Writers

Hi, Jerry!

The Guardian has advice from several authors presented as rules for writers. here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/

and here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/

Of course, the most commonly offered piece of advice is, write. Writers write. That's what they do. If you're not writing, you're not a writer, no matter how much you want to be one.

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


Why Republicans should meet

Dr. Pournelle --

I can think of only one reason for the Republicans to go to the Health Care Summit. If they don't go, the Democrats will try to force through their plan and shout that the Republicans aren't interested in helping people with health care. If the Republicans do go, they can argue for starting over so that a solid and coherent plan can be put together. They can argue that trying to add patches to the patchwork that is already in place will only make things worse and be seen to be trying to work on a solution. The Democratic leadership isn't likely to agree with this but that's nothing surprising. The Democrats will then try to force through their plan and shout that the Republicans don't want reform.

The only difference is that in the run up to November the Republicans can argue that they tried to produce true reform but that the Democrats were too interested in gaining control of the health care system.

It's all show and perception but that is often the case in politics. I would rather the emphasis could be upon governance but I don't see that happening any time soon.


I see no reason why the Republicans need to go to Blair House in order to make those arguments. They aren't going to compromise -- I hope they aren't -- because it's clear that the American people don't want this fundamental transformation of our system. What's the point of going to where the President can rail at them for being obstructionists, which is what he will do?

In my judgment the proper tactic is to Just Say No. Thank you Mr. President, but no.


Harry Erwin's Letter from England

As I noted last week, migrating my Mac OS X system to my new laptop took four hours and my Windows Bootcamp system, five days. At this point, I must have lost my presence of mind, because I decided to install Parallels. (See <http://tinyurl.com/bgphda>, <http://tinyurl.com/3cqlsw>, and <http://tinyurl.com/ydrzvah>.) Now my past experience with Parallels had been uniformly negative, but it would have been *very* convenient for me to be able to demonstrate Windows programmes without rebooting into Windows. The install went well enough that I wasn't concerned about the nightly backup. However, I discovered the following morning that the installation had corrupted the registry and the system restore database, and the nightly backup had propagated the corruption into my backup files. (I wish Windows had a backup mechanism that allowed me to recover from a specific date when the system was known to be good!) Recovery only took three days this time. I suppose I do these things so other people can learn from them...


Labour's proposed death tax to fund the care of the aged is stirring up a row. <http://tinyurl.com/yac72cp> People who have taken care of their elderly relatives gratis oppose a death duty surtax to fund care that has never been provided. <http://tinyurl.com/yea6ug8>

 The UK passports used by Mossad for the Hamas hit were apparently biometric. <http://tinyurl.com/yarka8p>

 Libel claim against scientist dropped after the scientist countersues. <http://tinyurl.com/ygvx876>

 MI5 under investigation <http://tinyurl.com/ydswlrr> <http://tinyurl.com/yzq5yt5>

 Stalinist style NHS management <http://tinyurl.com/ya4azn3>

 Reduced trash collection across the land to save money <http://tinyurl.com/ylcg5dh>

 UK pharmacies selling drugs abroad, resulting in domestic shortages <http://tinyurl.com/yzxhzr4>

 UK report on US high school spying by webcam <http://tinyurl.com/yccwp2y>

 UK universities looking for ways around the government cap on student places to meet surging demand <http://tinyurl.com/y8mneb6>

20 ways to improve your university--look at #7. <http://tinyurl.com/yfcynf2>

 Tories considering a big shake up of UK income tax <http://tinyurl.com/ybw3bm5>


Beware Outside Context Problems--Harry Erwin, PhD

The worst of it is that I have that to do with my Mac Book Pro...


Debate on Civil Liberties in the UK

See <http://tinyurl.com/ykq82pn

-- Harry Erwin, PhD


Local funding, local control and subsidiarity...


I am astonished at the lack of vitriol in this article. It's from the New York Times, which should be talking about how the parents of those 480 students need to organize sit ins and protest strikes.

I am particularly amused by the argument of "You should be going to your own schools and improving them..." made it in.



Massless electrons?

WUWT? Do they accelerate to C with zero EM force applied?


Bi2Te3 in two layers -- a simple concept. But one that suggests major mysteries waiting to be explored.

Brian H.

I don't pretend to understand this. Perhaps if I read it three more times. Or I can wait since we have readers who do understand it. I think I'll do that.


France leapfrogs past Australia in Big Brother stakes

I wonder how long it will take our socialists to be clamoring to ‘elevate our society to the level of sophistication enjoyed in Europe’

Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/17/france_ip_law/ 

France leapfrogs past Australia in Big Brother stakes

Lock up your kids and lock down your PC's

By John Ozimek <http://forms.theregister.co.uk/

Posted in Government, 17th February 2010 13:14 GMT

France yesterday put in its bid for an unlikely prize, becoming the first western country to make even Australia look liberal when it comes to state powers of internet censorship.

In the teeth of fierce opposition both inside and outside parliament, the National Assembly approved, by 312 votes to 214 against, a first reading of a bill on Internal Security - the quaintly titled "LOPPSI 2".

LOPPSI - otherwise known as Loi d'Orientation et de Programmation pour la SÈcuritÈ IntÈrieure <http://www.interieur.gouv.fr/sections/
projet_loi.pdf?nocache=1243419388.59>  )- is a ragbag of measures designed to make France a safer place. Like similar UK legislation - most notably the various Criminal Justice acts brought in over the last decade - LOPPSI brings together a number of apparently unrelated proposals which would severely restrict individual rights in all walks of life.

Last week, for instance, the Assembly agreed to include within the new law a measure that would allow Prefects to sign off on a curfew for children <http://www.liberation.fr/societe/0101618824-
l-assemblee-vote-le-couvre-feu-pour-les-mineurs> aged under 13, out unaccompanied between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am.

The bill also includes measures that would increase police spend on "security", create additional penalties for counterfeiting and ID theft, increase CCTV surveillance, and widen access to the Police DNA database.

However, it is in the online area that some of the most radical proposals are to be found, with the criminalisation of online ID theft, provision for the police to tap online connections in the course of investigations, and most controversially of all, allowing the state to order ISPs to block (filter) specific internet URLs according to ministerial diktat.

It has also been suggested that the state should have the right to plant covert trojans to monitor individual PC usage. <snip>




 read book now




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  February 23, 2010

Subject: "massless electrons"


Short response in regards the article at http://www.popsci.com/
possible-silicon-replacement#comment-57487  and subsequent discussion.

The article is very sloppy in language. Photons propagating in crystals do not act the same as free photons in space; the statement is that electrons confined to the surface layers of bismuth telluride behave like photons in a bulk crystal, with propagation controlled by interaction with the atomic electric fields in either case. That's probably an oversimplification...

Dr. Jim



Car CPUs

Dr. Pournelle,

I'm concerned about the whole car CPU hardware/software problem. I don't know the source of the Toyota problems, but it seems to me that it wouldn't be impossible to infect the vehicle CPU with some type of virus, during coding or testing or by some after-sale maintenance--can scan tools or similar equipment be infected? Would it be possible to infect one CPU, then let it infect a diagnostic device, then let that device infect random cars attached to it for diagnosis later? A zombified diagnostic system doesn't seem beyond the realm of the possible.

I'm no expert on cars at all--but it seems to me that having one computer have responsibility for brakes, engine management, console display, etc., is dangerous. A dead or non-functioning CPU means no power assists plus jammed accelerator at worse case, but an infected CPU might be a car that WON'T shift into neutral or an engine that WON'T shut off if the ignition is turned off . . . I'm beginning to freak myself out.

There's obviously money to be saved in using fewer parts; that's why turn signals also control headlights, for example, but one CPU in charge of everything may also mean that a virus could control everything. Arthur Clarke's HAL on four wheels doesn't appeal to me.

For safety as well as redundancy, the computer controlling regenerativebraking should be functionally and electronically separate from other computers controlling engine management, and there could perhaps be some way to override a bad module and assume direct control of the brakes.

There are just too many nasty scenarios. I hope Napoleon's law about incompetence being more likely than malice applies, but there seems to be room for malice.

Is there a really disgruntled programmer working for Toyota?


When I had to fly on the B-52 I was thankful that the old mechanical cable system remained in the old girl. It was never needed, although the pilot once demonstrated to me that it worked.




Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I read your comments on the use of assassination with war with interest, but I am frankly perplexed.

Hasn't the United States been running a campaign of 'targeted killings' using Predator drones against people in places like Yemen and Somalia?

In fact, according to the Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/

Such operations have increased since the Obama administration took office. Live prisoners are evidently an inconvenience , in the post-Gitmo order.

I don't see any warrants or trials. So this is extrajudicial killing. Of terrorists, yes. Isn't Hamas also a terrorist organization?

Why is it that the US can carry out who knows how many 'targeted killings' of terrorists without a word of protest even from our own liberals, but Israel kills one and everyone flies into a huff about it?

I don't understand the thinking of the rest of the world. Either a state has the right to defend itself by killing terrorist operatives on foreign soil, or it doesn't. If there is no fault in blowing up a car in Yemen with a predator, there is no fault in strangling a man to death in a hotel room. In fact, it occurs to me there's probably less danger of collateral casualties with the second approach -- the personal touch is always more retail than death from thousands of feet up. I wonder how many times we zapped the wrong car and it never made the news?

On the other side of the fence -- if Israel is to be condemned for murdering terrorists, we must also condemn our own tactics as well.

Or am I missing something?


Brian P.

Perhaps my comments were too subtle. A sniper targets a single individual, usually one that poses no threat to him at the time. A bombardier targets a lot of people, few of whom are shooting at him (although in today's war the targets are probably shooting at someone we don't want shot at). Hamas launches rockets in the general direction of Tel Aviv. An assassination team knows who the target is, and seldom has collateral damage. Would it have been better for Israel to wait until the guy got home and bomb his house?

I don't know how many times we have zapped the wrong car, but we do know what happened in Dresden, Berlin, London, Manchester, Tokyo, Cologne...


A Positive Education Story!!!, 


Thanks to Facebook and reconnecting with lots of classmates and teachers, I learned that one of my teacher's sons has a neat program at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, NH.

This is a hybrid school in that it serves as a local high school, but also as a private school for students from other places.

Bill Muench ( http://www.blogger.com/profile/27794335 ) is an English teacher. He teaches astronomy and runs the astronomy club:


He also teaches a class called Space and Time:

SPACE AND TIME 1 credit Level 2 Juniors, Seniors

This interdisciplinary course focuses on the topic of space exploration using primary documents, novels, video and guest speakers. Beginning with an overview of the understanding of astronomy through the ages, the course concentrates on the post- World War II Cold War race to the moon. Texts include Jules Verne’s From The Earth to the Moon, Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, Chaikin’s A Man on the Moon, Berman’s Secrets of the Night Sky, Fr. Coyne’s Wayfarers of the Cosmos, and Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. Students have a significant reading load and take a written quiz almost daily. Students also write an assortment of papers, ranging from a personal reflection to a researched paper on a topic of their choice.

I was excited about this high school ( www.burrburton.org ) just looking at the website. We need more schools like this and fewer of what we have today!




New TSA logo 

You probably have gotten a bunch of these. Or perhaps not. Anyway:





Just got a new AWST a couple of minutes ago. Glancing through it I noticed a clearly growing trend. Page 52 "Boeing is using $18 million in federal stimulus money to develop... Page 53 ""Sierra Nevada Corp. has $20 million in federal stimulus funds for its Dream Chaser...

On the news last night they spoke as though with the end of the Shuttle flights NASA is will have hardly any funding. Hmmm, instead of billions for NASA, tens of millions to private companies to help jump start private vehicles to do whatever is needed. So the government funds prototypes not programs. What a radical idea. I wonder where they could have heard of that? <grin>

I know what I heard a man muttering about between the LASFS buildings. He also said something about seeing a sign on a President's desk. My memory is crap, but I think he said the sign said something like: "It doesn't matter who gets the credit, as long as the job gets done." A good motto for those who spend their lives working their butts off.

{For those wondering about the story, it was me who was muttering. Reagan had that sign on his desk. This was at a LASFS meeting.}

[Through the miracle of Google a few key strokes gets me: "Famous Quote by Harry S Truman: 'It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn't matter who gets the credit.' "] {I hadn't heard that Truman was the source, but it doesn't surprise me. Reagan admired Truman.}

Dan Mc

If NASA will begin funding real X Projects -- something I have been trying to get going for a long time -- the results will be good. Note that X=33 was NOT an X-project. For more on X projects, see my short essay on getting to space. It was written some time ago but it remains relevant.


Just the facts on the Federal Budget


I like fivethirtyeight.com, because Nate does a good job separating the facts from his opinions. Agree with his conclusions or not, this has some good info on Federal budget trends over the last 40 years.




Thoughts on sociology, 


That piece you referenced - how a new jobless era will transform America - covers a lot of ground. It is really a sociology piece. That got me to thinking about probably the most important sociology piece ever written - the one done before WW2. The War Dept. detected a disturbance in the ranks around 1940. They hired sociologist, who went into the barracks and within months came out and wrote up his findings. This was back in the OHIO days - "Over The Hill In October." The War Department took his advice seriously and made rapid changes.

Whatever sociology has or has not become today, the piece you referenced is very good.



SUBJECT: The Boneyard: aircraft cemetary

Hi Jerry.

Some impressive pictures of 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) facility, AKA The Boneyard.



Mike Casey


Climate change and open science




For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



 read book now





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

probably the truth in the Toyota "fault"


Secret National Security Agency transcript of CEO Akio Toyoda's inner monologue as he prepares to testify in today's congressional hearing into the Toyota recall crisis:

Oh what a feeling. I wonder what Hank Paulson does for the dry heaves?

How I envy Ford-san. At least the Firestone mess involved a real defect, a tire spec unsuitable for Americans accustomed to cruising all day in hot weather at 80 mph on underinflated tires.

Toyota is battling a "defect" it can't find and may not exist. Our crisis management has not been the best, but . . . oy vey.

I wouldn't be here if not for an accident fluky and bizarre even by unintended-acceleration standards. A San Diego Lexus dealer installed an unapproved and ill-fitting floor mat in a loaner car. The mat was placed in the car upside-down and wasn't fastened down. The dealer ignored a previous customer's complaint that the mat interfered with the gas pedal. The next borrower didn't or couldn't shift into neutral when the pedal jammed. Four people died in a horrible crash.

Before the accident, Toyota issued recalls and service bulletins related to floor mats. How is this not the dealer's fault? Not a single incident of runaway speeding has been traced to the sticky pedals Toyota subsequently recalled. No electronic defect has been found. <snip>



I saw that one, and I tend to agree. The actual number of cases is small. Most of this is probably operator error. People do panic.

 The troubling one is the highway patrolman. Not likely he panicked, although he didn't think to put it in neutral, and he crashed and burned. That accelerator must have been stuck. No data on whether had the bad floor rugs. There are a few other disturbing stories, but there were lots of stories about cars suddenly going into reverse told by clearly sincere people.

 If someone wants to give me a Lexus I'll be glad to drive it; perhaps I can chant "put it in neutral" as I drive, just in case.  I don't think there's a fundamental problem with Toyota. Mr. Toyoda is being assaulted by photographers even as I write this. I wonder which Congresscritters will grandstand this. Surely at least one will.


SA'10 Preliminary Conference Info, 02/24/10.

Space Access '10, our upcoming annual conference on the technology, politics, and business of radically cheaper access to space, featuring a cross-section of leading players in the field, will once again be the place to hear the latest on the fast-moving entrepreneurial new-space industry. Space Access conferences are set up to maximize opportunities for trading information and making deals. No rubber-chicken banquets, just an intensive single-track presentations schedule in a setting with plenty of comfortable places nearby to go off during the breaks, grab a drink or a bite, and talk.

SA'10 is less than two months away. Book your flights and rooms soon - early April is still winter sunshine tourist season in Phoenix, so affordable rooms and good airfares can be hard to come by at the last second.

We are well along on organizing the conference presentations at this point and the agenda is shaping up nicely, but it's not complete yet - stay tuned for further additions to the program at http://www.space-access.org.  One way we get the up-to-the-minute latest on this new industry is to stay flexible right up to the last minute. Look for a detailed program schedule about two weeks before the conference starts.

Overall Conference Schedule:

- Thursday April 8th, sessions 2 pm - ~10 pm

- Friday April 9th, sessions 9 am - ~10 pm

- Saturday April 10th, sessions 9 am - ~ 6 pm

- Space Access Hospitality Suite open till late all three nights.

I may or may not be going. I didn't make it last year, but Niven did.


: Fw: A sign of things to come?


A follow-up to the earlier article about Rhode Island teachers being fired. The superintendent was backed by the Central Falls school Board of Trustees.


Every Central Falls teacher fired, labor outraged

10:00 AM EST on Wednesday, February 24, 2010

By Jennifer D. Jordan

Journal Staff Writer

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — The full force of organized labor showed up in Central Falls Tuesday, with several hundred union members rallying in support of the city’s teachers and bringing plenty of harsh words for the education officials who were about to fire the entire teaching staff at Central Falls High School.

“This is immoral, illegal, unjust, irresponsible, disgraceful and disrespectful,” said George Nee, president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, to shouts and cheers from a crowd of more than 500 at Jenks Park. “What is happening here tonight is the wrong thing … and we’re not going to put up with it.” <snip>


What is the worse threat...

>Such things happen; but the answer remains, in my judgment, local control, not some attempt to impose a "fair" system. Note that >LAUSD in effect cannot fire an incompetent teacher no matter how ineffective. I cannot believe that in all of LAUSD there have not been >more than seven incompetent teachers in the past ten years. > >Which is the worst threat here?

Wow, does that question resonate. I think that you have asked the question that requires at least as much study and is far less understood than "climate change." Depending upon your position and viewpoint, the worst threat changes drastically.

While capitalism combined with a representative democracy seems to me to be the best political system that humankind has came up with, it is not "fair", "just", or "equitable." This presents a "threat" to anyone, though most of us tend to relish the challenge and more or less succeed.

Those who do not succeed, or whose success is particularly fragile, have a wildly different opinion on what is the worst threat, than those who are more secure financially and professionally.

You of course know all this, not only intellectually, but way down deep, and you automatically account for it and attempt to find a rational solution. I usually tend to agree with you, at least on everything but the goals of most Democrats, and in particular the current President - creeps and nuts being excepted. :)

But- a huge segment of the population does not agree just because they feel threatened. Threat -> Fear -> Anger. Thus you find the people attracted to the agendas proposed by the creeps and nuts. And the country club Republicans foster this fear with arrogant attitudes that at least appear to be an assumption of the "right to rule". It does not matter that they may actually be better fit to govern the country, the attitude scares a lot of people. Fear -> Anger -> Nuts+Creeps.

Even more so, most people are busy just trying to make a living and have a normal life. They really are not terribly interested in what congress critters and other politicians are doing, because it doesn't directly and immediately affect them. So what if taxes get raised? I am going to be paying a ton of taxes *anyway* - do I want to to spend all the time and effort to save say, $100 on my tax bill?

People get just exactly as much government as they are unwilling to oppose. :)

In any event, I am sure that not much, if any, of that thinking is original with me, but it sure seems to make sense. Just like your multi-dimensional scale of political ideology (or should that be political theology? :) makes way more sense than a simple "right / left" scale.

Has anyone built a "threat scale" to measure how threatening any particular idea is to any or all segments of the population? Is there any way to do so in a reliable and rational manner?

I know that pollsters do something similar, but I am not at sure that poll results are any more meaningful that isolated discrete points on an analog scale. You need a whole bunch of them over a length of time significant to what you are trying to measure, to plot any kind of meaningful and objective result.



Note from the Legions

Re: Brian P on Assasination

Hello Dr Pournelle, I'm at an Army school for the rest of the week, and have extremely limited internet access.

The US was unable to carry out targeted killings via drone launched missiles without Progressive complaint prior to the election, I saw many such complaints by those charging lack of proper legal underpinnings for the operation and eroding the goodwill of Pakistan. Those charges vanished as we stepped up the attacks once we had our presidential change.

I don't believe there is anything Israel can do short of unconditional surrender which wouldn't subject them to savage attacks in the media and educational institutions. Certainly a targetting strangling of a known terrorist would seem a no brainer, and it is open source knowledge that Israel stopped the program to blow up those connected to the Munich Olympics killings when they blew up an Arab living in Norway who turned out to be a noted anti-semite but not provably a terrorist. They still came under much protest for that action.

When we kill the wrong target, the enemy ensures their tame media connections trumpet it to the world. There is no such thing as a cover-up, it serves their information operation plan far too well to keep it quiet. Similarly, if we kill the right person, anyone else killed in the mission is broadcast to the media, and if we don't kill anyone by accident, they aren't above making it up because they know they won't get much of a challenge until well after their target audience has forgotten the events.

http://www.longwarjournal.org/  often has reporting on the drone attacks.

I recall the Teddy Bear that appeared in a dozen different stories about the Israeli excursions.


'Most of the cubicle-dwellers in the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence are academics who didn’t get tenure and chose the government’s health and pension benefits over the uncertainties of adjunct teaching.'


-- Roland Dobbins


According to the Daily News in 2009 ( http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_10579911 ): 

"Meanwhile, Los Angeles Unified teachers on average earn $63,000, less than teachers in districts ranging from New York City and San Diego to Chicago and San Francisco."

"San Francisco high school teachers earn an average $75,817 a year and San Jose high school teachers earn an average $73,361 a year. LAUSD high school teachers have an average salary of just under $62,000."

It seems to me that teachers make a very nice wage, especially when one considers that teachers work an average of 38 weeks a year. The Hoover Institution looked at the issue of teacher pay from a Conservative standpoint ( http://www.hoover.org/publications/
policyreview/3438676.html ), but when the average teacher in LAUSD is making roughly $8,000 more a year than the median annual household income in Los Angeles County  ( http://quickfacts.census.gov/
qfd/states/06/06037.html  ) -- a median that includes some pretty significant income on the high end of the curve -- one is hard pressed to believe that they are underpaid. If two teachers are married, then their household income is an average of $124,000 vs. the $55,000 average for the County.

Add to the salary the benefits package, the limited work year, the difficulty in terminating bad teachers and one quickly begins to wonder why one didn't become a high school teacher. It's no wonder that the teachers I know are driving BMWs and Lexuses (Lexi?).

-- -- Christian

I don't think all teachers are overpaid; the best are getting no more than they deserve; but the top brackets are not for the best, but for the longest serving and the most "credentialed". Actual merit pay and pay for results is not allowed.


History from 1877 onward...

You may have already seen this. But I wanted to make sure.



Forget the Alamo! And what's this about a Revolution? Nothing happened in 1812... And Texas has always been part of the United States.


: Workflow in the House | The Casual Optimist


Dear Jerry:

Apparently I'm not the only one with quality issues on e-books.


Francis Hamit







 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sand Hill Rd. Versus Wall Street


Silicon Valley Is Not Wall Street Venture capital and investment banking are two completely different species. Washington should stop lumping them together.


Too often, there is confusion between investment banking and venture capital. This isn't helped by investment bankers' occasional assertions that they too do venture capital. They don't. In light of the attention both of these activities have lately received in Washington, it seems a perfect time to explain what makes them so very different.

Venture capitalists work with entrepreneurs to start new companies from the ground up. We earn our reward only when companies become successful.

Investment bankers are deal makers. They're in charge of bringing companies public and advising on acquisitions. Their money is earned by the transaction, and in the fraction of the time it takes a venture capitalist to realize a profit. <snip>


Being a funded startup, I heartily agree.


There is no evidence that anyone in the White House has enough business experieince to understand this. I mean no disrespect, but where would this Brains Trust have learned how the real world works?


You're not a climate skeptic


You might be interested in this post at WattsUpWithThat.com.

It seems you're not a climate denier or skeptic, you're a "climate auditor".

"As a result of the IPCC influence, scientific skepticism by academic researchers became vastly diminished and it became easier to embellish the IPCC findings rather than to buck the juggernaut. Big oil funding for contrary views mostly dried up and the mainstream media supported the IPCC consensus. But there was a new movement in the blogosphere, which I refer to as the “climate auditors”, started by Steve McIntyre. The climate change establishment failed to understand this changing dynamic, and continued to blame skepticism on the denial machine funded by big oil. <snip>


<anip> .... So who are the climate auditors? They are technically educated people, mostly outside of academia. Several individuals have developed substantial expertise in aspects of climate science, although they mainly audit rather than produce original scientific research. They tend to be watchdogs rather than deniers; many of them classify themselves as “lukewarmers”. They are independent of oil industry influence. They have found a collective voice in the blogosphere and their posts are often picked up by the mainstream media. They are demanding greater accountability and transparency of climate research and assessment reports."

This is from a guest post by Dr. Judith curry, on how the climate change establishment can rebuild public trust. The first step, of course, is admitting that public trust has been lost. The second is to realize why it's been lost.

Recent disclosures about the IPCC have brought up a host of concerns about the IPCC that had been festering in the background: involvement of IPCC scientists in explicit climate policy advocacy; tribalism that excluded skeptics; hubris of scientists with regards to a noble (Nobel) cause; alarmism; and inadequate attention to the statistics of uncertainty and the complexity of alternative interpretations.

In the end...

No one really believes that the “science is settled” or that “the debate is over.” Scientists and others that say this seem to want to advance a particular agenda. There is nothing more detrimental to public trust than such statements.

And finally, I hope that this blogospheric experiment will demonstrate how the diversity of the different blogs can be used collectively to generate ideas and debate them, towards bringing some sanity to this whole situation surrounding the politicization of climate science and rebuilding trust with the public.

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

If the global warming consensus collapses, it will largely be due to the Internet. Billions are at stake.


NEA Opposition to Charter Schools


I think you might like this article on charter schools.


Joel Upchurch

The NEA and the Department of Education are the best illustrations I know of the truth of the Iron Law. The data are available, but no one seems to care any more. Incidentally, the LA school board reneged on some of the charter schools and will turn them over to the teachers and administrators. In a few years we will find that did no good, but we'll lose a generation in finding that truth. The LA public school system is a disaster. Not unmitigated: there are some good schools in it. But they're hard to get into. The system exists to protect its NEA members and assure them of jobs and pensions; any other purpose is secondary. There appears to be no way around this.

If you want to complain they will schedule you a 5 minute appointment in six months or more, in a big public meeting. There's no assurance that anyone on the board will listen.


Subj: Climate change: multiple mutually confirming studies or...

... multiple photographs of the one-and-only-ever-discovered skull of Piltdown Man, taken with various cameras, under various lighting conditions, from various angles, with various types of lenses, etc. etc. ad nauseam?

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Alien names

Hi Jerry!

I found this website that I guess does the same as the Alien Names program you mentioned in your February 8 column. It's here: http://www.abooks.com/alien/ 

It seems to be made by the very same Ralph Roberts that you mention.

Thanks for the ever interesting site you have!


Knut Andersen Oslo, Norway


Weaponizing Mozart 

The use of classical music as punishment/deterrent in England.


"There will always be a large island off the coast of France."


Good grief.



 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  February 26, 2010

Firefox tab list backup


In Firefox you may either directly backup/restore your tab list(s), or export/import them as html.

In Firefox, in the very top toolbar go to: Bookmarks -> Organize Bookmarks -> Import and Backup

Seventy open tabs? You have boggled my tiny mind!

Regards, Brian Claypool

Yes, I had one of those restoration lists -- from last December. Ah well. Thanks



On the Tuesday NBC News, Brian Williams said, "a lot of people would be surprised to learn that gas pedals in some of these cars are wireless devices, no more wire to the engine," thereby indicating that he thought that "drive by wire" meant pulling on a wire, and reinforcing my opinion that "fly by wire" is bass ackwards and *M*I*S*L*E*A*D*I*N*G*, even though they're never going to change it.

I'd like to know who came up with the usage. I guess I first heard it for the Mercury capsule. The guy must not have been an aviator. Planes were controlled by pulling on wires since 1903.


Well, those were cables; then came hydraulics, and some aircraft had hydraulic only. The B-52 retained cables in addition to hydraulics. Then came servos and electrical control. That was known as fly by wire because it was electrical (as opposed to cable and hydraulic). Gemini was the first spacecraft to "fly by wire" meaning there were no mechanical backups. Of course Mercury didn't have much in the way of control to begin with, but what it had was hydraulic. Fly by wire didn't sound odd in those days.


I think you're right 


As regards the issue of the warmest years on record, there was notification about three years ago that Hansen's data set at NASA Goddard had been skewed by errors, and that the corrected data divided the "ten hottest years on record" between the 1930's and the period since 1998.

I can no longer find easily accessible web records regarding this correction, and what I find claim that the correction applied to US only data; that, however, is NOT what I recall.

Given the now obvious data manipulation associated with the terrestrial temperature records, including NOAA discontinuing use of 4,500 out of 6,000 real temperature stations, mostly situated at higher altitude, higher latitude, more rural, and more inland locations relative to the stations kept, then used the remaining data to "interpolate" the replaced data points, I don't know that any reasonable statistician can speak regarding the actual state of the data. "Start from scratch" is the only viable option.

Which the politicians are refusing to do; they continue to maintain that it's real, settled, and that drastic measures are necessary immediately.

As usual, a full analysis of the UAH data sets is worthwhile.

http://www.drroyspencer.com/  http://www.nsstc.uah.edu/atmos/christy.html 


I do not know how to estimate the Earth's temperature in 1938 to within a half of a degree. I would like to see the procedure used to do that, and the measures employed.

I know even less how to estimate the Earth's temperature in 900 AD. I can look at some monastery reports of growing seasons and crops, and accounts of Viking settlements, but estimating temperatures of the entire Earth to within a degree does not seem reliable.

I also do not know the effect of rising temperatures on CO2; as temperature goes up, so will CO2 as the oceans warm. I don't know how much, and from what I've seen in the literature neither do the scientists: we have estimates, but the accuracies are not what seems to be claimed by the consensus.

I believe the weight of evidence is that it has been much warmer and much colder that at present during historical times. That doesn't mean we should ignore CO2 levels and ocean ph changes, but it does mean that the problem isn't as acute as the alarmists claim it to be. The answer is more data -- more reliable and repeatable data. We also need to look into the formulae for reducing the observations to a single figure of merit.


Subject: Winter likely to be fourth-longest stretch with snow cover


This has cut severely into my Harley riding this winter in Billings….I had an almost 7 week stretch where I didn’t even start the beast up. Sure could use a little extra greenhouse gas this year.

Winter likely to be fourth-longest stretch with snow cover


…While plenty of snow remains piled throughout the city, the official National Weather Service recording site at Billings Logan International Airport is likely to be snow-free very soon.

When the last trace has melted away in 40-degree weather, the winter of 2009-2010 will likely have chalked up the fourth-longest stretch of snow cover since recordkeeping began at the airport in 1934…..

Tracy Walters, CISSP

But the climate specialists estimate to a tenth of a degree


This is quite long; it gives the views of Big Science on the subject. I wonder at this; it appears to be the Iron Law in action to me.

APS "Commentary" on AGW Statement 


I have kept my APS membership up, and recently received some e-mail concerning their 2007 statement on AGW, and their proposesed "Commentary" on the statement. The URL for member review is not available to the general public. The captured text is below. My reply, in suitably academic terms, was to the effect that we are in danger of being the laughing stock of today's laymen and the next generation of researchers. Instead of releasing the "Commentary," we need to put the 2007 statement in abeyance until we sort out the widespread professional misbehavior in the AGW community.



APS Member Comments Submission Site

Dear member:

The APS invites you to express your views on the proposed Commentary to accompany the 2007 APS Climate Change Statement.

Thank you for your thoughtful participation in this process. Below you will find some background information on this issue, followed by the text of the 2007 Statement and the proposed Commentary to be added to the Statement. You may then enter your comments in the box at the bottom of the page. Please note that this link is exclusive to you, and you may only submit comments one time. Once submitted, your comments cannot be edited. If you have any questions regarding the process, please contact webmaster@aps.org.

Background Information for APS Members on Proposed Commentary

An ad hoc subcommittee of the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) recently prepared a Commentary on the 2007 Statement in response to a charge to POPA from the APS Council to "...review the 2007 Council Statement (07.1 Climate Change) with a view to addressing the issues of clarity and tone raised in the report of the Kleppner committee" to the APS president.

On February 5, POPA unanimously accepted the Commentary and recommended that it be included as an addendum to the 2007 Climate Change Statement. In accordance with APS Executive Board action on February 12, the proposed Commentary is posted for three weeks to allow APS membership comments. The POPA subcommittee will examine the membership responses and amend the Commentary as it deems appropriate in preparation for Council consideration in April.

The POPA ad hoc subcommittee comprises current or past members of POPA who are not researchers in the field of climate change or related areas. None have any connection to the preparation of the 2007 APS statement.

The subcommittee interviewed five scientific leaders with a range of views and areas of expertise in the field of climate change to discuss the APS statement and the underlying scientific issues: Donald Boesch (Univ. of Maryland), Isaac Held (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory), Richard Lindzen (MIT), Michael MacCracken (Climate Institute), and Gerald North (Texas A&M Univ.). One of the subcommittee members also acknowledges valuable discussions with Inez Fung (UC Berkeley). In addition to the interviews, the subcommittee members examined a number of scientific papers related to climate change.

2007 APS Statement on Climate Change (07.1 Climate Change)

(Adopted by Council on November 18, 2007)

Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth's climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide and other gases. They are emitted from fossil fuel combustion and a range of industrial and agricultural processes.

The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.

Because the complexity of the climate makes accurate prediction difficult, the APS urges an enhanced effort to understand the effects of human activity on the Earth's climate, and to provide the technological options for meeting the climate challenge in the near and longer terms. The APS also urges governments, universities, national laboratories and its membership to support policies and actions that will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

Proposed Commentary to Accompany APS 2007 Climate Change Statement (07.1 Climate Change)

There is a substantial body of peer reviewed scientific research to support every technical sentence in the 2007 APS statement. However, there is no doubt that clarification is needed in a few areas.

The first sentence of the APS statement is broadly supported by observational data, physical principles, and global climate models. The sentence can be further elaborated. Greenhouse gas emissions are changing the earth's energy balance on a planetary scale in ways that affect the climate over long periods of time (~100 years). Historical records indicate that climate is sensitive to energy changes. It is not just the atmosphere, but also the oceans and land that are involved in the complex dynamics that result in global climate. Aerosols and particulates resulting from human and natural sources also play roles that can either offset or reinforce greenhouse gas effects. While there are factors driving the natural variability of climate (e.g., volcanoes, solar variability, oceanic oscillations), there have been no credible natural mechanisms proposed to explain all of the observed warming in the past century. Warming is observed in land surface temperatures, sea surface temperatures, and for the last 30 years, lower atmosphere temperatures measured by satellite. The second sentence is simply a definition. The third sentence notes the human contributions to greenhouses gases. There are, of course, natural sources as well.

The evidence for global temperature rise over the last century is compelling. However, the use of the word "incontrovertible" in the first sentence of the second paragraph has created much of the controversy regarding the 2007 APS statement. This word is rarely used in science because by its very nature science always questions prevailing ideas. The magnitude of the observed warming can be debated but the majority of evidence (observational data) indicates a warming of approximately 0.8°C from 1900 to the present.

The second sentence in the second paragraph predicts that significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and health are "likely" although the word "likely" is not defined. This sentence needs further explanation. Such predictions are based on climate models that calculate the effects of anthropogenic changes on the ecosphere, such as doubling of the CO2-equivalent [1] concentration relative to its pre-industrial value by the year 2100. These models have uncertainties associated with the radiative forcing functions, especially clouds and water vapor. However, the vast majority of the models show that water vapor is also a net positive forcing function (in addition to CO2 and other gases) on global temperatures. The impact of clouds is less certain because of their dual role as scatterers of incoming solar radiation and as greenhouse contributors. The magnitude of the effect of human activity on climate continues to be debated, as reflected in the broad distribution of the predicted magnitude of the consequence of doubling of the CO2-equivalent concentration. The estimates from various climate scientists for doubling CO2-equivalent concentration range from an increase of ~1°C to 2-3°C with the probability distributions having long tails out to much larger temperature changes.

The last sentence in the second paragraph articulates an immediate policy action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to deal with the possible catastrophic outcomes that could accompany large global temperature increases. Even with the uncertainties in the models, it is increasingly difficult to escape the conclusion that non-negligible increases in global temperature are accompanying rising anthropogenic CO2. Thus given the significant risks associated with global temperature rise, prudent steps should be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now while continuing to improve the observational data and the model predictions.

The third paragraph, first sentence, recommends an enhanced effort to understand the effects of human activity on Earth's climate. This sentence should be interpreted broadly and more specifically: an enhanced effort is needed to understand both anthropogenic processes and the natural cycles that affect the Earth's climate. Improving the scientific understanding of all climate feedbacks is critical to reducing the uncertainty in modeling the consequences of doubling the CO2-equivalent concentration. In addition, more extensive and more accurate scientific measurements are needed to test the validity of climate models to increase confidence in their projections.

With regard to the last sentence of the APS statement, the role of physicists is not just "...to support policies and actions..." but also to participate actively in the research itself. Physicists can contribute in significant ways to understanding the physical processes underlying climate and to developing technological options for addressing and mitigating climate change.

[1] The concentration of CO2 that would give the same amount of radiative forcing as a given mixture of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (methane, nitrous oxide, etc.). Essentially, the models sum the radiative forcing of all trace gases and treat the total forcing as if it comes from an "equivalent" CO2 concentration. The calculation of CO2-equivalent forcing for all gases other than CO2 takes into account only increments relative to their pre-industrial values, so that the pre-industrial forcing for CO2 and CO2-equivalent are the same

It still looks like Iron Law to me.


"Voilà! C'est la Légion!"


You’ll enjoy.

Chris Christopher


Healthcare Summit

Dr. Pournelle,

I do not consider myself a conservative but have always enjoyed reading your views because they always seem reasonable and well thought out. You are my primary resource for keeping up on the climate change debate, and therefore the state of big science. Data driven and thoughtful, your commentary helps cut through so much of the noise.

In Friday’s view I was surprised to see your quote attributed to the President: “and the President said ‘Guess what? I won. Get used to it.’”

That seemed a bit more inflammatory then everything I’ve read about the summit and so I tried to find the quote. I couldn’t find a transcript of the summit and so couldn’t find the quote. I’d be disappointed if you presented something as a direct quote when perhaps you meant it as a piece of art. I have greater faith in you than the current mob of nuts and creeps.

You point out that the “At least the Republicans won the game.” I suggest that unless the Nuts and the Creeps can find some common ground we are all going to lose.

David Spiciarich

Apologies: President Obama did not use those words in the summit, although it's not an unfair translation of what he did say. The actual taunt was made about a year ago at another conference. 








 read book now





This week:


read book now


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Re: Italian Madness

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

the "Italian Madness" shouldn't really be considered much out of the ordinary in a country, supposedly free, that three weeks ago straight out forbid access to "the Pirate Bay" through an IP Filter ordered to any and all Internet Service Providers on national territory.

And which recently passed a "media tax" which will go (what's left over from the bureaucracy, at least) to performing artists, but which is applied to any and all memory media: hard disks, thumbdrives, memory cards (even something like CF Flash cards, which are used almost exclusively for photography - with ONE'S OWN photographs), and DVD recorders. The tax varies with the medium, but on a 1TB hard disk can reach 10euro ($14-15).

Best regards,

James Siddall jr


Crichton on Global Warming

Dr. Pournelle;

In Appendix 1 of his book State of Fear - published in 2004 - he follows his discussion of the eugenics and Lysenko theories and practice with this comment

  Now we are engaged in a great new theory, that once again has drawn the support of politicians, scientists; and celebrities around the world. Once again, the theory is promoted by major foundations. Once again, the research is carried out at prestigious universities. Once again, legislation is passed and social programs are urged in its name. Once again, critics are few and harshly dealt with.

Once again, the measures being urged have little basis in fact or science. Once again, groups with other agendas are hiding behind a movement that appears high-minded. Once again, claims of moral superiority are used to justify extreme actions. Once again, the fact that some people are hurt is shrugged off because an abstract cause is said to be greater than any human consequences. Once again, vague terms like sustainability and generational justice--terms that have no agreed definition-are employed in the service of a new crisis.

I am not arguing that global warming is the same as eugenics. But the similirities are not superficial. And I do claim. that open and frank discussion of the data, and of the issues, is being suppressed. Leading scientific journals have taken strong editorial positions on the side of global warming, which, I argue, they have no business doing. Under the circumstances, any scientist who has doubts understands clearly that they will be wise to mute their expression.

One proof of this suppression is the fact that so many of the outspoken critics of global warning are retired professors. These individuals are no longer seeking grants, and no longer have to face colleagues whose grant applications and career advancement may be jeopardized by their criticisms.

In science, the old men are usually wrong. But in politics, the old men are wise, counsel caution, and in the end are often right. 

At the time he was dismissed as knowing nothing about the subject.

Robert Patton

The grant system vs. industry financing: the consensus mongers accused all Deniers of having oil company money. Until recently few noticed that to get any kind of grant other than from a private company,  you had to adhere to the consensus.

It's all unraveling now, and perhaps something will come of it all.







 read book now




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, February 28, 2010      

We had family visiting today.




 read book now





The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

Boiler Plate:

If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.

Patron Subscription:

Search: type in string and press return.


For platinum subscription:

For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:

= = = = = = = = = =

For a Regular Subscription click here:

= = = = = = = =

Strategy of Technology in pdf format:

To order the nose pump I recommend, click on the banner below:

Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)