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Monday  December 13, 2010

an amusing application of Apple iPads

Hello, Jerry:

If you haven't already seen this, I thought you might enjoy it.


Marcus P. Hagen

And having seen that, which I recommend, there is the classic


and an amusing variant





Regarding the e-mail from Mr. Biggs, the other issue (which you've also cited before) is that, say, given two temperature readings (let's say, for example, at Chaos Manor and the Staples Center), no matter how accurate, that the average of those two numbers has any demonstrable relationship to the average temperature between the two extremes, much less the surrounding communities.

In order to state that, one must begin making assumptions. Some of these assumptions (e.g. continuity) are reasonable. Others (e.g. no anomalous heat sources/sinks) are unproven and unprovable without more data.

One would like to make the not unreasonable assumption that the observed warming is due to the "urban airshed" effect whereby cities trap heat; except the evidence of data doctoring is sufficient to draw even so reasonable an assumption into question.


When using a statistical technique to increase the accuracy of inaccurate observations, there are many assumptions with varying stringency of necessity for confidence. I have seen no discussion of those techniques in any persuasive form from the IPCC. The IPCC reports do not seem to cover them, but they tend to be opaque; surely there are discussions and defenses of climate models that are directed to educated citizens not specialists in climate modeling? I keep asking for them, but I don't find them. I would think that if the public is to have sufficient confidence as to make enormous economic sacrifices, those who advocate those sacrifices ought to have explanations less opaque than the IPCC reports.

I continue to ask questions about the quality of data and the assumptions in its adjustment, but I don't get referred to anything that seems directed to my level of understanding.




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Tuesday,  December 14, 2010


Re: Ocean levels rising?

A short dialog

When I look at European shores and most especially seaports, I see very little evidence of long-term sea-level variations in historical times.

A large number of ports date back to medieval times, and quite a few of them date back to antiquity. The only ones I can think of that aren't on the sea shore anymore, Brouage and Aigues-Mortes, aren't respectively because of intentional and alluvial landfill. I know of no submerged port except a few brought under by geological catastrophe.

The old port of Marseille has been exactly where it is now for at least twenty-five centuries, going through what used to be called the Roman and medieval climate optima and the little ice age.

There is no evidence at all that the climate variations of the past two millenia have had any noticeable effect on sea levels.

Jean-Louis Beaufils, Paris

Alexandria? I have swum among semi-submerged ruins off Crete and Egypt. But that could be land subsidence? I don't know. Thermopylae on the other hand is a good way from the water's edge now.

Jerry Pournelle Chaos Manor

In the case of Thermopylae, it's clearly neither lower sea level nor land rise but alluvia.

The sunken remains in Alexandria seem to be there as a result of the 365 tsunami/earthquake, and a similar cause might be found for your Cretan ruins, after all Crete is (was?) one of the possible Atlantis candidates.

And Piraeus does seem to be firmly were it was in 480BC.

Jean-Louis Beaufils, Paris

And of course on reflection you are correct. There is alluvial land rise. I read recently that they are digging up the old Roman port of Ostia, built in Augustan times, and from what I can see they are at about current sea level. And your point about Narbo is exactly correct.

Incidentally, the reason I was on Crete and then Thera was research on a novel to be set in "historic" Atlantis, that is, Minoan Crete. I was visiting the Minoan ruins with Lady Vronwy Hankey, and I stayed on Thera with Spyridon Marinatos for a few days. Alas, I never wrote that novel, but scenes from Thera were in Lucifer's Hammer.

So the question becomes, why do they now say the sea level is rising at a foot a century or more? I need to look into the evidence for all that, but as you say, the evidence on the ground is that there hasn't been a lot of change since Roman times.


Letter from England

Do not forget the threat: <http://tinyurl.com/378gxgp>

 Apparently Wikileaks has made it onto the US terrorist watchlist. Any person, business, or organisation that attempts to make donations is having their Paypal account shut down, and given some of the hints I've been hearing, they may also be going on the watchlist. See <http://bit.ly/g6x3S3> Other commentary and stories: <http://tinyurl.com/2da9woh> <http://tinyurl.com/3xawemq> <http://tinyurl.com/23rs6ho> <http://tinyurl.com/34h9xy9> <http://tinyurl.com/2by6y7f> <http://tinyurl.com/2fy8ntd> This whole mess reminds me in ways of a film: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_of_Montreal> "How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?" (Psalm 82)

 Re: economics--if social mobility is too weak, the family with the longest planning horizon will eventually hold all the capital, and gross domestic product will crash due to lack of demand. To avoid this, society as a whole has to invest in making sure children grow up to be productive adults. Having future generations pay for current consumption is bad individual and public policy. So the parliamentary vote tripling university fees at UK universities to more than any first-rank American public university currently charges is a bad sign, especially as it is intended to take the UK Government out of the role of funding public education. Basic public education, like defence, light houses, public health, and the court system, is one of those things the body politic is responsible for. Stories: <http://tinyurl.com/3a6c7wl> <http://tinyurl.com/3xnoxoh> <http://tinyurl.com/2vuf5nh> <http://tinyurl.com/36xqowx>

 The x-ray backscatter machines the TSA is using aren't effective: <http://tinyurl.com/2co6ry3>.

 Pension ruling in the UK protects members of bankrupt schemes: <http://tinyurl.com/335vv8q>

 Students can tell when they're being taught well: <http://tinyurl.com/35covd3>


Lost civilizations existed in the Persian Gulf basin? <http://tinyurl.com/3xk4vkt>


Harry Erwin, PhD

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Benjamin Franklin, 1755)


Education Stories of the Day

Leading the industrial world in mathematical illiteracy: <http://tinyurl.com/39rbdtv

Perhaps the solution is to reduce the numbers in higher secondary education: <http://tinyurl.com/34bkvg6

Or reduce the number attending university to save money: <http://tinyurl.com/3x6napo

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


Iapetus' Equatorial Ridge Explained

See <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/12/13/iapetus_ridge_cracked/

-- Harry Erwin

And see below


Halfway to Anywhere...



Charles Brumbelow


“Male threw dead animal through drive thru window.”


-- Roland Dobbins


Germany and Muslims during WW-II

In case you wonder about it... (And do read the article.)

How Important was Hitler's Mufti? http://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/12

A good answer is "extremely." The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was paid twice what a Field Marshall earned. You don't pay unimportant people like that.

Read the JihadWatch article. Then click through the link at the top to the original New York Times article if you have doubts about the report. (Or use this handy link.)




Global Eruption Rocks The Sun http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/

Dec. 13, 2010: On August 1, 2010, an entire hemisphere of the sun erupted. Filaments of magnetism snapped and exploded, shock waves raced across the stellar surface, billion-ton clouds of hot gas billowed into space. Astronomers knew they had witnessed something big.

It was so big, it may have shattered old ideas about solar activity.






For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I am still catching up.






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Thursday, December 16, 2010

More University Fees Stories

THE analysis--most UK universities will charge the £9000/year ($14,400/year): <http://tinyurl.com/2bscam6>  Certainly all the 1st and 2nd tier universities. The scholarships required for students coming from deprived backgrounds may deter universities from accepting those students: <http://tinyurl.com/36rh58p> . Vice-chancellor lobbying supposedly prevented a blood-bath, with many universities closing: <http://tinyurl.com/2vbcmtg> . International commentary: <http://tinyurl.com/37x4nj3

-- Harry Erwin


Missing the point on US federal taxes

Hi Jerry-

It seems that we are all missing the point on taxes. The Federal corporate income tax should be eliminated. This would have a dramatic effect on employment in the US and on US competitiveness. There are both liberals (Robert Reich) and conservatives that support this. Economists are near unanimous on the economic benefits of eliminating the federal corporate income tax.

Your thoughts?


If you want more of something, subsidize it. If you want less, tax it. If you want more risky investment, lay off taxing the returns from successful investments. If you want more highly conservative investment, tax hell out of anything risky, And so forth. If the purpose of taxation is to raise revenue it requires a different strategy from taxation to "spread the wealth." If you believe that the purpose of government is to protect private property, but you don't like great disparity in weatlh, you need to have an open discussion about what you are trying to do. If your goal is to set up enduring bureaus -- well, we know how to do that.

Taxing income rather than taxing spending produces one result; consumption taxing produces another. None of the analysis can be static, either. What government does has a great effect on prudent behavior.

Income tax as done now is partly a leveling tax, since a number of people pay no income tax at all, and some get "earned income" "refunds" when they haven't in fact paid anything to be refunded. It's a gift. Hardly a tax. Paying people for not working or not working a lot encourages what?

Ah, but they are needy, and someone has to take care of them. The question then becomes to what are people entitled, and entitled to it from whom? Who is obligated to pay for alleviating other people's misery? Where did they get that obligation? Our Courts have said it can't be a religious obligation, for we are not supposed to pay any attention to such things.

It's all very confusing.

The theory of corporate income taxation is that for the economy to grow the corporations must invest and make money; if you tax their income then they will try to spend detectably and that will have good effects. Otherwise they'd just invest it. But then why is income from corporate dividends taxable to the stockh0lder since the money was already taxed? Ah well.


If you did not get this, it's a great summary with pictures.


Begin forwarded message:

From: "SpaceX" <emily@spacex.com

Date: December 15, 2010 9:03:30 PM PST

Phil Tharp

Subject: SpaceX�s Dragon Spacecraft Successfully Returns from Orbit



On December 8, SpaceX became the first commercial company in history to re-enter a spacecraft from Earth orbit. SpaceX launched its Dragon spacecraft into orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 10:43 AM EST from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Dragon spacecraft orbited the Earth at speeds greater than 7,600 meters per second (17,000 miles per hour), reentered the Earth’s atmosphere, and landed just after 2:00 PM EST less than one mile from the center of the targeted landing zone in the Pacific Ocean.


The Dragon spacecraft landed in the Pacific Ocean 3 hours, 19 minutes and 52 seconds after liftoff--less than a minute after SpaceX had predicted and less than one mile from the center of the landing target. Photo: Kevin Mock / SpaceX. Click photo for video of mission highlights.,snip>

Very dramatic.


: OSC proposes to build Dyna-Soars for NASA.








---- Roland Dobbins 

Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid, with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.

-- Alan Kay

I worked on the Dyna-Soar project at Boeing in about 1960. We were the Dinosaur Hunters...



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Friday,  December 17, 2010

Not all college graduates are college educated

Or so it would appear.


You might be interested in this from the NCPA:


Colleges and universities are turning out graduates faster than America's labor markets are creating jobs that traditionally have been reserved for those with degrees, according to a new report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

* More than one-third of current working graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree, and the proportion appears to be rising rapidly. * Many of them are better described as "underemployed" rather than "gainfully employed." * Indeed, 60 percent of the increased college graduate population between 1992 and 2008 ended up in these lower skill jobs.

This raises real questions about the desirability of pushing to increase the proportion of Americans attending and graduating from four year colleges and universities. This, along with other evidence on the negative relationship between government higher education spending and economic growth, suggests we may have significantly "over invested" public funds in colleges and universities, says the Center.

Young Americans vary vastly in their aptitudes, their motivations, their interests. National policy prescriptions like "everyone should have a postsecondary education" ignore the vast differences between people. If the public objective is to use higher education as a means to form human capital and expand national productive capabilities, it appears much of the recent "investment" in colleges is misdirected.

Source: "From Wall Street to Wal-Mart: Why College Graduates Are Not Getting Good Jobs," Center for College Affordability and Productivity, December 16, 2010.


(end quote)

If someone is on the left-hand end of the bell curve, in whatever characteristic, making him sit through four years of college and handing him a degree isn't going to shift him that much to the right.


This hooks into the question of why assembly jobs are overseas, not here. One reason is that the Americans who can do this kind of job are never trained for it in school. Note I say "trained" not "educated." If you concede that this is not Lake Wobegon, and half of our children are below average, then you begin to understand that half of the children have no use for a world class university prep education. An eighth grade "education" is more than enough. For the rest of their schooling they need training in skills, and training in how to learn skills, and training in self discipline and good work habits. Those who cannot learn to control themselves can be dismissed out of hand: if they don't care to learn skills, let them go out into the world to learn in the school of hard knocks.

If we were to decide what proportion of the population ought to be given a university prep education, we might actually provide one to some of them; attempting to prepare all for the universities means that none are prepared for the universities, which means that the colleges and universities must provide bonehead English, bonehead math, bonehead speech, and bonehead self control to a lot of "students" many of whom ought not be in colleges and universities in the first place.

But we've been through this before.

The Seaborg Commission said decades ago that if a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightly consider it an act of war. Since that time the system has gotten worse. It is clear that the Education Experts have no intention of making it better.

The Education Establishment is at war with the people of the United States. Most of us do not know it. Some of them do.

We can never win a war when we do not know we are at war. And see above.


The Fatal Consequences Of Not Sharing


"The biggest casualty from the Wikileaks disclosures is not the information that American soldier PFC Bradley Manning stole and passed on to Wikileaks, or the fact that this was a major breach in American security. The big danger is that the American intelligence community will go back to pre-September 11, 2001 practices."

There is no longer any need to waste time worrying about some of the concerns in this article.

The article says the key error was that Manning had a computer with a writable drive. I can't do my job without that same capability. The real key problem was that we accepted too much risk when we gave him a TS clearance. There should have been several red flags, which were either not spotted or were ignored, for whatever reason.

Software that alerted a human's attention when there was excessive downloading or a unit began too much attention to things outside of their area of operations would be a logical response, but I expect overkill instead.

My job got noticeably more difficult when we began to react to Wikileaks, and it'll get worse. Of course, I'm thinking about retiring, so my less experienced assistant will have to deal with it over the long term.

Serving Officer

The worst damages we will sustain from Wikileaks will be what we do to ourselves.

Edward Teller used to say that the only things that ought to be classified Top Secret were troop movements and such operations information. Had that been the case, then the reports that contain informant information would have been classified but most of the other stuff would not have been.

The damage, Teller used to say, from failure to have internal circulation of information is always worse than the damage from leaks, since the enemy is going to spend as much effort as needed to find ways to get the information he want: then he knows it and vital parts of your establishment do not. Now that is not a completely generalizable proposition, but it needs to be the starting point when devising classification and need to know walls.


‘The financial benefits to individuals who proceed on such missions are undeniable. Very rarely will an individual turn down an offer for a UN assignment.’


- Roland Dobbins

Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid, with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.

-- Alan Kay



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TSA alternative 


Instead of TSA, how about a law with 3 provisions.

1. Any American who actively foils a terrorist attack in progress gets a check from the govt. for $100,000. 2. Any property damaged or destroyed in a terrorist attack gets replaced by the govt. 3. Designated beneficiaries of terrorist attack victims get $1,000,000 tax free.

This would be cheaper than TSA, quite possibly more effective in preventing attacks, and would not violate the constitution as the TSA does. Verbiage to implement provision 1 would be necessary to prevent unlawful vigilante activities and lynch mobs since a certain percentage of Americans simply don't think things through first, but overall it would be a much better deal for Americans and far cheaper than TSA.

Some questions that should be asked whenever the TSA budget is discussed: How many skyscrapers could be built each year for the cost of running TSA? What would each beneficiary of the 9/11 victims receive if one year of TSA budget was just given to them instead of being spent harassing the 99.9999999999999999999999% of commercial air travelers who are NOT terrorists? How much would each emergency responder who suffers from health problems post-9/11 receive if they got the NEXT year's TSA budget, when their symptoms and health problems started cropping up? How many attacks has TSA actually halted, compared to the number of attacks that snuck through TSA and were halted by actions taken by passengers and airline crewmembers? How much did each "save" cost? Divide the TSA budget and additional airport/airline expenses by the number of attacks foiled by the security measures. Be generous, and assume that 1 major attack each year was abandoned before it happened. What is that number? Round it to the nearest MILLION if necessary...



Labor Costs

You said:

"What caught my eye is the assembly cost of $6.50. Why is that done in China? Obviously because it is cheaper to do it there, but why is it cheaper in China rather than in Stockton or Los Angeles? Electronic assembly requires careful work, but it doesn't take a great deal of intellectual ability, It is a teachable skill, not something that requires "education" as we understand education. One would think that American in high unemployment areas in the US could easily learn to do that work, and indeed we know they can. On the other hand, it does require care and good work habits. Perhaps our schools are not teaching such virtues?"

It's cheaper because the average monthly wage for a manufacturing section worker in China is less than $200.00/mo. http://www.worldsalaries.org/china.shtml#average-salary-job 

Since those were based on 2005 exchange rates, I also ran it through a real time currency converter. Yuan/Renminbi 1,150 as of today is notionally worth $172.57. http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert.cgi?

At current Federal minimum wage, the U.S. average wage would be $1208.33. (($7.25 x 40) x 50) / 12 And that only gets you 40 hours/wk for 50 weeks. I suspect, though I don't know, that Chinese plants run 6-7 days per week without planned vacations. No limit on hours, either.

Of course, this doesn't consider ancillary costs of labor such as health care, social security, employment security, workers compensation, etc, etc.

The jobs will not come back to America until American labor cost is less than or equal to the cost of labor overseas plus shipping costs--and shipping adds much less than you might think. This will, of course, require a wholesale deflation this country on a scale never seen before, and the end of the vaunted "highest living standard in the world."

Jim Keech

I probably wasn't clear enough: I have of course been pointing all this out for a long time. If you are going to play the global competition Free Trade game you need to understand these things. You cannot have an artificially high wage structure and compete in the world market. If you want to have minimum wages, you must also have high tariff. Of course that makes things cost more for everyone.

We have laws that prevent anyone from employing people willing to work for wages competitive with the Chinese. We do not place any restriction on Chinese imports made by wages we find unacceptable.

The result is predictable.


iPhone not made in China

'What caught my eye is the assembly cost of $6.50. Why is that done in China?'

Minimum wage laws. The Crust would rather have people unemployed than see them being paid at less than 'a living wage'.

-- Tim of Angle

Minimum wage, OSHA, pensions, social security, taxes, employment taxes, vacations, etc.  If you wish to dictate the standard of living your workers must have, you will not be competitive on a world market; and if your school system doesn't teach useful skills, it's pretty hard to become competitive on innovation and productivity. All this is obvious except that it appears not to be obvious to those who write the laws.


Subject: New spaceplane proposed for NASA station crew contract


Tracy Walters, CISSP


wikiwhatever filters on military networks 

Dr. P

Any web page or URL with "wikileaks" in it is now filtered on NIPR (unclassified .mil domain) networks by the USAF network operations center. As an example, a CNN report about Assange's arrest will probably be filtered even if it has no leaked information in the article, if the article refers to the wikileaks organization in any way. We're apparently at war with ourselves on the unclassified network yet the mil domain remains connected to the internet... We must be the laughingstock of the world over how we're reacting to this.

To be clear, it is the responsibility and obligation of everyone who has signed a non-disclosure agreement while getting a US security clearance to protect classified information and take positive action to limit unauthorized distribution. Unauthorized distribution does not automatically downgrade the classification of a document, and simply downloading or accessing a classified document from a publicly available source is by definition an unauthorized distribution because the information moves from one unauthorized system to another through an unauthorized distribution medium. So absolutely yes, anyone with a security clearance and anyone under NDA for classified material is prohibited from downloading or viewing the leaked material.

In practice, this restriction ensures that only people who are not under NDA will be able to access the leaked info, and blocking access to CNN news reports about the wikileaks site seems to be a desperate act by a furiously impotent leadership. Certainly a non-US citizen has no legal obligation to prevent dissemination of information the US govt has deemed classified. The US may attempt to label anyone who supports wikileaks an "enemy combatant" since that support may harm the US in a time of war, but then we'd just look even more silly.

Interestingly enough, I think wikipedia is not filtered but almost every other "wiki" site is blocked regardless of content because the people in charge of making the filters can't explain to their bosses that "wiki" means collection of information, not "evil terrorist website". Another funny example of this reality disconnect is that CNN.com is now posting a great deal of news in topical "blogs", and those are all filtered so half of cnn.com can't be read anymore from the .mil domain. Yet if I wanted to, I could go to any number of other "good" and "bad" websites and freely browse their forums because those urls haven't been added to the prohibited list by the contractor who populates the filter.

Everyone I know thinks that the guy who leaked the information ought to be publicly executed, but a great number of these same people are both amazed at the effort being put into futile efforts at suppressing the info, and dismayed at the way a modern-day reporter and his organization are being attacked. The similarities to the pentagon papers incident appears obvious.

It is clear that Wikileaks is a "press" within the Constitutional meaning.


TSA Scanners and DNA, 


My brother, an X-ray tech, just sent me this article.


Can you imagine the lawsuits and reparations down the road because of Homeland Security's arrogance and dedication to a mission?


I have no doubt of the TSA arrogance, but I do not know anything about the source or the data here.


Atomic weights



<snip>The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has decided that the weights of 10 elements will now be expressed as ranges instead of a single value, with an upper and lower limit. The elements are hydrogen, lithium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, sulphur, chlorine and thallium.<snip>

This is significant in that it means that some instruments have become sufficiently accurate to routinely detect the effects of the very slight differences in the rates of chemical processes due to different chemical isotope masses, as well as the corresponding concentrations of trace isotopes which occur due to some natural biochemical and geochemical processes.



Subject: Dinosaur sighting: The days of Big Iron

I actually miss the days of big iron…it was exciting just walking in the room with some of those behemoths.


Tracy Walters, CISSP

I don't, not really. Now big steam engines...


Another story from the LiveJournal community that looks legit so far.


Basically, Borders has been having daily conference calls with store managers to berate them for not selling more e-readers and $20 Rewards memberships. When one General Manager decided the long line of Christmas customers in his store was a higher priority, he got a pink slip for insubordination.

This store beat the Rewards quota for that day, and was the only store in the district to show an increase in sales over last year.

He goes point by point over his termination letter in replies further down the thread.


Management, O Management, How Lovely Are Thy Conferences...




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Sunday,  December 19, 2010     



: Chinese official gets suspended death sentence over anti-virus scam 


I normally don’t agree with China’s politics, but in this case, I might make an exception. 

Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/12/13/chinese_anti_virus_corruption/ 

Chinese official gets suspended death sentence over anti-virus scam

Gov man pocketed bribes to put innocent start-up veep in the slammer

By John Leyden <http://forms.theregister.co.uk/mail_author/?story_url=/2010/12/13/chinese_anti_virus_corruption/

Posted in Enterprise Security <http://www.theregister.co.uk/security/enterprise/>  , 13th December 2010 15:54 GMT <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/12/13/

A Chinese appeals court has confirmed a suspended death sentence against a corrupt official who took bribes and sent an innocent marketing executive to prison for a year in order to line his pockets.

Yu Bing, a former director of the network monitoring department of the Ministry of Public Security, embezzled 4.52 million yuan ($680K) and accepted a further 12.38 million yuan ($1.86 million) in bribes from four network firms, including an alleged 4.2 million yuan kickback ($630,000) from leading Chinese anti-virus firm Rising.

In return, Yu started a bogus investigation against Micropoint, an antivirus start-up whose founder Liu Xu and vice-president Tian Yakui had previously worked for Rising. Micropoint was falsely accused of distributing malware in order to drum up business. Tian was framed for the supposed malware distribution plot and wrongly accused of stealing trade secrets. The charges were used to pressurising Liu into selling the firm to Rising.

Yu also allegedly forwarded seized Micropoint computers to Rising as well as lobbying the official state-running testing centre against allowing the inspection and certification of Micropoint's software.

Tian was jailed for 11 months before he was eventually cleared of wrongdoing. Meanwhile Micropoint's business was put on hold for three years, costing it an an estimated 30 million Yuan (US$4.39 million) in the process. Micropoint is considering a civil lawsuit against Rising, which denies any wrongdoing.

Yu left China without permission in July 2008 before he was arrested on his return in September 2008.

In August, Yu was found guilty of graft and corruption, and received a death sentence, suspended for two years. The Beijing Higher People's Court recently upheld this sentence at a recent hearing, The Global Times reports <http://china.globaltimes.cn/society/2010-11/597838.html>

Tracy Walters, CISSP


Electric forcefield space sailing-ship tech gets EU funding

Solar windjammer to be biggest fastest thing ever built

By Lewis Page <http://forms.theregister.co.uk/mail_author/?
story_url=/2010/12/13/finnish_solar_windjammer_cash/>  • Get more from this author <http://search.theregister.co.uk/?

Posted in Space <http://www.theregister.co.uk/science/space/>  , 13th December 2010 16:48 GMT <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/12/13/


Tracy Walters, CISSP


Larry Griswold: What an athlete,


Wonderful slapstick:


You don't see this kind of vaudeville anymore.



Earth's energy budget 

Jerry, you keep asking about the contribution Earth's interior temperature to the overall temperature of the Earth, and how it's reflected in climate models. I suspect the answer is simple: it's not modeled because the total contribution of interior heat to the earth's energy budget is miniscule. If it's modeled at all, it's just a (very small) constant.

The Earth's energy budget is pretty well known; it can be calculated with a reasonable degree of accuracy from the solar constant and the area of the Earth's disk as seen from the sun. The math works out to ~175 petawatts. Of that about 30% is reflected away, and the other 70% is absorbed and reradiated. The total geothermal component is around 44 to 47 terawatts, so call it .025% of the total energy budget. At that point, it's pretty much buried in the noise.

Ken Warren


If it's miniscule then let them say so, but it is not obvious: that's an enormous heat engine and heat is added to it all the time. Where does that heat go?

Then there are volcanoes. Some are under the sea. Those on land add particulate matter to the atmosphere and have a net cooling effect. Those under the sea heat cold water at the bottom and give rise to currents. Perhaps all that is negligible in effect, but one would think that this is easily established if true.

I read the reports and I just don't see any concern at all.

Jerry Pournelle Chaos Manor


Where does geothermal go? Where does *any* energy go? Energy that gets absorbed by the atmosphere or the Earth's surface bounces around for a while due to the greenhouse effect (water vapor, CO2 and other gasses absorbing and re-radiating infrared) but eventually radiates out into space. Energy in = energy out. The greenhouse effect is *very* important; it's why the global average temperature is around 15 C with a rather small variation, rather than -20 C with a very large variation (the moon's surface ranges from over 100 C to blow -150 C)

As for climate models, you make a good point: why *won't* climate scientists discuss it? I'm not a climate scientist (not a scientist at all, more an engineer in outlook and approach), so I can't say why you can't get a straight answer. I still think the geothermal contribution to the global energy budget is buried in the noise in the climate models, to such an extent that it's either not modeled as "insignificant" or modeled as a constant (which would be quite adequate given we're talking change on human time scales rather than geologic time scales). Possibly they won't discuss it with you because you're not a believer and they don't want to waste their time. (As they see it, and scientists can be stupid too.)

For fun, I looked at the explosion of Krakatoa in 1883, the first volcanic event I could easily find an energy estimate for. Tambora in 1815 AD was larger, Vesuvius 79 AD smaller, but I could find numbers for Krakatoa. :-) The estimates I'm finding are in the range of 6.5 to 8.5 x 10^17 joules released in the 4 explosions in 1883. That's a lot of energy, for sure. But in terms of the annual energy budget of the earth? Not so much. Here's my "cocktail napkin" calculation:

Assuming: 8.5 x 10^17 joules (watt-seconds) for the 4 explosions of Krakatoa 44 terawatts (=4.4 x 10^13) for the geothermal contribution to the global energy budget 175 petawatts (=1.75 x 10^17) x .7 (1 - albedo) = 122.5 petawatts that isn't reflected and needs consideration

Total annual global energy budget = (1.225 x 10^17 watts) x 86,400 (seconds/day) x 365 (days/year) = 3.9 x 10^24 watt-seconds (3.9 yotta-joules!)

Annual contribution of geothermal to total annual energy budget = (4.4 x 10^13 watts) x 86,400 (seconds/day) x 365 (days/year) = 1.4 x 10^21 watt-seconds (joules)

Krakatoa compared to geothermal for 1883 = (8.5 x 10^17) / (1.4 x 10^21) = 6.1 x 10^-4 = .06%

So Krakatoa was about .06% of the total geothermal energy released for 1883 (and about .0015% of the total annual energy budget). Krakatoa was certainly much more energetic than your average volcanic eruption, and the number of eruptions can probably be assumed to be fairly constant over even human time scales, so my conclusion is that volcanoes are an insignificant source of energy contributed to the annual global energy budget (indeed, as I said previously, at .025% geothermal overall is insignificant since it's fairly constant). And to me this *is* obvious.

Overall, I tend to think that AGW is real (we *have* increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere over the last 200 years), but that we have no idea of how important it is overall. And a drop of .1% (say during a Maunder Minimum) in the solar contribution to the earth's energy budget is going to be an order of magnitude more significant than everything we've done. So we need more study, on all sides of the question.


Ken Warren

Thank you for doing the math, but that is not quite the question I was asking.

The interior of the Earth is hot. Energy is being added to that energy machine. My question is, how much? If the total energy generated in the Earth's interior is small then that is a trivial contribution to the biosphere temperature; but this is not obvious to me, since I don't know how much is being generated in there by radioactives and by tidal energy transfer. We have some estimates of the amount put into the biosphere by volcanoes, and that is very small; but that is also known volcanoes. We are learning that there are a lot more underwater volcanoes than we thought -- no great surprise. I have seen little discussion of this. Underwater volcanoes directly put heat into the oceans. Perhaps it is a trivial amount.

Perhaps it is so trivial than increases over what we assumed it was are also trivial and can be ignored. Perhaps not. It would be no great difficulty to say that, but to the best of my knowledge the recent discovery of far more underwater volcanoes than previously thought was not discussed by the model makers.

Now if the total energy added to the interior of the earth by radioactivity and tidal transfer is trivially small compared to insolation, we can ignore all this.

My question is concerned with the total geothermal contribution to the energy budget: how is that arrived at, and what is the quality of the data?

However it was arrived at had to make guesses as to the magnetic field strength, which was just determined directly for the first time; previously it was estimated at between near zero to nearly 100. It is now believed to be closer to 25. Does this change the total energy assumed in the interior? I don't know, but I don't think it is stupid to ask.

If the interior contribution is tiny, then four times tiny is also tiny. May well be true. But I would like to see it on record.


My primary concerns here are the data inputs to the models. Policy recommendations are being made on the basis of about 0.1 degree temperature rises. How much confidence do we have in these rises? What I hear about the quality of the primary input data does not inspire much confidence in those 0.1 degree accuracies. If the input data isn't accurate to 0.1 degree, then confidence in the predictions should not be high. Do we even know how much the temperature of the Earth is rising?

Start by remembering that the AGW theory comes from the belief that the Earth is hotter than it "ought" to be, the "ought" being determined by the models, but the temperature of the Earth is supposedly observed, and the changes from 1885 to present are -- inferred from today's observations and calculations as to that they were in previous times. All this to 0.1 degree. I don't claim to be a climate scientist. I do have considerable experience in operations analysis, in which we try to analyze what we know and how we find it out in order to allocate resources with as little waste as possible.

One thing first to do is clear out the obvious. If it is obvious that the interior of the Earth can't possibly have any effect on the temperature of the biosphere, that's fine: but I would like to know what the assumptions are that makes it trivial. If all the calculations of energy increases in the Earth's interior show that it can't have much effect on the biosphere, I can believe that -- but I would still like to see them stated explicitly, just as I would think we ought to know just what is the official ratio of land to ocean surface of the Earth (not "about 20%" but a precise number since we have to average land and sea temperatures to get an annual overall average temperature of the Earth). I would like to see the official number giving the heat transfer from air to water, and just what are the coefficients used to determine radiative heat transfer from sunlight to water. And so forth. Surely they are known.


Hello Jerry,

Ken Warren is probably accurate in his energy calculations and also in his conclusion that the energy supplied by volcanos et al are miniscule compared to the overall energy budget of the Earth.

Of course, all his calculations as to the impact of these sources implicitly assume that their energy is evenly distributed. In the case of conductive leakage from the interior to the surface, that assumption may well be correct also.

The energy due to volcanic activity is most assuredly NOT evenly distributed however and, as you pointed out, a very large percentage of it, much larger than had been suspected until recently, occurs under the oceans.

It is well known that climate (the distribution of weather), rather than globally averaged surface temperature (and come to think of it, maybe even that), is HUGELY influenced by ocean currents, which are in turn influenced by temperature gradients within the oceans. Volcanos may not contribute significantly to the heat energy of the oceans, taken as a whole, but they certainly contribute to the heat energy of the ocean in the immediate vicinity of the volcano and produce sharp temperature gradients as a consequence. Temperature gradients (among other things) produce ocean currents and volcanos are essentially point sources of heat impulses injected into the currents which vary randomly in frequency, time, location, and magnitude.

It is hard for me to believe that undersea volcanos and other sources of intense local heating of the ocean have NO influence on ocean currents or that whatever influence that they DO have can either be ignored by the models OR adequately accounted for by them. I suspect that the behavior of ocean currents, while generally known (The Gulf Stream has been around for a long time.), is chaotic at the scale necessary to model climate and that random heat impulses and accompanying impulse changes in the contour of the ocean floor over which the currents must flow, caused by undersea volcanos, may be important in making them chaotic.

In a similar manner surface volcanos provide random injections of not only heat, but of ash, SO2, CO2, H2O, and who knows what other chemicals, whose undeniable influence on climate (Eighteen hundred and froze to death comes to mind.) varies with the location, composition, magnitude, time of year, etc. of the event.

Solar flares and other solar events also introduce random impulse variations in the Earth's climate.

Climate modeling may be an exact science to politicians interested in maximizing their power and minimizing the amount of money retained by those who earned it, but I remain suspicious of models with large numbers of variables which ignore random impulse perturbations of all the variables.

Models which confidently make predictions such as this, from March, 20, 2000.: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/

Bob Ludwick

Well, perhaps Britain will have a few more snowfalls after all. As you say, models which make that kind of prediction probably need adjustments.

I would not think it a waste of time for some of the climate modelers to address

And here a physicist puts it better than I can:

thermal balance


Regarding the discussion of the contribution of the internal heat of the earth:

From our earlier discussions of the subject: the real issue is thermal balance.

We know that the interior temperature of caves in equilibrium with the surrounding soil is about 56 Fahrenheit, and that this temperature is maintained due to geothermal processes rather than interaction of solar heating.

The mean surface temperature -- admittedly with wide variations -- is about 59 Fahrenheit.

The question becomes: if the rate of heat generation within the earth were less, it's clear that the subsurface equilibrium temperature would be less. The question becomes, what would the effect on the surface temperature be? In other words, is it a coincidence that the subsurface temperature and the surface temperature are approximately the same? Conversely, if the earth were outside the solar system, with effectively zero direct sunlight, what would the surface equilibrium temperature be? 2.7 Kelvin? Or some greater number (and if so how much greater) due to the earth's internal heating. And what would the temperature profile be then?

The AGW answer, by implication, is that it is a coincidence. I don't think that's obvious. Thermal equilibrium is a condition of little net heat energy transfer -- which is what we're describing. Do what depth does that "cave temperature" curve go as a result of changes in internal and external heating?

Of course, the equilibrium would change depending on solar radiation, length of day, and other relevant parameters as well.

In my head, I can construct models where it's negligible -- and hence a coincidence; and models where it's highly relevant. And it's certainly very plausible that the inhomogeneities are drivers of weather and climate.

It can't be dismissed, even if it seems irrelevant to the total energy budget. Because energy differences are what drive weather and climate. And 0.1 Celsius is about 1 part in 3 thousand energy difference. Effects that average out to less than that over the course of a year can be dramatic in the course of a day.


Thank you. That was what I was trying to get at. I can be persuaded that the molten interior of the Earth is irrelevant to the changes in biosphere temperatures, but I can also think of ways it can have an effect. Indeed, one thought experiment: suppose a number of volcanic eruptions undersea; can they generate events like El Nino, which are known to have great effects on weather, and thus probably on climate? I can certainly think of ways they could.

It is my understanding that we really don't have very good models of ocean currents and ocean heating/cooling. I can be disabused of that understanding, but not by simple assertion without discussion. I would think that at some point it would be time for the AGW Believers to have a reasonable discussion with those of us who aren't climate scientists, but who do know something of science. My experiences have not been encouraging: I find it more common to be ignored, or to have 8th grade science principles lectured to me in baby talk done Real Slow. I've put up some of those dialogues here in the past.

It may be a simple tempest in a tea pot: it just isn't relevant. But surely that needs explanation? It may well be that the temperature of a body 93 million miles away is enormously more relevant than the molten iron a thousand miles down. But it is molten iron, and there's a lot of it. Perhaps it can be ignored, but surely that isn't instantly obvious?

: Earth's energy budget

Jerry, you keep asking about the contribution Earth's interior temperature to the overall temperature of the Earth, and how it's reflected in climate models. I suspect the answer is simple: it's not modeled because the total contribution of interior heat to the earth's energy budget is miniscule. If it's modeled at all, it's just a (very small) constant.

The Earth's energy budget is pretty well known; it can be calculated with a reasonable degree of accuracy from the solar constant and the area of the Earth's disk as seen from the sun. The math works out to ~175 petawatts. Of that about 30% is reflected away, and the other 70% is absorbed and reradiated. The total geothermal component is around 44 to 47 terawatts, so call it .025% of the total energy budget. At that point, it's pretty much buried in the noise.

Ken Warren

I expect you are correct. And still I wonder...

I do note that 1/3000 = 3.33 x 10^-4.

Clearly a large volcanic eruption at benthic depths could have a dramatic effect on currents and ocean surface temperatures. That could have dramatic effects on weather including rain and snowfall, which could have a dramatic effect on glacier formations. Droughts shrink glaciers. Lots of snow grows them.

And we do know that Tamboura gave us the "year without a summer" or eighteen hundred and froze to death.

It may well be that there is nothing to discuss here, but I do not think it silly to ask such questions of those who advocate policies that will have a profound effect on the economics of the western world. Surely it is worth while looking at these factors?

I understand that the Earth's energy budget is "pretty well known." So is economic theory. My question is, is it well known down to 0.1 degree accuracies, and if so, how? And are there any over looked factors? This all started when I learned that for the first time we have an actual measurement of magnetic field strength, and it turns out to be 25 out of a possible range of between near zero and about 100.  I wondered if that can affect the climate models.


Subject: On the importance of geothermal heating


Here is a 1993 review article which seems to be cited frequently for the amount of heat flow from the Earth's interior:


It appears that archives of this data are available in several formats, from several sources:


This 1993 estimate is what is cited in the Wikipedia article entitled: "Earth's Energy Budget" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth's_energy_budget).

This Wikipedia article ranks the energy fluxes into the atmosphere as follows:

Solar = 99.97%

Geothermal = 0.025%

Tidal = 0.002%

Waste heat from fossil fuel use = 0.007%

Accretion of interplanetary dust and solar wind, light from distant stars, and thermal radiation from space = negligible

Given the relative magnitude of solar versus geothermal and tidal energy, I can understand why climate scientists might spend most of their time dealing with solar impacts.

That said, it isn't fair to suggest that the effect of heat flows from the crust have been completely ignored. There are published studies suggesting that geothermal heat flows into the ocean do have some impact on deep ocean circulation. Here are a few examples:




Here is an interesting excerpt from the 2001 paper:

----- begin ---- The general circulation of the ocean in climate models is generally considered to be forced by wind stress, heat and freshwater fluxes at the sea surface. However, there are other sources of energy that can directly or indirectly lead to motion that are normally ignored or argued to be insignificant. For example, tidal forcing is normally neglected in climate models and yet tidal energy might be an important source for diapycnal mixing [Munk and Wuncsh, 1998].

Another neglected energy source is the geothermal heat flux through the sea floor. This trickle of heat, which is due to the slow cooling of the solid earth, is estimated to have a typical value of 50 mW m−2 (1 mW = 10−3 Watts) on abyssal plains and up to 200 mW m−2 on mid-ocean ridges [Sclater et al., 1980; Kadko and Baross, 1995; Stein et al., 1995; Murton et al., 1999]. Even these peak values are small compared to typical values of air-sea heat fluxes, which are of order 100 W m−2. The consequences of the geothermal heat flux have been considered in process and regional scale studies and found to modify local water properties and circulation [Joyce and Speer, 1987; Hautala and Riser, 1989; Speer, 1989; Helfrich and Speer 1995; Thompson and Johnson, 1996]. It is less clear whether geothermal heating influences the large-scale ocean circulation. Joyce et al. [1986] used a scaling argument to suggest that the weak background geothermal heating is insufficient to affect the vorticity balance of the abyssal circulation. In a companion study, Scott et al. [2000] examine the response of an idealized sector ocean model to geothermal heating. Here we examine the response of a global circulation model to a simple representation of the geothermal heat flux. In both studies we find substantial modification of the meridional overturning circulation. ----- end ----

I don't know if such circulation impacts are currently incorporated into the general circulation models used to study global warming.

CP, Connecticut

I don't know either. Thanks for the pointers.

I do not feel foolish for asking the questions.


Lego Computer 

Anyone who has heard of the Antikythera Mechanism will be intrigued, and amazed.


Tracy Walters, CISSP

And indeed I was amazed. I've been following the Antikythera Machine for a long time. One wonders just how long they were able to build such things.









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