picture of me

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


Mail 638 August 30 - September 5, 2010







BOOK Reviews

Chaos Manor Reviews

read book now

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

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

LAST WEEK                             NEXT WEEK


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

Atom FEED from Chaos Manor

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


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

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday  August 30, 2010

Massive solar storm to hit earth in 2012! Lions and tigers and bears! Oh, my! 

Dr Pournelle

Thank you for your contribution to the silly season. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/2010/Q3/view637.html#Friday 

"Massive solar storm to hit Earth in 2012 with 'force of 100m bombs'"

From the article: '"The general consensus among general astronomers (and certainly solar astronomers) is that this coming Solar maximum (2012 but possibly later into 2013) will be the most violent in 100 years," News.com.au quoted astronomy lecturer and columnist Dave Reneke as saying.'

Who is Dave Reneke? Dave Reneke is 'one of Australia’s most well known and respected amateur astronomers and lecturers'. In the article, he quotes Dr Richard Fisher, NASA, and, yes, Dr Fisher has published alarms about the ill effects of solar storms, but Dr Fisher is forecasting the big one will occur in 2013.

So why does Dave Reneke say 2012? Just coincidence that 2012 is the year the Mayan calendar cycles to Could be. Could be that a 99-to-1 horse will win the Kentucky Derby next spring, but my money won't be on that horse.

(I note that the story was published without a byline. Who would want his name connected to this piece?)

And what is this uncorroborated talk show nonsense about the California Department of Consumer Affairs? I recall the trumped-up report about Texas law requiring software mechanics to get PI licenses. The talk show stuff sounds like it comes from the same zany mindedness. 'Hey, look! According to the law, the Department of Consumer Affairs can do this!' Call me when it happens and a store files a Fourth Amendment suit against the State of California in Federal District Court.

"If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."

My wife keeps asking me what is in the news, and I keep telling her there is nothing worth talking about; it is August and everyone is on vacation, so the sogenannte journalists are making up stories.

Who was it who said, "When there's no news, we give it to you with the same urgency as when there is"?

Live long and prosper
h lynn keith

When I post something with the tag "Something else to worry about" I am not always dead serious. I am aware of the 2012 date.

As to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, yes it was a talk show; and the proprietor of the store was on the air, gave the name of the Consumer Affairs agent to the show hosts (it was not broadcast) and generally sounded believable. It may be all made up, but so far I have no evidence that it is not true. We have come to the point where bizarre stories turn out to be true. The arrogance of our masters sometimes knows few bounds. There were calls from others to whom much the same thing had happened. I agree: it sound unlikely. But the store owners were intimidated and did not resist. I now find that a state legislator has been on the talk show to say yes, that's the law.

I would be pleased to find that it was all made up. I suspect that it may have been fraud by a pretended agent because I really don't like to think we have come to the point where Monsieur le Marquis can run his carriage over a child and toss out a gold coin while riding on -- or walk into a store demand that a product be surrendered for product safety testing without giving compensation -- but I am no longer sure.

You or I would have challenged their right to seize property. Or I like to think so, but I at least have been intimidated by TSA agents, one of whom threatened to have me jailed for writing down her badge number. I surrendered the paper rather than miss my flight. Madame la Marquise had her way. Of course I memorized the number and sent my account of this to the Inspector General of TSA, but it has been years and I have had no answer, so I suspect that was a waste of time. The purpose of TSA is to drum across the fact that we are no longer citizens, but subjects, and that purpose is being served well.


Letter from England

The education mess here continues to unwind. The private sector has clearly figured out how to game the system: <http://tinyurl.com/3ag5rl4>  <http://tinyurl.com/35ub7cz

Discussion of the Australian approach to university education: <http://tinyurl.com/2wle2fw> . A bit too profit-driven.

Guardian comment on Labour's restructuring: <http://tinyurl.com/2wyosdz

Android marketplace discourages app developers: <http://tinyurl.com/32ctr58

What *did* cause the dinosaur extinctions? <http://tinyurl.com/2gx59y5

From during the week:

University crisis hitting high school students. Explanation: UK students studying for their A-levels (college entrance exams) attend sixth-form colleges (corresponding to the last years of high school in America) after they complete their GCSEs (between 14 and 16, see <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Certificate_of_Secondary_Education>) . Older students who cannot find university places often return to their sixth-form college for another year to improve their A-level test results. This eliminates places for 16-year olds who would be entering a sixth form college. Additionally, universities are now using GCSE results to break ties between equivalent A-level results.

Daily Mail article: <http://tinyurl.com/3y4njkw>  Guardian article: <http://tinyurl.com/28uesxk>  Telegraph article: <http://tinyurl.com/39rdkcz

A Dutch university is offering English-language courses (at half the cost) to UK students who missed out on their university places. <http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=413025>  The down-side is that only 30% of students entering Maastricht University graduate, about a third of the graduation rate the UK Government now requires--which, by the way, is probably one of the reasons UK employers are unhappy with UK graduates.

-- Beware Outside Context Problems--

Harry Erwin, PhD


Record cold snap in Amazon kills six million fish...



Global Warming, I presume.


: My nomination for quote of the year 

There is a recent column by James Taranto in the WSJ concerning the liberal elites and their disdain for common Americans.


The entire article is worth a read, including this memorable gem:

> The liberal elites cannot comprehend common sense, and, incredibly,
> they think that's a virtue. After all, common sense is so common.

Steve Chu


Funny nuclear decay rates


Dr. Rolf Andreassen provided a very nice description of how one normally models alpha decay. However it still comes down to 'the alpha particle "pops" through the barrier' and Quantum Theory only tells us the rate (or % chance) not the why. Consider a tunnel diode in electronics, you know that a certain percentage of the elections will tunnel through the barrier, but the theory makes zero prediction as to "which ones".

As a Solid State Physicist, I find this all very fascinating, but Nuclear decay physics is a different field entirely. If it's not at the "that's funny" stage, it's certainly at the "what in the world could be causing that?" stage.

Mark E. Horning, Physicist


What Climate Change Advocates Believe


I saw this at Jon Ray's "Greenie Watch" blog, and thought of you. http://antigreen.blogspot.com/2010/08/what-do-warmists-actually-believe-list.html


<quote> An email below from John Droz, Jr., [aaprjohn@northnet.org] physicist & environmental advocate. Droz welcomes comments

I have dialogued with many pro-AGW parties, and have tried to ferret out their underlying (often unstated) assumptions. Below is my current list. AGW proponents have the following stated or embedded beliefs:

1) We currently have the ability to measure and report on an average annual global temperature to .01 degree Celsius

2) We have the ability to empirically calculate the average annual global temperature, with this same degree of accuracy, over the last few thousand years

3) Based on the data from #1 & #2, the earth has recently (100± years) been warming

4) Based on historical records (#2), the earth is warming to an unusually high degree

5) This increase (in the last 100 years) has been .74± degrees Celsius

6) Assuming business as usual, this warming will continue (or increase) for the foreseeable future

7) This warming will soon have profound negative environmental and economic consequences to all of the earth’s inhabitants

8) The mechanics of the earth’s recent warming are essentially entirely explained by the Greenhouse Gas theory

9) CO2 increases is the primary greenhouse gas driver that explains earth’s recent warming

10) That 350 PPM of CO2 is a critical concentration that we should not exceed

11) Other greenhouse gasses (e.g. water vapor) are discounted as consequential causes of recent warming

12) Most CO2 increases are man-made

13) The fact that we don’t understand a significant amount about CO2 sinks has been deemed to be irrelevant.

14) The solution of restricting man-made CO2 has passed an objective cost-benefits analysis

15) That proprietary computer models produce results equivalent to empirical testing <end quote>

Well some of us can believe six impossible things before breakfast...


The 'Iron Law' marches on...


Apparently, the Iron Law of Bureaucracy is alive and well in Virginia. I just came across this on CNN's web site -


...under the title "Worker at taxpayer-funded agency in Virginia plays hooky for 12 years".

The part that really got my attention was the statement that -

When McGuire was asked how a person who got paid for not working could have escaped detection for so long, she said she was unsure.

"We don't know at this point how something like this can happen. We're very concerned," she said. "[We're] working on procedure to prevent this from happening again."

As with any self-respecting bureaucracy here had to be at least one supervisor to whom this person was assigned. And, over 12 years, that position was likely to have been occupied by several different people. And apparently NONE OF THEM noticed that one of their minions simply didn't show up... day after day after day. How could any 'procedure' deal with this kind of culpable incompetence?

John L.

We need a procedure to answer that question.


Study shows that wind power increases air pollution


The short version is that using coal generation to supplement wind is inefficient and adds to pollution because boiler based systems are not designed to start and stop a lot. They are designed to heat up and run for a long time. (In my Navy days, lots of ships needed several hours notice to get the boilers hot before they could leave port. Luckily, unless you were a fireman, my ship steamed 7x24 even in port, but I digress.)

Its interesting to me that they ignore the option of running the power generation 'steady state' at optimal efficiency and air pollution levels and somehow storing the excess power when the wind is blowing and generating sufficient power. Then they could use the stored energy to supplement the generation capacity when the wind isn't blowing.

It isn't currently easy to do (except for pump storage) but with some R&D it ought to be reasonably doable. I'd personally lean in the nanotube capacitor direction as a workable storage medium.


John Harlow

President BravePoint

It's not ignored, it's that all the storage methods are too expensive.


Dangerous Wind Turbines - 


The United States military has found a new menace hiding here in the vast emptiness of the Mojave Desert in California: wind turbines





I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to write earlier. The past couple of days have been interesting, in a "terror-induced surge in marketing activity ahead of the pending round of layoffs" way. And I'll add that I'm a bit rustier that Dr. Andreassen, since most of my recent work on radiation has been on practical effects rather than mechanisms. (And my recent work on radiation, despite also have a Ph.D. in particle physics, has been subverted to project assignments normally more suited to civil engineers and data managers.)

(1) Dr. Andreassen provided a correct description of alpha decay. He is also right about the complexities of the strong force at nuclear scales.

(2) The mechanisms for beta decay are based purely in the weak force; a neutron disassociates into a proton, an electron, and an electron anti-neutrino; the nucleon goes from atomic number Z, atomic mass A, to atomic number Z+1, atomic mass A, and the electron and the anti-neutrino recoil against the changed mass-energy of the resulting nucleon.

(3) Gamma radiation exists because both alpha decay and beta decay often result in target nuclear which are in electromagnetically excited states; gamma rays are the products of transition back to rest.

I'll add one note I ran across in the early 1990's but haven't seen followed up. Neutrinos are well known to have very low levels of direct interaction resulting in conversion into electrons (or muons) and other products. However, there is still a probability of elastic scattering where the neutrino encounters an electron or nucleus and changes direction without changes in energy. About 17-18 years ago, I saw a series of papers about a group of neutrino physicists were considering whether neutron scattering could be detected by measurement of the thermal energy generated when the recoil electrons settled back into their initial state in a supercooled semiconductor.

There is a lot about neutrino scattering currently in the literature. A quick search turns up this reference:


Proceedings of the International Conference “Nucleus, 2009: Fundamental Problems and Applications of Nuclei Physics from Nanotechnology to Space” (LIX International Meeting on Nuclear Spectroscopy and the Structure of Atomic Nuclei)

Temperature effect for an inelastic neutrino scattering cross section

A. A. Dzhioev <http://www.springerlink.com/content/?Author=A.+A.+Dzhioev >  and A. I. Vdovin <http://www.springerlink.com/content/?Author=A.+I.+Vdovin

Abstract snippet: ...for neutrino energies lower than the energy of the Gamov-Teller resonance, the inelastic scattering cross section depends substantially on temperature.

Your View article on Thursday notes that the rate of radioactive decay appears to increase closer to the sun; that is, in higher neutrino fluxes. If neutrino flux is the mechanism, then it becomes plausible to consider that inelastic neutrino scattering in a nucleus yields either prompt or delayed decay of the nucleon, which is not that different than other low energy transfer nuclear reactions.

Opacities/colorbahcallserenellibs05OP.pdf  is a plot of the solar neutrino flux as a function of (modeled) source of neutrinos. Just to put a scale on the number, the flux of 10E11 low-energy neutrinos per square centimeter per second (from pp interactions), results in about ten neutrinos per average nucleon (I used a mass number of 27 for the approximation but with heavy rounding) per day, or three thousand per year. For a species with a nominal half life of 200 years and a 1% change in the decay rate, the rate for neutrino inelastic scattering transferring enough energy to a recoil nucleus to result in induced radioactive decay would be about once per ten million interactions.

If I've not slipped any digits anywhere, and remembering that I'm working with "very" round numbers.

Back of the envelope, this seems to hold water. Maybe I need to write the paper.

Dr. Jim W

Obviously even small increases in radioactivity levels in the interior of Earth would have SOME effect on the internal temperature, and that must eventually affect the bisophere temperature. How much over how long is beyond my ability to calculate although I am still looking for some numbers, at least orders of magnitude.

The more I think on it, the more I wonder about internal temperature and transfer of energy to the seas. It doesn't take a lot of change to make a change, so to speak.


Public Education: a Modest Propposal

Hi Jerry.

As a fellow CBHS Memphis alumnus (1980) and a reader of your fiction in my misspent youth, I was delighted to find your blog. It has been entertaining and thought-provoking.

The LA Times story you linked is very interesting, especially coming from that particular source. It noted that individual teachers are significant factors in student performance. As I'm sure you're aware, many other studies have failed to demonstrate much correlation between overall funding levels or class size.

Having read many of these studies over the years, I have been advocating a modest proposal to reform the system. It has several advantages: It is budget neutral (does not "add one dime to the deficit"). It addresses teacher complaints of low salaries, It is likely to improve educational outcomes based on the available evidence.

It is not politically feasible, although in most respects it is very simple.

First, fire the bottom half of the teachers.

Double class sizes, since they don't appear to affect outcomes.

Double the salaries of the remaining teachers, while making their continued employment contingent on performance.

The biggest problem that I see is what metrics would be used to evaluate the teachers. It is a non-trivial problem.

All students in the system would immediately have the advantage of teachers at or above the 50th percentile, which should result in improved outcomes.

The higher salaries would create more competition for teaching jobs, resulting in more competent teachers over time

Not really a workable solution for lots of reasons, but fun to think about.


Perhaps drastic, in that 10% would probably do the job, but I like the notion that it leaves all the teachers above average...


LAUSD Teacher Rankings

Dr. Pournelle,

The last time this subject came up, I was intensely critical of the teacher effectiveness models that had been proposed. I am happy to see that the recent work by Richard Buddin for the LA Times corrects the deficits noted in earlier studies. I finally feel that the evidence supports the conclusions.

If one were to forge ahead and try to improve the public schools given this information, the biggest stumbling block seems to be sheer number of poor teachers who would need to be let go. This would be a challenge both because the teachers and their unions would object, and because you would need to find replacements that we still don't know how to predict whether they themselves would be good teachers. However, given that in the LA Times study, Buddin did not find any effect on class size, perhaps an easier path is to not replace the poor teachers, but instead place extra students with the most able teachers, and increase their compensation.

This would be an ideal followup study, to see whether you could place extra students with a teacher who did well and have that teacher maintain their effectiveness. My observation of the public schools here in Arizona is that the primary driver of smaller class sizes is discipline problems, but as you have noted, we could deploy retired gunnery sergeants to good effect.

-- Benjamin I. Espen

There are obvious limits, but in general class size is not terribly significant. In my old country school we had about 25 pupils per grade and two grades to the room. Four teachers for the entire 1-8 regional school (the 7-8 grade teacher was the Principal Teacher; the 5-6 was the librarian). We learned, I would say as much as it taught in contemporary public schools. Christian Brothers College (which was a JC with a high school attached) was a superior college track high school and had about 25 students to the class. There are many studies all showing that teacher quality is far more important than class size.

The effectiveness models are troublesome, but it is very clear that if we randomly fired 20% of the teachers every year and made those randomly chosen teachers reapply it would improve the heck out of the system. Clearlyw e can do better than random in selecting the worst teachers.


The Mars Hoax. Every year??

Dr. P,

Why is it that we (Internet users) get this Mars e-mail every August? This has been going on since 2003, when Mars really was closest to Earth and as bright as it could be (but nowhere near as bright as a full moon. Are we that dumb that this meme continues on an annual basis? Are our memories that short? I used to blame this hoax on inexperienced users (like my parents) who forwarded on e-mail from friends. Also, every August? That isn’t possible, with our 365.24 day orbit and Mars’ 686.91 day orbit.

Is this a case of someone meaning well and not understanding, or are we really that gullible?

Best regards,

Bill Kelly

It's the silly season. As I noted I have no idea why I included that other than that it's so obviously absurd.


Subj: The Menace of Wind Turbines


Rod Montgomery


: Bush warned Blair off Brown 

See the following stories: <http://tinyurl.com/3y6lh33>  <http://tinyurl.com/3a4xgmv

By the way, if the Austrian school does have a prescription, the Con-Dem Government here in the UK needs to learn about it. They've lost focus in their budget cut-backs.

-- If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? (Albert Einstein)

Harry Erwin PhD


Neutrinos & Half-life 

Jerry- It's been 'known' for some time that neutrinos have an effect on radioactive materials. The following article is from 2003:


Clearly, if the effect of additional neutrinos is to accelerate decay, then an absence of neutrinos would be... no decay? The determination of this could be extremely interesting. We have no way to effectively shield solar (or interstellar) neutrinos, but we could certainly run some tests to see if there is a relationship between neutrino flux and decay rates and if that relationship is linear or not.

Story idea: Perhaps the sun has a 'neutrino cycle'. Perhaps solar neutrino output is normally much higher. Perhaps there are no 'little green men' running about the galaxy because nuclear energy is unavailable to them because their suns produce enough neutrinos that their home worlds have no usable actinides left. Be a pity if our sun decided to emit a neutrino burst sufficient to detonate all the nukes we have lying around the planet.





 read book now




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  August 31, 2010

Space Access Society Apologia and Rewrite

The NASA Authorization Battle: Why It Matters


A week ago we asked you all to actively support the Senate version FY 2011 NASA Authorization bill.  We described it as not great, but acceptable compared to the extremely bad House bill.  The response we've seen so far has been pretty lukewarm.


Partly our fault, we expect - we'd done considerable puzzling over the legislative fine print before concluding our best immediate tactic is to support the Senate version, but last week's Update presented a rather condensed version of that thinking.  We didn't want the thing to turn into a novel.  Nor to tip our hand on tactics unduly, since the opposition is way too well financed and organized already, while our side is still scrambling to shake off rust and rebuild an effective coalition.  (It's been years since there was anything much at NASA we thought worth volunteering to fight for.)


Then too, we'd forgotten how far we gradually came around during that bill-reading session.  Our position going in was, fight the Senate bill too, kill the continued in-house NASA launcher boondoggle, do or die, right now!  We concluded that wasn't a useful approach over the course of a couple of weeks; we can't blame anyone who got whiplash being asked to make that course change in a couple of paragraphs.


But we do understand how you feel.  A few weeks ago we too were happily anticipating the revolution implicit in the Administration FY 2011 NASA budget request: Shut down unaffordably bloated in-house NASA launcher developments, encourage many-times-cheaper commercial launch options, and spend the (substantial) difference refilling the (bare) NASA exploration technology cupboard, so in a few years NASA might be ready to begin putting together some real exploration missions.  We knew we had a fight on our hands over the House bill, but that was so outrageously bad it was easy to get motivated.


Then the Senate surprised us with a bill that roughly split the difference - about a 60/40 compromise between the House's rejection of reform and the original Administration proposal.  Our first reaction: NASA had been serving up a crap sandwich for a lot of years, and we were just getting used to their new plan to switch to caviar.  The Senate suddenly compromising on a 60/40 blend of the two didn't thrill us.  We were pumped to attack it too.


Then we started remembering our previous years of fighting such fights.  Once the House and Senate have staked out their positions on something like this, the final result is almost always in the range bounded by those two positions.  Moving significantly outside that range takes extraordinary outside pressure, especially once the White House and NASA already have admitted they can live with the Senate version.  We don't think that our coalition (yet) has the kind of political firepower it'd take to get a better Authorization than the Senate version in the next couple of weeks.  (Frankly, the only way we'll ever have the clout to push this toward a good final outcome is if a whole bunch of you decide we're making sense.)


After calming down, we spent some time reading the fine print in the different versions of the NASA budget, trying to figure out how they really compare, and how that fits into the tactical situation.  (Tabular results, with commentary, follow below.)


To sum up, the House Authorization effectively kills the good Exploration options, largely defunding them, and also strewing their path with poison-pill requirements.  This House bill steers 92% of all Exploration funding to a sort of Constellation-Lite - even more full of fatal contradictions, more underfunded, and less likely to ever fly than Constellation - blatantly sacrificing NASA's future for a political jobs program.


The Senate version tries to split the difference.  It keeps all the good options from the Administration proposal alive and more or less funded, so we don't have to fight the next round from a zero base.  It doesn't contain as many internal contradictions and poison pills.  It doesn't spend as much as the House on a new in-house NASA heavy booster and capsule, and it gives NASA wiggle room on how to execute that booster that the House doesn't.  So NASA might eventually end up with a usable (albeit probably horribly expensive) new heavy lifter, and if not (as still seems most likely) at least less money is wasted.  We think it's a considerably better bill than the House version (mediocre rather than disastrous) even in the unlikely event it ends up precisely defining what NASA is doing a year from now.  (As for two and three years from now, we advise not taking the out-years too seriously - those numbers tend to be highly mutable.)


We don't want to go into too much tactical detail, but while the final NASA Authorization bill is a lot more important than usual this year, the actual checks still get cut by Appropriations.  There has been a lot of speculation as to whether an Appropriations bill for NASA will be passed before the Congress leaves town again, or if NASA will be funded for some months at last year's levels under a "continuing resolution".  Our view: It doesn't immediately matter.  The thing to focus on right now is avoiding an unacceptable NASA Authorization.  If we can do that in the next two weeks, an acceptable final result is a lot easier to achieve.


The bad news is, without your active and energetic help, we may yet end up a few weeks from now with much or all of the House version in a final NASA Authorization.  And that would be a far, far worse place to continue the fight from than the alternatives.


    Budget Numbers


For context, NASA's overall budget in recent years has been around $18-$19 billion.  Of that, about $9-$10 billion goes to human spaceflight, about $4-$5 billion to science, about $3 billion to overhead and miscellany, about a half billion to aeronautics, and a couple hundred million to everything else.


One mistake a lot of people reading federal budgets make is paying undue attention to "the outyears", the notional numbers given for years after the one year actually being funded.  Both House and Senate versions of this Authorization give numbers for FY 2011, 2012 and 2013.  The 2011 numbers are what the Appropriators will consider cutting checks for starting October 1st.  The 2012 and 2013 numbers are more expressions of hope about what the next Congress might fund.


    Our Five Budget Columns


(Table columns will line up a LOT better in this email text version if you read them in a monospace font like Courier New.)

- "Actual '10" gives the amounts actually appropriated for the current FY 2010.

- "Old '11" gives the "outyear" notional  numbers for 2011 from the 2010 budget proposal (written in 2009)  to give you an idea of what planned 2011 Constellation business as usual looked like back then.

- "Admin '11" gives the Administration FY 2011 NASA budget proposal numbers.

- "Senate '11" gives the Senate FY 2011 NASA Authorization numbers.

- "House '11" gives the current House FY 2011 NASA Authorization numbers.

- All figures given are in millions.


We'll mark with a "*" budget items where we think a reasonable fraction of the money will be spent usefully for our purposes.  (NASA is a large government agency; "a reasonable fraction of the money spent usefully" is about as good as it gets.  This is, by the way, the core of why we think routine functions should be done commercially.)  For each budget column, we'll do a final total of the in-our-view good stuff, as one way to compare the different budgets.


    The Budgets Compared


Our first table gives the overall NASA totals for our five budgets.  There's apparently consensus on 1.5% growth next year, which is likely about as good as it gets for the forseeable future.  (The wild card here is potential government-wide deficit reduction moves.  Stay tuned.)


              Actual'10    Old'11       Admin'11     Senate'11    House'11

NASA total    $18,724M     $18,631M     $19,000M     $19,000M     $19,000M


Next, some of the big-ticket NASA budget lines we're not directly concerned with.  Note that Science and Aeronautics both grow substantially (and non-controversially) from this year's totals.


Space Operations varies a lot, meanwhile - almost entirely from varying timing of Shuttle program shutdown.  The Actual '10 total includes $3,139M for a full year of Shuttle ops, while the Old '11 guesstimate from back in '09 assumed no more flights by '11, just $383M in shutdown expenses.  The Shuttle flight schedule has since slipped into '11, and there's talk of adding one more mission later in '11 - the Senate version funds this additional mission, while the House version says just nice things about it.


We then give subtotals (in parens) within Space Ops for Shuttle, Station Ops, and Station Crew/Cargo Services.  Note the $857 million Admin '11 item for Station Crew & Cargo services.  This is also embedded in the House and Senate '11 Station totals, though they don't break it out.  This is roughly how much we'll be sending out of the country for foreign crew and cargo services every year for the remaining life of Station until we get US commercial Crew and Cargo services online.


                 Actual'10    Old'11     Admin'11   Senate'11   House'11

Science          $4493M       $4747M     $5006M     $5006M      $5016M

Aeronautics      $507M        $514M      $580M      $580M       $580M

Space Ops        $6181M       $3664M     $4888M     $5509M      $4591M

(Shuttle)        ($3139M)     ($383M)    ($989M)    ($1,610M)   ($989M)

(Station Ops)    ($1689M)     ($2548M    ($1923M)   ($2780M     ($2802M

(Crew/CargSvc)   ($628M)       combined) ($857M)     combined)   combined)


Now we get to our first "good stuff" budget line, the  interesting new Space Technology program, outside of the Exploration budget.  This seems to be a direct descendant of the current IPP Program, which includes SBIR, STTR, Centennial Challenges, etc.  IPP will be replaced in 2011 by the new Space Technology line, paired with Aeronautics rather than under the catchall Cross-Agency Support line where IPP lived.  Note that this is one line where the House version is actually better than the Senate - the House goes along with the Administration in nearly tripling this line, while the Senate merely doubles it (assuming we haven't missed other existing items being pulled into it.)


                 Actual'10  Old'11    Admin'11    Senate'11    House'11

IPP              $175M*     $185M*

Space Technology                      $572M*      $350M*       $572M*


That brings us to the big kahuna, the Exploration total.  Notice the Old '11 total's $2.3 billion jump - this was the lion's share of the expected Shuttle shutdown dividend, and marked the start of a serious decade-long rampup for Constellation.  Probably more money than was actually going to be there, in hindsight.


Senate '11's lower-than-House '11 Exploration total, meanwhile, is much better distributed, as we'll see in the next two tables.


               Actual'10  Old'11     Admin'11   Senate'11  House'11

Exploration    $3780M     $6077M     $4263M     $3868M     $4535M


Now, the major line items within the Exploration total:


First, the various launcher/capsule project budget lines.  Old '11 again shows the start of the planned big Constellation ramp-up compared to Actual '10.


More interesting and less well-known, the Admin '11 request actually has nearly $2.5 billion for Constellation program shutdown and future Heavy Lift Vehicle engine development - one reason we're not all that upset about Senate '11's  $2.8 billion funding for HLV & Orion next year - there's less than $300 million difference.


House '11 meanwhile has $4.2 billion for their HLV and Station Transport program, 92% (!) of their Exploration total - not much left for anything else there.    Note that the House bill fine print implies two boosters - one unspecified unfunded booster is needed by 2015 to carry the House Station Transport on its mandated first mission, plus there's the official House HLV due to fly by 2020.  Note too that this House '11 total is $1.4 billion less than the Old '11 Ares/Orion line that the Augustine Commission found was already unrealistically low for the two in-house NASA vehicle developments planned.


                     Actual'10  Old'11    Admin'11    Senate'11   House'11

Ares I and Orion     $3326M     $5531M

Constellation Shutdown                    $1900M

Heavy Lift Propulsion Technology          $559M

HLV & Capsule                                         $2751M

HLV & Station Transport                                           $4156M


And now, we get to a bunch of useful stuff - admittedly, useful from our perspective.


Human Research (deep-space mission related) is essentially level under Senate '11, up sharply under Admin '11 and House '11.  We can live with level for a year.


Commercial Crew/Cargo development support funding varies all over the place.  The Senate '11 total is a bit down from the Admin '11 request, but still far far better than the House '11 chop job.  (The questionable $100 million in the House line was a last-second loan guarantee program add-on that may or may not have been turned into some sort of development grant program by the time this bill hits the full House again.)


Exploration Technology is more than doubled from this year under Admin '11, and a mild decline under Senate'11.  A mild decline is still a lot better than House '11's zero.


Robotic Exploration (probe missions as precursors for future human exploration) gets increased five-fold under Admin '11, four-fold under Senate 'll.  Not bad, and again miles better than House '11's zero funding.


                Actual'10  Old'11     Admin'11   Senate'11  House'11

Human Research  $152M*     $152M*     $215M*     $155M*     $215M*


Crew/Cargo      $39M*      $12M*      $812M*     $612M*     $64M*(+$100M?)


Technology      $283M*     $381M*     $652M*     $250M*     $0*


Exploration     $19M*      $0.2M*     $125M*     $100M*     $0*


Finally, a total for each budget's funding of "good stuff" - things we consider likely to significantly advance routine low-cost access.  Admin '11 more than triples this year's total, Senate '11 more than doubles it.  Even House '11 provides a modest increase, though note that's almost entirely in the (apparently non-controversial) $572 million Space Technology line - the House version really hammers Commercial Crew/Cargo, and zeroes the Exploration Technology and Robotic Precursors needed to give the House HLV and Capsule actual missions (in the unlikely event they ever even fly.)


                   Actual'10  Old'11   Admin'11  Senate'11  House'11

Total Good Stuff*  $668M      $730M    $2376M    $1467M     $851M(+$100M?)


Our bottom line: The Senate version makes up 40% of the difference in good stuff between the Administration's request and the House's counter-attack.  The Senate version also keeps all the major useful line items alive, with enough funding to make useful progress.  It also makes a far better starting point for the eventual NASA Appropriation than the House version.  Worth supporting vigorously over the House version?  We think so.  Agree with us?  Then read Space Access Update #117 again, and go rattle some Congressional cages!


Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of reaching space.  You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety. You may reproduce sections of this Update beyond obvious "fair use" quotes if you credit the source and include a pointer to our website.



Space Access Society



"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System"                               - Robert A. Heinlein



For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blair's Memoirs Bare a Lot 

 Americans may find these interesting, particularly in terms of how UK politics works. <http://tinyurl.com/32d6bsn>  <http://tinyurl.com/32d6bsn>  <http://tinyurl.com/32yxe9p>  <http://tinyurl.com/25sh8rv>  <http://tinyurl.com/35h97sh>  <http://tinyurl.com/2vnxbjx>  <http://tinyurl.com/352b3jb>  <http://tinyurl.com/2uns9fb>

 Harry Erwin, PhD

"If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)


Morton parents protest return of teacher, pull kids from his classes | Education News - The News Tribune 

Don't know if you saw this. Morton _may_ not be unionized, but the education union basically owns the state Dept. of Ed. here in Washington.


Christopher Johnson

MSgt, USAF Retired

The Iron Law at work. The purpose of the American public school system is to pay teachers (good and bad). That is its first order of priority; that task will be accomplished before any others.



Contains an amazing chart!


Kinda shows the catcall that Rumsfeld was running the war on the cheap was pretty much on target? <http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/30/cbo-years-iraq-war-cost-stimulus-act/>

 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 war cost far more than it was estimated to cost (as I said it would; hardly an amazing prediction) but wars end. Entitlements never end.


Insightful and strategic.



David Couvillon Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired.


Sun/Magnetic Field

Nature. 2000 Nov 23;408(6811):445-7.

Evolution of the Sun's large-scale magnetic field since the Maunder minimum.

Solanki SK <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%22Solanki%20SK%22%5BAuthor%5D>  , Schüssler M <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%22Sch%C3%BCssler%20M%22%5BAuthor%5D>  , Fligge M <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%22Fligge%20M%22%5BAuthor%5D>  .

Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany. solanki@linmpi.mpg.de 


The most striking feature of the Sun's magnetic field is its cyclic behaviour. The number of sunspots, which are dark regions of strong magnetic field on the Sun's surface, varies with a period of about 11 years. Superposed on this cycle are secular changes that occur on timescales of centuries and events like the Maunder minimum in the second half of the seventeenth century, when there were very few sunspots. A part of the Sun's magnetic field reaches out from the surface into interplanetary space, and it was recently discovered that the average strength of this interplanetary field has doubled in the past 100 years. There has hitherto been no clear explanation for this doubling. Here we present a model describing the long-term evolution of the Sun's large-scale magnetic field, which reproduces the doubling of the interplanetary field. The model indicates that there is a direct connection between the length of the sunspot cycle and the secular variations.


Interesting. I am beginning to be persuaded that the heat variance from solar neutrinos is fairly small and probably does not need to be modeled; but the dynamo effect of the magnetosphere is another matter. That can be very significant, and I'm still collecting data here. I have not found where the interior temperature of the Earth fits into the very expensive Climate  Models that we all are told we must respect.


: Working on a possible hook


Concerning the question of the believable accuracy of temperature measurements, I've been playing with the issue on and off in my spare time for a couple of years. (Unfortunately, that doesn't leave much time...)

What I keep coming back to is that temperature is a field variable. The individual measurement stations may be accurately calibrated (or may not, see the Lake Michigan reading), and the measurement process may be statistically independent, but the variable being measured IS correlated through the field equations which relate temperature to energy and material flows.

One problem is that the points for which temperatures are not measured (and see the discussions in the winter and spring about NOAA dropping some 4500 measurement stations in favor of modeled extrapolations) are estimated using models, rather than solutions of the field equations, which introduces a model-dependent bias in addition to the correlations of the measurement point.

It is conceivable that once systematic biases are added, the actual error in the average temperature of the field being measured may well be greater than the errors in the individual measurements; and just on the basis of the correlations themselves, the error in the field average should be on the order of the measurement error, not the measurement error divided by sqrt(N), where N is the number of stations.

(Another reason is this not necessarily Gaussian: the assumptions of Gaussian statistics state that an average is constructed by repeating measurements of a single quantity. We are not measuring a single quantity; we are measuring multiple points within a field of different quantities).

What I keep coming back to is that prediction of global warming of 1 degree per century with any accuracy requires the energy balances be closed to 20 ppb on a per-time-step basis. Feeding the model with inputs that are no better than 1% or so.

I think is is possible to construct a statistical model for what the actual error in the temperature should be; but it must start with the recognition that the temperature is a field variable with correlated values in both space and time. I just don't believe that anyone has done that computation.



Bottom line, the apparent errors are suppressed by treating the temperature measurements as independent variables.

Abstractly, the temperature can be written as

DT = S,

where D is a second-order (and probably nonlinear) partial differential equation in position (latitude, longitude, and altitude) and time,

T is the temperature, which is a continuous function of position and time,

and S, which is a source function, is also a continuous function of position and time (barring discontinuities such as asteroid impacts or large nuclear bursts), and includes all of the radiative, conductive, and convective effects which translate both solar and geothermal influences to the atmosphere.

I am not sure that we could write either D or S accurately, but that's besides the immediate point.

The global average temperature at any time would accurately be described as the integral of T over that set of latitudes, longitudes, and altitudes which contribute to the averaging process, divided by the enclosed volume of that domain.

This is estimated by a SPARSE set of local temperature measurements taken on variable scales which are generally much greater than the variances due to local effects on the source terms (e.g. we know that the presence of even relatively small bodies of water effect humidity, which affects precipitation, which affects temperature). Averaging those effects out doesn't decrease uncertainty (as the climate modelers appear to believe), it increases it.

Bottom line, we simply lack the data to determine that average with any accuracy.

Dr. Roy Spencer yesterday : Dump the IPCC Process. It cannot be Fixed. http://www.drroyspencer.com/ 



bangs head slowly:

Further down http://www.drroyspencer.com/ , in a post dated August 20th:


Do not trust any of the other channels for temperature trend monitoring. This is because, while the Aqua satellite equatorial crossing time is kept very near 1:30 am and pm with periodic orbit maneuvers, the rest of the channels come from the NOAA-15 satellite whose equatorial crossing time has now drifted from its original 7:30 am/pm value in late 1998 to about 4:30 am/pm now.

This orbital drift makes the NOAA-15 channels (4 and 6) unusually warm, and is why those of you who have been monitoring channel 4 and 6 at the Discover site are seeing such warm temperatures. <snip>

In other words, NOAA-15 is out of calibration, is KNOWN to be out of calibration, is presenting overly warm data SYSTEMATICALLY, and is not being corrected by NOAA.

Fraud on this scale deserves punishment on the same scale.




For your physicists working on the temperature average, and from the link below:

How is the average global temperature anomaly time-series calculated?

The global time series is produced from the Smith and Reynolds blended land and ocean data set (Smith et al., 2008). This data set consists of monthly average temperature anomalies on a 5° x 5° grid across land and ocean surfaces. These grid boxes are then averaged to provide an average global temperature anomaly. An area-weighted scheme is used to reflect the reality that the boxes are smaller near the poles and larger near the equator. Global-average anomalies are calculated on a monthly and annual time scale. Average temperature anomalies are also available for land and ocean surfaces separately, and the Northern and Southern Hemispheres separately. The global and hemispheric anomalies are provided with respect to the period 1901-2000, the 20th century average.

I think the basic answer is they “swag” the average, and attribute a precision to the number they produce

...jim dodd

------ Forwarded Message

From: Scott Stephens TO: Jim

 Subject: Re: ss*[Fwd: Climate data question]

Hi Jim,

See our global anomalies page for a nice Q&A on the subject at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cmb-faq/anomalies.html


That does not sound like the basis for sound science, but I have no other explanation for the confidence in a tenth of a degree -- or even a single degree -- accuracy of estimates of the annual temperature of the Earth. I am still inquiring, but answers seem thin on the ground. It is someone else's specialty...





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, September 2, 2010

trying to buy gold coins reveals new bureaucracy

Hi Jerry

If you have a "department" devoted to governmental drilling down on individual liberties, please post this there. No doubt you and your readers have much more insight and guidance on this issue. But I discovered (to me) a really troubling intrusion.

To start: Thinking ('way behind the curve, I admit) it might be worthwhile to invest gold coins in the event civil order broke down I searched online for a local coin shop website and asked the following question: "Given a desire for privacy, what is the threshold on purchases not requiring reporting to the federal government?"

The answer came back:

"I can't help you structure your purchases to avoid government reporting. That is a federal offense. Also I have your name. So now that I know your intentions I am not able to sell you anything."

That struck me as a bizarre response to a perfectly innocent question, but then I did a little more investigation on the Internet. While $10K is the legal threshhold for reporting financial transactions, coin dealers apparently fall under a relatively new (2005) Homeland Security Act regulation on the outlook for terrorist activity. This threshold is now $3K to $5K according to "Coin Update News" http://news.coinupdate.com/irs-and-government-
reporting-requirements-for-coin-and-bullion-dealers-0353/. )


"In complying with anti-money laundering regulations, dealers may be required to obtain the name of all customers engaging in cash transactions above a threshold dollar amount, no matter whether buying or selling. What I have heard is that the AML compliance programs of most dealers have a threshold of $3,000 above which they must obtain this customer information. My own company, because of its higher volume and larger average transaction size, has a $5,000 threshold."

Now, to me, here is the scary part: It appears that a $600 threshold will apply to coin shops thanks to a little-known regulation inserted into the health care bill -- which will take effect in 2012 -- that requires transactions of that amount and above to be reported to the federal government. (Perhaps someone can explain why that is included in the health care bill?) This does not only apply to coin shops but to vendors in many other fields as well.

Back to the point of trying to privately build a nest egg of emergency money: Essentially, every time you buy or sell a single one-ounce coin or bullion, it will soon have to be reported to the federal government. To me, privacy is the main issue, but imagine the paperwork (electronic or otherwise) that will surely overwhelm employees both on the sending and the receiving end. What were they thinking?


Holy Moley! So if you want to buy gold, think it all out as you do.


Parts of Arizona Controlled by Drug Cartel--still


I am so disgusted that I have nothing positive to contribute, so I will simply offer the article:

<snip>....the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has placed 15 signs along a 60-mile stretch of Interstate 8 that links San Diego with Phoenix and Tucson warning travelers of drug cartels and human trafficking operations.

“DANGER – PUBLIC WARNING, TRAVEL NOT RECOMMENDED,” read the signs placed along Interstate 8. “Visitors May Encounter Armed Criminals and Smuggling Vehicles Traveling at High Rates of Speed. Stay Away From Trash, Clothing, Backpacks, and Abandoned Vehicles.”

“BLM Encourages Visitors To Use Public Land North of Interstate 8,” the signs say.

“I think the American people are outraged that we can fight wars half-way around the world, send our nation’s treasury and our most precious resources – our American heroes that serve in the military -- and yet here in our own country somehow they believe it’s okay for us not to have a secure border,” Said Sheriff Babeu.

“And that it’s okay to put up signs in my county and parts of America to surrender parts of our country to foreign born criminals,” Babeu added, “warning our own American citizens to stay out.”


-- BDAB,


I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

I note that the Federal Government is suing Arizona over enforcement of borders. The local signs in Arizona, put up by the Federal Government, advise travellers to rush through -- and call local government if they see criminal activities. We have sown the wind.


On the Mars Email


I feel compelled to adjunct to Mister Bill Kelly's email. I don't know that *we* are that 'stupid'--as Mister Kelly puts it--but there are some among us who seem to think we are. Are they correct? I was listening to a radio show and the host interview Nathaniel Rothschild--yes, the Red Shield banker family that skilfully manipulated the English economy following the results of the Battle of Waterloo [1]. Nathaniel Rothschild has taken it upon himself to become part of this whole urbanite, pseudo-environmentalist movement. He was advocating his 'climate change' policies. The host of the show raised the matter of data indicating that Mars and Jupiter are also heating up, and asked if the Sun could be causing global warming. Rothschild said--and I played this back several times as I could not believe it--that Jupiter and Mars were closer to the Sun than the Earth!

While I would like to give credit to Orwell for doublethink, there is another man who taught us about doublethink. I once wrote about this remarkable man when I did a paper on Orwell, and I used a certain scene from a certain play during that paper. If you will indulge me, I will end this letter with the wisdom of the venerable Spear Shaker:


I say it is the moon.


I know it is the moon.


Nay, then you lie: it is the blessed sun.


Then, God be bless'd, it is the blessed sun: But sun it is not, when you say it is not; And the moon changes even as your mind. What you will have it named, even that it is; And so it shall be so for Katharina.

--William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Act 4, Scene 5.

Warmest Regards,


[1] It's a very interesting piece of history. Rothschild had an observer at the battle, and his observer got the news of the result of the battle to him first. When Rothschild found out Napoleon had lost, he went to the market, sighed, and sold all of his holdings. Investors assumed Napoleon won! Investors dumped their assets--which brought their value down. Rothschild's men then, quietly, bought up the dumped assets at pennies on the dollar. The Rothschild family remains powerful today, and of course is the target of various 'conspiracy theories' because of that. -- BDAB,



Russian cops cuff 10 ransomware Trojan suspects

Cybercrime gang allegedly raked in $16m

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

Posted in Crime <http://www.theregister.co.uk/security/crime/>  , 1st September 2010 09:58 GMT <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/01/

Russian police have arrested 10 suspected members of a ransomware gang who allegedly made millions via a locked computer malware scam.

PCs infected by the WinLock Trojan at the centre of the scam were rendered unusable because the malware disabled key Windows components. More embarrassingly pornographic images were displayed on compromised machines, IDG adds <http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/

The crooks claimed the damage could only be undone by sending premium rate SMS messages at a cost of between 300 rubles ($9.72) and 1,000 rubles. Tens of thousands of victims, mostly in Russia, were hit by the scam, Host Exploit reports <http://news.hostexploit.com/cybercrime-news/
4436-hacker-gang-caught-in-moscow.html> . Web users in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova were also reportedly affected by the scam, which reportedly earned crooks as much as $16m in just one month.



: Thorium Power

Dr Pournelle:

An Australian source recommends nuclear power as as a means to avert Americanogenic Global Warming of 1.4 - 5.8 C by 2100. Not only that, use of thorium, abundant in Australia, will also avoid the Nastiness of Uranium and the Destruction of Plutonium.


Jim Watson


geomagnetism reading 


Current geomagnetism reading at:

USGS National Geomagnetism Program | Further Reading <http://geomag.cr.usgs.gov/reading.php>

Other links in menu bar.





http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/72068  (found on boortz.com)

Boortz said that the big news was that they only have put 30 National Guard troops on the Arizona border.

I think that the big news is that the Feds are advising people to avoid, or drive with care on, I-8 between Phoenix and San Diego.

But the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has placed 15 signs along a 60-mile stretch of Interstate 8 that links San Diego with Phoenix and Tucson warning travelers of drug cartels and human trafficking operations.

"DANGER - PUBLIC WARNING, TRAVEL NOT RECOMMENDED," read the signs placed along Interstate 8. "Visitors May Encounter Armed Criminals and Smuggling Vehicles Traveling at High Rates of Speed. Stay Away From Trash, Clothing, Backpacks, and Abandoned Vehicles."

"BLM Encourages Visitors To Use Public Land North of Interstate 8," the signs say.









CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  September 3, 2010

: Bookstores

I read with interest, and a little bit of amazement, the link you posted about Super Sized Book Stores, mainly Borders and B&N. Perhaps there is some truth in it, but to be honest, I think it is the much the other way around.

Up until the past couple years, my family and I would hit the bookstore at every possible chance. An inevitably, we would spend money, buying at least a book or two. Even when times were very tight, we would choose to go and buy a book, even over going on vacation or buying new furniture.

What changed was not our desire and willingness to buy hardcopy and paperback books, it was the bookstores themselves. In the early and mid 1990s, you could go to a store and 1st, it would be clean. Clean enough to let the kids roam on the floor in the kids section. Second, there were plenty of choices in the books. Big Science Fiction and Fantasy sections, huge computer sections, with a fair assortment of special interest books, and similar selections in everything. Lastly, there were comfortable places to sit and relax for a bit while shopping. For example, while the kids plowed through the kids section.

Today, a B&N that opened 8 years ago, and one which we frequented more than once per week, has:

(1) Removed all the comfortable chairs (2) Shrunk every section by at least 30%, in the case of SF & Fantasy, they combined the sections and it is about 40% smaller than the previous SF only section. (3) The store is filthly- the carpets have not been cleaned in at least a year.

On top of this the "booksellers" are surly as an overworked airline flight attendant, the prices are much higher, and the discounts much smaller.

They can blame Amazon and the net all they wish, but amazingly enough, the few stores around here in *very* upscale areas seem to be getting a flood of business. People will drive 10 or 20 extra miles to get to them. They are meticulously clean, have pleasant people working there, and have really huge selections. I was in there yesterday, and at least three people who were regulars at the B&N I described above recognized me and lamented on how "our" bookstore had gone so far downhill.

Even in these tough times. Amazing...


On the other hand, turning bookstores into coffee houses didn't work well either: there would be 20 or so "regulars" who bought perhaps $5.00 worth of coffee and sat all day reading magazines, according to some of the stories I have read and accounts from former employees. Whether those "Regulars" you describe spend enough to make it profitable to accomodate them I don't know.

When the Big Borders and Big B&N stores opened I rejoiced. They kept backlist books on display, and as you said, were pleasant places to be. The did put B. Dalton and the other mall bookstores under, and the total number of book stores continues to fall exponentially along with distributors.

I can only observe. I do note that bookstores are about 10% more expensive than Amazon simply because of state and local sales taxes (in California). Shipping costs used to offset that but now there is the $70/year premium payment that pays for new book shipments.

From authors' viewpoints the matter is serious. The end of used book stores was lamented, but in fact used books pay nothing to the author -- we would be better off if the book evaporated (self destructed?) after a couple of years. What happens next is anyone's guess, but Amazon says they expect to sell more e-books than paperbacks next year. That's astonishing -- and very serious.

And see: http://culturalminefield.blogspot.com/


Thoughts on heat in Earth's core

Jerry, I've been following with great interest your thread on the coupling of the temperature of the Earth's core with the temperature of the Earth's oceans/landmass. It makes sense that changes in this temperature would slowly percolate throughout our system. One wonders why the AGW modelers are reluctant to include it in their models.

It's certainly interesting that radioactive decay rates may not be as constant as we once thought. If solar variance can affect them, perhaps other factors can as well so perhaps our declaration that we had almost discovered everything about everything a few years ago was a bit premature. Carbon dating becomes questionable, though not as questionable as the Creationists are going to attempt to make it, I'm sure.

The reason I'm jotting this note is, you've done a fair amount of coverage about the radioactivity aspect of the heat. I admit that this is a large part of the heat of the Earth, but what does radiation have to do with sunspots and sunspot activity? I thought those had to do with our Sun's changing magnetic properties. If so, wouldn't this more likely change the flow of the iron-rich molten core changing the friction heat produced? Changes in friction heat would be small and would take time to be felt, but don't the temperature graphs show a definite delay between solar minimums and maximums and atmospheric minimums and maximums?

As ever, your friend and fan,

Braxton S. Cook

I am coming to the conclusion that the variance in radioactivity is not large enough to have any climatic effect assuming that it's real and not an artifact of faulty instrumentation.

Variations in solar magnetosphere and other radiation is another matter.

I still have no reliable data on the coupling of interior temperature to biosphere temperature. I do know that if interior temperature has any effect on benthic sea temperatures that can have a major effect on currents and events like El Nino which certainly do have an effect on climate. I'm still in the stage of "That's funny, I wonder it..." which is what science fiction writers do.


The Egregious Frum

His Most Glorious Egregiousness is skewered in Mr. Timothy P. Carney's "David Frum and conservative purges". He finishes with a nice twist of the knife <http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/
david-frum-and-conservative-purges-102109294.html>  ):

I was one of those conservatives who supposedly turned my back my country by opposing a war based on bad intelligence and bad foreign policy. More to the point, my boss at the time, Bob Novak, was branded in Frum’s purge article as a “defeatist,” a “terror-denialist” (because he suggested al Qaeda was a greater threat to Americans than Hamas was), and “unpatriotic.”

Frum is very correct that the GOP and the conservative movement is in danger of taking control of the car with no idea how to steer. I just hope David Frum’s current worries about rigid dogma reflects a lesson learned rather than a rank lack of self-awareness.

Of course, like a broken clock, Mr. Frum does occasionally get one thing right: The GOP leadership is rudderless and clueless of this lack. May God Have Mercy Upon Us All!

Robin Juhl

Gleefully cultivating the ability to carry a grudge until it dies of old age, then have it stuffed and mounted someplace where I can admire it at regular intervals. (With apologies to David Weber)


: Re: A new bureaucracy.

Paul wrote:

> Now, to me, here is the scary part: It appears that a $600 threshold will
> apply to coin shops thanks to a little-known regulation inserted into the
> health care bill -- which will take effect in 2012 -- that requires
> transactions of that amount and above to be reported to the federal
> government. (Perhaps someone can explain why that is included in the
> health care bill?) This does not only apply to coin shops but to vendors in
> many other fields as well.

This is a misunderstanding.

What the referenced law actually does is to require that any business which pays another business $600 or more in a calendar year must issue a Form 1099 to the recipient -- even if the payor is a small business and/or the payment is for a common purpose such as rent (both of which were exceptions to the 1099 requirement under the old tax code). The purpose is to make it harder for the businesses that receive these payments to fail to report their income.

If any new requirement has been imposed on coin shops, I haven't heard of it and should.

John David Galt, CRTP (California registered Tax Preparer), Sacramento

It seems still to be a new bureaucracy and new burdens for small business, and clearly puts the interests of the IRS ahead of the interests of the nation. But why not?


About that $600 1099 requirement in the Healthcare bill

Jerry -

Your correspondent Paul asked why the healthcare bill includes the provision to require businesses to file 1099s for aggregate annual purchase greater than $600. I recall hearing about it at the time of passage (if that is the correct term for how that particular bill became law).

The reason given was, to help pay for the healthcare bill. The idea behind that provision was to minimize the ability of companies to lie about their sales and thus pay less in tax. Now that the majority of corporate transactions are to be reported, they gubmint believes they can cut down on tax fraud/increase tax receipts. And increasing tax receipts was necessary to pay for part of the healthcare bill's costs. Remember that the original intent of the bill was for it be theoretically deficit-neutral.

So, starting in 2012, every company (including sole proprieterships) that purchases more than $600 in goods or services during the calendar year from a single source must provide a 1099 for the aggregate value of those transactions to both the vendor and the IRS. The IRS will then total up all the 1099s received for each vendor during the year and make sure they're reporting and being taxed on an appropriate amount of income. The CNN Money article below describes the solo graphic designer buying a new Macbook and having to send Apple a 1099 for it at the end of the year.

Now imagine the additional burden this places on (a) companies that buy stuff, (b) companies that sell stuff, and (c) the IRS who already have a tough time managing the information load they're already carrying. Not to worry though, the IRS will happily provide 1099s for all the new hardware, software and IT services they'll have to buy in order to manage the new information load.

Fortunately individuals will not have to issue 1099s, except in the scope of their businesses. I'd hate to have to give my lawn service guy a 1099. It's bad enough for him that he's going to have to issue 1099s to all the gas stations where he buys gas for his lawn mower. But that might also help him file for the tax credit


One thing nobody's mentioned as far as I know -- Incorporated companies and other forms of legal corporate entities have Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs) for IRS purposes. Individuals with sole proprieterships only have their Social Security Numbers. This means they'll have to give out the SSN to just about everybody from whom they purchase or to whom they sell. But not to worry -- all those are sure to be good and decent people who would never use SSNs with correct names and addresses for nefarious purposes like identity theft or fraud.

Oddly enough there's a backlash about this requirement, and even some Democrats are working on repealing it. Good thing that we now know what's in the bill so we can decide whether we like it, eh?

--Gary Pavek


Ancient Nubians Made Antibiotic Beer:


Specifically, tetracycline. You just can't make this stuff up.


Astonishing. And "You can call it penicillin but it's blue bread mold!"


Mass Extinctions Change the Rules of Evolution:


"A reinterpretation of the fossil record suggests a new answer to one of evolution's existential questions: whether global mass extinctions are just short-term diversions in life's preordained course, or send life careening down wholly new paths."

Supposedly there have been five mass extinctions in the fossil record. The article has a nice graph of the rises and falls of species diversity.

More: "Enough pieces have come together for Alroy to speculate on his findings' implication for the future, given that Earth is now experiencing another mass extinction. Starting with extinctions of large land animals more than 50,000 years ago that continued as modern humans proliferated around the globe, and picking up pace in the Agricultural and Industrial ages, current extinction rates are far beyond levels capable of unraveling entire food webs in coming centuries. Ecologists estimate that between 50 and 90 percent of all species are doomed without profound changes in human resource use.

"In the past, many evolutionary biologists thought life would eventually recover its present composition, said Alroy. In 100 million years or so, the same general creatures would again roam the Earth. "But that isn't in the data," he said. . . . Instead Alroy's analysis suggests that the future is inherently unpredictable, that what comes next can't be extrapolated from what is measured now . . . "


Considerable to think about here. Thanks.


Article on the Necessity of Performing Scientific Validation

Jerry --

This article presents the issue of the necessity of validating scientific research. It seems germane in the context of the ongoing discussions of climate modeling.


Of course, the author completely overlooks the importance of recognizing when the results concur with one's pre-existing beliefs and therefore require no corroboration.

--Gary Pavek

And the more we move toward 'consensus' science, the more important it is to have ways of challenging the consensus.











 read book now





This week:


read book now


Saturday, September 4, 2010


I took the day off. Family is coming for the weekend





 read book now




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,  September 5, 2010

Family day. Back in business on Tuesday.     

 See TWIT 264 "Blackballed".  http://twit.cachefly.net/video/twit/




 read book now





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


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

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

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

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

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

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

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

Boiler Plate:

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

If you subscribed:

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

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

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

Patron Subscription:

Search: type in string and press return.


For platinum subscription:

For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:

= = = = = = = = = =

For a Regular Subscription click here:

= = = = = = = =

Strategy of Technology in pdf format:

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

Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)