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Monday  March 15, 2010

Stuart Island Energy Initiative


<http://www.siei.org/> Welcome to the Stuart Island Energy Initiative Website, a glimpse of our energy future! We have built a system in which solar power makes hydrogen, which is then stored for a rainy day and runs a fuel cell to produce electricity. The system is pollution-free, uses no fossil fuels, and is up and running.



Subj: Women and Civilization - Aristotle on Sparta

I was shocked, while reading Aristotle's _Politics_, by his analysis of Sparta (Book Two, Part IX):

[begin quote] Again, the license of the Lacedaemonian women defeats the intention of the Spartan constitution, and is adverse to the happiness of the state. For, a husband and wife being each a part of every family, the state may be considered as about equally divided into men and women; and, therefore, in those states in which the condition of the women is bad, half the city may be regarded as having no laws. And this is what has actually happened at Sparta; the legislator wanted to make the whole state hardy and temperate, and he has carried out his intention in the case of the men, but he has neglected the women, who live in every sort of intemperance and luxury. The consequence is that in such a state wealth is too highly valued, especially if the citizen fall under the dominion of their wives, after the manner of most warlike races, except the Celts and a few others who openly approve of male loves. The old mythologer would seem to have been right in uniting Ares and Aphrodite, for all warlike races are prone to the love either of men or of women. This was exemplified among the Spartans in the days of their greatness; many things were managed by their women. But what difference does it make whether women rule, or the rulers are ruled by women? The result is the same. Even in regard to courage, which is of no use in daily life, and is needed only in war, the influence of the Lacedaemonian women has been most mischievous. The evil showed itself in the Theban invasion, when, unlike the women other cities, they were utterly useless and caused more confusion than the enemy. This license of the Lacedaemonian women existed from the earliest times, and was only what might be expected. For, during the wars of the Lacedaemonians, first against the Argives, and afterwards against the Arcadians and Messenians, the men were long away from home, and, on the return of peace, they gave themselves into the legislator's hand, already prepared by the discipline of a soldier's life (in which there are many elements of virtue), to receive his enactments. But, when Lycurgus, as tradition says, wanted to bring the women under his laws, they resisted, and he gave up the attempt. These then are the causes of what then happened, and this defect in the constitution is clearly to be attributed to them. We are not, however, considering what is or is not to be excused, but what is right or wrong, and the disorder of the women, as I have already said, not only gives an air of indecorum to the constitution considered in itself, but tends in a measure to foster avarice. [end quote]

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I said that women have a civilizing influence. I'll stand by that one. The rest is a very large discussion I haven't time for...


The American Soldier summarized in one picture.


There is a difference between good guys and bad guys, even if Hollywood can't figure it out.



: Wanat

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



Thank you.

I do not know all the particulars of the incident at hand. However, I would remind everyone that heroic actions, done after incompetent actions, do not, in themselves, negate the consequences of the incompetency..

I have carried a laminated copy of the following on my person since I read the passage. The setting of the comment is upon the inquiry of an officer to member of a court martial as to why the Commanding Officer was found guilty, when clearly events occurred in the incident that were beyond the Commanding Officer's control.


“To trust a man with the lives of other is a grave thing. Only three things make it work. Authority; responsibility; accountability.

Authority is the root of command. We delegate it only for a time, only in exercise of an office, only as defined by custom and law. never as an individual, never for very long, never as if by right, never without bounds.

Responsibility defines what a man is trusted with, with the ship, with the conn, whatever. So it's all clear up front, and everybody understands his duty.

To be accountable means to be subject to justice. To punishment, if you will. If you fail your trust--are derelict in your duty, misuse you power, make a professional error--you will pay a price.

In our profession, this accountability is absolute. When a naval officers accepts authority, he knows he will answer for the actions of his ship, whether or not he is directly and personally responsible in the way a civilian court would understand. For it is his responsibility to know and govern all that goes on aboard her, her flaws, her limitations, as well as her strengths.

If error occurs, no matter whose, the fault is rightfully and inevitably his. Each commander knows this and accepts it as part of the job. No previous service, however meritorious, can make up for it. “

-David Poyer, The Circle; 1992

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


The Secret Origin of Windows 

Dear Dr Pournelle,

You might find this article (or memoir) interesting:


Best regards,


In interesting insider's account.


DSM any number and health care

Forgive me but I would rather you do not use my name with this if you decide to post it.

I am an emergency physician and have been privileged to care for patients for over 30 years. I am not a psychiatrist but do see psych patients on a daily basis in addition to many other types of problems.

As usual in any discussion it is important to "follow the money."

There is a long standing game that is played by physicians and hospitals on one side and the various payers including the government and insurers on the other side. Each year some new, arcane, and often rather foolish rules are created by the payers to deny the providers payment for services to save the payers money. This of course is not confined to the psych arena but extends throughout the house of medicine. And each year the providers figure out and invent ways around the new rules.

As an example here is the following. Some years ago when thee and me were young if you were a teenager and got out of control and cursed your family and threw things and broke windows in the house the police would be called and you were defined as a juvenile delinquent and sent to juvenile detention.

As more and more young children and adolescents were defined as psych patients by the various DSM's they are now brought to the emergency room for any bad behavior whatsoever whether or not it might have any relation to previous psych diagnosis and we admit them to psych wards. And basically anyone under the age of 18 winds up in the ED for any bad behavior. This is a lot of kids as you might well imagine.

This happens whether or not they use the magic words; which as every ED physician knows are, "I AM GOING TO KILL MYSELF."

These are the words you use if you are looking for three hots and a cot in the hospital if you are an adult.

These days the equation is:

Underage + bad behavior = emergency room evaluation.

The police are often complicit in this because it is a lot easier to drop them off in the ED than to do the paperwork to charge them as delinquents and have to go to court later for the hearing. The parents are complicit because it is a lot easier to consider your child as disturbed than as a violent criminal. The state is complicit because if you are in a psych ward your parents and health care pay for your keep rather than the state having to run more jails for kids. The physicians are complicit because we get paid.

The ED physicians are complicit specifically because once their feet touch the floor in the ED we are responsible for these children's future bad behavior under our country's curious and arcane malpractice case law. In spite of such law ED doctors have no special talent for correcting your teenagers bad behavior and in fact if a lifetime of your parenting did not make them into delightful and dutiful children we are unlikely to achieve the goal in an hour or a day in the emergency room.

But the insurance companies seem to think this is a bad deal.

This is where DSM "whatever number" comes in.

When we first started this nonsense the diagnosis for this kids was Oppositional Defiant Disorder which meant basically they were behaving badly. After a while the insurance companies created a new rule which was basically NO FURTHER PAYMENT FOR OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANT DISORDER.

You would think that might have brought some sanity back into the world.

You would be wrong. You might also notice that exactly at that time all these children were diagnosed or re-diagnosed as bipolar disorder in one or another of it's variants as defined by DSM. And if you read DSM you would be able to apply the rules and in fact make the diagnosis.

Bipolar disorder you get paid for if you are a shrink. This used to be called manic depression. Oppositional defiant disorder you do not get paid for.

Go figure.

Now here's the thing that bothers me. There is a real problem in the world which used to be called manic depression. Actually if you have ever seen it you probably will not miss it again even if you are a layman and not a psychiatrist or ED doctor. These people have a real treatable problem. You probably have more readers than you might think who have this problem because they tend to be rather smart and amusing people correctly treated. The diagnosis is obvious when they are either in their manic or depressed phase. When they are manic they are fun to be around. They usually have their ED physician laughing as he goes out of the room. When they are correctly diagnosed and treated they are normal if you can call people who tend to have high IQ's normal.

But calling a generation of juvenile delinquents bipolar to get paid is nuts. And this is made possible by DSM defining the illness in nebulous enough terms to allow such foolishness.

And drugging them up is at best nonproductive and possibly harmful. We have no idea what the long term effects of long term psychotropic medicines starting in childhood is likely to do to over the lifetime of these children. Surely the old way of corporal punishment or even the new ways of behavior modification are preferable to this nonsense.

But when you write DSM in a way that allows these children to meet the diagnostic criteria for bipolar, and you create a system where these children inevitably enter the medical system rather than the criminal justice system, and pay people to make these diagnoses, then you wind up with these children on medications.

Cool huh?

When I was in medical school I was taught that for children with emotional problems or physical problems it was even more important than for so called normal children to enforce discipline. The rational was that these children were starting out from behind and the last thing they needed was bad behavior on top of their problems to make their lives even worse. Such common sense ideas are long since outdated.

By discipline I do not mean striking children; although I have no personal objection to corporal punishment.

I will tell you a personal story. At one time in my young married life as a parent we lived in a house where my daughter's bedroom was about ten feet from my easy chair on the same floor. When my daughter misbehaved and I told her to go to her room she had about 3 seconds to get there or I would get out of my easy chair and escort her there. I want to be clear about this. There was no spanking or anything physical except simply ushering her into her room. She learned dad meant it when he said "Go to your room." A couple of years later we moved to a much nicer house where her bedroom was about 90 feet and up a flight of steps and down a hallway from my easy chair. It took my daughter about 2 weeks to figure out that dad no longer meant it when he said, "Go to your room." Dad was not near as likely to get out of his easy chair and walk all that distance. And her behavior became correspondingly worse till dad got the discipline to get back out of his chair and re-establish the understanding that "Go to your room" really meant go to your room. The discipline needed was in the parent not the child.

Most of these children would be much better off with a little more discipline in their parents and a little more vigorous definition of psychiatric disorders in the DSM.

But the real problem is even more basic of course. What are we to do as a society with these children with behavior problems. Most children are relatively decent and will be our future. But those who are disruptive have learned they can with impunity disrupt our schools and our homes.

It is all fine and well for me to tell the story above but I have met the parents of these children who have just torn up their house and threatened the parents and other children in the house. These parents are desperate and do not know what to do. If one of you is reading this I will gladly see your child in my ER at any time and do anything I can to help.

But I have no confidence in psychiatry as a means to change your child. Most of you and many other readers already know this because you have been through the system many times and spit back out. And the mush called DSM has made this serious problem of society worse not better.

Thank you.


War by Avatar..

I have been thinking about this for a few weeks, as my subconscious melded Avatar the movie with what I'd read of drones and army-types with their 6 or 8 hour shifts flying drones half a world away.

What about robots? How about virtual reality control of robots - not airplane like levers, but VR control of one or more robots simultaneously in a battlefield. As you near the end of shift the next guy seamlessly takes over. The robot "soldier" becomes a 24/7 soldier, and thus 2 or 3 of your "17-year olds on the ground with a rifle". A power source might be problematic, but that's just an engineering problem.



The electric zambonis

The media takes great delight in observing that the "green" technology broke down, as if it was the fault of the technology being "green" and something new invented for the games. At least one of the articles to which you linked has this to say:

"After a replacement machine was shipped from Calgary, the venue’s general manager, Magnus Enfeldt, said the Olympia machines had been working properly for more than a year before this week’s glitches."

So.. some machines failed after a year of use. This is an indictment of the manufacturer, and possibly maintenance, not the fact that they are "green"...

We've had nigh on a hundred years to learn to make internal combustion machines work close to perfectly. And yet only in the last 30 years or so have automobiles become truly reliable.

I'm willing to give new technologies a bit of a break.


Perhaps so, but I think I would have used some other event as the showpiece demonstration. And while I am sure the venue's general manager would never speak less than the truth as he knew it, perhaps his definition of "working properly" is not quite that of the skaters who have to trust that the ice is suitable for the speeds they go at.

Giving new technologies a break is clearly desirable; but what kind of break can be debated.


Interesting articles from Ars Technica and a book

Dr. Pournelle,

I urge you to read the following two articles from Ars Technica. The URLs identify the topics which are related:



Both articles refer to medical/biological research. However, I think that the issues they raise may relate directly to the AGW debate. Their possible effect on the AGW fracas could work for either side.

Finally, I don’t know how interested you are in the history of science. If you are interested, I am currently reading “The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science” by Richard Holmes. The title smacks of hyperbole but the book is quite accessible and fascinating. He charts the development of science starting with Joseph Banks and the H.M.S. Endeavor and moves on through Davy , Herschel and many other famous and infamous scientists of the romantic era. Holmes’ principal work has been the Romantic poets. As a consequence of research for biographies of Coleridge and Shelley led him to their continuing interest in the scientific endeavors of their time. Coleridge was a good friend to some of the more famous scientists of his era.

Richard York

I read the books in question but not the articles. Science demands replication. Anything that happens at the 5% level of significance will happen by chance one time in 20...




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Tuesday,  March 16, 2019

Kindle Apps

My kids recently got themselves IPOD touches. The IPhone Kindle App works on them as well. So for no extra money I've got a "cool" device that they can read on. Children's books are priced well in the Kindle store and it takes seconds to purchase a book for them and have it sent to their Touch.

I've also have the Kindle program on my netbook which works rather nicely to have the kids read while I follow along with the cursor.

Amazon seems to be looking at selling content more than devices which seems wise to me.

Books are still rather pricey, especially older books that are available in paperback. If/when the pricing comes down I'd expect that books sales may attain levels that haven't been seen in years.


One of many such notes I have. You can now get a Kindle account without owning a Kindle, and it will work on a PC, iPod touch, iPhone. I don't yet know about Linux and a Mac  computer, but if it doesn't work on those yet it will soon enough I am sure. The big market share is PC's including netbooks. Amazon has decided that the razor costs too much, to use the analogy of King Gillette who made razors cheap so he could sell disposable blades.

The effect on the paperback book trade will be fairly significant, in my judgment.



Coming soon: "oil-less" economic growth

I feel that doubters, deniers, agnostics, and true-believers in AGW could actually agree on reduced use of oil. Some for AGW reasons, some for national security by reducing dependency on oil, (drat I DID have a third one but it slips my sorry excuse for a mind.) Anyway, we can hope.

V/r, Rose

I long ago said that oil is too valuable as feed stock for manufacturing other goods to simply set a match to it. There still needs to be an energy source. Nuclear will work for a while. Coal obviously works. Ground solar probably doesn't but space solar does. I had a lot of discussion of alternatives in A Step Farther Out.

For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:


Climatology 101

Whenever I read posts about climatology I keep remembering what my mentor at NASA Ames told me. Climate models are great to give you an idea, but unless the predicted temperatures match direct measurements then the model “still needs work.” Again, I was only looking at Mars, but the principle is the same. What the likes of Hansen et al forget is this principle. They feel that they are required to proselytize about the evils of mankind and what we should do to “undo the damage”.

As to measurements, we used direct measurements from the Viking Landers as our baseline at the time.



Losing the War


"Since the beginning of the War on Poverty, government has spent $16.7 trillion (in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars) on means-tested welfare. In comparison, all the military wars in U.S. history have cost a total of $6.4 trillion (also in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars)."

Exit plan?



Solar Climate

A nice compendium of the outside-in approach to climate:



Good stuff but fair warning that is a 5 mb file.


Surprise! Obama administration defies more FOIA requests than Bush WH


"Major agencies cited that exemption to refuse records at least 70,779 times during the 2009 budget year, compared with 47,395 times during President George W. Bush’s final full budget year, according to annual FOIA reports filed by federal agencies."

"All told, the 17 agencies reviewed by AP reported getting 444,924 FOIA requests in fiscal 2009, compared with 493,610 in fiscal 2008."


I am not really astonished, but I guess I think of more important problems..


Letter from England

From here to the election in a couple of months, the news in the UK will be dominated openly and covertly by politics. You have to consider the possible political motivation when you see an article like this: <http://tinyurl.com/ylfnwmy>

 The budget is due out on March 24th, and it's a potential bombshell. <http://tinyurl.com/yg8rb6e>

 Labour is proposing to replace the House of Lords with an elected Senate. I'm mildly supportive--it has the potential of making England less hag-ridden by class, but I don't trust any politician on this subject. <http://tinyurl.com/yhjkd67> <http://tinyurl.com/ygwa2mw> <http://tinyurl.com/ycldfky>

 This appears to be a pro-Tory article on NHS problems: <http://tinyurl.com/yl5eke8>. Another on treatment of dementia <http://tinyurl.com/yex4dtm>

 An anti-pothole article (pro-Tory?) <http://tinyurl.com/yz7bmh7>

 Pro-Labour article on science funding <http://tinyurl.com/yznes4r>

 Labour plans for the transport network it has been managing for twelve years. <http://tinyurl.com/ygkyho4>

 Did Gordon Brown mishandle the military budget? <http://tinyurl.com/y9kkt9r>

 I'm not sure what the political meaning of this discussion is, but the UK has a very low age of legal responsibility. I know something about human brain development, and one usually doesn't see responsible decision-making until late adolescence. <http://tinyurl.com/yd4tdcb> <http://tinyurl.com/yb7f79y>

 Glouchestershire's cheese rolling tradition cancelled for police crowd control reasons <http://tinyurl.com/yhxzdoa> <http://tinyurl.com/y92wqgt>

 Rigging of Royal Mail delivery tests <http://tinyurl.com/yd4uo29>

 Private schools attack Government interference <http://tinyurl.com/y8snz7u>

 Another IPCC prediction found questionable <http://tinyurl.com/yd56tp4>

 A possible hung parliament--consequences <http://tinyurl.com/y9lb4jz>


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



Sun-Syncronous Orbits

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Yesterday, one of your correspondents noted that:

"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."

To answer the first question, the orbit of a satellite with an inclination of 90 degrees will not precess (at least not in an orderly fashion). If the orbit doesn't precess, then every 3 months the orbit plane will vary between being perpendicular to the sun line and being parallel to the sun line, which isn't a very helpful for most uses of a sun-synchronous orbit. If you incline the orbit, even just a little bit, then the oblateness (bulge) of the earth near the equator will cause the orbit to precess like a perturbed gyroscope. The rate of precession is determined by the amount of inclination and the orbit of the satellite. Typically, the orbit and inclination is selected to keep the orbit plane aligned perpendicular to the sun line as the earth orbits the sun throughout the year. This is the case for the 870-km by 98.73 degree inclination orbit of the satellite under consideration (NOAA-19, in this case).

As for "can they cover all the way to the pole from that orbit", let me address visibility from the pole. I didn't have a program handy to calculate this, so rather than fighting the geometry, I cheated. I went to Heaven's Above www.heavens-above.com,    which I highly recommend), created an observing site at 90.000 degrees north and 0.000 degrees east (the north pole), and requested overflight data for satellite 33591 (NOAA-19). You can see the results here: http://www.heavens-above.com/
90.000&lng=0.000&loc=North+Pole&alt=0&tz=CET.  As you can see, as seen from the north pole, NOAA-19 flys over at an elevation of 35 degrees over the horizon 14 (and sometimes 15) times a day, which is about what you'd expect for a satellite with an orbital period of about 102 minutes. As to whether the satellite can see the north pole, the general rule is "if you can see them, they can see you".

Of course, NOAA-19 never passes directly over the pole, so I was curious to see if its instruments had a wide enough field of view to see the pole, as it would be "a little off to the side". I found this page http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/pod-
) from the satellite user's guide, which describes the scan system for the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR). The AVHRR has a very narrow field of view, only 1.3 milliradians by 1.3 milliradians. It does use a spinning-mirror scanning system, which the linked page describes as allowing the AVHRR to scan 55.4 degrees to either side of the nadir (110.8 degree field of view, although it only sees a tiny piece of that field at a time). So, to answer the question, it can easily scan the earth from horizon to horizon (and then some), and since the pole is visible several times a day, it's at least capable of observing the whole planet.

Jeff Larson Webster, Texas



Climate Textbooks


Although it leans further to the strong warming hypothesis than I like, a good place to start is the "Discovery of Global Warming" by Spencer Weart. The price is certainly right, since you can download it for free from here: http://www.aip.org/history/climate/ 

I was brought up short by the 1200km offset when I first read about it, although I compared the distance from where I lived in Orlando, FL to Washington DC. I was dismayed that they have only 1,500 thermometers to fill in 8000 cells in their grid. I'm pretty sure a properly calibrated ground instrument is more accurate than satellite readings for a given location, but when the comparison is against virtual thermometers rather than real ones, that isn't the same thing. Before we spend trillions of dollars, getting better data should be our highest priority even if we have to air drop the instrument packages in every year into the Antarctic .

I also find it interesting that no matter what temperature records you use, if you do a linear projection from temperature readings from 1980 to 2010, none of them show more than a 1.6 degree centigrade warming for the year 2100. A linear projection is actually fairly pessimistic, since the relationship of carbon dioxide to temperature is logarithmic not linear.


Joel Upchurch



Snowball Earth

It has been a millenia or two since my geology days, but iirc, back when the earth was a snowball, the CO2 content of the atmosphere was almost down to the point where plants ceased to grow, about 150 ppm iirc. Of course, that was down from 4500 ppm in a prior era. So we have had eras with an order of magnitude excess of CO2, without runaway greenhouse gas problems, and we have had 1/2 the present CO2 level with glaciers and *both* situations reverted towards the norm. Hmm, maybe the models don't have all the variables pinned down?








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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Delta Dogs


"Dropping from 10,000ft, they glide in order to land unnoticed. The dogs often carry cameras and are trained to attack anyone carrying a weapon.

“Dogs don’t perceive height difference, so that doesn’t worry them. They’re more likely to be bothered by the roar of the engines, but once we’re on the way down, that doesn’t matter and they just enjoy the view,” said the dog handler. “It’s something he does a lot. He has a much cooler head than most recruits.”"

Don't let Sable see that pic.



Hello Jerry,

I thought you might be interested in this:


A lot of possible ramifications here.




Star On Course To Meet Solar System Identified

He added that, “Considering the fact that the comet shower would reach big planets some 0.5 to 1 million years after the passing of GL 710, the effect of the passage would not be catastrophic, and will happen over a very long period.”

The prediction is based on analysis of data from the European Space Agency’s Hipparcos astrometric spacecraft, which measured velocities of almost 120,000 stars in the early 1990s, as well as some recent data.

Bobylev analyzed the measured movements of about 35,000 stars in our neighborhood in the time interval from 2 million years in the past to 2 million years in the future. It resulted in adding nine new stars to the list of those which experience close encounters with the Solar system – either in the past or in the future, he reports in a paper published on arXiv.org website.

GL 710 was already known to have a scheduled rendezvous with us. However, Bobylev’s analysis indicates a high chance of passing closer than expected. It even has one chance in 1,000 of approaching close enough to significantly affect objects within the Kuiper Belt, i.e. planets, moons and asteroids. This could be bad news for our descendants.

The Oort Cloud is a hypothetical cloud of comets on the solar system’s boundaries, stretching about one light year away from the sun.



Arctic Surface Temperatures

First a belated warm thank you! Your writings greatly assisted me in learning about PC computers in the early-to-mid 80's. I became the systems person for about 10 years thereafter, as well as a Deputy Refuge Manager. PC's are great, and a real help in functioning as a wildlife biologist. I decided that computers and critters were much more fun than managing people and budgets, and dealing with politicians-especially at Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR; A WAR), so I merged into mostly computers and GIS work in the last 20 years or so before I had to retire (health). GIS: Just looking at critters through space and time.

I am writing about surface temperatures, specifically in arctic Alaska. From October of 1983 through winter 2000 I was a frequent passenger for biological and other reasons in north Alaska, around four-thousand hours of low-level flying. There are large areas two to six-hundred miles across where anything resembling accurate temperatures at the ground are not available; stations just do not exist, and I assure you the temperatures vary widely from interpolations. For example, variations of -20F at recording stations to -50 or less frequently occur. This becomes especially pertinent when flying in small aircraft (Cessna 185 or 206, or Piper Supper Cub) which must refuel from established caches in the area. These aircraft are not certificated to fly below -30F, so fueling up at say -56F is followed by a very quick take-off (dense air) while praying the wings do not fall off. We tended to strenuously avoid this, but when it runs out of gas it is not pleasant either. Nor is landing, camping and rescue very safe, nor highly regarded by contemporaries, as well as disastrous to operations. And I hasten to add that very commonly temperatures above 1,000 feet or more above ground level are much more moderate, --20 or above. The extreme lows most commonly exist on the ground; inversions are usual.

I find the interpolations for ground temperatures over "1200 km" ridiculous, as is well known to the climatologists hereabouts. Accurate data simply does not exist for truly enormous areas, unless some new satellite method is available. Temperatures at ground level are quite important to a few of us and I assure you we looked for those temperatures. Again, losing a wing or two is not a small thing.

Although I hasten to add I am no climatologist and my Stat degree and pertinent statistical experience is dated, when I did some off-the-cuff comparisons of climatological data for wide regions in the lower 48 and Alaska for recent years a significant change is apparent at the .05 level from the method I was using. But data for arctic areas was begun lateer, thus confidence intervals are greater---and it all depends on how these data are examined of course. Suffice to say that it appears there may be a difference, always keeping in mind that variance increases the farther the distance from the equator-and there is much less data, both in years and locations in the arctic..




Mission Impossible


I thought he was great in the TV Series




Subject: Downloads scam


I was bitten by this typical credit card scam on a health product so its not specific to a product. What they do is hide references to other web services in their fine print of their services. We typically do not read all the fine print (pages and pages ala MSoft) but you essentially agree to sign up to their services as well. The credit card company will then say you agreed and give you a hard time. I cancelled a Citibank card over this to make some obscure company stop charging me monthly. I guess we should read all the fine print but it should not be legal to partner you with 2nd parties without full disclosure up front that they are doing so.

Agree. You have to cause them problems...


Demographers say this year could be the "tipping point" when the number of babies born to minorities outnumbers that of babies born to whites









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Thursday, March 18, 2010

High Jerry,

 fresh from the bit press:

Oceanic iron fertilisation not a good idea: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/

algae bloom leads to high concentrations of domoic acid resulting in forex Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning

G! uwe

I mentioned a similar report -- possibly of the same study -- some time ago. It certainly demonstrates that things aren't as easy as they seem. Still, the poison is in the dose; smaller bloom stimulations certainly won't get the same result. A bloom was after all stimulated, leading to the hypothesis that sustained raised growth would be possible; it just doesn't happen from a big dose all at once.

If we want to lower CO2 in the atmosphere we need to do something like this.


emailer Richard York cites a pair of ArsTechnica articles about the woes of statistical studies in this modern era of easy analysis.

As for the first story: I have some secondhand experience with this, as my mother works for a small pharmaceutical-research firm as their clinical-trial operator. According to her, it's a constant battle between research companies and the FDA over whether studies are "sufficiently powered"--that is, "are there enough patients in this study to get the actual answer instead of a random result". The research companies obviously want to lowball the number--but that's because if they tripled everything just to be safe (which is what the FDA prefers), studies would cost so much that nobody would ever do them.

As for the second: I always subscribe to the notion that if you can't explain your work with sufficient clarity that an audience can understand it, then *you* probably don't understand it as well as you might think. And, besides, if you go to the FDA and say "our statistical analysis process is too complicated to explain", then the meeting ends right there and your firm is no longer welcome in Silver Spring, MD.

-- Mike T. Powers

I had recent experience that leads me to suspect that probability and statistical inference are critically lacking in modern graduate education in the biological sciences.

It remains the case that if you conduct 100 experiments, 5% of them will give results "significant at the 5% level..."


"...they are apparently determined to change "consent of the governed" from its original meaning to "dictate of a majority. Guess what, we won, get used to it. "We will all regret that."

Not all ('worse is better' and it is a shame to waste a good crisis etc.), but it does make staying in power the important thing. And Lenin emphasized the importance of the apparatus in this. Perhaps another stimulus package for the apparatchiki will be needed?



Battle (?) of Wanat

Dr. P,

Perhaps I am being a tad curmudgeonly this morning (what the heck, it’s at the tail end of my shift), but I have to wonder how a 2-hour “ambush” at a platoon outpost, no matter how dire the outcome, can be accurately labeled a battle. Way back when we were born free, battles were large, time-consuming affairs which directly impacted overall success (or failure) in a war.

Or is this more inclusive usage yet another demonstration of our societal attention/recall deficit?


William Clardy, 1LT (RET)


BBC News - Climate change 'exaggerated' in government adverts

Dr. Pournelle,

Even the BBC, which is clearly in the "Warmist" camp, is calling foul on ads the British government is running promoting "Climate Change".

If the real science is so clear, why are there so many cases of stretching the truth? Is it any wonder that so many people are skeptical?


Randy Lea


America and Britain

Dr. Pournelle,

I commented several times about the dangers, and the likeliehood, of the US ending up with something like our National Health Service ("the envy of the world" according to various deluded socialists), so I won't take up your time saying that again.

I noticed, though, your piece about a heckler being dragged out of an Obama speech.

A couple years ago in the UK, security goons manhandled an eighty-year-old veteran Labour supporter out of the party's conference when he heckled the speech of the Home Secretary; he was then arrested under - get this - Anti-Terrorist laws, and held in a police cell for a while. Nobody seemed to care very much.

The parallels are becoming alarming - for the US.

Do you have CCTV cameras all over your city streets? Not yet? What stops them doing that, have you wondered?

It used to be thought that for evil to triumph, it was only necessary for good men to do nothing. I wonder if the current case is not even worse.

Andrew Duffin


Electric Cars, Energy Crisis


Been a long time since I've visited.

A recent issue of MotorTrend magazine had an article on the high performance electric cars that are being offerred by Mercedes and BMW (I recall). What stuck in my mind is that they had electric motors at all four wheels to give AWD. The advantage of this approach is that it is actually lighter and cheaper than having a central, electric motor with transmission, driveshafts, differentials and axels to distribute the power. Also, allows very easy computerized traction control. I immediately recalled one of your articles in which you described such an approach to an electric vehicle. Of course both cars are totally impractical because they are trying to duplicate the horsepower to weight ratio of very high end, luxury performance cars. Because of the weight devoted to the electric motors, the half ton battery pack contains barely as much energy as a gallon of gas. If the gear heads at automotive enthusiast's magazine can figure this out, why can't Al Gore?

On the other hand, I had an interesting look at a Nissan Electric car at the mall the other day. Since the two spokeswomen on display with the car were obviously hired because they'd attract male attention, I wasn't expecting them to be able to answer any interesting questions. First girl I talked too couldn't answer my questions but she had the integrity to admit it and suggest that I talk to second girl.

The young lady stated that the Nissan has a nominal range of about 100 miles on a 27 kilowatt-hour battery pack. I don't have any data on the drag coeffecient of the car might be, but with modern radial tires (had low profile tires on plus size rims) 13 kilowatts or twenty horsepower seems about right to maintain 50 mph. She then went on to say that it actually takes about 30 kilowatt-hours to charge the battery pack. Her credibility soared. When asked about what the range of the car was with the air conditioner running, she stated that there was about a twenty-five percent decrease. She then amazed me by stating that the decrease in range was actually greater if the heat and defroster were in use.

Bottom line here is that about 25 KwHr will reliably give you 50 miles. It doesn't and cannot compete with the range performance of an internal combustion engine. However; 50 miles is more than suffecient for the commutes of most people. Up here in Oregon we're still paying only about ten cents per KwHr because they haven't yet dismantled the dams along with the nukes and coal plants. This is cost competitive with gas, even a diesel. I can envision two car families with one of these electrics for commutting plus an SUV for long trips.

Alas, both girls were a bit to old for my eldest son and already have boyfriends.

I've been thinking about energy independence just as you have. I can't imagine the US building significant numbers of nuclear plants without first having a political upheaval so violent that it would be fatal to a significant percentage of the population. (Visions of Captain Falkenberg's Legion clearing the soccer stadium come to mind) I'm getting jaded enough to think that perhaps that would be such a bad thing but alternatives would still be preferable. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion is an alternative that we know we can build and isn't as politically devisive. The problem is delivery energy from where it can be produced cost effectively to where it is needed. Using electricity to make hydrogen seems obvious. Combining the hydrogen with carbon to make synthetic natural gas would actually make it feasible to transport in LNG tankers. Unfortunately; LNG terminals are about as popular as nuclear power plants and Al Gore's associates have succeeded in convincing people that the gas pipelines to distribute the gas from the LNG terminals are actually LNG pipelines. Then I thought about a microwave transmission system similar to what was contemplated for Solar Power Satellites. Have a transmitter on the OTEC plant and a reflector array in orbit to bounce the beam to a rectenae on the ground near the energy consumers. With large enough arrays on the ground, the orbital reflector could be relatively small and would be little more than wire mesh. Back of the envelope calcs suggest that the orbital reflector could be less than 100 tons and with some clever, self unfolding mechanism could be placed in geosynchronus orbit with one, unmannned launch. Microwave transmission could be politically problematic, but people have no problem with their cell phones, WiFis and what not. THe power density at the perimeter of the rectanae facility would be much lower than the cell phones that the hip set always have stuck in the ears as well as other orifi. May be OTEC with mircrowave power transmission would be politically feasible.

James Crawford


: Kindle on other computer platforms

While Amazon said they planned Kindle-on-Mac when they announced the Windows version back in October, it’s still apparently coming Real Soon Now :   <http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000464931

On the other hand, apparently the Windows version runs with only minor tweaks on Linux using the WINE package:  <http://lifehacker.com/5406505/

Robert Halloran

Amazon released the Mac Kindle app yesterday. I am glad but unsurprised to hear there is at least one Linux version and there will be others.


Kindle Reader app for Mac released.


--- Roland Dobbins


: Page scanner for books scans 200 pages per minute... 


In case you haven't seen this...

Perhaps in 20 years every book on Earth, trivial or great, will be in a digital 'Library of Mankind'.

-John G. Hackett

Very likely. The information distribution revolution proceeds.


“Any process that does not result in the House taking of yays and nays on statutory text identical to what passed the Senate is constitutionally problematic.”


--- Roland Dobbins

Indeed. But we can deem that the Supreme Court has approved, and deem new justices confirmed, and ...

Well, perhaps not. Yet.


CambridgeUPress_v_Patton.pdf (application/pdf Object)


Dear Jerry:

This is a new electronic copyright infringement case which bears reading. All the parties seem to be non-profits or employees of same. This is an extension of the "course pack" cases against copy shops a few years ago and , as the complaint points out, there are mechanisms in place for licensing this material. This university simply decided that it was above the operative copyright law. This one may end up in the Supreme Court because I am sure they will try to use a "sovereign immunity" defense since they are a state institution.

In other news, The Office of Management and Budget is asking for comments from the public about future strategy against intellectual property infringement. It's in the Federal Register/Vol 75, No. 35. dated Tuesday February 23, 2010, pages 8137-39. These can be submitted at intellectualproperty@omb.eop.gov.  It is worth noting that this is a function within the Executive Office of the President and that the Obama Administration, unlike its predecessor, intends to fix the problem.

I will be putting in my 20 cents worth, based on my own rather extensive experience.


Francis Hamit


Re: Delta Dogs

If you don't mind another Cold War Story...

A Pershing missile battalion in transit in West Germany was surrounded and vastly outnumbered by a Greenpeace activists.

The Pershing battalion had live nukes, night was falling and reinforcements could not get through the crowds. A perimeter was finally established with the help of German National Police who rappelled from helicopters with guard dogs.



Article: "Vulnerability in Microsoft Virtual PC exploits the unexploitable"

"An exploit writer at Core Security Technologies has discovered a serious vulnerability that exposes users of Microsoft’s Virtual PC virtualization software to malicious hacker attacks....

...Arce said Core reported the flaw to Microsoft last August — more than seven months ago — but after back-and-forth discussions, the company decided it would not issue a security bulletin to provide patches.

“They [Microsoft] said that they agreed with our assessment of the problem, that it makes DEP/SafeSEH and ASLR bypassable. However, they say it doesn’t meet their criteria for a security bulletin and that they’ll fix in a service pack or a future product update,” Arce explained in a telephone interview from his office in Buenos Aires, Argentina."


I didn't much care for the limitations of Microsoft's Virtual PC/XP Mode and installed the XP VM I use most using VirtualBox. I have no information on whether the vulnerability mentioned in the article affects VirtualBox or VMWare's VMs in a similar manner. The article does say, "Microsoft Hyper-V technology is not affected by this problem," so Microsoft doesn't take a complete bath on this one. Maybe just a bit of a shower of onion. But seven months since notification of the vulnerability without a patch is not a way for MS to cover itself with glory.


-- “In a democracy (‘rule by mob’), those who refuse to learn from history are in the majority and dictate that everyone else suffer for their ignorance.”-third world county’s corollary to Santayana’s Axiom

=This is a new one for me. I'll have to look into it. Thanks.



I loved the song. Enjoy it, but hang on to your change.

Also a great quote and a crystal clear glimpse of America's new ruling class with their masks off:

[   > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
=QdKmc9aBELM&feature=player_embedded <



Not precisely the epitome of rational debate, but amusing. I expect to see a great deal more of this sort of thing, from all sides, as the software improves and people get used to using it.




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CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  March 19, 2010

It's about the money


The census used to be about representation in Congress. Now, apparently, it’s all about money.

My county has an alert system for storms, etc and for other safety announcements. This showed up:

“Census forms are currently being mailed out. Please fill out the forms and return to help [the county] receive its fair share of government money for public services.”

This idea is also on the census radio ads, which I suspect are not local to this area.

All blessings flow from the Feds, I guess.





Thanx for the warning on the Climate Change pdf. Actually, it was 13.2MB, and took almost 20 seconds to download! Outrageous.


Brian H.

Hah. I fear it took considerably longer for me to download. I have Time-Warner Cable...


: Broken Society

Hi Jerry, here is an alternative to libertarian approach, it is by the British writer Phillip Blond. It is quite likely that you will hear about it sooner or later:



Transparency and subsidiarity. The question is who controls power.

Libertarianism does not automatically create the Associations that Tocqueville thought the unique feature of America. And that is the problem...


Project Icarus (1967).

This was the inspiration for Greg Benford's _In the Ocean of Night_:


-- Roland Dobbins



If he's lost Peggy Noonan this thoroughly...

24052748704207504575130081383279888.html  (opened directly tonight instead of going through Google News)


Thursday's decision (to cancel his international trip) followed the most revealing and important broadcast interview of Barack Obama ever. It revealed his primary weakness in speaking of health care, which is a tendency to dodge, obfuscate and mislead. He grows testy when challenged. It revealed what the president doesn't want revealed, which is that he doesn't want to reveal much about his plan. This furtiveness is not helpful in a time of high public anxiety. At any rate, the interview was what such interviews rarely are, a public service. That it occurred at a high-stakes time, with so much on the line, only made it more electric.

I'm speaking of the interview Wednesday on Fox News Channel's "Special Report With Bret Baier." <snip>



Microwave Power Transmission


In today's mail James Crawford said " Microwave transmission could be politically problematic, but people have no problem with their cell phones, WiFis and what not. The power density at the perimeter of the rectanna facility would be much lower than the cell phones that the hip set always have stuck in the ears as well as other orifices. May be OTEC with microwave power transmission would be politically feasible."

Having been involved professionally for over forty years with the construction and permitting of broadcast facilities I am positive that any such scheme would meet with massive resistance from the green hordes. I've had microwave sites with half-watt transmitters dragged into court.

I shudder to think what would happen if one proposed to transmit usable power levels. I agree that their own cell phones don't seem to concern the luddites, but logic and data aren't even on their mental horizon. Ask the average demonstrator about the inverse-square law and I bet you get a blank look nine times out of ten.


Bill Beeman Smartsville, CA


Tablesaw Stupidity Rewarded


Hi Jerry, If you have not seen this, this is an amazingly wonderful story about the everyman and his lost sense of personal responsibility.

Not to mention getting paid for his stupidity...


Christopher Todd Gaska

There goes that industry... A million bucks.


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This week:


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Saturday, March 20, 2010

....And Then There Were None!

I was reading an old SF book when it suddenly occurred to me that AT THIS VERY MOMENT, every person in America desperately needs to read THIS STORY <http://www.abelard.org/e-f-russell.php>  of a world of aggressively Libertarian individualists who think that "freedom" is the ability to say "I WON'T!".

"... And Then There Were None" by Eric Frank Russell http://www.abelard.org/e-f-russell.php 

Nationalized Health Care? I WON'T!

- Ken Mitchell

That is the classic libertarian story, of course. It was expanded to a larger novel, but the original is readable and thought provoking.

I don't know this abelard web site, nor if they have the actual right to publish the story. Russell died in the 1970's so his copyright is clearly valid under the Geneva Convention and thus under US Law. Of course law and copyright are antithetical to the strict anarchism of Russell's story. Freedom -- I Won't applies to paying for copyrighted materials. The problem with strict anarchy is that it requires solidarity, and those in favor of government must be susceptible to both logical argument and some kind of moral code: Gand anarchism in the face of a longboat full of Vikings would not likely be effective. If your captors do not care whether or not you starve to death, a hunger strike doesn't work too well.

Those faced with Viking raiders are perhaps more in need of Alfred the Great and his fleet than Mohandis K Ghandi's words. Or at least that can be argued.

Apparently the site has permission from the estate to post the book, so all is well. See below.


Hello Jerry,

The 'Law of Supply and Demand', which states that if there is a market for something that is possible to supply (Anti-gravity belts and interstellar FTL transport remain in short supply, at any price.), the market will supply it.

How do you know if there is a market for something? There is a pool of money available to purchase it.

Right now, there is a huge market for both poor people and sick people, based on the amount of government funds allocated to their purchase.

Not surprisingly, there are also huge supplies of each, which increase with every increase in available funds.

Bob Ludwick


kindle for mac

On my 30" screen, it is very useful - especially for tech documents. It's a game changer for me.



SUBJECT: "Why Canada Avoided a Mortgage Meltdown"

Hi Jerry.

I wasn't able to read the full WSJ article "Why Canada Avoided a Mortgage Meltdown" (I'm not a subscriber) so I can't comment too much on the article. However, there is one view within the Canada, one advocated by Garth Turner in particular (http://www.greaterfool.ca/), that suggests Canada is *in* a housing bubble at the moment, and it is about to burst. Certainly house prices in Toronto, and on the west coast seemed to be inflated beyond what any reasonable person should be willing to pay, and it could be just a matter of time - maybe only months - before the bubble starts to burst. Canada does not have a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae equivalent, but has had some policies in place in the recent past that have driven the market to higher-than-normal prices: 40-year mortgages and zero (or very little) percent downpayments come to mind. So...time will tell, but don't be surprised if a housing bubble bursts within Canada within the next year or so.


Mike Casey

=I am going to have to look into ways to make more of the articles available; WSJ is a good source of materials, but of course not everyone can read all of the articles. In the case of the housing bubble article the point was that Canada has no Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and thus didn't inject so much money into the housing system, so the bubble can't be as bad as it was here...

We'll see.


Some photos of the recent political rallies in Bangkok.


 Roland Dobbins


never understood why prizes are not popular. They cost almost nothing..."

You once said "I have never understood why prizes are not popular. They cost almost nothing..."

I have blogged on the Mohole scandal - the developers of the idea were dealt out of the game to be replaced by a company without experience but a long record of donations to LBJ's campaigns, which proceeded to blow $60 million (a lot in the 60s) while achieving nothing. Maybe I am overly cynical but that is an instance where a general prize would have either have achieved or cost nothing & it is clear exactly why that was not the popular choice with those in charge.


The corollary to that is that any politician opposing prizes may reasonably be assumed to have an ulterior motive, though not all debts are paid in money. An assumption which, if it became widespread, would concentrate some minds wonderfully

Neil Craig

The Mohole Scandal used to be more widely known, but it was long ago. It wasn't a prize it was a contract. They insisted it would be "professional" to pay a fee to -- surprise -- Brown and Root. But there was never a prize offered. If you want a given result, offer a prize for it. If no one does it you have lost little. If someone does it, pay the prize when it is completed.

I propose a Lunar Colony, $10 billion to be paid to the first American company that puts 31 Americans on the Moon and keeps them there alive and well for three years and a day. No money to be paid until the conditions are fulfilled.



Dr. Pournelle:

I can't say I'm surprised about the tablesaw lawsuit outcome. The firm that developed the flesh-sensing technology in the first place <sawstop.com> is said to have shopped it around to various saw manufacturers; when no one wanted to license the technology, the firm began making table saws itself.

Those saws have been favorably reviewed in various woodworking magazines. The sensing technology adds, I believe, about $800 to the cost of the saw (e. g., the Sawstop contractor's saw has a street price, according to some reviews, of about $1600, but contractor's saws from other firms have an entry-level model in the sub-$1000 range.

If I ever can afford a tablesaw, I will not consider a saw that doesn't have this technology. These days, the added cost for this safety feature is a whole lot less than an insurance policy deductible, and as a bonus, the user gets to keep his fingers.

There are, of course, many woodworkers who have spent decades using a tablesaw and still have all 10 digits--using any power tool requires intelligent caution. So there may always be a market for saws without the flesh-sensing technology, but I suspect the Consumer Product Safety Commission (motto: "There are no competent Americans, and we'll make certain of that") will mandate something like this for all manufacturers.

Some school districts have banned power tools from high school shop classes because of liability concerns; I've seen an article about a school that kept all its power tools by removing the motors and substituting cranks and gears. One or two students crank the bandsaw or whatever while a third cuts material. This is certainly a more useful, and probably more beneficial, exercise, than I ever saw in my high school physical education classes, but what school board would be willing to install showers in the shop for the guys who turn the cranks?





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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday,  March 21, 2010     

Copyright permission _And Then There Were None._

The Abelard site seems to have permission to publish the work:

"Copyright © 1951, by Street and Smith Publications. Copyright renewed 1979, by the Estate of E.F.Russell; posted by permission of the author’s Estate and its agents, Scott Meredith Literary Agency, LP."


_And Then There Were None_ was a formative influence on me when I read it in the late 1960s. However, I agree that libertarianism is, while perhaps a worthy ideal, not completely workable. (I sometimes refer to myself as a "former closet Libertarian.")


Excellent. I must have missed seeing that. I am glad to hear it.

Libertarianism is a vector. At the moment it leads in the same direction as conservatism on nearly all issues. Libertarians and conservatism differ mainly in the rights to be granted to local jurisdictions: conservatives are willing to allow smaller communities to have quite a lot of power so long as the jurisdiction is restricted. (Note I said allowed: there are many local powers I would 'allow' but I would argue strongly against, and a few I disagree with so strongly I would move away.)  Libertarians would forbid local government most of those powers -- but alas, the act of forbidding them generally grants to a larger power like the states or the Federal government the power of enforcement over the local government. Note that local governments can and often do abuse hell out of local power if given it: censorship of movies in local theaters comes to mind as an example. To me it's worse to give the feds power over the communities. I recall in my youth that the Binford Commission in Memphis forbade the local showing of Jane Russell in The Outlaw. M0st of us simply went across the river to West Memphis Arkansas to see the movie. The feds weren't involved one way or another, which is my preference.






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