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Monday  March 8, 2010

The following was forwarded by Colonel Couvillon:

Read before watching video.

For non-pilots, these controllers are in Nevada and each are flying a drone thousands of miles away in the combat zone in Iraq and Afghanistan, their left hand is on the throttle controlling the drone's engine.

Note all the buttons which perform various tasks without removing the hand from the throttle. The right hand is flying the plane.

This is modern warfare. Today's headline: Missiles fired from Nevada controlled drone aircraft kill Taliban leader.

Watch how it's done. Speakers on & watch in full screen.

Drone Controllers

You can fly over the land. You can bomb the land. You don't own the land until you can stand a 17 year old kid with a rifle on it. Which is to say, yes, this is modern warfare, but it is not the whole of modern warfare.

War by avatar.

I presume that USAF flies air cover over the drone control bases. I can think of an interesting novella about a false flag terror operation against that base... I say this as I listen to reports of an elaborate attempt to kill the members of an anti-gang police unit.


On the night of November 2nd, 1943, PT-59 helped evacuate a band of marines who were under heavy Japanese fire trapped against the coast on Choiseul Island, in the southwest Pacific, for which the battalion commander promised the boat’s skipper a bottle of whiskey, which was delivered on the next occasion on which the two men met, in 1962, when sometime Lt. Col. Victor H. Krulak was a major general and sometime Lt., j.g., John F. Kennedy was president.




Hawking: "I think the human race has no future if it doesn't go into space."


- Roland Dobbins

"If the human race is to have a future, then for all but a very small part of its existence the word 'ship' will mean 'space ship.'  Arthur C Clarke  I said much the same thing in A Step Farther Out. It remains true.


UK Met Office cancels seasonal forecasts.


--- Roland Dobbins

Long term climate forecasts, however...


In previous mail Dr. Ed (psychiatrist) said:

The most important new development in psychiatry is the news that SSRI's are nerve fertilizer: they actually make nerve cells grow in your brain where depression - true depression - has depleted them. That's why they take a while to work, and that's why they usually don't produce any drug-type effects when you take them.

I think that Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Buspar and their generic equivalents should be over-the-counter meds. Then people could truly "self-medicate."

As for DSM-V, I look at it as a nightmare. I hope the feds enforce using the ICD system for all reimbursable diagnoses instead. It already does this for Medicare.



A long time reader quotes that and comments:

In 1996 I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. No DSM was used. I had become romantically involved with a woman who wanted to get married, and since every romantic relationship I had up to that point had failed it explained everything, at least on the surface. I was put on a variety of SSRI's, none could 'cure' me from an illness I did not have.

Oh yes, my wife keep giving me cold medicine, with Dextromethorphan.

This is a drug that used to be on the shelf, but since youngsters would overdose on it in order to go into a dis-associative state it is now kept behind the counter. Mix a normal dose along with one of these SSRI's and you get 'high' just like you have taken an overdose.

And let's not talk about Synesthesia.

After 4 years of this with no improvement in the situation I was a basket case. I am still not right even after 10 years. PTSD is what my Counselor said, or at least something like that.

So I do not think SSRI's ought to be over the counter, in fact anyone who prescribes them should have a mandatory jail term if the prescription turns out to be inappropriate.


The question of prescription restrictions vs. freedom is not going to be settled here.


Harry Erwin's Letter from England

This week it's mostly a letter from the academy.

 UK university red tape <http://tinyurl.com/yhd629d> <http://tinyurl.com/yefjbmb>

 Knock-on effects of the cap on student numbers and the Government proposal for a two-year bachelor's degree include disruption of the relationship between UK universities and the further colleges (equivalent to American community colleges) that feed them. <http://tinyurl.com/ycafhdp> <http://tinyurl.com/yguz5nw>

 The UK Government backs off their widening participation goal <http://tinyurl.com/y9jf78z> <http://tinyurl.com/y9vm2mm>

 Academic research in trouble <http://tinyurl.com/yzjzkan> <http://tinyurl.com/ya39j7c> <http://tinyurl.com/yepggmv>

 The Judas generation--the first generation of scholars who benefitted from expanded participation in the UK (graduates of the 1970s-90s) left a negative legacy <http://tinyurl.com/yl37a3g>

 Tories promise to give universities control over the content of A-level examinations and eliminate the current politicisation of the exams: <http://tinyurl.com/ycrg8sy> <http://tinyurl.com/yeughjs>

 UK National Health Service cash crisis <http://tinyurl.com/y997pcu> <http://tinyurl.com/ykqdcnu>

 British Army versus Gordon Brown <http://tinyurl.com/yf2gskb> <http://tinyurl.com/yag3qy4> <http://tinyurl.com/yzejna8>

 Problems with the UK copyright laws: <http://tinyurl.com/ygkjuy6> <http://tinyurl.com/ykhafyt>

 Two Muslim women not allowed to board flights to Pakistan after refusing full body scans. <http://tinyurl.com/yzuh4ym>

 Concern with methane release in the arctic <http://tinyurl.com/yjoqb6v> This is one of the indicators I monitor, especially as the last time it happened on a massive scale (about 56 MYr ago) it made things very warm for about 100,000 years. See <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eocene>. I've speculated on the possibility of extraterrestrial colonisation at that time given some of the funny fossil distributions of the time. See <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurotamandua> and <http://dml.cmnh.org/2002Oct/msg00511.html>

 Three good books:

 - We Are Not Alone: Why We Have Already Found Extraterrestrial Life, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, David Darling

 - How to Find a Habitable Planet (Science Essentials), James Kasting

 - The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe?, Paul Davies

 The 6 March New Scientist has some interested articles on cosmology and atheism.


Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroethologist:



Hi Jerry,

Have you seen this article with the title:

"US Manufacturing Is Not Dead" http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/02/us-manufacturing-is-not-dead.html 

They show a fair amount of data <no idea of its validity> with the disquieting conclusion that productivity gains has been what has killed most of the job loss blamed on "shipping jobs overseas" and similar reasons.

If so, the jobs aren't ever coming back.


I am addressing some of that in the column. Science fiction has dealt with this situation in speculation for a long time. If we had a "make your wish" machine, would we have an economy? In the past we have had new items replace the old, and that created new jobs. No one buys buggy whips and rubber tired horse drawn wagons, but they do buy cars. At lest that used to be the answer.

Of course the boy who cried wolf eventually saw a wolf...




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Tuesday,  March 9, 2010

harvard professor opinion piece in wsj


A perfect example of why I don't want my kids going to Harvard, Yale, or any of the other "Poison Ivy" Leagues.


I saw that piece this morning and thought much the same thing. There are some odd people in the Ivy Leagues...


Right and Wrong at the same time. Ye Gods!


Diane Ravitch is one of the more reasonable advocates of central control of education... See View for today.


Rolling Back Government: Lessons from New Zealand

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on February 11, 2004, on the Hillsdale campus, during a five-day seminar on “The Conditions of Free-Market Capitalism,” co-sponsored by the Center for Constructive Alternatives and the Ludwig von Mises Lecture Series.


If we look back through history, growth in government has been a modern phenomenon. Beginning in the 1850s and lasting until the 1920s or ’30s, the government’s share of GDP in most of the world’s industrialized economies was about six percent. From that period onwards—and particularly since the 1950s—we’ve seen a massive explosion in government share of GDP, in some places as much as 35-45 percent. (In the case of Sweden, of course, it reached 65 percent, and Sweden nearly self-destructed as a result. It is now starting to dismantle some of its social programs to remain economically viable.) Can this situation be halted or even rolled back? My view, based upon personal experience, is that the answer is “yes.” But it requires high levels of transparency and significant consequences for bad decisions—and these are not easy things to bring about.

What we’re seeing around the world at the moment is what I would call a silent revolution, reflected in a change in how people view government accountability. The old idea of accountability simply held that government should spend money in accordance with appropriations. The new accountability is based on asking, “What did we get in public benefits as a result of the expenditure of money?” This is a question that has always been asked in business, but has not been the norm for governments. And those governments today that are struggling valiantly with this question are showing quite extraordinary results. This was certainly the basis of the successful reforms in my own country of New Zealand.





More from England...

More discussions on science in today's UK news

Problems with publicising complex science <http://tinyurl.com/ygu58u9

Labour science policy criticised for reducing funding <http://tinyurl.com/yeqpl57>  <http://tinyurl.com/ydw96gm>  <http://tinyurl.com/yk9kqda>  <http://tinyurl.com/yaw9oqt> . BTW, funding has already been decreased--currently grant proposals are being approved for a one year duration.

University targets have devalued UK degrees <http://tinyurl.com/ykrabwu>  <http://tinyurl.com/y9xw8rm>.  Meanwhile, several hundred thousand applicants will miss university due to government caps. Why not scrap the current system and replace it with a system of targeted grants--for the talented poor--and loans--for everyone else, while charging full economic costs?

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.


You want it bad; you get it bad 

NHS waiting time targets cost lives. <http://tinyurl.com/yhdjy4c

NHS funds diverted <http://tinyurl.com/yfhpvuc

Reducing the UK national deficit by taxing food <http://tinyurl.com/ykzsdd6

-- Harry Erwin


> Final resting place of the 'Caspian Sea Monster'.

It turns out this isn't the Caspian Sea Monster - it's Project 903/MD-160:


-- Roland Dobbins


Obama's NASA Conference



Analysts point to politics over Obama's NASA conference

By STEWART M. POWELL Washington Bureau March 8, 2010, 10:50PM

WASHINGTON ‹ President Barack Obama is scrambling for political cover in the electoral battleground of Florida by staging a White House conference next month to explain and defend a scaled back vision for the nation's marquee manned space program that threatens thousands of jobs, political analysts say.

Obama is banking that officially designating Mars the nation's next destination in space before a high-profile gathering of top administration officials, local elected officials and aerospace contractors will spark inspiration, assuage an anxious, space-reliant work force and cement the allegiance of Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., a crucial political ally heading the Senate panel with jurisdiction over NASA and the highest ranking Democrat elected statewide in Florida.

Nelson took to the Senate floor late Monday to welcome Obama's April 15 visit and praise his plans to seize leadership of the space program, even as he went on to excoriate unnamed presidential aides and ³the budget boys from OMB² for allowing the chief executive to create ³the perception that the president had killed the manned space program.² <snip>


'The Obama administration will accept no more public input for a federal strategy that could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing the nation's oceans, coastal areas, Great Lakes, and even inland waters.'


- Roland Dobbins

But we were born free.


Mystic Met Office abandons long range forecasts,


It seems the British weather service cannot predict the weather several months hence:


"The Met Office has confirmed it is to abandon long range weather forecasts, finally acknowledging criticism. The most recent forecasts were so inaccurate, that even the BBC is reconsidering whether to appoint an alternative supplier, such as Accuweather, after 88 years of continuous service from the 1,700-strong MoD unit.

The Mystic Met predicted a barbecue summer for 2009, and the third washout in a row, with the wettest July since 1914, duly followed. A mild winter was then given a high probability, only for the UK to suffer its coldest winter for 30 years. Yet Met Office staff received performance-related pay bonuses worth over £12m over 5 years, it was revealed last week, in response to a Parliamentary question."


I noticed that. But the models tell us what the climate will be in fifty years.


On toyota and fly by wire


Long time fan. Just wanted to give you my two cents on the Toyota fly by wire issue.

I've been a computer programmer since 1975 and while I would be the first to brag about the value of fly by wire, I also understand the down side of it. Take Toyota's current problems. I find it difficult to believe that a floor mat could possibly cause sudden acceleration. I'll buy that it's possible that the mat may interfere with the movement of the pedal and cause the accelerator pedal to stick in position (something a heavier spring should be able to deal with, or at worst, putting in a mat with a slightly different shape) but to cause the car to accelerate? I just don't buy it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I own three, count them, three Toyotas, a 92 with 217k, a 95 with 97k and a 2005 with 56K So it's not like I'm anti Toyota. I expect that, despite the current problems, my next car will be a Toyota.

Still, as a programmer, roboticist, and electronics engineer, I'm thinking that the problem will turn out to be their fly by wire computer. Almost everything that car companies do these days assures that this is possible; Different computers for each model, each requiring a hardware development team, software development team, and a QC team. While in theory they should all be running the same code, it's like computer companies and cell phone companies; In real life having more than one platform to support almost always results in both platforms being substandard.

From my point of view, every computer in every Toyota should be identical. The economy of scale should make it less expensive to make a million of the same thing than 100,000 each of ten almost identical things. It's not like car computers are any more sophisticated than your average PC. I think that if there was only one computer to deal with, development and QC would be a lot easier to deal with. After all, the lowliest toyota and the most luxurious Lexus still perform almost all the same functions (getting you to your destination)

The real problem is of course, in the programming of their fly by wire systems. Anyone who has ever built an RC model airplane, or anyone who has ever built a robot knows well that you can have the best hardware in the world and screw it up with crappy software. These systems hold people's lives in their hands. There is no room for anything less than absolute perfection. From some of the comments made by Toyota in the last week ("we're going to make the brakes override the accelerator") it seems to me that they KNOW the problem is in their fly by wire system since they should have figured THAT problem out before they put it in the cars.

The hardware should not be proprietary, nor should the software. This is something that needs to be so transparent that ANY possible problem can be spotted and corrected long before the car gets into production, and if it is discovered in post production, all cars can be retrofitted by replacing the ROM.

I think the NTSB should require that all car computers using fly by wire be standardized and must pass a standardized battery of tests conducted by NTSB and those tests should include every imaginable scenario before they are allowed to be put into a production model. I think the NTSB should publish specs to which these fly by wire systems must be built.

We may never know what the real problem is as it will almost be a certainty that Toyota would like to keep anything like that quiet.

Anyway keep up the good work at Chaos Manor and keep writing. -- Regards,

Dave Evartt Sr. Programmer Analyst

This morning we have the story of a driver who panicked: he went to pass someone on the freeway, and got a stuck accelerator. Apparently he couldn't put it in neutral. The story has a happy ending, and Toyota will have the car to study. It sounds like a problem in the speed control software?


Ben Bova: 'Since my novel was really a thinly-disguised satire of the book-publishing industry, things go drastically wrong. Little did I realize how prophetic I was.'


-- Roland Dobbins


Unexpected implications of the Large Hadron Collider

I'm sure you recall the LHC's apparent unwillingness to be completed. This item takes another look at the phenomena, and gives the lie to the popular notion that scientists have no head for business.


--Gary Pavek


Subject: Health Insurance Companies and Non-Profits


I see that President Obama is attacking health insurance companies. It seems that the president wants health insurance companies to be non-profit and insure everyone regardless of existing conditions. Health insurance seems to be a pretty simple concept. A group of people pay into a fund. When someone is sick, money is pulled from the fund to pay the bill. If a lot of people become sick in one year, everyone has to pay more into the fund to cover the expenses. If few people become sick in one year, fewer funds are withdrawn from the fund and people don't have to pay as much that year. There are expenses to managing the fund and collecting the contributions.

I think it is legal to start such a non-profit health insurance company. I am surprised that President Obama does not start such a non-profit health insurance company himself. At least he could use his position of influence and leadership to inspire others to start such non-profit health insurance companies. Pardon my ignorance, but I think that is what a President of these United States should do - state his beliefs and inspire others to follow those beliefs. History shows us that it is incredibly difficult to pass legislation that requires people to be good. There are also many unintended consequences of such laws. Just a thought. I will now stop commenting for today.

-- Dwayne Phillips

Kaiser is a non-profit. No insurance company can take on all comers for equal premiums, admit all, pay for all -- and survive. That includes the government. It will be unable to do that, meaning that it rations something.


Iran and Obama's "no preconditions" foreign contacts campaign promises 

No preconditions for talks with Iran?

Dr. Pournelle,

Do you think President Obama has any doubts about the value of more open contacts with Iran, after the Iranian madman came up with a new fantasy speech? This time, he's repeating 9-11 conspiracy theories right before visiting President Karzai in Afghanistan.


I really do want President Obama to visit Iran. Ahmadinejad came here, Obama ought to be polite enough to go there. I want to see what happens, I really do. Because Obama was SO convinced that Ahmadinejad is a rational leader, he really needs to go give it a shot, talking to him in person over there. Put up or STFU and let some real leaders work on our national security issues.


But suppose both of them see each other as rational?


'Snowball Earth': Glaciers, ice packs once met at Equator, buffy willow


Says here, Glaciers, ice packs once met at Equator:


Seems there was near total glaciation 717mya and 615mya, with an intervening epoch of zero ice. "Thereafter more moderate glaciations and warmings have been seen."

Apparently the constriction of open ocean to a few "refugia" stimulated the development of animal life.

If this is what was needed to kick start development of higher life forms, microbes might be the norm around the galaxy. How disappointing that would be.


Throw another log on the fire?


Subject: How engineers open the curtains…


Tracy Walters, CISSP


Paul Ryan and Ezra Klein debate fiscal scoring of health care proposal 

Jerry, a couple of good links discussing Paul Ryan's analysis of the fiscal impact of the Democrats' health care proposal.

The first is Ezra Klein critiquing Ryan's analysis:


The second is Rep. Ryan's response to Klein's critique:


Between the two, they seem to cover the ground nicely.





Comment on the boom box fuel cell and CO2 production discussion.

Yes, fuel cells operating on natural gas still produce carbon dioxide. However, since natural gas is CH4 and higher hydrocarbon fuels are generally -CH2- with terminal hydrogens, the proportion of CO2 produced by burning natural gas is reduced per unit of energy delivered. Secondly, fuel cells produce electricity directly rather than through using the energy generated by combustion to drive a generator, which results in an improved molar efficiency factor of about 2. Third, placing fuel cells near the point of consumption reduces transmission losses, which average about another factor of 2. Thus fuel cells represent a potential savings in CO2 generation of around 75% per unit power delivered when compared to centralized natural gas power plants on the grid (not including in decreased efficiency of delivering CH4 to the point of use relative to delivering electricity to the point of use via the grid), with further marginal improvements related to burning of fuel oil or coal in power plants.

That said, given the higher unit cost of fuel cells at the point of use, this becomes economically viable using current technology only if one determines that CO2 generation is a sufficient liability to justify approximately doubling the amortized cost of delivered electricity in order to reduce CO2 by 75-100%, the price point implicitly sought by the cap-and-trade regime. (Of course, nuclear reduces CO2 by 100% competitively...) I don't believe that has been demonstrated...







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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Head Start

Hello Jerry,

While it may be debatable (in the sense that only now is debate allowable--barely) whether Head Start and similar programs are successful at 'jump starting' young children to make them more amenable to learning the subjects that are ostensibly the objectives of mandatory education, there can be NO debate that it is wildly successful in its primary objective: getting children away from the home and parental influence and into the hands of the government at an ever earlier age.

Apparently however, even leaving them in the home until the age of five has STILL resulted in the parents having an undue influence on the children, so there is now a push to lower the age of mandatory pre-school to four. Or three.

Wonder how long it will be before parental contact will limited to the delivery room?

Bob Ludwick


Non Profit Health Insurance

Dr. Pournelle:

This website has some facts on non-profit health plans:


Kaiser, the one you mentioned, is number two on the list. I doubt most people know that this much of the industry is non-profit.

The same website has statistics on non-profit hospitals and other health providers.


Tom Brosz


Science Fictional Advertising

Blast Books is publishing Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957-1962 on May 25. It's a fascinating collection of 1950s corporate image advertising using themes of space exploration and future technology. Dennis Overbye writes about it in the New York Times:


There's also an interactive display of around a dozen of these ads. They have lost none of their power to make a reader dream about a future among the stars.

And don't miss the Comments after the article where there's a shout-out for Lucifer's Hammer from a reader in Bagram, Afghanistan.

--Mike Glyer








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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said...

"...we have to pass the [ObamaCare] bill so that you can find out what is in it..."


Charles Brumbelow

Think that will do it?


Trial by jury

Dr. Pournelle,

You ask what juries are for, and your reservations about them are justified.

Famously, in the UK, if you want to avoid jury service, wear a suit and carry a copy of The Daily Telegraph - you are then most unlikely to be picked, and most likely to be challenged by the Defence lawyers.

Having said all that, juries are vital: they are the ultimate backstop against an over-mighty state which, let us not forget, itself appoints the judges and the prosecutors. In extremis, jury nullification can render bad laws unenforceable.

It is because of this that our ever-more-authoritarian government in the UK is so keen to slice away, and ultimately abolish, trial by jury; it's an inconvenient nuisance for the state to have its will overturned.

As you say, we meddle with this system at our peril; few enough weapons are left to us in the fight against Leviathan.

Andrew Duffin

As I said, one approaches this subject with fear and trembling. Or at least one ought to. The real question is, why shouldn't jurors be able to research matters on line? Why must they be ignorant of everything? Why should someone who murdered a teen girl in 1980 be tried three more times for the same crime because the jury was allowed to become aware of the fact that he had molested other children prior to the murder? He was convicted of the 1980 murder yet one more time just last week. (They were also able to convict him of other previously unsolved murders...)

Modern jury trials have become contests of gaming the system. There needs to be some kind of reform; and I agree, it needs a very great deal of thought before we DO anything.


E-Book Publishing

For the full thing at Charles Stross's blog you can read it here, and he does reference one of your posts, but not the way you or he actually thinks he meant too.

Why the commercial ebook market is broken <http://www.antipope.org/

"Right now, many of the largest publishers charge a cover price for ebooks that is 80% to 100% of the hardcover price. Virtually nobody except Baen (and now a couple of other publishers who've dipped a toe in the Webscription market, and some self-publishers) is even thinking about trying to establish what an ebook is really worth in the market. '

'It's the received, prevalent wisdom — and it's a load of rubbish. First of all, if overlooks the point that publishers don't manufacture ebook readers; the consumer electronics industry does. And the consumer electronics industry will not cut off its own nose to spite its face by producing an ebook reader for $20, if it can produce one with extra bells and whistles that sells for $350. We've had the tech for a $20 (or $50, anyway) ebook reader for a decade; it would resemble a grey-scale palm pilot, albeit without even the PDA functionality. But the parts are dirt cheap these days! If a manufacturer thought they could sell the beast, they'd be churning them out by the bucketload — and it's perfectly possible to read ebooks on a 160x160 green screen. I used to do it all the time in the mid to late 1990s. The reason nobody makes such a beast is because it's simply not profitable to do so. Explaining why this is so ought to lead into a long essay on the cost structure of consumer electronics, but basically, unless the Chinese government decides to subsidize its indigenous manufacturers in order to deliberately destroy the western publishing industry, it ain't gonna happen.

Secondly, and more devastatingly for the sky-is-falling promoters of the "pirate ebooks will doom the publishing industry" theory, until ebook readers cost no more than a hardback, 90% of readers will ignore them. And that's regular readers, not the folks who own four books (and one of them is a Bible). Expecting people to cough up $200 for a reader so that they can then pay $25 for new novels to read on it — as opposed to buying the novels for $25 (less discount) in hardcover and having the cultural artefact — is, well, it's just bogus. '

A note on Libraries 'Library lending was tolerated by authors and publishers because it was widely accepted that in the long run, people who borrowed our books from libraries were more likely to read them than people who had no access whatsoever. And having read, they were more likely to become regular readers and to eventually buy — if not the books they'd already read, then the next one on. Library users were often poor, or casual readers, or young. I remember latching on to the local public library when I was five or six years old. I read my way through most of Andre Norton's children's range before I was eight, and I certainly didn't pay for them. I couldn't pay for them; I didn't have enough pocket money to make a habit of buying books at anything approaching the rate I could read them until I was in my teens, and even then, I was mostly limited to second-hand paperbacks. '

So do you think a library is a pirate? How can we make electronic libraries worthwhile? Is that even possible?

And to Baens tactics "Interestingly, Baen's webscription <http://www.webscription.net/> titles are under-represented on the ebook warez newsgroups. I don't think this is an accident. Books that come up most often are either scanned and OCRd paper copies, or cracks of DRM-locked ebooks. If you look at the posters' activities in terms of proving status within a gift economy this makes sense; OCRing a book or cracking DRM takes time and effort, and is a demonstration of putting effort into something — it's a high value activity. Whereas posting something you grabbed off Baen's library of for-free books, or paid $5 for is just stupid — it's like turning up to a a wine and cheese evening your friends are running on a "bring a bottle" basis with a bottle of Buckfast or Mad Dog 20/20. It's cheesy, tasteless, and looks cheap, and that's how the ebook pirate elite will view you. "

As a reader of electronic formats I have tried to find stuff on other websites of authors I would read, but I can find them. I do occasionally go to the book store and pick up a new Tor/Penguin book but I cant buy the books off their websites. Im hard pressed to find electronic books for sale in the format I like. (Basic HTML, downloadable.)

I am willing to pay 5 dollars for an electronic book from Baen. I am willing to pay 15 dollars for their ARC books (Advance Readers Copies). I am not willing to pay Amazon $10.99 for a book to be downloaded on their 300 dollar reader, when I can pay 300 dollars and get a used laptop or a Blackberry that one of my boarders uses to read his Baen books on. A laptop that has lot more going for it than a stupid reader.

As to pirates and hacking, and there myths. I know that Computer games have been dealing with pirates since the days of the 8086. And we still have HALO 2 crack sales in the millions on the first day of sales. People still make money making record sales and the movie producers arent going out of business. As long as book publishers continue to make quality products and are willing to make fair sales then they can survive and thrive. But it seems they are just unwilling to move ahead with the times (except for Baen), and want to charge unfair amounts from their consumers.

Most people aren't criminals and wont buy things because their cheaper or available free. They will actually pay for something of value. The publishers would be better served to spend some time on identifying their customer base and working to suit their needs than worrying about what a few people are doing that aren't even paying attention to what their stealing. Certainly I would read and buy more Tor books if they had a sensible policy.

David March

My views about ebooks in 2006 are not the views I hold now, in part because the debate I stimulated with my column was productive. The DMCA still needs reform.

As to piracy, the scribd case was illustrative: scribd, a profit making company, allowed anyone to post anything. One of their -- I don't know what to call him, an associate? A client? -- one of their frequent posters put up the entire works of the late authors Poul Anderson and Jack Chalker among others. Whatever the benefits of having these works available for free, the author's widows hadn't given any such permission, and scribd was certainly benefitting from using other people's works to draw a crowd and generate traffic. That was no myth.

There are those who argue that piracy is good for an author's sales because it is free publicity. That can be true for some authors, but it's not universally true. It's odd: there's all this enthusiasm for scribd piracy, but not for Google's activities in scanning in works without permission but then offering to pay the authors for the insult through the settlement agreement with the Authors Guild and the Publishers Association. I haven't noticed any big rally on the part of the "piracy is myth" people to support the Google Settlement and get the government out of the way. The result has been that Google did the scanning, but no one has been paid -- the authors are out again, and I'll probably be dead before I get any of the $60 bucks per book scanned Google is offering.

A great deal has happened since I wrote my 2006 critique of DMCA and Stross wrote his speculation about where things were going. Among other stuff, the paperback book market began its long slide. Publishers have discovered ebooks. The Kindle market has grown, and you can now read Kindle books on an iPhone. Much more has happened. Meanwhile, Pirate works may have stimulated sales of paperback books; but it's not at all clear that having a pirated copy of an ebook makes it more likely that you'll buy a legitimate copy.


Subj: Obama as the Second Coming of Woodrow Wilson


Note particularly the quote from Beinart, within the quotation from Will quoted in the piece:

>>He [Wilson] even recommended to his wife that they draft a constitution for their marriage. Let's write down the basic rules, he suggested; 'then we can make bylaws at our leisure as they become necessary.' It was an early warning sign, a hint that perhaps the earnest young rationalizer did not understand that there were spheres where abstract principles didn't get you very far, where reason could never be king.<<

[sigh] Cyclical theories of history are starting to look better and better ... or maybe I should phrase that "more and more accurate".

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Hot Fudge Sundae - Congo DR edition


In case no one else has brought it to your attention, scientists have just found another, previously obscured, impact crater, this time in Africa. Initial analysis is it was caused by a 2 km rock. Impact date is still TBD.


Mark E. Horning, Physicist,


unintended acceleration

From mail:

>I've been a computer programmer since 1975 and while I would be the first to brag about the value of fly by wire, >I also understand the down side of it. Take Toyota's current problems. I find it difficult to believe that a floor mat >could possibly cause sudden acceleration. I'll buy that it's possible that the mat may interfere with the movement >of the pedal and cause the accelerator pedal to stick in position (something a heavier spring should be able to deal with, >or at worst, putting in a mat with a slightly different shape) but to cause the car to accelerate? I just don't buy it.

I personally had the accelerator get jammed down by the floor mat on my '78 MGB when I was a teenager. I had to turn off the ignition and coast into a parking lot to pull it out. Ceasing to accelerate is still unintended acceleration, and unexpected sensations are often greatly magnified in our perception. I have been wary of the issue ever since -- if the issue had happened in one of my crazy turbo Ferrari's, the available response time before disaster would have been very short indeed. I find the floor mat explanation many times more likely than a software error. It probably isn't a coincidence that Tesla flew someone out last month to replace the floor mats in my roadster, because the original ones were poor fits, and I suspect that there was some concern after seeing Toyota get dragged over the coals.

John Carmack

Thanks. Perhaps I'll see you at Space Access this year.


This has been said often, but it needs to be perfectly clear:


Pre-existing condition opt-out opt-in

If anyone can wait till they are injured or ill, then opt-in, pay one premium, then get treated, the rest of the pool is covering their entire cost. Would you pay regular premiums in such a system, given the choice? The only rational way for anyone to deal with that arrangement is to wait until they need treatment, then make one payment and get coverage.

This would reduce premiums to a miniscule fraction of health care costs, and amounts to a no-premium universal coverage system, since all the excess costs could only come out of general tax revenue. Therefore, all "no pre-existing condition" systems amount to full, free, universal, single-payer coverage, automatically.

Brian H.

That seems fairly obvious to me. "No previous condition" plus mandatory equal payments is an entitlement, not insurance. That "reform" is a complete change in conditions.


Clams As Climate Historians

Dr. Pournelle --

There's a new and possibly highly precise measure of past temperature of coastal waters:

Shellfish could supplant tree-ring climate data


"Oxygen isotopes in clamshells may provide the most detailed record yet of global climate change, according to a team of scientists who studied a haul of ancient Icelandic molluscs"

"But molluscs grow continually, and the levels of different oxygen isotopes in their shells vary with the temperature of the water in which they live. The colder the water, the higher the proportion of the heavy oxygen isotope, oxygen-18."

"The study used 26 shells obtained from sediment cores taken from an Icelandic bay. Because clams typically live from two to nine years, isotope ratios in each of these shells provided a two-to-nine-year window onto the environmental conditions in which they lived."

. . .

For example, in early Norse Iceland — part of the 2,000-year era spanned by the study — farmers were dependent on dairy farming and agriculture. "For a dairy culture, summer is by far the most important," he says. "A one-degree decrease in summer temperatures in Iceland results in a 15% decrease in agricultural yield. If that happens two years in a row, your family's wiped out."

Clams lay down shell material continually through their life. Due to the thin samples which researchers were able to take from clams they argue that they could garner weekly and even daily temperature measures for the two to nine year life span of the typical clam in the sample.

Interestingly, too, is that the temperature record from the clam shells supports, in part, the accuracy of the Norse records. The record also supports the Little Ice Age, the Medieval Warm Period, the cooling of the Dark Ages and the Roman Warming period.



Very interesting. Thanks.



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Friday,  March 12, 2010


But you just don't get it! Since we KNOW that AGW is true, any explanation of how the science was done is just a waste of time.


PS: George Stewart in his book "Fire" recounts that England was plagued by major forest fires in the 11th century, but by the time English came to America they had forgotten about forest fire in England partly because there was a lot more rain and less heat. "Neither Chaucer nor Shakespeare thought of forest fires."

1032: "In this year came wildfire such as no one remembered before" 1067: "This was the dry summer, and wildfire came in many shires, and burned many farmsteads and towns."


AGW the ups, the downs

High Jerry, fresh from the bit press:

Global Warming or not:

Influence of Sunspot activity ( er inactivity ) on alleviation of global warming.

"Weakening Sun would hardly slow global warming"




I hear this a lot from consensus supporters. Apparently it comes from the black body temperature/radiation of the planet: the earth is too warm to have got that way from solar radiation. Therefore solar radiation can't be causing global warming without some change in radiation absorption. Apparently I am not smart enough to make sense of this, because if we are getting global warming because more of the radiation is being absorbed into the atmosphere by increased CO2, which I would have thought implies that the temperature is sensitive to solar radiation: more of it would mean there's more to absorb, less would mean there's less to absorb. So I would think. Perhaps I am merely naive.

I really would like to find a good Climatology 101 textbook that goes into such mechanisms and how they are measured to two decimal place accuracies.



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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Women and civilization

You - and Goldberg - have it completely and embarassingly backwards. Women do NOT civilize men. Women get civilized - often forcibly, in the form of unequal punishment for adultery, societal sanctions against divorcees, child custody awarded to the man, enforceable marriage contracts, etc - in order for society at large to benefit from focused male energy. SOME women are intelligent enough to be capable of civilizing themselves. We can see experimentally that most are not. The natural state of women is African grass-hut matriarchy, which we can see reproduced in American black society, after an interlude of monogamous civilization under the influence of the civilizing forces, which have been dismantled in the name of fairness. That matriarchy is spreading into the lower white classes - it has progressed far in England, not so far in the USA yet but the situation is changing fast, as anybody who pays attention to divorce rates and the modern dating scene knows.

Everything that restrained the natural impulses of the female has been torn down in the name of meaning well and treating women "well", without any attention paid to why things had been set up that way in the first place. The result is that the next few generations are going to have to rebuild from scratch the sexually unequal society that our liberal parents thought it was such a good idea to reform.

It'll be hard. But we will do it, because doing things your way, believing what you believe, and acting on that belief, leads straight to the stone age. Women are not and can not ever be equal to men, because women and men are not the same.

This fellow (among many, many others) has more on the subject http://elusivewapiti.blogspot.com/2010/03/just-aint-gettin-it.html 

Everything the classical authors told us about the nature of women was true, everything our enlightened age knew better is false. That's what it boils down to.

Beyond saying that clearly I don't agree, I don't have time to comment on this. I understand the temptation: the feminization of the American culture, and the antics of the aggressive feminists induce a lot of people to this view. I can only say that historically things went the other way. Aristophanes Lysistrata was a comedy with some profound implications. Mr. Heinlein once speculated that we ought to try limiting the vote to women: it might work out better. He was a bit tongue in cheek about that, of course.

Now that we have women in combat service perhaps things will change. 


Battle of Wanat

Dr. Pournelle,


"The battle of Wanat in July of 2008 has proven to be the most deadly and most controversial battle of the Afghan war. Nine American soldiers died and 27 were wounded defending a remote combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan before it was nearly overrun by 200 Taliban fighters. Outnumbered three to one, U.S. troops fought off advancing insurgents for over two hours.

One of the survivors, Captain Matthew Myer, was later decorated with the military's third highest award for bravery in combat, the Silver Star.

Now, following an investigation of the actions that led to that deadly incident, Myer and two other Army officers have received potentially career-ending letters of reprimand for failing to adequately prepare their unit for an attack. Lt. Col. William Ostlund and Col. Chip Preysler were also senior commanders at the time of the surprise attack. The letters were sent out earlier this week by General Charles Campbell of Army Forces Command."

This seems like a clear case of scape-goatism (that is now officially a word). Two years later, they decide to hang a reprimand on a junior officer who was doing his best to carry out a flawed strategy. They dropped these guys down into an outpost in the middle of nowhere with a huge signature and no clear purpose, other than to be bait. Now when the embarrassment catches up with them they pin it on the guy on the ground. Why? Because he didn't request enough sandbags or something like that I'm sure. How absolutely and in all ways pathetic.

Does this qualify as a "beware the fury of the Legions" moment?




Subj: What makes Finnish kids so smart?


Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Such speculation is dangerous, and in some places actually illegal.


HelpMeDownload.com Info

Dr. Jerry,

Looking at the web site, it appears to be some sort of web billing service.

from the FAQ - "Who is HelpMeDownload.com? We provide billing support and customer service 24/7 for a variety of Internet vendors and merchants. Apart from providing such services, HelpMeDownload.com is not affiliated with the website providing the services you subscribe to. The owner/operator of each website is solely responsible for its content, the content of any promotional material they may distribute and the means of such distribution."

Hope this helps,


What does that mean? I didn't order it, that's for sure.


: Climate science 101

Hello Jerry,

You made this comment: "I am still looking for a good textbook at the Climate Science 101 level."

Good luck.

The most rudimentary BS detector has long known what is just now being confirmed by the now public antics of the Climate Scientists: The Climate Science 101 text is not available because Climate Science, as practiced by Climate Scientists, has not yet advanced to the '101 Level'.

Bob Ludwick


Climatology Textbooks

I don't know enough to pick one of the many climatology text books. They are not cheap. Here is the link to one that I found online as PDFs. http://stratus.astr.ucl.ac.be/textbook/ebook.html It is from Universite catholique de Louvain (Belgium I think). It has a chapter on climate modeling. However, Chapter 6. Influences of human activities on climate and of climate change on ecosystems and human activities is in preparation.

John Abshier

It is remarkably unspecific about how measures are taken, but pretty good in describing the limits of climate models. Having read that chapter I am astonished that anyone would try to make predictions accurate to fractions of a degree -- indeed accurate to degrees per century.

The chapter emphasizes necessity for verification but it's very short on how to compute the verification numbers.


Polar Orbit Earth Temperature Satellite

Dr. Pournelle, NASA and other space agencies have launched several climate observation satellites into the "A-Train" constellation, all in a sun-synchronus orbit (inclination = 98 degrees)( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A-train_satellite_constellation). The latest launch to the constellation was the Orbiting Carbon Observatory that suffered a launch failure a year ago. Of the successful launches, the only one with a temperature sensor is AQUA( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aqua_(satellite) <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aqua_%28satellite%29%20> ), which still has one operating IR instrument and publishes data accurate to within 1-3 K according to the data users guide. The data itself is available online ( http://disc.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/AIRS/data-holdings/by-data-product/data_products.shtml)  , although making use of it requires a better knowledge of the .hdf format than I have (Matlab opens it, but I didn't get very far). Perhaps someone else can chew on the data better than I.

David Trawick

I was aware of most of that, but the wikipedia articles on this subject have not proven to be too useful, so I paid little attention to them. Perhaps I should have, but I still don't understand why we need to extrapolate by 1200 kilometers to get Arctic temperatures in 2005.


Hello Jerry,

Without having any prior knowledge of the subject and with very little research, it appears that our weather satellites are in either geo or sun synchronous polar orbits. A quick reference: http:// noaasis.noaa.gov/NOAASIS/ml/genlsatl.html. 

The orbits of the sun synchronous birds, the ones with precision radiometers (including the European ones apparently), are at 870 km, with an inclination of 98.7 degrees. Why not an inclination of 90 degrees so as to pass directly over the pole? No idea. Can they cover all the way to the pole from that orbit? Probably, but I don't know for sure.

The geo birds of course can only see to about 81.3 degrees north or south, which is why the Russians are forced to use Molniya orbits instead of geosynchronous orbits on their comsats to get coverage at high latitudes.

Bob Ludwick

Again I find no answer to why we had to extrapolate 1200 km to get Arctic temperatures. And I have been unable to find out precisely what operations are used to get the single figure of merit for this chart http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/


intersting use of graphics


This is a fascinating use of graphics technology. If someday you publish an interactive book, you might consider using something like this:


It was featured in National Geographics a few issues back.

Joe K

Things to come...


Bumper-Stickers Seen On Military Bases.

"Except For Ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism, Socialism and Communism, WAR has Never Solved Anything."

" U.S. Marines - Certified Counselors to the 72 Virgins Dating Club."

" U.S. Air Force - Travel Agents To Allah"

"Stop Global Whining"

"When In Doubt, Empty The Magazine" Naval Corollary: Dead Men Don't Testify.

"The Marine Corps - When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be Destroyed Overnight"

"Death Smiles At Everyone - Marines Smile Back"

"Marine Sniper - You can run, but you'll just die tired!"

"What Do I Feel When I Kill A Terrorist? A Little Recoil"

"Marines - Providing Enemies of America an Opportunity To Die For their Country Since 1775"

"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Anyone Who Threatens It"

"Happiness Is A Belt-Fed Weapon" ]

"It's God's Job to Forgive Bin Laden - It's Our Job To Arrange The Meeting"

"Artillery Brings Dignity to What Would Otherwise Be Just A Vulgar Brawl"

"One Shot, Twelve Kills - U.S. Naval Gun Fire Support"

"My Kid Fought In Iraq So Your Kid Can Party In College"

"Machine Gunners - Accuracy By Volume"

"A Dead Enemy Is A Peaceful Enemy - Blessed Be The Peacemakers"

"If You Can Read This, Thank A Teacher. If You Can Read It In English, Thank A Veteran"

"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world.
U.S. Marines don't have that problem." ...U.S. President Ronald Reagan







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Sunday,   March 15, 2010    

I took the day off.




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