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Monday  October 11, 2010

Letter from England

Climate is more complicated than we thought: <http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101006/full/news.2010.519.html>

 Samuel Brittan editorial on the fiscal debate in the Financial Times: <http://tinyurl.com/348upml> He comments that the debate in the UK fails to address viable compromise positions and then notes that the debate in America is even more polarised.


Angry Chinese reaction to Nobel Peace Prize <http://tinyurl.com/2aqbgpn> <http://tinyurl.com/2f8pgfx>

 Saving science: editorial from the Financial Times <http://tinyurl.com/2vlgzpx> BBC article on what foreign scientists contribute to the UK (Very few UK graduates have a broad interdisciplinary education.) <http://tinyurl.com/36ucmgo> Demonstration in London <http://tinyurl.com/34y5jqn>

 If you want it bad, you get it bad... Cuts will throw universities into financial crisis, at which point the Government will find itself unable to close failing institutions. Financial Times: <http://tinyurl.com/393euxm> Guardian: <http://tinyurl.com/3ype2w4> Telegraph: <http://tinyurl.com/2u4zvza> THE: <http://tinyurl.com/3aj9xy7>

 French police discovered to be maintaining an illegal intelligence database on the Gypsies <http://tinyurl.com/394ffv4>

 Commonwealth has abandoned human rights commitment--leaked document <http://tinyurl.com/2wgcv2z>

 Interesting book: Stephen T. Ziliak and Deirdre N. McCloskey (2008) The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives, University of Michigan Press.


"The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened." Harry Erwin, PhD http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

I am shocked, shocked, to discover that climate is more complicated than we thought...


'But in parts of the world less accustomed to US military personnel, the reaction has been more virulent. '


- Roland Dobbins


"This stadium is being built on the graves of poor people like me."


--- Roland Dobbins



Jerry: Futurist look at the next ten years:


I particularly like

42) You'll spend a lot of time shopping online from your jail cell

Over-criminalization of the populace, paired with the triumph of shopping as a dominant cultural activity, will create a world where the two poles of society are shopping and jail.

Chris C

Not quite the Discontinuity...


Soros on China


This is very important economic news -- in my opinion. Anytime Soros speaks, I pay attention even if it is BS -- which I do not believe it is in this case. This seems like lucid analysis.




Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

I generally read Soros too, but one needs to understand who he is, and what his interests are. I do not think he speaks on subjects like this without considerable thought on that effect it will have on his own position.


"I could well imagine that we get beyond 10 percent next year."


---- Roland Dobbins

More data on Ebook sales. I think he's underestimating.


Just finished re-reading Lucifer's Hammer. Wow.

Jerry, I just finished (about an hour ago) Lucifer's Hammer again. I'm amazed at how well it's stood the test of time. "Give my children the lightning again," means something more to me now that I'm a father rather than a teenager (when I first read the book).

I would love to see Hammerfall depicted on the screen, just for the science if not for the story. I'd forgotten how many details were there, especially about the heat of the ocean strikes and how it prevented the oceans from coming in, etc.

I have to say, my current concerns about the economy made the preparation for Hammerfall feel a bit too real.

I'm far from the first, but I have to say kudos to you and Niven for this timeless work. I am looking forward to Anvil!

(BTW, I took the opportunity to buy the ebook even though I have the hardcopy, and found it very readable on my little Nexus One screen using the program Aldiko. Hope you're getting some royalties from that.)

-- Mark Ping Chico, CA

Thanks for the WOW. Glad the story still holds up.


On Data

Now that Prof. Lewis has resigned from the APS, it is useful to remember Dr. William Gray resignation from the American Meteorological Society ( http://icecap.us/index.php/go/

Whoever you are talking to doesn't fully understand the IPCC process. You would have to read not only AR4 but also the review comments and the responses to the comments to fully appreciate what they did. So if you wade through all that and remain unconvinced, the reason will be that science has become so complicated that you are part of the large segments of the population can no longer keep up.

Those in the field get other criticisms, as Dr. Gray put it:

"As a defense against criticism they have resorted to a general denigration of those of us who do not support their AGW hypothesis. AGW skeptics are sometimes tagged (I have been) as no longer being credible scientists. Skeptics are often denounced as tools of the fossil-fuel industry. A type of McCarthyism against AGW skeptics has been in display for a number of years."

You are always interested in data. Here is an interesting story about the strange things that happen to the data. The National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) is a ‘Crown Research Institute’ contracted by the New Zealand Government to be its sole adviser on scientific issues relating to climate change.


I knew about this when I read the NIWA web page describing how they process their data and the discussion was so well done I would have thought that there might be a scintilla of competence in their work. Any time we look at what the 'warmers' have been doing with the data it is always worse that we thought.


I may not be able to understand the models, but I can look at charts: when they have a model that will take the data from the year 1975 and show what happened from then to the year 2000, I will be impressed. I have yet to see a climate model any more useful than the weather girls' forecasts.




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Tuesday,  October 12, 2010

News from New Zealand

That NZ climate warming stuff again

Dear Dr Pournelle,

The note on the global warming data of New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) sounds a little hysterical to me. (http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog/new_zealand_niwa_capitulates_on_temperature_record/).

Disclaimer: I worked for NIWA fresh from Auckland University in 1983, measuring and analysing river pollution, like temperatures downstream from a power station. We wanted to predict the impact of future events using, say, advection/dispersion models. I used a PDP-11/23 with a 5MB (!) Centurion hard drive which was bigger than the system unit, and tape backups which sometimes were inadvertently overwritten, so I can quite believe the reason NIWA can't retrieve some of Salinger's early data is that it got lost. I'd credit incompetence before malice.

NZ gets an undue amount of attention in the AGW debate for a number of reasons, among them the range and completeness of climate data over a long period, the high academic standards - and the almost complete lack of institutional corruption. Kiwis are mostly of English middle class or Maori descent and a wee bit naive about things like truth, honesty, and knowing right from wrong. They are also incorrigible nosey parkers and know what everyone else in their field is doing. We have seen the occasional scientist exceed his instructions. But on the whole a kiwi scientist who cooks his books and loses data will be found out - or overwhelmed by helpful peers who dig out their copies to fill the blanks.

Mavericks like Dr Salinger get a bad press in the skeptical press. He gave an interview to a TV station and was sacked from NIWA because he wasn't the official spokesman. That doesn't make him a crook, it just means he embarrassed bureaucrats, which happens all the time because the bureaucrats think they control the scientists and the scientists are quite sure they don't. Example: around 1990 one Department of Conservation scientist was fired from a research program because he wouldn't do a bureaucrat's bidding (this story comes from Dr Bruce McFadgen). The Department of Conservation was mortified when he removed all his equipment from the island site. They demanded it back. Imagine their chagrin when they found that (a) it was all his, he paid for it; (b) the government wasn't paying for the research, it was I think the US Carnegie foundation, and (c) in consequence he took all the funding and the staff with him!

On the whole I simply do not believe there is institutional bias of the kind alleged. This does not mean that NIWA scientists, and Jim Salinger in particular, interpret the data correctly, and if the controversy has improved the books, more power to the skeptics say I.

That said, the controversy doesn't make the model wrong. it's not surprising NIWA disclaimed responsibility for the "New Zealand Temperature Record". That's because NIWA is a quango which receives a lot of non-taxpayer funding. It is not the official government weather office - that's the NZ Meterological Service, and while the Met service does not officially publish that statistic, it's the only body which officially can. But NIWA does have access to Met Records and some of its own. It's entirely capable of making a good estimate of warming around these islands for the last century or so, and it's not unreasonable to call that a "New Zealand Temperature Record" - it's just not THE record.

Having looked at both the data sets in dispute - the 7 station set which was 'adjusted' and the 11 station set which wasn't - I'd have to say that some of the criticisms of the 7SS demanded attention. Especially I'm horrified by some of the assumptions made when stations moved. The other data set - eleven stations which did not move - is much more convincing.

Over the years I have visited nine of the eleven station sites personally. I'm not deterred by those who point out that there are gaps in the coverage, as best I can determine it's still a good statistical ensemble in time and does give good indications of a roughly 1°C per century warming. Whether that's unusual I don't know. Whether it's an AGW indicator I don't know.

But it most certainly is not precise to within ±0.01°C.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole


Found on the IPCC site

Not that I'm given to giving a whole lot of credit to the various global-warming alarmist groups... but I did see this on the IPCC site after following the link you provided:


This doesn't fix the problems - you still aren't going to get one-tenth certainty out of observations that are only reliable to the single digit (if that). But even if the political supporters are saying that the science is incontrovertible, the scientists themselves are clearly worried about the problems inherent in using models to confirm models, and the problems in cross-pollinating results based on largely similar data sets and techniques. There's at least hope that the modelers themselves know that there's something rotten in the state of Denmark, and the number of 2008-and-more-recent papers cited on the subject give one hope that the problem's being worked on. I doubt they'll get a perfect result - it's a fundamentally difficult question, we have highly incomplete data sets with unknown levels of inaccuracy to deal with, and even if we get the science perfect, the political aspect is overwhelming (there's NO good solution to the China/India problem, unless someone invents working fusion generation right quick!)

I hope your subscription drive was successful. I've been enjoying your site for several years without contributing; my personal finances have caught up to where I can spend the money and consider it well-invested.

Andy Kent


Judith Curry, AGW

Dr. Pournelle,

I've been having similar trouble to yours in getting to the bottom of AGW, or at least as close as I can get without wading into serious math and physics that I can't assess.

See http://judithcurry.com/2010/10/07/open-thread-week-in-review/#comment-3650  . In it Dr. Curry, a rather brave climate scientist who stepped forward after Climategate to broker communication between climate change scientists and skeptics, grants that mine were good questions, that the IPCC and Royal Society overstate confidence and climate sensitivity, and admits that there are really no good books to read.

I found that shocking. I assumed that I had overlooked something good because there are so many books on climate change out there. Apparently they all start with the IPCC conclusions assumed.

Best, Jack T.


Subj: Hydrothermal vents and the thermal budget of the oceans


Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Hydrothermal vents may contribute more to the thermal budget of the oceans than previously assumed

Since the discovery of the new vent, the scientists have been intensively searching the water column with the multibeam echosounder. To their astonishment, they have already found at least five other sites with gas plumes. Some even lie outside the volcanically active spreading zone in areas where hydrothermal activity was previously not assumed to occur.

"Our results indicate that many more of these small active sites exist along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge than previously assumed," said Dr. Nicole Dubilier, the chief scientist of the expedition. "This could change our understanding of the contribution of hydrothermal activity to the thermal budget of the oceans. --- Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science




Hearken to the data! 


In response to your questions and the responses from the AGW Believers group, the specific questions you ask are addressed in:


Appendix 3B is titled: Techniques, Error Estimation, and Measurement Systems.

It is only 11 pages, and three of those are to references. Unfortunately, you can't actually tell anything about how this was performed without reading the individual papers in the references; the appendix itself is a summary of these three pages of references, full of confidence-building phrases such as:

"Adjustments to homogenize land temperature observations"

"The impact of random discontinuities on area-averaged values typically becomes smaller as the area or region becomes larger, and is negligible on hemispheric scales." (I love that "typically." It sounds like a wonderful way to use statistics to go wrong with confidence, without actually having to calculate any effects.)

"Estimates of urban impacts on temperature data have included approaches such as linear regression against population, and analysis of differences between urban and rural sites defined by vegetation or night lights."

And, from near the end (not labeled a "conclusion" as such,

"Problems for climate studies arise partly because the atmospheric models used to produce these 'background forecasts" are prone to biases. If observations are abundant and unbiased, they can correct the biases in background forecasts when assimilated. In reality, however, observation coverage varies over time, observations are themselves prone to bias, either instrumental or through not being representative of their wider surroundings, and these observational biases can change over time."

In other words, this matches what I have read in the regular press: the real science, when the results are properly hedged with statistical precautions, are at best minimally supportive of the broad policy recommendations on the IPCC which the "believers" invite you to ignore, and the real scientists are often appalled at how the politicians misapply their actual results in the summary documents. In order words, the physics section does NOT support the conclusions, and the believers themselves obviously haven't read the material they are demanding you read..

And none of this addresses the intrinsic forecast error in the long-term climate models. I submit the results of an example of numerical solution of differential equations by the fourth-order Runge-Kutta method from page 394 of "Mathematical Physics" by Sadri Hassani, Springer, 1999. This compares the RK4 solution of the simple differential equation D2x/dt2 - x=0 with boundary conditions such that the exact solution is sin(t). The accumulated exact error by the time t=1 is already 0.016%; assuming linear growth in error, this amounts to 0.1% per cycle. My point all along is that I can't imagine a (dirty) real data projection offering better performance than this.

J, Ph.D.

Having had to collect data in a laboratory setting, I have some appreciation of the difficulty of collecting enough data to estimate the temperature of the Earth reliably to a tenth of a degree. Yet the conclusions seem dependent on the reality of a few tenths of a degree change. We are told to be huge sums on these conclusions. That does not seem prudent.


Alcubierre warp drive 

Greetings Sir,

I do wish they would hurry.

Metamaterial-based model of the Alcubierre warp drive

Igor I. Smolyaninov (Submitted on 28 Sep 2010)

Abstract: Electromagnetic metamaterials are capable of emulating many exotic space-time geometries, such as black holes, rotating cosmic strings, and the big bang singularity. Here we present a metamaterial-based model of the Alcubierre warp drive, and study its limitations due to available range of material parameters. It appears that the material parameter range introduces strong limitations on the achievable "warp speed", so that ordinary magnetoelectric materials cannot be used. On the other hand, newly developed "perfect" magnetoelectric metamaterials are capable of emulating the physics of warp drive gradually accelerating up to 1/4c.


Best Regards and Thanks,

A former Byte and (GEnie?) reader.

I will not hold my breath...


Another huge ice discovery made in Asteroid Belt, 


More ice discovered in the asteroid belt:


"This discovery suggests that this region of our solar system contains more water ice than anticipated," says Professor Humberto Campins, one of the investigating boffins. "And it supports the theory that asteroids may have hit Earth and brought our planet its water and the building blocks for life to form and evolve here." <snip>

"Not only would water be very useful for drinking, washing etc and as an oxygen source for astronauts, it is also a potential source of rocket fuel <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/24/nasa_alice_test/>  (or perhaps reaction mass for more advanced interplanetary engines). One of the great limiting factors on human activity in space is the need to haul vast amounts of propellant along on every journey: and, in the case of manned voyages, even more for the trip back."<snip>

" . . . asteroid ice, in terms of gravity and energy, is actually above Earth orbit already. Very little push would be necessary to bring it to the thirsty satellites that we rely on for comms, navigation, observation and so on."<snip>

Of course, "Further down the road, anything at all which can be found among the asteroids might become cheap - not just in orbit but down here on Earth, as it could be dropped down to us with ease. (Presence among the asteroids would also, of course, offer the scope for extremely destructive kinetic space bombings - suggesting that the military would not let itself be left behind in the rush to the Belt.)"

Of course.



TV numbers sink as iOS usage rises, 


It seems that iOS usage - Iphone and iPad - is greater than all but the top TV shows:


In 2004, Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously noted: "You watch television to turn your brain off and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on."



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Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Stimulus money to fix roads

Hopefully it worked better elsewhere, but in this area (Whittier), here is where the stimulus went: beautification projects. Instead of fixing the cracked and broken streets, we got new flower beds down the median. When asked, city officials said the time frame on the stimulus money was such that they weren’t able to do the process (identify needs, make plans, get bids) for getting the streets fixed and meet the stimulus package deadlines, so they did what they could. Beautification projects take much less time to plan and implement. So, instead of repairing infrastructure, we got something else that needs to be maintained and uses more water in this drought stricken area, but the city can say they got their share of the stimulus money.

Ron Maurer

Multiply that by tens of thousands. Shovel ready...


Road Funding

“President Obama says now that we need fifty billion dollars to fix the roads.I don't necessarily disagree, but wasn't that supposed to be part of the Stimulus Package with its "shovel-ready" jobs and its contribution to the infrastructure? Investment in improved roads and transportation is a fairly good idea, and if the notion of the "Stimulus" was to get money circulating and employ people in doing something useful, one would think that road improvements would be the first order of business. I have to admit that I am breathless: we spent hundreds of billions on TARP and Stimulus and we didn't fix the roads?”

The Stimulus (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) did not improve the nation’s infrastructure. The grants (to state and local governments) under the “Stimulus” were awarded on the conditions that the project, not be currently funded (ie you could not use stimulus dollars to move funds around), be under construction in a certain number of months (first round under construction in 6 months or less) and be done by a certain date.

This meant that funding only went to projects that were ready to go. Projects that had all the engineering done, permitting (enviro permits of all sorts) in place, all the land acquisition. If all those are not done or near completion, you would have a hard time meeting the timetable. Now some states had shelves full of projects, but many states only push projects through that had a reasonable chance of being funded.

The result was that some states had some good, medium term projects ready to go. Many states and locals did not have a pipleline full so they went to plan B, quickie projects. Take a road that has deteriorated some but does not require major rebuilding. Mill off a couple inches of asphalt and replace it. Maybe patch a concrete road in spots where it has gone bad. Useful projects, but not the type of work that measurably improves the nation’s transportation infrastructure. If you take this approach… that means no projects that add lanes, build new roads/overpasses, new bridges, major bridge rebuilds, major road reconstruction or reengineering. All those are long term projects will not be sitting on the shelf due to the cost of design. You only proceed on them when you have a long term funding source identified.

Now stimulus might have been a useful bump, if it were not for one massive failure by the Congress and Obama administration… traditional road funding. Every gallon of gas (or diesel) that is purchased (for over the road use) has a tax that goes to the Federal government. Those funds are run through the Department of Transportation and spit out to the states and locals in a formula. Every six years a new bill is drafted that defines that formula and lets the states know how they will get the money.

The last bill in 2005 (SAFETEA-LU) <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe,_Accountable,_
A_Legacy_for_Users>  took those funds coming in and expressed the formula that states could use for long term road planning. When a state/local knows what federal dollars to expect, you can plan how to spend them and the state’s own dollars. All these bills are passed late so they really are not six year bills. SAFETEA-LU expired on Sept 30, 2009. Typically Congress passes short term bills that continue the funding stream until the major bill is passed. This is useful, but since states have no idea what the long term bill is going to do, they cannot do long term planning.

This causes the pipeline to break down. Many states have very tight budgets. It does not make sense to design major road improvements when you have no idea if the money is going to be there or not. So you become more short term in planning and build what you know you are going to be able to fund.

So in the end, what good does it do to create a short term bump in road funding while you fail to address the long term? If Congress had passed a long term bill to marry with the stimulus, states could have jumped on short term limited improvements while setting up for longer term projects. Instead we have short term stimulus funds married with a short term focus on traditional road spending. End result, we have some roads that look a bit better but no net improvement of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

And as a final note, road spending is not a great way to create jobs. This is not the 1950’s with a large number of men running small pieces of equipment or shovels. Road building is highly automated, capital intensive with significant materials costs. The actual number of jobs created is rather small. Don’t do it for jobs… that is a side benefit. Do it to improve the nation’s transportation efficiency. In other words, do what Ike did. If you do that, real long term jobs will result as factories, warehouses and communities are built in areas that have poor transportation access. People will spend less time sitting in traffic and have more time to work, recreate or cruise the internet.

Jeff Mulzer

Newburgh, Indiana


" . . . when a superintendent of schools from the Union was elected, the Union acted as if it had no restraints and is now making demands devoid of common sense."

Seoul today, Sacramento tomorrow:


-- Roland Dobbins

The purpose of the public school system is to pay bad teachers for life.




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Thursday, Octrober 14, 2010




I understand that I just pounded on everyone during my pledge drive. I have been asked for my recommendations on political donations for this key upcoming election. Self government is not free. (Skip political)

Club For Growth

The following is a political announcement. They didn't pay me to include it. I do donate to the Club for Growth because in general I support their candidates. Usually I do so in primary elections rather than general, but this really is the most important mid-term of a lifetime. I don't always support all their candidates and I am usually very specific about who I do support.

Dear Jerry,

Nineteen days from the biggest mid-term election of our lifetime, I wanted to send you a brief update on the top priority races we're watching most closely.

First, five on the Senate side:

ALASKA: A new poll shows pro-growth rock star Joe Miller with just a two point lead over incumbent RINO Lisa Murkowski, who is running a write-in campaign to save her career. Democrat Scott McAdams also is within striking distance. This is a premiere opportunity for Club members to make their voices heard - a text book match-up between a true economic conservative and two big government, establishment liberals.

COLORADO: Fiscal conservative Ken Buck is leading incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet by just five points in one recent public poll, but trails by a point in another.

NEVADA: Four polls came out this week that show our friend Sharron Angle running either ahead by one or two points or behind by two or three points in her race with liberal Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid.

PENNSYLVANIA: Pro-growth hero Pat Toomey is up an average of 7.8 points over far-left Congressman Joe Sestak, though it is far from a done deal. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has stepped up its attacks on Pat and released its own poll showing Sestak narrowly ahead.

KENTUCKY: Constitutional conservative and economic libertarian Rand Paul leads Democrat Jack Conway by an average of just 5.3 points in the last three public polls. Ads from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee continue to bash Rand.

On the House side, we're watching five races very closely:

CA-11: In the most recent poll, Club PAC-endorsed constitutional lawyer and education reform crusader David Harmer leads incumbent liberal Jerry McNerney, 48%-42%.

PA-04: Former Pat Toomey campaign volunteer Keith Rothfus is believed to be still behind incumbent Democrat Jason Altmire, but this race is narrowing. This is a great opportunity for pro-growth conservatives to push a great candidate over the finish line.

SC-05: Club PAC-endorsed candidate Mick Mulvaney is giving 28-year incumbent Democrat John Spratt the run of his life, and is poised to pull off an upset in a very winnable district.

AZ-08: Our new friend Jesse Kelly is running neck-and-neck with incumbent liberal Gabrielle Giffords. The latest poll shows Kelly leading by just one point.

NY-19: Finally, anti-ObamaCare ophthalmologist Nan Hayworth is tied with liberal Democrat John Hall, 42%-42% in one poll and ahead by three points in another.

Every one of these races is a pick-up opportunity for the pro-growth, pro-freedom movement. Every one is a race where a well-timed, hard-hitting ad buy can make the difference between victory and defeat.

That's where we come in. In races like these and many others, Club for Growth Action can be the difference-maker. Your contribution to Club for Growth Action - economic conservatism's most powerful political weapon - can make or break Election 2010.

As you know, Club for Growth Action is bound by NO CONTRIBUTION LIMITS. Every dollar you can give us is a dollar we can invest immediately in TV ads where they are needed most in these and other states and districts.

We are closer than ever to a pro-growth majority in Congress. In the next 19 days, together we can make history.

Help us spread the word about Club for Growth Action! Please forward this email to your friends, family and neighbors and encourage them to take action by contributing to Club for Growth Action.

Please click here to make your most generous contribution to Club for Growth Action now.


Best Regards,



Art Robinson

While we are on the subject of political donations and candidates I approve of:

I very much support Art Robinson, editor and publisher of Access to Energy.


He has a real chance in Oregon in a district that does not usually elect Christian Libertarians.


Dana Rohrabacher

And of course Dana is an old friend whom I consider honest, reliable, and competent. He was quite important in getting the Commercial Space Act passed, among other such measures. Dana will win his election: he needs to collect money for the Republican Party as part of his effort to become Chairman of the Science Committee if as and when the Republicans win the House. That's a key position. I see Dana about as often as I want to, and he listens and understands. I hope he gets that Chairmanship.


End Political (begin political)


Broken Hammer

Behold the first images of asteroid on asteroid violence-They were bound to catch one sooner or later:


-- Russell Seitz
Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University


: Energy policy can be used as a weapon - 



There are bones thrown to climate change, but I figure the imperative is strategic freedom from overseas oil.

Energy issues are all over our enterprise news today.

R, Rose

It sure can.




This is a link to an old story re-linked today off InstaPundit. I have never seen a more correct and succinct description of our current disaster. And the book referenced, Demosclerosis, was back in the "good old days" of the 1990s! The discussion by David Brooks is priceless too. To paraphrase: Gov't seems to be taking money from productive use and putting it to non-productive use.

Almost a definition of modern Gov't!!!

== Jay R. Larsen

Imagine my astonishment...  That is indeed what government is doing. Of course a military force is by definition not productive. It breaks things and kills people. But it is necessary both to have and keep under control. A judicial system doesn't produce much, but it is necessary. Whether we need to charge up debit cards and distribute them widely is a bit more questionable.


Superhydrophobic carbon nanotube array


I want a toilet surfaced with this stuff (Motie toilets!). Lots of other things you can do with a material that repels water this well.




now i'm scared - 

Hi Jerry,

If this is true: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/
10/13/obama-republicans-learn/  then I'm rather frightened.

I knew that Obama was a bit out of touch, but this smacks of an outright dissociative break with reality. Clinton realized that he had to move to the center to continue to be effective in the face of a conservative congress. Now Obama thinks that the Republicans will have to move to the left after *they* win? Hubris doesn't even come close to covering it - it's as if he actually believes his own propaganda. Couple that with the arrogance shown in both Biden's and Obama's comments, that the voters "just don't understand" gives concrete proof to the elitism that they are accused of - they actually do believe that they know better than the rest of us. I used to think he was an idiot. Then a malicious deceiver. Now apparently he's an egotistical, delusional, self-anointed socialist savior with delusions of grandeur. it's now clear that we're going to have a lame duck session where he tries to ram through the rest of his agenda even in the face of a massive repudiation by the American people.

The Republicans need to go duck hunting.



I was never a fan of Berthold Brecht, but toward the end of his life he did say

The Solution

Bertolt Brecht

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?


Wall Street Journal on capitalism and the Chilean Miner rescue

Hello Jerry, I was surprised you were not writing about the Chilean Miners rescue story. Perhaps your meeting with the real-life Iron Man took you away from the non-ending cable news coverage! All 33 miners were rescued alive yesterday. It was an International effort.

The WSJ (link below) has a great, short essay on why capitalism saved the miners.

Btw: re: Plan B 2 small companies from Pennsylvania were involved, one made the drill and one made the revolutionary drill bits. A big contribution and the reason why the miners were rescued now and not Christmas, the original time frame for rescue.


Best wishes, looking forward to Anvil, looking forward to you being on This Week in Tech again soon,
Elizabeth B.



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Friday,  October 15, 2010


A few comments about the Mauna Loa measurements and CO2 sources

ML has been gathering data only since 1959. The data that it gathers is very arbitrary. Because of wide swings from many causes (including out gassing from the volcano, wind direction, etc) a significant portion of the data must be discarded. Basically it is like getting your daily average temperature at random times during the day and on random dates in the year and then publishing a very smooth graph of what you want to believe actually happened. (In a way it is like the warmists computing sea temperatures from ships logs. When we were at sea the measurements were taken every 15 minutes {except when the watchstander was sleeping on duty and just gundecked the reading} This was done by observing a thermometer accurate to 2 degrees from a distance of 20 feet and then recording the temperature to 1 degree accuracy. -- Junk data pure and simple)

If not from man where is the CO2 coming from. The sea! Cold water holds more CO2 than warm water. During the Little Ice Age the temperatures in Arctic waters were colder than today. Higher CO2 content in the surface waters that dropped to the deep abysmal depths. Today, several hundred years later the waters are surfacing in equatorial areas and out gassing. But the amount liberated is more than the amount being pulled in the down welling arctic replenishment so there is a net CO2 release. Now the time for a full arctic to equator and back to the arctic movement of water varies considerably. A few hundred years on some currents to close to 2000 years on others. So there is no simple age for the water we are now seeing. Some might have gone deep during the Little Ice Age, Some during Medieval Warming , some in Dark Ages and some even during Roman Warming. But the one thing we are missing is accurate data as to the original conditions and CO2 content. The sea may be uniformly COLD below 400 feet (an understatement if ever there was one) but dissolved gas content is all over the place. We simply do not have the data to say what is happening over 70% of the Earth's surface.

Our problem is that we have scientists who take extremely noisy data and then smooth it into simple graphs that tell the politicians paying their salary that they have to take absolute control over everything before the END OF THE WORLD. And of course the problem that we like sheep let them take control.


Of course you're right. I guess I had swallowed the notion of that the Mauna Loa data was highly accurate, but immediately I see that it is subject to random variations. Indeed, a warming of the ocean surface will produce more CO2 which might actually make for a higher local concentration at Mauna Loa! And I do recall they had to adjust the figures for Pinatoa.

I have not read up on this: surely there are checksums? Other observations?  Multiple CO2 measuring place? We are talking about parts per million excursions from 300 ppm, which requires considerable accuracy. Now I begin to wonder even about the CO2 measures.  That does not mean we can ignore them. We are a ways from runaway CO2 levels, and the Arrhenius estimates of what would happen if we double CO2 are likely in the right order of magnitude.

Is there any way actually to know the CO2 levels during the Viking/Medieval warm period? I wonder how those are estimated? I would have thought ice cores, but on reflection that seems unreliable to any ppm accuracy. What was the CO2 level during the 12th Century?


Temp in late 18th century

On the average temperature in the late 18th century

you said that "it was colder in 1776 than it is now". was that an unusually cold winter, or was 1787 an unseasonably warm summer, or both?

also, Philadelphia in January 1790, "The average or medium temperature of this month was 44 degrees. This is the mildest month of January on record. Fogs prevailed very much in the morning, but a hot sun soon dispersed them, and the mercury often ran up to 70 in the shade, at mid-day. Boys were often seen swimming in the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers."


Clearly there's a lot of variability in the climate if the Potomac is freezing one year, and 14 years later people are swimming.

--Dora Goon

The Hudson continued to freeze over solidly enough that markets were held on the ice, and wagons driven across it, until well into the 1800's. There are many other accounts of the cold, not just in unusually cold years like 18 hundred and froze to death or the Year Without A Summer and such; and of course in Europe we had the freezing over of the brackish Netherland canals that gave rise to the stories of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, and the skaters who brough provisions to besieged cities in Holland during the Spanish Lowlands Campaign. Every season has its unusually warm weather once in a while.

It's easy to show it was colder -- shorter growing seasons, as shown in almanacs, earlier freezing over of ponds and streams as recorded in diaries, and the like. It isn't really possible to establish how much colder to any accuracy.


: DHS uses Social Networking Sites to Spy on Americans


Yeah, I guess most of us saw this coming. But here it is, sitting on our knee, sharpening it's teeth:


Wouldn't they be remiss if they did not?


Rescuing miners

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Taking a break from doom and gloom, I thought you'd appreciate this report on some new technical innovations which helped save the Chilean miners.


Front row center is the Center Rock drill bit, produced in Pennsylvania by a company with 74 employees. There are some VERY cool Americans out there.


Brian P.

Triumphant.  Thanks.


Subject: The rescue in Chile

You wrote today that in other times there would be a Te Deum. I certainly hope that that fine old hymn is sung in as many churches in Chile as possible in celebration of the rescue. Personally, however, I said a Shehechiyanu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shehechiyanu)  to thank The Lord for allowing me to see such a marvelous thing. Let us all give praise, in whatever way we find appropriate, that the miners were able to survive their ordeal and be returned to their wives and their sons and their daughters



Massive solar flares

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

You posted some time back (sorry but I can't remember exactly when) that some scientists expect a massive solar flare sometime around 2012 that is expected to have an effect similar to a massive EMP. You (or someone) speculated that this would reduce us to a pre-transistor culture. Do you know if anyone is making preparations for such an event? If so, who? If not, how might a regular person try to get ready? It would be nice if someone with enormous financial resources would set up something similar to the Museums of Mote Prime but I suppose that would be too much to ask.

For example, on the pulse effect -- if someone had access to an abandoned mine, let's say, how deep would it have to be to shield a stash of computers? I won't even get into the whole "should we save Macs or PCs" thing but might there be a way to save some devices, or at least components for devices, from such a pulse? I'd suggest putting a Radio Shack down inside The Hole at Cheyenne Mountain but that probably wouldn't work.

Given such an Act of God disaster, how long do you think it would take for the US and/or the world to recover? Anyone who has seen a disaster movie or read LUCIFER'S HAMMER can fill in the nasty societal details for themselves, but how long do you think it would take for a planet reduced to early 20th Century technology to return to current levels?

Best regards, Tim Scott

Some people take this threat seriously and I would presume the military is preparing for the possibility of a nuclear induced EMP as the opening move of a new war. I would expect that if China decided to invade Taiwan it would open with an Argos type nuclear event over Lop Nor.


Cool Space News


This is cool and different:

The Hubble Space Telescope <http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/main/index.html>  has captured the aftermath of just what happens when two asteroids collide at 11,000 mph (17,702 km/h), prompting an explosion "as powerful as the detonation of a small atomic bomb".

The result is a "peculiar" object - dubbed P/2010 A2 - which boasts a comet-like debris trail behind a mysterious X-shaped formation.



BDAB, Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo


Hi jerry

You might want to follow up on the article ayaan hirsi ali wrote in the wallstreet journal about the trial of geert wilders in the Netherlands. The facts used by her in this article were not correct. The article 137 were she is refering to has not been changed since 2005. There were political debats about changing this law but that didn't happen. So the article Hirsiwrote is based on nothing then a bunch of lies.

Kind regards Christa

I asked for an explication and received:

Goodmorning jerry,

I could give it a try, first of all you can read this link http://www.rnw.nl/english/bulletin/
dutch-law-was-not-changed-enable-wilders-trial  and that will make more clear where hirsi went wrong in her article. The freedom of speach in the Netherlands is different from the united states. After world war two the gouverment wanted to make sure that inciting hatred to a group of people was no longer possible and could be stopped by law if necesary, it find its base in the human rights that everybody is equal. The 137 law where hirsi is refering to may sound as interfering with the freedom of speach and that will the tricky part in the geert wilders trail. In reality it's hard to get convicted in a trail based on this law because of that "trickyness". It has been tried and failed in the past. So you have the freedom of speach but you are not allowed to put this in words that might harm a another group of people. Wilders handed out panflets with the sentence "stop the tumor which is called islam" and i believe six other things in the same line. The list made by an islamic group in the netherlands was a lot longer, it counted up to 90. You have to look at this case knowing that in the eyes of the dutch gouverment the killing of jews which happened in the second world war should never be repeated again.

Be carefull when it comes to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she showed in the past that she does not take the truth serious. I used to be impressed by her, but after a few scandels in the Netherlands it showed in my eyes that she is a very inteligent charletan using people and the truth for her own well being. For example her entering the Netherlands is based on lies. No i'm not anti hirsi, it's more that i will always do some " homework" after reading one of her articles to make sure for myself that the facts she is using are true. Even when what she is saying was true, if the dutch gouverment did change the law so they could go after geert wilders, it would not be possible to convict geert wilders on something that happened before the law was changed... That's impossible...

Kind regards Christa

Thank you. This was debated in the Convention of 1787, and of course again in the Free Speech trials during the Red Scare, and later in the McCarthy era. Just what speech is a clear a present danger? And I would myself think that the Dutch courts and Parliament has gone far into dangerous ground here. But as you say, we do not have unimpeachable sources. It is worth following the story.

I do know that in Germany and Austria the anti-Nazi "hate speech" laws are so stringent that statements made in an American web site have been used to jail their author upon his arrival in Europe. He questioned portions of the Holocaust Story. I would myself think that any story that can't be questioned is immediately subject to suspicion, but I take the rather extreme view intended by the Framers, as tested by the Alien and Sedition Laws in the early days of the Republic. Congress shall make now law seems a fairly strong statement.

Thank you.

[I note that Wilders has been acquitted on all counts. I also note that he was put on trial, which is no small punishment in itself.]



While my mother and wife routinely remind me of how hardheaded and inflexible I am... The Air Force really defines the term. http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlead/articles/20101015.aspx 

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

Extremely interesting. Who shall have the power of life and death?


The Ground Game has Begun


You mentioned the ground game, and -- as if you are some kind of prophet -- here it is. http://www.argusleader.com/article/20101014/NEWS/10140308  The Dems are providing food -- in addition to a ride to the polls.

Didn't Mister Tweed -- of Tammany Hall -- have men at the pier giving bread and soup to Irish immigrants when they arrived in New York? It seems to me this is an old trick of the Democratic Party. I wonder if the GOP could offer purified water, coffee, tea, doughnuts, and healthy snacks and convince other demographics to take a ride the polls?

This trick of the Dems has worked time and time again. Of course, it is based on the idea of graft -- we'll give you something for nothing if you just give us more power. The Dems may be paying for a cheap breakfast and some gas now, but they promise welfare payments etc if they are in power. Of course, there is no such thing as a free lunch -- those of us who produce pay for that parasitic lunch, ultimately.

The point has been made, time and time again, that there comes a point where producers stop producing when taxes reach a certain point. Now I have close friends who disagree. They will mention the 90% tax rate that existed on the richest people in the United States at one point in time. What they can't get around, however, is the fact that when JFK lowered taxes the revenue increased! This is because, at some point, the producers decide to stop producing because the taxes are too taxing -- in my opinion.

I hear so many "talking heads" braying about how nobody will leave if taxes get too high. Nobody decides to make a business or not make a business based on taxes. I call BS on all that. I've avoided investing in FOREX because of my fear that Bush II's tax cuts will expire. Why bother paying capital gains and income tax when I am the one taking the risk? I've looked at other small businesses, but I need employees to make it run. That opens me up to the Obamacare tax. Not only that, income taxes will increase, the marriage penalty increases, dependent benefits go down, etc. It is not a good climate to start a business in the United States. I am looking into opportunities overseas -- which are tax free to a certain amount.

Sorry, talking heads, but I consider government policies when I make my business decisions. So there is one less than everybody. The government does little more than manage public life, and so anytime I take a public position -- which includes business -- you can be sure I am familiarizing myself with current policy, potential policy, and trend lines. I would be an ignoramus to do otherwise. But, maybe the talking heads think the American people just aren't very bright? I think these talking heads and politicians are about to get a shock.



Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

Not a prophet just an old political pro. And the history of Tammany is worth knowing.


And THIS has to be seen to be believed!


Yes, from Drudge. Michelle Obama was campaigning for her husband.

INSIDE a polling place.

And the Board of Elections is going to give her a free pass on it...

Even Hillary was not that brazen.


My wife noted that on the morning news. But since they didn't prosecute the Black Panther for threatening voters on election day, I doubt this amounts to much. It's routine for the ruling class. Someone will apologize which is the remedy for everything now.


A Bit of Good News


Headline: "Judge: Suit over health overhaul can go to trial".

Lead sentence: "PENSACOLA, Fla. - Crucial pieces of a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's health care overhaul can go to trial, with a judge ruling Thursday he wants to hear more arguments over whether it's constitutional to force citizens to buy health insurance."

This is good news. The article mentions that a judge in Michigan threw out a similar suit, and opines that the matter will probably go to the Supreme Court.

--John R. Strohm


: Deep Web Search


I used some of these for my work in college. As you can imagine, my sources set me apart from those who used books and google. I thought others here might benefit from such services:


I hope someone finds them useful. I have.


BDAB, Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

I will probably comment on this in the column. It's an interesting subject.










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Saturday, October 16, 2010

I took the day off.





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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

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Sunday,  October 17, 2010     

I took the day off.  Actually working on the column.




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